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Not a 'flophouse', but a 'turning point'
By Jennifer Decker
The Herald Republican
Those who feel there is not a homeless problem in Steuben County are sadly mistaken.
Dwellers living a house, apartment or trailer of any type, fancy or rundown, bungalow or condominium, will never know how fortunate they are. They have permanency with a mailbox, welcome mat and address. They likely don't have to wonder what pillow and blanket - if any-they will use at night, if they are warm or dry in getting basic rest.
Ask Shannon Hentzell, Turning Point Homeless Shelter of Steuben County executive director, and she'll say giant steps are being made on her watch to serve the homeless population.
Hentzell has been heading the Angola facility at 600 N Williams Street since September. Prior to that, she headed Noble House, Albion, for some five years.
Hentzell spoke Sunday at First Congregational United Church of Christ's monthly Pulse Diversity Series in Angola.
She's quick to say Turning Point isn't a flophouse. Instead, it's what is printed on her business card: "Not just a shelter, but a 'turning point.'" The shelter is set up to help those down on their luck succeed through empowerment.
Turning Point was formerly known as Operation Shelter. It was founded by the Steuben County Ministerial Association in October 1989. The shelter's purpose is to serve as temporary emergency shelter to the homeless and transients.
The video she showed at UCC had a message: "We are to extend love. We should extend our love to them."
"I have a passion." said the Angola resident. With her huge heart, she has long worked with the homeless population in a most respectful way.
"One of the best things I like at Turning Point is we're faith based," Hentzell said. Morning devotionals - though not mandatory - are shared with residents.
On Saturday, Turning Point had 16 residents - men, women and children. The facility's capacity is 40.
"Have you ever wondered where your next meal will be? A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck," she said.
Others who turn to Turning Point have no family or other places to go. Some have run out of places to couch surf. All types of people seek out Turning Point. Even a teacher with a college degree sought help.
In another case, a mother needed shelter with her children. "I couldn't help, but think what those kids go through," Hentzell said.
Hentzell said there is an application for those who want to stay at the shelter and ground rules. Those who don't follow the rules are dismissed from the facility. They must pass a police security check. Violent and sex offenders aren't allowed because children stay there. Residents must actively look for a job.
"We want them to have a savings (account) and an exit plan so they're no going to churches (for help)," she said. "We start charging 10 percent of take home (when they get a job). That shows them they'll have to pay rent. How long do they stay? I don't think you can get turned around in two days. You can turn your life around."
Because its a nonprofit without any federal funding, Hentzell said there's always plenty of needs. One recently was when an outbreak of bed bugs hit the area.
"We started praying and out of the blue a lady called asking if we wanted new mattresses," Hentzell said. And the woman didn't stop there. She also came through with new furniture.
But wait, there's more!
The woman helps out clients who complete the Turning Point program with miscellaneous items for setting up households.
"Our need is much bigger than people think," Hentzell said.
Turning Point has a wish list. Money donations are needed to be used toward computer equipment. Also needed are a washer and dryer, utilities and office equipment. Volunteers are always needed.
Jennifer Decker is a Herald Republican reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org