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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.

Homeless Voting
Wednesday
Jun222016

Voter Participation Center Creates Own Registration Form

I don't understand why this group out of Columbus and Washington would create their own form and send it to voters in Ohio?  They know that our Secretary of State has found reason after reason to kick out voters so why take the risk. We are engaged in two lawsuits with the Secretary of State including one for an improper purge of voters, so it is only natural for the Secretary to find a reason to kick out registrations.  None of the numbers match the Ohio form and they ask confusing questions like "ID number."  They ask a race question, which is not on the Ohio form.  Will each of the 88 counties accept this form or will this group have to file another lawsuit?  There was a citizen from Columbus who is trying to get her BOE to accept the form in Franklin County.  This just seems strange and asking for trouble.

We had nothing to do with this form or the group and would have said, "Don't try to do a national form. Do a form for each state."  They are just asking for the Secretary of State to reject these forms.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
Jun142016

Reflections on the Voting Victory

VICTORY for NEOCH

Ohio voting laws enacted by Republicans in 2014 have been overturned pending an appeal.

When you go to register to vote or go to the polls, the last thing on your mind is that there may be deliberate, subtle voter suppression techniques at work to eliminate some of the ballots.  A Federal Judge agreed that is exactly what was happening in Ohio causing NEOCH and other plaintiffs (The Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless) to win a lawsuit that was putting illegitimate requirements on how absentee ballots were determined legitimate and counted.  The judge agreed that “technical errors”, obvious typos and honest mistakes were not reason to throw out ballots when it was still easy to determine the identity of the voter. 

The 2014 laws which were put into effect by a Republican controlled Ohio Congress required that ballots be thrown out if there were errors in them.  Simple errors like these I found in our research of the ballots were all thrown out by the Board of Elections at our NEOCH offices:

  • A person made a mistake on the first digit of the last four digits of their social and clearly wrote an 8 over top of it.  It was bold and dark, it was obvious it was an 8 but it was thrown out.  The only error was the person found and corrected their own error. 
  • Another person put the 4 numbers of their address in the wrong boxes and went back and corrected over top.  There was a Social Security # (SS), Date of Birth-- DOB, signature, and still their ballot was thrown out, again, this error was caught and corrected by the person and was still thrown out.
  • A person put their SS in the State of OH box and put an arrow pointing down to the SS# boxes where it should have been and it was thrown out.  It was clear what they meant, but again, the ballot was rejected by the Board of Elections.

Unfortunately many of these errors were made by Senior Citizens, many of whom were in their 70’s and 80’s and simply just wanted to vote. They walked away thinking that they had voted only to have their ballots rejected, discarded and uncounted.  

The overturning of these laws is a huge victory for the voters in our state.  Literally thousands of ballots have been thrown out since these laws were enacted in 2014.  Many of them removed legitimate votes from sincere people who simply made a mistake.  The BOE was able to determine the voter’s identity, but the ballot still was discarded.  So, if a person had trouble reading the ballot or misunderstood something or made a mistake, their right to vote was lost.  Voting should be a simple and easy process for everyone, especially the elderly, but has become a test of reading, writing and attention skills. 

We are very thankful that NEOCH, the Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless got together and fought the State of Ohio to assure that these unethical laws were abolished and that people in Ohio can rest easy knowing their right to vote is being protected. 

Immediately following this victory, the State of Ohio declared that they were going to appeal this decision.  Clearly, they think that a mistake on a ballot made by an elderly person, or by a person who has trouble reading is reason for that person’s vote should not count.  I believe every ballot where the voter can be identified needs to count.  It is essential to our democracy. 

by Denise Toth

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
Jun142016

Why Did NEOCH Sue City of Cleveland

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit today over the extremely large "event zone" and the overly broad prohibited items in that the Zone during the Republican National Convention.  Below is the language of items that are not allowed--many of which are common to homeless people.  The legislation could have excluded homeless people by declaring them residents of the city.   We keep hearing, "Don't worry we are not going to harass homeless people," but have yet to see anything in writing.  We heard from various reporters and police that they were not going to waste time looking at campsites,  but we need something that we distribute and post from someone in the City. Also below is the map provided by the City on the "event zone," which is huge.  Way bigger than we were led to believe, and involves a majority of the homeless population. 

The map is basically West 25th all the way over to the freeway at East 27th St. all the way back to St. Vincent's hospital to the Lake.  This involves four of the five largest shelters in Cleveland, and around 100 people who live outside.  We join with our friends at Organize!Ohio over the limiting of free speech with protests limited to the no man's zone of the Lorain Carnegie Bridge, but our main concern is over the treatment of homeless people during the RNC.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Jun112016

How Are We Doing With the 10 Year Plans To End Homelessness?

Terrible, horrible and a total failure is the answer to the question!

10-Year Plans Reach Their Expiration Date

“In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness released A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years - a bold, innovative strategy to end homelessness in the United States."

