CLEVELAND — On Friday, some of the remaining homeless guests who have refused to move out of the Ramada Inn in Independence gathered in solidarity outside the Cuyahoga County Administrative Headquarters along with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) and other homeless advocates.
As of Thursday night, about 20 of the 100 homeless men occupying the Ramada Inn remained, and they are continuing to all on Cuyahoga County for a more adequate response to the situation, according to a news release from the NEOCH.
They have refused to move out and go back to the main shelter run by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in Cleveland, citing the danger that COVID-19 and variants pose to public health for those forced to into a large congregate shelter.
Chris Knestrick, executive director with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, and Molly Martin, agency director of strategic initiatives believe Cuyahoga County should honor the contract it set up with the Ramada Inn, and give the homeless men the option to stay at the hotel if they feel unsafe.
“We are here in solidarity with the men who are claiming their right to safe shelter in our community during a pandemic," Knestrick said.
“The guests are committed to standing up for their rights to safe alternative shelter amid COVID concerns," Martin said. "People who are living with disabilities, people who are deaf, people who are working during the day, that are worried about going back to congregate shelter i the midst of a pandemic.”
“They had asked that the county honor the original contract date of Aug. 31 to keep the Ramada Inn as a designated decongregated shelter site.”
The men were scheduled to leave by 2 p.m. Thursday when LMM ceased emergency shelter operations at the hotel after Independence officials said it violated state hotel occupancy law.
On July 16, LMM confirmed that the men now have the option to stay at the hotel, and issued the following statement:
LMM would like to confirm that ALL residents of the Ramada Inn were offered an alternative to staying at the hotel; the alternatives were based upon the availability of beds as well as the unique needs of each resident.
In addition, LMM has extended the following support services:
* Option to receive a $600 gift card to support their transition to an alternative housing solution for the next 60 days
* Bus passes to support transportation needs
* LMM shuttles still available Mon. – Fri. (should the residents decide to return to 2100 Lakeside Avenue)
* Ongoing case management support
* Access to vaccines, testing and vaccine incentives ($100)
The men moved to the hotel back in April to keep them out of a congregate living situation during the COVID-19 pandemic and were contracted to stay until Aug. 31.
But last month, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish agreed to move them after he said he got a call from Independence Mayor Greg Kurtz, saying the temporary shelter violated state law.
David Merriman, director of Health and Human Services for Cuyahoga County said providing additional space for the homeless will continue to be a top priority for the county.
Merriman pointed to the effort to purchase another shelter location at 2200 Lakeside Avenue and provide an additional 70 beds for the homeless in the coming months.
“This has been one of the top priorities of this administration," Merriman said. “It’s a reality that we need emergency shelter.”
“This is not a single population, this is a very diverse group with a host of needs. We have an absolute responsibility to address these needs, and we’re working to do that.”
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.