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Lack of HUD funding for Miriam is 'cause for concern'

Cary Ashby • Jun 5, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Catholic Charities officials have met with a state housing representative over the funding possibilities for Miriam House in Norwalk.

In March, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it wasn’t renewing funding for Miriam House for the 2019/2020 fiscal year. The $87,000 cut amounts to 37 percent of the annual budget.

Rodney Schuster, Catholic Charities executive director, explained what happened with the HUD situation. He said it had received HUD funding “for quite a few years,” but this year when Miriam House applied, HUD officials determined the facility didn’t score “high enough” on a scale in various categories to continue funding it. Schuster, who has been the executive director for nine years, said Miriam House received HUD money for all that time. HUD officials have been unavailable for comment.

Miriam House, which started in 2000, is a transitional housing program for women and mothers with children who otherwise would be homeless. It is open to the 19 counties covered by Catholic Charities, which includes Huron, Erie, Richland, Sandusky and Seneca counties.

After the Norwalk Reflector’s coverage over the $87,000 budget cut, officials representing U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-4th District) and the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) contacted Catholic Charities, which is part of the Toledo diocese. The purpose of ODSA is “to provide funding for transitional and permanent housing to reduce homelessness in Ohio.” Schuster has credited the Reflector news stories and an April 4 editorial with prompting the two meetings. 

“Both the stories and editorial did a great job of capturing the impacts of the cuts to the services we provide to the women and children who come to us,” Schuster wrote in a thank-you note to managing editor Joe Centers. “Because of your coverage, Congressman Jim Jordan’s office called and met with us to learn more and see if they could help. Thank you for being a voice to those in need.”

Schuster said on average 40 to 45 women and children enter the Miriam House each year. If it closed, no other transitional shelters are available in the community to provide these services.

When Jordan was in Norwalk on Friday morning, he toured the new fire station and spoke to the executive director and several board members with the Enrichment Centers for Huron County (previously Senior Enrichment Services). The congressman was asked about the Miriam House funding situation.

“Just like the senior center, it’s a concern. I know Caroline (Bick) has been working hard to try to figure out (if) there (are) any avenues that we as a congressional office (find) helpful and we will continue to do that,” Jordan said.

Bick is Jordan’s deputy district director.

Ian Fury, Jordan’s communications director, responded to three questions emailed to him in late May. Fury was asked if Jordan had been able to get any answers or some financial help for Miriam House.

“Our office has remained in contact with the Miriam House. We’re glad that the house will remain open and we will continue to work with them to secure future funding sources,” the spokesman said.

Recently Schuster said he met with Scott Gray, of the OSDA, who “gave us suggestions for applications” for funding through the OSDA and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

“We have taken that to heart. … Both of those we will be pursuing,” added Schuster, who noted VOCA funding would be appropriate since Miriam House serves many women who are victims of domestic violence.

The Catholic Charities executive director was asked how much of a concern it is to lose 37 percent of the Miriam House’s annual budget.

“It is a cause for concern because we lost $87,000,” Schuster said. “We have had donors come forward,” he added, but noted those donations haven’t made up the difference and there will need to be more funding strategies.

Schuster encouraged anyone who is interested in donating to Miriam House to go to the Catholic Charities website, https://catholiccharitiesnwo.org or mail checks with a Miriam House donation designation to Catholic Charites, 1933 Spielbusch Ave., Toledo Ohio 43604 or Miriam House c/o Catholic Charites, 48 Executive Drive, Norwalk OH 44857.

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