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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
Friday
Nov182016

Ribbon Cutting for New Family Shelter

New Salvation Army Zelma George Family Shelter at East 18th and Prospect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beau Hill Local Salvation Army Homeless Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Shelter replaces the two floors used at the Harbor Light Project.  It is part of the broad Salvation Army of Northeast Ohio Capital campaign to rebuild or replace many of the physical structures locally.  This facility will have space for women who were being trafficked.  Funding came from Key Foundation, the State of Ohio contributed funding and of course the Salvation Army.  This will go a long way to help provide a dignified respectful space for families struggling with housing.  We have had huge issues with overflowing numbers of homeless families requesting help.  The strings associated the State dollars were that the local programs could not add additional beds to meet the growing demand which is unfortunate.  It is a beautiful facility with a computer lab, a nice cafeteria and offices for staff to help individuals move into housing. Beau in his remarks had mentioned this had been his goal for all the years he has been working for the Salvation Army.  So, congratualtions to all the staff at the Salvation Army and to the donors on realizing this dream in Cleveland.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
Nov152016

County Issues a Request for Non-Profits to Bid on the Women's Shelter

NEOCH objected to the Request for Proposals issued by the County for an operator of the facility.  Mainly because of the short time line and the steering toward the existing  provider.  We did not want the current provider to say, "Hey, this is the best we can do because who else is going to run the shelter?  No one else applied for the grant so what do you expect?"  Basically, they are saying what are you going to do kick us out?  Good luck because no one else applied.  We object because the RFP built for only huge providers who run giant shelters.  Here is the letter we sent.  

November 14, 2016

Ruth Gillett

RE: RFP #38561 Issued November 3, 2016 

We were surprised with the issuance of this Request for Proposals because the Homeless Congress had asked for a new provider back in September 2016 and you never came back to invite them to provide input on the request.  You did not reach out to homeless people or their advocates to ask what could be added to the RFP to improve the shelter.  I am especially frustrated since I met with Eric Morse, COO of Frontline Services operator of the current shelter in September and he said that they were just awarded one year of funding so we should meet with the women together because no matter what happens they will be operating the shelter for the next year.  We began meetings, and then this RFP came out.  I feel like I was duped. 

My other issue is that this RFP is slanted so that there can be only one outcome.  You have set up a process in which the existing providers have an unfair advantage over any other group in Cuyahoga County, which seems dangerously close to contract steering.  My issues with the RFP are:

  1. There is only 26 days to organize a coalition to meet all the concerns expressed in the RFP.  If you were truly looking for new ideas and an improvement in the service you would have provided warning that this was coming and allowed for groups to respond.  You have issued this when there was a major Election and a Thanksgiving holiday which most homeless service providers spend many resources. 
  2. Three years of funding is a long time to be stuck with a bad provider.  If the average woman is homeless for 50 days then there are thousands of women who will have a negative experience with County government funded programs over three years.
  3. Based on the minimum requirements section there are only three existing providers locally who have run a shelter with the size of 150 people per night.  We understand that this is an important facility in our community, but how do you expect to improve the services if you limit the bid to only three choices?
  4. One of the minimum vendor requirements is that the vendor operate a safe, clean shelter which in my opinion disqualifies the existing provider.  “In order for offers to be considered responsive, vendors must meet these minimum prior requirements: Provider must provide detailed documentation that it has the capacity to: 1. Operate a safe, clean shelter that serves 150 or more persons per night…. A vendor’s failure to meet these minimum prior experience requirements will cause their proposal to be considered non-responsive and the proposal will be rejected.”  A quick survey of the women at the shelter would show that many women do not feel safe at the shelter.  The fact that an armed security guard is at the front door does not prevent fights, threats and assaults in the basement as Loh has testified to in the past.  There are five reported assaults on the Cleveland Police website just in the last month at 2227 Payne Ave., which does not include those who decided not to fill out a police report.  I would argue that the existing service provider should be disqualified from answering this bid because of the safe provision. 
  5. I don’t understand how a provider has to support a strategic plan to reduce the number of people entering the shelter.  How is the provider going to be able to control the impact of a Donald Trump administration’s budget cuts on the number of people entering a shelter?
  6. The budget line item is again written to favor the existing providers.  Under the budget on page 2 estimated the cost of this project at $3,120,672 which is less than the total cost of the two shelters which is well over $4 million.  How is the “estimated cost of this project” just the addition of the County portion of the funding for the Men’s and Women’s shelter?  This is especially true with all the other funding listed in the previous sentence without any totals.  How is an upstart organization supposed to know how much funding exists in these areas?
  7. The Request is due by November 29 and the contract starts on January 1.  How would a new provider be able to move into running the shelter in less than one month?  This would only work for the existing provider and no other group in the community. 
  8. There is no way for homeless people in partnership with small grass roots organizations to respond to this RFP because of the restrictions in the request. 
  9. There is nothing about the importance of voting and submitting a plan for registering these individuals which was a part of previous requests.  We believe that this is a violation of the Motor Voter Bill to not include this in the RFP as part of a County contract serving low income people with a public function like shelter. 

