Cold winter drove up homeless shelter population

The latest Springfield homeless population survey found that the number of people in shelters increased more than 25 percent as bitter cold this winter led to more emergency housing.

At the same time, the $5.5 million Mulberry Terrace apartment complex opened this month, which leaders hope will help more people find permanent housing.

The point-in-time count, held annually by Interfaith Hospitality Network and other Clark County agencies, showed 192 sheltered homeless individuals, up from 150 last year. The count also showed 13 unsheltered homeless individuals, down from 43 in 2013 and 58 in 2012.

The count is held the third Tuesday of the year and is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It determines how much city, state and national funding agencies that serve the homeless receive each year. Springfield is part of the Ohio Balance of State continuum of care.

Interfaith increased capacity this winter at its shelters, including Norm’s Place and Hartley House, and was also operating emergency overflow shelters.

“Many of those folks that typically we would meet at various locations throughout the county during the outreach time, they were in shelter because it was so extremely cold,” Bradley said.

This year, HUD changed the guidelines to count only those who are sleeping in abandoned houses, cars, Dumpsters or outside. The count doesn’t include those doubled up or staying with family members, Bradley said.

“Families are doubled up just due to the cost of housing and work with each other to supplement each other’s income,” Bradley said. “It’s fairly common.”

The extreme cold allowed IHN to reach out to those people through the overflow shelters, many of whom were able to transition to normal sheltered programming.

“Once they were in the program, they saw the benefits,” Bradley said.

The numbers were expected due to the need for increased capacity at IHN’s shelter, said Jackie Sudhoff, the city’s development programs administrator. The agencies keep track of the chronically homeless who spend a good portion of time unsheltered, Sudhoff said.

“They make sure their needs are being met as well,” Sudhoff said.

The increased outreach can also show the homeless that there are resources that can help them, she said.

Several individuals qualified to move into Interfaith Hospital Network’s $5.5 million Mulberry Terrace development, a 26-unit apartment complex that offers permanent supportive housing — the first of its kind in Clark County. The building is owned by IHN and is managed by Sawmill Road Management Co.

The apartment complex opened this month and is expected to be full by the end of the month. The complex already has a waiting list, she said. The agency also received a $220,000 grant from CareSource to provide full-time supportive services on site.

“It’s critical for the population that we’re serving,” Bradley said.

Adam Fulk, 24, of Springfield, moved into Mulberry Terrace on Wednesday. Fulk spent time living with family members and, after getting laid off at Stanley Electric in London, he later moved into the Hartley House where he stayed for a few months.

“I could afford rent, but I can’t afford electric and gas,” Fulk said. “Plus, I don’t have furniture or anything like that. It makes it hard.”

He said he’s blessed for the opportunity to live at Mulberry Terrace, which comes furnished and provides services on-site, including a Rocking Horse Center satellite location and a food pantry.

The development provides hope for people who are homeless and have already hit rock bottom.

“I can actually come home and say ‘I’m home’,” Fulk said.

IHN also transformed one of its family units on Southern Avenue into a transitional house for men based on the need from the overflow shelters. The men were nearing the end of their time at the overflow shelter and were moved to the transitional house while Mulberry Terrace was nearing completion.

“It was a strategy we used to house more folks,” Bradley said. “They were able to continue to receive supportive services.”

After the winter, IHN, the city and other agencies have discussed doing more outreach in the future to help homeless individuals find shelter and eventually move into permanent housing.

“It’s part of our plan to end homelessness,” Bradley said.

The situation this winter also showed how the Emergency Management Agency can serve people in a catastrophic event.

“It’s great knowing that sort of support system is there,” Sudhoff said.

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