May 5, 2023 - News

Cuyahoga County executive supports homeless youth drop-in center

Black and white image of the proposed youth drop-in center building at 4100 Franklin Blvd. in Cleveland

The proposed homeless youth drop-in center on Franklin Boulevard. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

David Merriman, who heads Cuyahoga County's Department of Health and Human Services, says he's confident plans for a homeless youth drop-in center in Ohio City will succeed.

Catch up quick: O'Leary is suing Cleveland's Board of Zoning Appeals, attempting to reverse a variance allowing the building at 4100 Franklin to change its approved use to a daytime shelter.

What they're saying: During a panel discussion Wednesday evening, Merriman affirmed support for the drop-in center at the highest levels of county government.

  • "On the day this project came before the Board of Control, [county executive] Chris Ronayne was on the phone jockeying for votes," Merriman said, "making sure there were enough people to support it and keep it moving forward."

State of play: The Board of Control agreed to contribute $250,000 in federal pandemic funding toward the $1.5 million project, but the county council has delayed that contribution until the legal battle is resolved.

  • Per the court docket, a phone conference with all parties is scheduled for Monday.

The latest: The City Club panel at the Happy Dog, moderated by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless' Chris Knestrick and featuring Merriman and local homeless service providers, highlighted the racial and identity disparities among young people experiencing homelessness.

By the numbers: Of the 553 young adults who sought emergency housing in Cuyahoga County in 2022, 80% were Black, 40% had a disability and 30% identified as LGBTQ+.

The bottom line: In a Q&A, one resident asked the panelists to respond to concerns voiced by the opposition that the youth seeking services at the drop-in center would bring crime to the neighborhood.

  • "The young people we serve are actually more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetuating them," said Christie Sozio, associate director of A Place 4 Me at the YWCA of Greater Cleveland.

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