By Robert Rozboril, NV Staff Reporter
HOUGH – A new apartment building, designed to combat homelessness, welcomed its first tenants this month.
The Cleveland Housing Network and Eden Inc. opened the apartment building called Greenbridge Commons at East 75thStreet and Euclid Ave. Tenants were scheduled to move in the first week of September.
Greenbridge Commons provides permanent supportive housing to those who have been homeless.
The apartments “are a permanent solution to the problem of homelessness,” said Eden’s Director Kathy Kazol, who stressed that the building is not a shelter. “It’s a model that has been adopted in many other cities.
Greenbridge Commons is a $12.5 million facility and Cleveland’s sixth to follow the permanent supportive housing the model, developed by the U.S. Department of Human Services. Project Manager Brian Drobnick said that he and other members of the Cleveland Housing Network studied such facilities in cities like Chicago and Columbus before bringing the concept to Cleveland.
“Cleveland is behind the curve on permanent supportive housing but we’re catching up,” said Kate Durban, an assistant director for the Cleveland Housing Network. “One of the benefits of that is we were able to learn from others.”
“It’s been very successful,” Kazol said. “Fewer than 3 percent [of tenants] return to homelessness.”
The new 54,000 sq. ft. facility will house 70 efficiencies. Each unit includes a full bathroom and kitchen and basic furnishings such as a bed, table and chairs. Only one resident is allowed to live in each unit.
All of the people who stay at any of the facilities have a history of chronic homelessness, often due to an untreated disability, drug addiction or mental illness. Services are available to help them overcome these issues. They can also find help with life skills and finding a job or other forms of income.
Many people become homeless because they don’t know how to obtain Social Security or disability pay, according to Kazol. Once a resident finds income, they pay no more than one-third of what they make in monthly rent.
According to Jeniece Tillman, property manager of another supportive housing building, called Liberty at St. Claire in Glenville, Cleveland has one of the highest rates of veterans who are homeless. She said that 22 of the 72 residents in her building are veterans. That equates to 30 percent.
Residents can only be evicted if they refuse to follow the rules of the building and do not seek treatment for the problems that led them to homelessness.
“A lot of people don’t get it,” said resident Norman Scott, 56. “I think the first thing anyone has to do is admit their problems are all their fault.”
Scott’s been at the Glenville building for more than three years and is trying to get Social Security because of his disabilities and ailments that include bi-polar disorder, diabetes, and hepatitis and carpel tunnel.
Security is a number one priority. None of the residents have keys and anyone who enters or leaves the building has to pass the front desk and present a valid State ID or driver’s license.
Guests are allowed and can even stay overnight with proper notice but must be accompanied at all times by a resident or employee.
There is an employee at the front desk 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The employee monitors the security cameras that cover several angles inside and outside of the building. The staff at every permanent supportive housing apartment builds a relationship with the local police and keeps them abreast of any suspicious activity they witness outside of their building. They also work to build a relationship with the surrounding community.
All buildings employ about 25 people. Most are people from the surrounding community. Another Permanent Supportive Housing building is scheduled to open in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood in 2012.