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One Mother’s Struggle

Bridget needed help.

As a mother of five and the only provider for her family, she lost her job after needing to take time off due to pregnancy complications. Her child’s father left her. She was evicted from her apartment after missing one month’s rent, and she then bounced from house to house, eventually running out of relationships and personal strength.

She was in a crisis and in need of a fresh start. She was also emblematic of the emerging face of homelessness in Cleveland.

“The faces, causes, and conditions of homelessness are constantly changing,” said the Rev. Richard Trickel, the chief executive of The City Mission. “We’ve watched the majority of the homeless population evolve from primarily single men through the 20th century to a devastating crisis of mothers with children today.”

The City Mission is one of Cleveland’s oldest institutions. Founded in 1910, they have been serving the city’s hurting and homeless for decades. While many might remember the Mission fondly as a summer camp for children or a soup kitchen for people down on their luck, today it operates as a full-service, restorative crisis center for men, women, and children. Today in Cleveland, these services are needed like never before.

Whether you’re looking forward to celebrating the Easter season or simply longing for consistent rays of sunshine, all of us are ready for a fresh start with the coming of spring. Soon, gardens will be planted, the Metroparks will bustle, and we’ll see our next-door neighbors once again.

Some of our neighbors are in need of an even greater fresh start than what we typically consider.  While most of us will be raking mulch and preparing for the end of the school year, others are beginning to build a brand new life at The City Mission.

Trickel explains that for the majority of people they serve today (moms like Bridget), the causes of crisis shift from a simple effect of personal choices to a more complex cycle of generational poverty.

The Family Homelessness Crisis

Mothers with children are the largest, most complicated and most underserved group experiencing homelessness in our city. The truth is, short-term and long-term emergency shelter options for families are dwindling in the city of Cleveland. Those options that do exist are overcrowded, understaffed and offer limited lengths of stay. Even if a mother can obtain a room in a family shelter, she is likely to feel unsafe and/or run out of time to find both work and housing to adequately support her family. 

The family homelessness crisis has been made clear with recent statistics from Project ACT, an organization out of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) that provides support services to homeless children and youth. According to Project ACT, students defined as homeless – “residing in temporary emergency shelters, traditional housing and doubled-up students staying with other families due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar situations” – numbered nearly 3,000 in the 2018/2019 school year alone.

Finding Rest at Laura’s Home

Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, The City Mission’s program for women and children, makes the effort to welcome as many of those families as possible. From a trained security team at the front desk to the assignment of a private room, to the provision of three hot meals a day, families who come to Laura’s Home can begin to rest.

While the Laura’s Home campus has the capacity to host approximately 60 women and 90 children, the shelter has been full with a waiting list for the past seven years.

Bridget remembers what it was like to be on that list.

“I had basically given up. I was so hurt because my boyfriend had put his hands on me, cheated on me, then disappeared,” she said. “I had been calling for months, I felt like I’d failed my kids, and I was ready to give up on life.”

Thankfully, the very day Bridget was contemplating how to give up, she received a call from Laura’s Home saying there was a spot her entire family.

“I was so excited. The kids were happy. And when we got into our room, I felt a sense of peace,” she remembers. “Peace is all I had been searching for after trying so hard for so long.”

Part of the reason the waiting list is so long to obtain a spot at Laura’s Home is due to the fact that the average stay is nearly a year. The City Mission gives families time and resources to determine plans for housing and employment, as well as opportunities to work on the mental and emotional struggles that brought them to Laura’s Home in the first place.

At The City Mission, children receive specialized, individualized help too. The childcare team not only provides a safe, caring environment where kids can thrive – they also assist in diagnosing children with developmental delays and pointing families to the best long-term resources.

In 2018, Laura’s Home served 106 families with a total of 275 children. Of those 275 children, 140 received long-term developmental intervention or mental health/trauma counseling. And sadly, 73 children came directly from an environment of domestic violence.

Challenged by ADHD, autism, developmental delays, or even early forms of mental illness like depression and anxiety, these children face an uphill battle in their young lives. Pathways, The City Mission’s youth program, works closely with mothers to help families win not only the developmental battle but also the battle against poverty and homelessness. 

Bridget is finding that this type of change is possible with the right support system.

“My son is smart – he understands a lot more than the average seven-year-old, so I have to be strong for him. Now I know I can take on anything, and Laura’s Home put that faith, put that hope, put that love into me,” she smiles.

While recovering from trauma, dealing with past mistakes, and moving forward with a tangible plan looks different for every family, Trickel says the ultimate goal is the same.

“We want each family to find a home that is sustainable, safe, and loving for all in a way that breaks generational cycles of poverty,” he said.

If you want to be a part of this type of transformation at Laura’s Home, The City Mission invites you to get involved:

1. Attend the Stand In on Public Square to represent all 3,000 homeless students in CMSD. This free, family-friendly event is open to the public and will bring massive awareness to what you now know. Register today.

2. Use your time and talents to benefit women and children at Laura’s Home. Sign up to learn about becoming a volunteer.

3. If you’re a young family, join the fun of Moms With The Mission – a group that meets monthly to create and play games with families staying at Laura’s Home.

The statistics surrounding single-mother family homelessness don’t have to remain in the thousands. When we work together as Greater Cleveland, we have the opportunity to provide more than a new beginning – we can empower generational change. Why not make supporting hurting families in your neighborhood part of your own fresh start this spring?

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Being an intern for The City Mission has opened my eyes to images that I had never encountered before. During my time here, I have learned that the homeless population is Cleveland is vast and that people in crises come from so many different walks of life—which is something that I never thought to be true for most of my life.  After speaking to the men and women who are clients here at the Mission, I have found that people are in crisis for so many different reasons. Like the rest of us, clients have a story.

Stand In for Homeless Children - Vimeo
#StandInCLE - Vimeo

The Stand-In was something that I was interested in from the start of my time here. There is something truly heartbreaking knowing that there are nearly 3,000 homeless school aged children in the city of Cleveland alone. I cannot even begin to imagine how many homeless children there are in surrounding cities, our state, or even on a grander scale, our country. My heart breaks for the children without a home, without stability. Jesus has opened my eyes to the crisis and has pulled on my heart to bring awareness to the issue and to also bring recognition to those who are working day and night to find a solution. The staff at The City Mission put themselves second everyday so those who feel like less than the least can feel loved, heard, and valued.

