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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
Mar202014

Annual Report Posted on the Website

We had a really nice Annual Meeting on Wednesday night with a full house of over 40 people.  We were proud to give lifetime achievements to Maria Smith and retired Councilman Jay Westbrook as the 2012 and 2013 Ione Biggs Social Justice Award winners. Both graciously tried to find others who deserved the award more than they did, but we finally convinced each to accept the award.  It was nice that both knew Ms. Biggs before she passed away. 

We had some good food (thanks Jennifer) and around 40 people attended the Annual Meeting.  We had a number of members of the Homeless Congress and a couple of our friends from the social service sector. We have posted the NEOCH Community Benefit Report on our website now which details the awards that we presented on Wednesday.  It also gives a brief look at our finances and a history of the last year for the organization.   We gave an award to Eileen Kelly as Advocate of the Year and Kimberly Fischer as the 2013 Volunteer of the Year.  We will have details posted about all of our award winners.  We have added our strategic plan for the next three years to the Community Benefit Report (Annual Report).  We are also working on a web page that will detail all of our award winners from the past.   It is an incredible group of people and we need to remember the great work of all these individuals.

Brian Davis

The opinions expressed are those of the author

Friday
Mar142014

Still Room For You at the Annual Meeting

We have the awards ready for retired Councilman Jay Westbrook and Legal Aid Attorney Maria Smith.  We are giving out our Volunteer of the Year award as well as Advocate of the Year.  The first two award winners will receive the Ione Biggs Award for their lifetime of amazing work in the area of social justice.   Then we give out awards for 2013 and two outstanding individuals who went above and beyond last year. 

We will have a light meal and the release of our Annual Report.   All are welcome, but we ask that you Reserve your spot so we know how many people are going to attend.

March 19, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. is when the meal will start.  The program will start at 6 pm.  The Annual Meeting takes place at the NEOCH offices at 3631 Perkins Ave.

Thursday
Mar132014

Two Related Stories on the Criminal Justice System

There were a strange group of articles in the paper that point to the two different approaches to the criminal justice system in America.  The Justice Department announced a change in the sentencing recommendations for drug offenses then on the other end the Plain Dealer had a story that the Governor was asking for additional criminal justice money because they are running out of space in the jails.  Attorney General Eric Holder is asking for a reduction in the range of sentences for federal drug crimes.  At the same time, he is requesting that Federal Prosecutors not object to requests for sentencing reductions.  This will affect nearly 70% of the drug trafficking cases in the federal courts. Here is the NPR report on the issue.  This is not only because of the injustice of our sentencing rules, but the economics of incarcerating thousands of people every year.

Going the other direction is the State of Ohio which is asking for $53 million increase to reduce overcrowded prisons and hire additional staff.  They will also add funding for rehabilitation programs, but the bulk of the money is for additional incarceration funding.  There was some rumblings by the Ohio Republicans in the legislature about sentencing reform to save the state money in 2013, but it never went anywhere for fear of being viewed as weak on crime.  The Ohio Inmate population is approaching record numbers. We are now over 50,000 people incarcerated which is double the population in 1988. 

How does this have anything to do with homelessness?  We know that a sizable number of the homeless population have a history with the criminal justice system that keeps them homeless or extends their stay on the taxpayer's dime.   We know that the criminal has destroyed the lives of their victims through violence or financial crimes, and we have to keep that in mind whenever we talk about the criminal justice system.  The victims need to be considered whenever discussing sentencing reductions.  We also need to recognize that these individuals paid their debt to society.  They were convicted of a crime and served their time, and we need to not keep punishing them.

Often the shelters are just an extended stay in a prison without the ability to make your own decisions.  There is a lights out time (11 p.m.).   They tell you when to get up and when to eat.  They tell you when the bathroom is available and you have to consolidate all your worldly possessions into the size of one locker or a foot locker.  For some, it is a life sentence because they are tagged with a community notification label that will prevent them from employment and housing for the rest of their natural life.   The taxpayers are then responsible for their food, clothing, housing and medical care for the rest of their life.  Shelters have no possibly of finding housing for some people in our society, because of their criminal background.  The Sentencing Project has a good website about the societal impact of our harsh incarceration policy on the financial health and moral health of the United States as well as the civil rights implications of incarcerating so many minority populations

We do the resident council meeting at 2100 Lakeside Shelter to hear about the concerns of the residents and take those problems to the management of the shelter for some resolution.  The February meeting, we had a gentleman who was a Tier 3 sexually based offender, and was very angry that no one was being honest with him that he would never qualify for any housing program.  He had spent a year in the shelter and was just realizing that he would never get into housing, and would live out the rest of his life not being able to rent or buy his own housing.   He wanted to know why no one had told him this up front and was honest with him that he would not qualify for any program in the community. 

Brian Davis

Tuesday
Mar112014

At Least We Don't Live in Columbus Ohio

We have real problems with diversion as part of Central Intake mostly based on concerns of women at the shelter.   We do not believe that it is ever a good idea to return a woman to the place she was last night if there is a possibility that the women will experience domestic violence.   The County is following a trend in the United States to interview people and ask them where they slept last night, and then try to negotiate a place to stay with family, friends or landlord that is not in the shelters.  This is called Diversion and it is the latest trend out of Washington DC.  Over 20% of the people do not get a shelter bed and are relocated back to the community.   I am skeptical that a victim of domestic violence would tell a total stranger that she is being abused if she is embarrassed or ashamed that she has stayed with the abuser for an extended period of time.  We don't have clear rules for serving the population at the Central Intake site and there is not an established grievance procedure if the person is diverted improperly.  New York City advocates have pushed back and delayed implementation of the diversion program, but in Columbus, Ohio it is a nightmare. 

Columbus has a phone based system that the person seeking shelter calls in to get a bed. I talked to a guy, "Alex," who I trust to give me the real situation and his experience in trying to get shelter in Columbus.   He showed up at Friends of the Homeless and was told that he has to call to get a "reservation" instead.  So, they let him use the phone to call to get a bed.  He waited in their lobby on hold on the phone for an hour and half to get a bed before they kicked him to the street because he was on the phone too long.  He found another phone and called in finally reaching a human.  This person asked his name, social security number, date of birth and some other highly personal information to tell a total stranger on the phone.  They then asked him "Where did you spend last night?"   Alex said, "I am uncomfortable telling you where I slept last night."  The rude Central Intake staff told Alex, "Well, when you are comfortable talking about it call us back,"  and hung up the phone leaving Alex without a place to stay.   This whole process in Columbus just seems evil to me.  If Alex had been given a shelter bed there is also a time limit on the reservation, so if he does not get to the shelter in a timely manner the bed is given to someone else.  It is much easier to be dirty and devious on the phone than it is in person. 

That is why I say once again, "At least we don't live in Columbus Ohio.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect only the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Mar082014

National Updates for March 2014

New York City

The new police chief of New York City, Bill Bratton, has tripled the number of arrests for panhandling as was done in the first two months of 2012.  This is a crackdown on those who sit by the subway asking for change which is annoying, but these guys need the help.  I have never understood giving people who are down on their luck a ticket for begging for money.  This seems like kicking a man when he is down.  Do they allow these guys to beg for the fine that they will be charged for asking for help?   Unless you provide an alternative for these poor people it will only perpetuate the problem. 

Washington DC

As every city in the United States is struggling with family homelessness, Washington is in an especially complicated position that the Courts are demanding changes.   The Mayoral candidates are at least talking about homelessness and ways to increase access to housing in the Capital City.   The families were not being provided privacy and violates they were violating a city law to protect children.  Cleveland does not have a law similar to this DC law, but we have a 25 year history of not turning anyone away at the shelter door.  We try as hard as we can never to turn a family, a man, a child or anyone away.  Why would a fragile 47 year old with AIDS be any less important in the nation's capital than a child?  Why not offer anyone who needs help a shelter bed and not just children?

Extreme Weather on the East Coast 

I missed this story in February from Tell Me More about the extreme weather conditions.  We are so far out ahead of most other states in the United States.   We have operated three overflow sites this winter and nearly two thirds of the nights since November 15 have been extreme weather this winter.  I am so glad that Cleveland does not only open overflow shelters in the winter.  People are more likely to suffer hypothermia during a cold rain that they do not get warmed quickly.  The National Coalition for the Homeless has a report on their website about the responses to cold weather.  Some open their winter shelter if it is under 20 degrees while others wait until 10 degrees.  

Chicago, Illinois

There was a nice story this Friday on Storycorps about a homeless young person and their embarrassment over being homeless that appeared on NPR.  This was the story of a teacher who discovered one of her students had become homeless and did not have a family to take care of him.  They reunite after he has stabilized in foster care.

Nashville Tennessee

In a unique way to get around food restrictions, religious groups are asking for the freedom to give out food as part of their ministry.  This law tries to sway Tennessee legislators without mentioning hungry or homeless people.  They are strictly asking for religious liberty which should be attractive down in the South.  Many Southern states have enacted laws limiting when and where people can be fed, so the activists in Nashville are trying a novel approach. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

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