Did you know that for years hidden behind the foliage and trees of the Metropolitan Baptist Church was a homeless encampment? Neither did the property owner, "Well I actually have known since June, and I was informed by the city manager that they were there. Prior to that I did not know", said Dr. Emanuel Wilkes. He no longer has to worry because "effective September 1st, person were no longer allowed to sleep or gather on the Wilkes property", according to a sign placed on the land by the City of Columbus.
Now that they are gone, where did they go? Dr. Wilkes said, "they (the city) have a process, a protocol which they will inform the homeless and then give them 45 days to relocate and they will assist them in relocating". The city has a 10 year plan to end homelessness in Columbus and it's being executed by the United Way's "Home For Good", headed by Christie Bevis. Ms. Bevis says, "the city contacted us and said can you help us coordinate in doing an outreach project coordinating service providers and lets see what type of housing assistance or direct services we can provide to those community member living behind the Metropolitan Baptist (Church)."
For the displaced, behind the church was home for many years, and despite the help from various organizations like Home for Good, New Horizons and the Homeless Resource Network, many of them were not anxious to leave. According to Ms. Bevis, "One of the interesting dynamics about that particular encampment is that it is somewhat isolated and hidden, so I think for the people who were staying there it was really out of choice". Home for Good's Team of service providers visited the encampment twice a week every week in a 45 day window. They serviced about 20 individuals experiencing one or a combination of challenges like mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, or just a lack of affordable housing. As a result, many of them choose to self-relocate.
Even though the experience with the Metropolitan Baptist Church shows how difficult it is to really plug into the problems of the homeless community, Christie Bevis is still optimistic saying, "there has been a lot of direct service providers but interest within the private sector too. (There is) a community of concern citizens (who want to know) how can we be a part of this effort, and how can we help move it forward and I think Columbus has a rich history of strong private-public partnerships.
WLTZ NBC 38
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