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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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Thursday
Feb132014

Permanent Supportive Housing Featured on WCPN

David C. Barnett had a nice story on WCPN yesterday regarding the new permanent supportive housing projects.  We appreciated hearing from a resident "Joan" who lived at one of the apartments.  We know many people who have been on the streets for years living in these properties.   We have a former vendor who has a huge issue with alcohol living in the Broadway neighborhood.   His former residence was a tent next to the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. 

We have 560 units now in Cleveland spread out throughout the community.  These buildings are turning desolate and deserted corners of town into vibrant neighborhoods.   These apartments are great for a group of people in our community who need the help.   The staff go out of their way to keep evictions down and work with the men and women.  This is part of the 100,000 units campaign featured on 60 Minutes over the weekend.   We have a friend of the Coalition who slept in a box car over near 2100 Lakeside Shelter for years.  He would come to our meeting and rail against the shelters and services.  He complained about staff mistreatment and stupid rules that the shelters implemented.  He got into one of the first housing units and took his loud voice to establishing a tenant council in the building.  He has prospered over in the building and seems to be doing well.   It was exactly what he needed. 

These are all beautiful buildings and in Cleveland we have opted for new construction for most of the Permanent Supportive Housing.   They are great places to live and wonderful examples of what we can do as a society to improve the lives of homeless people.  We should be proud that we have done a great job in targeting these units to the people who have been on the street the longest.  It should be obvious, but Irene Collins' words are exactly on target,

"It’s much less expensive than having someone out on the streets where any doctor appointment would be at the emergency room, or checked into a psych rehab hospital, which is very, very costly.  The cost of keeping someone in a shelter is a whole lot more than the cost of keeping someone in some kind of permanent housing situation where they are a lot more stable."

My concern is that these units are being over sold.  They will not end homelessness.  They are not a silver bullet, and I am not sure it is good idea to exclude so many who could benefit from these services.  There are many large families that are going to cost the community millions of dollars if they spend a long period of time homeless, but the PSH programs are reserved for single adults at this time.   They will not even replace one shelter bed in Cleveland.   We have as society neglected affordable housing for 30 years so the 560 units will not have much of an impact on homelessness.  We have lost 10,000 units locally from neglect and properties falling down from age.  We need to develop 1,000 units a year for the next 10 years and we could start closing the shelters.  Remember when they opened the CMHA Housing Voucher waiting list in 2011, 64,000 unduplicated people tried to get on the list in Cleveland. 

We also have to remember the high cost of the PSH units for the future.  We have to pay for the supportive services and the 24 hours of staff care provided for tenants in the building.   We need to pay most of the rent for these individuals for probably the rest of their lives.  They will most likely make somewhere between $0 per month to around $700 for disability assistance.  This means that 50-100% of the tenants rent will need to be picked up by the government for the rest of their life.   These are expensive for the community to operate and we do not have a dedicated revenue source for the rent and support services. 

Finally, there are those who keep saying that these projects save the community money.  This is true, but it does not save the shelters any money.  It saves law enforcement, health care providers, mental health community, and hunger programs money.   It is much cheaper to house 400 people in a dorm room with a few staff to watch them when compared to the maintenance and case management for an apartment building.  Walls and privacy adds costs to any project.   The problem is that the hospitals, jails and mental health agencies are not going to take the savings and turn it over to the homeless programs.  They are going to spend the savings of the 570 people currently in the PSH on other poor people.  MetroHealth is not going to reward 2100 Lakeside shelter with the $50,000 they saved on our friend who lived in the box car from his frequent trips to the emergency room every year.  They are going to spend it on the other 100,000 poor people they see every year. 

Housing First is a great concept with some wonderful properties, but there are plenty of families, veterans, young people who could benefit from being in these units but do not qualify.  Even though families are the fastest growing population in the community, they do not typically qualify for these beautiful apartments. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Feb132014

National Updates on Homelessness

Barb Poppe Stepping down at InterAgency Council

Our friend, Barb Poppe, from Columbus Ohio former shelter director and current US InterAgency Council on Homelessness has announced that she will step down next month.  She is the wife of COHHIO Director, Bill Faith and was the coordinator of funding in Columbus Ohio for years.  The InterAgency Council publishes reports on homelessness and was the first agency to push a housing first strategy.  They also have a really nice newsletter.  Barb put her stamp on the agency by focusing on the rise in family homelessness and beginning to talk about the problem of youth homelessness.  The InterAgency Council is supposed to work with all the federal departments (Social Security, HHS, HUD, Labor and others) that may have cross agency concerns with homeless people.  For example, Social Security not giving out printouts is going to make it difficult for homeless people to get ID which makes it difficult to access entitlements and health care.  The USIAC is looking into the problem that privately funded shelters are having with coordinated intake in Cleveland. 

Surplus Military Property Available in Sandusky

Federal law requires that military surplus property be offered to homeless programs before being sold.  This is rather a dubious law since military bases are rarely in the heart of an urban city where there are large numbers of homeless people.  But it is the law, and NEOCH receives notices of federal surplus property.  This year it is the Rye Beach Pumping Station on Columbus Ave. in Sandusky Ohio 44870.   It is GSA Control Number 1-Z-OH-598-2-AB or HUD number 52401410002 if you want to claim it for a homeless program in Sandusky Ohio.  How you would turn a 6,424 square foot pumping building and 60K of water piping into anything useful for people without housing is difficult to imagine?  The property was listed in the federal register and is available through the General Services Administration in Chicago until March 10.  Good luck and please invite us to the grand opening of the pumping station/homeless shelter.  We would love some pictures of that. 

Justice Department Urges States to Forgive Felons And Allow them to Vote

Attorney General Eric Holder is reaching out to ask the States to restore voting rights to those felons who have paid their debt to society.  Kentucky and Virginia never allow a felon to vote.  Those released from incarceration and probation are stripped of their rights for the rest of their life.  Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming force the individual to beg and plead with the state to restore their voting rights.   There is an estimated 5 million Americans who need to move to a state that forgive and allow people to move on.  I have never understood why we have a national election for President, and we allow each state to do their own thing when it comes to electing the Commander and Chief.  Why can some states disenfranchise felons?  Why can some states require burdensome proof that poor people cannot produce?  Why do some states (Florida, I am speaking of you) make students and old people wait for three hours to vote?  Why do some states allow same day registration and others allow voting by mail?  How is this a fair system?  Holder said about the felons:

"By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes," Holder said during a speech at a criminal justice reform event hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday.

Psychiatric Drugs and Medicaid

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is asking the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to not implement the changes to Medicare Part D.  NAMI alleges that this will make it difficult to get anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications.  The changes will take these drugs off the preferred list of drugs, and may limit their usage in 2015.  NAMI has put a petition together to oppose these changes.   Here is the link.

National Coalition for the Homeless on Bitter Cold

National Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director, Jerry Jones, was on the NPR Program Tell Me More about the extreme weather and its impact on homelessness.  Unfortunately, news reports have identified 10 homeless people died because of the extreme cold weather.   Jones did a good job explaining the hardships faced by the population; the folly of making it illegal to curl up in a doorway; and the strange concept of figuring out how cold it should be before opening an "overflow" or cold weather shelter.  Some cities say 40 degrees or 32 degrees or 20 degrees before they open an winter shelter, which makes it difficult for those without housing to adjust to the winter.  I have advocated that every city in the United States should provide shelter to everyone who shows up for help like we do in Cleveland.  If you are a tax payer in the richest country in the history of the world and you lose your housing, your government should offer you a warm place inside.  Think of the madness in many cities which close the shelters when they get to a certain number and the temperature outside is 34 degrees. Then the law enforcement arm of the city go out and arrest the person who could not find a bed and instead is sleeping on the doors of a religious organization.  This is America in 2014.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Feb102014

A Few Quick Updates

CWRU Civic Engagement Conference and Learning Center along with the InterReligious Task Force on Central America had their 14th Annual Teach In conference on a cold snowy day in February.  I was one of the presenters regarding homelessness in Cleveland.  It was amazing how many students came out to participate.  Sarah Kalloch of Oxfam and Dr. Rhonda Williams of CWRU Social Justice Institute were the two keynote speakers for the conference.  

100,000 Homes Campaign was featured on 60 Minutes on Sunday February 9.  It was a nice piece on the savings for the community in providing housing before wasting time with services.  Check it out if you did not see it.  The problem is that 100,000 homes are not going to make a dent in the need.  We have neglected affordable housing for 30 years, 100,000 homes is not going do much for the community.  Don't get me wrong these are beautiful buildings in Cleveland that have everything the population needs.  It is just not enough and it takes too long to develop. If we were developing 100,000 new units with support services every year, we would start seeing a reduction in emergency services.  At the end of the day this summer of 2014, we will reach the 100,000 homes magic number.  Then what?   We will not have closed any shelter and the cities will be stuck with the long term cost of supporting these buildings and the disabled residents living inside. 

Golden Week is probably dead this week.  It looks like the State legislature is going to kill the week that allows homeless people to register and vote at the same time.  It is far enough before the election that the eligibility of the voter can be determined.  It is perfect for people who move frequently such as homeless people and it makes it easy to kill two birds with one shot.  I do not know why state officials do not want to make it easier for people to vote.  I do not see the harm or the potential fraud when a voter is allowed to register and vote at the same time.  This vote to kill Golden Week can only be considered a voter suppression activity. 

Long Term Unemployed Still Without Help.  It is now 41 days since the long term unemployed were kicked off the benefit program.  This is the time that the renters will start seeing evictions because they cannot afford their housing.  This is the time that they will start seeing financial emergencies, and one of our own Senators voted down the proposal to extend benefits for the next three months.  We found a way to keep supporting big farms and certain pet projects in the Farm bill, but we can't help out-of-work Americans struggling to avoid homelessness?

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Feb072014

Social Security Delays Changes

Since the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices do not seem to have access to the internet or the E-verify system, we have no idea how they are going to deal with this problem of the Social Security Administration not providing a print out.  This is a huge problem for homeless people which are regularly having their important documents taken or they get lost with all the movement in and out of housing and shelter.  We are still waiting for a response from the Ohio BMV. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Feb052014

Housekeeping on the Website

On this cold wintry day in Cleveland, we have made some changes in the website.  We posted Don's message about the Street Voices program on the front of our website.  We moved the Homeless Memorial Video to the In Memoriam page of our website.   Brent has created a channel for NEOCH on You Tube here, which has four videos currently available. 

Allison and William staffing the NEOCH table at the Stand Down

We have added a gallery of pictures from the Homeless Stand Down 2014.  We know that over 1,400 people attended the Stand Down this year despite the horrible snow storm on January 25, 2014.  We will have more information next week from Handson NEO.  We know that over 200 veterans attended and there were some 44 social service providers.  We will have a different gallery available in the upcoming Street Chronicle coming out in the next week or so.  

We have also added the archive from Issue 20.4 of the Street Chronicle which was on the streets in the fall of 2013.  Check out the dozen articles from the Street Chronicle or any of the Grapevine/Chronicle archive.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.