Serenity House former residents share stories

By Beth Sergent -

OHIO VALLEY — Imagine the one place or person you can always go to when you are in need, gone. Imagine your backup plans and people, spent. Who would you call? Where would you go?

Serenity House, a shelter for homeless and abused women and children located in Gallia County, often fills the gap when someone has nowhere else to turn; when all people and places in someone’s life falls through.

The shelter does its best to operate on donations from the community and grants, though times are always tight, including now in this season of giving.

From Jan. 1 – Oct. 31 of this year, Serenity House was home to 109 people throughout that time frame. Unfortunately, also during that same time period, staff had to turn away 101 people, because the home was at capacity. For safety and code reasons, as well as financial constraints, it can only house 10 people at any given time.

“We’re trying to serve such a large region, we don’t have the adequate facilities and need money (to provide services),” Pam Riley, executive director, said. “It’s not just Gallia County we’re trying to service…we have more people (in need) than we have beds.”

Serenity House serves clients from Gallia, Jackson and Meigs counties and has assisted those from Mason County, W.Va. as well. Though the money can run low, the need never goes away and Riley said the staff are looking at relocating to a larger home in Gallia County which will take occupancy up from 10 people to 18. A meeting with a zoning committee is set to happen next week about a property in consideration, though the exact address of the property wasn’t named due to protecting the location of Serenity House and its clients, some of whom come from abusive situations with children who also reside at the house.

“We get money from the community and we greatly appreciate that, it does add up, but we need a little bit more support from somewhere,” Riley said about continuing to the meet the needs of this vulnerable population.

Staff have had fund raisers like dinners and yard sales to get creative about keeping things going. For those 109 people who have called Serenity House their home this year, those fund raisers and donations have made all the difference.

Statements from two former residents of Serenity House shared their stories with Ohio Valley Publishing. To protect their identities, they are referred to by their initials only.

“Serenity House in Gallipolis provided a truly safe haven for me during a time of extreme mental anguish and physical exhaustion,” EM of Bidwell said. “Ms. Pam, the director, made room for me and accepted me with open arms. They provided me with every basic need, a warm bed, daily showers, they had everything for me that I needed including three meals a day of wholesome food. They searched the clothes closet for the perfect clothes, shoes and winter coat for me. When I suffered multiple TIA’s while at the shelter, Pam, Codette and other staff went beyond the call of duty with my care and recognized my needs were far beyond the needs of this shelter and making certain that I was admitted to the best skilled nursing home available for which I am so grateful.”

T.S. from Gallipolis stated: “They (Serenity House staff) not only provided my basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, they provided something I needed worse than that, and it was hope. Hope that my situation of being homeless was not permanent. With the help of employees and the other residents I was able to rise above my situation. Words cannot express my gratitude to such a wonderful place to have been a part of. I would like to see Serenity House offer others the assistance they need as they have helped me, because I know that I would not be where I am today without the help of this wonderful place. Even as they struggle daily with finances and the need of a larger facility to help others, they continue to do vital work for the community. Even after leaving the facility they have supported me in many ways. This facility is very much needed in our area and with support of the community, they can continue in their great response to the needs of those who are struggling with domestic violence and homelessness. No one could know the emotional issues that someone deals with unless they have been in those shoes. I would hope that through the community financial assistance that Serenity House will be here for years and to give hope to those who so much need this facility.”

Finances are definitely a struggle when dealing with providing for those who have nowhere else to turn and Serenity House is responsible for providing for its own utilities, phone and rent just like any other home with a family. Riley said she’s thankful for neighbors helping neighbors when it comes to community support, because without it, the shelter would face a bleak future.

“This place is desperately needed,” she said. “The services we provide don’t cost these people anything. We run on grants and financial assistance from the community, without that, we would not be able to be here at all. We’re the only place that provides this (specific) service in this region (for specifically women and children).”

This Nov. 27 is Giving Tuesday, a day to promote the charitable season by supporting organizations and non-profits which are assisting the community. To give to Serenity House, call 740-446-6752 or mail checks to PO Box 454, Gallipolis, Ohio, 45631. Serenity House is a 501 c 3 organization and all donations are tax deductible.”

The toll free number to Serenity House is 1-800-942-9577.

By Beth Sergent

Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.

Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.