Families in Hamilton County are in Crisis!
Read the recently released Family Homelessness and Housing Stability: A Study with Policy Recommendations. Read the summary below.
(Feel free to print this, quote it, use it for grants, letters, newsletters, presentations, conversations etc. In fact, we encourage you to tell as many people as possible.)
Summary, From Page 8:
This study documents that during the period of 2005-2010/11, the family experience from housing stability
to the brink of homelessness is a perilous reality for an increasing number of families in the region.
The number of children identified as experiencing homelessness in Cincinnati Public Schools abruptly rose
by 42%, specifically the number of children identified as “doubled-up” rose by 192%. This led to more than
9% of the average daily enrollment being defined as experiencing homelessness in the 2009/2010 school
year. The number of unemployed workers within the federally defined “civil labor force” increased by 78%
between 2005 and 2010. In the same span of time 26% more families in Hamilton County began receiving
the life saving essential Ohio Works First/ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance. In 2010
24.7% of respondents ages 18 to 64 in Hamilton County Suburbs said they were currently without health
insurance or went without health insurance in the past year, compared to 15.7% in 2005, an increase of 9%
or 1.6 times more individuals. In the City of Cincinnati in 2005 19.6% of respondents ages 18 to 64 said they
were currently without health insurance or went without health insurance in the past year. In 2010, 32.5%
of respondents said the same, an increase of 12.9% or 1.7 times more individuals. The number of households
receiving Nutrition Benefits or Food Stamps increased by 98%. The number of people waiting for
Public Housing grew by 115% in 6 years and in 2011 5,000 more households applied for a Housing Choice
Voucher than requested an application in 2007. At the same time foreclosure filings increased by 29%,
2005 compared to 2010. In the draft of the City of Cincinnati’s Comprehensive Plan it is documented that
between 2000 and 2010, approximately 6,600 housing units for the “city’s lowest income renters” were lost.
We held focus groups spread throughout Hamilton County, in a variety of settings with dozens of families.
Some had experienced homeless, were currently experiencing homelessness or were very much on the
edge of homelessness. Families told us there seems to be no straight path to prevent or exit homelessness.
There is a significant negative stigma associated with saying your family is experiencing homelessness, leading
to anxiety about asking for assistance. Seeking assistance often becomes a painful, long-lasting experience.
Parents described calling emergency assistance program after program, only to be turned away due
to lack of funds or eligibility. When assistance is located, it usually is not enough to fully stabilize their family.
Families explained that preventative and restorative services from Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services
as well as Cincinnati/Hamilton County Community Action Agency are difficult and often de-humanizing to
access because of recent major funding cuts leading to significant staffing losses. Parents said that finding
sustainable work that provides enough to live on is very difficult and often seems impossible and the most
common of sickness can be debilitating due to lack of healthcare, often leading to days off work and eventually
unemployment. Working to stay out of homelessness becomes a constant, never-ending uphill battle.
The area-wide scarcity of affordable, unsubsidized market rate housing adds tremendous economic
and emotional stress to families who are already surviving on low, very low or no income. It is a fact that
there is not an affordable housing unit nor a job with a livable wage available to every family in Hamilton
County. Both of these necessities of life as well as accessible health care are out of reach for many families
with children in Hamilton County. The findings of this study herald an impending uptick in shelter requests
if attention is not directed to prevention (assistance and services) as a matter of urgency, increased opportunity
for livable employment and accessible healthcare, and a warning that policies and resources must be
directed to increasing affordable, rental housing for families who are “priced out” of market rate housing, surviving
with chronic low incomes and unemployment. We do not give an estimate of the number of families
experiencing homelessness in Hamilton County; families that are doubled up and bouncing, sleeping in unfit
places and attempting to not become even more vulnerable.
We know that any estimate we would offer would be too low, because most families experiencing homelessness
go uncounted and untracked by traditional systems. What we can say is that since 2005, more and more families
have entered a cycle of suffering in which thinking about tomorrow is difficult because getting through today
is too hard. As a community, we must come together to end this cycle of suffering. We must slow its crushing blows
with more prevention assistance and end it all-together with affordable housing, living wage jobs and access to healthcare.
It will take all of us,
Josh Spring LSW
Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition