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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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Homeless Stand Down 2015

Over 1,300 people including 300 veterans attended the Stand Down today.  It was a very well run and smooth operation thanks to Hands On NEO.  There was an extensive transportation system thanks to Ken from the NEOCH staff.  There were residents of nearly every shelter in Cleveland.  Many social service providers attended including the Department of Aging, Legal Aid Society and the Salvation Army. 

They gave away thousands of pairs of boots and provided over a thousand meals.  The Food Bank were passing out literature and chapstick while First Call for Help talked about all the things they do to assist.  There were foot doctors, eye doctors and people signing the guests up for Medicaid.  There was an entire section for veterans and the Cleveland Photographic society did portraits of hundreds.

It was a really nice event and we posted the first gallery of images on the front page of our website.  The Plain Dealer also posted a nice gallery on their website here.  WKYC and WEWS all showed up to feature the story.  There were 400 volunteers including congregations who put together bag lunches or hygiene kits. 

NEOCH did a survey of some of the participants to ask them about their new year's resolution and their priorities to solve homelessness.  We will publish the resultsin the upcoming Street Chronicle. In the evening we gave out winter socks and thermal hoodies at the Metanoia Project.  This was part of the Community West Foundation Socks Plus campaign.  Community West Staff went out on Outreach and found that most of the people that they met complained that they never could keep their feet warm in the winter.  The Foundation agreed to give the Coalition funding to expand our blanket drive with winter socks and boots.  We did not want to compete against the Stand Down so we picked out items for Stand Down evening that they probably did not get at the Stand Down.  Today we gave really nice Thermal Socks and zip up hoodies with a thermal lining as part of the Community West Socks Plus campaign. We will give out additional items over the next month to keep people warm and safe all thanks to Community West Foundation.


Homelessness Updates

Did New Orleans really solve veteran's homelessness?  Media in the Big Easy have spent the past few weeks examining the proclamation by Mayor Landrieu that veteran's homelessness has been ended in New Orleans and found the program lacking.  There is always the problem of counting homeless people that makes it difficult to proclaim victory.  There is the problem of the varied definition of what is a  veteran that complicates the matter.  Are you a veteran after 2 months of service or 2 years of services? Then there is the problem that homeless people are so fluid and fall in and out of homelessness on a daily basis.  It is bold to make this proclamation, but until you end all homelessness it is impossible to declare victory with just one population. 

It is true that there are tons of veteran's resources available now. If you spent time in the military and were not dishonorably discharged, there is so much help available right now.  We really have all the tools at our disposal to end veteran's homelessness.  But there are a lot of hard core vets who have no contact with anyone and will be hard to reach.  It would be unnerving for a retired Marine corporal to be sitting in the library waiting for the rain to subside and read in the Times Picayune that your city had "solved" veterans homelessness while you struggled with PTSD and were bouncing around from family to living in a car.  The Marine is thinking once you solve a problem, you stop dedicating resources and staff, and move on to something else.  It would seem like you missed the train that will never come around again. 

Toledo Blade wrote about what homeless people do during the extreme cold.  This was an interesting story about the huge number of people who use the library as a drop in center.

Lakewood teens again spend the night outside in the cold to call attention to homelessness on the North Coast.  We have featured stories about previous groups from Lakewood Congregational church about their sleeping outside in the Street Chronicle.  We appreciate them calling attention to the plight of homeless people in the cold.

Bloomberg has a good article about why the President never talks about rent.   The same could be said about homelessness, and the president only mentioning homelessness when he is volunteering on a service day.  I think that the architect of modern homelessness, Ronald Reagan, was the last President who was forced to talk about solutions to homelessness.  But half the population rent from a landlord and state or federal elected office holders rarely talk about it.

The City of Cincinnati became the third city to enact a homeless hate crimes bill.  Cleveland has one of the laws, but it is rarely used.  Most of the time a hate crime is a felony and local laws do not address crimes of that severity.  The State of Ohio would need to pass legislation to include homeless people in the existing hate crimes statute to make it real.  It is good that the city is trying to do something about the attacks on homeless people and were willing to talk about these issues. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Welcome to the Neighborhood...Care Alliance

There is a new building nearing completion in the Central neighborhood next to Cedar High Rise and right down the street from Cuyahoga Community College Metro Campus.  With the dramatic changes in the health care, Care Alliance is positioning itself to be the health care provider to low income people in Cleveland and those living in public housing or those without housing.  The new clinic hosted a preview party this week to show donors the brand new digs. 

