The CAP Helpline provides a vital service to those experiencing homelessness – or about to be – in Cincinnati/Hamilton County. Now, the CAP Helpline needs our help.
Calls are spiking. And in order to handle the increased demand since COVID-19, we added more team members. And we need to upgrade our call center technology to ensure we’re always available to help.
Both come at a cost – the cost to run the CAP Helpline has almost doubled since 2020.
The CAP Helpline Needs our Help
Unfortunately, the CAP Helpline is not fully funded by any one government source. Private and family foundations have graciously funded our efforts.
We also turn to our generous donors to help keep CAP available to meet the urgent need in our community.
CAP Helpline Calls on the Rise
The number of calls for shelter and housing assistance have increased significantly recently. In 2020 the CAP Helpline answered a total of 17,710 calls for assistance. Last year that surged another 60%. Answering a total of 28,343 calls.
To respond, we added staff and expanded our hours. The need for shelter and housing is high in the Greater Cincinnati region and we expect it to remain high through 2022, particularly as eviction moratoria and stimulus funding for emergency rental assistance fade into the past.
Homelessness Here at Home
Homelessness is a critical local issue. In 2021, 6,062 people in Hamilton County experienced homelessness, residing in an emergency shelter or sleeping in places not meant for human habitation. This includes 1,381 children under age 18.
Homelessness is damaging to both physical and mental health, and can be fatal.
Poverty and Homelessness in Hamilton County
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2016-2020 Hamilton County residents, 14.8% of residents lived below the poverty line and 21.9% of under age 18 did as well. The LISC Cincinnati’s “Housing Our Future” report states, “nearly half of Hamilton County’s 82,300 extremely low-income households are considered severely housing cost burdened.”
This means that they spend more than 50% of their income on rent. Leaving very little else to cover other expenses or emergencies.
These households are likely to experience homelessness after a medical emergency or job loss. Or economic downturn as recently caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
How does the CAP Helpline work?
Here in Hamilton County the Central Access Point (CAP) Helpline intervenes and assists those experiencing homelessness and at-risk of experiencing homelessness. An intervention that can prevent homelessness, provide high-quality assistance, and solve homelessness though housing.
The CAP Helpline is the centralized emergency shelter intake helpline (513-381-SAFE) operated by Strategies to End Homelessness 363 days a year. And was one of the first centralized emergency shelter access systems in the nation.
It is the one number anyone experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness needs to call. To get information about services, check for space in emergency shelters, and other homeless programs. Or be placed in a shelter or homelessness prevention program.
Our Intake Specialists
Our trained Intake Specialists work with callers to assess if they shelter immediately or if they can be referred to services that prevent homelessness. Then they make placements directly into shelters and other housing or diversion programs. Started in 2021, Intake Specialists can now offer transportation services through Lyft to callers scheduled for emergency shelter placement who lack transportation.
CAP Helpline Intake Specialists place callers directly into one of 3 family shelters, 2 single men’s shelters, 1 single women’s shelter, 1 youth shelter, 1 transitional housing program, 1 Supportive Services for Veterans Families program, 3 Veteran’s Administration Grant per Diem agencies, 1 Veteran family shelter, the Shelter Diversion Program (in coordination with 3 local agencies) and a Youth Diversion Program (in coordination with 3 local agencies).
Additionally, Intake Specialists refer callers to other programs in the community if their needs cannot be addressed with these programs. We then place callers in our Shelter Diversion program or refer them to a partner agency for other services. And only when space is available in either program.
This includes Aftercare services for families who previously experienced homelessness. Aftercare services assist with a variety of different needs in order to keep a family from experiencing homelessness again.
The Impact of Homelessness on Children
Homelessness causes suffering for both children and adults. According to the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, “homeless children suffer from chronic illnesses . . . and acute illnesses (such as minor upper respiratory infections) at twice the rate of the general ambulatory population.”
The National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness states that, “children experiencing homelessness have twice the rate of learning disabilities and three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems of children who have homes.”
In every instance we strive to prevent homelessness however possible. Sparing children and families from the trauma of becoming homeless.
The CAP Helpline needs our help – can you help?