Homeless in the Urban Environment
Ohio Wesleyan University
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Todd D’Andrea and Thomas Fink in partnership with Jon Peterson of the United Church of Christ
(By Todd D’Andrea)
Initially for the course project some three months ago Thomas and I were going to look into how we could locate the homeless in Delaware and address some of their needs once we found them. Upon doing research into finding out where the homeless were, we actually instead found first who was helping the homeless. Once we were in contact with some of these city leaders we quickly realized that strategically it would make most sense to work with them instead of trying to locate the homeless across town. Financial assistance was secured through the SIP grant from the university, and in turn these funds were used to help three men and one child improve their plight.
Methods and Result
(By Thomas Finke)
The goal of our project is to ensure that the homeless in Delaware are able to get sufficient supplies when the shelter is not open. The weather in Ohio can be unforgiving, especially for people that do not have a roof over their head. We started our project after Todd found a neatly folded up blanket outside the Verizon wireless store on Sandusky Street. There are unfortunately several veterans that go homeless every year. We have made our goal to find ways in which we can help people that do not have a home and make easier for those that need help. We had originally planned to give blankets, bags, and other items that would be helpful to homeless that we would encounter. After interviewing Tony and Madison, we were able to gather the vital information that we needed to help these men. I started gathering supplies to give to these men which included, Sterno Cans, Para-cord, and two duffel bags. These were some of the items that Madison and Tony thought would be helpful to them. After Todd and I had started to gather much of the supplies our goal had changed. Jon Peterson and the church had quite a bit of supplies that these men needed. We then shifted our focus to utilize the SIP grant to give these men what they needed for their jobs and help pay down some bills. We used to the money from the SIP grant to purchase items for Chris’ five year son so he could have somewhat of childhood and be a kid. We also bought Chris some tools for him to start his construction job to help get back on his feet. For Tony, we bought a camping grill along with a MOLLE bag, shorts, shirts and socks for the spring time. For Madison, we used the allotted two hundred and fifty dollars to help pay down an outstanding electric bill from his last apartment.
The first thing that we had to figure out was whether or not what we were going to do was legal. I was able to contact my godfather (Delaware County Sheriff) to see if we were able to pursue our goal in helping the homeless. After we had found out that what we planned on doing was in fact legal we started to research the local homeless shelters in Delaware County. After doing some digging we were able to make contact with the Local pastor Jon Peterson who runs a shelter at the Zion United Church of Christ. After making contact with Jon Peterson Todd and I sat down and interviewed two of the homeless men. There we asked them what would be helpful for sustaining themselves during the winter months. This was the second and most important step in our process. We wanted to gather as much information as we possibly could so we could be better suited to help facilitate their needs. The third step was to find ways in which would give us the ability to help these men. Todd began with the SIP application to gather funds. I started gathering some the materials that these men needed. The fourth step was putting our plan into action with finding the supplies and finding ways to help these men get back unto their feet.
This project has opened our eyes to the daily interaction with the homeless of Delaware. We now understand that being homeless does not fit the stereotypical profile that society has given them. Through the interactions that Todd and I have had with these gentlemen has shown us that people do need a helping hand. Tony and Madison even though that they are in fact homeless they are still people. No one deserves to be left out in cold during the Ohio winter months. Todd and I have come to the conclusion that it is our responsibility to help the people that are down on their luck. We were able to give a five year child the ability to improve his childhood. If that was the only thing that we could do in this project I think without a doubt that we were successful in our goal.
One thing that I took away from this project is that some of these people that you see holding a sign asking for money are taking advantage of people’s generosity. This was a sad truth that I encountered with the conversations that I had with Tony and Madison. Tony told me that one person in particular sat on the corner of twenty three and made over one hundred dollars and the next thing he did was spend it on all booze. Tony made it clear that this was a bad representation of some of the people that were down on their luck. Tony was adamant that he would never beg for money because he felt that it was not the right thing to do. Then again this is just a reminder that many of these men are in fact just human like everyone else and should not be looked down upon.
The research that Todd and I did will show that Delaware county homeless population is not as high as we first thought it was. This was good news for us because this shows that there are only a few people that require help. Another piece of information that we gathered was what was in place for people that are homeless and how and where that could get help. We found out that John Peterson was running a warming shelter during the winter months and giving some of the supplies that were needed to these men. The warming shelter is only open when the temperature drops below twenty degrees and is usually done five to seven days in advance. The Delaware police department is notified in advance so that an officer is present during the hour that the shelter is open.
Another piece of information that we found was that many of these men would hangout during the day at the Delaware public library where they would charge their phones, refill their water bottles, and have a place where they could warm up. These men would also frequent McDonalds on Sandusky Street as well as Wendy’s. We also found out that Jon Peterson would help these men get DATA bus passes if they needed to get somewhere. We also learned about some of the other men that did not go to the shelter due because of some of their past encounters. We were able to find out a wealth of information whether it was where these men were staying or their own personal situation.
