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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.

The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event

NEOCH Names New Director

Homeless Advocacy Organization Names New Director: Christopher Knestrick

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board of Trustees is proud to announce that they have hired Chris Knestrick (Nes-Trick) as the new Director of Operations, replacing Brian Davis who is stepping down after 23 years.  Knestrick brings over 10 years of experience working with the homeless community in Cleveland and directing advocacy efforts with international and local communities. Board President Roy Love praised his compassion and knowledge of local public policy and was confident in the success of Knestrick leading the 30 year old advocacy organization.  “We are excited to have Chris Knestrick oversee our strategic plan, and hope that he can improve the lives of homeless people while they search for housing,” said Love.

 Knestrick will take the lead from the long-time director of the Coalition, Brian Davis who will be leaving the organization at the end of the month.   Knestrick will continue the organization’s deep commitment to amplifying the voice of homeless people, publishing the street newspaper, coordinating outreach, and marketing the affordable housing website  His experience working for the Catholic Worker community has allowed him to build relationships with men and women on the streets. He comes with a deep knowledge of the issues and challenges that those struggling with poverty face.  “The Board is sorry to see Davis leave NEOCH, but is excited to see what new ideas Knestrick will bring to the struggle to end homelessness in Cleveland.  Davis protected homeless people from unreasonable municipal laws as well as forced relocations and I believe that Chris will continue this important work that the Coalition has led in Cleveland,” said Love.  The Board is committed to continuing to protect homeless voters, publish referral information for homeless people, and convincing the City of Cleveland Police not to arrest homeless people for purely innocent behavior of sitting on the sidewalk.

Knestrick starts on July 5 and plans to visit all the shelters and homeless service providers.  He will introduce himself to homeless people at the Homeless Congress and is going out to visit encampments with some of the outreach workers in July.  The NEOCH Board gave unanimous approval to Knestrick as they open a new chapter in their quest for social justice in Cleveland.  

by Roy Love--Board President representing the full board


Upcoming Discussion of the Value of Supportive Housing

Here is an announcement from Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services:

This is a reminder of the annual, full Continuum of Care (CoC) Member meeting scheduled for Friday, June 16th,  10:00 AM – 11:30 AM. Anyone who is interested in reducing homelessness in Cuyahoga County is considered a member of the Continuum of Care . As always, everyone is welcome to attend the CoC meeting.

The location of this special meeting is the newest Housing First Building:

                 Commons at West Village
               8301 Detroit Avenue,  Cleveland, OH 44102.

There is a parking lot with the building.


Katie Kitchin, Director of the Ohio Office of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and Barb Poppe, formerly head of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) will attend and present the following information for your review and feedback:

Based on analysis of Cuyahoga County Annual Performance Reports for each intervention type of Street outreach, Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, Rapid Re-Housing, Supportive Services Only (SSO) and Permanent Supportive Housing – what are the projected GAPS in the interventions in Cuyahoga County, and rolling up data statewide, the State.

Assess how our CoC is:

  • implementing Housing First practices,
  • aligning with federal benchmarks and criteria and progress toward reaching functional zero for each subpopulation
  • aligning with HUD’s Recovery Housing brief;
  • identifying promising best practices;
  • other items to be determined
  • In addition, CoC members may be asked for feedback on “who” can be diverted from homelessness; “who” could or would benefit from TH; and after ending chronic homelessness, who should the next target population be for prioritizing PSH?

This is a lot to cover in an hour and half!

Please RSVP to 216.420.6844 if you want to attend this meeting.

Thank you!

Editor's Note:  This will focus on how great Permanent Supportive Housing is for the community and will not address the overcrowded shelters, the large number of homeless deaths, the huge waiting lists for housing, and the inability for a homeless family to find help. It will also not focus on the value of spending 80% of our homeless dollars that to PSH instead of the loss of 450 beds of shelter locally.   Other than all that everything is looking good for homeless people especially on one day in January when County officials count.

Brian Davis

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Homeless Congress Notes for May

May 11, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The meeting began with an overview of the Homeless Congress and work to date.  

The group had a long discussion on the Cuyahoga County Council meeting that was on May 3, 2017.  At this meeting, the Council members voted on who will get the contract to provide services for the Norma Herr women’s shelter.  The committee is recommending that Frontline get the contract, but they did not get the contract for 3 years that the County Office of Homeless Services had recommended.  One of the members of the Homeless Congress, Loh, said she went to one of the other meetings and filed a grievance and still feels that the grievances are not handled properly.  She also informed the members that there was another suicide attempt recently at the women’s shelter.  The members were informed that the next important meeting is on May 23, 2017 when the contract will be voted on by the full County Council meeting. (After the meeting of Homeless Congress another County Health and Human Services meeting was held and the contract was reduced even further). 

In January, the Congress voted to prioritize advocating to open a separate shelter for mentally challenged homeless individuals so they can get the help they need.  This information was sent to the ADAMAS Board.  The first week in May, Brian, Ramona, Loh, and Rosie (who are members of the Homeless Congress) met with William Denihan, Michael Doud, and Valeria Harper of the ADAMAS Board to discuss the need and options that might be available in the community.  The only thing accomplished at this meeting was bringing the need for a separate shelter to the ADAMAS Board attention.  We briefly discussed possible funding options. But, William Denihan will be retiring in August.

Rosie informed members that Mr. Denihan is very concerned about this issue, but funding is limited.  At the meeting on May 3rd, Dale Miller asked about the mental health, drug, and alcohol issues at the shelter.  Eric Morse responded that the women at the shelter “all” have either mental health issues or drug and alcohol issues.  He also stated in addition to that “if a separate shelter is needed for residents that have mental issues or drug and alcohol issues, there is a shelter already in place for that and it’s the Norma Herr women’s shelter”. 

The next topic was the Open Doors CLE Art Project (photos posted on the front of the NEOCH website) that the Cleveland Institute of Art students are working on. I gave the Homeless Congress an update on the upcoming art exhibit.  The doors for the art project will be on display at Slavic Village on May 20-21st from 1-5pm and May 27th at Willard Park (by the free stamp) from 11am – 5pm.  The doors will be on exhibit for other projects as well.  There will also be a tribute to Michael Stoops, Founder of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who recently passed at the Willard Park opening. 

Next was an update on the Single Adult Committee-SASH.  The members were informed that nothing has been finalized and the committee is still working on the guidelines.  Randall, who is a member of the committee, discussed some banning policies as far as the length of stay at the shelter.  He explained that at this time they are considering allowing a resident to reject up to three “feasible” offers of housing, if none of these offers are accepted there would be a mediation, and finally they are working on consequences for refusing housing.  One option that is being considered is take away some services and only allow the resident to sleep at the shelter at night.  Also discussed was setting time limits on how long a resident could stay at the women’s shelter.  One member commented that there is one women that has been at the women’s shelter for 10 years, doesn’t work, and refuses housing.  It was also suggested that these women shouldn’t have privileges and have to sleep on a mat as opposed to having a room. Other women commented that there are no privileges available at the Women's shelter to take away.  There was some controversy about this and how Cleveland shelters are proud to say no one is turned away, yet, the committee is considering not allowing a resident to return once they leave the shelter or discharged (put out) for not accepting housing. 

Brian Davis argued that these women should be able to have a bed, in the only shelter for single women in Cleveland, if the city can put new windows in the Q.  Davis said, "What kind of society are we living in that cannot offer a cot and some food to its citizens but can find money to improve the playgrounds for the rich with museums and sports stadiums."  He further stated that it is a matter of cost vs. alternative.  He feels that they should not be concerned about the personal issues that have led the person to stay in the shelter unless the individual is offering alternatives.  If the reality is that all of our systems are broken (mental health, addiction, health care) and we are so unforgiving as a society including landlords and the re-entry community, then why are we putting so much pressure on people to leave.  If there are so many problems in holes in the safety net, why to we begrudge people sleeping in a shelter.  It is not a paradise and they are not staying in luxury.   He said, “Human beings should be treated like human beings”. 

Next “worker accountability” was discussed.  Randall stated that the committee will make sure staff is working with the client to find appropriate housing.  He said the committee is discussing how these decisions should be made or not made and the contributing factors. 

After the raffle, the surveys for the women’s shelter was discussed and it was determined that the women still feel the renovations did not help.  In fact, most felt that the renovations made matters worse.  Updates regarding the contract to provide services for the women’s shelter were discussed next.  The members were informed about the outcome of the Cuyahoga County Council meeting.  They were told about:

  • Dale Miller's excellent questions about the shelter and why there are so many problems.
  • Did Frontline not meet the minimum requirements?
  • Was there a way to shorten the contract?
  • Brian and Loh had both talked about how unfair the whole process was.
  • Councilwoman Conwell was upset over the NEOCH and Congress treatment of their staff Ruth Gillett.  Brian and Roy from NEOCH tried to meet with her in the morning and she was a no show.
  • Gillett had decided not to attend this meeting of the Homeless Congress.

LMM and the County had sent specifics of the new arrangement at the Women's Shelter which would include operating 24/7, having access to Wi-Fi, and other services.  LMM was going to join Frontline to improve the shelter as soon as this contract was approved by the County.   It was explained that staff from LMM will be eased in and current staff will be swapped in back and forth. LMM will oversee day to day operations and Frontline will be more focused on case management. There were a series of handouts from the County/LMM about the changes.

The next discussion was about agency accountability and complaints of suffering in regard to an uncaring provider, disrespectful staff, and lack of resources to help residents move forward and out of the shelter.  One of the members informed everyone at the meeting that this has been going on for over 10 years.  There was a short discussion about two County Council members spending the night at the shelter incognito and there was notes distributed from the County about the overnight stay and the changes needed.  The notes didn’t address how terrible things were at that time, and some of the huge issues.  Brian stated that he couldn’t believe that they didn’t demand immediate action because of the conditions that they saw on that one night.  Following this discussion, one of the members said that the food that is being sent to the women’s shelter is not what is being served according to the pictures he has seen online.  Ms. Gimmel of Eden, asked questions and urged the members to give the agency a chance to change.

The final order of business discussed was about this being the last Homeless Congress for Brian Davis of NEOCH.  Brian and Roy (NEOCH Board President) assured members that most of the programs will remain the same at NEOCH even after Brian leaves.  Roy also stated that NEOCH will continue to do all it can do and will work to make a smooth transition.

*There will not be a Homeless Congress meeting in June and members were informed of this. 

The next meeting will be July 13, 2017.

by Ramona Turnbull

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NEOCH Board Announces Going Away Party

All are invited to the Breen Center at St. Ignatius on June 23 between 6 and 9 p.m. to say goodbye to the 22 year Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  The NEOCH Board of Trustees invite you to wish a fond farewell to Brian Davis for his 22 years of service to homeless people.  We are asking that you RSVP for this event. 

Transition Committee

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Thanks to Project ACT Children and Youth Program

I love the Homeless Children and Youth Program at the Cleveland Public Schools. It is a model program that works to get a child back into school as soon as possible after their housing falls apart.  They also provide wrap around services to help a child during their homelessness to help them stay at grade level when their home life is in chaos.   I have worked with Dr. Marcia Zashin of Project ACT for 23 years. 

In fact, NEOCH would probably be out of business if it were not for Project ACT.  When I started at NEOCH, the organization had no staff and was basically only publishing the street newspaper, the Homeless Grapevine.  I was volunteering to keep the paper going while bartending at night.  Dr. Zashin had worked with the previous director to apply for an AmeriCorps*VISTA program for NEOCH and the school district.  Our request was granted and we had to find a place for 11 VISTAs to be divided between the two agencies.  It was too difficult for a huge organization like the school district to handle the administrative burden of working with the federal government, so NEOCH was the lead.  Spencer Wells at the Cleveland Tenants Organization took over NEOCH and hired me to administer the Coalition.  We went from all volunteers to five full time staff working on homeless issues. 

We had to restart the public education, advocacy, training, Street Card, street voices, and anything else these new college graduates who were AmeriCorps*VISTAs wanted to work on.  They did some nice work on investigative stories in the paper, and began to go to the shelters to hear about the horrible conditions.  The other VISTAs stationed over at Project ACT helped expand the Cleveland Public Schools tutoring program, set up a hotline and worked to provide care packages for the families who are experiencing homelessness.  The VISTA's working over at Project ACT set up these great partnerships with artistic organizations so families living in the shelters could go visit the Playhouse or Near West Theatre to participate in art projects.

This partnership blossomed statewide so we were eventually working with every large school district in Ohio.  The programs all expanded and did some great work in the 1990s and early 2000s until VISTA decided that we would have to pay for the VISTAs (time limits).  Instead of focusing on the good work that the VISTAs were doing in Ohio, federal officials focused on how long the program had been at an agency.  We were changing their goals and the VISTAs turned over every year, but the Corporation for National Service decided to give this resource to some other group in the community.  This does not build loyalty for the program, which now that VISTA is on the chopping block it is going to be hard to get groups to rally around the VISTA federal program. 

The NEOCH board saw the value of the organization because we had four staff working on things in Cleveland with our partnership with Project ACT as we stabilized.  The VISTAs were working on creating programs to reduce poverty locally.  The VISTAs spent their time on starting programs like Voice Mail, Bridging the Gap, Homeless Legal Assistance, expanding the paper and various art projects.  They contributed so much to homeless people living in Cleveland, and much of it had to do with Project ACT.  We gave Dr. Zashin the Ione Biggs Award last year for her decades of service in Cleveland.  The other great thing about the Homeless Children and Youth program is that they have great about keeping track of the homeless kids.   They have a much broader definition of homelessness, and so if you do not have a place to live the schools consider you homeless.  In the rest of the system, if you can answer 13 questions and did not just get out of jail, you are homeless.  There is no confusion in the schools. 

Thanks for the appreciation, but I appreciate Project ACT as well.

Brian Davis

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