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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
May092016

Mock Ribbon Cutting/ Groundbreaking Art Exhibit

Nathan Manthey presented his Bachelor of Fine Arts Project at Cleveland Institute of Art exhibit and celebration of his four years of college.  Nathan worked with the residents at the Community Women's Shelter to imagine a better shelter in Cleveland for women.  They talked about a smaller facility that could better serve their individual needs for those with mental health issues, health care, unemployment, or reunifying with children. The residents were looking for improved quality as well as a facility that better served their individual needs for services.  They then scouted for locations in the community--there is lots of vacant land so this is no problem.  Finally, they each prepared speeches at a possible groundbreaking then ribbon cutting.  The residents are ready should the County step forward to redesign the shelter system.  Nathan has displayed all this with video, photos and an explanation of the project.  Thanks to Loh (a resident who participated in this project) for taking the pictures and sending them to us. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

PS: Anastasia Soboleva also had her murals displayed.  Ms. Soboleva volunteered to help the women at the shelter create art for the depressing facility for after the renovations are done to brighten the shelter.  She gave up her Saturdays and other evenings to help the women express themselves. 

Saturday
May072016

Why Did Veterans Affairs Not Run From Transitional Shelters?

We are down to around 250 veterans in Cuyahoga County who are homeless.  This is a huge victory and shows remarkable progress since 2010.  NEOCH has repeatedly said that the figures released every summer from HUD about the homeless population is so far off as to be deceptive and causes harm to the homeless community.  This is not the case with the VA because they are actually reaching out and looking for real homeless people.  The HUD stats rely too much on shelter beds which are decreasing every year.  We have seen cities throughout the United States claiming huge victories in the reduction of veteran's homelessness, and at least in Cleveland this does seem to be real progress and not just paper progress.  There are beds available for veterans and their is a full effort to go out and find people where they live.  I don't agree with this gimmick of "functional zero," but there is no doubt that they have made huge progress in significantly reducing the number of veterans who find themselves homeless.   How did they do it? 

We could learn from the success at the Department of Veterans Affairs for leading the way in reducing the number of people who find themselves homeless.  From what I have seen, here are my observations on why they are successful:

1. Housing opportunities are available to the population with diversity the key to this housing.  They have never turned away from all forms of shelter/housing.  They fund housing vouchers, transitional shelters and emergency beds.  They offer fixed facilities as well as scattered site housing.  They try to serve the unique needs of each person and not forcing people into the cheapest or "best" type of housing as determined by "experts" in the community.  This is in stark contrast to HUD which focuses funding on one type of program and forces all other options to die for lack of funding.  One year, they are big on transitional shelters or supportive services or permanent supportive housing or now "rapid rehousing."  They keep jumping around and no longer allow the local community to make these decisions. 

2. They have worked on all the issues facing veterans and not just shelter or housing. They can help with addiction, mental health issues, physical disabilities or legal struggles.  They have always gathered other resources in the community to help veterans.  There is a group that can help with clothing, furniture, utility connections, student loan debt or forgiveness or identification.  They also try to make it easy for people with transportation assistance.  This is the opposite of the HUD funded programs who have adopted a policy of "YO-YO" or You are On Your Own, and just like a yo-yo the individual is up then down and up again depending on how lucky they are in finding appropriate resources. 

3. They have a strong commitment to finding people where they live and not expecting people to come to the VA.  The VA funds beds in the shelters, they set up tables at drop in centers and soup kitchens.  It is not unusual to find a veteran's representative on Sunday night at the overnight drop in center.  If they hear a vet is sleeping under a tree near the Shoreway, they will come out to interview the guy and see if there is a place for him to live.  They are at the hospitals, jails, libraries looking for veterans in need of help.  HUD funded programs often make it difficult to access for fear of being overwhelmed with individual's angry over the small funding available locally.  The VA throws their doors open to anyone with an honorable discharge and tries as hard as they can to help them. 

4.  They are tapping the expertise of a broad cross section of charitable agencies and not relying on one agency doing everything.  This is a change in the last five years that they asked for help from other groups and are paying those groups for offering help to veterans.  It previously was a closed system and only federal employees offered help to homeless veterans.  Now, nearly every agency in the community has been drafted into helping with some money available to help.  There are health care providers, the court system, shelters, housing providers and other government agencies are all offering assistance to stabilize the population.  There is also the Veteran's Service Commission which can help with the incidentals of setting up a house or a monthly bus pass to get a veteran to work or even car repairs so they do not lose their job.  There is nothing like the Veteran's Service Commission available to other non-veteran homeless people, and they have changed locally as well to be more responsive to homeless veterans.

5. Healthcare was the first step with all the other services built around getting the individual stable including their behavioral health.  The largest public health system in America is the VA healthcare.  It is notoriously slow and full of huge paperwork backlogs.  I have not seen this in Cleveland and from what I hear, the veterans are pretty happy with the healthcare they get locally.  We all need healthcare at some point, and the VA uses this universal service as the gateway to the rest of the network. 

6. There is no wrong answer to the veteran struggling with housing.   They do not force them to fit their problems or disability into one path off the streets. They do not say that they can only help after the veteran has been homeless for one year's time or reserve certain programs for veterans who have been homeless for a long time with a disability.  They are not pitting one veteran's group against another for limited resources.   I do have to say that one problem with the VA is that members of the national guard do not get the same treatment as the five branches of the US military.  This seems unfair since we dramatically changed our use of the National Guard during the previous administration.  We used them in an active combat zone, but did not upgrade the benefits they receive after their retirement.  This is something we need to address in Congress. 

7. They have combined income with their housing assistance. So, they work with people on getting them veteran's benefits, social security disability, or income from a job.   Their case workers realize that housing is critical, but paying for that housing is just as critical.  They have always worked on getting the veteran the benefits that they deserve.  There is nothing comparable in the rest of the homeless system, but we do not work on jobs and disability help like the VA case workers.  They have also had veteran's industries linked to housing programs for those engaged in job activities having a place to live while they build up a work record.  The system is much more developed and robust for veterans than is available in the traditional shelters. 

8. They do not rely on fictitious numbers to pretend to be succeeding.  Both HUD and the VA release national reports on their progress and neither are any good.  Both reports are flawed; I would say complete works of fiction.   The difference is that the VA does not rely on these numbers to paper over their successes or failures.  HUD uses these works of fiction to claim success when everything else points to failure.  Cleveland reports a decrease in homelessness over the last year while all other evidence suggests things are bad and getting worse.  Why do we see a smaller number of  homeless people in Cleveland--because we lost 444 beds over the last seven years.  Fewer beds means fewer homeless people to count=smaller numbers of homeless people.  HUD shuts down shelter for lack of funding while the VA will begin shutting down shelters for lack of need.  There are beds available at many of the VA shelters right now, but that does not mean there is not the need.  HUD and the County do not care about the demands or the need, they base decisions on funding and cost savings in the community. 

9. They finally realized that there is a huge amount of distrust for the VA and so they have these alternatives available.  Veterans especially from the Vietnam era do not trust the VA.  They were betrayed by the agency for years especially around the issues of Agent Orange.  There are many vets that I meet who are angry with the VA and say that they will not go there.  I can remember the on the ground nurses in the 1990s recognizing this problem, but it seems that the senior administration are finally hearing this issue.  There are plenty of older men who say, "I will never go to the VA because they did me wrong in the past."   This is why it is so critical to not require that it is not necessary to go to the VA first to get services.  A veteran can start the path back to stability at the shelter, the drop in center or the VA hospital.  It is not mandatory to start with the VA operated programs to find help. 

Congratulations on making so much progress.  Now it is time to teach HUD what they are doing wrong and force Congress to fund homeless services like they fund the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Saturday
May072016

Y Haven Latest to be Sacked by HUD

I have been talking about this slow crawl to the elimination of transitional shelters from the "continuum of care" in Cleveland and around the United States for years.  The Plain Dealer posted a story today about the loss of funding to Y-Haven.  NEOCH has been saying that the transitional programs will disappear for years and trying to get all the shelters to oppose these plans.  I always thought Y-Haven would be the last one left to survive, but I was wrong--there are three left.

Back in 2010, NEOCH approached the shelters to say that there is a danger with HUD funding changes that will fundamentally disrupt homeless services locally and the groups should come together to oppose these plans.  We wrote to all the major shelters (except Mental Health Services) with this pitch:

There are new rules for receipt of funding being driven by HUD, these rules are impacting other public and private funders and current service providers.  Service providers and advocates need to work together to ensure that the coming changes won’t impact our constituents ability to access services.  We feel that if we do not all come together that some needs of the homeless in our community may be overlooked.  The expertise in case management, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment that we have perfected in Cleveland may be lost because of financial constraints, change of focus and the lack of a clear plan.

Our plan was that we should set aside competition and our previous disputes in order to get all the shelters to come together to oppose the County plans around funding Permanent Supportive Housing with emergency services money.  The shelters felt that I was too controversial and a thorn in the side of the County and would not come together around a strategy to oppose the County.  Many of those programs are now out of business or hanging on by their finger nails.  We made the case that this will lead to one shelter closing every year to the point that in the end there will be no funding left for shelters. It was not that we opposed funding for Permanent Supportive Housing.  We just felt that the community should not use money taken from the shelters to build this housing.  After all, a permanent supportive housing unit does not turn over while a shelter bed turns over every 40 days and a transitional bed turns over every 6 or 7 months.  In Cleveland, we closed:

  • Family Transitional Shelter was a scattered site owned by a non-profit. (~30 spaces for families--60 beds total with kids)
  • East Side Catholic Shelter both transitional and emergency shelter for women and families (24 units for families or 44 beds)
  • Cleveland Housing Network Transitional for families (15 beds)
  • Triumph House for families 25 rooms for families (50 beds)
  • Domestic Violence Center (closed one shelter for families or single women) (40 beds)
  • Shelter for Mentally Ill Men at 1701 Payne (40 beds plus overflow)
  • Railton House transitional shelter for men closed last week (56 beds)
  • VOA Youth Transitional Shelter on Walton lost funding and will soon reduce size (20 beds lost)
  • Transitional Housing Inc changed to PSH was previously for single women (61 beds)
  • Templum House closed and merged with the DVC program (community saw loss of three actual Domestic Violence shelters for women and families to one) (8 beds lost)
  • Continue Life both transitional and emergency shelter for pregnant women (18 total beds) in two buildings.
  • Abdenour House for people with AIDS (5 beds).
  • Hitchcock Center stopped being a shelter and became a treatment program--must pay to stay (28 beds lost)
  • University Settlement had two transitional shelter building and were the first program lost locally. (18 beds)
  • Upstairs Program operated by Care Alliance for women with a mental illness (16 beds)

Total Beds lost 479 over last dozen years in Cleveland. We hope that Y-Haven will find the funding to continue and we will not lose those additional 113 beds.  On the positive side we got Zacchaeus House as a replacement for Family Transitional with the ability to serve 14 families in scattered sites and not fixed units that are owned by the agency.  The Salvation Army Women's shelter has room for more families (16 additional units).   We also have Seasons of Hope which is a small house that can serve about 4 to 6 women in a no questions asked facility.  So, we lost 479 beds and gained 35 beds for an overall net loss of 444 beds locally.  We did not lose that money from the federal government.  In fact, we have much more money going to housing for homeless people than we did in 2000.  This money goes to Permanent Supportive Housing (620 new fixed units and about 300 new housing vouchers) and the Rapid Rehousing program which provides three months of rental assistance to families. 

