BY SHERI TRUSTY
Before becoming director of the Salvation Army Port Clinton Service Center last year, Kami Sayre spent years working in the social services and healthcare fields. Even with all her experience, she didn’t realize there were people living without homes in Ottawa County.
“Even with all the hats I’ve worn, I didn’t see the issue of shelter insecurity here,” Sayre said.
It didn’t take long for her discover that many local residents don’t know where they will sleep tonight.
“I have someone in an emergency housing crisis come in every single week,” Sayre said.
Sayre talked about shelter insecurity to the Leadership Ottawa County (LOC) group that visited the Salvation Army last winter. That conversation inspired them to focus on the housing issue as their group project, and on Thursday, March 30, LOC collaborated with Sayre to host the Housing Coalition Kickoff at LogistiQ. Dozens of representatives from a wide range of county agencies attended the event.
“Kami was very helpful in spurring us on,” said LOC member Stephanie Cavanaugh. “The goal is to bring agencies together to have deep discussions about housing insecurity in Ottawa County.”
The next Housing Coalition meeting will be on Thursday, April 20 at 9 a.m. at Joyful Connections at 8200 W. State Route 163 in Oak Harbor. For more information, contact Stephanie Cavanaugh at 567-262-3651.
Housing Coalition Kickoff attendees heard stories of Ottawa County residents who have faced the future with nowhere to live. They include a 66-year-old businessman who lost his job after his wife died; a mother of three whose husband became physically abusive; and a young woman whose only option was living with a man who required physical favors in exchange for a place to sleep.
“These are our neighbors, our children’s classmates and our coworkers,” Sayre said.
Among the attendees was Monique Mercer of Child Protective Services who wanted to learn about housing resources for the addiction recovery community. Mercer said local residents in recovery are sometimes unable to find a home because landlords don’t want to rent to someone with a drug history, and because the housing market has placed homes out of their reach.
“I have people with money in hand who can’t find a home because they’re not out there,” Mercer said. “Housing is one of the biggest challengers to people in recovery.”
One of the biggest obstacles the meeting addressed was the need in Ottawa County for emergency housing services. Ottawa County Jobs & Family Services Director Stephanie Kowal talked about how fragile the housing insecurity scenarios can be.
“We don’t have a crisis option. When it comes to emergency crisis situations, we have to send them out of the county,” Kowal said. “There are a lot of agencies invested in helping, but there are still a lot of folks dealing with housing insecurity.”