Family homelessness increases in Cincinnati, local shelters seek community support

CINCINNATI - Five Cincinnati shelters designed to help homeless families in Cincinnati met Tuesday to address the rise in family homelessness in the area.

Bethany House Services, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati, Mercy Health at St. John’s, The Salvation Army and the YWCA — collectively known as the Family Housing Partnership — held a press conference at Filson Park in Mt. Auburn at 5 p.m.

"Many people will be shocked by the setting of our press conference" said Gwen Finegan, Chair of the Family Housing Partnership. "We chose a local park, one well-loved by homeless children, to highlight the fact that 30 percent of Hamilton County’s homeless people are children, 10 percent under the age of 5. Homeless families are often invisible in our community. It is time to shine a spotlight on this heartbreaking problem."

Partner agencies and families experiencing homelessness joined the Housing Partnership for the conference. Organizers focused on the increase in families needing shelter in Cincinnati and looking into the need for increased funding, volunteerism and community support.

In July 2013, 423 families called for emergency shelter, according to the Housing Partnership. This is a 31 percent increase in calls compared with July 2012.

Only 39 of the families who called were placed in a shelter and 33 other families were referred to Homelessness Prevention services. This means 83 percent of the families who called seeking shelter were not able to receive help.

During Tuesday's conference, Bethany House resident Heather Armstrong shared her struggles.

"Homelessness comes so quickly... it's like anybody... you're one paycheck away,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong and her son became homeless after living with family was no longer an option. She's moving into an apartment soon, but would return to the shelter under one condition.

"I want to come back and volunteer my time and my effort," she said.

In addition to volunteers, shelters in the area are in desperate need of donations.

"There are more families coming to the shelters. And donations help us move families out quicker. Which means that we have more capacity to help more people," said Georgine Getty, secretary of Family Housing Partnership.

For information on volunteer and donation opportunities, visit .

If you are looking to inquire about services provided by the Family Housing Partnership, call (513) 381-SAFE.

9 On Your Side reporter Lanny Brannock contributed to this report.

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