(This article originally appeared in the Akron Area Eutopia Report.)
Last week we looked at some statistics about homelessness in Summit County from the Continuum of Care’s 2013 Point in Time Count. Let’s look a little more closely at a few more statistics.
Total Number of Homeless Individuals in Summit County
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Until 2014, the numbers seem to depict a pretty stable system with some random variation. 20103 and 2013 show essentially the same number, as do 2009 and 2012.
On the other hand, the two highest counts occurred in the two most recent years. Does this indicate a trend?
It is interesting to note that two of the lowest three counts came during the first two years of the recent Recession (2008: 740, 2009: 820), while the two highest counts came during the Economic Recovery, as the stock market achieved record highs (2013: 862, 2014: 870).
Cleveland (Cuyahoga County): 2103;
Columbus (Franklin County): 1614 ;
Cincinnati (Hamilton County): 1043; and
Youngstown (Mahoning County) reported the fewest, at 256.
So we come in toward the high side for total number of homeless population among cities in Ohio. All of us in Ohio, though, are a far cry from the largest, urban population of homeless people in the U.S., in Los Angeles county (over 34,000).
The Point in Time Count covers many categories, none that sound more heartbreaking than this one: Homeless Unsheltered Unaccompanied Children. For 2014 there was only one child in this category in the entire State of Ohio. We can only assume or hope that whoever found this child during the count took them someplace safe right away.
After the total number of homeless people the Point in Time Count next identifies those who are “Unsheltered.”
Just because someone is homeless doesn’t necessarily mean that they are living in an abandoned building, under a bridge or out in the park somewhere. We don’t have 870 people living outdoors in Summit County. We have 177 homeless people who, on one day in January, were Unsheltered. Of those 177, 106 are categorized as Chronically Homeless.
One encouraging statistic shows that, out of the County’s 128 homeless veterans none is unsheltered.
So what causes homelessness?
Some of the biggest factors that play a part in someone becoming homeless to the point that they are either living on the streets, in the woods or a shelter are: alcohol and drug addiction ; mental illness ; victims of domestic violence ; the economic crash ; and other tragic life events from which people haven’t yet recovered.
According to PIT research in 2013 the biggest reason people were homeless was because of dealing with these issues, in this order: chronic substance abuse — 184 ; severely mentally ill – 155 ; and victims of domestic violence – 104.
These are just some of the many statistics about homelessness gathered in January every year by the Continuum of Care in Summit County for the Point in Time Count. Every one of them leads to more questions so that we can better understand the causes and nature of homelessness in our area, with the ultimate aim that no one in Summit County has to be homeless, and those who are homeless are cared for.
As this series continues, we will begin to explore the different causes of homelessness (such as mental illness, domestic violence, etc.), meet some of the people who are homeless, as well as the individuals and organizations that work every day to prevent homelessness and who care for those who are homeless.
Please send us any questions, comments, thoughts and ideas related to homelessness in Summit County. You can help us shape these reports!
(Editor’s note: Scott Myers also contributed to this report.)