Cleveland Housing First

Emerald Alliance Building Cleveland
Emerald Alliance Building Cleveland

What is the goal of the initiative?

The Housing First initiative in Cleveland/Cuyahoga County, Ohio formed in 2002 in response to all-time-high levels of long-term (chronic) homelessness in the city and county. The initiative’s goal is to build sufficient units of permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness in Cuyahoga County.

More than 40 partners came together to build or renovate rent-subsidized permanent housing, and provide supportive services, such as medical care, mental health, recovery, and employment services to help individuals integrate back into their communities. The model focuses on working with those who are experiencing the highest barriers to stabilization – those struggling with severe mental illness or substance use, and veterans.

Who are the partners?

The Housing First Initiative brings together the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, particularly the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services who were early and strong supporters that prioritized resources to serve the most vulnerable residents in the community. Housing First faced “Not In My Backyard” political challenges when it started building permanent supportive housing (PSH); the city and the county were instrumental in efforts to gather community support.

The operational partners and their roles are:

  • Enterprise Community Partners – Convener and Collaborative Leader
  • CHN Housing Partners (formerly Cleveland Housing Network) – Property Developer (Lead Developer, Co-Owner)
  • EDEN Inc. – Property Manager (Co-Developer, Co-Owner)
  • Frontline Service – Social Service Provider
  • Care Alliance – Health Provider

What outcomes have been achieved?

Elected officials provided critical leadership in the community engagement processes to help educate the community about the work of HFI, and to ensure that HFI projects were responsive to community input.  Portions of two sites were purchased from the City of Cleveland and the City of Cleveland land bank. The city further provided HOME funding through its Department of Community Development to support the development of each HFI project in excess of one million dollars per project.  Cuyahoga County has provided HOME funding of nearly $500,000.   

Since 2006, the Housing First Initiative has reduced long-term homelessness in Cuyahoga County by 86%.  At its peak, Cuyahoga County had more than 800 individuals who were long-term homeless; today that number is fewer than 190 and will be zero by 2020.

It is estimated that Housing First saves the community about $6.8 million a year by housing the long-term homeless and providing health care and social services they need to stabilize. The long-term homeless account for 20% of the  homeless population, but they use 70% of emergency services when cycling in and out of emergency rooms, shelters, and the criminal justice system. Since the first Housing First building opened in 2006, the initiative has saved the community $47,806,880 in cost savings.

To date, Housing First has 11 permanent supportive housing buildings with 650 apartments. Another building with 60 apartments will open in 2018. When Housing First’s final building opens at the end of 2019, it will add 71 apartments for a total of 781 to end long-term homelessness in 2019 and reach functional zero.

How are the projects funded?

Housing First has invested more than $131 million in neighborhoods throughout Cleveland since the first building opened. The projects are financed primarily through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) which are purchased through investments from Key Community Development Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners. Public funds come from a variety of sources, including the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the State of Ohio, foremost the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. HFI has received generous grant awards from the Federal Home Loan Banks of Pittsburgh and of Chicago, and Cincinnati’s Affordable Housing Program, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the local Continuum of Care, and grants from Home Depot and The Cleveland Foundation. 


Enterprise Community Partners, Ohio


Center for City Solutions, NLC

Last modified: January 2018

Related Topics