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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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Wednesday
Oct022013

NLIHC Has a Good Summary of the Shut Down

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has done a good job of summarizing the impact of the shutdown on homeless and housing programs.   Locally, the HUD office is shut down and no staff will be attending the next CAHA meeting if the shutdown continues.  The next Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting is Monday October 7 in the lower level of the US Bank Building with Lou Tisler of Neighborhood Housing Services and Bill Whitney of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.  Here are the comments from the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

On Monday September 30, Congress failed to provide FY14 funding for the federal government to operate, which caused the government to shut down beginning at midnight on October 1. The House refused to pass a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) and the Senate refused to pass a CR that made funding contingent on modifying the Affordable Care Act, leaving the two chambers at an impasse.

On September 27, HUD issued a contingency plan outlining the impact of a shutdown on HUD programs. HUD’s largest rental assistance programs, the Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, and Project-Based Rental Assistance programs, appear to have funding to continue normal operations through October, either through previously-obligated funding or advance appropriations. After October, HUD’s contingency plan is largely silent.  [We will check on the status of CMHA locally].

 HUD anticipates that approximately 400 employees will be classified as “excepted” from the shutdown and will continue working in order to perform duties for programs also “excepted” from the shutdown. The programs, or functions of programs, that have been deemed “excepted” from the shutdown will continue to operate. These include homeless assistance programs, the distribution of HUD block grants, and FHA insurance programs “where the failure to address issues result in a threat to safety of life and protection of property.”

 In its contingency plan, HUD outlined shutdown status for these major programs:  

 

  • Tenant-Based Rental Assistance. According to HUD’s plan, October’s Housing Assistance Payments and administrative fees will be disbursed but there are no payments beyond October scheduled to be disbursed at this time. HUD will not process requests for tenant protection vouchers for public housing or multifamily actions during the shutdown.
  • Project-Based Rental Assistance. HUD plans to draw on advanced appropriations to continue housing payments for project-based contracts for October. According to HUD’s plan, it will make some payments under Section 8 contracts, rent supplement, Section 236, and project rental assistance contracts (PRACs) where there is budget authority available from prior appropriations or recaptures. HUD will not process any Section 8 contract renewal or waiver requests during the shutdown.

  • Public Housing. Local public housing agencies (PHAs) are not federal government entities and thus will not shut down. But, PHAs receive significant federal funding and their hours and capacities may be impacted by the federal shutdown. HUD’s contingency plan predicts that most of the country’s 3,300 PHAs have the necessary funds to continue providing public housing assistance for the remainder of the month. However, depending on the length of the shutdown, some PHAs may not be able to maintain normal operations. HUD recommends that local PHAs be contacted for information as to their operating levels.

  • Homeless Assistance Grants. According to the contingency plan, HUD homeless assistance grants, including supportive housing for veterans and housing for people with AIDS, will continue to be funded “to protect against imminent threats to the safety of human life.”

  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program, CDBG. According to HUD’s plan, it will “continue to disburse CDBG, HOME funds, and other block grant funds in cases where failure to address issues result in a threat to safety of life and protection of property.” HUD’s plan indicates that “cities and states would not be able to receive additional CDBG funds,” but HUD will disburse CDBG, HOME, and other block grant funds that have already been appropriated, and competitive funds that have been awarded and are under grant agreement.

HUD’s contingency plan provides details on agency functions that will continue or will halt for additional HUD programs. View HUD’s contingency plan under “featured news” on HUD’s website: http://www.hud.gov.

Other programs that impact the lives of homeless people including the Social Security administration, non-medical Veteran's Affairs staff who work on processing benefits, some of the specialized welfare programs were only funded through September 30, and eventually Health and Human Services will not be able to process grants to local healthcare, treatment or mental health programs. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Oct022013

Response to Hateful Letter to the Editor

This letter that I penned was never published in the Plain Dealer, but the original letter should be corrected with facts and in my opinion should have never been published because it is hate speech.  There is a link to the original letter, but I would avoid reading it if you have high blood pressure.

Dear Plain Dealer Editor:

I was surprised to read the letter from Carmen Melillo Sr. in the Plain Dealer on September 6, because I was unaware that editorial policy had changed to allow grossly inaccurate and stereotypical information to be published without any clarification.  I have never understood why a paper allows anonymous hateful and incorrect comments on their electronic platform, but did not realize that the paper had decided to allow blatantly false claims in the letter’s section. 

Your letter writer seems to confuse the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program for all subsidized housing in the community since in all of Cleveland there are only 7,000 total vouchers being used and they are spread out all over the City.  They are not concentrated in one building or one area of town. Your own statistics published with the article on “social engineering by Stephen Koff shows that the large majority of CMHA clients are African American, and so your letter writer’s reference to “bad habits and culture” has to be seen as subtle forms of racism. 

There is no evidence that the majority of voucher holders in Cleveland were not born and raised in the community.  There is no evidence that those who need help with their rent are more violent or have a problem with addiction at a higher rate than other tenants.  Your letter writer seems angry with absentee landlords, but misdirects that anger at tenants who are just trying to find housing for their family as they struggle to find a better job.  Nearly everything in this letter was incorrect and full of hate.  The Housing Choice Voucher program and voucher holders should not be libeled in this way and the readers deserve opinion pieces based on some actual facts. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Sep302013

60 Minutes Piece on Services to the Mentally Ill

There was an eye-opening piece on 60 Minutes on Sunday regarding the treatment of the mentally ill in America.   This is what Congress should be debating today instead of a four year old health care passed law. They focused on the Cook County jail labeling it the largest insane asylum in America.  I think that the Los Angeles jail could make a legitimate claim on that title, but I am not sure it is a fight that either city would want to engage in.  The reality is that mentally ill people run into problems with the law often because they have a hard time finding help.  The Justice Center downtown has a significant number of mentally ill people.   This was a good hard look at the failing mental health system, and the relationship with the mass shootings in Aurora, Navy Yard, Tucson, Newtown, and Virginia Tech.   We have seen this play out locally in East Cleveland and on Imperial Ave. A small-small-small number of mentally ill people have problems that lead to violence.  The problem is that we cast so many away to deal with their problems on their own that it is hard to pick out the few that are going to become violent. 

Everyday, we come across people who are not a threat to themselves or others but need a great deal of help.  We have women who sleep outside and have regular fights with neighbors and rants everyday about people who are out to get her.  She has been in and out of the hospital for years.   She is evaluated and it is determined that she is angry but not a threat to anyone and then released.  She has slept rough for so many years that her body is falling apart.   We have no effective way to deal with her in our society.  Community groups do not have the money or patience to build a relationship with her, and she does not trust any of the agencies that pink slip her into a hospital for evaluation (against her will).  She cannot live independently.  We have tried.  She either begins hoarding items or collecting inappropriate pets and quickly faces eviction from a landlord.  Where can this woman live in our community? [Yes, permanent supportive housing is great, but you have to be homeless for a long period of time, and there are not enough to meet the demand.]

This women who lives outside needs healthcare and health professional attached to housing.   She needs a safe place that will understand how to deal with her hallucinations.   We need to fulfill the promises of elected officials when we shut down the asylums in the 1970s.  We need a massive infusion of funds into the mental health system.  We need help to provide medicine and oversight to people struggling with a mental illness.   We need a place in our society for people who hear voices and those paranoid that is not an expensive jail.  We need a place for people who are frequent flyers at the emergency room and do not realize that they cannot bring a gun to the airport or cause a standoff with the police.   We need a place for people who repeatedly make attempts on their life and are stabilized then released to live on the streets.   I would have been willing to give back my tax cut I received from the state of Ohio for the past five years, if they would provide help for the mentally ill that did not involve homeless shelters, jails or hospital emergency rooms.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry. 

Friday
Sep272013

Judge Marbley Decision Posted on our Website

Back at the beginning of August, Federal Judge Alegenon Marbley decided in our favor to extend the agreement between NEOCH and the State of Ohio until 2016.   This will standardize how provisional ballots are counted and will assist homeless people to vote in the upcoming Presidential election in person on Election Day.  We posted the entire decision here.  It is good reading because Judge Marbley has some wonderful language defending his decision.  

"This Court hopes that Ohio's boards of election would continue to implement Ohio's voting laws with the same uniformity that they have since the entry of the Consent Decree.  Asis from the Consent Decree, however, there is nothing to prevent boards of election from returning to those haphazard and, in some cases, illegal practices, which previously resulted in the invalidation of validly cast ballots from registered voters."

This goes through a nice history of the case leading up to the need for this agreement.  It details the struggles by two previous Secretaries of State to implement this poorly written law from the lame duck session of 2005.  The decision does a really nice job thinking through possible challenges to the ruling to extend the agreement through 2016.  It was also nice to see that he had a nice grasp of all the facts of the case and how this decision played out on the streets of Ohio. 

"A citizen's right to vote, however, cannot be at the mercy of the shifting legal interpretations of a single state officer, no matter how well intentioned he or she is.  The Secretary of State changes frequently and while the current Secretary may continue to instruct boards of election to count the ballots of Social Security Number last 4 digit voters, there is no guarantee his successor will follow suit.   The Court also observes that, on more than one occasion, Secretary Husted has attempted to make eleventh hour changes to Ohio's voting system."

Check out the full decision on our website.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
Sep242013

NEOCH Endorses Health and Human Services Levy

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board of Trustees debated the merits of the replacement human services levy on the November ballot and decided to support Issue 1.  For those who do not know, the County has placed a replacement levy on the ballot for November 5 to support Health and Human Services locally.  This is the first time there will be a vote in an odd year when there are typically only local municipal issues on the ballot.  This became necessary because of huge cuts in the last two budgets from the State of Ohio to local governments and the hostility toward expanding Medicaid to serve our population.  

This levy will replace the levy that was set to expire at the end of 2014, and will increase the property taxes for residents.  This is repugnant that homeowners in Ohio must continually increase their own local taxes to pay for schools and human services because state leaders have abandoned their responsibilities.   The State of Ohio does not help with funding the shelters taking a back seat to the local and federal governments.  They continue to reduce support for alcohol and drug services.  They do not adequately support public transportation.  They have never brought justice to the funding of public schools and now are supporting a failing charter school system.   The state does very little to assist with the affordable housing crisis and did nearly nothing when faced with a quadrupling of foreclosures in the State.   They have not stepped forward to provide health care to every citizen in Ohio and only care about lowering taxes.  They seem feckless in the face of job stagnation, growing family homelessness, and a mental health crisis.  In an environment in which they close their eyes at the state level to everything but lowering taxes, it destabilizes the local community.  We are forced to continue to find revenue sources for these services that should be covered by the State of Ohio.

We urge a yes vote on Issue 1 and urge State legislators to take responsibility for some of these issues such as poverty, universal health care (including behavioral health), school funding, and expanding affordable housing.   With nearly one third of the poor people in Ohio living in Cuyahoga County, we cannot solve these big issues alone.  We need Medina, Geauga, Hamilton and Butler county resources to stabilize the housing situation, expand job opportunities with large scale infrastructure projects, universal access to pre-k school, and real preventative behavioral health care.  Without a state government willing to role up their sleeves and solve problems, we are stuck trying to cobble together levies and tax schemes to keep what we have going.  We do not want to shut down the shelters next year (already with federal cut backs, we will not be able to fund two projects).  We do not want to reduce access to detox or street outreach for the mentally ill. We do not want more addicts ending up in jail or more women seeking shelter in the house of a serial killer.   NEOCH urges a yes vote on Issue 1 the expanded Health and Human Services Levy to keep our current safety net. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.