Daniel’s Den, an emergency assistance and transitional housing nonprofit, suffers the effects of today’s waning economy.

Recent budget cuts in Washington have lessened its ability to receive grants, such as the Emergency Food and Shelter Grant and Emergency Shelter Grant, which provide close to two-thirds of the organization’s funding. Despite this large obstacle, Daniel’s Den remains hopeful for community support and its continued operation in the future.

Established in 1996, the mission of Daniel’s Den has been to serve the community of Ellis County by providing food, shelter and a means to transition back into a job and stable residency. In 2010, it served men and women with more than 3,000 nights of transitional shelter, almost 4,000 miles of transportation and more than 600 articles of clothing. Daniel’s Den provides the essential basic needs at no cost to the individual.

Executive director, Joy Ranton, was once homeless herself. For two years she stayed at friend’s houses, in her car or somewhere out on the street. It was all she knew until she arrived at Daniel’s Den. After two months without luck of finding a job, Jerry Gagnen, board president for Daniel’s Den, offered her the position of executive director after observing her hard work and willingness to serve.

Like Ranton, the casual observer doesn’t easily see the homeless population of Ellis County, because there aren’t many physically “on the streets.”

“We have a large amount of people that are living on a relative’s couch, living with a friend or going from one to another to another,” she said. “Eventually their welcome is worn out and we’re always their last resort.”

The homeless population remains fairly hidden, but that could change if Daniel’s Den is forced to shut its doors.

The last two years have seen a significant drop in government funding. In 2009, Ellis County was allocated a total of $131,663 for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program as part of the United Way. Of that amount, Daniel’s Den received $36,775. In 2010, it only received $16,891, less than half of the previous year’s support.

“Whenever you have an economy that hurts, it hurts in every level,” Kevin McDonnell, current board president, said.

There doesn’t seem to be many options left for Ellis County’s only homeless shelter, unless the community joins in support.

Homelessness in Ellis County, if left unchecked, could adversely affect the community’s attractiveness and property value. Daniel’s Den’s vision is for the individual and extends beyond to the community as a whole, Ranton said.

“Not only are we being good stewards by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, we’re also helping the community,” McDonnell said.

For the residents of Ellis County, partnering with Daniel’s Den is a valuable and worthwhile investment.

Daniel’s Den is looking for people who have an interest in seeing their community changed and would like to lend a hand. The financial situation can’t be fixed with a few large donations, although Ranton said they will not be turned down. The answer lies in a foundation of small contributions from the entire community. Monthly contributions of $25-$50 would allow the shelter to meet the current budget, even without continued government support, she said.

Asked what he would like to share with his community, McDonnell said, “Help us, help you.”

For more information, contact Joy Ranton at 972-938-0103 or email daniels_den@sbcglobal.net.

Jason Rutel is a student at Southwestern Assemblies of God University and an intern with the Daily Light.