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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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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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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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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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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

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Unfriendly Honolulu Push Homeless People Out

Honolulu is a beautiful place to live, but a horrible place to be homeless.  Honolulu police are officially cracking down on homelessness at the direction of the Mayor. They are confiscating personal belongings, closing public parks at night, banning tents and lean-tos in public spaces, imposing fines for public urination/defecation, and rousting those from sleep on the sidewalks. Mayor Kirk Caldwell explained, in an essay published in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, that they are battling homelessness. Caldwell has demanded a war against homelessness. However, to John McCormack, a 55-year-old homeless man from Waikiki, it’s becoming more and more evident that “he’s making a war against the homeless," according to an article in the New York Times.

In the most amazing Orwellian language, Caldwell calls the crackdown "compassionate disruption." Meanwhile, police are ticketing homeless people for pushing their belongings in a shopping cart on the sidewalk; they are demanding that homeless people leave the city without offering alternative solutions. Caldwell calls the policy “doing it with aloha," the Hawaiian word that means compassion. Meanwhile, Jerry Jones, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told the NY Times, “have we gotten so far out of touch with reality that our first reaction to people experiencing destitution is that it spoils our view of the beach?” 

Indeed, perhaps the root of the problem is the conflict between homelessness and tourism. While more and more tourists flock to the sunny island, the homeless population has increased by 32 percent in the last 5 years. Michael Stoops, the director of community organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, claims that the war is “a war going on between tourism and development versus helping the homeless." People come to Hawaii for the sand, sun, and surf, and they cannot get away from the problems faced by every major American city with thousands of homeless people wandering the streets and beaches. Caldwell, who has received letters of complaint from bothered tourists, responds “with notes asking [the tourists] to give the city another chance”. He insists that homelessness is ruining the economy and the city, and he urges the war against homelessness to go on. Clearly, the tourists are winning this war. 

By Lora Zuo

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