November 16-22 marks the national observance of Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week (November 16-22), and Ohio’s homeless organizations are focusing on the huge unmet demand for shelter in our state. “We want people to know that Ohio experienced an average increase of approximately 30% in demand for shelter from 2002 to 2003,” said Rick Taylor, Managing Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. This data was compiled from a survey of three fourths of the shelter programs that receive funding from the State of Ohio. To respond to this growing demand, shelters and services throughout Ohio are calling on community leaders to put in place resources and policies to address the growing flood of families and individuals who are finding themselves homeless.
First Call for Help in Cleveland reports a 20.5% increase in requests for shelter in 2003. The men’s shelter regularly has more than 100 people over their legal capacity asking for shelter and they serve 25,000 meals per month. “Because of the slumping economy, we have seen huge increases in shelter requests locally, and we are seeing more and more people having to sleep outside because they cannot find shelter,” said Brian Davis, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
While the economic picture for the country points to some economic recovery, Ohio is not one of the states seeing improvement. Ohio continues to see unprecedented increases in families and individuals in need of shelter. Ohio rated second to last among states in job growth from the end of 1997 through last year. Ohio Policy Matters reported Ohio lost 118,500 or one out of seven manufacturing jobs from March 2001 to March 2003. The impact of these losses continue in September 2003 with 6,500 Ohioans running out of unemployment benefits. With loss of manufacturing jobs for 38 consecutive months, Ohio has seen huge increases in foreclosures and evictions followed by double digit increases in request for shelter.
NEOCH is asking community groups, church organizations and individuals to help the men’s shelter at 2100 Lakeside Ave to cope with this huge demand. We are asking that people help with donations of blankets, bed sheets, and towels or monetary donations so that the shelter staff can spend their time and resources on moving the men to stable employment or housing. “2100 Lakeside desperately needs blankets, bed sheets and towels at this time and they need groups to adopt a meal at the shelter,” said Davis of NEOCH. “As part of National Homeless and Hunger Awareness week, churches and civic organizations could adopt one meal a month at the shelter to provide a meal for up to 500 men who use the shelter or bring blankets, towels, and bed sheets to the shelter. This would get the public more aware of homelessness and then it is our hope that they will want to start working on the solutions to homelessness,” said Davis.
“Given that Ohio lags behind all other states except Michigan in job growth and the inability for many to find jobs, it is no wonder we are seeing many Ohioans losing their homes,” said Taylor of COHHIO. Local and state advocates are asking for a community discussion involving those experiencing homelessness to construct both statewide and local plans to address homelessness. Advocates are seeking help from the community, media, religious organizations and the collective talent that exists in Ohio to finally address the problem of our citizens living for years in shelters, on the streets and in abandoned housing.
Editor’s Note: To support the men’s shelter or schedule a meal to adopt at 2100 Lakeside call Duane Drotar at 216/566-0047.
Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.