About Faith Mission
An affiliate of Lutheran Social Services (LSS), Faith Mission operates 365 days a year, providing shelter to individuals experiencing homelessness. Founded in 1966, Faith Mission also serves as the only community kitchen in Franklin County providing three meals a day to anyone who is hungry. Each day, Faith Mission shelters more than 200 people and serves more than 600 meals.
In addition to emergency shelter and hot meals, Faith Mission operates a Client Services Center, providing additional resources and support to improve the lives of shelter clients, as well as others experiencing homelessness in the community. These services include:
- Support services for veterans, including linkages to stable housing, temporary financial assistance and US Department of Veterans Affairs benefits;
- Case management support to obtain vital documents, apply for benefits and access community resources;
- Medical, dental, vision, pharmacy, behavioral health and recovery services; and
- Employment resources such as résumé development, interview coaching and referrals to employment partners.
After many years of heavy use, both the men’s and women’s shelters operated by Faith Mission were in need of significant renovations. When the opportunity arose to acquire and renovate the building adjacent to the existing Faith Mission Client Services Center, LSS launched the Homeless to Home Campaign in 2014 to purchase and renovate the facility. This provided the opportunity to co-locate the men’s and women’s shelters and all veteran services under one roof, and develop a campus of services, improving access for all clients and creating operational efficiencies for the organization.
The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation was an early, significant funder of the Homeless to Home Campaign, providing over $650,000 to help support the acquisition of the building and to provide the necessary renovations. The new Faith Mission shelter opened in 2017, providing more space, better access for those with disabilities, improved security and upgraded facilities to better assist clients.
In June 2018, Osteopathic Heritage Foundation staff asked Sue Villilo, Executive Director at Faith Mission, about the project and the services provided by the agency.
Faith Mission is one of the largest shelters in central Ohio supporting individuals experiencing homelessness. What else is unique about Faith Mission?
There are really two aspects of Faith Mission that are unique:
- We offer programs and services to individuals experiencing homelessness and to those in danger of becoming homeless, but who are not currently residing at the shelter. Programs and services include access to the Community Kitchen, where three meals are served every day of the year; the Federally Qualified Health Center providing medical, dental and vision services; and the Employment Resource Centers.
- We have a philosophy of treating everyone with dignity and respect, which is evident in the programs and services and in our facilities. This is engrained in our organizational culture and it is a philosophy to which everyone adheres.
Through resources offered by Faith Mission, many clients increase their income in the first month. How is this accomplished? Of the clients eligible for work, how many does Faith Mission ultimately help to find employment?
Faith Mission offers two Employment Resource Centers with computers, phones and trained staff to engage clients in the employment process. We work with companies to educate them on homelessness and learn about their hiring needs. Employers can become a Faith Mission hiring partner if they pay a minimum of $9.50/hour and provide full-time employment and medical benefits. We currently have 116 hiring partners, creating a link to jobs that lead to sustainable housing. Thirty percent of people who use the Employment Resource Centers increase their income in the first 30 days. So far this fiscal year, 524 people have increased their income [11 months of data]. We also have a Supplement Security Income [SSI] Specialist on staff to help clients receive eligible benefits in about 45 days, as opposed to typical wait times of up to eighteen months.
Faith Mission is able to make a greater impact on individuals experiencing homelessness in our community through the support of volunteers. What do volunteers mean to Faith Mission?
Year to date, we’ve had 18,660 volunteer hours contributed [in the past 11 months], which is about the equivalent of nine full-time employees. It is fair to say we could not do the work we do without volunteers. We use volunteers in our Community Kitchen, Donation Center, Employment Resource Centers and Health Center.
How has support from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation helped Faith Mission achieve its goals or serve its mission?
We want to provide everyone who comes here with a dignified and respectful experience. Our previous facilities were cramped, offered no privacy and had ongoing maintenance issues due to age and overuse. We want to provide people with an environment where they feel safe, comfortable and uplifted. Being in an environment where they feel welcome and supported helps them to focus on what comes next for them. The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation gift helped us in creating that environment.
What are the goals for Faith Mission over the next five to ten years?
We want to be in a position where we are able to respond to the emerging needs of people experiencing homelessness. For example, establishing our Federally Qualified Health Center resulted from seeing an increase in people experiencing homelessness due to a medical condition. With the current opioid crisis, we are in the process of developing a medication-assisted treatment program. The opioid crisis wasn’t even on our radar a few years ago. We want to remain aware and flexible enough to meet whatever future need may come along.
We also have a goal to become part of the solution for the affordable housing crisis in Columbus — including permanent housing as a focus in addition to shelter.
What else do you want people to know or understand about Faith Mission and the population you serve?
It is really helpful if people understand those experiencing homelessness are a diverse and fluid group of people. For the majority of people we serve, it is one episode in their life. For most clients, homelessness is a crisis and not a way of life.