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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.

Homeless Voting
Monday
Dec282015

Posted the Names of Those Who Passed Away

We have posted the 69 names of people we read at the Memorial and the woman who passed away at the shelter last Monday night.  Here is a list of the names for 2015.  We also have a page dedicated to all the lists of names separated by year here

We had over 120 people attend the service.  We thank Dee Perry for hosting the event and lending her golden voice to reading the names.  We had Councilman Zack Reed attend the event to say a few words as one of the elected representatives who has the responsibility of preserving and expanding affordable housing in Cleveland.  The volunteers over at St. Malachi were busy preparing their Christmas meal at 6 p.m. on December 21 as part of one of the oldest meal programs in the City.

There were two individuals who offered a prayer for those who passed. Fr. Tony from St. Malachi as the host congregation and Deacon Larry Davis of the NEOCH Board offered a few words of from their own faith traditions.  I gave a few thoughts on the previous year in homelessness and seeing more people on the streets, more women at the Community Women's shelter and fewer beds available in Cleveland.  I talked about the Pope's visit to America and his call to serve the least among us. 

Finally, we gave a small token of appreciation to Chip Joseph who is retiring this year as director of Y-Haven.  Chip was also one of the first directors of the Cosgrove Center 20 years ago.  We will miss his advocacy for transitional programs and services for those with an addiction.

Brian Davis

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Tuesday
Dec222015

Homeless Memorial Day 2015

 

For the 29th time in Cleveland, we read the names of the people who passed away in 2015.  The same night we were reading the names of 68 people who passed away over at St. Malachi, Vickie Fann was quietly slipping away in her sleep over at the Community Women's Shelter.  Vickie had a long history of health issues and probably never should have been living at a women's shelter with her breathing machine.  When the other residents who regularly checked on her went to awake her in the morning she was gone.  Staff of the shelter did all they could, but she had passed away in her sleep sometime during the night of December 21. 

The Homeless Memorial is one of the more sombre and painful events of the Coalition.  We spend five weeks calling the shelters and social service providers looking for names.  We keep a list of those we hear about on the streets over the year, and we want to make sure that people are not forgotten in death as they are largely forgotten in life.  This year we brought in professional help to host the event with Cleveland's most experienced master of nearly every ceremony, Dee Perry of WCPN.  She has hosted Fourth of July with the Orchestra and MLK services at Severance.  She has done New Year's Eve and the lighting of the chandelier at Playhouse Square along with her work as the host of the Sound of Applause on WCPN and WVIZ TV.  Dee was gracious enough to lend her beautiful voice to reading the names of those who died over the last year. 

Councilman Zack Reed was our keynote for the event and we recognized Chip Joseph for his long service to homeless people upon his retirement this year.  Councilman Reed has had a great deal of contact with homeless people this year.  A couple of his constituents have called regularly to complain about having to sleep in the Women's shelter and his office has asked for help with people sleeping outside in his ward.  Reed served at the Cosgrove's Feast and Fellowship dinner for homeless people.  He also attended the Homeless Congress in November and vowed to at least get a response from the shelter and/or the County to all the problems over at the Women's shelter.  He agreed to come back in 2016 to talk about the ideas brought up by homeless people in 2015.   At the Memorial, he talked about all the people struggling in his neighborhood in the shadow of the prosperity being developed downtown.  Reed wanted a reorganization of the priorities in Cleveland to close the gap in the "two Clevelands" that he has become painfully aware of in his 15 years of elected service. 

Father Tony from St. Malachi and I talked about the message from the Pope about serving the least among us after Pope Francis's visit to the United States in 2016.  Deacon Larry Davis from the NEOCH Board gave a prayer for the dead and then we lit candles for the 68 names read at the service.  Before the service started we gave a small token of our appreciation for Chip Joseph, the current director of Y-Haven.  He was the former director of the Cosgrove Center and a huge advocate for homeless people, transitional shelters and services to addicts in our community.   The photo above is Fr. Tony standing next to Chip as the names are read joining 100 other Coalitions in marking this first day of winter.

Everyone gathered hoped that this was the last service, but we know that there will be more Vickie Fanns in 2016.   Any period of homelessness is really hard on a person's body.   The sleep deprivation, stress and inability to get a good meal on a regular basis is horrible on a person's health.  Bouncing around from one bed to another and the self medicating that so frequently goes on during homelessness reduce the lifespan of a typical human.   We will most likely be back on December 21, 2016 to read another list of names on Ohio Homeless Memorial Day.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Dec212015

History of NEOCH Civil Rights

For the entire history of the Coalition, staff have worked on protecting against municipal actions that target homeless people and the hate crimes that result when government singles out one group in our society.  We believe that there is a correlation between high numbers of hate crimes against homeless people and the cities in the United States that routinely pass laws directed at homeless people.  It is for this reason that we regularly oppose “quality of life” laws and targeted enforcement against homeless people for purely innocent behavior of attempting to live without housing.  Here is a summary of the NEOCH Civil Rights work:

Clements vs. Cleveland

The first attempt in the mid 1990s to stop police arresting and threatening arrest of homeless people for purely innocent behavior of sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk.  Police accused of driving homeless people to the outskirts of Cuyahoga County and dropping them off the bus line.  The City of Cleveland eventually settled with the four plaintiffs and basically blamed “rogue cops” for misinterpreting the directives issued from the administration.  Richard Clements passed away in New York this year.

Homeless Grapevine vs. City of Cleveland

The City felt that vendors of the street newspaper must buy a license before they could sell a paper on the sidewalks of Cleveland.  NEOCH won in the district court, but was reversed on appeal.  City tried to pass legislation to force vendors buy a license, but could not get the legislation through the City Council.  Vendors are currently free to sell the paper within the City of Cleveland with only an agency issued license, but City maintains right to regulate the sidewalk if the City Council can agree. 

Key vs. City of Cleveland

This was the second attempt to stop the sweeps of homeless people in Cleveland.  Police began ticketing homeless people around the holidays to encourage people to come Downtown to shop.  Police were willing to testify that this was City policy at the time because they did not want to be labelled as “going rogue.”  Cleveland settled the lawsuit in 2000 and we have posed the settlement on our website.  It basically states that the police will not arrest or threaten arrest anyone for purely innocent behavior of sitting, sleeping, standing or eating on the sidewalk as long as they are not blocking access.  NEOCH tests this agreement every November to assure that it is still being followed (Appendix A). 

Stun Gun Attacks

In the early 2000s, there were young people who came to Cleveland from Youngstown and recorded themselves using a Taser stun gun to shock homeless people and film their reaction.  NEOCH pushed for harsh punishments for these three young people, and held a community meeting to talk about protection for vulnerable populations.

Homeless Exploitation Videos

There were major retailers in the United States online and in stores that were selling videos of homeless people fighting in exchange for change or alcohol.  NEOCH worked with the National Coalition for the Homeless to convince major retailers such as Best Buy and Target to stop selling these exploitation videos in their stores.  These were recorded by young people and collected together and then sold in many stores and online retailers.

Covenant to Serve Food

The City was concerned over the mess being created on Public Square by church groups feeding homeless people.  We worked with the new administration to avoid the City passing legislation that we would have had to challenge in court.  NEOCH worked out a “covenant” where the church groups would move off public square to a parking lot with trash and bathroom facilities and the City agreed to not introduce legislation.

The Right to Shelter

Since the founding of the Coalition, NEOCH has fought to assure that the shelters are accessible to everyone in need and at no time will the shelters turn people away over a lack of space.  For over 20 years we have had guaranteed access to shelter in Cleveland, and we have worked to improve the conditions at the shelters.  When the shelters are full, providers will transport people to a church or recreation center as an overflow site if the building capacity is reached.  We also support the development of an overnight drop in center similar to Metanoia for the entire year.

Voting Lawsuit Against the State of Ohio

NEOCH has filed suit against the State of Ohio and three Secretaries of State from 2005 through the present over voting procedures in the state.  Our concern was regarding the identification requirements and their impact on reducing turnout by low income, homeless and minority voters.  I have provided a series of depositions in this case.  In years 2006, 2008 and 2012, we had a settlement with the state to allow homeless people to use a social security number to have their ballot count if they voted in person.  This agreement was binding until 2014 when the state changed the law regarding the use of identification for provisional ballots.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Saturday
Dec192015

NEOCH Closed Today

Here is a picture of a Florida sunset from my daughter, Amara, that you can ponder while you stay inside on a cold winter day in Cleveland.  The roads are bad and are not cleared.  In fact, roads that have cars have traveled on are covered in ice.  It is hazardous to drive today.  Stay inside.

It is for this reason that NEOCH is closing today.  We were supposed to be open to accept SocksPlus donations, but it is too dangerous outside.   I could not make it down from the suburbs. There are cars littering Cedar Hill that tried to make it downtown.

Don't worry about homeless people.  On Saturday, the shelters are open all day.  The overnight drop in center is open for those who don't like going to shelter and there are a number of meal programs available on Saturday. 

NEOCH will be open on Monday from 9 to 4 p.m. then heading over to St. Malachi for the Candlelight Vigil at 5 p.m. NEOCH is open Monday to Wednesday for drop off and then Monday through Thursday for the last week of the year.  Stay safe and stay warm.

Brian Davis

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Thursday
Dec172015

Homeless Lives Remembered at the Cleveland Memorial 

       Councilman Zack Reed will be our honored speaker at the 2015 Homeless Memorial Day in Cleveland and the event will be hosted by WCPN Sound of Applause Host Dee Perry.  The 29th Annual Homeless Memorial Day will take place on Monday December 21, 2015 at St. Malachi Social Hall 2459 West 25th St.  at 5:00 p.m. at the Hunger Center (Enter off of Main Street or from the parking lot behind the church). Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed was elected to Council in 2000 after serving the Mayor’s office in San Francisco.  Reed recently attended the Homeless Congress to hear the concerns from homeless people and has regularly served at the Cosgrove Center Hunger Center for the Hands Up Gala.  This year before the ceremony we will recognize Chip Joseph of Y-Haven and previously at Catholic Charities as he retires.  We will have a number of religious leaders who offer a prayer for those who passed away, along with music.  We will light a candle as we remember those who passed away over the last year.   Media are welcome to attend and photograph the memorial/vigil.  

       We have seen increases in women who need shelter and families with huge barriers to stability asking for help while at the same time seeing a decrease in the number of available shelter beds.  We have seen a rise in the number of people sleeping outside in 2015, but have appreciated the break in the weather this last month after a rough time in January.  NEOCH will read the names of those who passed away over the last year at the Candlelight Vigil.

           Joining with other cities throughout the state and country, the Cleveland vigil will include a look back at homelessness in Cleveland.  In 2009, Ohio legislators designated December 21 as Ohio Homeless Memorial Day. Every big city in Ohio has a similar vigil to remember those who have passed away over the previous year.   We will read the names of those who passed away and had some experience with homelessness on Monday before the meal.  We typically have around 130 people who attend the memorial and we are honored to have Dee Perry as the host this year with Councilman Reed helping us remember those who died. 

        Locally, we have seen tightening budgets for a fourth year of federal cuts to shelters at the same time the need for shelter, food and services continues to increase.   Cuyahoga County absorbed a decrease of 10% of our federal funds over the last four years and federal support for housing has remained flat.  The Women’s Shelter has regularly 190 women in a facility with 130 beds and is every night running out of food.

       If you would like more information about the event, or you would like to schedule an interview with Brian Davis, please call NEOCH at 216/432-0540 or email Brian Davis at neoch@neoch.org.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry