Follow Up on City Mission Forum

Saturday June 10 at 9 a.m. at the City Mission, NEOCH is partnering with Metanoia, West Side Catholic and City Mission to follow up on the forum that we had back in April.  This meeting is an attempt to set up a task force of religious folks to find solutions with the crisis in homeless families. We regularly have 5 to 10 families in the gym waiting for a bed to open locally.  The forum will be in the main building of City Mission 5310 Carnegie Ave. come into the main entrance (the building on the corner of 55th and Carnegie). We’ll meet from 9 - 10:30.  It is a a little late to call City Mission for more details, but you can call and leave a message for Linda if you want to get on the e-mail list for future meetings 216-431-3510.  

 by Brian Davis

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City Mission Hosting Forum for the Religious Community

The City Mission is taking the lead on organizing a gathering of the faith community to respond to the crisis in family homelessness.  NEOCH staff will be presenting at this event, and hope that it is the start of something powerful in Cleveland.  We hope that we can get the religious community to open their arms in much the same way the respond to the hunger issues in our community.  You need to RSVP at www.thecitymission.org/forum to participate. 

Brian Davis

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Hope House Cuts Ribbon on First Home Given Away

Last night, the City Mission, Church on the Rise and the Land Bank cut the ribbon on a new project called Hope House.  This is a partnership to provide homes to families coming out of Laura's Home who are ready for the responsibility of owning a home.  City Mission manages the Laura's Home family homeless shelter and found a property worth saving from the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  They went to Church on the Rise to provide the funding and volunteer base to make this project work. 

Michelle (pictured here on her new back porch) and her five kids will be moving into the property.  She has seven children with two adult children living on their own.  Michelle was beaming last night showing off the work that she did on the house.  She has put in the sweat equity with the other members of the congregation to help put this house together.  She helped scrape off old paint and cleaned up the backyard.  She carried building materials and assisted all the craftsmen who helped put this house back together.   There were so many who donated materials and labor in order to return this dilapidated house that will help with the effort to heal this neighborhood.

Councilman Tony Brancatelli said that he was honored to be at the ribbon cutting, and Gus Frangos of the Land Bank said that this is the exact project that the Land Bank was created to do.  Both felt that Michelle was going to be a wonderful neighbor as she has overcome so many obstacles to get to this place.  WEWS-TV5 attended the festivities and interviewed Michelle.  It was an uplifting day to see a family move from the shelter into a renovated house.  It has new windows, fresh paint, a new porch, brand new floors and a newly renovated kitchen. The house was cut up and beat up and eventually abandoned.  Michelle will raise her family in this beautiful home after a slight interruption of instability.  They are right on a busline in a recovering neighborhood.  People brought welcome baskets from throughout the community.  They brought food and towels and household items to welcome her to the neighborhood.

This is a new venture for the City Mission called Hope House and we hope that this is the first of many similiar projects to move families back into housing.  It is a great project that is the subject of almost every gathering of homeless people.  "Why can't we rebuild all those abandoned properties in the community to reduce the homeless population," is what we hear at almost every meeting of more than three homeless people.   This house is the answer to those questions.  It takes a partnership between the homeless providers, government, and religious organizations to make this work.  We hope that more churches and synagogues will step forward to help.  Congratulations to Michelle and the staff of City Mission for making this work.  Thanks to the the Church on the Rise Congregation led by Pastor Paul for stepping forward to be the first congregation to purchase the house and contribute the volunteers. 

Brian Davis

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County Responds to Family Homelessness

Each summer as school ends and warmer weather (usually) begins, more and more families find themselves without shelter and a place to sleep. Family homelessness itself can be caused by many reasons: poverty, unemployment, difficulty accessible affordable housing, addiction, domestic violence, etc. But around every April, Cuyahoga County slowly sees a rise in the number of families in need of shelter. Why the rise now?

