World Homeless Day highlights growing problem, as Cleveland's City Mission tries to expand

Thursday, Oct. 10, marks the ninth annual World Homeless Day—one day to turn attention toward the needs of the world’s homeless population and prompt people to make a difference in combating the growing problem.

Cleveland is no different from every major city in the U.S in battling homelessness. “The purpose of World Homeless Day is to create awareness of the circumstance of homelessness and how it impacts us in the world,” says Rev. Rich Trickel, CEO of The City Mission, a privately funded organization that provides help and hope to Cleveland’s hurting and homeless. “Homelessness is an ongoing issue, particularly with women and children. It’s overwhelming.”

On any given night in Cleveland, 4,000 to 4,300 people are without homes, according to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless—more than 22,000 annually. The Center for Community Solutions reports that U.S. Census data shows Cleveland ranks second in overall poverty rates for large U.S. cities (just behind Detroit), and worst in childhood poverty, and the problem here is only growing.

The City Mission is just one local group that focuses on helping the homeless climb out of poverty, cope with trauma and personal issues, and find permanent housing. It not only provides residential shelters for men, women, and women with children, but also offers comprehensive services to help end the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

Officials at The City Mission each day bear witness to the growing homeless population, and the issues they face, especially among the increasing population of women and children living on Cleveland’s streets or seeking shelter.

Now The City Mission is just beginning to launch expansion plans to better accommodate the women and children homeless population. Initial plans call for doubling the size of Laura’s Home Women's Crisis Center, 18120 Puritas Ave.—a residential shelter that provides shelter, meals, and wraparound services for women and their children—from 45,000 square feet to just under 100,000 square feet.

The expansion, designed by Bialosky Cleveland architectural firm, would not only increase the number of beds by 100 and add more than 30 rooms, it would also increase programming space and allow The City Mission to better provide its wealth of services to residents who may live at the shelter for up to a year.

“We really have them for a length of time so they can resolve those issues that brought them to the shelter,” says Linda Uveges, The City Mission's COO. “Homelessness is very complex. You can talk to 10 different clients and have 10 different reasons that brought them to the Mission.”

Currently, with only 166 beds in 55 rooms at Laura’s Home, The City Mission officials are forced to turn away people each night. Local crisis centers that are adequately equipped to meet the evolving needs of the women and children experiencing homelessness remain at capacity every day.

This past August alone, Laura’s Home was unable to shelter 155 women with 317 children, in addition to 167 single women.

“Last night, 75 women and children called to seek shelter,” says Uveges. “We’re busting at the seams every day.”

Right now, Trickel says The City Mission is in the quiet stage of fundraising for the expansion—talking to investors and large donors to raise between 50% and 60% of the estimated $20 million project. “In about four to six weeks, we’ll be prepared to sit down with individuals who have expressed an interest in this,” says Trickel.

In the meantime, Uveges says people can help in several ways, including volunteering, learning more about The City Mission and its services, and financial donations. “We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers, and we have a whole variety of opportunities” she says. “Just being educated [helps]—tour our facility and see what we’re doing. We get no federal money, so we count on our donors. And 89% of every dollar goes to programming.”

The City Mission also accepts clothing and other material donations. Clothing items the organization can’t use are given to a third party who sells them to resale shops. Monetary donations can be made online.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.