State expands funding to combat homelessness and housing


By Graig Graziosi

ggraziosi@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Area organizations fighting homelessness may soon have more resources to access thanks to changes in the state budget.

The Ohio Legislature approved a budget last week that included a combined annual $5 million expansion to the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.

The fund provides money to organizations throughout the state for a variety of housing-related programs, including those that target homelessness.

This is the first increase to the fund in 16 years. Half of the $5 million generated each year will go specifically to address youth homelessness, a population that – according to data from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio – is the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population. COHHIO estimates there are 20,717 homeless youth in the state, including 3,000 infants under age 1.

Organizations can access the state money by applying for grants from the fund.

Beatitude House, which combats chronic homelessness locally, relies in part on funding from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.

Last year, Beatitude House received $372,000 – $162,331 of which was match funding – for its programs through the OHTF’s Supportive Housing Grant.

Teresa Boyce, co-director of Beatitude House, on the city’s North Side, said the OHTF has been a primary beneficiary for the organization since it began in 1991.

“They were one of our first major funders. It really helped us start our program and grow it,” she said. “The partnership between the organization and our funders at the state and federally at HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] have allowed us to really run a top-notch program. We’re able to provide not only housing but a lot of wrap-around services as well.”

Boyce said the expansion comes at a convenient time for Beatitude House.

“We’ve actually been looking at expanding our programs. We offer permanent supportive housing for families and individuals. Right now we have 37 units where we can house people, but we’re hoping to grow that number and do more to address youth homelessness in the area.”

Colleen Kosta, Mahoning County Homeless Continuum of Care manager, said launching projects to help combat homelessness is an expensive undertaking, and organizations are always looking for new or expanded sources of funding.

“We’re always looking for more access to funds so we can develop housing. Usually it’s very costly to develop projects, and more often than not when funds do become available they’re very limited,” Kosta said.

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