I am biased with regard to Care Alliance since I received an award from them in 2014 and we partner on outreach efforts on a daily basis.  I appreciate that they have prioritized dental coverage as critical to the care of low income people.  All of their clinics feature dental services, because most experts believe your oral health is representative of your overall health.  The new clinic sits in the rubble of the Cedar Estates which was demolished in 2014 and will begin reconstruction in the spring.  These new or returning tenants will need a good neighborhood medical clinic. 

It is a beautiful clean facility with the official ribbon cutting in March.  The staff and board welcomed their neighbors, council members and social service providers into this new two story facility.  There were staff from many of the other health care facilities in the community on hand to welcome Care Alliance to the neighborhood.  It is amazing how much the program has grown since it was started in a basement by volunteers at the Federation for Community Planning.  They are expected to have nearly 150 employees and have an outreach team that helps those living outside.  At one time, NEOCH led a protest regarding the bad decisions being made by the organization including the poor management of the women's shelter.  Now, we view Care Alliance as one of our closest partners. 

Welcome to the Central neighborhood...Care Alliance.  You have built a fine facility that the lower income residents of the neighborhood will cherish.  They have set a goal of providing a respectful place to receive care for those without the ability to pay.  The elderly folks next door will be proud to call this new facility their doctor's office. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


Interfaith Hospitality Moves Away from Congregations

      I have been volunteering three or four times a year since the Interfaith Hospitality Network came to Cleveland Hts in 1997.  I started sleeping in the church cafeterias and social halls for 15 years with families struggling to find a place to live.  Interfaith Hospitality merged with New Life Community to form Family Promise and now they are doing away with hosting families at the facility of these partner religious congregations.  Instead families will stay at one facility and church members will go to that location and volunteer.  The last church to host the families was Communion of Saints on the St. Ann's campus.  This may be better for the families because they don't have to travel to the day center in the morning and in the evening.  My concern is that the religious groups will not stay active.
      I am sorry to see the host congregation concept die in Cleveland.  I really love this program and will miss it.  I testified for it at Cleveland Hts. And Shaker Hts. City councils when neighbors spoke of their safety concerns.  I work with the shelters every day in Cleveland, so I would have something to compare the host congregation concept to.  I am not sure that shelter staff, county people and the administrators understand how valuable this program is to the community.  The value comes from being different from all the others shelters and services.  It works for many because of the involvement of so many different volunteers.  It puts in to practice the concept of the village taking care of those struggling.  Homeless families are screened and then accepted into the network.  They don't take victims of domestic violence or families that would be too difficult to serve by the volunteers.  The families are helped during the day by a social worker and then are transported to one of the churches to sleep over night.  The day shelter has showers and a place to do research and computer work.  Volunteers at night make dinner, help with an activity and sleep overnight with the families.  

    I do not see the burnt out staff and huge turnover that I see at almost every other shelter in Cleveland.  The volunteers who prepare a meal, plan a game or sleep overnight want to be there.  We were not punching a clock and we did not dread hearing the stories of tragedy we hear form the families.  The volunteers only donated their time quarterly so they were not callous or jaded.  The volunteers brought a thousand different talents to the families.  Some might have known a job lead, others may have known a vacancy in an apartment, while others may have known the superintendent of schools to cut through the red tape of getting transportation back to the child’s school of origin.  Some of the volunteers could pick up the phone to get I.D. for a child while others can get immunization records we have.  There are hundreds in each congregation who can offer help to these families.

       It is a hassle to provide transportation but that is what makes the program work. It is a pain to organize all the volunteers with their busy lives, but the volunteers are a huge irreplaceable asset.  The trained day center staff can work on housing, jobs and stability, and they do not have to worry about food, sleeping and monitoring.  In my book it works!

       In a time of huge increases in homeless families in Cleveland we need a bigger network not a reduction.  In a time when we are housing 20 families in overflow every night in Cleveland, we need the churches to do more not less.  In a time when we lost family shelter beds such as the closing of Continue Life, we need more access to family shelters and not less.  We heard that this move may also result in the reduction in the number of families that Family Promise can serve.   Congregations, individual parishioners and clergy will forget about the problem if they are not forced to become involved at least quarterly. It is a hassle to have to rally the volunteers, food and space to serve these 4 or 5 families, but it keeps the issue of homelessness in front of the congregation. 

     Some of the volunteers are sitting down with the parents to talk about their issues.  They learn how long the waiting lists are for housing.  They hear how employers will not hire a person who does not have a solid address.  They face discrimination in employment, housing and even from some in the social service sector because of their homelessness.  The volunteer may learn how tough it is for a family to be in overflow or the struggles to get transportation to their child's school.  I fear that without the time that they have to volunteer, the church groups will move further away from the problem of homelessness. 

     When I started volunteering for the Homeless Grapevine, the big churches were running a number of the shelters and the religious groups were critical to the success of the homeless programs.  Now, there are very few of the programs associated with churches and very few religious leaders regularly talking about homelessness.  We have come to accept homeless families as a part of the landscape and I fear that this move by Family Promise will only accelerate that trend. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Homeless Congress Recommendations

Summary:  The Cleveland Police need a liaison to work with homeless people and should not wear their city issued uniform/badge when off duty and acting as private security officers.

Background: The Cleveland police chase in 2012 that started the second Justice Department investigation into CPD practices and procedures involved two homeless people driving the car.  The two unarmed homeless people were killed in a school yard in East Cleveland after a large number of cars were involved in a high speed chase.  Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were killed by over 130 bullets fired at their car resulting in the Justice Dept. report issued in 2014.  Many supervisors and officers were disciplined and six Police Department staff were charged with a crime.  Command staff attended a Homeless Congress meeting to discuss the incident and to ask for calm while the investigation moved forward.  Homeless Congress members regularly discussed the issue of police interactions with the population and were interviewed by the Justice Department legal team. 

What is the Homeless Congress? Representatives of the shelters and people who live outside meet once a month to work to improve conditions for homeless people.  They meet with local elected officials and work on public policy issues that have an effect on homeless people.  They work with government and shelter staff to improve access to homeless services. 

Specific Issues: Members who attended the December 12, 2014 Homeless Congress meeting unanimously supported the following proposals.  Homeless people in Cleveland are asking that any agreement with the Cleveland Police Department and the US Justice Department should contain the following points to prevent future problems between law enforcement and homeless people. 

  1. Police should not wear the Cleveland uniform when working private security

Homeless Congress members voiced concerns regarding off-duty officers wearing Cleveland police uniforms when working security at homeless shelters and drop in centers. This confuses and blurs the line between law enforcement and securing a building or private company.  The citizen is often not sure if the uniformed officer is enforcing City law or are they enforcing shelter policies?  Shelter residents were concerned that regular verbal altercations can be escalated into a criminal charge of disorderly conduct when a uniformed officer becomes involved.   We have numerous examples of Police officers threatening arrest for violating shelter rules, which does not seem to be the job of an employee of the City.  Shelter residents proposed that off-duty officers working security at shelters wear the uniform of a private security company that employs them and not the badge and uniform of the City of Cleveland. 

2. Need for a Liaison at Each Police District to Work with Homeless People and Domestic Violence  victims/as well as the agencies which serve them.                 `

Homeless Congress members also proposed that each police district have liaisons who would work with the homeless and homeless agencies. It was suggested that these liaisons have training about homelessness, which would include a short-term stay in a shelter in order to learn more about  homelessness. It was also proposed that the officer receive training from the agencies serving homeless and domestic violence victims.  We believe that this will provide a better understanding of the problems homeless people face and Police officers will make a more educated decision of how to respond to calls involving people who are without a place to live.

Joyce Robinson attended the Homeless Congress and published a letter in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in January regarding the consensus opinion of homeless people attending the meeting here.

We have communicated the opinion of the Homeless Congress to the US Justice Department, and hope to communicate them to the Cleveland City Council members.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry