Becoming a mother was one of the most joyful events of my life. I remember the excitement I felt bringing my newborn baby girl home for the first time. And I also remember how helpless I felt when we walked through the front door on that blustery cold winter day into a home without heat.
While we were in the hospital, the pilot light on our boiler had gone out, and our house was just slightly above freezing. What kind of mother would I be if I couldn’t even keep my baby warm? Fortunately, we were able to fix the boiler, and within an hour or so, our baby girl was safe and warm.
But for some mothers living in Cleveland, providing warmth for their children isn’t as simple as fixing the pilot light on a boiler. “The new face of homelessness in Cleveland is a mother with children,” says the Rev. Richard Trickel, CEO of The City Mission.
We’re facing a huge crisis in our city. In 2017, Laura’s Home, a shelter for women and children run by The City Mission, was forced to turn away 17,000 women because there simply wasn’t enough room. Even more heartbreaking, nearly 1,000 of those women were pregnant.
After an emergency overflow community discussion in November 2017, Cuyahoga County agreed to help fund a new shelter called Haven Home, with the assistance of Elizabeth Baptist Church, which owns the building. Through the initiative of Cindy Rios, a member of Elizabeth Baptist, Haven Home was already slated to become a shelter. But because of the state of emergency in Cleveland, the plan was accelerated by a few months so that it could serve as a homeless overflow site for families in need.
Under the direction of Rios, Haven Home now provides services and housing for 20 to 70 women and children on a nightly basis. Since the shelter was forced to open early, it’s not currently capable of running on a full-time basis. As of now, it’s a temporary solution for families.
“The lack of affordable housing in Cleveland affects the number of homeless families and must be a part of any discussion on preventing reoccurring homelessness,” says Rios. “My hope is that housing providers, including private landlords, will be more open to renting to families with vouchers and become a part of the solution.”
It’s easy to pray for the homeless from the comfort of our warm homes ― watching our children eat three meals a day, tucking them into their beds at night and thinking how lucky we are to have these comforts. We can make donations to organizations that help the homeless. We can give our spare change to the panhandler on the street. We can drop off school supplies and winter coats to a local shelter. These are all wonderful ways to help. But the question is, are we doing enough? With over 35,000 homeless in Ohio in 2016, the answer is a resounding “no.”
Challenge yourself. Challenge those around you. Do a little more than is necessary. Step outside of your comfort zone. A little more. Still more. Even more. Because we are literally not doing enough until every man, woman and child in our city has a place to call home.
Looking for a fun way to share some love this Valentine’s Day? On Feb. 14, Story Club Cleveland, a charitable open mic for true stories, is hosting an event at Forest City Brewery dedicated to love and chocolate. Entrance is free, with a $10 suggested donation, which will help support Haven Home.
Volunteers are needed at Haven Home to help sort donations, serve food, make minor repairs and share time with the families. Food and clothing donations are welcome, as are monetary donations, which would go toward future programs for the shelter.
Many other organizations in Cleveland provide support for the homeless. Here are just a few:
Laura’s Home: If you’re looking for a way to volunteer with the kids, check out their “Moms on a Mission” program. Moms and their children meet once a month at Laura’s Home for special projects. This is a great way to educate your children about homelessness, poverty and about the importance of serving others.