Homeless shelter sees record high numbers

St. Vincent de Paul Gateway Shelter at 120 West Apple Street in Dayton (WDTN Photo/Matt Behrens)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A local homeless shelter has provided more nights of refuge than ever before.

St. Vincent de Paul provided 134,463 nights of shelter in 2015, the most in the organization’s history and 41% higher than just six year ago.

Now, more than ever, the non-profit is going above and beyond to bring those numbers down.

David Bohardt, St. Vincent de Paul’s executive director attributes the increase to several things. He says the great recession, the Miami Valley’s heroin epidemic, and a failing school system in Dayton are all to blame.

Velina Rankin and her daughter, Valerie who has down syndrome both fell victim to homelessness in 2014. The two were living to day to day, crashing at different homes of friends and family.

“You feel like you’re putting everyone out, which you are. Even though they say you’re not, you are. It was a very stressful time,” said Velina, who grew up in West Carrollton.

Eventually, the mother and daughter duo were living out of a hotel. When their options ran out in May of 2014, Velina and Valerie had no where to turn, but St. Vincent de Paul.

“We were carrying bags, I had never been so tired of bags. Bags of everything we could possibly carry and we carried them everywhere we went,” said Velina.

St. Vincent’s has two shelters. A men’s shelter and a women, children and family shelter. Velina and Valerie stayed on the family side with hundreds of others. Velina says they quickly adapted to a crowded and structured life with breakfast early in the morning and dinner at 5:30 p.m.

“We weren’t back outside. Your freedom is very limited, but it had to be that way,” said Velina.

During their four month stay at the shelter they were connected with housing services. Now, they’re living in a home through the program and Velina cleans houses a couple days a week.

“It was nice to get into our home now. The first thing I did was put every one of our bags up in the closet, they are put away. It’s a wonderful feeling, when you carried them for so long,” said Velina.

The shelter just celebrated it’s 30th anniversary in 2015, providing refuge to thousands.

Montgomery County established a 10 year plan to end homelessness in 2005. Nearly two years after it was initiated, the recession hit, making the goal harder to achieve.

“We will have poverty in our community for as long as the community is here, the important thing is that we do everything to minimize it’s impact,” said David Bohardt, St. Vincent de Paul executive director.

The shelter doesn’t turn anyone away, even if they are filled to capacity. If need be, they’ll give out hotel vouchers during cold months to make sure everyone has a warm place to stay.

“When you provide a person with an opportunity, when you treat them with respect, when you show them the road to recovery. It’s amazing how many take advantage of that opportunity,” said Bohardt.

Velina says she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. It was a chapter in their lives of preserving they will cherish.

“We’re getting our smiles back and that’s what St. Vincents did,” said Velina.

To be a part of St. Vincent’s mission, click here.

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