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Homelessness and Housing

On Feb. 28, 2007 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its first report on the scope of homelessness since 1984, estimating that at least 16,000 Ohioans a day are homeless, over a fourth of them veterans, unaccompanied teenagers, or victims of domestic violence.The average age of a homeless person in the United States is 9 years old, with children under the age of 5 the fastest growing segment. The Ohio Department of Education estimates that 60,000 Ohio children experience homelessness every year.

Many homeless people have jobs. “There a huge portion of working people who are homeless because their wages aren’t sufficient.” says Cathy Johnston of COHHIO “We’re just about to reach 11 years in being below the national average in job growth. What we seem to be growing in Ohio is poor people.”

In most parts of Ohio a full-time worker needs to earn at least $12/hour to afford market-rate housing. Ohio has lost over 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001, leaving many communities with few options except retail or service jobs paying significantly less than that.

Ohio also has the largest proportion of mortgages ending in foreclosure of any state. “The number is climbing and will continue to climb,” says Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of Cincinnati’s Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) and a member of Christ Church Cathedral. “A lot of cases are folks who had marginal incomes. Any small disruption in income can make them lose that house. Many landlords will not rent to people who have been foreclosed upon.” Predatory lending is especially rampant in Ohio.

Many churches offer cash assistance to prevent evictions, and some help families negotiate solutions with landlords or lenders. Christ Church Cathedral’s Plumb Line ministry is an excellent example. At least 13 Episcopal congregations take turns sheltering homeless families, many through Interfaith Hospitality Networks (IHN) in Cincinnati, Springfield, and Xenia. Other churches such as St. Patrick’s, Lebanon and Indian Hill Church support transitional housing programs. Trinity, London, St. Luke’s Granville and Trinity, Newark are participating in the development of regional plans to eliminate the causes of homelessness.

On the national level, Congress is currently considering legislation that would set aside a fraction of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac profits to create a National Housing Trust Fund. The proposal would generate $600 million a year in new money to develop affordable housing, without raising taxes. To learn more about this bill, visit www.nlihc.org

For a list of churches in the diocese that have ministries addressing homelessness issues, go here. For a list of churches in the diocese that have ministries addressing housing issues, go here. You can network with them for ideas to establish or enhance your own ministries.

Visit our Other Resources page for links to websites providing demographic analysis, news, and new tools for preventing or overcoming homelessness.

Ohio leads the nation in foreclosures, with the rapid increase in predatory lending a major factor. Here, a kind of downtown business growth that is becoming a frequent sight in rural Ohio.

A homeless child playing before bedtime in the undercroft at Christ Church Cathedral.

The Greater Cincinnati IHN bus delivering homeless families to Christ Church Cathedral

Donate to ECSFEpiscopal Community Services Foundation | 412 Sycamore St. Cincinnati, OH 45202
513-221-0547 | ecsf@eos.net