The Metanoia Project
The Metanoia Project (pronounced met-a-noi-a) is an organization comprised of people with a desire to form authentic, transformative relationships with the homeless community of Cleveland. Since 2007, The Metanoia Project has provided food, shelter, clothing, showers, and resources to thousands of men and women in Northeast Ohio while aiming to break the cycle of homelessness and respond creatively to systemic gaps.
Where Does the Name Come From?
The word “metanoia” is a Greek word meaning “a reversal in thinking”, or “a transformative change of heart”.
Rather than simply giving out clothing, resources, and food to the community, The Metanoia Project aims to tackle the deeper rooted issues that contribute to the cycle of homelessness. They want to form relationships, build trust, and provide opportunities for those in poverty to change their lives around.
What Inspired The Metanoia Project?
In 2007, the commander of the 2nd Cleveland Police District brought a group of community activists together to come up with a solution to a growing problem. A large population of homeless men and women seemed to prefer to sleep outside rather than enter the shelter system. For a variety of reasons, many of these community members were living and sleeping outside during the cold Cleveland winter and were putting themselves at risk for a variety of dangers, including an almost inevitable death.
Because many of these community members felt like an “outsider” in their own town, the group of activists came up with the idea of an overnight hospitality center that could provide food, shelter, and resources while also building trust and focusing on the individual as a person.
Since 2007, The Metanoia Project has grown significantly and is open for shelter out of St. Malachi Parish 3 nights per week during the winter months (Mid-November through Mid-April) and provides personal outreach to the homeless community throughout the summer.
Dining with Dignity
During the cold season, generally November-April, 22 staff members are employed at The Metanoia Project as the needs are the greatest throughout the community. Every night that they’re able to provide shelter, (usually Friday-Sunday with additional nights as permitted), the evening begins with a hot meal prepared and served by volunteers. These volunteers not only serve the food, but they’re also encouraged to spend time meeting and talking with the guests throughout the evening.
In addition to a hot meal, every guest is given the opportunity to participate in a “healing room” activity. These activities are led by volunteers “who create an environment that is informal yet personal with camaraderie, encouragement, and support for one another” to discuss daily challenges and anxieties.
There are also a variety of representatives from resource agencies throughout Northeast Ohio offering job-training, addiction recovery, housing resources, and more to those in attendance.
Although The Metanoia Project is able to provide food and resources for many members of the community, the most utilized service is the “Hospitality Center”, which provides shelter during the winter months. Due to the safety concerns and capacity of St. Malachi Parish, they’re forced to turn many people away after meal time. During the 2018-2019 season, they were feeding an average of 140 people per night and hosting an average of 110 guests at the Hospitality Center, where they were originally capable of serving just 50. Future plans include expansion to an additional facility where they could cater more comfortably to the needs of additional community members.
During the summer month’s, shelter isn’t as desired by many members of the homeless community. Instead, The Metanoia Project sends members of their staff to campsites, bridges, and alleyways to connect them with a variety of resources available in the area. Outreach workers are trained to connect people with any resource in the city that someone in poverty might need- from clothing and housing to benefits and treatment.
Behind the Scenes
Megan Crow, Executive Director of The Metanoia Project, has worked for the organization for five years and is one of two full-time staff members employed during the spring and summer season (mid-April to mid-November).
Previously employed at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Megan’s passion shines through when talking about Metanoia’s mission of forming authentic, mutually transforming relationships with the homeless community. “We really focus on being able to tackle the cycle of homelessness, the thinking, the deeper rooted problems that are associated with poverty”, she explains, “Teach a man to fish, he’ll have fish for a lifetime. Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day.”
How to Help
For every meal provided by The Metanoia Project, most of the food is provided by a group of volunteers who also assist in preparing and serving the meal. “We would be lost without our volunteers”, Megan says. Interesting in volunteering? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteering isn’t the only way to help the cause. According to the website, it costs approximately $1,000 per night to open the doors with just the cost of staff and rent. You can make a donation online HERE or donate a variety of supplies listed on the Wish List as well.
To learn more about The Metanoia Project, visit their website at www.metanoiaproject.org.