Mercy Mission House celebrates 1st anniversary


By Emily Neu - Guest columnist



The Mercy Mission House (MMH) Emergency Shelter opened as a warming center exactly one year ago. The plans for the Mercy Mission House Emergency Shelter began around a table at the Alpha Community Center. The need for a shelter in Shelby County was expressed by over 25 different non-profit agencies that gathered in July 2020 at the Alpha Community Center for a joint meeting. The capital campaign began in January 2022 after several lead gifts from community leaders including Shelby County United Way, Emerson, Cargill and a few anonymous donors. Our generous community answered God’s call and the $1.3 million needed for the purchase of the property and construction of the agency campus were raised in just 6 months.

The agency campus includes six agencies that offer services to our community: Alpha Community Center, Bridges Community Action Partnership, Community of Hope Church (an outreach of Sidney First Methodist), Family Resource Center (caseworker offices onsite), Holy Angels Soup Kitchen and Mercy Mission House shelter. Each agency operates independently and continues to provide services to clients. The Alpha Community Center operates shuttle service from the downtown area, at their previous location, to the agency campus on Childrens Home Road every Monday – Friday for breakfast and lunch.

Our mantra at the shelter is “Every morning is a new beginning, every day is a new adventure and every person is deserving of love and mercy.” We will continue to do God’s work and provide love and mercy to everyone who walks through our doors.

As we celebrate the opening of the warming center one year ago, it is important to share the hard work that takes place on the campus every day and answer frequently asked questions.

How many residents have been served by MMH in the past 365 days? 158 unduplicated clients have been served.

How many residents have successfully finished the program? We have been able to help residents and/or families sign over 35 leases, over 55 individuals have been reunited with family or friends, more than 10 residents entered sober living and we continue to work to help many others.

How many clients are from Shelby County Ohio? 80% of clients served have been from Shelby County. We put a priority on Shelby County residents. It is important to know that for years, Shelby County has sent our residents to neighboring counties who have stepped up to help our unsheltered brothers and sisters. While we place a priority on Shelby County residents, if we have space available, we will take referrals from neighboring counties and shelters who need assistance.

What is the average age of clients? 35-44 years old

Do you serve children? Yes, individual clients must be 18 years or older, but we do serve families and children whose parents are also in shelter. We have served 21 children.

Do you serve veterans? Yes, we hold beds for veterans. We served five veterans in 2022.

How are you funded? There are many misconceptions about our funding. We do not get paid by the number of people in shelter. We have gotten zero federal dollars so far. While we have applied for federal funding, we have been completely funded by local donations and grants. We are a partner agency of Shelby County United Way and get allocations from SCUW quarterly (18% of our overall funding). We are hopeful to be eligible for federal grants in 2023, but those monies are frozen and we have been told will only be around $20,000-25,000 annually. Donations will continue to be extremely important to our shelter in order to allow God’s work to continue through this mission.

What kind of shelter are you? We are a low-barrier, emergency shelter. That means the only individuals that are not allowed to stay overnight in the shelter are registered sex-offenders. We have many clients that are struggling with mental health needs and some with substance misuse. As an emergency shelter, we work to stabilize our clients and have them participate in a 30-90 day program. The average length of stay is 65 days.

Do you allow substance use? No. Our campus is alcohol and substance use free. We do not allow any alcohol or drugs on campus. We work with clients to refer them to programs to assist in substance misuse recovery. Some of our residents are actively working to overcome substance misuse and if any drugs or alcohol are found on campus, the client is removed from shelter. Once a client is removed from shelter, they are not allowed to return to shelter for 30 days. We have partnered with the Sheriff’s Office to have random sweeps with the drug dog at our campus.

Are you a medical facility? No, we are not a medical facility and not able to allow clients with certain medical conditions to stay in shelter. We work with area agencies to help place these individuals in the appropriate place based on their needs.

How is resident medication handled? We are viewed as a caregiver. Think about how this would be done at home with a caregiver. We lock up all medications and then we put the medications in a container following the prescription instructions on the bottle. Residents are called to the pass out window. The resident is ultimately responsible for taking medications and must sign a medication log every time medications are taken. At any time, residents can request a medication count under the supervision of the shelter director and another staff member.

Is your Board of Directors paid for their time? No. Our Board of Directors consists of community members who volunteer their time, talents and skills to help direct the mission of the organization.

Do you still operate a warming center? Yes. For those who need a place to sleep overnight, we have cots available. However, we encourage everyone to register and join our resident program and work towards the path of stabilization.

What is the goal of the resident program? The resident program looks different for each individual. The goal is stabilization. Stabilization might include getting all needed documentation, forms of identification; mental health assessments and connections to services and medication if needed; substance misuse recovery through partnerships with area agencies. The goal of the resident program is to help our residents reach a state of life with consistent income, ongoing connections to needed services and ultimately, a permanent place to stay whether that be their own place or reunification with family or friends.

We have provided over 7,500 nights of shelter. We will continue to do the hard work every day and every night to ensure our residents have a safe, warm place to sleep at night. We will continue to work with other area agencies to help our clients and residents be successful. For more information, visit www.themercymissionhouse.com or call 937-815-1777.

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By Emily Neu

Guest columnist

The writer is the founder and president of the Mercy Mission House board of directors.

The writer is the founder and president of the Mercy Mission House board of directors.