A grant of $55,000 from the Hatton Foundation will enable the James Sauls Homeless Shelter to pay off the mortgage. The shelter, which was officially opened in December of 2008, cost $524,000 to build. In 2007 the Hatton Foundation gave the shelter $200,000 toward that cost of construction. Now the foundation is going to finish paying the mortgage which will free-up money from their operating budget to cover the cost of staffing.
“The money for the monthly mortgage was coming out of the yearly budget,” said executive director Billie Kuntz. “We hope to be able to continue with the staff we have and we will be redirecting the mortgage money to staffing needs.”
During their first year in operation the shelter has been home to 369 people.
Kuntz says that the shelter is always accepting donations.
"We received money at Christmas time both last year and this year," said Kuntz. "We have been receiving donations of food left over after family dinners and we're asking people to keep us in mind when they have dinners. It takes everybody in the community to help."
She noted that they are always in need of paper products and personal care items.
The operation of the shelter was taken over by Clermont County Community Services in 2007 and Kuntz said they really didn't know what they were getting into but that things are going smoothly.
A former resident of the shelter is now working as a volunteer at the shelter 15 to 20 hours each week.
"The staff here at the shelter went far and beyond the call of duty," said Raymond Morris. "I lived here in December last year and I loved living here. They really care for the people who stay here."
Morris was in the process of moving back to Clermont County after living in Florida. He had plans to stay with a friend, but his friend was in the hospital and Morris had no place to stay. He needed a home for a short time while waiting for his disability check to catch up with him in Ohio and the shelter took him in.
"The staff here gave me life, they gave me hope, they gave me understanding and now I have to give back to other people. When somebody helps you, you help others out," said Morris. "This is a place of going forward and I have to thank the staff, Leann, Regina, Jody, Dianne, Stevie and all the others who have helped me go forward."
Although Morris can't work a full-time job because of heart problems and high blood pressure, he enjoys helping in the kitchen and doing whatever is needed to keep the shelter running smoothly.
He described his experience of living in the shelter.
"A typical day in the shelter began with coffee," said Morris. "I would get up about 5 a.m. and have some coffee. I tried to get my laundry done before everyone else got up. They wake everyone up about 7 a.m. for breakfast."
Morris said that each person is assigned chores to do while living in the shelter.
"We may have to clean tables, take out the trash or clean the floors," he said. "Sometimes I would watch the kids for moms while they did their chores. I like to help people out."
The shelter is set up with two large dormitory rooms and two family rooms. The kitchen, living room area and dining room are all open areas shared by everyone in the shelter.
"When school gets out and the kids come home, it gets noisy," said Morris. "Some people complained that the kids were too noisy, but the way I see it, this is their home. They are kids, what else are they gonna do?"
Morris said he enjoyed helping prepare lunch and dinner for the people in the shelter.
"I'm a cook by trade," said Morris. "People like my cooking and I've learned to improvise and be creative."
Morris also said he enjoys spending time with people, listening to their stories and offering advice whenever possible.
"I believe that when you show people kindness and love it can break down the barriers," he said.
He said that the shelter has rules and regulations in place for the safety and security of everyone who lives there. Curfews are in place and no one smelling of alcohol or on drugs is permitted to live there. He noted that while most shelters only offer meals and a place to sleep, Sauls Homeless Shelter is run more like a home.
"Some people will leave and go out job hunting during the day, but they don't make you leave here," said Morris. "You can stay here all day if you want. It is a caring shelter."
He said that the shelter helped him with his first month's rent and key deposit. He now lives in an efficiency apartment in Batavia.
Morris is divorced, the father of three children, two of whom are serving in the military and has three grandchildren.
Although Morris could probably be put on the payroll for the shelter, he says he doesn't want to get paid for what he does. He enjoys being a volunteer.
"With my money I get for disability, I look out for other people. I pay it forward," said Morris. "I may do this for the rest of my life."
For more information about the shelter, contact Billie Kuntz at (513) 735-8802 or Leann Townes at (513) 732-6464. The James Sauls Sr. Homeless Shelter is located 2403 Old State Route 32, in Batavia.