PAINESVILLE TWP., Ohio — A single father with four kids to take care of and zero options.
“I’ve always provided for my children, I’ve always had a safe place for them,” Michael Craig said. “But when I got sick things started falling apart.”
No one ever expects they might wind up homeless. But how many of us are one emergency away from missing a rent or mortgage payment?
“I had a disability claim pending and I couldn’t work,” Craig said. One bill led to another and on January 13, he and his four kids, ages 4, 6, 7 and 13, were evicted from their Lake County home.
He called 211 and found out about Project Hope for the Homeless in Painesville Twp. and its Families Moving Forward shelter. There are only 12 beds available for adults and children, so “I called them every day until my family had a place to live,” Craig said.
It changed everything for Craig. He had time to look for a permanent solution while his kids were at school, and in the evenings, they had a warm place designed to feel like home where they could be together as a family.
But the dream could easily become a nightmare on a day most kids would relish: a holiday. On weekdays families had to leave the shelter between 7:00 am and 1:00 pm. On weekends those hours stretched even longer, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
“There’s not many places they can go,” said Families Moving Forward Program Director Diana Capanna. That’s why Project Hope for the Homeless started rolling out extended hours for families.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and President’s Day they stayed open all day, giving families a safe, warm place to be together. A place “where they feel loved, cared for, believed in,” Capanna said.
But, she warned, giving families options like that takes resources. Project Hope has the funding to offer more extended-hour days during spring break, two parent-teacher conferences, a two-day Thanksgiving break and a 10-day Christmas break. But they want to do more.
The goal is to stay open all weekend long starting in October, if they get enough funding and staffing to make it happen.
For families like Craig, it would be a game-changer.
When he first stepped inside Families Moving Forward and realized he found a temporary home to keep his family safe while he figured out his next move, “I could breathe,” he said.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.