ASHTABULA — Monday was a day of hope for people experiencing homelessness in the city.
G.O. Community Development Corporation (CDC) donated 50 tents, 50 mummy sleeping bags, mats and blankets to be distributed at various locations where homeless people reside, such as parks and in the Ashtabula Gulf.
Ashtabula residents Ricky Turner and Robert Jewell accepted the donation from G.O. CDC President, Drew Thomas and G.O. CDC Director, Frances Norman.
“This should keep them warm in the winter; it’s not a permanent fix but it will help,” Thomas said. “The homeless come to us for their needs. It’s putting the community’s donations back into the community.”
The Geneva United Methodist Church women made the mats out of plastic bags to place under the sleeping bags for extra insulation and comfort, Norman said.
On extremely cold days, G.O. CDC opens its gymnasium, Thomas said.
“We are committed to providing food, clothing, household items and other assistance to people in the city of Ashtabula and throughout Ashtabula County,” Norman said.
Turner said he and Jewell will distribute the donations to the homeless camps in the area.
“There are five major camps in Ashtabula, from Bridge Street to behind the Circle K on Main Avenue,” he said. “A new camp just set up behind Giant Eagle in Saybrook.”
Turner, who feeds the people in the parks every morning, hopes to eventually open a sleeping center for the homeless.
“We have parents and kids living down in the gulf,” he said. “I like these tents and sleeping bags because they are lightweight and they can carry them with them throughout the day.”
Turner said the homeless hang out in the city’s downtown parks because they have appointments at Signature Health and Catholic Charities, and they can use the WiFi and bathrooms at the library.
The city’s homeless situation is nothing new to city officials.
In August, Ashtabula City Council heard nearly two hours of public testimony from more than a dozen people who spoke about petty crime, public urination, criminal damage, litter and other problems they’ve encountered in Cornelius (the former North Park) and South parks. They said the homeless situation is negatively affecting the downtown community.
A few weeks later, council members held a work session to come up with ideas to solve the problem of people camping out in the city parks. They heard from five social service agencies and discovered there’s a lot of help available in the county, if people would just take advantage of it.