Wilma’s Place offers shelter for those in need


By Matt Clevenger

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PIQUA — Wilma’s Place men’s shelter has opened for the season inside the Bethany Center in Piqua, offering shelter to those in need from 8 p.m. until 7:15 a.m. each night from November through March.

“In those winter months, the men can arrive between eight and nine o’clock at night,” the Bethany Center’s Sean Rickert said. “They are greeted with some food and an opportunity to get some clothes from our clothing bank. They can take a shower, and then they can stay until 7:15 in the morning.”

“That is seven days a week,” he said. “When they leave in the morning, they get a pastry.”

Located at 339 South St., the Bethany Center offers a soup kitchen, food pantry and clothing bank as well as Wilma’s Place men’s shelter. Wilma’s Place officially opened for the season on Nov. 1, and will remain open through March 31.

“The Bethany Center is a 30,000-square-foot facility,” Rickert said. “The shelter itself is located in an approximately 4,500-square-foot part of the center, in an open, gymnasium-type area.”

Now in it’s second season, the shelter served an average of approximately seven men per night last year, Rickert said.

“There are some who are always homeless, and then there are some who are in and out of homelessness,” he said. “It is hard to know how many are homeless at any one time.”

“Last year we had a success story of a veteran who stayed with us,” Rickert said. “He worked every day; we’d get him up early, he’d get up about 5:40 in the morning and go to work.”

“He saved up enough money to get an apartment,” he said. “He’s not with us again this year.”

The Bethany Center originally opened in 2001, Rickert said, and Wilma’s Place was started in 2022 by a group of concerned community members.

“We had a homelessness workshop in 2021,” he said. “That led to the creation of a non-profit organization, Wilma’s Place, named after the late Wilma Earls, the founder of the Bethany Center, who had long advocated for a shelter in Piqua.”

Wilma’s Place serves to fill a gap in the number of beds available for men at other local shelters, Rickert said.

“At the women’s shelter, also known as the Franklin House, they have approximately 40 beds available for women,” he said. “The Buckeye House has approximately 16 beds available for men.”

“We come in to kind of help with that gap for men,” Rickert said. “There was that gap for men who are homeless or couch surfing, or living in their cars or living in tents.”

The Bethany Center accepts food, clothing and monetary donations. Financial donations can be sent to 339 South St., and contributions can also be made by texting BCGIVE to 44-321. The center is currently in need of men’s hats and gloves, Rickert said, as well as volunteers to assist with day-to-day operations.

“Bethany Center is run mostly by volunteers,” he said. “Wilma’s Place is a paid staff overnight, but there are volunteer opportunities to help clean and do laundry, or things of that nature.”

“With the temperatures dropping, it is important for people to have a stable housing,” Rickert said. “They’re more likely to find the help they need when they can have a stable place.”

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