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Women shelter benefit raises homeless awareness

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Cleveland: The Mental Health Services (MHS) Community Women’s Shelter held a fundraiser on Friday, February 5, 2010 at the Gordon Square Arcade. On average, the center is a sanctuary for 130 women and children per night and the economic realities have only increased demands on the shelter in recent years. The shelter was founded in

MHS Program Manager Cathleen Alexander with Susan Neth, MHS Executive Director.

1988 to serve severely mentally-disabled, homeless adults and has increased its services to provide drug rehabilitation.

MHS Program Manager Cathleen Alexander said the center emphasizes housing as a priority because it provides a sense of security and enables the women to address other reasons that lead to homelessness. There is no limit on stay, and in partnership with Cleveland’s five other shelters every person in need is taken care of.

Alexander said there is an increased demand for bilingual staff and staff because there has been an influx of non-English speaking residents. “We are in need of Spanish speaking volunteers,” she said. 

Alexander encourages anyone at the brink of homelessness to call 211 in Cuyahoga County or contact the United Way. “It is much easier to prevent homelessness than to wait till the person has lost everything,” she said.

The benefit was planned to raise awareness and funds for renovations at the shelter. Susan Neth, MHS Executive Director said the improved building facilities would allow the shelter to provide more services, such as GED tutoring, employment workshops. “The goal tonight is not just to raise money but also to gain friends,” she said. Neth estimates nearly 270 guests attended and mingled at the venue donated by Councilman Matt Zone’s office and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Project.

Wendy Johns coordinates volunteers at the shelter and welcomes groups interested in providing meals and hygiene products. “Anything from deodorants, shampoos, to African American hair care products; because we serve a large African American populations and using the wrong products can be devastating,” she said.

 Angeline Sulak joined MHS two months ago and said the center immediately makes all feel immediately at home. “We are very client oriented and focus on making the client comfortable and safe; MHS’s program really is innovative way,” she said.

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio estimates 21,811 individuals in Cuyahoga County are homeless at some time during the year, and 8,070 of those homeless individuals had a severe mental illness.

For more information about the shelter call: (216) 623-6555 or visit: http://www.mhs-inc.org





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