2012 Point in Time Count

On January 24, 2012, volunteers surveyed 237 individuals who identified themselves as homeless.  Within that group were 29 households including 55 children.  Project Hope for the Homeless, Lake County’s only homeless shelter, reports the number of homeless households with children has risen dramatically each year since 2008 when the recession began.  Between 2009 and 2011, the number of children housed at Project Hope increased by 213%.

Supporting Data Shows Depth and Breadth of the Problem

The current economic recession has hit Lake County households hard.  According to data collected by 2-1-1, Lake County’s information and referral hotline, almost 40,000 calls were received in 2011.  Callers were Lake County residents seeking help with a variety of issues.  The numbers below indicate how many of those calls were requesting help with problems related to food, eviction and foreclosure notices and utility shut-offs.

·        6,004 calls requesting help getting food for their families

·        2,962 calls asked for help in paying their rent or mortgage

·        3,638 calls sought help with utility payments

·        3,408 calls requested emergency shelter, with 1,555 of them turned away mostly due to lack of available shelter beds

These numbers may surprise the average county resident, but when coupled with data showing that nearly one-third of our county’s households qualify as low income, the financial strain felt by so many of our neighbors is put into perspective.  Add to this data the fact that over 1,600 Lake County  households are already living in affordable rental units provided by Lake Metropolitan Housing Authority with 795 families remaining on its waiting list as of April, 2012. This list has been closed since 2009 and LMHA has not accepted any new applicants during that 3 year period.  Thus, today’s homeless are unable to even apply for public housing here in Lake County.  These facts help explain why so many homeless cited a lack of affordable housing as contributing to their homeless situation.     Other subsidized units serving 1,200 elderly or disabled families are located in various communities throughout the county.  With so many citizens clearly living on the edge of homelessness, Continuum agencies are focusing much of their efforts on prevention.

The Importance of Prevention

 Our data show it is not only far more cost-effective to fund homeless prevention efforts, but it is also more humane.  Homelessness is traumatic for both adults and children.   Not having a permanent address and/or a telephone makes it difficult for a homeless adult to conduct an effective job search and to search for resources that may be available.  Homeless children often miss school as the family scrambles to find shelter and often lack the basic necessities such as healthy meals, adequate clothing and school supplies required for a successful learning experience.  While laws are in place to allow children to continue to attend the school they were in when becoming homeless, we find that many such children have changed schools several times as their families attempted to locate housing they could afford.

Housing instability hurts neighborhoods and the broader community.  As households experience financial strains they are less able to properly care for the housing they do have.  Tenants losing jobs can no longer pay their rent which makes it difficult for landlords to maintain their properties.  Couple this with the overwhelming number of foreclosures seen in the county over the past few years and it is easy to see that housing issues affect nearly everyone in Lake County.

Continuum agencies and churches have constructed a very broad homeless prevention net.  They recognize that offering free meals helps families reduce their food costs thus making it easier to pay this month’s rent.  Supporting programs that help make winter heating/summer cooling costs affordable for low income households prevents utility disconnections and keeps families housed.  Offering counseling on rental and mortgage issues helps to prevent eviction or foreclosures.  Again, our 2011 data indicate high levels of need within our county’s households:

·        721 received mortgage modification and foreclosure prevention counseling

·        1,237 received rental counseling from the Fair Housing Resource Center

·        1,721 received emergency utility assistance

·        19,172 hot lunches were served at the Salvation Army

·         19,516  weekend lunches and weekday dinners were served at St. James and St. Mary’s in Painesville

These efforts continue to help low income households stretch their already tight budgets and maintain the housing they have.  Without this help, hundreds of additional families would become homeless each year adding to their trauma and neighborhood instabilities already felt across the county and further straining our resources.  Prevention works to keep our citizens housed and stable.

How To Help

There are many ways you can help Continuum agencies and churches fight to end homelessness.  You can:

·        Stay informed – Learn more about the issues facing the homeless and what can be done to prevent more people from becoming homeless. You can also visit the Lake County Continuum of Care website (www.homeisinsight.org) for local information on our efforts to end homelessness.   The National Alliance to End Homelessness (www.naeh.org) provides clear, concise and up-to-date information on the state of homelessness across the country. 

·        Treat homeless people as human beings – It can be as simple as saying “Hi” instead of avoiding eye contact or letting  a homeless person know he can reserve a bed at Project Hope for the Homeless by calling 2-1-1.

·        Advocate with lawmakers – Call or write your local, state and federal representatives to let them know that you support funding programs to help prevent homelessness.

·        Volunteer – The websites for the Lake County Continuum of Care (www.homeisinsight.org)  and its  parent organization, the Coalition for Housing and Support Services of Lake County (www.chsslc.org) both include the contact information for member agencies who focus on housing and the homeless.  These agencies all have more things that need to be done than there are arms and legs to do them.  You would be surprised at how much good can be accomplished by volunteers who give just a couple of hours of service each month.  Volunteers tell us how good they feel knowing they have made a difference in their community.

·        Donate – Of course, cash donations are always welcome, but did you know that most Continuum member agencies also publish a wish list on their websites that outlines those items that are always in short supply.  Perhaps you would rather go shopping for your favorite agency and donate those items as a way of showing your support.

As you can see, there is much to be done before we, as a community, can brag that there are no more homeless in Lake County.  We hope that the information provided here has given you a clear picture of what is being done and what still needs to be done to end homelessness here in our county.  We invite you to join us in the fight.

2011 Point in Time Count Results