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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
Apr292015

House Committee Eliminates National Housing Trust

Call Your Representative TODAY to Oppose the Bill’s Treatment of the National Housing Trust Fund in the House Appropriations

The proposed FY16 appropriations bill for HUD passed today by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) would eviscerate the National Housing Trust Fund. The bill:

  • Transfers all funding that is supposed to go to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) into the HOME program.
  • Forbids Congress to put any other funding into NHTF.

The House Appropriations Committee press release on the proposed THUD bill states that the bill will provide level funding of $900 million for the HOME program, but fails to mention that it would do so only by raiding the NHTF.

The House Appropriations Committee will consider the THUD bill when they reconvene after their recess next week. Please reach out to your Representative before May 12 and urge him or her to oppose the bill’s treatment of the NHTF.

When you contact your Representative, share with him or her that:

  1. The NHTF is the only federal program that provides new money specifically to expand the supply of rental housing that is affordable for extremely low income (ELI) households. Nationwide, there is a shortage of 7.1 million rental housing units that are available and affordable for ELI families. In most of the country, ELI is less than the federal poverty level. The shortage of rental housing that extremely low income households can afford is the reason so many people are homeless in the United States.

  2. The funding for the NHTF is a dedicated source of revenue on the mandatory side of the federal budget, and as such, is not subject to annual appropriations. Funding for the NHTF is based on an assessment of 4.2 basis points of the annual volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is a reliable, predictable stream of funding that is supposed to be separate from HUD appropriations. It is not subject to sequestration.

    As an appropriated program, HOME has suffered deep cuts in recent years, including cuts dictated by sequestration. Its FY15 appropriation of $900 million is less than half of the FY10 appropriation. The Appropriations Committee should not be managing the sequester cuts to HUD programs by raiding mandatory funds that have a dedicated purpose.

  3. Neither program is funded anywhere near what is required to address the unmet housing need.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

If your Representative sits on the Appropriations Committee, tell him or her to oppose the THUD Appropriations bill’s treatment of the NHTF. Urge your Representative to remove all references to the National Housing Trust Fund when the bill is marked up in full committee after next week’s recess.

To find out if your Representative sits on the Appropriations Committee, visit http://appropriations.house.gov/about/members/.

To find contact information for your Representative, call the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351, or visit NLIHC's website and enter your zip code on the right side.

Thank you for your support from the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Wednesday
Apr292015

Colorado Turns Down Homeless Bill of Rights

Hate and Lies Prevail in Denver

The Colorado State Legislative committee turned down the Right to Sleep/Homeless Bill of Rights legislation this week in Denver.  This is part of a national movement to pass bills of rights throughout the country.  In response to the large number of people who are harassed by police for innocent behavior of sitting, sleeping, standing in the public space, advocates tried to reduce the involvement of law enforcement in the distribution of social services.  

In surveys done in Colorado, San Antonio, San Francisco, Washington, and Oregon, they found 80 to 90% of the population experience discrimination by law enforcement in their communities.  This was an attempt to reduce interactions between law enforcement and homeless people in the State of Colorado. In the survey conducted in Denver, 70 percent of respondents said they were harassed, ticketed and even arrested for sleeping outdoors, and nearly as many, 64 percent, for simply sitting or lying down to rest.  73 percent said they had been turned away from shelters when they tried to enter. 60 percent also said they had their property seized by city employees and/or law enforcement.

The bill would specifically:

  1. The right to use and move freely in public spaces without time limits or discrimination based on housing status.
  2. The right to eat and share food in public spaces
  3. The right to occupy a motor vehicle that is parked on public property.
  4. The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in public spaces.

Activists came from around the country to support the Colorado initiative.  There were homeless people from Skid Row, Boulder, Seattle, Baltimore, New York City, DC, San Francisco among others who rallied at the State House to push this forward.  They were extremely disappointed and disruptive after it became clear the bill was going to die. 

The Denver Post reported the opposition this way: Kathy Haddock, senior assistant city attorney for Boulder, cited more than $3 million annually the city spends on homelessness (This is the money given to Boulder from the Federal Government and not local funds).

"'Right to rest' is a good phrase, it sounds good, it's a good sound bite, but homelessness issues are not addressed simply by providing people a place to rest," she said. "In fact, using public property to become a replacement home for people means that property also becomes their bathroom, cooking area, trash bin and congregating area.

"As a result, those areas become unusable by others and are very expensive for the city to provide trash removal and human-waste removal services."

Even though these rules only applied to public property, retail lobbyists testified against the bill.  Trial lawyers testified against the bill as did the Chamber of Commerce.   Boulder and other cities in Colorado who have made it illegal to be homeless testified against the bill, because of the "expense" of defending lawsuits.  The cities were worried that police would sue them if they threatened arrest of homeless people. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

PS:  Cleveland has a federal consent decree signed in February 2000 that protects homeless people from harrassment by the police for purely innocent behavior. 

Wednesday
Apr292015

Denver And Homelessness

The National Coalition for the Homeless met in Denver Colorado for their twice yearly face to face meeting and held a conference on criminalization of homelessness.  Denver is one of the 25 largest cities in America, and has made some progress on homelessness in America, but has a long way to go.  It is the state capital so there are far more resources available in Denver than other Colorado cities, but there are many people sleeping outside.  There is no guaranteed access to shelter like in New York and Cleveland. 

The police regularly ask homeless people to move along, but never answer the question, "to where?"   There are many who travel through Denver to greener pastures.  I met a man who was sleeping outside from Bangor Maine by way of Washington and Chicago who was deciding on whether to stay or move on.  The outreach teams had tried to work with him in his first three weeks in Denver which is more than happens in most cities.  There also seems to be a growing number of people migrating to Denver because of the recreational marijuana, which is a far more expensive of a habit than cigarettes.  Housing is extremely expensive with supply not matching demand.  They have far fewer abandoned properties when compared to most Midwestern cities, but they do exist. 

Denver has many more laws on the books restricting homeless people and a pretty strict panhandling law.  They do have a pretty amazing healthcare for the homeless operation with five clinics, including a brand new clinic attached to their permanent supportive housing project with dental services and a complete pharmacy.  I was impressed with the level of care delivered to homeless people with an attempt to make the healthcare for the homeless clinics a medical home for low income people.  They screen people who come in for mental health issues while they are assessing their physical health needs.  People do not have to make appointments somewhere else and then face other challenges such as timing and transportation.  The new Denver health care for the homeless clinic has a huge and respectful waiting area and a seamless process to apply for housing once they have sought healthcare assistance. 

In Cleveland, most of the services are built around the shelters and even with Coordinated intake those staying at shelter are easiest to find and usually get access before those waiting on the streets.  In Denver, the system seems to be centered around health care as the first point of contact for most.  Those without housing seem to look healthier than I have seen in the Midwest or the East Coast.  I don’t know if this is from the amount of walking necessary in western cities or the number of farm and domestic workers among the homeless population.  Transportation is much more accessible in Denver when compared to Cleveland but not like DC, NYC or Boston. 

Denver is a clean city, but about three times the number of people sleeping outside compared to Cleveland.  There are no where near the numbers of people living outside as Washington DC, San Francisco or Boston.  There were a number of grassroots organizations helping to provide a voice to those living in shelters or on the streets.  There was not a real advocacy Coalition focused on the needs of homeless people and providing input to government or the social service community.   This is not unusual for a capital city where advocacy groups get overshadowed by the State Coalitions and all the money and resources goes to state efforts.  There is not the tradition to organizing in union cities like Cleveland, Philadelphia and Chicago.  So, there is not a strong tenant association or commitment to organizing low income residents of the city. 

They are making progress and have built large numbers of affordable housing units reserved for homeless people.  They have permanent supportive housing for families which most cities have not found the ability to fund.  They are working on funding a law enforcement diversion program which is supposed to save the city money over incarceration.  Finally, there are horror movie scary Mimes performing in Downtown Denver, which is unsettling, but at least they are not dressed as clowns. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Apr222015

Drumplay Organizing Benefit for Street Chronicle

April 25th at 8 p.m. at Sandy Chanty at 5457 Lake Road in Geneva on the Lake. 

Drumplay featuring Paul Stranahan will perform in order to raise funds for the Cleveland Street Chronicle (formerly Homeless Grapevine) newspaper. 

April 30th at Algebra Tea House at 7:30 p.m. in Little Italy in Cleveland.

This benefit will feature Ernie Krivda on sax along with Drumplay.   For this gig, Ray McNiece will be the guest poet to sit in with Drumplay.  These events take place in April to remember the Cuyahoga County Poet Laureate who passed away in mid 2000s after having written hundreds of poems for the old Homeless Grapevine newspaper. 

James Onysko, founder of Drumplay, said, "I wonder why I should keep it going.  I mean, you can't say we are 'up and coming'.  Instead, we are old and receding.  But to help out the efforts of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is at least one good reason to keep it going.  That, a
nd the pure joy of making music.  We remember Daniel Thompson especially during National Poetry Month.  Our Poet Laureate of Cuyahoga County was a tireless activist for the homeless and disenfranchised.  We can do no less as NEOCH daily demonstrates.  More than ever, people have to stand up in order to solve our collective social problems as leadership is lacking; and it's not enough, anyway.  So we must 'come together' as the song goes.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Apr182015

Voting Lawsuit Settlement Will Not Help Homeless People

The American Civil Liberties Union settled a lawsuit with the Secretary of State over early voting this month.  We got a couple of extra weekend days of voting, but we lost the principle.  I say we, because homeless people have been a part of lawsuits about early voting in the past and many of the Souls to the Polls ministers assisted with transporting homeless people.  This settlement did not help more homeless people to vote and it did little for poor people. 

Why can't people who move frequently register a change of address and vote at the same time?  Why can't we allow people to register and vote 35 days out while there is plenty of time to check on their eligibility? Or even 15 days out? There are states that allow same day registration and their elections are secure.  Isn't early in person registration and voting more secure than voting by mail where we have no idea who is actually casting the vote? 

All that trouble to sue and in the end it is not easier to vote in Ohio.  The so-called Golden week where a resident can vote and register in person at the Board of Elections was worth fighting for.  It was a symbol of the State encouraging the lowest income to vote by making it as easy as possible.   Golden Week was a turning away from the Poll Taxes of the South and all the efforts to make it hard for minority populations to cast a ballot.  This is a sad settlement which allows the State of Ohio to limit the ability of lower income people to vote.  If the conservatives can force civil libertarians into settlements that makes it harder for poor people to vote, where will they go next?  They base all these changes on "securing against fraud," which does not really exist.  What other fake threats can conservatives invent to limit access to the ballot box?  What other restrictions on voting will they test?  How far away are literacy tests or mandatory State IDs to vote or limiting the number of staff who can help with voting causing huge lines in urban centers? 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry