Homelessness in Ohio has declined by two percent over the last three years, a trend that area officials say is also occurring in Clark County.
However, the owner of a local soup kitchen believes there is an immediate need for an overflow shelter for single individuals in Springfield.
According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ohio had 12,325 homeless people, down from 12,569 in 2010. The numbers were based on point-in-time counts held last January.
Clark County’s numbers are counted as part of the Ohio Balance of State Continuum of Care, which includes smaller cities and rural areas. There were 3,830 total homeless people in the balance of state CoC this year, down from 5,121 in 2012.
Interfaith Hospitality Network Executive Director Elaina Bradley said the organization sheltered 583 individuals through Friday in emergency situations, which will likely be a 19-percent decrease from 2012. Last year, the IHN emergency shelters helped 795 individuals.
“The numbers are showing there’s a decrease in shelter use, and that’s what we want,” Bradley said.
IHN operates two emergency homeless shelters, including Hartley House for men and Norm’s Place for families and children. It also operates 22 units of transitional housing at scattered sites throughout the city, as well as permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.
IHN has also helped 80 people through prevention and rapid re-housing services provided by the Homeless Crisis Response Programs. The program helps people at-risk of becoming homeless stay in their homes, if they qualify.
“It helps the length of stay in shelters and helps people from even having to come into the shelter,” Bradley said.
The area will see a boost in support for the homeless next year with the completion of the $5.5 million Mulberry Terrace, a 34-unit apartment complex which will offer a range of services on site designed to keep people and families out of homelessness.
The Mulberry Terrace complex will provide 26 new apartments at 120 W. Mulberry St., as well as eight duplexes for families on five different sites throughout the city. They’re currently moving people into the scattered sites and they’ll begin filling units at the apartment complex in February.
“It’s really filling a gap of affordable housing in our community that’s going focus specifically on homeless families and individuals,” Bradley said.
Fred Stegner, the owner of the Springfield Soup Kitchen, 830 W. Main St., said they serve more than 200 people per week, but not every person is homeless.
However, Stegner has seen homeless people who need temporary shelter in the winter. He believes there’s a need for an emergency overflow shelter for individuals who need a place to get warm.
“These guys can live on the streets, but when it gets freezing weather, it’s dangerous,” Stegner said. “We just need a warm place to let them sit.”
IHN previously supported an emergency overflow shelter for single individuals during cold months of the year, but didn’t fund the overflow shelter last year because it increased the amount of beds at the Hartley House. The program currently has seven open beds at the 36-bed facility.
“It’s a program and when we have openings, we don’t have the funds or the capabilities to operate an overflow shelter when we have bed openings in our shelter,” Bradley said.
Bradley said IHN would consider bringing back the emergency overflow shelter, if the local housing collaborative believes it’s a need.
This year, IHN began using a screening and referral process that collects information from the individual and assists people facing homelessness with the services they need.
“If a person needs shelter or housing, we make sure they don’t fall within the cracks of the community and that we’re meeting their needs,” Bradley said.
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering local efforts to reduce the homeless population in Clark County, tracking aid programs and how Springfield compares to statewide numbers.