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Promising Practices: Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and EDEN, Inc.
Solutions Brief | March 8, 2011
In 2007, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) partnered with the Cleveland-based Emerald Development and Economic Network (EDEN), Inc. to reduce the number of elderly individuals and people with disabilities being evicted from subsidized housing in Cuyahoga County. CMHA recognized that these two groups represented a significant percentage of the households evicted from their subsidized housing, and that evictions were disruptive to those evicted and costly to CMHA. In partnership with CMHA, EDEN hired an outreach worker to conduct home visits with tenants at risk of eviction in order to help them preserve their housing subsidies.
Program History and Description
EDEN and CMHA had a history of working together, going back ten years. At that time, CMHA was concerned that people with disabilities were not accessing Section 8 vouchers, even though they were eligible for this type of rental assistance. A number of service providers for individuals with disabilities partnered together and requested that they be authorized to identify and refer people with disabilities to the Authority. CMHA allocated 750 vouchers for this initiative, dividing the vouchers equally between elderly households and individuals with disabilities. Through this partnership EDEN began to refer individuals for these vouchers, process voucher applications, and forward completed applications to CMHA for final approval.
Because of their preexisting relationship, in 2007 CMHA approached EDEN with a concern that there was an unacceptably high level of turnover in Authority-managed vouchers held by elderly tenants or tenants with a disability. CMHA and EDEN both recognized the challenges faced by households headed by an older or disabled adult. One difficulty was housing affordability and the challenge of obtaining affordable housing post-eviction. Many of the at-risk households were dependent on SSI benefits. At the time of the initiative, the average monthly income of a SSI recipient was $668—only 18.6 percent of national median income for a one-person household and an insufficient level of income for a market-rate apartment if a tenant were to lose his or her subsidy. Furthermore, nearly all of these tenants were at risk of eviction simply because they had not submitted their renewal paperwork or had missed a required appointment at CMHA—not because they had failed to pay rent, posed a risk, or were disruptive to the community. CMHA was concerned that a high percentage of this vulnerable population was at risk of eviction and subsequently becoming homeless.
EDEN and CMHA partnered to create a pilot program to reduce evictions among elderly households and individuals with disabilities. CMHA agreed to make a monthly referral to EDEN of 40 households that were in danger of being evicted because they had not submitted renewal paperwork. CMHA provided monthly payment installments to EDEN that enabled them to hire an outreach worker to conduct home visits and complete the paperwork of at-risk clients on the spot. The outreach worker sent completed paperwork to CMHA, who then completed all of the necessary processing and follow-up work such as background checks on additions to households. CMHA also supplemented EDEN’s work with their own efforts to contact additional tenants at risk of eviction.
By the end of the pilot, CMHA learned many important lessons that they were able to implement in their ongoing eviction prevention efforts. These lessons are also useful for communities looking to address evictions among their elderly tenants and tenants with disabilities.
The outreach worker hired by EDEN found that many tenants were at risk of eviction simply due to incomplete paperwork. Some tenants stated that they had mailed in their paperwork, and CMHA claimed to have not received the information. Several addresses were also incorrectly listed in the system due to moves within the apartment complex and CMHA was not notified. Other tenants, attending walk-in days for missed appointments, reported that they were unable to be served when they arrived at CMHA because it was too crowded, or because they did not have proper documentation to complete the recertification.
The pilot initiative lasted for four months, at which point CMHA was no longer able to fund it due to increased expenses for other Authority functions. While the pilot has ended, the lessons learned and impressive outcomes reached show that there is great promise for reducing evictions and preventing homelessness for this very vulnerable population with a unique set of needs by connecting with tenants and taking simple precautions.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
It was notable that nearly all of the imminent evictions were easily preventable with minimal additional support. An additional level of follow-up that had not been feasible prior to the creation of the EDEN outreach position was all that was needed to ensure that a tenant retained his or her voucher.
Partnering with Housing Authorities