1 John 3:17 gives us a very strict charge when it says, “Suppose someone sees a brother
or sister in need and is able to help them. If he doesn’t take pity on them, how
can the love of God be in him?” A group of church members took this charge seriously
and so Serve City’s food pantry began over 20 years ago in the basement of a local
church. As the need continued to increase we noticed most the people coming for
food were coming from the inner city. Due to the lack of transportation, people were
unable to easily access the pantry. With much prayer and determination, it was decided
the pantry would move to downtown Hamilton. This move gave us the opportunity to
meet the people where they are.
Times are still hard and the need is continuing to increase. Every day we open pantry
we have new families who have never before been to a pantry. We pray for continued
strength and ability to meet these new needs as they arise.
In 2001, the Board of Directors of Serve City was discussing the extreme lack of
resources, including shelter, for the homeless in the area. One area pastor commented
that it was tragic that we had local churches sitting empty at night when people
had no where to sleep. “Chosen” was born from this compassion.
Several area churches agreed to host the homeless one week at a time until we could
establish a permanent shelter. We would literally move the entire shelter and people
to a different church every Sunday.
Finally, in 2002, our remodeling was finished and Chosen moved permanently into our
current location at 622 East Avenue, and we have continued to improve and expand
services since then! We currently provide shelter for up to 40 men and 12 women.
Serve City developed CHOICES to create a solution to a growing housing problem in
the community. There was a breakdown in the housing system that left too many people
without housing options. Many of them would end up in one of Butler County’s three
emergency shelters and truly have no where else to go. CHOICES is providing transitional
housing for homeless residents needing additional time to get back on their feet
and PERMANENT housing for those falling through the cracks of existing services but
requiring a supporting housing environment. CHOICES is providing 48 beds in 12 apartments
and will follow a best-practice, resident-managed model developed by the Low Income
Housing Institute in Seattle, Washington. We believe a resident-managed model will
provide the best option for managing these units because we deal daily with individuals
that want safe, drug free housing and are willing to participate in keeping their
home in this manner.
In a resident-managed model, residents collectively set the ground rules for the
property and violators have to answer to a tenant-led association. When residents
participate in the management process, they feel a sense of ownership and will be
far more likely to monitor resident activities and report rule violations. In addition
to participating in management of the property, tenants are required to pay a minimal
rent to live at CHOICES. One of the most attractive elements of this program is its
long term financial stability. As a part of its application to the Federal Home Loan
Bank, officials had to prepare and provide fifteen year financial projections. The
projections indicate that the affordable rents paid by the tenants will provide the
necessary revenue for the project to be self-sustaining. Residents of CHOICES will
also have access to many area social service agencies.
In addition to the financial commitment by the Federal Home Loan Bank, the City of
Hamilton has committed federal HOME funds toward this project. CHOICES is now entering
its 5th year of operation. The apartments are in good repair and the vision of CHOICES
is still going strong.
Shekinah Place is Serve City’s 25 efficiency unit apartments located at 522 East
Ave in Hamilton. Shekinah Place, which means the presence of God on earth or a symbol
or manifestation of His presence, was opened in 2011 through the hard work and generosity
of many individuals and churches. Serve City was privileged to receive funding for
Shekinah Place from the City of Hamilton through HOME funds and from the Federal
Home Loan Bank.
Shekinah Place is located just one block from the Serve City Chosen homeless shelter,
which makes it an ideal transition option for people coming out of shelter life.
The concept for Shekinah Place began many years ago when the lack of affordable housing
in the Hamilton area became evident. People would leave the shelter and they did
not have sufficient income to afford housing that would get them away from the drug
and alcohol infested life style from which they came. It was with this thought that
Shekinah Place was developed. Shekinah Place is drug and alcohol free. There are
additional rules that go with living at Shekinah Place. Also, each resident is required
to do 10 hours of community service each month in order to better the community around
them. Shekinah Place is resident managed. This means that there is a resident committee
that is responsible for overseeing the activities that take place. This added responsibility
gives each resident a say in how they are governed and what rules are kept in place
and which rules are eliminated. Residents also have a decision in who moves over
and has the opportunity to join in their community. This ownership mentality gives
each resident the opportunity to be responsible for their decisions in a very real
Shekinah Place has been open for over two years now and is nearly always at capacity.
What we at Serve City have learned over the last two years with this project is that
if you give people the opportunity to live a structured, drug and alcohol free lifestyle,
they will, more times than not, take this opportunity and do more with it than you
could have ever imagined.