#StandInCLE: Real Testimonies from Real Moms - Vimeo
#StandInCLE: Jesus Invites Us Along - Vimeo

When the semester began I was told I would be doing a lot of video work due to that being my concentration at school. With that being said, doing a video series as a lead up to the actual Stand In was exactly what I wanted to do. I had no doubts about it, and I thought that if quality time and effort was given to the series, so many people would say “Yes, I will Stand”, which was a driving force for me to complete this project. Over the course of my 10-week intern period, I interviewed clients from Laura’s Home, local churches in Cleveland, and an individual who grew up going to the Pathways Program and later worked with youth at The City Mission. It is my hope that within one of these videos there is something that would touch the heart of the viewer.  I also hope that the videos would stand alone and can be seen even after the Stand In happens and for years to come as a reminder of what we are trying so hard to fight for.  I thank The City Mission for opening my eyes and stirring my heart for the people in crisis in our city.

#StandInCLE: Pathways Made A Way - Vimeo

Written by Kyla Davis, Spring 2019 New Media Assistant

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Celebrating the Women Who Made The City Mission

March is Women’s History Month: a time to reflect on the amazing unsung women of the past and present. The National Women’s History Alliance has declared the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month, “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.”

Unfortunately, Cleveland has a long way to go in terms of making peace and nonviolence the norm for women struggling with poverty and homelessness.

Last year, Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a ministry of The City Mission, was forced to say “there’s no room,” 19,533 times from over 5,000 unique women and children because all available bed space was full.

The City Mission is a local nonprofit that provides long-term wraparound services to men, women, and children experiencing homelessness in Cleveland. Linda Uveges, the Mission’s chief operating officer, is one female staff member who stands proud of the Mission’s rich 100+ year history and knows how deep an impact the organization’s work can have on a person’s life.

Uveges began her tenure as a volunteer at The City Mission in 2003. She eventually became a full-time employee, worked her way up to Laura’s Home program manager, and then obtained an undergraduate and master’s degree with the support of the Mission. Today, she serves as a strong, caring leader for the organization.

“The impact of transforming the lives of men, women, and children in our community is something that we get to see daily here at TCM.” Uveges shares. “What I didn’t realize is that my life would be transformed by this work, too.”

This positive change that Uveges and our hurting neighbors’ experience would be impossible without women who have been compassionately caring for individuals in crisis since 1910.

A Century of Women’s Work

Since day one, women at The City Mission have expanded the limits of what the organization can provide to Clevelanders in need. Florence Soerheide, the wife of former Mission Superintendent, George Soerheide, helped her husband establish The City Mission in 1910, and ran women’s programming until they retired. Barbara Banfield, the wife of Harry Banfield, the Mission’s next superintendent, followed in Soerheide’s footsteps. Barbara served as Sunday school teacher, pianist for the chapel, leader for teen girls and a van driver. Harry shares her impact: “Barbara was as important a part of our time here as I was.”

Angie and Clif Gregory, 1964

Another notable woman, Angeline (Angie) Gregory, made it possible for The City Mission’s care for people in crisis to grow more than ever before. From March 1948 through March 1985, Angie served beside her husband Clif—one of the Mission’s longest-serving superintendents.

In her, nearly four decades of service, Angie’s biggest contribution was founding the Woman’s Auxiliary at The City Mission. This dedicated group of Cleveland women did everything they could to meet the needs of those in crisis. They raised money, prepped and served meals, helped with holiday projects, filled baskets to give to the needy and donated items such as school buses, vans, refrigerators, freezers, curtains and more.

As COO, Uveges strives to continue The City Mission’s legacy of caring for all hurting people who come to them, and displaying tremendous respect for the clients: “I try to take every opportunity to encourage and support building value and worth in the clients, and know that I can be an example to other women – just as the women in our history are an example to me.”

Women’s Auxiliary meal prep, 1950
Strong Women Supporting Strong Women

Despite the efforts of these women and the men they worked with, the numbers above show that there’s still work to be done in caring for Cleveland’s poor. And 2019 isn’t the first year Cleveland has seen a major crisis for homeless women and children. By the late 1970s, Cleveland still did not have a women’s shelter. The number of single women, mothers and children living in unsafe conditions continued to rise, but no one stepped up to provide long-term care for these hurting souls. The City Mission decided to take action, so in 1981 they opened Cleveland’s first shelter for women, the Angeline Christian Home, with enough beds to house about 20 women.

As time went on, the need to help women and families increased. In 1994, the shelter had to turn away 957 out of 986 people who called asking for shelter. The City Mission decided that moving into a bigger facility was critical for Cleveland’s health, and the vision for Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center was born.

Today, Laura’s Home offers long-term wraparound programs in order to help women and children thrive and restart their lives in a positive way. Currently, the program is organized into three phases: help, heart, and home.

  1. Help – This is the introductory phase. Women and families are immediately met with meals, shelter, clothing, toiletries, love, and compassion.
  2. Heart – In this phase, women are partnered with an onsite caseworker, who walks alongside them throughout their entire stay. Resources are offered to help women find a career with sufficient income and sustainable housing. The staff also offers counseling, Bible classes, chapel services, and professional, loving childcare onsite.
  3. Home – In the final phase of the program, women apply their knowledge from the previous two phases to actively search for jobs, save money, and locate housing to support themselves and their families. The ultimate goal is to empower women and children to be able to maneuver through difficult circumstances in the future, long after they’ve left Laura’s Home.

    Women’s Auxiliary Sewing Club, 1966

Sixteen years after opening, Laura’s Home has changed thousands of lives and continues to expand services. Just last year, Laura’s Home served 87,126 meals to women and children, 50 families found housing and 25 women and families found employment.

Uveges is grateful to be a part of her client’s daily victories.

“They’re incredibly brave, courageous women,” Uveges said.  “I take every opportunity I can to communicate this to our guests. Many of our women feel just the opposite, but they are survivors, they don’t quit and are desperately trying to provide for their children.  I have tremendous respect for the women who walk through our doors seeking help and hope for themselves and their children.”

