City considering aid to Bridges of Hope

By Scott Halasz - [email protected]

XENIA — City council will consider some emergency financial support for a local homeless shelter.

Council members voted 6-1 in favor of directing city officials to draft legislation that would provide money for Bridges of Hope, a faith-based shelter located in the former Simon Kenton Elementary School building. The shelter announced in late March that it was suspending its night-time sheltering services because of the coronavirus.

“The reason they’re facing some operating challenges right now is that due to the Covid-19 their volunteer core has evaporated,” City Manager Brent Merriman said.

Shelter officials also need to purchase more supplies and hire additional staff, among other things. It received some help to place some of the 50 frequent shelter guests in hotels, while others sought shelter with friends or relatives. But the vouchers will soon expire and the frequent shelter guests will need a place to stay.

According to Merriman, around $20,000 would be “beneficial” and the city also has up to $40,000 in grant money from the county that could be used as well. Merriman also said he spoke with County Administrator Brandon Huddleson and Commissioner Tom Koogler regarding financial help because the homelessness problem is a county issue. Merriman said they didn’t necessarily reject that notion, but “I don’t see any (other) funding coming from the county.”

Merriman added that there is a public health risk if the homeless have nowhere to go and congregate in public places.

Council Vice President Dr. Edgar Wallace said he was all for giving Bridges of Hope money, adding that it will give shelter officials the opportunity to leverage that to get additional funding from elsewhere.

Council member Cody Brannum voted against it, saying the city has already given Bridges of Hope plenty of assistance and that the money could be utilized better. He said it’s up to all Greene County cities to help since homelessness is a county issue.

Council President Wes Smith agreed that it’s a county issue and urged citizens to address that concern to the county commissioners.

Mayor Sarah Mays said a one-time gift would be OK in light of the current COVID-19 circumstances.

The legislation is expected to be presented to council at its Thursday, April 23 meeting.

By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.