Cities are changing. As a younger generation begins to move from the suburbs and back into the cities the need for more apartment complexes and renovations of the city are required. These changes to accommodate this reverse urban migration brings money to the real estate developers and a fresher sleeker image to the city in general. As this reconstruction occurs cuts are made to funds deemed unnecessary.
One group that feels the pain of the cuts are the homeless and the programs designed to help them.
In 2011 the Homeless Families Foundation in Columbus was forced to evict residents in an apartment complex that the organization had used to house those without permanent residence. Along with the housing, a school for the underprivileged was shut down as well; displacing dozens of families and leaving them out on the street to make their own way.
The Open Shelter is one organization in Columbus, Ohio that helps the homeless directly. Located on Mound Street in downtown, the organization operates out of a small Methodist Church. The Open Shelter provides a warm meal and sack lunches to its patrons, as well as clothes, sleeping bags, toys, phones, and a place to receive mail. Kent Beitell runs the organization, and has run it since 1983.
"They are on every street corner, they sleep under overpasses, in the woods, behind stores, fly signs at freeway exits, they're the members of society so many choose to make invisible. With the Open Shelter we don't expect to end homelessness but we can do something to keep food in their stomachs, to keep them in contact with their families and help them any way we can." Kent remarks.
James Hammond credits the Open Shelter and Kent Beitell's wife Mary for saving his life. James had lived on the streets of his native Columbus for over ten years, moving from camp to camp living day to day.
"I had become addicted to crack, and since then my life had been in a down spiral of partying and drugs." He comments.
James' lifestyle soon caught up with him however; one morning in early July, James' appendix ruptured. Alone and with no means or money to get to the hospital James was sure his time on this earth was coming to a close.
"I was lying on the ground on the far west side, I was in so much pain and I just knew that I was going to die, then she came like an angel out of nowhere and grabbed my hand." James recalls.
Mary Beitell got James the medical attention he needed, and after countless surgeries and hospital visits, James could safely say he had survived the darkest time in his life.
He now volunteers everyday at the Open Shelter, hoping to make a difference in other homeless peoples' lives. A scar on his torso reminds him of that dark time.
"My story is that I made it. I made it and I'm here now, to help and maybe I can save someone, or at least be a part of their life turning around."
Homelessness is a continuing problem, and as the city changes many in the homeless community find themselves displaced and farther away from organizations such as the open shelter. Efforts have been made by other organizations and charity groups to reach out to those who are displaced.
David Dungee, a man who has been living on the street for the better part of a decade has a positive outlook on the situation, "It's cold and it's a day-to-day life, but as long as theres people like Kent and organizations like the YMCA, if you go hungry or freeze to death in Columbus, its your own fault."
While it is easy to see the negative in the homeless situation in Columbus, the continued efforts of people like Kent Beitell and the Open Shelter prove that there is still hope, and that there is still care for those without a home in Columbus.