By Anna DeWine
XENIA – Single mothers earning their GEDs, starting their own businesses, finding homes and raising families: these are the kinds of stories that come out of House of Hope on South Detroit Street.
The Xenia facility is a 10-room, 23-bed home that houses nine families for 60 days. During this 60-day-period — which sometimes becomes 75 — clients work toward educational goals, job opportunities and a housing voucher, all while living in a safe, supportive space.
Or, as Bill Mallernee, executive director of Interfaith Hospitality Network/Schneider House of Hope, puts it, every day his clients pursue “sustainable independence.”
But these 40 families per year cannot find their own independence within the shelter alone.
In its 21st year of existence, Greene County’s House of Hope is calling on the community for support.
“Homelessness involves the whole community, so it should be a community concern,” Mallernee said. “We are helping the whole community – but we also need the community to help us.”
The privately funded organization has existed for over two decades through the efforts of individuals, businesses, and churches. Last year, community members volunteered over 8,000 hours.
“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without their help,” Mallernee said. “We rely heavily on them.”
Beginning as a rotational shelter, clients met at a day center and were then shuttled to a local church. There, they slept and ate for the week. The shelter today exists in a refurbished 1890s hotel, providing longer-term assistance specifically to families with children.
Parents use the home as a place to receive job training, make connections with outside resources, and learn new life skills. While the end goal is a housing voucher and a new home, clients also attend classes on budgeting, nutrition, and parenting.
“What we give them are seeds to help them begin. We meet a need for right now in hopes that they will eventually get off assistance,” Mallernee explained. “What we teach them is that if you want something different, you have to do something different, something you’ve never done.”
The children of these parents benefit as well from the shift in stability. At the House of Hope, they not only have a bed and a playground to call their own, but also a set of rules.
“A lot of people kind of hesitate when they see the rules as they walk in, but when they leave, they say, ‘You know, I think I’ll bring some of these things to my house’,” Mallernee recalls. Sitting down and eating together is one new everyday practice they bring into their clients’ lives.
And so community members are again invited to volunteer their time — cooking, tutoring, overnight-hosting, sponsoring — so that these children can continue forming daily routines, like sitting down and eating with their families.
The public is invited to the first IHN Empty Bowl – a dinner and silent auction. The event will be held 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 at the Faith Community United Methodist Church, 100 Country Club Drive, Xenia. The event is a community affair, showcasing soups, breads, beverages and desserts from area restaurants, as well as locally-made ceramic bowls. Tickets are available for purchase starting at $20, or become an IHN “hero” by sponsoring the event.