by Brian Davis
The first stages of the Continuum of Care proposal to get people off the streets and into permanent housing will begin in the summer of 1996 with the Salvation Army overseeing operation of the men's overflow sites now operated by Project HEAT and First United Methodist Church.
Project HEAT operates a women's site and three men's facilities. They offer a bed roll to approximately 270 people, and on dangerously cold nights squeeze as many people as possible in the four sites.
Project HEAT has faced criticism for moving the sites with little warning, and not responding to clients' or city officials' concerns. They faced opposition in various neighborhoods and within County-owned buildings, which has prevented Project HEAT from expanding in the past.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development granted Cuyahoga County early in 1995 an Innovative Demonstration Grant to provide outreach, shelter, assessment and case management to the chronically homeless. The Salvation Army was the only group locally that agreed to oversee the plan with support from Mental Health Services, the Veterans Administration, Healthcare for the Homeless, and the Cosgrove Center.
The Salvation Army was asked by the County to oversee the men's Project HEAT sites as part of overseeing the Innovative Grant which was referred to as the Pick-Up, Assessment, Services and Shelter Program or P.A.S.S. program,
The County Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board raised questions about the Salvation Army proposal. Most notably the 30 day limit that the Salvation Army was intending to place on those that stayed at the HEAT sites, and the accessibility of the PASS program to those in the Heat site. One other obstacle was that Salvation Army will operate the PASS program from their facility at 60th and Hough, which is not near any of the other services for the homeless in Cleveland.
The Salvation Army wants the County/City to underwrite the purchase and rehabilitation of a building to hold all the men currently in the HEAT site as well as the men entering the PASS program. This would be a mega-shelter that will accommodate approximately 300 people.
In the past, Cleveland city council members and various neighborhood groups have blocked Project HEAT from moving or expanding. Ruth O'Leary of the Office of Homeless Services said, "It will be tough to find a site, but we need to proceed."
The individual that chooses to enter the PASS program will be assigned a case worker, undergo regular drug screenings, and will develop a 30-90 day treatment plan. Case managers will assist in locating available programs and/or affordable housing. Job training and placement will also be offered to those that need assistance. The PASS participants will have access to daily recreational activities.
The program is funded by HUD for two years for $913,000.
O'Leary said, "It is too soon to say what impact it will have on the homeless community." She was sorry that it had taken so long to implement the plan.
The men will receive cots when the Salvation Army takes control of the HEAT sites. The welfare office at 1641 Payne which currently shelters older men and those with a mental disability will probably close. The Salvation Army site at Hough will be able to make up for the loss of the Payne site and can safely add more slots for men.
At this time, the women's site will remain under the control of First United Methodist Church.
The County Advisory Board has asked that the Salvation Army begin operation of the other three sites by May 1996.
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13
by Brian Davis