Mansfield municipal building

MANSFIELD -- The City of Mansfield will receive $1 million in federal funds to assist with homeless residents and those at risk of becoming homeless, according to Adrian Ackerman, community development and housing director.

The money was allocated to the city through the American Rescue Plan Act through the Home Investment Partnerships Program. It's in addition to the $21 million the city is receiving in other ARPA funding.

According to the Housing and Urban Development website, the ARPA provides $5 billion across the country to assist individuals or households who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, and other vulnerable populations, by providing housing, rental assistance, supportive services, and non-congregate shelter, to reduce homelessness and increase housing stability across the country.

"We didn't even have to apply since we are a HOME-funded entity. We were automatically eligible," Ackerman said.

This week Ackerman received 160 pages of rules and requirements on how the money can be used.

"We were told of this money about the same time the city was informed of its ARPA allocation," she said. "It was put in place about the same time. We just had no rules on how to use it, so we have been fielding ideas in the meantime."

In his initial $10.5 million ARPA spending plan explained to City Council on Tuesday, Theaker said he wanted to allocate $60,000 to Catholic Charities for rental assistance.

The timing of the funds looks appropriate. On Thursday, Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero said an apparent visible rise in homeless residents in downtown Mansfield prompted him to see how Richland County could help.

Vero and others pointed out the gazebo in Central Park downtown has recently become an overnight gathering point for homeless and/or transient residents. There are also reported issues with activities in an alley near Central Park.

Vero said commissioners have been contacted by multiple business owners and residents "inquiring what we can do." Speaking during the commissioners' public meeting, Vero said the contacts with county leaders have been made "out of concern, not complaint."

Vero said he would start by contacting Joe Trolian, executive director of Richland County Mental Health & Recovery Services, and Sharlene Neumann, executive director of Richland County Job & Family Services.

The commissioner said there are a myriad of reasons involved in the homelessness issue, including mental health, and added he didn't know what form county government assistance might take.

Ackerman said the city is digesting the rules for the money's usage.

"We want to make sure we're able to do the most efficient and effective program we can," she said. "It can be used to create housing, provide rental assistance and other supportive services.

"It's going to take some time to determine what needs we have that meet the requirements, as well as what is reasonable to implement. We do have some immediate needs to ease some issues.

"Metro (housing) has several tenants who have vouchers who can't find a place to live. There are some issues we can address quickly."

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"

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