Thousands of children are ‘floating in our city,’ with little cause for hope

Rich Trickel can’t remember the last time Laura’s Home was not filled to capacity. Laura’s Home is one of two locations operated by The City Mission to serve and support Cleveland’s homeless population and serves women and children who are without a home; its other facility, Crossroads, serves men. 

“We receive anywhere from 20 to 30, sometimes upward of 50 phone calls a day, from both mothers and single women wanting access to our building, and we have to ask them to please call back because we’re full,” says Trickel, CEO at the nonprofit agency. “It’s not unusual for a woman to call every day for two or three months before there’s a bed open.”

Desperate times

The scale of the problem is illustrated by the nearly 3,000 children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District who have experienced homelessness since the fall of 2018.

“The majority of those are living doubled up with their moms,” Trickel says. “What that means is they have no certain place of their own. They are in essence couch surfing. So they may spend a couple of weeks at a relative’s home. They may go from there to a friend’s house and then to somebody else’s house. So they are just kind of floating in our city.”

This type of lifestyle results in significant developmental delays for these children, Trickel says. To draw attention to the situation, on June 29, The City Mission organized Stand In for Homeless Children, an event in which 3,000 people were expected to gather at Public Square to demonstrate the scope of the homeless problem in Cleveland.

“It’s first of all to get people’s attention and to bring awareness to this problem,” Trickel says. “Second, it’s to communicate information regarding this problem, and then it’s to provide an opportunity and to challenge people to get involved in solving this problem.”

Small steps

Each day, Trickel can point to individual stories of success in which people who came to The City Mission were hired for jobs, moved into homes and took large steps toward building a new life for themselves.

“There are many things that are being done, and collectively, it certainly is making a difference,” Trickel says. “What I’m saying, though, is that more attention has to be given to addressing the underlying reasons, the many complicated issues that are resulting in homelessness and deep poverty.”

Corporate support

Trickel is grateful for the support of many civic and nonprofit organizations and individuals who have stepped up to fight Cleveland’s homeless problem.

“Many businesses provide time off during work for their employees to volunteer, to engage and to get connected to organizations like ours,” he says. “That’s incredibly generous, and it’s making a huge difference.”