Each summer as school ends and warmer weather (usually) begins, more and more families find themselves without shelter and a place to sleep. Family homelessness itself can be caused by many reasons: poverty, unemployment, difficulty accessible affordable housing, addiction, domestic violence, etc. But around every April, Cuyahoga County slowly sees a rise in the number of families in need of shelter. Why the rise now?
A lot of reasons can add to why family homelessness grows during the summer. With the kids in school up until now, 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. 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 Cleveland’s chill made it less of an option before. 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, we have centralized the shelter system so everyone goes to one facility for help. This had made it more difficult for people to wait for the best shelter bed to open with repeated calls. The family has to show up requesting shelter to get in line for a bed. Before a mother could talk her friend into allowing the family to stay while they waited for a bed at a shelter. Now, the family goes to Central Intake to line of for a bed. 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.
But unfortunately, each summer as these families search for shelter, there are limited places to send them. Families need different sort of shelter than individuals—families require more privacy and a safe and supportive place for children. Finding housing for a group is a bigger task than finding a bed for a single person.
NEOCH, MHS Inc., Cuyahoga County, and several faith communities in the area have worked together to find a solution to this problem. Here is the current plan to address family homelessness this season:
1. Intake hours for families: 8:00 - 7:00 Mon- Fri; 9:00- 5:00 Sat/Sun. This encourages families to be proactive and acknowledges the families searching for housing due to need versus interest in staying in a hotel room.
2. Overflow accommodations will be met through a church in Cleveland Hts. and Zelma George Emergency shelter beds. The day after a "one night" stay, staff will try to find a longer stay shelter or permanent diversion.
3. In mid July, Family Promise will begin using a church in the Broadway neighborhood as a permanent site for 4 families.
Finding this housing was an incredible relief, but we aren’t done yet. We are still in needs of supplies to help make these changes and housing go smoothly. A list of needed supplies can be found here. If you are interested in getting involved or making donations, please contact NEOCH at advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org more information. We will be putting together information that religious organizations can use to provide help to homeless families in Cleveland.
By Laura Dunson, NEOCH Intern
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