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Shelter to open for homeless on winter nights

Calvary Church’s Grace Wellness Center on Tuesday, Nov. 29. The facility, on East Diamond Street in Butler, will provide a warming center this winter. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

People living on the streets have hope that their situation might change if they can just get through the day — or the winter.

Glade Run Lutheran Services will open a warming center for the homeless on Monday. From 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., vulnerable people can find a warm refuge at Calvary Church’s Grace Wellness Center at 123 E. Diamond Street.

The warming center will remain open through March 31.

“Butler has a really good continuum for homelessness, but what’s lacking is those emergency situations during the winter,” said Steven T. Green, president and CEO of Glade Run.

“And we’re hoping that this warming center is at least a warm place that they can go to and then start to plan their next step, and then access that continuum that we have, whether it’d be short-term residential, temporary housing or transitional housing. There’s lots of different levels on the continuum, but at least this will keep them warm until they find that next step.”

While the wellness center covers people who need shelter overnight, the Grapevine Center on North Elm Street is open for winter drop-in hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This is the first year the mental health services center is opening up as a winter warming shelter.

“We're going to keep doing it for a while and try it out,” said Scott Winrader, a staff member at the Grapevine Center. “Hopefully, we can do it every year.”

Winrader knew of the overnight warming hours Glade Run is offering, and said he hopes to see another organization open from 4:30 to 10 p.m., to make sure shelterless people in Butler can find solace from the cold at all hours.

Short-term residential housing, temporary housing and transitional housing all describe different housing options that bridge the gulf between homelessness and permanent, affordable housing.

Glade Run plans to staff the site with caseworkers from other organizations in the morning who will offer support and, possibly, conduct interviews too, Green said. Overnight, a Glade Run worker, paid between $15 and $17 hourly, and a volunteer will operate the site, he said.

This opening marks the first time in some years that a warming center’s welcomed visitors in Butler, he said.

Every house has its rules

People who’d like to use the shelter must first receive assessments at the Center for Community Resources at 212 to 214 S. Main Street, as he understands it, he said. These assessments will serve both to gather information about every visitor’s unique situation and to ensure a mutual understanding of the warming center’s rules, he said.

“There are some safety measures that we have to make sure people know,” he said. “They can’t come intoxicated. They can’t come with a weapon.”

Once a visitor successfully completes an assessment, they will receive a voucher that provides them access to the site that night, he said.

Just warming up

Butler County Human Services manages the regional body that coordinates housing and services funding for people experiencing homelessness, according to Green. It was the county, he said, that provided the funding for the services Glade Run will provide through Grace Wellness Center.

“They’re the ones that contacted us,” he said. “They actually released a request for proposals for this particular program as well. So they’ve done a lot of work to try to make sure this is available this winter.”

Glade Run purchased the Grace Wellness Center in January, Green said.

He estimates the center can expect anywhere between five and 12 people every evening.

“This is a nice program for us — (it) serves our mission very well, in terms of helping the most vulnerable people in our community,” he said.

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