The Advocate: Experts agree - County needs affordable, transitional housing

NEWARK – More than a decade ago, a homeless man nearly froze to death sleeping outside the Licking County Administration Building in sub-zero temperatures.

Since then, the Salvation Army expanded its shelter, St. Vincent Haven opened a men's shelter, The Main Place opened The Place Next Door, and St. Vincent de Paul opened The Gardens on Sixth.

Despite the additions of various types of housing, local officials say a need remains for more affordable, transitional housing in the area.

The needs include those in poverty, recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, suffering from a mental illness, victims of domestic violence, and recently released from prison.

Dennis, who spent 60 days at the Salvation Army shelter, said he is homeless while he awaits news from the Licking County Coalition for Housing. He said he just got out of prison, and has no family, no job and no money. And, he wants to avoid some shelters.

"I prefer not to be around a bunch of addicts and thieves," said Dennis, who did not want to disclose his full name. "Hopefully, an apartment will come through real quick."

Deb Tegtmeyer, executive director of the Licking County Coalition for Housing, said the annual January count of homeless in the community showed 190 here.

“Is it absolutely accurate?" Tegtmeyer said. "Of course not, but it’s the best we can do. It’s probably twice that, and it depends on how you define homeless."

Tegtmeyer was one of nine featured speakers at a recent United Way of Licking County Community Partners Council meeting on housing at the Licking County Aging Program.

"Our challenge, of course, is there's just not enough (housing), and at prices that are affordable for a lot of people," Tegtmeyer said. "Housing costs have been skyrocketing over the last several years, and wages have not been keeping up. That's true across Ohio and the United States."

The housing coalition operates more than 40 units of transitional housing for homeless families and individuals.

Ellanor Shanklin, a recovering addict, attended the Community Partners Council meeting, and addressed the panel of speakers.

"We need an emergency safe haven house for those in addiction," Shanklin said. "That's been my dream. A recovery atmosphere where anybody can come. I had a home to go to, but it would be nice to have a recovery home.

"Just a one-day reprieve where they wouldn't have to go back to the dope house. A shower and hope. Most addicts don't want to be in addiction, but they're stuck."

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