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Cuyahoga County unveils $37.6M proposal to fight link between incarceration and homelessness

Roman Bodnarchuk

Cuyahoga County leaders unveiled a plan Thursday they said will break the link between homelessness and incarceration.

The Housing Justice plan calls for the following:

  • The creation of a new entity to fundraise and communicate progress, evaluate and implement new programs to fight homelessness and incarceration
  • Double the number of existing successful pilot programs to fight homelessness
  • The development of 105 new housing units for people with criminal backgrounds
  • The passage of legislation barring landlords from discriminating against people with criminal histories
  • Eviction prevention through mediation and one-time support
  • Short-term funding and case management to house people coming out of jail
  • Asset-building and home ownership pilot programs that provide down payment assistance, matched savings and lease-to-own housing units

The county estimates it will cost taxpayers $37.6 million to implement the plan, which it says will serve more than 1,200 households and thousands more through policy changes.

The plan, created by a steering committee of housing professionals and subject matter experts who themselves have been affected by incarceration, is needed in Cuyahoga County because of the high rate of incarceration, particularly of Black men.

In 2021, the county had the worst prison incarceration rate in the state, nearly 15%, according tothe Cleveland Foundation.

People with criminal records are 10 times more likely to experience homelessness, and those who are homeless are more likely to be arrested, according to the county.

That link exists because of the difficulties many with criminal records face finding housing, according to the county's Office of Reentry.

"A recent review of Tenant Selection Plans among affordable rental housing found that 78% had a long-term ban on those convicted of minor offenses, illustrating the lack of access to housing for the 20,000+ exiting incarceration in Cuyahoga County each year," the county wrote.

The increased cost of housing is further exacerbating the problem as is the "fragmented, insufficiently resourced system to support successful reintegration," the county said.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.