COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–Housing advocates across Columbus are demanding action and a plan from city and county leaders.
They said that the lack of affordable housing in Franklin County and Columbus is a public health crisis and that’s been an issue for years but is under more stress because of the pandemic.
The Columbus Urban League is one of the city’s non-profits that helps with rental assistance and getting resources to people who really need help. It’s President and CEO was part of a call to action for a plan and says the problem is only getting worse.
“We are constantly calling and asking for more money for housing assistance — our team members and organizations have woke fatigue because it’s so constant,” said Stephanie Hightower.
Since July, the Columbus Urban League has gotten more than 12,000 calls from people who fear losing their homes.
“It’s heartbreaking when you have these families that are constantly coming and calling. I mean our phone starts ringing at 8’clock in the morning,” she said.
“Franklin county also has a commitment to provide over 2,000 units or build 2,000 units in the next 10 years and while that is our aspirational goal,” said Franklin County Commissioner Eric Crawley. “We know that is not enough and currently today are facing a shortage between 54 thousand and 60 thousand units.”
The Columbus Metropolitan Housing authority said, of the 250,000 people they help with finding housing in Ohio and Washington D.C., 35,000 are here in Franklin County and 70 percent of those residents are black.
Hightower said 70 percent of the calls to her office are taken in are black single mothers. Advocates said there’s a trickle-down effect.
“Our average stay in a shelter should be about 22 to 30 days in shelter. Last month our average stay was 82 days,” said Christie Angel the President and CEO of the YWCA in Columbus.
Currently, there are 188 people in their shelters.
Hightower added, “The big thing right now is the trauma — people don’t realize the trauma and we have a lot of this youth violence and neighborhood public safety — when you have youth who don’t have stable housing when you have parents who have to work two and three jobs.
Advocates said along with a plan laid out by government leaders, there needs to be minority voices at the table and to be part of the conversation and the path forward.