We have fundamentally changed how we serve homeless people in Cleveland from a temporary shelter bed system to a housing program. We lost other beds that were reserved for mentally ill people and addicted folks, but those were not really shelter beds.  This was the expectation pushed by HUD and dutifully implemented by Ruth Gillett at the County Office of Homeless Services. After all, they are the Department of Housing and Urban Development and not the Federal Shelter Department.   The problem with this strategy is that there are a lot of people who need the level of care that they get in shelter that they do not get by being placed into housing. The reality is that housing is much more expensive than shelter so you can only serve a fraction of the number you can serve in a congregate living facility. They claimed this was all based on research and economics, but these "consultants and experts" said the same thing when they brought the concept of transitional shelters to Cleveland in the 1980s. 

The HUD/Ruth Gillett strategy would have worked if the economy had recovered with more jobs available locally or if disability payments would allow people to pay for an apartment or if we were building more housing locally and rental costs were falling.  None of this happened and so we are at a point that there is only one place left for single women struggling with housing.  We have a system overwhelmed with families looking for a bed to the point that we have an overflow system for families.  We also saw a record number of homeless kids this last school year at the Cleveland Metro School District.  I am afraid we are moving back to the days when there are 60 guys sleeping on Superior Avenue.  If we loose the men's transitional programs, the shelters will become extremely overcrowded similar to what we saw in the 1990s in Cleveland. Or will we put time limits on shelters, open the basement of the welfare building or garage floors, or will we begin to turn people away on a daily basis?  Someone needs to fund temporary spaces for people struggling because they got kicked out by their spouse or parents.  Some agency needs to see the value of places for people to live as they recover from a major health issue.  Where do all the sexually based offenders live when they are branded with a scarlet letter for life?

Y-Haven had its issues, but was extremely valuable to the hundreds of men who need time to recover.  When a guy hits bottom and loses everything, he needs some time to get his life together and rejoin society.  The County and HUD are telling him, "too bad; sleep on the street for a period of time." It is tough to recover, take a shower, find a job, type a resume, recharge your phone all while sleeping on Superior. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
May052016

Women Speak Out About House of Payne

About a dozen women showed up and eight got up the courage to speak out about the treatment that they were receiving over at the shelter.  These brave women talked about the inability to get bed rest even for those with high risk pregnancy.  They talked about the inability to get food when the shelter runs out of food out of fear of being put in time out for bringing food into the facility.  They are upset over the services offered at the men's shelter and the lack of services at the men's shelter.  The women were angry about the disrepect shown them by the staff and the constantly changing rules.   We will have more on this hearing in the next few days.  Until then, the media has done a good job of covering this issue:

Council PresidentDan Brady was gracious in meeting with the women the day before the hearing and then talking to the women after the committee meeting.  He agreed to attend the Homeless Congress next week and asked for documents from County staff regarding the shelter.  We hope that this is the start of a conversation to force improvements at the "House of Payne."  It is long overdue for an overhaul.

The County should post the video from the hearing at this location http://council.cuyahogacounty.us///en-US/20160504HHSA.aspx.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Monday
May022016

Who You Gonna Call?

NEOCH is one of the last non-profits that actually has a human answering the phone as much as possible.  We get a ton of hangups, but we try to be available to answer questions in the community.  Since the shelters moved to a coordinated intake system even fewer places in the homeless social service system answer the phone.   We want to help, but for the most part there are only a few things we can help you with.

We do get some calls that are just people calling every single place possible hoping that they come across a guardian angel who will say, "We will give you rent to stay in your apartment come on down."  In Cleveland, this is as likely as calling around asking for a leprechaun to give up his pot of gold.  But most people are desperate for help so it is understandable.  Their world is collapsing around them and the phone is the only thing they have as a possible life saver. 

There is a trend among callers to say, "Hello, how are you doing?"  I know they are trying to be nice in the hopes that the person on the other line will offer the help they are looking for, but it is annoying.  They do not care how I am doing because I have said "terrible," or "rough" or any number of other responses and they just go forward and ignore your response.   Also, there are 23,000 homeless people, so we really don't have the time to chit chat about our issues.  We would prefer if you just ask the question so we can work on the 150 other things on our plate.   

