Access Control Helps Ohio Homeless
Shelter Care for Unhoused People

In January 2020, on the brink of the pandemic, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in America, according to the most recent count by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. It is the greatest number of homeless people in the U.S. since 2013. What’s more, demographics show that men are far more likely to experience homelessness than women. Of every 10,000 males, 22 are homeless; while for females that number is 13, the organization reports.

Due to the harsh reality of these statistics, the Refuge of Hope Ministries was a momentous project within its community when it was constructed in 2019. Refuge of Hope is the only men’s homeless shelter in Stark County, Ohio, which covers a 580-square-mile area. Approximately 15 percent of Stark County’s population (57,080 individuals) are food insecure, making the shelter an essential service for the community. Even in the city of Canton, the largest in Stark County, one in six residents lives at or below the federal poverty level.

Today, the 19,000-square-foot Refuge of Hope facility accommodates up to 66 homeless men and feeds up to 500 meals at lunch and dinner times. The ministry partners with local agencies to overcome issues that lead to homelessness. It also provides services such as clothing and personal hygiene items, laundry and shower facilities, and assistance with job and apartment searching when the men transition to independence.

While providing a safe haven for people is one of their main goals, shelters themselves can be dangerous places due to circumstances surrounding poverty and homelessness. From the beginning, Refuge of Hope Ministries wanted to address the propensity for violence in shelters.

“During the construction of the building, our ultimate goal was to make it the most secure building in Canton, Ohio,” said Tim O’Neill, Director of Operations at Refuge of Hope Ministries.

The shelter selected Sielox LLC’s Pinnacle Access Control Platform to secure the building. The system operates as part of a comprehensive security and surveillance solution at Refuge of Hope Ministries. O’Neill designed the system and integrator Ashton Sound & Communications Inc. of Ravenna, Ohio, installed it.

The building is divided into three areas: kitchen, shelter and administrative offices. It required the ability to automatically lock down different areas throughout the day while simultaneously unlocking other areas. Because the shelter is manned 24/7, it needed a robust system that could control access of the staff. For example, the system needed to be able to restrict access of the third-shift supervisor to the admin area.

To simplify and expedite the installation, Ashton installed hundreds of feet of access control banana peel composite cable from Anixter. The cable provided the correct wire gauge and color code for each device at every door, O’Neill said. The wire was then homerun back to two Sielox control panels located at the two furthest points in the building.

The cabling helped ensure that the installation at the shelter went smoothly, according to O’Neill. The access control solution consists of Pinnacle Lite software and two Sielox 1700 eight-door controllers to control the 16 secured doors at the shelter. O’Neill selected HID readers and credentials for the system.

Refuge of Hope Ministries decided on the Pinnacle Lite version of event management software, which can secure any combination of 32 exterior and interior doors for up to 2,000 users.

The facility uses a Sielox 1700 Access Controller that provides facility protection even if communications are interrupted. It connects directly to a network and each panel can control two wired doors and up to 32 wireless doors.

Also part of the shelter’s access control solution is Sielox CLASS – Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System, which is a browser-based application for emergency communications.

In the case of a security incident and lockdown, CLASS provides situational awareness to responders so they can gain much-needed situational awareness before entering a facility or location. Administrators or any designated initiator can issue an emergency alert to notify responders of conditions in real time while communicating status via one of five programmable color-coded alert levels. Occupants within the facility can then report status at their specific location, enabling responders to view detailed facility maps on a room-by-room basis. A chat feature enables two-way communications between occupants and first responders to exchange information or instructions.

In addition to the electronic security measures, a Canton police officer is onsite at the shelter daily.

The Refuge of Hope Ministries is a busy place, never closing for holidays or inclement weather. Last year it provided over 75,000 meals and more than 16,000 bedded nights of emergency shelter to homeless men in Stark County. The organization’s new technology helps support safe operation day in and day out.

Two years after the initial build, Refuge of Hope Ministries is adding on a new 7,500-square-foot community center adjacent to the shelter. It will have eight additional doors of access control, which will integrate into the existing Pinnacle head end, O’Neill explains.