Hotel Hub Statement

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) is contracted by the Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services to run the Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside, the largest shelter in the state of Ohio. When the pandemic began, we, along with the homeless Continuum of Care partners, needed an urgent crisis plan for housing people who are homeless in northeast Ohio, since shelters are not designed for social distancing.

The hotel hub strategy was developed as a temporary, alternative method to provide shelter to this vulnerable population, allowing us to decrease our shelter census by 50% and keep the residents safe. Similar initiatives have been done in other cities around the country during the COVID-19 crisis. Cuyahoga is one of the most progressive counties in the country when it comes to addressing homelessness, and this innovative response in a time of need is a strong example of the partners’ commitment to serving the underserved. Funding for this effort was provided by the federal CARES Act and subsequent stimulus legislation. As of May, the project has totaled $7.5 million in federal funds at 10 hotels in four municipalities, which helped some hotels stay in business and enhanced the local economy during the height of the pandemic.

People who are homeless are at higher risk for death from COVID. Early national projections put the COVID infection rates for the homeless population at about 40 percent, and because of the hotel hub, we are at 4.3%. We followed the recommendations and guidance of our local, state and federal public health officials, and also partnered with a local hospital system. By utilizing hotels for some of the individuals who go through the shelter intake process, we have avoided an outbreak of COVID-19 among the homeless population, which could have caused broad community spread.

People who are homeless are already in crisis and often medically fragile with health disparities. When the pandemic hit and our residents became even more susceptible to life-threatening ailments, we took action. Each man is somebody’s brother, son, or dad, and they deserve dignity and respect. Housing is a basic human right, and when these men fall on hard times, we are their resource for a better tomorrow. While at 2100 Lakeside Avenue, and after being transferred to a hotel, they have access to case management for housing location and linkage to needed services including mental health, substance use treatment, and job readiness or placement.

LMM is an accredited 52-year-old nonprofit agency and has been providing homeless services for 16 years. We have extensive experience and are a respected and trusted organization in this space. When people are going through the toughest moments in their lives, we meet them where they are and use our expertise in social services, trauma-informed care and advocacy to enable them to self-sufficiency.

We skillfully work with people who are in transition and may have behavioral health needs, but behavior cannot always be anticipated. For safety at the Ramada, we have a combination of five private security guards and LMM monitors on-site 24/7. The hotel hubs are an extension of our shelter, so all rules and regulations still apply to shelter residents who are staying at the hotels.

We have 14 or more on-site employees at the hotel each day, including 150 hours of case management each week. This does not include hotel-employed staff. To date, 835 case management sessions have taken place with clients at the Ramada. Our social service partner agencies offer additional mental health services and programming at the Ramada for approximately 10 hours a week. In addition, 51 hours of volunteer time each week at the Ramada allows the residents the opportunity for additional support and activities. Our shelter residents, including individuals staying at hotel hub sites, have access to medical care from a prominent local health system partner. There is also a Cleveland Clinic location near the Ramada where our clients are receiving services including receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine. We refer people in need of substance use treatment to inpatient treatment as needed.

Our hotel options have been limited in Cleveland for various reasons, including the NFL draft, so we are grateful to the hotels that have been able to work with us to temporarily accommodate our residents. The number of men staying at the Ramada varies because the number of people seeking shelter at one time fluctuates with the need. We have ongoing communication with the city and the police department in Independence. As the pandemic evolves, so will our situation with utilizing hotels. We are working with partners to determine a community solution. Options such as reconfiguring shelters, transitional housing, affordable housing and vouchers are being considered.

Overall, more than 300 of the sheltered individuals secured employment and over 500 have moved out of shelter with positive housing outcomes in the past year. We will continue to be a leader in providing a broad continuum of social services to vulnerable populations, including our temporary residents at the Ramada.