Before the sun has even hit the walls of the YWCA Family Center, families are already fueling up on bananas, cereal, and toast to energize them for the daily work of stabilizing their lives in order to get out of the homeless shelter.
“They are not here to relax but to work hard putting their lives together,” said YWCA spokeswoman Patti O’Toole.
The 6-year-old center was created to house 50 families but has been serving more than 100 since mid-August. The shelter is the only place for homeless families to go in Columbus. Luckily, no family with children is turned away. The down side is overcrowding, sleeping on cots, and using common areas for sleeping quarters. Once all these creative solutions have been used, the YWCA must spend precious funds on hotel rooms for families in order to keep them off the street. Today, the YWCA has 30 families in hotel rooms.
The YWCA Family Center along with their partners, are helping families make serious gains in the fight to stabilize their lives.
April Ramon, 26, found herself along with her two boys, Damarion, 6, and Daquazion, 5, at the shelter after a string of challenging setbacks. First, she couldn’t find work so they had to move in with her sister. Next, her sister lost her job and was forced to move in with a friend, leaving Ramon with only the family center to turn to for help.
And help they did — after almost 6-weeks at the shelter Ramon and her boys will be moving into an apartment next week. Employees at the family center helped Ramon utilize the Ohio Benefit Bank, the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, and connect with the Salvation Army in order to get this life-changing process in motion. Ramon will now be working on her nurse aide training while receiving rent-assistance to keep the family afloat and stabile.
“If you do what you are supposed to do, it’s great here. The staff, volunteers, and security are all really great. We appreciate everybody,” Ramon said.
Positive statements about the staff are especially impressive when one considers that staffing levels have gone largely unchanged as the number of homeless families has doubled.
Volunteers and donations are more important than ever as over-crowding doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
“We look to the community for support. This belongs to you. Everyone is responsible for their neighbors, especially the kids,” said Ginger Young, YWCA director of housing programs.
All meals at the shelter are donated, served, and often prepared by individuals, groups, and businesses. This has become a tougher task as there are some 300 mouths to feed.
“I’d love to see some smaller groups partner up with each other to serve meals. Mid-Ohio Food Bank has been very creative and helpful as we work to serve the 300-plus people,” Young said.
“The family center is run by the YWCA but this is really a community project. Supporting it is the neighborly thing to do. Families are here through no fault of their own. The economy is not set-up right. The deck is stacked against a specific sector of our community,” O’Toole said.
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