Forty-one years ago, Urban Mission Ministries, Inc. began as an outreach of local churches in Jefferson County, Ohio. Over the years, as individuals, churches, businesses, schools, and community organizations has stepped forward as contributors and volunteers, the Urban Mission has grown to become the largest charity in the Upper Ohio River Valley Region of Appalachia.
The Steubenville (OH) – Weirton (WV) metro area has been cited as having the third largest percentage population decline among U.S. Cities in the 1990s.1 The steel industry’s decline, the cause of this loss, has also left in its wake a substantial population of low income households. Steubenville’s 1997 per capita net earnings were just $9,502 compared to a statewide Ohio figure of $16,018 and a national figure of $16,787.2 Another economic indicator of this region’s poverty is found in the fact that 40% of the 1999-2000 student body in Steubenville City Schools received free or reduced price lunches.3
In response to this need, the Urban Mission has developed a variety of program for low-income individuals and families, including:
- A “soup kitchen” which served 13,000 hot meals in 1999
- A “food pantry” which distributed 300,000 pounds of groceries to 1,300 families in 1999
- A homeless shelter (Hutton House Homeless Shelter) which housed 330 adults and children in 1999
Homelessness is a serious problem in the entire Upper Ohio Valley region (Jefferson, Harrison and Columbiana Counties in Ohio, plus Hancock and Brooke Counties in West Virginia). For example, in Jefferson County alone, it is estimated that there are 145 homeless individuals at any given point in time with a total homeless population of 1,204 per year. Urban Mission’s Hutton House Homeless Shelter is the largest homeless shelter in the five-county Upper Ohio Valley Region. The Hutton House housed seventy-eight percent of all children in the region’s homeless shelters, which is primarily attributable to Hutton House’s commitment to help families remain intact as they struggle against the overwhelming obstacle of homelessness.
The Urban Mission began grocery distribution in the 1970s with a first distribution of 22 bags of groceries. Operating on a shoestring budget with very limited resources and food supplies, the service area was limited to Jefferson County (OH). On May 8, 2000, the Urban Mission announced the expansion of grocery distributions services to include families in Brooke and Hancock Counties (WV) as well as Harrison County in Ohio. It is estimated that this expansion of service will double the total annual food distribution from 300,000 to 600,000 pounds.
Volunteerism is at the heart of the Urban Mission’s community involvement. Each month, more than 230 volunteers contribute nearly 3,400 hours to aid less fortunate members of their community through the programs of the Urban Mission.