Special Report from The City Mission an ancient & urgent call to the church to care for the new face of homelessness

A Letter to the Church in Cleveland

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

Cleveland is missing something. Underneath the championship runs, economic upturn, and social excitement, our city is hiding a bleak and urgent crisis.

The City Mission has been fighting homelessness for over 100 years, and we've never seen an outcry for help like the one we're experiencing now.

The new face of homelessness in Cleveland is a mother with children. Last year, Laura’s Home was forced to say no over 17,000 heartbreaking times to single women and moms with kids because all of our available space was filled. Nearly 1,000 of these requests were from pregnant women.

I cannot adequately express the urgency with which the Church needs to take action against family homelessness. I’m convinced that if the Body of Christ responds to this crisis with large-scale unity and coordination, we can meet our community’s needs.

If you'd like to be a part of a Task Force addressing these issues, please email me at RTrickel@TheCityMission.org.

This is an opportunity not only to care for hundreds of women and children, but also to demonstrate the compassion and love of Christ to our city and to the nation.

Rev. Richard Trickel - CEO of The City Mission

The Crisis

We see three primary explanations for growing number of homeless families.

  1. A change in the government’s response to homelessness, away from transitional living and emergency shelters and toward rapid rehousing.
  2. A steady decline in the number of local churches offering emergency shelter for families.
  3. The disappearance of affordable housing. You can see this illustrated through the stories of Sam* and Tanya* on the following pages.

When a mother and her children suddenly find themselves homeless from one of many possible trigger events, she is left with few options. This family needs immediate help, and those who lack financial and relational resources are thrown into crisis. Affordable housing is almost nonexistent, and there is no guarantee of government housing due to already long waitlists and limited funding for subsidized housing. The months (and sometimes years) a family waits for housing assistance can severely impact the mental, emotional, and physical health of both mothers and children.

Let’s follow two women through the government's answer for families in crisis.

* Sam and Tanya are hypothetical stories that represent common experiences

Sam

A year ago Sam and her three school aged children were forced to leave their home after years of abuse from her husband. During the long wait to apply for housing, she and her kids stay with family members as long as allowed - sometimes sleeping in her car during transition periods. When the 12-month wait is over, she puts her name on the already overwhelmed list to enter the housing lottery. Even if Sam wins, she could wait up to four years for an apartment to become available.

Sam secures a spot in lottery, but waits two more years on couches and in and out of shelters to get into housing - two more critically formative years for her kids, who are now in middle and high school.

By the time Sam and her family move into government assisted housing, her children change schools three times, repeat grades, experience hunger and violence, and make ties with local gangs. The damage done is near irreparable without serious psychological and academic intervention.

Tanya

Tanya has always been a hard worker, but since her children's father disappeared, she's had to take on a third job to provide food and housing for her two children and aging grandmother. Twelve months ago she lost the housing lottery - which won’t open again for at least a few more years.

Tanya is forced to choose between being a parent, and providing a home for her family.

Despite having a home, Tanya’s absence due to work puts her children at risk for the same emotional, mental, and physical underdevelopment as Sam's.

Unless Tanya is able to find a combination of affordable housing, a better support system, and an elevation of her education and income level, the family will continue to struggle.

While the government’s answer to homelessness works for some, it all too often sets families and communities up for generations of poverty.

Those fortunate enough to get housing vouchers are often restricted to housing in areas that are “low opportunity,” because of poor educational opportunities and high concentrations of poverty, crime, and environmental health hazards. Because of this, most families are unable to regain self-sufficiency.

Families without vouchers are forced to turn to shelters, only to find that emergency assistance program funding has been cut dramatically. Shelters are overcrowded, understaffed, and often unsafe.

Because of these two realities, families cycle through the system with little chance for stability or growth.

The Church must step in.

A Call to the Church

Christians, we have the opportunity to see God glorified and lives restored in our city as never before.

The complex issues of homelessness must be met with a multifaceted, strategic approach that will demand our time, talents, and resources. The Body of Christ in Cleveland has the immediate opportunity to unify, coordinate, and act to eliminate the cycle of poverty and homelessness that pervades our city.

This movement starts with prayer. We ask you and your church to begin praying about ways you can become involved in the fight against the cycle of poverty.

The City Mission is ready to empower the local church body with education and ideas. We're looking for congregations and individuals who would join our Task Force to support transitional and subsidized housing, institute emergency shelters, and more. No matter your size or budget, our leaders want to meet with you and discuss ways you can help.

This mission goes beyond denominational, doctrinal, and political boundaries.

The City Mission cannot defeat homelessness without you. Since 1910 we’ve been known as the “downtown arm of the church,” and we will continue to persevere with you until we see radical transformation in Cleveland communities and individuals for generations to come. Join us.

A Task Force dozens strong has formed to embrace the call of God to care for the new face of homelessness in our community. We're working on confronting the reality of poverty and homeless in Cleveland head on. We'd love for you to unite with your brothers and sisters, share your knowledge, and consider your role, all in the name of answering one of God’s clearest calls to the Church. To get started, email RTrickel@TheCityMission.org.

Please feel free to contact our CEO, Rich Trickel, at RTrickel@TheCityMission.org with further questions.

Created By
Caroline Stoltzfus
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