St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“Homelessness Near Our Homes”
Sunday, September 23, 2001
On September 23 we welcome Ann Goebel, the Director of Development and Human Relations at the St. Vincent Hotel, who will address the problem of “Homelessness Near Our Homes.” Ann has worked with the homeless in our area for over 13 years. She will describe for us the changes in the homeless situation during that time, and offer suggestions on how we can help.
St. Mark’s was delighted to have Ann Goebel, the Director of Development and Human Relations at the St. Vincent Hotel as our adult education leader this morning. The topic upon which she spoke was addressing the problem of “Homelessness Near Our Homes.” Ann has worked with the homeless in our area for over 13 years.
The St. Vincent Hotel located downtown on Fifth Street was first opened on December 15, 1985. The hotel has never been empty since its first night of operation! The goal of St. Vincent is to provide shelter, food, and clothing to anyone who is in need with provision that they will be helped into journey back to becoming a self-sufficient citizen including being assigned to a case manager. The hotel makes it a policy not to turn anyone away except in the most unusual of circumstances. However, the stay is only for short-term (i.e. up to 14 days) crisis situations. The residents are mostly Daytonians (93%), with an additional 4% coming from the rest of Montgomery County, and the remainder coming from out-of-city or out-of-state.
The routine is that those in need are checked in by 5:00 to 7:00 PM. There they receive food, a shower, clean underwear and socks if necessary, and have a washer and drier made available to them. The men (dorm on second floor) are separated from the women and younger children (dorm on ground floor). If there is an overflow of people for a given evening, they may be sent to either a motel or the Democratic Headquarters. St. Vincent’s pays for the cost of these facilities. This past summer, over $30,000 alone was paid just for overflow residents. Contrary to popular belief, the hotel is the most crowded during the summer months. This is largely accounted for by the increase in children during the summer when school is not in session. There are a number of “campsites” in the periphery of downtown Dayton where many of the homeless persons take refuge. Many of these people may be suffering from mental illness, drug dependency, or a combination of both.
The Dayton area is very well equipped to help many of the homeless persons back to self-dependency. In addition to the hotel, there are a number of shelters which are available for longer term stays (up to 90 or 120 days). These include the Booth House, the Salvation Army Shelter, The YMCA, the Battered Women’s Shelter, and the Red Cross Emergency Shelter. (There are, however, waiting lists for most of these facilities.)
Regarding the food supplied at the hotel, there are 16 local area churches which volunteer to assist with meal donation and preparation. Some local restaurants also regularly donate food. Approximately 300 to 400 volunteers each month help to prepare and serve the meals!
Lights are turned out by 11:00 PM each evening. No violence is permitted, smoking is not allowed, and no weapons are permitted. Some of the guests are just passing through while others reside longer. There are three case managers and one mental health manager on site. Anyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness is referred to the appropriate service or referred back to the city of Dayton where they may obtain proper treatment. There is also a special shelter available for children called Daybreak. The minimum age for anyone staying at St. Vincent is 18. There is also a group of doctors who visit one night per week to treat minor problems. In addition, there are Wright State Medical Students who sometimes assist. Many couples who are not married will not come since they must be separated. There is a separate women’s dining room and children’s play area. Women’s dorm assistants are also available to assist with child care when needed. The residents are woken at 6:30 AM each morning and must be out of the building by 7:00 AM. The hotel provides mail service and will pass on messages as well.
Another service provided is to assist in obtaining jobs. The clients are referred to the Montgomery County Job Center located in the old Rike’s Warehouse on Edwin C. Moses Boulevard. There have been a large number of refugees who have been assisted from countries such Bosnia and the Sudan. They are also assisted with being taught English as a second language. The primary contact is the Catholic Social Services.
St. Vincent Supportive Housing and the DePaul Center offer additional programs where up to homeless families may find transitional housing. This includes 22 homes and 42 single-room occupancy units. Case managers work with individual clients and families in areas such as debt counseling, budgeting, parenting skills, hygiene, and obtaining a GED. A number of participants have gone on to get associates degrees or become skilled trade workers. Many of these “graduates” come back to talk about their life-changing experiences. Most of the families are single moms with children, but a small percentage are comprised of single dads or couples. If there cases where child endangerment is suspected, then appropriate agencies, such as Children’s Services will be immediately contacted. Volunteers are needed as children care-givers or mentors for the adults. St. Vincent also takes old car donations where the proceeds are designated for some of the single male programs. They will, in fact, take donations of just about any used clothing or furniture item that can be put to use in any of their programs. St. Vincent also operates a small grocery store on site to serve the local needs. Food is bought at retail to stock the store which then re-sells the items at cost or a very modest mark-up.
Ann noted that it is estimated that there are approximately 200 homeless persons in the Dayton area today, with the rest being sheltered. Many in the program work for minimum wage salaries. State-supported child care benefits and food stamps are reduced as the person’s wage increases. There are also more and more grandparents taking care of grandchildren today. Many think that with the economic situation as it is, the homeless situation will get worse in the future, before it improves again.
Those who attended thanked Ann for taking the time to visit St. Mark’s and inform us about all the great things that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is doing in the Dayton area. They are working on getting a website up and running, but if there are any questions, Ann’s Goebel’s e-mail address is: SVDPDayton@aol.com. We will be writing to her to get St. Mark’s on their mail distribution list.