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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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Thursday
Jul032014

A Well Respected Man: Bill Resseger

       He is nothing like the Kinks' song except for the title.  Bill Resseger is retiring this summer from his decades of service to the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development.  He has a wealth of knowledge that the City is unfortunately losing.   He knows everything about the funding of homeless services and the development of housing.  He knows how to assure that the City gets its fair share of State and Federal dollars to preserve and expand affordable housing.  Resseger has an even temperament and was a calming presence even when the neighborhoods were being robbed by predatory lenders and financial services industry.   Resseger served six mayors from the low key Ralph Perk to the explosive Michael White and finally the former tenant organizer, Frank Jackson.  
        He knows government regulations and how to get funds into Cleveland.  He is an expert on funding of homeless services, and has a long history for what would work and what will not work.  We recognized his years of service at the CAHA meeting yesterday.  Bill Resseger was part of the founding of Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meetings to preserve affordable housing locally back in 1998.   This was a time when there was a huge threat to affordable housing with the loss of thousands of subsidized housing units.  In the late 1990s, Community Development was more about bailing water from a sinking ship than it had to do with developing anything.  Resseger was not the guy running around screaming that "Rome was burning."  He was not the guy who organized town hall meetings or criticizing stupid decisions by government.  Resseger was the guy who showed up every day and did his job. 
       He knew how to cut through red tape and understood bureaucratic written instructions to complete a grant application. He learned how to go from paper applications back in 1974 to the all electronic world of 2014.  He knew how to satisfy the federal beast which was always requesting more and more information.  He was good at cleaning up messes and implementing the goals of six different administrations in community development. He probably saved the City millions in fines and settlements that plague other cities efforts to spend federal development dollars. He knew his job.  He knew the social service system and the people he served: taxpayers.
      He was not the speech maker or the General who put together a strategy for moving a neighborhood forward.  He performed the essential job of keeping the wheels of government working.  Bill Resseger quietly told politicians that their grand magic bullet plan for saving the city was not workable, was corrupt, was stupid or all of the above in the most subtle and understated way possible.  He could translate vision into paperwork, and often did.  We saw this when he worked to transform a strip club/prostitute motel into a transitional housing shelter.  The barely clothed female dancers were told that they would be out of a job on the day that the Mayor was showing up to do the ribbon cutting on the new shelter, which made for an awkward afternoon for community development. 
        He did not always agree with us, but he was always honest.  If Bill took no position on an issue, we knew that the City would most likely not take a position.  I wish he would have been more adventurous, but Lakeside Ave. is littered with the carcasses of adventurous public employees.  We always got a fair hearing with Bill Resseger and the tax payers of Cleveland were well served by his long career.  He championed the City of Cleveland and always defended their interests at the table.  I never heard him complain about bad bosses or terrible elected office holders either in the executive or legislative branch.  He did every job he was asked to do.  He was a shining example of public service in a time when government service is often criticized or scorned. 
        We have a much improved shelter system in Cleveland.  We do not turn people away at the shelter door, which Bill can certainly take partial credit for along with Ruth Gillett.  We have some beautifully renovated subsidized buildings in the City and we did not have the wholesale loss of housing that we saw in Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit and Chicago.  We have a robust Permanent Supportive Housing and senior housing developments, which seems to be the only game in town for developing housing in America.  We have the innovative lease to purchase program operated by Cleveland Housing Network and a Public Housing program that did not wither away because of a lack of federal support.  We do not have the incredible number of people sleeping on the streets as we see in Washington, San Francisco or Detroit, and we have some neighborhoods on the rebound locally.  Thanks Bill for showing up and serving the citizens of Cleveland. 
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Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
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PS: If you have any questions about how much of a behind the scene guy Bill Resseger is, try to find a picture of him.  Go ahead...in this age of Facebook and photographs of everything on the internet...try an image search for Bill.  It does not exist.  He has been sitting at his desk filling out paperwork while the rest of us have been posting selfies and updating our profiles. 
Wednesday
Jul022014

We Remember the Civil Rights Act of '64 While it is Under Attack

Today is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964! The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, or national origin. It attempted to end unequal voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, the workplace, and public accommodations.  Over the last two years, we have seen some reversal of the Civil Rights laws with unfavorable Supreme Court decisions.  Congress is paralyzed and unable to respond to changes ordered by the Supreme Court, which results in a rolling back of some of the protections earned in the Civil Rights Law.   We have seen a gutting of the Voting Rights Act so that most of the Southern States do not have to ask for permission to change their voting procedures before implementing obstacles to voting.  We saw a limiting of Affirmative Action in public universities and colleges.  We have seen a limiting of minority and gender equality issues in the workplace.

We wish to commemorate the legislation’s passing by reminding everyone that the rights we take for granted were hard earned. We remember that a Congressman from Southern Ohio, William McCulloch, crossed party lines and courageously voted for the Civil Rights act or it would have failed.  We celebrate the Civil Rights protections in the United States everyday and we work to protect the voting rights of the largely minority homeless population in Ohio.   We have a page on some of the Civil Rights work we are currently working to forward. While much ground has been gained by laws such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, there is still work to be done and progress to be made. Voting discrimination continues to be a problem and nondiscrimination on all grounds is incomplete. So preserve the legacy of the act passed fifty years ago by seeing what you can do today for civil rights.

From Life Magazine 1963 Birmingham Alabama

by Brian Davis

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Wednesday
Jul022014

Senator Becomes Involved in Coordinated Intake

Senator Rob Portman recently received notice from Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Community Planning and Development concerning Cuyahoga County’s centralized or coordinated assessment system. Senator Rob Portman had previously urged HUD to clarify the system requirements and how families who bypass the intake are served by publicly funded programs. He was joined in his questioning of HUD by Senator Sherrod Brown and Rep. Marcia Fudge.  Separately, Rep. Marcy Kaptur had made an inquiry of HUD regarding the Coordinated Intake system locally and how it was excluding residents of privately funded shelters.   HUD responded to Portman by, first and foremost, reconsidering regulations describing the responsibilities and the definition of homeless for Cuyahoga County. They concluded that their regulatory intent is not to disqualify individuals and families who meet the criteria of homelessness and who are residing in non-HUD funded shelters.

Furthermore, the letter to Portman explained that HUD had gotten involved with this matter starting in early 2014 when Brian Davis of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless mediated on behalf of residents of Laura’s Home. The families staying at Laura’s Home were seeking to bypass the coordinated intake system and directly place its residents in permanent supportive housing. However, HUD determined that Laura’s Home was following regulatory requirements and dismissed the NEOCH appeal. Cuyahoga County Continuum of Care staff then assured HUD that staying at Laura’s Home meet the definition of homeless, but were denying them access to other publicly funded services such as rental assistance and permanent supportive housing.

In the end, HUD concluded that The City Mission might have not only misunderstood Cuyahoga County  coordinated intake policies and procedures as they originally thought.  They now believe that HUD staff received incorrect information from Cuyahoga County and that local staff may not have followed the correct procedures that were described to HUD by County staff. Addressing the problem directly, HUD decided that they will intervene by providing technical assistance to Cuyahoga County staff in order to address the need of homeless persons regardless of how they enter the system. 

Since that time Cuyahoga County staff and City Mission staff have been working out a written agreement to get every resident of Laura's Home to be screened by Coordinated Intake.  The residents will not go through diversion and will maintain their eligibility to tax payer supported programs. 

Click here is a copy of the Letter to Senator Portman from HUD.

By Lora Zuo

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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

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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.