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About NEOCH

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.

The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event
Sunday
Mar122017

HUD is Playing Orwellian Mind Games

*The Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of “literally homeless”: “Individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning: (i) Has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation; (ii) Is living in a publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state and local government programs); or (iii) Is exiting an institution where (s)he has resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution."

This is from Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services talking about HUD's new strategy for redefining homelessness with words instead of actual housing.  This is similar to their functional zero campaign or "complete counts" that are neither and pushing plans to end homelessness that were actually ending homelessness for only a small group.   HUD is becoming a master at using the George Orwell tools for changing reality. 

"Don't Call Me Literally Homeless. I believe I am figuratively homeless!"The latest is the use of "literally homeless" to describe the opposite of the word literally.  Everyone in the world understands the abstract concept of a home, and they also understand the opposite of that concept.  Those who do not work in the shelters or homeless services understand a homeless person is one who does not have a place to live.  The world understands those who pay themselves for a motel room, sleep on a couch, or a basement are in fact literally homeless.  HUD is trying to say that the arbitrary definition made up by a bureaucrat is now "literally homeless."  It is like some kind of sick joke that the Ministry of Love would propose in the world of Big Brother.  Imagine the heartbreak of a family who had the teacher tell them that the school teachers believe that the family is homeless because they are sleeping on a couch or a motel, and then they go to get help from the County and the smug caseworker says, "Sorry, your family is not literally homeless. Come back when you lose everything and are living on the streets because you don't qualify for help." It is horrible to treat taxpayers like this.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Friday
Mar102017

Letter to ADAMHS Board for Mental Health Shelter

The Homeless Congress picked as the single most important issue facing our community is that mentally ill people do not have a place to get the care they deserve.  They are placed in one of the two big shelters and cause disturbances and are taken advantage of on an almost daily basis.  NEOCH is not a mental health agency and we do not have trained mental health counselors or psychologists on site.  We are observers and we interact nearly everyday with severely mentally ill people.  None of us can figure out how it benefits the mental health of a person with something wrong with the brain to be placed in a facility with 200 to 400 others.  Does this help the person stabilize?  It just seems like a punishment that will only make their condition worse.

Here is the letter we sent on behalf of the Homeless Congress:

Dear Mr. Denihan

We have a great deal of respect for all you have done in your career even when we were sitting on the opposite side of the table during the White Administration.  We know that the community will miss your ability to manage huge bureaucracies and turn around government agencies struggling.  We are hoping that you will take the lead in finding a better place for severely mentally ill people from having to sleep in the two big shelters in Cleveland.  This is a critical issue especially because we believe that it is extremely damaging to the mental health stability of those struggling to be placed inside a facility with 200-400 people.  The current system is not healthy for those without mental health issues and especially those who are taken advantage of because of their mental illness.  We know that mentally ill people at the two entry shelters are exploited; they have their valuables including medicine stolen on a regular basis, and are abused and even raped in and around the shelters.  We know friends who have repeatedly attempted suicide inside the shelters, and we ask for your help in finding a smaller more caring place.

These vulnerable individuals are afraid of the large crowds.  They are frequently disruptive smearing feces in the bathrooms and cause disturbances in the shelters.  There are regular conflicts that demonstrate the personal care these taxpayers need but cannot find.  They deserve a trained professional staff to help them with their mental health issues.  We would never as a community expect an addicted individual to detox in a shelter with 200 to 400 people.  Why do we expect a mentally ill person to try to stabilize in the chaos of the shelters?  The shelters are unmanageable with all these untreated individuals with a mental illnesses and without personalized care.  The experiment has failed, and we are not building enough Permanent Supportive Housing to keep up with the demand.

A few areas that we will address in a white paper we are preparing on severely mentally ill people in shelter will look at:

  • Current homeless shelter situation has shown that those with severe mental illness are not able to fully integrate into presently available shelters.
  • Those with severe mental illness are unable to receive the health care they need in the current system.
  • Hospitals (ER and in-patient) even St. Vincent’s Psych ER end up admitting these individuals and discharging them shortly after; this results in heightened health care costs, arguably greater instability for the homeless individual (being medicated, then returning to homelessness where consistently continuing medications is unlikely).  Just stabilizing these individuals with medicine and then sending them out to the streets is not helping these individuals or the community.
  • Creating a separate shelter specifically for the severely mentally ill will decrease these problems and increase stability in the lives of severely mentally ill individuals.
  • Separation of shelter programs in other cities have shown its effectiveness; hospitalization rates decrease as a result of specialized shelters.
  • Within these shelters, narrative therapy has shown to be effective; this gives individuals control over their own lives, rather than feeling forced to do anything.
  • “Housing First” plans tend to work well, where attempts for transitional housing are made as soon as soon as an individual is admitted and adequate health care is consistently provided, but we need many more slots for the severely mentally ill.
  • 20-25% of homeless are mentally ill according to many national studies.
  • Rates of criminal behavior, contacts with the criminal justice system, and victimization among homeless adults with severe mental illness are higher than among housed adults with severe mental illness.
  • There are better strategies in other cities that could effectively serve the population.  Cleveland is far behind in providing a quality specialized care for those with a severe mental illness in a smaller setting.  Most of the cities in the United States do a horrible job serving mentally ill people who lose their housing, but there are some bright spots that we could learn from. 

We know that Frontline Services opposes a separate shelter for mentally ill people, and we know that whatever Frontline wants they get.  We understand that they are the largest organization in our Continuum of Care and are granted anything that they want.  We are hoping that with your retirement, you can look at this situation with clear eyes and not through the lens of one misguided organization more interested in a dream world in which a mentally ill person is immediately housed rather than real world we currently reside.  In the Trump/Kasich era, we are going to have mentally ill people who lose their housing and need emergency housing.  These friends are often misunderstood or face discrimination because of their disability which often leaves them without housing.  We need a better system that will provide a soft landing for individuals and then a quick return to housing.  We need a professionally trained staff who have experience in working with behavioral health issues to make this work.  Imagine the fear of being forced into a facility with 400 men or 200 women and having no where else to go.  It is horrible what we are doing to this fragile population in Cleveland.

 Sincerely,

 Brian Davis

Executive Director

 The ADAMHS Board were willing to listen, but we have not seen action toward creating a caring facility for those with a severe mental illness trapped in our two entry shelters. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
Mar102017

New Street Newspaper Out on the Streets

Mike McGraw dominated this edition of the Cleveland Street Chronicle with three articles in the paper.  There is an interview with retiring CEO, William Denihan, a story about the inability to find a payee and one on the VA Central Resource Center.  There are very good stories from the vendors about bedbugs, feeding homeless people and sales down at the West Side Market.  Staff wrote about the death of Unique Thrift, driving people to the polls, time limited shelters.  There are some great pics in the issue of the Stand Down, Homeless Memorial Day and the SocksPlus Program.   There are a few political stories from our vendors as well as health scares.  We had an article about the fake numbers that the County keeps sending out and relying on family in a time of need. 

Check it out at the West Side Market or pick one up from Delores or Mike downtown. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Mar082017

International Women's Day: Community Shares

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY! #BeBoldForChange

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day commemorating and celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political advancements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. In honor of International Women Day, we salute the women of the 44 member organizations that make up Greater Cleveland Community Shares. Approximately 56% of the Directors of Community Shares’ member organizations are female, as are approximately 80% of the members of Shares Board of Directors.

Founded in 1984, Greater Cleveland Community Shares is Cleveland's only workplace giving federation with a focus on social justice and the second largest such fund in the country. They have since its founding have had a female Executive Director unlike other federated giving programs.  They were started when social justice groups could not find access to some businesses to allow employees to give through a payroll deduction.  Shares was organized by a handful of groups to 44 member organization and having campaigns in most large workplaces in Northeast Ohio.    Community Shares member groups span the variety of Greater Cleveland’s neighborhoods and counties and many extend into Lorain, Lake, Summit and Geauga with their services. Shares generates essential operating funds for nonprofit organizations that are working for positive community change.

In honor of International Women's Day, you could give a donation directly to Community Shares from their website.  You could set up a payroll deduction through your companies through your Human Resources department.  Or you can volunteer to help Community Shares with their work.   We are so lucky to have a group that even recognizes the importance of social justice groups let alone provides funding in Cleveland. 

By Joyce Robinson

Full Disclosure Joyce is a board member of Community Shares

Posts are the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
Mar032017

Carson Answers Questions From Senator Brown

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown issued a press release about his support for Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  We posted it here. 41 other Senators voted against the nomination.  I have to say that I am skeptical as well.  We posted our outlook for the Trump Carson era here and the 2018 outlook is even worse. Back in 2011, even a 2 to 4% cut that we took in HUD funding resulted in the loss of shelter beds of around 60 per year.  With the proposed military budget increase, we are looking at a substantial cuts in domestic spending.  This will have a huge impact on public housing, the voucher program, and the shelters since HUD is a regular target for fiscal hawks.

Be prepared because we are going see more families and more single women trying to fit in a shelter system that is 20% smaller than it was a decade ago.  Will we see more tough love of those struggling with their housing out of HUD?  Will we see more of a push for "personal responsibility" from the federal government?  Will we pit one group of poor people against another for the table scraps that fall out off the plates of the "job creators"?   There is nothing really that any HUD Secretary can do to prevent the expected cuts in one of the least popular departments in Washington.  It is just that Carson does not seem to have much compassion for the constituents he serves.  He does not seem to be able to put himself back in the neighborhood that he grew up in and see the withdraw of federal funds would just make it worse.  These neighborhoods in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Toledo were segregated through redlining, forgotten when crack poured in, and then crushed when manufacturing left and predatory lenders arrived.  It does not seem likely that Ben Carson will stand up to Congress or the Administration and argue that a decrease in HUD funding will mean gangs, opioid dealers and human traffickers will be the only commerce left in some of these neighborhoods.  Even the poverty businesses (Furniture renters, plasma centers, check cashing, and convenience stores) will flee to look for greener pastures. 

Here are some of the answers provided to Senator Sherrod Brown from new Secretary of HUD Ben Carson:

Fair Housing – LGBTQ

Question: In response to a question on the housing rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals, you stated that you, “believe that all Americans…should be protected by the law.”

You then went on to say that you have said that you believe that, “no one gets extra rights. Extra rights means, you get to redefine everything for everybody else.”

Are there any instances you can think of where protecting equal access to housing opportunities for LGBTQ people would mean providing them “extra” rights?

Answer: I can not.

Do you believe HUD currently provides “extra rights” to LGBTQ people that need to be withdrawn?

Answer: I do not.

Infrastructure and Housing

Question: The President-Elect’s promised 1 trillion investment in infrastructure is one of the pillars of the President’s Plan for Urban Renewal. This is an area where I’ve said I’d like to work together with the new Administration.

Our public housing stock faces an estimated backlog of $26 billion in repairs. I was pleased that in our meeting you said that you are supportive of investing in our public housing infrastructure. Can you elaborate on this?

Will you work with the President to ensure that there is a real infrastructure package to address the needs of our urban and rural communities, and that it includes funding for preserving and creating affordable housing?

Answer: I will absolutely commit to advocating for the inclusion in the President Elect’s infrastructure package.

Housing for People with Disabilities

Question: Very-low income people with disabilities have great difficulty in finding and paying for suitable affordable housing with access to appropriate features and services. Over 1 million very low-income, non-elderly persons with disabilities pay over half of their incomes for housing, and approximately 2 million more people – including those with developmental disabilities – are living in more restrictive, institutional environments than they would choose or are living with an aging caregiver. Rent on a modest 1 bedroom apartment at HUD’s estimated national fair market rent would consume all of the income of a person relying upon Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What do you view as HUID’s role in meeting the housing needs of low-income people with disabilities?

Answer: HUD has both a production/rental subsidy role and an enforcement role. Beyond paying the rent for persons with disabilities, HUD has a responsibility to ensure accessible units are available under the law.

Ending Homelessness

Question: In 2010, Opening Doors, The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, set out goals to end homelessness for veterans, the chronically homeless, families, children and youth and all other homelessness. Through a combination of bipartisan federal investments and in appropriate housing solutions – particularly permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless and HUD-VASH vouchers for veterans – and improved practices at the federal and local levels, we have made real progress toward these goals. Since 2010, such investments have helped reduce chronic homelessness by 27 percent and veterans’ homelessness by 47 percent.

Yet, more remains to be done. According to HUD’s 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, approximately 549,928 people were homeless on a given night in January 2016. Nearly 195,000 of the homeless on this night were in families including at least one child.

Are you familiar with Opening Doors?

Answer: I am.

Do you intend to continue to build on the progress we’ve made thus far?

Answer: I intend to build on progress made since President Bush reconstituted the United States Inter Agency Council on Homelessness early in his Administration that Opening Doors builds on. No one can argue with the goal of ending homelessness.

If so, will you call for additional federal investments to end homelessness for veterans, the chronically homeless, and children and families?

Answer: If confirmed, I will call for continued investment to end homelessness for veterans, the chronically homeless and children and families.

Listening to Assisted Families and Advocates

Have you met and do you plan to meet with assisted families and organizations that advocate on behalf of HUD program participants and low-income families on your listening tour?

Answer: I have and will most certainly continue to meet with our important HUD partners. I will also work to recruit and Assistant Secretary for CPD who has a strong passion for and understanding of these issues.

Do you support dialogue between HUD staff and organized tenant groups to assist HUD in its oversight of housing programs?

Answer: I always believe dialogue is important way to understand each other’s perspective.

Shortage of Affordable Units/Housing Costs

Question: Dr. Carson, you have emphasized in your testimony the personal development component of HUD’s mission. I believe many people share your goal of helping all Americans reach their potential.

But today’s affordable housing shortage is not just a problem of human development, but also of housing development. The market alone is not producing sufficient housing that is affordable to working families and those on fixed incomes.

Housing is generally considered affordable if it consumes no more than 30 percent of income.

A person with a full-time job would need to earn an hourly wage of $20.30 in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental at HUD’s national average fair market rent. This “housing wage” is far above the minimum wage, income available to persons with disabilities who rely upon Supplemental Security Income, or even the median wage earned by renters. While housing costs vary across the country, in no state, metropolitan area, or county, can a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom home. Studies have demonstrated that people performing essential work – like child care teachers, bus drivers, and retail workers – are often unable to afford rent in the communities they serve.

Half of all renters – over 21 million households – paid more than 30 percent of their incomes towards housing in 2014, and a quarter – over 11 million – paid more than half their incomes on rent. Among extremely low income (ELI) renter households (those with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI)), 75 percent pay more than half their incomes on rent. The National Low Income Housing Coalition documents a shortage of 7.2 million affordable and available rental units for the nation’s ELI renter households.

Addressing the wages paid to workers is an important part of the housing affordability challenge. But, so too, is the supply of affordable rental housing.

As HUD Secretary, what steps will you take to address the shortfall in affordable and available rental housing in our communities?

Answer: Lack of affordable housing has many causes. Lack of subsidy is one. Lack of clear and consistent guidance is another. Regulatory and compliance risk is yet another. Too often when I talk about HUD with mayors and elected officials of both parties I hear fear and skepticism I their voices when we talk about the department as a partner. We need to change that. When it comes to deep affordability, though, removing all regulatory barriers won’t get you there. It comes down to subsidy. Subsidy levels haven’t changed appreciably under democratic or republican administrations.

I think we can all agree that we will all make sure housing is a key consideration in every appropriations bill. I foresee years of statements from Chairs and Ranking Members of our Appropriations Committees, however, highlighting bright spots in their budgets, but both equally lamenting the fact that they could not do more. If confirmed I will be a vocal advocate internally for funding, but prioritization will continue to occur in this Administration as it did in the last. I believe in HUD’s mission. I could have pursued other agencies, but I chose to come to HUD. I chose to come to HUD because I think I can make a difference. If confirmed, I hope to have an opportunity to challenge existing norms and take a fresh look at HUD’s programs. If we can lay aside our political differences and come together as Housers, I believe we can find better paths than we see before us. I may be fresh to the fight in Washington, D.C., but I am not fresh to the struggle to improve communities and better lives. I will recruit a bi partisan list of practitioners, not ideologues, to serve as Assistant Secretaries. I will surround myself with people who have a passion for improving the agency, not breaking down its programs. I will work with the career staff to examine what has been tried, why it worked or did not work, and if it did not work, why not. I hope we can do this together. I hope we can work as partners to reexamine and reimagine these programs.

 

Do you feel better now or reassured over the new HUD Secretary? Me either (Who could argue with the goal of ending homelessness?)  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of the author and the italic section of Ben Carson