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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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Sunday
Oct122014

CWRU Students Sue City of Akron over Homeless Policies

The City of Akron has never been good about taking care of homeless people.  They have the worst laws for panhandlers in the State of Ohio.  They have very few shelter options and they do not guarantee access to a shelter bed.  This means that if the shelters are full, homeless people must sleep on the streets.  Last week, we found out from a group of CWRU student law students that Akron Police were moving homeless people out and then throwing away their valuables. 

Eleven homeless people living outside in Akron allege that the Akron Police were stealing and discarding valuables from homeless people.  The lawsuit claims that the Akron Police under the direction of City officials would raid their campsites and then throw away tents, clothing, medicine directly to the City landfill.

The Akron Police claim that they did give proper notice and that most of the items taken were drug paraphernalia and other contraband.  According to the Plain Dealer, the police claim that they acted properly.  Personal property is held in high regard in the State of Ohio, and so government has to go to great lengths to hold personal property in a secure manner.  A person can go to prison for 25 years and government must keep their property safe and return it to them upon release.  To dispose of forgotten property governments must issue a public notice and provide sufficient time to retrieve these items.  A landlord must ask the court to dispose of a tenant's belongings if they disappear.  The lawsuit claims that the City government did not secure their belongings after confiscating them, and the personal property was taken directly to the trash. 

In nearly every case going through the courts, when a City throws away the belongings of homeless people they have to pay. I know that in Miami, Chicago and a number of cities in California were all forced to compensate homeless people for the loss of their valuables.  I can't see how this is going to end any differently for the City of Akron.  In Cleveland, we fought this all through the 1990s with settlements that provided homeless people $3,000 for picking them up and dumping them on the outskirts of town, and then we settled on an agreement between the City and homeless people in 2000 in a case called Key vs. City of Cleveland that police will not harrass homeless people living outside for purely innocent behavior.

The bigger issue for residents of Akron is that when cities start targeting homeless people we see an increase in hate crimes against the population.  When government gives the go-ahead to treat homeless people as lesser citizens, there are disturbed people who take that signal as open season on torturing, attacking and becoming violent with fragile people living outside.  Unfortunately, these are mostly young people who terrorize people living under bridges or in abandoned property.  We know that these laws and police sweeps lead to feelings of betrayal and abandonment by the population and it only keeps people homeless for a longer period of time.  This will not reduce the population, but will do the opposite.  We explore what Akron should do to reduce the number of people sleeping outside in a future post.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Post Script:  The CWRU Observer did a good summary of the case published this last week.  (One note, Brian is no longer Executive Director of NEOCH.  He is a community organizer, but the story is still sound.)

Friday
Oct102014

Hope House Cuts Ribbon on First Home Given Away

Last night, the City Mission, Church on the Rise and the Land Bank cut the ribbon on a new project called Hope House.  This is a partnership to provide homes to families coming out of Laura's Home who are ready for the responsibility of owning a home.  City Mission manages the Laura's Home family homeless shelter and found a property worth saving from the Cuyahoga Land Bank.  They went to Church on the Rise to provide the funding and volunteer base to make this project work. 

Michelle (pictured here on her new back porch) and her five kids will be moving into the property.  She has seven children with two adult children living on their own.  Michelle was beaming last night showing off the work that she did on the house.  She has put in the sweat equity with the other members of the congregation to help put this house together.  She helped scrape off old paint and cleaned up the backyard.  She carried building materials and assisted all the craftsmen who helped put this house back together.   There were so many who donated materials and labor in order to return this dilapidated house that will help with the effort to heal this neighborhood.

Councilman Tony Brancatelli said that he was honored to be at the ribbon cutting, and Gus Frangos of the Land Bank said that this is the exact project that the Land Bank was created to do.  Both felt that Michelle was going to be a wonderful neighbor as she has overcome so many obstacles to get to this place.  WEWS-TV5 attended the festivities and interviewed Michelle.  It was an uplifting day to see a family move from the shelter into a renovated house.  It has new windows, fresh paint, a new porch, brand new floors and a newly renovated kitchen. The house was cut up and beat up and eventually abandoned.  Michelle will raise her family in this beautiful home after a slight interruption of instability.  They are right on a busline in a recovering neighborhood.  People brought welcome baskets from throughout the community.  They brought food and towels and household items to welcome her to the neighborhood.

This is a new venture for the City Mission called Hope House and we hope that this is the first of many similiar projects to move families back into housing.  It is a great project that is the subject of almost every gathering of homeless people.  "Why can't we rebuild all those abandoned properties in the community to reduce the homeless population," is what we hear at almost every meeting of more than three homeless people.   This house is the answer to those questions.  It takes a partnership between the homeless providers, government, and religious organizations to make this work.  We hope that more churches and synagogues will step forward to help.  Congratulations to Michelle and the staff of City Mission for making this work.  Thanks to the the Church on the Rise Congregation led by Pastor Paul for stepping forward to be the first congregation to purchase the house and contribute the volunteers. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Oct092014

Guest Post: City Mission Official Gives Other Side of Housing First 

A New Class of Chronically Homeless?

by Rich Trickel, CEO of the City Mission in Cleveland.

On September 16, 2014, Northeast Ohio Media Group published the article “Housing First Opens Newest Apartments in Work to End Homelessness” by reporter Tom Feran. Certainly this is cause for celebration—the new building with its 65 subsidized studio apartments will be a godsend to some chronically homeless individuals. Furthermore, the article goes on to say that as a result of the last 8 years of housing first in Cleveland, chronic homelessness has been reduced by 73%! Since the reality on the ground where I am isn’t even close to that claim, I tried to find out where that stat come from and how it was calculated. How can a city whose shelters are currently overwhelmed with homeless families state that chronic homelessness has decreased by 73%?

The first clue in understanding the dramatic claims made by housing first advocates is to understand the meaning of “chronic homelessness.” HUD has segmented the homeless into categories, assigned definitions, and focused their strategy and therefore, their resources on only one group – chronically homeless. To be chronically homeless you are an unaccompanied homeless person (single, alone, not part of a family, not accompanied by children); with a diagnosable substance abuse disorder, a serious mental illness, or a developmental disability; and have been continuously homeless for a year or more, or have had 4 episodes of homelessness in the last 3 years. To put this in perspective, there are approximately 600,000 homeless individuals in the US on any given night; only 20% will qualify as chronically homeless. So the primary strategy set by the government to eliminate homelessness, the strategy that is being embraced by almost every major metropolitan area, is only focused on 20% of all homeless people. Furthermore, the largest growing segment of the homeless - women & children, do not fit the definition and are therefore not counted and not able to access the resources dedicated to the chronically homeless.

It’s also helpful to understand how a statistic like a 73% reduction in chronic homelessness was even computed—not by a careful day-by-day count of all homeless, but by a single count on a single night in January. This is called the Annual Point In Time Count. Then, based on that single night comparison over time, the claim – a  73% reduction—is made. Can a single count on one cold January night accurately represent anything?

And there’s another problem. Not only is the majority of energy and attention focused on this small segment of the homeless, but most available resources are as well. In Cleveland, the majority of dollars provided to battle homelessness have been spent on permanent supportive housing – housing only available to the designated chronically homeless. Because of this, a number of facilities serving homeless women and children have been forced to close, resulting in the growing numbers of homeless women and children. And it’s not just happening in Cleveland – Washington DC is bracing for a 16% increase in family homelessness this winter, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance is reporting a 60% increase in homeless families over the last few years and a 108% increase in unaccompanied homeless kids and the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention in Indianapolis reports a 19% increase in family homelessness.

It’s time to take a long hard look. Are we unintentionally creating a new class of chronically homeless individuals – women and children as a result of the current housing first policy? When confronted with the reality most cities are facing right now, why do we continue to insist housing first is the only effective strategy to ending homelessness? How long will we ignore the growing numbers of homeless women and children flooding our cities?

Rich Trickel, CEO of the City Mission, can be reached at 216/287-9187.  We welcome comments to this post by clicking on the "Post a Comment" below this journal entry. Note that Cuyahoga County Officials and the Housing First Initiative were invited to submit a response.

Guest posts reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily of NEOCH.

Wednesday
Oct082014

Early Voting Has Begun! Call Us for Rides to the Polls

Tuesday
Oct072014

You Can Volunteer for the Hand Up Gala

Do you want to help in one of the most unique events in our community?  On October 17th 2014, the Hand Up Gala will provide a fantastic meal to homeless and hungry people in our community? We need you to reserve your space to volunteer for the Hand Up Gala.  The event is at the Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center, and we need help serve a gourmet luncheon for 225 individuals experiencing homelessness in Greater Cleveland!

This year has been a year of celebration, as Catholic Charities-Bishop William M. Cosgrove Center commemorates twenty years of "Providing Help and Creating Hope" for some of the most vulnerable of our community. Throughout the year, there has been several functions honoring 20 years of service. The final event will be the Hand Up Gala, which is a gourmet luncheon for those individuals experiencing homelessness in Greater Cleveland.

Your help is needed to make this event a success! We are looking for volunteers to assist at this event as a host/hostess, server, or at the refreshment center. We have two volunteer shifts: 10:00 A.M.-12:30 P.M. and 11:30 A.M.-2:00 P.M. If you are interested in volunteering at this wonderful event please email Sierra Young at sxyoung@clevelandcatholiccharitites.org by October 10,2014. We have invited elected officials (not currently on the ballot) and media personalities to also help with this event.  Thank you in advance for your consideration to help with this event!

By Sarah

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.