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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.

Homeless Voting
Saturday
May282016

Homeless Voting Restricted Due to New ID Laws

By Abby Bova

In this precarious election every vote counts.  However, a portion of the voting population will not be eligible for in person Election Day voting because they do not have a state issued photo ID.  To make things even worse, the majority of the population lacking an ID is made up of the elderly, African Americans, Hispanics, and low-income residents whom have very little chance to have their voice heard in government affairs outside of the election.  “In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election.  Eleven of those states will require their residents to show a photo ID” according to a Washington Post article. 

The average American will read these statistics and assume that the people without ID’s are simply lazy and don’t want to take the trip up to the DMV.  However, if one grew up on the streets and doesn’t have their birth certificate or know their exact birth name, this mundane task becomes a huge barrier.  The individual will not only have to jump through hoops to receive their birth certificate, but also pay for that birth certificate and ID card.  This process comes to a total of $33.50 in the state of Ohio and $60 for those born in Maine, an unaffordable price to the unemployed and low-income individuals whom save every penny they have to pay their rent and by food.  In most cases, the individual will give up and decide to post pone their vote for the next election when they may or may not find themselves in a stable financial situation.

Sadly, the voting restrictions in Ohio have been described as among the most restrictive in the country.  Ohio has been regarded as the most influential swing state for years and now a portion of the voting population will be forced to vote by mail or wait in line for early voting because they don’t have to correct ID.  To make the situation even worse, in order to obtain a certified birth certificate one must go to City Hall.  However, in order to enter City Hall one must present a photo ID, and if you were born in another state you are often required to present a copy of your official sate ID from your birthplace.   Some states require a certified letter from an attorney. 

Fortunately, in Cleveland 22 social service agencies have banned together over the last several years and created the ID Crisis Collaborative.  In November of 2015 the Cuyahoga County Council granted the ID Crisis Collaborative $340,000 to help pay for birth certificates and photo ID’s for those in need over the following two years.  This budget will allow the Collaborative to provide about 9,000 people with about 14,000 documents, as well as employ people part time for the Collaborative.  

While this service is a great triumph for Cleveland, we cannot forget the rest of Ohio and the 10 other states, which have put voter restriction ID laws in action.  Cleveland is one of the only cities in the United States with a homeless identification program.  These laws requiring ID to vote are eliminating a very important portion of the population without the ability to cast a ballot.   This cripples low income individuals from having a voice on budgets, funding for human services and who will lead this country.  The individuals who need a hand up paradoxically have a diminished ability to support candidates who want to help boost social welfare programs.  In this precarious election, every vote counts, and these discriminatory voting restrictions are a violation of the rights of citizens.

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Saturday
May282016

Interesting Stories About Homelessness

Interesting Homeless News May 27th, 2016

The New York Civil Liberties Union and their co-sponsor Picture the Homeless have filed a complaint against the New York Police Department for telling homeless people to “move along” when they haven’t done anything in violation of any law.  Recently the NYPD has been targeting innocent homeless people for standing or sitting in public places, which is not illegal.  In fact, the police officers are breaking more laws than the homeless people in this crusade as they violate the Community Safety Act, which prohibits profiling based on gender, race, and housing status.

The legendary Skid Row of Los Angeles has recently opened a new permanent housing complex for the chronically ill and mentally ill homeless living on Skid Row.  This $40 million complex was developed by the Skid Row Housing trust.  This new complex is run by the LA Department of Health Services’ Housing for Heath division.  This new complex provides healthcare for the 10,000 residents it aims to assist as well as luxuries such as an indoor track and art studio. Skid Row is the largest concentraion of homeless people outside of jails in the United States.

Senior Pastor Klayton Ko, of First Assembly of God in Red Hill, Hawaii has created 21 fiberglass dome structures for the homeless in Hawaii in an attempt to eradicative homelessness in Hawaii.  They have received a total of $200,000 dollars in funds and donations and plan to make more domes when they get the land needed.

San Diego has re-landscaped under their bridges to keep the homeless out.  The city of San Diego has placed jagged rocks under the bridges downtown in order to keep the homeless from sleeping under bridges.  Advocacy groups are up in arms calling for humane treatment of the homeless and the development of micro communities to solve the problem of people sleeping on the streets.

71 long term homeless residents, and their pets, have been moved from their river side encampment to a converted motel.  The Bridges to Housing Pilot project of West Sacramento has taken a great stride forward in the fight against homelessness through this initiative, which included medical checkups for the pets.

The 14th Homeless World Cup has been announced to be held July 10th-16th on George Square in Glasgow, Scotland.  The tournament will host 64 teams representing 64 different countries including one from the United States.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors allocated $100 million dollars to end homelessness in LA and stop the endless cycle of released criminals and hospital patients from ending up on Skid Row.  This is an editorial from the LA Times that argues the City is committed to working toward an end to homelessness and all the problems associated with Skid Row.  Local leaders claim that they won’t blow it again.

Italy keeps in mind “Les Misérables,”as they decide whether or not it is illegal to steal food from a super market if you are homeless.

 

by Abby Bova

The posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
May272016

Are Homeless Going to Be Displaced During RNC?

From Republican National Convention Official Event Zone Permit Regulations

Released May 25, 2016 by the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Police  (pdf here)

Section_III. Prohibited Items
(a) Definitions. As used in this section:
(1) The terms “Convention Period,” ”Event Zone,” “Public Grounds,” “Secure Zone,” “Sidewalk,” and “Street” shall have the same meaning as Section II of these Regulations; and
(2) ”Public Access Areas” shall mean any space in the Event Zone, excluding spaces designated as the Secure Zone, that is open to access by the general public, including Streets, Sidewalks and Public Grounds.
(b) Within all Public Access Areas, the following items are prohibited during the Convention Period:

(18) Tents and other shelters, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, mattresses, cots, hammocks, bivy sacks, or stoves;
(19) Coolers or ice chests;
(20) Backpacks and bags exceeding the size of 18” x 13” x 7”;

The map released as part of the press release shows a huge area of the Downtown, Ohio City and the Campus District.  It extends from the Lake back to St. Vincent Hospital then from West 25th to the I-90 or East 27th on the East Side of Cleveland.  This area has four of the five largest shelters in Cleveland.  There are probably 90 to 110 homeless people living in this area.  There is a drop in center and a health care for homeless facility. 

There is language about employees or residents who work in this area are exempt from these rules.  Yet no exemption for homeless people.  Will they consider homeless people who live outside as residents of the neighborhood?  I don't understand why the area has to be so huge?  How could a protestor, Donald Trump supporter or homeless person living over by the Muny Lot or on the West Bank of the Flats have any impact on the convention?   This is going to be an issue with all the out of state police who may not have a full understanding of the relationship between homeless people and the Cleveland Police Department.  We do not want to go back to the days when we were regularly in federal court over sweeps.  We have a good agreement that has survived 16 years. 

We have sent a letter to the Police outlying our concerns. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
May242016

Poverty Discussion at Organize Ohio

A group of people  from the Poverty Initiative from New York City, many whom are low-income leaders from the Midwest, East and South are coming to Cleveland today.  As part of that we will be panel discussion from 4:00-5:30 and 6:00-7:30 on issues of poverty in Cleveland.  There will be dinner served in between the panels.  You are all invited to attend and participate in those panel discussions and join in the dinner.  It will be held in the large conference room here at 3500 Lorain Avenue.  Our own Ramona will be presenting at this forum.  

Larry Bresler

Organize! Ohio

3500 Lorain Avenue Suite 501A

Cleveland, Ohio  44113

216-651-2606

Monday
May232016

New Fair Housing Guidelines

By Abby Bova

In light of the frequent discrimination against homeless people with a criminal background, specifically those of color, the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has established a new set of guidelines for those who are providing housing.  “The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin” (HUD).  This new movement for HUD will continue the fight for civil rights, begun in the 1960s, as they work for equal opportunity in housing for all Americans.  As much as one third of the U.S. population has some history with the criminal justice system, with the largest population of incarcerated individuals in the world. 

It is no surprise that a large portion of this prison population, and those who have been accused and arrested, is made up of black and Hispanic individuals, some of whom are serving unjust and unequal sentencing due to racial profiling (HUD).  Over nighty-five percent of this population will be released back to their communities at some point and will need to find some type of housing if they wish to be reintegrated into society.  “While having a criminal record is not a protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act, criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities violate the Act if, without justification, their burden falls more often on renters or other housing market participants of one race or national origin over another (i.e., discriminatory effects liability)”, according to the HUD guidance to housing providers release. 

“In the first step of the analysis, a plaintiff (or HUD in an administrative adjudication) must prove that the criminal history policy has a discriminatory effect, that is, that the policy results in a disparate impact on a group of persons because of their race or national origin.  This burden is satisfied by presenting evidence proving that the challenged practice actually or predictably results in a disparate impact”(HUD).  This step has been put into place in order to protect those who have been accused or arrested, but never convicted of a crime.  Additionally, this step protects those who have been convicted of non-violent crimes, which pose no threat to property and other residents.  This guidance requests that arrest records should not be relied upon alone and may be discriminatory along with a policy that fails to consider other factors such as the age at the time of the offense, how long ago it took place, the nature of the offense, and what the person has been doing in the meantime – is there evidence of rehabilitation, were there any prior or subsequent convictions, etc.  This step will be especially beneficial to young black and Latino men who are commonly falsely arrested due to racial profiling, as well as the rest of the Latino and African American communities who experience racial profiling (HUD).

Accusations and arrests due to racial profiling have become a major topic of discussion over the past several years, and HUD has finally had enough.  These false accusations and arrests are reported to landlords and frequently keep men and women of color out of housing.  HUD asks housing providers to speak more in depth with housing applicants with a criminal record to further investigate the incident.  The housing provider should find out when and why this crime was committed, as well as talk to the applicant about what they have been up to since the arrest and how they have overcome the past.  The HUD lead staff states that those with major charges such as arson, production of meth, and homicide can be denied without much investigation.  However, they ask that charges such as use and possession be further investigated.

“In the second step of the discriminatory effects analysis, the burden shifts to the housing provider to prove that the challenged policy or practice is justified- that is, that it is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest of the provider” (HUD).   The majority of housing providers claim that their policies are in place in order to protect their residents and their property.  Most courts will accept this as a legitimate reason for the rule.  Therefore, HUD has further implemented a process by which the housing provider must provide sufficient evidence as to how the rule in question protects the residents and their property.  “A housing provider with a policy or practice of excluding individuals because of one or more prior arrests (without conviction) cannot satisfy its burden of showing that such policy or practice is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest” (HUD).  Meaning a housing provider cannot claim that he or she will not accept a candidate simply because they were arrested, in the interest of protecting their property and other tenants, because the individual was never charged with a crime.  The majority of these arrests without conviction are a result of racial profiling against innocent citizens (HUD).

“The third step of the discriminatory effects analysis is applicable only if a housing provider successfully proves that its criminal history policy or practice is necessary to achieve its substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests.  In the third step, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff or HUD to prove that such interest could be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect” (HUD).  “A housing provider violates the Fair Housing Act when the provider’s policy or practice has an unjustified discriminatory effect, even when the provider had no intent to discriminate” (HUD).  For example, if a land lord says that they will only house people with a high school diploma, GED’s don’t count, this could be considered unintentional discrimination because the majority of the population who has a GED in lieu of a high school diploma are African American or Hispanic peoples who grew up in poverty.  With HUD’s new guidelines the accuser must show significant proof that the rule is discriminatory and then they may provide an alternative method that is less discriminatory, but still achieves the main goal the housing provider was attempting to reach through the rule in question.

The first step in creating true equality is granting everyone their basic rights to food, clothing and shelter.  HUD has taken a dramatic step forward towards racial equality in housing through these new guidelines.  As a result of HUD’s fight against racial profiling in housing, they will dramatically decrease the population of homeless black and Latino individuals, slowing the cycle of poverty.  By giving individuals a second chance and a means of escaping poverty the nation will be able to take great strides in eradicating homelessness.  Additionally, by providing housing HUD will decrease the nation’s prison population by removing individuals from desperate situations on the streets, in turn saving these individuals from becoming repeat offenders. 

These new guidelines cover everything from the private sector to HUD subsidized housing.  If found in a situation, which one feels as though they have been discriminated against in housing in North East Ohio one may to contact The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland  or Housing Research & Advocacy Center at 216-361-9240, and they will guide the client through filling a complaint.  This is a big step forward for housing in America as we continue the fight against discrimination. 

Information found in HUD’s Document : Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate- Related Transactions.

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry