During the Our Homes, Our Voices National Housing Week of Action, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) conducted a number of successful multi-sector events and activities across the state. COHHIO is one of seven Opportunity Starts at Home state partners that is working to broaden and diversify its housing coalition to other sectors, including education, healthcare, civil rights, anti-hunger and more. During the Week of Action, COHHIO leveraged its multi-sector partners to amplify the need for stronger federal action to expand housing resources for low-income renters.
To kickstart the week, COHHIO representatives were featured on the Doorsteps podcast, which explores housing challenges facing Ohioans. The podcast episode featured COHHIO Executive Director Bill Faith and Communications Director Marcus Roth, who jointly discussed the housing affordability crisis in Ohio, the disinvestment of housing resources throughout the state, necessary policy solutions, and the intersections between housing and other sectors.
In the podcast, Mr. Roth explains: “Housing is foundational. We know that access to a safe, decent, affordable home is really essential for people to get healthy, to overcome mental illness and addiction, or even recover from a broken leg…and also children doing their school work are going to be much more successful in school when they have a home to do their homework. We know kids that are homeless face a much higher risk of homelessness as they grow up and it becomes a reoccurring cycle. We know that people experiencing homelessness are more likely to get arrested and go to jail. As a society, we spend much money to put people in jail which costs more than giving them a home. So, if we address homelessness and we ensure that people have access to affordable housing, we will be dealing with a lot of other issues that our society faces. If we tackle the fundamental problem first, we will be able to make progress in other areas that are important to policymakers.”
Days later, the Columbus Dispatch published an article which included a discussion with COHHIO’s Advocacy team, along with Ohio CDC Association Executive Director Nate Coffman and the Homeless Families Foundation Executive Director Beth Fetzer-Rice. The article highlights disinvestments to the Ohio Housing Trust Fund from $73 million in 2015 to $43 million in 2020. The article also speaks to the recognition that housing instability and homelessness are linked to infant mortality, opiate addiction, and healthcare costs.
COHHIO also co-hosted tours of two affordable housing developments. The first tour of the Commons at Garden Lake was co-hosted with the National Church Residences (NCR). Director Deborah Ashenhurst of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services was able to attend the tour and engaged in conversations about the importance of additional housing resources to help improve the housing stability of veterans. The Commons at Garden Lake in Toledo is a supportive, affordable housing complex for formerly homeless veterans and veterans with disabilities. The tour also featured guest speaker Shawn Dowling with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who discussed the importance of safe, decent, affordable housing for veterans.
COHHIO conducted a second tour with co-host Findlay Hope House. Director Lydia Mihalik of the Ohio Development Services Agency was present. Findlay Hope House serves homeless and impoverished individuals and families in Hancock County through individual and community education, affordable housing, and advocacy. The tour featured guest speaker Dr. Victoria Schwartz with Findlay City Schools, who discussed the intersections between education and housing. As said by Dr. Schwartz, “housing in a safe and healthy neighborhood can improve a child’s sense of safety and security.”
COHHIO also released two resources to help inform policymakers, advocates, and the public on affordable housing issues in Ohio: 1) a “how to help” guide targeted at key state and federal policymakers; and 2) a comprehensive map which lists all the coordinated entry access points for homeless services throughout the state. To see the resources, click here and here.