Local Nonprofit Converts Old Queensgate Jail Into Day Center for the Homeless

Maslow’s Army opened its new day center, the first of its kind in Ohio, on December 15.

Since its creation in 2016, Maslow’s Army has been dedicated to serving the homeless population in Cincinnati and beyond, spearheading various outreach programs over the last four years. This year, the nonprofit organization has undertaken some of its most meaningful work in the face of the pandemic. In recent months, Maslow’s Army has sheltered families experiencing homelessness in hotel rooms, provided health screenings and temperature checks to those in need, and sent warming buses circling throughout downtown as a respite from the cold weather.

Photograph courtesy of Maslow’s Army

The organization’s latest initiative is making state history. On December 15, Maslow’s Army opened The Maslow’s Army Todd B. Portune Memorial Winter Day-Center at the site of the old Queensgate Jail—the first day center of its kind in Ohio. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the shelter’s name pays homage to the late Hamilton County Commissioner and his long-standing commitment to public service.

The shelter will offer a variety of services for those looking to find a warm, safe place to spend winter days. Lunch will be served every day, thanks to a partnership with Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen. Bunk beds will be available for those wanting to relax and get some rest. The building has also been renovated to include four classrooms, seven offices, and a computer lab. Maslow’s Army plans on using these spaces to help those struggling to find work; here, the staff will hold resume-building workshops, supply professional clothing, and allow for on-site job interviews.

Photograph courtesy of Maslow’s Army

One of the most notable aspects of the new day center is its focus on peer support. Maslow’s Army will provide resources to aid visitors who are overcoming addiction or in need of mental health services. Specialists employed at the facility will be able to lend a listening ear, give advice on battling poverty, and relate on a personal level. “Every person I hired for this project has experienced homelessness at one point in their life,” says Samuel Landis, executive director and co-founder of Maslow’s Army. “Each of our certified peer support specialists or navigational specialists know the streets and they know how to get off of the streets.”

The establishment of the day center comes at an opportune time, since many similar shelters are forced to operate at limited capacity because of the COVID-19 crisis. “Homelessness doesn’t stop because there is a pandemic,” Landis says. “We’ve been honored to be out there and to help educate people about safe social distancing, the importance of proper hygiene, and wearing masks.” The Maslow’s Army team is prepared to take extra precautions to ensure that those who visit the center remain healthy. All who enter will have their temperature taken upon arrival, and the organization has thousands of extra masks and bottles of hand sanitizer in stock.

Photograph courtesy of Maslow’s Army

As of now, the day center is slated to stay open through March 2021, but Maslow’s Army hopes to extend its stay in Queensgate. The organization has considered potentially purchasing the entirety of the building to convert into subsidized apartments, where people can stay for six months to a year before transitioning to more permanent housing.

The efforts of Maslow’s Army have been made possible by the overwhelming support of the surrounding community. Landis confirms that one of the best ways to give back is through donations. Those with the means to contribute financially can do so via the Maslow’s Army website. Volunteer opportunities will also be available at the day center, specifically for those interested in cooking or serving meals.

“I know I’m just an instrument in this whole thing. It’s really the community, the board, the staff members, each and every volunteer that comes out,” Landis says. “Anyone that has said a few kind words or helped out somebody experiencing homelessness, that’s the reason why this works.”

The Maslow’s Army Todd B. Portune Memorial Winter Day-Center, 516 Linn St., Queensgate, (859) 491-2769

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