After 108 years of empowered women empowering women, The City Mission looks forward to another century of providing help and hope to all people, and they hope you’ll be a part of that this National Women’s History Month.

Interested in empowering women in need this Women’s History Month? Consider supporting women working toward a strong and successful recovery at The City Mission:

  • Donate financially to Laura’s Home. An incredible 89 percent of every gift will go directly to client services.
  • Donate material items that help restore dignities such as clothes, toiletries, linens, and more.
  • Donate your time in one of the many flexible opportunities at Laura’s Home.
  • Follow The City Mission on social media and stay engaged! Share posts and photos you find inspiring with your friends and family.

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Finding Shelter isn’t so Simple

When Erica found a low-rent home that would fit her large family, she thought it was too good to be true — and it was.

Erica was working hard as a daycare provider and paying her bills, but her landlord soon started giving her strange instructions on how to use the home’s utilities. First, the family was told to take showers and wash clothes late at night and on the weekends.

Soon, the landlord was asking Erica to pay for all sorts of repairs, but even though Erica gave her the money, the repairs were never made. The furnace was broken, so Erica and her children huddled around space heaters in the cold. The last straw came when county inspectors arrived to test the water for lead.

Instead of caring for her young tenants’ health, the landlord avoided responsibility completely and claimed that Erica and her children were squatters.

In the dead of winter, Erica and six freezing little children found themselves homeless.

Unforgiving Cleveland Winters

We all remember the brutal days when the temperatures plummeted well below 32 degrees. With the sharp wind and biting air, walking from the car to the office felt intolerable. Sadly, the truth is that many men, women, and children like Erica and her family spent not only a few moments in the harsh elements, but days.

While some sleep in doorways and on the streets, others attempt refuge in less obvious spaces. Whether huddled in cars, camping in an abandoned building or covered up with leaves in a park, Clevelanders experiencing homelessness will try anything to survive.

Bruce, a recent graduate of The City Mission’s Crossroads Men’s Crisis Center program, knows exactly what this struggle feels like. Bruce, however, chose a third option.  

Well into his 60s, Bruce suffered from addiction for decades and had reached the end of his rope.

“I lived down by a creek. I dug a ditch and I laid on the ground,” Bruce said. “I put leaves and dirty blankets down. I laid there for a long time.” A long time turned into a year. Bruce stayed in his makeshift bed through every season, including a devastating Cleveland winter where he had nothing but one pair of coveralls to keep him warm. “I wanted to die so bad,” Bruce remembers.

Health Risks for the Homeless

Concerns arise for the homeless during the most extreme winter weather, but hypothermia can actually set in at temperatures just below 50 degrees. As temperatures drop the risk for exposure-related illness, conditions such as frostbite, and even death increase dramatically. This is especially true for individuals experiencing homelessness who might be very young or old, malnourished, exhausted, or have preexisting health conditions.

As a senior citizen going through withdrawals and standing at over six feet tall, it’s a wonder Bruce stayed hidden and survived last winter in his unsheltered encampment. According to a study done by the National Coalition for the Homeless earlier this decade, he could have easily been one of the 700 homeless individuals who die annually from hypothermia.

Why So Many are Unsheltered

The question many ask about people like Erica and Bruce is, “Why didn’t they go to a shelter?” While the answer is different for every individual, a few clear themes emerge:

  • Lack of Available Beds
    • Unfortunately, the need for shelter is greater than what is available even on mild-temperature days. This is especially true for facilities that accept families. Over the last 10 years, Cuyahoga County lost 540 beds for families and individuals in shelters and transitional housing. For women with children like Erica, their options for sufficient and safe care are limited and often have a waiting list.
  • Fear of Staying in a Shelter
    • Some shelters can carry a reputation for being unsafe or unsanitary. When shelters are understaffed and overcapacity, there is a higher potential for violence and theft. Other concerns such as contracting lice, bed bugs or the flu can keep people out of shelters too.
  • Mental Health
    • Some individuals may hold a deep skepticism of shelters due to unaddressed mental health concerns or past trauma that they experienced while previously staying in a shelter. In their minds, staying on the streets seems like a better alternative to trusting an organization with open doors.

Heartbreakingly, for these and many other reasons, families and individuals either choose to — or are forced to — take the chance surviving on their own, putting them at high risk for death and the other health concerns shared above.

What’s Being Done?

Erica and Bruce have something in common — they found refuge, and eventually stability, at The City Mission. At any given time, The City Mission is able to host approximately 285 men, women, and children in their long-term programs year-round. As temperatures become life-threatening, the mission opens its doors wider. When The City Mission is in Emergency Overflow Mode, no one is turned away at Crossroads, or the Mission’s other program, Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center.

“I was going to go get a hotel room and pray that something would open up, but when I called Laura’s Home, they said I could come here,” Erica recalls.

That day her family’s life was changed. Erica’s one night stay eventually became her choice to join the Laura’s Home program. Over the course of a year she and her children were empowered by wraparound services such as professional onsite childcare, life skills classes, and career and housing guidance.

As for Bruce, he is in recovery from his addiction, up to 158 pounds, and now has a place of his own. Bruce comes back every week to volunteer at The City Mission’s donation warehouse and mentor men at Crossroad.

“Maybe I can save somebody’s life so they don’t end up like me. If I can help somebody, talk to somebody, to help enable one person, it’s worth it,” he says boldly. 

The City Mission and other organizations that assist people experiencing homelessness during dangerous weather depend on the community to support them when resources are already taxed.

If you would like to make more stories of transformation like Erica and Bruce’s possible, contact a place close to your heart and ask how you can help. The City Mission has a handy Amazon Wish List of basic needs that can be shipped directly to their campuses, as well as a specific cold weather donation page where you can fund nights of shelter for a family or individual. You can also make yourself aware of organizations that aid people in extreme cold, and be ready to share that information with anyone in need of assistance that you may come across.

Stay warm and do good, Cleveland.

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Truth and Encouragement in the New Year

Although these episodes originally aired in November and December of 2018, their truth and encouragement continues into this new year. Check out

The City Mission produced this series of half hour once a week programs be aired on 1220AM The Word radio. The purpose was to share about several urgent issues and opportunities the Church has to engage their neighbors in need around the Greater Cleveland area. In each episode hear from our leaders in areas such as program management and volunteering, as well as personal testimonies from our staff and clients

1220-18-JaimeVolunteer-Low 2018 Staff Thankfulness 2018 State of Homelessness 2018 Program Managers State of the Mission 2018 Client Testimonies 2018 State of New Horizons
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Making Resolutions

Many of us have resolved to do more (or less) in 2019 — to follow a fitness plan, volunteer, spend more time with our children, or any other number of goals we can imagine to create a better life for our families and ourselves.

But for those in our city experiencing homelessness, they’re simply hoping to survive.

The City Mission is just one organization in Cleveland empowering men, women, and children who have experienced homelessness and need a fresh start. With their programs of Crossroads Men’s Crisis Center offering long-term, restorative services to 110+ men, and Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center doing the same for 155+ women and children, they understand that each person needs to create unique goals and game plans to have a healthy future.

Here are just a few ways the nonprofit is bringing our neighbors in need from unhealthy habits to a healed lifestyle.

Healthy Bodies

Experiencing homelessness is devastating to the physical body, especially for individuals above the age of 50. Homelessness exacerbates already poor health, as well as susceptibility to devastating health issues such as pneumonia, COPD, chronic pain, cardiovascular issues, and more.

“We are dealing with the same issues with a 50-year-old that a housed person would have in their 70s, in terms of physical and mental health,” says Anne Miskey, a nationally recognized expert on homelessness.

Unfortunately, many people experiencing homelessness may simply not know where to go for healthcare, or they may not trust institutions and therefore never see a doctor for their ailment. Others might turn to organizations such as nursing homes or the emergency room, straining a system that will only end up turning them back to the street after their temporary needs are met.

At The City Mission, caseworkers ensure that clients get connected to the resources that make the most sense for each unique client. Caseworkers regularly write referrals to organizations like The Centers for Families and Children, Care Alliance, and Recovery Resources, to connect clients to critical services. Additionally, Crossroads hosts representatives from Care Alliance every Tuesday to see clients directly on-site. For clients who are unable to travel, have trouble navigating the healthcare system, or lack trust in those they do not know, these visits can completely change their quality of life.

Michael, a Crossroads graduate, knows how transformational the connection to healthcare can be. Before he came to The City Mission, he had gone seven months without dentures. “When I came here, I didn’t have any teeth,” he remembers, “but once I started getting established, I started taking care of my medical needs and my dental needs. It definitely made me feel a lot better about myself, and I know I look better.”

While in the Crossroads program, Michael was also able to have intensive foot surgery. Without The City Mission, Michael would have had no support system to care for him in his immobility; instead, he had meals provided, a safe space in which to rest and recover, and the opportunity to continue preparing for the future through the Crossroads classes.

Healthy Meals

Part of restoring a healthy body is having access to a healthy diet. The City Mission is working hard to adapt its menus to smart meals that follow the latest research in nutrition and individual needs.

Every daily menu contains a calorie count and nutrition report so that clients can determine what exactly needs to go on their plate. At both Laura’s Home and Crossroads, the kitchen staff incorporates fruits, vegetables, protein and grains into every meal, a challenge all Cleveland residents experience and from which they could benefit.

The City Mission also works with clients to meet their individual food plans, especially when certain foods can be dangerous to a person’s health.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of gluten intolerance in clients, so we incorporate gluten free items into our daily menu,” explains Carla Maneage, Food Service Supervisor at Laura’s Home.

When a food allergy is made known or discovered, the client, caseworker, and the food service department work together to ensure there will be no food allergy incidents.

Beyond simply serving food, Maneage and her team also empower clients with education on how to make healthy food choices. During the Lenten season, they offer the Daniel Plan diet, which consists of plant-based proteins and clean eating.

“The clients are educated on what the diet is about, what it consists of, and are given a ‘good food list,’ of what’s allowed on the plan,” Maneage said. “The foods that are incorporated into the meals are not much different than what we already serve, but more so educates the individual on making better choices that consist of eating a healthier diet.”

Healthy Minds

Over the past few years, much attention has been brought to the critical need for individuals to focus on not just physical health, but also their mental health. The City Mission has acknowledged this reality for decades, and they continue to adapt their methods to what is most helpful to clients in the short and long-term.

“We see a variety of mental and physical health issues, from ADHD, depression, anxiety, and even some more serious mental disorders like schizophrenia,” shares Mark Ballenger, Crossroads Program Manager.

Crossroads and Laura’s Home offer classes such as Anger Management, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and parenting classes in order to help clients cope with past trauma and learn how to set healthy boundaries for themselves and others.

Amanda, a former Laura’s Home client and aspiring nurse, understands how DBT impacts her relationship with both her son and her work. Before taking the class, she struggled to have empathy for her son when he was hurt physically or emotionally.

She laughs now saying, “How did I ever think I was going to be a nurse when I wouldn’t validate my son’s feelings? What about when I’m in a hospital setting and I’m supposed to be a comforter, and I’m helping the doctor — but how can I help the patient? And my son, if he falls off his bike, he just wants comfort and love, and I wasn’t giving that.  And I realize how can I do that all, even in a career. I learned all this through DBT.”

For clients who need more consistent long-term care, the Mission connects men, women, and children to various mental health agencies in the area to services that will be able to offer them care past the length of the program. Empowered with skills to manage emotions and actions, as well as a support network in place for enduring care, graduates of the Mission’s programs are able to move forward in life with a restored perspective.

Healthy Children

Improving the health of children who have experienced trauma and homelessness is also a high priority for The City Mission, which is why Laura’s Home ensures that children from infants to high schoolers have the tools they need to develop healthy eating and fitness habits.

For little ones, Childcare holds exercise time for about 10 minutes each day. Children are taught simple exercises through fun and play — jumping jacks and frog jumps, as well as a dance and song time.

“It definitely isn’t pretty or always accurate but we try,” shares Christina Hahn, Family Ministry Coordinator. “It’s a good way to get energy out. We play games like Red Light/Green Light or Simon Says for a running portion, and we don’t always make it feel like organized exercise.”

Additionally, teens will soon be able to access fitness equipment appropriate for their level of development and more mature fitness goals. The City Mission recently met its #GivingTuesday fundraising goal in November 2018, which is allowing them to build a teen-only room with workout equipment such as exercise bikes, strength training equipment, and a punching bag.

This year, Laura’s Home also has the ability to offer a more intentional fitness therapy opportunity through a unique program. Sara Menser, a graduate student studying Dance Movement and currently interning with The City Mission, is spending a year at Laura’s Home to help children cope with their world through regulation of body and mind.

“We focus on problems they may be having at school, with friends, family, etc., and find creative solutions to those problems through movement,” Mesner said. “That movement may be as simple as turning some music on and having time to free dance and express themselves, or as complex as learning new breathing techniques and calming methods for when they feel they need it most.

“My main goal is to create a healthy mind-body connection that can help guide them to make healthy choices cognitively, physically and emotionally in the future.”

Healthy Communities

As you consider your goals for 2019, they may not look much different than the ones of The City Mission’s clients. Developing a healthy body, mind, and habits is something we each will strive for this year. And the opportunities to get healthy that the Mission offers to men, women, and children aren’t just for their guests — they’re for the community too. If you resolved to give back, here are three ways you can be a part of healthy stories in your city.

1. Volunteer to open up fitness opportunities for men. Currently, there are no fitness programs for men at Crossroads. The staff is seeking volunteers that might be able to open their full-size gym on a regular basis so that clients can play basketball or participate in other fitness activities right on campus.

2. Prepare a meal for guests of The City Mission. Share your passion for healthy eating with those who are unable to afford or prepare their own nutritious foods. Your family, office, or group can choose a night to make dinner at The City Mission and eat with the neighbors you’re serving.

3. Mentor a teen in the Pathways program. Many teens at Laura’s Home have lacked consistent, healthy relationships with adults in their lifetime. This year, the Pathways staff is launching a mentorship program for teens at Laura’s Home. The hope is that mentors will spend regular time tutoring teens, sharing skills, and simply getting to know them.

When we resolve to empower others with our time and gifts we don’t just become better versions of ourselves, we create a healthier, greater Cleveland. If you’re interested in providing help in any of the categories above or in your own creative way, connect@thecitymission.org.

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Dear Cleveland,

As 2019 winds up, we can’t help but reflect on the multitude of ways Cleveland supported our men, women, and children this year. Because of many faithful generations like you, The City Mission has had the privilege of serving the hurting and homeless since 1910. Over the decades we’ve seen much change in the causes of homelessness and who is most affected.

When we started 108 years ago, we were focused on serving mostly single men — financially struggling immigrants seeking a new life in America, or those who were working to overcome an alcohol addiction. Although we still serve that population, the most apparent concern now is the overwhelming number of single moms and their children seeking refuge at Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center. These women find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and struggling to create a healthy home environment for their family.

However, thanks to the compassion of so many in our city, these families and individuals are discovering hope. Here are five reasons why we love our Cleveland community and the ways you choose to empower people to a better future.

You invest your time. 

This year we saw a record number of volunteers take part in making The City Mission a better place for both our clients and staff as 4,295 individuals invested their time by serving our men, women, and children. You provided childcare, served meals, celebrated holidays and so much more.

This incredible investment saved the Mission more than $565,000, allowing us to use more of our budget to feed, shelter, and provide resources for our clients. Whether you showed up as a family, corporate team or retired individual, you made a difference.

You share your talents.

Seeing clients learn that they are worthy of a healthy life and capable of meaningful work is one of the most exciting components of what we do, and Clevelanders who share their knowledge and talents are a major part of making that realization happen.

In 2018, your talents, experiences and unique skills blessed us. Handymen showed our teens how to frame a wooden structure and install basic wiring. Businesses conducted resume workshops and mock interviews at both Crossroads and Laura’s Home. Retired bankers helped men set budgets and create financial plans. Theatre groups held workshops to help little ones explore their creativity.

With each opportunity to learn from you, our clients discovered their own passions and began gaining skills that will benefit their future.

You give generously.

All of our work is funded entirely by private entities such as churches, business, foundations and people like you! Being able to operate independent of government funding is a true privilege and not something that all nonprofits are able to do.

So how are these funds used?  Thankfully, 90 percent of our funds go directly to program services — caring for the men, women, and children we serve. In 2018 alone, your gifts provided loving childcare, significant resources, caring guidance, restorative classes, and 181,000+ meals. The result of this provision resulted in stronger families, positive physical and mental health outcomes, and approximately 100 men and women obtaining adequate jobs and housing.

Without your generous financial gifts, thousands of people would be without a place to turn. Instead, thousands are beginning self-sufficient, sustainable lives.

You use your voice.

From the news media to social media, your voice makes an enormous impact on what we’re able to accomplish. This year, we’ve seen so many come to recognize that homelessness is a complex issue, and overcoming it requires more than a meal or simply finding a job. Every person who invites a Mission staff member to speak to their office, chooses to share a Facebook post, hosts a donation drive, or covers what’s happening here in their news story, makes an impact.

As more of our city understands the nuances of homelessness and in turn cares for their neighbors, we come closer to better, lasting solutions for people living in poverty throughout the city. This simply isn’t possible without the time you take to advocate for us.

You have heart.

Cleveland’s heart to see this city thrive is evident across the board — from our growing economy to our sports team enthusiasm. The truth is, all of this revitalization begins with restoring individuals, and that’s what we’re doing here at The City Mission.

We all have other things we could prioritize and spend our time or money on. But amazingly, you choose to care for people you’ll never meet and who will never be able to repay you. In all the ways we see and all the ways we don’t see, we appreciate that you go beyond the surface and seek to make this community a better place for us all.

So thank you for your time, your talents, your generosity, your voice — and most of all, thank you for your heart to see people move from hurting and homeless, to healed and home.

From The City Mission’s family to yours, we wish you a Happy New Year!


Rev. Richard Trickel

CEO, The City Mission

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Our Schools are Experiencing a Student Homelessness Crisis

Being a teenager is hard. In those formative years you learn about ideas, people, the world and yourself. You start to ask questions about what your life should look like, and you’re making decisions that affect what it will look like.

Despite the many challenges, changes and expectations they face, most teens will go through this stage with access to a variety of resources and more importantly, the support of their family and school.

But for a teenager experiencing homelessness, high school isn’t just hard — it can define the trajectory of his or her entire life.

In the 2017/2018 school year, 709 high school students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District experienced homelessness. This number only represents a quarter of the 2,972 total students in grades preschool through twelfth grade who found themselves without a stable home.

These youth lived in motels, cars, or most likely doubled up with friends or family members. Still others ended up at shelters all around Cleveland. In 2018, 34 of these teens came to Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a ministry of The City Mission.

Laura’s Home provides extended wraparound services for single women and mothers with children who are in crisis. This means that teens end up at Laura’s Home not by their own choice, but because their family is experiencing homelessness. And as teenagers, their challenges and paths to success are much different than those of adults or their younger siblings.

The Unique Challenges of Homelessness for Teens

Every individual who experiences family homelessness is in a unique crisis and requires a unique response. Small children are in desperate need of developmental care, and single mothers must find a way to maintain adequate income while being physically and emotionally present for their family. But teens find themselves caught in between — in need of restorative attention from what could be years of survival mode, but not yet old enough to establish their own household. The staff at Laura’s Home understands this clearly.

“Many of our teens experienced trauma throughout their childhood,” says Christina Hahn, family ministry coordinator at The City Mission. “And they haven’t had a period of care to consider those effects or how to process them.”

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms Hahn’s observations by reporting that by age 12, 83 percent of homeless children have been exposed to a violent event.

“Children who witness violence are more likely than those who have not to exhibit frequent aggressive and antisocial behavior, increased fearfulness, higher levels of depressions and anxiety, and have a greater acceptance of violence as a means of resolving conflict,” writes Helen Turnbull Goody in Rescue, a magazine for ministries like The City Mission.

Poverty is also the greatest predictor of child neglect, according to the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. Neglect that leads to trauma can take shape in many forms, including food insecurity that leads to physical neglect, or a parent working long hours at minimum wage that leads to emotional and mental neglect. Because of this neglect, children can develop unhealthy thoughts and behaviors in order to survive that will last into their teenage years.

Teens experiencing homelessness also face the challenges of constant transition to new schools, new temporary homes, and new people. Unfortunately, these new people do not always provide the tender assistance that unstable teens need. Adults that allow homeless families to stay with them cannot always be trusted, and overextended teachers are not always able to spend time helping a teen acclimate to a new environment.

“Many of our children at Laura’s Home also experience bullying from their peers once peers are made aware that the teen is residing in a shelter,” says Hahn. “To combat the effects of what might be years of trauma and a harsh support system, we have to work to combat the potentially life-long consequences in a variety of ways.”

A Personalized Approach

The City Mission believes that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work when stabilizing a person of any age. When a family arrives, the Mission begins to create consistency by linking teens to trauma counseling that they’ll receive while at Laura’s Home, and then will follow them after they leave.

Families at Laura’s Home also have the opportunity to choose the school system that’s best for their children while moms recover and determine a plan to achieve sustainable housing and stable income. While all children have the option to stay at their school of origin, it is not always the best choice for that family. Laura’s Home supports the mother’s decision to choose the appropriate education for her children. If it’s determined that staying in the same school will create the stability the teen needs, they’re then provided a public transportation pass through Project ACT, even if the commute is a great distance from Laura’s Home.*

The staff at Laura’s Home also takes time to care for teens as individuals through Pathways Family Services, the student-age program at Laura’s Home. If staff is made aware of any problems at school or in Pathways, they respond to meet the needs immediately and appropriately. This can be through advocating for the child’s needs in their schooling or providing referrals for counseling services. Pathways programming also provides a consistent, safe place for teens to voice their concerns and their shared feelings.

**Shawn is one teen who was able to find the advocates he needed in Pathways. He was struggling in school and was too embarrassed to let his teachers know that he was in a new, transitional home environment and that he needed help. Shawn and his mother eventually decided to share their concerns with Laura’s Home staff, and the Pathways team jumped into action. They found a volunteer who committed to work with Shawn on his academics twice a week at Laura’s Home. In just a short time, Shawn’s grades were improving, and he was sharing that he feels more confident in the classroom.

What Pathways Means for Moms

Having a safe space for teens to express themselves and discover their talents isn’t just critical for their healing, but their mother’s success as well. While teens are spending time in Pathways, moms have the opportunity to take advantage of classes at Laura’s Home, knowing that trusted professionals are caring for their children. Moms participate in a variety of courses, from parenting to financial planning to job prep — all skills that will assist them in creating a stable future for their children.

“I love sending my teen son and all my children to Pathways!” shares Kortne, a mother of a teen at Laura’s Home. “The youth program has helped all my children with their social skills and has helped them become well-rounded children. I love the structure Pathways provides and I love that my kids are in an environment that teaches and points them to Jesus.”

How You Can Be a Part of Making the Difference 

For teenagers experiencing homelessness, today matters. These children need immediate assistance in order to recover from their crisis and map out a new path. Laura’s Home is currently in great need of groups and individuals to come alongside teens in a variety of ways. They offer a number of volunteer opportunities from one-time “Adopt-a-Day” activities for groups, to the more consistent role of mentoring kids like Shawn*. And Laura’s Home is just one of many organizations across the city focused on empowering teens! Run a Google search and determine what organization would align with your heart and schedule and send them an email.

While one of us cannot change the entire state of homelessness for the nearly 3,000 CMSD students experiencing crisis in our city, we can do something to change at least one teen’s life. When we care with our time, finances, and voices right now, we have the ability to interrupt the cycle of poverty for generations to come.

*Families cannot pick a school system outside of Cleveland Metropolitan School District, unless they were previously living outside of CMSD. If a student attended a CMSD school before moving to Laura’s Home, they can only attend CMSD schools while at Laura’s Home.

**A pseudonym was used to protect the minor’s privacy

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Getting Unstuck

Chanelle was stuck in an abusive marriage. And knowing that she didn’t have the income or time to provide for her children on her own, she stayed stuck.

Hoping to escape and build a new life, she would call Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center day after day, only to hear that there was no space available at the shelter, a ministry of The City Mission. The demand for help at Laura’s Home, the only long-term program with wraparound services in Cleveland, is so great that there has been a full waiting list since 2012 — despite having space for 165 women and children seeking refuge from homelessness, intimate partner violence, addiction, and other crises.

