The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) recently made an offer to help move the 250-bed Drop Inn Center and build a new shelter at a different location in the city.
3CDC and many city officials want to move the shelter from its current location on West 12 th Street in Over-the Rhine due to efforts to revitalize the area, including the newly constructed School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) and the soon-to-be overhauled Music Hall and Washington Park. Move supporters include Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and a City Council majority.
3CDC is a nonprofit developer that partners with City Hall to help redevelop parts of downtown and Over-the Rhine. Its offer proposes helping the shelter ind a new site and building a facility that would serve up to 50 homeless men and dispersing the remaining beds to other facilities.
The new center would be part of the city’s Homeless to Homes initiative, aimed at helping homeless people not only ind shelter but eventually move out of homelessness by offering them permanent housing.
“The purpose of this initiative is to provide a higher level of service to these individuals,” says Kevin Finn, executive director of the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care for the Homeless. “Residents would have case mangers and a working plan aimed at getting them out of homelessness.”
The initiative includes building a safe walk-in shelter, a single women’s shelter, a young adult shelter, two separate men’s shelters and a faith-based shelter. Combined, the shelters could offer a similar amount of beds as the Drop Inn does now, just at multiple sites.
Homeless advocates criticized what they called scare tactics used by Finn and Qualls in a May 14 Enquirer article about the move. Both mentioned potential problems with convicted sex offenders being located next to the new SCPA, but homeless advocates noted that no sex offenders stay at the Drop Inn.
Opponents of the offer to move and rebuild the center argue that those shelters are simply potential ideas and the city doesn’t currently have the money to actually build them.
“There is no grand offer or even a site to build these shelters,” says Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless.
“This offer from 3CDC has been portrayed like 3CDC is bringing new money to the table. In reality, 3CDC is going to the city and foundations to get money for this.”
3CDC representatives declined to comment.
While supporters of the Drop Inn move concede they don’t have all the money for the shelters allocated yet, they have found ways to use preexisting taxpayer funds to pay for the projects.
“Right now taxpayer money is not being used as efficiently as it could be,” says Peg Moertl, chairwoman of the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care for the Homeless. “We plan to use this money more effectively to better serve the homeless.”
Critics counter that simply moving around beds won’t reduce homelessness and is a waste of taxpayer money.
“If they really want to end homelessness, they should be concentrating on building permanent housing for these people,” Spring says.
“Shuffling people from one place to another is not going to end homelessness and will cost millions and millions of dollars.”
The redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine has also had many people questioning the true motivation behind 3CDC’s proposal.
Currently, 3CDC is involved in the multimillion-dollar makeover of Washington Park, which is across the street from the Drop Inn Center.
“3CDC is working with the city to redevelop Washington Park and make it more attractive toward people who live outside the city,” Spring says. “In the process, they are trying to hide and cleanse the area of people who are homeless, poor or handicapped.”
If the Drop Inn Center were to close, he says, these people would have nowhere to go and would be worse off than they were before.
“I constantly have homeless people asking me when they are coming for them,” Spring says. “It must be horrible to feel like your own legislature doesn’t want you.”
Finn was quick to point out, though, that nothing in the Homeless to Homes initiative says that the Drop Inn Center must move.
“It is the Drop Inn Center’s decision as to if they can best serve homeless people where they are at now or at a new facility,” he says. “We can implement this plan at their current location or at a new location, so the inal decision is completely up to them.”
Drop Inn Center oficials haven’t decided whether to accept 3CDC’s offer and are still at the beginning stages of evaluating the proposal.
“We are interested in serving our residents in the best possible way,” says Pat Clifford, executive director of the Drop Inn Center. “We are open to hearing any ideas or suggestions that would make us do our job better.”
Whether someone favors the proposal or not, Qualls says the bottom line is more needs to be done to help the homeless population in Cincinnati.
“This is the irst time in over 40 years that we have had the opportunity to really address the homeless issue in Cincinnati,” she says. “It’s time for the community to step up to the plate, and the longer we delay the longer these people are going to suffer.” �