Commentary: Medina County Cares for Poor

Commentary by Tammy Antonille

      Homelessness and poverty do not stop at the borders of Cleveland. The need to provide shelter and food for those in poverty is as real for 30 people as it is for 3000. The bedroom communities, suburbs and rural areas face similar challenges to the large metropolitan areas. The number of people may be smaller but the harsh reality of poverty is just as significant to those who are experiencing it.

        Living in Medina County you feel insulated from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Poverty and homelessness aren’t immediately visible when you drive through the historic downtown of Medina. The gazebo in the center of the square gleams in the sunlight and is the focal point for wedding pictures, family picnics and city events.

      You don’t catch a glimpse of homeless people pushing shopping carts down the street or sitting on the corner asking people for change. On the surface, it is as close to Pleasantville as you can imagine.

      If you don’t take the time to get involved in the community, you could go about your life, without giving a second thought to homelessness or poverty. From my house to the grocery store, I encounter nothing but thriving businesses and new homes being built. But the facts about the county tell a different story.

      The Medina County Metropolitan Housing Authority states that a person earning minimum wage would have to work 112 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a fair market value of $752. The housing wage in Ohio is $11.87, while the housing wage in Medina County is $14.46. In 2003, the MCMHA also found there were 31 homeless adults and six children cared for by Operation HOMES. There are 421 people with developmental disabilities on a waiting list for housing or housing services in the county and foreclosures rose from $12 million to over $32 million in 2004.

      Despite the growing, “out of sight out of mind” mentality which is so prevalent in our society, Medina County is a glowing example of how a community can pull together to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Non-profits, volunteer agencies and service organizations abound, and the citizens respond to the needs of the community with their time and money.

     The Medina County Home is a perfect example. The original County Home was built in 1854 to provide housing for indigent persons who were unable to care for themselves. Situated on approximately 80 acres of scenic, rural property, the Medina County Home is a 60-bed facility that provides primary, custodial, rest-home-type care. When the Home was in financial trouble the citizens of the county voted a levy through to ensure its continuing existence.

      Another organization, the HANDS Foundation, concentrates on the needs of senior citizens. It is estimated that over 11,000 seniors in Medina County are living below the poverty level. The HANDS Foundation has a senior wish list that other charities and non-profits can access to provide financial assistance for everything from new dentures and eyeglasses to plumbing repairs and money to help cover medical costs. It also funds the Farmers Market, a nutritional program that provides vouchers for qualifying seniors to use at farm markets across the county. Since 1998, Cathy’s House, a transitional shelter, has provided a home for 250 recovering alcohol and drug-addicted men. The Battered Women’s Shelter is another example of a need being recognized and a solution put in place. In 2003, the shelter provided 101 people with safe housing. There are a myriad of other organizations that do good and impact poverty issues across the county.

    I am a proud member of the Medina County Community, and I compliment the efforts of the citizens across the county to identify and implement solutions for those who are less fortunate. Every person can make a difference in someone else’s life, by volunteering time, energy, ideas and compassion. Don’t become insulated in your suburb, research the issues, find a cause and make a difference.

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #70, May 2005. All Rights Reserved