CLEVELAND — Homelessness is a problem affecting our city in huge numbers.
Project ACT, a part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, reports that nearly 3,000 of its students don't have a stable place to call home.
Saturday, thousands are coming together to stand in for those children.
Six-year-old Lena just had oral surgery, but you'd never know from her infectious giggle… and boundless energy.
"She doesn't even like to leave here. She doesn't,” Lena’s mom, Andrea Kudrin, said.
Here is Laura’s Home, the City Mission's family shelter on Cleveland’s west side.
Its where Lena, her two siblings, and Kudrin have been living since January.
"I made a decision that I wasn't going to live the way I was living anymore and I got evicted and I really had nowhere to go. Nowhere healthy for my children and I,” Kudrin said.
After their eviction, they spent four months living with Kudrin’s mother – the instability of their lifestyle taking a toll.
"My children used to cry in the middle of the night,” Kudrin said.
That's the reality for the nearly 3,000 other children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District who experienced homelessness in the past year.
"Because of the trauma, the instability of homelessness, they're impacted emotionally, psychologically, mentally it has an impact. Our kids that we have in our building are suffering from trauma, they're suffering from stress disorders,” Richard Trickel, CEO of The City Mission, said.
Places like the City Mission and Laura’s Home have programs to help these children and their mothers, but Trickel says there's just not enough space.
"Yesterday, we had 70 women and children contact us about coming to our building and we had to ask them to please call back tomorrow because we're full. That's not an abnormal number, it happens every single day,” Trickel said.
And the community doesn't understand the scope of the problem.
"As I would talk about that, I would get the same response every single time from the person I'm speaking to: I have no idea, I just have no idea,” Trickel said.
So he joined with other faith leaders and advocates to organize Saturday’s Stand In for Homeless Children.
"I'm standing in for a third grade girl, I'm standing in for a fourth grade boy, so just a real visible dynamic representation of the problem,” Trickel said.
Twelve area agencies that work to combat homelessness are also on hand to offer volunteer opportunities.
Both Trickel and Kudrin are hoping people take advantage and take in the overall message to help little boys and girls like Lena.
"Awareness. Awareness. And for mothers to help themselves, take a step towards renewing yourself and changing,” Kudrin said.
Trickel says the stand-in is just the beginning of increasing that awareness about the city's homelessness problem.
He hopes it triggers a more significant response from citizens, government, and community leaders to do something about it.