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So much more than a safe place: Meridian program creates path for the homeless

Mar 11

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Monday, March 11, 2013  RssIcon

DAVID EMEL COMES TO THE DROP-IN CENTER EVERY morning. Five days a week. He’s a regular.

He’s 53.

“How can I put this,” he says, searching for the right words. “I have a kind of anger disorder. I like coming here. I can talk it out with any one of them.”

David participates in Meridian Health Services’ PATH project, (Project Assistance for Transitioning out of Homelessness), which prepares a way for the homeless to maintain and find a home for themselves. Without the service, he’s likely to be on the street fending for himself.

“When I moved into my apartment, Meridian helped to secure my first month’s rent,” he said. “It was pretty nice. They’ve been there for me. If they can help me, they can help anyone.”

“We really try to provide whatever they need,” said Susan Buckingham, supervisor of homeless and vocational services.

Meridian’s Drop-In Center is located in the basement of the former St. Lawrence Catholic School at 900 E. Charles St. and is open 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. The soup kitchen next door makes it convenient for clients who want a hot meal.

It’s a noisy place most mornings - a sure sign the program is at work in the lives of the men and women who seek it out. Friends are reconnecting. Some are watching a movie; others are talking to Meridian Health Service staff, working out the challenges they face on this brisk January morning.

TALKING IT OUT. David Emel laughs as he drinks a cup of coffee at the Drop-In Center.

“It’s a busy place. We have 50 to 100 people a day go through here,” Buckingham said. “They get breakfast, or popcorn, or use the telephone or read the newspaper. We try to provide services we know they need.”

Once a month, clients can get a free haircut. “It’s important that you look your best if you’re going on a job interview so we provide that.”

Danielle Rupsis is the homeless outreach coordinator for Meridian Health Services. She starts her day at the Drop-In Center each morning.

“Today is a giveaway day,” she says. “All the time Meridian staff members donate things to us to help these people in need.” It means much-needed blankets, clothing, even pots and pans are available for them.

“This is a place to warm up, to hang out,” Rupsis said. “It’s a safe place.

A lot of people with mental illnesses are homeless. We connect them with the resources they need. We smile. We care. We listen. We’re just here for them.”

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