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Greater Cincinnati nonprofit searches for youth housing ahead of apartment rehab

NewPath housing
Nick Swartsell
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Ahmad Colvin and Charles Carr, two residents in the NewPath Independent Living Services program, stand outside the apartment complex they live in. That complex has new owners who are renovating the building, meaning the NewPath program will need to find another location.

Ahmad Colvin is relaxing in one unit of a small but comfortable apartment complex near the city limits of Cincinnati. He’s 19 and learning how to live on his own for the first time.

He and 21 other young people — many of whom have aged out of the formal foster care system — are getting help with this transition process via a program called Independent Living Services run by behavioral health organization NewPath. You might remember NewPath by its previous name, St. Joseph Orphanage.

NewPath has rented these apartments since 2011. But in a few months, Colvin and the rest of the residents — along with two live-in support staff — will have to leave the building, which has new owners and will undergo renovation.

That causes Colvin anxiety.

“The program has helped me a lot," he says. "When I need somebody to talk to, when I don’t have anyone else to talk to, I can just come to staff and ask, ‘can I just talk to you for a second?’ I’m kinda worried a little bit because I really enjoy this program… I wouldn’t want that to just go when they’ve helped me a lot just being here.”

NewPath Chief Operating Officer John Parran says the ILS program has been quite successful. The organization says 85% of residents find stable housing coming out of the program, and 75% are employed when they leave. Those outcomes, aided by wraparound services ILS boasts, are rare in a foster care system. It usually ends abruptly at age 18, leaving some young people without a lot of support.

Another participant in ILS, Charles Carr, says he has benefited from the life skills element of the program.

“They teach you about contracts, managing money, about how to cook," he says. "They teach you about transportation but also about jobs and other stuff too.”

But Parran says NewPath faces a challenge in finding a new location. He chalks that up to the sky-high cost of real estate. Cincinnati regularly tops real estate industry surveys when it comes to the recent pace of rent increases.

Nonprofit leaders like Strategies to End Homelessness Executive Director Kevin Finn say the high cost of housing has become a big factor for housing organizations in recent years.

"This is an issue that we are dealing with all the time — generally in trying to help individual households find individual units, as opposed to an agency needing a whole building," Finn said in a email. "But it is an increasingly common issue."

It’s one that NewPath is now grappling with, Parran says.

“The crisis that we have here is that the building that we’re currently occupying — because of the real estate market, which we understand — is going through some renovations and remodeling and they’ve requested that we exit the building," he says. "The real estate market, as you know, is really hot right now, so finding one apartment is hard enough. Finding 24 is a huge, huge ask.”

Parran says NewPath is looking hard for a new location and has even identified a potential property it would like to buy outright. But that will cost about $2 million the organization wasn’t planning on spending.

In the meantime, Parran says, the stakes are high, time is short, and nothing is certain yet.

“If we don’t find a place, there is a very real likelihood that these 22 young people could end up in scattered housing or even homeless.”

NewPath has until November to find a new location for its ILS program.

Nick Swartsell is a general assignment reporter for WVXU. Before his current role, he worked on the station’s Cincinnati Edition program as assistant producer and was a journalist for outlets in Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Texas prior to that. When he’s not reporting, he likes exploring places he probably shouldn’t on his bike, taking photos, and growing corn, tomatoes and peppers that are, in all honesty, much too hot for any practical use. He is from Hamilton. You can find him at @nswartsell on Twitter.