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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.

Housing First’s goal is to produce sufficient, permanent supportive housing units to end chronic homelessness in Cuyahoga County. Today, 710 units are occupied or in development in 12 buildings.

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

Outcomes from Housing First are impressive, 90% of residents remain housed for six months or more after their initial move-in and 70% of residents have stayed for more than one year. More impressively, less than 2% return to homelessness. Housing First has also impacted chronic homelessness in Cuyahoga county as evidenced by the 77% drop in chronic homelessness since the first building opened in 2006 according to the Point in Time Count.