EDEN, Inc. Announces Retirement of Executive Director and Promotion of Current Chief Operating Officer.
The Emerald Development & Economic Network, (EDEN), Inc. Board of Trustees announces significant transitions for two of its principal executive team members.
EDEN’s Executive Director, Irene Collins, will retire in September of 2018. As part of the succession plan and by unanimous resolution of the Board, Elaine Gimmel, the agency’s current Chief Operating Officer, will replace Ms. Collins upon her retirement.
The Board expresses its tremendous gratitude to Irene for her years of service, vision, and leadership. During her seven years with EDEN—including five years serving as just the second Executive Director in the organization’s 27 year history—Irene coupled her financial and administrative expertise with a deep passion and commitment to providing affordable housing for vulnerable populations living in our region to steer the organization through a new era of growth and development.
Under Irene’s guidance, EDEN has continued to successfully enhance its vital community role as the lead housing provider for individuals and families who face homelessness and other challenges. Key areas of growth have included the assessment and renovation of EDEN’s scattered site portfolio, the evolvement of the agency’s organizational culture, including the implementation of an inclusive management team structure, expansion in the areas of development and property management, and the administration of new subsidy programs providing housing to additional populations now serving over 3,000 households.
Ms. Gimmel has been employed at EDEN for 22 years. In her role as COO, Elaine has overseen the Housing Programs, Property Management, Inspections, Facilities and Maintenance, Administration, and Fund Development and Communications Departments. Elaine holds a master’s degree in Social Administration from CWRU’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, with a concentration in Community Development, and a bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University. She is also a Licensed Social Worker, and has worked in the area of Social Services for over 25 years.
EDEN’s Board recognizes that Elaine will bring great knowledge and skill to the position of Executive Director, as well as tremendous empathy for EDEN’s clients, and an unwavering commitment to the organization’s mission. Additionally, Elaine is highly adept at cohesive collaboration, and is an active leader in numerous community partnerships.
EDEN’s Board of Trustees would like to thank Irene for her incredible contributions to the agency, and congratulate Elaine on her new role leading the organization.
Established in 1991, EDEN provides housing solutions to people facing the challenges of housing insecurities and homelessness. Each month, EDEN proudly serves over 3000 women, men, and families.
Samaar was born in Akron, OH, and was raised by his paternal grandparents, because his parents were young teenagers when he was born. He was the youngest in a house filled with many children. His grandfather died when Samaar was only fourteen, and by that time, many of his aunts and uncles had already moved out, so he quickly got a full-time job to help his grandmother out with bills. “I had to become the man of the house,” he recalled. He also began drinking to cope with stress. He immediately enrolled in the Marines from high school, and lived in Florida and a few other cities.
After he left the marines, Samaar worked at a number of jobs, but also suffered from great anxiety due to a number of events that happened in his life. Samaar stated that he used alcohol to cope. He found himself homeless, and lived on the streets and in and out of the men’s shelter. He recalled hearing about Permanent Supportive Housing from a veteran representative at the Bishop Cosgrove Center, and interviewed for a placement. He then forgot all about it until a persistent street outreach worker found him living in the streets, and told him there was a place for him. Once living at The Liberty, he sought treatment for his alcohol addiction and has been sober since April 6, 2016. Samarr’s motto has been “When I’m stress-free, I can work on ME”.
Samaar stated that he loves his apartment, but also is working on the goal of moving out and into his own place now that he feels he has the tools for independent living. “If you want to change, being here will help you become a better person.” When asked about the staff and living in supportive housing, Samaar emphatically stated: “The staff here have elped me so much, PSH is great and works IF you take advantage of the services.”
When asked how PSH has improved his life, he said “It changed me and made me a person; I’m somebody now.”
EDEN wishes Samaar continued success in working to achieve his life goals.
On Thursday, February 22, 2018, The Liberty at St. Clair hosted an event to celebrate its 10th Anniversary. Many former residents and staff were in attendance. Kind, thoughtful, humorous, and moving speeches were given, and delicious food was enjoyed.
Jeniece Tillman was the first property manager at The Liberty, and she still likes to visit when she can. She mentioned that although she was there to help the residents begin their new lives, she feels she learned more from them about herself, life, and how to interact with all kinds of people in the world, than she could have imagined. She mentioned that it “was truly a family here at The Liberty”. One former resident recalls her bringing him a leftover piece of her wedding cake.
