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The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event

Religious Communities: How You Can Help

Because of increases in the affordable housing crisis and the current economy, homelessness is on the rise. We need the help of committed communities to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness, the shelters serving them, and the programs that are helping individuals leave homelessness and find housing.

NEOCH, MHS Inc., Cuyahoga County, and other community agencies are dealing with the rising problem of family homelessness. Each summer, family homelessness increases drastically. The summer of 2012 saw an additional 200 women and families per night in need of housing (well over the 135 beds available at the entry shelter).  With the support of religious communities, we can help address the increase in families needing housing and give them the support they need. NEOCH hopes to be able to offer beds to each family in need, while working to keep families together in housing, give them adequate space and privacy, and assure a safe and supportive place by providing any and all necessary supplies.

Here are three steps religious communities can take to help NEOCH address the problem of family homelessness.

EDUCATE

Why does family homelessness rise in the summer?

There are many reasons why family homelessness grows during the summer. With the kids in school, parents may have been unwilling to leave their current place—wanting their kids to finish the school year. Sometimes having all the kids home for the summer makes it difficult for elderly parents or grandparents to keep extended family under the same roof. Friends may not be able to keep the kids around all day and maintain their lease.   As summer comes and kids are at home more often, it may cause added stress in the household and lead to part of the family leaving.  The warmer weather may make moving and travel more accessible when compared to Cleveland's winter weather.  Families and landlords may be less willing to force out tenants during the cold months, but in the warmth they are more likely to evict. Paying for child care during the summer can cause additional financial problems and contribute to a rise in homelessness.

Finally, Cuyahoga County has switched to a centralized the shelter system that directs everyone to go to one facility for help.  This had made it more difficult for people to wait for the best shelter bed for their family to open with repeated calls.  The family has to show up requesting shelter in order to get in line for a bed.  Before a mother might be able to talk her friend into allowing the family to stay while they waited for a bed at the best shelter.  Now, the family goes to Central Intake to line of for a bed and they must take the first bed available.  All of these reasons and many more unique and personal reasons can help explain why the summer months see more children with parents arriving at the shelters, searching for a place to sleep.

Learn more about homelessness with these links

Myths on Homelessness

Research and Statistics on Homelessness

How NEOCH is working to help?

If your members would like to hear more about homelessness, we have trained speakers who have previous experience with homelessness who can come out with a staff member/board member to talk about homelessness.  We have a Street Voices program with people who can help put a face on the issue. 

CONNECT

Religious organizations have been a supportive part of NEOCH’s work since its founding. Churches, synagogues, mosques and more have worked with NEOCH to counteract the problems causing homelessness by advocating and helping provide services for homeless individuals. You can too!

Connect with other members of your local faith community to see what you can do together.  Network and build a service team of other passionate and service-oriented members.

But don’t stop there. Connect with NEOCH and with other religious organizations and join our Family Homelessness emailing list where you can stay updated about what different shelters need and how you can help keep these families together and give them the best chance. Email advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org or call 216-432-0540 for more information.

SERVE

With your help, we can help maintain Cuyahoga County’s mission to provide safe emergency shelter for anyone who asks. We need donations, fundraisers, collections and volunteers to help meet the needs of the growing homeless community and continue to advocate and educate on behalf of fellow humans. 

Collect Donations

Shelters are in need of donated goods in order to help meet the needs of the families they serve.  A list of helpful items can be found in a PDF file below. Items that are especially helpful for addressing family homelessness include hygienic products, diapers, infant formula, baby bottles, gently used toys, books and DVDs, and brown bag snacks including juice boxes, crackers, etc.

For large donations, contact NEOCH with more information about picking up or delivering these donations. 

Volunteer

Volunteers are the backbone of serving the community. Help us by donating your time and skill to work with homeless individuals who are in need of help. MHS can use help answering the phone or helping out in the family room, assisting with transportation, or helping with the children.  In addition, NEOCH has many opportunities to volunteer including direct service opportunities throughout the community. 

Find out more about volunteering

Spread the Word

Tell others about this growing problem of family homelessness!  Tell other members of your faith community, your neighborhood, your additional organizations, your family, your friends—anyone who will listen. Get other people involved by sending them to this webpage or having them call or email us for more information.

Print copies of these two handouts and hang them up in your community places.

What Can Religious Groups Do?

 Thank you to these religious communities for their involvement in helping address family homelessness

Affinity Church

Church of the Epiphany

Elizabeth Baptist Church

Euclid Ave. Congregational

Fairmount Temple

Old Stone Church

Second Mt. Carmel

St. Colman Parish

St. Paul's Community Church

Trinity Cathedral

 We would love for your group to become a member of the Coalition in order to receive regular updates from the Coaliton.  You can get invitations to events, an electronic newsletter of important advocacy and support for Social Justice.