The City Mission has been around since 1910 – longer than most Cleveland institutions (including the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Clinic, and Cleveland Museum of Art, just to name a few!). But with national news reports claiming that homelessness is on the decline, is The City Mission still an important part of our city? The answer is yes, more than ever.
- The demographics of homelessness are changing
A common misconception is that homelessness only pertains to single adults. Sadly, the demographics are trending in a much different direction – 41% of the homeless population is comprised of families, the vast majority of which are headed by single mothers. The City Mission opened Cleveland’s first women’s shelter in 1981. Today we serve 168 women and children through long-term wraparound services at Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center. Laura’s Home has been full with a waiting list since 2012, and we’re not alone.
- Every available shelter for women & children in Cuyahoga County is over capacity
This staggering fact is hard to ignore, especially when you learn just what “over capacity” means. For the last 12 months, The City Mission has opened its gym to help meet the need of families who have nowhere to go. Since then 272 families have spent at least one night on a mattress in our gym because there was truly no other place to go.
- Getting off the street isn’t as simple as finding work
Many people assume that if homeless individuals found jobs they would be able to lift themselves out of poverty. The reality isn’t that simple! For single parents, people with disabilities, criminal records or minimal education, finding work that pays enough to support themselves and their children is incredibly difficult (more on that later). Each man or woman’s situation is nuanced, but guests of The City Mission are in our programs with the hopes of gaining the skills and resources needed to become self-sustainable.
- Affordable housing is not an option
In Ohio, a single mother with a minimum wage job – a typical situation for our guests – must work 100 hours each week to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment. That’s equivalent to 2.5 full-time jobs, and without the ability to pay for childcare, that leaves a parent with the choice of caring for their children or working and leaving their children in an unsafe situation. At The City Mission we provide a safe space to stay, along with education and financial responsibility training needed to pursue a positive future with stable income and savings.
- The waiting list for government assisted housing is up to 4 years long
The housing lottery was last held in July of 2015. 64,000 people applied and only 10,000 names were drawn. According to Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, only 93% of landlords will accept Rapid Rehousing vouchers (NEOCH), which means there is little movement of families from shelter to housing. Since the federal strategy for Rapid Rehousing is focused on single homeless individuals, it leaves little to no additional funds to assist homeless families. By the time a family does receive housing, there is an extremely high chance that both parents and children have experienced hunger, violence, and mental illness in the waiting period. At The City Mission we provide consistent care for those waiting on government assistance, with the hope that people not only survive, but are prepared to thrive.
- Homelessness separates families
One study reports that childhood foster care is 34 times higher for families experiencing homelessness than the general population. Fear of separation can keep mothers and kids hiding in unsafe situations, rather than going to a shelter or taking advantage of critical services. At Laura’s Home, families are given a room of their own so they can interact with one another in a private and stable environment. Engaging, educational childcare is also provided during the day with the intention of allowing mothers to fully focus on counseling and classes that will help them better provide for their children in the future.
- Options for people reentering society after incarceration are extremely limited
The City Mission also provides Inmate Outreach Services and reentry opportunities in Cleveland. National data shows that nearly 50,000 people a year enter shelters directly after release from correctional facilities and researchers estimate that 25-50% of the homeless population has a history of incarceration. Unstable housing, mental illness, employment limitations and a lack of healthy relationships can all lead to homelessness for someone recently released from prison. And when there’s nowhere to turn, it’s more likely that a person will repeat a crime.
- Mental health recovery does not happen overnight
25% of the homeless population suffers from a mental illness. Even with proper treatment, recovery from a mental health crisis takes time. The City Mission offers a refuge to those who need a stable environment to adjust to medication and receive counseling. Over the years we’ve devoted more time and resources to our counseling services so that our guests are mentally and emotionally prepared to be contributing members of their community when they leave our doors. In fact, we’re the only shelter in Cleveland offering on-site mental health services.
- Bad stuff happens to stable people
A common belief is that homelessness is an issue experienced only by people who grew up in poverty or who made shattering personal choices. In reality, we are all one crisis away from homelessness – no matter how stable life appears right now. People at all socioeconomic levels can experience the death of a loved one, finances drained from a devastating illness, or the loss of mental health and stabilizing relationships. When individuals hit rock bottom The City Mission welcomes them with open arms – without a thought about how far they fell.
- The people of Cleveland still need Christ
The City Mission believes that people can be free of the chains that hold them in destructive habits when their hearts are changed by the grace of Jesus Christ. Since 1910, the Mission’s work has continued with the sole purpose of providing help and hope through the transforming power of God’s love. Biblical teaching and principals have always been the center of The City Mission’s programs and always will be. Rich, poor or middle class, everyone has a need that can only be met through the free gift of Christ’s redeeming life.
As the needs and demographics of people in poverty change, The City Mission adapts to provide some of the most relevant and life-changing services in our community. With so much work to be done, especially in the area of women and children homelessness, we hope you’ll partner with us to provide a way forward to those experiencing crisis in Cleveland for 107 more years.
The City Mission is funded entirely by private donations and only able to provide for each of these needs because of our generous supporters. If you’d like to make a financial gift or discover other ways to help, please visit http://www.thecitymission.org.