Seattle is one of the few cities that looked back on the "Plan to End Homelessness" that was introduced 10 years ago and evaluating the successes and failures.  Most of the other cities just allowed the deadline pass quietly and without comment.  We decided to look at some of the other cities progress over the last 10 years.  Homelessness has so permeated the American landscape that it may seem that the social conundrum has always been a part of our society. However, homelessness is a thoroughly modern phenomenon. Until the 1980s, there was not widespread homelessness in America. But tonight, "nearly 700,000 people will experience homelessness across the country, despite a $2 billion dollar a year infrastructure designed to deal with the problem.” (endhomlessness.org) This is a dramatic undercount only looking at those using a shelter or who are visible on one night.  Some estimates say that it is twice as large as this or even three times the size of the National Alliance numbers. 

In response to this idea of a ten year plan, 243 counties and states developed their own ten year plan to end homelessness.  Over the past few years many of these plans have expired with little to no improvement, in some situations the issue has even worsened.  Many of these plans will be expiring with in the year with homelessness still plaguing the area.  Here are some of the cities that boldly proclaimed that they would eliminate homelessness or at least a sizable portion of the population with the date that they introduced the plan.  As you can see since no city has actually ended homelessness in America that all these cities have failed.  Listed below are 20 of the cities with the start date of their plan and a link to detailed descriptions of their plan.

  1. Hartford Connecticut June 2005
  2. Memphis, Tennessee August 2002
  3. Knoxville, Tennessee October 2005
  4. Perry, Ohio December 2006
  5. Buffalo, New York April 2007
  6. Dayton, Ohio November 2006
  7. Allegany County, Pennsylvania June 2005
  8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2001
  9. Columbus, Ohio July 2002
  10. New York City, New York August 2006
  11. Washington, DC December 2004
  12. Louisville, Kentucky July 2002
  13. Indianapolis, Indiana April 2002
  14. Boise, Idaho November 2007
  15. Springfield, Illinois November2004
  16. Baltimore, Maryland January 2008
  17. Ann Arbor, Michigan September 2004
  18. Detroit, Michigan October 2006
  19. St. Paul, Minnesota September 2005
  20. Madison, Ohio December 2006

Click here to view the rest of the cities and their 10-year plans. These are a database of futility and wasted meetings and a full employment program for consultants.  The federal government did a great deal in the last 10 years to not end homelessness and in fact to help add to the population.  They did not reform the criminal justice system and they did not add any housing resources to the federal budget.  In fact, in much of the last 10 years they have only funded subsidized housing programs at 90% of the need to keep these buildings open and very little for repair.  They sliced off 80% of the money going to serve the emergency of homelessness and instead use those funds for rent and building apartments for those who are currently in housing.  They did not provide a quality basic education that will lead to a job or college.  The federal government did not figure out the housing for the millions of people addicted, mentally ill and other wise disabled individuals.  They did not reform the tax system to provide a minimum income or eliminate the crushing burden of student loans.  So, all these cities decided that they could overcome federal efforts to keep people homeless in America.  They all lost this bet and all the plans have failed so far.  No one is going to lose their job because these plans failed.  No consultant will outed as living in a dream world and have to fold up shop.  No Mayor who signed these plans will be ridiculed.  No social service provider will be criticized for failing at their core mission. Very few in the media will go back and publish commentaries about how we can't trust government because they publish these pie in the sky plans.

It is just a lot of wasted paper pushed by the Bush Administration (thank you noted Abolishionist Phil Mangano) and the National Alliance to End Homelessness that in the end meant nothing.  The only one punished will be the Mom and child in Ann Arbor who has no place to sleep tonight because we refocused our emergency shelter system to be a housing based system.  The guy living in Knoxville who has been unemployed for the six months and has a recent criminal background preventing him from convincing a landlord to rent to him will sit in an overcrowded shelter until he has reached the magic milestone of "long term homeless" or the offensive "chronically homeless" stage at one year of continuously living in a shelter. The 50 year old grandma will suffer because she self medicates to quiet the voices and then cannot function in a congregate living situation.  This grandma will be punished for the failure of these 10 year plans by sleeping alone in an abandoned building.  As always, the only people to suffer are those who are rarely consulted.  If currently homeless people were brought into the process, they would say we have to end homelessness in 10 days and every thing else is just lip service.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

PS: Notice Cleveland does not have a 10 year plan.  NEOCH pushed and pushed and pushed not to go down this misguided path. 

Saturday
Jun112016

Women's Shelter Makes Some Moves for Improvement

Back in May 2016, the Homeless Congress and the women living in the "House of Payne" (the only shelter for single women in Cleveland) testified for change.  The Homeless Congress had passed a resolution (without any opposition) in September 2015 for a series of 12 items that they wanted to see changed at the Women's Shelter. We posted those potential solutions on our website here

At the hearing we offered four items recommended by a dozen women living in the shelter which could be accomplished on that day to dramatically improve the County funded shelter. 

1.        Fire/Transfer the current supervisor at the shelter who everyone agrees creates a hostile work environment.  Sometimes one staff can dramatically change a congregate living environment.  There is one staff currently working at the shelter who has been a regular subject of complaints, grievances and heartache and needs to be placed in a position that does not involve client interactions.  She tortures these women and embarrasses them regularly.  Everyone knows who she is because her name comes up at the Homeless Congress regularly.  Her leaving the shelter would go along way to healing some of the problems.  Transfer her to some place where she does not come in contact with Frontline clients in the next few days.

2.       All grievances submitted will get a written reply in five business days.   This seems like it should already happen, but it never does.  Residents would have more confidence in the oversight of the shelter if they got something meaningful back in writing when they complained. 

3.       All stay in notes from health professionals will be respected and not questioned.  There will be no further sending them to Care Alliance for a second opinion or excuses that there are not enough staff so they limit the number of people who are allowed to stay inside.  The men’s shelter does not limit the number of stay ins, so why does the women’s shelter violate the fair housing rights of these women?  The staff will make this happen and if there is not space will work to transfer the overflow including transportation to a more appropriate facility in the community.

4.       Every discharge will be in writing including those forced to be out until 9:30 p.m. (the “time out” policy in which they miss dinner).  This was already mandated by the County, but it is never enforced.  We want to see something in writing to every single person discharged from the shelter for any reason so that there is something to file a specific grievance.  There needs to be more documentation and more professionalism in the discharges at the women’s shelter. 

The shelter staff who testified at the County hearing in May said that they already did #2-#4.  This is contradicted by the residents of the shelter, and NEOCH cannot find evidence that these three items are in place.  NEOCH has submitted hundreds of grievances on behalf of the women and have rarely seen a written response.  Nearly every night, women are punished or discharged and they never get anything in writing, and medical notes are only accepted if the shelter has the space to serve the women or does not require they get a secondary notes. 

But this week, the shelter took action to accomplish #1, and let go the staff who is the subject of the most grievances. NEOCH and the women thank the staff at Frontline Services for working to improve the shelter with the removal of this one staff.  This staff was regularly humiliating the women including in front of church groups and was the subject of complaints from other staff.  We only asked that she be transferred somewhere else to do paperwork in a back office, but the shelter evidently terminated her employment.   We posted a picture of our friend, Loh (who some suspect might be an undercover superhero and this picture might give some clues to her alter ego) who has led the efforts to remove inappropriate staff from the shelter.  Loh has railed against staff who bully the residents and should not be around the public in any capacity.  Loh has regularly testified before County Council about the shelter and filed many many complaints especially against supervisory staff who do nothing.  Loh was recently assaulted at the shelter and got very little help from staff.   Loh has spoken to Shelter administrators, the ADAMHS Board, County staff and reported to the Homeless Congress.  Loh has gone above and beyond to improve the conditions at the women's shelter and this week, this resident of the shelter helped to improve the House of Payne.  The women were so happy to hear that this staff person had been escorted out of the shelter and they thank Loh for leading the efforts. 

This is real progress that we have not seen for a decade.  Many on the Council, especially Jack Schron, did not like one non-profit (NEOCH) criticizing the hiring practices or personnel decisions of another non-profit (Frontline Services). Here is Schron's comments at the hearing.

"Well, just as a business person, I would hope that you are not going to transfer your obligations for firing or hiring or transferring [staff].  That is ultimately managements responsibility, you have to make that call, you might not do a good job of it, but that is only a recommendation that it seems to me you can never give up that obligation."

The Council were certainly not going to tell a contract agency to fire or move one staff, and in the most litigious society to ever exist, how could they?  But in a larger sense how different would One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest have been if some medical professional had just said, "Hey, Nurse Ratched needs to be fired?"  How much better would we have all been if someone at Marymount Hospital or the Cincinnati VA hospital had said, "You know Donald Harvey gives me the creeps when he is around dying patients, we should let him go?"  Or how many problems could be reduced if we could easily weed out police who feel it is appropriate to chase at high speed two unarmed people from the shelter through downtown to East Cleveland and then shoot them dead or speed up within a foot of a possible shooter and just kill a citizen with a toy gun?  Sometimes one person in the wrong job can poison the entire environment of a workplace. 

We know that Loh's campaign to reform the shelter will be improved after this one staff person was let go this week. We have to also thank Council President Dan Brady who said positive things at the May Homeless Congress, and said that there is a County investigation committee to look at the Women's Shelter.  He committed to living by the Homeless Congress's deadline of improving the shelter by September 2016 and said, "There is a history, in general, that directors of departments are not encouraged to be forthcoming about information with legislative bodies."    Rest easy tonight, Loh, you have accomplished what NEOCH and many others have not been able to do for a decade--improve the women's shelter. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.