A new way to help homeless people is taking shape at The Salvation Army in Belleville.
Organizers of the planned Hospitality House would like to give aid to homeless people in these possible ways:
▪ Provide a respite from bad weather, something to eat, a shower, a haircut and a laundry room to clean their clothes.
▪ Offer counseling from a case manager who would help homeless people with finding the resources available for them, job placement, preparing for a job interview, finding an apartment and getting a Social Security card.
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Planners of the Hospitality House say they are in the very early stages of getting started and the services to be offered have not been finalized.
Capt. Daniel Simmons of The Salvation Army in Belleville at 20 Glory Place off West Main Street said the Hospitality House would be located in the basement of The Salvation Army building and that it would not be an overnight shelter. Simmons also said that the Hospitality House is being planned by several groups and not just The Salvation Army.
“It’s a community effort,” Simmons said. “We are just a piece.
“The ultimate goal is to get people completely off the streets,” he said.
It’s a community effort. We are just a piece.
Capt. Daniel Simmons of The Salvation Army in Belleville
Belleville has not had an overnight shelter for homeless people since The Salvation Army closed its overnight shelter in 2009 after the city required the shelter to provide the police department with the names of people spending the night in the shelter. Salvation Army officials have said they closed the shelter because releasing the names of their clients violated their privacy rights and that new regulations imposed by the city would require additional staffing that the group could not afford.
“There’s a lot of people in Belleville and the area … and churches and organizations that are doing good things for poor and homeless people and the Hospitality House would give us an opportunity to all work together, coordinate information, coordinate services,” said Jesse Arms, who is on the board of the Angels of St. Clair County, which is one of the groups working on the Hospitality House.
Arms described the Hospitality House as “a daytime refuge and a way to get linked to services that will help poor and homeless people’s lives and help them exit homelessness. That’s the goal.”
Organizers hope to open the Hospitality House in April with some services and then offer other services at a later date.
On Friday, Simmons and volunteers from Local 459 of Belleville spent the day cleaning The Salvation Army’s basement, where the Hospitality House would be located.
The Hospitality House would give us an opportunity to all work together, coordinate information, coordinate services.
Jesse Arms from the Angels of St. Clair County
The basement already has two showers. Organizers want to install a washer and dryer and build an office where a case manager could meet with homeless clients.
A budget and fundraising for the Hospitality House are still being planned.
“We’re doing what we can in St. Clair County to maximize the resources we have here and to raise more resources both in terms of volunteers and donations,” Arms said.
“To be as successful as we need to be, we want to involve all segments of the community: civic, church, secular, corporations, small businesses and foundations.”
The Rev. Cory Hartz of Trinity United Church of Christ in Belleville and Gerry Hasenstab, executive director of Catholic Urban Programs, are the co-chairmen the city’s Community Development Network’s homeless initiative, which is supporting the Hospitality House.
“It’s really bad right now,” Hasenstab said of the number of homeless people in St. Clair County. “Myself, I’m getting at least a dozen calls a day for a motel.”
Catholic Urban Programs is overseeing a hotel vouchers given to homeless people during extremely cold days. In December, the Belleville Township granted the program $15,000, which was the same amount granted the year before.
Hartz said his church has opened its doors to homeless people during extreme weather in recent years. In 2016, Trinity was able to get 37 persons “off the street,” after getting them counseling from a case worker, Hartz said. Overall, he estimated that over 200 people received some type of assistance from Trinity in the past three years.
Hartz said he thinks an overnight shelter is needed in the area but he acknowledges that it would cost several hundred thousand dollars. He believes the Hospitality House will be a great way to coordinate assistance for homeless people.
“We just feel like this is a wonderful first step,” Hartz said of the Hospitality House. “We’re getting people together. We’re moving forward and I think it has exciting possibilities.”
The city is scheduled to assume control of the Belleville Township duties and finances in May and Mayor Mark Eckert said the City Council may consider giving some of the hotel voucher funds that had been released by the township to the Hospitality House.
“The city is very appreciative of all these groups and agencies that are working together,” Eckert said.
“I think we’re going to see some real dividends if we can help people not just always with the Band-Aid but with a long-term solution to some of their challenges,” Eckert said.
Bob Trentman, a member of Local 459 and a St. Clair County Board member, was one of the volunteers helping to clear out The Salvation Army basement Friday.
“This is what you’re supposed to do,” Trentman said. “People that are better off are supposed to help people that aren’t.”
About Hospitality House
- What: A planned daytime program to help homeless people
- Where: The Salvation Army at 20 Glory Place off West Main Street in Belleville
- Contact: 618-235-7378