Ending Childhood Homelessness in Cleveland - The City Mission of Cleveland, Ohio

What are your fondest childhood memories from this time of year?

Perhaps you can close your eyes and remember how it felt to wear shorts to class on a warm sunny day in May. Maybe you can picture how your late afternoon classes dragged along while you gazed outside daydreaming about where you’d hang out with friends after the school bell rings. For some, this time of year brings back memories of outdoor sports, or even the dreaded allergy season.

Can you even imagine what it might feel like for a child who doesn’t have a home to return to at the end of the day? Unfortunately, this is the case for far too many children in our city.

Cleveland Public Schools recorded 2,271 homeless students in 2020. Maybe the idea that some of your neighbors need help had already crossed your mind, but the harsh reality is even more sobering. According to the Center for Community Solutions, Cleveland was the only city in the U.S. with a population of more than 250,000 where more than half the children lived in poverty in 2018. And it’s not just the children who need serious assistance. The U.S. Census Bureau shows us that among the largest U.S. cities, Cleveland is worst in child poverty, second for working-age adults and third in older-adult poverty.

These numbers paint a picture that is anything but fond. But what are we doing about this as a city?

Organizations like OhioGuidestone are active in leading children, parents, and individuals towards ways to change their situations for the better. OhioGuidestone focuses on job training, addiction recovery, foster care, mental health services, and more. The work they do in Cleveland is critical in responding to the devastating hold childhood homelessness and other crises have on our neighborhoods. As the grim statistics show, these services are needed now more than ever.

Miriam, a local mother of four, and her family are just one example of the need for wraparound relief for Clevelanders in crisis. Miriam’s family arrived here at The City Mission in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I like the staff because… they’re able to help you with almost everything. Regardless [of] if it’s something small or it’s something big, they’re able to help.”

Miriam is not only thankful for the work the Mission has done in her life, but also in the lives of her children whom she mentions have their own obstacles to face.

“I want [my son] to be able to communicate in the next couple of years,” Miriam says. “He has three teachers, so hopefully he gets the support that he [needs].”

In 2020, The City Mission served 351 children experiencing crisis. Here at the Mission, we aim to positively impact the lives of the children and teens who come through its doors by serving Kindergarteners through 12th grade students. This often includes a variety of wraparound services that adapt to each child’s individual needs.

These numbers reveal that thousands of our neighbors are going through the traumatizing experience of homelessness and instability right now! Once experienced, the cycle of homelessness and poverty is difficult to escape and can ensnare a family for generations.

The question we must ask of ourselves is this: what can we do for families like Miriam and her children who experience devastating financial, physical, and emotional stress?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Look to provide financial support to organizations offering extra support to school-age children experiencing crisis. The City Mission is just one organization that provides wraparound services so that children and their families can focus on breaking the cycle of homelessness and move toward a healthy and stable life.
  2. Consider volunteering with any organization that provides safe and healing spaces where children can be protected while they heal and grow. Bring your expertise, whether that be tutoring, playing games, or teaching youth other practical hands-on skills.
  3. Stay informed on issues of poverty and homelessness, and share this knowledge with others in your circle. Everyone has different resources and talents to offer, and your network can be an important part of community transformation!

Your support is a core part of the work being done here at the Mission. We are able to adapt quickly and tailor each program to meet the needs of every individual who comes to us because we don’t accept government funding. This allows the Mission to continue to provide some of the most relevant and transformative services in our community to families like Miriam and her children.

With much work yet to be done, please consider connecting with us to provide a way forward for those experiencing crisis in Cleveland for many more years!

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