December 18, 2017

Housing First on pace to end long-term homelessness in Cuyahoga County by 2020

Housing First, a collaboration of community organizations in Cuyahoga County, recently announced that it is on pace to end long-term homelessness in the county by 2020. When construction of its $12.9-million apartment building in Brooklyn Centre is completed at the end of 2019, Cuyahoga County will have developed enough permanent supportive housing in the community to serve all individuals and families with disabilities who are struggling with long-term homelessness. The number of apartments that will be developed is projected to be sufficient in meeting these needs in future years.

The Housing First collaborative formed in 2002 in response to the hundreds of individuals with disabilities in Cuyahoga County who were living on the streets or in shelters for more than a year. To address this crisis, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland (SOCF), in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners and the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services, brought the evidence-based, national model of permanent supportive housing to Cleveland. This model links decent, safe, affordable housing with on-site flexible, voluntary support services designed to help an individual stay housed and live a more productive life in the community.

Housing First serves individuals with disabilities who have been homeless for at least one year, or at least four episodes totaling 12 months of homelessness in the past three years. These individuals comprise about 20% of Cuyahoga County’s overall homeless population, but before moving into the housing, these individuals utilized about 70% of community emergency resources when cycling in and out of shelters, jails, emergency rooms and the streets.

Housing First’s main operating partners Enterprise Community Partners, CHN Housing Partners (formerly Cleveland Housing Network), EDEN, Inc. and FrontLine Service have been in the forefront of this initiative, reducing long-term homelessness in the Cuyahoga County by 86% during the past 10 years. Care Alliance Health Center is Housing First’s healthcare partner, providing mobile healthcare and mental health services to residents.

Susanna H. Krey, President of SOCF, a lead funder of Housing First, noted that the Housing First approach is unique because it offers rent-subsidized permanent housing and on-site access to medical care, mental health, recovery, and employment services for as long as a resident chooses to live there. Housing First serves those who are experiencing the highest barriers to housing stability – seniors, veterans, and those struggling with severe mental illness and/or substance use.

“Our approach is different because we fundamentally believe every person deserves the dignity and permanency of a home. We are gratified by Housing First’s success and remain committed to supporting this work well into the future, even after the last building is constructed,” Krey said. “The keys to the front door are just the first step. These are the most vulnerable among our neighbors, and we need to make sure they have the ongoing medical and social supports necessary to ensure stability for the rest of their lives.”

Mark McDermott, Vice President and Ohio Market Leader for Enterprise Community Partners, said Housing First saves the community nearly $7 million a year because its residents are no longer straining costly safety-net services, such as emergency room visits, psychiatric stays, or incarceration. “We have proven that when you can provide a stable home to our neighbors who have the highest needs, it’s better for everyone. It’s certainly better for the person who finds the dignity and comfort of having a permanent roof over his or her head, it’s better for the network of social services agencies, and it’s better for our community,” he said. “Few of us know what it’s like to live on the streets or be in a shelter for months or even years. In that situation, you don’t know what your future is going to be. Now, hundreds of our neighbors know they will have a stable future because of this effective partnership.”

Through a unique collaboration of organizations, Housing First serves individuals in the following ways:

  • FrontLine Service outreach staff work in the shelters and on the streets to offer the most vulnerable individuals an option for housing.
  • Upon agreeing to housing, EDEN Inc., the property manager, helps establish residents in a furnished apartment that was built in partnership with CHN Housing Partners.
  • FrontLine Service helps residents access the supportive services they need to stabilize, including connecting them to benefits, employment assistance, case management, therapy, substance-use counseling, and life-skills training.
  • Through a mobile health clinic staffed by Care Alliance and FrontLine Services, residents have access to on-site integrated behavioral and medical healthcare.

Recently, Housing First’s Commons at West Village, a collaboration between CHN Housing Partners and EDEN, Inc., was selected as the winner of the 2017 National Development Council (NDC) NDC Academy Award. This $13-million project is funded through Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) with investment from Key Community Development Corporation, and is supported through funds from the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, State of Ohio, Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Program, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the local Continuum of Care and a grant from Home Depot. (Editor’s Note: photos of the Commons at West Village are available in the media kit.)

Construction will be completed at the end of 2019 on the Emerald Alliance IX building in Brooklyn Centre. When completed, Housing First will have 781 apartments throughout Cuyahoga County. It will be Housing First’s 13th building and will cap an investment of more than $131 million into Cuyahoga County neighborhoods since Housing First began.

About Housing First: Housing First is a community partnership that provides permanent supportive housing to end long-term homelessness in Cuyahoga County. Housing First targets the most vulnerable among us – individuals who have experienced at least a total of one year of homelessness and who have one or more documented disabilities. Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, Enterprise Community Partners, FrontLine Service, EDEN, Inc, CHN Housing Partners, Cuyahoga County, and City of Cleveland are key partners in Housing First.

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