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Daily Newscasts

Is Ohio Closing the Door on Homelessness?

January 18, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - One of the casualties of the recession has been a rise in the amount of homelessness in America - a three percent increase nationally between 2008 and 2009, according to a new report that also examines the issue by state.

In the report, "The State of Homelessness in America," Ohio's figures indicate a slight decline. But Suzanne Gravette Aker, development director for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, believes the report underestimates the true number of homeless in Ohio. In fact, she says, agencies are seeing a rise in the number of people looking for shelter.

"We're seeing more and more people with increased foreclosures and increased unemployment, increased underemployment, increased medical costs – those kinds of things that are pushing people over the edge and into homelessness."

The report used a "Point-in-Time" count that takes place on a single evening, which Aker says is not a reliable indicator of the actual number of homeless people. Regardless of the survey method, she says, more needs to be done to address the issue. The report calls for greater coordination between federal, state and local agencies, as well as a specific federal focus on preventing homelessness.

Aker says homelessness is a lagging indicator of a troubling economy, so she expects the number of homeless Ohioans to rise over the next few years.

"People exhaust all other options before accessing shelters for help. So, they'll go to food pantries so they can save money to pay for their morgage and their rent. When all other options are exhausted, then they'll hit the shelters."

The report also found an increase of more than two percent in "chronic" homelessness in Ohio, which is defined as homelessness among those with a disability or medical issues. The full report is online at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH