In the fall of 2018, WISH Cleveland launched the city’s first equitable giving campaign designed to honor and embrace the driving forces of “do-gooders” in our community. Now in its second year, WISH Cleveland is gearing up for #GivingTuesdayCLE by hosting a giving campaign (and a party!) to elevate the work of local nonprofits and the people who keep them going. Fifteen local organizations have been selected by the #GivingTuesdayCLE volunteer planning committee for their tireless commitment to a more just and equitable Cleveland.
How can we thank Cleveland’s local heroes for all that they do? Easy! You can make a donation, purchase a “GOOD” hat, and/or join us at “The GOOD Hat Bash” at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern on Tuesday, December 3. Tickets and hats can be purchased and donations made here. And if your favorite nonprofit isn’t on the donation list, then it’s not too late to get them involved. When you purchase a GOOD hat or event ticket, any registered nonprofit can benefit from your support.
Each week until December 3, WISH Cleveland will publish a #GivingTuesdayCLE story highlighting the missions of nonprofits that will share your generous donations. This week’s story, below, focuses on the issue of homelessness in Cleveland and three organizations responding to that crisis.
Unsheltered in Cleveland: A Citywide Response
Poverty is not a circumstance that anyone has signed up for, and none of us are exempt from the impact it leaves on our community. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, an average of 10,250 Ohioans experienced homelessness last year. In response to the homeless crisis, non-profit organizations and community partners are hard at work providing resources to help minimize the obstacles unsheltered Clevelanders face every day. From transitional housing to educational programs to street outreach programs, the love of devoted staff and volunteers can be felt across Cleveland.
The Metanoia Project
What began as a group of parishioners who wanted to open their warm church building to neighbors out in the cold has evolved to become The Metanoia Project — an emergency shelter that provides healing, hope, and respite to Cleveland residents who don’t typically find comfort in the traditional shelter setting. The shelter staff and volunteers provide a hospitality center at St. Malachi church, which includes sleeping accommodations, food, and resources. In addition, the satellite center on Lorain Avenue provides assistance to those with special needs, helping with appropriate housing, food, and personal supplies.
The staff at the Metanoia Project focuses on developing peer-to-peer support and on building trust and relationships with their guests. Their philosophy is aptly described by Megan Crow, Executive Director: “A consistent supportive relationship truly has the power to change the course of someone’s life.”
Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH)
Taking a creative and comprehensive approach to the issue of homelessness, NEOCH has focused on empowering, educating, and advocating for the clients they serve. Facing the community housing crisis head on, they have formed Homeless Congresses, consisting of those who are experiencing homelessness, which meet downtown and on the west side of Cleveland. The groups meet monthly to participate in open forums focused on creating change through collective power. The members’ needs are identified, and they take action between meetings to make change, like successfully opening the men’s shelter an hour earlier.
The NEOCH team also visits areas such as bridges, railroad tracks, and freeway underpasses to ensure that the unsheltered have the option to access housing. If individuals decline access to housing, they are nonetheless informed of opportunities to support themselves in other ways, such as The Street Chronicle, which is written by those who have experienced homelessness. By purchasing their copies at a discount and making a profit selling them throughout Cleveland, they are able to generate an income for themselves. In addition, they have access to speaking opportunities in the community through the NEOCH Street Voices program, in which they share their personal experiences, inspire support, and spread awareness.
Chris Knestrick, Director of NEOCH, explains that the organization is “about fiercely loving the most vulnerable in our community.” He adds that this belief “means making sure the community hears their voices, advocating powerfully for their rights, and keeping people alive while living on the streets. We start work every day committed to ending homelessness one person at a time.”
The Haven Home
Nestled on the cozy Cleveland campus of a church on Francis Avenue in a former convent building, The Haven Home operates a separate non-profit organization. The Haven opened its doors in November of 2017, answering a call from the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) to provide a site for family overflow.
Prior to this arrangement, overflow families slept on the gym floor at The City Mission. At the beginning of each day, they had to leave the building, receiving small meals and taking their belongings with them. The City Mission was also unable to provide shelter over the weekend. Noting the hardship this created for the families, OHS sought another location for assistance.
The Haven has 17 sleeping rooms, a children’s playroom, a laundry room, a kitchen and a dining room with a capacity of 51. Nearly every night over the past few months, the building’s capacity has been exceeded. The gym floor of an adjacent building allows for additional sleeping accommodations while The Haven Home maintains access to showers, dining, and socializing.
Meals, transportation and overnight staffing are provided by the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries. The Haven staff, which includes Cynthia Rios, Rhonda Clark, and two part-time housekeeping workers, are responsible for volunteer programs, donations, and building maintenance. Over 100 volunteers, some of whom are members of the neighboring church, provide assistance in multiple capacities.
On-site programs include employment search assistance, arts and crafts, Bible study, holiday activities, children’s puppet shows, and more. “We want the families to feel loved. This is a very difficult time for them and we want them to know that we care for them, that God loves them, and there is hope,” Cynthia Rios, Executive Director, explains. “There are a lot of resources here in Cleveland, and we try to make as many connections as possible.”
The generous staff and volunteers sometimes offer assistance from their own pockets to help the families at The Haven Home. “Currently, I’m trying to help a mother get a warrant block lifted so she can get her driver’s license reinstated,” Rios says. “She only needs $300.00.”