Open Door Ministry Provides Essential Food & Housing Resources – Need Greater Than Ever

Open Door Ministry Provides Essential Food & Housing Resources – Need Greater Than Ever 199 134 Episcopal Community Ministries

The Open Door Ministry (ODM) has been serving the Walnut Hills community in Cincinnati for 47 years.  They are under the direction of Episcopal Church of the Advent, where they are headquartered.

ODM offers three key resources:  a payee program, which helps clients manage their finances, a food pantry, and a café.  They truly have an open door policy that welcomes all.  Inspired by Jesus’ call to love thy neighbor, ODM partners with individuals to help prevent homelessness, hunger and loneliness.  Their mission is to “encourage and empower people through key services of finance and food assistance and by creating opportunities to build relationships and create community.”

They Payee Program helps clients manage their limited funds to make sure housing and living expenses are paid so they remain stably housed.  Clients get help applying for SNAP benefits and enrolling in Medicaid or Medicare.  The Food Pantry typically serves nearly 5,000 people annually by providing 3-7 days of food and non-perishables such as toiletries and hygiene items.

For the past 47 years, ODM opened for breakfast every weekday morning, offering coffee, food and companionship to the local community.  For many homeless people, this was their only meal of the day.  Other people came in as an antidote to isolation and to charge their phone.  Although the café needed to close at this time due to physical distancing restrictions necessitated by Covid-19, ODM is still providing essential services through their food panty and Payee program.  The need for food and housing assistance is greater than ever.

The Reverend Stacy Salles contributed this update on how the Open Door Ministry continues to serve their community during the pandemic:

The Cafe portion of the Open Door Ministry is closed due to the “social distancing” requirements. The payee program is continuing so people’s rent and utilities are still being paid. With regards to spending money for the payees, checks are being mailed to them, so they have access to money for food and other daily needs. The first week of the “Social Distancing”, JoAnn McIntosh (ODM Director) and her staff prepared bags of groceries for pick up by people coming for food. They weren’t allowed in the building. A deep cleaning was also done of the facility. By the second week the Open Door Advisory Board decided that as some of the staff have compromised health issues and those picking up food were not always following the 6 feet distance rule, we needed to find another solution. It is easier to have people keep the 6 feet distance rule at the church office door as the space is much more open. We decided that Open Door would prepare boxes and bags of groceries of food that would be placed in my office. I am connected to the Walnut Hills Resource Group who are finding ways to distribute food in Walnut Hills. While I haven’t been able to help distribute, I do let them know that I have food for folks who need it. Throughout the last three weeks we have had people coming to Advent for food, including three of our homeless folks. 

With regard to the Payee Program, JoAnn McIntosh and one other staff person work from home some days and work a half day at Open Door some days to collect payee bills and social security checks and take care of other issues arising around Open Door. All other staff was “laid off”, but because they are staff who are part-time and receive social security themselves, we knew it would be a hardship for them to lose what little bit they earn at Open Door, so Open Door is continuing to pay them, and provide food for them when they need it. This is a hardship in the sense that during the Covid-19 virus, donations both at Church of the Advent and Open Door are down. We really want to be able to continue to financially support the Open Door staff that are laid off so they too can stay in their apartments.

I think we sometimes forget that Open Door is more than a ministry providing a social place to gather, financial management to help others remain in a home, and a place where people can get food during tight times. Four of our Open Door Staff are folks whose part-time work at Open Door is a ministry as well. They come from our neighborhood and have some sort of disability themselves. What they say about their work at Open Door is it gives them joy because they know they are helping others. Open Door Ministries provides them with a standard for living a little better financially, spiritually (because they are helping), and emotionally (because they are doing something that makes them feel good about themselves). 

Rev. Stacy Salles 4/3/20