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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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Postcard Published to Dispel the Myths About Homelessness

Norman and his Public Relations committee of NEOCH decided that we needed more attention to homelessness and the work of the Coalition.  They worked with Brent, one of the best graphic artists in the community, to put together the above postcard.   We used David Hagan's portraits of homeless people from the 2005 show that he did.  He took beautiful portraits of homeless people and we had a show with their images.  He gave each participant a framed portrait that they could hang when they got stable in their housing.  Remember, the majority of homeless people are without housing for less than 30 days.  

Anyway, Randall from the NEOCH Board convinced Jakprints to print the postcard, and we are now distributing them around town.  We hope to raise awareness of the work of the Coalition by directing people to our website. We also hope to change the impression that homelessness is not just the guy sleeping outside on the steam grates.  There are elderly, young moms, veterans, children, and all different races of people who have become homeless.  You are welcome to pick some up at the office or we can send them out to you. 

Brian Davis

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Lakeside Resident Survey published on our Website

In July 2014, NEOCH conducted a survey of the residents of 2100 Lakeside men’s shelter. We have posted the results here.  This shelter provides men with emergency shelter, mental health services, a meal, a place to shower, clothing and other services. 2100 Lakeside provides these services to about 400 men a day. Often times the 2100 Lakeside shelter has a negative reputation, but the survey really showed that most people appreciate the services.

The survey results contradicted many of the common stereotypes of the shelter. The results showed that overall the residents are pretty satisfied with the shelter. Even though a majority of the complaints where about the food, the staff and the unhygienic bathrooms, many of the residents where still thankful that they were able to eat regularly and have a place to stay. When I began to work on the survey, I was expecting to see an overwhelming negative response to the shelter based on all the stereotypes I have heard about the shelter.

When I looked at the results after I completed the survey, I was quite shocked that everyone was overall satisfied with the shelter. Many of the residents where thankful for what 2100 Lakeside has done to help them get back on their feet. From the complaints on the survey about 2100 Lakeside, we can see that even though they are getting a satisfactory review the shelter still has a lot of work to do to really bring the best service possible to the homeless population.

The survey also looks at some of the demographics of the shelter including the percentage of men who were encouraged to get involved in programs at the shelter (77%).  Only 13% of the individuals were earning income outside of the shelter who completed the survey.  And 54% of the men who completed the survey were parents.  We have posted some charts from the survey and a summary of the information on our website. For a more in depth analysis of the survey click here

by Sarah Novak

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Supreme Court Blocks Golden Week in Ohio

The US Supreme Court just blocked Golden Week in Ohio by a 5-4 decision along conservative and liberal lines.  This is unfortunate for homeless people who change their address frequently.  They need to be able to change their registration to their current residence and then cast a ballot.  They may change address three times in the next month and need that opportunity to reduce confusion.  They often do not have any identification and certainly not ID to match their current residence.  This also provides confusion at the polling place.  We were all set to provide vans to every shelter and begin to transport people to the Board of Elections. We will now have another time of confusion in voting in Ohio because of the last minute intervention by the US Supreme Court. 

I have never understood the state's reasoning here.  They claim that we have more opportunity to vote than any of the surrounding states and better than 41 other states.  But we cannot vote in 41 states or any of the surrounding states. We have to vote in Ohio and hundreds of thousands voted during Golden Week or on the weekend before the November Election Day.  We have for the past 8 years had Golden Week in Ohio and now we do not.  Our ability to vote has decreased in Ohio with this decision.  The ability of homeless people to participate in democracy has diminished.  This is horrible for democracy in Ohio to restrict access to the voting booth, and horrible that the ability to vote when you want to vote has become so political.

Brian Davis

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Pay for Success Coming to Cleveland

At the September 11 Office of Homeless Services Advisory Meeting, we heard about a new program to bring investment bankers and additional resources into the struggle to end homelessness.   This is modelled after a program introduced in Boston in 2012 as part of the social impact financing.   Basically, they are asking wealthy investors to finance traditional government services.  Government saves money with a more strategic/flexible use of those funds, and then pays the investor back with the savings.  If there are no savings then the investors do not make any money.  They are doing this around homelessness in many communities.  These so called "pay for performance" projects insulate government from the risk of trying new projects and provide a large infusion of funds all at the same time to try larger scale projects. New York City is also trying the approach to assist in the reform of youth using the prison system.

PBS Newshour took a critical look at these programs back in February with even the title of the article was revealing, "How social impact bonds put private profit ahead of public good."

In the “social impact investing” model, private investors lend to a social service nonprofit with a successful track record. The nonprofit uses the loan to expand their programming, while the investors receive an interest-paying bond in return. Payout of the bond is based on the outcome of the nonprofit’s programming.  And here’s where the third player in this triangular investing model comes into play. A key part of the social service’s success is saving taxpayer dollars.

The New York City program had some of the largest investment banks paying to reduce youth recidivism back to jail.  The profit is made if the program saves tax payers funds with kids not returning to jail.  

In Cleveland, they are pursuing a program called "Pay for Success," which will assist homeless families who have had experience with the foster care system.  They are raising around $5 million dollars to assist around 135 families.  They will pay for keeping kids out of foster care.  There is a trial group who do not get the help to measure the time spent in foster care as a base.  Then the program serves the 135 families and the investors recoup the number of days below the base.  There is a dollar amount that the county pays for each day a child is in foster care, and any days below the standard goes to the investor to pay back the up-front funds.

The question raised in the PBS series was: Is this ethical to give public money back to investors for good government?

Don’t citizens have a reason to be suspicious when those most likely to profit from these new social investment schemes are the ones creating the financing imperative by working to reduce the tax revenues that would otherwise fund the programs in question? The same people, in fact, who in many cases are pushing to create tax breaks for these investment schemes themselves.

This is the first experiment in Ohio, but is smaller than the other programs.  Why not go for a bigger bang for the buck?  According to presenters, the thinking is that it must be successful since it is the first project in Ohio.  I asked why if we were raising $5 million, we could not do a bigger project rather than the 135 families they intend to serve.  There are huge domestic violence victims, all homeless families, sexually based offenders, or all youth who we do not have a good answer for in this community.  All these other populations have a hard time finding housing and are clogging up the shelter system.  The problem is that the emergency services offered to these other individuals are spread out among many government entities from the federal government, state government and then non profits such as MetroHealth, and not direct tax payer funds from the County.  The 135 families served with children in the foster care system are easy to show the decrease in direct County funds.   The government savings by housing a family in the shelter is harder to prove for the investors.   

We will be hearing more about this "Pay for Success" program.  Look for more details in 2015 for Cuyahoga County to present this plan for more public scrutiny.   We applaud the effort and hope that this leads to expanded programs that can augment the services to low income and homeless people in our community.  It will force the non-profit community to take responsibility for successful care of those they take on as clients. 

Brian Davis

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Successful Voting Event at 2100 Lakeside Shelter

Rev. Tony Minor, Advocacy Director at LMM, was the Master of Ceremony for our successful National Voter Registration Day event.  We registered or changed the address of 17 individuals, and a few requested an absentee ballot.  We heard from State Representative Mike Foley and County Councilman Dale Miller who both worked to motivate the crowd to vote.  Natoya Walker Minor represented Mayor Frank Jackson at the event.  All brought the message that it is critical for everyone to participate in Democracy. 

Walker Minor talked about the judicial races in Cleveland and the County that don't receive a lot of attention, but have a profound impact on the life of residents.  She talked about how important the judicial branch of government is to the community and we select our judges through a vote in November.  Mike Foley talked about how every vote matters with his first election as an example.  Mike won by a handful of votes that took two months to conduct a recount of the votes.  He is thankful for every vote because of his close election for State Representative. 

Dale Miller talked about the importance of voting and the changes in the law that are making it harder to participate.  He talked about and answered questions about some of the ballot issues that we vote on in November.  The State leaders have made it difficult for low income people to vote, and everyone talked about how important it was to cast a ballot because of all the blood spilled to earn the right to vote for women and minorities in the United States.  We urged people to complete a voter registration card if they had changed residences since they last voted.  

September 23 was National Voter Registration Day and we celebrated at 2100 Lakeside Shelter. We had the four community leaders on hand to talk to homeless people and eight volunteers registering people to vote.  There are only two weeks left to register people to vote.  We are urging early voting for homeless people who often have issues with maintaining identification.  We are going to help homeless people get over to vote during Golden Week and then through the election.  We are appreciative of Board for opening additional hours and additional weekend days so that it is easier for homeless people who often work full time to vote. 

Thanks to all the volunteers and the speakers for making this a successful event.  We hope that we continue to have a good turnout of homeless people who vote. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.