By: Katie Sobiech
Some new and very positive things are on the horizon for housing in the Akron area. This week, on June 1st, a 60 unit permanent supportive housing facility built by Testa opened its doors, possibly changing the way transitional, supportive housing for the homeless will be done here in the future.
The facility has been specifically built for the chronically homeless, including six beds available for veterans.
It was almost entirely leased up months before even opening, which shows how great the need for something like this is.
The Continuum of Care (COC) has also been hard at work putting together their new Summit Housing Search database, as well as looking into how to better serve the veteran population.
Located up the street from the Job Center on Tallmadge Avenue, the COC considered bus routes and everything the homeless will need when choosing a location for their new housing unit.
Each person will sign a lease and own his or her own apartment. Services are also available for those interested in them.
This whole concept has come together so well that they’re planning to expand, adding 40 more units to the same site.
“We’re very excited about that,” Sue Pierson, Director of Info Line Inc., said.
Summit Housing Search
Along with this new housing facility, access to housing has never been easier, thanks to the recently developed Summit Housing Search. Launched last summer, it shows about 300 units that are available on any given day.
This online data base (www.summithousingsearch.org) shows primarily low income housing that’s available for those who have a harder time finding housing.
It also allows landlords to go in and list their property.
“It’s almost like Google Earth .They can say ‘these are the properties that I have available and what the rent is’, and a case manager working with someone can go in (and check for housing),” Pierson explained.
This is perfect for case managers who are trying to put together a plan for their client.
“You can say what zip code you want to live in, how much you want to pay, how many bedrooms, and everything pops up –the information is there,” Pierson explained.
“This is getting an amazing number of hits. It’s unbelievable. The hardest thing is to get housing for these folks,” she continued.
Local Landlords Help
Pierson shares that there are a number of landlords in the community that are willing to work with folks with issues, or “baggage”.
The website includes detailed information such as who accepts people with a background, or sex offenders. This makes it a lot easier because of the rules related to where they are and aren’t allowed to live.
“Maybe they’ve been in prison, or are recovering from drug addiction…that kind of stuff. So they go in and list all kinds of things,” Pierson shared.
“The landlords love it because when someone’s out of a unit they can get it back up and get someone in there right away,” she continued.
Still, there are more people looking for places than there are places to stay.
Another treasured population of folks that the COC cares about are veterans.
They’ve created a program for them much like Home Again, only for veterans and their families.
“Veterans have all different issues, and you have to understand that system. We actually hired a veteran who knew the system,” Pierson said.
Now if veterans are on the verge of being homeless, or are already homeless, they have the resources to get stabilized again.
Getting People to the Right Place
COC does the intake then sends folks to Community Support Services for case management from there.
“We’re building expertise and programming around doing the intake for folks who are struggling to get back into the community regardless of what their issue is,” Pierson said.
Agencies still work directly with their clients but the COC provides the referral that’s most appropriate.
Whether you’re homeless, dealing with substance abuse or coming back out of prison, they’ll get you to where you need to go.
Everything They Could Want
A big reason why much of this has come together so beautifully is because of their many collaborations. One of those great collaborations includes CSS.
It seems as though many of the hopes and dreams Pierson and the rest of the COC crew have had for all of these years are finally coming to pass.
“You pound at it long enough and it finally happens,” Pierson smiled.
Now they are focusing in on the re-entry piece, working directly with the Summit County Re-Entry Network. They also want to hire their own re-entry specialist.
“We’re kinda reigning in the pieces. There are lots of moving parts. I need someone who understands [the re-entry system],” Pierson said.
Not long ago they also met with Mayor Don Plusquellic with plans to start up a 10-year plan for housing.
“We want to know what we need and everyone’s needs. There’s a bunch of other players that might also want to get involved,” Pierson said.
They plan to hire a consultant to take over this job, as they all have their hands full.
If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting new project that has major potential to change Summit County, please visit www.infolineinc.org .