YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On this week’s In-Depth segment, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford sits down with Nancy Voitus from Catholic Charities. They discuss what the organization does as far as housing, cold weather and placing families.
“As we head into the cold weather, the concern always becomes the number of people that may be unstable, unhoused or unsheltered, and getting people off the streets or getting them into some kind of secure area. Catholic Charities was fortunate in the last three, two years to open up homeless shelters for women and children. We have two, one in Youngstown on Glenwood and one in Youngstown on Homestead,” Voitus said.
The two shelters have seven rooms specifically geared toward women with children.
“Since opening, both of those were full and have run a waiting list. Right now, we have about 30 families on the waiting list,” Voitus said.
She discusses a specific unmet need in the community.
“I think the challenge is that people’s income is unstable and then finding affordable and available housing has really become a challenge… It’s surprising how many people are in our shelter and they’re actually working. So the misconception that people are just living off of the system or whatever… many of the women in our system are working, but they are low-paying jobs. They need help to get into housing that they can afford with the number of bedrooms they may need because of the number of children. So sometimes the delay in getting people out and getting them into housing has sometimes been tough,” Voitus said.
According to Voitus, the need for good housing is still an issue, not just in the Valley but all across the country.
“It just seems like, right now, if you talk to a lot of the agencies that deal with this, you know, finding available affordable housing for people based on their income and based on the needs. I know landlords have bills, they need to pay their bills too, but a lot of rents have gone up. Just finding places that are, you know, decent and affordable that people can get into. It just seems like we’ve had a shortage,” she said.
Voitus said they see a lot of buildings that are owned by people from out of state.
“[But] most of them that we deal with have somebody local, like a property manager or somebody that’s kind of handling things locally. We won’t rent to anyone without doing an inspection. We have a HUD inspection that we do to go in, so somebody locally has to be able to work with us,” she said.
Voitus talked about people who they call “unstably housed.”
“They’re bouncing around from different places and they’re probably staying somewhere where if their landlord found out they had somebody staying there, they could be in trouble… We try to work with everybody, even when we talk to them and put them on our waiting lists, to look for other options, shelters that might be even like in Warren, we work with, you know, sometimes diverting people to other places if they can get into another shelter,” she said.
With the cold winter months approaching, Voitus said local agencies are trying to work together to gather alternatives for people so that their waiting lists to get into the shelters are not so long. They want to make sure people are safe from the harsh weather.
Voitus agrees that helping those in need takes a community effort.
“There’s a need for all of us to try to work together. I think that’s one of the things that’s always been positive about this community, is we do try to all collaborate and work with each other so that we’re not duplicating but we’re each supporting each other,” she said.
Voitus talked about the realities of funding.
“Our shelters are really at a point where we need to secure funding to be stable for a longer period of time. So any kind of financial support that we can get, we’re looking for grants and whatever funding is still out there that can, you know, be supportive because we see where the need is there,” she said.
Catholic Charities can be reached by calling 330-744-3320.
The organization has a fundraiser coming up in collaboration with Cardinal Mooney High School and 98.9. It will be a Thanksgiving food drive.
“We are collecting through Cardinal Mooney High School. They’re doing a Thanksgiving food drive that’s going to benefit people that come through our agency. I believe that they would like [to be] contacted through Cardinal Mooney, where I think donations can be dropped off for this Thanksgiving food drive… Besides housing issues and utility issues, food is probably the next largest need that we are seeing,” Voitus said.