A look at homelessness in Cincinnati

By Dan Wells - bio | email

Note: FOX19's Dan Wells took an inside look at this growing problem, spending a full night sleeping with the homeless, and brings you this special report.

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Right now, federal and local agencies are struggling to help a growing number of families forced out of their homes by an unsteady economy and fluxing housing prices.

Being homeless is an eye opening experience. You can see those who call the streets home everywhere you look.

Here are some quick facts we bet you didn't know about life on the streets.

On any given night in America, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless.  In Cincinnati, there are more than 9,000 people on the streets, hungry and cold.

The Greater Cincinnati coalition for the homeless says in the last 15 years, the homeless population here in the Tri-State has increased by 150 percent.

"I have a lot of pride and some time I allow my pride to dig me deeper and deeper into the hole of being even more homeless," said a homeless man named Raymond.

Statistically, the homeless population is 68% African-American, 27% Caucasian, and nearly 2% Hispanic.

In 2004, Cincinnati was named the fourth-meanest city in the nation towards the homeless, because of the laws against homeless individuals.

For Gary Hudson, who's homeless, it doesn't matter.

"It's all how you look at it," Hudson said. "If I go at things negative when I get out of here, I'll get negative results, so I have to keep a positive mind when looking at things, and plan ahead, so that is what I'm in the process of doing now."

Surprisingly, 25% of the homeless are children, 45% of children who are homeless are 5-years-old or younger. Single men comprise 49% of the homeless population, single women comprise 16% of the homeless population and unaccompanied children make up about 4% of those living on the streets.

FOX19's Dan wells spent a night when it was roughly 28 degrees outside. When the temperature drops, many head to the Drop In Shelter in Over the Rhine.

"We have an average of 200, a little over 220 people a night," said Pat Clifford with the Drop In Center. "Its gone up this year. We have seen an increased demand of people staying a little longer than they normally would."

Now for privacy sake, we can't tell you everything that goes on at night, but during the day, the bunks are ready and the staff gears up to provide lunch and dinner for the hundreds that knock on the doors.

"We have people come through our doors that have had successful jobs, careers, college degrees that have gone through various circumstances," said Clifford.

So what causes homelessness? According to several studies, three trends are largely responsible - a growing shortage of affordable housing, jobs and a simultaneous increase in poverty.

James and Harry took Dan Wells in while he was on his assignment, telling him how to stay safe and what brought them to this point in their lives.

"It's about survival, whatever knowledge you learned in school its not going to prepare you for something like this," said James.

James and Harry grew up in Madeira and Kenwood, respectively. They say they became homeless after loosing good jobs and making bad decisions.

"People when you come in here assume that you are a drug addict, and that you are an alcoholic, or a derelict, or that you're the scum of the earth," said James. "You're going to be considered the bottom of the barrel.">

Now, we found the Drop In Center for others is anything but. It provides a lot of treatment for the mentally ill, substance abusers and every walk of life, and it continues to do that every night, every day and hour.