Toledo Fighting over Homeless Funding

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is pushing an untested strategy of centralizing the intake on homeless people.  They are urging cities to undertake this system where everyone goes to the same place to be screened for the best path off the streets. Cleveland moved to a Central Intake model in 2008 for men, and in 2012 for families.  The shelters that receive public money must participate in the Central Intake.  The benefits are that shelters cannot screen people out who are hard to serve as they had done in the past.  The problem in Cleveland is that the Central Intake are in shelters which draws more people to shelter.   We have a full discussion about Central Intake on our member hub.  Basically, in Cleveland the system has worked for single males, but it has not been that successful for families.  In Columbus, they moved from a system similar to the Cleveland Central Intake to a phone based system which has also had issues.  It seems as though only Dayton has not struggled with Central Intake in Ohio.

The Toledo providers have rejected the introduction of Central Intake in a letter to the administration and the local organization that distributes all the federal homeless dollars.  The shelters do not believe that Rapid Rehousing and Centralized intake are an effective alternative to shelter.  The shelter directors object to everyone calling the United Way 211 telephone number to get access to shelter. There is also the concern that victims of domestic violence cannot be "rapidly rehoused"  The shelters have charged that the powers that be in Toledo want to "dismantle shelter programs."  Finally, they do not want their funding cut to support an unproven strategy in the community.  In the end, after the dispute was made public, the Council restored funding to the five shelters slated to be cut.  Toledo used an additional allocation from the Community Development Block Grant to restore funding similar to the amount received in 2012.  

The Toledo Blade wrote an editorial in May urging a compromise. The editorial board said, "the homelessness board has been rigid, and at times incorrect, in interpreting federal guidelines on so-called rapid rehousing."  One article pointed to the bombastic and authoritarian rule of Homelessness Board staff member, Deb Conklin, as the reason for the rift in Toledo.   Conklin pointed to the shelter directors stuck in the past and trying to do things the way they have been done in the past.  Conklin said that in a time of reduced funding, things had to change to move people out of homelessness faster.  On June 1, 2013 a new director of the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board was announced with Conklin retiring. 

Brian Davis