COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Columbus non-profit says homelessness is a crisis in the city and that the shelters are overflowing.
All around the community on Wednesday, people had conversations about how to get to a more kind and equal future for all. It’s all part of the Columbus Foundation’s Big Table Talk.
One was a gathering of community members, nonprofits and elected officials about what can be done to help people afford to have a home. This event was hosted by Besa, a Columbus non-profit working to get people engaged in volunteering.
“Hopefully people can have an appreciation and understanding of who is going through homelessness,” Besa CEO Matthew Goldstein said. “Why they’re going through it and maybe the next time they see someone on the street, it gives them a better appreciation and understanding of how this affects neighbors and people that are part of our community.”
Since 2022, the homeless population has gone up almost 50% in Columbus, according to the Community Shelter Board.
“It’s absolutely a crisis,” Star House CEO Ann Bischoff said. “This year, we’re going to serve 100% more individual young people at our drop-in center than we did just two years ago. So this year, we’ll serve 1600 individuals and their small children.”
Star House is a drop-in center for young people ages 14-24 who are experiencing homelessness.
Groups of people filled the tables at the event, all talking about ways to combat homelessness together.
“This community is hungry for change, and they want to be a part of it, right?” Goldstein said. “And so here’s an opportunity to have a conversation about something that impacts literally every single life in this community. Whether you’re homeless or you’re not, it is, I would say, an epidemic.”
“What we know is that there is no silver bullet to solve our housing crisis, and that goes for homelessness as well,” Columbus City Councilmember Shayla Favor said. “It needs to be an individualized support that really sees that individual as a person and recognizes their struggles, and then we provide the resources to meet them exactly where they’re at.”
At each table, there was a representative from a community organization like Star House.
“We talked about the fact that in our community, we need to double the number of housing units every single year for the next 15 years at every income level to keep up with the growth that we’re expecting and the need for innovation in housing to meet that demand,” Bischoff said.
Another idea was to establish more spaces where people can gather and listen to those experiencing homelessness.
“Homelessness is up and there’s such an opportunity to support people that are on the bottom rungs of society right now,” Goldstein said. “They deserve to have dignity and respect like anyone else.”
Favor said she wants to take some of the solutions discussed to council with the hope of creating legislation that combats homelessness.