Here are some reasons to call NEOCH (216/432-0540):

  1. If you see a homeless person that you are worried about and may need some outreach.  We will send an outreach staff person to come out to intervene. 
  2. If you are staying in a shelter or homeless service and need help filing a grievance or registering a complaint, give us a call. If you stay outside and feel you are being harassed or mistreated, please give us a call.
  3. If you are having any problems or have questions about voting for homeless people, give us a call.  If you need to know where to go to get mail or the address you should use as a homeless person to register to vote, call us.  If you are challenged at the polling place or get notification that your ballot may not count or were forced to vote by provisional ballot, give us a call. 
  4. If you work as an outreach worker and are calling for donated items, we love to hear from you.  Workers call for socks, tents, sleeping bags to see what is in stock. 
  5. Also, if you want to donate items to SocksPlus and need us to come downstairs to unload your car, feel free to call.
  6. If you have a public policy or advocacy issue that you want to talk to us about, we would love to hear from you.  If you want to ask why your family could stay together when they entered shelter or why do you have to give your social security number in order to get shelter, give us a call.
  7. If you want to volunteer for NEOCH, feel free to call and talk to Joyce.  If you want to volunteer with a direct service provider do not callGo to our website directly.
  8. If you want to sign up for one of our trainings or to get a login for the HousingCleveland website, feel free to call. 
  9. If you want to schedule a time for a formerly homeless individual to talk about their experience in moving out of homelessness with the Street Voices Program, please give Ken a call.
  10. The only job that we have is to sell the Street Newspaper.  Feel free to call Ken to set up a training in order to sell the paper. 

 Here are some areas that you might want to just go to our website and avoid calling.

  1. If you need a one page guide to local homeless services called the Street Card just go here to the website to print one out.  There is a vet street card, a family street card and even an easy to print card. 
  2. If you are confused about how to get into shelter in Cleveland and just need someone to explain it to you, here is a web page just for that purpose.  Or you can click the "Find Help" Button on the top of each page of the NEOCH Website. 
  3. If you want to find an old story from the Grapevine or the Chronicle, many but not all are on our website. 
  4. If you want to volunteer, it is probably easiest to go to our website to narrow down the choices.
  5. If you have questions about statistics and research, it is way easier to look at those on our website. 
  6. If you want to find available housing, it is best to look at Housing Cleveland.org for the 700 units that are available right now. 
  7. If you need a lawyer, we only have legal clinics out in the shelters.  You cannot call to get legal help anywhere.

These are reasons NOT to call NEOCH because we cannot help you!!!

  1. If you want to get in shelter, don't call!!!  Just go to 1736 Superior 2nd Floor.  There is no reason to call anyone, we cannot provide any information on the phone.  Every bed is assigned by Coordinated Intake on Superior and they cannot do that on the phone.
  2. If you need a referral to a social service provider or telephone number call 2-1-1 and not NEOCH.  We cannot help with this. 
  3. If you want rental assistance, we cannot help.  There are 55,000 people locally who need this kind of help, so you have a lot of people ahead of you. 
  4. If you need help to prevent an eviction call the Cleveland Tenants Organization, but please do not call NEOCH. 
  5. If you need help relocating to another community, please do not call NEOCH.  We do not want to see any more of a loss in the local population.  
  6. We do not have any jobs available except for the Street Newspaper.  No reason to call us.
  7. We do not give out donations directly from our office.  You have to get those from the outreach staff.  No reason to call NEOCH looking for donations. 
  8. We know that bus tickets are like gold in the homeless community.  There is no reason to call NEOCH or anywhere for a bus ticket--Gold is rarely given over the phone to a stranger.  Transportation is very expensive for low income and homeless people locally, we know that and you don't need to call us to remind us of this. 
  9. If you need utility assistance, don't call NEOCH.  There is a HEAP number to get an appointment and you can get that at 2-1-1. 

Wish that we could help more or that the County redesigned the Jobs and Family Services sites to be the one stop center for everyone struggling in the community.  This could increase confidence in government or show people that government can help.  We are at an all time low in confidence in government and this could help.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.