Homelessness increasing in Ohio with sharp rise among children and families

    Ohio's homeless rate increased in 2018 for the first time years, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report (WSYX/WTTE)

    For the first time in years, the rate of homelessness in Ohio has increased in 2018, according to a new report, worrying activists and organizations who help people who find themselves homeless.

    Also worrisome, a study done by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) found children are one of the fastest growing homeless populations in Ohio, with minors making up nearly 30 percent of people receiving homeless services in 2017. The OHFA says that's a 53 percent increase since 2012. They say the amount of people using homeless service agencies jumped 20% from 2012.

    There were 10,249 homeless Ohioans in 2018, up 1.5 percent from the previous year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But OHFA says they totaled 70,123 people as homeless in 2017.

    The HUD report is based on the Point-in-Time count, which is based on an estimate of homeless people on a night in January. OHFA’s study is based on people who used shelters, supportive housing, and other homeless services in Ohio during a year.

    Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, says the rising homeless population is partially caused by the decreasing supply of affordable housing in Ohio.

    “Given the growing gap between rents and incomes, it’s remarkable that homelessness hasn’t risen more dramatically,” he said in a statement. “Communities have managed to minimize the increase by adopting more effective methods to prevent homelessness for at-risk families and quickly restore housing when people lose their homes.”

    As rent goes up. continuing to outpace wages and nearly 400,000 Ohio households are spending over half their income on rent, local homeless agencies won't be able to help those in need if state and federal leaders act, Faith says.

    “Homelessness isn’t inevitable. We know what the solution is: affordable housing. Ohio can take concrete steps to reverse the alarming increase in the number of children and seniors entering the homeless system,” he said.

    The coalition hopes the incoming administration and legislature will expand the Ohio Housing Trust Fund in 2019 to help with services and programs.

    “We commend the focus on improving early childhood education. But we know It’s very difficult for kids who are homeless, living in a car or a shelter, to do well in school without access to stable housing,” Faith added. “The good news is strategies that reduce homelessness also position Ohio to make progress on education and other public policy issues, like health care, child welfare and the economy.”

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