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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
Jul212014

NEOCH Comments on Open Internet Rules for FCC

There were nearly 1.2 million submissions to the FCC regarding net neutrality including NEOCH.   We felt it was important to comment on this issue on behalf of homeless people in Cleveland.  The proposed rules would create a fast lane for the Internet in which cable companies could charge certain web content providers more money to access these fast lanes.  The NEOCH website provides content including videos and access to our Street Card information card (being the most popular).  Most of our clients are accessing the internet with outdated equipment in computer labs and libraries.  We believe that our agency would be harmed because we could not afford to put our content on the fast lane, and our clients would be harmed because critical information would be delivered to them in the slower lanes. 

Nearly every job application, housing application and health care access is increasingly being done through electronic means. The last time the housing choice voucher program was opened it was done by web only applications and only for one week.  Access to legislators, bureaucrats and government is largely done by e-mail or by submitting information through a public website.  Unemployment compensation and the food stamp program are almost exclusively done online.  The life of a homeless person and their ability to find stability involves sending and receiving information electronically in an open and in the fastest means possible.  

NEOCH also is a partner in the HousingCleveland.org website which features 32,000 apartments including pictures, maps and extensive details on each building.  We would not be able to pay for faster access to our constituents looking for housing through this website.  The 150,000 unique users per year would face a slower and more frustrating experience when searching for housing. 

NEOCH is concerned that...Internet Service Providers would be able to charge content providers extra for preferential treatment and faster access.  Nonprofits simply cannot compete with for-profit websites if paid priority is implemented. 

We believe that the Internet should be treated as a public utility that provides essential services in our community.  Because of the access to medical care, housing and income is largely done by accessing the Internet, any regulation of the Internet must foremost be in the public interest. 

This is a summary of the comments that we submitted on behalf of homeless people in Cleveland, Ohio.  Gino Scarselli, our interim executive director, put a great deal of work in putting together our comments.  We hope that the Commissioners will keep the Internet open to charitable organizations and religious groups in practice.  We will continue to track this issue.  For a complete look at our submission click on the link below

NEOCH Comments on Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry. 

Monday
Jul212014

Russell Family Releases Statement on the Settlement

Last week it was announced that there would be settlement in the federal lawsuit between the estates of Malissa Williams and the estate of Timothy Russell against the City of Cleveland in the shooting death from November 2012.   There were some toxic comments made by the Police Union throughout this process and again last week when the settlement was announced. 

We have a bias since both of the individuals killed by the police had experiences with being homeless and Michelle, Tim's sister, is a member of the NEOCH Board of Trustees.  We have hosted meetings with the police commander regarding this issue and the impact on homeless people.  And as citizens of this community, we were shocked by the militarization of a simple police chase that ended with the execution of two unarmed individuals.  We know that both individuals had large extended families who were all providing input into this lawsuit.  There was disagreement with executors and family and extended family over who should speak for the two people killed in a desolate area of East Cleveland. We know that the Williams' family were living on the edge and had a great deal of experience with poverty and have immediate pressing needs.  NEOCH had similar issues in the 1990s when we tried to settle a federal lawsuit involving three homeless people were dumped.  It is really hard to get all these individuals all on the same page and make policy changes.  These disagreements and the immediate needs of some of the parties made any settlement difficult.  Below is the statement issued by the Russell family members including our board member Michelle. 

The statement released Sunday evening by Paul Cristallo, attorney for the Russell family, said the following:

“From the day the Cleveland Police shot and killed Tim Russell, his family has been suffering. Tim’s father Dave, his sister Michelle, his brothers David Jr., Donald, Michael, as well as their spouses and children, lost a beloved family member in a gruesome execution that became a public spectacle. The Russell family did not ask for this tragedy nor the publicity that has come with it.

Rather than be able to deal with Tim’s death in a private and personal manner, the Russell family was put in a position of having to deal with the media, investigators, community activists, government officials, and, of course, public opinion.

 Before Tim’s body was laid to rest, the Russell family has had to deal with disparaging and hurtful comments. People who never knew Tim or Melissa posted tasteless, racist and mean spirited comments about them and their families. Yet as awful as many of those comments were, the Russell family has always appreciated that ignorant people exist, the internet allows people to hide behind anonymity, and that the only judgment that matters is the one that comes from God.

The Russell family’s strength and faith does not, however, make them impervious to insults.

