More than a shelter
The people of Sidney, Ohio, have longed for an emergency homeless shelter in their community. The Mercy Mission House that is now under construction will provide that service and so much more.
The Salvation Army in Sidney contributed $150,000 to the $1.3-million effort that will renovate two church buildings and relocate five non-profits to one campus:
- The Mercy Mission House will include a 12-bed women’s dorm, a 16-bed men’s dorm, three family suites, a 12-bed overflow area, and a room for 20 cots for one-night stays.
- Alpha Community Center offers meals, an emergency food pantry, utility assistance, and other services.
- Holy Angels Soup Kitchen offers meals and a friendly environment without discrimination.
- Bridges Community Action Partnership helps people with rapid rehousing, case management, utility assistance, and other services.
- Family Resource Center provides specialized behavioral health services.
“It’s exciting because we’re going to have five non-profits all on one campus for our clients,” says Emily Neu, the president of the Mercy Mission House board and the person many in the community call the driving force behind the project.
Neu hopes that the building that will house the Alpha Community Center and Holy Angels Soup Kitchen will be renovated and open this fall. The shelter and other offices may open in January 2022. Shuttle busses will transport clients to the campus from three different locations.
Captain Kathryn Mayes, the Salvation Army corps officer in Sidney, said clients will be able to find emergency shelter at the new campus along with a host of wraparound services.
“All of these services are going to be under one roof and it’s the same roof that will be over the temporary shelter,” Mayes said. “It’s going to make service to Shelby County residents a lot easier. They won’t have to travel from place to place to find help. It’s going to be way more accessible for them.”
Meeting the goal
Mayes said the $150,000 from The Salvation Army is “only the beginning of our support to them.”
“We’re also going to be inside there,” she said. “Obviously, we’re staying in our own large corps facility, but we are going to partner with them and serve the people that they’re serving in the ways that we can.
Mayes said she likes the “one-stop” aspect the campus will bring.
“There’s nothing more defeating for a person than to walk into the wrong office that’s not going to serve them,” Mayes said. “In this case, a person can walk across the hall and find the office that will help them. It’s going to be a lot more efficient for those people who have housing problems.”
Neu said the $1.3 million fundraising campaign that began in January 2021 was just to cover construction and renovation but doesn’t include supplies such as beds and other furniture for the shelter.
“If the pledges we have received come in, we will have met our $1.3-million goal,” Neu said. “We have a few matching pledges, so we need to get the money in to meet those. So, we need to keep going.
“It’s going to be so much easier for our clients to be able to have all of these agencies and all of this assistance in one location. It will also be better for the agencies. Instead of having to turn somebody away or refer them somewhere else, they can literally walk them across the parking lot and make sure that they get the help they need.”
Finding her niche
Neu described Sidney as a “longstanding, family-type community.”
“It’s a community that can rally together when needed,” she said. “It’s an industrial community, so there is some poverty and some need, for sure.”
Neu, the former board president of the Alpha Community Center, said “God is just using me as a vessel. I keep getting pulled and pulled so I know this is not my work, this is His work, and I’m just able to walk around in a human body and do the work,” she said.
Neu, who attends a Catholic church, added, “This is what Christ asked us to do; to love one another. You can best love people by providing their basic needs with shelter and clothing and food. That’s the bare minimum of what I think He expects us to do.”
Another partner in the project is the United Way of Shelby County.
“This is going to fill a gap where we haven’t had emergency shelter in Shelby County,” said Scott Barr, United Way president. “Because it’s an emergency shelter and not a homeless shelter, the primary goal is to house folks for 30, 60, 90, and 120 days and provide case management, support, and workforce placement in the community.”
The Mercy Mission House leaders said 140 people needed some form of housing assistance in Shelby County in 2020, including 38 who were confirmed to be chronically homeless. About 80-125 needed daily meals.
Neu said the organizers are happy to have a partner like The Salvation Army.
“Because The Salvation Army works with similar clients, they see the need and they know the need and their sole purpose is to help with that need,” she said. “I think they see the opportunity of what the shelter can bring for the community and for their clients.”
by Robert Mitchell
To learn more about this project, visit www.themercymissionhouse.com.