Many motorists and pedestrians in Over-the-Rhine have wondered what it was, and now CityBeat has the answer. “It” refers to the nearly three-story high mound of dirt located at the corner of Liberty and Race streets.
The dirt, which first appeared a few months ago and has grown in size ever since, lies behind a chain-link fence on a vacant parcel. Some concrete barricades have been pushed against the fence to give it extra support at containing the mess as it expands, but stray bits of soil have spilled over onto the sidewalk and street.
Anywhere but here.
That's the common response when city residents are asked where group homes for men and women experiencing homelessness and/or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction should be operated.
While most citizens seem to agree that the group recovery facilities like halfway homes and supportive housing are generally a good thing, there's one point everyone seems to disagree on: where to put them.
Most recently, a 100-unit supportive housing development that would house chronically homeless and disabled, low-income individuals became the subject of much ire when residents near the proposed site in Avondale complained the facility would threaten the safety and revival efforts in an area already oversaturated with low-income housing.
Now, a Ludlow, Ky., branch of a local entity operating
transitional housing facilities for recovering addicts across the
Greater Cincinnati area is facing scrutiny from the Ludlow Historic
Society, a small advocacy group that works to promote and preserve the
neighborhood's historic buildings.
In an email to society members obtained by CityBeat, Ludlow Historic Society President Ruth Bamberger wrote:
While we believe that ex-addicts need housing, the city has serious concerns with its ability under current law to control or limit housing to this population. The Ludlow Historic Society is likewise concerned because we are striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their homes and raise their families.
Bamberger specifically cited concerns about the program’s legitimacy, its proximity to schools and its affect on the Ludlow housing market.
New Foundations Transitional Living (NFTL), a for-profit, private transitional housing operator founded in 2010, runs seven sober houses across the Greater Cincinnati area for men and women who have successfully completed a detox or rehab program and have been discharged from the court system.
NFTL also works with treatment centers and probation officers to monitor residents entering the program. The program supports itself completely from rental fees paid by patients in the program; residents are charged $322 per month for housing, amenities and some therapeutic and rehabilitation services.
Transitional living facilities for drug and alcohol rehabilitation generally provide low-cost housing to people recovering from addiction interested in getting their lives back on track, while "halfway houses" usually cater to people recently released from incarceration that need more rehabilitation to assimilate back into society.
Jason Lee Overbey, director for New Foundations Transitional Living, thinks that Bamberger’s contempt is berthed from misinformation and stereotyping. “New Foundations is not low-income housing,” he says. “We are not a shelter. We are an organization providing residents a safe place to reside — with structure, observation and assignments — to begin and maintain their journey in recovery."
Overbey says that all applicants go through an extensive screening prior to being accepted. NFTL doesn't accept sex offenders, arsonists or anyone with an open felony or misdemeanor warrant, and prospective residents also have to commit to stay drug- or alcohol-free and maintain employment.
“The people that live in our facilities dress nice, they smell nice, they’re educated,” he says. “A lot of our residents are professionals themselves. They pay taxes, shop, go to church, give back to the community in Ludlow. Who should we be more worried about, them or someone anonymous in the neighborhood who could be violent or actively abusing?”
The Ludlow, Ky., location, Elm Men's House, currently houses 13 patients who have either willingly checked themselves into the program and were accepted following a comprehensive application process or ordered to live in one of the facilities by a court, although those mandated comprise less than half of NFTL's residents.
The Historical Society held a private meeting on Tuesday,
Oct. 8 in Ludlow's City Council chambers with City Administrator Brian
Richmond. Overbey says the Historical Society has not responded to New Foundations' meeting requests.
Neither of the two buildings encompassing the Ludlow facility are actually designated as "historic."
There’s not much information on the community ripple effects of transitional housing, although one 2010 study found residents were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence, ultimately concluding:
The promising outcomes for SLH residents suggest that sober living houses might play more substantive roles for persons: 1) completing residential treatment, 2) attending outpatient treatment, 3) seeking non-treatment alternatives for recovery, and 4) entering the community after criminal justice incarceration.
The Ludlow Historic Society could not be reached for comment.
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory will deliver his annual State of the City address next week.
The address, which will be Mallory’s seventh since taking office, will be given 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will be held in the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, located at 650 Walnut St., downtown.
When CityBeat asked what the theme would be for this year’s address, a spokeswoman for Mallory declined comment.
“Our office won’t be previewing or giving information out about the speech this year,” said Julianna Rice, a policy aide to the mayor.
Generally, because seating is limited, anyone wishing to attend must receive a ticket through the mayor’s office. For more information, call 513-352-3250.
Mallory, a Democrat, was sworn in as the 68th mayor of Cincinnati on Dec. 1, 2005 and was reelected in 2009. He cannot run again in 2013 due to term limits.
Mallory’s election marked a new era for City Hall as the first two-term mayor under the city's new “stronger-mayor” system, as well as Cincinnati’s first directly-elected black mayor, and the first mayor in more than 70 years who didn’t first serve on City Council.
Mallory celebrated his 50th birthday on Monday.
A group of residents has begun a petition effort to convince Cincinnati officials to use an unexpected $5.5 million windfall to keep several city-owned swimming pools open.
The controversial permanent supportive housing facility proposed for a residential area of Avondale that caused outrage amongst Avondale community members took a small blow today when Cincinnati City Council members Pam Thomas and Charlie Winburn introduced a motion at a City Council meeting to rescind council's original support for the facility.
The proposed facility, Commons at Alaska, would be a 99-unit housing facility providing residency and supportive services to the area homeless population, particularly those with severe mental health issues, physical disabilities and histories of alcohol and substance abuse. CityBeat covered extensively the Avondale community's concerns about the location of the facility and how the project's developers felt the facility was misunderstood ("Home Invasion," issue of Sept. 4).
On Feb. 13, City Council offered its official support for the Commons at Alaska project in a resolution, a decision members of Avondale 29, the group formed to oppose the project, say was made without proper community outreach and neglect for proper considerations of the facility's effects on the already-blighted surrounding neighborhood. At that time, Christopher Smitherman and Cecil Thomas (before he resigned his position) were the only two members of council who did not vote to pass the resolution.
The motion reads: "When the resolution was heard by City Council, a small minority of the 18,000 members of the Avondale Community expressed their support for the development. Further, the North Avondale Community Council has voiced their opposition to the development. With this resolution, the majority of the community who are opposed to the development are being heard."
The developer, National Church Residences, is a well-respected developer and manager of housing facilities for the homeless nationwide. In June, the project received more than $1 million in tax credit financing from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which would allow NCR to move forward with building plans and eventually begin construction in summer 2014.
City Council's official support was originally cited in NCR's application to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which may have factored in to OHFA's decision to award the tax credits. The motion will be voted on in council's Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m.
Two Cincinnati City Council members will unveil a proposal Wednesday to require banks to take better care of foreclosed properties.
Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Cecil Thomas want city administrators to gauge the feasibility of launching a pilot program to improve vacant and blighted properties, which they said would help stabilize neighborhoods.
If ultimately deemed feasible and approved, the proposal would create a mandatory registry for vacant foreclosed properties and enact stiffer civil offense charges for properties that aren’t properly maintained. Also, it would require point of sale inspections prior to sheriff's sales, and assess the costs for code violation corrections to lenders.
The program would be tried on a one-year trial basis in Westwood, Price Hill, College Hill, Madisonville and Mount Airy. If successful, it could be expanded to other neighborhoods.
When foreclosed properties are left vacant, they often become targets of crime and sources of blight, and can ultimately end up in the hands of absentee landlords, Sittenfeld said.
"Our efforts are all about demanding accountability," Sittenfeld said. "Banks and lenders must maintain the properties they own, just like the rest of us."
He added, “We must all care about this issue because all of us are affected by it. If you live next to a vacant foreclosed house, your property values go down and your quality of life deteriorates. This pilot program provides an important step toward stabilizing our neighborhoods."
Sittenfeld and Thomas will formally announce the plan at a press conference Wednesday morning at a foreclosed home at 1540 Ambrose Ave. in College Hill. The property is owned by mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has had 188 building code enforcement cases in Cincinnati during the past five years.
The proposal also has the support of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmembers Chris Seelbach, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young. That gives it enough votes for passage, which means administrators will report back to council on the costs for such a program and whether it would be effective.
Community activists and advocates from Working In Neighborhoods and the Legal Aid Society also support the proposal.
Local residents have a unique opportunity to participate in a candidate forum featuring people running for Cincinnati City Council that will occur this Saturday.
As it has done for the past few election cycles, The Greenwich nightclub in Walnut Hills will host the forum, which currently is scheduled to include all 23 candidates vying for the nine council seats. This year, the forum's theme is “Cincinnati 2012: Diary of a City in Transition,” and it will be held from 7:30-11 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public, although seating is limited.
Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved the first comprehensive plan in the last 32 years to direct future city growth and development.
All eight present members of council voted in favor of the plan, after a 10-minute “love-fest,” as Councilwoman Yvette Simpson put it, praising one another and the team that created the plan. The nine-member team worked on the comprehensive plan for the last three years.
Councilman Chris Smitherman was not present for the vote.
“I can’t use the term that Joe Biden, our vice president used, but this is a big deal,” said Mayor Mark Mallory, referencing an infamous gaffe where Biden uttered an expletive into a hot microphone.
The 228-page plan emphasizes urban development over suburban, citing population movement back into city centers.
The plan focuses on key areas and offers proposals for the near-, middle- and long-terms.
These include proposals to stabilize residential and business areas, improve quality of life, improve housing choices and affordability and offer alternative means of transportation to automobiles, including the controversial streetcar.
CityBeat previously covered the plan in depth.