The dream of earning a college degree just became a little more of a reality for low-income single parents in Greater Cleveland. United Way of Greater Cleveland and CHN Housing Partners recently announced funding for Scholar House, an innovative project that will bring access to higher education, stable housing and childcare all under one roof.
The 40-unit apartment building will be located on Community College Avenue within walking distance of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) and Cleveland State University (CSU).
The project was awarded Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in May by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) that are expected to generate more than $9 million toward the facility’s $12 million price tag. Other core partners in the project are Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), Tri-C, CSU and Step Forward.
“We are so grateful to OHFA for seeing the need for this project in Northeast Ohio,” says Kevin J. Nowak, executive director of CHN Housing Partners. “The tax credit award is the essential first step to making Cleveland Scholar House a reality.
“This is much more than a bricks-and-mortar project,” adds Nowak. “With leadership from United Way and critical contributions from CMHA, CSU, Tri-C and Step Forward, our community is truly embracing Scholar House.”
Modeled after a successful program pioneered in Louisville, Kentucky, Scholar House will be the first facility of its kind in Cleveland. The facility will also house study spaces, a computer lab and common areas for family activities such as a play space for children.
CMHA will provide 40 project-based vouchers and lease the land for the building. Step Forward will provide on-site daycare. CSU and Tri-C will provide life skills, academic counseling and cohort support for first-generation college students. CHN, United Way and others will coordinate wraparound services, including mental health counseling, financial literacy and access to benefits and other services.
“The Scholar House model is a two-generation approach designed to interrupt the cycle of poverty for parents and their children and permanently change the trajectory of their lives,” says August Napoli, president and CEO of United Way. “The Cleveland Scholar House offers solutions to systemic problems, such as lack of access to affordable housing and quality education, as opposed to addressing the symptoms of poverty alone, including homelessness and hunger, to create real, long-term impact within the community and the hope of eliminating these barriers altogether in the future.”
Andrew Katusin, interim vice president of community investment for United Way explains the two-generation approach. The first generation being “single heads of household for whom education is the most effective and quickest path out of poverty,” he says. “The second generation is the students’ children, who will receive quality childcare through our partner, Step Forward.”
Katusin adds that enriching services, including Universal Pre-K, may provide the greatest long-term benefits.
“This builds an education culture within the family,” he says. “Children will see their parent prioritize their education, put food on the table and pay rent. This can create a positive life-changing trajectory 15 years in the making for the children.”
Nowak also emphasizes the importance of stable housing.
“Scholar House is an example of the power of a permanent address,” he says. “Housing stability provides a solid platform for families so parents can maintain jobs and children can stay in school.”
He explains that too many local families are living in an eviction cycle that breaks that predictable routine.
“They have to move multiple times, which is very disruptive to children in school. It also affects jobs and transportation. A stable home brings breathing room,” he adds.
Nowak expects to break ground in spring or summer of 2022, with a goal to open sometime in 2023. The project is a part of United Way’s focus on addressing the root causes of poverty through its Impact Institute. Economic mobility and housing are two of the strategic priorities.
“The facility will be services-enriched, meaning we will leverage our network to bring other resources to the table to help the residents succeed,” adds Katusin.