Other former building staff in attendance were: Sonya Thompkins- former Program Manager, Melissa Keith- former Case Manager, Tim Smith- former Case Manager, Brittany Jones- former Employment Specialist, Katherine Barney-Cheney- former Employment Specialist, Semeka Gore--former Employment Specialist.
A former resident spoke at length about how The Liberty changed his life. The name Permanent Supportive Housing may be deceiving, because the average length of stay in a PSH building is around two years. Our hope is always that residents will use their time in PSH to feel safe and supported, increase life stability, and access the wrap-around services they need to set and achieve goals.
Howard Singleton did that, and more. He moved into The Liberty soon after it opened, in March of 2008. He spoke of how he had grown tired of living on the streets and in and out of shelter for over twenty years. Mr. Singleton focused his time at The Liberty to meet with counselors, attend group sessions, and gain his sobriety. Then, with the guidance and support of staff, which included Jeniece, Melissa and Tim, Howard engaged in training and sought employment. He went through several certification programs, and found some entry level jobs such as washing dishes. He stated he was “the best dishwasher they ever had!”
Howard wanted to achieve additional goals, and wanted to give back and help those who had the same struggles he once did. He went through a training program and is now a Certified Dependency Counselor Assistant. Howard works for the organization Volunteers of America, (VOA), and helps military families that have a veteran struggling with substance use. He lived in The Liberty for one year and eleven months, and in that time, he was able to take control of his life, and started a new career. This is the goal of Permanent Supportive Housing, and the goal for the Housing First model.
EDEN is so happy that The Liberty planned and celebrated this amazing Anniversary milestone, and looks forward to providing our community’s most vulnerable residents with a warm and welcoming home during the next 10 years.
We wish Howard and all former and current residents of The Liberty continued well-being, and great progress in achieving their goals.
Kevin was born in Akron, OH and lived most of his life in the area, and spent time in Florida, as well. He went through an employment training program offered by North Point. After Kevin completed the training program, he was placed in a job at a factory where he worked for three years. Unfortunately, Kevin and other staff were laid off from the factory, and he found himself homeless.
He was staying at the men’s shelter located at 2100 Lakeside and decided to enroll back in the training program with North Point, in the hopes of finding new employment. As part of the training program, Kevin received an assessment and was diagnosed with a mental illness. He spent some time in the hospital, and then received outpatient care while doctors tried to find the best prescription medicine for his illness.
Kevin thought he would need to stay in the men’s shelter until he could find gainful employment again. He said he was surprised to find out that he was eligible for housing in a permanent supportive housing building. He recalled: “When I was at 2100, I didn’t know there were places like this, that were this nice, where I could build my future”.
Kevin moved into The Liberty in October of 2014. Kevin says he feels very independent living at the The Liberty. He stated that prior to this move, it had been very difficult to integrate consistent activities and behaviors into his life. He credits his case worker from FrontLine Services for telling him about permanent supportive housing and assisting him in moving in.
When asked what advice he might give others who struggle with homelessness, Kevin affirmed: “Be willing to accept help and work on your health”. He speaks very highly of Gerald, the property manager and stated: “The staff here have a difficult job to do, but they all pull together to make it safe and supportive for all of us”.
Kevin spends a large amount of his time volunteering at the Ohio City Bike Co-Op. We reached out to Erik Anderson, the volunteer coordinator at the Co-Op, and he had wonderful things to say about Kevin:
“Kevin is one of our favorite volunteers. He is definitely one of the more focused and dedicated people who support us. What's more important to know about Kevin, is that he has spent a large portion of the credits that he earns here, selflessly helping people in similar stations in life as himself to secure bicycles, and he also helps to maintain them. Wow. Kevin is definitely a big part of the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op family.”
When we asked Kevin what his goals for the future were, he shared that he has 3 goals for 2018 that he’s focusing on with his case worker: 1. Maintaining his health, 2. Deepening his spirituality, and 3. Getting his driver’s license back. His long-term goal is to find gainful employment, again.
We are so happy that EDEN’s permanent supportive housing has helped Kevin maintain his health and independence, and is enabling him to work towards achieving his goals. We are so proud to know that Kevin is on the right path to achieving his dreams for 2018, and beyond!
For more information on the Ohio City Bike Co-Op check out their website here: http://ohiocitycycles.org/
Michele joined the coast guard on her 18th birthday in 1976. She was honorably discharged after being diagnosed with a spine deformity. She went on to work at the Urban League of Cleveland, the IRS and Veterans Affairs office, all doing secretarial work. She typed nearly 100 words per minute and said she loved the quick pace of office work. In 1998, she suffered a heart attack at the young age of 40. Unable to work, she moved back in with her mother.
For years, Michele struggled with medical complications and issues with medications. After her mother’s death, Michele struggled greatly, and self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. Michele spent some time at the Norma Herr Women’s Center, the West Side Catholic Center, and the VA hospital. She credits the care of the staff and the nourishment of the food at the VA with getting her on the road to recovery and sobriety. Michele was able to move into Permanent Supportive Housing at the Commons at West Village in November of 2017. She stated that Toni, a staff person from the VA, was integral in helping her move into her new home.
Michele shared that “having my own place has kept me sober”. When asked what advice she would offer to others struggling with homelessness she stated: “Don’t give up before the miracle happens”. When in shelter, and now in her home, she has always tried to keep up to date on the news and current events. “If you can get to a computer, you can get to the world” she affirmed.
Michele is also an experienced knitter, and has been teaching other residents in her building how to knit. She knits scarves and hats and gives them to homeless people in shelters. She states it is important to always give back.
Michele will be celebrating her 60th birthday this month and is planning a party. She has not had a birthday party since she was 21 years old, and is looking forward to celebrating this milestone!
We are so happy that Michele has found the safety and security she deserves in her new home. EDEN wishes her a happy birthday and many more!
Thank you, once again, the Carter’s Store at Aurora Farms for donating over 350 pairs of pajamas to the children who live in EDEN housing! Carter’s Pajama program is nationwide, with the goal of donating 1 million pairs of pajamas to children in need.
Thanks also to Tabitha Peterson, Property Manager at EDEN for making the connection with Carters.
Pictured are Terri, Manager of the Carter’s Store at Aurora Farms and Irene Collins, Executive Director of EDEN as they prepare to load the PJ’s in the car for delivery to EDEN’s office.
Millions of children don't have a bed to call their own or clean pajamas. Many have never even heard of pajamas. Pajamas offer a simple escape from their immediate reality, a good night's sleep and a better tomorrow. Carter's Pajama program aims to reach as many kids as possible.
Tabitha recently celebrated her four year anniversary at EDEN. She is the Lead Scattered-Site Property Manager, and the Supervisor of Scattered-Sites. Tabitha currently has a caseload of 152 clients that are living in 45 properties.
Tabitha graduated with a degree in Social Work from the University of Akron, and is a licensed social worker. Prior to joining EDEN, she worked for other social service agencies and also in property management.
Tabitha shared that the most challenging part of her job is not always being able to give clients everything they desire, and that she has to remember that she is property manager, in her current role, rather than a social worker. She also shared that there is a high need for more family living, and sometimes, there are not enough units available when they are needed.
When asked what she finds the most rewarding part of her work Tabitha quickly affirmed, “The tenants! Interacting with the clients, and giving a person or family the keys to a safe place to live.”
When we asked Tabitha what advice she would have for someone experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness, she stated, "Stay positive, and keep working with your case manager".
EDEN so appreciates Tabitha-and all our staff-for their commitment to our mission, which is: " to provide housing solutions to people facing the challenges of housing insecurities and homelessness".
If you are a landlord and interested in working with EDEN, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michele has been serving on EDEN’s board of directors since 2015. Her friend and neighbor previously served on the agency’s board, and suggested she take his place when he stepped down. Because EDEN is a Community Housing Development Organization, (CHDO), and receives certain HUD funding, we are required to have representation on the board, (at least 1/3), from residents in low-income areas. Michele’s neighborhood falls within these guidelines and she states “I applaud and appreciate the organization having board members that live in low income areas”.
Michele grew up near the Zoo and lived in Slavic Village for a short while after marriage. She and her husband moved to the Detroit-Shoreway Neighborhood twenty years ago so their children could attend Urban Community School. She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in Social Service and Community Organizing. After starting a family she worked in schools, as a teacher’s aide and preschool teacher so she could have the same schedule as her children.
