For decades, charities in Cincinnati and Cleveland have served the poor, providing a roof and a clean bed to struggling men and women who have nowhere else to turn. But because of recent decisions by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the good work that they do is in jeopardy.
For more than 90 years, the City Gospel Mission has served the poor and homeless of Cincinnati. In addition to providing more than 130,000 hot meals a year, City Gospel Mission runs drug and alcohol recovery programs to help people break the cycle of addiction and turn their lives around. Providing shelter and transitional housing for these men and women is a critical part of City Gospel Mission’s work.
Now City Gospel Mission is looking to move in order to expand their facilities as part of Cincinnati’s “Homeless to Homes Plan,” a community-based effort designed to meet a growing need and help even more Ohioans get back on their feet. That plan, however, recently hit a snag. City Gospel Mission runs two separate facilities — one for men and one for women — and needs a waiver from HUD for their new property stating that this common-sense arrangement doesn’t constitute gender discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. So far, HUD has refused to grant this waiver. The longer the construction timeline is delayed, the longer the delivery of services to those in need will be delayed.
Bureaucratic red tape from Washington shouldn’t stand in the way of faith-based and other community organizations that are trying to tackle the difficult and age-old problem of homelessness and poverty. I joined with my colleague Sherrod Brown to demand that HUD reconsider its position and grant the needed waiver so City Gospel Mission, which receives no federal funds, can move forward. I will continue to work to achieve a favorable resolution of this matter and support City Gospel Mission as they build on the good work they have been doing for nearly a century.
Unfortunately, community organizations in Cincinnati are not the only ones who are seeing their efforts to help the homeless stymied by HUD. In Cleveland, The City Mission for over 100 years has served those in crisis by providing food, housing, and vocational training for area residents. While The City Mission receives no federal funds to support its efforts, many of the people it helps are chronically homeless and therefore able to participate in HUD-funded rapid rehousing, transitional housing, or permanent supportive housing. But under a new rule interpretation handed down by HUD, it appears that people who are helped by The City Mission will be denied the support that might otherwise enable them to become productive members of society.
That outcome was neither in keeping with the mission of HUD or the original rule which was intended to provide more efficient and effective assistance for homeless families. Simply put, no hard-working family should be denied an opportunity to get back on their feet. I have urged HUD to reconsider its decision and clarify that individuals who receive assistance from The City Mission and other charitable organizations are not cut off from this vital assistance. I organized a meeting of local and federal stakeholders on this issue last week, and a tentative agreement was reached that may lead to a resolution of this problem. I will continue to monitor the situation until it is resolved.
Around the country, thousands of faith-based and other non-profit entities are working to end homelessness and minister to those who have nowhere else to turn. HUD and other federal agencies should be helping to further that noble goal, not hindering it through questionable and counterproductive policies.
Rob Portman is a U.S. Senator for the state of Ohio.