The Current State of Homelessness in Cincinnati
Please read on for an update on the programs and services, successes and system improvements to end homelessness in Greater Cincinnati. And where we, unfortunately, see concerns.
How our Homeless System is Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis
We need to assist those experiencing homelessness today or who about to become homeless. And we need to look ahead.
The majority of people experiencing homelessness locally are in shelters, so the immediate need at the outset of the virus was to create social distancing within shelters. This meant that the number of people sleeping in close quarters in congregate shelters had to be reduced.
By the time a shelter resident tested positive, the entire shelter would have already be exposed. Several congregate family shelters closed, and their families were moved to hotel rooms.
Likewise, in the shelters for Single Adults, clients were unable to achieve social distancing, many residents are elderly, and some have underlying medical conditions. The most vulnerable were moved to hotel rooms to allow those still in shelter to social distance.
But hotel rooms are not a permanent solution and the funding will run out.
While homelessness locally has remained stable for the last five years, we are expecting a big increase next year because of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
The negative impact of COVID-19 on our shelter operations has meant that fewer people have been able to get into shelters.
This fact has resulted in a 14% decline in the number of people served in shelters through September compared to last year. And a 38% increase in the number of people sleeping unsheltered on the streets in the same timeframe. Similarly, our Central Access Point helpline has already experienced a 25% increase in calls for help.
Family Homelessness on the Rise
We normally see an increase in family homelessness each summer. “Summer Surge” as it’s known. Often families with unstable housing are able to stay with family or friends when school is in session. Once school ends and kids are home all day, they’re often asked to leave, with no place to go.
This year “summer break” came early with schools closing in March. This created additional stress for parents, such as loss of school-served breakfast and lunch, the need to homeschool, accessing online lessons without internet service, and more.
While many states put a moratorium on residential evictions during the pandemic, Ohio, for one, did not. The Centers for Disease Control recently instituted a moratorium that will expire on December 31st. But landlords are still able to file.
As part of the local COVID-19 response, we are administering new Eviction Prevention funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio.
Our goal is to help stabilize the housing of participating families by paying 2-3 months’ rent.
With the crisis came a number of new and increased funding sources from the Federal, State, and local governments. And from our generous local Foundation partners. Funding we are thankful to have, but don’t know how long it will last or if there will be more of it.
What to Expect in 2021?
Homelessness a “Lagging Indicator”. It’s only after an economic crisis or national emergency – all of the issues we’re facing right now –that homelessness increases.
According to the Federal government, almost 40% of Americans in households making less than $40,000 a year lost a job during the start of the crisis. In the first six weeks of the pandemic-induced economic shutdown, alone, 30 million people lost jobs.
Hamilton County has long been experiencing an affordable housing crisis, a crisis that predates COVID-19. As a community, we are lacking 40,000 affordable units.
Now, many residents will not be able to afford their rent because they were laid off and cannot qualify for or are waiting for unemployment compensation.
Most people who lose their own housing don’t immediately become homeless. That is, enter a homeless shelter or sleep unsheltered, on the street or in a car.
Instead people stay with friends or family for as long as possible. It’s when they’re asked to leave that last couch and they’re out of options that they call us for help.
Normally it takes a year or more for someone who hasn’t otherwise gotten back on their feet and into housing to find themselves on the street or entering a shelter.
Thank you – to our supporters and partners – for your passion to end homelessness. It’s important and it makes a real difference in the lives of our neighbors.
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