Breaking Ground - News from The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio

December 3, 2019

December 2019

Advocating for people experiencing housing problems can be a frustrating job. In a political system that trades on money and influence, it’s tough to get politicians to focus on the needs of people who have neither.

This Thanksgiving, however, I gave thanks for several positive developments that show glimmers of hope that our elected leaders are starting to pay more attention to people struggling to escape homelessness.

At the recent presidential debate in Atlanta, several candidates discussed ambitious and creative ideas for addressing America’s growing shortage of affordable housing after the National Low Income Housing Coalition mobilized local partners to urge debate moderators to ask about housing issues. As part of NLIHC’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, we recently wrote an op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch connecting housing insecurity to college debt, rising healthcare costs and other issues the candidates frequently discuss.

Meanwhile, Congress was on track to boost federal housing and homeless spending for the third time in a row, even though President Trump has proposed deep cuts to HUD programs every budget he has proposed. Unfortunately, the two chambers have not yet finalized a budget agreement, opting instead for another stopgap measure to fund the government through Dec. 20. These ongoing “continuing resolutions” have a variety of negative consequences for administering housing programs.

Here in Ohio, the new state budget increased the Ohio Housing Trust Fund by an additional $3.5 million/year that will flow to local homeless and affordable housing programs throughout the state. In addition, the budget includes a new $5 million appropriation for the Ohio Department of Health to address homelessness among youth and pregnant women. ODH is planning to launch an application process in early December, with applications due in early January.

Over the past few months, we’ve had a lot of good conversations with the DeWine Administration about ways the state can help reduce homelessness and housing insecurity. Some of the proposals we’re considering include state funding for local rapid rehousing and homeless prevention programs, rental assistance targeted toward specific populations, a state low income housing tax credit, and, of course, a more robust expansion of the Ohio Housing Trust Fund that could include new revenue.

At the local level, initiatives to reduce evictions and create more affordable housing have been taking root in several cities across Ohio. Cleveland recently became the fourth city in the U.S. to pass legislation to ensure low-income renters with children have legal representation when facing eviction. Cincinnati has passed legislation aimed at expanding tenants’ rights and preventing unnecessary evictions, and local housing advocates are gearing up for a 2020 ballot issue to create a local affordable housing trust fund. In Dayton, the mayor has created an Eviction Task Force. Franklin County's new budget would increase funding for local homeless programs, while Columbus is working on a plan to increase affordable housing following voter approval of a $50 million affordable housing bond program and creation of a $100 million loan fund.

And lastly, three excellent nonprofit agencies in Ohio recently won grants from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Day One Families Fund for efforts to fight homelessness in communities throughout the U.S. Congratulations to Bethany House Services in Cincinnati, which was awarded $1.25 million, Great Lakes Community Action Partnership in Fremont, which won $1.25 million, and YWCA Columbus, which received a $2.5 million grant.

There’s a lot of positive momentum at all levels, and for that I’m thankful. We’ll keep pushing our state and federal representatives for the funding and policy changes necessary to end homelessness in Ohio. And who knows? Maybe this time next year we’ll all have a lot more to be thankful for.

Bill Faith
Executive Director

P.S. Your #GivingTuesday donations help support the work we do advocating for an end to homelessness and more affordable housing in Ohio – thank you!


State Capital Funding Opportunity

Does your facility need renovations or capital improvements to better serve folks in your community? State capital funds might be an option, especially if you already have a project in the works that needs some additional funding to bring to completion.

The state legislature is starting to work on the capital budget bill, which is expected to provide $150-$170 million to help fund community projects in the arts, sports, workforce development, health care, and economic development throughout the state. Ohio House and Senate members need to have local community groups submit their project requests to their offices by Jan. 10. Members in both chambers will then be required to submit their requests to leadership by Jan. 24.

This is an opportunity for funding for capital projects that are bondable to a state agency. Since gaining the support of local legislators is a critical step in the process, applying for capital funding could be a great opportunity to establish a relationship with your Statehouse representatives.

Major infrastructure projects are unlikely to get approved, but necessary renovations and upgrades that already have non-state funding from other sources are good candidates. Getting capital dollars from the state for your local project is extremely competitive, but if you have a qualifying need it certainly doesn’t hurt to give it a try!

Click here for a project information worksheet and feel free to contact COHHIO Advocacy Director Gina Wilt for more information about applying for state capital funds.



