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About NEOCH

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
Saturday
Mar182017

Tiny Homes Experiment Dead In Cleveland?

Scene Magazine broke the story about the two Tiny Homes in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood that they were not purchased.  The story says that the experiment has failed. Here is the opening of the story from Sam Allard:

"Despite fanfare and early confidence, Cleveland's 'Tiny House Experiment' appears to have failed. Two heavily-marketed, energy-efficient small homes built last year on the corner of W. 58th and Pear Avenue in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood were ultimately sold to the project's builder, Keith Sutton, who is now thought to be renting the properties until the market sufficiently ripens for a sale."

I am no expert on the housing market, but I think we could have learned something from the dealer on the corner of West 28th and Church. You have to create a market before you can start exploiting that market.  I mean, you may have to give away some product first and then others will be attracted and get hooked.  Who would buy a small home for three times the existing market in the area?  You could get a mansion with all the space you need for the cost of a tiny home. 

In addition, the homes are not really that small.  They are pretty big compared to the homes we see on the Home and Garden Network.  They should have made real Tiny Homes and then given them to low income individuals to live.  In this day and age, we hate to see some person getting something for free and others will want a place like these individuals got for free.  We are an envious society who cannot stand to see some person getting one up on us. The sad fact is that no one can force places to be cool. 

The neighborhood that CBGBs was located in New York City East Village was a forgotten corner of town with dive bars and biker gangs.  It was small, dark, dangerous and available.  Some of the best groups in Rock and Punk history played the club and it got a reputation.  The rents went up in the neighborhood and the place could not afford the cool that they had created.  Tremont has seen similar increases where the cool people who made the neighborhood cool can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhood. 

A bank and a development organization cannot create cool with an expensive experiment especially with for profit developers involved.  I hope that this is not the death of the Tiny Home movement in Cleveland.  It is a legitimate option for low income individuals.  It is successful for homeless youth in Chicago.  St. Paul's did a really really tiny home for a guy who was sleeping on the ground for 16 years for $500 and donated labor.  It took about three weeks of convincing but we got the guy to use the house.  This is the first step to building a trusting relationship with him to move into housing.  Build some real Tiny Homes for artists or homeless people that are affordable.  Get volunteers involved and make it a community project.  Make it something that looks nice, but can work economically.  Get some religious folks involved who will do this for mission and not profit. Please don't let this experiment die in Cleveland.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Mar172017

Do We Waste the CDBG Funds?

"The CDBGs have been identified as programs since I believe the first — actually, the second Bush administration as ones that were just not showing any results. We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good...We cannot defend that anymore. We’re $20 trillion in debt. We’re going to spend money, we’re going to spend a lot of money, but we’re not going to spend it on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people.”

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney

The Community Development Block Grant program under the Trump budget would be eliminated.  This program funds public safety, preserving housing, social services, and improving the streets and sewer projects.  The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless benefits from this program so we are not really impartial in this matter.  Can we show results in our $33,000 that we get from the City of Cleveland through the CDBG program? We did make promises to taxpayers with these funds.  These promises include that we would train workers, coordinate services, meet to prevent large buildings from going into foreclosure, and to organize meetings between homeless people and elected officials.  I don't think that we over promised and we can show results.

Our grant pays for:

  1. Outreach collaboration so that all the groups going out and interacting with homeless people are fully trained; are working together; and are helping those who sleep outside are having contact with professional staff.  Bottom line is that if a police officer, City Councilmember, or taxpayer can call our office worried about a homeless guy sleeping on the sidewalk freezing to death.  We would then figure out which outreach worker is on the streets and send that staff out to help. The savings to Cleveland taxpayers is hard to measure, but it is certainly better and more cost effective then sending out an Emergency Medical Service Worker or a Police Officer out to give a homeless guy a blanket.  It is much more likely that if that outreach worker was not present the homeless guy would be taken to the emergency room or to jail by far the least expensive option for our community. 
  2. Monthly meetings between government and advocates to distribute information about any further loss in affordable housing.  If there is a threat to one unit of affordable housing, the advocates can respond and protect against infrastructure decline.  We have not had a loss of a building in five years.  Our government staff who work on housing at Building and Housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, CMHA, and County Department of Development have to come before their representatives and explain the decisions that they are undertaking.  They have to explain why we are still poisoning young people living in lead filled apartments or prioritizing home ownership over support for rental housing.  Again, hard to prove effectiveness, but seems like a worthwhile undertaking in our community.
  3. Monthly meetings between people who live in a shelter with their elected officials and the bureaucrats who are spending tax dollars.  They have a chance to talk about changes in programs, priority issues and difficulties with government programs.  This is another program that is hard to prove any success and so probably not worth government funding.
  4. We also used the funds to distribute 10,000 Street Cards, registered 200 people to vote, and work to reduce the number of homeless deaths.  The homeless deaths increased in 2016, so I guess we failed on this one. 

