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High eviction rates, lack of affordable housing contributing to homelessness

Posted at 5:12 PM, Aug 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-08 18:26:19-04

CLEVELAND — With a spike in the number of women and children desperately in need of housing, the demand is consistently leaving some shelters at capacity with homeless advocates calling for change.

Evictions, lack of affordable housing and trauma are some of the factors that can quickly send a family into a tailspin and leave them at risk of becoming homeless.

Shaundreka Richardson escaped danger with her three children.

"I was in a domestic violence relationship," Richardson said.

In the process of getting out of it, Richardson and her children found themselves with no place to call their own.

"It hurts a mother to look at her child and see sadness or wonder 'why mommy, why we got to be here? Or where we going tonight? Or how you going to feed us, what are we going to eat,'" Richardson said.

It's not just rocky relationships with family. Tension between tenants and landlords can also lead to trouble.

"Any one issue can then become a point that leads to eviction," said Rob Fischer, co-director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University..

Cuyahoga County is one of eight counties in the state with the highest rates of eviction filings according to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

High rent costs are also pushing families to their breaking point.

Nearly half of renters in Ohio are spending at least one-third of their income to maintain a roof over their heads.

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“Families that are paying more than 30 percent of their income on their housing costs are really considered to be substantially at risk," Fischer said.

In the summer months, Fischer said it's normal to see a surge in homelessness. "Families and individuals are seeking new options."

Considering some family shelters like Laura's Home are consistently turning away dozens of families, many question if the system currently in place in Cuyahoga County is adequately meeting the current demand of women and children.

"It's a work in progress, but what I would say is my understanding is that this summer is no different than the last several summers," Fischer said.

When a family can't find space at a shelter there is a safety net.

"We have that here in Cuyahoga County with a centralized point of intake where no family will be turned away," Fischer said.

However, the overflow shelters are a short-term fix.

"You can't stay in a gym or rec center for an extended period," Fischer said.

After waiting several months for a spot to open up at Laura's Home, Richardson and her children are inching closer to getting a place of their own.

"I was almost on the verge of giving up. It's been awesome. I've seen a lot of change in a lot of different areas of my life," Richardson said.