Springfield leaders seek state help as homelessness continues to rise

Elaina Bradley, executive director of Interfaith Hospitality Network, looks around one of the empty family rooms at Interfaith Monday. The homeless shelter has been closed due to COVID-19 and has been placing homeless people in area hotels. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Caption
Elaina Bradley, executive director of Interfaith Hospitality Network, looks around one of the empty family rooms at Interfaith Monday. The homeless shelter has been closed due to COVID-19 and has been placing homeless people in area hotels. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Springfield leaders and members of the local faith base community are asking state officials for help as area homeless numbers continue to rise.

“There are hundreds of homeless individuals within our community that are crying out for our help,” said Elaina Bradley, the director of Interfaith Hospitality Network, which provides services to the area’s homeless.

She along with Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland and other community leaders addressed the issue of local homeless rates during a press conference Monday morning.

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They called for more state assistance in getting immediate shelter for more than 200 people who are waiting on services. That could include getting more campers and trailers and other short-term solutions as officials work on creating more safe shelter space.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Interfaith had to close its two local congregant living shelters in March.

In the mean time, those needing emergency shelter have mainly been housed in hotel and motel rooms in the area. However, those options have quickly become limited as more families with children are in need of housing.

There are 146 people who are in some form of emergency shelter in Clark County, while 218 people, including dozens of children, are currently on a waiting list.

Local homeless numbers have skyrocketed since March. The number of families seeking shelter has also dramatically increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

City officials have reported an increase of 350% in the homeless rate in the county since March. For families, that number has increased by 750%.

“The crisis that we have is bigger than our local partners and state funders can handle. We must now move into logistical planning and action at levels unimagined,” Bradley said.

“We must work to protect our neighbors and provide safety for our community’s children,” she added.

Springfield pastor Carl Ruby said that they need people that have expertise in providing shelter and housing opportunities quickly. He said some options could include getting trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or having the national guard offer assistance.

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Ruby said that they have made contact with the office of Governor Mike DeWine and that office has been responsive to the homeless shelter concerns in the county.

Officials said that there are people living in tents in the county or in their cars. Ruby said this is also effecting those who are employed as there has been an increase in the number of working families that are homeless. Bradley added that it is also affecting children who are in school.

Shannon Meadows, the community development director for the City of Springfield, said that they have formally submitted an official request to the state on Monday. That request asks for an expert to assist in planning and to help determine what type of further assistance is needed to address the shelter problem.

That assistance is in addition to plans by the city to convert the former Downs Army Reserve Center into a semi-congregant shelter that could house as many as 50 people.

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