Those are the four areas in which we spend the CDBG funding.  We never promised to end homelessness or solve the issues associated with panhandling mostly because there is not enough  funding available.  The City also has a large number of rules that they have to follow in order to receive these funds from the federal government.  They have to submit a plan and they have to limit social service to around 20% of the funds.  They have to limit the funding toward administration and focus on solving problems in the community.  While $3 billion sounds like a lot of money, it is spread around to 120 major cities and even smaller suburbs get some CDBG dollars.  I believe that there are five "entitlement cities" who receive a small piece of the CDBG funding from the Federal government in Cuyahoga County alone.  

These funds have seen budget cuts over the last five years.  This might be the case that they have cut the CDBG budget so much that it has only a tiny impact nationally.  It was the same problem General Assistance folks faced in the 1990s in Ohio.  The monthly subsidy was cut so much that eventually conservative elected officials could say, "No one could live on $80 a month so what is the point? We should eliminate monthly assistance to single adults."    This maybe the same fate of the CDBG program.  Was it cut so much over the last seven years that the impact has dissipated to have no real impact? 

We believe that our funding can show results and actually saves taxpayers money.  Our small allocation saves lives and keep people out of jail.  Our funding better educates advocates, social service providers, and even those who live outside to move to stability.  We find the CDBG program to be invaluable to homeless people in Cleveland.

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Mar162017

Trump Budget Would Harm Homeless People

President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget released a 2018 proposed budget that would take effect in October of 2017.  I got this information from the National Low Income Housing Coalition who's president Diane Yentel said, "At a time when America’s housing crisis has reached historic heights and the lowest income people suffer the most severe impacts, proposals to further cut these vital resources are unconscionable and unacceptable."  I also looked at the Washington Post summary of the other agencies budget and the HUD website had the press release on their proposed budget here. A couple of caveats before we start talking about the budget.

  1. The Congress has to pass a budget and the President's budget is typically torn apart by the members of Congress.  Typically, the budgets are the best that a President can hope for and agencies usually face a cut unless they are priority for a powerful Congressional member.
  2. It is difficult to compare this budget to the 2017 budget since there is no 2017 budget.  Congress passed a Continuing Resolution until April 2017 and then who knows. So most of these comparisons are with the 2016 budget. 
  3. This budget annoys rural communities, urban communities, fiscal hawks and progressives, so it may be dead on arrival and all of this could lead to nothing.
  4. The programs that touch homeless people are spread across many departments.

There are a few items that will help homeless people in America and Cleveland, but overall those who advocate for homeless people or who are employed to help homeless people we are in big trouble.

A few positive notes:

  1. The overall budget for homeless people looks like it could go up by around $600 million, but those dollars are earmarked for "family homelessness and chronic (long term) homeless people."  They are proposing 25,500 new permanent supportive housing units which is probably 750 units in Ohio.  The funds for homeless veterans would remain in place at the same level.  It seems like those warm, glowing letters complimenting the new HUD Secretary from the Corporation for Supportive Housing and Enterprise worked to preserve their funding.  We will see how long that lasts. 
  2. It looks like there is a new project proposed around $25 million for homeless youth.  This would be extremely competitive, but Cleveland would be in a great position to get one of these grants.
  3. The HUD press release says they would provide "$38 billion in rental housing assistance to support 4.5 million low income families."  This seems to be about the same funding as was in the 2016 budget, but remember that is about 89% of the funds that these programs need to operate.  So, with the huge cuts proposed everywhere else we might want to be happy that it was not worse. It will not decrease the 21,000 people on the public housing waiting list or the 8,000 on the voucher wait list or the fact that most have to wait five years to get into subsidized housing in Cleveland.
  4. The Department of Veterans Affairs gets a 6% increase.  This would most likely go to communities with long waits and unmet needs such as more help with mental health services. Cleveland could get some help, but our VA is pretty stable.
  5. The Food Stamps program is not cut which does serve around 20% of the homeless population. At least in 2018, there is no proposed cut to Medicare and Medicaid.  Those programs are not mentioned in the budget overview which worries some advocates.  The funds for the opioid crisis are increased, which would help Ohio which is in the top five states for deaths associated with the opioid overdoses.

That is all the good news that I could find in the budget. Remember, it still has to be passed by Congress so this is just a suggestion from the administration.

The "don't read this if you just ate" news

  1. The overall HUD budget is proposed to be a $6.2 billion reduction which could have an impact across all categories, but smaller projects that are not mentioned in the HUD press release could be endangered like the fair housing enforcement and foreclosure prevention funds.  The lead hazard project does get an increase, but right now that is only $110 million for the entire United States.
  2. The budget proposes an elimination of Community Development Block Grant which helps cities deal with poverty.  In Cleveland, these funds assist NEOCH with outreach to those who live outside.  It also supports the Domestic Violence Center, Rape Crisis Center, Famicos affordable housing properties, University Settlement and the Salvation Army.  This is a $3.066 billion in funding lost to cities, and would be devastating.

  3. This budget eliminates the HOME program which helps make affordable housing projects work and can help lower the rent for some apartments in suburbs.  This could make senior housing projects not go forward or projects that keep people from being evicted.  This is $900 million lost to states and counties across America.

  4. The Low Income Home Energy Heating Assistance Program is eliminated which could lead to an increase in homelessness.  If you can't keep the heat on then the apartment is not fit for human habitation and the landlord will evict or the City will condemn the unit.
  5. It eliminates the Legal Services Corporation which funds local Legal Aid Society.  The program faced cuts a couple of years back and this would be a horrible blow to this valuable program for low income people who need a lawyer.  It would hurt people trying to avoid an eviction or trying to get their benefits restored.  It would hurt people trying to get a divorce from an abuser and those who are trying to get help against an employer who is withholding a last pay check.
  6. It eliminates the AmeriCorps, VISTA, and other National Service members which is the domestic peace corps.  These are individuals who supplement many poverty programs with staff that they could not afford without the Corporation for National Service funds.  AmeriCorps work at places like 2100 Lakeside shelter, soup kitchens or Habitat for Humanity and provides staff who can focus on projects that improve the anti poverty programs or can create new programs that staff do not have time to undertake.
  7. The US InterAgency Council on Homelessness is eliminated.  I have met with the staff in Washington many times (really nice people), but I am not sure if the average homeless person will know the difference if these guys are eliminated.  They coordinate services among all the cabinet heads, but I am not sure I can think of one thing that came out of this department.  They issue reports, highlight good programs, and make recommendations on state and local policies.  They never wanted to expand the definition of homelessness and have often been a road block on sweeping changes needed to actually start reducing poverty. 
  8. The Department of Labor would eliminate the Senior Employment Program, which helps seniors find jobs after they are laid off later in life.  NEOCH has 4 of these individuals working on various programs, and many other non-profits supplement staff with these older workers to answer phones, help with voting activities, or staff programs on a part time basis.  They can often put a human face on social services, and the program was originally championed by Senator Ted Kennedy.
  9. There would be a reduction in Job Corps programs which is the residential job training program for troubled young people.  The Cleveland Job Corps has faced administrative questions in the past and would be at the top of the list for downsizing.
  10. There is a proposed 18% cut in the Department of Health and Human Services, but very little details in the budget.  There is no mention of welfare assistance or the Medicaid and Medicare budget.  There is also no mention of the mental health assistance.  So, it is unclear how the cuts would impact homeless people.  The Community Services Block Grant program would also be eliminated from the HHS budget, but I am not sure how those dollars are used in Cleveland or Ohio.  It seems that an 18% cut in such a huge agency would have a negative impact on homeless people. 

Overall, if you are worried about the borders, airport security or more planes, ships, and tanks for the military then you are extremely happy.  If you are homeless, near homeless or barely hanging on, you are in big trouble.  You better hope that the states and counties can fill the huge holes that will be opened in the social safety net if this budget passes.  Local charities will not be answering the phones, they will not be able to refer people in need to other programs, and they will be focusing a lot of time on how to stay in business instead of how to alleviate suffering.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Mar162017

County Plan to Limit Shelter to the Deserving Tabled

The horrible County plan to limit shelter and increase the street population was sent back to committee for further discussion.  The three big issues mentioned most frequently were:

  • There is no appeals or oversight of this policy.  The thinking was that we need some discussion to make sure that this policy is not abused.
  • There are many other things going on in the world that factor into this emergency shelter issue--the lack of housing, supportive services, and services to those with a mental illness. 
  • No one wants to pass a policy that results in more people sleeping on the streets.

So, the committee will meet to try to improve the language and policy recommendations to prevent harming the population.  The issue that people kept coming back to was the moochers who are abusing the shelter that could go to a "worthy" individual.  I still do not understand this argument since there is almost no vacancies in the affordable housing market.  If a person who is getting income but wasting their funds rejects housing there are 10 other people who are waiting and would jump at the chance to go into housing.  It is such a small number who are abusing the system, because frankly the shelters are pretty horrible places.  So, we are making policies to limit shelter when we have such a small problem that we need to address.  Our concern is that these policies will be abused by staff and good people trying to get into housing will be harmed. 

Why do all of us care so much about people who are getting a check and sleeping in the shelter?  It is not like they are living in luxury.  It is not easy street.  It is a depressing sterile place with a small plate of food and hundreds of other people.  Why are we begrudging people a bed and some food?  Can't we allow the PTSD guy recover or the rape victim heal in a shelter?  Since the mental health system is so broken and we have no ability to provide the care that our friends with a behavioral health issue need, why are we complaining that they are abusing the place that they feel safe?  It will create all this tension between staff and residents and at the end of the day it will not free up that many resources. 

We need more spaces for people to stay inside and Cleveland should champion the fact we don't turn people away.  We have a way smaller street population compared to every other big city in America.  If we start limiting shelter, this will disappear and business men and women will again have to step over people sleeping on the sidewalk in Cleveland. Taxpayers will have to pay in the end with increased incarceration, mental health and emergency room care.  We will save spaces at the shelter to put more "worthy people" in those beds, but we will pay three, four or five times as much on the other emergency services for those same people.  Also, consider that we reduce the lifespan of the population that we force to sleep on the streets. 

We should expand Metanoia (overnight drop in services) and make it year round.  We should open specialized shelters to certain populations (female youth, pregnant women, moms trying to reunite with their children, etc.)  In a time of huge cuts coming, we need to figure out ways to add capacity at the local level and not limit shelter.  All those who supported this plan and are afraid that someone will point out that there are moochers in the shelters, stand proud and say, "It is the least we can offer. We are a compassionate city and we don't want the addicted, the mentally ill, the lazy or those who have made bad life decisions to sleep on the streets."  There should be some advantage for living in Cleveland and that is at least we will offer you a shelter bed.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Mar162017

Comments to HUD Using Orwellian Language

This comment from Brook F. was left on our Blog about the Department of Housing and Urban Development trying to redefine the word "homeless."  It is such a good comment it deserves its own entry.  Here is a link to the blog entry and below is Brook F's comment.

Being homeless IS NOT HAVING YOUR OWN HOME, either renting or owning, THAT YOU CALL YOUR OWN. Homelessness is: living with family or friends because you DON'T have your OWN HOME due to loss of income, due to health or disability, or due to extenuating circumstances out of your control.

Being homeless and living in another's home, a shelter, or on the streets creates severe limitations socially, emotionally, physically and financially. It also is at a cost for those who are providing you shelter, in particular those who open their homes to you. They become burdened as well, despite their helpful intentions: an increase in utility usage, food, loss of privacy (for both families in the home), and a strain on the familial or friend relationship.

This is JUST A SMALL PORTION of what it means to be homeless. I know. I am a homeless person. I just got back on my own recently. It was not easy. It was with the help of others' services. I am also a full time social work student at Case MSASS, working towards my MSSA. HOMELESSNESS is more than just being "on the streets" or in "an uninhabitable" place to sleep. It is a mindset you fall into, it is a way of surviving, it is being stared at, ridiculed, pitied, ignored, dehumanized, and devalued. MY LIFE MATTERS. And so do the MILLIONS of other homeless lives in this country. We want sustainable, livable wage work, affordable and safe housing and neighborhoods, and to be seen for the human beings we are, with intelligence, wisdom, insight, and understanding of the world and others around us. WE ARE YOU. We always have been you-- Just harder hit.

Brook F left on the NEOCH website on March 13, 2017

Unfortunately, many who work in the shelters or social service providers are not listening and continue to insist on using the offensive phrase "literally homeless."  I will correct anyone who uses it with me, but the federal department keeps using it and making this offensive language common. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry