Helping the homeless community throughout the winter season

By: Maggie Phillips

Throughout the month of February, many parts of the U.S. faced unprecedentedly low temperatures, especially in areas that are unaccustomed to the cold. The homeless are particularly susceptible to these frigid temperatures. 

While most Cleveland State University students may not directly feel the struggles of homelessness, there are many members of our community who do. Knowing the resources and services available to help our homeless neighbors is something all students should know. 

One such resource is the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). This non-profit coalition provides help and resources for the homeless in Northeast Ohio, educates the public on the realities of homelessness, and advocates against the systematic causes of homelessness.

Outreach Director at NEOCH Takisha Strowder recommended a variety of resources and strategies CSU students could use to help the homeless.

First, Strowder suggested students call NEOCH’s number- (216) 432-0540– if they are concerned about an individual they believe to be homeless. NEOCH responds almost immediately to assess the situation, trying to find them a shelter and other forms of help as soon as possible. The organization collaborates with a wide variety of shelters and can match individuals with one that best fits their needs.

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused many shelters to reduce their capacities, there are still available spots in many of the shelters throughout Cleveland. NEOCH has made an effort to open seasonal shelters and increase their outreach, trying to find a place for everyone.

Strowder stated, “the shelters are abiding by CDC guidelines- they have to take temperatures, people stay six feet apart and are not congested in a room, and capacity levels have decreased. Overall, they are doing well with maintaining guidelines and no one has tested positive”

In addition, Strowder recommended practical ways in which she helps homeless individuals she encounters students can emulate.

“I typically have a food kit, a bus pass, and perishable items in my car in case I am out and see someone who I know who needs assistance. That goes a long way, even more so than just handing out a little bit of change.” She continues, “Being a listening ear can go a long way- a lot of times the homeless population is shunned by civilians but could really just use someone to talk to.”

Above all, Strowder wanted to emphasize the challenges the homeless community faces and the importance of providing the right resources to get people on their feet.

“At times the population is so shunned and frowned upon and no one wants to help them, but there are so many strings pulling back from getting on their feet. Homelessness can happen to anybody and knowing you have the right support system is essential to overcome homelessness.”

NEOCH currently has limited volunteer opportunities, but their website provides a wide variety of information on homelessness, their current campaigns, and ways you can get involved.

If you or someone you know is struggling to get basic needs met, know that there are also on campus resources that can help. CSU’s Lift Up Vikes! program helps students in several ways, including applying for emergency grants, running a food pantry, and other links to online resources that can help. Visit the department’s website for more information about these services