Family homeless shelter now accepting all members of the family

AKRON, Ohio - There is only one resident at the pet condos at Family Promise Summit County currently. But, in a matter of hours Xaris, the gray and white cat, will have a neighbor: a dog.

Family Promise Summit County has been in the business of helping homeless families for a decade. The non-profit organization has moved into a new space at 111 East Voris Street and the organization has now rolled out the welcome mat for pets. "Unique in two ways: a pet-friendly shelter and we take the entire family," said Executive Director Jeff Wilhite.

Family Promise outgrew its last location and moved into the new 4,900-square-foot facility two months ago. The facility offers all the comforts of home: a kitchen, place to do laundry and computers to search for jobs and permanent housing. Four families can stay at the shelter at a time during the day. At night, they are transported to various churches while their pets stay in the kennels. Last year, the organization served 26 families; so far this year they have already helped 24 families.

The kennel area can house four dogs and four cats and was added as part of the renovation, said Wilhite.

Most homeless shelters do not take pets, forcing owners to sometimes make a difficult decision about their pets. A few months ago, a homeless mother and her sons declined to stay at the shelter because at that time the kennels weren't completed and there wasn't a place for their family dog. "She was adamant that her young boys would not go through one more trauma to have to give up their pet," said Wilhite. "It broke our hearts, " he added.

Xaris belongs to Susan McIntosh. She was a seamstress at a department store for 18 years and has a college degree. She got sick and lost her job, and then her apartment. "My pension and 401K ran out, then money from sewing went away," said McIntosh.

McIntosh can't stay at the shelter because she is single. She is currently living at Harvest House, but she visits her beloved cat every day. "It is a godsend," said McIntosh.

Family Promise of Summit County won a national grant from PetSmart for $35,000 to build the kennels.

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