Reopening at a ‘time of crisis’: Springfield homeless shelter adds space as need increases

Beginning Monday, Sheltered Inc. nonprofit ‘Norm’s Place’ will be open again.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

SPRINGFIELD — After several months of being closed, a shelter for women and families experiencing homelessness will reopen next week and a men’s shelter will return to its original hours in the near future.

Sheltered Inc., a Springfield-based nonprofit that oversees emergency shelter spaces for people experiencing homelessness, will reopen Norm’s Place at 501 W. High St. on Monday for 24 hours daily, director Elaina Bradley said. The goal is to also return Hartley House on High Street from being open 12 hours daily to 24 hours.

This change is due to funding from and a partnership with OIC that started in July, Bradley said.

“We’ve been working since we lost the local funds to support the emergency shelter, and through the partnership with OIC, that has enabled us then to reopen up the family and single women’s facility 24 hours,” Bradley said.

OIC is using its Ohio Department of Development funds to pay Sheltered Inc. on a per head and per family basis to allow it to continue operations.

OIC Executive Director Mike Calabrese said the organization “worked hard” to give the nonprofit more funds to reopen the shelter.

As of Friday, there were 77 individuals on the waiting list for emergency shelter that is updated weekly, Bradley said. With both shelters back to normal operations, Sheltered Inc. will be able to house up to 86 individuals at one time, she said.

Clark County officials said the February termination of a portion of a $700,000 contract — of which about $495,000 was reimbursed — with the organization happened after “multiple violations” in regards to the reimbursement of funds were found following a review.

Prevention, Retention and Contingency, or PRC, is a program through the Ohio Department Jobs and Family Services that provides work support and other services to low-income families. This program is funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a federally funded program.

“The most glaring [issue] was the lack of proper [Prevention, Retention and Contingency] applications for recipients of services,” wrote Clark County DJFS director Ginny Martycz in a memo asking the county to terminate its contract. “Additionally, it appears there were requests for reimbursement for items paid for by other funding sources.”

Bradley said in June that funds were unjustly pulled by DJFS and denied by United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties.

Since the nonprofit Sheltered Inc.’s contract was ended in February, one of its two emergency shelters was closed, staffing was reduced, services at low-income Woodford Apartments were ended and the remaining emergency shelter is closed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily instead of being open for 24 hours.

To address the homelessness crisis, the city purchased the Executive Inn for $2.2 million in January through American Rescue Plan Act funds and approved a $1.34 million agreement with Homefull in April. Officials have said the site would be redeveloped once a more permanent solution was developed.

But last month a water main broke on the second floor of the shelter and all but two families were moved to local hotels while repairs are underway.

The city’s plan for a more permanent solution to the crisis in the Villager Inn fell through after water damage, vandalism and a fire led to its emergency demolition last month. The hotel was purchased for $1.7 million in December using American Rescue Plan Act money.

Bradley said Sheltered Inc. has rehired staff it had to dismiss due to the loss of funds, and this week everyone is working to prepare for Monday.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The reopening is coming at a time of crisis, Bradley said, as more people are starting to experience homelessness, which Sheltered Inc. is seeing through its role as the community access point. This means anyone who is experiencing homelessness contacts the nonprofit to be directed to an emergency shelter or other place to stay.

“We’re continuing to see the need for our emergency helpline, families that are reporting that they’re sleeping in cars, some abandoned places — not having a safe place to go,” Bradley said. “We’re continuing to see an increase in referrals.”

The need is now extending to the Haitian immigrant population in Springfield, which has grown significantly in the past five years. Aid groups estimate anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 Haitian immigrants now living in the city.

Bradley said Sheltered Inc. receives one to two referrals to house a member of the Haitian immigrant community each week as of late.

To continue supporting people experiencing homelessness, Bradley said Sheltered Inc. needs support from the community.

“There’s been a lot of work and efforts with various partners working to help address homelessness,” Bradley said. “Sheltered Inc., we remain committed to our mission. We’ve been providing the service to the community for 33 years and we’re going to continue work collaboratively as best as we can with those that share the goals and missions as as to help those that are faced with homelessness.”

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