In 2014, Access Ohio was awarded a $7.5 million grant from the Community Shelter Board to address the homelessness problem in Columbus over a period of 3 years. Dr. Johnson articulated that fixing the homeless problem wasn’t about just finding people homes. That was temporary like providing fish rather than teaching to fish. A large proportion of those people placed in homes ended up back in shelters.
The Navigator program removed the barriers that homeless are often faced with, housing them within 4-6 weeks, connecting them with all eligible services, and surrounding them with all the support within their new home so they do not have to be dependent on the shelters. The program provided services to 4,000 unique homeless individuals a year to help each connect holistically with the right linkages needed – addiction or mental health issues, vocational training, employment services, guiding them thru benefits enrollment, all in addition to finding them housing, and all in partnership with area organizations and healthcare providers.
The program has sustainably housed over 2,820 individuals who were previously homeless and the project was highlighted by Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther as making meaningful mpact given that many homeless have barriers such as past substance abuse and related part criminal records that make it extremely difficult for them to be considered for housing by landlords or for jobs by employers.Access Ohio partnered with Columbus Area Integrated Health Services who provide direct housing, supported employment, and mental health/alcohol and drug prevention services and Goodwill Columbus who assisted with workforce development, helping people with multiple barriers obtain and maintain meaningful employment.