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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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Tuesday
May132014

What is Happening in the United States Around Homelessness?

I attended the National Coalition for the Homeless meeting in April.  Here are some of the things that I heard.  Our two members from Florida were not able to attend, but Florida is still working on stupid laws to restrict access to food.  These are general notes.  You can go to the specific state/community for more information or contact the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Thanks to Gloria for typing up these notes.

Local Reports

Illinois: Working on events around the 20th anniversary Homeless Education Law which was the foundation of McKinney Vinto Homeless Kids Act.  Trying to get $3 million from State Legislature to serve the huge rise in homeless kids in the Illinois school districts since 2009: 26,000 to 55,000 kids in the last full school year.

Mass/NH:  Advocates are doing a lot with hunger and homelessness in New England.  There were 50,000 Kids in Massachusetts schools in the last school year.  They are working on a Children’s Bill of Rights law for the state.

Austin, Texas: No Hate Crimes to report.  The City is mostly in compliance with no sit ordinance. Working on developing permanent supportive housing and constructing a manufactured home area to keep people out of the shelters.  Developing a strategy of “no dischargers to homelessness.”  City is focusing on preventing homelessness.

Minnesota: 6% increase in numbers of homeless families.  Affordability of housing continues to be a problem.  The City of Duluth passed Homeless Bill of Rights.  Developing housing in communities for those disadvantaged because of low credit scores. Want to try to rehab the large number of foreclosed properties.  Working on a minimum wage increase and a second chance re-entry ACT.

Sacremento CA: Homeless Bill of Rights put on hold in the State.  The funding for the Housing Trust Fund lost in legislature.  The City is building a new arena – 70 construction jobs to homeless people, but on the negative side there will be six single room occupancy buildings lost or 75 total units of affordable housing lost. The City is considering aggressive panhandling ordinance in the next month.  There was money allocated for the Safe Ground to assist with keeping the space clean and removing trash unfortunately the members are fracturing and need to regroup.  The number of homeless children in the schools has tripled in the last few years now at 250,000 student in California.  Sacramento did a really intensive Homeless Death study used and is now being used by nurses to improve outcomes.

Georgia: Legislative session is a Biblically short 40 days.  They passed even stricter voting charges that make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote. A NYC Mayor  Bloomberg funded group is in Atlanta planning around homelessness and housing.  This despite the fact that homeless family numbers exploded in NYC during the Bloomberg administration because he eliminated affordable housing funding.  It seems that a private equity group has been purchasing subsidized housing and may be interested in converting it to something else.  The main shelter in Atlanta continues its legal struggle against the City of Atlanta and other community leaders who have shifted funding for homeless services resulting in huge losses of shelter beds.

South Carolina: There are no State or local dollars going to homelessness--only dollars is from HUD Continuum of Care funding at $9 million. Tried to get rental assistance in state but that was killed in the legislature.  The state charges $50 for a person to get ID if they are coming out of jail.   There is a lot of interest in homelessness and housing, but no political will to do anything about the situation. 

Louisiana: Redevelopment of a nursing home for affordable housing has taken years because of opposition by local government.  They have been in court for years and the people who want to redevelop the property have continually won, but the project has still not happened.  The Justice Dept came in to investigate and found why the City of New Orleans has continually violated the law to redevelop this property.  The State has punished the city for not developing the property and not being in compliance, but the City has not backed down and seem to not care about homelessness and remains opposed to the development.

What is going on in the Nation’s Capital?   War on Poverty brought up a lot of discussion on the merits of the food stamp, Medicare, and other 1960s era legislation.  The right wing is saying that all the programs have failed on want to block grant all the programs to the States to develop 50 different laboratories for how to deal with poverty.  They insist that there is too much focus on inequality instead of economic opportunities available to Americans.  It looks like the House Tax Reform efforts are dead, and it seems a long shot that immigration reform will happen.  There is some light on Sentencing Reform with the Justice Department proposing commuting the sentences of a number of the 100,000 people held for long prison sentences for federal drug offences.  They are reviewing clemency decisions and there will be small number who have their sentences commuted under limited circumstances.  This President has been the least generous President on clemency in modern history.  There is some Congressional interest in sentencing reform because of the huge amount of money we spend on incarceration.   There is a bill that would ban receipt of food stamps for life for any ex-offender and no Federal Housing benefits.

New York City: Bad news because of the huge numbers of families asking for shelter-- 53,000 homeless families each night with 22,000 children – highest number in American history.  400,000 apartments lost – lower income families saw their housing disappear over the last five years.  New administration has completely changing course. Recognized the deplorable conditions within some of the shelters and are trying to move families out of these facilities.  Plan to put 6,000 homeless families into housing.  Need state resources, which is a problem because the legislature is pretty dysfunctional.  They will introduce a new affordable housing plan in the next week.  The bad news is that Bill Bratton was appointed Police commissioner.  He has not been good to low income and minority members in his previous jobs.  He is working on stepped up enforcement of panhandling on subway.  The did stop the “Stop and frisk policy" which the court and the new administration declared discriminatory.   NY is working on new ID opportunity for immigrants. 

Boston/Massachusetts: Good Mayor for housing elected in Boston and there is a Lame Duck governor finishing up his term for this year.  They continue to see growth of those living in shelters/motel homeless who are receiving some kind of assistance.  They are looking for funding for care for people leaving a mental health or behaviorial health institution.  They are a laboratory for the new ACA healthcare access & resources integrated care must include housing, must be important part of the diversion gap.

Indiana: No Statewide Coalition yet.  Local police & mental health partnered to figure out when is it appropriate to arrest.  Food and shelter programs being harassed and shut down across the state.  Concern that there is a real disconnect in HUD saying numbers down and communities saying there is a rise in homeless families.  Many shelters lost public money and now are exclusively funded by private sources.  They have no incentive to collaborate or be a part of coordinated intake.  Shelters are still dying in our communities.  They are having issues with the Complete count numbers by HUD done in January throughout the United States.  

Arkansas: Problems with shelters numbers going up but funding for the shelters going down because of changes in definition of who is homeless that has shown a decrease in need.   They did shoot down a voter registration law.

Washington state:  There is a threat to the dedicated revenue source that provides rental assistance.  Because of state budget issues they want to take funding from this revenue source to go to other sources.

Puerto Rico: very difficult economic times that are challenging everything that the territory does.  The homeless groups are not as committed to civil rights issues as they were in the past.  Tough budget times are challenging the homeless groups trying to keep beds available to homeless people.  PR had passed Homeless Bill of Rights, but now there is an effort to see how it has been implemented and followed by police and others.  May want to change what we they have to provide real protections to the community.  Health concerns in the shelters has caused a lawsuit within the continuum over new regulations.  The local homeless advocacy have been cut in half making it difficult to operate Speakers Bureau in the territory.  Going more toward services less on advocacy.

Mississippi: 33 shelters in whole state. Number of people coming back home who need help has increased over the last three years.  The shelters continue to experience funding losses.   More people coming back home means a reduction in housing.  Dropouts from college because they can’t afford to continue and then become homeless.

Denver/Colorado: Recreational marijuana has made it difficult for the social service providers to come up with policies to meet this new reality.  There is an inadequate supply of family shelters, local government and state need to address this continued problem. Denver has found that they need 27,000 housing units with a subsidy. They do plan to create 3,000 units, but don’t have the money at this point; overflow shelter usage has decreased. “Camping” ban increased engagements with police.  They rebuilt a shelter that has been mats on the floor to improve conditions.  There are NIMBY problems in a number of communities.  One community is trying to build a wall around their shelter keep what they perceive as problems contained.  Medicare Expansion – 15% before of the Denver healthcare for the Homeless patients had Medicare in 2012– 25% had Medicare in 2013 and they expect 50% this year.  This is a huge boost in helping to support these programs. They are working on doubling the size of their health care clinic in Denver.  There is a nice treatment program for homeless people in Southeast Colorado that has a long waiting list. Developing another seventy-eight supportive housing units. HUD & VA are trying to work on a coordinated intake and assessments to serve homeless and veterans who are experiencing housing issues. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
May092014

Great Evening for Outreach Training

Last night was a first in Cleveland-a discussion between the students and religious folks who go outside and serve homeless people with the "professional" staff hired to serve the population.   We had Jim Schlecht, Toni Johnson, Michael Lawson and Karen McHenry (pictured above in order left to right) who lead the discussion.  This was a chance for Labre students, groups representing various churches and other agencies to get together to talk about the goals and issues associated with serving people who live outside.  The first order of business was to give a standing ovation to Mike from St. Ignatius and St. Augustine for his patience in finding housing for the stroller lady who has been on the streets for much of the last 20 years.  Nuns on the near West Side had found her housing about eight years ago, but she quickly lost the housing.   We hope that she keeps her housing, but it was a huge step to build a trusting relationship with her to convince her to go inside.  

We had around 30 people attend the training/teach in, and that included a couple of representatives from the Homeless Congress who had experience with homelessness. The agenda was to discuss who exactly stays outside with Karen of Bellefaire talking a great deal about young people who we do not always think about when talking about homelessness.  Michael from Frontline did a very good overview of some of the safety issues he reminds his staff about before they go outside.   Jim of Care Alliance talked a lot about "compassionate relationships" for those on the streets.  We discussed putting aside expectations and working with the existing social service provides to "hand people" into the capable hands of others. Toni talked about the resources available to veterans and warned everyone of the resources drying up for women and families.  Of course, the training dealt with ethical issues and boundaries necessary to do some of this work.   Finally, we all contributed some often overlooked resources in the community that might be available to those living outside.  We talked about ways to get people into detox and to use the Youth Hotline that is available 24 hours a day (570-8010). Finally, there was a discussion of the Seasons of Hope safe haven for women. 

NEOCH had a couple of resources available to the group.  We talked about the Street Card and how valuable that could be to homeless people.  NEOCH has also produced a bright green card for those who go outside to use.  This card can be left at a campsite if there is no one home when you stop by.  It has the direct phone numbers to those who are paid to assist homeless people. It gives drop in center locations and times along with meals available downtown.  Finally, we introduced the new outreach trainee funded by the Community West Foundation.  His name is Tyrone H. and he started last week.  This was a chance for all these groups to be introduced to him and he will be shadowing all the outreach teams locally to learn and pass along information.  Tryrone will be a link between the volunteer groups and the professional staff typically out during the day.  We will do a longer look at Tyrone and his job in a follow up post.  We will also have another training in September when many of the students have returned from summer break. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
May092014

Updates on Laura's Home and Homeless Congress

We had new County Council Anthony Hairston as our guest at the Homeless Congress meeting this week.  As with most meetings of the Homeless Congress, there is a lot of anger within the homeless community over discharges and the treatment that they receive by the shelter system.  Hairston was good about patiently listening to his constituents and pledging to follow up on many of these issues. 

We did learn that there has been movement in the Laura's Home situation after the article appeared in the Plain Dealer.   Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services attended the meeting and indicated that there was a meeting last week between the County and the agency for which an agreement was drafted.  We are not sure if the agency, City Mission, is going to accept the agreement and we will post the results next week.  The agreement as described by the County was that they would allow homeless individuals to go to Laura's Home first, but they must report to Coordinated Intake within a week.  All current residents would be allow to go over to Coordinated Intake to complete the application for help and maintain their homeless status.  This is exactly what the Homeless Congress had requested way back in October before they were shut down by County Council member Yvonne Conwell (we posted the letter in our member HUB section).  Conwell blamed HUD policy for turning down their request.  I guess if a member of the big time Congress gets involved then HUD rules go out the door, but if their constituent working for the Homeless Congess they don't care.

Also at the meeting, we discussed problems at the Community Women's shelter including food issues, staff disrespect and threats of improper discharges.  Hairston listened patiently to all the problems and at the end vowed that he would work with the Congress, the shelter, and the Office of Homeless Services to resolve some of these issues. The lack of an effective grievance procedure in the community was a big topic of the meeting.  The Cleveland Mediation Center was contracted to do this service, but most in the homeless community do not consider CMC as an independent third party since they are a partner in the Coordinated Intake.   If you were forced into arbitration over a defective part in your GM car, would you accept that that a staff member of the Delphi corporation, a partner of GM in the construction of your car, would hear your concern?   This is what it is like for a homeless person except that CMC has no ability to overturn a decision by a shelter, and almost always the punishment has already happened. 

The members of Congress and NEOCH are working to improve the shelter regulations in our community.  Here are the current regulations.   One surprising issue that we have stumbled on was reporting of deaths within the shelters.  The County agency that funds all the shelters has refused to collect information on anyone who dies in the shelter.  Homeless people and advocates cannot believe that there is not a place that people can go to find information on how many homeless people died in the shelters in Cleveland.  Jails, nursing homes, hospitals, mental health facilities all have a protocol for notifying a funder or governmental agency about deaths.  Shelters do not have to complete a piece of paper that says that there was a death and the reason for the death.  Every death is reported to the Medical Examiner, but there is no paperwork prepared,  collected and provided to government by the staff at the place of death.  This seems strange that shelter staff do not have to report to the health department or the Office of Homeless Services about a death.  We discussed this issue with the Councilman Hairston.

Finally, we discussed the possibility of the County passing a law to protect homeless people using the shelters.  We want to put into law that the shelters will not turn people away, will construct a third party grievance procedure to arbitrate disputes.   Here are the big list that we had first proposed.  We have since paired it down to 15 recommendations that we would like to see passed into law.  We had worked with Councilman Julian Rogers who then took a job with CSU.  We are hoping that Councilman Hairston takes up the legislation and works with the Homeless Congress to improve the conditions in the shelters. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Wednesday
May072014

No Bathrooms in Downtown Cleveland

We received a complaint from a friend of the Coalition about a woman relieving herself behind a vehicle near the financial district of Downtown Cleveland (between East 6th St. and East 9th St. in the old Short North).   She was shocked that this homeless woman was outside using the bathroom.   I asked one of the full time social workers helping people in the Downtown area where people could go to use the bathroom.  Here is her response: "The answer is the Library, city/county buildings with ID, the courthouses, and Justice Center. All other buildings are private."  We have basically six locations downtown with public restrooms and two require ID and all require going through a metal detector.  

The Coalition and most of the social service agencies have realized that this was a problem.  The Downtown Cleveland Alliance, the Cleveland Police Department and the Parks and Recreation folks have all seen this as an issue.  A few years back, Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance developed a plan for portable restrooms, found people who would clean them, located space, got police approval for a location.  Everyone signed off on the plan, but it was shut down by the City of Cleveland.   The DCA had looked into self cleaning nice tourist friendly stand alone facilities, but were again shut down by the City.  

For some reason, the administration does not want to see public restrooms in Downtown Cleveland.   It is so strange that there is all this talk of a 24 hour city and yet no where can a slightly intoxicated tourist or suburbanite relieve themselves unless they get into a bar or business or go behind a car.  I know that homeless people get blamed for this many times, and I am sure that there are many homeless people relieving themselves in public, there are also many pedestrians doing this.   As a former bartender downtown, I can tell you that I have seen hundreds of my nicely dressed suburban patrons who would relieve themselves behind a building or between cars, both men and women, because the bars had closed and there was no where else to go.   If the City is going to move to a vibrant and active city, they are going to have to fund and locate public restrooms downtown like they have done in San Francisco, London, or Philadelphia (pictured here).

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Monday
May052014

Housing Homeless Vet staff, Ruth Fiala, Passes Away

Ruth Fiala
(November 15, 1955 - May 2, 2014)

This came from the Cleveland Plain Dealer today. 

RUTH E. FIALA (nee Somerville) age 58. Beloved wife of Charles; step mother of James M. (Wendy) and Michele; grandma "FiFi" to Andrew, Aaron, Anthony J. and John M.; daughter of the late Ruth (nee Miller) and Raymond F. Somerville. Ruth was currently employed by the VA Hospital, Wade Park campus and was in private practice specializing in psychological therapy in Rocky River, Oh. Passed away May 2, 2014. Funeral Mass Friday, May 9, St. Patrick Church (3602 Bridge Ave.) at 11 A.M. Interment Holy Cross Cemetery. Friends may call at CHAMBERS FUNERAL HOME of CLEVELAND 4420 ROCKY RIVER DRIVE AT PURITAS THURSDAY 4-8 P.M. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to St. Francis School 7206 Myron Ave, Cleveland Ohio 44103.

Ruth was part of the staff working to end veterans homelessness in Cleveland.  She had worked to provide housing vouchers to homeless veterans and was a part of a number of trainings offered by the Coalition.  We are shocked over her death which came suddenly last week.  It is a big loss for the homeless community. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.