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For failed shelter, help came up short

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OBERLIN — Family Promise of Lorain County’s dissolution was caused by a combination of financial woes and lack of volunteers, according to interim executive director Diane DePould.

The nonprofit announced Wednesday its board of directors had voted to dissolve the nonprofit last month, transferring all assets — including the Day Center in Oberlin — to the Neighborhood Alliance and its Haven Center. The dissolution became final at the end of 2018.

DePould said the program had been struggling long beforehand, with a dip in grant funding as well as corporate and individual donations. After taking over as board president in January 2018, she said she was aware of the financial struggles by March.

“A lot of it really wasn’t anything we could do much about,” she said.

As donations dwindled, so too did volunteers for the shelter program.

Family Promise is a national model, DePould explained, where roughly 13 church congregations commit to four weeks a year to house homeless families. She said congregations were having problems recruiting volunteers for the host week, prompting Family Promise to put families up in hotels.

“That became an issue for us,” she said. “Some were only taking one week, some were doing four weeks — one of them had four weeks and for the two of the weeks they didn’t have volunteers and we were hearing that all through the congregations.”

It lost its case manager in September, DePould said, with Neighborhood Alliance opening up 15 additional beds for families originally served by Family Promise. She said they had averaged roughly two families a week. In 2017, it had 55 guests — 34 children and 21 adults, with an average stay of 38 days.

Family Promise had coordinated the overnight stays with congregations, while providing job applications and case management services at its Day Center from about 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Its three part-time drivers provided transportation for children to their home schools, or for clients to doctor’s appointments.

The Day Center is closed. She said it is unclear what Neighborhood Alliance will do with the building, a former church rectory in Oberlin. Options include reopening the center, if funding is secured, or selling the property.

“It is such a beautiful property,” DePould said. “It’s set up for families — there’s a big playground in the back, there’s a garden and it’s just set up that way.”

Despite the setback of dissolving the 10-year-old chapter, DePould said she sees herself continuing in the nonprofit world, interested in providing support for the county’s underserved and homeless populations. And she wishes Neighborhood Alliance continued success.

“It definitely is a loss to Lorain County and we have been hearing that, but the funding just wasn’t there to allow us to keep going,” she said. “… I had various groups who didn’t want us to close, but where’s the support? Donations were coming in like crazy, but not monetary donations. And that’s what we needed, but it just didn’t happen.”

Those in need of shelter can contact Catholic Charities’ coordinated entry service at (440) 244-2179.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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