CLEVELAND — The city of Cleveland was deemed the poorest big city in the nation in 2019 with 114,000 people living in poverty, including 37,700 children, according to a report from the Center for Community Solutions.
The United Nations marked Nov. 20 as World Children’s Day to bring attention and awareness to the children living in poverty around the world.
According to the UN’s website, the day is meant to promote international togetherness, awareness among children and to improve their welfare.
The theme for 2021 is “A Better Future for Every Child.”
Organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Ohio and Laura's Home Women’s Crisis Center are two of the many organizations trying to curb the cycle of poverty, something 46.1% of the city’s children are facing.
Linda Uveges is the chief executive director of The City Mission and program manager at Laura’s Home.
The center has helped women and children for the last 18 years by providing case management from a licensed social worker, holistic programs and wrap-around services.
“They come in crisis, and then we provide some stability and then to self-sufficiency for each person that leaves here,” Uveges said.
From October 2020 through September 2021, the center provided help to nearly 800 women and approximately 411 children, according to a spokesperson from Laura’s Home.
In that same time period, 75 women completed the program, 90 women exited with income and 72 women obtained housing.
The center quickly fills and stays that way, Uveges said.
Since the COVID-19 eviction moratorium ended, more and more women have been turned away from Laura’s Home because of the lack of space.
“Especially since the eviction moratorium ended on Sept. 1, we are seeing a greater need,” she said. “We have many calls, often we have to turn them away.”
The 2020 Census shows Cleveland’s population shrank from 396,815 people in 2010 to 372,624 people in 2020, an approximate 6% decrease.
The data reports 32.7% of people are living in poverty in Cleveland, a median household income of $30,907 from 2015-2019 and the median gross rent $719.
“What we know is that child poverty and poverty in general, those experiencing homlessness is very complex. There is no one answer that fits everyone,” Uveges said.
That’s where the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Ohio fills the gap.
For the past two years, Joseph Greathouse has been the director of the club location in Cleveland’s Broadway neighborhood.
He said for many children, the Boys & Girls Club is the only place for them to feel safe.
“They know when they enter these doors, one, they're going to feel loved, two, they’re going to feel safe, so it’s like a home away from home,” he said. “Some of them don’t have homes, so essentially to them this is their home Monday through Friday when we open up.”
The children Greathouse serves experience a number of obstacles that force them to mature much earlier than other kids of similar ages.
“These kids are going home to pay electric bills, put food on the table and they have to grow up quicker and it’s just that cycle over and over and over again that keeps (them) stuck in that same type of way,” he said.
Greathouse tries to involve the parents of these children as often as he can because when the parents have resources to be sustainable, it will trickle down to their children.
“I think it’s deeply rooted. We can start from the child aspect, but it goes back to the parent. So, in order for them to be sustained and have a home and have food, it starts with that parent,” Greathouse said.
The clubs across northeast Ohio serve 2,500 kids on an average daily basis, according to Jeff Scott, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club.
Census data showed 115,000 children could benefit from the organization's services.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and on the other hand, it couldn’t be a higher mandate,” he said. “It’s absolutely critical that we solve this, and clearly, our region is astute at solving really hard problems, and so why can't we be really great at solving this problem as well?”
Despite the city’s population loss, not all of the city's 34 neighborhoods saw a decrease in population.
Census data analyzed by the Center for Community Solutions and the Northern Ohio Data Information Service estimated that neighborhoods on Cleveland’s west side, like Jefferson, Cudell, Clark-Fulton, Stockyards, West Boulevard, Edgewater, Detroit Shoreway and Brooklyn Center saw population increases from 2016-2019.
Neighborhoods that experienced the most population loss were on the east side including Glenville, Fairfax, Union-Miles, Broadway Slavic Village and Old Brooklyn.