The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The living room of the former Van Wert Woman's Club clubhouse is now being used by a homeless woman and her children. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

The YWCA has provided housing for women since its inception nearly 100 years ago and has added housing services for homeless women with children in the last few years.

While housing entire families hasn’t been an option in the past, that situation is changing — and not a bit too soon for YWCA Transitional Housing Director Jamie Evans and YW Executive Director Stacy Looser.

“We’ve had guys having to sleep in their cars because we had no place for them to go,” Looser said, noting that she was never very comfortable with having to turn men away when their families were living in YWCA housing.

Now, husbands and wives with children, and even single men with children, can be part of the YWCA’s housing program.

The latest expansion of what has become the premier long-term housing program for homeless women and their children in a three-county area that includes Van Wert, Mercer and Paulding counties arose from a meeting held in the spring of 2011 between YWCA officials, the Van Wert County Board of Commissioners and Scott Gary of the Ohio Department of Development’s Office of Community Development.

That meeting, which allowed YWCA officials to explain how the local transitional housing program works and to show Gary the program’s benefits, eventually resulted in the YWCA receiving a $179,700 grant from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund’s Homeless Assistance Grant Program.

Another benefit for the housing program is the donation of the former Van Wert Woman’s Club clubhouse to the YWCA when that organization disbanded last year.

Currently, the 12-month Transitional Housing Program houses single women and women with young children on the third floor of the YWCA, with women and children also housed in the Woman’s Club house and the house just east of the YWCA’s main facility that is also owned by the YW.

This sampler says it all, when it comes to the YWCA's Transitional Housing Program. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

Currently, two families are housed in the home east of the YWCA while a woman and her two children are living in the Woman’s Club clubhouse. Evans said she is looking at a maximum of three small families in each of the two houses, while the third floor of the YW will remain for single women and women with small children only.

“This is a good expansion,” Evans said, adding that she said she wanted to grow the program when she was interviewed for her current job in 2009.

Evans, who has a social work background and once worked at Westwood Behavioral Health Center in Van Wert, has also expanded the workshops and classes those in the Transitional Housing Program must take. While the classes change from year to year, they generally include “life skills” classes that include workshops on finances, women’s and family health issues and such areas as conflict resolution.

The classes are designed to help participants, which will now include both men and women, regain their independence and be able to live on their own when the year-long program concludes.

While ability to accept men is a plus, both women said, they added that men would also have to participate in workshops and classes that are part of the Transitional Housing Program.

One thing both women stressed — several times — is that the housing program is not a shelter.

“It’s unreal to me how many people believe we are a shelter,” said Looser, with Evans noting that even some area social workers aren’t aware of the distinction.

The differences between a housing program and a shelter are several, Looser noted, but basically the YWCA program does not take women on a short-term basis — women in the program are required to be in the program for a longer stay, up to 12 months. The program is also not a place for women who can’t live independently, such as elderly women who need short-term housing before moving to a nursing home.

“Participants must be able to go out and live on their own when their time in the program is up,” Evans stressed.

Both Evans and Looser added that the program is not a shelter for abused women, which is handled locally by the Crisis Care Line/House of Transitions program.

In the meantime, while a family is currently living in the Woman’s Club house, work is needed there to upgrade the plumbing and, in a year or so, replace the structure’s aging furnace. Currently, the upstairs bathroom is unusable because of plumbing problems, while a shower is also needed.

“The plumbing is immediate and the furnace is within a year, and the rest of the plumbing remodeling within six months,” Looser said, while Evans said furnishings and appliances are also needed for the program.

Also, while the ODOD grant provides needed funds for the housing program, Looser said it doesn’t cover all the expenses. She noted the YWCA needs to come up with somewhere between $35,000 and $50,000 to cover unfunded program expenses, including cost of the renovations to the Woman’s Club house.

Anyone wanting to donate home items or money to the program can call the YWCA at 419.238.6639.

POSTED: 01/20/12 at 6:35 am. FILED UNDER: News