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After attending a memorial service yesterday to remember the homeless who have died, Deborah Alexander remarked that the area's poor economy has put more people than ever at risk for losing their homes.
“We've got a long waiting list,” said Ms. Alexander, executive director of Harbor House, a 12-bed shelter for homeless women in Toledo.
Ms. Alexander was one of about two dozen people, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who attended “A Day of Remembrance” yesterday at First Church of God in Toledo. The event, hosted by the Toledo Area Alliance to End Homelessness, is held annually to remember those who have died homeless. Other area homeless advocates said they're seeing the same thing as Ms. Alexander: long waiting lists and dwindling financial support from donors.
It's a trend throughout the country, according to a survey released Thursday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Twenty-five cities, including Detroit and Cleveland, were surveyed about homelessness and emergency assistance. Nearly nine out of 10 cities surveyed said their emergency shelters had to turn people away because of a lack of resources.
One bit of good news surfaced yesterday when the Bush Administration announced $1.27 billion in federal grants to reduce homelessness, including $2.9 million in funding for the Toledo area. Neighborhood Properties, Inc., which provides housing for those with mental illness in the Toledo area, will receive $1.23 million over three years. Details on the other funds Toledo received were not available.
John Hoover, executive director of NPI, was thrilled with the new grant money, which will be used to fund 33 units of housing. He said demand for services and housing for the homeless, many with mental illness, has surged in recent years.
“Our waiting list, which has 188 people on it, has doubled in the last year,” he said.
According to the homeless survey, requests for emergency food assistance increased 17 percent over the past year and requests for emergency shelter assistance increased 13 percent over the same time period. The homeless are spending longer periods without homes before finding permanent shelter, survey officials added.
Lack of affordable housing, mental illness, low-paying jobs, and substance abuse were areas identified as problems causing the increase in homelessness.
Renee King-Hall, program director at Harbor House, said she has more than 50 names on a waiting list and gets seven or eight calls weekly from those seeking shelter.
“People are losing their jobs and [ending up homeless],” she said.
She said one trend she's noticed over the last couple of years is the widening range of ages of those ending up homeless; everyone from teenagers to senior citizens is ending up homeless.
- LUKE SHOCKMAN