This summer, the unable to shelter numbers reached drastic heights, with their staff regularly being forced to say to over 100 women and children, “sorry, we have no room — please call back tomorrow”.

Finally, a spot opened up for Chanelle and her family, and for the last year she’s learned life, parenting, and job skills. She discovered how to speak up for herself and establish healthy relationships. She graduated, gained sustainable employment, and shared her testimony with many. But adequate housing, an overwhelming obstacle, remained out of reach.  

New Horizons & AXA Advisors Present: Chanelle's Story - Vimeo

While dozens of women seek to join the Laura’s Home program, many others are currently working hard to graduate and create a healthy life for themselves and their children. And yet, their crisis cannot be resolved without a stable place to call home

Tough Choices

In Ohio, a single mother working a minimum wage job – the work most of women who come to Laura’s Home are eligible for – must work 100 hours each week to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment. This leaves her with just 68 hours to commute, sleep, and care for her children – not to mention care for herself.

Like Chanelle, many single parents face the reality of being present or working enough hours to pay the rent.

The Realities of Affordable Housing

While the government’s provision for low-income housing through Rapid Rehousing is a solution for some experiencing homelessness or poverty, it does not often offer a clear path out of crisis for families and communities.

Those fortunate enough to get housing vouchers are often restricted to housing in areas that are “low opportunity,” due to of poor educational opportunities and high concentrations of poverty, crime, and environmental health hazards. Because of this, most families are unable to regain self-sufficiency.

For single parents who are able to work and gain a steady income, the number of affordable housing units is still limited. In fact, in Ohio there are only 35 affordable and available rental units per 100 extremely low-income households. Even if a single parent earning a minimum to average wage is fortunate enough to obtain housing, it’s doubtful they will be able to save enough to eventually purchase their own home — a key factor in breaking the cycle of poverty.

This is where New Horizons Housing Collaborative comes in for eligible Laura’s Home graduates.

How New Horizons Works 

New Horizons & AXA Advisors Presents: Chanelle's Story, Episode 2 - Vimeo

1. A Laura’s Home graduate with children, a sustainable job, and a proven demonstration of responsibility is selected to begin a path to homeownership.

2. The City Mission purchases a blighted home from Cuyahoga Land Bank.

3. A local individual, church, business, or group finances renovations and volunteers their time for a total remodel of the house.

4. The mother prepares for homeownership with specialized casework, continued support and education from Laura’s Home, and financial planning classes. During the renovation process, she also works alongside the community partner — building relationships and making decisions about her future living space.

5. The family moves into their new home at the completion of homeownership training and renovations.

6. The City Mission transfers the home’s deed to the mother after 18-24 months of her proven home management, commitment to her work, and care for her family.

7. The cycle of poverty is broken for a family; a woman who was once homeless is now a homeowner.

“New Horizons is so unique in that we are equipping families for overall life stability and freedom. The cherry on top is after setting up a whole new future for her family, a mom will then receive the deed to a completely renovated home free and clear,” explains Ashley Field, Community Development Coordinator for The City Mission.

 Community Impact

The program doesn’t just impact the New Horizons family — it impacts entire neighborhoods and organizations.

“It meant a lot to our church to be able to invest time, talent, and money into something that would directly change the lives of real people in need. Need exists all around Cleveland, but this is something we knew we could do, and it was a blessing to our church to see the impact our New Horizons home had,” remarks Andy Sikora, Lead Pastor at Renew Communities, a Cleveland church. 

Other home sponsors have observed that participating in New Horizons helps build morale, teamwork and unity in their families and offices.

Cuyahoga Land Bank, whose mission is to stabilize the housing market and reduce blight in a post-2008 market crash world found a mutually beneficial partner in New Horizons as well.

“Everybody knows we have a need in this community for affordable housing — especially for single moms that are transitioning out of homelessness. This is a real opportunity to make a difference,” says Gus Frangos, Cuyahoga Land Bank’s President and General Counsel.

With assistance from the Land Bank, New Horizons can play a major part in increasing home values and building community in under-served neighborhoods.

Field predicts the impact of the program will only continue to accelerate.

“In five years I see New Horizons actively revitalizing entire communities. Our goal is to renovate streets and impact not only the families moving into the homes, but the entire community. Our hope is to bring the love of Christ back into our community one home at a time,” she shares.

Growing the Opportunity

Just a few days before Christmas, Chanelle and her children will move into her New Horizons home that was renovated through a partnership with AXA Advisors of Cleveland. She’s one of five women to begin working toward the goal of homeownership through this revolutionary program.

When asked what it would take to see more families in New Horizons homes and breaking the cycle of poverty, Field says it takes exactly what you think it would — resources.

“We need overall support — financial, renovation related materials, skilled volunteers, appliance donations, and more to grow this program. We have the families and a solid foundation for our program. We just need more interested partners to sponsor a home.”

And what better time to think about asking your workplace or church to become a partner than now, as we enter a season of fresh starts?

If you’re interested in learning more about New Horizons Housing Collaborative .

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What Would You Choose?

If you were stuck in a manipulating, violent, and dangerous situation, you would immediately leave, right? Not necessarily; unfortunately, due to the nature of intimate partner violence (historically referred to as domestic violence) those being abused don’t always feel like they have the option to escape.

Chanelle’s Story

Chanelle, like many survivors of intimate partner violence, had to make the impossible choice to either stay in a life-threatening home situation or leave for a very uncertain future. As the abuse in her marriage grew, she came to realize she could not allow her children to grow up in this unhealthy environment. She considered turning to Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a long-term wraparound service program in Cleveland, but was reluctant because she thought of it as a homeless shelter; and she wasn’t currently homeless.

As time went on, Chanelle’s situation progressively worsened – they couldn’t pay rent, and her crisis became more than she could handle on her own. Courageously, she called Laura’s Home for days until they were able to offer her an open spot.

“They called me, and I got everything ready so my husband wouldn’t notice I was up to something. I stood there crying because I knew there was no turning back. My flesh wanted to stay, but I said, ‘No, I’m going to trust this and walk through these doors.’”

