Focus is on helping families find stability by partnering people and resources –
By Patricia Beech –
Bringing hope to others is what motivates Sharon Harris, the new Director at Adams County’s Shelter for the Homeless (ACSH).
“It’s a people thing,” she says. “You’ve got to want to help, you’ve got to want to take care of other people. I love my job – every day I come here excited to see what I can do for the people who are here and for the families who are here.”
Prior to her appointment to the Director’s chair, Harris spent a year working as assistant to the shelter’s former director, Robert Boldman. She says she’s eager to put her knowledge and training to work for the shelter.
“I want to help others gain stability and be able to raise their families in a safe environment,” she says. “Nobody wants to be in a shelter, and I’m just looking forward to helping families gain stability so they can take care of themselves.”
She says her desire to help others not only led her to study Social Work and Psychology, but also encouraged her to seek out unknown resources that make a real difference in the lives of those who need help most.
“When I was in college, I kept finding that there are a lot of resources out there that people don’t know about – it’s just a matter of locating them, helping people identify the resources that they need, and putting the two of them together,” she says. “I fell into this wonderful opportunity to be able to make that happen for a lot of the people who come through here.”
Located at 11483 St. Rt. 41 in West Union, the ACSH houses up to 16 individuals including men, women, and families with children. The facility operates using grant funding and donations from the community.
“The people in our community have been really great about helping us by giving donations and taking it upon themselves to stop by and see what we need,” says Harris. “They also do different projects for us, like the Adams County School’s Sock Project, and we have several churches that donate.”
According to Harris, the shelter is currently gearing up for the winter months when the number of homeless people tends to increase.
“In the summer, people are able to stay in dormant houses, but in the winter those houses are too cold for them to live in,” she says. “Any family that comes through the shelter during the winter months is provided with coats, hats, scarves, and shoes. We try to keep a good stock of clothing for them, especially when the weather turns cold.”
The Shelter also works to make sure the families they house in the winter months have the opportunity to celebrate the holiday seasons.
“Around Christmas time we depend on the community a lot,” says Harris. “People call that want to buy gifts for our clients, and the churches call to see how many families are here, and we at the shelter also have to be prepared, just in case we don’t have the community to fall back on, because every child deserves to have a gift under the tree.”
Harris doesn’t confine her skills as a social worker to the shelter. She says the facility receives numerous calls from people in the community who are looking for assistance and advice.
“We have a lot of people who will call, even though they’re not clients, they’re looking for our help or they want to know where they can get help,” she says. “If I don’t have an answer for them, I’ll see what I can find quickly on the computer and give them a phone number or information they can use.”
Harris says outreach is important because it sets people up with the kinds of resources that provide immediate help. The shelter supports a wide range of housing assistance services in Ohio, including homeless prevention, rapid re-housing, and finding permanent affordable housing with links to supportive services, as needed.
“Not only are we wanting to take care of everybody here in the shelter, our goal is to set people up with the kinds of resources that will keep them stable where they’re at, so they won’t have to come here,” Harris says. “That would be ideal.”