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Giving Homeless Shelters New Life

Tuesday, June 26, 2001 at 8:20 AM

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This week, two lease agreements for the site of two shelters for the homeless will expire. One program was for women, the other for the mentally ill and homeless people. For months Cuyahoga County and Catholic Charities claim to have been negotiating the terms of the contract with the buildings owner Care Alliance. But there was little movement - until now. Last night the pleas for an extension of the lease agreements proved to be somewhat successful. Care Alliance offered to allow the women's program to continue in their building for another month while they consider a request for a year-long extension. At this hour Catholic Charities has yet to agree. The other building, which was used as a safe haven for mentally ill and homeless people, will be signed over to Cuyahoga County. 90.3's Tarice Sims reports on this 11th hour decision that still has some of the homeless in limbo.

Tarice Sims- At 2219 Payne Avenue, two women stand outside the two-story brick building talking about their next interview to get an apartment. There’s hope in one lady’s eyes as she tells her story, that one day she’ll make it on her own. But for now she takes advantage of the day time shelter offered at the Care Alliance building.

Care Alliance is non-profit organization that specializes in health care for the homeless. They also ran a program for homeless women and children called Wings for Women. Care Alliance operated the program in one of two buildings they own on Payne Avenue. Then notification came that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, would not renew their funding. So, at the Cuyahoga County’s request, Catholic Charities stepped in. Leo Wenneman is social services manager for Care Alliance.

Leo Wenneman- And Catholic Charities began this day shelter program for women in the space that had formally been used for the Wings for Women program on the 1st of April with the understanding that they would have that space for 3 months while they found a different space to continue the program beyond that.

TS- In a contract dated March 30th, 2001, Care Alliance and Catholic Charities agreed to these terms. Catholic Charities could operate out of the 2219 Payne Avenue building from April 1st to June 30th. Catholic Charities would pay $10,000 advance and security payment, plus split the cost of utilities and pay Care Alliance $312 a month toward operating expenses. This arrangement was supposed to be temporary. Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim McCormack says the county is going to build a new women’s shelter on East 71st and Woodland that will be a permanent site for a homeless women’s shelter but…

Tim McCormack- ...we have a year yet and I’m worried about this next one year period. We want to make certain, these are all someone’s family members. And this is good, but it’s not the full transforming experience that if there were room and the transitional housing they would receive and we want see in the next year if we can’t and identify some of those things today.

TS- The temporary program doesn’t supply much in terms of services to help the roughly 55 homeless women get back on their feet. After Catholic Charities took the program over, the top priority became finding a new temporary space for the day time shelter.

Many of the women spend the night at a converted garage on east 18th street. Right across the street is the Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center. The Bishop Cosgrove Center became the back up plan for the women last week. But there’s one problem - it’s a men’s shelter. Catholic Charities President Tom Mullen says that was one of the reasons they were interested in extending their agreement with Care Alliance. He says the 3-month time limit written in the contract didn’t provide enough time to find another place for the women.

Tom Mullen- Many times when you get into transitions where a program an organization or agency as leaving is going to do something or other. It’s kind of fluid - you come to me and I come to you and say, “well, we’ll stick with you for 90 to 120 [days], and if it isn’t all completed, and we can avoid a second move, let’s figure out a way we don’t have to do this twice.” I mean there wasn’t a lot of that fluidity.

TS- The other building owned by Care Alliance is located at 2227 Payne Avenue. It is the site of this safe haven for mentally ill and homeless people. HUD funding which made Cuyahoga County the grantee runs out on the at the end of this week. John McKinney is Chief Executive Officer of Care Alliance. He says the County had approached his organization to partner with them and continue operating the safe haven, The Gathering Place, without federal assistance. But McKinney says Care Alliance couldn’t raise the $140,000 needed to continue with the program. He says the organization has never raised more than $50,000 in a year.

John McKinney- The board said we would not attempt to find that kind of money. If we could find that kind of money - really, our essential work is health care - if we could find the $140,000 we really ought to spend it on primary health care services for people in need. So the board past that resolution, wrote letter to the office of homeless services letting them know that we would you know absolutely not be able to come up with that match, we would not be a part of it after this year.

TS- Cuyahoga County officials have asked Mental Health Services to run the safe haven program, and they are set to take over the program as of July 1st. However, Mental Health Services Executive Director Steve Friedman says because the organization needs time to recruit, hire and train staff they won’t be able to accept clients until October.

In the meantime negotiations with Care Alliance to continue, to see if the Payne Avenue building can be the site for the Safe Haven program through June of 2002. In Cleveland, Tarice Sims, 90.3 WCPN News.

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