By: Katie Sobiech
July 30th was a beautiful day where more than 200 people gathered for the grand opening of The Commons at Madeline Park.
This new Permanent Supportive Housing facility holds apartments for 60 individuals who were once homeless, have special needs, are veterans and/or struggle with mental illness or other setbacks.
It was created to address the loss of nearly 300 housing units for Summit County’s most vulnerable individuals.
Much more than a building, this place provides an opportunity for tenants to transform their lives.
Their theme quote “Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over it became a butterfly,” is what they are hoping to see in the lives of these individuals.
The grand opening featured a live release of more than 100 butterflies in their healing garden.
The purpose of this new housing experience is to provide quality, affordable housing while giving residents access to supportive services they may need to achieve the highest possible standard of living.
The apartment building features full-time, professional case workers, a 24 hour staffed front security desk, job training, employment resources, peer services and a blended management structure allowing residents to peacefully co-exist. (www.cssbh.org).
It took a city to put this plan together – a team of professionals in different areas to create the holistic vision they had in mind.
“It’s a team approach in doing this,” Keith Stahl, Director of Residential Services at Community Support Services (CSS), said “We really worked together as a team to develop a facility that would meet the individuals served.”
Others involved include the City of Akron, Testa Enterprises Inc., Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, InfoLine and Continuum of Care.
The New Way
Experts say that Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) may just be the new, and arguably better, way to go when it comes to homelessness and housing.
“Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is saying that there’s nothing magic about 24 months (of Transitional Housing). You shouldn’t be putting someone in an apartment, providing all of these things for them and then cutting them loose,” Sue Pierson, Director of InfoLine Inc. shared, commenting on what had become the standard offering to people who are homeless.
HUD is actually looking to stop supporting Transitional Housing altogether.
Pierson says it’s because more often than not, the individuals just end up right back in the bad situations they were in before.
But why is this new approach taken on by the city so appealing? And will it work?
The holistic system and plan that they have laid out shows great hope.
“You really need a continuum of housing. No one model is going to fit the need for everyone. But Permanent Supportive Housing is key for a certain segment of the population in order to maintain housing,” Stahl explained.
“For a lot of people you can plant them in an apartment but they wouldn’t be able to maintain it for a variety of reasons. Many get victimized, taken advantage of, they’re not able to structure their days enough, so they end up violating their lease for any number of reasons,” Stahl continued.
Others just really lack the skills and don’t know how to live independently.
“You really need a system where people can move up or down the continuum based on their needs and you can offer them services where necessary,” Stahl explained.
So this seems to be the ideal set-up.
Filling a Gap
Over 200 people showed up to support this project at the grand opening, and the future is looking very bright for this new safe haven.
“It’s absolutely essential and were still lacking a very significant number of units,” Stahl said.
“I do think homeless shelters are a necessary and important piece to the whole issue, but it’s not really beneficial for someone to stay in a homeless shelter for a year. You’re going to have better results by getting them into housing and then working on their issues while they’re in housing,” Stahl continued.
Stay tuned for Part Two next week where we will go deeper into the benefits of this type of housing, mental illness in relation to homelessness, how tenants are given free will and hope for their future.
For more information you can find them on Facebook under “The Commons at Madeline Park II”, or call (330) 928-1988.