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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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Friday
Sep052014

Potential Chaos in Voting Hours

There was a great decision last week by Federal Judge Peter Economus to open up early voting including the preservation of Golden Week.  We wrote about this on our voting update section of our website.  Just click on the VOTE button on any page of the website.  This week, Judge Economus has allowed the state to join the lawsuit in their appeal.  We thought that Golden week was dead and had no hope in being resurrected especially when the case drew an extremely conservative judge.   The NAACP and League of Women Voters' lawyers successfully made the case that this is just an extension of the 2012 early voting case to get Judge Economus to decide on the case.   Now, we are scrambling to get homeless people to use Golden Week. 

One area that is going to be touchy this week is what happens at the local level.  The judge forcefully said that the Secretary of State should not block local expansions of voting hours, but he has a vote. I would recommend reading the 71 page decision, because Economus really went after the State of Ohio for limiting voting.  Full disclosure: the Judge quoted my testimony against the loss of Golden Week earlier this year when it was in legislative committee.  Economus's decision says:

The Court likewise concludes that SB 238’s elimination of Golden Week itself similarly burdens the voting rights of lower income and homeless individuals. The record reflects that in 2008, 12,842 voters utilized Golden Week to register or update their registration and vote; in 2010, 1,651 voters did so; and, in 2012, 5,844 voters did so. While these figures may be small in comparison to the millions of votes usually cast in Ohio elections, thousands of voters have utilized Golden Week during each of the last several elections.

What happens if the local board splits with the two Democrats wanting evening hours and the two Republicans want no evening hours?  The Secretary of State breaks all local tie votes.   Would he cross the federal judge and vote to limit early voting or cross his party and allow urban communities with large African American voters to open in the evening for voting?  Would he see that equality does not mean stuffing hundreds of thousands into the same building with only 5 hours of off work hours available a week to vote in person?  

There is also the matter of the appeal of this case that could cause chaos.   There is so little time left for boards to get ready for early voting, the State needs to drop their appeal and let us have the same hours we had in 2012.  Small counties were not been adversely impacted by different voting hours.  Cuyahoga and the other big counties did not have voter turnout far greater than the other counties.  The world did not end because each County had a different schedule.  Right now, we are planning for evening hours, weekend early voting and Golden Week.  If we have to change course again, voters are going to be so confused.  This appeal of the case can only be viewed as exclusively political and not helpful to voting in Ohio.  The Secretary of State is certainly not providing certainty in voting and allowing the local community to set their own hours based on the needs of their citizens; he is protecting the goals of his political party to limit access to early voting.  We need to allow the local experts to decide on the hours for their voters.

By the way, we are collecting volunteers for Early voting both with registrations and driving people to the Board of Elections.  Here is a copy of a flyer that you can print out or send around to family and friends...  Contact NEOCH if you want to volunteer.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry and not the Board or other staff of the agency.

Friday
Sep052014

Identification Collaborative Out of Money

Cleveland has one of the few Identification Collaborations in the country.  It is a small often overlooked matter for most to get that card in your purse and wallet, but it is often the ticket to nearly everything we do.  A few non-profits came together seven years ago with the help of an AmeriCorps VISTA member at NEOCH to create a fund to provide identification for homeless people. St Colman's Catholic Church and West Side Catholic took the lead with the project, and NEOCH honored Eileen Kelly earlier this year because of her efforts to keep the project going and including advocacy as a key component of the collaboration.    The project is temporarily out of money and this puts all those trying to get a state identification card or their birth certificate at a disadvantage. 

This is a horrible time to be out of money with two months left before the upcoming election.  Remember that if you want to vote in person on Election Day you must show identification.  Most of the ID that is required is tied to housing and a residence (utility bill, government mail to an address, etc.), and of course homeless people do not have a solid residence.   Even though early voting is available in Ohio, there are many who want to vote on Election Day with everyone else.  In fact, some do not think that it is really voting unless they vote on the first Tuesday in November.  Most will not be able to get their birth certificate in time for the registration deadline in Ohio, but it does not hurt to try. 

State identification is necessary for getting into housing, starting a job and obtaining health insurance.  It can take months to get a birth certificate back from some states, and the expense can be up to $60.  We have a system in place to streamline the process for obtaining the birth certificate and they have a law firm that helps with processing the paperwork.  The staff and volunteers with the ID Collaborative have a well developed system for paying for the identification and making sure that the individual has all the documents they need for each state.  One of the major accomplishments of the ID Collaborative was to hire an advocate to push for better public policy regarding identification.  It should be that homeless and low income people should not have to pay for their own document proving they are who they say they are. 

