It's hard to think of a more basic need than shelter on a cold winter night. Yet dozens of Toledo residents face losing even that if St. Paul’s Community Center must end its winter crisis emergency shelter program.
The overnight crisis program had been scheduled to end today. Marcia Langenderfer, the center’s executive director, told The Blade editorial page that a last-minute, $13,000 grant from the Lucas County Economic Development Corp. would keep it running through this month.
Kudos to the county — and to the Toledo area residents who also stepped forward last week — for making that happen. Forcing people, often inadequately clothed, to sleep outdoors in freezing weather risks not only their dignity but also their lives.
Even so, a community of Toledo’s size and stature should be able to come up with the money to keep this vital program running until the end of March, when the coldest weather is over. To do that, the shelter needs another $26,000.
Lucas County Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, United Way of Greater Toledo, and Toledo Community Foundation have contributed $39,000 to keep the shelter’s doors open. Surely the city or county can find another grant, or shift a few dollars around, to maintain the program until the weather is no longer life-threatening. Individuals, churches, and businesses can continue to help too.
Forty or more people stay at the emergency shelter each night, sleeping on cots. Adult men and women can stay from 7 p.m. until 8:30 a.m. More than 900 people stayed overnight at the shelter on 13th Street in January, an increase over past years.
St. Paul’s crisis program is not the only emergency shelter in town, but it takes some of the most difficult clients. Many are mentally ill or chronically homeless. Some have criminal records.
The program provides not only shelter, food, and showers, but also help in getting mental-health, employment, and other services that can improve people’s lives and make them more independent.
This is the third year St. Paul’s has run the winter crisis emergency shelter, which started this season on Jan. 1.
Keeping some of Toledo’s most vulnerable residents safe and warm ought to remain one of the community’s highest priorities. To help, call 419-255-5520.