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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
Jun302014

How Are Veterans Doing in Cleveland?

I have been asking around to Veterans that I know in Cleveland about the care that they receive at the Department of Veteran's Affairs Hospital and the services surrounding the VA.  It seems that most people are pretty satisfied with the care that they are receiving locally.  Most of the veterans say that they wished that they could get appointments faster, but that they understand the huge numbers returning from conflict who need help.  They say that the private insurance market is way harder to deal with compared to the VA system.  I have not come across anyone who has the experiences of those described from Phoenix or that the President identified when announcing the proposed new VA Secretary.

The White House released a scathing report Obama commissioned that charged the VA with “significant and chronic system failures.” The report also said the VA is battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health needs.

I understand that the former Secretary had to fall on his sword in order to quell some of the fire that was raging in the veterans community, but I liked Secretary Eric Shinseki.  He was quiet and did not show a range of emotion which probably led to his downfall.  He set a standard of care and expected the staff to follow that level.  He came out of the military culture of honor and service and expected that culture to permeate throughout the Veterans Affairs Department.   He seemed to be stunned that staff would lie and cheat for financial benefit.   I thought that his goal of ending veterans homelessness by the end of 2015 was a good one. 

The Veterans were betrayed and let down by the government they were asked to defend.  Both the administration and the Congressional branch do a disservice to the veterans.  They did not allocate enough funding to serve the nation's wounded.  We have not built a trusting relationship with the Vietnam era veterans and now we are trying to deal with the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  We had requests for seeing a doctor increase by 50% but we only brought on a 9% increase in the number of doctors over the last five years.  They have seen a 78% increase in their budget during that time, but the bureaucracy does not operate very efficiently.  The technology used at the VA facilities are archaic and outdated and frustrating for patients and staff.  There are some 7 million veterans seeking various levels of assistance from the Department with 2 million more patients compared to five years ago. 

According to the New York Times, in the past three years, primary-care appointments have leapt 50 percent while the department’s staff of primary care doctors has grown by only 9 percent, according to department statistics.

They need to figure out a way to streamline services between active military and retired.  They need to ease the backlog of evaluating veterans for benefits.  They should call the health care staff something different to them from the benefits staff who may have denied full benefits.  The VA needs to do something big and bold to regain the trust of the community.   There are some serious holes in the system, but it is not completely broken.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Jun272014

Homeless Voting for 2012

Homeless Voting

We had a really nice meeting with the homeless providers to talk about getting homeless people registered and ready to vote.  To that end, we have also updated our website with the above logo on many pages.  This will allow you to click on the logo to go to our voting section of our website.   We have updated the materials on that page to reflect the new rules and laws passed that restrict low income access to voting.  Most of the materials on the site are updated for 2014.  We also have a blog which list updated information and upcoming events to encourage voting.   We want to help the homeless social service providers to register and encourage voter participation.  Contact NEOCH if you need any help with homeless registration and voting. 

We have to thank the County Office of Homeless Services for requiring each provider receiving public money to put together a Voting Plan for their residents.  We are one of the only communities in the Country that prioritizes homeless voting as part of the shelters.  This is so helpful and forces all staff working with homeless people to think about voting activities.  We helped around 1,000 homeless people register and vote in the 2012 election.   

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Jun252014

Unfriendly Honolulu Push Homeless People Out

Honolulu is a beautiful place to live, but a horrible place to be homeless.  Honolulu police are officially cracking down on homelessness at the direction of the Mayor. They are confiscating personal belongings, closing public parks at night, banning tents and lean-tos in public spaces, imposing fines for public urination/defecation, and rousting those from sleep on the sidewalks. Mayor Kirk Caldwell explained, in an essay published in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, that they are battling homelessness. Caldwell has demanded a war against homelessness. However, to John McCormack, a 55-year-old homeless man from Waikiki, it’s becoming more and more evident that “he’s making a war against the homeless," according to an article in the New York Times.

In the most amazing Orwellian language, Caldwell calls the crackdown "compassionate disruption." Meanwhile, police are ticketing homeless people for pushing their belongings in a shopping cart on the sidewalk; they are demanding that homeless people leave the city without offering alternative solutions. Caldwell calls the policy “doing it with aloha," the Hawaiian word that means compassion. Meanwhile, Jerry Jones, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told the NY Times, “have we gotten so far out of touch with reality that our first reaction to people experiencing destitution is that it spoils our view of the beach?” 

Indeed, perhaps the root of the problem is the conflict between homelessness and tourism. While more and more tourists flock to the sunny island, the homeless population has increased by 32 percent in the last 5 years. Michael Stoops, the director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, claims that the war is “a war going on between tourism and development versus helping the homeless." People come to Hawaii for the sand, sun, and surf, and they cannot get away from the problems faced by every major American city with thousands of homeless people wandering the streets and beaches. Caldwell, who has received letters of complaint from bothered tourists, responds “with notes asking [the tourists] to give the city another chance”. He insists that homelessness is ruining the economy and the city, and he urges the war against homelessness to go on. Clearly, the tourists are winning this war. 

By Lora Zuo

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Jun252014

Proposals to Improve the Conditions in the Shelters

Passed on August 8, 2013 at a Homeless Congress meeting, a new shelter standards proposal was drafted and agreed upon. This proposal outlines the most essential shelter standards suggested by the Homeless Congress at earlier meetings. At that meeting, the Congress had drawn up a list of ideal, or “dream” shelter standards to be considered. This list was entirely comprehensive and went into great detail about the changes that needed to be made in the shelters. However, in order to be practical, the Congress cut down the length and forewent some of the originally proposed standards to appease City Council. As a result, a compromise was struck and a new proposal resulted. The original dream standards are nonetheless great reference points to base future goals off of for they are great guidelines upon which to advocate for further change in the shelters.

 

We have modified our website to reflect these new changes.  There is actually no law currently regulating the shelters, and the Congress would like to see a change.  They want to see access to shelter and a standard for discharge in law.  They want to see mandatory arbitration before there is a discharge.  The Homeless Congress are also working to improve the regulations that are a part of every contract for public money. 

Click here for the current Cuyahoga County shelter regulations.  We have also added a page on regulations that the Homeless Congress would like added to the current County regulations

By Lora Zuo and Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Jun252014

An Open Letter to City and County Government

Dear Mayor Jackson and County Executive Fitzgerald:

We are writing to urge the City of Cleveland to develop an affordable housing plan similar to the one released by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. The Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan1 intends to lower income inequality by making new housing units available to more households with lower incomes (under about $25,000 a year). Specifically, the plan consists of investing $41 billion for 200,000 units of new and preserved housing.  At a Brooklyn meeting, De Blasio insisted that, “in a progress city, everyone should have the opportunity for affordable housing, and that’s what this plan sets out to achieve”. Indeed, advocates for affordable housing certainly see this plan as worthy of admiration and imitation.

Housing New York streamlines regulations and processes in hopes of opening up new development opportunities, containing costs, and speeding up affordable housing construction. De Blasio also means to double the capital budget, target vacant and underused land, and protect tenants in rent-regulated apartments. Certainly, these goals make Housing New York the largest and most ambitious affordability plan of its kind in our nation’s history, but if the plan is successful, the 200,000 units of housing will be enough to serve more than a half-million people in New York City. That said, we believe that Cleveland should try to put together a similar plan called Housing Cleveland in the next few months. As Mayor de Blasio demonstrated, the proposal for a housing plan of this scale need not be a lengthy procedure. After only 5 months in office, de Blasio announces a plan that tackles affordable housing issues quickly and aggressively, and there is no reason why Cleveland cannot do the same.

In Cleveland, there is a rising number of fair housing complaints combined with an inadequate supply of housing that meet basic requirements. We have talked about a funding source in the creation of a Local Housing Trust Fund, but it has not happened.  There are waiting lists of 19,000 for public housing, 6,000 for voucher programs, and 64,000 people applied for housing in 2011 when Section 8 was opened. 22,000 people are homeless and a growing number of homeless families are attempting to find shelter every night.  There were 30 families sleeping in the overflow shelter in Cleveland last week, because we did not have space.  Also and unfortunately, Cleveland did not receive any of the state tax incentives to build housing in the competition announced last month, which means a year of not developing any affordable housing.  We also see repeated cuts to housing and homeless programs with Sequestration and other budget austerity programs resulting in the closing of shelters, elimination of rental assistance, and reductions in staffing for housing and homeless programs. 

Observing these numerous issues at hand, we must suggest that it is urgent for the City of Cleveland to follow in New York City’s footsteps. We must step up our efforts to build and preserve affordable housing, and so we ask you, as the Mayor of this progressive community, to please consider pushing for a Cleveland Housing Plan.  I am sure that we have the talent within the administration or with our non-profit partners to develop a Cleveland Housing Plan by the beginning of 2015.  

Sincerely,

Brian Davis

We have posted our one page advocacy alert on our website that you can print out and distribute to supporters

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry