By Lance Mihm
ST. MARYS -- The Auglaize and Mercer County Continuum of Care may purchase house trailers or rent apartments to have housing available for homeless people in the two counties.
Members of various charity organizations and service care providers, who formed the continuum in July of last year, discussed those possibilities at a meeting Monday at the St. Marys Public Library.
The group wants to have housing available in St. Marys, Celina and Wapakoneta, but the problem is funding, Sources Director Deb Linn said. Sources covers both counties and provides services for low income residents.
Linn said most people in the area are not aware of the local homeless problem, which she says includes about 200 families in both counties and possibly another 200 families who are facing eviction notices. The only people with immediate housing available in the area are victims of domestic violence.
Among those 200 include a transient man who left his mattress and a box of belongings as evidence of his temporary living quarters underneath a bridge in Auglaize County on Wednesday. Sources has tried to open homeless shelters twice in the past, but has faced objections from local communities.
"People are only willing to help if the problem isn't in their back yard," she said. "We have twice tried to open homeless shelters and there was an outcry from citizens because they thought it would hurt their property values or the crime rate would go up. While this is simply untrue and unjustified, it is still a problem we face."
Linn plans to check with several local renters and mobile home park owners on an affordable way for the committee to purchase or rent housing.
"This is a little non-intrusive and low key, so people don't mind it as much," Linn said, adding that she plans to look for grants for funding. "This will be a little more expensive, but it is probably the only option."
The goals of the Auglaize and Mercer County Continuum of Care is to define the needs of the community and to detail existing services. The organizations then can cohesively formulate a plan to assist the homeless and formally bridge gaps in services, Linn said.
"This is a process the federal government is supporting, so it will be vital to all of the organizations receiving grants in the future," she added.
Linn plans on reporting available options to the group at its next meeting at July 19. A time and location haven't yet been determined.
More than 40 organizations are involved in some way with the committee. Organizations taking the most active roles in the committee include the Auglaize County Veterans Service, Gateway Outreach Center, CALL Food Pantry, Mercer County Crisis Center, Foundations, the Mercer County Sheriff's Office, Mercer County Civic Foundation, Our Home, Auglaize County Health Department, Mercer County Community Hospital, Auglaize County Department of Job and Family Services, Auglaize County United Way, Net Inc. and Mercer County Head Start.