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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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Monday
Oct202014

Be Careful When Voting By Mail

From Ohio Votes and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio:

According to the Ohio Secretary of State, 722,498 vote-by-mail absentee ballots have been requested. If you plan to vote by mail, be sure to review all instructions before sending in your ballot. [NEOCH: This is especially important in the day of complicated forms for provisional ballots, shorter early voting times, long lines the last weekend of early voting, and "election observers" placed at the precincts to "challenge" or block voters.]

What to remember when preparing your ballot:

  • Do not remove the numbered stub from the ballot;
  • Place your completed ballot into the ID envelope, making sure it is sealed;
  • Complete and sign the Statement of Voter on the outside of the ID envelope;
  • Be sure to include your date of birth, your name and voter registration address (if your ID envelope is not pre-printed), your driver's license number, the last four digits of your SSN, OR a copy of a government issued ID;
  • Check the "General Election" box and write in the year 2014.

Complete instructions can be found through the Secretary of State. Click here to view a copy the ID envelope. For more info, the League of Women Voters of Ohio has a great one-stop shop for all things voting in Ohio: Vote 411.
For more on Ohio Votes or additional help click here.
For more from the League of Women Voters of Ohio click here.

Vote by Mail Absentee Ballots:

  • Submit to the local board of Elections a request or from the Secretary of State website.  Every voter in Ohio should have received a form to return to request an absentee ballot.
  • You will be mailed a ballot to complete.  You can drop it back at the Board of Elections or mail it back to the Board of Elections (Pay attention that you will have to pay extra postage.)
  • You must complete the inside envelope and seal it--Follow the instructions carefully.
  • Your ballot must be postmarked by November 3 to be counted.
  • You can drop your completed ballot at the Board of Election until November 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Brian Davis

Opinions reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Oct182014

More Cuts to the Shelters in 2014

The Office of Homeless Services "Advisory Board" met this week and approved another 2% cut for the transitional shelters and safe haven programs in Cuyahoga County.  Staff and County Review and Ranking committee members have come up with a strategy to better compete at the national level by eliminating social-service-only projects as much as possible because HUD hates funding service instead of housing.  It is hoped in the second round of funding the 2% can be restored, but there is no guarantee. We also learned at the meeting that because of stating publicly that we have cut long term homeless, Cleveland is penalized.  This dubious statistic was criticized by Richard Trickel in a guest blog, and NEOCH agrees that this 73% decrease in long term homeless is at best deceptive at its worst is an outright lie. It is understandable for the Department of Housing and Urban Development focused its funding on housing if Health and Human Services stepped forward to fund services.  We are getting cuts from the federal government while the number of homeless people especially families is increasing. 

At the meeting this last week, representatives from the Salvation Army and West Side Catholic both expressed concern over the continued declines in funding for shelters. Both expressed concern that any further cuts (7% two years ago, 5% last year and now 2% this year) could results in further closing of local shelters or the loss of beds.  In 2014, Continue Life closed after a cut in funding from HUD.  It is no wonder we have such a problem with families in light of shelters closing in Cleveland.  Over the years, we lost Triumph House, East Side Catholic, Continue Life, the Upstairs program (single women), and Family Transitional.  We have had reductions in other programs resulting in a huge gap in beds available to homeless people.  This would be fine if we were not also losing affordable housing in the community. 

Congress passed the HEARTH Act a couple of years ago, which mandated huge changes in the homeless funding system.  It prioritized long term homelessness, and mandated outcomes to reduce homelessness.  The bill passed with language that sought a doubling of the funding for shelters and housing programs for homeless people. In the toxic environment of Washington DC, this never happened.  Instead, we have seen a steady decline in funding, and shelters are closing.  HUD made these huge changes in the process and the rules and the expectations, but did not give the shelters additional funding to implement these changes. Remember, the shelters do not get an increase in funding for cost of living changes every year.  The funds that they received when they first started getting federal dollars is the top funding available to them.  They can reduce their request, but cannot ask for additional funding.   How many programs or households could survive if they had the same income from their core funding source for 20 straight years? 

