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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.

Tuesday
Aug112015

Quiz: Standard vs. Policy in Government

It is difficult to interact with government.  Homeless people are frustrated that there is no where to go within government to complain about conditions or to get an impartial verdict on discharge.  [Editor's Note: The County says that Cleveland Mediation Center acts as an impartial third party.  Most homeless people feel that CMC is too closely related to Frontline Services as the administrator of the "diversion" program at Coordinated Intake.] For example, where do women go if they get sick from the food served in the shelter?  Where do they go if they are transported to the hospital and the staff throw all their items away before they return from the hospital?  Where do you go to get someone not connected to the shelter to determine if your discharge from the shelter was fair and followed the rules?

Two weeks back a woman on a breathing machine and a walker was kicked out of the shelter for fighting with another resident.  Where can she go to complain that the staff just sat back and did not do anything about the escalating verbal altercation until the situation led to a physical pushing match?  Then they stepped in to kick both women out.  Most women find the current grievance process broken and the procedure never involves an impartial third party that is not a subcontractor of the Women's Shelter. 

The only way that homeless people have found that they have influence over how the shelters operate is the contracts given to the shelters by Cuyahoga County.  The County says that any shelter receiving public money must abide by "shelter standards" in order to receive public funds.  The director signs the contract verifying that they will in fact follow the "shelter standards" and then from what I have seen  forgets about it until the next year.  Over the last year, the shelters have been good about posting these rules on the bulletin boards, and the County included a change in the discharge procedure.  This was a big change and does not allowing staff to discharge people for non-criminal behavior.  It also allows for punishments not to be imposed that have an impact on a person's health and safety until they complete the grievance process.  These are huge improvements in the shelter.   The County has set up this elaborate system to approve new standards within the shelters.   At the July OHS meeting the County Homeless Advisory approved the following:

Public Policy recommendation (minus two members present at the meeting) to the OHS Advisory Board for confirmation

a) Scope of matters to be considered codifying as a Shelter Standard

  • The scope of a shelter “standard” will address reasonable requirements that concern basic shelter operations to assure safety, health, sercurity, and respect within the shelter facility. The objective of setting community standards is to establish a minimum benchmark for shelter operations. Standards are different from “policies”. Policies describe how a standard is implemented by the provider agency. 

In reviewing suggestions for shelter standards, the first step will be to decide if the proposal meets the criteria of a “standard” as opposed to a "priority."  We have come up with a quiz here for you.  From the current list of shelter standards pick if this is a standard or a policy.  The answers will be at the end of the quz.

Is this a standard or a policy?

1. Standard or a policy: 

A. All shelter staff shall receive training in at least the following: a. Emergency evacuation procedures; and b. Agency operating procedures.  OR

B. The shelter shall be clean and in good repair.

2. Standard or a Policy?

a. Shelters providing food service shall make adequate provisions for the sanitary storage and preparation of foods.

b.  The shelter shall have a written policy regarding the control of infectious diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis, etc. (I.22)

3. Standard or a Policy?

a. The shelter shall post and read, or otherwise make known, the rules, regulations, and procedures of the shelter. (I22)

b. The shelter shall only require clients to perform duties directly related to daily living activities within the shelter.

4. Standard or a Policy?

a. Shelters must have written policies related to serving healthy, balanced meals, and shelters must have access to consult with a dietician regarding serving clients with special dietary needs. (IV.32)

b. The shelter shall provide sufficient showers/baths, washbasins and toilets that are in proper operating condition for personal hygiene.  These should be adequate for the number of people served.  Clean towels, soap and toilet tissue shall be available to each client.  (I. 13)

5. Standard or Policy?

a. The shelter shall assure that at least one staff person on duty is trained in emergency first aid procedures. (I36)

b. The shelter shall post and read, or otherwise make known, the rights and responsibilities of shelter clients that shall include a grievance procedure for addressing potential violations of their rights. (I22)

6. Standard or Policy?

a. The shelter shall have reasonable access to transportation services.

b. The shelter shall provide adequate natural or artificial illumination to    permit normal activities and to support the health and safety of occupants.  Sufficient electrical sources shall be provided to permit the use of essential electrical appliances while assuring safety from fire.

