Mansfield officials meet and discuss the housing needs of the former inmates
No plans have been made for a local facility
Several community leaders gathered at the Volunteers of America building in Mansfield last week to discuss housing options for individuals transitioning out of prison, but officials said no plans have been made to provide such housing at VOA facilities.
The meeting was held on September 7 at the Voice of America buildings at 280 and 290 N. Main Street, which formerly served as halfway houses, to discuss the need for housing for men and women after incarceration.
Those who attended the meeting and toured the VOA buildings included officials from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Volunteers of America, the North End Community Improvement Collaborative/Local Reentry Coalition, the Mansfield City Council, and representatives of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce.
One of the main challenges in reentry is finding housing for people, said Ronnie Burks Trousdale, deputy director of ODRC’s Office of Reentry.
“For us, it’s often very difficult to find respectful, supportive, sustainable people who can afford it,” Trousdale said.
Members of the media were not invited to attend the meeting.
“We have heard about a high-profile statewide rehousing assistance concept, which is needed,” said Judy Berry, chief operating officer of the Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development. “Finding safe housing and a good job are essential.” “There are two factors that are important to successfully reintegrate people into the community. However, my understanding is that the North Main Street property has some restrictions on it that likely would not allow it to be used in this way,” she said.
Jason Michael of Mansfield Correctional Facility gave a presentation on potential housing initiatives, ODRC spokeswoman Joylyn Smith said Wednesday.
Smith said ODRC is not buying the Voice of America locations in Mansfield or its properties.
“We fund, support and partner with local organizations to enhance re-entry efforts,” Smith said.
VOA has no intention of placing residential reentry services at 280 N. Main Street or 290 N. Main Street, said Nicole Toombs, director of marketing and communications for Volunteers of America in Ohio and Indiana.
“We are in the process of selling the building at 290 N. Main Street,” she said, adding that VOA is looking into leasing options to community agencies for its building at 280 N. Main Street.
Housing is a challenge for people transitioning out of prison
“So we’ve been pushing and working hard across the state to identify areas and organizations that we can work with to create housing for the people that we serve,” Trousdale said. “Our director has been very supportive of our housing efforts and us trying to find housing for people.” “We often have difficulty with housing providers (landlords) even wanting to rent to people with criminal backgrounds.”
She said the recent meeting in Mansfield was really just people from ODRC looking to see what was out there.
“It’s very important for us to build relationships with communities,” Trousdale said. “That’s No. 1. What we find when we build those great, strong relationships with our partners, we know what they offer and we can reach out to them for help.
“What Jason (Michael) and some of the other team members have been doing is looking at what kind of housing options are available? What we’re hoping is that at some point, we’ll get some funding that will help help with housing for people coming back from prison,” Trousdale said.
“Until then, what happens? Who can we work with? Who can we partner with? And certainly the Voice of America has been a great partner to our agency through our Community Sanctions Office,” she added.
ORDC has a reentry coalition operating out of Columbus called the Central Ohio Restored Citizens Collaborative, Trowsdell said.
“They actually implemented a program called Master Leasing. Basically what they do is they identify partners or housing providers (landlords) in Columbus that want to lease the property to the organization, so the Central Ohio Restored Citizens Collaborative then they do that,” Trousdale said. Sublet the rooms to people affected by incarceration.”
“What’s nice about it is that we can find places for people to live. They’re homes that you or I would want to live in. Beautiful homes. They’re well-maintained. And our reentry partners will work with that housing provider to ensure the home is taken care of,” Trousdale said. “If there are any minor repairs, they help with that. They only contact the housing provider if there is anything major. This housing provider gets its rent every month because it is paid by the cooperative. “Then they sublet the rooms to people who were affected.”
Some people stay a few months at properties like this, Trousdale said. Some stay a little longer as needed.
“They (the co-op) call it wraparound services or case management services but we like the concept of life coaching where they provide that person with the things they need to actually become a sustainable renter or homeowner,” she said. “They help them get a job, they help them if they have therapeutic needs. We have people who are sometimes interested in pursuing higher education so they help them go back to school. They do everything they can to help that person.” “Be stable so they can rent an apartment or a rental or Buying a house themselves. This is basically the concept of Master Leasing, it is not something ODRC is doing now but we are very interested in it.”
“ODRC wants people leaving prison to live in places we want to live in. We want to give them a really good opportunity so they can start their new lives and change their lives,” she said.
She added that ODRC needs places across the state to which they can refer people.
She added: “We’re not necessarily looking to buy a building. That’s not our plan. Our plan is to build these partnerships.” “…We export to all 88 provinces.”
Voice of America’s presence in Mansfield:
In 2017, the News Journal ran a story about a Volunteers of America women’s halfway house on North Main Street that was operating illegally.
The facility violated legal and zoning restrictions approved by Voice of America officials several years ago when it received approval to move a halfway house for men to a new location on the city’s far north side, at 921 N. Main Street. Shortly after, the Voice of America moved the building to other locations.
VOA offers numerous programs throughout Ohio and Indiana to provide behavioral health and addiction services, support our nation’s veterans, promote self-sufficiency for people experiencing homelessness, and help citizens return to their communities after incarceration, Toombs said. VOA has residential processing facilities at 921 N. Main St.
VOA also has thrift stores in central and northeast Ohio including 1280 Park Avenue West.
Councilman Diaz, Zader noted the housing difficulties
“It is difficult to find housing in general, but for those who seek to return to society, we have to keep in mind that they are in fact still part of society,” said Aurelio Diaz, a member of the Fifth District Council, who attended the meeting. the society.
“We have to do our best to explore supports for those returning to the community just as we would for any other resident, but we have to do it in a way that ensures safety for everyone as well as identifying appropriate locations for the program.” He said.
“We have a problem, and we need a solution,” Councilwoman Stephanie Zader said. “The problem is that we have people leaving prisons who need housing, and the program that ODRC is looking to implement is a solution that provides a better quality of life for renters while providing incentives and protections for landlords.” Everyone deserves a second chance, and this program provides that while educating people on how to be better neighbors.”
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