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Lorain County looks to expand help for homeless as winter approaches

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 18:31:55-04

LORAIN, Ohio — As we transition from one season to the next, the temperature is already taking a tumble.

For those who are homeless, the colder air can be dangerous, even deadly.

In Lorain County, work is underway to expand the safety net for those without a place to call their own like Elizabeth Stigall.

A strained family dynamic, a disability, and mental health issues created the perfect storm for Stigall.

"I just want my own place," said Stigall.

For now, Stigall calls the Haven Center home.

"You follow the rules, you do your chores, it's good. I like it here," said Stigall.

The Lorain shelter saw a surge in demand during the pandemic.

"We're seeing more and more people that are not able to stay with friends and family," said Alicia Foss, Neighborhood Alliance.

To help meet the need of the growing homeless population in Lorain County, county commissioners have requested funding from the state to expand the Haven Center.

"Then we will be able to increase our bed capacity from 68 beds to 84, which will truly help the community," said Foss.

Until they secure the money for construction, the Haven Center staff is doing what it can to help better protect the unsheltered and they're getting some help.

“You have these pockets of need in Lorain and Elyria. They have real needs out there and are not usually in the conversation in Cleveland," said Martin Uhle, Community West Foundation.

The Community West Foundation is now expanding its successful Socks-Plus program to Lorain County.

"They're really coming full circle in adding new services to enhance what's going on," said Uhle.

The distribution of donated items to the homeless started in Cuyahoga County back in 2014.

“As we started advertising and talking to the community about the plight of the homeless, the response was overwhelming," said Uhle.

Warm weather gear will now be collected at the Good Neighbor Thrift Store in Avon Lake.

"They have a great need for clothing and blankets and sleeping bags," said Kristen Leprevost, Good Neighbor Thrift Store.

All the donations will end up at the Haven Center.

"The socks plus program will help us to get essential supplies to those in need," said Foss.

While she's struggling to land a new place, Stigall is grateful to have a roof over her head as she works with the staff at Haven Center to rebound.

"They keep you on an even track and keep you motivated to get out on your own, so I don't end up at a place like this again," said Stigall.