Dozens of homeless Cleveland women and children left to roam the streets in the cold

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The City Mission in Cleveland put out a plea on social media recently -- asking for underwear and socks for homeless moms and children. As it turns out, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the needs many homeless women and children in the city of Cleveland.

Every night for the past 13 months, dozens of women and children have been sleeping on mats on the floor inside the City Mission's gymnasium.

The women and children who sleep there are waiting for a bed in a shelter that houses families.

The gym was only meant to be an emergency, temporary solution, but The City Mission CEO Rich Trickel says the number of people spending the night in the City Mission's gym is increasing, and at 7 a.m. every morning, those women and children are bused to the Bishop William Cosgrove Center where they wait outside for 45 minutes.

Once they are let in, they can stay at the center until 2:30 p.m., after that, the women and children have to leave and find somewhere else to go until 7 p.m. when a bus picks them up to go back to the City Mission.

On the weekends, the situation is worse because the Bishop Cosgrove Center at 1736 Superior Ave. is completely closed.

Thought I would be doing a story about women and children needing underwear and socks at a temporary night time shelter at the City Mission - turns out their needs are even greater - especially with the winter months ahead - my story begins airing at 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

There is no where for the women and children from the temporary overflow facility to find shelter or food between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

"The numbers of homeless women and children in our community is excessive. There is a lot of them. I think there is more than anyone really anticipated. So, we have a large volume of women and children, and we don't have nearly the capacity to adequately care for them," said Trickel.

We found Judith Durham and her 2-year-old son Jonah outside in the 45 degree temperatures not sure where they would go until 7 p.m.

To make matters worse, Jonah is sick.

He was coughing during the interview with his mother.

One of the most important stories I've done ever - homeless women and children (some as young as infants) in the city of Cleveland being forced to wander the streets in the cold temperatures while they wait for a place in a family shelter - they are not eligible for ANYTHING until they get a bed and all the family homeless shelters are full. This begins airing tomorrow morning (Thursday) at 4:30 a.m.  Please call the city and county officials to demand a warm place for them to stay (even a rec center) while they wait for a placement.

We asked Jonah's mom where she planned to go.

"Maybe the library, you know, or anywhere we can go sit inside. The Greyhound. Most of the other mothers, we just walk around, try to keep the kids busy," said Durham.

Durham and Jonah were waiting for a regular bed in one of Cleveland's homeless shelters for women and children.

Every day, Durham checks into a central processing center to see if she has a place to go.

"It's been so packed that there is barely any space," described Durham.

Unfortunately, Durham and close to 50 other women and children, who are also waiting for a homeless shelter placement, are roaming the street with nowhere to go for close to six hours every day -- all day on the weekends.

"Somedays we don't know how we will feed the kids. They don't really help us with anything. We are on our own once we are out the doors," said Durham.

At night, Durham and Jonah stay inside the City Mission's gymnasium with close to 50 other women and children who are also waiting for a bed in a shelter.

Staying inside the gymnasium at the City Mission all day is not an option, according to Trickel, because of the City Mission's other programs that run at that time.

On the weekends, the situation is worse.

"The food center there, they don't serve meals on the weekends," said Durham. "We scrape up what we can together -- the mothers. We make do. Sometimes we don't get to eat because we have to make sure they eat."

We asked Durham what she planned to do when the weather gets even colder.

"I'm hoping that I will be placed by then, but if not, I'm not sure what we are going to do. I'm really not," she said.

We reached out to the mayor's office for comment.

Cleveland Director of Community Development Mike Cosgrove released this statement on behalf of the city:

"The city is working in conjunction with the Office of Homeless Services and providers to help ensure that the case management services are in place to help move families out of shelter and into housing, which we believe will take the pressure off the overflow shelter."

For more information, visit The City Mission's website.

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