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Cuyahoga County officials on Wednesday pledged a 25% decrease in homelessness by 2027 and unveiled an ambitious – and currently underfunded – Strategic Action Plan for how to accomplish that goal.
In broad terms, the plan includes reducing reliance on emergency shelters, increasing rapid-rehousing and permanent housing capacity, connecting residents at risk of homelessness to income and support services, and improving equity in housing. Specific actions for how the county will tackle each of those initiatives and how much they might cost will be announced later, Cuyahoga’s Office of Homeless Services Director Melissa Sirak told partner agencies and housing advocates who attended the unveiling at The City Club of Cleveland.
But this broader plan will guide changes to the county’s continuum of care to create more pathways to permanent housing and ensure that homelessness in Cuyahoga “is rare, brief when we can’t prevent it, and results in a quick, successful return to permanent housing for everyone,” Sirak said.
Data show that homelessness in Cuyahoga has remained relatively constant since 2016, impacting about 5,000 residents every year. Roughly 8% of them are youth; families comprise 12% of cases, the report says. So, while officials celebrated that the county has been able to manage homelessness and prevent numbers from increasing, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also believe it can do better.
“The fact that Cleveland has seen, at best, a very limited decrease in homelessness indicates that the local homeless response system requires modifications to achieve homelessness is no longer sufficient because it leaves behind...some of our most vulnerable citizens and those who have experienced the greatest levels of discrimination.”
“The fact that Cleveland has seen, at best, a very limited decrease in homelessness indicates that the local homeless response system requires modifications to achieve improved outcomes,” the report says. “Managing homelessness is no longer sufficient because it leaves behind...some of our most vulnerable citizens and those who have experienced the greatest levels of discrimination.”
Homelessness disproportionately impacts Black and LGBTQ populations, as well as people with disabilities, the report found. People with disabilities are twice as likely to experience homelessness, it said, and Black people represent 70% of the homeless population, despite comprising only 30% of the county’s total population.
The strategic plan pledges to address those disparities, in part, through income equity legislation that would bar landlords from discriminating against those using public subsidies to pay for housing.
“The plan is bold,” said EDEN Executive Director Elaine Gimmel, “but we know that together, we can achieve our goals and ensure that more of our vulnerable neighbors have access to the basic right of a secure home.”
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