Transitional Shelters Will Disappear--82 Beds Lost

The Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board voted this week to eliminate funding for a number of transitional housing shelters in Cleveland.  Only three individuals (including the two NEOCH appointed representatives) voted against this plan.  It is another march toward elimination of the transitional shelters in America and a huge loss for Cuyahoga County. 

The feds created this situation by authorizing only 85% of the funding need to renew all the shelter and homeless housing programs in the community.  The 15% would have to compete against all the other programs in the so-called "Tier 2."  This second tier programs will only get 1 point for supportive services such as outreach, education or alcohol services.  Transitional shelters get 3 points while housing programs or rental assistance get 10 points in this second tier.  Communities will be forced to prioritize housing programs or risk losing in the competition and thus losing that 15%.  Cuyahoga County officials have decided to use all the below funding for rental assistance.  In 2016, youth and singles will be eligible for rental assistance while today only seniors and families are eligible. 

The above chart shows the programs that will be eliminated. Keep in mind that one year of rental assistance is worth about $6,000 per person.  The reason that the feds and the County staff do not like transitional programs because they are too expensive when compared to the success rate and there are too many people who fail out of the program.  You can see those two issues reflected above. 

What does this mean for Cleveland?  At this time the women and family system is a disaster with long waits for housing and the women's shelter extremely overcrowded.  Why are things so bad? In my opinion it is because we shut down all the transtional programs for women and families. We lost East Side Catholic, Family Transitional, THI, Continue Life, Triumph House and the County funded programs at Hitchcock and University Settlement.  Now the five women/family shelters are clogged beyond what should be discussed in County administration building. Note to Conwell check it out any night at 10 p.m.ar 1722 Payne Ave. 

Y-Haven will find additional assistance from the Medicaid System to preserve the program.  Joseph's Home and PASS are going to get additional funding from the County to preserve those beds.  The Transitional Shelter for males age 18 to 24 will lose public support and the Railton House Transitional Shelter will also lose the support.  This will mean that 82 transitional beds are on the short list to be lost in 2016.  Unless the Volunteers of America and Salvation Army can find additional funds to keep these facilities open, it will be a huge blow to the men's programs.  Transitional beds are beds that turnover.  Permanent beds do not.  It will cause the kind of backup that the women are experience at Norma Herr. If this plan is accepted by the feds, we will have more money for rental assistance.

Brian Davis

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Rest in Peace: Transitional Shelters

We had a presentation from the consultant the County hired in July about the changes that are taking place with regard to the Department of Housing and Urban Development funding and the rules associated with receiving funds from the federal government.  Suzanne Wagner, a national consultant and huge cheerleader for Permanent Supportive Housing, came to Cleveland to tell us that the time is up for transitional programs.  The studies have all been done, the research is complete and the transitional programs are too expensive and keep people homeless for too long.  So get ready to convert the transitional shelters to something else.

We have steadily moved forward with this plan to eliminate transitional programs by de-funding all the transitional beds for women.  Some of those units were transformed into permanent supportive housing with the optimum word permanent.  While the average  transitional bed may turn over once or twice a year, the average PSH bed turns over once or twice every 10 to 15 years.   If these beds are not replaced it creates a back up on the front end of the shelters.  We have steadily lost transitional beds while steadily increasing the number of overflow or temporary beds locally. 

Yes, there are studies that show PSH are more economic for the community, but they do not compare apples to apples with regard to transitional programs.  They never factor in the capital cost of building a permanent housing unit when compared to the transitional shelters.  They do not factor in that the homeless pool of resources is not growing and yet the homeless programs have to slice the pie thinner and thinner.  We have to pay the housing costs of those in PSH every year with homeless funding along with all the other "priorities" we are mandated to serve coming out of Washington.  We have to prioritize family homelessness and youth homeless while our money is all going to Permanent Supportive housing which neither youth nor families typically qualify for.  In 2015, we spent 83% of the federal homeless dollars on Permanent Supportive Housing according to Cuyahoga County with a similar budget as we had in 2005.

Facility                                                  Monthly Cost                                 Yearly Costs

  • Emergency shelter costs                   $5,000                                        $26,800
  • Transitional Housing                         $2,700                                        $32,500
  • Rapid Rehousing                               $880                                           $6,500

This was distributed by Wagonner and comes from the HUD Family Option Study July 2015.  Again the problem is that this does not factor the cost of building these units and it does not factor in the loss of housing vouchers in the community that support these projects.  These vouchers were previously used to support a broad cross section of low income people.  Now, they are confined to a limited population in a geographically small area.

The problem with all of this is that 20 years ago, we heard from similar consultants who came to Cleveland telling us how great transitional programs can be for the community.  They said, "Look, your alcohol, drug and mental health programs are failing you, and so you need to create alternatives locally where people have the time to find the treatment they need."  They told us that transitional programs are a "game changer" and will significantly reduce homeless.  Our advocates at the time in the community said, "Okay, lets try it."  We invested in nearly 1,000 units of transitional housing in the community to ease people out of homelessness into housing.  The big issues were that they screened many out of joining the program (so does the PSH program), and they kept people for a longer period of time than was necessary (but no where near permanently!).  We needed these beds in our community for people with big issues.  The transitional shelters were slow in preparing the bed when a person left but they became an integral part of our response to homelessness.   It was confusing if these beds should be under the landlord tenant law since many lived there longer than the typical lease, but many found the help they needed in a transitional program.  Instead of fixing these shortfalls, HUD and Cuyahoga County are moving to eliminate public funding for transitional shelters. 

In November 2015, Cuyahoga County will declare "functional zero" in the number of homeless veterans.  So, this has to be considered a victory and we should use the lessons we learned from "solving" veteran's homelessness.  The Veterans Administration never moved away from transitional shelters and we have many veteran only transitional beds still in the community.  They were a strong part of the response to vets struggling with PTSD or traumatic brain disorders.  They were important for veterans in recovery or those with long term health issues.  We had a diverse number and type of programs available to homeless veterans.  Some transitional programs were tied to employment opportunities, some were tied to their health issue and other transitional programs were within HUD funded programs.  The system obviously worked since we are declaring victory.  Why is HUD forcing people to fit into these narrowly constructed programs?

Aren't there 700 people in the community who would benefit and would be better citizens if they had time to recover in a transitional program?  We need a diverse response to homelessness, because our society is diverse.  We need rental assistance for some, transitional for others, legal help for some and shelter for others.  One size does not fit all in the homeless community.  Say goodbye to the transitional shelters which are already gone in Chicago and Columbus.   It was nice while it lasted, but they have been declared obsolete by HUD and the County.  Those with a disability who may need a longer time to get stable are out of luck unless they stay homeless for a year and have the "right" kind of disability. 

Brian Davis

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WCPN Looks At Homeless Youth in Cleveland

A nice portrait (not of any of the guests on WCPN) by David HaganFrom The Sound of Ideas episode on July 9th, 2015 with Mike McIntyre, Tasha Jones, Gary Stanger, Robert L. Fischer, Kate Lodge, and Angela D’Orazio

A link to the story http://www.ideastream.org/programs/sound-of-ideas/plan-young-adults-aging-out-foster-care

Recently, on WCPN’s The Sound of Ideas, a discussion was hosted on aging out of foster care and youth homelessness. Mike McIntyre hosted five members of the community related to poverty and homelessness, including a homeless youth by the name of Tasha Jones, Gary Stanger of Jim Casey Youth Opportunities, Robert L. Fischer of CWRU, Kate Lodge of A Place 4 Me Initiative, and Angela D’Orazio of the Sisters of Charity Foundation. 

Tasha was a foster child, who aged out of the foster care system, and at graduation she found herself homeless with nowhere to go.  Sadly, this is the story for many young people locally. Every year 120 teens age out of foster care in the area, and CWRU’s studies show that these youth are five times more likely to be homeless.  Tasha found herself staying at family member’s house, and then living in bus shelters.  Though Tasha points out that homelessness is technically defined as being registered under a shelter or on the streets, but does not count those who stay with friends in basements or on couches.  Eventually, Tasha found herself at a woman’s shelter in Cleveland, but was not there often due to being in school at the Cuyahoga County Community College.  After a month at the shelter, Tasha was lucky enough to meet Kate Lodge and received a place at a transitional housing unit.

Tasha talked about her difficulty getting food while staying at the Women's Shelter with her Tri-C class schedule.  "I wasn't eating, I did not eat for almost two months,"  according to Tasha.  She could not get the shelter staff to save her a dinner because she got back in the evening and she was in class during lunch.  Breakfast was too late and dinner was too early for Tasha to be able to get food at the shelter. She suggested that the shelters need to work with the people on their specific issues and not force people to work around the shelter's schedule.  She was taking classes so she did not have money to buy food, and she was starving all the time. Thanks to the people at the Tri-C foodbank for intervening and figuring out that Tasha was not getting enough food. 

Despite Tasha having a hard time, Gary Stanger mentions how many youth are not even as lucky as Tasha to meet the right people to get into programs. He also notes that the technical definition of homelessness does not really count the numerous youth that are going from place to place. He goes on to state, “when they [young people] show up to the shelter that means that they ran out of friends.” 

When asked about increased funding, D’Orazio notes that funders are focusing on coordination between groups to see how their results turn out.  With continued planning, a strategy has developed among many agencies and there is an important need to show those funding programs where they fit in the strategy. 

Fischer studies poverty and in his research has found that among the homeless youth only those unaccompanied by a guardian are counted.  So, in actuality, the number is much higher.  Also, the numbers show that, in the area, 95% of unaccompanied youth are 18-24 and 85% are African-American.  The average homeless youth is 20 years-old and 81% of the unemployed homeless youth are actively search for a job.  As for LGBTQ youth, the numbers are staggering.  Fischer mentions that about one third of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer.

Later, the discussion shifts to transitional housing and permanent supportive housing.  Kate Lodge makes the argument that, though funding is shifting from transitional to supportive, transitional housing is pivotal for the youth.  She goes on to mention the importance of living in a college dorm for many youth and how that shapes them for the future.  To Lodge, transitional housing helps to provide a similar effect for homeless youth, while also providing a safe place to live.  

by Dan the intern

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