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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.

Thursday
Jan072016

New Street Newspaper Out on the Streets

The new Street Chronicle is on the streets and being sold by our vendors at the West Side Market and Downtown.  We have stories about the Metanoia Project and the conditions at the Women's Shelter of Cleveland.  Nearly every vendor writes an article for the paper and there are pictures from the HandUp Gala.  There is an open letter to Catholic Charities asking for a new shelter for families in Cleveland.  We have a look at some of the activities that the new Mayor of Akron could do to reverse the horrible treatment given to homeless people down in the Rubber City.

Greg gives a story about the law of adverse possession as an answer for homeless people.  There is an article about vending and one specific vendor.  Tammy talks about her son who was shot. There were many articles about the needs and the help homeless people received.  Mike gives us some examples of how he found his way off the streets.  Joyce does the same in her article. 

All the profits from the paper go to the vendor.  They purchase the paper from NEOCH for 25 cents and then sell them on the streets.  They sign a code of conduct and there is a sales contest for the first month of the paper being out.  Pick one up today to support these vendors.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Jan072016

County is Too Big for the Part Time County Council?

We did get a response from one of the Councilpersons about the flyers we have sent out. This Councilperson told us that the Council had appointed Councilwoman Conwell to focus on homelessness. It is interesting take on the issue of homelessness that the County Council has divided up the work among the 11 members.  According to this elected official, since the County Council members are part time members they don't have time for all the problems facing the County.  They have assigned Councilwoman Conwell to homelessness and she reports to the other 10.  I asked if we could get a re-vote on this issue since Ms. Conwell previously worked in a shelter and seems to have a dim impression of homeless people.  Also, since homelessness touches every single other issue it does not seem like a good division of resources. 

We have re-entry folks struggling with homelessness, we have victims of abuse, rape and violence who fall into homelessness.  We have families that cannot find childcare or health care and fall into homelessness.  We have developmentally disabled who are too old to receive assistance from their parents or foster care kids graduating to homelessness.  We have pregnant women who are not able to provide a healthy environment for their children.  We have 50,000 who felt that they needed help with housing and we have no where for homeless people to recover after an illness.  All these problems involve homeless people but they also overlap with welfare, senior and adult services, MetroHealth, Re-entry, fostercare, criminal justice, housing, development, jobs, etc.   Homelessness is a problem that every Councilman and Councilwoman need to be involved in solving.  Homeless people are the canary in the coal mine and when they show up asking for help we know that the safety net has failed. 

The County has taken the lead on funding the shelters and deciding how to spend $34 million in public money so every Councilman needs to be involved.  Every Council person should know the level of misery they are subjecting females without housing to every day.  They should know how their budgetary decisions have an impact on the streets.  They should know that their agents are turning people away from shelter through a trick known as "diversion" or that it is really really hard to get shelter on the weekend.  They should all know that their decision to remove 82 beds will make men's overflow necessary on more nights in the 2016-17 winter.  They should all realize that without a men's or women's shelter for the severely mentally ill more people will sleep outside. 

Ms. Conwell is a very nice woman who has a special place in her heart for the cute homeless kids in our community, but she should not be the only Council person educated about homelessness.  There are homeless people from Dave Greenspan's Fairview Park or Rocky River and his suburbs.  There are homeless families from Parma and Chuck Germana's District, and Sunny Simon should be aware that Mom's who flee their house in Beachwood because of violence have to go to the women's shelter on Payne Ave. because we have no other place to go with an available bed.  There are no shelters in suburbs so people who have problems with government failing them will end up in Cleveland looking for help.  They call me all week and can't believe that there is no safety net for common problems and that the only response is go to an unsafe and overcrowded shelter downtown.

This is not what we voted for when we voted down the County Commissioners form of government and the scandals.  We wanted all 11 Councilmembers to know about all the problems facing their district and not one-eleventh of the problem.  We want change, and in my opinion we have not seen any changes.  I cannot think of one thing that the County Council can claim in the last six years except creating nicer offices and a nice place to meet for the senior staff of Cuyahoga County.  Please tell me one thing that the Council has done to improve the lives of poor people in the biggest County in Ohio?  If the Council has in fact adopted this division then Ms. Conwell should be at our Homeless Congress every month and regularly meeting with homeless people.  She should not be having secret meetings without residents of the shelter if she wants to get a real picture of homelessness.  Please tell me in the comments section what you think of the Council and if you have seen anything from them in six years?

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Jan062016

Have You Seen These Elected Officials?

 

The County takes the lead in providing services to homeless people, and the Homeless Congress has been trying to schedule meetings for a year with no response. Councilwoman Conwell came to a meeting in March 2014 then scheduled a secret meeting with shelter directors without homeless people present.  We have huge issues that we need to talk about.  The current County strategy is not working and more people are showing up asking for help.  We need to hear from our elected officials about homelessness.  Joe Pagonakis of WEWS confronted the Council about the overcrowded conditions at the Women's Shelter and we still have not seen a change.  In fact, the county is planning on putting 20 additional beds into the shelter despite the fact that there are 30 to 60 women who need a bed every night.  We need help ASAP!!  Tell your elected official to schedule a meeting with the Congress or come to their meeting!!

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Jan062016

Open Letter from Homeless Congress to County Council

January 5, 2016

Dear County Councilperson:

What Happened to You????

We have not seen you or heard from you as one of the elected leaders of Cuyahoga County with regard to homelessness within the County.  We met with you in the past and heard that you would go back to work with your colleagues on some of the problems raised by homeless people and so far nothing has happened.   The County has taken the lead in the distribution of homeless funds locally, and so we have no where else to turn for help.  Ms. Loh along with others have been coming to the County meetings to talk about the sorry state of the Women’s Shelter and we have not seen many changes.  We have written and e-mailed you on multiple occasions and heard nothing.  We have called to invite you to the Homeless Congress meetings and we meet every month at the same time.  So far nothing.  We NEED COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIALS TO PROVIDE MORE GUIDANCE TO THE $34 MILLION WE SPEND ON HOMELESSNESS!!   We will come to your office to meet.  We will come over at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.  We can meet at one of the facilities you fund or you could pop in to the Women’s Shelter at 8 p.m. so you could see the level of human misery that you are funding. 

There are so many issues facing people experiencing homelessness locally that are not being addressed.

  1. Families are struggling to get shelter on the weekend because intake is not open.  They are told to come back on Monday.  Housing emergencies take place on the weekend as well!  We have seen a rise in families and our current strategy is not working. 
  2. The Community Women’s Shelter is full with 60 to 80 people over the bed capacity every night.   18 new beds added to the shelter does nothing to solve the overcrowding problem.  Why are we solving these issues with half measures?  We need to build additional capacity for single women or Mom’s trying to get clean while they struggle to reunite their family. 
  3. If you want to reduce the infant mortality rate, you could start with a shelter for pregnant women that we lost in 2014 with the closure of Continue Life.  How do we serve pregnant moms effectively if the only space available is to sleep on the floor of the kitchen at the extremely overcrowded shelter?
  4. Are we creating a problem in the near future by closing 82 beds of transitional shelter for men?  Will we regret this decision when the men’s shelter is overcrowded in 2017?  Can we guarantee that short term rental assistance is an effective alternative to a shelter bed?
  5. Will there be blood on the hands of the County if a woman is abused, seeks shelter, does not disclose abuse in her past and is “diverted” back to her abuser?   Should these interviews be done in front of children, and is there a way to encourage disclosure while still protecting her keeping custody of her children?
  6. Can the County reduce some of the barriers to maintaining childcare and assistance while a person transitions from shelter to housing and a job? 
  7. How do we serve the severely mentally ill in the shelters when they disturb the other residents and sometimes are violent and there is not trained personnel to help at 1 am?
  8. When is the County going to demand that the State pay for the housing of sexually based offenders who have no where to live because of the mandatory reporting laws passed by Ohio legislators? The shelters cannot afford to be the housing for sex offenders!!

The Homeless Congress meets on the Second Thursday of every month at 1:00 p.m. at the Cosgrove Center 1736 Superior Ave.  We have included a copy of the flyer for you to mark your calendars.  We also have a Missing Poster to try to creatively encourage you to attend one of our meetings.  We will take down the missing posters from the NEOCH website once we finally hear from you.  We have tried to schedule something for over a year with County Council members and not heard from anyone or the Council had a secret meeting and did not invite any homeless people.  Please call us and let us know if you will attend or if we can schedule a meeting with you.  There were 9,000 homeless people who used the shelters in 2015 and another 15,000 who met the Dept. of Education definition of homelessness who did not go to shelter.  They are your constituents and they need your help.  

Please call or e-mail to schedule a time to meet with the Congress!!

Sincerely,

Brian Davis

On behalf of the Homeless Congress

 

Wednesday
Jan062016

Infant Mortality and Homelessness in Cleveland

We heard the excellent overview of the problem of infant mortality in Ohio and Cleveland on the Sound of Ideas on WCPN.  I am concerned that this is a hot topic because the Governor and State Legislature are embarrassed that Ohio is so far behind other parts of the Country.  We posted the Kaiser Family Foundation data in our information blog.  It is not like this is a new problem and in my opinion has not been effectively dealt with in this community for 25 years.   We heard about the City's effort for the first year of life (which does nothing for infant mortality by the way).  We heard the doctors and others talk about how important health care was to this effort.  We expanded Medicaid so why hasn't the infant mortality rate gone down?   We heard the County is now paying attention, but where were they when Continue Life shut down in 2014?

Mike McIntyre read my question toward the end of the show, but did not get a response. 

It seems like a lot of talk and very little action.  If we really wanted to help before birth, we would not have closed our shelter for pregnant women.  Now, we have pregnant women sleeping outside or on the floor of the women’s shelter because we have no space inside.  Where do we take these women when outreach workers find them on the street to protect their unborn child?

This is the reality today.  We find pregnant women wandering the streets looking for help or unwilling to leave her significant other.  We don't have any shelters for couples so this sometimes is the barrier to shelter.  If they will not separate then the couple is on their own.  Every bed is full every night and we keep stuffing more and more women into the Community Women's Shelter.  Before there was space in the family shelters so couples might have a chance to go in together.  Now, we have so many Moms with kids there is never space for couples.  We never turn people away, but we do not open new beds when the women's shelter is full.  We keep cutting beds in favor of thee months worth of rental assistance.  Who is going to hire a pregnant woman if she gets housing so she can maintain the rent?   The homeless system is deeply flawed right now, and it is not helping pregnant women or their unborn child. 

Today, if they showed up asking for help they would be told to return to the place they were staying two nights ago without an independent investigation to see if that space is appropriate for a pregnant woman.  If they could not return to that housing they are given a mat to sleep on the floor of the Women's Shelter during the re-construction of the building.  The pregnant mom will have to get up at 6 a.m and leave the building by 8 am to walk down to Cosgrove to get breakfast.  She will be outside or at a drop in center until 3 p.m. until the City or County declares a cold weather emergency so she can stay inside all day.  Without this declaration she is on the streets waiting for the doors to open.  Then she has a limited time to find housing or she cannot take her baby out of the hospital after the child is born.   While she struggles with this pregnancy alone (since her partner is at a different shelter), she also has to find a landlord willing to rent to her or she loses the baby to the County. 

Let me attach names to the situation so it makes a little more sense to the average reader.  Mary and her husband Joseph are knocking on doors all day looking for a bed together because Mary is eight months pregnant and there is no room at the inn.  She is told to go back to her home city which may be hundreds of miles away.  The City will even offer transportation assistance if they can prove that they have a stable place to live in this distant city lets call it Nazareth.  Mary and Joseph have their baby in secret and do not want to separate so they stay in an abandoned house with the vermin and exposed to the elements.  Some would say it is much like living in a stable or barn.   The County is not a big fan of this strategy and the couple is trying to stay under the radar so that their new born child (lets call the child, Jesus, just for identification purposes) will not be taken into custody. They are scared and do not know who they can trust and are trying to find stable housing, but the system is not helpful.   This scenario happens in our city in 2015. It seems like an ancient story from our past, but it happens.

The homeless system in Cleveland is not friendly to Moms and is certainly hostile to couples including married couples without children.  Until we start addressing the housing issues low income families are facing, we are just talking about infant mortality. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry