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HOUSINGfirst - Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services

...providing permanent solutions to long-term homelessness

HOUSINGfirst is an initiative that was established in April, 2002 to provide permanent housing solutions for persons with disabilities who experience long-term homelessness.

On any given night, about 20% of homeless individuals in Cleveland’s emergency shelters are long term homeless individuals. Almost all of the long-term homeless have behavioral or physical health disabilities. In Cleveland, over 20% of the long-term homeless are veterans, a higher percentage than the national average.

The Permanent Supportive Housing model provides “housing first”….moving people into stable housing and then linking them with services on site. A key distinction is that services and treatment programs are available and encouraged, but not mandatory.

HOUSINGfirst has set a goal of developing 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing for single adults with histories of long term homelessness and disabilities. As of  January 2012, over 600 apartments have been built and an additional 105 are either in the pipeline. Over 600 “HOUSINGfirst ” apartments will be occupied by the end of 2013, and 505 apartments are currently occupied.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Corporation for Supportive Housing are national leaders in documenting the need for and the effectiveness of permanent supportive housing as a key component in our nation’s efforts to end homelessness. National studies indicate that HOUSINGfirst initiatives are not only a more humane way to respond to the needs of long-term disabled people, but are also more cost effective than serving people through mainstream systems.

Locally, Enterprise Community Partners , the Sisters of Charity Foundation , the City of Cleveland and  Cuyahoga County have taken leadership roles in introducing and guiding the development of the HOUSINGfirst initiative.

Several non profit agencies have joined together to build and operate the projects. Key providers include:

  • EDEN, Inc.
  • Cleveland Housing Network
  • AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland
  • Mental Health Services, Inc.
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs

Five years of operating data from local HFI projects, confirm what national studies have found. Over 78% of the residents remain in their apartments and almost all are engaged in services. Half the residents are volunteers, participating in educational activities or employed. The rate of emergency room visits and hospitalizations have been substantially reduced. Statistics show approximately 20% of the residents move on to more independent housing situations and/or reunite with family. A small percentage return back to shelter.