Dream: Create more supportive housing

Dream: Create more supportive housing

Homelessness is complex; there's not one person or entity that could tackle it. At the YWCA, we think the solution is not about changing the skyline of Columbus, but rather its landscape. Currently, fair-market rent in Columbus for a 2-bedroom apartment is $720 a month. To afford that, you'd have to be working a job earning $15.50 an hour for 40 hours a week. The minimum wage in Ohio is $7.95, which would mean a 78-hour work week*-the math just doesn't work. Creating more supportive and affordable housing is a simple solution.

Through our women's residency program, we serve the city's most vulnerable women, 100 percent of whom have been chronically homeless. Because of our supportive housing, we're able to move 95 percent on to independent living. There are enough statistics to say this works-the YWCA's family center is already a national model. But we want Columbus to serve as a model in a bigger, more holistic way, with the creative and tech communities, entrepreneurs, the city, everyone engaged in the problem. Supportive housing comes with services. It teaches the homeless how to budget their money, take care of the family, take care of the apartment. We're dealing with generational poverty, and our neighbors need help learning how to grocery shop on a budget, cook in a healthy way.

Think about how much you'd have to work to afford that fair-market apartment; it doesn't leave much time or money for activities. If you can take housing insecurity out of the equation, vulnerable individuals can get their living situations pretty stable. That allows them to get jobs that make sense for them; it allows them the opportunity to go to college or to earn a certificate that will help them make more than minimum wage. Homeless adults and families cost the community a minimum of $35,000 per person a year through the disproportionate use of ambulances, emergency services, the fire and police department. Permanent supportive housing costs the community about $13,000 a year. Providing this population with supportive housing is a cost savings for the community and elevates them out of survival mode. -As told to Jenny Rogers

*Based on a budget model that recommends individuals spend less than 30 percent of their gross income on housing