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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
Aug032017

Atlanta Update on Homelessness

Atlanta has to be in the top 10 worst cities in the United States for homeless people.  In my opinion, San Diego is the worst city because they keep finding innovative ways to make life hell for those without housing, but Atlanta is up there.  There are some huge decisions coming  for City leaders in Atlanta, but based on past decision making homeless people are going to suffer.  Atlanta has had progressive Mayors for years and is the home to the King Peace Center, but cannot seem to get it together to unify leadership around an effective strategy to deal with poverty and homelessness in the region. Here is the write up from the National Low Income Housing Coalition "Notes from the Field:" 

Atlanta Passes Homeless Opportunity Bond

The Atlanta City Council unanimously approved an ordinance on July 18 to address homelessness over the next three years. Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development authority, will issue a $26 million Homeless Opportunity Bond in an effort to make homelessness “rare, brief, and non-recurring.” This legislation culminates four years of work by the United Way of Greater Atlanta, Partners for Homes, and the City of Atlanta. The bond will finance activities targeted to homeless families and youth, chronically homeless individuals, and families at risk of homelessness.

The City Council approved an initial bond of $26 million with agreements from local non-profits to augment the city’s investment. The United Way of Greater Atlanta committed $26 million in matching donations, and Invest Atlanta will leverage $66 million in public resources to be used in conjunction with the bond, raising the total public-private partnership investment to more than $115 million.

The United Way and the City of Atlanta aim to end veteran homelessness by 2017, chronic homelessness by 2019, and youth homelessness by 2020, and the bond, together with the additional funds, are essential in meeting this goal. Together, the City of Atlanta and its partners plan to place 500 chronically homeless individuals in permanent supportive housing, secure permanent housing for 300 homeless families, and prevent 100 families from entering homelessness. They will also create 264 new emergency shelter beds and 254 new housing interventions for homeless youth by 2020.

In the last four years, the City of Atlanta has made strides in tackling homelessness. HUD reports that since 2013, the number of unsheltered homeless individuals in Atlanta decreased by 52%, chronically homeless individuals by 61%, and homeless veterans by 62%. The lack of affordable housing, however, leaves many at risk of homelessness. According to NLIHC’s 2017 Out of Reach report, Georgia renters must earn $14.25 per hour in order to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and $16.79 per hour for a two-bedroom apartment. In the Atlanta metro area, these numbers are even higher: renters must earn $16.50 to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and $19.04 for a two-bedroom apartment. The minimum wage in Georgia is $7.25 and the average renter wage is $15.61; both fall short of what renters need to keep rent and utilities under 30% of household income.  The new Homeless Opportunity Bond is a significant investment towards providing housing for the thousands of Atlanta residents experiencing homelessness. Chronic housing poverty – extremely low income renters paying so much for their housing that they cannot afford other necessities - puts thousands more at risk of homelessness.

 

I attended the US Social Forum in Atlanta in 2007 and have regular contact with Anita Beaty who ran the huge shelter down in Atlanta until earlier this year.  She and her group have basically been attempting to bring justice to City through three administrations. The City has gone down the path of most other cities in shutting down public housing, reducing the number of affordable housing units available, and eliminating access to emergency shelter.  Here is an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about Anita and her decades of work protecting homeless people.  The shelter has been under threat for a dozen years over a water bill and health issues.  Anita and her volunteers just want to provide a place inside for anyone who comes to the door.  She never wanted to hang up the sign the Peachtree-Pine shelter that there is "No Room at the Inn."  At the end of August, the Business Improvement District in the neighborhood will take over the shelter and stop taking new residents. 

Then by November 1 the main shelter in Atlanta will close down the building and the 1,000 people who use the Peachtree/Pine shelter will have to find another place to live.  As Atlanta enters the colder months of the year, they are going to have to find places for a significant number of fragile, disabled, those struggling with addiction, and men and women who cannot find a job.  There will be no overflow in the area and just like Cleveland, Atlanta has shuttered hundreds of shelter beds over the last eight years.  Whenever I look at other cities in America, it makes me so glad that we still have a commitment to try to house everyone who comes to the door. The above article indicates that the City is building new facilities to be ready by 2020 while the crisis is coming in November 2017.  I hope that the guys can hold out on the streets for three years while the new shelter is prepared.  

Also, don't believe any of the numbers in the above article.  The HUD Count is completely bogus; conducted by untrained volunteers with a different method in every city.  It is a one night count that has no relevance to the rest of the year, and attempts to count an extremely mobile community who by their nature attempts to stay out of sight.  Finally, building housing is expensive, and in a hot real estate market like Atlanta the $26 million will probably build enough housing for 150 people.  There are hundreds of homeless people who need help in Atlanta.  There will be tons of people waiting for a shelter bed once the city stops taking people into the Peachtree-Pine shelter.  Winter is coming to Atlanta.

Special to NEOCH by Brian Davis

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Tuesday
Aug012017

NEOCH Staff Participate in Cost of Poverty Experience

COPE: Cost Of Poverty Experience

“The over committed can miss a few deadlines. Dieters can take a break from their diet. The busy can take vacations. One cannot take a vacation from poverty.” -Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan

The Cost of Poverty Experience is a training that offers participants a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in our community. It is a look into the obstacles that are faced, the decisions that are made, and the consequences that impact these families every day. The CareSource Foundation has partnered with Think Tank (an Ohio non-profit) to develop COPE, which was co-designed with low-income individuals who have shared their story so that participants could gain greater understanding.  Greater Cleveland Community Shares was the local host of this poverty experience.

Joyce Robinson oversees the shelter experience photo by Dawn Ramsey

The exercise, which simulated one month of poverty, was broken up into four, 15-minute "weeks". 45 different types of “family units” consisted of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 members including adults, youth and school-age children. Each "family" was given instructions regarding circumstances specific to them. Adults were employed or unemployed but seeking work; youth and children had to attend school, as well as experience a "week-long" school break.

Fourteen stations represented services a typical low-income family would use- minimum wage employer(s), county human services, rent and mortgage/evictions, police and jail, court and probation services, pawn shop, bank and loan, gas stop, family wellness center, faith center, mega mart, community services, homeless shelter, school. Each station had its own set of rules regarding how to handle/deal with clients, as well as its own agency-appropriate props; i.e. the Homeless Shelter had six "beds", a "Do Not Shelter List" of clients who didn’t obey the rules, a "Homeless Shelter Form" to completes, a list of "Shelter Rules" to dispense, as well as “bedbugs” for those who were in the shelter for more than one week.

Prior to the start of the exercise, when participants were asked "What is Poverty?" responses included: lacking, struggling, violence, choices, hunger, sustainability, chaos, fear confusion. At the end of the exercise, when asked again, "What is Poverty?" responses included anxiety, increased heart rate, and frustration.

Participants who played the roles of adults talked about spending a lot of time just waiting, having a lot of "balls in the air", lack of understanding regarding resources available, having to make decisions quickly, always being behind, not having enough time, not having enough money at the end of the month, being rejected or charged more for services. They also spoke of parents as being strong, hard-working and resilient.

Those who played the roles of children talked about the stress of being alone a lot because parents had to work, having a lot on their plates, and that the primary relationships they had with adults were not with their parents, but with people "in the system," such as teachers and social service workers.

Systemic barriers can help cause or perpetuate poverty. As systems and as individuals, organizers of the event said, "We are isolated.  We need to think about how relationships, between the system and individuals can help to create community. Instead of talking at each other, insisting that the 'other side’ listen to us, we need to talk with each other and listen to what the other has to say."

Overall, I thought this demonstrated how you cannot take a break from poverty.  This showed everyone that from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed, you have to deal with the ripples that come from living in poverty. 

by Joyce Robinson

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Friday
Jul282017

RNC in Cleveland: One Year Out

 

Last summer in Cleveland was filled with Republicans electing the future President of the United States.  NEOCH was busy organizing, protesting and keeping homeless people safe.  We posted a few images from last year on the front of our website and those will be available on our photo galleries page. We reflected on the RNC last July and you can read that by clicking on the blue text.

We started out joining a lawsuit with the ACLU and both pro Trump and anti Trump protestors against the City of Cleveland.  Our interest was the overly broad enforcement "event area," and whether all these out of town police could disrupt homeless encampments.  This would have allowed law enforcement to search, sieze and bar movement from many areas where homeless people sleep especially across the river.  We won in court and the City had to reduce the event zone.  NEOCH staff provided a one page sheet on how to assist homeless people to the two thousand police who came to town.

We worked to keep homeless people safe with transportation from the East Side to the drop in centers on the West Side.  NEOCH staff did some voter registration activities on the West Side of Cleveland so they did not have to cross the river during the RNC.  We had to figure out where homeless people could go during the day since the Cosgrove Center drop in Center was closed for the week. There was much media about homelessness and the convention both nationally and locally.

NEOCH staff were involved in the protest on the Monday of the RNC that Organize Ohio put together.   We made signs to End Poverty.  We marched.  We listened to speeches asking for Republican leaders to think about the affordable housing crisis, health care for all, increasing income, and stabilizing disability assistance in America.   It was a hot day and a long walk from Lutheran Metro Ministry down to just outside of the "event zone" at Chester Commons.  There were some fantastic speeches like the mom worried about the incendiary language during the campaign about immigrants. There were environmentalists who were concerned about global warming.  There were Black Lives Matter activists worried about unaccountable police. And there were activists asking for a $15 minimum wage and universal access to healthcare in the United States.

Overall, the best of Cleveland was shown to the United States last summer.  We could protest peacefully.  There were very few arrests during the week.  The Police Chief was out among the people talking, keeping the peace and wearing shorts and not riot gear.  Homeless people were not harrassed and could stand with the other pedestrians on the Lorain Carnegie Bridge in peaceful prayer.  There were no arrests or sweeps of homeless people as happened in previous high profile events in the United States.  It was a huge disruption for the one week and it was difficult getting across the river, but it was also quite a spectcle to watch.  I saw people walking downtown that I have never seen before in our fair city.  There were suburban folks from Nebraska who had never seen so much concrete.  There were cowboy hat and boot wearing young men from Montana who had not seen this many minority citizens in the same location. 

