Congregations Come Together to Serve Homeless Families

by Helena D.

   The Interfaith Hospitality Network, a nationwide nonprofit organization, will officially "open its doors" to homeless families with children in Cleveland. An Executive Director and caseworker/social worker have been hired with its office space residing in the Christ Episcopal Church in Shaker Heights.

    Kay Bork, newly arrived from the Cincinnati area where this organization is already established, helped to organize this timely idea in alternative temporary housing. Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) is a network of churches and temples of all religious denominations. A network of about 10 to 15 churches/synagogues will be volunteering their time and space to support homeless families with meals, housing, transportation and other needs a family might encounter until affordable housing can be established.

    Bork stated that the success rate for getting families into housing in other cities has run about seventy percent. She was surprised that Cleveland did not have such a program, and set about to create one. With the success of the Columbus and Cincinnati program, she expected that the community would embrace IHN in the Cleveland area. There have been unexpected obstacles by concerned citizens and local suburban municipalities that have delayed the start of the program.

    The children attend schools in their former neighborhood so there is no real stressful break in their studies or a disruption in their circle of friends. They have a trained social worker who will do the intake and on-going case management for the families.

    This program can accommodate at one time fourteen people including adults and children. The IHN expects to accommodate six families each with three or four members at a time.

    The families will be provided with meals, clothing, cleaning facilities and access to a van for driving to work, school, and doctor’s appointments. Each synagogue or church will host the families for seven days for three or four times per year. Eighteen churches are sponsors of this aid with nine being host sponsors.

    The IHN can be found in 55 other cities and should begin operation in Cleveland in late July of 1998. They are currently looking for volunteers and hope to expand the network to 13 local religious organizations.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published July 1998 Cleveland Ohio