As the winter weather continues on, most of us are fortunate enough to have a warm home to go to; however, for many that is not the case. Every year, between 2.5 and 3.5 million people in America live either on the streets or in an emergency shelter. The major cause of this is lack of affordable housing.
Thankfully there is a place in Northeast Ohio for those who don’t have a home to call home, and that is Haven of Rest Ministries. The Haven of Rest, located on East Market Street in Akron is one of the largest private social service agencies in the Summit-Portage-Medina-Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne-Holmes counties area. One of its most famous visitors includes George W. Bush, whose picture was taken while stirring one of the large pots in the kitchen.
What sets the Haven of Rest apart is that it is more than just a place to stay. They offer a variety of services to those in need, including career training, Bible studies, three meals daily, a library, clothing store and other necessities in order for the individuals to get back on their feet.
They are known for providing thousands of free meals annually. On average they serve about 600 meals every day of the year; at Christmas it’s about 850. In 2006 the number totaled 277,584.
As Reverend Walker, the Havens Executive Director, once said, “Hunger and homelessness never take a vacation.”
Addictions and Abuse
Among the reasons for homelessness, addiction is high on the list. In fact, 80% of the homeless nationally have more than one addiction.
“Many of their lives are out of control because their addictions have become their total obsession. Typically they go through detox first then come to us,” Mike Solosky, the Havens Donor Relations Coordinator, explained.
Many of the women who come to the Harvest Home, which is the women and children’s facility, are victims of abuse. They come knocking at the doors all hours of the night, with no other place to go. All that they have are the clothes on their back and possibly a child or two. They will spend anywhere from three months to a year there, depending on the individual circumstances.
Volunteers and staff at Harvest Home make sure to celebrate the mother’s and children’s birthdays by decorating, baking a cake and giving them gifts.
“There will be tears, and many times they will tell me that no one has ever acknowledged their birthday in a positive way. We want to show them the love of Christ,” Solosky said.
The Client Services Center, which is the home for men, is a large heated and air conditioned facility with all of the essentials including a laundry room, bunk beds, telephones, showers, a bathroom and lockers for them to keep any belongings. The men may use Haven of Rest telephones so that they can set up job interviews or secure permanent housing. Free clothing is also available.
One of the main goals of this ministry is to set people up for success by teaching, training, and providing them with basic essentials and a good foundation so that they can escape the effects of poverty for good.
For more information and statistics on homelessness you can visit www.endhomelessness.org.