147,000 Ohioans suffer from homelessness each year. The median age of those 147,000 is 29. Across a span of nine rural counties in Appalachian Ohio, Athens is home to the only shelter taking in these people, giving them a warm place to sleep and providing food to fill their stomachs. That place is the Good Works Timothy House.
Back in 1981, during his senior year here at Ohio University, Keith Wasserman began opening up his home on Elliot Street to people in need of a place to stay. After only a few short years, Wasserman decided it was time to expand. That’s when he started Good Works Inc. and purchased a house on Central Avenue which he named the Timothy House.
Last year alone, Good Works was able to provide 207 men, women and children with what is equivalent to a total of over 4,700 days of shelter. There is no doubt that Good Works made a huge impact on the lives of many in the homeless community. However, along with the 207 they were able to take in, they also had to turn away 248 people due to lack of space; 84 of those people were children.
Good Works is ready to push forward and increase the number of people that they help, but they can’t do it alone. So, what can you do personally to help ensure that hundreds of people have a place to rest their heads at night?
On February 23, Good Works is inviting you to show your support by participating in the 11th Annual Good Works Walk. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall of First United Methodist Church, located on College Street. Registration will last until about 1:00 p.m. The event will include five separate walks to choose from. Each walk varies in distance (ranging from a few blocks to several miles) and the issue that it focuses on. The five walks include: women in poverty, children in the risk of poverty, strangers in poverty, three days on the streets and a mini walk.
“The Walk is really an opportunity to learn about the particular neighbors who live here in rural Southeast Ohio, what they struggle with, who they are and how poverty and the effects of poverty (which include hunger, homelessness and loneliness to name a few) affect their lives,” explained Wasserman. “It is important that each person who walks asks ‘What’s my part?’ or ‘What can I or my community do to help our neighbors?’”
Along with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of homeless people in the Appalachian area, the Walk is also a great opportunity to connect with people in the community– people that you otherwise may never get the chance to meet.
“The Walk was a great place to meet other people in Athens,” said Ken Edwards, who participated in the walk last year. “I went on one of the walks where people play-acted being homeless along our route. It was very helpful to see that homeless people are living on the edge financially, and something unforeseen causes a loss of money putting them into homelessness.”
This is a chance to truly experience a day in the life of someone living without a home. It is a chance to walk for them, to stand for them when they can’t and to show them that they have the love and support of those in their community.
“One aspect of our mission statement says this: ‘To say to people without homes: you are not alone’,” said Wasserman. “When people are suffering and scared and feeling disregarded or disrespected or hungry and without a home, we want to send a message of hope.”
Though there is no official registration fee, Good Works is asking each participant to find 10 people to sponsor him or her at $10 each. The goal is to have 500 walkers, meaning that if each person comes with the money from their 10 sponsors, together we can raise $50,000. This is approximately one-third of the annual operating budget of the Timothy House, which would be a major step up in helping them sustain and reach even more people in need.
Lunch will be provided following the Walk at First United Methodist Church; this is a great opportunity to meet and talk to others in the community… and if nothing else, free food!
“I believe we all want to live in a community where people ask, ‘How can I love my neighbors?’,” Wasserman expresses. “The Walk is simply an opportunity to learn more about loving people who are suffering.”