Supportive housing opens in N. Toledo

Beau Saylor, a resident of Chestnut Hill Apartments, speaks as the Volunteers of America Northwest Ohio host an Open House for its new Permanent Supportive Housing Apartments, Tuesday.

With spacious apartments, brightly colored walls, new fixtures, and views of a memorial park next door, Volunteers of America Northwest Ohio welcomed neighbors to Chestnut Hill Tuesday afternoon.

The building is a new, 40-unit permanent supportive housing complex on Champlain Street in North Toledo.

"Being here has gotten me off of the street," said Beau Saylor, a resident who spoke at the open house. "I was homeless. … By showing somebody like me can get a second chance — and a third, fourth, and fifth chance — it shows the community cares enough to provide me with shelter."

Permanent supportive housing combines affordable housing with services such as a caseworker who assists residents in finding employment or connecting them with education or health services. To qualify to live at Chestnut Hill, residents had to be homeless and have a disability. There is no time limit on how long a resident can stay.

The building is opening at a time when funding for programs to house Toledo’s homeless residents is changing. A proposal before city council would eliminate nearly $204,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding starting this year for Aurora House, Bethany House, La Posada, Harbor House, and Family House.

The city says the shelters can apply for a different funding source, but regulations surrounding how that money is used could mean the shelters still will face as much as a 24 percent cut in their federal funding when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Final funding proposals for the shelters are expected to go before Toledo City Council next month.

Sue Reamsnyder, chief executive officer of Volunteers of America Northwest Ohio, said Chestnut Hill is not receiving any block grant funds from the city but is using grants from the Ohio Department of Development to cover some staffing and from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Supportive Housing Program to cover supportive services. Funding is also coming through the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority, which is providing Section 8 vouchers for each unit. Operational costs were unavailable.

Funding for the building of Chestnut Hill was provided by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency — the primary funding agency — the Housing Development Assistance Program, the City of Toledo HOME program, HUD Supportive Housing Program, Federal Home Loan Bank, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Sy Kreais, a block watch captain who lives nearby on Michigan Street, said the new $4.6 million building will be good for the neighborhood. "People go by it and they say, ‘That’s a nice building,’ " he said.

It is on the site of the former Electric Auto-Lite plant, the location of a major strike in 1934. In what was known as "The Battle of Chestnut Hill," two people were killed when National Guard troops fired into a crowd.

The plant closed in 1962; a memorial marker and park are on the site now.

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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