Support COHHIO on Giving Tuesday

We know that ending homelessness isn't just an aspirational phrase. It really is possible that everyone living in the wealthiest country in the world can have a place of their own to sleep at night. All it takes is a real commitment on the part of our state and federal leaders to make it happen.

But they won't do it on their own. That's where we come in. COHHIO speaks up for people who are too often ignored by the political process. And with enough persistence, determination and inspiration it can work. So please remember COHHIO on #GivingTuesday.

Your generosity fuels our advocacy for better policies and adequate funding to end homelessness in Ohio! So please donate now!

Thank you!


Fall Housing Tour Update

The connection between health and housing was the focus of a recent roundtable discussion in Montgomery County with state and federal lawmakers, COHHIO, St. Mary Development Corp., CareSource and Dayton Children’s Hospital.

During the event, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton), and State Reps. J. Todd Smith (R-Germantown), Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), and Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) got to see first-hand how affordable housing empowers their low-income and vulnerable constituents to live healthy, independent, and fulfilling lives.

St. Mary Development Corporation President Tim Bete explained how federal and state housing subsidies, combined with ready access to supportive services, enable seniors to avoid premature and costly institutionalization.

Amy Riegel, director of housing for CareSource – Ohio’s largest Medicaid managed Care organization – said affordable housing was essential for improving their members’ health and wellbeing, while reducing healthcare costs. She also discussed CareSource’s involvement in a pilot project designed to reduce infant mortality through access to affordable housing.

Jessica Saunders, director of community engagement for Dayton Children’s Hospital, highlighted the importance of safe, decent, affordable housing for children to grow up healthy and thrive.

Hillsboro Event: In September, COHHIO staff helped organize an event in Hillsboro to show local legislators and state agency staff how affordable housing helps span the gap between high rents and low wages for working families in Highland County.

Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) joined COHHIO’s Bill Faith, Julia Wise, executive director of Highland County Community Action, and Greg Thirtyacre, president of NCJC Housing & Development Foundation, for a roundtable discussion on affordable housing before touring Hi-Land Terrace Apartments. The Hillsboro Times-Gazette published a story about the event.

Cincinnati Tour: COHHIO is helping to coordinate a tour in Cincinnati with Over-the-Rhine Housing, Cincinnati United Bethel, and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing on Dec. 16. The event will highlight the importance of affordable housing for those exiting the criminal justice system. Space is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible to COHHIO’s Advocacy Director Gina Wilt! And contact Gina if you would like to help host or participate in a housing event in your community.


COHHIO HMIS Launches Reporting Tool

This spring, the COHHIO’s HMIS team released a new custom reporting system called R minor, an open source project being developed in-house to overcome limitations in the reporting provided by our HMIS vendor.

The project consists of two sites: R minor, which is publicly available, and R minor elevated, which requires a login. Both sites are mobile-friendly and interactive. Click here to find out more about these new tools for HMIS users.


Fall Training Bulletin

COHHIO’s next conference is still five months away, but the staff is deep into planning the event, especially since we’re moving to a different venue that’s large enough to accommodate everyone who wants to come. So mark your calendars now – you don’t want to miss Housing Ohio 2020 on April 13 – 15 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Columbus.

Most of the conference workshops have been finalized at this point (thanks to everyone who submitted proposals!), but we’ve just begun recruiting sponsors to help support the event. For more information, see the Housing Ohio sponsorship prospectus or contact Communications/Development Director Marcus Roth.

Meanwhile, we are preparing two upcoming webinar series available free to anyone who wants to learn more about crisis awareness and supported employment. Click here to find out more about these training opportunities.


Help Wanted: Youth Housing Coordinator

COHHIO is looking for someone who is motivated, experienced, and excited about working with community-based organizations and diverse constituencies to serve as our full-time Youth Housing Initiative Coordinator. Click here to see the full job posting.


COHHIO Workers' Compensation Update

The deadline to enroll in Group Retrospective Rating with CareWorks Comp for the upcoming July 1, 2020 policy year is Jan. 24. Click here for more information about COHHIO's Group Rating program, which offers member organizations deep discounts on workers' comp insurance.



For more information about COHHIO, visit our website and check out our Facebook page and Twitter feed. To support COHHIO's ongoing efforts to end homelessness in Ohio, become a member and get a discount on our April conference!
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