Homelessness issues ramped up in region, Lima Housing Task Force learns


By Sam Shriver - sshriver@limanews.com



LIMA — The Lima Housing Task Force took up the issue of homelessness and housing instability at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

Meeting virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force heard a discussion by Tammie Colon with the Mental Health Recovery Services Board, Hellen Douglas from Family Promise, Jackie Fox from West Ohio Community Action Partnership and Russ Thomas from Connected Hope.

“We have been working with lots of partners for the past 10 years, and we’ve done a pretty good job of meeting the needs of clients in a very small way,” Fox said. “We do know how to end homelessness. We need affordable housing where you only spend 30% of your income on housing, and we need adequate income.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the homeless problem got worse.

“We found ourselves having a bigger problem because the shelters had to reduce the number of beds that they were having available, specifically the Rescue Mission. Churches did not offer services to Family Promise,” Fox said. “During that time, families could not double up, and we didn’t have any access to vaccines or anything like that, so we were getting more and more calls. Ultimately we decided on non-congregate shelters, which means we don’t mix families up, and we put them in hotels.”

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, adults with children make up 30% of the homeless population nationally.

“Sometimes we want to point fingers and say, ‘Well, if they would have done this and they would have done that, they wouldn’t be homeless,’ but we’ve certainly found that due to various reasons and a lot of that is just life, is one of the reasons that they have become homeless,” Douglas said.

Efforts have been made to locate the homeless and help them when they can.

“One of the things that Connect Hope does is we have a bus that we have supplies on, and we go out and connect with homeless folks in the community,” Thomas said. “We meet them where they’re at, give them supplies, build relationships and connect them to resources.”

WOCAP helps the homeless through its programs.

“What WOCAP does pretty well is the rapid rehousing piece of this,” Fox said. “Basically what we would do is that anyone that’s in a shelter or a hotel, or even staying in their car, we’ll be able to use our rent assistance program to get them into a place to stay.”

Their interim goal is to get the homeless into rental properties.

“What we’re paying right now, the average hotel stay is $500 a week, but if we can get these families into some kind of non-congregate housing then we’re paying by the month, so the average is approximately $600 a month,” Douglas said.

Ultimately the goal is to get them into permanent supportive housing.

“Keeping them in a hotel room or keeping them in the (rescue) mission, we have to really check ourselves as human beings as to how well any one of us could acquire all that we need in those environments, where we’re surrounded by other people,” Colon said. “We’re worried about our safety. We’re worried about whether or not it’s going to be overpopulated, whether we get in on time. We’ve got to entertain ourselves during the day because the shelters have to clear out.”

Funding for some supportive services will be ending soon, potentially making the problem even worse.

“The funding expires in June,” Fox said. “I will not be able to pay $13,000 a month to provide supportive services, and when we’re in hotels we need the supportive services to go with them. That’s really kind of daily checking in on clients, making sure that they behave themselves in the hotel, making sure that they have food.”

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By Sam Shriver

sshriver@limanews.com

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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