July 22, 2009

White Paper Examines Homelessness and Risks for Homelessness Among Cuyahoga County's Families

An estimated 15 percent (11,799) of Cuyahoga County's children are living one step away from homelessness, according to a new report released by Case Western Reserve University's Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. These children live with a grandparent or someone else and about 75 percent of the children without their parents.

The 70-page white paper, "Family Homelessness in Cuyahoga County," looks at new factors in determining homelessness by considering the numbers of people living in doubled-up housing situations with family and nonfamily members and the impact it has on them. It is one of the first comprehensive assessments of homelessness for families in Cuyahoga County.

The paper, written with support from the Sisters of Charity Foundation, can be found online.

"We need to better understand the extent to which people are doubled up in the county," said Cyleste C. Collins, the lead author on paper.

She explains, "The doubling up phenomenon is not well understood and has implications for understanding and dealing with the area's population decline. It also has the potential for shedding light on the effects of foreclosures."

Prepared by Collins, Claudia J. Coulton, and Seok-Joo Kim from the Poverty Center, the report sheds light on the different causes and factors that play out in family and individual homelessness.

The researchers also look at various models across the country that have successfully reduced rates of family homelessness and provide information to help county offices offer improved programs and interventions to meet housing needs.

One important piece of information tells who is impacted by homelessness: African Americans are hit harder by the homeless situation and make up 85 percent of those considered to lack housing, yet are only 27.5 percent of the county's population.

The authors report that increased foreclosures and the area's poor economic situation have the potential for leading to increased homeless rates as job prospects for unskilled workers dwindle.

Contrary to the stereotype of the homeless as single males with either substance abuse or mental health concerns, homeless families in Cuyahoga County are largely composed of single mothers with their children, who have become homeless because of unemployment and lack of the ability to pay their rent or mortgage. Some 7,747 adults or about 7 percent of the county population are homeless and some 1,211 families (3,748 individuals).

According to the National Low Income Housing Collation, in 2007-08 the average rent for a two bedroom apartment was $725 in Cleveland. At that price, to make rent, a single mother earning minimum wage would have to work two full-time jobs. HUD estimates rents should be about 30 percent of the annual income or about $266 a month.

The bottom line is that homelessness is a complex issue and involves a number of different options for families without a place to call home, report the authors.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, July 22, 2009 01:33 PM | News Topics: Community Outreach, Faculty, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Research, news

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