Coalition discusses causes of homelessness, ways to help

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Posted 3/18/19

Representatives of the United Way of the Ocoee Region’s Homeless Coalition say homelessness is a complex issue that will not go away without a great deal of help from the community. 

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Coalition discusses causes of homelessness, ways to help

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Representatives of the United Way of the Ocoee Region’s Homeless Coalition say homelessness is a complex issue that will not go away without a great deal of help from the community. 

Matt Ryerson, president and CEO of the local United Way, and members of the Homeless Coalition recently shared their work with MainStreet Cleveland, an organization dedicated to downtown revitalization. He stressed there are multiple reasons people find themselves homeless. 

“The reality is, it isn’t as simple as, ‘This person doesn’t have a home,’” Ryerson said. “More often than not, the issues go much deeper and are much more complex than that.” 

About a year ago, Ryerson began meeting with representatives of the Cleveland Police Department to address “what seemed like an increase in the local homeless population.” 

Discussions on the need for collaboration prompted United Way of the Ocoee Region’s Homeless Coalition to begin meeting with more regularity. 

Recent efforts have included discussions on which services are available to help the homeless and on the possible causes for homelessness locally. The group has also conducted a Point In Time Count to gauge how many people in Bradley County are homeless. 

“This really seeks to identify those facing chronic homelessness,” said Elena Lattner, an AmeriCorps VISTA with the United Way.

Corinne Freeman, executive director of The Caring Place, described how those working to address homelessness can't ignore the fact that there is trauma involved. 

Because of the fear that can come from unfamiliar situations, she said some who do move into homes or apartments “self-sabotage” and end up homeless again. 

“Usually, people who are chronically homeless are experiencing a lot of complexities,” Freeman said. “Being homeless in and of itself is traumatic, and that trauma affects their response.” 

Part of the Coalition’s work involves creating a “continuum of care” to not only get people out of homelessness but to help people stay in housing. Freeman also said the group is looking at how the community can address issues such as its  “real lack of affordable housing.” 

MainStreet Cleveland also heard from a few others who are working with the Coalition to help find local solutions for homelessness. 

More information from this discussion will be published in a future print edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. 

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