ERIC SANDY / SCENE
The site of The Haven Home on East 61st St.
After weeks of concerted public pressure, Cuyahoga County will assist in the funding and support of a temporary emergency overflow homeless shelter for families (women and children). The new venue, which will be located at The Haven Home on East 61st Street, will accommodate 36 individuals.
Furthermore, county funding will allow a case worker to connect with families staying at The Haven Home, which will do wonders in stemming the increasing numbers of homeless families in Cuyahoga County. The whole idea, county leaders have repeatedly said, is to get the homeless population into stable, permanent housing; a person or family can only do that if they've got a case worker, and they can only get a case worker if they're in one of the established homeless shelters in the area. For families, those shelters are consistently at capacity. This is where the "overflow" crisis takes root.
We reported on the problem last month
, when we visited the gymnasium at The City Mission. There, CEO Rich Trickel opened up the room for women and children in need. Dozens took him up on the offer each night, beginning in August 2016. The numbers have only grown since then.
To return to that story:
In a very general sense, the emergency shelter process in Cuyahoga County is run simply through Coordinated Intake, located within the Bishop Cosgrove building at Superior Avenue and East 18th Street. From there, a mother and her children would be referred to one of the county’s shelter partners. With the homelessness crisis worsening, those places are often at full capacity; the mothers’ requests are denied.
This short list of shelter partners for local families includes: The City Mission, which operates Laura’s Home, with 55 rooms and 166 beds; Westside Catholic Center with 35 beds; The Salvation Army with 35 rooms; and Family Promise with accommodations for eight to 10 families. Those facilities are fully booked on most days.
Seeing a crisis on hand, Trickel says his organization decided to open its gym as a temporary overflow shelter for families. The idea was to stem the bump in demand, for which the county cites a “seasonal increase” during summer months and a reduction in beds while Family Promise was under renovation last year.
The City Mission, which is the only privately funded venue on that list, receives an average of 374 calls from mothers each month, all seeking shelter for their family, according to Trickel. (Places like Norma Herr Women’s Shelter and 2100 Men’s Shelter offer emergency beds for single women or men only, respectively.)
In September 2016, Trickel and his staff opened the gym. That month, The City Mission provided 71 “nights of shelter” for 23 women and 48 children. (A “night of shelter” is an accommodation of one person for one night.) In August 2017, The City Mission provided 1,016 nights of shelter in its gymnasium.
Based on numbers provided by Cuyahoga County, the family homelessness crisis is in fact growing ever more dire. In 2016, 1,682 families stayed in emergency shelters. Trickel estimated that there's another 700 to 900 homeless families unaccounted for, based on data collected by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Project ACT. (While family homelessness is on the rise, the number of individuals in emergency shelter have decreased as more single men and women move into transitional and permanent housing.)
CUYAHOGA COUNTY OFFICE OF HOMELESS SERVICES
So the Haven Home news is indeed good news, and a sign, Trickel says, that the county is willing to engage private partners on this issue.
Elsewhere, The Haven Home's executive director, Cynthia Rios, was holding meetings and forming a plan to reopen the place for this specific need. “It's a wonderful, perfect facility for this use,” she says. With a past life as a convent, the Haven Home property has the sort of bathrooms, showers and laundry amenities needed to support a basic emergency shelter. There's even a gymnasium on the campus, for the likely overflow of the overflow shelter.
“You've got to provide a dignified, humane, permanent solution,” Trickel says, pointing to the county's public accountability role. “I think that [sleeping in the City Mission gym] is an ungodly circumstance. I think once [the public] hears about that they're not willing to accept that as a solution.”
The Haven Home will figure prominently in getting started on this solution. A public forum on Nov. 11 saw great turnout, with small groups forming to tackle specific family homelessness issues: students, advocacy, team-building, etc. "[In May 2016,] we became aware of a very dramatic problem of homeless women and children in this city," Trickel told the crowd on Saturday. "That message went out far and wide."
And here we are today, with more news to come as winter forces the family homelessness crisis into full view in Cleveland.