GALLIPOLIS — While waiting on the final touches that lead to an official opening, Square One opened its doors welcoming the community to not only see the new facility but to learn what the program is about.
Square One’s mission is to “focus on maximizing the positive impact in our community. Offering a safe place to house people in need and offering a one stop office to reach out to all the agencies committed to helping those begin a new life. We want to help stop the spread of drug abuse, homelessness and violence in the community.”
According to the organization’s website, Square One came after the local domestic violence shelter closed in July 2019, leaving a group of women and men without needed services. A group of individuals then came together with a common goal, offer a safe place for those in need in the community.
Square One’s new facility on Olive Street in Gallipolis is waiting for a few final inspections and certification of occupancy, so the organizers thought it was the perfect time to welcome the public.
“We wanted to open the doors to allow people to come up before we actually had clients being sheltered here so that everyone could see it and we didn’t have to jeopardize anybody’s confidentiality,” said Ashley Durst, executive director.
The main dorms design allow for both privacy and community, when needed.
“When we designing Square One, we knew that we wanted to have individual units for our clients to allow them to have the privacy that they need to decompress and to really just have privacy,” Durst said. “We’re adults and we need that time to be alone.”
Durst said during her time working with clients she has heard stories of clients waking up with others staring at them, or phone lights keeping them awake.
“We wanted them to have that privacy so that nobody had to stare at them while they were sleeping and if someone was on their phone, that the light didn’t bother them,” Durst said. “And like I said, they can go in there and they can cry if they need to without someone watching them.”
The bunk/sleeping area had been designed out of steel, something that was beneficial after COVID-19.
“With the pandemic shutdown, every shelter had to minimize the amount of clients that they were able to help because everybody had to social distance,” Durst said. “We will never have to do that. We will always be able to be at max capacity because our steel walls allow us to social distance already.”
Durst said the mattress are all bedbug proof and that the beds can lift up to give more of an open space, if needed. Brinker Machine in Letart, West Virginia built all of the lifting beds and steel walls.
There is a small outside area for clients.
“They’ll be able to have a privacy area, they can come out and enjoy the weather. Smoke if they need to, get some fresh air,” Durst said. “We’re also going to put a raised vegetable garden back here to grow vegetables.”
The shelter also houses two family rooms, that will have three beds — mom and two kids.
Durst said there is an on-demand hot water tank. There are two sets of washers and dryers. The ladies room has two showers and two stalls. There is also a handicap accessible bathroom. There is also a male bathroom.
“If we happen to have a male survivor, they’ll have a bathroom of their own,” Durst said. “Our plan right now is to work with Code 10 to put them in a hotel for a few days, so that we can look at the situation and figure out what’s going on and find them a different shelter.”
Durst said they will be working with other nonprofits to help with various needs, including male survivors and the plan is to one day have not only a men’s shelter, but also a family shelter.
The shelter has an open area office for all employees to work together and have open communication, Durst said “it feels more welcoming when the clients come in.”
There is also a conference room for clients if needed.
“It is as soundproof as we can make it, we have noise machines they [can] turn on,” Durst said. If we have a client that needs to meet with a case manager or counselor or even if they just need to have a conversation with a family member or something like that, they need confidential space, they’ll be able to come in here and not have to worry about someone listening.”
Moving into a large, open area is the kitchen and living area. There is a small locker area for clients to put foods, snacks or soda that they purchase on their own. Durst said the basics are provided, but sometimes those extras are luxury for clients.
“We wanted to specifically have the residential kitchen versus a commercial kitchen, because we’re teaching them life skills,” Durst said. “Teaching them how to cook and how to clean and we want [them] to be able to take exactly what they learned here, straight into their new home.”
The kitchen tables fold to easily store away, allowing the organization to use the open space for therapy and other life skills.
Durst said staff will also work with clients on how to budget their resources, fill out resumes, housing applications and more.
The shelter will be able to house 12 clients and their children, with no set limit on length of services.
“Everybody comes in in a different place in their healing,” Durst said. “It’s just different, as long as they are working towards their goals and their case plan that they set forth.”
Square One plans on being there whenever a client needs help, even after leaving.
“We do have an aftercare program that will allow our advocate to kind of touch base with them and keep with them for awhile afterwards,” Durst said. “Just to make sure that they’re staying on track and that they’re not needing anything and then at any time they can always come back or come back just to get services or whatever.”
Durst said security cameras will be in all community places and there will be locked doors that require a buzz-in for safety.
Square One opened in 2019 and took ownership of the Pine Street building in February 2020. Prior to opening the shelter, the nonprofit has been working as a resource center — connecting victims with different resources and helping to guide them through the time.
Durst said they also delivered food boxes during the pandemic to help connect with some of their clients.
Currently Square One is funded through a Community Development Block Grant out of Meigs County, giving them operational costs for a year. The facility offers services to clients in Gallia, Meigs and Jackson counties in Ohio.
“During the next year, we are going to be working to be able to bill Medicaid to help us bring in income,” Durst said. “If someone doesn’t have Medicaid, we’re still going to help. Medicaid won’t pay for them to stay here, only some of the services that we provide.”
Durst said they are always accepting donations.
“Of course, financial is always something that we need,” Durst said. “Right now because we are getting ready to stock the whole thing, we need full size toiletries, paper goods and anything like pantry items.”
Durst said if anyone would like to tour the facility before it opens or find out more information on Square One or needed donations, that they can contact the shelter to setup a time.
While they are hoping for March, Durst said final certifications will determine the exact opening date of the shelter.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.