COLUMBUS, Ohio — The City of Columbus announced Thursday that $8.8 million from the American Rescue Plan will fund programs to provide immediate and long-term support for central Ohioans experiencing homelessness.
The funds will be used to support the local shelter system through improved pay for front-line workers, additional staff, onsite mental health resources, and improved facility conditions and capacity.
“When it comes to our most vulnerable residents, this pandemic has impacted much more than their physical health. It has had a devastating impact on their ability to earn an income, find comfort and stability in a home, and achieve mental and emotional well-being,” Mayor Andrew Ginther said. “By committing these dollars to the central Ohio shelter system, we are providing vital resources and proven solutions to further expand our continued support for the Columbus community.”
According to the city, employment among low-income individuals has fallen 25.6% since last year and one in 10 Ohio tenants are concerned they will not be able to pay next month’s rent.
More than 6,600 people include nearly 1,200 children were served in Franklin County shelters from July 2020 through June 2021.
“Investing in shelter space for our residents is paramount to ensuring we have a strong safety net for folks who’ve fallen on hard times,” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said. “Furthermore, hiring new mental health specialists at shelters is a huge step to getting folks the care and intervention they need during a time of crisis. This new effort will help catch issues before they escalate, reduce fire and police runs, and allow safety forces to focus on violent crime.”
Funding announced by the city includes:
$1.87 million in surge funding for emergency shelters
The City of Columbus will provide $1.87 million in surge funding to help shelters provide pay increases and signing and retention bonuses, accommodate additional staff and expand cleaning services at the Lutheran Social Services Faith Mission, Maryhaven Engagement Center, Southeast Men’s Shelter, YWCA Family Center and YMCA Van Buren Center.
$4.9 million for mental health interventionists
Local shelters and supportive housing programs have experienced an increase in drug and alcohol use, violence, suicide attempts and death. To better support individuals in crisis and reduce violence and calls for police and EMS runs, the city will fund a proposal by Community Shelter Board (CSB) to train and embed mental health specialists to provide onsite crisis-intervention services. Together, Columbus State Community College, Netcare Access and CSB will create a workforce development program to train specialists who, as part of their participation, must commit to at least 12 months of service.
$2 million to relocate men currently residing at the Downtown Columbus YMCA
Built in 1924, the Downtown Y at 40 West Long Street is home to 350 men, 94% of whom have physical or mental disabilities. Necessary maintenance and renovations at the facility could cost as much as $50-60 million, exceeding available resources. The city will provide $2 million to temporarily relocate the men in intermediate housing to ensure they continue to receive YMCA services. The city and Franklin County have already funded a $265,000 contract with Rosetta Brown consulting to identify permanent supportive housing options.