Feb 26, 2024 - News

City and county partner for new homelessness program

A photo of three leaders sitting at a table. L-R: Cleveland City Councilwoman Stephanie Howse-Jones, Cuyahoga County Exec Chris Ronayne, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb

From left to right, Cleveland Councilwoman Stephanie Howse-Jones, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne are once again putting their heads together to try and help solve a thorny regional problem, focusing this time on homelessness.

Why it matters: Roughly 500 unhoused people live in Cuyahoga County, per the county's most recent estimates.

  • Homelessness services are traditionally the province of the county government, which spends $14 million of health and human services levy dollars annually to fund the so-called continuum of care.

Driving the news: Alongside what Ronayne called an "army" of nonprofit partners, the two elected leaders on Friday announced "A Home For Every Neighbor," a new $2 million initiative funded by the city to help reduce homelessness in the region.

  • A request for proposals is now on the city's website seeking a partner to design and manage a program that aims to house 150 people in 18 months.

What they're saying: Bibb said he decided to dedicate some of the city's limited social service funding toward this project in part because of complaints he'd received from residents and business owners.

  • "What excites me most about this issue is that it's solvable," Bibb said, adding that 90% of unhoused people want to transition to housing if it's immediately available.

Reality check: Transitional housing largely hasn't been available.

Between the lines: Modeled after best practices in cities like Houston, Cleveland's task will be to diversify permanent supportive housing options, including by enlisting partner landlords and building new units on Cleveland-owned lots.

  • The city owns a comparatively large amount of land, said Emily Collins, Bibb's senior adviser on the initiative, and would use that to its advantage.

The bottom line: "I've had hard conversations where residents or business owners tell me [seeing unhoused people] makes them uncomfortable," said Cleveland Councilwoman Stephanie Howse-Jones. "And I say, 'if you're uncomfortable seeing it, imagine living it.'"

  • "What's being unveiled today is an opportunity to connect people with what every person deserves: a place to call home."
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