Polly’s Place: a stepping stone to independence for women facing homelessness

Jul 2, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

Several people helped open the doors to Polly’s Place, including those shown here who are, from left, MHRSB Office Manager Michelle Patterson, MHRSB Fiscal Manager Tanya Hemmer, MHRSB Executive Director Mircea Handru, Oak House Executive Director Kristen Gerwin and MHRSB Community Outreach Coordinator Nicole Williams. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

A former family home in a comfortable Port Clinton neighborhood has found new life as a transitional home for women. The house which once echoed with the busy footsteps of a family will now resonate with hope for women who need short-term help to regain their independence. Polly’s Place opens its doors to its first residents this month.

The home is owned by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties (MHRSB) and operated by Oak House in Port Clinton. MHRSB Executive Director Mircea Handru said the home will focus on assisting individuals with mild and moderate mental illness and/or substance abuse struggles who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Homelessness exists in the shadows of Ottawa County, where many local residents have no idea how widespread the problem is in their neighborhood.

“There is a huge homelessness situation in Ottawa County, even if they have cash in hand,” said Monique “Mo” Mercer, who will serve as the house manager of Polly’s Place.

Light House Sober Living Women’s House Manager, Miranda Mann, is grateful that MHRSB and Oak House have collaborated to open a transitional home in the county. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Mercer comes to the position with the real-world compassion of someone who has experienced homelessness and found support in a transitional home. She lived in a recovery house in her early days of sobriety and worked her way to a full and independent life.

“This is something I’m passionate about – helping with homelessness and addiction,” Mercer said. “I’m excited to be a part of this. We have a lot of ideas on how we can help women in Ottawa County.”

Mercer said the home will place a strong emphasis on empowering women.

“We want to empower women and let them know their worth,” she said. “We’ll have programs, like cooking classes and a photography group. We’ll teach basic living skills.”

People across the community have stepped in to help make Polly’s Place a reality. Oak House Executive Director Kristen Gerwin said donations began pouring in before she asked for them. Kerry Velliquette, who heads the outreach committee at Materion, is organizing a donation drive; Miller Boat Line co-owner Julene Market donated much-needed kitchen supplies; and retired Bataan Elementary School Principal Marti Willis inspired her weaving group to make baskets for the home’s future residents.

“I haven’t reached out to the community. The community reached out to me,” Gerwin said. “That’s what’s good. It makes us feel welcome.”

Handru is grateful for the widespread support from the community.

Monique “Mo” Mercer brings compassion born of personal and professional experience to Polly’s Place as the home’s house manager. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“We are glad and happy to be able to open Polly’s Place in Ottawa County. We hope that this place will make a positive difference in the lives of many individuals who need housing assistance,” Handru said. “We are thankful to the community for supporting our efforts to improve access to mental health, addiction and housing services in Ottawa County.”

Children will be allowed to live in the home with their mother or guardian on a case-by-case basis.

“We have full-size beds in the bedrooms, and we’ll utilize pack-and-plays and cribs,” said MHRSB Fiscal Manager Tanya Hemmer. “We want to serve as many people as we can.”

Miranda Mann is the house manager of the Light House Sober Living women’s home in Port Clinton. She is grateful that so many people, some of whom are in recovery, came together to open another supportive home in the county.

“It shows that people in recovery have hope. It shows we can have a beautiful life,” Mann said. “Every person here is a layer of support, and I get to be a part of it. I walked in here with gratitude.”

To make donations of kitchen supplies to Polly’s Place, visit https://www.amazon.com/registries/gl/guest-view/AS3FG2O69ZA5.

Monetary donations can be made at https://www.paypal.com/donate?campaign_id=MLE5HBUSK9KDY.

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