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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
Dec232013

Medicaid Expanded--Barely

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld Medicaid Expansion in Ohio, but by only a 4-3 margin.  Medicaid survives for another day.   It did not make it through the legislative process, but was resurrected at the obscure Controlling Board.  The process of signing up new people started on December 9 in Ohio by going to http://benefits.ohio.gov/ to apply for expanded Medicaid.  This now applies to nearly everyone living in poverty in Ohio no matter if they have children or if they have a disability.  After the information is verified by a staff person from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the person will have health insurance.  They will have access to preventative health care, and will not have to rely on emergency room care. 

The problem is that at least in Cuyahoga County it is going to be slow getting people signed up.  The County ODJFS welfare program is busy verifying thousands of people who are facing work requirements in the food stamp program.  Our County has gone above and beyond to interview everyone who faces cuts from the food stamp program to see if they qualify for a waiver.  County officials see the value of having people able to buy food is important for the community, for the grocers and the transportation industry.  The private sector cannot fill the gap left by the billions in the food stamp program.  The welfare department is also dealing with the loss of unemployment extension after Congress failed to agree on a plan.  This is complicating the ability of the department to expand Medicaid in Cuyahoga County.

We have helped sign people up that first week in December that the state website was available, and have heard nothing from the County.  The community groups who focus on helping poor people sign up for benefits are backed up and cannot get to new people until at least January 15.  This is a tremendous opportunity for the community, and we need more people to take advantage of this opportunity.  There are most likely 85,000 people in Cuyahoga County who could benefit from expanded Medicaid.  We need to make this the highest priority to get these people to sign up as soon as possible.   It will revolutionize the delivery of social services in Ohio.   We will not have to figure out disability designations (is this autism or is the depression that could lead to suicide or what percent is the person disabled and will that not allow them to work?) and instead focus on getting the individual well again.   We need to pick up the pace and get everyone eligible signed up for government supported health care after fighting so hard to convince state leaders of the value. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Dec192013

Sequestration: Shelters Face Uncertain New Year

There was a vote today on the recommendations for shelter funds for 2014.  These are federal dollars from the 2013 allocation from HUD which involves a 5% cut because of Sequestration.   To fully fund all of our currently funded shelters, services, and housing programs for homeless people we need $24,608,600 and HUD is only giving us $23,995,100.  This means that a few of the shelters will face a large cut in funding and another group of services/shelters will not know if they are going to get funded at all until February 2014.  For five facilities in Cleveland, they are going to wait to see if HUD picks their project based on the amount of money unspent at the national level and competition from every other city in America. 

There are a number of projects which will see a cut in 2014.  The Cleveland Tenants Organization Bridging the Gap program and the County Planning grants will both be eliminated in 2014.  NEOCH started Bridging the Gap back in 1990s, and in its prime it was housing over 100 people per year for the relatively small amount of $55,000 per year in Federal dollars.  We had received other local funding and an AmeriCorps grant to provide additional staff, but they program had a huge impact back in the early 2000s.   The BTG staff helped CMHA to improve their occupancy rate, opened up regular meetings with the housing authority application's staff and figured out a way to place the hardest to serve in our shelters into housing.  The program had dwindled to serving only a handful of people under CTO, but the program will be missed.   I still get calls from alumni of the program who thank us for helping them get into housing even today.

Around 80% of the federal funding for homeless services goes to Permanent Supportive Housing.  It is difficult to cut these programs because that would mean that the units either sit vacant or the disabled residents in these units will not have social service help.  In the plan that the County is submitting none of the PSH programs are slated to be cut.  The transitional housing programs take a huge blow as does street outreach.  Neither HUD nor the County are in love with transitional housing shelters anymore.  Staff from both HUD and the County view these programs as fads from the 1980s which keep people homeless too long and screen out the hardest to serve.  So, the Salvation Army transitional housing programs take a cut as does the Y-Haven program which will see a $50,000 reduction.  The West Side Catholic collaboration with the Domestic Violence and THI transitional housing program even though it was ranked with high marks received a cut and the Transitional Housing Inc. (THI) program also received a substantial cut in the 2013 plan.  The Frontline Services outreach and payee program for mentally ill people was cut in half which means that there will be 2 fewer outreach staff on the streets of Cleveland in 2014. 

These cuts are a direct result of Sequestration and the inability for Congress to agree on a budget.  We said over and over that we would not see the full results of Sequestration until 2014, and now it is time to pay the piper for Washington austerity and ineptitude.  We saw more families show up to request shelter in 2013 and yet we are going to see 5% fewer federal dollars to meet that need.  It is also a strange backward world in Washington where HUD officials push us to focus on youth, but not giving us money to carry out those goals.  All the money is going to long term homeless or those defined by HUD as having been documented to be on the streets for over a year typically with a disability, but homeless youth do not fall in these categories.  They couch surf which make them lose their eligibility for long term homeless programs as defined by HUD.   The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has also downplayed outreach, but how do we find these long term homeless without outreach?  Those who need permanent supportive housing are not in the shelters they are living on the streets.  It is impossible to document these guys as being homeless without outreach workers.  There is no doubt HUD has been crippled by Congressional cuts, but they are not revising their strategies to meet the new funding reality in Washington.  We cannot carry out all these goals of serving those leaving foster care, the long term disabled and increasing homeless families if we have fewer dollars.  The pie cannot be cut into any smaller pieces especially if HUD is not giving us enough money to keep our doors open.  

There are five projects who are not being recommended in the first "Tier" of funding.  These programs have no idea if they will receive any money in 2014.  They are going to have to compete against every other "Tier 2" recommended project in the United States. All the Tier 1 programs (31 locally) are safe for 2014 funding as long as HUD qualifies our local Cuyahoga application.  If HUD has any money left after all the Tier 1 projects are funded, they will rank all the Tier 2 funded projects in the United States and take the top projects until all the money is used.  So, our projects recommended in Tier 2 will compete against those in Seattle, Los Angeles, Columbus and Boston for funding.   There is a small grant for the main Men's Shelter (2100 Lakeside) and the main Women's Shelter (Norma Herr) being recommended in Tier 2.  There is a small housing grant to Lakewood Community Services for rental assistance to those on the West Side of Cuyahoga County and a supportive service grant to Frontline Services for mentally ill homeless people.  The biggest hit to our community is the Continue Life program which serves pregnant women.  Continue Life has struggled for the last five years and is looking for merger opportunities, but it is the only project that serve pregnant women in need of shelter.  It is a critical project that could be lost if they do not receive federal support. 

We congratulate the staff of the County Office of Homeless Services including Ruth Gillett and Shari Weir for putting this all together.  They coordinate a review of every project every year.  This year they will finish the 2013 round in January and will immediately start the 2014 funding application which will need to be submitted in March 2014.  (More proof of how messed up Washington has become).  They rank these projects and help a committee make these recommendations to County Council and the County Executive.   They met with the Homeless Congress about these cuts to solicit their ideas.  They met with social service providers to walk through some of these concerns.  Coalition staff are concerned about the future of the Continue Life program and the reduction in outreach, but the County plan seems to be the best we could do in a tough spot.  I do not understand the changes at THI, but it seems that this project is changing to a permanent housing program and the homeless funds will only serve a small number of transitional housing residents left in the building.  These cuts recommended by the County seem to be a move away from homeless funding to a permanent housing funding stream for THI. 

We can be angry that our priority project is being cut. We can voice our displeasure over the cuts.  We could turn on the County and ask why was our project cut and not theirs, but NEOCH staff would advise against this strategy. This is the County making the best of a bad situation.  The easy way out would have just been a 5% across the board cut, but this plan took a huge amount of work to balance all the needs in the community.  We should reserve all of our disappointment and anger for Congress.  In a time of housing instability and slow job growth, we should be adding funds for homeless services not cutting.  It is shameful to cut housing, support services, or shelter when there are so many women with children seeking help.  We can be confused by HUD's decision to press on with four different priorities when the local community is struggling to keep their heads above water, but the problem is caused entirely by our elected leaders in Washington not doing their jobs.  The people who will not be able to access housing because they lose contact with their outreach staff can blame the US House of Representatives.  If the pregnant women's shelter is not funded and women cannot find a place to live they need to call their US Senator to complain.  If the transitional shelters have to reduce their size because of the cuts and have beds sit empty, look to the US Congress for responsibility. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Dec192013

Changes in the Social Security Administration

Photo by David HaganThere was news from the Cleveland Identification Collaborative. 

  • Printouts will no longer be issued in February at local offices. Printouts were being used as a document needed to get a state identification.
  • Security and budget constraints require Social Security to stop the practice of issuing printouts.
  • 6 million printouts were issued last year (2012) up from the 200,000 issued in 2002
  • Employers can utilize I-Verify to verify employees numbers there is also a business service offered by Social Security which allows for online verification on a fee basis
  • Carmen Moreno, Regional Communications Director  for Social Security has committed to come to Cleveland to discuss the Collaborative concerns and work toward resolutions, and social service representatives will meet with the Director
  • On transition basis the printouts will be issued through March of 2014

Here is the press release from the Social Security Administration:

As of February 2014, the Social Security Administration will no longer offer Social Security number (SSN) printouts and benefit verification information in our field offices.  However, to ensure a smooth transition, we will continue providing these services if requested until April 2014.  We are making these changes to meet the increasing demands for our services at the same time that our agency budget has been significantly cut by over $1B in each of the last three years.  During this same time period we have invested in technology that offers more convenient, cost-effective, and secure options for our customers to obtain certain services without visiting a local office.

Because the SSN printout is not an official document with security features, and is easily duplicated, misused, shared illegally, or counterfeited, eliminating it helps prevent fraud.  Employers, departments of motor vehicles, and other entities requiring SSN verification can obtain this information in real time or overnight using online government services such as E-Verify and Social Security’s Business Services Online.  Beneficiaries and recipients needing a benefit verification letter can obtain one immediately by registering for a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount , or through the mail within 5–7 days by calling our national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213.

I appreciate your support for this effort as we work to provide the best possible service to the American people.  For future updates and news visit www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty .

 

The State is going to have to change their procedures to reflect that print outs are not available.  The State has issues with federal Real ID provisions as well that need to be resolved in 2014. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Dec182013

Received a Strange Call Today about the Chronicle

I got a call from a pedestrian who bought a Street Chronicle newspaper today from one of our vendors and wanted a few questions answered.  He confirmed all the information that is on page 2 of the paper (Code of Conduct and newspaper operations).  How much do they pay for the paper--$.35?  Where does the money go when a pedestrian buys a paper--into the pocket of the vendor?  Then he asked, "Do you verify where this money is going to assure that it does not go to drugs or alcohol?"   This is an amazing question. 

Have you ever asked the guy at Starbucks serving coffee if any of their salary goes to alcohol or drugs?   Have you every asked your cab driver or the UPS driver?   Would you have the nerve to ask your doctor during a physical if he uses any of his income for alcohol or drugs or your postal carrier or the woman at the DMV?   Setting aside the fact that alcohol is a legal drug, it is none of your business what a vendor does with his or her money.   The guy was incredulous when I indicated that he got a product (a paper) for his money.  He said, "But common you know what I mean, I didn't want the paper."  Actually, no I did not know that.  

The Street Newspaper is 15 pages of solid material written by people with experience of homelessness along with our volunteers.  The content is worth $1.25 to find out what homeless people have to say about issues.   The paper is an alternative to panhandling.  Would you rather have a guy begging on the streets or someone with a product to sell?  Some of the founders of our country would write down their words and sell them on the streets of Boston and Philadelphia.   Isn't this something valuable to our society--making money off of your own words when times are tough?  You have a right to walk by the vendor and give your money to the guy working at McDonalds or Walmart or the local Chinese Restaurant.   If you don't want to take the paper that is your right in this society.  If you don't want to support an alternative to panhandling that is your right. 

The reason that I became involved in the struggle to end homelessness in America was the street newspaper sold in Cleveland.  I bought a paper from a guy in University Circle while attending college, and he was so enthusiastic that it had his story and picture in the paper.  I thought it was a cool concept that you would sell your own words to make some change.  I know that Bob who sold me that first paper was an alcoholic and was struggling with finding help, but he was also a man in need.  Who was I to say what he did with his money.   He earned it, and it is a tough living.  It is hard to have 90% of the people walk by and say "No."  It is hard to go out in 18 degree winter storm to sell papers in the morning to people on their way to work.   The vendor has rain and the heat to deal with and dramatic changes in weather that is a staple of the Cleveland landscape.  They deserve every dollar they earn. 

So, Mr. Pedestrian caller, you don't have to buy a paper from our vendors, but you have no right to know their personal history.  They are independent business contractors who are trying to make a living in the face of health issues, financial disasters and broken marriages.  Support the paper as an alternative to begging or don't, but please don't be so judgmental about your fellow travellers downtown.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry. 

Monday
Dec162013

Ohio Safer for Homeless People in 2012

William Gilmore reading the names at the 2011 Homeless Memorial DayIn the new report issued by the National Coalition for the Homeless they rank the states according to how dangerous they are for homeless people.  Ohio has been in the top 5 for dangerous states for the past 10 years.  Typically, we have had seven to ten attacks with one or two resulting in death.  Cleveland has seen rock attacks, stun gun attacks, rapes and bricks thrown from cars.  Most of the attacks over the last 14 years took place in Cincinnati and the Dayton area.  It is always strange how cities with a great deal of hostility toward homeless programs and people always are at the top of the list of hate crimes directed at the poor. 

50% of the perpetrators of these attacks were under 20 years old.  38% of those who are attacked are older than 50 years of age.  There were a total of 88 crimes against homeless people documented by police or advocates in communities throughout the United States.  Florida with twice as many attacks as the nearest state of California was number one again this year in hate crimes.   There were 15 attacks that resulted in the death of the individual including the serial killer in California who was targeting homeless people in 2012.  

The non-lethal attacks in Ohio included a rape of a teenager in Columbus Ohio in December 2012.  In May 2012, a group of Toledo teenagers beat a homeless person named Todd Swint.  There are resources in the back including local contacts and updates on the movement to pass a homeless bill of rights in states throughout the United States.  Check out the report and support the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.