The ID Collaborative is a great partnership and involves nearly every social service provider in Cuyahoga County. We hope that in the next month local government officials will announce additional funds to help with identification.  There are a few agencies kicking in money for their own clients and the schools and Downtown Cleveland Alliance are still helping with identification.   It is such a small hurdle to be able to prove you are who you say you are, but it can be the difference between staying in housing and sleeping outside. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Tuesday
Aug262014

Cogswell Hall--100 Years

Staff of Cogswell Hall saw our post about Cosgrove Center and their 20 years of existence and wondered if we could mention Cogswell Hall serving Cleveland for over 100 years. Their building was renovated back in 2009, but the original construction was in 1914.  Their growth and continued existence is impressive and they are celebrating with an event on September 19 called Coming Home.  Now for those who do not know Cogswell Hall is a permanent supportive housing apartment building on the near West Side of Cleveland.   They are helping those who have been homeless for a long period of time back into housing.  They have social services and other help available to this mostly disabled population.  They should be congratulated for making it one hundred years, and we should celebrate this newly renovated building improving our neighborhoods in Cleveland.  We are also proud that they are fellow Community Shares Members here in Cleveland.  Staff at Cogswell Hall are always helpful with voting, protecting client rights and other social justice issues. 

In looking back at the Cogswell Hall history, it really shows how the city has changed in the last 150 years.   We have grown up and improved our fair housing obligations, but what have we lost during that time?  Cogswell Hall started serving exclusively women and now takes all, but is there a need to serve women in a separate facility?  All the previous incarnations of Cogswell Hall are still necessary in Cleveland, but have sadly disappeared.  They started as a temperance union for women, which is not something we talk much about today.  In an age of medical marijuana, very few are talking about outlawing alcohol.   That would be pretty much the end of professional sports, reality shows, tractor pulls, wrestling, and demolition derbies if we outlawed alcohol consumption.  In 1892, they became a halfway house for those leaving the women's workhouse.  They were a training facility and provided "anti-alcohol encouragement."  These are services we need today.  We have Women's Re-entry, but they don't have a building for transitioning the women back to full time employment and stable housing.  This halfway house for women coming out of incarceration is a type of program we could use today.

In 1899, Cogswell Hall moved to the West Side and worked on preventing young girls from getting into trouble.  Now, we have the YWCA doing the same type of program, but working with a slightly older group of young women.  We could use more programs that work with young women to keep them out of trouble.  The Cogswell Hall current building was built in 1914 and had 27 rooms and was known as the training home for girls.  The group changed their name to Cogswell Hall in 1952--renamed after its founder.  In the 1970s, Cogswell started renting apartments to older women 60 years of age and older. This might be one group that the market is sufficiently serving at this time.  We have an aging society and we may see a need for senior housing in the next 10 to 20 years, but at least right now we are meeting the housing needs of seniors.  Many landlords want to rent to seniors because they do not have parties and typically have steady income.  With only around 1% of the homeless population over 60 it is not a huge issue in Cleveland in 2014. In the 1970s, I am sure that Cogswell Hall served a vital service to seniors. 

In 2004, Cogswell Hall started accepting fragile women of any age and providing supportive services.  While fair housing standards say that apartment owners cannot discriminate based on gender, there was some merit to serving women separate from men.  Women experience violence leading to homelessness at huge rates.  This often makes it difficult to live in the same building with men.  Women still face discrimination in the workplace, pay rate discrepancies, and archaic hiring practices that make it necessary to provide additional help. They still face landlords who prey upon women and they need fair housing protections, but we could use separate facilities to serve especially fragile females.  We keep losing programs for women in this community, and that makes it harder to serve women and female headed households.  We lost East Side Catholic shelter, Triumph House, the Care Alliance program for women, Family Transitional, Transitional Housing Inc, and now this month Continue Life for pregnant young moms.  All these programs were lost in our community and only a handful of the beds were replaced.  We are not doing all we can do to serve homeless women in our community.  While we have made great strides in providing fair housing for minority populations and women, there has been a cost.  This major step forward has actually set back the fragile females who need extra assistance overcoming obstacles in our community.

The building over on Franklin is impressive and the wrap around services offered are wonderful.  Cogswell Hall serves a critical need in our community as they have done for 100 years.  We hope that you can support Cogswell Hall in 2014 to mark their landmark anniversary.  We wish them good luck on their fundraiser.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Monday
Aug252014

Cosgrove Center Celebrates 20 Years

A daytime drop in center is an essentialservice in the community.  It keeps people out of the heat and out of the cold in the winter.  They provide a place for other social service providers to meet with people in need of help.  Cosgrove provides a gathering place for holding community meetings.  Staff can give some advice to homeless people about where to find housing or a job or a key contact who may be able to solve their issues.  A daytime drop-in keeps people from wandering around and getting in trouble.  They usually involve the distribution of food and a place to get a shower and shave.  They are so valuable for the community, and on Friday we marked the 20th year of the Bishop William Cosgrove Center. 

