Funding the Good Works’ Timothy House

Since we started Good Works in 1981, we have trusted in God and relied upon the kindness and generosity of ordinary citizens to provide the resources we need to operate our shelter for the rural homeless and our other outreach initiatives. Although we have tried, we have not been able to obtain any private foundation grants to supply funds to operate The Timothy House. According to the Foundation on Appalachia, only 2% of all foundation dollars in the State of Ohio are given to the 31 Appalachian Counties. The vast majority of foundation dollars go to the larger metro areas of the state. To add insult to injury, the vast majority of private charitable giving does not go to organizations assisting the poor but to Universities and the Arts.

I am grieved at how out of touch many city and county officials are regarding what we at Good Works have been trying to do, on such limited resources, to address the problem of homelessness in our region. The ONLY grant we received to provide shelter for the rural homeless in nine southeast Ohio Counties came from the Ohio Development Services Agency which was $64,000.00 in 2013. This was the State of Ohio’s total expenditure for the rural homeless in need of a homeless shelter for nine southeast Ohio counties. Our Timothy House budget is $180,000.00 a year, and until 2014, we had to find more than $120,000.00 in funding every year just to stay open. And, just for the record, the average salary of our full time staff in 2013 was $25,000.00.

ALL of that changed in January 2014 when we were informed that the rules of the Ohio Development Service agency grant agreement requires shelters to refuse shelter to anyone who will not consent to up-load their personal information to the State’s Homeless Management Information website. After a long struggle, many prayers and a face to face meeting with state officials on February 4th, 2014, our board and staff decided to no longer seek funding from the State’s Ohio Development Services Agency. Clearly, their rules were instructing us to violate the civil rights of people without homes by denying shelter to anyone who refused to consent to the HMIS mandate.

Since 1981 we have been serving the rural homeless, and not once has the city of Athens or the county government provided Good Works any money to operate our shelter. We provide 150-200 men, women and children with 4000-5000 nights of shelter every year. Last year, Good Works provided more than 21,000 meals to people who struggle with hunger and homelessness.  Indeed, even our local drug, alcohol addiction and mental health board, called the 317 Board, provides operating funds for our local domestic violence shelter, and a local residential alcohol recovery house but has not provided any operating funds to support citizens who are homeless and who are mentally ill or dealing with drug addiction. WHY? I do not understand. At a time when many of our mentally ill citizens no longer qualify to receive counseling and support service at our local mental health center, I am perplexed why the agency commissioned to care for the mentally ill in our county won’t provide funds to help us help homeless people (I would be happy just to receive the amount of money the 317 Board spends in advertising their programs in local newspapers each year). If any one would like to ask them why mentally ill or addiction-affected homeless people can’t benefit from their support in the same way victims of domestic violence and recovering alcoholics benefit, you can contact Earl Cecil at the 317 Board at 740.594.3177. Or, you can go to The 317 Board website, and ask them your questions.

Furthermore, in a face-to-face meeting with our previous State Senator (Jimmy Stewart) and the Director of our County Department of Job and Family Services, the County Director refused our second request for financial assistance with the operational costs of running our shelter, even though the request was specifically for homeless families and even though they provided us with $10,000.00 in a previous year. The Director refused our request to provide us with another $10,000.00 out of their 93 million dollar Athens County (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) budget to assist homeless families. WHY? I do not understand. Again, I would be grateful if they gave us the same amount of money they spend on advertising their programs on local billboards in the county. If anyone wants to ask the Director, Jack Frech (740.797.2523) why he can’t spare $10,000.00 for homeless families out of his 93 million dollar budget for the homeless families of our county, I would be very interested to see his answer. You can e-mail him at jfs@athenscountygovernment.com.

For our part we will continue to trust God and ordinary people to provide the resources we need. We will press on because we know that faith, hope and love, not politics, drive our concern for the vulnerable, those who experience weakness and people without homes. Love is not something that can be “funded.” From the beginning to the end, we have learned to serve for the sake of love not for the love of money.

Keith Wasserman