CLEVELAND - As night falls in Cleveland, it's time to head home, but such a place does not exist for a growing population in Cleveland: homeless mothers and children.
Worse yet, there's no room at the inn; all four family shelters in Cleveland are at capacity.
"This is a crisis in our city for sure,” said Linda Uveges, COO of The City Mission, a nonprofit organization that has provided faith-based, crisis intervention services in Cleveland for more than 100 years.
Uveges said domestic violence, addiction and mental illness, incarceration, and a lack of affordable housing, have led to the desperate situation.
The City Mission runs Laura's Home on the city's west side. It is one of the shelters that accepts children but has been full for quite some time.
“We've had women who have called Laura's Home 30 to 40 days in a row to get in and there's been no place," said Uveges.
The City Mission opened a gym at its main campus downtown to serve as an emergency overflow shelter for single moms and their kids.
"Just for June and July, we've seen over 500 children and about 240 women," she said.
When News 5 visited, about 30 women and children were staying the night in the gym because there were no other open options available in Cleveland for emergency overflow sheltering for women and children.
So, if not here, would they go?"
"Many of them are staying in an unsafe place; maybe on the street, maybe in a bathroom at the airport or bus shelters or abandoned buildings," said Uveges.
"You don't think, 'Oh, I'm going to be homeless,'" said Tamonica Hall.
Tamonica knows how it feels to be a homeless mother.
"It's very stressful mentally,” she said. “You feel like a bad parent."
Tamonica said she aged out of foster care at 18 and began living with the father of her child. She said he became abusive, so she left.
"You have no friends, you have no family,” she said. “You don't know where to go, who to turn to. It's like you're stuck, you know. You're stuck."
She says she's lucky; she and her children got into Laura's Home and aren't "stuck" anymore. They offer classes and counseling, and resources for kids. With their help, Tamonica's now landed a job and is pursuing her dream career.
"I would like to be in a hospital working as a nurse, in my own home," she smiled.
The dream has become a reality for Touri Schuler and her kids.
The City Mission helped her go from homeless to homeowner.
"The hard work was working on me," said Schuler.
Touri stayed the course and completed the Laura's Home program. Then, she entered the mission's New Horizon's collaboration that helps graduates of Laura’s Home become homeowners.
The mission purchases a blighted home from the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Then, they partner with a local group that pays for a total remodel of the house and makes it move-in ready.
The women take financial classes and maintain employment to prove they can handle home ownership before the mission turns over the deed.
"Thank you for being a part of my life and opening doors that I probably would've never been able to," said Schuler during the deed ceremony.
It is a process that takes several years, but the CEO of The City Mission says it is working.
"We have four homes that we've done, and the four families that moved in are all well situated in the homes and maintaining the homes and we haven't lost anybody,” said Richard Trickel, The City Mission CEO. “So, we have a 100 percent success rate so far."
But he admits, they're just scratching the surface.
"We're looking for church partners, individual partners to come alongside us and the land bank and do more houses,” he said.
For every Touri, there's so many more mothers and children who can only dream of such stability.
"Push yourself; know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and know that sometimes you have to weather the storm," said Schuler.
So, the immediate goal is to open up more emergency overflow shelter for women and children, but of course, the long-term goal is to get them into a home all their own.