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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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Handup Gala14
Monday
Oct202014

Be Careful When Voting By Mail

From Ohio Votes and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio:

According to the Ohio Secretary of State, 722,498 vote-by-mail absentee ballots have been requested. If you plan to vote by mail, be sure to review all instructions before sending in your ballot. [NEOCH: This is especially important in the day of complicated forms for provisional ballots, shorter early voting times, long lines the last weekend of early voting, and "election observers" placed at the precincts to "challenge" or block voters.]

What to remember when preparing your ballot:

  • Do not remove the numbered stub from the ballot;
  • Place your completed ballot into the ID envelope, making sure it is sealed;
  • Complete and sign the Statement of Voter on the outside of the ID envelope;
  • Be sure to include your date of birth, your name and voter registration address (if your ID envelope is not pre-printed), your driver's license number, the last four digits of your SSN, OR a copy of a government issued ID;
  • Check the "General Election" box and write in the year 2014.

Complete instructions can be found through the Secretary of State. Click here to view a copy the ID envelope. For more info, the League of Women Voters of Ohio has a great one-stop shop for all things voting in Ohio: Vote 411.
For more on Ohio Votes or additional help click here.
For more from the League of Women Voters of Ohio click here.

Vote by Mail Absentee Ballots:

  • Submit to the local board of Elections a request or from the Secretary of State website.  Every voter in Ohio should have received a form to return to request an absentee ballot.
  • You will be mailed a ballot to complete.  You can drop it back at the Board of Elections or mail it back to the Board of Elections (Pay attention that you will have to pay extra postage.)
  • You must complete the inside envelope and seal it--Follow the instructions carefully.
  • Your ballot must be postmarked by November 3 to be counted.
  • You can drop your completed ballot at the Board of Election until November 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Brian Davis

Opinions reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Oct182014

More Cuts to the Shelters in 2014

The Office of Homeless Services "Advisory Board" met this week and approved another 2% cut for the transitional shelters and safe haven programs in Cuyahoga County.  Staff and County Review and Ranking committee members have come up with a strategy to better compete at the national level by eliminating social-service-only projects as much as possible because HUD hates funding service instead of housing.  It is hoped in the second round of funding the 2% can be restored, but there is no guarantee. We also learned at the meeting that because of stating publicly that we have cut long term homeless, Cleveland is penalized.  This dubious statistic was criticized by Richard Trickel in a guest blog, and NEOCH agrees that this 73% decrease in long term homeless is at best deceptive at its worst is an outright lie. It is understandable for the Department of Housing and Urban Development focused its funding on housing if Health and Human Services stepped forward to fund services.  We are getting cuts from the federal government while the number of homeless people especially families is increasing. 

At the meeting this last week, representatives from the Salvation Army and West Side Catholic both expressed concern over the continued declines in funding for shelters. Both expressed concern that any further cuts (7% two years ago, 5% last year and now 2% this year) could results in further closing of local shelters or the loss of beds.  In 2014, Continue Life closed after a cut in funding from HUD.  It is no wonder we have such a problem with families in light of shelters closing in Cleveland.  Over the years, we lost Triumph House, East Side Catholic, Continue Life, the Upstairs program (single women), and Family Transitional.  We have had reductions in other programs resulting in a huge gap in beds available to homeless people.  This would be fine if we were not also losing affordable housing in the community. 

Congress passed the HEARTH Act a couple of years ago, which mandated huge changes in the homeless funding system.  It prioritized long term homelessness, and mandated outcomes to reduce homelessness.  The bill passed with language that sought a doubling of the funding for shelters and housing programs for homeless people. In the toxic environment of Washington DC, this never happened.  Instead, we have seen a steady decline in funding, and shelters are closing.  HUD made these huge changes in the process and the rules and the expectations, but did not give the shelters additional funding to implement these changes. Remember, the shelters do not get an increase in funding for cost of living changes every year.  The funds that they received when they first started getting federal dollars is the top funding available to them.  They can reduce their request, but cannot ask for additional funding.   How many programs or households could survive if they had the same income from their core funding source for 20 straight years? 

With the cuts made by United Way, we have a real crisis in serving homeless people.   No matter what the County says about a decrease in long term homelessness, there are more people seeking help.  There are more people outside than we saw living outside last year, and there are fewer options for women and women with children.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Oct172014

Hand Up Gala 2014 Successful

A Unique Event to Provide a Fine Dining Meal to Homeless People in Cleveland

        The Hand Up Gala (not a Hand Out) was held on October 17 to celebrate 20 years of the Cosgrove Center serving hungry people in Cleveland. Unfortunately, the media did not show up to see what a beautiful spread the staff at Cosgrove put together.  We have a gallery of photos on our website and a few on our facebook page. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is a co-organizer of this event, and everyone I talked to enjoyed the event.  Ms. Loh, a member of the Homeless Congress, gave it an 8 out of 10, and we served over 200 homeless people.

      There were a lot of families with very young children at the event this year, which shows the huge increase in families over the last few years. The event could not be held without the hundreds of volunteers including Councilman Zach Reed and County Councilman Dale Miller pictured here.  Berghaus Flowers provided the center pieces decorated in fall colors, and we had two musicians, Amanda Walsh and Tom Hosna, who gave their time to make the event elegant.   There was a wonderful meal of chicken with an apple cranberry glaze prepared by Chef Sharon Delk and her staff.  Executive Caterers at Landerhaven provided the fine dining amenities that are not often experienced by members of the homeless community.

        Cosgrove Center has served hundreds of thousands over 20 years and is a critical component of the social safety net in Cleveland.  They are open in the extreme winter cold days and the hot July days so homeless people do not have to be on the streets during the day.  To assist with the celebration, politicians and board members of both NEOCH and Catholic Charities were on hand to act as greeters and servers.  We put together a program book to remember the Cosgrove Center and their 20 years which we will post online in the near future. 

       This year has been a year of celebration the Diocese of Cleveland’s Catholic Charities and the Bishop Cosgrove Center for twenty years of "Providing Help and Creating Hope.”  This event is also a fundraiser in which donors are entered into an auction of 30 local arts groups, sports organizations, and businesses who have offered tickets and gift certificates to support NEOCH and Cosgrove Center. We hope to raise funds to support the programming at the two organizations as we see more and more families showing up at our facilities looking for help.

    We will not be doing the drawing for the auction until October 29, so you still have time to participate.  You can make a donation on line or through the mailHere are the auction packages that we are distributing this year. This was the fifth Hand Up Gala and it went off without a hitch thanks to Nicole Evans and her fantastic staff.

    We have to thank the committee who worked since April to make this event special including Kimberly Miller, Nicole Evans, Randall York, Norman Wolfe, Gloria McCurdy, Sarah Novak, Terrel Valentine and Melissa Sirak.  Also, we have to thank Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Cleveland for funding the Cosgrove Center for 20 years and making day shelter an important part of the downtown community.  They have served millions of meals in those 20 years and provided hundreds of thousands bags of food to their neighbors all with a welcoming atmosphere of friendly staff.  It was a great event this year to celebrate the Cosgrove Center.  Thanks to Anthony Emory who came up from being a client to becoming a volunteer after finding stable housing for giving his testimonial about the value of Cosgrove Center at the event. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Tuesday
Oct142014

NEOCH Looking for Development/Public Relations Volunteers

The NEOCH Board has opened up some of their committees for volunteers to assist the agency.  We have two committees which we are looking for additional help and we have posted a job description on our website.  We have a nice board size right now, but we need additional help in fund raising and to create more visibility for the organization in Greater Cleveland.  We are looking for people who want to help dispel some of the myths about homelessness and have an ability to market the organization.  We are also looking for development experts who can help with our special events or want to write grants for the organization.  Some of the items that these committees have done in the past:

  • The Hand Up Gala
  • The pancake breakfast
  • The Post Card project
  • Regular press releases
  • Encouraging additional speaking engagements
  • Our on-line auction
  • Working to expand the Street Newspaper project.

We could use your help if you want to do some work behind the scenes to improve the local homeless coalition.  Check it out.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Oct132014

How Can Akron Better Serve Homeless People

The City of Akron was sued last week by students from the CWRU Law School for displacing people and then dumping their valuables.  This is a throw back from the policies of big cities in the United States from the 1990s.  Frustrated over the growing number of homeless people and what seemed like throwing good money after bad, cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York turned to law enforcement to solve a social service crisis.  NEOCH sued the City of Cleveland to stop the sweeps and the dumping of materials from people just trying to survive.   They sent their police force out to arrest, threaten arrest and terrorize a fragile population.

The Chicago Coalition won lawsuits as did Miami advocates against their municipal governments back in the 1990s.  These cities had to pay homeless people for their homeless policies. They used their armed police force to make it illegal to be homeless.  Those policies were found to be expensive and ineffective, but Akron seems to be stuck in the 1990s over their homeless policies.  In visiting Akron, they have a bad problem with people begging for money in almost every freeway off ramp.  They have many people sleeping outside and very few outreach workers.  It is no wonder that community leaders are frustrated with the large number of homeless people.  But handling the problem with law enforcement is the opposite solution to the department.

Remember that cracking down on panhandling does nothing to the homeless populations.  All panhandlers are not homeless and all homeless are not panhandlers.  We have been working with people who are resistant to shelter for 22 years, and so we have some better ideas:

  • Guaranteed access to shelter is critical to the success of any homeless policy. If there is not a place to refer a person then there will be people sleeping outside.  If when the shelter beds are full they shut their doors, what do you expect a person to do?  If you go to the shelter on a regular basis and they do not have a bed for you, then you are going to give up and sleep outside.  It is also inhumane to push people around the downtown when there is not a bed inside available.
  • Coordinated outreach services is also needed to provide the best possible services to those living outside.  This can help connect a veteran to the VA and those struggling with PTSD with mental health services.  It is important to build trusting relationships with those resist going to shelter.  If there are not people on the streets interacting with people on the streets, they get forgotten. 
  • Laws don't work--competition does!  Akron has the most severe legislation in the State of Ohio and it has not eliminated panhandling.  In fact, there are now a class of low income people who have a license to panhandle.  They now have a City sanctioned "job" called begging for money.   Sweeps and dumping of a homeless person's stuff does not work.  It only exacerbates the problem because people get tickets and get arrested, which makes it less likely they will find a job.  If you want to address homelessness and specifically panhandling, you have to have an alternative.  Social service providers should be provided funding to get people off the streets.  Those who can help the most people off the streets should be financially rewarded.  There should be a competition for finding panhandlers real jobs.  We need to provide an effective alternative or the problem will continue to grow. 
  • Police are not social workers.  They should not be drafted into forcing people into shelter or arresting people for purely innocent behavior of being outside.  Police should not even be in the business of telling homeless people to move or warning people that they will have their "stuff" thrown away.  Social workers and outreach staff should be asked to engage people living outside and provide help before anyone threatens the individuals who are resistant to going into shelter.  Let's look at it in a similar situation to an eviction.  There is an official written notice and then the individual has their day in court.  Then before all these checks and balances are undertaken can the bailiff come out to supervise the throwing away of items.  Society allowed these individuals to establish a home outside and forgot about them for months if not years, it is unfair to then attack these campsites and destroy their homes.
  • Build affordable housing or plan on more and more money going to emergency services.  We cannot have a community in which wages are stagnant and 5-6% of the population are unemployed, and then people are punished for living outside.  There are another group who are permanently unemployed, and we are losing affordable housing every year.   We still have people who have behavioral health issues, and so there are these huge holes in the social safety net.  We can't let people fall into homelessness and then punish them for finding a way to survive. If we continue to see destruction of affordable housing, there can only be more homeless people in our cities. 
  • Akron should support the creation of a street newspaper sold by homeless and very low income people.  Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo all have papers sold on their city streets.  It is an effective alternative to panhandling.  This is much more dignified way to earn money--selling your words on the street.  Cleveland Street Chronicle could help establish a paper.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry