Written By: Erica Schnitz, MSW, LISW-S, Counseling Services Manager
I think that we can all agree that it is cold outside and winter has finally arrived in Ohio. Now imagine this: You are an 18 year old, high school senior experiencing homelessness. You wake up this morning after spending the night in a tent, on a friend’s couch, or in the adult shelter. Normally, you would spend the day in school, where you have warmth and school provides breakfast and lunch, but there is no school due to the holiday.
So now you have three things to figure out today: what will I eat, where will I spend the day, and where will I sleep tonight. You would normally spend the day at the public library, but that is closed as well due to the holiday. Since the temperature is below 25 degrees, you are able to go to one of the local warming stations (warming stations are only open if the temperature goes below a certain point). So, you decide to use the only two dollars that you have to ride the COTA bus to the warming station.
Now what about food? You could go to a local pantry, but you have to have proof of identification and address at most food pantries. But you don’t have an address. So, you now have to decide, do I use the two dollars for food and walk to the warming station or do I use it to ride the bus (one way) and chance finding food some place.
Fast forward to 06:00 PM and the warming station is closing. Now it’s time to find where you will stay for the night. Your friend’s mom says that you can’t stay again. You need phone access to call and get a spot at the local shelter but you don’t have access to a phone (my coworkers and I have searched for clients on some days, so that they can use our phone to call the homeless hotline). However, phone access is not the only reason some clients avoid the shelter. So, you find an abandoned house to take some refugee from the harsh winter and go to sleep knowing you have to do it all again tomorrow.
These are just a few decisions that some of the young people Huck House works with have to make every day. Please consider joining us on April 24 for our annual Sleep Out. The money raised from the Sleep Out is used to fund programming that works to address youth homelessness every day, including our youth outreach program, transitional living program, and counseling. If you aren’t able to participate in the Sleep Out, please consider making a donation or volunteering with Huck House! The young people in our city deserve better and it’s up to us to do better.