EATON — Have you considered what it might be like to be homeless? To not know where you may find your next meal or where you’re going to sleep on a cold fall or winter night?
That’s the mission of One Night Without a Home, held outside of the Preble County Courthouse by Home is the Foundation (HIT), Preble County Habitat for Humanity and YWCA Dayton on Thursday, Nov. 19.
This past week was National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week across the country and in Preble County, and One Night Without a Home normally encourages participants to come prepared with a tent and sleep out on the footsteps of the Preble County Courthouse.
This year, however, due to COVID-19 concerns and the recent 10 p.m to 5 a.m. curfew mandate handed down by Governor Mike DeWine, the event was held over a three-hour period, but it didn’t stop those in attendance from coming out to hear music from local musician Noah Back and hear about the impact of hunger and homelessness, especially this time of year.
“It’s not easy to plan an event like this during a pandemic, and we consider canceling, though we didn’t get to cancel homelessness because of the pandemic,” said Courtney Griffith, YWCA Dayton Preble County Manager. “In fact, homelessness is more difficult and dangerous because of [COVID-19].”
The first Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week was held in 1975 at Villanova University.
“Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is held annually,” said Toni Morgan, Preble County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director. “People come together across the country to draw intention to problems of hunger and homelessness. They participate in groups spend a week, holding a series of educational services, fundraising and advocacy events.”
Griffith said the YWCA Dayton is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, having operated a Preble County Domestic Violence Shelter and crisis hotline since 2004.
“We know that 57 percent of homeless women cite sexual or domestic violence as the reason for homelessness,” she said. “Domestic violence victims often return to their abusers because they cannot find long term housing. This is why our services are vital for women and their children. So far this year, we have provided shelter for 26 women and 19 children, all of which were homeless because they had to flee their home because it was not safe anymore.”
Clayton Genth, Executive Director of the HIT Foundation, said they are focused on people who are experiencing housing crises, mental health, drug, alcohol and addiction issues, and that’s the key to ending homelessness.
“I always want to encourage people to get involved with an organization,” he said. “One of us three, we all have great organizations that fight that cause, but there’s also other ones too, so my challenge to you is to focus on housing and the solutions to ending homelessness and keep that in the back of your mind about why we’re here tonight talking about homelessness and really focus on the key to ending it, which is housing.”
Morgan added that it is important to shed light on the “invisible” people in Preble County and to make others aware of the homelessness issues faced every single day.
“Living in homelessness is a dark place to be, and we have lots of ways that we can help,” she said. “We have the opportunity to shine our lights into their lives. Working a shift at the cold shoulder, making a donation, cooking a shelter meal, volunteering for an event, but it can also be as simple as a conversation, a smile, a hug, or prayer.”
After representatives from each of the three host organizations spoke, they led attendees in a candle-lighting ceremony and a moment of silence for those suffering from homelessness.
Partners for Thursday’s event included the Preble County Board of Commissioners, Noah Back, Eaton First Church of God, Just Teasin’, Eaton Community Church, Papa Johns and Wings Etc.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles