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Group details efforts to assist those experiencing with homelessness

| September 29, 2022

NEW PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 29, 2022) – “We’re more than a shelter.” That’s the message leaders of The Friends of the Homeless of Tuscarawas County want to deliver as the organization seeks a new location for its operation.

The Friends of the Homeless operates a 36-bed homeless shelter on East High Avenue in New Philadelphia. But, the programs and services provided by the Friends of the Homeless do not stop with the shelter.

“We not only provide shelter. We provide hope,” says Executive Director Calvin White.

The organization also provides a wide variety of services to people in need and partners with many other social service and educational agencies in the county.

“Over the years, we’ve really expanded the programming and services we provide. In addition to the shelter, we help people who are not homeless but need a box of food, hygiene products, or just a blanket,” said White.

Board President, Rev. Joe Svancara, echoed White’s comments.

“I think people are very surprised when they learn that last year we distributed eleven-hundred food boxes to people in the community. We provide hygiene supplies. We provide about 20 evening meals every day of the week to people who are not guests in the shelter but still need assistance. There is a spectrum of homelessness and a spectrum of poverty in the community and we’re trying to meet those needs.”

Svancara is pastor of the New Philadelphia First Presbyterian Church that leases the shelter to the Friends of the Homeless.

“It’s a core tenet of the Christian faith that we are here to express the hope and opportunity found in God through Jesus Christ. It’s our duty to help the poor, wherever they are and wherever we are,” he says. “We have staff and volunteers working every day working to solve problems with compassion and humility to heal people and help them live better lives.”

White says the organization works closely with a wide variety of groups and social services agencies in the county to provide as much assistance as possible to those who seek their help.

“We have a significant footprint in the community working with medical, mental health, educational, and social service agencies. We work with treatment facilities and local law enforcement agencies to ensure that people have a safe and secure place to plan their future.”

He says all guests in the shelter work with a case manager on issues ranging from household finance to work skills.

The Friends of the Homeless has a contract with the Wellmore Centre to provide group and individual counseling services. The organization also manages a four-bed long-term recovery sober living house on an adjacent property, the Pathway to Wellness Recovery Center, where the professional staff from the Wellmore Centre provides intensive counseling services.

Occupational therapy is provided through a partnership with Stark State College. Bible study programs are also offered.

White says many factors drive men, women, and families to the shelter including poverty and domestic abuse.

The shelter typically runs at or near its 36-guest capacity. White says there is a family atmosphere in the shelter among the guests, staff, and volunteers.

“In a short period of time, they bond and look out for one another. The kids have lots of uncles and aunts.”

The shelter does not admit individuals charged with a sex offense, those who have a history of arson, or persons with a record of criminal violence. All potential guests are subject to a background check and the staff searches their belongings. All guests have responsibilities and chores to earn their keep.

Steps are taken to ensure the safety of the guests, staff, volunteers, and neighborhood. The effectiveness of these steps is seen in the low number of police or emergency calls to the shelter.

“We take very seriously the safety and security of our guests, staff, volunteers and community,” says White.

Founded in 2005, Friends of the Homeless has provided over 178,000 bed-nights for more than four-thousand men, women, and children. Over 6,000 Tuscarawas County residents in addition to shelter guests have received assistance with food, hygiene supplies, blankets, clothing, transportation, housing assistance, mental health, and substance abuse referrals, and other services.


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