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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
Tuesday
Sep052017

Homeless Congress Meeting Notes for August

Homeless Congress

August 10, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The meeting began with the new Director of Operations at NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, re-introducing himself to some of the members that had not met him yet.  Afterward, We went over the purpose of the Homeless Congress, what the Congress has done, some of the goals that have been attained or will be addressed, and why it is so important, which is, it can be a “bridge to City and State Officials” and it “allows homeless people to have a unified voice.”  Everyone in attendance was asked to complete the membership form in the back of the packet.  After informing everyone what the agenda was going to be for the meeting, Chris asked for an approval of the agenda. Members were informed of the dates for upcoming events which are the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, and the ADAMHS Board meeting.  

It was announced that Ruth Gillett will not be attending any more meetings unless there is a specific reason for her to do so because she feels the members were being rude to her.  No one was purposefully rude to her but, being the bearer of bad news, as far as they were concerned, she did not like their response and seemed to take it personally.  It was not any member or participants intention of disrespecting anyone at the meeting, but we would like to extend an apology to her if she felt that it was. 

She was attending the meeting to keep the Homeless Congress up to date on the status of the Rapid Re-Housing Program and the Shelter Policies that would be put into place soon.  She also got input from the members for both projects.  She informed everyone, at the July meeting, that the Shelter Policies would be voted on by the Office of Homeless Services on July 20, 2017.  It was announced that the Single Adult Housing Committee presented to the Office of Homeless Services and the policy that they recommended passed. There were only two votes against the policy, one was Loh (member) and the other a representative from NEOCH. A copy of the Shelter Policy was included in the packets that were passed out to members.

Next, the discussion was about the bidding process for a service provider for the Norma Herr women’s shelter.  Loh informed members that Frontline will not be able to get any long term contracts as the service provider even if they choose to bid (which they have acknowledged more than once that they will not be bidding).  RP problems and the bidding process was the next concern.  Some of the concerned members asked what would happen if no one bids.  One response was that the current provider’s (Frontline) contract would have to be extended.  Another response for the RP problems is that there needs to be a quarterly report on the grievances that are turned in.    

One member wanted to know “why there are no residents involved in this process?”

This was discussed for a while and another member stated that the bidding process should also be public information.  Specifically, a member wanted to know what would or should happen if there is no provider in place by August. (We now know that there was one bid to the RFP) At that point everyone was informed that there are at least two agencies interested in applying for the contract and the date to submit a proposal has been extended to August 18, 2017. 

Larry Bresler, Executive Director of Organize Ohio, then began his presentation by informing members that one of the members and dedicated participants, Norman Wolfe, passed away.  He provided information on the viewing and funeral arrangements.  He then informed the members that Norman, he, and Ramona Turnbull were involved in orchestration of the End Poverty Now march and participated in the New Poor People’s Campaign.  He then presented about the new project called “The Truth Commission” and wanted to ask for volunteers to do personal testimonies on six focus areas (4 personal testimonies for each).  The focus areas are: 1) Environmental degradation, 2) Criminalization of the poor, 3) The right to housing including utilities, 4) The right to living wage jobs, 5) Right to quality education, and 6) Right to healthcare.  

The information provided by the personal testimonies would them be presented to people chosen to be commissioners.  The commissioners would then meet and “come out with their initial findings.”  Finally, the Mayoral candidates would be asked to respond to the findings.  There will also be music and poetry readings “presented while the commissioners are deliberating.” NEOCH will follow up with the members to make sure anyone who is willing to do a personal testimony be accommodated.   

Next, Ms. Eleace Sawyer introduced herself as the new President and CEO of Care Alliance and she wanted to discuss the changes or added services that will be put in place soon.  These positive changes do affect the members of the Congress and homeless population.  Care Alliance provides services at the women’s shelter twice a week.  She asked for feedback about the services being provided and need to be provided.  One member informed her that Dave’s Pharmacy will be moving and there is no pharmacy close enough to walk to for current residents at the women’s shelter to get prescriptions filled.  Ms. Sawyer talked about the Federal Pharmacy Program which may be able to assist to address this problem.  She also stated that she will be addressing this concern.  She informed members that nutrition and podiatry services are also being put in place to address the needs of the homeless population. 

She talked about having someone who is homeless or formerly homeless on their Board.  In addition, she would also like a representative from her staff to attend the Homeless Congress meetings.  Care Alliance also applied for transportation and were able to secure two vehicles.  One member commented on the fact that in Alabama it is considered a crime to be homeless and there is no healthcare.  Members informed Ms. Sawyer about how glad they are that Care Alliance is looking into addressing the food problems and will be in touch with the Food Bank to see what type of relationship can be established to better address the lack of nutrition in the food being served to the residents at the shelters.  One resident suggested a town meeting. She discussed special meetings and talked about looking at data about all the 911 calls made from Norma Herr by the residents.

Next, Akshai Singh:  Organizer, Cleveland for Public Transit, took the floor to discuss issues like fare cost, reliability, safety, and racial profiling by the RTA Police.  He also discussed service cuts and fare hikes.  The next fare hike is coming up soon and it will be a fifty cent increase on the current fare.  The fare could go from $5.50 to $6.00 at that time.  The organization he is representing is working to lower fares.  He informed the members that the Cleveland public transportation is the least affordable and there is no assistance for people who rely on public transportation.  He said they need to find local solutions and state side solutions.  Group members meet with RTA on a quarterly basis.  They will be discussing what improvements are needed so that the Mayoral candidates and the City Council can use it to improve the transportation system, make it more affordable, and reliable.  The next meeting is on August 31 at 7:00 pm.  One member stated that there is limited seating at the bus stops in certain areas (only 2 people can sit).  Another added that there are no public bathrooms in the Rapid Stations.  Mr. Singh stated that the RTA has been cutting services for the last 4 years.  The last topic on this subject was about the cost of tickets for riding when you don’t have one in advance.  This discussion went on for a while before the meeting was brought to a close

 The next Homeless Congress meeting is September 14th at 1:00pm.

Friday
Aug252017

You Can Now Register On-Line in Ohio

Cleveland has a competitive Mayoral primary coming up in September and then there are some important local races this November with every City Councilmember forced to campaign.  This is the first election with on-line registration.  It is too late to register for the primary, but there is over one month to register for the November election. 

September 12, 2017 is primary election day in Cuyahoga County.

October 10, 2017 is the deadline to register to vote for the November election.

Here is the Ohio Secretary of State's office link to register on-line.

Here is the Ohio Organizing Collaborative Link to register online to vote in Ohio?

According to the Ohio Organizing Collaborative staff, "For the first time, Ohioans are able to register to vote and update their registration through the Secretary of State’s website. So whether you’ve sat the last few elections out, moved since you last registered, or never voted before, you can get registered or update your registration today.  The last few months have been… kinda scary. I don’t know what the future holds for Ohio and our country, but I do know that there are important elections coming up this year and in 2018 that will have a huge impact our communities. That’s why it’s so important that we all register and vote."

The November election is November 7, 2017 polls open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m.  Remember that for homeless people "Vote by Mail" is the best option

It is so important for everyone to participate and to actually vote.  No matter how many barriers Ohio puts in your way, people died for everyone to have the right to cast a ballot.  Please do your civic duty and vote in both the primary and the General Election.

Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Wednesday
Aug232017

Two Homeless Related Court Decisions

From the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the City of Houston for citing homeless people under its new anti-camping ban. The ACLU of Texas, Dechert law firm, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the motion for TRO last week after police raided a homeless encampment. The order is can be viewed here.

Check out this quote from the order's conclusion:

 "The plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are subject to a credible threat of being arrested, booked, prosecuted and jailed for violating the City of Houston’s ban on sheltering in public.  The evidence is conclusive that they are involuntarily in public, harmlessly attempting to shelter themselves—an act they cannot realistically forgo, and that is integral to their status as unsheltered homeless individuals.  Enforcement of the City’s ban against the plaintiffs may, therefore, cause them irreparable harm by violating their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment due to their status of “homelessness.”  Robinson, 370 U.S. at 666–67.  Moreover, there is no evidence that the City will suffer harm if a restraining order were issued, thereby, preserving the status quo that existed prior to the issuance of citations." 

NEOCH Comments:

In a strange juxtaposition, the City of Houston said that this law would reduce aggressive panhandling?  I have no idea how these two ideas are connected, but surprisingly no rainbows with pots of gold would result with this anti-camping law.  The shelters are all full in Houston with the average wait for a bed with only five shelters available. "The emergency shelters in Houston are full and have been so for years [Id. At 67 para. 16-17]. Therefore, homeless individuals wait in lines, daily, at the five shelters for any available space only to be turned away for lack of space. [Id. at pp. 75-76 para. 3-4]."

This is only a temporary ruling to prevent further tickets for "sheltering in public" while this case is litigated in Federal Court, but there is strong powerful language in the restraining order. 

In another case detailed by the Associated Press, the US Appeals Court has decided that day laborers are free to flag down motorists to solicit work.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal appeals court says day laborers in a Long Island town have a First Amendment right to solicit passing drivers for jobs. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday struck down a 2009 law banning the solicitation in Oyster Bay. The law had never been enforced. Here is a link to the full article.

 

This could doom the new City of Cleveland law regarding panhandling toward passing motorists.  In June 2017, the City removed its "aggressive panhandling law" and replaced it with a law prohibiting flagging down cars to solicit money.  A good civil rights attorney could make the case that panhandlers have the same First Amendment right to free speech as the day laborers.  Look for this to be the next front in the struggle for free speech.

Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Tuesday
Aug222017

Displacement: The hidden cost of the Irishtown Bend Project

There is a lot of celebration for the proposed construction of Ohio City’s Irishtown Bend project. There have been radio interviews, newspaper articles, and community forums, although with very few public details about this new park. Despite all of this publicity, nothing is mentioned of the 20 to 35 people who are experiencing homelessness who live on the riverbed, some for upwards of 20 years.

The 17-acre proposed park would be cover most of the riverbed of West 25th Street from Detroit Ave to Columbus Road. The first phase of the project is a massive stabilization of the land, which will cost $49 million. The second phase, the actual construction of the park has no public price tag yet. Despite money flowing in from many agencies and foundations, the cost of relocating the Irishtown Bend residents - which NEOCH estimates would cost around $18,000 - is not a part of their budget.

NEOCH is appalled by the fact that the human cost of this massive project was not a top priority. We believe that the project organizers have both an ethical and legal obligation to relocate these residents.

In a recent meeting between NEOCH and Ohio City Inc., we were told that there was no money available in the current funding for relocations but that they would try to find some. Did none of the funders or grant seekers consider that these residents would need a new place to sleep at night? Do they not consider these residents to be valuable neighborhood constituents? 

Under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act of 1970, if federal money is used in a project, there is a legal responsibility to offer relocation money to those affected. In the meeting, Ohio City Inc. said they do not plan on using any federal money to stabilize the riverbed and they don’t know where the money is coming from to build the park. This is false. The Plain Dealer reported that the Lake Link Trail, funded by a $3.3 million federal grant, already has plans to be located in the Irishtown Bend. Clearly, there seems to be plans to use federal money in the second half of the project.

NEOCH believes this is a tactic to avoid legal responsibility. It allows them to start the work with non-federal money, and then bring in federal money after the people have been displaced.  We believe courts have found this shifting of when federal resources are used to be in violation of the spirit of the relocation law. If the organizers do not prioritize the people who call the Irishtown Bend home, they are at risk of losing all federal grants, including the one designated for the Lake Link Trail.

The residents of Riverbed road each have their own human story. There is no one uniformed reason why they have chosen to make a home in this location. One couple has chosen to remain together as they try to make their way back down south to where they are from. The shelter system does not have an option for couples to remain together as they attempt to overcome homelessness. They would be forced to separate.  Another man does not want to lose his dog. He has already lost everything he had through homelessness but remains committed to his companion. If he would enter the shelter system, he would be required to separate from his best friend. 

We at NEOCH are prepared to defend the legal right of those who live in this location. We are voicing our concern because the residents continue to ask our outreach workers about what they should do. They have very few options available to them for housing and fear being forcefully displaced and having their property destroyed.

If and when this project receives adequate funding to relocate people in a dignified manner, NEOCH is prepared to offer our assistance in these efforts. We have coordinated the main homeless outreach collaborative in the city for years. In so many ways, we are the most experienced and equipped to support such efforts. We have strong relationships with the residents of Irishtown Bend.

Rather than zip lines and boulder scrambles, the funders of this project need to center their work on the individuals who live there. Just as Irishtown Bend offered refuge to Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine of the 1800s, this location continues to be a refuge for those who have no place to call home. NEOCH demands that these women and men are offered just and timely relocation. 

Update as of 9/6/2017: 

Since publishing this post, there has been a successful advocacy campiagn to make sure that funds will be provided for the resident. The local media picked up the stories and there were stories written by Scene Magazine, and WKYC. 

On August 31st, NEOCH's members and supports showed up at a community meeting to demand relocation for the residents that live on Riverbed Rd. You can check out our twitter post here.  During the Q & A, the Executive Director of Ohio City Inc. publically promised to find the money to relocate people.  You can watch the video below.  

Subsequently, on 9/6/2017, Representative Nickie Antonio called together a meeting between all the stakeholders in the project (The City of Cleveland, Councilman McCormack, The Port Authority, The Office of Homeless services, the Metro parks), the service providers ( Care Alliance, Frontline, Metanoia, and NEOCH) along with some of the residents. We discussed the timeline for the start of the hill stabilization. It was clear that the start date has been pushed back to the spring/summer of 2018.  Ohio City Incorporated has taken on the role of convening the social service providers and facilitate the process. We will continue to pressure to make sure that this process happens, is transparent, and incorporates the voice of those residents who are currently living on Riverbed Rd. Furthermore, during the course of the meeting, the residents of Riverbed Rd, who were present, asked the group to have NEOCH facilitate the relocation.  It was stated that "We trust NEOCH more than any other service provider and want them to be the one's facilitating the relocation plan." We are honored by this comment and would be willing to facilitate the relocation of the residents as long as there are funds available to develop a dignified relocation that allows for the residents to have agency in the relocation options available to them.   

by Chris Knestrick

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Aug162017

LOH Provides Parody to Readers!

LOH UNCOVERS The COVER-UP

Norma HERR vs. Norma HELL

In light of the fact that Cleveland has reduced the number of taxpayers-funded public emergency homeless shelters, it was great that they finally opened up the bidding process so that other providers could submit a bid for the Women’s Shelter. [Editor's Note:  There was also a bid out for the Men's Shelter at the same time, but the current provider submitted a bid for the Men's Shelter.]  The first round happened earlier this year, and it came out as an unbelievable disaster for those who are in need of true help.  Fortunately, I, the "Troublemaker" Loh as some call me, did NOT stop going to various County Council meetings to speak during the public comment period, even after bids were submitted.  My statements, complaints, and/or even suggestions were backed up with visual evidence that I provided to all the elected officials and County Council staff at the meetings, and further proven by other women brave enough to attend meetings and finally spoke up.  The women staying at the Payne Ave. shelter offered their own suffering experiences under the fear of all kinds of retaliations and losing their housing.

However, during the waiting period for "the moment of truth" ... or the moment of "ugly truth," before the County announced anything about the shelter, somebody at the current service provider's organization suddenly had a light bulb turn on up above their head to start a series of beautification procedures to camouflage the ever neglected and abused facility.  The staff found that there were more visitors coming to check out the the conditions and wanted to Come INSIDE of this HELL!  The very first thing to draw my attention was, at the end of April when the beautification started, a specially designed new Flyer was printed out in multiple copies and colours with FrontLine Services logo to distribute, and later, also posted by the Main Entrance.  I had to laugh-out-loud (lol), thinking "WHOM do they want to impress--innocent visitors or suffering residents?"

When I pointed out to the security officer, other residents passing by actually paid attention to what I said.  Then, they read the flyer and began their own LOLs while shaking their heads, or started loud cussing with all the complaints using lots of colorful words.  But, I wasted no time, and in a few seconds I re-composed MY version of the middle part on Flyer, specifically, the section titled "OUR COMMITMENT," due to my own strong feelings toward the Fake News stated on this flyer to give people false hope.  It was my mission to fight back the injustice and to uncover the covers-ups at the next County Council Meeting. I intended that this flyer would be shown and accompanied by my parody version to present to the elected Council.  But, even this one paragraph was enough to ease the tensions in the shelter by making them "lol" harder and move on at that moment.  Then, within one day, word by word and line by line, I finished the whole re-composition to parody the flyer with a little input from a non-homeless individual as the reality checks for this dysfunctional place.  Then later, I presented both documents at two County Council meetings in May as part of my public comments.  Please look at the bottom of the Printed Flyer, there is a graphic of House printed in the center.  Coincidentally, I already have a non-homeless friend who graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art last year made a logo for our Homeless Arts Project a while ago which is an image of a Broken House Split into Two Halves.  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to put on the "designer parodied graphics" on to parody all the way for the full effect: a house of false promise vs. a broken house in reality!

 

~~~Commentary by LOH~~~

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.