Commentary by Simona Lynch
Over the past nine years I have experienced homelessness. I have also serviced those whom have experienced this same devastating crisis. During this time, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the services that are provided for homeless people are not enough to help this population maintain self-sufficiency. Yes, I understand that there are many causes of homelessness and some people resist shelter and other assistance. I believe that, as a community, we should all come together with funds for more programs, we should donate unoccupied houses and apartment buildings, and we should volunteer our professional skills and talents to better assist this population. This will help them to obtain, maintain, and sustain permanent housing.
Currently, homeless women and children in Cuyahoga County are in a desperate need of shelter, employment, transportation, and other services. These are offered, but limited to this population. Last week I witnessed how an overflow shelter is ran and this was disturbing to me. We picked the families up from the Bishop Cosgrove Center and took them to the overflow site. This site only provided snacks, restroom services, and a mat to sleep on until 6:30am. Upon morning time, these individuals must return to Bishop Cosgrove at 7am to wait until the homeless day center opens at 8am.
I questioned why these overflow shelter hours are not extended, a nutritional meal is not served, personal hygiene products not provided, and job listings or Street Cards are not posted.
When people pass out free food and meals, or pass out hygiene items, clothing, and Street Cards can be very beneficial. Providing shelter for a short amount of time helps a bit, but this is not enough assistance for the bigger issue of housing.
How can the community help end homeless and who can we count on? In my opinion, the residents of Cuyahoga County can do this.
I wish I could get a group of individuals to donate money and an unoccupied apartment building for use as a day center for homeless people. Furthermore, this could provide opportunities for employment assistance. Job readiness training, personal wellness training, and referrals to social service organizations should also be provided. People could get their needs regarding chemical dependency, legal issues, and child care addressed.
These are pressing issues in need of resolution before obtaining or at least while the person is finding housing. During this time, there would be a probation period and the resident will not be required to return to the streets. I believe that people will want the help and it could be offered up to 18 months while the person is transitioning from homelessness to stable housing.
Some may ask, “Simona who would you have help you”? I hope people with the same passion and interest of helping end homelessness would volunteer their time and money. This is my answer
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1