Transitional housing needed in Summit County to bridge local homeless gap |

Transitional housing needed in Summit County to bridge local homeless gap

Caddie Nath
summit daily news

Local agencies and philanthropists are joining forces to explore the possibility of an affordable temporary-housing development in Summit County to assist those who are facing homelessness.

“What we’re missing is some way to bridge the gap between somebody who is homeless or about to become homeless and getting them into stable housing,” Family and Intercultural Resource Center community support manager Robert Murphy said. “There needs to be some sort of bridge or transitional period, and that’s what we’re looking at.”

Though the project is in its infancy – involved groups have so far formed a task force and determined a mission statement – the vision is 20-30 units where tenants could remain for a few weeks to a few months while getting their finances in order and finding more permanent living arrangements.

The temporary housing is intended to serve people with ties to Summit County.

“What we’re not really looking to do is to have a nice place for transients who are just moving through Summit and have no connection to (the) county,” Summit Combined Housing Authority director Jennifer Kermode said.

Kermode said she hopes to locate the housing project in a motel, if the task force can find a private owner who might be willing to sell.

“The rehabilitation and conversion of a structure that’s like that would be the least expensive for us to jump into,” she said.

There are federal grants available for such projects, but housing officials say they hope transitional housing in Summit County could be the result of a public-private partnership.

Right now, money is available for people in crisis situations to pay for a few nights in a hotel, as is assistance for rent and utilities, but additional services are limited.

The need for temporary housing is particularly great in Summit County, where heavy living expenses and the still-weak job market can make transitioning between jobs or back into the community from jail very difficult for low-income individuals, according to local outreach groups.

“(They) don’t have the resources to get themselves out of their situation largely due to the high cost of living and moving,” Murphy said. “With some type of transitional housing, a family could be guaranteed a roof over their head for a period.”

Summit County’s homeless and at-risk population doesn’t seem to be bound by demographics. It includes families, couples, single adults, men and women and varying ages.

In 2011, approximately 140 people received assistance for one- or two-night hotel stays from local entities. Of the households that received help with rent and utility bills, more than half were families with children.

Those contacts indicated Summit County families frequently overcrowd or double up with other families when times are tight.

“We suspect that that’s a widespread problem,” Murphy said.

Many homeless people will also take up residence in their cars, camping in the woods or in hotels on their own or with outside financial assistance.

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