Helping the Homeless

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, January 12, 2010

With temperatures dipping down below 20 degrees and snow falling constantly, staying warm can be an especially difficult ordeal for those who are displaced and living on the streets these days.

While it can be difficult to know how best to help those on the streets, some local organizations have offered tips for those who may want to help.

“I never recommend every giving them cash,” Jeff Cremeans, director of the Ironton City Welfare Mission, said. “If they need shelter, just recommend that they come down to the shelter so they can get in out of the cold.”

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Though the mission is a night shelter that operates seven nights a week, it also offers lunch Monday through Fridays.

“We certainly don’t want anyone out under the bridge or out in cars,” Cremeans said.

Last year the mission helped more than 400 people by providing shelter. Some of those people live with family members or friends, he said.

Cremeans recommends that people be cautious about giving car rides to the mission to strangers.

“A lot of times if you give them directions they don’t mind to walk,” Cremeans said. “I would be cautious with that because you really don’t know why these people are homeless. A lot of them are (legitimate), but in this day and age you really don’t know.”

Suzanne Gravette Acker, the communications and development director for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, recommended that people donate to local organizations that provide help to the homeless, rather than giving money to homeless people themselves.

Besides the City Welfare Mission, such organizations include the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, a food pantry at Central Christian Church and Operation Safety Net in Scioto County.

Central Christian Church’s food pantry is opened Monday and Wednesday and as needed. Director David Nunnally said they rarely see people who are homeless, though they try to assist those people if they come in.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” Nunnally said. “If they come in and tell us they need food we don’t ask any questions.”

Nunnally said the demand for food supplies has doubled since last year, though donations and the pantry’s budget have been enough to keep it stocked. The pantry operates on a $5,000 budget from the church and the donations that come in from the community.

Mary Blythe, a case manager for Boyd County CAReS recommended that people give out gift cards to fast food restaurants, rather than cash. She also suggested that people keep blankets on hand to pass out to those out in the elements.

She added that she knows of a man who routinely begs for money in front of businesses but has a home. The man just does not handle his finances well, she said.

“It’s just my personal opinion that I just don’t like to give out money,” she said.