- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Central Ohio’s homeless agency is expanding space for displaced families as the number of parents and children with nowhere to live increases.

The YWCA Family Center opened in 2005 with a capacity for 50 people and is now trying to serve 140 families.

“The work has just increased in ways that nobody ever imagined,” YWCA spokeswoman Patti O’Toole told The Columbus Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1ns70A0 ) for a story Thursday.

To meet the demand, the Community Shelter Board, the area’s homeless agency, modified plans for the new adult shelter it is constructing to include a second area for homeless families. The addition of an upper floor to the agency’s west side building boosted construction costs by $5 million, for a total of $12 million in public and private dollars.

The board has long preferred getting families in permanent housing, even paying relatives to take in family members, rather than building new shelters.

But shelter board Executive Director Michelle Heritage says the system still has to get people off the streets. She says significant numbers of beds haven’t been added since 2001.

“You get to the point where you can’t do things the same way,” Heritage said of the need for the new projects.

The first-floor area for single men and women is expected to open in July or August and the family shelter on the second floor will likely open next spring, Heritage said.

The shelter will have a medical clinic, meeting rooms and space for extra beds during severe weather.

The expansion is desperately needed, said Sue Villilo, director of the downtown Faith Mission shelter, which has been over capacity for two years.

The recession, federal cuts, reductions in public assistance, low pay, mental illness and addiction all play a role in the increase in homelessness, Heritage said.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com



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