Gladden Community House is on the frontlines of homelessness

 

In her 13 years as president and CEO, Joy Chivers has seen the Gladden Community House increase its budget and the services it offers. Like many nonprofits, the services have grown faster than the budget.

Most recently, Gladden became the Community Shelter Board’s hub for the prevention of family homelessness in Franklin County.

“The system has changed to the point where the Community Shelter Board has now focused further upstream in trying to prevent families from going in to the shelter,” Chivers says.

With the lack of affordable housing, families who go into a shelter no longer stay an average of five days. It’s often three weeks or even a month, which costs the CSB more than keeping them in their own home.

Housing emergency

For many years, Gladden paid utility bills or gave away food, so people could pay their rent, Chivers says. With the CSB’s program, the organization works with families who call a homeless hotline. The assistance can last up to six months, but the idea is help during a crisis, like car repairs, not to foster dependency.

“A lot of our families are working, and if they are only making minimum wage, it’s very difficult for them to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Columbus,” Chivers says.

She says a minimum wage earner needs to work 84 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment, which costs an average of $900 a month.

While the city and county are working hard to address affordable housing, Chivers says the problem hasn’t yet been solved for the many families who make less than $40,000 a year.

In addition, as the Franklinton neighborhood is revitalized, some rents have increased 50 percent.

“We hear a lot of people saying their rents have gone up. They can’t afford to live here, and they are having to move out of the community,” Chivers says.

She’s heard displaced residents are heading to the Hilltop neighborhood. While that area is also being revitalized, it’s a larger area so the process is slower.

Lifting households up

In addition to the CSB, Gladden partners with Franklin County Children Services, working with families in the 43204 ZIP code for up to a year. Gladden offers money management and parenting classes, helps adults find better employment, addresses housing needs and ensures children attend school.

“The goal is to keep the families together and make sure that the children don’t have to be removed from the home,” Chivers says.

 

Wrapping services around each family

The Gladden Community House serves 12,000 residents in Franklinton, as well as the Hilltop and surrounding areas. It has 38 full-time employees and 12 part-time staff and utilizes about 800 volunteers each year.

Annually, the nonprofit serves about 200 youth in after-school programs and 550 youth in its year-round sports program. It sees about 1,000 households a month through its food pantry, assists about 1,000 seniors who want to live independently without being isolated and educates about 50 preschoolers

Gladden, in total, serves about 300,000 meals a year, through its food pantry, preschool and youth programs.