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Area shelters prepare for the cold

By Jackie Mooney, For The Miami Student

As Miami students retreat to their homes and dorms in the cold weather, they may not realize there is a local population of people near them that is not fortunate enough to do the same. There is an increasing number of homeless people in Butler County.

"The number we put on the homeless population depends on how you define homelessness," Linda Kimble, executive director of Serve City homeless shelter said.

According to the official website of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, a person is homeless when they meet certain qualifications including, but not limited to, when they reside in cars, sidewalks, emergency shelters or are fleeing domestic violence.

"There are 300-400 homeless people in Butler County when you use the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's definition," Kimble said. "When you define homelessness as people in Butler County who do not own their own homes, but are able to find friends or families to stay with, the homeless count rises into the thousands."

Serve City attempts to do a count of the homeless every year, but Kimble said it is very hard to get an accurate number due to the homeless population not having a permanent place of residence.

There are three main homeless shelters in Butler County. These shelters are Serve City in Hamilton, Ohio, Haven House Emergency Shelter in Hamilton, Ohio and Hope House in Middletown, Ohio.

Hope House has two locations, one for men and one for women and children.

These Butler County homeless shelters provide meals and beds to the homeless in addition to other services.

According to the official website for Hope House, in addition to meals and beds, mentoring, case management and goal setting, educational guidance, transportation services and psychosocial evaluation are some of the services offered.

Each shelter has specific requirements for those allowed to take advantage of the shelter. Guests must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, must not have any sexual convictions and must abide by the curfew.

"As it gets colder, there is naturally a greater number of homeless people who seek shelter," Kimble said. "Many of them do not like our 8 p.m. curfew, but when it gets cold, it's worth it to them - they begin to consider shelter for an early curfew a good tradeoff."

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Miami students can get involved with helping the homeless in many ways.

Serve City takes volunteers for serving dinners in their pantry. Volunteers include organizations, groups or individuals.

All shelters welcome donations. Haven House has lists of household items that they are constantly in need of on their website. They also accept monetary donations, which can be donated online.

Hope House allows community members to donate by registering their Kroger card online. Each time a purchase is made using a registered card, Kroger makes a donation to the Hope House Mission. Instructions for registering can be found on the Hope House website under Get Involved.

"I didn't realize homelessness was so prevalent in Butler County," junior Laura Ferguson said. "More Miami students should get involved in volunteering at homeless shelters, even if we just donate, we will be making a difference in our community."