How Many Homeless Are in Downtown Cleveland?

Over the last 16 years, we have had a long decline in the number of homeless people sleeping in Downtown Cleveland.  From 60 in 1998 then the shelter opens in 2000 and the number went down to 4 people.   Then it spikes up to 40 in 2006 for some reason and now it has remained steady at 3 people in 2012 to 2014.   We did not survey in 2011 because of the Occupy movement sleeping downtown. 

We started doing this count on Black Friday during the Mike White administration because homeless people were being arrested, threatened with arrest, and transported out of the City during the Thanksgiving season.  NEOCH sued and eventually won a settlement with the City.  We then began surveying homeless people downtown to see if they were being harassed or threatened by the police.  We also kept a count of the number of homeless people.  This is a low number since many homeless people go into stay with families during the holidays.  The shelters are not as busy on Black Friday compared to other Fridays.  Now we have 16 years of numbers of people sleeping downtown, and it is a huge success. 

The big change that happened in the early 2000s was the introduction of the big shelter in Cleveland that did not turn anyone away.  Then in the mid 2000s, there was the stepped up outreach, the introduction of the Permanent Supportive Housing units for the long term homeless and the downtown clean up crews.  Then over the last three years, we have had the Metanoia Project that has reduced the number of people sleeping outside across the City.  All these together have resulted in fewer people sleeping outside.  It is not that we have solved homelessness or even solved people sleeping outside.  There are far more visibly homeless people sleeping on the West Side of Cleveland then there were 10 years ago. 

Denise, the outreach trainee and I met "Darnell" this morning sleeping outside.   He said that he had been kicked out of the 2100 Lakeside for defending himself in a fight.  He was not aware of the Metanoia Project and was trying to stay warm until the library opened.  We offered Darnell a ride and gave him a hygiene kit.  No matter how many shelter beds, how much housing built for homeless people and how many workers are out on the streets, there are always emergencies.  There are always people who will not go into shelter or are kicked out of their house on any given night.  There are people who do not know where to find help and wander the streets in Cleveland. 

Brian Davis

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