I was surprised that there were not a larger number of social service providers and government folks present to help celebrate 20 years of the Cosgrove.  On August 22 in the afternoon, staff and volunteers of the Cosgrove Center hosted a Mass at St. Peters and a reception at the Center.  I was surprised that every shelter did not send representatives to thank the Cosgrove for helping keep their clients safe during the day.  The City, the Police, the local hospitals, United Way, and subsidized housing programs should all thank the Cosgrove for their valuable work keeping people safe.  It was a nice service with a few volunteers and current and former clients in attendance.  There were current and former staff who celebrated 20 years of service to the community.  They gave flowers and recognized Bill and Lillian Switaj, two retirees married for 59 years, who help serve the population and pick up bread every week (pictured here with Nicole presenting the couple an award).

Bishop Richard Lennon officiated a Mass at St. Peter's church next door and said a few words at the ceremony at the Cosgrove Center.  Chef Delk prepared a nice spread of finger food and appetizers for the group.  There were a couple of former Erieview Catholic High School graduates who attended to see the converted cafeteria as the 20 year home of the Cosgrove Center.  The staff were recognized for serving around 500 meals everyday and providing clothing to hundreds every month.   They assist with identification, rent, pantry food, eyeglasses, housing and medical insurance.  Partners such as Care Alliance, the Veterans Administration, Homeless Legal Assistance, and the Homeless Congress use the Cosgrove Center on a regular basis.  We heard from the head of Catholic Charities, Patrick Gareau who talked about the Cosgrove as the cornerstone of the effort to meet the housing and hunger needs of the community. 

There was a testimonial from a former guest, Dr. Woods, and Anthony Emery was taking pictures of the event.  This was a chance for the Cosgrove staff to thank their many supporters including funders and volunteers.  Nearly everyday there are local businesses or church groups in the kitchen helping to prepare the meal or clean up after the food is served.  The Cosgrove could not exist without the hundreds of volunteers who keep the program running.  They keep the place looking nice and they provide that extra care to the guests who often have no idea where they will lay their head that night.  This scared and fragile group who come to the Cosgrove everyday want to see a smiling volunteer or a confident staff member with a strong shoulder to cry on. 

We recognize the valuable role of the Cosgrove Center in our community and congratulate them on 20 years of helping.   Next up in recognizing the work of the Cosgrove Center is the Hand up Gala set for October 17, 2014. You can click on the Hand Up Gala logo on many of the NEOCH website pages to see the details of the celebration. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Aug202014

We Need A Community Conversation on Domestic Violence

We have posted the domestic violence statistics for the major counties and all the counties surrounding Cuyahoga in Northeast Ohio.  We have provided the number of police calls regarding violence within a household, the number of fatalities and injuries combined with the number of shelter beds (above).  These are dedicated beds exclusively for those fleeing violence.  What we see from above is the large number of calls compared to the small number of beds available.  In fact only Medina, Lorain and Erie Counties have fewer beds than Cuyahoga County, and they have a small population compared to Cuyahoga County.   We need a discussion about the our response to violence in the community, because with so few emergency beds how are we keeping women safe?

We know that 70 to 80% of the women in the shelters are fleeing violence or have violence in their past.  We know that many women are not getting the specialized care needed to make a clean break from an abuser.  We have a woman who was nearly beaten to death by her abuser last year, and lives on the streets with her attacker.  No matter how much we talk to her and show her that she has a choice and has options she returns to her long time boyfriend.  They drink and she ends up in the hospital.  There was a nice story on NPR about domestic violence and women who are resistant to going into shelter on August 30.  This story was by Gabrielle Emanuel who followed one woman around at night in DC.  

We only have 24 beds locally and some of those beds are prioritized for Jewish women.  The current system in Cuyahoga County is not working, and we need a better safety net for women fleeing relationship violence.  We need more safe places for women to flee.  We should have professional help for everyone fleeing violence.  We need to keep women, even those women who abuse drugs or alcohol, away from their abusers.  We need to help those with a mental illness to stay safe in the face of large numbers of men who prey on weaker people.

All the family shelters do their best to keep women safe, but there is a need for specialized trained staff to help these women from returning to their abuser.   We need counselors who can convince women that the road forward might be tough, but it is better than the alternative.  We need professionals who can inspire confidence that their abuser will not get to them and will not harm the children.   We need trained professionals who can help when the abuser bankrupts the victim.  We need a whole different approach to providing assistance to women fleeing abuse from emergency to transitional to legal and follow up services after the family is stabilized.  We need more resources to serve domestic violence starting with more emergency beds in Cuyahoga County. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry. 

Brian Davis