7. Standard or Policy?

a. The shelter shall maintain an attendance list which includes, at least, the name and sex of each person residing in the shelter.

b. Each shelter must have a written visitation policy as part of its safety plan (Visitation” refers to non-shelter residents seeking to enter the facility.)

Answers:

We have no idea what the answers are for this quiz.  We have no idea the difference between a policy and standard are.  We have no idea what this new rule means or if they will go back and take out all the policies from the current shelter standards.  It is a strange game of symantics we have to go through to get social justice within the shelters. 

http://www.neoch.org/current-county-standards

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Aug062015

Homelessness in the National News

With the recent strings of police misconduct, it was sad to see police officers taunting a homeless person in Florida.

In some areas, city governments are taking steps, if minor, to limit the unjust actions taken by police against a large part of the population. Los Angeles is trying to increase police awareness about mental illness and de-escalation techniques. However, it is not going far enough, they need to account for how mental illnesses affect people when considered legal charges.  The LA Times takes a look at one mentally ill homeless woman caught in the legal system after being charged with assaulting a police officer.

Two St. Louis individuals are doing their own interesting take on the Food Truck craze. They are looking to create trucks with showers for homeless people to use.

Findings in San Jose show that many stereotypes of why people are continually homeless are very off-base. At one homeless healthcare program, 71% of the patients had brain impairment.  The sample size is small and will need further research to determine a definitive link.

To prevent homelessness, people need affordable housing. One Seattle study shows that a $100 increase in median rent corresponded to 15% increase in homeless population.  The study published in the Journal of Urban Studies showed that population growth and low vacancy rates also contributes to an increase in homelessness.

Stereotypes are countless when it comes to the homeless. This story provides an insight into what it is really like to be homeless and going to school. Many do not know the resources available to them and are afraid or ashamed to ask.  This is a first person account of being homeless in college.

Los Angeles recently announced a program to help homeless people clear minor citations and fines. This is a much needed step toward ending the criminalization of homelessness.  Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in June launching a one-time, statewide amnesty starting Oct. 1 to dismiss up to 80% of infraction-related debt and restore suspended driver's licenses.

In London, anti-homeless spikes have begun to pop up. One activist group could not stand the idea of this and built beds over these spikes.   There is a nice photo associated with this video story.

A study done in the United Kingdom has had results that show the longer someone is homeless the more costly that person becomes to society. The quicker homelessness is dealt with, or even prevented, the more money saved.

As Los Angeles houses more homeless people than any other city, the homeless crisis still increases. This article argues the issue is that no matter what LA does to combat homelessness the problem still remains that there is not nearly enough affordable housing.  This is an op-ed from a Los Angeles City Council member.

Faith-based groups speak out in San Antonio against ordinances that seek to criminalize generosity. Activists are saying that if you wish to feed a homeless person on the streets, you should be able to do so unabated. Local religious leaders were being ticketed for serving food to homeless people.

Non-profit organizations in New York City are providing homeless children a chance to attend a camp like every other kid.  During the summer, they provide children a chance to go to sleepaway camp sessions and to get away from the shelters.

One Atlanta initiative at the largest shelter in the South has homeless people planting urban, organic gardens to feed shelters. These gardens let the homeless individuals eat fresh food and obtain job skills. This is at the Metro Atlanta Task Force Shelter which has been under constant attack for the past 10 years by the City of Atlanta.

Evansville, Illinois is implementing a similar policy to Cleveland’s Coordinated Intake for homeless people. One of the biggest problems for the homeless if finding and understanding all the resources available. These policies give homeless people a central place that has the information to navigate all the services.

by Dan the Intern

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Aug062015

NPR Stories About Homelessness

For Homeless Families, Quick Exit From Shelters Is Only A Temporary Fix

NPR did a series of reports on homelessness last week.  The first was on Rapid Rehousing and the second was regarding the work on ending veteran's homelessness. Rapid re-housing can be very helpful to give someone a place on a temporary basis when a person or family finds themselves homeless. The program is designed to be simple and temporary, however, the simplicity of the program can be its downfall. This program treats every homeless individual as a member of the same demographic with the same problems. Some cities flat out ignore other problems facing homeless people.  Doing so with any group of people is a red flag, and with the homeless community, rapid re-housing has many major issues. Programs for the homeless need to be flexible to individuals. In Cleveland, only families have access to Rapid Rehousing.  Some individuals cannot obtain a stable jobs in the time they are receiving the assistance, and sometimes, even if a person obtains a stable job, they cannot afford market rent without the assistance. Congress is not going to increase funding for homeless services anytime soon, so rapid rehousing must start implementing policies to be more successful. 

The U.S. Declared War On Veteran Homelessness — And It Actually Could Win

Since President Obama took office, there has been a 300% increase in funding for homeless vets. By doing this, the number of homeless vets has decreased significantly in many cities. Some cities have even reached “functional zero” meaning that if a homeless veteran requests housing, they immediately receive it. Yet, the use of the “functional zero” terminology is a double edged sword. Officials use “functional zero” as though it is the same as ending homelessness, but it is not. If veteran homelessness, or homelessness in any capacity were to end, then funding for that would not be needed. To maintain a “functional zero” state of homelessness, funding must also be maintained. Steve Peck, president of U.S. Vets in Houston, was attempting to raise funds, when donors said that they thought homelessness was over. Well, it needs to be made clear that there is a difference between the eradication of homelessness and “functional zero.”

There was one story about New Orleans and the whole concept of "functional zero" among veterans.  Another important aspect of this story was the importance of flexibility. Jim Zenner was a veteran of Iraq facing severe anger issues and depression from his time in the Service. So, when he found himself homeless with his son due to these circumstances, he would have been unable to gain shelter if it was not for one organization bending the rules for him. He later helped build and run a readjustment facility for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The importance of this piece of the story lies in the organization’s bending of the rules. Homelessness comes in many different forms with countless scenarios, and far too often, if someone does not meet the classifications of the prototypical homeless person, they lose out on resources.  Resources and programs for the homeless must be flexible to the needs of individuals and groups, not merely one or the other.

by Dan the Intern

Saturday
Aug012015

You Can Help People Out of Homelessness This Week!!!

On Monday August 3rd the Cleveland Housing Voucher opens! Volunteers are needed to help people sign-up! The Housing Voucher application is only open for 5 days, Monday through Friday. Many people of the homeless community are not experienced enough with the Internet to access and qucikly fill out the application themselves. This is where you come in! Numerous places in the Cleveland area need volunteers to help people sign up at their location. Volunteers only need to be able to volunteer for 3 hours on a single night.  For every seven people that you help complete an application, you are guaranteed to get one person out of homelessness.

The last time the housing voucher opened up over 64,000 people signed up, and 10,000 people received access to housing. This year we are expecting the same numbers. Since the voucher program is only open for 5 days, there is a substantial need for volunteers. By volunteering you can make a huge and direct impact on the homeless community. NEOCH can offer the training and place you at a spot.  There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you had a clear influence on getting an individual off the streets. Call Megan at NEOCH at 216/432-0540 to volunteer or send her an e-mail advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org.

by Dan the Intern

Thursday
Jul302015

Homeless People Need Help Even in Summer

There is a family of 3, soon to be 4 whom Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has helped find an apartment on the westside of Cleveland. This family has no possessions! They moved into their apartment 2 days ago and now they are in need of everything except appliances. They need beds, or mattresses, furniture (baby items needed by December). All kitchen supplies, linens, etc. They need a fan immediately if anyone has an extra one. The 3 year old girl could use some toys also. He is working spot labor and is in search of a full-time job. If anyone can help this family out, please call Randall or Denise (street outreach worker at NEOCH) at 216-432-0540 or email housingcleveland@neoch.org.

The number of families asking for help is also up at Coordinated Intake in Cleveland.  They could use diapers and other items for toddlers and babies.  They need female hygiene items and everyone can use hygiene kits.  We have a list of items that NEOCH collects and you can drop off at NEOCH from 9 to 4:30 any day.  Sometimes we even have hours on the weekend.  The Coordinated intake site is at 1736 Superior on the second floor from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.   This is in the Cosgrove Center and they take clothing and distribute them to homeless people on the first floor.   Please remember homeless people suffer in this hot weather and our homeless family population grow dramatically in the summer. 


Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

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