Homeless shelters throughout Ohio are scrambling to obtain masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, staffing, and food. Even more critically, they need to reduce the population density within these congregate facilities to enable social distancing, and immediately move high-risk residents – seniors, people with medical conditions, pregnant women and young children – out of harm’s way.

Last month, we created the COHHIO Pandemic Emergency Fund to support local shelters on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus. We recently issued grants totaling nearly $500,000 to agencies throughout the state, and have more coming.

We plan to issue another round of grants next week that will largely wipe out the Fund if we don’t get more donations. Shelters desperately need assistance particularly until federal funding arrives in 6-8 weeks, so please donate to your local shelter (contact list) or support our Pandemic Emergency Fund to help limit the spread of COVID-19 among shelter residents, staff, and the broader community.

Thank you to everyone who has already donated, and please share this message with people in your network. The situation shelters are facing right now truly is dire – much more so than I can convey in an email. I am so worried about people who have to weather this pandemic living in a shelter, and the staff, who often have no protective equipment or even hand sanitizer, and then go home every day wondering if they’re carrying the virus back to their families.

I want to express my gratitude to everyone who is working tirelessly in Ohio’s shelters and other housing programs to keep residents safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the community. Healthcare workers are getting a lot love right now – and they certainly deserve it. But so do all of you in the trenches who are fighting the double crises of homelessness and the coronavirus.

Please know that COHHIO is doing everything we can to support you. In addition to the Pandemic Emergency Fund grants, here are a few more examples:

  • We have secured $1 million from the Governor’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives to help fund local rapid rehousing and homeless prevention services that will help divert families with children out of shelters during this critical time. We appreciate the contribution and we look forward to much higher level of TANF funding from the DeWine Administration for this need.
  • COHHIO Emergency Pandemic Fund purchased 30,000 face masks to distribute to local shelter programs via Ohio’s regional homeless continuums of care. Those will arrive by the end of next week.
  • We have already delivered to shelters: 960 rolls of toilet paper; 68,700 pair of gloves; 386 bottles of Mr. Clean; 164 bottles of CDC-10 grade disinfectant; 1,300 dust masks; 50 hospital grade masks; 100 digital thermometers; and 60,000 bottles of soap.
  • We are working with the DeWine Administration to ensure that efforts to deconcentrate shelters and move folks into non-congregate settings, like hotels, will be eligible for reimbursement once federal FEMA funding becomes available. Ohio’s emergency declaration makes it clear these are eligible costs, but this will be a complex process. We will keep you up to date as this develops.
  • I am in regular contact with Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss, who leads the governor’s task force on coronavirus and homelessness. Lori has been very responsive and helpful in getting attention to the issues facing shelters. You can send questions and concerns directly to this task force at: COVID19Housing@mha.ohio.gov

I also want to thank everyone who has helped us advocate for including homeless and housing resources in the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included $4 Billion for Homeless Assistance Grants and $5 Billion for Community Development Block Grants, which can be used to support local non-profits and local rental assistance programs.

We now urge you to continue advocacy efforts for the next coronavirus relief legislation. Please ask your member of Congress to include $11.5 billion in additional Emergency Solutions Grant dollars and $100 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance.

  • EMERGENCY SOLUTIONS GRANT (ESG): These homeless service dollars would be focused shelter de-concentration, rapid re-housing and homeless prevention. A recent report from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, and Boston University projects that people experiencing homelessness will be twice as likely to be hospitalized, 2-4 times as likely to require critical care, and 2-3 times as likely to die than the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic. They estimate that costs for appropriate shelter and quarantine space for people experiencing homelessness would total around $11.5 billion in this year alone.
  • RENTAL ASSISTANCE: Now more than ever – Housing is Healthcare – and foundational to our economy. Stabilizing families will help stabilize the economy, and rental assistance plays a vital role in stabilizing our workforce. Nearly 400,000 Ohio households already paid over half of their income in rent before the pandemic, and now over 600,000 Ohio households have applied for unemployment compensation. The proportion of people living on the edge will increase exponentially as this crisis continues. Rental assistance is a win-win for our landlords and tenants.

Conversations about what will be included in Congress’s next coronavirus package are happening now, and we are hearing that official votes and deliberations could occur as soon as the end of next week. Please stay tuned and will share as we learn more.

Thank you,

Bill Faith
Executive Director