CLEVELAND — Housing insecurity can quickly take a toll on someone’s well-being. It's a crisis that can trigger crippling mental health issues or push someone already struggling over the edge. The Cleveland Housing Court is doing what it can to help, and in the process is making our community A Better Land.
In her spare time, Sherrae Landrum loves to crochet.
"My pastor told me this is my gift, take it everywhere you go," said Landrum.
But instead of enjoying her hobby during her golden years, Landrum faced an uncertain future. "I was being evicted from my apartment building," said Landrum.
Her landlord was upset with the 73-year old's living conditions. "Because I had a lot of stuff in my apartment," said Landrum.
That stuff accumulated as Landrum struggled with depression. "I was suffering from two deaths in my family," she said.
Her son was murdered, and her sister's skeletal remains were discovered in Arizona. "I would just go out and buy things and that sort of helped me," Landrum said.
Landrum's eviction case landed in Cleveland Housing Court, which just last year saw more than 400 people struggling with physical or mental concerns. "Mental health can perpetuate issues with housing and maintaining housing," said Casey Albitz from Cleveland Housing Court.
The court is now going above and beyond to not only try to keep people like Landrum in their homes, but also connect them with social service agencies. "We do see quite a lot of people struggling with mental health while they are struggling with housing instability," said Albitz.
Within a week of learning she was being evicted, Landrum met with a social worker to come up with a plan. "I felt that I wasn't alone, and I had support from the housing court," said Landrum.
Frontline Service is one of the organizations partnering with the court. "Mental health complicates the situation. We help people, so they don't have to be out on the street," said Suellen Saunders from Frontline Service.
Landrum was ultimately removed from her Cleveland apartment in the middle of winter. “All my clothes were still in the closet. I didn't have a winter coat, I didn't get any of my clothes out of there," she said.
After a month in a shelter Landrum, with help from the housing court's social service referral program, moved into a new apartment in Euclid. "We're pretty successful in helping people find another place to live and makes changes in their life so it doesn't happen, so an eviction doesn't happen again," said Saunders.
Now 74, life is good for Landrum.
"I got two bedrooms and I don't have to pay any lights, I don't have to pay any gas, I get free cable," she said.
Landrum said her mental health is stable along with the status of her housing. I feel wanted there at that apartment - they want me to be there."