CLEVELAND — It didn't take long for team members with Painesville's Sub Zero Mission to find unsheltered homeless people living in tent encampments and on sidewalks in all parts of Downtown Cleveland as temperatures plummeted to the single digits.
James Hido, the Sub Zero Mission Director of Marketing, told News 5 the extreme snowfall and tumbling temperatures have made it especially dangerous for the well-being of those living outdoors
“If they’re in a warming center, that warming center by 5:59 a.m. is now closed, and they have to be out whether they have somewhere to sleep for the night or not," Hido said. “Not everybody can get into a shelter. A lot of them want the opportunities or may just not have the connections or capabilities.
“They need these assets that we’re providing to them to ensure that they don’t freeze to death this evening to live for another day.”
Hido told News 5 that Sub Zero Mission was founded in 2009 and has since dramatically expanded its October through March distributions of coats, hats, gloves, tents, sleeping bags and other warming items to 50 cities across the Northeast United States.
He explained the need is growing with his team already exceeding last years distribution, already handing out 12,600 warming items this year and there are still two months to go.
Jonathan Harris with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless believes the Sub Zero Mission's effort is saving lives.
“It gets cold in Cleveland. This is the greatest country in the world, and no one should freeze to death," Harris said. “That’s what they’re doing in this church right here. They’re taking off the shoes that they had on before Sub Zero arrived and they’re putting on the boots, looking at the coats. They appreciate it.
“God Bless America and thank you Sub Zero Mission, you’re saving people’s lives, and this is America, no one should freeze to death.”
The United States Interagency Council on Homeless says there are 10,000 homeless people currently living in Ohio. Hido said a significant part of that population are homeless veterans, so Sub Zero also has a key focus in helping unsheltered veterans get back into society.
"For this year alone, we’ve already identified 15 different veterans that have been on the streets that we are proactively working them through our process, which is our Veteran’s Empowerment Program," Hido said. "We work to get them off the streets, to give them a second chance at life.
“When we meet these individuals, were not there to judge them as to why they’re in the circumstances of where they’re at. We’re there to ensure that if they’re willing to take the next step to get out of those circumstances, we’re going to be there to provide those outlets for them.”
If you would like to volunteer or donate to the Sub Zero Mission's ongoing effort to help the unsheltered here in northeast Ohio, you can find more information on its website.
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