Agencies across Franklin County work to stop evictions and rapidly rehouse the homeless. Non-profits receive funding from the central government each year and also partner with local social service agencies, such as the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, to offer options to low income tenants with a source of income.
Many agencies collaborate to provide these housing services to everyone from the disabled to seniors and under-employed. When possible, the first goal is to prevent the family from being evicted in the first place, but when this can't be done then the emphasis in Columbus Ohio is on rapid re-housing. Applicants come from all backgrounds, and may be families with children, the disabled and single adults among others.
Rehousing - A main objective is to get a client out of a shelter or transitional housing site. Or if the family has a voucher to pay for a motel for a night or two, this will be addressed by rehousing too. Agencies try to refer a family to a low income home or apartment within 21 days of them gaining stability.
The process is extensive. People that are homeless will first meet with a Family Advocate. They will help them search for local rental market rate housing in Franklin County. They will try to find a landlord that will lease their property to someone with a past eviction on their credit report. As this is ongoing, the case manager will help with organizing their documents, such as proof of income, so they can apply for the new apartment in as little time as possible.
Another service known as Next Step (or direct housing) have case managers that partner with the family. During a stay in this program, the professional staff member will get to know the families. They will understand their strengths, barriers to self-sufficiency, assets, and more. This will allow the creation of a mid to long term self-sufficiency program that will be relied on to prevent a future eviction.
Those families that were evicted in the past may also be able to apply for a government grant. The applicant will need to prove they are now self-sufficient and can maintain their tenancy agreement in the future. This is required before any funding will be provided.
If qualified, family Advocates can offer funds for a security deposit or a few weeks worth of rent in advance. They may also help pay for moving expenses to help formerly homeless families move into new housing and of a shelter.
Eviction programs – If a Franklin County family has a pay or quit notice from their landlord, or if they are on the verge of eviction, then this resource may be an option. When possible the applicant may be given money to pay past due rent as part of ESG – Emergency Solution Grants. When this is done, only a small dollar amount of funds will be issued. The decision on whether funds are paid out for the eviction or not will be made after a coordinated intake is done on the resident.
If the landlord is not open to this form of payment as the rent is so far in arrears, or if the eviction is caused by another matter, then a Family Advocate will refer the tenant to other housing options, including a shelter or transitional housing. If the individual has other challenges, such as an addiction that is causing them to be evicted, then help is available in the form of referrals to treatment programs. They can be used to tackle substance use disorder issues or severe mental health challenges.
Pro-bono law firms in Columbus also a part of the Continuum of Care. In many cases the eviction process can be delayed, or even stopped, if all parties both communicate and understand their rights. So this form of legal aid will be used to find some solution that keeps the family together and living in their current home.
Additional services – Families that were evicted and now meet the HUD definition of being homeless can get more practical support, such as clothing or a hot meal. The Advocate will also review the public aid that is available as part of the Ohio Benefit Bank, and this will allow the client to apply for benefits such as section 8 vouchers for their rent, social security disability, or even Medicaid.
While there are many agencies that are work to together as part of the Continuum of Care, one of the leaders is the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless. They organize service providers, meet with the homeless, and share information on federal grants that can be applied to.
There are two main intake lines to call for information on shelters, eviction prevention and other emergency support. They are 1-888-474-3587 for singles or 614-253-7970 for Franklin County households with children. Both of the intake lines are maintained by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless or their partners.
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