|Tender Mercies offers supportive housing.|
Tender Mercies is turning tragedy into a triumphant way to give back to the community.
According Russell Winters, CEO of Tender Mercies, it all began when two women were released from a local psychiatric hospital, after spending most of their adult lives there, with no more than cab fare. They were delivered to a “Drop In” shelter to live. A priest, who lived and worked in the area, volunteered at the center and befriended the women when they arrived.
“Fr. Chris found them a place to live, applied for and received their benefits, paid their rent, bought them groceries, and checked on them daily,” explains Winters. “Everything was fine for five weeks until one of the women was raped and the other murdered.”
It was painfully clear something had to be done. That something was Tender Mercies. Fr. Chris and two other clergymen founded this organization in 1985 to transform the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.
Tender Mercies began in a small building on Race St. downtown with 13 women. Today, the organization maintains 150 units of supportive housing in six historic buildings in Over the Rhine while raising more than $500,000 annually to balance their operating budget.
“Our model is based on the belief that in order to prevent a return to homelessness,” says Winters. “We must not only provide housing, but also address the factors that led an individual to homelessness in the first place [such as] lack of access to mental health treatment, loss of employment [and] lack of affordable housing.”
To support this effort, Tender Mercies is beginning a new tradition of celebrating and showcasing the food, art, shopping and people that make OTR the cultural center of Cincinnati with an event called “Taste of Over the Rhine.” “The inaugural Taste of Over the Rhine will be unlike any other ‘Taste’ or festival in Cincinnati,” says Winters. “A committed group of volunteers has worked tirelessly to put together an event that will be uniquely OTR, with all restaurants, merchants, and artists from or with roots in Over the Rhine.”
Just as Over the Rhine is proud of its originality and diversity, this event will showcase foods ranging from gourmet popsicles to artisanal flatbreads to food trucks to home-cooked diner food. “In addition to the awesome food of OTR’s established and new trendy restaurants, there will be music for every kind of listener throughout the day,” explains Winters, adding that each of the featured bands will perform original material.
The day starts off with classically trained Suzuki string players and a children’s singer before moving on to folk, funk, indie rock, hip hop fusion, and rockabilly culminating with lead act Wussy.
“In addition to all the great food, music, and merchandise, visitors will have an opportunity to learn about Tender Mercies if they stop by our booth,” says Winters. “Tours of Tender Mercies will be available if anyone wants to see our mission in action. Beer and wine sales will also be taking place.”
Taste of Over the Rhine will be held Saturday, August 10, from 11a.m. to 11p.m. in historic Washington Park at 14th and Elm Streets. Parking will be available in the new Washington Park Garage, the WCET Garage on Central Parkway, and on-street. For more information, visit tasteofotr.com.