Before joining EDEN’s board, Michele served on committees for the Commission for Catholic Community Action, and the Campaign for Human Development. She was also a long-time volunteer at the West Side Ecumenical Ministries Food Center.
Michele said she decided to join the EDEN board because she wanted to “help solve housing and stability issues for my neighbors and the people of this city and county.”
When asked what Michele learned new about EDEN after joining the board, Michele related “the most interesting thing is the tremendous number of partnerships and relationships that EDEN has in the community…organizations, individuals, landlords and staff who are all working to break down barriers to housing.”
Helping others is woven into the fabric of Michele’s family. Her son is a Cleveland EMS paramedic and her daughter works for a youth homeless agency in Seattle. Michele credits her mother’s generosity, sharing that she was someone who always welcomed neighbors and friends over and said “the more the merrier!”
When asked what advice Michele would have for anyone who might be interested in joining EDEN’s board, she affirmed, “The cause of helping people find dignity by finding a place to call home is a rewarding one, a noble one, and most of all the right thing to do…everyone needs and deserves a place to call home.”
EDEN appreciates Michele, and all our board members, for their dedication to our mission, which is: "to provide housing solutions to people facing the challenges of housing insecurities and homelessness."
Anne grew up in Avon Lake Ohio, but ventured West after high school. She obtained her BA in Psychology from Bradley University in Illinois and a Graduate degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Madison in Wisconsin. After Grad School, Anne returned to Northeast Ohio and wanted to help vulnerable and marginalized communities. She has been part of the EDEN family for two and a half years as a housing locator, working with families. She works with families that are in shelters to assist them in securing safe and affordable housing so they can leave homelessness. Anne stated the biggest challenges are finding units that are large enough for some families, and also unit inspections.
Anne, like all EDEN housing locators, is an HQS certified inspector and looks at units prior to families moving in. She is looking for units that are child-friendly among other safety guidelines. When asked about the biggest reward of her work, Anne stated “Helping people get out of a shelter, and helping families getting their feet in the door of a new home.” When we asked Anne what advice she might have for families facing homelessness, she said “Don’t give up hope! There are people out there that are understanding and want to help.”
This month Anne is transitioning into a new role at EDEN as a community housing agent. In this new role she will recruit, educate and develop relationships with landlords to work with EDEN clients that receive housing assistance.
We appreciate Anne’s commitment to EDEN’s vision of administering safe, decent, affordable housing, which will enable our community’s most vulnerable individuals and families to live with hope and dignity!
Following an eviction in 2013, Tanisha and her daughter, who was then less than two years old, found themselves homeless. She recalls sleeping on floors with her baby girl, and not knowing where to turn. Tanisha heard of the social services agency, Murtis Taylor, and went seeking guidance and was matched with a case manager. She remained homeless, but never gave up hope, and was approved for housing through EDEN in April 2014. Tanisha loved the 2 bedroom she and her daughter moved into, and things were looking up. She was working, enrolled to finish her GED, and her daughter now had a comfortable bed and was attending a daycare in a loving environment.
In 2015, Tanisha received a distressing phone call. Her sister’s children would be placed in foster care if no family member could care for them. Tanisha felt it was her duty to take in her nieces and nephews. She quickly went from caring for one child, to five. Tanisha notified EDEN’s Lead Scattered Site Property Manager about her situation. “I love Tabitha, she is such a sweetheart!”, Tanisha recalled, when telling us about that phone call. Tanisha’s two bedroom no longer felt so big, and she was put on a waiting list for a larger unit.
When asked what advice she would give to others facing homelessness, Tanisha said “Don’t give up…Everyone has a story to tell, don’t shut yourself down, open up, swallow your pride and ask for help.”
Just this week, Tanisha received the keys to a larger rental property that will provide adequate room for her and the children, including a yard for them to safely play. Tabitha tells us Tanisha and the kids ran around their new home, squealing with joy and hugging her. “That’s the best part of my job,” said Tabitha.
EDEN is happy to be able to help Tanisha be the mother, aunt, and guardian she works so hard to be. We wish her continued success, and hope the kids have a wonderful new school year—with lots of room to spread out their books and do their homework!