By Chad Frey
The Harvey County Homeless Shelter is a busy place — one that requires digging into the numbers and statistics to get a feel for just how busy it can be.
In 2013, there were 224 intakes performed. That number alone doesn't really get the feel. Each of those averaged 34 days staying. Again, according to director James Wilson, those numbers do not tell the right story.
It's the 100 unfilled requests during the month of June that tells a story.
"We were full to capacity," Wilson said. "It is hard to tell someone 'I'm sorry, we can't help you."
In 2013, there were 8,646 beds filled at the shelter. Each stay is counted as a bed. That number encompasses those who spend one night — or dozens of nights — at the shelter.
It includes 2.408 women's beds, 1,043 children's beds and 5,195 men's beds.
"It equates to 24 residents every day," Wilson said. "That is very close to our capacity."
The shelter opened as a 24-hour facility in 2013. Up to that point, the doors were locked during the day. During the year the shelter delivered more than 240 bags of groceries to former residents who are now out living on their own.
Wilson said all those numbers add up to a real need. According to the 2010 census, the Harvey County poverty rate is higher than the state of Kansas rate — equating to 1,800 people who are in danger of losing their home at any time.
"We have a need in Newton," Wilson said. "Newton is a great community, but Newton has great needs. I believe any organization that deals with poverty will tell you the same thing. We are overwhelmed with requests and needs."
There's been help for the shelter to meet that need — donations have covered 95 percent of the operating budget.
That budget was $149,000. In 2013 the shelter spent, on average, $17.02 per person for one 24-hour stay in the shelter. And it could have been much, much higher.
The shelter documented about 13,000 volunteer hours during the year — an estimated savings of $102,000. Between that and donations of in-kind gifts, the shelter operated from an estimated $300,000 below what would be needed.
Those numbers, Wilson said, tell yet another story. This one about the people who support the efforts of the shelter.
"The poor are the overlooked in our society," Wilson said. "We turn our eyes from them. We don't want to see their hurt or despair."