Our appreciation continues for our neighbors in Ohio City who support the proposed location of the future Youth Drop-In Center (YDIC) at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry’s (LMM) building at 4100 Franklin Blvd. The first of its kind in Cuyahoga County, the Center will be a place of respite and safety for youth and young adults. The YDIC is an initiative of A Place 4 Me, operated by LMM, and in partnership with the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland and the REACH Youth Action Board.
On behalf of the Youth Drop-In Center collaborative partners, we are sharing this update to provide the latest information on this important project.
As the community is aware, the renovation and opening of the Youth Drop-In Center has been stalled due to legal proceedings taking place, prompted by a small group of neighbors opposing the location, based on unfounded fears of how young people experiencing housing instability allegedly will conduct themselves. The project partners are disappointed, but not discouraged, that some of the neighbors took this step despite a unanimous, favorable ruling from the City of Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals, granting a variance for the YDIC, as well as a strong show of support from many residents of Ohio City as demonstrated by the approval vote at the Franklin-Clinton Block Club meeting on January 26.
After the BZA’s decision to grant a variance for the 4100 property, two appeals were filed in mid-March with the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The first of two appeals, LMM’s appeal of the City’s Notice of Non-Conformance, was briefed over the course of the summer. On September 12 the Court upheld the Notice of Non-Conformance. The second of the two appeals, filed by neighbor Ron O’ Leary, opposing the BZA’s decision to grant the variance, was filed along with a motion requesting a stay. On March 25, the Court of Common Pleas granted the motion to stay, as is common in this type of proceeding. The briefing schedule on this appeal was for after the first appeal was decided. On November 6, both LMM and the City of Cleveland each filed a brief in response to Mr. O’Leary’s appeal, and the next step is for Mr. O’Leary to file a final reply brief before a decision is made by the Judge.
We suspect that the neighbor’s lawsuit was filed to tie up the building owner and YDIC operator (LMM) in an expensive legal battle and prevent the partners from providing fundamental services to the youth in our community who need it most. Jones Day Cleveland stepped up and offered pro bono co-legal counsel, and has been working with us since early summer. We thank the Jones Day attorneys, along with attorney Ben Ockner, who has been with us since the beginning. They believe in the importance of the Youth Drop-In Center including LMM’s right to provide these services as a continuation of its charitable operations, and we are confident in our position in this matter.
We were happy to welcome A Place 4 Me to the 4100 Franklin building in August. The nonprofit was displaced over the summer months after a fire rendered their prior offices uninhabitable. The AP4M staff team is conducting their many services on site, alongside those services already provided by LMM. In the first two months of AP4M operating out of this site, they have successfully provided services to young people on site more than 70 times, with no impact on neighborhood safety.
Finally, we thank neighbors, friends and service partners for the ongoing support. It continues to energize us in our pursuit of a safe, welcoming space for young people seeking housing stability. Make sure to follow @LMMCleveland on social media for the most up to date information on the center, and we will continue to share periodic updates with you via e-mail.
LMM is expanding our efforts to eradicate youth homelessness, in collaboration with many partners in our community, and we look forward to sharing another update with you soon!
Maria A. Foschia
President & CEO
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry