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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
Monday
Aug152016

Veterans Street Card Updated

Street Cards are a valuable resource made here at NEOCH, which gives information about how to access services for homeless individuals. They are the second most popular page on the NEOCH website.  We recently updated the Veteran edition of our Street Card for 2016, which gives information on resources specifically for homeless veterans. This is a two page front and back copy of all the resources available to vets.  You can get the full version of the Veterans Street Card here and print it out. We also have a general Street Card and a Family edition. 

Megan the intern

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Saturday
Aug132016

What Can You Do to Help Overcrowded Shelters?

So, what concrete steps can concerned citizens take?" [to the Post about the Overcrowded Shelters in August]

This is an excellent question that will not fit in 140 characters so we will try to answer:

The Women's Shelter system is completely broken and we found this weekend that there were no beds available in the community.  The folks at 2-1-1 were told to tell people to come back on Monday, which is in violation of the guaranteed access to shelter that have been a part of the shelter contracts since 2000.  What can a concerned citizen do:

1. Call Dan Brady as the head of County Council to ask if he knew that the shelters were so full this weekend they were telling people to come back Monday.  Ask what is the status of his investigation on the Women's Shelter that was supposed to be complete by September 2016? Office: 216/698-2014 or email him at dbrady (at) cuyahogacounty (dot) us to ask about all this.

2. Cuyahoga County takes the lead on these issues so asking any of the County Council members would be helpful.  They distribute $33 million in funding, but there is no plan to end homelessness locally.  Things are getting worse and we have not seen many good ideas come out of the County Council.  It is fine to build permanent supportive housing, but that cannot be the only thing we do and it cannot be at the expense of everything else. 

3. Call or e-mail your local councilman to ask them why families are so under-served in our community.  From South Euclid to Rocky River to Bay Village and Westlake, they could all better address homelessness.  Even if you are in the suburbs you could ask them why there is only one domestic violence shelter in Cuyahoga County and there are so many (even from the suburbs) who are fleeing violence?  Ask your council person why we have so few domestic violence beds compared to nearly every county around us.  Ask them if they are committed to families having guaranteed access to shelter in Cuyahoga County, because that concept is slipping away.

4. If you are religious person or you belong to a civic organization (like the Kiwannas), there are many things that you could do from the small to the huge.  You could raise the issue and ask what your group could do to help?  Could they do a hygiene or water drive and then drop those at NEOCH during business hours or could they house families when there is a crisis like this weekend?   Our community lost a lot when Interfaith Hospitality Network closed, because the faith community is not as involved in the struggle as they were in the past.  We need to recreate this network and get faith leaders involved in the struggle to reduce family homelessness with various projects. 

5. Contact your favorite media personalilty to ask why they have not covered this story?  Why are they not talking about all the women stuffed into 2219 Payne Ave.?  Why they are not talking about the huge loss of shelter beds locally?  Or why a women fleeing domestic violence cannot get a bed in our community? 

6. Speaking of faith leaders, why not ask your priest, minister, pastor, rabbi or imam to talk about the subject of homelessness this week.  We are at a critical point and we need all the help we can get.  We need good ideas being put forward and we need some local discussions about homelessness. 

7. Volunteer at one of the shelters or direct service providers to become more familiar with what is going on locally.  This will help you to understand what is going on and can be better educated about possible solutions.  We have a web page dedicated to direct service opportunities available in the community.

8. Vote. Also, if you get a chance to meet a candidate ask them what they are doing to address the homeless crisis locally.  There will be town halls and candidate forums coming up and it is a good chance to put them on the spot. 

9.  The County Office of Homeless Services is in charge of the plan to fund the shelters and they enforce the guaranteed access to shelter.  Ruth Gillett is the head of the office and can be reached at 216/420-6844 and you could ask her what she is going to do to shelter families?  She is going to give you stuff about model programs...studies show...less expensive alternatives...etc.  But the bottom line is this weekend, we did not have any space for families who were sleeping in the single women's shelter and for years the last women's shelter has been overcrowded.  So, what they have been doing is not working and how are they going to solve this problem?  How many months in a row does overflow with people sleeping on the floor do we have to have before it turns into additional beds?   Let us know what she says if you get a chance to talk to her. 

