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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
Thursday
Apr272017

Update on House Bill 41: Voting Changes

I went to Columbus to testify against the voting changes in House Bill 41.  The bill had a substitute which I was not prepared for, but my testimony focused on all the changes that need to be addressed with regard to voting in Ohio.  The new substitute bill would eliminate the two forms that a voter needs to fill out in order to vote early in person (Good news).  It requires the individual to be asked for identification for early voting (bad news).  If the person does not have the proper identification they will have to fill out the second piece of paper (more bad news) that allows them to vote with the last four digits of their social security number.

Our issue is that because the state has been sticklers with filling out the proper paperwork, every piece of paper or piece of information collected is more of a chance that the ballot will be thrown away.  Hell, they were throwing away provisional ballots because the person wrote their name in cursive instead of printing, so how do we know that this additional paperwork will result in the ballot being thrown away? The other question that came up was what is the point of this legislation?  Why do we even need it if there is such a minor fix?  There are major problems with the voting process in Ohio why don't they fix all those other problems?

We need voting legislation to do three things:

  1. Figure out how to get every legitimate citizens registered to vote.
  2. Figure out how to assure that everyone gets to vote either early or in person on Election Day without a lot of hassle or obstacles.
  3. Figure out how to get everyone who wants to vote but is forced to vote with a provisional ballot will have that vote count. 

Based on the hearing yesterday, the State Legislators have not read Governor Kacish's new book about working to heal the division in the United States.  The Republican members did not reach out to the Democrats to craft a bi-partisan piece of legislation.  They would not allow amendments without providing 24 hours notice and they ignored opposition testimony because it was not based on the substitute legislation.  It seemed to me that the Republican majority's opinion was that Democrats were stupid and all their supporters were stupid or dreamers and were dismissive of any comments. 

 Here is the note from Representative Kathleen Clyde:

Dear friends,

I wanted to follow up with you after last week’s alert about HB 41. Yesterday, the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee heard opponent testimony asking us not to change the ID requirement for in-person early voting. The committee approved the bill anyway without consideration of the testimony or discussion before the vote.

The amendment to the bill put back the ability of voters to use their SSN4 as ID if they don’t have the other forms of ID, but the unnecessary change will still inject confusion and burden voters.

 Bill Anthony, former Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections told us, “If it’s out there that you need to bring ID, then that’s all voters are going to hear.” Nick Youngblood from the Ohio Student Association (OSA) echoed that statement and said “There is no such thing as a voting restriction that will increase turnout.” Craig Anderson, also with OSA, told the committee that as a young African American voter, he did not think the ID change was straightforward to urban voters.

 Democrats on the committee voted No on the bill. I will remain opposed to the bill if it comes to the House floor.

It was good to see State Representative Martin Sweeney from Cleveland, but otherwise the Ohio Legislature was not listening to ideas for how to fix voting in Ohio.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Here is my testimony that I submitted to the original legislation

Here are my revised comments that I would have submitted to the substitute bill

Monday
Apr242017

Women's Shelter Update on Contract

We posted a series of updates on the Women's Shelter contract in February with the Scene article here then we had a discussion at the February Homeless Congress (which Councilman Dale Miller attended). We posted the notes from the March meeting when it was announced that the County was going to select Frontline to continue to run the shelter over the upstart West Side Catholic.  Basically, there has been tremendous debate about the conditions at the shelter and mistreatment by the staff (documented here).  The County held a hearing in May 2016 and nine brave women testified about the need for reform.  The County issued a Request for Proposal in October and extended the deadline until January 31, 2017.  Two providers stepped forward to respond to the proposal: West Side Catholic and Frontline Services and sought the $1.4 million contract to run the shelter on Payne Ave.  Full disclosure: NEOCH and Metanoia supported the West Side Catholic proposal and would have benefited if they were awarded the grant.   This took a lot to convince all three groups to take a risk on such a huge project.  The West Side Catholic Center is an amazing group serving the Ohio City/Clark Fulton neighborhoods and the Women's Shelter is a massive expansion.  The NEOCH Board which does not do direct services had to be convinced to go in on a shelter proposal. 

The County assigned a committee of eight people to make the decision and we found out today that they gave Frontline 84 points out of a possible 100 while West Side Catholic received 54 points out of 100.  One of my issues is that they did not measure important items such as overflow, security, number of calls by safety forces, suicide attempts, and keeping people safe; while they did give many points for philosophical issues such as "Understanding the scope of the Project?"  It is providing shelter and food to women! What is there to understand?  We are not landing a spacecraft on the moon.   Also, it was strange that SEVEN white people and 0 African Americans made a decision about the future of the women's shelter which serves 75 to 80% African Americans in Cleveland.  But that is your County Government in action. The committee was:

  • Chris Alexander, Cuyahoga County DJFS
  • Paul Porter of the Cuyahoga County DJFS
  • Karen Anderson Department of Children and Family Services
  • Michiel Wackers from the City of Cleveland
  • Dan Hinman from the United Way  
  • Michael Doud from the ADAMHS Board (Alcohol and Drug Addiction Mental Health Board
  • Leslie Perkul a representative for the O’Neill Foundation
  • With Ruth Gillett guiding the entire process but not voting.

The traditional way that legislation is passed is that it is introduced and then sent to a County committee and then read two more times before a vote is taken.  We had informed the residents of the shelter that the legislation would be introduced on April 25 then sent to the Health and Human Services and Aging Committee on May 3 for a hearing.  We told the women to target May 3 for comments and passed out a flyer at the Homeless Congress (with County staff present) as well as distributed this flyer in the shelter.  The women were planning to make posters and protest outside the County building as well.  Based on the last two Homeless Congress meetings, the residents really don't like this decision and were very angry at the County staff for making this decision. 

In a surprising "dark side of the force" move the County staff has decided that this is an emergency and will pass it at the April 25th meeting without sending it to committee.   "Whereas, it is necessary that this Resolution become immediately effective in order that critical services provided by Cuyahoga County can continue..." Ruth Gillett did not warn the women at the Homeless Congress meeting that this may not be discussed at the May 3 meeting since it will have already passed.  It is easier to get a response from the County at a committee when there are only a few things on the agenda.  There are two dozen contracts at the typical County Council meeting.  It is unlikely that they would have been able to change any minds, but the women wanted a chance to vent.  We can look at the hundreds who showed up to multiple meetings to oppose the Q renovation deal and could only sway three Council members to vote "no". 

The new contract will also mean a $6,202 per month raise for the current provider Frontline Services.  So, even after all these problems came to light, they will get additional tax payer dollars to run a substandard shelter.  They will be paid $124,454.58 per month for the next 31 months to run the shelter on Payne Ave. until December 2019.  Last year the shelter was paid $118,252.83 per month (which is exactly the amount that West Side Catholic was asking for to run the shelter). 

If a local taxpayer were to go over at 8 p.m. to the shelter on Payne Ave. and then ride over to the West Side Catholic shelter on Lorain Ave, there is no way they would concur that Frontline deserved an 84/100 while West Side Catholic was running a 54/100 women's shelter.  You could see that the Payne Ave. shelter was not operating an 84 scored shelter in about 10 minutes.  But the committee did not go visit the existing shelters and did not ask any current residents of the shelter about their opinions.  65 women did sign a petition asking the County to choose West Side Catholic (many others were afraid to sign). They were ignored as were all the complaints at the Homeless Congress.

Here were the scores:

 

Frontline

WSCC

Project Understanding/Scope of Work/Solution/Narrative

19.9

13

Methodology/Project Schedule/Evaluation

22.6

12.9

Project Management/Project Reporting/Interaction with County/Risk Management

20.7

13.7

Vendor Qualifications/Prior Experience/Personnel

21.0

14.4

 

 

 

Total

84.1

54.0

 There were actually two of the seven who were especially harsh toward the West Side Catholic proposal. It does point to a problem with the distribution of information between homeless people and community leaders and the holes in democracy.  How do you have all this negative media, a webpage dedicated to all the problems, large numbers of grievances, a hearing before the County Council about the problems, and yet the County continues the contract with the same provider running the shelter for the last dozen years?  How could Councilman Dale Miller who came to the February Homeless Congress  to hear the concerns and horror stories from the women and then allow this to continue?  How could Council President Dan Brady hear from pregnant and disabled women about all the hardships they face and allow the status quo to continue?  What do they have to do to get the contract taken away? 

It is unlikely to change until there is a scandal or large scale tragedy at the shelter.  It is unlikely that there will be a change if this contract comes up for bid again because of the retirements and resignations at West Side Catholic and NEOCH.  Lutheran Metro Ministry is joining as a partner with Frontline to try to improve the shelter.  We hope that this will work, but hold little hope.  We wish them well and hope that LMM and Frontline can turn this around.  NEOCH will not be commenting or doing resident council meetings or taking grievances.  Good luck to all the single women taxpayers who fall on hard times with their housing.  You are not going to like the conditions that you will find yourself if you cannot afford rent or are fleeing an abuser.  Complain to your elected County government, because they had a chance to make a change but decided things are operating at about 84 out of 100 points. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Post Script:  Rosie called the County to verify this information, and found out that the language allows the County to pass immediately, but that is not going to happen.  There will not be a vote tonight on this issue.  It will be referred to the Health and Human Service Committee next Wednesay May 3 at 1 p.m.  Women will be allowed to vent their concerns.  It is likely that the legislation will then go back to the Council on May 9 for final passage, and will not wait until the third reading on May 23. 

Saturday
Apr222017

Legislation Solution Searching for a Problem Voting Edition

From Kathleen Clyde of Kent Ohio:

I am writing to alert you to an elections bill moving thru the House. It's HB 41 and it would change the ID requirement for in-person early voting so that Election Day ID would be required instead of just the last four digits of your SSN (SSN4). The Ohio Association of Elections Officials does not support the bill. I urge you to discuss this with your organization and consider testifying as an opponent to the bill. Below is some basic info on HB 41.

Republicans have been attacking early voting since its beginning in 2008. The proposed ID change in HB 41 was part of the 2011 GOP HB 194, which you recall was vigorously opposed by Ohioans and sent to referendum. Then Republicans backed down and repealed HB 194 themselves.

Under current law and practice, early in-person voters provide their ID number on a written application. It's simple. Voters don't have to bring anything or sort thru the many variations of the Election Day ID law. Under HB 41, in-person early voters would be required to bring and show Election Day ID, which many early voters do not have or cannot easily access.

The purported reason for the bill is to reduce paperwork and to "streamline" the process. The paperwork in question is mainly the ballot envelope that in-person early voters still use in optical scan counties. I agree with getting rid of that unnecessary step for in-person early voters. Let them scan their ballot right then and there. But the key here is that you don’t have to change the ID requirement to reduce paperwork. 

An amendment has been drafted to add SSN4 back to the bill as allowable ID. There is some procedural confusion around that at this time but the last committee hearing on the bill was on the “As Introduced” unamended version of the bill. And the next hearing will also be on the unamended version, this Wednesday on 4/26, with a possible vote taking place. Even if the amendment is included, it would not eliminate the problem with the bill. Republicans would still have an opening to change voter instructions and create confusion. Making easy ID the exception rather than the default that it is today will make voting harder.

This was the basis of our lawsuit and agreement that we struck with the state back in 2012 to prevent homeless people and low income individuals from being disenfranchised.  ID and birth certificates are not cheap and can take a long time to obtain.  We wanted to at least be able to vote with a provisional ballot if they do not have identification.  This is a horrible piece of legislation that addresses a problem that does not exist.  Here is the press release from Representative Clyde from last month when this was introduced.  Representative Clyde testified in our case in Columbus last year regarding the counting of provisional ballots.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Apr202017

City Mission Hosting Forum for the Religious Community

The City Mission is taking the lead on organizing a gathering of the faith community to respond to the crisis in family homelessness.  NEOCH staff will be presenting at this event, and hope that it is the start of something powerful in Cleveland.  We hope that we can get the religious community to open their arms in much the same way the respond to the hunger issues in our community.  You need to RSVP at www.thecitymission.org/forum to participate. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Apr192017

Update on Limiting Shelters in Cleveland

This came up in the previous Office of Homeless Services in March, but was tabled after Paul and Jim from Metanoia showed up to protest.   Here is the previous proposal for shelters: "Shelter will be limited for those who refuse to participate in a housing plan or refuse to accept stable housing when offered."

Here is the new suggestion:  "Shelter maybe limited for those who have available resources and refuse all options for stable housing.  Determination to restrict will be based on a case by case review at each shelter site."

Here are my questions for those who are proposing this requirement:

  1. Is there some oversight by an impartial third party without a bias of these decisions by the shelters?
  2. Can you appeal this decision to County Council if you were improperly denied the life sustaining bed in shelter?
  3. Why are we so involved in people’s personal business? As we said previously there are 1,000 reasons why a person would reject housing (it is located in a high crime neighborhood; I was raped in that neighborhood; it is where my abuser lives; it is too small for when I get my kids back; it is not on a busline; it is no where near my job, etc.)
  4. Who will take responsibility for these people when outreach find them living on the streets and will they provide more money to the street outreach teams?
  5. When the street populations increases after this policy is implemented will the County take responsibility for the increasing numbers of panhandlers and people sleeping outside?
  6. How can the County find money for new glass for the Q, but cannot find money for women who need help moving into housing and therefore turn down Frontline’s recommendation for housing? 
  7. Will the family shelter and men’s entry shelter share this information with other shelters when they deny someone shelter?  Thus creating a blacklist of bad homeless people who refuse housing?
  8. If it is determined that staff made a mistake in their determination to deny a shelter bed to a disabled individual, can the County require that staff person to sleep on the street for a period of time?
  9. Is this a solution looking for a problem?  How many people are actually rejecting houisng for a frivolous reason?
  10. Can someone explain to me how this policy will help us locally?  What is the cost/benefit analysis of this project?  Is it worth the hassle since staff will inevitably misinterpret it? Will it save the county any money or just cost more money with incarceration and emergency room visits? 

We have heard that Cleveland Mediation Center will handle grievances from this policy.  The problem is that the Cleveland Mediation Center was recently taken over by Frontline Services, a shelter provider.  So, Frontline staff will be deciding if another Frontline staff person made the correct decision in denying shelter or if another shelter provider made the correct decision.  Would a landlord allow another landlord to decide the validity of their eviction instead of an impartial judge at Housing Court? 

This is government turning away from its own constituents who need the most help.  This will be voted on at the Office of Homeless Services meeting on May 18 at Greenbridge apartments at East 75th and Euclid across from Aldi's (right on the Healthline).  We hope that Paul and Jim will be able to make it to talk about how this "improvement" does not address the fundamental flaws in the previous proposal.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry