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Cleveland shelter for women and kids breaks ground on new 'transitional' housing

Linda Uveges, CEO of The City Mission, speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for new "transitional" housing outside Laura's Home Women's Crisis Center.
Conor Morris
Ideastream Public Media
Linda Uveges, CEO of The City Mission, speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for new "transitional" housing outside Laura's Home Women's Crisis Center.

Laura's Home Women's Crisis Shelter today held a groundbreaking for a new building on Cleveland's West Side, meant to provide more long-term housing - up to two years - for the women and children experiencing homelessness who are served by the shelter.

The City Mission, the nonprofit that runs Laura’s Home, says it’s the first “transitional housing” project of its kind in the city. Linda Uveges, CEO of The City Mission, says the new 16 units of housing, to be built on-site outside the main 55-unit shelter, will provide much-needed stability for women and their children who are trying to build a new foundation for their lives.

Laura's Home, which serves women and children experiencing homelessness and other crises, is constantly at capacity, Uveges said. According to a news release from last month, roughly twenty families and nearly 50 children are turned away each week.

"Serving families in transitional housing will open more space at Laura's home, which has been at full capacity for nine years, with a waiting list and hundreds of calls per week seeking that help and hope," Uveges said.

She said many families are being crushed between dueling pressures of high costs of housing and low wages, citing a study from the The National Low Income Housing Coalition showing a single person would need to work 76 hours a week at minimum wage to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in Ohio.

Uveges explained that the transitional housing, called Rothstein Village after donors Fred and Jackie Rothstein, will be coupled with all the usual support services offered by Laura's Home, including workforce development, financial coaching and mental health services. John Jelenic, chief financial officer, said there will be a "very minimal program fee" for residents in the transitional housing, but they will not need to pay rent.

"(The children) will also remain in the same school for two, three years, which is incredible," she said, noting the lack of stability many experience before coming to the shelter. "It is not uncommon for us to have a mom and her children to come to Laura's Home... and those children have been in three or four different schools already going from school to school. How can a child learn when when there's that trauma and that chaos interrupting their daily activities?"

Brandi Hall, a single mom of three who’s stayed at Laura’s Home since June, who attended the groundbreaking, said things have been tough for her family. Prior to being admitted to the shelter, she couldn’t keep up with bills with her single paycheck. She quit her job after receiving an offer for a higher-paying job, but that offer fell through, leaving her stranded.

“Everything was so expensive, I was trying to figure out, do I pay the rent or do I buy groceries? Do I get toilet paper or do I get gas for the car,” she said.

She said Laura’s Home helped her and her family find stability, albeit temporarily (the average stay of residents is between nine and 12 months, a spokesperson said). Hall is currently attending Tri-C – studying to become a community health worker - after completing some courses at Laura's Home and receiving other assistance from the nonprofit.

Michael Hahn, chief operating officer for The City Mission, said many shelters in Cuyahoga County are at capacity like Laura's Home. He said outreach workers have noticed more people living in their cars over the last year or so.

"There's been a real drastic increase just of the emergency situations where people don't even have a friend or family anymore to stay (with)," he said.

The City Mission has raised enough money to pay for the construction costs - about $3.4 million - of Rothstein Village, but is still seeking an additional $800,000 to fund operations for the next two years, Hahn said.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.