CLEVELAND — Whether it’s a long-standing nonprofit or a lifelong resident of Cleveland, people are banding together to help the less fortunate fend off the brutal cold temperatures.
The arctic blast arrived in Northeast Ohio Wednesday with a bone-chilling vengeance. The arctic plunge of frigid air prompted school and business closings, postponed trash service in some cities and brought a sense of urgency for homeless outreach advocates.
For The City Mission, they expected and planned for an increase in the number of homeless individuals seeking refuge at the nonprofit’s shelters overnight. Those plans proved prudent.
Both the men’s shelter, Crossroads Men’s Crisis Center, and the shelter for women and children, Laura’s Home, were both at capacity overnight. Overflow space was also created for both campuses with more than a dozen men using the overflow space.
The men’s shelter has 110 beds while Laura’s Home has more than 150 beds. The agency is privately-funded.
“Anybody shows up at our door, we will not turn anybody away,” said chief operating officer Linda Uveges. “We don’t want to discourage anybody from coming. We want to make sure we get the word out that if you need help – whatever that help is – in these dangerous temperatures, please come in.”
While the bone-rattling cold certainly brings more people through The City Mission’s front doors, the summer time brings a bigger demand for services among homeless women and children, Uveges said. Typically, women and children will be staying with a friend and family member during the school year.
Once the school year is over, those living arrangements can evaporate, Uveges said.
“Oftentimes we have to turn away 80 to 100 women and children a day in the summer time because they have nowhere to go,” Uveges said.
In the Tremont neighborhood, St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church’s warming and hunger center keeps humming along. On Wednesday afternoon, more than a dozen people gathered in the church’s cafeteria. Some were playing tabletop games while others slept.
San Pedro Garcia, a native of Cleveland, spent large parts of his childhood here.
“We grew up in the area. We’ve been coming here since we were little, like the age of 7 or 8,” Garcia said. “We always came here because St. Augustine always gave us food in the summer time when our parents were at work and we had nobody to give us food.”
That outreach left Garcia forever grateful. On Wednesday, he and his cousin dropped off a large supply of winter clothing, including hats, scarves, jackets and blankets. He wanted to pay it forward.
“Me being older now and knowing the struggles we went through when we were younger, we know other people need it,” Garcia said. “We still struggle day to day. I’m glad this place has been here since I was little.”