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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

Hotcards Prints Street Cards

Homeless Street Card Available to Direct Homeless People to Places that Can Help

        The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless announced the publication of the Homeless Street Card for 2015 to 2016.  We are so thankful to Hotcards for stepping forward and printing this one page resource guide after the Cleveland Clinic turned down our request.   The Homeless Street Card is a front and back piece of paper updated every year that contains extensive information on resources such as shelters, meal sites, job training agencies, health clinics, chemical dependency services and drop in centers. This valuable and convenient resource makes it easy for homeless individuals to find the assistance they need to get out of their situation.

        It is easy to read, regularly updated, and can be folded up to carry around. Through the generosity of Hotcards, we were able to print 10,000 Homeless Street Cards and have begun to distribute to individuals, shelters, hospitals, schools, police stations, and libraries. Hotcards did an amazing job this year printing the Street Card on durable and bright paper.  We believe that this is the nicest version of the Street Card that we have ever printed over the last 26 years in Cleveland.  Hotcards does custom flyers, full color brochures, business cards, event tickets, custom postcards, door hangers and political printing and can be found at

       Many use our website to download and print out copies of the Street Card at It is the most popular section of our website.  We will post a shorter version of the Street Card on our website for those who do not have the legal sized paper available.   In addition, NEOCH has a Family Street Card and Veteran’s Street Card on our website to print and distribute.  We hope that these one page guides will shorten a person's stay on the streets or in the shelters.  We hope that they can use this resource guide to move out of homelessness quickly.  With all the changes that take place with programs opening and closing it is important to have a trusted resource guide available to assist homeless people.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who signt the entry


Community Voice Mail Comes to an End

Dear Community Voicemail Partner Agency,

I am writing to inform you that the national Community Voicemail Program will be closing on December 31, 2015. Active clients will be allowed to keep their voicemail numbers through March 31, 2016, an additional 90 days past the close date, to allow some time for transition.

You may continue to sign clients up for the service through December 31st; however, effective immediately we request that you notify new clients that this is a temporary phone number that they can use only through March 31, 2016 and only if they are checking it regularly.

Any unused, inactive numbers in your inventory will be disconnected on Monday, January 4, 2016. We will be asking you to shred and discard any security logs or intake forms at that time, unless you are required to keep the forms by your agency for a certain amount of time.

The national office or host site manager will be sending a broadcast message to all current CVM users by Friday, October 30, letting them know of this closure in order to give them as much time as possible to seek an alternative communication solution. Periodic reminder broadcasts will be sent over the coming months and will include information about any potentially relevant alternate services we discover such as Lifeline ( or Google Voice.

This closure does not come lightly. Last summer, Springwire, the national nonprofit that provided the Community Voicemail program had to close its doors due to lack of sustainable program funding. Feeding America, the nation’s network of food banks, agreed to continue the CVM program for 18 months during a “Research Phase” while they determined the need for and feasibility of offering it within their own network of food banks. The 18 months ends in December and after much due diligence, Feeding America has determined that there is not enough need and demand to continue to offer the program. In addition, there are some technology upgrade and other discovered issues that would make it too challenging to try to transition it to a new organization, even if there was one willing.

It is with deep regret that the program is being sunset. We all recognize that it is still a vital service for many vulnerable individuals as well as for our agency partners. We are grateful that despite continued funding, we have been able to offer it for an additional 18 months instead of having to close it last June, allowing thousands more to stay connected to employers, doctors, case managers, and family.

We will be in touch in the coming months with reminders and any additional resources or information. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to keep people connected.


Stephen Boyles

The Cleveland Foodbank locally has been the local provider over the last two years.  They had taken over after First Call for Help passed on the program.  NEOCH was the original sponsor of the program from the late 1990s until 2007 here in Cleveland.  Our staff, Michael Gibbs, served on the national board for Community Voice Mail, and had created a strong program.   This was a wonderful program for homeless people until the expansion of the Lifeline program and the introduction of Google phones.  Homeless people have a lot more technical solutions in order to get messages compared to the 1990s.  It is sad that this program died.  It was a really innovative program back in the day. It may have outlasted it useful life. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.



NEOCH Supports Issue 1

I can't think of one reason why you should not vote for Issue 1.  Why would you not want a clean and fair process for dividing up the state to avoid gerrymandering?  Sure, it would be great if this also applied to the federal elections and not just the state, but every good idea takes time to work out.  Who would not want to reduce political influence when selecting State Congressional districts?  We can't have the people who run for these offices set up the boundaries, because we are regularly going to court to have the judiciary decide.  At this time, political parties divide up the state to benefit their own voters to the detriment of the other party.  Ohio needs a better way to create balanced and fair Congressional boundaries.  For this reason, the NEOCH Board voted to urge our members to support Issue 1.   Vote yes on Issue 1.


Privacy As a Sword Instead of a Shield

The Women's Shelter is extremely overcrowded.  There are way too many people in that building with as many as 60 people sleeping on the floor every night.  They are sleeping in the kitchen, dining room, quiet room and all over the basement.  There are elderly women sleeping in chairs.  There are women in wheel chairs sleeping on the floor on a regular basis.  There are women with walkers who are barely mobile.  If there was a fire, there is no way for all the women to get out of the building.

Joe Pagonakis did a series of stories about the overcrowded conditions.  He was not allowed to visit the shelter, but obtained pictures from inside the shelter.  He was also able to get an elected official admit that they did not know something under their control.  The County is the main funder of the shelter, and so every County official should know what is going on over there.   Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell said that she had no idea the shelter was so overcrowded, but she would check on the situation.  We are still waiting for her to see the facility after two weeks. 

The shelter would not grant access to the facility because of "privacy" concerns.  This is a pattern for Frontline Services to use protection of the clients as a sword against exposure instead of as a shield to assist clients.  There was no vote by the women or request to allow the media to come see the shelter.  There was a presumption of denial by the agency.  I think that the woman would have appreciated the media seeing how bad it was over there.  I am sure more than a majority over at the shelter would have wanted to speak publicly about how bad the conditions were but they never got the chance.  The top brass at the agency decided against allowing Mr. Pagonakis into the shelter.  I hope that he continues to look into the conditions at the shelter.  I hope that he looks into the reasons behind this overcrowding (closing all the other women's facilities).

I have seen this a lot over the years where the shelter will cite privacy when it means that they will avoid showing their own shortfalls or to avoid doing additional work.  They don't give over names for the homeless memorial not to protect privacy, but instead so that they do not have to admit negative outcomes.  They force individuals to give up personal information and then allow other agencies to be able to view this data.  Privacy is always used to protect the agency and is rarely provided with informed consent.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


Dana Irribarren Was a Champion for Ending Hunger in Cleveland

I don't have much to do with the whole hunger crowd, but I met Dana Irribarren 20 years ago as she was trying to establish the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland as an independent non-profit as the Interchurch Council was shedding programs.  I was appointed to a committee to work out an amicable solution to this impasse.  Dana was always one of the strongest voices in the community for more attention and money to fight hunger.  She always made the connections to poverty, health care, and public assistance with our citizens being hungry.  There was a hunger advocacy organization in our community in the 1990s which went out of business, but Dana kept speaking up.

We worked together to try to bring some better coordination of food in East Cleveland in 2010, and Dana always showed up to lend her voice when poor people faced the negative impact of budget cuts.  She hired some wonderful staff who did a great job of advocating for additional pantry sites in emerging areas of need.  Dana served on the United Way Emergency Food and Shelter Committee for decades with me.  She was one of the strongest voices for hunger as a justice issue.  She stood up to the powerful while at the same time convincing business and community leaders to collect and distribute food to those struggling. 

There were disputes with the County and regional food organizations that spilled into the media in 2009.  Dana was quick to recognize the difficulties seniors were having last year or the new pockets of hunger in the suburbs during the downturn.  She was really good at telling the rest of us how bad things were getting in East Cleveland or how her volunteer pantry workers were struggling to fill the need in one of the other inner ring suburbs. 

There are so few experts on poverty in Cleveland.  It is so sad to see another social justice champion leave the scene.  I am going to miss Dana and her voice in Cleveland.   Poor people are especially disadvantaged because of the passing of Dana.  This week donate a bag of groceries to your local food pantry in Dana's name or sign up to serve a hot meal at your church or synagogue.  Below is the obituary sent to us by the Hunger Network as it appeared in the Plain Dealer

DANA L. IRRIBARREN (nee Richter), age 62. Beloved wife of 30 years to Alejandro Irribarren; loving mother of Irvin Oslin (Amanda); cherished grandmother of Grace; dear sister of Daniel "Butch" Richter, Kathy Bleich (Fred), and Sandy Barr; beloved aunt and cousin to many.

Executive Director and founder of the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland, she was part of the fight against hunger since 1977; it was her mission and passion. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate contributions in memory of Dana to The Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland, 614 West Superior Avenue, Suite 744, Cleveland, OH 44113-1306.

Funeral Service Monday, October 19, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at the SCHULTE & MAHON-MURPHY FUNERAL HOME, 5252 MAYFIELD RD., LYNDHURST (BETWEEN RICHMOND AND BRAINARD) where the family will receive friends SUNDAY 2-6 P.M. Interment Lakeview Cemetery. - See more at: then click on Obituaries to search for Dana Irribarren.

5252 Mayfield Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinions of those who sign the entry.