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Brick by Brick

The last thing Jack Ream expected in his retirement was a call from God. Yet, he feels that is exactly what happened. In 2003, Jack had a dream that he says called him to open a homeless shelter in his county, Tuscarawas. When he brought the idea to members of his parish the next day, Trinity Church, New Philadelphia, he was met with bewilderment. There were no homeless shelters in Tuscarawas County, and many weren't sure that the county was in need of one. Yet, Jack knew that there was a need for a shelter and he continued to work towards his goal. For months he continued to bring up the idea and another parishioner agreed to help. They began to work with County Services to plan the next steps to building this organization. In his career, Jack had been a steel mill superintendent and knew next to nothing about homelessness or how to address it. Undeterred, he formed a committee of members from 11 churches in the area that considered the possibilities and determined the funds they needed to form a shelter. Over the course of a year, they raised an astounding sum with donations from all the different parishes and supporters within and outside the State of Ohio. Through an agreement with the local Presbyterian church to rent out an old apartment building they owned, Jack and his group placed the final piece of the puzzle together. In October of 2005, Friends of the Homeless of Tuscarawas County officially opened.

14 years later, Jack’s dream has surpassed what he could have possibly imagined. The main facility of the shelter provides a home for 36 members of the community. In 2013, the Shelter opened a Sober Home for men dealing with substance abuse and since then five men at a time have continually had the shelter and resources to deal with the issues of addiction. Beyond simply providing shelter, Friends of the Homeless of Tuscarawas County provides an array of services to the guests to help them make future plans and find permanent housing. The shelter partners with Compass Rape Crisis Center, the Ohio State Extension Services, Compass Center, and classes of Kent State University and Stark State College. On site, residents are able to access life and employment training, support groups, spiritual enrichment, and connections to many more off-site resources. Each guest works with case workers to form a plan for their future individually suited to them and their needs.

Faith organizations have supported Friends of the Homeless since its founding. Jack explains that through all their support “the Church has made a big impact in the community.” Beyond helping with the original funds to start up the organizations, churches in the area provide both daily necessities and supplemental services to Friends of the Homeless. Every evening, guests have a warm dinner to eat, usually prepared by members of one of the involved churches. Different churches provide: bible studies, “listeners” willing to process with guests, transportation to religious services, and used bikes for guests. Many churches also hold fundraisers for the organization.

The director of Friends of the Homeless, Calvin White, says that faith-based organizations are unified by their work with the agency. “It's just really neat because it’s not political inside the building. We all come together to work for the same goal and purpose. There’s a great sense of unity among the faith community.” He feels the shelter is made possible by the work of all these different organizations. “Every group that supports us helps us build a building, brick by brick.

Every single one is important and the structure doesn’t come together without each one of those bricks,” he describes.

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