Sam Allard / Scene
Ruth Gillett (County Homeless Services), Pamela Ashby (HUD), and Elaine Gimmel (EDEN), among others, with ceremonial check.
The Emerald Development & Economic Network (EDEN), alongside leaders from the Cleveland HUD office, announced Tuesday that the local nonprofit housing agency had received the largest HUD grant in the state of Ohio to provide new housing vouchers for people with disabilities, including those experiencing homelessness.
EDEN will receive 150 new vouchers to subsidize rental payments as part of the mainstream voucher program. Local HUD director Pamela Ashby presented EDEN with a ceremonial $850,000 check at the Commons at West Village in Detroit-Shoreway.
Elaine Gimmel, EDEN's Director, said that the funding is part of a recent federal allocation for the mainstream voucher program, the first such new funding since 2005. The 150 vouchers will be in addition to the 175 that the organization currently administers.
On Dec. 9, EDEN will open up its wait list for the mainstream housing voucher program for the first time in 15 years.
(The "mainstream voucher program" is apart from the housing choice voucher program administered by CMHA, and refers specifically to housing vouchers for people with disabilities. But both vouchers are tailored to individual recipients. Those with a housing voucher pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. The voucher covers the rest. And for many of the applicants in the mainstream housing voucher program, total income may be at, or very close to, zero.)
"[This award] not only speaks to the strong work that EDEN does," said Gimmel, in prepared remarks, "but the strong collaborations in the City of Cleveland and in Cuyahoga County."
Gimmel said that approximately 11 percent of the county population, roughly 135,000 people, live with a disability. The vouchers, she said, are "greatly needed," because they allow many of those people, especially those facing housing insecurity or homelessness, to live independent lives.
"It's clear that we need as much financial support and partnerships so that we may continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community," she said. "These 150 vouchers take us a step forward in addressing the affordable housing crisis in Northeast Ohio."
In a conversation after the announcement, Gimmel said that while 150 may not seem like a significant number, given the need that exists, EDEN will be required to secure leases for at least 80 percent of their new vouchers within a year, and EDEN didn't want to take on more than they could handle.
Once the contract officially begins, EDEN will hire additional staff to administer the new vouchers. EDEN already has staff to scout potential locations — finding landlords who accept vouchers has become increasingly challenging — and those dedicated to the housing stability of their clients.
EDEN's Marketing and Communications Officer, Alex Lakin, read a testimonial from EDEN client Darlene, who has been living in her home on the east side for 27 years.
"I was really struggling to pay my bills, and [the voucher] really helped me to not be in a crunch," Darlene said. "How will I pay for this? How will I pay for that? ... I like my home, and nobody really wants to move at my age. I love that I didn't have to move."
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