A lot of reasons can add to why family homelessness grows during the summer. With the kids in school up until now, parents may have been unwilling to leave their current place—wanting their kids to finish the school year. Sometimes having all the kids home for the summer makes it difficult for elderly parents or grandparents to keep extended family under the same roof.  As summer comes and kids are at home more often, it may cause added stress in the household and lead to part of the family leaving.  The warmer weather may make moving and travel more accessible when Cleveland’s chill made it less of an option before. Families and landlords may be less willing to force out tenants during the cold months, but in the warmth they are more likely to evict. Paying for child care during the summer can cause additional financial problems and contribute to a rise in homelessness. Finally, we have centralized the shelter system so everyone goes to one facility for help.  This had made it more difficult for people to wait for the best shelter bed to open with repeated calls.  The family has to show up requesting shelter to get in line for a bed.  Before a mother could talk her friend into allowing the family to stay while they waited for a bed at a shelter.  Now, the family goes to Central Intake to line of for a bed.  All of these reasons and many more unique and personal reasons can help explain why the summer months see more children with parents arriving at the shelters, searching for a place to sleep.

But unfortunately, each summer as these families search for shelter, there are limited places to send them. Families need different sort of shelter than individuals—families require more privacy and a safe and supportive place for children.  Finding housing for a group is a bigger task than finding a bed for a single person.

NEOCH, MHS Inc., Cuyahoga County, and several faith communities in the area have worked together to find a solution to this problem.  Here is the current plan to address family homelessness this season:

1. Intake hours for families: 8:00 - 7:00 Mon- Fri; 9:00- 5:00 Sat/Sun. This encourages families to be proactive and acknowledges the families searching for housing due to need versus interest in staying in a hotel room.

2. Overflow accommodations will be met through a church in Cleveland Hts. and Zelma George Emergency shelter beds.  The day after a "one night" stay, staff will try to find a longer stay shelter or permanent diversion.

3. In mid July, Family Promise will begin using a church in the Broadway neighborhood as a permanent site for 4 families. 

Finding this housing was an incredible relief, but we aren’t done yet. We are still in needs of supplies to help make these changes and housing go smoothly. A list of needed supplies can be found here.  If you are interested in getting involved or making donations, please contact NEOCH at advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org more information. We will be putting together information that religious organizations can use to provide help to homeless families in Cleveland.

 

By Laura Dunson, NEOCH Intern

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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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Forum for Religious Organizations Around Family Homelessness

Every summer family homelessness increases in Cleveland.  Last year we had record numbers, and we need help.  We don't necessarily need space, but we need volunteers, hygiene items, care kits, and support for the family shelters in Cleveland.  The first meeting in April, there was discussion about an overflow plan for the summer.  We are working on finalizing that plan over the next few weeks.  The goal is to not turn anyone away from shelter and to keep families together.  If you are a member of a religious congregations social justice committee, or your House of Worship youth committee, or your hunger and homeless committee we want you to attend the meeting.   Tuesday May 28, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mental Health Services main building.

Brian Davis

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Calling on Religious Organizations for Help

Every summer for the past three years we have seen a sharp increase in families looking for housing assistance, and with cut backs at the federal level we expect similar numbers this summer. We have had innocent children by the hundreds who are requesting shelter with their parents.  Social service providers have struggled to meet this demand.  We have had families who had to have Dad go to one shelter while Mom goes with the children to another shelter or made the decision to temporarily relinquish custody of their children, because the shelters were so full.  The system has changed dramatically over the last few years with the development of a Central Intake system.  This allows every family to have an extensive intake done to plan out the best path back to stability tailored to the individual needs of each family. 

We are inviting Religious Leaders to a meeting on April 30, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at 1744 Payne Ave. (the MHS administrative offices) to discuss opportunities for collaboration.  NEOCH is planning this meeting with the largest homeless social service provider in our community, Mental Health Services.  Our goal is to figure out what resources religious groups can bring to the table.  We would like to explain the new referral system for obtaining a shelter bed, and we want you to hear from us what we kind of help we need to serve homeless families.  We also hope to share with you our strategy to meet the needs of the families who request shelter, and you can see if there are areas in which your volunteers or specialists can help.

If you need a copy of a flyer to distribute to your members call 216/432-0540 or email neoch (at) neoch (dot) org.   We ask that you reserve a spot for the April Family Homelessness meeting so that we will be able to configure the room with the proper number of chairs. We know that the religious leaders of Cleveland have a strong commitment toward social justice and hope that they will step forward to help homeless families. 

Brian Davis

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