May 27, 2015 [Brian Albrecht, The Plain Dealer]
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services (NEON) and the Cuyahoga Land Bank will announce Thursday the creation of a joint effort to provide housing and support services for homeless veterans.
The “Healthy Communities Initiative — Veterans Housing Project” involves the renovation of six, two-level row houses and a four-unit apartment building on St. Clair Avenue at Nye Road in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood. The 10 residences are located near NEON’s Collinwood Health Center, and each has three bedrooms.
Gus Frangos, Land Bank president, said the project is “right smack in line with our mission of fixing a house to serve a need in the community — in this case veterans housing and access to health care for veterans.
“When you get something like this that all of a sudden transforms that corner, it not only fixes a building but fixes people,” he added.
“Sometimes transportation is an impediment to getting care, so this is a great strategic move on NEON’s part, Frangos continued. “They can say that not only do they have good health care available, but by golly, they have housing nearby, too.”
Frangos said the structures are vacant, and had been abandoned due to tax forfeiture.
He estimated that renovation of the buildings will cost about $500,000. “They’re not so dilapidated that they need to come down,” he said. “They have good bones on them, and all the basic systems are in place, or can be easily transformed.”
Frangos said NEON would be handling the reconstruction. Plans call for installation of new energy-efficient furnaces and/or heat pumps, appliances, double-pane windows and insulated doors.
Renovation should take about six months, and a completion date of May 2016 is scheduled, Frangos said.
In addition to the property, the Land Bank is providing $50,000 in equity for the project, and would become a minority partner with NEON in the limited liability company that would own and operate the rental units, according to Frangos.
The Land Bank has been involved in other housing efforts for veterans including a program offering property discounts to veterans.
Frangos’ son is serving in the Army, “so stuff like this has special meaning,” he noted.
Local agencies have estimated that there are about 1,700 veterans who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless each year in Cuyahoga County.
As for additional veterans housing projects being developed through the partnership, “we are open to some kind of discussion regarding properties that are unproductive near (NEON) health centers, that they’re willing to rehab,” said Dennis Roberts, director of program and property management for the Land Bank.
Karen Butler, NEON chief operating officer, said the Collinwood project is the start of a possible expansion of the concept, creating housing for veterans near NEON’s seven health centers in the county.
“This is first of what we anticipate to be replicated in other communities and neighborhoods that we serve,” she noted.
Support offered veterans and their families by NEON’s Collinwood Health Center covers what Butler described as “a comprehensive array” of services including adult medicine, optometry, a pharmacy, dental and behavioral health.
Butler said community groups in Collinwood assisted in the project, that will be funded through a variety of sources.
Announcement of the project will be made at 10 a.m. at the housing site, 15300 St. Clair Avenue, across from the health center.
NEON will work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in selecting potential residents, Butler said. Rent, anticipated to be $800-$900 per month, would be largely subsidized through housing vouchers from the VA and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she added.
“We want to help eliminate homelessness among veterans,” Butler said. “We believe all veterans should have a place to call home, as well as access to needed health services, and this project enables us to meet both of those goals.”