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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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Homeless Congress Recommendations

Summary:  The Cleveland Police need a liaison to work with homeless people and should not wear their city issued uniform/badge when off duty and acting as private security officers.

Background: The Cleveland police chase in 2012 that started the second Justice Department investigation into CPD practices and procedures involved two homeless people driving the car.  The two unarmed homeless people were killed in a school yard in East Cleveland after a large number of cars were involved in a high speed chase.  Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were killed by over 130 bullets fired at their car resulting in the Justice Dept. report issued in 2014.  Many supervisors and officers were disciplined and six Police Department staff were charged with a crime.  Command staff attended a Homeless Congress meeting to discuss the incident and to ask for calm while the investigation moved forward.  Homeless Congress members regularly discussed the issue of police interactions with the population and were interviewed by the Justice Department legal team. 

What is the Homeless Congress? Representatives of the shelters and people who live outside meet once a month to work to improve conditions for homeless people.  They meet with local elected officials and work on public policy issues that have an effect on homeless people.  They work with government and shelter staff to improve access to homeless services. 

Specific Issues: Members who attended the December 12, 2014 Homeless Congress meeting unanimously supported the following proposals.  Homeless people in Cleveland are asking that any agreement with the Cleveland Police Department and the US Justice Department should contain the following points to prevent future problems between law enforcement and homeless people. 

  1. Police should not wear the Cleveland uniform when working private security

Homeless Congress members voiced concerns regarding off-duty officers wearing Cleveland police uniforms when working security at homeless shelters and drop in centers. This confuses and blurs the line between law enforcement and securing a building or private company.  The citizen is often not sure if the uniformed officer is enforcing City law or are they enforcing shelter policies?  Shelter residents were concerned that regular verbal altercations can be escalated into a criminal charge of disorderly conduct when a uniformed officer becomes involved.   We have numerous examples of Police officers threatening arrest for violating shelter rules, which does not seem to be the job of an employee of the City.  Shelter residents proposed that off-duty officers working security at shelters wear the uniform of a private security company that employs them and not the badge and uniform of the City of Cleveland. 

2. Need for a Liaison at Each Police District to Work with Homeless People and Domestic Violence  victims/as well as the agencies which serve them.                 `

Homeless Congress members also proposed that each police district have liaisons who would work with the homeless and homeless agencies. It was suggested that these liaisons have training about homelessness, which would include a short-term stay in a shelter in order to learn more about  homelessness. It was also proposed that the officer receive training from the agencies serving homeless and domestic violence victims.  We believe that this will provide a better understanding of the problems homeless people face and Police officers will make a more educated decision of how to respond to calls involving people who are without a place to live.

Joyce Robinson attended the Homeless Congress and published a letter in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in January regarding the consensus opinion of homeless people attending the meeting here.

We have communicated the opinion of the Homeless Congress to the US Justice Department, and hope to communicate them to the Cleveland City Council members.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


Overflowing Shelters and the Cost

 Columbus once again struggles with overflowing shelters and people being turned away.  This is a perennial problem in the Capital City.  They never seem to get things in place during the winter.  Of all the things we complain about in Cleveland, the sheltering of people who ask for help is not something we complain about.  The City of Cleveland and especially Ruth Gillett of the County Office of Homeless Services do it right every year.  We never have the problems that other cities experience.   We don't have to fight about the temperature getting to certain point or if the temperature reading is at the airport or downtown. 

Columbus seems to have problems every year with overflow.  Every year they claim to have everything under control and every year there is a problem.  Last year, they opened an overflow for men far from downtown and then the day care center next door objected.  Now this year, they were not prepared for all the families.  Why not avoid all these issues by just offering shelter to everyone who comes to the door?  Avoid all the hassles by just figuring out a way to handle overflow in the summer when there is not the demand, and then it will be easy to fill the gaps when it matters.  This is life and death, and Columbus has been on the wrong side for years. 

Is it expensive to offer a bed to everyone who asks for help.  The county would have to provide staffing, transportation and cooperation among the agencies.  Guaranteed access to shelter saves lives and government should do whatever to save lives.  We must keep people alive while they get back on their feet or reconcile with family or conquer their demons or work through their mistrust of other people. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Forum on Monday

The Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance (CAHA) is Monday January 5, 2015 at 1:30 pm. at US Bank Centre Building at 1350 Euclid Ave. Lower Level.  It should be an interesting meeting about the state of the Community Development Organizations in Cleveland.  

We have talked about the changes that have taken place over the last few years in the world of the Community Development organizations with the presentations of both UCI and Famicos at CAHA.  At the January meeting, we have invited Kathy Hexter of Cleveland State University and Bryan Gillooly of Bellaire Puritas CDC and Timothy Tramble of Burton Bell Carr Development to provide a look at the work of the CDC now and in the future.  How do they organize neighbors and how will they maintain access to affordable housing locally?  What will the pressure to show outcomes mean and the neighborhood work necessary to clean up after the housing foreclosure crisis?  We have invited City of Cleveland officials to also talk about the changes in the Ward boundaries and the effect of the cuts to Community Development Block grants.

As always we look at any troubled property in Cuyahoga County.  This is the 17th year of CAHA. A monthly meeting to check in on the status of affordable housing locally.  The goal is to stop the loss of affordable housing.  All are invited to attend.  Contact NEOCH to get on the e-mail list.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Importance of Outreach 2

Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance has dedicated his life to homeless people.  He works outside building trusting relationships.  We honored him in 2013.  Here is the photo gallery from that celebration.  This is a longer interview than the previous interview with Denise.  Jim is one of the best to give his thoughts on the importance of outreach.  While the federal government does not put much funding into outreach, we believe that it is an invaluable service in Cleveland.

It is hard to measure the success of outreach, but spending some time with people with a mental illness or PTSD victims is important.  Helping people overcome their disabilities to get into housing is extremely rewarding.  Jim gives some real world examples of how outreach changes lives.  Let us know what you think here or leave a comment below.


The Importance of Outreach

Denise Toth is our current Outreach Trainee.  She has learned a great deal over the last two months in working to find housing for those living outside.  She is learning about all the services available and trying to encourage people to come inside.  Denise is building a trusting relationship with those outside everyday in Cleveland. We are hosting a series of videos with outreach workers to demonstrate how important this service is to Cuyahoga County.

NEOCH is trying to show the value of outreach services in our community.  The federal government has been reducing its commitment to supportive services, but we want to show how important is to keep in touch with people discouraged from "the system."  We want to try to reach people who choose not to go to shelter and are struggling to make it through the winter.  We are out on the streets helping to keep people alive, but also to not waste their talents living outside.  This program is funded by the Community West Foundation.

Brian Davis