In so many communities we see people, including families with children, involuntarily living - and dying - in cars, encampments, tent cities, and boxes on sidewalks.
We do not see this here in Toledo.
Replacing the emotion of the current debate with logic and fact suggests the only reason we do not see people on the streets here is supply and demand. The supply of shelter beds has equaled the demand for those beds. (Except in the area of domestic violence, where there is a severe shortage.)
By annual physical count we precisely know both the supply and the demand. It is consistently about 1000 people; of which between 35% – 45% are families with children. Multiplied by the implied turnover rate of 2.8 times, about 2800 people per year lose housing and end up in the emergency and transitional shelters.
If you are new to the issue, emergency shelters are for crisis intervention and short term stabilization. They are the landing pads where YOUR children, relatives or friends, or even you will go when one loses housing due to fire, addiction, eviction, foreclosure, domestic violence, or just burnt bridges. Fact is most people in the shelters return to housing in less than 60 days. Transitional shelters are the in-patient houses where you want to send YOUR children, relatives, friends or even you to get sober, clean up, or otherwise get their act together.
The battles you are seeing unfold regarding funding are battles between two lines of thinking:
Housing First: Take all the money from the shelters and put it into rent to get people into apartments as fast as we can, then work on their issues.
Housing Second: A system that puts people FIRST so YOUR child, relative or friend has a safe place to be WHILE they find the expertise to deal with whatever issues they need to get rehoused.
As for Housing First, there is a big difference between theory and practice. Even the VA, which embraced the Housing First model with all of the resources of the federal government at its command, still takes 137 days for our veterans to get housed. And even with that some are referred to a shelter on a transitional basis for help with specific issues before being housed.
So then the questions needing to be asked are: How will they decide which of the 2800 individuals and families with children they will pay rent for? And where will these families go during the 137 days if all the family shelters are closed?
The solution is not one or the other, but rather a balance. But balance is not on the table, they only put de-funding the shelters on the table. I have been a volunteer for this cause for 23 years, and as a CEO and philanthropist provided the startup funding for many programs including the startup funds for the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board. The board was intended to bring the community together like we do with Tent City, not tear it apart. Since 2008, we have seen the gradual increase of pillaging federal funds intended to help those on the streets. These funds have been diverted to fund city departments, CDC’s, development, and this year the Homelessness Board itself. Historically, an objective Citizens Review Committee (CRC) evaluates CDBG proposals and recommends the funding for each. Last year the recommendations of both the CRC and the City of Toledo review committees were abandoned and replaced with a funding scheme of unknown origin or logic.
City Council has courageously stepped in to keep the shelters funded because they saw the injustice of closing the shelters and the extrapolated inevitable outcome of the lack of supply for the demand – people living and dying in camps along the river. Thank you.