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This blog is dedicated to distribute current information about the Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland or poverty or the state of homelessness. Entries are written by board or staff of the Coalition. The opinions contained in this blog reflect the views of the author of the post. This blog features information on shelters, affordable housing, profiles, statistics, trends, and upcoming events relating to homelessness. We welcome comments, and will remove offensive or inappropriate messages. All postings are signed by the author.

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Wednesday
May272015

Housing 101 Announced for October 23

We have set the date for the next Housing 101.  The first two this year were sold out two weeks before the event.  We will once again have the popular Cleveland Housing Court staff talk about evictions and the eviction process.  We will have a look at Fair Housing with the Housing Center and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs staff will talk about the services available to veterans locally.  Ed from Frontline Services will provide an overview of access to Permanent Supportive Housing and the new Coordinated Strategy.  Finally, we have a look at the finest affordable housing website in Ohio and how to sign up for the special features.   Here is a copy of the flyer and we also have a web page dedicated to the Housing Workshops.  Send the flyer around and tell your friends and tell your co-workers.  This is most likely the last of the housing workshops for the year.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
May232015

How Do We Trust the Police?

I work with the police every week, and the vast majority are caring trustworthy people.  We worked with Commander Andrés González who was one of the best police supervisors ever.  He won the trust of the the social service community and thus the people that we represent. He is now the chief at CMHA and represents the best of the force.  I worked with a police officer who threatened to arrest an EMS driver who was refusing to take in a homeless guy who needed immediate medical attention to the hospital.  The EMS worker said that the guy was faking it and was a "frequent flyer" and he was "done with him."  The health care worker said that if the homeless guy did not go to the hospital he would lose his leg.  The Police officer stepped into demand the EMS worker do his job or he would take him into custody.  We were thankful, and the homeless guy was fine after a week in the hospital.  We have patrolmen that we can call anytime during the day for help and they call us when there is a homeless issue.  Many officers deal in myths about homeless people, but are still well meaning despite their outdated thinking.  There are a small part of the police force in Cleveland who give the CPD and the City a black eye and are angry or view the public as the enemy. 

The 13 officers involved in the Russell/Williams killing, the two officers involved in the death of Tamir Rice, and the Cleveland Police who were caught using improper force are the worst of the force.  With the Homeless Coalition there were two officers down in the Flats who would regularly harass homeless people.  We saw police in the 1990s using unconstitutional harassment of homeless people to drive them out of downtown.  We had uniformed officers at the Community Women's shelter regularly threatening women with arrest or the use of a stun gun to enforce shelter rules.  We have had complaints to our office that one uniformed officer would take women at the shelter home at night.  When the Coalition sued the City in the 1990s over sweeps of homeless people, I had one police officer follow me in my car and then threaten me with arrest for opening my car door into traffic when I was parked at a parking meter on Lakeside.  Many homeless people report excessive bullying by police officers to try to make them disappear from the public.  We have had police cut up tents and respond with violence and threats when a complaint is called in about a homeless person sleeping rough.  These few officers make the whole force look bad, but my issue is that these poorly trained angry officers never get criticized by the union or other police and the City has a hard time firing them. 

Steve Loomis, Cleveland Patrolman's Association union president, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the forthcoming settlement with the US Justice Department was "disheartening," and added that "I think we've done an incredible job here."  After digesting the consent decree that the City signed with the Justice Department Loomis said,

"This is a political agenda," he said. "This has nothing to do with the actions of the men and women of the Cleveland police department."

No one could ever say the CPD were doing an "incredible" job here.  I understand representing your union members and I understand that these high profile cases have really hurt the image of the Cleveland Police, but these statements just make things worse for the men and woman who wear the badge.  Just don't say anything, Mr. Loomis, you are not helping here.   What is it going to take for the union to see a problem and admit that changes need to happen.  A little boy was killed only seconds after the police arrived on the scene neither protecting nor serving the Cudell neighborhood, and the union does not see a problem?

People keep saying that if the victims of these crimes had just given up, none of these incidents would have happened.  This is unfair to the victims since no one can ever prove this and no one can confirm whether some of these people did try to give up and were killed anyway.  We do not know what happened on the Shoreway or those side streets downtown or in that elementary school in East Cleveland.  We don't know if these people tried to give up and were killed anyway, and we do know that 12 year old with an adolescent brain was not given much time to surrender before he was shot.

What is it going to take to regain our trust? This is not a occupying force attempting to keep the peace in Iraq.  These are citizens and taxpayers of Cleveland some with good intentions and others with bad motives and a large number facing desperate decisions to survive and get out of poverty.  Starting in front of 2100 Lakeside shelter when the chase began for Timothy Russell's Chevy Malibu on that fateful November 2012 evening, the Police have been dealt a body blow to their credibility.  These three high profile deaths have exposed deep distrust in the Department by those paying their salary.  They have revealed that many in the Department felt that they were at war with taxpayers and citizens.  We saw that in pockets of the CPD Black and Latino lives did not matter and victims were treated as less than human.  We saw why women were not willing to come forward to tell police about the predator who was living over on Imperial Avenue.   We saw that many white officers loved the job security and comfortable living the salary provided but did not like the majority black taxpayers who paid their salary and did not want to be forced to live in those communities that they were patrolling. 

People keep saying that if the victims of these crimes had just given up, none of these incidents would have happened.  This is unfair to the victims since no one can ever prove this and no one can confirm whether some of these people did try to give up and were killed anyway.  We do not know what happened on the Shoreway or those side streets downtown or in that elementary school in East Cleveland.  We don't know if these people tried to give up and were killed anyway, and we do know that Tamir Rice was not given much time to surrender before he was shot. 

When an institution is exposed as having lost the trust of the people who pay their salary, it takes a concerted effort and a lot of apologizing to regain that standing.  After the excesses of the Hoover controlled FBI, the agency was neutered and weakened for decades.  The September 11 attacks exposed the horrible oversight of airport security and led to the scrapping of that system with a whole new agency created.  The repeated scandals involving the Secret Service has put that agency under the microscope.  The Army Corps of Engineers has never recognized its role in the drowning of New Orleans after Katrina, but is distrusted across the United States.  We know that the first thing that must happen is that everyone must admit there is a problem including the union chief.  Until there is recognition of the problem, there is no way to heal.  The falling down drunk does not see the problem with his excessive drinking until he sobers up to see the trail of destruction.  The union and the rank and file need to sober up to see the results of some of their member's abuse of power.   I can't think of an example of when an organization fell so far down and was able to regain the trust of the public.  It is going to take new leadership, a new name, a new contract with the City, and some serious penance to show that they deserve our trust. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry and not the agency

Saturday
May232015

Throw Money at a Problem and Government Can Succeed

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been working toward and end to veterans homelessness.  They have set the end of 2015 as the goal for an end to veterans homelessness and it looks like Cleveland is close.  This only proves that governement can solve problems and that throwing money at a problem can solve social service issues. 

We are reaching "functional zero" which is the point at which there is no one left without help.  There is no veteran left behind without a place to stay.  No one has not been screened and is on track to get into housing.  We are approaching that point in Cleveland.  We have only two veterans living outside and all the vets in shelter are moving toward housing.  There are vacancies at almost all the veteran's only beds in the community.  It is becoming harder to fill the women only and men's vet beds, and the VOA new facility on Euclid is really helping to move people into housing.  They are quickly moving veterans who show up into permanent housing even those with huge barriers to overcome.  It has been impressive to see the coordination and the work done in Cleveland to end veterans homelessness. 

We still need to work on families who become homeless and families who the veteran passes away not related to his service.  Overall, we have seen a huge decline in the number of veterans in Cleveland who are homeless over the last five years.  There is a separate court for veterans.  There are housing vouchers for vets.  There are employment programs and coordinated intake sites just for vets.  There is a separate medical system that has not been plagued by the problems in other communities.  We have a really nice hospital and a pretty good behavioral health system for veterans.  There are civil rights protections for veterans and resources available for most intangibles.  A veteran can go to the Veterans Service Commission in any Ohio County to get funds to repair their car to get to work or to purchase identification or buy emergency food after an unexpected bill shows up.  The point is that we have designed a strong safety net for veterans and we are making significant process toward "functional zero."

This should dispel the myth that government cannot solve problems.  We have spent 35 years trying to solve homelessness, but we have never provided enough resources to actually do anything but tread water.  We have never provided enough housing vouchers or built enough affordable housing.  We have never provided enough rental assistance to get people back on their feet.  We have paid only lip service to civil rights protections in housing, law enforcement, and employment.  We have a judicial system that is not serving poor people and until last year a large portion of the low income population did not have access to health insurance.  We still have a pathetic behaviorial health system and do not have an effective way to get emergency resources to families struggling in our community.  Now, we have a map to solve a problem with veterans who became homeless.  If we throw money at a problem, we can solve that community issue.  Next up to solve the problem of family homelessness. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Saturday
May232015

Timothy Russell Family Find No Justice in Cleveland

Dear Michelle Russell, sister of Timothy:

I am so sorry that you have to endure this third injustice regarding your brother.  I hope that you can find some peace despite the court not being able to punish this Cleveland Police Officer for the murder of your brother.  I know that this undermines your confidence and other's confidence in the justice system and, in fact, local government.  It is unfathomable that a man sworn to protect the Constitution could jump up on the hood of your brother's car, reload his weapon firing 49 times, and that does not result in a conviction.  Have we reached the point that those wearing a badge are above the law and cannot be prosecuted?  We are so thankful that you have dedicated your life to serving low income and homeless people and have participated as a NEOCH Board member over the past five years in pushing social justice.  Your strength in court, testifying on behalf of your brother, and in the press conferences has been a model of stoicism. 

The first injustice was that we could not quickly move your brother back to stability and better assist with his behavioral health issues.  Because of privacy rules, there was no way to reach out to family members to alert them that their son, brother, and friend was struggling with many issues including homelessness.  The homeless service system has little ability to get family members involved if the homeless individual is embarrassed or unwilling to have contact with family members.  We never made the link that your brother was a client of another NEOCH Board member and that he needed help that he was not finding in the current social service system.  We may have made some strides in changing the social service system since 2012 with coordinated intake, but I am not sure we are yet responding appropriately when family members become homelessness in Cleveland. 

The second injustice was the police chase and then execution of your brother for not stopping when faced by a wall of blue.  I grieve for you, Michelle and hope that you can find peace after this horrible incident.  I trust that with all the investigations and the Justice Department condemning of the Cleveland Police provides you some comfort. I was encouraged that there will be improved training, police cameras in the cars and body cameras on all patrolmen as a result of this tragedy. But none of that will bring back your brother or Malissa Williams.   It is incomprehensible that more officers were not charged with a felony after the death of two homeless people in our community.  How can two unarmed people fleeing for their lives be gunned down in a parking lot in East Cleveland?  How can race not be taken into account with so many white officers executing two African Americans? The 13 police officers had all these weapons and police cars against these two people with a mental illness driving in a 25 year old car and so far have faced only a 30 day suspension.  Why is lethal force the first response by the Cleveland Police Department in this and a number of other incidents?  How bad was the training of the CPD officers that this could go so wrong?  And is anyone going to pay for how bad these officers were trained?   After all, both the Chief and Safety Director at the time were promoted after the November 29 murder of your brother.

The final injustice was today with the not guilty verdict of one of the police officer in your brother's death.  We listened to the verdict and all the comments after the verdict and are still stunned by the Judge's decision.  The Judge was so meticulous in detailing every shot and every step of the shooting (how you were able to sit in the court room for that hour was amazing).  The details overwhelmed the big picture of 60 police cars and 137 bullets.  It seemed that the Judge was mired in when your brother's heart stopped and which bullet killed Williams while ignoring the injustice of 13 police officers immediately shooting two unarmed citizens.  Why is it so easy to put a black man with drug paraphernalia or a box cutter in jail, but the police who kill, choke to death, or violently restrain a mentally ill woman are given a walk?  Why are African Americans who kill a white bar owner immediately charged and pushed into a plea deal while we wait months and years to get justice when a white police officer uses lethal force against an African American?  Many in Greater Cleveland are saddened and embarrassed that justice for Williams and your brother is delayed. 

Our community needs your voice to promote police reform and a dramatic change in oversight of law enforcement.  I hope that you will become involved in enforcing the Justice Department agreement to make sure that your brother's voice lives on.  We need a complete overhaul of the police union contract with the City and a new strategy on rehabilitation instead of incarceration.  Stay strong in the face of injustice.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry only and not the agency.

Thursday
May212015

Great News For Open Records in Ohio 

The Ohio Supreme Court in a split decision sided with a reporter from Otterbein College in Westerville that will release the police records from this private college.   The Supreme Court decided that since these officers were doing public safety in place of the regular police force of Westerville Ohio they should be subject to public disclosure.  If the student had wanted to see local crime stats or how the police were responding to crime in the area, those records would be available through a public records request.  If they wanted to see how the Otterbein Police were responding, those records were denied because Otterbein claimed it was a private college not subject to public records request. 

The Ohio Supreme Court found that when a private corporation is engaged in replacing a public service, they must abide by the same disclosure requirements as the Westerville Police Department are subject to.   This is great news for then being able to pry open documents being held by private charities conducting public business. 

The publicly funded shelters in Cleveland are all subject to disclosure rules because they receive government assistance.  Those who claim to be a religion are not subject to the same disclosure and can keep their 990 tax returns private.  We hope that this ruling can be broadened to include other activities being done by non-profits operating public services such as prisons, schools, and shelters.  We could use more sunshine in all of these activities to show how our public dollars are being used to house people, educate them and incarcerate them.  All of these are previously done by government and now are being privatized largely in the dark.  We even have the oversight of whole industries being done by private industry such as fracking, financial transactions, waste removal and storage as well as power generation.  These are often skilled professions that government no longer has the skill to oversee, and is not deferring to non-profits or other corporations.  A little sunshine never hurt any industry or charity.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.