The Faith Community Gather to Help Homeless Families

On May 28th, a group of representatives from Mental Health Services, Inc. , Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, local churches and community activists met to address the rising problem of family homelessness in Cleveland. 

Family homelessness is a distinctly different problem in that it dramatically increases during the summer months when school ends and kids are not in school and may make it difficult for grandmothers or friends to maintain their house. During the summer, parents with their children are more likely to leave where they had been staying before and soon find themselves without a place to sleep. Not all shelters are able to take Mom, Dad and kids, but with the county’s commitment to finding shelter for everyone who needs it, advocates and activists work hard to find a decent place for every family in our community.

These religious leaders and advocates met to discuss a new plan for addressing family homelessness this summer. Working with the faith community, local shelters are working to add additional capacity in the system.  To this point, we have had to put families up in motel spaces, which costs the County a lot of money.     There are emergency spaces available where they sleep one night and then return for a better placement.  The County wants to work to find an effective alternative to motel spaces, and representatives at MHS said that they were close to finding a solution probably in the next week.

Now, the representatives are tackling the next problem—finding donations for these families. Often when they come to the shelter, these parents and children have little to nothing but are in need of food and products such as diapers, car seats or strollers. The representatives hope to offer the children toys and art supplies—products to help make the space more at home for children and parents alike.  MHS, Inc. and NEOCH are asking for additional donations of things such as:

  •       Diapers (all sizes)
  •       Infant formula (unexpired) and baby bottles
  •       Brown bag snacks for kids: Juice Box, snack bar, applesauce, etc.
  •       New Car seats, all sizes (Ohio law prohibits using used car seats)
  •       “Pack & Play” for toddlers
  •       Strollers—new or used
  •       Bus tickets
  •       Children’s dvd’s & books—preferably secular books and dvds.
  •       Art supples: crayons, coloring books, etc.

Any organization or community interested in partnering with this initiative can contact Angie Sulak at 216-583-0615 ext 1427 or sulaka (at) mhs-inc (dot) org or contact NEOCH at advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org more information. I am going to be working this summer to convince local Houses of Worship to join this partnership to keep families together and move them out of the shelters quickly.

By Laura Dunson, NEOCH Intern

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