OTR winter shelter needs donations to stay open

Posted at 8:05 PM, Feb 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-03 11:46:09-05

CINCINNATI -- This winter hasn't been as bitterly cold as the last two years, sure, but would you want to spend every night outdoors?

That's something dozens of people experiencing homelessness may face if Prince of Peace Lutheran Church can't get enough money to keep its emergency winter shelter open through the end of the month.

John Suguitan, Prince of Peace pastor, said this year is unusual because the city's permanent winter shelter, now at the David and Rebecca Barron Center in Queensgate, has enough funding to stay open for the season. Typically, he said, both shelters will have a shortfall before the winter is over.

COLUMN: Making sure homeless people count

Suguitan is hoping donations will fund the shelter until Feb. 29; without more money, it will have to close next week.

"This year's a little different, in that it's warmer, so most people don't have that thought in their mind" to donate, he said.

On cold nights, Suguitan said, Prince of Peace is at capacity. The church, located at 1528 Race St. in Over-the-Rhine, can accommodate 45 adults. In past years, it has had to turn away people seeking shelter from the bitter cold.

No meals are provided; the shelter is simply a warm place for people to sleep. But Suguitan said there's more involved in running the shelter than many people realize, beyond just putting mats out on the floor.

"You have to have personnel every night. Since it is an 11-hour shift, you have to have multiple crews of personnel," he said. "You have to have training, you have to have logistics."

Both the Barron Center and Prince of Peace accept adults only, ages 18 and up. The shelter opens at 9 p.m. nightly and lets out at 6 a.m.

Troy Dear, of Independence, Kentucky, has been experiencing homelessness for a year and four months. Soaking wet after Tuesday night's rain, the shelter was a place he could dry out and warm up.

"It is downright scary, downright scary -- you don’t know if you are going to freeze up, or you don’t know if you are going to die," Dear said.

Suguitan said Prince of Peace needs $9,600 to keep the shelter open through the end of the month. The church is accepting donations online.