Many Portage County homeless living outside, according to pastor raising funds for new shelter

Winter is finally here. It's been brutally cold. For most of us dealing with this frigid weather, it is just a matter of turning up the heat.

But for dozens of homeless people in Portage County, there's no where to go to get warm.

In all of Portage County, there is one shelter with only 22 beds that serves families. It is estimated that there are over 100 homeless people currently living in Portage County.

A new shelter could be life saving.

Pastor Mark Miller of the Portage Community Church in Ravenna had his eyes opened a few years ago about the homeless men, women and children who were living outside right in his community.

"We had a parishioner that came in and brought an awareness to us of the homeless in Portage County- took us out to some bridges and different places where the homeless were at, and we had no idea that that was right in our backyard," said Miller.

At one point, Miller says there were close to 80 homeless people living in tents, even in brutal winter temperatures behind the Walmart in Ravenna just across the street from where The Haven of Portage County is set to open its doors. Pastor Miller and the Haven's supporters want to renovate an existing building and turn it into an 80 bed, dormitory-style shelter.

Close to half a million dollars is still needed for The Haven of Portage County to open.

The goal would be for the facility to open in the next six to nine months.

"It's lifesaving. I mean it is really, literally lifesaving. We have had people in this community die over the winter. It is not fiction. It is not a story that happened somewhere else. It happened here," said Attorney Debra Booher, a Haven board member.

Cleveland 19 will host a phone bank Thursday between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. during the afternoon newscast.

Attorney Debra Booher and her associates will donate up to $25,000 in matching funds raised during the phone bank.

Visit The Haven of Portage County to donate.

Editor's note: Cleveland 19 News has partnered with The Haven of Portage County to help the homeless with a phone bank from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21. In Portage County, 16 percent of the population lives in poverty with around 100 homeless people in Kent and Ravenna. The Haven of Portage County is a faith-based organization that is helping provide rest and restoration to the vulnerable in Portage County through holistic healing in the name of Jesus. To donate now, click here

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