MAXWELL MARSHALL, Staff Writer—CLIC hosted a panel talk of non-profit leaders and community members working to combat homelessness in Licking County on the evening of Thursday, November 14. The speakers were met very well by a small group of engaged Denisonians in a dialogue about homelessness.
Guest panelists spoke with students about how homelessness works, and their respective organizations do to address the needs of impoverished and homeless community members. Deb Tegtmeyer, the executive director of the Licking County Coalition for Housing (LCCH), noted most importantly that “Homelessness is a symptom of other things.’” These include many complex factors besides simply losing one’s job, such as mental health, family stability, and access to social services.
Deb has worked with LCCH since its founding 26 years ago. LCCH serves primarily to connect impoverished and homeless members of Licking County with affordable housing options: options that are seriously lacking in the Licking County housing market.
Denison alumnus Kellon Patey ’19 also spoke on the panel. Kellon served for some time while a Denison student on the Newark Think Tank on Poverty, as well at the Hull House in Newark. Kellon explained that we must also include factors of one’s identity into the discussion of homelessness, noting the how one’s ethnicity or membership in the LGBTQ+ community may adversely contribute to their housing status: both considerations that social workers and their organizations in the community are now growing to better account for in addressing the unique needs of the homeless.
Kellon, while quite active in Newark during his time at Denison, is now stationed in Columbus. He now works primarily for a political organization, doing multi-state rural advocacy work.
Access to adequate services in the community also hinder folks trying to get themselves off the streets, explained panel speaker Scott Hayes. Scott has been working for some time with the Licking County Jail Ministries and founded the non-profit Vertical 196 in Newark in 2014. Vertical 196 is one of the few low barrier shelters in Newark, providing daytime services to essentially anyone who walks in the door, unlike other shelters that may require things such as legal documentation from people who access their services, barring some individuals from needed services.
Scott operates Vertical 196 during daytime hours, providing folks with lunch, showers, computers, haircuts, and various other services that fall under rehabilitation. Vertical 196 is unique, also, because it operates during the midday hours: a time most shelters do not offer needed services to Newark’s homeless.
From the talk, students took several takeaways, especially regarding how homelessness results from a dynamic, intertwined set of individual and social conditions: all of which these three guest panelists are addressing in their own unique ways via their organizations. And while these organizations struggle to meet the needs of Licking County’s homeless due to limited funding, their work continues to provide great hope and opportunity in the community, as evident by their organization’s amazing outcomes, having housed, fed, and served hundreds of people in need.