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Painesville's Sub Zero Mission responds to growing unsheltered homeless population

Mission reports veterans are the fastest growing portion of the homeless population
Painesville's Sub Zero Mission responding to growing unsheltered homeless
Posted at 10:52 PM, Dec 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-27 23:21:14-05

CLEVELAND — Painesville's Sub Zero Mission hit the streets of Cleveland and Ashtabula in search of the growing unsheltered homeless population just three days before Christmas and hours before temperatures plummeted into the single digits.

The agency spent hours distributing coats, hats, gloves, sleeping bags and other crucial warming items in preparation of last weekend's winter storm, which produced windchills temperatures of under 20 degrees below zero.

Sub Zero Mission Director of Marketing James Hido told News 5 his agency is also seeing a growing number of unsheltered veterans here in Northeast Ohio, so it's launched a Veteran's Re-empowerment Program to provide information and resources to help get veterans off the streets and into housing.

"The long term solution is we need to find a way of getting them off the streets so they can have a home, so that’s where our veteran re-empowerment program comes into place," Hido said. “The ever growing need of what we do just keeps getting bigger because there’s just not as many organizations that are developed like us. We have individuals that are hitting boots on the ground and identifying who these individuals are.”

Painesville's Sub Zero Mission responding to growing unsheltered homeless
Sub Zero Mission reports one in five of the unsheltered homeless are veterans.

Hido reports Sub Zero Mission has saved the lives of more than 500 unsheltered homeless individuals over the past ten years. The agency distributed more than 5,000 warming items to some 400 homeless people in nine Ohio locations in just the first 27 days of December.

“During our search three days before Christmas we found people with hypothermia and frost bite," Hido said. "Had we not gotten to that individual in time, there’s a good chance that next morning that person may not have been able to survive.”

Sub Zero Mission Squad Leader Bob Ramey told News 5 the agency expansion included a new garage for its two massive distribution trucks.

“When we run across some homeless, what ever they need, we’ll bring them over to our bus and we can service right out of this window,” Ramey said. "Our items, everything is counted and inventoried and stored by size.”

Mike Gregal, who is also a squad leader, said the facility expansion also included a mission meeting room so that volunteers can coordinate their effort. Volunteers who take part in multiple warming item distributions will be issued a blue coat to wear so the unsheltered homeless can identify them as part of the team.

“It usually takes about ten runs for one of our blue coat missionaries to obtain this coat," Gregal said. "This coat is to identify us here, letting the people know that we’re here to help them and not hurt them."

Painesville's Sub Zero Mission responding to growing unsheltered homeless
The Sub Zero Mission has completed an expansion to help address the growing number of unsheltered individuals.

Matt Rhodes, who is key in helping with Sub Zero Mission fundraising told News 5 the agency exceeded its 2022 goal of $150,000, raising $283,000. But Rhodes said even more funding is needed to meet growing demand and the agencies expanding coverage area.

“The need continues, especially after this expansion, the amount of money that was spent to build the garages to bring the buses in," Rhodes said. “Last winter Sub Zero went to 32 different cities in five different states, going as far as Detroit Michigan, all the way to Buffalo New York.”

Rhodes said those interested in donating funds, warming items or volunteer time should do so through its web site, its donor information page, through the agency contact page or call 440-867-2626.