Insurance giant bullies shelter for women experiencing homelessness

by Jason Dean

After continuous failed attempts to purchase the Anna Louise Inn, Western & Southern Financial Group now wants Cincinnati City Council to withhold $2.6 million in federal housing dollars allocated to renovate this historic Cincinnati shelter for women and families.

The Inn, currently administered by the nonprofit group Cincinnati Union Bethel, stands in the way of the insurance firms plans to convert the coveted building into expensive condominiums; part of an over arching design to gentrify the Lytle Park neighborhood into a “gaslight district” surrounded by luxury housing, restaurants and boutiques.

Western & Southern claim that the renovation plan of the Anna Louise Inn is inappropriate and that the shelter is not conducive to the neighborhood even though it has stood on that spot since opening in 1909. Western & Southern are playing the role of victim, accusing the city council of pushing through the measure to award funds to the nonprofit without a public hearing, but despite this the council appears to favor charity and compassion over acquiescing to big business interests.

Western & Southern is stalling for time in the hopes that Cincinnati Union Bethel will accept its $3 million offer for the Inn
and promises to help find a new home for families and the women who currently reside there. To date, however, Cincinnati Union Bethel are not interested in selling their property that was donated by Charles P. Taft and that they have successfully operated for the past 102 years.

For over a century the Inn has offered short term-housing for women and families experiencing homelessness. Some need the shelter due to low-income, some are escaping abuse, and some are trying to rid themselves from drugs or prostitution. The Inn offers help to many women and families seeking to improve their situation and find stability.

In the coming months, the Anna Louise Inn will start its $12.5 million renovation project to modernize the building and create 85 efficiency apartments to replace the current dormitories. Western & Southern has argued that this move would actually provide less housing for people experiencing homeless; one argument amongst many that the property developers are throwing out against the non-profit organization.

The most striking thing about this story is the audacity of Western & Southern’s claims. They move into the neighborhood three generations after the Inn opened and then claim that the shelter is not appropriately placed. They complain and threaten to sue when Cincinnati Union Bethel refuses to sell their property. Many people would laugh at Western & Southern, but be warned, when a lucrative financial institution has its sights set on something they will not back down.

The successful Anna Louise Inn needs all the help the people of Cincinnati can give to ensure that this historic shelter does not become history.