Wilmington-area group seeks path to lessen homelessness


By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com



Erica Mulryan, director for 80 non-urban Ohio counties with the Coalition On Homelessness and Housing In Ohio, speaks about homelessness with a Clinton County group.

Erica Mulryan, director for 80 non-urban Ohio counties with the Coalition On Homelessness and Housing In Ohio, speaks about homelessness with a Clinton County group.


Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

WILMINGTON — In order to better understand homelessness in the Wilmington area, and then be in a better position to reduce the number of houseless people, a coordinated community plan will be prepared to provide a direction.

Clinton County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Taylor Stuckert said a local group’s discussions have yielded a sense that the issue, the scale and the causes need to be better known so an effective response can be mapped out.

The director of 80 non-urban counties in Ohio for the nonprofit COHHIO (Coalition On Homelessness and Housing In Ohio), Erica Mulryan, was invited to speak with the group who wanted to bring in somebody from outside.

One thing Mulryan said is she’s a big fan of the coordinated community plan process as a useful tool to get a better handle on the characteristics of a locale’s homelessness, and not simply rely on gut reaction.

“You need to take that time to figure out what the problem looks like and what the numbers really tell you,” said Mulryan.

“A plan helps everyone move forward in the same direction,” she added.

Stuckert thinks the financial resources are there, such as the new Legacy Fund as well as HealthFirst.

In terms of solutions, Mulryan said for some homeless people, housing might be enough. But others probably will need some amount of “pretty intensive supportive services” along with housing, she said.

“The solutions are multiple and varied and individualized,” said Mulryan.

When a group participant asked about root causes and mentioned drug addiction and mental illness, the COHHIO director said national research continues to identify the primary driver of homelessness as an increasing lack of affordable housing.

After the meeting, Clinton County Homeless Shelter Executive Director Denise Stryker said local waiting lists for affordable housing are “so long.”

At one point in the discussion, Mulryan said, “I can tell you right now that in calendar year 2019 that [Clinton County Homeless] shelter assisted 162 households, and only 19 percent of those households were able to be assisted with ‘rapid rehousing’, which is just a reflection of not enough resources. In an ideal world, we would expect to see closer to 50 percent of people who experience homelessness get some kind of assistance to help them get out of it.”

“Rapid rehousing” involves time-limited rental assistance and services provided in tenant-based units up to 24 months. Its purpose is to move people out of homelessness and into housing quickly.

The coordinated community planning process is expected to include a point-in-time count of homeless people in the Wilmington area.

After the meeting, Stryker said she thinks there are hidden homeless in this rural area. There are many people who are hidden who have come to the Clinton County Homeless Shelter who have slept in their cars for months in parking lots, she said.

Stryker added there are a lot of people who come to the homeless shelter with substance-abuse problems.

Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty, part of the local group meeting on homelessness, said he would like for the Coordinated Community Plan and Report to have at least some preliminary ideas about types of projects, and possible resources that could be tapped.

During the meeting, Mulryan reported that the renovation-and-upgrade plan for the Prairie View building on Prairie Avenue in Wilmington indicates some residential units will be dedicated to people who have experienced homelessness.

When the $5 million renovation project was first reported last summer, the announced time schedule was for construction to begin in summer 2020, with completion projected in 2021.

Episcopal Retirement Services acquired Prairie Oaks Village, comprised of three distinct buildings, in 2017.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

Erica Mulryan, director for 80 non-urban Ohio counties with the Coalition On Homelessness and Housing In Ohio, speaks about homelessness with a Clinton County group.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2020/02/web1_erica_p.jpgErica Mulryan, director for 80 non-urban Ohio counties with the Coalition On Homelessness and Housing In Ohio, speaks about homelessness with a Clinton County group. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

By Gary Huffenberger

ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com