Homeless to Homes Plan
A comprehensive plan for the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio to ensure single homeless individuals have access to appropriate shelter facilities and comprehensive services which facilitate their movement from homelessness to permanent housing.
The Homeless to Homes Plan represents a significant shift in the way our community responds to homelessness.
In the fall of 2008, Cincinnati City Council directed Strategies to End Homelessness, Inc. (formerly the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care for the Homeless, Inc.) to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure that homeless individuals would have access to appropriate shelter facilities and comprehensive services to facilitate their movement to permanent housing. Homeless to Homes, which was adopted by Cincinnati City Council in 2009, provides a comprehensive framework within which to work to ensure that homeless individuals receive the best possible services. In 2009, Cincinnati City Council also tasked Strategies to End Homelessness with implementing the Homeless to Homes Plan.
- Improved quality of services to move individuals out of homelessness quickly. The longer a person remains homeless, the harder it is to stabilize his/her housing.
- Targeted services specific to the individual’s gender, age, or special needs, with reduced reliance on emergency shelter alone. Services such as case management, mental health assessment and intervention, substance abuse assessment and treatment, combined with shelter to end homelessness.
- An ambitious increase in transitional and permanent supportive housing, rather than an increase in emergency shelter beds.
- Recommendations that would make better use of existing funding resources.
Involvement of Key Stakeholders
For the first time, everyone involved in the effort is “on the same page” regarding how the community should address homelessness. More than 90 individuals, representing the top leadership of City and County government, housing and human service providers, philanthropists and funders, the faith community, and the business community committed hundreds of hours to work to design a system to better serve Cincinnati’s homeless citizens.
Cincinnati is the only community in the country that has a 100% participation rate by service providers in our Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). As a result, the people developing the plan had at their fingertips real numbers of homeless people, client ages, race and gender, special needs, and other meaningful information. This data was the foundation of their work and continues to inform planning decisions.
The Homeless to Homes Plan Addresses Six Areas of Concern:
The plan does not call for an increase in the number of emergency shelter beds, but does recommend a dramatic reconfiguration of existing shelter capacity, combined with an increase in the targeted services necessary to move people out of homelessness. The plan calls for smaller, more specialized facilities such as a shelter for young adults aged 18-24, and a facility designed to serve single women only.
Since City Council’s endorsement and adoption of the plan, many shelter recommendations have been implemented: The Drop Inn Center has reconfigured its capacity into smaller dorms within the larger shelter; Lighthouse Youth Services has constructed the Lighthouse on Highland facility, which will open on January 30, 2012; The YWCA will operate the women’s shelter and is far along in the process of site selection, architectural design and planning; The City Gospel Mission is preparing to relocate and expand its services. All of these initiatives were triggered by recommendations within the plan.
Emergency Shelter Program, Operations and Facility Accreditation Standards
The Emergency Shelter Program, Operations and Facility Standards were drawn and adapted from the Homeless to Homes plan and all emergency shelter facilities receiving public funding are expected to be in alignment with the City approved recommendations. Strategies to End Homelessness monitors the facilities annually and reports to the City of Cincinnati Department of Community Development.
The plan calls for an increase in the number of transitional housing units, from 229 to 456 beds. The creation of more transitional housing (both scattered-site and site-based) allows emergency shelters to serve those who need short-term assistance. Transitional housing provides longer-term support for people who need additional help to make the transition from homelessness to independent living.
City Gospel Mission will add transitional housing capacity when it moves to a new facility. Additionally, in 2011, HUD awarded Continuum of Care funding for 90 transitional housing units to the YWCA and Lighthouse Youth Services.
Permanent Supportive Housing
The plan calls for an additional 1,020 units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), housing which incorporates supportive services designed to support a homeless person’s ability to live independently.
To achieve the creation of 1,020 units, the plan recommends the development of a minimum of 125 site-based and 79 scattered-site PSH units per year for each of the next five years.
Currently, National Church Residences, a leading national developer of PSH, is working with Strategies to End Homelessness to develop a 100-unit facility. Also, the Dennison Hotel is being redeveloped to provide 63 units of PSH. The Jimmy Heath House, with 25 units of PSH for chronically homeless individuals, opened in December 2010. 80 additional PSH units were funded through our 2010 HUD Continuum of Care application: 45 at Anna Louise Inn, 20 at Center for Respite Care, and 15 at Tender Mercies. Other new PSH units, included in our community’s 2011 HUD Continuum of Care application, could be awarded funding as soon as March 2012.
The plan acknowledges that supportive services play a critical role in moving homeless individuals from the streets and shelter into housing, and therefore calls for a higher level of service delivery. Without these service improvements, it would be very difficult to end homelessness in our community.
A foundational improvement in service delivery is already in motion. The Central Access Point, a centralized intake system and referral phone line for homeless families has expanded to include calls for homeless prevention programs and shelter for single individuals as well. The plan calls for the expansion of CAP into a system-wide resource for connecting homeless people with the most appropriate services. Other service improvements include a call to improve the case manager ratio to one to ten, and for better assessment services for mental health and substance abuse issues.
Local funders working on the Homeless to Homes Funding Committee called for a more strategic and collaborative local funding process. Recommendations include alignment of funding by local grant makers for programs within the plan, a coordinated request process, and a call for all funders to use the same measurements and outcomes for all projects.
The funding committee is working with 3CDC to develop a coordinated capital funding request for the development of the specialized emergency shelters. A second committee effort is the creation of a Strategic Fund to End Homelessness; this would serve as a flexible funding source for projects that have already secured major funding, but are not moving forward because of particular funding restrictions. Such gap funding would provide the final piece of a project’s funding, allowing it to become a reality. Members of the committee include representatives of the United Way, The Haile Foundation, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the City of Cincinnati, Christ Church Cathedral, PNC Bank, and the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.