Cleveland Mayor Reports Dramatic Increase in Homeless Singles and Families in 2001

     (From Press Releases) The U. S. Conference of Mayors reported another increase nationally on the number of people requesting shelter (13% increase) continuing a 16-year trend. The City of Cleveland reported a 15% increase in people seeking shelter and a 15% increase in families seeking shelter. The report states that in Cleveland there are "increasing numbers of single men and women are becoming ‘permanent’ residents of the shelter system. It is taking longer for families with children to find appropriate permanent or transitional housing. This is reducing turnover at full service emergency shelters and leading to increased use of the overflow shelters." The 2001 Hunger and Homeless in America report was released this week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors featuring statistics from 27 major cities in America.

     Nationally, the City of Washington D.C. reported an 82% increase in families seeking shelter with San Antonio (45%), Chicago (35%), and New Orleans (28%) also reporting large increases. Nine out of the 27 cities that reported listed an increase in their shelter beds with 44% of the shelters turning people away nationally. The Mayors from the report site: a lack of affordable housing, low paying jobs, substance abuse, and mental illness as the main causes of homelessness. Every city reported that they anticipated shelter demand to increase in 2002.

     Cleveland reported that families sometimes had to break up in order to get into shelter, and some families are turned away from shelter. City of Cleveland officials reported just over 1,000 shelter beds. and nearly 1000 transitional shelter beds in the community. The report shows that 79% of the homeless population in Cleveland is African American and 40% have substance abuse problems. The report shows that 54% of the homeless population was composed of members of a family. Cleveland also reported that housing requests increased and the Section 8 program had stopped taking applications. The report says that in Cleveland "full service shelters routinely turn away families because of a lack of space."

     Brian Davis, director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, was saddened to see the increases in homelessness once again venture into double digits after three years of smaller increases. "As we enter a recession, we are seeing an escalation in the number of homeless people. We are seeing more and more people being evicted and we face the reality that our two main shelters are dangerously full." Davis went on to say, "Without the safety net in place to keep individuals and families out of the shelters, we will continue to see dramatic increases in homelessness. It is a shame that we did not address this extreme form of poverty with permanent housing in the 1990s during a time of great prosperity."

     Based on estimates from previous years and the U.S. Census the 15% increase would mean nearly 27,000 homeless people in Cleveland over the last year. For a complete copy of the report go to www.usmayors.org.

Copyright NEOCH published 2002 Issue 52