A Place 4 Me, the Sisters of Charity Foundation and the Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services has partnered with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM), young adult leaders, local funders and service providers to introduce a drop-in center where young people seeking housing stability can find respite, resources and safety.
Drop-in centers are critical elements of a systemic approach to prevent and end youth homelessness, yet Cuyahoga County remains the only major urban area in Ohio without one. LMM has been a provider of support and services to youth facing crisis in Cleveland for more than 30 years, and we are committed to seeing this project through to fruition.
Guests of the center will access food in the kitchen, clothing and personal hygiene items, wash clothes in the laundry room, shower, and take a break in the living room, dining room, or library. A small computer lab will be available for guests, as well as multiple charging pods. There will be an area for guests’ children to play with supervision. Staff will link guests to a variety of housing supports and services, including access to diversion and prevention assistance, family mediation and reunification support, emergency rental assistance, Rapid Re-Housing, and supportive housing. The youth drop-in center (YDIC) is not a shelter and does not provide overnight bed capacity.
The exploration and vetting of sites for a youth drop-in center was a critical element of the planning process. The drop-in center partners engaged Allegro Real Estate Brokers to support a site search and selection process. Criteria were defined in partnership with the youth-led planning team. Criteria included safety; access to public transit; residential location with high walkability; access to amenities such as libraries, medical care, shops and cafes; near downtown but not in downtown; and appropriate in size. The 4100 Franklin Boulevard location was one of several prospective properties, but it was the only one that met all criteria. An added benefit is that the site is owned by LMM, which will allow for a shorter renovation timeline and budget, to get the center up and running for youth facing adversity as quickly as possible.
The YDIC has encountered some delays relating to the proposed site at 4100 Franklin Boulevard in Ohio City. The site is owned by LMM, and as many of you know, has been operated for charitable purposes for decades. Early in 2022, LMM, on behalf of the project and collaborative partners, submitted the building rehab plans to the City of Cleveland for a zoning review. In May of 2022, LMM received a zoning non-conformance determination from the City of Cleveland with respect to an exterior element of the proposed building design as well as certain aspects of building usage. There is an appeals process provided for by the City of Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) through which the necessary variances can be pursued.
LMM, as building owner, has engaged legal counsel on behalf of the project and collaborative, and submitted an appeal of this notice of nonconformance on November 8, 2022. In December 2022, the architectural firm working on the YDIC, Bialosky Cleveland, presented the project’s architectural drawings to the Local Design Committee that oversees projects in the Ohio City area, and the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission. Each meeting resulted in minor requests for functional and aesthetic revisions to the drawings and designs, in order to as closely as possible maintain the original character of the current building. All recommendations and requirements were adopted by LMM and incorporated into the site plans by Bialosky. A final step in the appeal process is for the project to go before the BZA, which will take place on February 6, 2023.
The project has also encountered challenges with community support and acceptance. A small group of immediate neighbors to 4100 Franklin Boulevard oppose the site of the project. Members of the collaborative met individually with those neighbors most vocally opposed, hosted a series of meetings with community stakeholders, including neighborhood groups, elected officials, public safety officers, area human service providers and others to build an awareness of the need for the center, plans for safety and security, and adjustments to operations that would encourage good neighbor practices. Despite LMM and our collaborative partner’s best efforts to inform and engage the few remaining in opposition, some neighbors prefer that a youth drop-in center not be located near their residences.
Along with the above mentioned organizational partners, the core planning team that is driving this process has 50% representation of young adult leaders with lived experience of homelessness. They have been empowered to lead on decisions related to operations and the site of the project. It is these young adults with lived experience who have, notwithstanding the resistance by a few neighbors, determined that this site meets their criteria related to community assets such as walking distance to public transportation, the library, medical care, shops and cafes and other amenities while offering a non-institutional neighborhood feel. They know that there is a history of Ohio City being a welcoming and hospitable community that embraces diversity and a myriad of social service providers. We are pleased to note that this project has the support of a significant number of residents who have rallied around these young adults and are advocating for this location.
The collaborating organizations, community supporters and young people with lived experience who are championing this project remain grateful for the support of this much needed resource for young people experiencing homelessness in our community. We have received ongoing support of the project from Cleveland City Councilman Kerry McCormack, and we continue to engage with other community stakeholders, including the Franklin Clinton Block Club and Ohio City Inc. We are committed to seeing this project to fruition and are thankful for the many inquiries we have received about the project.
If you would like to encourage local elected officials to endorse this project at 4100 Franklin Boulevard, LMM graciously accepts your show of support! A template letter of support can be found here for you to reference and can be sent (via email or USPS) to the BZA at: email@example.com, or ATTN: BZA, Room 516, City Hall, 601 Lakeside Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. You can also contact your local City of Cleveland Councilmember and encourage them to champion this cause.
Chairperson, Board of Directors
Maria A. Foschia
President & CEO