Since the shelter was a men’s only shelter women were not able to stay. There were however resources available to women so they could be housed. The Salvation Army would put these women in a hotel for a week so they would have a place to stay. On the night that Todd and I first sat down and interviewed these men, a woman came into the shelter and the Salvation Army came and picked her up to go to the hotel. This was nice to see that everyone that came into the shelter was taken care of. We also talked to the officer that was working that night and he told us that these men were never known to cause any trouble.
(Continued by Todd D’Andrea)
Pictured below are some of the items that we had purchased with the SIP grant to assist the needs of Tony, Chris, and Madison. Each of the men’s needs were different and each man had different goals with how they wanted the aid spent. For example, Tony, who navigates across Delaware City outside on foot, wanted a large size backpack and a portable stove top with propane tanks so he could cook outside while he was moving around. Chris was going to be starting a construction job and needed a carpenter hammer along with durable clothing for that type of work. Finally, Madison simply needed assistance with an outstanding electric bill that was hindering him from future occupancy in a new apartment.
Figure 1 Items purchased for Chris and his 5 year old son.
Figure 2 Items purchased for Tony.
Madison is what you would call a “local”. Since the age of four Madison has lived in Delaware, sporadically moving across the country as a youth and returning back to Delaware in the past ten years. When looking at him you would not expect him to be 39 years old. The hard living and miles of struggles on his body have aged him considerably. To say the least, Madison has had a challenging life. As a high school senior Madison lost his mother to cancer and has never once met his father. As he moved into his adult years Madison got mixed up in the wrong crowd as many of us have and fell victim to addiction. After all the highs and debauchery, all Madison was left with was a felony for drug possession and drug paraphernalia. To make matters worse, in his late 20’s he suffered a stroke severely limiting the function of one side of his entire body. Today he navigates Delaware by foot with the use of a cane.
‘Never give up. You never give up. And it comes down to those that you can trust.’ Strong, determined words from a man who has lacked support for most of his life. However, these days Madison does have support. Namely, in Jon Peterson, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Delaware. Any time I have talked to Jon I can’t help but be inspired by his energy, light and joy that is overwhelmingly infectious. Jon served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1999 until 2009 and currently serves as the Delaware County Treasurer. A hallmark of his core belief in living a just life is his faith in Jesus. One of the first things he said to me when asked why he did so much for others was that Jesus was a stranger and always welcomed others in regardless of who they were.
(By Thomas Finke)
Todd and I strongly believe that this project can help the local homeless population. Along with that, we also believe that this project can be expanded out towards surrounding areas. This project could easily be picked up by a group for next semester. This is also a great way to get involved with local community and represent the university as well. We would like to see this project continue into later semesters if people would be interested. Another recommendation, it would be very simple for students later on to submit another SIP grant for this project because we have already made an outline for the SIP application.
Jon Peterson, Zion United Church of Christ
51 W. Central Ave., Delaware OH 43015
Lana Lowary/ Mike Newcomb,
39 N. Washington St., Delaware OH 43015
Included below is the SIP proposal that can be replicated by future students to help ensure funds are secured.
As a part of our environmental geography course with Dr. John Krygier we were tasked to create and execute a project dealing with the relationship between humans and the environment around us. About a month ago on a cold January night I was making my way down South Sandusky Street towards campus and noticed in the entry way of the vacated Verizon Wireless store a neatly folded blanket; as if someone had been bedding down there for the night in the recess of the building. This inspired me to do further research into the homeless in Delaware County and their relationship to the urban environment. My main goal was to find out where the homeless were staying on cold nights in the city and how we could provide necessary resources to improve their quality of life. I was able to get in contact with Jon Peterson of Zion United Church of Christ and Mike Newcomb, of Family Matters, both Sigma Phi Epsilon graduates of Ohio Wesleyan in the 1970’s.
The two men host a shelter on nights when the temperature falls below 20 degrees. The two men serve between 4-6 single men in the Delaware community who are homeless. This is the actual number of homeless that are single men in Delaware, verified through multiple sources including the Delaware police. Both Jon and Mike expressed their concern of privacy when asked to expound upon the locations of where these homeless men stay when they are not in a shelter. To better address this concern of invading these men’s personal space, I feel that the SIP grant would be best suited to fund the purchase of resources that can be distributed through the channels of these two men who serve our community.
The amount being requested is $750.00. After touring the shelter with Mike and listening to the background on the shelter, we were able to identify supplies that are not on hand that could help fill in some of the gaps of providing for the homeless men. $750.00 would adequately supply 20- 25 blankets, 10-15 military grade back packs with straps, 10-15 water proof bags, 10-15 tarps (8’x8’) 20-30 packs of wet wipes, and 20-30 packs of beef jerky for multiple homeless individuals who may pass through this shelter. Through the support of Jon and Mike, we would be able to ensure that the supplies we have purchased will improve the conditions of these homeless men both day and night, when no other resources are at their disposable.