SIDNEY — Homeless people will have a place to go when the temperature drops below 20 degrees this winter.
“I am pleased to announce a collaborative process to partially address homelessness,” Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst announced Monday morning. “A 24-hour hotline operated by New Choices will serve as a referral source for those needing emergency shelter.
“That hotline will provide information about the Warming Center being operated by Sidney First United Methodist Church. Those finding themselves in need are encouraged to call the hotline (937-498-7261). Eventually, the hotline will also be able to provide other emergency housing options.
“Provided space is available, New Choices may also be able to provide shelter and case management to homeless women and children who are able to follow a strict case plan to help them get on their feet and into a place of their own. It is important to note that case management can also be provided to others who are homeless through the Community Action Center, provided they meet the necessary criteria.
“An important component of the assistance for those who are homeless will be Warming Center. The Warming Center will open to anyone endangered by the inclement weather conditions from Jan. 2 through March 31, 2016, whenever the National Weather Service announces the temperature will dip below 20 degrees.
Announcement of the opening of the Warming Center will be made by noon and sent to the following:
• Radio station WMVR
• Sidney Daily News
• Sidney Police Department
• Shelby County Sheriff’s Office
• Sidney Fire Department
• Selected agencies within Shelby County
• Members of the Ministerial Association
“Announcement of the opening of the Warming Center will also be posted on Sidney First United Methodist Church’s lighted sign at the corner of North Street and Miami Avenue,” Sidney First United Methodist Church Pastor David Chivington announced. “Information will also be on Sidney First United Methodist Church’s Facebook page and the church’s website (www.sidneyfirst.com).
“The Warming Center will open at 6:30 p.m. Guests will be welcomed until 9 p.m. at the church’s North Street entrance. Guests who find themselves in need of admittance later than 9 p.m. must be accompanied by a law enforcement officer or arrangements to arrive later than 9 p.m. made in advance with the center’s director.”
A hot meal will be served at 7 p.m. to all those in the Warming Center. The Warming Center will not be a 24-hour facility. Guests will be invited to leave at 7 a.m. and encouraged to walk to the Alpha Center for breakfast.
Additional rules will apply to all Warming Center guests. Those rules are available on the website.
Sidney First United Methodist Church is currently seeking volunteers to assist with meal preparation and volunteers to assist with overnight supervision. Those wishing to volunteer should contact the church (937-492-9136).
“It is hoped that in the future, we will be able to add two additional components. Those components will include housing for homeless families and for males,” Barhorst stated. “Both of these population segments remain a concern. In point of fact, a homeless family of five was assisted Thanksgiving weekend through the collaboration of a number of individuals and agencies. The family included three children under 10 years of age. Both parents were employed — I would have much preferred to have been able to assist them in a formal shelter situation rather than in a local hotel — certainly not an environment that I believe is conducive to raising small children — yet I am grateful that we have that option.”
Some month ago, Barhorst was approached about the perceived need for emergency shelter for those who find themselves homeless. More than 200 stakeholders were identified and invited to attend a community forum to discuss the issue. That meeting was held on Jan. 22, 2015.
Utilizing the input from that session, the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness was formed. That group has met on an ongoing basis to discuss potential ways in which those who find themselves in need of emergency shelter can be assisted.
“I will always be grateful to those community members who gave of their time and talent during the forum earlier this year,” Barhorst stated. “That input was essential as the Task Force undertook their work.
“I am also deeply indebted to the members of the Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force, who have given freely of their time and talent to arrive at this point. It has been a difficult, time-consuming and at times, frustrating process. I have had to remind myself a number of times that if the process had been an easy one, it would have been accomplished a long time ago.”
Members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness include Kathy Lindsey, executive director of New Choices, who has also served as secretary of the group; Shelby County Commissioner Robert Guillozet, Shelby County United Way Executive Director Scott Barr, Sidney First United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Dr. David Chivington, Salvation Army Corps Commander Maj.David Payne, Alpha Community Center Executive Director Jan Geuy, Community Action Partnership Shelby County Manager Linda Lukey, St. John’s Lutheran Church Lead Pastor Jonathan Schriber, Shelby County Ministerial Association Past President Jane Madden, Shelby Metropolitan Housing Authority Executive Director Judy Wells, Russell Road Church Cold Shelter Director Gerald Christman, Dorothy Love Gift Planning Director Tom Barry, Director of Community Housing of Darke, Miami and Shelby Counties, Inc. Dorothy Crusoe, Isaiah Industries President Todd Miller, Family and Children First Council Executive Director Diann Rodrigues, and Port Jefferson Church of Christ Pastor David Clem.