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New grant to help Toledo Homelessness Board tackle issues worsened by pandemic

During the pandemic, shelters had to decrease capacity in order to stay safe, while, at the same time, the need for their services was increasing.

TOLEDO, Ohio — A new grant is addressing the homelessness issue in Toledo.

The Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board received the new Risk Mitigation grant from the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. Board leaders say it will help with longstanding issues that were only worsened by the pandemic.

Walking in downtown Toledo or across the city, those without a home still roam the streets even in the dead of winter. Board executive director Rachel Gagnon says 2020 caused major issues. Shelters needed to decrease capacity in order to stay safe, while, at the same time, the need for their services increased.

"When we're trying to do social distancing measures and make sure folks are safe in a congregate setting, it's very challenging," said Gagnon. "So we did get creative and used hotels where we could."

With the increased need for community housing, the homelessness board was awarded a $34,000 risk mitigation grant. Officials say it will help with move-in costs for those finding themselves homeless, prevent evictions and attract private landlords for more housing by guaranteeing that rent and expenses are paid even if the renter falls on tough times.

"To give landlords an incentive to serve individuals who are more difficult to house because of barriers that they have from previous housing situations," said board grants manager Candace Bishop.

Gagnon adds that many grants usually come with terms, but this grant does not, and will allow them flexibility to address certain issues.

"Rental subsidies may not cover the full cost of an available unit for a particular client, so this can cover the difference," said Gagnon. "It also is meant to recruit new landlords for us, since we know we do not have enough low-income housing in our community."

Gagnon says this new fund will help them to be proactive and prevent families and individuals from losing their housing and stability.

"If they're in stable housing right now and perhaps they've hit a rough patch and just need a little bit of help," she said, "these funds can kind of help keep that at bay and keep them in a stable setting."

There is opportunity for the board to get more funds from this grant and leverage it into a bigger program. Gagnon believes it could be vital when the eviction moratorium due to the pandemic eventually comes to an end.