YWCA Greater Cleveland has been on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women in our community for over 150 years and we are proud to stand in solidarity with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Congress in support of Cleveland’s Homeless Bill of Rights. This legislation, guided by the incredible work of advocates with lived experience, would be an unprecedented step forward in protecting the civil rights of our program participants and all people experiencing homelessness in our city.
In YWCA’s 2022 strategic plan, we laid out our commitment to continuing to protect the health and safety of Cleveland’s women and girls, particularly women and girls of color. The data tells us that homelessness is deeply rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism.
In 2020, 19,000 people experienced homelessness in Cuyahoga County. Black people are overrepresented in our shelter system and experience homelessness at significantly higher rates than their proportion of people living in poverty. 71% of single individuals and 82% of families experiencing homelessness in Cuyahoga are Black. LGBTQ+ young people of color are particularly vulnerable and experience homelessness at a staggering rate of 16% nationwide. We cannot address systemic racism in one of the most segregated metro areas in the country without legal protections for unhoused people.
1 of every 4 homeless women is homeless because of violence committed against her. Allowing unhoused people to be regularly subjected to harassment and criminalized by law enforcement simply for existing in public spaces and trying to meet basic needs such as food and shelter only perpetuates this traumatic cycle. No one should be denied employment, medical care, shelter, or their fundamental right to vote simply because of their housing status. Housing is a human right and adding housing status as a protected class is key to the safety and empowerment of those who are experiencing homelessness inside and outside of the shelter system.
Cleveland, it is time that we reckon with the impact of our deeply held societal bias against unhoused people. YWCA urges our community to support the Homeless Bill of Rights and for City Council to pass this landmark piece of legislation to defend every resident’s right to safe and affordable housing. Together, we can ensure that all residents’ voices are heard and their civil liberties respected.
YWCA Greater Cleveland