Gateway House Christmas.JPG

Paul Semisch, assistant director, and Marilyn Smith, executive director of Gateway House, stand in front of the homeless shelter’s Christmas tree. Each resident of the shelter received multiple gifts this year, due to the generosity of the community. (Photo by Megan Smedley)

For many, Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year.

For others, it isn’t as joyous.

“I think homelessness, no matter when it happens, is extremely difficult, and I think that is amplified by the holidays,” says Paul Semisch, assistant director of Gateway House.

He added, “I think this is a very difficult time of year for a lot of people, but when you’re in a situation of homelessness where you don’t even have a place to call your own, the sense of being isolated gets greater and greater.”

Staff at Gateway House, located on KY 32, with the help of community donors, gave gifts and provided a meal for the 15 residents currently living in the shelter.

“We want our residents to know we love them. Gateway House is so thankful for all the wonderful generosity of the community year round, but especially during the holidays,” said Marilyn Smith, executive director. “Our community is so generous. Every resident has at least three gifts under the tree.”

Gateway House is federally funded, with two federal grants making up 80 percent of the annual budget.

Staff welcomes cash donations to help meet the needs of the shelter that are not covered by the grants.

“Homelessness is a year-round thing. We are so blessed this time of year to have the kind of support we do, and I would love to have that kind of support all year long,” says Semisch.

In 2017, Gateway House served over 250 people, with 39 percent of those individuals being children under 18 years of age.

Gateway House serves Bath, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan and Rowan counties.

Gateway House has served the community for over 25 years, helping those who find themselves homeless get back on track.

Semisch says one of his primary concerns for those transitioning out of the shelter is the lack of affordable housing in town for people working minimum wage jobs.

Those residing in the shelter can stay a maximum of 90 days before they transition into independent housing, but Semisch says it typically does not take the full 90 days.

“We want people to have a sense of urgency, because every day matters. We need to take advantage of every single day that a person is here,” he says.

When an individual comes to the shelter, they are assigned a case worker and begin working on an individual action plan, which is followed up on multiple times a week.

“We are more than just a bed and a shower. This is really more of a program. We let people know that if all they are looking for is a bed and a shower, this is probably not the right fit,” said Semisch.

People are ineligible for residency at Gateway House if they do not live in the Gateway ADD district or if they have been convicted of a violent or sexual offense.

Those who have been convicted of a felony may be accepted, so long as it is not a violent offense against another individual.

There are currently three full-time employees and one part-time employee at the shelter, as well as three AmeriCorps members, and a volunteer residence manager.

The facility has five bedrooms, community bathrooms, and a community kitchen and living room.

There are also 12 security cameras located in and around the facility to provide safety and security for shelter residents.

The needs of the shelter change regularly, so visit the shelter's website to determine their current needs.

For more information, visit http://gatewayhouseky.org/

Megan Smedley can be reached at msmedley@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.

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