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Central Ohio shelters see increase

The Open Shelter sits in a non-descript warehouse building on the edge of downtown, just West of COSI---outside broken bottles, blankets and clothes are strewn and a person or two periodically walks by...waiting.

Kent Beittel is the executive director of the Open Shelter---a shelter for homeless men. The shelter, located at 370 W. State Street sees some of Columbus' chronically homeless.

Beittel estimates last year The Open Shelter served some 14 hundred different people. The shelter's capacity is 100.

Beittel says some of the men who come to shelter come from the foster care system or jail, while others are mentally ill or addicted to drugs or alcohol. The shelter does not have a maximum length of stay, and Beittel says many of the men develop a camraderie and become like family.

Eric Proyst is the executive director of Faith Mission and Faith Housing which serves men and women...Faith Mission began 38 years ago at 315 E. Long Street. Proyst says the face of homelessness is changing....

Proyst says housing is just one part of the organization's mission. Faith Mission and Faith Housing give clients access to a resource center that helps them find jobs.

Faith Mission and Faith Housing also operate transitional housing services in Fairfield County.

The Open Shelter recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary. Beittel says the shelter became Ohio's first 24 hour facility. In April two years ago, The Open Shelter was told to move to a different location or lose its funding from the Community Shelter Board. Beittel said no. The Open Shelter lost some 600 thousand dollars in funding.

Today, instead of being open 24 hours, the shelter is now open from 4.30 in the afternoon to 7 in the morning.

Both Proyst and Beittle says the need for emergency housing is year round. Proyst says the shelters have been at more than 95 percent occupancy for months.Beittel says at the Open Shelter no vacancy is a regular occurrence as well.

This year, Faith Mission's Long Street office is serving as an winter overflow center. The organization received a grant from the Community Shelter Board to provide the service. Proyst says the organization will find a place to stay for anyone through mid-April.

When the shelter's clients need more so do the shelters. Beittel says nearly 300 showers are taken at the Open Shelter daily they are in desperate need of towels. Preust says holiday meals mean staples like sugar, salt and meats are important. He adds clothes socks, underwear, coats and hats are also important.

Both Preust and Beittel say the community's support is what keeps their respective organizations afloat. Proyst says 15 hundred volunteers donate nearly 50 thousand hours of service each year. Beittel adds churches, synagogues and others diligently coordinate their schedules.

Beittel says its important for people to know there is more to be done to eradicate homelessness in central ohio.

Preust adds homelessness does not discriminate.