Very few of the 20,000 Republican delegates and guests had thought much about homelessness and we did all that we could to get homeless people into the news last summer.  I was skeptical about bringing a party that has a history of hostility toward those living in poverty to a majority Democratic city, but it worked.  There were precincts in the City of Cleveland in 2012 that not one person in that precinct voted for the Republican candidate for President.  I was worried that there would be hostility between the two groups, but Clevelanders were extremely welcoming and hospitable to people who largely see the world differently from most residents of Cleveland.  The Republican Convention of 2016 benefitted the City of Cleveland, and I hope that other cities will look at our ability to host a secure event without harming the residents (including homeless people) in the process and use that as an example. 

Brian Davis

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Thursday
Jul272017

New Director Seeks Your Input and Help

Dear Supporters,

Transitions are an important part of organizational growth.  As we know from living in northeast Ohio, the four seasons transition every year from summer to fall and winter to spring, just as social justice organizations slow down, speed up, and transition. These moments are important to inspire new ideas, build new alliances, and produce organizational growth. Established leaders step back to make room for fresh people to bring new energy and innovation. Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is in this moment.

As I start my position as the new Director of Operations of NEOCH, I want to recognize this moment of transition. I am filled with gratitude to be chosen to lead an organization with such a legacy of defending those marginalized in our community. I take this position determined that NEOCH remains on the front lines struggling for the rights of the men and women in our community who are unhoused by calling for dignified treatment and advocating for public policies that benefit those most in need.

I promise to uphold our mission statement that has guided us in our work. I will continue to work “to organize and empower homeless and at risk men, women and children to break the cycle of homelessness through public education, advocacy, and the creation of nurturing environments.” We have a strong and ambitious strategic plan that centers around improving the daily reality of those experiencing homelessness. As I start my first days in the office, I am excited about continuing to implement the programs and achieve our goals moving forward. 

I bring years of experiences working with and building relationships with people experiencing homelessness in the city of Cleveland. I have traveled the globe partnering with human rights defenders struggling for a more just world. In Colombia, I worked alongside local small-famers as they defended their land from mass displacement by documenting human rights violations and calling for accountability.  I bring these experience with me to this position as I return home to do social justice work in Cleveland.

I cannot do this work alone. In the coming years, we need to come together to strengthen our work. Federal and local policies being implemented will deeply impact the communities that we serve. NEOCH will be more important than ever in our community and we will need your support. Please consider volunteering your time or offering your continued financial support for our Hope for the Homeless campaign.  There is a Hope for the Homeless Brochure on the page.  

I genuinely look forward to having the opportunity to meet all of you in person or you can provide feedback to us here. I am excited about the projects we will be working on together in the future.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail chris (at) neoch (dot) org.

Sincerely,

Christopher Knestrick

Director of Operations

Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

Friday
Jul212017

Cleveland Schools Received No Funding from Competitive Grant For Homeless Kids in Ohio

 

We were notified that the Cleveland Municipal School District would not receive any funds this year from the competitive funding program for homeless children.  This is nearly one third of their total allocation from the State of Ohio to serve homeless children in the district who become homeless during the school year.  Obviously, these funds are not divided by need since Toledo received $0 in 2017 and now Cleveland will get $0 in 2018.  Lorain City Schools also is not going to receive any funds this year.  I could not find the figures for how many homeless children were in each district, but Cleveland saw over 3,000 kids in the district in 2016. We also know that homeless families are on the rise in Cleveland with long waits in the overflow shelter while a bed opens up in the three remaining family shelters. 

In case you do not know, the Cleveland Municipal School District Project ACT program is over 25 years old and will do whatever it takes to get a homeless child back into school as soon as possible.  They help with transportation, uniforms, identification, tutors, and advocacy to make sure that all the children experiencing homelessness do not fall behind.  They visit all the shelters to see if there are any homeless children that are not getting help, and they will work with the surrounding district to make sure that if the child is homeless from Parma they can return to that district to complete their studies for the year.  Project ACT provides tutors to keep the kids at grade level.  So, if their entire home life evaporates at least their school life is preserved and often enhanced with Project ACT. 

The State of Ohio said that they did not fill out a very good grant this year, and obviously Parma did a better job.  Well, I would ask the State officials to come up here and get 3,000 kids back to school quickly and try to keep those kids at grade level while also filling out some stupid grant request.  Why isn't this need based?  Cleveland has to have the first or second highest number of homeless kids in the state.  We should get this money just because we take care of so many kids.  I guess we will have to figure out a transportation system to Toledo and Parma for all our homeless kids in the district since they got the Cleveland money this year. 

Brian Davis

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Post Script:

Replying to 

We will continue to support our students through other resources while we address this with ODE. There will be NO reductions in service!