10. Federal elected officials are the key to success here.  There is not enough money in Cleveland or Cuyahoga County to turn things around.  We need the federal government to step up to solve this problem.  We need a national housing policy.  We need the lead organization, HUD, to get back in the game of ending homelessness.  They need to take a few lessons from the Veterans Administration who actually made progress.  We have a senatorial election and every single House member up for election.  All need to be asked what they are doing about homelessness and the affordable housing crisis locally.  Hold their feet to the fire and get them to step up to take the lead in ending homelessness for everyone in America. 

If you do all of these or any of them let us know what happened.  Tell us about your experiences and the answers you heard.  Tell us if your group has become involved with Habitat or is making hygiene kits.  We need your help and only concerned citizens can make a change.  We are constantly bashing the politicians, media and the bureaucrats and they are tired of hearing from us.  Only voters can make a difference in turning this around.  Senior Citizens vote and call and complain, and look at all the great services available to those over 62.  There is housing, senior centers, and nearly every level of government has an office and program for senior citizens.  Their mobilization proves that voting and calling works. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Aug132016

It is August and the Shelter is Overflowing!!!

Women's Shelter Residents Staged Mock Groundbreaking to push for the creation of a new shelterMost people do not think of homelessness during the summer and we get only a small number of donations during the summer, but right now the family and women's shelters are over capacity.  They are so full this weekend that they are putting women with children in the shelter for single women which is already overcrowded.  A few of the women called this morning to ask what is the deal, "Why are they putting children in the women's shelter again?" 

I did some investigation and found that every shelter is full and they encouraging people to stay with family or friends until Monday morning.  Workers are forced to tell Domestic Violence victims to go to a police station if they fear for their safety.  I guess having your kids sleep in a jail cell at the police station is safer than sleeping in a car or on the streets, but it seems cruel to tell a woman fleeing with her kids to go to a jail to be safe.  She has to uproot her family and flee the comforts of her home and she ends up in jail on her first night of her new life on the run.  This would not inspire confidence that the County encourages fleeing the violence in the home by telling women to sleep in the lobby of a police station. 

The Women's shelter has around 200 women sleeping every where with only 160 beds.  So they are already full to capacity and now they have women with children sleeping in one of the rooms.  This means children are interacting with the 200 single women at the shelter and one bathroom is blocked for only families. They also have one staff assigned to babysit families taking them away from the other 200 women who need help.  For the past five years, we have seen the rise in families during the summer months, but the County has done very little to address this crisis.  We have eliminated 444 beds in the local shelter system most of those in the family system.  This is a crisis brought on by the decisions made by the County staff who allowed over 300 family and women's beds to disappear.  The women's shelter is way over capacity and we have not added any beds for the summer. Because of this poor planning, we have no where to refer a family today.  We have heard that it is cheaper to offer rental assistance to families, but that does not help on weekends like this one when there are no beds available.  A young child cannot sleep on a promise for rental assistance.  We have two shelters that take families in to sleep on the floors until a bed opens up, and those spaces on the floor are full.

I have yet to understand why this is not front page news?  Why is Frontline Services so secretive about this information?   This is exactly what we were talking about with the Coordinated Intake transparency problem this week.  Why does the Coalition for the Homeless find this out from residents of the shelter and not from the agency?  I am sure that there are churches or other groups who would help if there was some media?  The people of Cleveland are generous and would act if they heard children are suffering in the lobby of the police stations or are stuffed into the shelter for single women with those just released from jail, those with an active addiction, and the mentally ill.  The women organized earlier in the year a series of events to practice opening a new shelter in an effort to nudge the County into acting to create a new shelter.  No one listened, and now we are telling women and families that they are on their own until Monday morning. We hope that no one is hurt this weekend because we do not have a shelter bed available in Cuyahoga County. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Aug112016

Updating the No Bid Contract for Intake

Well, we lost the battle, but the County agreed that they would open the process to a competitive bidding process for 2017.  Staff of the Office of Homeless Services, Ruth Gillett was non committal at the County Controlling Board meeting last week about the future contracting for Coordinated Intake.  The Controlling board met again this week on Monday August 8 with two elected officials showing up for the meeting Councilman Dale Miller and County Executive Armond Buddish attended this meeting.  Ms. Gillett did not attend, but it was reported that she spent last week answering questions that NEOCH staff raised in the meeting last week to staff from Council and the Executive's office.

I clarified a few misstatements from last week in my three minutes allowed during public comment.  I said that we cannot get information on homelessness from the agency and Ms. Gillett referenced a Policy committee that was abolished earlier this year.  How do we get information on the number of people sleeping on the floor or in need of bed rest from a defunct committee? I asked how we could get solid or potentially embarrassing information from the OHS Advisory about Frontline Services when their Chief Operating Officer is also chair of the Advisory? Ms. Gillett had indicated that we had never asked for these statistics, which was not true.  We had repeatedly asked how many people were denied bed rest in the Women's Shelter. We had asked in writing for a nightly report if anyone was denied a bed

Our objection to this no-bid contract is not just an objection to the diversion policy but also to the agency.  We do not think that it is fair that one of the local shelters gets to also be in charge of the placement of homeless people in every bed in Cuyahoga County.  This conflict could cause issues, and has led to this dreadful decision to eliminate beds for single women locally.  Finally, we believe that either Cuyahoga County should administer coordinated intake for shelter or the United Way First Call for Help should be given the opportunity.  Both would do a better job with transparency and community input to this service. 

Our friend, Loh, made comment as well bringing up a very good point that I had not thought of.  Frontline was provided this contact to conduct on an intake to everyone entering shelte and in February 2015 moved to Cosgrove Center.  Then they cut their services suddenly with little community notice in September to close on the weekend.  This caused hardship at the Women's Shelter where confused families were going to seek help.  Loh made the point that they are not fulfilling this contract because they are not offering 7 day a week service as it was originally funded.  Shouldn't the county have re-bid the contract if the agency cut their services by 28%? It is not the same service as it was originally awarded.  There are plenty of families who seek shelter on the weekend and 2-1-1 has to provide assistance for no additional funding. 

Shari Weir of the Office of Homeless Services spoke in support of allowing Frontline Services to proceed without opening up to a request for other bidders.  She claimed, as Ms. Gillett had claimed last week, that this was a model program. [Free advice to other bureacrats: Don't claim a program is a model when there are people in front of you complaining about that program.  The complainers do not take comfort in the fact that they were harmed by a program recognized by some "expert" as a model. It just makes taxpayers question if all government is corrupt.]  Ms. Weir claimed that there is not adequate funding or time to seek bids.  There was a general recognition that a delay would harm the program.  No one asked why there was not a process put forward for a competative bid when this application was submitted in March 2016?   Ms. Weir said there would be a request for competative bids for next year.  She also claimed people are helped over the weekend on the phone, but did not indicate if this was also recognized as "model" delivery of services to not have the service available on the weekend.

The Council and the County Executive were satisfied that the concerns raised had been addressed.  No one asked me if I was satisfied that my concerns had been satisfied.  The vote was unanimous to approve the no-bid contract with the understanding that there would be a bid next year.  We will keep our members updated. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Aug112016

Seattle Income Discrimination Legislation Passed by City Council in Unanimous Vote

Although housing choice vouchers are legally recognized a sources of income in Seattle already and have been recognized since 1989 (for over 25 years), this recent addition to the Open Housing Ordinance, expanded those protections to include alternative sources of income like: pensions, unemployment benefits, social security income (SSI), child support, and any other governmental subsidy or nonprofit contribution-are now considered protected benefits. This addition to the original legislation was passed unanimously by city council after recommendations by the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee and represents a large step forward in the realm of fair housing and social justice. It was found by HALA studies, that not having other forms of the protected benefits mentioned above being protected allowed a system that perpetuated concentrated poverty and disproportionately affected minority populations (City of Seattle, 2016).

This law not only protects all sources of income to prevent income discrimination in housing by landlords, it also protects tenants from racist practices because it puts in place a “first come, first served” rule. This ensures that employees that work for specific companies, do not get treated differently or are given unfair preference when it comes to renting units-something that Seattle has seen a recent uptake in, as companies like Amazon and other corporations are considered “preferred employers” in the community, and therefore employees of these corporations are seen as having more of a competitive application. As summarized by Sponsor of this legislation, Lisa Herbold, "Tenants benefiting from preferred employer rental discounts aren't the tenants that need assistance in the affordability crisis Seattle faces." This legislation would also make it illegal for landlords to evict a tenant if they used other forms of income to pay rent, therefore not adding an additional barrier to the struggle of finding housing or disqualifying individuals and families from their Section 8 or Housing Choice Voucher (in some cases, dependent on local housing authority) (City of Seattle, 2016).

“As of 2015, nine states – Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Vermont – along with the District of Columbia have already passed bills outlawing discrimination against low-income renters. Cities and counties that have adopted similar anti-discrimination policies include Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County, New York City, Philadelphia” Seattle and Dallas, and California might be added to this list very soon with the recent introduction of Senate Bill 1053 (Affordablehousing.com).

Such Ordinances increase housing choice for low income individuals, and also provide solutions for concentrated poverty, decreases the stigma the low income individuals already face in the private rental market, and also decreases the likelihood that landlords are able to be racially motivated or show unfair preference to certain tenants over others, unique to the Seattle ordinance, using the idea of the “first in time” or in other words- first come, first served-thus preventing landlords for showing preference based on type of income, race or other factors in direct violation with the Fair Housing Act (Solid Ground).

In Ohio, only three surrounding suburbs have similar ordinances/protections in place for income discrimination and those communities are: University Heights, South Euclid and Warrensville Heights. However, as far as enforcement of such ordinances is concerned, it’s hard to say-with just 23,361 affordable, available units (at FMR, in which housing vouchers can be used) compared to the need of over 75,000 extremely low income households in need of those units (The Urban Institute).

Implementing an ordinance like this in Cuyahoga County would make more of those units accessible to more families and individuals that need them, and help make more units fit in the FMR range if they can use additional subsidies they receive as verifiable/ non-wage income. The push for a uniform law, enforceable at the Federal level, is essential to encourage client choice, decrease the stigma of voucher programs, and protect vulnerable populations that receive alternative forms of income in order to obtain safe, decent and affordable housing-especially in Metropolitan Areas that are already experiencing strains on affordable housing stock, like Seattle.

You can find more new stories on this recent legislation below:

http://murray.seattle.gov/murray-proposes-ordinance-to-protect-renters-against-discrimination-based-on-source-of-income/#sthash.g8xMnYOi.dpbs

http://www.seattlepi.com/local/politics/article/City-Council-bans-rental-discrimination-based-on-9130344.php

http://rhawa.org/Blog/post/2016/07/14/Seattle-source-of-income-discrimination-legislation-raises-issue-of-e2809cWhate28099s-in-a-namee2809d.aspx

https://www.solid-ground.org/broaden-source-of-income-protections/

http://www.seattlemet.com/articles/2016/5/31/parking-renting-endorsing-and-regulating

http://murray.seattle.gov/murray-proposes-ordinance-to-protect-renters-against-discrimination-based-on-source-of-income/#sthash.g8xMnYOi.OzjSVCkw.dpbs

To read the original ordinance as introduced by the Mayor to City Council below:

http://murray.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/OCR-Alternative-Source-of-Income-Discrimination-ORD.pdf

(*note: this ordinance amends the following sections of the Seattle Municipal Code: 14.08.015, 14.08.020, 14.08.040, 14.08.045, 14.08.060, 14.08.070 7and 14.08.190*)

You can see the subsidized available apartments relative to ELI family need on this interactive map here: http://apps.urban.org/features/rental-housing-crisis-map/

by Katy Carpenter

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Editor's Note:  We need this legislation locally.  A women with five children ranging from college to pre-schoolers of various sexes came to our office fleeing domestic violence with a housing voucher.  She could only find 4 apartments that had five bedrooms.  Two were horrible and none were in the suburbs where she wanted to live for the benefit of her children.  CSU Master's Student Eva McKnight argued for more fair housing protections including Source of Income protections.  The Housing Research and Advocacy Center published a report on the disparity in the current voucher system locally.  Finally, former Cleveland Tenants Organization Director and COHHIO Community Organizer, Spencer Wells discusses the failure of the Baltimore County Source of Income Anti-Discrimination legislation.