A location near Findlay Market that has provided meals and a gathering place for seniors for three decades will close at the end of November due to funding cuts.
The Over-the-Rhine Senior Services Center at 1720 Race St. serves about 70 meals a day, according to the Cincinnati Area Senior Services, which runs the center. Those who come to the location for meals and social opportunities will be provided with shuttles to another location in Mount Auburn, CASS CEO Tracey Collins says.
According to her, CASS was looking at a deficit of up to $100,000 next year for the center.
"Even if we got an influx of money tomorrow,we'd be in the same situation six months from now," she says, due to a move away from funding for programs like those provided by the senior center.
Over the last few years, the center has seen its funding dwindle. Federal funding for programs that provide meals to seniors has been flat for more than a decade, Collins says. To make matters worse, between 2007 and 2015, CASS gradually lost $130,000 in funding it received from the City of Cincinnati for programming at the center. In the last three years, it's received no funding from the city as focus for human services funding has shifted to other areas, including workforce development.
The city owns the building the senior center uses, but CASS pays for all operating costs at the location. That includes not only heat, electric and water, but all upkeep and major repairs, as well as security and cleaning. That, Collins says, has gotten expensive in the aging building. Earlier this year, for example, the center was shuttered for 10 weeks as crews worked to repair damage from an August flood.
The city isn't evicting the center or raising its rent, Collins stresses — but neither is it providing the funding it once did.
On top of all that, last year, CASS also lost half of its United Way of Greater Cincinnati funding for the senior center, and staff there say they expect further cuts this year as UWGC faces a large fundraising shortfall.
"The cut last year left us with the problem on how to sustain the center," Collins wrote today. "We have applied for various grants and shifted our program model to keep the center open but either those grants were not awarded to CASS or funding is no longer available. Unfortunately we cannot sustain a bricks and mortar building and staffing cost with limited funding."
News of the closure has caused concern among many who advocate for low-income residents in Over-the-Rhine. Some have linked the closure to the loss of a number of other social service organizations in the neighborhood over the years as the neighborhood redevelops.
Seniors served by the OTR center will be offered transportation to the Church of Our Savior at 65 E. Hollister St. in Mount Auburn, where meals will be provided.
"We don’t want them to feel hopeless," Collins says of those who come to the center. "We’re going to do everything we can to encourage them to take the shuttles we provide. We want to do everything we can to get them to go to this new location. Yes, we aren't going to be in this building, but we’re going to be providing that same sense of community. I know change is really hard, but we don’t want them to feel like there isn’t an alternative.”
CityBeat will update this story with more information soon.