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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.

The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event
Sunday
Aug062017

Norman Wolfe Passes Away Suddenly

The basis for all that we do at NEOCH is forgiveness.  In the United States, we do not value forgiveness and we punish some people for life.  Typically, those who cannot afford legal representation, people of color and the disabled repeatedly face barriers because of past mistakes.  In addition, we put such a stigma on people who become homeless, those with a disability, and re-entry folks that it is like they are walking around with a scarlet letter.  

Norman Wolfe was a quiet man who overcame a lot of these barriers in life. He made big mistakes in his past and he paid dearly.  He served the United States in the Navy, and fell all the way to the men's shelter in Cleveland.  I met Norman because he filed a grievance against mistreatment that he was receiving at a veteran's only bed at the shelter.  He was so angry over how the grievance process failed at the shelter that he kept pushing for the development of a Resident Council at the shelter.  Even after he was able to secure housing, he would attend the Resident Council meetings, take notes and push the shelter staff to respond. 

Norman was a regular at the Homeless Congress meetings and represented other homeless people on the NEOCH Board.  In 2015 and 2016, he was volunteering for Organize Ohio and the state budget folks called NOBLE.  Norman was the Master of Ceremony for an all day discussion of the NOBLE advocates in preparation for the 2015 state budget struggles.  He also helped organize the End Poverty Rally and March on the first day of the Republican Convention in July of 2016.   Norman was elected to the County Office of Homeless Services advisory board.  He walked with a cane, but many other homeless people leaned on him to protect their rights.  

NEOCH gave him the Advocate of the Year award in 2014 and wrote up an overview of his accomplishments here.  Norman was so helpful working to try to reform the shelter rules and regulations locally because he had experience with how these rules play out at midnight.  He was able to get in writing that shelters should not discharge people into the night for non-criminal activity. This reduced the number of times women would miss meals at the Community Women's shelter because they were in "time-out."   He visited Columbus to push for a fair state budget for those working to re-enter society and those struggling with their housing, and he helped push for reform of the women's shelter. 

Two pieces of unfinished business that Norman was passionate about in Cleveland that we hope someone will take up the struggle.  We were never able to get a fair grievance process locally within the shelters and social services.  Norman came to the Coalition originally because he could not find justice with regard to the mistreatment he received from VA staff working at the big shelter.  He always wanted to see an impartial third party grievance process started, but we never were able to get this accomplished. 

He also tried to convince the shelter that veterans in the shelter should not have non-vets come into their community at the big shelter to use a veteran's bed at night if the veteran is out for the night on a pass.  The problem is that the County requires every bed in the big shelter be full every night or they will not pay for overflow, so some of the beds are used multiply times a night with a change of sheets.  Guys go out to work at midnight or don't come back until dawn and so the shelter has to navigate this difficult choreography to have every bed full every night.  Norman was pushing that since the Vet Community at 2100 Lakeside are paid through a per diem contract with the federal government and not County funds and that vets are allowed to be away from the shelter for 48 hours and still maintain the bed, they should not have drunk guys or severely mentally ill filling a bed when they are away.  The problem is typically these one-night overflow guests are disruptive and can send a guy working on his sobriety over the edge.  Norman could never convince the shelter to keep the Veteran's community independent and free from outside destabilizing individuals.

Norman will be missed by many members of the Homeless Congress and his quiet voice will be silenced at the County Office of Homeless Services advisory. 

Brian Davis

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Post Script: Norman Wolfe's family has finalized his funeral arrangements & his obituary will be published soon. The viewing will be held at 12:30pm on Wednesday, August 16, followed by a funeral service at 1pm at Pernel Jones & Sons Funeral Home located at 7120 Cedar Avenue, Cleveland 44103. Norman will have a military burial at on Thursday, August 17 at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

Tuesday
Aug012017

NEOCH Staff Participate in Cost of Poverty Experience

COPE: Cost Of Poverty Experience

“The over committed can miss a few deadlines. Dieters can take a break from their diet. The busy can take vacations. One cannot take a vacation from poverty.” -Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan

The Cost of Poverty Experience is a training that offers participants a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in our community. It is a look into the obstacles that are faced, the decisions that are made, and the consequences that impact these families every day. The CareSource Foundation has partnered with Think Tank (an Ohio non-profit) to develop COPE, which was co-designed with low-income individuals who have shared their story so that participants could gain greater understanding.  Greater Cleveland Community Shares was the local host of this poverty experience.

Joyce Robinson oversees the shelter experience photo by Dawn Ramsey

The exercise, which simulated one month of poverty, was broken up into four, 15-minute "weeks". 45 different types of “family units” consisted of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 members including adults, youth and school-age children. Each "family" was given instructions regarding circumstances specific to them. Adults were employed or unemployed but seeking work; youth and children had to attend school, as well as experience a "week-long" school break.

Fourteen stations represented services a typical low-income family would use- minimum wage employer(s), county human services, rent and mortgage/evictions, police and jail, court and probation services, pawn shop, bank and loan, gas stop, family wellness center, faith center, mega mart, community services, homeless shelter, school. Each station had its own set of rules regarding how to handle/deal with clients, as well as its own agency-appropriate props; i.e. the Homeless Shelter had six "beds", a "Do Not Shelter List" of clients who didn’t obey the rules, a "Homeless Shelter Form" to completes, a list of "Shelter Rules" to dispense, as well as “bedbugs” for those who were in the shelter for more than one week.

Prior to the start of the exercise, when participants were asked "What is Poverty?" responses included: lacking, struggling, violence, choices, hunger, sustainability, chaos, fear confusion. At the end of the exercise, when asked again, "What is Poverty?" responses included anxiety, increased heart rate, and frustration.

Participants who played the roles of adults talked about spending a lot of time just waiting, having a lot of "balls in the air", lack of understanding regarding resources available, having to make decisions quickly, always being behind, not having enough time, not having enough money at the end of the month, being rejected or charged more for services. They also spoke of parents as being strong, hard-working and resilient.

Those who played the roles of children talked about the stress of being alone a lot because parents had to work, having a lot on their plates, and that the primary relationships they had with adults were not with their parents, but with people "in the system," such as teachers and social service workers.

Systemic barriers can help cause or perpetuate poverty. As systems and as individuals, organizers of the event said, "We are isolated.  We need to think about how relationships, between the system and individuals can help to create community. Instead of talking at each other, insisting that the 'other side’ listen to us, we need to talk with each other and listen to what the other has to say."

Overall, I thought this demonstrated how you cannot take a break from poverty.  This showed everyone that from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed, you have to deal with the ripples that come from living in poverty. 

by Joyce Robinson

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Friday
Jul282017

RNC in Cleveland: One Year Out

 

Last summer in Cleveland was filled with Republicans electing the future President of the United States.  NEOCH was busy organizing, protesting and keeping homeless people safe.  We posted a few images from last year on the front of our website and those will be available on our photo galleries page. We reflected on the RNC last July and you can read that by clicking on the blue text.

We started out joining a lawsuit with the ACLU and both pro Trump and anti Trump protestors against the City of Cleveland.  Our interest was the overly broad enforcement "event area," and whether all these out of town police could disrupt homeless encampments.  This would have allowed law enforcement to search, sieze and bar movement from many areas where homeless people sleep especially across the river.  We won in court and the City had to reduce the event zone.  NEOCH staff provided a one page sheet on how to assist homeless people to the two thousand police who came to town.

We worked to keep homeless people safe with transportation from the East Side to the drop in centers on the West Side.  NEOCH staff did some voter registration activities on the West Side of Cleveland so they did not have to cross the river during the RNC.  We had to figure out where homeless people could go during the day since the Cosgrove Center drop in Center was closed for the week. There was much media about homelessness and the convention both nationally and locally.

NEOCH staff were involved in the protest on the Monday of the RNC that Organize Ohio put together.   We made signs to End Poverty.  We marched.  We listened to speeches asking for Republican leaders to think about the affordable housing crisis, health care for all, increasing income, and stabilizing disability assistance in America.   It was a hot day and a long walk from Lutheran Metro Ministry down to just outside of the "event zone" at Chester Commons.  There were some fantastic speeches like the mom worried about the incendiary language during the campaign about immigrants. There were environmentalists who were concerned about global warming.  There were Black Lives Matter activists worried about unaccountable police. And there were activists asking for a $15 minimum wage and universal access to healthcare in the United States.

Overall, the best of Cleveland was shown to the United States last summer.  We could protest peacefully.  There were very few arrests during the week.  The Police Chief was out among the people talking, keeping the peace and wearing shorts and not riot gear.  Homeless people were not harrassed and could stand with the other pedestrians on the Lorain Carnegie Bridge in peaceful prayer.  There were no arrests or sweeps of homeless people as happened in previous high profile events in the United States.  It was a huge disruption for the one week and it was difficult getting across the river, but it was also quite a spectcle to watch.  I saw people walking downtown that I have never seen before in our fair city.  There were suburban folks from Nebraska who had never seen so much concrete.  There were cowboy hat and boot wearing young men from Montana who had not seen this many minority citizens in the same location. 

Very few of the 20,000 Republican delegates and guests had thought much about homelessness and we did all that we could to get homeless people into the news last summer.  I was skeptical about bringing a party that has a history of hostility toward those living in poverty to a majority Democratic city, but it worked.  There were precincts in the City of Cleveland in 2012 that not one person in that precinct voted for the Republican candidate for President.  I was worried that there would be hostility between the two groups, but Clevelanders were extremely welcoming and hospitable to people who largely see the world differently from most residents of Cleveland.  The Republican Convention of 2016 benefitted the City of Cleveland, and I hope that other cities will look at our ability to host a secure event without harming the residents (including homeless people) in the process and use that as an example. 

Brian Davis

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Thursday
Jul272017

New Director Seeks Your Input and Help

Dear Supporters,

Transitions are an important part of organizational growth.  As we know from living in northeast Ohio, the four seasons transition every year from summer to fall and winter to spring, just as social justice organizations slow down, speed up, and transition. These moments are important to inspire new ideas, build new alliances, and produce organizational growth. Established leaders step back to make room for fresh people to bring new energy and innovation. Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is in this moment.

As I start my position as the new Director of Operations of NEOCH, I want to recognize this moment of transition. I am filled with gratitude to be chosen to lead an organization with such a legacy of defending those marginalized in our community. I take this position determined that NEOCH remains on the front lines struggling for the rights of the men and women in our community who are unhoused by calling for dignified treatment and advocating for public policies that benefit those most in need.

I promise to uphold our mission statement that has guided us in our work. I will continue to work “to organize and empower homeless and at risk men, women and children to break the cycle of homelessness through public education, advocacy, and the creation of nurturing environments.” We have a strong and ambitious strategic plan that centers around improving the daily reality of those experiencing homelessness. As I start my first days in the office, I am excited about continuing to implement the programs and achieve our goals moving forward. 

I bring years of experiences working with and building relationships with people experiencing homelessness in the city of Cleveland. I have traveled the globe partnering with human rights defenders struggling for a more just world. In Colombia, I worked alongside local small-famers as they defended their land from mass displacement by documenting human rights violations and calling for accountability.  I bring these experience with me to this position as I return home to do social justice work in Cleveland.

I cannot do this work alone. In the coming years, we need to come together to strengthen our work. Federal and local policies being implemented will deeply impact the communities that we serve. NEOCH will be more important than ever in our community and we will need your support. Please consider volunteering your time or offering your continued financial support for our Hope for the Homeless campaign.  There is a Hope for the Homeless Brochure on the page.  

I genuinely look forward to having the opportunity to meet all of you in person or you can provide feedback to us here. I am excited about the projects we will be working on together in the future.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail chris (at) neoch (dot) org.

Sincerely,

Christopher Knestrick

Director of Operations

Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

Friday
Jul212017

Cleveland Schools Received No Funding from Competitive Grant For Homeless Kids in Ohio

 

We were notified that the Cleveland Municipal School District would not receive any funds this year from the competitive funding program for homeless children.  This is nearly one third of their total allocation from the State of Ohio to serve homeless children in the district who become homeless during the school year.  Obviously, these funds are not divided by need since Toledo received $0 in 2017 and now Cleveland will get $0 in 2018.  Lorain City Schools also is not going to receive any funds this year.  I could not find the figures for how many homeless children were in each district, but Cleveland saw over 3,000 kids in the district in 2016. We also know that homeless families are on the rise in Cleveland with long waits in the overflow shelter while a bed opens up in the three remaining family shelters. 

In case you do not know, the Cleveland Municipal School District Project ACT program is over 25 years old and will do whatever it takes to get a homeless child back into school as soon as possible.  They help with transportation, uniforms, identification, tutors, and advocacy to make sure that all the children experiencing homelessness do not fall behind.  They visit all the shelters to see if there are any homeless children that are not getting help, and they will work with the surrounding district to make sure that if the child is homeless from Parma they can return to that district to complete their studies for the year.  Project ACT provides tutors to keep the kids at grade level.  So, if their entire home life evaporates at least their school life is preserved and often enhanced with Project ACT. 

The State of Ohio said that they did not fill out a very good grant this year, and obviously Parma did a better job.  Well, I would ask the State officials to come up here and get 3,000 kids back to school quickly and try to keep those kids at grade level while also filling out some stupid grant request.  Why isn't this need based?  Cleveland has to have the first or second highest number of homeless kids in the state.  We should get this money just because we take care of so many kids.  I guess we will have to figure out a transportation system to Toledo and Parma for all our homeless kids in the district since they got the Cleveland money this year. 

Brian Davis

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Post Script:

Replying to 

We will continue to support our students through other resources while we address this with ODE. There will be NO reductions in service!