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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

Community West Foundation Annual Meeting

We encourage our members to attend the Community West Foundation Annual Meeting to hear from our partner Richard Trickel with his speech "Homeless Families and Faith in Action."  Trickel is the CEO of the City Mission and a partner in meeting the needs of the growing number of homeless families.  He is on the front lines in trying to serve the 50 to 90 mothers who call everyday looking for help with a shelter beds in Cleveland.  They have opened their gymnasium to the family overflow and are working on a task force to meet the needs of homeless people locally.  This should be a good speech, and we hope that you will attend. Community West is a partner of NEOCH in the SocksPlus program.

by Chris Knestrick

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


NEOCH to Host a Session to Develop City Council Questions

While City Council does not do much toward ending homelessness in Cleveland, they could.  At this time, the County has taken the lead with regard to homelessness, but all the shelters are in the City of Cleveland.  In addition, 76% of the people using the shelters are previously housed and tax payers of the City of Cleveland.  NEOCH is planning to host a series of discussions with the candidates running for City Council in the four districts with the most homeless people in Cleveland.  This will focus on developing questions around homelessness for these discussions. 

We hope to have people currently experiencing homelessness as well homeless service providers attend the meeting on Tuesday August 29th to come up with potential questions.  Then after the primary when there are two candidates left, we intend to hold these discussions in a shelter or homeless service provider's site in these four Wards.  Please join us to develop the potential questions for Cleveland City Council members.

by Chris Knestrick

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Homeless Still Need Help in the Summer!

Joyce Robinson of NEOCH sorts items purchased with SocksPlus funds

It is hot and the dog days of summer.  No one is thinking about homeless people at this time.  Did you know that the population does not decline in the summer.  Yes, the number of men staying in the shelter decreases in the summer.  Many find it easier to sleep outside during the summer.  They use the drop in centers for showers and meals, but spend their time sleeping in tents, under bridges or in abandoned structures.  So, it is not as though they have ended their homelessness as much as they took a break from shelter. 

The number of families experiencing homelessness actually increases during the summer.  Grandma has been helping out the daughter and her kids so that they do not have to change schools during the school year, but cannot take a summer of the kids around the house endangering the Grandma's housing if the landlord finds out.  It is too much of a strain for many families and they relocate to the shelters. 

The homeless outreach teams are out building relationships with people who choose not to use the shelters.  Metanoia outreach staff are delivering hygiene items to guys hanging out at the shower program at St. Malachi.  We are going to the dinners over at St. Patricks to see if there are life sustaining needs that these guys might have.  Care Alliance outreach nurses are taking blood pressure and looking for sleep deprived individuals who live outside.  PATH workers are driving homeless people to medical appointments and making sure that they are taking their medicine.  Our Community West Foundation funded outreach trainees Fred and James are taking out sleeping bags and tents to people who do not want to give up their pet while they are without housing. 

Photo by Bob Tuneberg, from The Villager Newspaper and Crocker Press and Community West FoundationThe point is that homelessness is not just a winter problem.  We have had a large year-round problem with homelessness for 30 years here in Cleveland, and we do not see any relief in the summer.  We need your help.  We need water for those who try to make it off the streets on their own.  We need hygiene kits for those who use the showers at the Cosgrove Center.  It gets cold at night so we still distribute blankets year round.  Here is the list of items that we collect and distribute. We have posted photos on the front of the website to remind people that we need items even during the summer to distribute.  If you can't help with donated items, just send a donation and we will purchase the items to give out.  Just put "outreach" in the memo line so we know that they go to help those living outside.  You can also donate cash to the Community West Foundation to the SocksPlus program.  Those funds go to the outreach collaborative organized by NEOCH.  Thanks for your help.

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


Homeless Congress Notes for July 

July 13, 2017 Meeting--Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

 After taking a month off, the new director of NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, organized the new era for the Homeless Congress.  Roy Love, Board President introduced Chris to the Homeless Congress members.  He talked about the work he has done prior to taking the job at NEOCH.  He acknowledged that he is aware that the Homeless Congress has a voice and his commitment to help NEOCH and the Congress achieve their goals.  After he told everyone a few things about himself, he opened the meeting for questions including the fact that he was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  After a few questions and a short discussion, he turned the meeting over to Ruth Gillett.

 Ruth Gillett took the floor to present on the work of the Single Adult Housing Committee of the County Office of Homeless Services.  First, she acknowledged that there were three members of the OHS Advisory Board in attendance, myself included.  She then invited the members of Congress to attend the OHS meetings.  Her next order of business that she wanted to discuss was the fact that she feels that she was disrespected at the last meeting.  She informed everyone that she does not attend the meetings to be disrespected.  However, Ruth didn’t specify how she was disrespected.

 She began her presentation of the new proposed policy for the publicly funded shelters by stating that the beds are a “safety net” so people don’t have to be on the streets.  Ruth wanted to be clear that the shelters in Cleveland don’t turn anyone away and are supposed to be a temporary or short term.  The goal is to assist the resident to move out of the shelter and into housing.  At this point, I commented on the fact that the men’s shelter has an E community that does not have time limits and acknowledged that the women’s shelter doesn’t have anything like that in place.  I felt this was important enough to bring to everyone’s attention because it is the “only” single women’s shelter in the city of Cleveland.  Ruth stated that it was County policy that no one is forced to leave the shelter unless they break the law.

 Ruth continued that the focus is on housing first model for providing assistance.  She talked about the different paths to obtaining housing and the goal of the staff is to find out what “your path” is and how to get you into housing quickly.  She went over what needs to happen for an individual to maintain the housing?  She stated the purpose for this Single Adult Committee and went over their recommendations.   The single adults will meet with staff and put together a housing plan within 45 days of arriving at the shelter.  The staff is responsible for making sure everything that is needed to meet the housing plan is done.  Staff are supposed to also assist the client to access employment and benefits. 

Ruth talked about the importance of referring an individual to the Rapid Re-Housing program for assistance.  Rapid Rehousing program will provide the participants with a short tem rental subsidy (up to 2 months rent + security deposit).  She reminded members that it is also possible to have a roommate to split the cost of the rent and/or utilities.  This will allow a resident at a shelter to be able to move without having to stay longer to save money for rent and the security deposit. 

 One of the attendees argued that at the women’s shelter the staff does nothing to assist them.  Ruth informed this resident that this is “the projected program,” which means that they will be put in place in the near future.    She explained that the projected program is not just about the client, it’s about holding the staff accountable as well.  Another member asked if the people who don’t have an income are just overlooked or “left alone.”  Her response was, “No”. 

 Ruth then addressed the fact that members felt banning people from the shelter was a punishment for not complying with the three offers for housing rule that will be in place.  If a resident is offered housing three times and does not accept any of them, they will lose privileges at the shelter.  Ruth stated that the objective is not to put people back on the street and that many choose to stay at the shelter for one reason or another.  She added that the three housing options will be in areas the participant chooses with the assistance of housing locator.  Ruth explained that the main reason for the three housing offer refusal discipline is to provide “incentive” to leave the shelter and move into their own housing. 

One of the members said she also received no help from the staff and the housing lists they provided were outdated.  In addition, she complained about other problems obtaining housing. One example was if an applicant has a felony.  Mike Moguel, Operations Director at 2100 Lakeside Shelter, responded to her complaint by informing her that is the purpose of the housing locators and what the applicant is willing to do.  He said the housing locator can assist getting past any barriers. He added that there is an EDEN housing locator for hard to place participants.  After further discussion about housing locators and requirements for the program, Ruth let everyone know that having a disability or not having disability is not the focus of the Rapid Rehousing program.  The focus is on those with a low income.

 There were a series of questions about the difficulty people had in reaching staff at the shelters for help.  Chris Knestrick informed Ruth that he was concerned about people being punished for turning down housing for the hundreds of legitimate reasons to turn down housing.  His examples were: someone getting beat up or something bad happening in the area the proposed housing is located or being located near a previous abuser or far off a bus line.  His other concern was that the policy puts the burden on an already fragile population living in the shelter, but does not hold the staff accountable.   He then asked her if the staff is not following the rules or doing what they should be doing, what is the accountability process? 

 Ruth felt that he was being insulting by asking that question.  She explained that the resident is involved in locating potential housing, her presentation was recommendations that will be voted on at the next Advisory Board Meeting, and there are milestones that layout staff responsibilities.  She then asked if “firing them (the staff) or shooting them was the answer he is looking for?” She then stated she tries “to work with humans as humans to provide positive results for humans.  It’s all about tracking progress.”  He apologized if his question sounded insulting and then stated, “To him, it sounds like the only humans being held accountable are the ones coming into the shelter.”  She stated that is “what he is reading into it and the information being presented will be voted on this coming Thursday, July 20th at 9:00am at the ADAMAS Board.” 

 An attendee that had recently moved from Toledo and now staying at the women’s shelter said Toledo, Ohio is more effective in addressing homelessness.  She said the women’s shelter staff here show no compassion, love, or concern.  Another shelter resident stated that “she was in a bad situation before she came to the shelter and the shelter staff does not make it any better.”  Another resident staying at the shelter said her phone was stolen while it was still in the package and staff did not assist her, and another wanted to know “what is going to be done about elderly residents who have to sleep on the floor on mats?”  Ruth was not able to answer any of these questions so, I asked about the proposal that we were discussing.  I wanted to know what basic services a resident would receive once they turn down three offers of housing.  My question was “exactly what would the residents at the women’s shelter not be receiving?” 

 Ruth’s response was, “Once (this policy was) in place, the residents participating in the programs would be able to stay in at the shelter whereas the one that don’t would not.”  It is unclear what this means, but it seems that the only thing a resident would get would be a bed at night otherwise they would have to leave the shelter for most of the day.   Mike Moguel said that the way it would work at the Men’s shelter would be that if a resident in a dormitory turns down three offers that the resident will be moved from the dorm and put into the E Community.

 Seniors not being accommodated was revisited.  Ruth said that issue is being addressed with the goal being not to have any elderly in a shelter.  Fairhill Center is the only shelter that only serves elderly individuals.  The resident went on to complain that at this time, the elderly residents at the women’s shelter have to sleep in chairs, on bare floors and they are tripping over each other. 

 Chris then asked the members if they support the proposal that was presented by Ruth.  Most of the members of the Homeless Congress said they do not.  The main reason was staff accountability and it is not clear exactly how the proposal will be implemented especially at the Women’s Shelter.  One member, Loh explained that EDEN is designed to place residents that have severe disabilities and the other program is for people that don’t have disabilities.  She warned them that if they don’t have a “stable job” the Rapid Re-Housing program may not be a good solution.  She also commented about then lack of resources (bus tickets or transportation) available to assist residents to look for stable housing. 

 The women’s shelter update was the next topic of discussion.  Members were informed that the proposals to oversee the women’s shelter for 2018 are due July 28th and neither Frontline nor Lutheran Ministry will be submitting a proposal.  A resident of the shelter said the shelter needs more organization, oversight and structure.  She further stated that within seven days her purse was stolen, she got into a fight, and was put out for three days with no information on where to go.  She complained that at Norma Herr, she felt that she was just there to have somewhere to lay her head and good luck with the rest.  The resident complained that staff at the Women’s Shelter don’t give out any information to help residents link to resources. 

 A letter to the ADAMAS Board was discussed next to inform members that Ms. Valeria Harper of the ADAMAS Board was invited to attend a Homeless Congress meeting.  She was invited to discuss the importance of opening a separate shelter for homeless individuals with severe mental health challenges.  The last order of business was to acknowledge that NEOCH will no longer be taking complaints from residents at the Norma Herr women’s shelter or 2100 men’s shelter.  It was suggested that the complaints be referred to Cuyahoga County Council: Yvonne Conwell or Cleveland City Council: T.J. Dow.

The next meeting is August 10, 2017 at Cosgrove Center

By Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


Norman Wolfe Passes Away Suddenly

The basis for all that we do at NEOCH is forgiveness.  In the United States, we do not value forgiveness and we punish some people for life.  Typically, those who cannot afford legal representation, people of color and the disabled repeatedly face barriers because of past mistakes.  In addition, we put such a stigma on people who become homeless, those with a disability, and re-entry folks that it is like they are walking around with a scarlet letter.  

Norman Wolfe was a quiet man who overcame a lot of these barriers in life. He made big mistakes in his past and he paid dearly.  He served the United States in the Navy, and fell all the way to the men's shelter in Cleveland.  I met Norman because he filed a grievance against mistreatment that he was receiving at a veteran's only bed at the shelter.  He was so angry over how the grievance process failed at the shelter that he kept pushing for the development of a Resident Council at the shelter.  Even after he was able to secure housing, he would attend the Resident Council meetings, take notes and push the shelter staff to respond. 

Norman was a regular at the Homeless Congress meetings and represented other homeless people on the NEOCH Board.  In 2015 and 2016, he was volunteering for Organize Ohio and the state budget folks called NOBLE.  Norman was the Master of Ceremony for an all day discussion of the NOBLE advocates in preparation for the 2015 state budget struggles.  He also helped organize the End Poverty Rally and March on the first day of the Republican Convention in July of 2016.   Norman was elected to the County Office of Homeless Services advisory board.  He walked with a cane, but many other homeless people leaned on him to protect their rights.  

NEOCH gave him the Advocate of the Year award in 2014 and wrote up an overview of his accomplishments here.  Norman was so helpful working to try to reform the shelter rules and regulations locally because he had experience with how these rules play out at midnight.  He was able to get in writing that shelters should not discharge people into the night for non-criminal activity. This reduced the number of times women would miss meals at the Community Women's shelter because they were in "time-out."   He visited Columbus to push for a fair state budget for those working to re-enter society and those struggling with their housing, and he helped push for reform of the women's shelter. 

Two pieces of unfinished business that Norman was passionate about in Cleveland that we hope someone will take up the struggle.  We were never able to get a fair grievance process locally within the shelters and social services.  Norman came to the Coalition originally because he could not find justice with regard to the mistreatment he received from VA staff working at the big shelter.  He always wanted to see an impartial third party grievance process started, but we never were able to get this accomplished. 

He also tried to convince the shelter that veterans in the shelter should not have non-vets come into their community at the big shelter to use a veteran's bed at night if the veteran is out for the night on a pass.  The problem is that the County requires every bed in the big shelter be full every night or they will not pay for overflow, so some of the beds are used multiply times a night with a change of sheets.  Guys go out to work at midnight or don't come back until dawn and so the shelter has to navigate this difficult choreography to have every bed full every night.  Norman was pushing that since the Vet Community at 2100 Lakeside are paid through a per diem contract with the federal government and not County funds and that vets are allowed to be away from the shelter for 48 hours and still maintain the bed, they should not have drunk guys or severely mentally ill filling a bed when they are away.  The problem is typically these one-night overflow guests are disruptive and can send a guy working on his sobriety over the edge.  Norman could never convince the shelter to keep the Veteran's community independent and free from outside destabilizing individuals.

Norman will be missed by many members of the Homeless Congress and his quiet voice will be silenced at the County Office of Homeless Services advisory. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Post Script: Norman Wolfe's family has finalized his funeral arrangements & his obituary will be published soon. The viewing will be held at 12:30pm on Wednesday, August 16, followed by a funeral service at 1pm at Pernel Jones & Sons Funeral Home located at 7120 Cedar Avenue, Cleveland 44103. Norman will have a military burial at on Thursday, August 17 at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.