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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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Monday
Sep152014

Sleep Deprivation and the Shelters

The Atlantic had an interesting article last month about sleep deprivation among homeless people and the negative consequences on a person's life.  We know that homelessness does shorten a person's life primarily because of food, environmental issues, sleep deprivation, and a lack of consistent health care.  WebMD lists a number of causes of sleep deprivation, but does not include homelessness:

There are many causes of sleep deprivation. The stresses of daily life may intrude upon our ability to sleep well, or perhaps we trade sleep for more work or play. We may have medical or mental-health conditions that disrupt our sleep, and be well aware that we are sleep-deprived.

The Atlantic article references a laundry list of issues associated with sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increase in mental illness, drug abuse among teenagers, and higher rates of violence and aggressionSchizophrenia-like symptoms may also start to develop, which is problematic in a population that already experiences a higher-than-average likelihood of suffering from the disease.

In Cleveland, the residents have been asking for shelter regulations that protect sleep issues.  They just passed a requirement that shelters make accommodations for those working second and third shift.  Who knows how long it will take to get these implemented and posted in the shelters?  Right now, shelters do very little to provide help to help those who work 4 to Midnight shift.  For example, until you can get a work bed at the main men's shelter you will be awakened at 6 a.m. to leave the shelter by 8 am no matter what time you get to the shelter at night.  Many nights the beds are filled by a guy working an early shift then stripped and reset for the guy coming off a second shift.

The members of the Homeless Congress tried to get a tough bed rest policy passed by the County, but that was removed.  The residents of the shelter are concerned because some of the shelters are selective in which bed rest order from a doctor they will honor.  It is like they do not believe some doctors while they believe others.  These near minimum wage workers are superseding the decisions of legitimate doctors and often interfering with the healing process. 

I have done a number of protests of living outside and the most striking thing you realize is the inability to sleep when you stay outside.  Even for one to three days, your senses are supercharged with the sense of danger and being constantly on guard. The threat of having your shoes and other valuables makes it difficult to sleep in the shelters.  Try sleeping on all your valuables with your shoes on and "keeping one eye open,"  so that no one comes by and tries to lift your phone or wallet, and see how long you can stay awake the next day.  How long until you just snap from all the stress or are hospitalized from health issues that arise from a lack of sleep?  This is the life of a homeless person in Cleveland and most of the United States everyday.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Monday
Sep152014

New Voting Hours and Fake Voting Issues

Secretary of State Jon Husted issued an appeal to the Federal Judge which will provide continued uncertainty as we approach the November election.  He issued a statement claiming that he is forced to appeal to keep things fair throughout the state:

“Though I have complied with the recent ruling by Judge Economus, I must appeal his decision because in allowing counties to set their own schedules, he has once again opened the door to having a patchwork of rules across the state, which is in direct conflict with his previous rulings that insisted upon treating all voters equally."

This is not what the ruling says in fact.  Similar hours throughout the state does not mean equality.  It just means that small counties with a few voters get to stay open the exact same time as the big counties with hundreds of thousands of voters.  We have to wait in lines while they get easy access to the Board of Elections.  How is that equality?   None of the articles give the other side of the story from the Husted position on equality.  Homeless people are especially grateful for the expansion of voting hours to include a week in which they will be able to vote and change their address at the same time.  Here are the hours that Husted has demanded:

  • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30 through Friday, Oct. 3, 2014
  • 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6
  • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 through Friday, Oct. 10
  • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14 through Friday, Oct. 17
  • 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20 through Friday, Oct. 24
  • 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25
  • 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26
  • 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27 through Friday, Oct. 31
  • 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1
  • 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2
  • 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3

The directive did not indicate that the Board could adopt local hours as the federal court had instructed.  It will be interesting to see if Cuyahoga County adopts additional hours for the week of Sept. 30.  They did not have a board meeting set until October 7, but I understand there is an attempt to organize an early board meeting.  Then it will interesting to see if the board split the vote 2 votes by the Democrats wanting expanded hours and 2 votes for the Republicans maintaining a state wide standard.  Then will the Secretary of State break the tie for expanded hours or maintaining his "equality" for rural communities illusion.  We shall see over the next week.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Sep152014

Street Card Available and On the Streets

Thanks to University Hospitals for Printing the 2014 Street Card

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) has updated its comprehensive guide to homeless services for homeless people known as the Homeless Street Card for the twenty first year. The Cuyahoga County Homeless Street Card is probably the most valuable resource produced by the Homeless Coalition.  It is a front and back piece of paper that contains extensive, up-to-date information on resources such as shelters, meal sites, job training agencies, health clinics, chemical dependency services and other assistance programs.  The Homeless Street Card lists all the services available to those without housing and must be accessible right from the streets.  They can fold it up and put it into a pocket or purse to carry around for reference. The Homeless Street Card also lists bus routes to get to some of these services as well as information on how to get identification.

We have seen dramatic changes in the world of social services with consolidations and the closures of shelters and homeless providers. Now, we have the Coordinated intake in Cleveland for finding shelter and services it is even more important that there is a document to assist people in finding help.  Typically, it is the key to finding food, shelter, and many other services that are critical to the persons’ circumstances.  The Homeless Street Card lists all the services available to homeless people who need assistance right off the streets without appointment or referral.

Through the generocity of University Hospitals, we were able to print 10,000 Homeless Street Cards and have begun to distribute to individuals, shelters, hospitals, schools, police stations, and libraries.  We hope that this one page guide will shorten a person's stay on the streets or in the shelters.  We hope that they can use this resource guide to move out of homelessness quickly.

 The most popular part of the NEOCH website is the page with our Street Cards (www.neoch.org/street_card.htm). On the website, we have also posted a shorter version of the Street Card which can be printed out on regular letter sized paper.   The organization also publishes a Veteran's Street Card for any homeless person who served in the US Military and a Family Street Card for the fastest growing population families.  NEOCH encourages people or agencies to make as many copies as possible and to distribute them to those in need. The newest edition of the Cuyahoga County Homeless Street Card can be downloaded for free at http://www.neoch.org under Resources/Street Card.  NEOCH can also mail a few copies by calling 216/432.0540.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Sep082014

Regulations of the Shelters

We have spoken often in this space about the lack of effective oversight of the shelters in Cleveland Ohio and here and here (must login to the site).  There is basically no existing laws that oversee the shelters in Cleveland or with Cuyahoga County.  There are state standards or guidelines with no oversight.  Then there are a few local regulations that are attached to each contract and the director signs that they will abide by those rules.  Right now those are posted as a pdf on the County website and as a searchable page on the NEOCH website.  They are not posted in the individual shelters, and there is no one impartial to go to in order express concern that the shelters are not following the requirements.  There are a ton of holes in the requirements that we had identified and a long list of missing regulations.  At the Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. (2012 West 25th St. Sixth Floor) they will vote on a number of our suggested missing regulations.  Here are the expanded rules that will be voting on. 

It is disturbing that it takes so long to get any rule passed through the County "advisory" group.   There are new rules sent down by HUD regarding fair housing obligations of the shelters.  There are no rules regarding Central Intake, and there are no rules regarding discharge from a shelter to the streets.   The single biggest issue facing a homeless person using the shelter is who do they go to if they have a problem who will listen and respond?  With over $30 million spent on homeless services and housing locally, we need an impartial place to go to complain if the shelter staff accidently throw away all the belongings of a homeless resident.  We need not just a complaint mechanism, but a way to get compensation for the loss.  We have had shelters for 40 years in Cleveland; they are not temporary church based organizations anymore.  We need rules with oversight and an arbitrator to settle disputes. 

Other areas that we have looked at a need for additional requirements:

1. Discharges must be in writing with grievance procedure on the back of the page.  There can be an immediate discharge only for illegal activity otherwise must wait until the next day.

2. Rules regarding intake now that there is coordinated intake is in place in Cleveland.  Are you a client if you fill out the application for shelter?  What if you have second thoughts after being diverted back to a family or friend?  What should you be given upon intake?  Where do you grieve if you have a problem with intake?  What are the privacy rights of the information you fill out?  Who can see this information from intake?   Are you told what programs you are eligible for or what programs you do not qualify for?   Is there a maximum time that you stay in overflow?  It never says that you have a right to be anonymous in the HMIS system as HUD requires.  Does intake provide a housing plan or is that the shelter staff? Does intake staff take into account the person's disability when doing the intake application--mental illness may make it difficult or impossible to complete. Do we have sexual harassment protections in place at coordinated intake?  Are we providing sufficient protections at intake in response to the Violence Against Women act?

3.  Comfort animals are different than service animals are they allowed within the shelters?

4. The gender issues need to be posted in the shelters so that everyone is on the same page regarding transgender individuals using the shelters.  Are we accommodating sexual orientation when a same sex couple show up at Coordinated intake? 

5. Staff training is mentioned a number of times, but never formally outlined with what training is necessary to work in the shelters. 

6.  Operations #12 in the State of Ohio Standards say shelters shall have a policy about the control of weapons.  Can't we just say no guns in the shelters?  Do we want to add firearms to the volatile shelter environment?

There are many other holes, but these are the most serious that need immediate attention.  We will keep you informed.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
Sep052014

Potential Chaos in Voting Hours

There was a great decision last week by Federal Judge Peter Economus to open up early voting including the preservation of Golden Week.  We wrote about this on our voting update section of our website.  Just click on the VOTE button on any page of the website.  This week, Judge Economus has allowed the state to join the lawsuit in their appeal.  We thought that Golden week was dead and had no hope in being resurrected especially when the case drew an extremely conservative judge.   The NAACP and League of Women Voters' lawyers successfully made the case that this is just an extension of the 2012 early voting case to get Judge Economus to decide on the case.   Now, we are scrambling to get homeless people to use Golden Week. 

One area that is going to be touchy this week is what happens at the local level.  The judge forcefully said that the Secretary of State should not block local expansions of voting hours, but he has a vote. I would recommend reading the 71 page decision, because Economus really went after the State of Ohio for limiting voting.  Full disclosure: the Judge quoted my testimony against the loss of Golden Week earlier this year when it was in legislative committee.  Economus's decision says:

The Court likewise concludes that SB 238’s elimination of Golden Week itself similarly burdens the voting rights of lower income and homeless individuals. The record reflects that in 2008, 12,842 voters utilized Golden Week to register or update their registration and vote; in 2010, 1,651 voters did so; and, in 2012, 5,844 voters did so. While these figures may be small in comparison to the millions of votes usually cast in Ohio elections, thousands of voters have utilized Golden Week during each of the last several elections.

What happens if the local board splits with the two Democrats wanting evening hours and the two Republicans want no evening hours?  The Secretary of State breaks all local tie votes.   Would he cross the federal judge and vote to limit early voting or cross his party and allow urban communities with large African American voters to open in the evening for voting?  Would he see that equality does not mean stuffing hundreds of thousands into the same building with only 5 hours of off work hours available a week to vote in person?  

There is also the matter of the appeal of this case that could cause chaos.   There is so little time left for boards to get ready for early voting, the State needs to drop their appeal and let us have the same hours we had in 2012.  Small counties were not been adversely impacted by different voting hours.  Cuyahoga and the other big counties did not have voter turnout far greater than the other counties.  The world did not end because each County had a different schedule.  Right now, we are planning for evening hours, weekend early voting and Golden Week.  If we have to change course again, voters are going to be so confused.  This appeal of the case can only be viewed as exclusively political and not helpful to voting in Ohio.  The Secretary of State is certainly not providing certainty in voting and allowing the local community to set their own hours based on the needs of their citizens; he is protecting the goals of his political party to limit access to early voting.  We need to allow the local experts to decide on the hours for their voters.

By the way, we are collecting volunteers for Early voting both with registrations and driving people to the Board of Elections.  Here is a copy of a flyer that you can print out or send around to family and friends...  Contact NEOCH if you want to volunteer.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry and not the Board or other staff of the agency.