With the cuts made by United Way, we have a real crisis in serving homeless people.   No matter what the County says about a decrease in long term homelessness, there are more people seeking help.  There are more people outside than we saw living outside last year, and there are fewer options for women and women with children.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Oct172014

Hand Up Gala 2014 Successful

A Unique Event to Provide a Fine Dining Meal to Homeless People in Cleveland

        The Hand Up Gala (not a Hand Out) was held on October 17 to celebrate 20 years of the Cosgrove Center serving hungry people in Cleveland. Unfortunately, the media did not show up to see what a beautiful spread the staff at Cosgrove put together.  We have a gallery of photos on our website and a few on our facebook page. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is a co-organizer of this event, and everyone I talked to enjoyed the event.  Ms. Loh, a member of the Homeless Congress, gave it an 8 out of 10, and we served over 200 homeless people.

      There were a lot of families with very young children at the event this year, which shows the huge increase in families over the last few years. The event could not be held without the hundreds of volunteers including Councilman Zach Reed and County Councilman Dale Miller pictured here.  Berghaus Flowers provided the center pieces decorated in fall colors, and we had two musicians, Amanda Walsh and Tom Hosna, who gave their time to make the event elegant.   There was a wonderful meal of chicken with an apple cranberry glaze prepared by Chef Sharon Delk and her staff.  Executive Caterers at Landerhaven provided the fine dining amenities that are not often experienced by members of the homeless community.

        Cosgrove Center has served hundreds of thousands over 20 years and is a critical component of the social safety net in Cleveland.  They are open in the extreme winter cold days and the hot July days so homeless people do not have to be on the streets during the day.  To assist with the celebration, politicians and board members of both NEOCH and Catholic Charities were on hand to act as greeters and servers.  We put together a program book to remember the Cosgrove Center and their 20 years which we will post online in the near future. 

       This year has been a year of celebration the Diocese of Cleveland’s Catholic Charities and the Bishop Cosgrove Center for twenty years of "Providing Help and Creating Hope.”  This event is also a fundraiser in which donors are entered into an auction of 30 local arts groups, sports organizations, and businesses who have offered tickets and gift certificates to support NEOCH and Cosgrove Center. We hope to raise funds to support the programming at the two organizations as we see more and more families showing up at our facilities looking for help.

    We will not be doing the drawing for the auction until October 29, so you still have time to participate.  You can make a donation on line or through the mailHere are the auction packages that we are distributing this year. This was the fifth Hand Up Gala and it went off without a hitch thanks to Nicole Evans and her fantastic staff.

    We have to thank the committee who worked since April to make this event special including Kimberly Miller, Nicole Evans, Randall York, Norman Wolfe, Gloria McCurdy, Sarah Novak, Terrel Valentine and Melissa Sirak.  Also, we have to thank Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Cleveland for funding the Cosgrove Center for 20 years and making day shelter an important part of the downtown community.  They have served millions of meals in those 20 years and provided hundreds of thousands bags of food to their neighbors all with a welcoming atmosphere of friendly staff.  It was a great event this year to celebrate the Cosgrove Center.  Thanks to Anthony Emory who came up from being a client to becoming a volunteer after finding stable housing for giving his testimonial about the value of Cosgrove Center at the event. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Oct132014

A Better Shelter for Women in DC

Going back 30 years, we have not figured out how to serve women in shelter in Cleveland.  There was a guest editorial in the Huffington Post about a new way of thinking about women's shelter that we should listen to in Cleveland. 

 We have written about the problems in our nation's capital with serving homeless families and the large number of people sleeping on the streets.  Friendship Place operates a shelter in Washington DC called The Haven for single women.   This is written from the perspective of the Executive Director, and so you have to take it with a grain of salt.  All Executive Directors exaggerate the effectiveness and atmosphere of the shelters.  But the information that they have learned seem reasonable and we wish we had them here in Cleveland.

Women hang on longer, drawing help from friends, relatives, coworkers and fellow congregants. As a result, they tend to exhaust their natural resources to a greater degree than men, which can have an impact on the rebuilding process.

 These women that are served at the Norma Herr shelter and at Friendship Place are single, but a large number are estranged from family and children.  They have faced violence, exploitation, and abuse.  Some need safe haven from trafficking and others have mental health needs that are unmet.

The shelter in Washington has decided not to kick women out in the morning and then have them wait to get back in the shelter.  Cleveland went the other way by kicking women out and making them line up at 3 p.m. to get back into the shelter starting in 2012.  The County says that this is an overnight shelter and does not want to pay for social service offered during the day.  The women are expected to go find those services on their own.  The shelter in DC allows women to take night classes or work at night and then sleep during the day.  This is difficult in Cleveland. 

The shelter in DC does not have overnight staff.  The women are trained to respond to emergencies and help the other residents.  In Cleveland, there are babysitting night time staff all night and an armed police officer 24 hours a day (very expensive!).  The shelter in Washington has found improved outcomes and improved participant satisfaction, something lacking in Cleveland.

"This simply makes sense: the women feel trusted and empowered.  They are part of decision making process and know they are treated with dignity and compassion by their new community --the Friendship Place Community."

according to Director Giraud.

The shelter claims to be saving money, which was the reason the county eliminated day services in Cleveland at the Norma Herr Women's Shelter.  Friendship Place in Washington finds that the women can take care of themselves and don't need staff to help with sleeping.  We wish we had this progressive vision for offering women shelter in Cleveland.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Sunday
Oct122014

CWRU Students Sue City of Akron over Homeless Policies

The City of Akron has never been good about taking care of homeless people.  They have the worst laws for panhandlers in the State of Ohio.  They have very few shelter options and they do not guarantee access to a shelter bed.  This means that if the shelters are full, homeless people must sleep on the streets.  Last week, we found out from a group of CWRU student law students that Akron Police were moving homeless people out and then throwing away their valuables. 

Eleven homeless people living outside in Akron allege that the Akron Police were stealing and discarding valuables from homeless people.  The lawsuit claims that the Akron Police under the direction of City officials would raid their campsites and then throw away tents, clothing, medicine directly to the City landfill.

The Akron Police claim that they did give proper notice and that most of the items taken were drug paraphernalia and other contraband.  According to the Plain Dealer, the police claim that they acted properly.  Personal property is held in high regard in the State of Ohio, and so government has to go to great lengths to hold personal property in a secure manner.  A person can go to prison for 25 years and government must keep their property safe and return it to them upon release.  To dispose of forgotten property governments must issue a public notice and provide sufficient time to retrieve these items.  A landlord must ask the court to dispose of a tenant's belongings if they disappear.  The lawsuit claims that the City government did not secure their belongings after confiscating them, and the personal property was taken directly to the trash. 

In nearly every case going through the courts, when a City throws away the belongings of homeless people they have to pay. I know that in Miami, Chicago and a number of cities in California were all forced to compensate homeless people for the loss of their valuables.  I can't see how this is going to end any differently for the City of Akron.  In Cleveland, we fought this all through the 1990s with settlements that provided homeless people $3,000 for picking them up and dumping them on the outskirts of town, and then we settled on an agreement between the City and homeless people in 2000 in a case called Key vs. City of Cleveland that police will not harrass homeless people living outside for purely innocent behavior.

The bigger issue for residents of Akron is that when cities start targeting homeless people we see an increase in hate crimes against the population.  When government gives the go-ahead to treat homeless people as lesser citizens, there are disturbed people who take that signal as open season on torturing, attacking and becoming violent with fragile people living outside.  Unfortunately, these are mostly young people who terrorize people living under bridges or in abandoned property.  We know that these laws and police sweeps lead to feelings of betrayal and abandonment by the population and it only keeps people homeless for a longer period of time.  This will not reduce the population, but will do the opposite.  We explore what Akron should do to reduce the number of people sleeping outside in a future post.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Post Script:  The CWRU Observer did a good summary of the case published this last week.  (One note, Brian is no longer Executive Director of NEOCH.  He is a community organizer, but the story is still sound.)