Earlier Thursday morning a few Norwalk Reflector staffers were sharing what they set their heat settings to: a fellow reporter said (they keep their homes at) 68 degrees, while another (who works) in circulation said 74 degrees. I thought of my mother who prefers it in the 66 (degrees) to 68 range — reminding us all of how we grew up in the U.P. (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) and stayed warm by playing, working and wearing a lot of layers. But those glimpses of water-cooler conversations and heart-warming nostalgia gave way to the chilling truth that a substantial portion of the population — and our community — don’t have enough to protect themselves from frostbite, hypothermia and other cold-weather related injuries.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) classifies homelessness into four different types:
Chronic — either an unaccompanied (homeless) individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had a minimum of four episodes of homelessness in the previous three years.
Episodic — refers to individuals who are currently homeless and have experienced at least three periods of homelessness in the previous year
Transitional — the most common type of homelessness — is comprised of individuals who enter a shelter or temporary housing system for only a brief stay — often as a result of a catastrophic event or sudden life change
Provisionally occupied — persons temporarily live with others who have space for them — think ‘crashing on a friend’s couch — but are often unable to stay long-term without support/resources to find more permanent housing.
Sophie Jaggi of JOIN, an organization that works to connect resources and find homes for those in the area without, referred to provisionally occupied individuals as the “hidden homeless.”
“This often describes people staying with friends or relatives because they lack other housing opportunities. (They’re) considered ‘hidden’ because they (don’t) access homeless supports and services, despite their need for them” Jaggi wrote, adding the ‘hidden’ don’t show up in standard homeless statistics for that reason.
Someone who understands being ‘hidden’ and homeless at such a cold time is Jeremy Yoder.
The 27-year-old moved (back) to Ohio in August, and up until recently was staying with a friend. Yoder admitted at first he chose to travel and after a few years he was living on the street.
“I decided that I want to take my life in a different direction, so now I'm just trying to stay focused on where I'm trying to go and what I need to do to get there. ... Rather than dwelling on my current situation.”
But despite Yoder’s determination to put in the work to have a roof above his head, winter is coming, and there are no shelters in Norwalk for men — however there are in Sandusky and Willard. Until that changes, Huron County’s homeless will need to survive the falling temperatures.
“I am looking for a room to rent. (I’m) employed and need to find something immediately, because (I’ve) been sleeping outside,” he shared to community members in a Facebook post. “Also if anyone has any blankets/sleeping bags you could donate that would be greatly appreciated.”
The Bowery Mission, an organization that offers help to people living in poverty and homeless, shared some ways you can help those in need:
• Check your closet for winter gloves, scarves and hats, boots, blankets and other winter gear to donate to people who live on the streets.
• Keep care-packages in your cars with snacks, hand-warmers, personal hygiene items, socks and other clean clothes.
• Gift cards for fast-food and/or grocery items, bottled water, hotel/travel-size soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, etc.
• If you have nothing to offer them at the time, direct them to shelters, clothing banks and/or food pantries in the area.
Here us a partial list of assistance centers nearby:
• Norwalk — Clothing Bank at 51 Benedict Ave.; Norwalk Area United Fund at 2 E. Seminary St.; Abigail Pregnancy Services at 3900 Laylin Road; Salvation Army at 55 Whittlesey Ave.; and Huron County Department of Job and Family Services at 185 Shady Lane Drive; Miriam House at 249 West Main St.
• Monroeville — Congregational Community Church Non-Food Bank at 29 Chapel St.
• New London — Salvation Army at 12 Akron St.
• Willard — House of Hope sober-living house for men at 117 Blossom Ctr., Abigail Pregnancy Services at 124 West Maple St.
A comprehensive list of county resources can be found online at huroncolib.org.