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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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Tuesday
Nov182014

Equality Issues within the Homeless Community

Kansas City privately funded shelter discriminates against same sex couples.  This is unfortunate and every shelter in the United States is going to have to figure out a solution to these issues. 

We congratulate the City of Cleveland for clarifying the law and housing discrimination statutes to include gender identity issues.  We still need a state law to protect all tenants because only half of the rental housing in our community is within the Cleveland border.  Here is the information on the employment and housing equality bill that passed Council last night from an EqualityOhio press release

We have excellent news to share. Last night, Cleveland City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 1445-13, adding "gender identity or expression" to several places where it was missing in Cleveland's nondiscrimination code. 

Thank you for showing your support at both the Finance Committee meeting Monday afternoon and last night in Council Chambers! We stood together in support of increased protections for our transgender community.

Our future success depends on our willingness to continue to stand together. Ordinance 1446-13 would remove discriminatory language allowing business proprietors to dictate which restrooms are appropriate for transgender people. However, it has not yet been scheduled for a vote. We are committed to getting Cleveland City Council to vote yes. 

We'll continue important public dialogue on transgender public accommodations. Look for more information in the coming days about other actions you can take to ensure the entire LGBT community is protected by Cleveland's code.

Together, let's celebrate the passage of Ordinance 1445-13 and commit to passing 1446-13 as soon as possible. 

Cleveland does a pretty good job in serving transgender individuals seeking shelter.  They respect the HUD policy of serving people in the gender specific shelter in which they present.  This only came about since 2012 when HUD clarified the rules.  We also can provide private facilities if the individual faces discrimination or harassment in the shelter.  This is one of the benefits of having a coordinated intake site locally.  There are individual problems, but we are light years in front of other communities. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Sunday
Nov162014

NOBLE Budget Meeting Well Attended

Every two years advocates get together in Cleveland to strategise about the upcoming budget for the State of Ohio.  The group has largely failed over the last two budget cycles, but they do eek out a few victories.  On a cold snow filled Saturday at the NEOCH/Community Shares offices, advocates met to discuss areas that they felt were important.   There was a good crowd who gave up their Saturday afternoon to plow through the details of the Ohio budget.

They gave a status report for the their successes/failures over the last budget.  The only successes were that the Ohio Housing Trust Fund was not cut and there was a state earned income tax credit was created. The Homestead exemptions was targeted to those over 65 making less than $30,000.  Medicaid was expanded, but over the objections of the legislature. Every other recommendation failed with one incompletion.  Some of the fails from the previous year:

  • Education funding is still below 2010 levels.
  • Childcare still has a cap on family income below federal guidelines.
  • Recommended changes in Kinship care were not addressed.
  • Adult Protective Services to protect seniors is still woefully underfunded.
  • Alzheimer's respite care is half of the level from 2011.
  • They did not expand Medicaid to all of those eligible and reimbursable by the federal government.
  • No relief for those receiving cash assistance to provide flexibility over massive elimination of benefits.
  • Sought additional money for hunger programs.  They received some additional funding, but not enough to meet demands.
  • No additional funding for transportation.
  • Huge losses to local government funding for trash collection, fire, safety forces and other local government services.

Some of the big issues that those gathered are looking for in the next budget for 2015 include:

  • Re-establishment of the tax on rich people who die called the estate tax.
  • Re-establishment of the local government fund to the levels from 2010.
  • Expansion of a housing search website in the state of Ohio
  • A complete overhaul of the tax loopholes in the state of Ohio.
  • A lifting of the cap off the Earned Income Tax Credit.  If you are poor and don't pay enough in taxes, you should still get all the tax credit back. 
  • Re-establishment of a foreclosure assistance fund since those federal dollars are drying up.
  • A reduction in the welfare case loads.
  • An elimination of the work requirements for Food stamps throughout the state and not just the nine rural communities. 
  • Maintain and expand Medicaid expansion.
  • Align the state cash assistance rules with the federal requirements.  With higher than average unemployment in Ohio, we should provide assistance to families struggling in Ohio.
  • Restore funding to the PASSPORT and the hunger programs in Ohio. 
  • Force ODOT to spend 3-5% of their budget on public transportation to serve the 9% of the public without driver's licenses.

The progressives, advocates and concerned citizens will probably not be heard down in Columbus, but it is good to have a positive agenda put forth to help low income, homeless and struggling Ohioans. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
Nov142014

News on Homelessness in America

Mother Jones has a nice take on the Food Ban in Ft. Lauderdale here.

More arrests in support of the anti-feeding ban in Ft. Lauderdale. This article includes the Orwellian response from the City indicating that this law helps homeless and hungry people?

More arrests and tickets after a demonstration in front of the Mayor's House.  An individual can give out food, but a religious group cannot give out food outside.

We detailed a lack of beds for Domestic Violence beds in Cleveland, and the New York Times looks at the  problem in one of America's largest cities

Alabama looks at homeless children in the Huntsville School District.  These are frequent features in high poverty areas, but elected officials in the deep South rarely take on solutions to these issues.

NEOCH recently hired a female veteran who has struggled with homelessness. There is a national story about the rise in female veterans facing homelessness in the United States.

The Veterans Administration is on a one year deadline to end homelessness among vets.  They are really going to have to bring every partner together to reach the hardest to serve individuals who have been exiled from the system for years if this goal will be real.

We have no idea where Manteca California is located, but they are banning people living outside.  This would be great if they guaranteed safe decent housing inside, but that never happens. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinon of those who sign the entry

Monday
Nov102014

Questions Not Asked on Weekend Edition on NPR

There was a toxic individual on Weekend Edition Sunday on November 9, 2014 who tied anti-feeding programs with "enabling" homeless people.  The worst was his controversial theory was unchallenged by the host.  He provided facts not supported by academic evidence.  We have a lot of experience with this matter having negotiated an agreement between the local churches and the City of Cleveland.  Robert Marbut who sells these controversial policies by claiming that church feeding programs are enabling homeless people to live outside.  "And if you give food on the street, you end up in a very convoluted way, but still an important way, you end up preventing people from going into 24/7 programming," Marbut said on the show.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the church groups are doing and a huge misunderstanding of homeless people in the community.

Despite his claim to have spent time on the streets visiting homeless people, he does not understand addiction, mental health issues or poverty.  He is not advocating for a massive infusion of funds to build more affordable housing, he is proposing rearranging the deck chairs to force more people into treatment.  No city has reduced homelessness or those living outside by 80%, so his numbers are bogus.  There is no treatment on demand in most cities, and so cracking down on food distribution and quality of life issues only makes poor people into criminals. There are decade long waiting lists for affordable housing, so that even people who work full time at minimum wage cannot afford the market rate for housing.  You can't make laws that reverse decades of neglect of affordable housing.  Finally, the churches are not feeding outside because they are trying to make it easy for homeless people to live on the streets.  They are following Biblical passages to go to where the poor live and minister to them.  They are not looking to end homelessness or even to end hunger, but to proselytize to those in need of spiritual help by breaking bread with those without a home. 

Government should never get in the business of regulating the harmless activities of a church and feeding hungry people is life sustaining not enabling. There was no discussion of the other four pieces of legislation passed in Ft Lauderdale which makes it illegal to be homeless (no sitting, no camping, etc.)  We have reduced the number of people sleeping downtown for a number of reasons including a compromise with the church groups.  We did not ask the City to use law enforcement for regulating social services.  We are not under the delusion that we reduced homelessness.  We just moved the population to another area of town.   The distribution of food does not have anything to do with homelessness.  By reducing the amount of food prepared by churches does not force people to go into a shelter or a treatment center.  It forces them to move out further from the downtown or resort to criminal activity in order to get food. 

Reuters did a nice job with a feature on the cook who was arrested, which was far superior to the interview conducted on NPR.  Here are the questions that Ms. Martin missed when interviewing this homeless whisperer for cities:

  1. Who is verifying the numbers you claim with your plan to not enable homeless people with food results in fewer homeless people? 
  2. Isn't it cruel to withhold food from humans who do not have a place to store food safely?
  3. If government is allowed to restrict the distribution of food by a religious groups can they also demand membership roles in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings who are not keeping sober or bar them from giving out clothing to those who spent their money on lottery tickets instead of winter clothing?
  4. Aren't you proposing a massive expansion in affordable housing and treatment for all the people seeking food? Are there beds going to waste because church groups are enabling people with food? 
  5. You claim to be staking out the middle ground here, but the advocates who fight these ordinances claim that they do not want feeding programs.  They want housing, but do not want to restict access to a life sustaining activity until America provides universal access to housing.  Shouldn't cities be creating the sober housing and residential treatment programs for the thousands living outside and then ban feeding outside?

It is a shame these questions were never asked of this broker in human misery.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Nov072014

Ft. Lauderdale: Center of Hate Toward the Poor

Ft. Lauderdale officials are taking heat world wide for the arrest of a 90 year old chef and two religious leaders for the crime of feeding low income and homeless people.  They approved a series of anti-homeless measures with the most prominent outlawing the serving of food outside without a permit.  Comedian Stephen Colbert roasted the City last night mocked the Mayor for arresting this "perp", Arnold Abbott, for carrying the dangerous weapon of food.

  "So clearly he knows what Jesus said in Matthew. 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.  I was thirsty and--look out! The cops are here! Hide the Loaves and Fishes!' And I am glad...they eventually caught up with him."

The National Coalition for the Homeless Sent a letter to the Mayor asking for a re-evaluation of the legislation. 

[Full Disclosure:  I helped in the drafting of the NCH letter.] Most are focusing on the anti-feeding law and that is appropriate, but there are four other laws including the prohibition against a homeless person to sit down in the public space that are just as offensive.   These laws go back to the 1990s when cities were using law enforcement to try to "solve" homelessness.  They have failed and in fact, most cities found it only increased the number of homeless people.  Repeatedly ticketing homeless people make them unemployable and unable to engage a lease for housing.  We have also seen the correlation between a rise in hate crimes directed at homeless people when cities begin to pass laws directed at those without housing.  Ft. Lauderdale, by preventing people from being able to eat, goes to the front of the line in legislating hate against a fragile population.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

By the way if you want to express your concern over these extreme laws here is the Mayor's e-mail: jack.seiler@fortlauderdale.gov.  Send us a copy of the e-mail if you decide to write neoch (at) neoch (dot) org.