Find Help

Follow us on Twitter
Hope for the Homeless

Donate to NEOCH

About NEOCH

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.

The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event
Friday
Feb102017

Fair Housing Rights of People in Shelter

            Discrimination is a serious issue that can be heightened in vulnerable populations. Until recently, there were no explicitly stated laws citing the rights of the homeless. During the Obama administration, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development took a much broader interpretation of what constitutes a residential setting.  They began looking at shelters as residential facilities and therefore had to abide by the federal fair housing laws.  NEOCH worked with the local fair housing Center, Housing Research and Advocacy Center to put together a brochure for homeless people to use to assert their rights.    Examples of discrimination regarding housing can include rejecting a person from housing opportunities, denying them housing, and segregating people within a facility. Identifying the available resources for reporting discrimination grievances is an important step in overcoming barriers associated with homelessness.

            Sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity, and religion are all protected classes under federal law. Within each class, specific acts mandate actions that housing providers cannot take against a person simply based on who they are. For example, the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) protects women against violence and stalking, including while they are living in public-assisted housing. This act is an incredible safeguard for women because it relieves them from a constant fear of danger. In some cases, this may help protect them from the reasons they became homeless in the first place. Factors qualifying individuals as having a disability are also very important to be understood. These range from mental illness to cancer to HIV/AIDS. Housing providers including shelters cannot use these as reasons to turn a person away and an individual can press charges if there is evidence that a provider was attempting to violate these rights. Related to disabilities, it is illegal to reject a service animal from living in a home with the owner including in a shelter.

        While housing providers can ask for proof of the need for a service animal, requiring “pet deposits” or refusing an animal for some other reason is unacceptable. There have been situations in the past where a service animal was considered a “pet” by a housing provider and, therefore, the service animal and the person were rejected. In these circumstances, it is essential for the person facing discrimination to know their rights and to know the laws.  This brochure and webpage should help homeless people know their rights. 

            Fair housing is a fundamental right, regardless of a person’s background that was a cornerstone of the Civil Rights acts of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This brochure that was recently published outlines how shelters need to respect the fair housing rights of homeless people.  This includes service animals, protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, and protecting against sexual harassments.  If you feel you have experienced discrimination, follow the steps to filing a fair housing complaint. This brochure gives contact information for agencies who can offer assistance if you feel your rights were violated.  The Housing Center has over the previous four years worked to protect the rights of homeless people who felt their rights were violated.  We will have hard copies of these brochures available to distribute in the near future.  Right now there is a link at the bottom of the webpage to print out and make copies of. 

by Kelly the Intern

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Feb092017

Another Update about Women's Shelter

Today was the Homeless Congress meeting which is our monthly check in with homeless people.  We had a pretty full crowd with 30 homeless and formerly homeless people and a number of social service providers.  We had the County staff presentation as well as County Councilman Dale Miller attending the meeting to watch.  Ramona will have a fuller picture on the meeting when when she finishes the notes especially the discussion about timelimits for the shelter. 

The big issue was the contract currently being considered by the County over management of the Women's Shelter.  There are two competing proposals to administer the Women's Shelter.  Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services answered many questions about the process.  She said that there was a County representative, two members of Ohio Jobs and Family Services, City of Cleveland, ADAMHS Board representation, United Way, and a local foundation who will make the decision over the next few weeks.  There was some concern expressed by some residents or former residents about the fairness of the process.  They questioned Gillett about the makeup of the committee and will these individuals be able to see past what is written on paper to what is or has gone on at the shelter for the past 10 years. 

We have documented the many problems expressed by the women over the last few years.  We have laid out potential solutions, but we are clear that NEOCH believes that there needs to be a change in providers.  Frontline Services is a fine organization that we work with closely on outreach and management of most of the permanent supportive housing programs, but we believe that they do not understand how to administer an entry shelter for single women.  It just has not worked and the length of stay and overall rise in the numbers of women at the facility shows the extent of the problem with the existing social service provider.  The women are stuck and there is no where to go.  NEOCH's only goal here is to make sure that conditions improve for single women who find themselves without housing.  We believe that the County needs to look for a new provider, new ideas, and a new strategy for providing a quality service to homeless women. 

I expressed reservations to the residents of the shelter in arguing balls and strikes about the process or the umpires who will decide who gets the contract at the Homeless Congress meeting. The County did give more time for the applications and gave extra time for any transition that might take place which were requested by both the women living at the shelter and by NEOCH.  The County has tried to set up a fair process that gives both sides an equal shot at the contract.  We should not question the independence or impugn the integrity of those who will make the decision on who will run the shelter.   These are all people who spend much of their days looking at proposals and ferreting out quality programs in grant requests.  In my opinion, anyone working or who had previous experience with homelessness would be biased and would have good or bad experiences with specific staff or one of the programs seeking funds.  It would be like putting an employee of a guy standing trial for theft in the jury pool.   We trust the process and hope that committee sees the need for a change locally.  

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Feb082017

Women's Shelter Update

Thanks to Joe Pagonakis from WEWS Newsnet5 for highlighting the rough time the women are having at the shelter.  It is ironic that on the night of this report there were 215 women sleeping in the shelter, which is far higher than the 170 beds and the number of meals ordered.  There are far too many women in the building.  There are far too many sleeping on mats on the floor.  There are far too many women stuck with no where to go.  There was a tour of the shelter yesterday by some important people we heard.  The women who spoke yesterday to Joe at Newsnet5 said that there are some really good staff who help the women, but the majority are horrible.  The women said that they do not feel safe.  They hate the food.  They talked about how it took six months of being there before they got a case worker assigned to help with housing. 

All the women voiced their support of a new shelter staff and a new agency coming in to operate the shelter.  60 women signed a petition in support of West Side Catholic Center to oversee the shelter.  There were many women afraid to speak up or who tried to respond to the survey that was shown in the Channel 5 piece but were warned by staff not complete the survey or they would be punished.  The Homeless Coalition supports a new provider operating the shelter.  We have tried to push for a change, but the bottom line is that there is an entrenched staff who are not helping the women move forward.  We need to clean house as a community, and bring in new ideas and new strategies for serving women.

 

Support letter removed at the request of the author. 

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
Feb072017

Women's Shelter Up For Bid

We have not talked much about this over the last two months, because we have actively been working on finding an alternative to Frontline Services running the Community women's shelter on Payne Ave.  We have regularly posted all the problems at the shelter here.  A handful of brave women stepped forward last year to testify about the conditions at the shelter in the first of its kind hearing at the County Council.  Last year, the Cuyahoga County Council fulfilled a promise by requiring the Office of Homeless Services to open up the contracting to other social service providers.  Then they extended the deadline when the first announcement only gave three weeks to complete the massive application.  So, the County accepted two proposals last week to run the women's shelter.  One from Frontline Services and the other from West Side Catholic.  This will silence the criticism we heard last year that no one else bid on the contract.  Here is what Councilwoman Conwell said back at the May hearing,

Just for the audience to know, no one else bid on the contract which means that no one else wants to do this work. So, as we move forward as a community, we must also keep that in mind we don’t want to ever get in a situation that, that we don’t have anyone that wants to provide that work. Not saying that we can’t work together to fix the issues that occur in any household.

NEOCH staff worked to convince West Side Catholic of the value of administering the Women's Shelter and then to respond to the request for proposal.  We also convinced Metanoia to partner on this project as well. They bring their non violence and conflict resolution efforts to the collaboration.  They also have strong ties in the community and can operate an overflow system effectively.   West Side Catholic is one of the finest programs in the homeless community.  Women go all across town to be able to spend time in the drop in center to be able to get involved in the many programs they offer.  West Side Catholic has operated a shelter for women and families since the early 1980s, and have a positive relationship with the homeless population in Cleveland.  NEOCH is supporting the West Side Catholic application and hope that they will change the atmosphere over at the last shelter in Cleveland reserved for single women.  Here is the letter of support from a few members of the Cleveland City Council in support of West Side Catholic.

 

 

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Feb042017

January Homeless Congress Meeting Notes

January 12, 2017 Homeless Congress Notes

This was the first meeting of the year and there were new potential members in attendance.  The purpose of the Homeless Congress was explained to new members.  The agenda was introduced for approval and then upcoming events were announced. 

Brian Davis let the members know about the upcoming Stand Down this weekend and where it will be held.  They were informed that there will be transportation to and from the event.  The members wanted to know if they needed to have ID to get in.  They were informed that only the Veterans will need ID to get the services reserved for the Veterans. 

Other events and meetings were announced.  One is the Immigrant/Refugee Welcome to Cleveland Dinner that will be held on January 20, 2017 at St. Colman Catholic Church.  Everyone was invited.  They were also informed that the Central Kitchen meeting will be on January 23, 2017. 

Ruth Gillett spoke next and gave an update on the Rapid Re-Housing Program.  The Rapid Re-Housing is a new program for singles.  Ann, from Eden, said the program will start in the next two weeks.  She informed them that the applicants being considered at this time for the singles program will need an income.  The staff from the shelters are being trained about the program, and how to select clients eligible for the project.

Ann went on to explain how the program works.  Once the applicant is referred, they will meet with a Housing Locator and go over any in information that is needed to secure housing.  Then, the Housing Locator and the Shelter Case Manager will work on things like utility assistance, evictions, tenant education and other information to assist to maintain housing.  One of the members said it should be made clear that the applicant needs to meet with their case manager, not just any staff.

Members were also informed that anyone in the other shelters will also be able to apply and they were encouraged to consider having a roommate.  But, it is still best for both participants have an income.  It was made clear that the person eligible must have some income.

 The next topic was time limits for the shelters.  Forty days was suggested.  Ruth wanted more feedback on time limits.  At the men’s shelter, residents have other programs to go to such as transitional shelters.  This is not the case for single women.    

The other problem brought up by the members was that many of the shelter staff are not respectful of the clients or residents.  One of the other members commented that if there are going to be time limits it would only be fair to have staff that will be able to assist in housing.  There was discussion about the quality or knowledge of staff to be able to refer people to stable housing, employment, getting disability, etc.  It would be unfair to set up a time limit if staff are not trained in their jobs to be able to make proper referrals for the clients at some shelters.   Will this policy result in more and more people sleeping on the streets of Cleveland?

 Davis distributed a part of President Obama’s farewell address to make the point that a small group of people can make changes.  He made suggestions on how Homeless Congress members can and have made changes in the homeless community.  The Congress went over the Priority List of items including the Tiny Homes, redoing shelter standards and protecting laws to keep landlords from discriminating against voucher holders, finding shelter space for mentality challenged residents, and addressing the Homeless Bill of Rights.  There were six options suggested and there was a request for additional items from the members.

Finding space for mental health residents was chosen as the top priority for Homeless Congress in 2017.   There was overwhelming consensus that this was the biggest problem facing homeless people in Cleveland.  They felt severely mentally ill people were being exploited by other residents or physically harmed to say nothing for the disturbances and problems caused by un-medicated individuals who do not do well in an environment of a high concentration of people. 

Staff invited many elected officials to the next meeting on February 9, 2017 at the Cosgrove Center at 1:30 p.m. in the St. Peter’s Room.  This is the best venue to speak directly to homeless people, and politicians are welcome to attend.

 By Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.