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Increase in homeless deaths

By Maddie Wood, For The Miami Student

For the homeless community in Hamilton and Butler Counties, winter can be deadly.

In 2014, the number of homeless deaths in Cincinnati rose to 46, according to an unofficial count by Michelle Dillingham, Cincinnati Homeless Coalition's director of education.

The high number is in large part due to exposure to the elements and the 38 percent increase in street homelessness in Hamilton County over the last year. The frigid temperatures and illness that come with them are fatal to those living on the streets. Every night, the homeless face frostbite, severe illness and even death.

The coalition is focused on getting people off the streets and keeping them off.

"We advocate for an increase in affordable housing so people don't have to live on the street," Dillingham said.

Affordable housing is the goal, not necessarily the reality. Many people are still spending their winters on the street.

In years past, a winter shelter has been open to the Cincinnati homeless on nights when temperatures dip below 12 degrees. This year, thanks to funding from the City of Cincinnati and the Sheriff's Department, moves were made to keep the shelter open all winter, no matter the temperature.

Dillingham said she thinks the permanence of this shelter has had a positive impact on the community.

"Early numbers are showing about 250 people a night at the winter shelter," she said.

Although the death count isn't as high as Hamilton County's, Butler County is experiencing its own homeless epidemic. A Butler County 2007 homeless count indicated 170 homeless people were in the area. In 2013, Butler County was estimated to have over 250 homeless people, according to the 2013 Ohio Homelessness report.

Hope House Mission, located in Middletown, is a group of shelters and support system dedicated to providing stability to homeless men, women and children in Butler and Warren Counties.

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Hope House is making strides to improve homelessness in their community. According to their website, 44 percent of Hope House's former residents moved into a positive housing arrangement in 2012.

They place a strong emphasis on bettering the lives of those who enter their shelters by offering programs and counseling in addition to meals and a place to stay.

To get involved with Hope House Mission and help homeless in the community, log onto their website and fill out an individual or group application.