“We all learn here how important a place to call home is. We all want the same things and, often, they aren’t all that complicated,” says Beth Graham, executive director of Joseph’s Home in Cleveland, which provides medical respite and intervention services for the homeless. “All one gentleman who received our help really wanted was a comfortable chair to watch the Indians [Cleveland Guardians]. We were also [in addition to an apartment] able to provide that for him.”
Joseph’s Home opened in 2000 by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine to help homeless men by offering temporary housing and care. Last month, Mary’s Home, a facility to support women in the same ways, was scheduled to open. Both facilities also now have a goal to help stop the cycle of frequent hospital stays for these groups.
Graham credits “the ability to move forward” to grants received from United Way of Greater Cleveland. The funding, she says, enabled “our innovative pilot program with Cleveland Clinic to help stabilize vulnerable people.”
Joseph’s Home is one of 16 Northeast Ohio agency partners selected to receive grants for the 2022-2023 funding cycle through Community Hub for Basic Needs. The new funding process is part of United Way’s total $20.1 million investment strategy in the region in 2022.
“United Way has been funding Joseph’s Home for many years,” says Graham. “But this new process really deepens the relationship we have with the United Way, and we are excited to be part of the Community Hub. They were looking for things that really had an impact on the community, and I believe we do. We hope to demonstrate through the pilot program that medical respite can disrupt that cycle of going in and out of the hospital, which is not only terribly tragic, but very expensive.”
The seeds for United Ways’ investments and giving transformation, focusing on those with “the deepest need,” began three years ago, according to Kenneth Surratt, named vice president of community investment and chief investment officer in October. The significant change was needed, says Surratt, “to ensure that racial justice and social-economic potential is available to everyone.”
“Historically, most people think of United Way as just giving grants across the community to support nonprofits,” explains Surratt, who most recently was the outreach manager in the Community Development department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He also held a systemwide leadership position promoting racial equity in community development work. “But what really makes an even greater impact is being more targeted, more thoughtful in the funding. We looked at things like racism as being the roots of poverty. We looked not just at the symptoms of poverty, but the causes.”
United Way identifies three community strategies — Economic Mobility, Health Pathways and Housing Stability — as its targeted initiatives. The 16 agencies selected within Cuyahoga and Geauga counties will receive $2.6 million in grants from the United Way’s Community Hub for Basic Needs over time and fall under one of those categories.
Surratt says Economic Mobility will focus on both early child care and workforce concerns. Health Pathways will concentrate largely on helping seniors become more independent. The Housing Stability branch of the Community Hub is of special interest to Surratt, having been a former Cuyahoga County Deputy Director of Housing and Community Development.
“Housing is a big part. Stable housing means keeping people off the streets, out of shelters and putting people on the path for stability,” says Surratt. “A lot of other issues can stem from not having stable housing, including health and education concerns.”
In addition to Joseph’s Home, recipients include: Lexington Bell Community Center, Ravenwood Health, Spanish American Committee, Starting Point and Towards Employment. Also, YWCA Greater Cleveland, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Asian Services in Action (ASIA), Family and Community Services (Geauga County) and Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers. In addition, May Dugan Center, Thea Bowman Center, Doors of Hope, FrontLine Service and Journey Center for Safety and Healing also benefit.
The Community Hub for Basic Needs enhances, not completely replaces, all of United Way’s traditional and proven investments. Catholic Charities, United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, among others, will continue to benefit from the United Way’s plans and goals. United Way also encourages local nonprofit agencies to participate in the next grantmaking process, which opens in summer 2023 for the 2024-2025 funding cycle.
United Way also strives to support the entire nonprofit community in Greater Cleveland by sponsoring its Center for Excellence – LIVE. This new series of virtual sessions is designed to address a variety of topics of importance to the nonprofit sector. Those include building high impact boards; interpreting financial statements; and discussing race, diversity, equity and inclusion. A new studio at United Way’s headquarters at 1331 Euclid Ave. will broadcast the sessions and nonprofits will be welcome to use the studio on a space-available basis. The studio is scheduled to open next month.
And yes, the familiar workplace donation campaigns will continue, according to Surratt. Those opportunities provide pathways for businesses that may not have the resources or staff to launch and/or maintain annual donation programs even though the willingness and dedication is there.
Surratt names retiring August (“Augie”) Napoli Jr., president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland, and Danielle Crawford, director of Evaluation and Learning for United Way’s Center for Excellence in Social Services, for helping sow the seeds of United Way’s investment shift.
“Those strategies are now being played out with Community Hub for Basic Needs,” says Surratt.
United Way of Greater Cleveland is a nonprofit organization founded in 1913. It is the largest private sector investor of health and human services. For more information, visit unitedwaycleveland.org.