The Open Shelter


The Open Shelter opened on December 6, 1983 as the first 24-hour emergency walk-in shelter in Ohio thanks to the vision of Kent Beittel. Since that time, over 50,000 men, women and children have been helped.  

In 1984, The Open Shelter established it’s Material Assistance Program. We have collected, sorted and distributed new and used material goods, free of charge to our “guests” ever since.

1986 In conjunction with the Social Security Administration, we established the SSI Payeeship Program, a project to assist disabled persons to receive and manage entitlements. Our payee accounts average over $50,000 a month, funds invested in helping recipients stay housed. The program exists to this day.

2004 The Open Shelter had to leave its long-time home at 370 W. State St. “The Open Shelter…in Exile” was offered “sanctuary” by Trinity Episcopal Church. This provided a base of operations for our advocacy efforts and outreach services.

2007 We moved our Day Shelter & Advocacy Center to St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church, UCC. This base of operations allowed us to respond more effectively to the ever-increasing number of persons in Columbus who are forced each day to sleep “on the streets”, in abandoned buildings and under bushes.

2016 Mary Beittel, half of the Executive Team that led The Open Shelter for decades, loses her heroic battle with cancer. This was a huge loss for our agency. We will miss her always.

2020 After many years of volunteering and dedicated services, Sheli Mathias is named Executive Director.

Kent Beittel, Director Emeritus of The Open Shelter said of Sheli, “Just as we believe that God brought us to The Open Shelter, we also believe that Sheli Mathias was sent to us. She brings a faith, a spirit, and an appreciation for the attitude and the efforts of The Open Shelter which we believe can carry our work into the future.”

2020 Kent Beittel, Original Director of The Open Shelter, passes away at the age of 72. Kent was described in many ways; “fierce advocate for the homeless”, “relentless and stubborn champion for social justice”, “maverick”, “Don Quixote of the city’s homeless” and unfortunately, in other ways, we can’t share here. Both his and his wife Mary’s legacy and spirit continue today.

2022 The Open Shelter moves into its new, bigger home at 1037 Parsons Ave. Thanks to the generosity of the Central Ohio community and beyond, we have a home that allows us and our guests to spread out and breathe. A 10,000 square foot building on the near South Side still within proximity of Downtown.

Scroll to Top