Prior to any relevant facts regarding the shooting coming to light, the police representatives were calling this a “good shooting”. The police involved in the pursuit and shooting were lauded by union representatives as “heroes." We now know they were wrong. It is clear that Officer Michael Brelo, Police Supervisors and any of the Cleveland Police involved with the November 29, 2012 pursuit and shooting were not heroes; far from it. Mayor Frank Jackson, Attorney General Michael DeWine, Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, the U.S. Department of Justice Investigators and countless members of the community who appreciate what it means to shoot two unarmed people 137 times recognize that Tim and Melissa’s killing was a horrible tragedy.  

It is apparent, however, that the Cleveland police union representatives are going to continue in their desperate attempt to spin this tragedy into anything other than a complete debacle by some members of the Cleveland Police. They have committed to a public relations campaign that is simply baffling and will, ultimately, further alienate the Cleveland Police from the community they are hired to protect.

Evidence the most recent comments by union counsel and now defense attorney Mr. Pat D’Angelo. Apparently it wasn’t enough for the police union to denigrate Tim and Melissa while praising their (now disciplined or indicted) members for the unlawful pursuit and shooting. Tim and Melissa’s families are now being accused of being in it for the money and not having a relationship with the deceased.

Tim Russell had a close and loving relationship with his immediate and extended family. Tim regularly attended church with his family and was one of the founding members of “From Darkness to Light”, a registered charity which assists homeless people. His family loved him beyond words and they suffer his loss every day. Disparaging Tim’s relationship with his family or impugning their motives isn’t based in reality. It’s nothing more than disrespectful spin. It’s another ill-advised comment which is meant to distract and insulate the Cleveland Police from taking responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings.

For police representatives or their attorneys to continue to make inaccurate, mean spirited statements in this regard, it tells us more about their motives than anyone else’s.  Regardless of your opinion relative to how the Cleveland Police handled this situation, and regardless of your judgments of Tim and Melissa, you don’t know how their families have suffered or what is in their hearts.”

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Sunday
Jul202014

Los Angeles Really?

NPR did a story and interview with the Los Angeles Mayor accepting children fleeing violence in Central America.  This is something that we have to do as a society.  We must step up to help these children fleeing violence and exploitation, but Los Angeles seems like the last place to offer help.  This is a country of immigrants and just as we proclaim on the Statue of Liberty, we need to comfort the huddled masses yearning to break free.  We have an obligation to assist these citizens of countries we have destabilized and sent our gangsters and drug dealers back to their birth country to wreak havoc.  But Los Angeles? 

Los Angeles has an out of control homeless population with a section of the city called "Skid Row" with thousands of people living outside. LA has the highest concentration of homeless people on any square mile in America.   They operate the largest mental health facility in the Country that is known as their County Jail.  They do not have guaranteed access to shelter for their own citizens so they know nothing about serving homeless people.   Why Los Angeles?  Why not Denver or St. Paul or even Cleveland who are doing a way better job in serving homeless people? Even Iowa, Seattle or Charlotte would be better than the city with the largest homeless population in the United States. 

Los Angeles is also the city of origin for many of these gang leaders who were deported back to their country of birth.  These gang leaders long to get back to LA and they learned all their skills at running a criminal enterprise on the mean streets of LA.   The city of Los Angeles has too many people in need of help right now; they do not have the capacity to care for all the people in need currently in the city.  Any visitor to Los Angeles will come away with the impression that homelessness is out of control in America.  There have to be other places that have a deeply held religious beliefs that we all must help children in need.   The Mayor of LA gave a good spin about working on veteran's homelessness and then he said his city will focus on long term homelesss.  But when will he get around to helping homeless children living in his city, and then why bring in more homeless kids when they have no plan to serve their exisiting population? Here is what the Mayor told NPR:

The challenge is to end veterans' homelessness by the end of 2015. And next after that, I'll be looking at the chronic homeless population, which we've already made some dents in. I'm looking to the state and federal government, which have cut our housing dollars in recent years, to re-up those as well as for us to locally generate a consistent source of funding to build permanent, supportive housing that won't just get people off the street, but give them the services that they need to stay in those apartments and to stay permanently in housing and to get employed. So we're looking at this in a holistic way so we don't throw money at a problem and people wind up back on the street.

There are passionate caring people in Nebraska, Michigan and Maine who would be willing to help.  Don't send kids to a city that already has decades of bad public policy that has led to a crisis in affordable housing and homelessness. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Jul142014

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Effective?

Are we light years behind Europe in how we treat people with addiction? The Diane Rehm Show on Monday featured one hour on the changes in treating alcohol addiction services.  This comes after the release of the The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry (co-written by Lance and Zachary Dodes).  All Things Considered did an interview with Dodes back in March 2014 available here.  

There is a huge split within the homeless community about this issue.  There are those Housing First folks who are winning the argument who admit people to housing even when they are not sober.  Then there are those who feel that a person must be sober to get housing.  They feel that if a sober person is "rewarded" with housing while not taking care of their addiction, they will just mess up and become homeless again.  They also worry that an out of control addiction will contaminate others who will fall off the wagon. 

The problem is that the current treatment method especially for those without health insurance is awful and fails more than it is successful.  Those with insurance can go to inpatient treatment where they are away from the drugs and alcohol that is everywhere around them.  Dodes' book shows that Alcoholics Anonymous is successful between 5 and 10%.  This is disgracefully low success rate that would not allow a prescription drug trial to go forward or behavioral health experiment move to the next trial with a success rate of 7%.   What else do we have for the low income addict living at 2100 Lakeside?   As the book Hooked by Lonny Shavelson from a 2001 details the treatment system is completely broken. 

If we have designed a completely failed system for treating alcohol and drug what other choice is there, but to put people into housing and work on their addiction?   The State of Ohio has suddenly come to the realization that we have a serious prescription painkiller and heroin problem because our kids are dying in large numbers.   So they announce this Public Service Campaign to get people help, and then when your child needs professional assistance, you find that there is a three week wait for treatment.  They tell you to go to meetings and try to maintain your sobriety while you wait for help.   This is an insane approach to the problem of addiction.  Imagine if there were no emergency room health care and instead they just told you to go watch a video about coughing up blood and work through your own problem while you wait three weeks for a medical bed or a doctor visit.  This is the system for behavioral health at this point.  It is no wonder the shelters are bypassing the Alcohol and Drug system by putting people right into housing and hoping that they can find help for the person if they have a room to return to every night. 

Diane Rehm also had a nice show this last Tuesday on income inequality. The guest was Nick Hanauer who is a proponent of increasing the minimum wage.  He has made millions and talked about giving workers more income to be able to be able to live without government support.   It was a good discussion.  Check it out.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Jul112014

Obligatory LeBron James Post

This is a Getty imageThere is nothing else those of us living in Cleveland are talking about right now except the return of LeBron James to Cleveland.  We welcome him back and forgive the betrayal.  We will leave behind the talk about turning his back on his hometown and the burning of the #23 jersey.  All is forgiven and we look forward to a long and successful career in Cleveland.   How does LeBron James relate to homelessness for the purpose of this blog?   I was thinking how many LeBron James's are there sleeping in our shelters in Cleveland?  How many talented individuals never met their Coach Frankie Walker type mentor and got him on the straight and narrow?

For those who don't know the James family struggled with poverty and homelessness throughout his childhood in Akron.  His biological Dad was never in the picture and LeBron missed many months of elementary school.  One father figure who dated his Mom was sent to jail on fraud and drug charges.  He was picked up by his pee wee football coach in the fourth grade after Coach Walker found he was missing most of his fourth grade.   Walker and Gloria James, LeBron's mother, agreed that little LeBron would go stay with the coach. 

Gloria could not afford her housing and nearly lost it, but Walker stepped in to help with the rent and LeBron went back to living at home.  LeBron got a quality education at a Catholic School in Akron that stabilized his high school education even though his family was moving frequently in bad neighborhoods in Akron.   Walker introduced James to basketball and encouraged him to go to St. Vincent St. Mary's high school while keeping up his grades. How many guys at the shelter did not have a Coach Walker?  How many women at Norma Herr did not have an inspirational art or math teacher that redirected their life? How many Jim Carroll's, Bill Clintons or Tupac Shakur's are we missing--all grew up in poverty and did great things.

Imagine the scientists and scholars that we are losing as a society because talented people are languishing in the shelters or in dead in jobs?  Our society would have so many more LeBrons if we could stabilize people's housing situation.  If there was a right to live in an affordable, safe, private place we could take huge weights off our population to focus on discoveries, starting businesses, and programming computers.  LeBron made it out of the underside of Akron, but 2100 Lakeside is full of talented athletes, artists or archeologists who never found their Coach Walker.  They turn to alcohol, drugs or get in trouble with the law before finding a stable life.  Poverty and homelessness is sucking our society of great minds. 

Go Cavs, and Go LeBron!

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.