10.  I do not understand why a non-profit, Cleveland Mediation Center, is specifically mentioned in the RFP to review grievances when homeless people have stated that they do not trust this organization to oversee grievances. 

11.  The women submitted a list of 13 concerns to the County in September 2015, and yet very few of those concerns have been incorporated in the RFP such as a resident council, display of your fair housing rights, meetings between the director and residents, and a procedure for reducing bullying and harassment issues. 

For all the above reasons, we believe that this RFP is fatally flawed and should be withdrawn and redone with the input of the women staying at the shelter. 

Sincerely 

Brian Davis

Post Script:  On November 15, the County indicated that two of our concerns may be taken care of.  They are working to extend the deadline for submission of a grant to January 31, 2017.  They also may move the start date back to March 2017 or somewhere in that area.  We hope that they can look at some of the other points that make it impossible for small groups to apply and to get some more input from homeless women. We will post the updated Request on our website as soon as it is released.

Sunday
Nov132016

Women's Shelter Improvement Plan

These are the issues that the women sleeping at the shelter want changed.  The Homeless Congress and staff of NEOCH have been meeting to discuss these issues.  Solutions recommended by the Women Living at the Community Women’s Shelter in 2015 and updated in October 2016.

  1. Staff Re-Hired With Client Input: All Frontline Staff who currently work at the shelter would be laid off over the next three months (one third at a time), and would have to reapply for their jobs or accept a transfer to another position within Frontline that never would involve contact with the Community Women’s Shelter at Norma Herr.  An elected group of current or recent residents of the shelter would interview the potential employees and would have a meaningful input regarding potential staff.  We need some backup for the food since we cannot count on edible food or even enough for everyone. 
  1. Create an Independent Resident Council: An independent resident council would be started to comment on staffing, maintenance, facility issues, food, grievances, and the daily operation of the agency.  These notes would be collected by a third party (not an existing subcontractor of Frontline) and presented to senior staff at Frontline.  The staff would respond in writing and those notes would be available to other residents by being displayed.  Frontline could hire an independent third party group for the exclusive purpose of overseeing a resident council.
  2. Movement of Disruptive Residents: There are a number of residents who are creating a hostile living environment and are not being sanctioned or punished for all the problems they create. The resident council would be allowed to recommend for transfer or discharge residents who are regularly violating the rules or fighting and not being disciplined by the staff.  Frontline staff/client rights officer would have the final say on the population living in the shelter, but at least would have to respond in writing to the concerns. 
  3. Grievance Procedure Reform: The shelter must re-write their grievance procedure with the input and approval of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  Grievances must be done in a more timely manner and must have a written response.  At the end of the process there must be an independent third party (non-Frontline staff) who can make the final decision.  This could be a volunteer attorney who has no relationship with the shelter, staff or the agency.  This cannot be a subcontractor of the agency such as Cleveland Mediation Center, to make final decisions on grievances submitted to the agency.
  4. Display of Grievances: The main topics of the grievances need to be displayed on a weekly basis with some non-identifying information released about the results.  This is to assure that people trust the grievance process and will be willing to complete a grievance. There also must be some consequence for the staff if they are regularly the subject of complaints or are found to be violating the rights of residents.
  5. Outside Agency/Religious Organizational Support: The shelter has to do a better job of accepting help from the outside to improve the conditions.  They need to have one staff dedicated to accepting church groups who want to donate items or volunteer or serve a dinner.  Residents should be encouraged to assist and volunteer to help at the shelter in order to improve the conditions. 
  6. Redo the Rules and Regulations with a Resident Committee: The Shelter Rules and Regulations will be rewritten with the input of an independent resident committee by January 2016.  The shelter needs to offer more incentives to those who live at the shelter to participate in programming and quickly move on to housing.  They need to divide up the shelter into smaller communities with staff who specialize in assisting special populations and offer specialized care with programs for people in need of help such as addiction, mental health, students, job seekers, or those seeking housing.  This does not mean dividing up the shelter by different populations in different bedrooms, but building the concept of community among like-minded individuals within the shelter.  They need to offer more medical assistance to those who are on bed rest or movement to more appropriate facilities. 
  7. New Procedure for Employee Evaluation Going Forward. Resident input should be sought as part of employee performance evaluations and those comments should be taken into account when deciding on promotion or salary increases.  If the employee does not get at least 10 resident comments either positive or negative, the senior staff need to gather additional input.
  8. Quarterly CEO Meetings with Residents: The director of Frontline needs to meet with the residents at least quarterly to hear concerns and ways to improve the shelter.  No staff working at the shelter are allowed to attend this meeting.
  9. Display of Fair Housing Rights: Since the shelter has had repeated violations of fair housing rules by not offering bed rest ordered by doctors and not respecting the rights of the disabled or the LGBT HUD rules, the shelter must display the fair housing rules that they are following. 
  10. Independent Organization Sets Up Process to Review Harassment Claims: The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center will have a female staff person on site everyday who can respond independently to sexual harassment and related issues by the women.
  11. Public Acknowledgment of the Need for a Shelter for Mentally Ill Women: Frontline will accept that there is a need for a separate shelter for severely mentally ill women and will begin to work on finding and funding a separate facility. [Did you know that there is not a specialized center for people with a severe mental illness to go without being confined by the courts in one of the state hospitals?]
  12. Training for Security Guards:  The women are concerned with the threats and lack of compassion by the armed security officers.  The women want the police officers who work at the shelter to have to be certified in the crisis intervention with mentally ill people, and sensitivity training or implicit bias training before they can work at the shelter.
  13. Seminars for the Residents on LGBTQ Issues:  Many residents have had no previous experience in living with trans individuals and have no experience with sensitivity around LGBTQ issues.  The residents feel like this was thrust on them without warning or discussion.  There is an understanding that this is the law, but there needs to be some cultural sensitivity training and some open discussion about the law with the residents and the local fair housing groups.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Saturday
Nov122016

NEOCH Had a Few Successes Recently

Ice and Leslie at the Cosgrove Feast and Fellowship in OctoberFamily Homelessness

The Community Women's Shelter no longer housing children.  We raised the issue with the County, the media and the public and we saw a change in October 2016. The Women's Shelter is way overcrowded and there were many homeless families looking for help.  The County came up with the solution of putting women with children inside the already overcrowded women's shelter.  NEOCH felt that the County should declare an emergency and ask for help.  The City Mission stepped forward to help and is now housing families in the gymnasium.  They purchased cots and toys for the kids.  This shows that with public private partnerships, we can solve problems.  We thank City Mission for their help in this time of crisis.

Began negotiations on the Women's Shelter changes

Frontline Services has begun meeting with women on the priority issues to improve the shelter.  We will post the priority items and provide regular progress for the shelter.  So far, we are planning on a survey of the women and the creation of a resident council to rewrite the rules.  There are many questions outstanding that need answered from the agency.  This is only a small step but at least the two groups are talking.

Purge Lawsuit

After a loss at the district court our legal team scored a scored a victory in the Appeals Court and ruled against the Ohio Secretary of State for the way he purged voters.  We posted the information on our voting blog from Demos about the suit here.  The issue was that the Secretary of State notified voters that they may be removed from the voting rolls, but gave them vague or confusing instructions for what the voter should do to correct this situation.  The lawyers spent weeks on negotiating this and eventually had to go back to court to get the federal court to order a resolution.  It was a victory for common sense and voting rights. 

Central Kitchen

In 2015, we kept hearing at meetings that the food at the two big shelters was subpar. The two shelters had contracted with the Lutheran Metro Ministry program called the Central Kitchen.  We had Central Kitchen staff attend Homeless Congress meetings, but it was not getting better.  So, we set up meetings at the Central Kitchen last year and things are getting better.  They hired a new head chef this summer and have made the trainees go out and serve the food at the shelters on a regular basis.  The residents admitted at both the Homeless Congress and at the Resident Council that things are improving at the Central Kitchen.  We congratulate the staff over at Central Kitchen, and hope to see continued improvement.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Nov102016

Draining the Swamp in America

What does draining the swamp look like?  Some say it is about ridding DC of the "establishment" and lobbyist, but then we see only establishment and lobbyist figures so who knows.  Here are my thoughts on what is ahead for homeless people in Cleveland.  I am basing these projections on what Donald Trump said when he ran for office and how it will impact homeless people.  Some have said that those were just statements for the campaign, but his supporters will expect delivery on these ideas.  I have also looked at the Campaign website for some hints and base these projections on previous attempts by Republicans in Congress.  Some of these items were stopped because of divided government which is not the case at this time.  Voters were angry at the "establishment" for not responding to their concerns, so they are not going to stand for Trump not fulfilling these promises.  Here are the four websites that I looked at to formulate these projections:

The other issue for those of us in Ohio is that Trump has said on the Campaign trail that he is fiercely loyal and feel that those who have slighted him should be punished.  He repeatedly talked about the Congressmen who turned their back on him and those who did not live by the pledge they signed to support the Republican nominee for President.  The Governor of Ohio as well as the Senator just re-elected both distanced themselves from the President Elect.  Governor Kasich never endorsed the candidate and stated that he would not vote for Trump despite the popularity of the Presidential candidate.  Portman revoked his endorsement after harassment allegations arose and stated that he was going to waste his Presidential vote with a non-existent write in candidate.  There are debates about whether to end the earmarks ban, but Ohio may not benefit since we only have one member in leadership and that retaliation problem by a vindictive administration.  In addition, there is a plan for infrastructure improvements, but would Ohio score poorly because of our leadership team not supporting the Republican nominee?  If there is a dramatic infrastructure program that could put the skilled laborers sleeping in our shelters in Cleveland to work.   Overall, it looks like Ohio is going to be a rough place in the next four years.  

A Rise in Hate Crimes Against Homeless People

There is a great deal of fear and anxiety in America and typically people we do not understand become targets.  Homeless people, those who stay outside, and panhandlers are certainly misunderstood and often viewed as the enemy.  They are the visible expression that America is not a great place for everyone.  We fear that there will be a rise in hate crimes against homeless people because of the sharp rise in hate crimes over the last few weeks.  The next Justice Department is unlikely to be as sympathetic to protecting people living on the streets as the current Civil Rights Division.  

Medicaid Will Likely Contract

There was such hatred for the Affordable Care Act and the cornerstone of so called "Obamacare" was the expansion of Medicaid to those living at 132% of poverty or below.  This is unlikely to survive any change in the health care law.  Homeless people will have to go back to the emergency room for care.  Before Medicaid expansion in Ohio less than 20% of the population had insurance.  Today, between 70 and 80% of the population have insurance.  This has dramatically improved the health of the population and we were talking about using health care expansion to pay for stable housing because housing is healthcare. This is off the table and will not happen in the current environment. There is talk of moving to a "health savings account" system, but I am pretty sure that the savings accounts of homeless people will be overdrawn. There is also talk of privatizing Medicaid which will be great for the big insurance companies, big pharma, and horrible for low income people who are frequent health care customers. 

Dramatic Changes in Housing Programs

There is no real housing lobby in Washington.  We have not had a national housing policy since 1972, and no real production of housing for decades.  There was no discussion of housing in the Presidential election, and the beneficiaries of housing unfortunately do not vote.  People who live in subsidized housing are not protected like seniors who vote in huge numbers and protect Social Security like no other program.  I see two options for the next Congress to begin to cut the budgets for housing programs.  One is to privatize the market as much as possible, which the new Businessman in Chief would support.  The other option is to time limit the housing like welfare reform.  They actually could do both to contain costs.  Congress could provide a five year lifetime limit on subsidized housing to try to reduce the huge waiting lists (7,000 people on the voucher list in Cleveland and 21,000 on the public housing list in Cleveland).   The privatization has already started with housing authorities going to banks for private funding to rebuild their properties.  This will only be accelerated in the next few years.  Time limits would quickly fill up the shelters with disabled and fragile people who have no ability to pay the market rate for rent in Cleveland or any community. 

Sequestration on Steroids

Veterans programs, military, and social security will be protected according to Trump campaign promises.  While all other government programs will be subject to an across-the-board budget cut. Trump campaigned on a 1 to 2% cut in government spending to tackle the debt.  This would have a huge impact on social services.  We already lost shelter beds every year since Sequestration started and this will only accelerate with any cuts.  It is hard to cut 1% of the beds locally, so entire programs close. Shelter beds, treatment programs, re-entry programs, food stamp programs, health care for those without money, transportation dollars, and food assistance will be reduced.  The unemployment compensation and worker's compensation program has huge debt problems in many parts of the country. Both worker's assistance programs could be further privatized to attempt to eliminate federal bailouts.  

Block Granting

The Congress has tried this in the past but not very successfully.  Food stamps is the last of the entitlements that is not time limited.  While most homeless people do not collect food stamps, this is the program most likely to face a time limit and a block granting to the states to administer.  Funding for the shelters could also be block granted to the states.  Again, this might not be so bad for some states, but in Ohio rural communities always seem to get a disproportionate amount of federal and state dollars. The rural legislators are far more powerful than the urban legislators and demand a larger piece of the pie.  The example is the Ohio Housing Trust Fund which is slanted toward suburban and rural communities and those who live in urban communities suffer.  

Priorities for Other Government functions

We know that immigration, building a wall, deporting millions, an infrastructure program, legal and judicial resources to defend these positions, renegotiating trade deals, and improving care to Veterans will be the priority for the administration.  Trump has also promised a big tax cut for corporation and the middle class.  All of these will leave little room in a balanced federal budget to also fund shelters, housing, welfare, Medicaid, and food assistance. Again, because these programs do not have a powerful lobby they will not fair well in a Trump administration.  There was a promise to end all government funding for "sanctuary cities" that construct a wall between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers.  This type of precedent could impact many of the largest cities in America and their homeless services funding.  If the feds withhold money from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco for being "sanctuary cities" can those housing dollars go to Columbus and Youngstown?  It also could be a dangerous precedent used by the federal funds to withhold dollars from local communities that do things that the President does not like. 

Immigration debates could also seep into funding for the shelters in another way.  The shelters have always had a strict privacy protection so that even families have a hard time getting information on their loved ones.  Will the federal government demand the publicly funded shelters turn over their rosters to screen them against the list of 2 to 3 million people that the Trump administration is looking to deport?  The President may demand that they open their HMIS data to federal ICE officers for inspection.  The shelters may be swept into this national debate for offering a safe place to anyone who shows up at the door vs. receiving federal dollars to keep out foreign nationals.

Most of the Plans Require a Growing Economy

The Paul Ryan "A Better Way" Plan repeatedly outlines the need for a healthy growing economy in order to facilitate projections for growth in charitable giving and a recovery of the housing market.  Under President Obama, the economy has grown steadily for seven years.  It cannot go on with growth forever.  There will always be downturns, and we do not have the safety net services that we had in the past.  We will not have the tax base to absorb the number of people who need help.  We do not have the shelters, the affordable housing, the job training programs that we had in the past.  We are ready with food, but every other safety net has huge holes.  It will be tough for everyone.  

Veterans Homelessness Will Most Likely End

There are a few good things that are most likely coming in the next few years.  With the public pronouncements of improving the Department of Veteran's Affairs.  The Obama administration made a good headstart on ending veteran's homelessness.  With a renewed focus on improving the entire VA network in the new administration, it is a good bet that veteran's homelessness will end over the next few years.  

Treatment Could Actually Expand

The one area of positive reform of the social safety net might be the rate of incarceration and then the diversion into treatment programs.  There has been bi-partisan plan to reform the criminal justice system to reduce some of the costs.  This could translate into more resources into treatment to keep people out of jail.  This could benefit Northeast Ohio which is buckling under the opioid epidemic.  This may be a scratch in the end if hundreds of thousands lose health insurance locally.  We could overwhelm the few additional treatment and detox beds with those without health insurance.

Snapshots

  • Fewer affordable housing options because of time limits or privatization and a continued decline in the number of shelter beds.
  • More homeless families with health issues or an inability to find a job.
  • More single homeless people with fewer places to go.
  • Cleveland has guaranteed access to a shelter bed.  This is unlikely to survive with the expected federal funding cuts. 
  • Fewer homeless veterans and more treatment beds in the community.
  • The local community will be expected to pick up the slack for a withdraw of funds from the Federal government. Image Post Swamp After Being Drained
  • Trump has pledged 25 million jobs and that will benefit homeless people.

There are many in the social justice community who are worried about individual liberty, privacy and hate crimes.  There are those in the social service community worried about federal block granting and huge cuts in healthcare, housing and job programs.  These two worlds rarely co-exist, but may be forced into a shot gun wedding.  There are a lot of unknowns, but if the Trump Administration fulfills half of the promises he campaigned on, homeless people are going to be in big trouble.  By Thanksgiving 2017, the face of poverty will be much different compared to 2016.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry