by Chuck Hoven (Plain Press, July 2016) The Cleveland Housing Network in partnership with Eden Inc. hopes to secure financing to build permanent supportive housing for the homeless at the site of the former Brooklyn YMCA at 3881 Pearl Road. The proposal hinges on securing Low Income Tax Credits from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. Other possible sources of funds include the City County HOME funds, and funds from the Ohio Mental Health Finance Agency, says Project Manager Jillian Watson of the Cleveland Housing Network.
Irene Collins, Executive Director of EDEN, says the application to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency is due in February of 2017 and awards announcements are in June of 2017. If the financing is awarded, they hope to begin construction in 2018 for a grand opening in the summer of 2019, she said.
Adam Stalder, Managing Director of the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office says the former Brooklyn YMCA building which closed in 2007, was condemned last year. He said the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has secured title to the property and has agreed to provide $100,000 toward the $350,000 demolition cost.
Cleveland Housing Network and EDEN Inc staff joined with staff of FrontlLine Services to make a presentation of their plans at a May 26th community meeting. The meeting was held at South Pointe Commons, 3323 W. 25th, a permanent supportive housing facility managed by EDEN Inc.
The proposal for the Brooklyn YMCA property calls for 66 units of permanent supportive housing to be built in a $12-million newly constructed building on the site of the former Brooklyn YMCA. Kate Monter Durban, Assistant Director of the Cleveland Housing Network, explained that proposed apartment building would be part of Cuyahoga County’s Housing First initiative which is about halfway to its goal of creating 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing for single individuals in Cuyahoga County that are chronically homeless.
Monter Durban says that chronic homelessness in Cuyahoga County has declined by 73% since 2006, largely due to the efforts to create permanent supportive housing through the Housing First initiative. As a result, Cleveland has far less homelessness than other cities, said Monter Durban. She said the success of the model which provides social services as well as housing is evident in that “less than 2%” of the residents of the permanent supportive housing return to homelessness.”
Monter Durban explained that providing permanent supportive housing is not only the humanitarian thing to do, but also saves the taxpayers and funders of homeless services significant dollars. She said providing services to the chronically homeless is expensive. They make high use of Emergency Rooms and are often in need of long term psychiatric services. She said 80% of the resources available for the homeless go to serve the 20% of the homeless population that is chronically homeless.
Under the proposed plan Cleveland Housing Network and EDEN would jointly develop and own the property. EDEN, which operates a number of permanent supportive housing sites in Cleveland would serve as the project manager. FrontLine Service, which has a history of working with the homeless population, would help provide social services. The Veterans Administration would also be involved in providing services to residents, as many of the chronically homeless are also veterans.
Monter Durban said the meeting was being held at South Pointe because it is a permanent supportive housing facility similar to what is being proposed for the Brooklyn YMCA site. Those present were invited to tour the first floor of facility. The tour included the laundry room which has six washers and five dryers; an exercise room, public restrooms, staff offices, Veterans Administration case management office; and the front desk. The tour guide explained that the front desk is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The first two shifts are staffed by Eden Inc. staff and the evening shift is staffed by a security company. There are security cameras for both the inside and outside of the facility and persons wishing to gain access to the building have to be let in by staff at the front desk.
Staff at the facility include social service case managers, a program coordinator, and a life skills specialist. Frontline Services staff provide additional help beyond that of the building’s staff including help such as working to help get birth certificates for residents and applying for food stamps or trips to the Social Security office. In total, including four row houses behind the main building, South Pointe provides 82 units of permanent supportive housing.
The tour also included the apartment of a tenant who had graciously agreed to show her apartment. EDEN staff explained that residents are provided with a bed, chair, kitchen table & chair, microwave, refrigerator, stove and television. They are also provided with a move in kit that includes dishes, towels, cleaning supplies, etc. If the resident has no income, case managers will help replenish their supplies, if they have income, they pay for their own. Residents can stay as long as they want. The tenant volunteer proudly displayed her apartment she had furnished with a creative artistic touch.
The majority of residents in attendance at the meeting seemed impressed with the quality of services offered at South Pointe. Staff members gave a number of examples how permanent supportive housing has transformed the lives of residents. One statistic shared concerned employment of residents living in permanent supportive housing. EDEN Executive Director Collins said when moving into permanent supportive housing about 3% of residents are employed, after a year as residents that figure rises to about 20% being employed.
A resident inquired whether a private developer interested in market rate housing on the site might be able to make a project work if given a lean free property with $100,000 toward the demolition cost. Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization Executive Director Jeff Ramsey noted the property has been vacant for ten years and said “nobody is chomping at the bit” to develop the site.