Chanelle found refuge at Laura’s Home, where she and her children were accepted and protected.

“I was scared, but as soon as I walked in, they welcomed me, and I knew it was God who sent me to Laura’s Home.”

She had been feeling trapped under the captivity of her abuser, her husband, a horrifying reality that many women face.

Just in this past year, 33 out of 195 women have self-reported being a survivor of intimate partner violence on their arrival at Laura’s Home, with many others disclosing this fact later on in their stay. Unfortunately, feelings of shame or fear of stigma associated with intimate partner violence keep many from reporting it, leaving it difficult to measure with exact precision.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation Domestic Violence Reportfor 2017 showed that there were a total of 7,482 domestic violence incidents reported in Cuyahoga County in that year; 3,530 of those reports were just through the Cleveland Police Department[i].  Alone, in the state of Ohio, there was a total of 76,416 Domestic Dispute Calls in 2017.[ii]These are tragic numbers that cannot be ignored.

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

Intimate Partner Violence, also commonly known as domestic violence, is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner.” This type of violence can vary in frequency and severity, occurring on a continuum which can range from one mild episode to multiple chronic and severe episodes over years.[iii]The patterns of abusive and violent behaviors, seen in many forms, are used by one partner to maintain power and control over the other partner. This type of violence does not discriminate, as it is seen between anybody of any race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic background, and education level.[iv]

Despite the parties involved and what their specific situation may be, abuse is unacceptable and never justified.

Why not just leave?

Those who have never experienced abuse or are unfamiliar with this type of violence may wonder why a person wouldn’t just leave the relationship or situation. The reality is, leaving is not only complicated, but also one of the most dangerous times for a victim of intimate partner violence. As abusers go to extremes to prevent victims from leaving, they very well could follow up on the extreme threats used to keep the victims trapped. Just as Chanelle was terrified of escaping her husband, many victims of abuse face various obstacles to leaving. The National Domestic Violence Hotline presents a few of the very common, yet complex reasons why a victim may stay[v]:

  • Fear: A person might fear what could happen before, during, or after leaving.
  • Believing Abuse is Normal: A person may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy, and may not know what a healthy relationship should look like.
  • Embarrassment or Shame: It can be very difficult for a victim to admit and share about their abuse. They may feel confused and as if they have done something wrong; they worry about judgment or denial from others.
  • Low Self-Esteem: After the abuser has been putting down and blaming the victim, it can be easy for them to believe what they have been told, leaving them with a diminished confidence.
  • Love: Abusive people can often be quite charming, especially at the beginning of the relationship, which is probably a reason why the relationship began in the first place. Often, the victim is confused by their love for the abuser, remembering how they used to be, possibly wanting the abuse to end, but not the entire relationship.
  • Lack of Money/Resources: Especially with the commonality of financial abuse, a victim could be completely dependent on their abusive partner financially. Without money, access to resources, or a place to go, it almost seems impossible for a victim to escape, leaving them feeling helpless and stuck.
The #1 Reason for Staying

Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of the YWCA USA, examines the number one reason that victims of intimate partner violence do not leave abusive relationships: a lack of financial resources and options.[vi]While all financial abuse prevents the survivor from reaching financial stability and independence, it can take on many forms, including but not limited to the following examples:

  • Abusers may forbid their partners to work
  • Work might be permitted, but the abuser places the paychecks into their own account
  • Restriction of access to credit cards and personal bank accounts
  • Shared access to a credit card or bank account, with close monitoring and threats
  • A provided allowance with restrictions on how it is spent
  • Maxing out credit cards in the victim’s name, or not paying bills – ruining their credit scores
  • Stealing money from the victim or their family and friends
  • Refusing to give the victim money to pay for necessities or shared expenses

The list could go on and on, as financial abuse impacts nearly 98% of all intimate partner violence victims,[vii]and with it comes many long-term consequences and hardships for survivors. With the combination of broken relationships and financial crisis, intimate partner violence is actually the third leading cause of homelessness among families in the country,[viii]making places like Laura’s Home a safe haven for many in the Cleveland area.

If a survivor courageously decides to escape their situation, where will they be able to go with no money, job, or financial resources? In Chanelle’s case, she was able to safely escape her situation and make a new life for her and her children at Laura’s Home. Unfortunately, Laura’s Home and the few other organizations that provide special assistance to IPV survivors are full.   And the need for both men and women’s programs with full care services, especially for survivors, is critical. For people in abusive relationships, knowing that there areplaces to go and people to help them could be the difference between life and death.

The City Mission is just one of the safe places where survivors can come to get away from their abuser, and they believe that better support comes from better understanding.

Laura’s Home takes clients’ histories of Intimate Partner Violence seriously. Clients’ stays are confidential, meaning if anyone were to inquire whether a woman was staying at Laura’s Home, that information would not be disclosed. At Laura’s Home, classes are offered to help clients reflect on areas of their lives needing healing and change, teach them about healthy relationships, and introduce them to new skills to use for a healthier life. The entire community at Laura’s Home, both staff and other clients, aid in the healing journey as they hear others’ stories and can relate and support each other. A caseworker is assigned to each client to help identify necessary resources, often referring clients to outside agencies to provide further help. Individual counseling is a common resource to help clients process what they have been through and move toward stable independence.

Because people often do not understand the dynamics of abuse, there is a stigma, resulting in a lack of support or unintentional harm to survivors. In order to do better and empower more survivors, it is critical for the entire community to become more educated about Intimate Partner Violence.

While Laura’s Home continues to fight the battle against IPV and homelessness, the organization hopes Cleveland will step up in greater ways to help women and children in crisis. Staff members of The City Mission believe that if the Mission were to expand, there would be both greater space and opportunities to bring in more education, support groups, and outside agencies for specialized services for survivors. With hundreds of women and children experiencing homelessness in our city every night, there is a desperate need to support such growth in order to keep on empowering families and individuals in our community to overcome their past and move toward a brighter, safer future.

If you would like to learn more about how to assist victims who come to The City Mission, visit our How You Can Help page.

For those seeking help:

Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, Cleveland


(216) 229-2420, or (216) 391-HELP(4357) for 24-hour help

The National Domestic Violence Hotline


1-800-799-SAFE (7233)










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