LIMA — The case to spend $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant dollars on supportive family housing gained some backing during Lima City Council’s meeting of the whole Monday night.
Altogether, five councilors voiced support for the spending after seeking more details about the proposed project. Initially categorized as an isolation and quarantine facility, subsequent conversations have since laid out how a dozen social service agencies in the city are hoping to leverage the proposed $500,000 as seed money to create a 14- to 16-unit development to be used to support families in need.
As West Ohio Community Action Partnership CEO Jackie Fox explained, the problem is that homeless families currently lack some of the support systems necessary to break cycles of poverty. By creating two- to three-bedroom housing units for such families, WOCAP would save itself money in the long term and provide better services instead of relying on hotel stay assistance and Family Promise, which feeds families and houses them in church spaces in the evenings.
“There are no supportive housing units for families in Lima or in the region, frankly,” Fox said. “Typically, they get rental assistance from us, and when that runs out for the specific family, then they are on their own.”
Fox said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation. According to numbers provided by Fox, WOCAP served 457 families in a two-month time period last year. In a typical year, WOCAP provides roughly 200 families with either rental assistance or rapid housing relief meant to help those dealing with or on the edge of eviction.
Of the eight council members, Jamie Dixon, Peggy Ehora, Todd Gordon, Carla Thompson and Tony Wilkerson voiced their support for the project.
Gordon said he had some prior experiences working with homeless families through Family Promise, and he gave the project his support by emphasizing that this was one of the rare times council’s actions could help those in need directly.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us as city councilors to step up and do something for our community that will improve the community … ” Gordon said. “How often do we get to do something for human beings?”
Along similar lines, Wilkerson said he didn’t see much of a reason to vote against the project as the $500,000 that requires council approval doesn’t directly affect city budgets, is set to tackle one of the proposed solutions set aside in the city’s housing report and also helps families and businesses.
“I’m not seeing an issue here,” Wilkerson said.
As for rest of council, Councilor Jon Neeper questioned the need for such a development as it will be finished long after the pandemic is over, and Councilor Jon Nixon voiced his opposition against the ordinance. Councilor Derry Glenn did not attend the meeting.
In past meetings, there had also been some questions about the city’s future financial responsibility toward the project. Tammie Colon, CEO of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board in Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties, said that project partners Coleman Professional Services would ultimately own the project and had not required additional funds from spending partners during similar project developments.
Lima City Council is expected to vote on the issue for the third and last time next Monday night during its regularly-scheduled meeting. The ordinance, which also funds local rental and business assistance, would require a simple majority to pass.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.