CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As of this morning, May 6, were 198 Kids listed as missing in Cuyahoga County.
19 News anchor Neeha Curtis has been checking in with some of the people trying to find and help the missing and homeless students in our area.
One of those organizations is Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau in Cleveland, which has a Homeless and Missing Youth Program that was initiated in October 2006 through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program for homeless, missing, and runaway youth who are in need of crisis intervention, possible respite, and case management.
The program currently serves annually about 4,000 teens, family, and community members through the following initiatives:
- On-call emergency staff available 24/7 who respond either by phone or in-person to a youth’s need for crisis intervention because of homelessness, the threat of taking off or runaway behaviors
- Triage services through schools, police departments, peers helping peers, community partners (particularly the LGBT Center of Cleveland), and street contacts.
- Assistance with personal care, food, clothing, and other individualized needs, including safe-sex kits and hygiene kits
- Ongoing counseling services for families and youth that target behaviors and situations that may cause youth to leave home
- Case management to help secure appropriate basic living services, including health insurance, and to coordinate family-based treatment and community-based wraparound services that are individualized for each client
- Linkage and referral to community-based programs that are culturally competent and neighborhood-based to help teens and families succeed
- Coordination of alternative living arrangements through safe and supportive foster homes, as well as Bellefaire's Transitional Living Program, which provides housing, therapeutic supports and life skills for individuals 16-18
- Street Outreach services for youth who are already homeless and intervention for those at risk
Despite the coronavirus crisis, Bellefaire emphasizes that they are still open to help, and the 24/7 Homeless and Missing Youth Hotline can be reached at (216) 570-8010.
Bellefaire JCB’s Karen McHenry Director of Missing and Homeless Youth discussed the realities these kids have been facing since schools have been closed due to Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus crisis, and why she’s worried about LGBTQ children right now.
“There were 198 Kids listed as missing in Cuyahoga County, which is it’s a little high, but we know that that number is not even accurate. So only 25% of all kids that are missing are ever reported missing,” McHenry said.
“Shelter in place, well, what is your place? Where do you stay? So that’s, that’s a pretty vague term for our kids," McHenry said. "They probably aren’t even able to wrap their heads around it, because they’re just trying to figure out like, Where am I going to get some food today.”
McHenry said, “I’m just really worried about their level of isolation. So you know, if you’re told you’re supposed to shelter in place, and you’re not leaving your house, you’re not able to go to school to get food support from a teacher, another place to stay if you do need to leave. So there’s just a really intense level of isolation. And so I worry about, like how long kids can hold on to that before, you know, like, what am I going to do?”