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Cuyahoga County HHSA Committee Approves Seven Contracts in packed meeting

Will Tarter
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March 20, 2023
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The Cuyahoga County Health, Human Services, and Aging Committee met on January 18th, 2023 to consider seven different contracts to begin the new legislative term. The contracts involved numerous issues of importance to health and human services in Cuyahoga County.

Child and Family Services

David Merriman, Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, presented a contract amendment that authorizes The Centers to use a portion of their funding from their current contract towards capital-related expenses associated with the establishment of their short-term emergency child care program otherwise known as T-Suites (short for teen suites). No additional funding is needed for this contract.  

Director Patti Fletcher, from the Division of Child and Family Services, also testified to the contract stating that the county only had a young person in a county building and that the young person will not be housed in the T-Suites location that is operated by The Centers. Eric Morse, Chief Executive Officer of The Centers, testified that in the short term, the T-Suites setup can handle up to four young persons. Eventually, the location will be expanded to eight. The contract was approved under second-reading suspension and referred to the full council for consideration.

 The contract awards $735,278 to Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry for transitional housing for those individuals who are coming out of a shelter.

Housing Rehabilitation

The second contract awards $735,278 to Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry for transitional housing for those individuals who are coming out of a shelter. Sarah Parks Jackson, from the Cuyahoga County Department of Development, testified that these dollars are CARES Act dollars that the county is now authorized to spend on housing rehabilitation through the United States Housing and Urban Development.  

Michael Sering, Vice President of Housing and Shelter from LMM, testified that in addition to assisting families in finding more stable housing, it also assists with the depopulation of homeless shelters. The goal is to rehabilitate 20 houses. The funding for this contract would assist with five of those units. All five are in the St. Clair/Superior neighborhood. For families who would participate in this program, there is no criminal background check, no credit score, or eviction check. Councilman Miller asked what the plan is after June 2023 in terms of ongoing operating costs. Sering said that these dollars are for capital repairs, but that they are going to work with other organizations who use vouchers, to contribute towards ongoing costs.  

LMM has some families who have moved into houses through the program and have been there since Thanksgiving of last year, according to Sering. Zelma George, West Side Catholic, and EDEN are among the current providers who are making recommendations for families to apply for the LMM program. Chairwoman Conwell asked how far is LMM towards fundraising for the full twenty houses. Sering said that LMM has completed its fundraising for all twenty houses. Five houses are occupied now. Two more will be opening in March. The funding from this contract would add five more by June. Three more are in the pipeline that will be complete by the end of the year. Councilwoman Sweeney asked, in the event of an issue, would complaints come to the landlord (LMM) or the tenant? Sering said that any complaints would come directly to LMM, but so far, they have received no community complaints. The contract was passed under second reading suspension to the full council.

 Child food insecurity rate is 25.8 percent, which is 9.7 percent higher than the national average.

Emergency Food Distribution

The next contract was a contract with United Way of Greater Cleveland for $1,220,450 from January 1 to December 31, 2023. The contract would allow United Way to administer funds that would enable the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland to purchase emergency food from the Greater Cleveland Foodbank. Testifying on behalf of the county was Marcos Cortes, who oversees contracts for the Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, Julie Johnson from the Hunger Network, Ken Surratt, who serves as the Vice President of Community Investment for United Way, Shelby McGee from United Way of Greater Cleveland, and Jessica Morgan from Greater Cleveland Food Bank. United Way will provide administrative oversight as well as evaluate the impact of the program.  

This contract differs slightly from the previous years in that it allows for up to five percent of funds to be spent on necessary supplies such as shelves and pallets, as well as maintenance (such as trash collection), at food shelter distribution points. The pilot program last year, which permitted up to 10 percent of the funds to be used on non-food items such as shampoo, will continue. In the presentation that was given, the United Way shared how the child food insecurity rate is 25.8 percent, which is 9.7 percent higher than the national average. The committee votes to approve the contract under second reading suspension.

Coordination between law enforcement and Child and Family Services

The next contract was a resolution to adopt the Child Abuse and Neglect Memorandum of Understanding between the county and law enforcement. This is an MOU between Child and Family Services and law enforcement, to ensure that when a child is in crisis or a family is in crisis, a staff person from DCFS is available to be on site alongside law enforcement, to quickly discuss what support options are available to the family, according to Jennifer Grossman, who works in DCFS. The State of Ohio recently passed House Bill 4, which formally mandates the creation of this MOU (though the county does this already), as well as renewal every two years.  

The MOU process is overseen statewide by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Conwell asked if “law enforcement” was defined as just police or if that includes the courts. Grossman mentioned that one of the signatories on the MOU is the juvenile court. Miller wanted to clarify when would be the next time an MOU would be approved. Grossman said that this will be in effect from now until the end of 2024. Another will have to be approved by December 2024, then another by December 2026, and so on. The MOU was approved under second reading suspension.

Homeless Services

The final three contracts all came from the Office of Homeless Services. The first contract was a contract with The Salvation Army for homeless men in the Pickup Assessment Sheltering Service (PASS) Transitional Housing Program. The contract will be extended until September 30, 2023, with an additional $794,821.00. Testifying on behalf of the contract was Melissa Sirak. Community Solutions wrote about this contract last year, although that contract was funded with county health and human service levy dollars. This contract extension will be funded with dollars from HUD. The contract was approved under second reading suspension.  

The second contract from Homeless Services was for $2,000,000 for a master 994,088 for A Resolution authorizing a master contract with various providers who provide permanent supportive housing services to chronically homeless single adults and high-barrier homeless persons. The contract will run until June 30, 2023. Those providers are:

  1. Emerald Development and Economic Network (EDEN), Inc., $917,663,00.
  2. Famicos Foundation, $150,097.00.
  3. Front Steps Housing & Services, Inc., $334,538.00.
  4. Mental Health Services for Homeless Persons, Inc. dba FrontLine Services, $160,005.00.
  5. Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. in the amount not-to-exceed $110,796,00.
  6. YWCA of Greater Cleveland – Cogswell Hall, $185,325.00.
  7. YWCA of Greater Cleveland – Independence Place, $141,576.00.Together, they run 14 Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) sites throughout the county. Under this contract, those who would be supported through this contract would receive rent-subsidized permanent housing, medical care, mental health, recovery, and employment services to help individuals integrate back into their communities.  

Testifying on behalf of the county was Melissa Sirak. Council did not have many questions. The only commentary focused on the delay in getting the contract assembled, which leads to later consideration at HHSA meetings, which can lead to cash flow problems for community organizations who are supporting this contract. The contract passed under second reading suspension.  

The final contract for OHS and the final contract for the day was for $994,088 for Rapid Rehousing through the Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Grant Program. The contract would be extended until May 31, 2023. The organizations awarded are:

  1. Family Promise of Greater Cleveland, $155,643.00;
  2. Journey Center for Safety and Healing, $303,130.00;
  3. The Salvation Army, $374,731.00;
  4. Contract No. 2812 with West Side Catholic Center in the amount not-to-exceed $160,584.00.Sirak testified for this final contract for homeless families who are need for temporary rapid re-housing, for reasons such as domestic violence, are able to find shelter. The goal is to get those individuals into permanent housing as soon as possible and link those families to services to support them. Community Solutions has written about this contract previously as well. The contract was approved under second reading suspension.  

The committee was then adjourned.

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