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The Advertiser-Tribune Article

Former bed and breakfast to become transitional housing

As written in The Advertiser-Tribune. January 27, 2011 by Nick Dutro, Permission granted by The Advertiser-Tribune to display on this website.

Tiffin Mayor Jim Boroff said he knew there was homelessness in Seneca County, but he said he is the first to admit his ignorance to the types of homeless and how to meet their needs.

These were some of the reasons behind the formation of the mayor's task force. Today, the group is addressing the issue with Morrison House.

Located in a former bed and breakfast, 107 W. Perry St., the facility is to provide emergency and transitional housing for homeless individuals and families as they prepare to acquire and maintain permanent housing.

"We knew there was an issue, that we were putting a Band-Aid on the problem and not getting progress," said Pat DeMonte, executive director for United Way and a task force member. "We don't look at this as a homeless shelter, but transitional housing for people. To have a safe, secure place for them to live while they are transitioning into more financial stability where they can afford to have their own home."

Morrison House was purchased by New Housing Ohio Inc. which worked with the mayor's task force to find a space for area homeless, and with the help of previous owners Jeffery and Katherine Morrison. The house is named after Jeffery's grandparents, Tiffin residents Kenneth and Anna Morrison, who took in young men as they aged out of the Junior Home Orphanage in Tiffin.

Scott Boone, president and chief executive officer of New Housing Ohio, said this is the fourth property acquired and rehabilitated in Tiffin. He met Boroff while working with the other properties.

The mayor praised Boone on his effort and invited him to be part of the task force.

"He has no agenda that I've been able to surmise other than he wants to help whoever needs help," Boroff said.

Boone said the Lebanon-based group is dedicated to Tiffin, and has received $1 million in private grants to do area projects.

"We're not just giving hand outs," he said. "We like to think that we're creating taxpayers ... getting people off of assistance and helping them become productive members of the community."

Tiffin resident Rachelle Griffin, who is homeless liaison for the Fostoria City Schools and a member of the task force, said the house is to have seven bedrooms, several bathrooms, a large kitchen and dining room, several shared sitting areas and laundry.

Because it started as a bed and breakfast, it retains most of the furniture and amenities.

"They wanted to ensure individuals were progressing in their lives," Boone said. "We felt like the ambiance of the building would go far to helping with those goals."

The mayor's task force started two years when Boroff received correspondence from the U.S. Census Bureau asking where homeless could be counted for the 2010 Census. Boroff turned to DeMonte and soon began a discussion on how to aid the homeless a population which could be on the rise due to recession and job loss.

"We were not going to try to reinvent any wheels, nor were we going to try to micromanage or supervise any existing organizations," Boroff said. "We were really trying to identify any holes there might be as far as needs, as well as try to make the services more apparent to people who need them."

The task force began to look for projects and identified 17 types of homelessness. Programs started include a food drive, which has been held the past two years around Valentine's Day, and "Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World," a 20-week course to help people help themselves.

"This program works with individuals to show them how to pull themselves out, to extricate themselves from the bad influences of friends and family, how to manage money, the expectations when you get a job," Boroff said.

The task force is not a city function, but works as a neutral party through the mayor's office to organize individuals in the community.

"When people ask what the task force is, I always say we're the catalyst, we're not the experts," Boroff said.

Morrison House is months from being ready for residents, but the group has ideas for how to help the facility function.

Boroff said it will be not be part of the mayor's task force, but is to be staffed around the clock through a board or foundation working with New Housing Ohio.

In addition, there will be a need for community support, not just financial but also in services and talent.

Demographics of those living in the facility are to be decided by New Housing Ohio, but the group said there will be a protocol for those housed.

"It's not going to be somebody showing up on the doorstep and immediately having shelter here without knowing who that person is, because that wouldn't be fair to the families who are here," Griffin said.

Boroff said the hope is that one day there will be no need for a facility for the homeless. For now, however, Morrison House can help people in difficulty, including youth.

"When you have to go home to a home that is not yours, that there is not a place to sit down to do your homework that's yours, that you're sharing two beds in a bedroom with a parent or a sibling, when you show up at school the next day, many times you are not ready to learn," Griffin said. "When you've got a lot on your plate, you're not ready."

Copyright 2011 The Advertiser-Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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