Springfield nonprofit to reopen homeless shelters amid high demands

A local organization that aids the area’s homeless population is looking to reopen two of its shelters either this summer or by the fall as demand for those services remain high.

Sheltered Inc., formerly known as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, is currently renovating its congregant emergency shelters in Springfield. That includes Norm’s Place, which serves women and families and the Hartley House that serves single men.

The shelters, once open, will house more than 70 people, combined. Both were closed in 2020 due to safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The facilities were the primary source of emergency shelter in the city and county before the pandemic. They closed at a time as local homeless numbers began to skyrocket and the number of families seeking shelter dramatically increased due to the economic impacts brought on by the pandemic.

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“We were able to transition everyone from those locations and place them into emergency shelter at an offsite location, whether that be a hotel or motel in the community,” said Elaina Bradley, the executive director of Sheltered, Inc.

“Due to the growing need throughout the community, we have had to expand those services,” Bradley added.

Sheltered Inc. served more than 2,000 individuals in 2020 and 2021, according to the organization, and has served more than 1,100 this year as of the end of June.

The non-profit has continued to use hotel and motel rooms throughout the community as a primary source of emergency shelter during the pandemic. However, that is not a sustainable option, Bradley said, as her organization works to bring their two congregant shelters back online and build more permanent housing solutions.

Before the pandemic, the organization did not have a waiting list for emergency shelter services, and was able to make due with Norm’s Place and the Hartley House. However, Shelter Inc., during the pandemic, had to implement a waiting list for the first time in over a decade.

The organization is able to house between 300 to 350 people at one time, through the use of non congregant emergency shelter options such as hotel and motel rooms in the community. But, there were 386 individuals on the emergency shelter waiting list, which includes men, women and children, as of the end of June, Bradley said.

As of Wednesday, 308 people in the area are being housed in emergency shelter, according to information provided by Shelter, Inc.

“That’s a reoccurring need. We receive calls, emails and referrals for individuals that need assistance 24 hours a day,” Bradley added.

Sheltered Inc., also applied for permanent housing tax credits through the Ohio Housing Financing agency earlier this year in the hopes of securing funding for a project that would build 30 additional housing units for single adults on South Yellow Springs Street and 10 units for families throughout the city.

That projects is estimated to cost $9 million and the and the organization has also applied for an $1 million grant from Springfield as the city aims to partner with a non-profit in order to create more congregant or semi-congregant emergency shelter in the area. That is in addition to the reopening of Norm’s and Hartley House.

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The latter grant is part of a larger initiative by the city to combat homelessness in Springfield.

Springfield city officials are planning to allocate at least $12 million in American Rescue Plan allocations to tackle an increase in homelessness in the city seen during the pandemic as well as address a lack of affordable housing options.

Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck said they want to focus on three key strategies such as creating short-term housing opportunities, aiding in the acquisition and rehab of existing properties and aiding in new construction.

The need for those services comes as lower income families have been forced out of their homes due to a lack of affordable housing options in the area, Bradley said. That can be due to increase rent, proof of income required for certain housing and long waiting lists for affordable housing units, she added.

Sheltered Inc, was able to provide rental, deposit and utility assistance, preventing 121 households, including 276 people, from needing emergency shelter in 2021. This year, they were able to provide that assistance to 61 households, including 121 people.

The goal is that by reopening Norm’s and Hartley House, it will provide additional space for residents in need, while using other emergency shelter options to deal with overflow.

Renovations at the two congregant shelters started earlier this year and the aim is to add pandemic safety measures, including a focus on common areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and showers. The upgrades also focus on increasing the shelters’ intake areas due to the increase in need and an increase in staffing as a result. Other measures focus on air flow and social distancing.

The organization provides supportive services to those in emergency shelter, including case management work, meal delivery, hygiene items, clothing, laundry services and transportation to name a few.

Sheltered, Inc., was able to access a little under $300,000 for those renovations that represent a mixture of state dollars and local allocations awarded by the city of Springfield, Bradley said.

There is not an exact date as to when those shelters are scheduled to open, but the goal is for renovation work to be completed by the end of this summer or fall.

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