Grant Will Provide Temporary Pandemic Shelter For Northeast Ohio's Homeless

A man lying on the sidewalk with a sign that reads "Homeless and hungry"
The grant will fund hotel costs for roughly 50 people experiencing homelessness. [Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock]

A grant from the Cleveland Foundation’s new Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund will help provide temporary shelter for dozens of Northeast Ohio’s homeless during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) will use the $70,000 grant to “provide emergency lodging that will allow unsheltered individuals to remain quarantined before the pandemic reaches its peak,” according to the Cleveland Foundation’s website.

The effort will give outreach providers a more direct way to provide aid, said NEOCH spokesperson Molly Martin.

“That would also help centralize a lot of our outreach efforts and then obviously reduce the spread to individuals in the community who don’t have any other options for self-containment,” Martin said.

About 200 people in Cleveland are experiencing homelessness, Martin said, and providing shelter for even just 50 of them could have a large impact.

“This is a huge first step, big leap, during this time of doing shelter-in-place, to get that group, but obviously the need there is always great,” Martin said.

Statewide steps are also being taken to help the homeless during the pandemic.

"Gov. Mike DeWine announced statewide measures for homeless assistance Monday, including the formation of a Homelessness Team to provide resources. The team will create guidelines for shelters on how to address COVID-19 and “incorporate these populations into the state’s ongoing planning,” according to a press release from the governor’s office. That covers plans for access to healthcare and plans for quarantine or self-isolation.

Other measures from the state include a $5 million fund from the Ohio Housing Financing Agency Board to aid in homelessness prevention, rental assistance and rehousing, a $1 million fund from the Ohio Development Services Agency to support emergency shelter providers and federal opioid response funds to assist people in recovery housing.

NEOCH is calling on the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to provide additional resources during the crisis, Martin said, including portable toilets and handwashing stations in locations where people without homes can access them.

No local shelters are capable of testing for coronavirus at this time, Martin said. People currently in shelters are being screened for symptoms of the virus. Those who are symptomatic are referred to healthcare providers, she said.

“You really can’t get tested or access to medical care unless you’re really exhibiting those symptoms,” Martin said.

NEOCH is also meeting with local healthcare providers to discuss how to streamline methods for testing those who are homeless for the virus, she said. Discussions also include a potential plan to expand the use of the hotels and motels where NEOCH is providing additional shelter to also include space local hospitals can use for patients who test positive for the coronavirus but do not need to be hospitalized or in an ICU.

The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County did not respond to ideastream’s requests for comment on this story.

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