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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
Sep222014

NEOCH Supports Equality in Housing and Employment in Ohio

Discrimination Against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People is Generally Legal in Ohio

It is legal in Ohio to be fired from your job, denied an apartment, or refused service at a movie theater, restaurant or hotel because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.  In many cities and counties in Ohio and for many government employees, these practices are prohibited, but there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections that protect all Ohioans.

21 of the 50 states currently protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, putting Ohio at a competitive disadvantage for recruiting and hiring the best and brightest professional talent.  Many employers across the country and here in Ohio have extended nondiscrimination policies to cover LGBT people, but millions of Ohioans remain unprotected.  According to Equality Ohio, protections are needed for everyone.

Equality Ohio is working with a bi-partisan group of legislators to pass the Equal Housing and Employment Act to end discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless voted at our September board meeting to urge our members to support the Equal Housing and Employment Act.  We co-administer the Housing website, HousingCleveland.org and have heard horror stories from homeless people struggling to find housing with good credit and no criminal background who face discrimination from small mom and pop apartment unit owners who will not accept "non-traditional" tenants.  We have seen from the Housing Center State of Fair Housing Report that Familial Status has become the second highest number of complaints they received in 2013 and Gender issues are now the fourth highest number of complaints in Northeast Ohio.  Many of those complaints are discrimination of transgender individuals and/or lesbian and gay couples who face denial of housing because of their gender or who they establish a relationship with. 

In the last five sessions of the Ohio General Assembly, legislation was introduced to protect all Ohioans from losing their job, being denied housing, or being refused public accommodations based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  On September 15, 2009, by a vote of 56 to 39, the Ohio House of Representatives passed the Equal Housing and Employment Act.  The historic vote marked the first time the Ohio General Assembly has voted on legislation to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The bill unfortunately was not given testimony or a vote in the Senate and died with the end of the 2008-2009 legislative session.

In 2013 a new bill was introduced in both houses (S.B. 125 and H.B. 163).

LGBT Ohioans face discrimination on many levels.  EHEA would prevent LGBT Ohioans from being judged on anything other than their job performance; it would allow all LGBT Ohioans the ability to obtain the housing of their choice; and, it would allow LGBT Ohioans to be served equally at restaurants, movie theaters and hotels everywhere in the state. NEOCH urges state legislators to hold hearings on this important measure and then pass it into law.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Sunday
Sep212014

National Voter Registration Day in Cleveland

Tuesday
Sep162014

National Voter Registration Day

We could use your help with registering people to vote.  We tentatively have County Councilman Dale Miller and State Rep. Mike Foley attending.  We will have Natoya Walker Minor representing the Mayor and we hope to have a Cleveland City Council member.  We want this to be a motivational event to encourage homeless people to vote.   Come and listen to these community leader or help register homeless people to participate in democracy.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Sep152014

What is the Problem with "Diversion"?

First of all the name is scary.  If you lost your housing and a place for all your possessions, would you want to be "diverted" when you showed up asking for help?   If you finally made the decision to ask some stranger for help, the first thing that this social service provider will do in Cleveland is see if you can be "diverted."  The County really should have come up with a more marketable name than diversion for the first step on a person's journey into homelessness.  Social service types are not typically the most market savvy group in the community.  After all, "homeless" is not something anyone wants to be labeled, and calling the group that takes children from unfit parents "children and family services" seems Orwellian. 

In August, we heard from staff of diversion in a couple of different meetings, and I still have a ton of questions about the ethics and safety of the program for families in our community.  The way it works in Cleveland is when you first become homeless or are in danger of being homeless you go over to either the men's shelter or the women/family shelter on Payne Ave. between 7 to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 to 5 p.m. on the weekend.  This is a problem since there is a stigma associated with shelter and a reputation in the community about these shelters.   Then the head of the household completes an intake application. They head over to another room and meet with a staff member of Cleveland Mediation Center to discuss "diversion."  This is a program to avoid shelter and find a more "appropriate" to stay. 

This can mean the agency buying a bus ticket to live with family in another city.  This a huge improvement because we have never done travel assistance in our city in the past.  It can also mean negotiating with family locally to move into their extra bedroom or it can mean going back to a friend that the individual was staying with in March of this year.  It could mean educating the family about the eviction process and that the family has a couple of weeks to work on alternative places to live.  Or it could mean paying one month of rent to keep the family in housing.  There is a possibility that the family could avoid shelter altogether with rapid rehousing back into a place to live with a commitment to three months worth of rent. 

Avoiding shelter is the goal of everyone, but the implementation of some of these goals has been a problem.  The goal is to "divert" 20 to 25% of the people seeking shelter.  The CMC champion a  "strength based system" driven by the clients to help them to figure out what resources they have available to them.  They champion not judging the individual and working on "building a persons' capacity to act."  In the first six months of 2014 they diverted 136 of the 711 of the single men who showed up at Lakeside shelter or 19%.  CMC only diverted 17% of the women they saw and 26% of the families.  Only families have access to rental assistance at this time, making it easier to provide diversion. 

I have never heard a complaint from the men about diversion, but I have seen a number of issues with families misunderstanding diversion.  I also know that many of the existing social service providers grumble about diversion.  They say, if a person makes the effort to decide to go to shelter for help, they should be respected and provided some kind of help.  Many of the women and families misunderstand the message being delivered by the diversion staff.  They think that the person is saying that the shelter is too full and they need to find some other place to stay.  Many walk away because they think the staff is saying, "there is no room at the inn."  I worry that a victim of domestic violence will not be willing to admit to a total stranger that she is being beaten and will be diverted back to her death.  I worry that a Mom will not disclose in front of her kids the violence going on within the house, and will be harmed after requesting shelter.  I also see a problem with not interviewing a couple separately when talking about diversion.  There is no way a woman will risk outing her partner in small room over at the Payne Ave shelter.  

Other issues that I have seen is that no one knows their rights or the grievance procedure when they go through this process.  There is nothing displayed that you have a right to shelter and can reject the diversion.  Where do you go to complain?  Are you a client of CMC or Frontline Services when you complete the intake?   What are your privacy rights with regard to diversion and coordinated intake?  None of this is spelled out or given to the client when they come in the door.  The program has been fully implemented for the last two years, and we still don't have protections in place for the clients.  There is not a piece of paper they get spelling out the process, the rights of the clients and the place that they can go if they have an issue.   I just don't think that we should risk diversions for families until we have better protections and clear guidelines in place.  And please come up with a better name for the program.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Sep152014

Sleep Deprivation and the Shelters

The Atlantic had an interesting article last month about sleep deprivation among homeless people and the negative consequences on a person's life.  We know that homelessness does shorten a person's life primarily because of food, environmental issues, sleep deprivation, and a lack of consistent health care.  WebMD lists a number of causes of sleep deprivation, but does not include homelessness:

There are many causes of sleep deprivation. The stresses of daily life may intrude upon our ability to sleep well, or perhaps we trade sleep for more work or play. We may have medical or mental-health conditions that disrupt our sleep, and be well aware that we are sleep-deprived.

The Atlantic article references a laundry list of issues associated with sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increase in mental illness, drug abuse among teenagers, and higher rates of violence and aggressionSchizophrenia-like symptoms may also start to develop, which is problematic in a population that already experiences a higher-than-average likelihood of suffering from the disease.

In Cleveland, the residents have been asking for shelter regulations that protect sleep issues.  They just passed a requirement that shelters make accommodations for those working second and third shift.  Who knows how long it will take to get these implemented and posted in the shelters?  Right now, shelters do very little to provide help to help those who work 4 to Midnight shift.  For example, until you can get a work bed at the main men's shelter you will be awakened at 6 a.m. to leave the shelter by 8 am no matter what time you get to the shelter at night.  Many nights the beds are filled by a guy working an early shift then stripped and reset for the guy coming off a second shift.

The members of the Homeless Congress tried to get a tough bed rest policy passed by the County, but that was removed.  The residents of the shelter are concerned because some of the shelters are selective in which bed rest order from a doctor they will honor.  It is like they do not believe some doctors while they believe others.  These near minimum wage workers are superseding the decisions of legitimate doctors and often interfering with the healing process. 

I have done a number of protests of living outside and the most striking thing you realize is the inability to sleep when you stay outside.  Even for one to three days, your senses are supercharged with the sense of danger and being constantly on guard. The threat of having your shoes and other valuables makes it difficult to sleep in the shelters.  Try sleeping on all your valuables with your shoes on and "keeping one eye open,"  so that no one comes by and tries to lift your phone or wallet, and see how long you can stay awake the next day.  How long until you just snap from all the stress or are hospitalized from health issues that arise from a lack of sleep?  This is the life of a homeless person in Cleveland and most of the United States everyday.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry