With temperatures dropping and snow on the ground, many people are choosing to stay in their homes rather than brave the cold. But for those without homes in Butler County, staying indoors is not an option.
Sandra Snyder, community relations director for the Hope House shelter in Middletown, Ohio said it can be difficult to know exactly how many people are homeless in any given area because the statistics are not broken down by county, but she said according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness states, typically 1 percent of the population of any given city is homeless.
The recent cold snap means that shelters such as Hope House are operating at capacity and housing men, women and children. Hope House can provide for 80 to 100 residents at any given time.
“Right now we’re basically full…[and] at any time there’s usually a high percentage of children with the women,” Snyder said.
Snyder said winter is a time when it is important to make sure those without a place to live have a roof over their heads. Hope House provides the same services throughout the year, but is especially full during the winter months.
“The other times of the year it’s not as crucial because it’s not a matter of life or death to be caught in the cold,” Snyder said.
Snyder said homelessness is not always what people typically think of – someone who is not looking for a job or is sleeping on a park bench, for example.
“Some homeless people are invisible; they may be sleeping on a friend’s couch because they have nowhere else to go,” Snyder said.
Anyone can get a meal at Hope House, but it provides other services to its residents, such as helping them receive education, counseling and other services they need to get a job.
Snyder said Hope House helps people overcome issues such as mental illnesses, addictions and familial problems that may have led to homelessness in the first place.
“The main point is that when people have the correct programming, not just a roof over their heads, they can get better,” Snyder said.
Another local shelter that caters to those in need is the Serve City Chosen Shelter in Hamilton. Director Karen Waldo said numbers at the shelter have been steadily increasing in the past several years.
“More and more people are being foreclosed on…it’s exhausting to see the number of new people coming in,” said Waldo.
Like the Hope House, Chosen tries to meet residents’ needs beyond simply giving them a place to stay.
“We’re not just a bed,” said Waldo, adding that Chosen is a Christian-based organization whose main goal is getting people in touch – or back in touch – with their faith.
Waldo said that the people who visit the shelter are often those who have lost their jobs and are simply trying to get back on their feet.
“There are a lot of people in our shelters who had good jobs – successful jobs – and [afterward] they had nowhere else to go,” Waldo said.
Junior Megan Dunagan said that in general, she does not think most students are aware that Butler County has a homeless population.
“I don’t think a lot of Miami students think of this area as having a lot of homeless people because they’re really not exposed to it,” Dunagan said.