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Published: 10/5/2004

City board to address homelessness issues

Agencies dealing with homelessness in Toledo will go through a newly created board instead of the city administration if they want to tap more than $1 million the city provides for such programs.

Officials said yesterday the new, 25-member board will be an independent partnership between local government, businesses, churches, and the private sector.

Louis Escobar, president of Toledo City Council and former executive director of Adelante Inc., said the board was created to help these agencies work together, streamline services, and address homelessness on a regional basis.

Mr. Escobar said the board is modeled after a similar board in the Columbus area that serves Franklin County. Matt White, a consultant from Columbus who helped set up that board, worked as a consultant in creating the Toledo board.

"[The board] will get rid of the politics and get rid of pitting neighborhood against neighborhood and agency against agency," said Mr. White, who attended the news conference. "Everyone will be working together, communicating with each other to provide the best services."

Veronica Burkhardt, a program monitor with the city of Toledo, said the board will be the advocate for agencies and organizations serving the homeless when the city doles out federal community development block grant money each year.

Ms. Burkhardt said the city gave out roughly $1.24 million to social service agencies, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters last year through CDBG grants.

Maja Reed, executive director of the Family Outreach Community United Services (FOCUS), Inc., said the board will represent agencies and people who are most familiar with the homeless problem in Toledo. She said these organizations, by working together, will be able to collaborate so money can be used more efficiently.

She said agencies could experience a savings by collaboration. Ms. Reed said, though, the structure of the board and many of the details have yet to be worked out.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, a Lucas County commissioner whose office has been involved with a task force studying the homeless problem, said the board will be charged with several tasks.

She said part of the board's duties will include developing a strategic plan for homeless services, developing and monitoring standards for those services, tracking homeless clients, promoting program development, researching model programs, and improving public awareness.

Mayor Jack Ford expressed his personal connection with the issue because he has a relative who is homeless in Toledo.

"I believe Toledo is big enough of a small town to put its arms around [homelessness]," Mr. Ford said. "In five to seven years, we can get a handle on most of it."

Ms. Escobar said the board will have representatives from companies like DaimlerChrysler, Dana Corp., city and county government, and community members. He said the board will also have representatives from the Toledo Area Alliance to End Homelessness.

The Alliance is a coalition of local social service agencies representing shelters, transitional and permanent housing, substance abuse, health, outreach, and homeless prevention services.



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