COHHIO’s new Risk Mitigation Fund is helping Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission keep local landlords engaged with programs that help end homelessness for people in Northwest Ohio.

Thanks to a $75,000 grant from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio, last year COHHIO created a Risk Mitigation Fund (RMF) in the Ohio Balance of State Continuum of Care to recruit and retain landlords to participate in rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing programs. NOCAC was one of six regional lead agencies awarded a portion of the funding.

Susan Cheeseman, NOCAC’s Homeless Programs Manager, said access to the RMF has helped the agency keep people with disabilities stably housed when they might have otherwise been evicted.

For example, NOCAC was able to access RMF funding to pay utility arrearages for man housed in a supportive housing unit after he lost income because the factory where he worked was temporarily shut down, she said. “He couldn’t pay his utility bills and the landlord was going to evict him. But we were able to use the fund to pay his bills and keep him housed.”

Rapid rehousing and supportive housing are critical tools to get people back into housing after a bout of homelessness. But most communities, especially in rural Ohio, don’t have enough apartments available to help everyone facing homelessness. The Risk Mitigation Fund assures landlords that they will be covered if they experience unanticipated costs.

Cheeseman said the RMF has helped NOCAC keep landlords in their programs after a negative experience. For example, a supportive housing client who got incarcerated had given his key to family members, and they left a mess in the garage which they used to repair vehicles. “This was a very unhappy landlord, he didn’t want to work with PATH anymore,” she said.

However, RMF funding helped cover the cleanup costs, she said. “And now he continues to work with our program. In fact, he’s called us to let us know when he has other units available.”

In the past, NOCAC staff had to scramble to personally clean up such messes in order to salvage a relationship with an irate landlord, Cheesman said, noting that they would often quit participating anyway. “I could think of times in the past where, if we had this funding, it would have been absolutely a lifesaver.”

COHHIO appreciates the support from Anthem to create the Risk Mitigation Fund. Grants have been awarded to agencies offering homeless services in Defiance, Fulton, Williams, Henry, Paulding, Van Wert, Putnam, Hancock, Hardin, Wyandot, Crawford, Marion, Lake, Ashtabula, Geauga, Portage, Trumbull, Licking, Knox, Fairfield, Holmes, Coshocton, Fayette, Pickaway, Ross, Clinton, Highland, Athens, Gallia, Jackson, Meigs, Vinton, Hocking, and Perry counties.