SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — With temperatures across northeast Ohio expected to drop to zero over the weekend in a colder-than-average winter, agencies serving the homeless are focused on organizing shelter for those who sleep outside.
To that end, a Summit County pilot program is underway to expand housing services, launched by Access Inc., a homeless shelter for women and children.
The pilot Services-Expansion Program was created in partnership with the city of Akron and the Summit County Continuum of Care (CoC), a multi-agency organization offering an array of services for the homeless. Access Inc. operates in partnership with the CoC.
The Access pilot program will provide people without homes housing in hotels when local shelters are at capacity, or accessible rooms are all taken but are in need, the agency said in a release. It was funded through Sept. 30 with CARES Act money.
To further increase housing options for the homeless, the CoC is looking for landlords who have available units and can house the homeless.
The organization is offering a sign-on bonus of $3,000, along with a bonus for each leased unit. Money is also available to cover damage to the units and for rental loss, the CoC said. Interested landlords should call 330-803-2431, or send an email.
“Within eight days of opening the program, we were at capacity — affirming the tremendous need for this service in our community,” Access Inc. Executive Director Jackie Helmsworth said of the pilot program.
People who use the pilot program will be able to stay in a safe place until permanent housing is found and be able to use Access Inc. services, such as life management, health and wellness services.
All referrals for the pilot program will come through the United Way of Summit County’s 2-1-1 referral line.
“A ‘Housing First’ approach is the best way to help those experiencing homelessness break that cycle and get into safer and more stable living situations,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan. “Ensuring that every woman and every child in Akron has a safe, warm place to stay is crucial to that mission."
In addition to Access Inc., the CoC is composed of about 30 partner organizations, such as the Battered Women's Shelter, United Way, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and others, all offering programs and support services that help individuals and families at risk of becoming homeless.
Each year, the CoC distributes about $5 million to the member agencies to help ensure homeless people are moved into housing with appropriate levels of support for the individual’s specific needs in an attempt to keep them from returning to the streets.
According to the CoC’s 2019-2020 homelessness report, nearly 6,000 people in Summit County received services through CoC agencies, including more than1,300 children.
The annual point-in-time count, which the CoC conducts each January, revealed 546 people were homeless in Summit County, with 450 sheltered and 87 unsheltered. Those numbers show a 36% decrease from the PIT count in 2010, the CoC said.
The CoC’s offerings of housing assistance are not one size fits all.
Housing ranges from emergency shelter overnight to three-months long, to permanent supporting housing, which is long-term, community-based housing with services for homeless people with disabilities. Rapid rehousing is also available, quickly connecting homeless people with permanent housing and a tailored package of services.