GREENVILLE — Darke County’s homeless shelter housed 100 individuals in 2017, including 27 children.
Carol Littman serves as Deputy Director of the Greenville branch of Community Action Partnership (CAP), a nonprofit agency providing programs and services for homeless and low-income residents in several Ohio counties, including Darke County. As Deputy Director, Littman oversees the homeless shelter, along with other duties.
The shelter, according to Littman, has three bedrooms, including one family-sized room which can accommodate a parent (or parents) and several children; a smaller room featuring two full-sized beds; and a room featuring two twin-sized beds. They also have an “overflow room” equipped with a couple of mattresses, if need be. In addition, the shelter is stocked with food, blankets, and toiletries. A shelter manager lives onsite and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The shelter is usually always full,” Littman said. “We had a family move out Saturday and then a new one moved in on Sunday. And as soon as one of the smaller rooms opens up it’s usually full.”
People may not be aware of the extent of the homelessness problem in Darke County, according to Littman, because of stereotypes and popular misconceptions.
“A lot of people don’t think we have homeless here in Darke County, because you don’t see it like you do on TV,” Littman said. “You drive into downtown Dayton and you can see the mattresses lying under bridges. It’s not as visible here.”
CAP conducted a Point in Time Study last January, in which CAP workers and volunteers went out into the community with blankets, warm clothes, and room vouchers, searching for homeless residents. Coming up with a figure as to the number of homeless in Darke County is difficult, according to Littman, because their program, being state-funded, is forced to use the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s definition, which is someone sleeping somewhere not meant for habitation, such as outside, in a car, a laundromat, or even a hotel room, if paid for by CAP or another social service agency.
This fails to take into account those who are staying with friends or family members because they have no other recourse, according to Littman, a situation that can often cause strain on those relationships and cause them to become dysfunctional. Young married couples who split up, and young parents who have lost their jobs, are especially susceptible to this kind of homelessness. This population of people is often referred to as “the hidden homeless.”
CAP also provides other services, such as operating a food and clothing bank, offering assistance for Darke County residents having difficulty paying heating and electric bills, and handing out room vouchers for the Towne House or the Stardust Motel on especially cold nights. They recently received part of a $367,000 Rapid Rehousing grant, a program aimed at helping people secure sustainable housing by paying their first month’s rent and deposit.
But this can only go so far, especially if some people are afraid to seek the help of organizations like CAP in the first place.
“A lot of people are afraid to go into our shelters because they’re afraid their kids are going to be taken away,” Greenville CAP Director Julie Leckliver said. “We want to get the message out that this is not true. We’re a family shelter, so they will be able to stay with their children.”
Littman expressed similar sentiments.
“I wish we had a bigger shelter,” Littman said. “I know the state wants to end homelessness, but I don’t know that that’s ever going to happen. I think we’ll always have homeless, because we always have. We just want to find them, and help them get somewhere where it’s warm.”
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