INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — At least 20 of the 100 homeless men who have been living at the Ramada Inn in Independence have refused to move out and go back to the main shelter run by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in Cleveland.
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.
“Some things we've gotten together, some things we haven’t. It's just a matter of waiting,” said Derek Brown, a resident staying at the Ramada Inn. “It was a sudden thing.”
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.
News 5 reached out to both Kurtz’s and Budish’s offices for comment. Kurtz’s office issued a statement:
Earlier this month, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries (LMM) informed the City of Independence that they would be transferring the 155 homeless men staying at the Ramada hotel since April 15 to a downtown shelter on July 15, 2021. LMM, not the City, determined this date.
Today, the Northern Ohio Coalition for the Homeless announced that 50+ current residents at the Ramada have decided to stay at the hotel, citing safety concerns at the downtown shelter.
The owner of the Ramada, LMM, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, are solely responsible for determining what the appropriate action is to address this situation.
Budish’s office also issued a statement:
We reaffirm our dedication to providing support for people experiencing homelessness. We have confidence in our partners at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry to continue managing services at this stage in the pandemic. We have committed to expanding and improving our services, as evidenced by our pending $550,000 purchase of 2020 Lakeside Ave., the building immediately next to the current men’s shelter.
As we have for more than 20 years, we will continue to work with our partners to develop creative ways to assist people in finding temporary shelter and ultimately permanent housing.
Thursday, the majority of the 100 homeless men living at the hotel left on shuttle buses, going back to LMM’s main shelter at 2100 Lakeside Ave. in Cleveland as the organization halted their services at the hotel.
Going back to the shelter is something Brown and some other residents aren’t willing to do because of concerns about living in close quarters while the delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading.
“Number one, I hear that the place is poisoned, you know, there's people getting sick. Plus the fact that people with this new disease going around, you know, they don't have everything smoothed out yet,” Brown said.
Some of those men reached out to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless on Wednesday for help.
“NEOCH came on site and started talking to guests who organized together to make a list of demands to the county,” said Molly Martin, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
The organization sent that list of demands to the county and LMM Wednesday night, which includes honoring the original move out date of August 31, and supporting LMM so that they can continue serving as the lead service provider for food, security, and on-site social service needs.
So far, Martin said they haven’t heard back from either agency about long term plans for the men remaining at the hotel.
“I think there's still some uncertainty but I think the guests are very grateful that they have the support from the owner of this hotel,” said Martin.
The owner of the Ramada Inn has agreed to let the remaining men stay through the weekend while they wait to work out long term arrangements with the county and LMM.
Brown said he’s not sure what’s going to happen, but he’s not worried.
“We're gonna make it, you know, I mean somehow or another, we'll find what we're looking for, you know, and we'll just build from there,” Brown said.
At least 20 men are staying at the hotel, however, Martin said there could be more because some residents were at work during the scheduled move out time.
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry also issued a statement regarding the move out:
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM)’s temporary stay at the Ramada Independence due to COVID-19 is coming to a close, but the men who sought us out for shelter on their toughest days will not be left without a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, or much-needed wrap-around services. Sixteen years ago when we contracted to run the largest homeless shelter in the state of Ohio, we made a commitment to always provide for every man in need of shelter and individualized case management. We are just as committed to providing shelter services and dignity to our local homeless population as the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
The reason for occupancy since the start of the pandemic has been to keep the men safe and healthy by utilizing hotel hubs, since shelters aren’t traditionally designed with social distancing in mind. During our time at the Ramada in Independence, we have faced challenges, but in the meantime, have been able to make transition plans for our residents. The Hotel Hub strategy has intentionally been a temporary solution during an emergency situation, and while we are moving men back to the shelter earlier than anticipated, we have put every precaution in place to keep residents safe, including well-thought out renovations.
The transition plan will relocate the men from the Ramada to the Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside, which has been modified to comply with COVID safety protocols. LMM is able to move men back to the shelter at 2100 Lakeside during COVID by fast-tracking the design, build, and installation of a “pod” concept (pictured below). Pods will serve the purpose of safety through social distancing. They will also increase privacy and add security with coded locks on all doors. Pods will be a combination of double beds, quads and singles. LMM is continuing the practice of COVID screenings for each resident, COVID testing on-site once a week, and making vaccinations consistently accessible to residents.
LMM also provided renderings of the pods at its main shelter.
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