‘Square One’ moving forward with shelter renovations


By Dean Wright - Special to OVP



OHIO VALLEY — As the battle against homelessness and domestic violence has encountered new challenges, Square One is preparing to continue its mission of providing support for struggling individuals and families into the holiday season and beyond.

“Bitanga’s November Breakathon raised almost $63,000, and with that amount, it has allowed us to get permits to start the renovations at the (Gallia Square One facility),” said the organization’s executive director, Ashley Durst. “We’re getting ready to break ground, if you will, on starting all the renovations such as plumbing and getting a new HVAC system and new flooring. We look to get that started soon.”

Square One is a nonprofit organization which assists victims of domestic abuse and homelessness.

Durst said Square One held a coat drive in November and collected a few hundred such garments to be distributed to those in need.

“This month we decided to do what we call Operation Santa Claus and we adopted a few families that fell through the cracks and missed sign-ups through other agencies for whatever reason,” said Durst. “We have 24 children that we have adopted through help from the community that we’re helping to provide Christmas gifts this year.”

The executive director said the organization is continuing to push ahead despite a year of pandemic challenges and the loss of vital capital bill funds from the state of Ohio.

“We’ve continued offering services and going house-to-house delivering food boxes or cleaning supplies,” said Durst. “Whatever people needed, we’ve been here with feet on the ground.”

The director said it was still seeing strong community support for Square One’s mission despite COVID-19 struggles and was serving as a “hub of resources” for those battling domestic violence and homeless issues. Currently, the organization is considered a nonresidential program focused on Gallia, Jackson and Meigs counties.

“Whether it’s domestic violence, sexual assault or homelessness, they can come here and we can connect them with the resources they need to take the next steps to get their life back on track,” Durst said. “Every need is different so no day is ever the same.”

While also looking forward to offering shelter at its Gallia County facility, the director said Square One hopes to open another such facility in Meigs County as resources become available.

“Daily we are getting phone calls wanting to know if beds are available,” said Durst. “It’s one thing to say we’re not full. It’s another to say we’re not able to offer shelter at all. We’ve got a building that’s practically empty that we want to offer shelter in. That’s our biggest goal, to transition into a residential program.”

Durst said the organization aims to provide 16 beds to clients with 11 of those reserved for individuals and the rest for families or isolated needs.

“The community has been great but we could always use more support since we’ve lost so much funding and steam,” said Square One Board President Sonya Hatem.

Hatem said the organization is grateful for the support of others but that the quest to provide support for domestic violence victims and the homeless is never done.

“Our Case Management Mondays seem to be everyday now,” said Hatem. “We’ve had victims of about every crime… Anything that the community can help us with helps take away the stigma of people walking down the street with a backpack or a bike.”

For more information or to support Square One’s mission, visit squareonegjm.com, the organization Facebook page or call 740-441-5809.

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By Dean Wright

Special to OVP

Dean Wright is a freelance reporter and former full-time staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.

Dean Wright is a freelance reporter and former full-time staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.