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Lorain City Council approves project for chronically homeless despite vocal opposition

Rendering of a new permanent supportive housing in Lorain
CHN Housing Partners
A rendering of Broadway Commons, a new permanent supportive housing development in Lorain.

A 62-unit housing facility to help the chronically homeless is coming to Lorain. City council narrowly approved the proposal 6-5, after rezoning the property from business to mixed use.

Elyria Chronicle Telegram reporter Carissa Woytach has been following the vocal opposition to the project, called Broadway Commons, and how two Cleveland housing nonprofits, the Cleveland Housing Network and EDEN Incorporated, moved in to Lorain County.

"EDEN did open up Bridgepoint Commons over in Elyria in early 2022, and Lorain does have a homeless population...that would qualify for permanent supportive housing services," Woytach said.

Elyria Police Chief Bill Pelko testified at a Lorain City Council meeting in Summer 2023 about how Bridgepoint Commonsp has affected his department.

"He expressed that his officers have had to respond to Bridgepoint Commons quite a bit," Woytach said. "He considered it a tax on their resources."

Incidents ranged from 9-1-1 hang ups to assaults. Pelko's comments did cause concern among Lorain council members, according to Woytach.

Earlier this month, CHN and EDEN announced an agreement regarding the Broadway proposal that Woytach said mirrors an arrangement between Lorain Police and the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority. An off-duty officer will be paid $50 per hour for 28 hours on the Broadway Commons site. The hours will be determined by Lorain Police Chief Jim McCann, and the officer will be covered by the city's liability and insurance.

"That agreement really came out of CHN and EDEN trying to address some of the concerns brought up by council members of, is this going to be a tax on our police services and could this turn into a nuisance property similar to some of the other low income housing that was privately owned that has been in the city," Woytach said.

A police substation will also be put into Broadway Commons, not only for the off duty officer, but for other officers in the area who need internet service or need to file a report. Woytach said it should also increase the police presence and officers talking to residents or others in the area.

Fligner's Market will celebrate 100 years at their location on Broadway Avenue in Lorain this year. Residents of another low-income housing area are close enough to walk to the store. Ben Fligner, the fourth-generation owner, and his father Kel have voiced their concerns about an increase in panhandling and vagrancy to council, causing some worry among residents, employees and council members about what would happen if Fligner's moved.

"If they leave, if they pull out of the city, where are those folks (low income residents) going to go?" Woytach said of the concerns. "They do have a good number of employees, so that is not only income tax for the city, but if Fligner's were to leave, there is that question of where would those people find work? Would they move with Fligner's? Would it leave those folks without jobs? Would they be able to find the same level of paying jobs?"

Woytach said residents continued to share concerns about Fligner's at Tuesday night's council meeting as well as misinformation about the housing project and who is eligible to live there. The Chronicle Telegram has previously reported that Broadway Commons will be open to men and women suffering from chronic homelessness, subject to a lease agreement and screening by either the Veterans Administration or Catholic Charities coordinated entry.

A groundbreaking has not been set, but the previous goal was to have tenants at Broadway Commons by 2025.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.