This September, NEOCH volunteers went to twelve shelters in Cleveland to interview homeless people about their housing needs and their ability to pay for housing. NEOCH surveyed 416 individuals; the information they provided paints an often surprising and certainly a disturbing portrait of homelessness in the City of Cleveland.
Perhaps the most disturbing statistic to emerge is the length of time these individuals have been homeless or on the verge of homelessness. Of the 329 individuals who answered the question, “How long have you been without a stable place to live?,” more than 300 answered “months” or “years.” Nearly as disturbing are the reasons these individuals gave for being unable to find housing: simple economic hardship heads the list, while problems often associated with temporary homelessness—domestic violence, illness or handicap, racial discrimination—come in at the bottom. Given Cleveland’s current economic woes, this list suggests that the ranks of those suffering or facing long-term homelessness won’t be thinning in the near future.
The survey results also pointed to a dearth of affordable housing in northeast Ohio. About two-thirds of those surveyed responded to a question asking how much rent they could afford to pay each month. While 165 answered “$0-$50 per month,” the remaining respondents showed a surprising range of abilities to pay: 68 could afford to pay $51-$125 per month for rent, 53 could afford $126-$350 per month, 24 could afford $351-$500 per month, and 7 individuals surveyed could afford to pay over $500 per month in rent.
Unfortunately, as the survey results showed, many of the individuals who might afford rent are unable in addition to afford security deposits, utilities, or apartments in safe neighborhoods.
Families are clearly suffering from the long-term homelessness NEOCH found to be typical. While the great majority of those interviewed about family size were homeless individuals, 38 were members of 2-person families, 19 were of 3-person families, 14 were of 4-person families, and 25 were members of more than 5-person families.
At least the homeless persons NEOCH interviewed were keeping a sense of humor about their plight. When asked if they would accept housing on Mars should affordable units become available there before they become available on Earth, the majority surveyed (42%) said yes.
On one day in September 2004, volunteers from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless went to 12 shelters in Cleveland to interview homeless people. The volunteers surveyed 416 people on their housing needs and their ability to pay for housing. Below is the summary from the one day action. We will deliver copies of all of these “housing applications” to our local elected officials in October to demonstrate the great need in our community for housing.
6_____Did not answer
274___ African American
17_____Did not answer
280 ____1- person family
38_____2 -person family
25_____Over 5 person family
46_____Did not answer
235___$0-$250 per month
62____$250-$500 per month
14____$500-$1,200 per month
2_____Over $2,000 per month
88____ Did not answer
I can afford an apartment for
165___$0-$50 per month
9 ____Did not answer
I have been without a stable place to live for
87____Did not answer
The biggest reason(s) that an individual cannot find housing:
__259__Rents are too high
__223__Can’t afford security deposit
__170__Need help with other problems in life
__167__Cannot turn on utilities or afford utilities
__151__Bad credit history
__136__Need some help finding an apartment
__121__Only affordable places are bad apartments
__118__Can’t find a place in the right part of town
___60__Other (please describe below
___48__Need a roommate/help
___34__I have given up trying
___32__Too many evictions
___20__Need apartment for physically handicapped
___14__Domestic violence issues
The final question on the survey was: “Since America has prioritized space exploration with budget increases while the housing budget keeps being slashed, I am willing to accept a place on Mars or the Moon should housing open up there before an affordable housing unit opens up on Earth.”
175 or 42% Would choose housing on Mars/Moon
167 or 40% Would be willing to wait for housing on Earth and will not be going to the Mars/Moon
74 or 18% Did not answer this question.
Coalition staff delivered the surveys to all federal elected officials with the message, “With 9,000 people waiting for public housing in Cleveland, 6,000 people waiting for a Housing Choice vouchers and every other program in Cleveland facing unprecedented waiting lists, it is insane to cut the federal housing budget. Homeless people realize the insanity of the situation and are willing to relocated from the safe comfortable confines of the local shelters to zero gravity uncharted territory of the moon in order to find housing.”
Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 67 November-December 2004 Cleveland, Ohio.