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20n6shelters Family House on Indiana Avenue is one of four federally funded shelters in the city overseen by the Toledo Lucas County Homeless-ness Board.
Family House on Indiana Avenue is one of four federally funded shelters in the city overseen by the Toledo Lucas County Homeless-ness Board.
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Published: Friday, 9/20/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Shelters asked to assist more people

Toledo homelessness board notes backlog of those seeking housing aid

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Nearly every bed at the four federally funded homeless shelters in Toledo — all of which had funding cuts earlier this year — is full, and those facilities have been asked to accommodate more people in common areas and on floors.

Additionally, people who work at those homeless shelters say there is a backlog of people waiting to be seen by “coordinated assessment counselors” and an even greater backlog to subsequently get shelter residents moved into transitional or permanent housing — both of which are handled by the United Way of Greater Toledo.

Tom Bonnington, executive director of the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board — the quasi public-private agency that oversees the area shelters — confirmed that he asked shelter directors to make more room and that he is aware of backlogs.

“We have people calling for service who we are unable to place in shelters,” Mr. Bonnington said. “We are always battling housing problems, funding, and the economy, so we are trying to get people into places.”

The affected shelters are Family House, 669 Indiana Ave; La Posada, 435 Eastern Ave., St. Paul’s Community Center, 230 13th St., and Beach House Family Shelter, 915 N. Erie St.

Beach House operates in a mansion built in 1867 on North Erie Street near downtown Toledo. The shelter has six bedrooms on the second floor and one bedroom for disabled residents on the first floor. It has three bathrooms for its residents. The shelter was started in 1921 to serve homeless women and children. Beach House operates in a mansion built in 1867 on North Erie Street near downtown Toledo. The shelter has six bedrooms on the second floor and one bedroom for disabled residents on the first floor. It has three bathrooms for its residents. The shelter was started in 1921 to serve homeless women and children.
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Officials at United Way denied that the homeless at any of the four shelters have to wait more than a week to see a coordinated assessment counselor, which is the first step in moving people into other housing.

Jamie Brubaker, United Way’s coordinated assessment program manager, said those face-to-face meetings always occur within a week.

Renee Palacios, executive director of Family House, a family shelter in central Toledo, said some of her residents have been waiting well beyond a week, and others have been there for 90 days waiting to be “re-housed.”

Earlier this year — when homeless shelters were fighting proposed cuts to federal funding funneled through the city and allocated by the Bell administration — many criticized the “centralized intake” process, under which anyone seeking shelter is to call the United Way’s 211 number for placement. The process was enacted by the city and the homelessness board.

“They are unable to do those assessments. They are overloaded,” Ms. Palacios said. “I have a woman sitting here and Wednesday was her 90th day and she has never been seen. ... What has me so frustrated is that they wanted this system and now look at what has happened.”

Family House has 103 beds and is expanding to 147 thanks to a donation of bunk beds. It serves 700 people per year, of which 500 are children. The shelter has had its federal funding through the Bell administration cut the last four years by $97,000 — from $257,000 to $160,000.

Jeanette Dixon, who has been at Family House with her 2-year-old twin girls and 6-year-old daughter since July 13, said she just recently got approval to look for an apartment.

“I was kicked out of my home and my time ran out with friends and family, so I called 211 and they placed me at Family House,” Ms. Dixon said.

“I got a call back but I didn’t get an appointment until Aug. 1. I just got put into a program Monday — the housing program where they place you and pay your rent for a certain amount of months and after so many months, you are then on your own.”

Rodney Schuster, executive director of Catholic Charities, which oversees La Posada, said he received the same request from the homelessness board to house more people.

“I don’t think we could be conducive to that in our shelter — a family shelter,” Mr. Schuster said. “There is obviously a problem with moving people to rapid rehousing and why our lengths of stay are increasing because there is no place to go.”

Maricela Alcala, the United Way’s 211 Program Director, said families calling 211 would be “placed in a bed,” but she declined to say how the agency would accommodate them.

Single people needing shelter would be referred to a “nonparticipating” shelter — meaning one that does not accept federal funding or adhere to the homelessness board, such as the Cherry Street Mission.

Ms. Alcala said she was not aware of overcrowding.

United Way is paid “more than $150,000” of taxpayer money to operate its part of the intake and housing placement program, the homelessness board’s Mr. Bonnington said.

Toledo Councilman Adam Martinez, chairman of council’s neighborhoods committee, said he was “gravely concerned” about overcrowding and would investigate.

Toledo Neighborhoods Director Lourdes Santiago was out of the office Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this year, a long conflict pitted some shelters, backed by most councilmen, against the homelessness board and its recommendations for allocating Community Development Block Grant funding, backed by the Bell administration.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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