August 15, 2019
Every day, we work with many partners in the effort to end homelessness in Cuyahoga County. This is incredibly rewarding yet complex and challenging work across many systems. Sometimes we see stories on TV and social media that don’t quite capture the big picture and progress.
We want you to know about the many efforts in place to develop a coordinated Homeless Crisis Response System that ensures:
- all people experiencing homelessness in our community have access to safe, immediate shelter;
- clients are supported to find stable housing as quickly as possible;
- incidents of homelessness are prevented when possible.
Here are the facts:
No individual or family experiencing homelessness is ever “turned away” from shelter.
The Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services Coordinated Entry is the front door to emergency services and permanent housing for individuals and families with no safe place to sleep. An individual or family who visits coordinated entry in a time of crisis will be welcomed. There are no barriers – drug-related, mental health, behavioral or otherwise – that will prevent these individuals and families from receiving shelter within the publicly funded system while other solutions and interventions are being assessed. Persons seeking shelter will receive an assessment to understand their unique needs and determine the best plan for immediate shelter and long-term permanent housing. Coordinated entry is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at 1736 Superior Ave, on the second floor of the Bishop Cosgrove Center. After hours and on weekends, single adults and youth can go directly to the publicly funded adult shelters, 2100 Lakeside for Men and the Norma Herr Women’s Center for Women. Families are connected by 2-1-1 to a coordinated entry on-call staff person, available 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., and 24/7 on the weekends, for a phone assessment and immediate shelter placement if needed.
Almost 30 percent of families who come to coordinated entry can be diverted directly to stable housing rather than enter shelter.
When families go to coordinated entry, they have the opportunity to see a Diversion Specialist – a trained mediator equipped to support families facing a housing crisis. Together, the Diversion Specialist and family explore other options for safe housing so that the family does not have to enter shelter. Families who are not diverted will receive a shelter placement for that night. In some cases, families indicate that they don’t need a shelter bed that night and will instead be added to a list in case they find themselves in need in the near term. Many of the families on the list ultimately do not need a shelter placement, and are able to self-resolve without entering a homeless shelter.
The shelter system is an effective short-term support in times of crisis, but it is not a solution to ending homelessness.
No family experiencing homelessness wants to be in shelter, especially not for an extended period of time. This is a scenario that places undue trauma on families and children, and our goal is to help families find and maintain stable housing as quickly as possible. We know from years of research and practice that people – especially families and children – do better when they are in their own homes.
Homelessness cannot be solved in a vacuum.
It takes dozens of community partners, advocates, philanthropy and political leadership to support systemic change. The solution to homelessness doesn’t rest on the shoulder of any one funder, organization or system. It requires that we all think creatively about how best to leverage public resources to prevent homelessness for families at risk and to design well-resourced crisis responses systems to ensure that episodes of homelessness are as brief as possible for the sake of individuals, families and children. This is consistent with national best practice and guides the Sisters of Charity Foundation’s investments to end homelessness.
Relatedly, we cannot end homelessness until we address and fix its root causes—housing affordability, the lead crisis, structural racism and eviction laws are just a few.
We believe that housing is a basic human right that is essential to an individual and community’s wellbeing. It is critical to understand why we are seeing an increase in homelessness among families and go directly to the root of the problem. Alongside many partners in our community, we are pushing for solutions to these longstanding, systemic issues so that we can one day ensure that every person in Cuyahoga County has a safe, secure place to call home.
As partners in the work to end homelessness in Cuyahoga County, it is important that we move forward with interventions and investments based on facts and data. Accurate information enables us to discuss and consider homelessness and other community issues through an informed lens. Basing action on accurate information supports the important collaborative work of our community partner agencies.
Sincere thanks and kudos to all system leaders, including: Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services, Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services, Cuyahoga Job and Family Services, Enterprise Community Partners, Frontline Service, EDEN Inc., CHN Housing Partners and A Place 4 Me, as well as the many dedicated service providers who support individuals and families to access shelter and secure safe, stable housing.