West Side Catholic Center
The West Side Catholic Center’s Zacchaeus Housing Solutions program offers a new way of providing transitional housing for families experiencing homelessness.
Zacchaeus Housing Solutions Means Fewer Moves, More Stability
Many homeless shelters sponsor residential transitional homes to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness segue back into society. But this model means the organization has to play the role of landlord and bear the cost of upkeep on the facility. And the family has to find new housing once their time at the transitional home is up (perhaps 6 to 12 months). West Side Catholic Center (WSCC) decided to try a new approach: offering rent subsidies and case management to families who locate their own housing.
“This is a unique model in Cleveland,” Executive Director Anita Cook explains. “The client—not us—has the relationship with the landlord. And there’s no need to “graduate” from transitional housing into a new place. We think it’s a more effective, less traumatic approach and it’s more cost effective.”
The program, called Zacchaeus Housing Solutions (Zacchaeus), started in 2008 and serves roughly 60 to 65 families per year. Through it, WSCC covers the bulk of the client’s rent for up to 12 months. Clients pay on a sliding scale according to their income, with a minimum payment of $50/month. WSCC staff help Zaccheaus participants find housing, inspect the units to ensure compliance with HUD regulations, assist with getting the place furnished, and learn to become good tenants.
Participants are expected to be employed; if unemployed, they must attend the WSCC’s employment clinic twice per week. The clinics provide help with resume writing, job interviewing, applying for work, job search assistance, and mentoring.
Clients are also provided guidance in building basic life skills: the program offers training in housekeeping, meal preparation, budgeting, and bill management. Clients can also enroll in the Passages program, where they are linked to family mentors. These are caring volunteers who stand ready to become part of the client’s support system and expand their social and cultural horizons.
In 2012, Zacchaeus served a total of 264 people. Close to 77 percent of families achieved key outcomes such as obtaining employment and increasing income.