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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
Wednesday
Mar082017

International Women's Day: Community Shares

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY! #BeBoldForChange

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day commemorating and celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political advancements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. In honor of International Women Day, we salute the women of the 44 member organizations that make up Greater Cleveland Community Shares. Approximately 56% of the Directors of Community Shares’ member organizations are female, as are approximately 80% of the members of Shares Board of Directors.

Founded in 1984, Greater Cleveland Community Shares is Cleveland's only workplace giving federation with a focus on social justice and the second largest such fund in the country. They have since its founding have had a female Executive Director unlike other federated giving programs.  They were started when social justice groups could not find access to some businesses to allow employees to give through a payroll deduction.  Shares was organized by a handful of groups to 44 member organization and having campaigns in most large workplaces in Northeast Ohio.    Community Shares member groups span the variety of Greater Cleveland’s neighborhoods and counties and many extend into Lorain, Lake, Summit and Geauga with their services. Shares generates essential operating funds for nonprofit organizations that are working for positive community change.

In honor of International Women's Day, you could give a donation directly to Community Shares from their website.  You could set up a payroll deduction through your companies through your Human Resources department.  Or you can volunteer to help Community Shares with their work.   We are so lucky to have a group that even recognizes the importance of social justice groups let alone provides funding in Cleveland. 

By Joyce Robinson

Full Disclosure Joyce is a board member of Community Shares

Posts are the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
Mar032017

Carson Answers Questions From Senator Brown

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown issued a press release about his support for Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  We posted it here. 41 other Senators voted against the nomination.  I have to say that I am skeptical as well.  We posted our outlook for the Trump Carson era here and the 2018 outlook is even worse. Back in 2011, even a 2 to 4% cut that we took in HUD funding resulted in the loss of shelter beds of around 60 per year.  With the proposed military budget increase, we are looking at a substantial cuts in domestic spending.  This will have a huge impact on public housing, the voucher program, and the shelters since HUD is a regular target for fiscal hawks.

Be prepared because we are going see more families and more single women trying to fit in a shelter system that is 20% smaller than it was a decade ago.  Will we see more tough love of those struggling with their housing out of HUD?  Will we see more of a push for "personal responsibility" from the federal government?  Will we pit one group of poor people against another for the table scraps that fall out off the plates of the "job creators"?   There is nothing really that any HUD Secretary can do to prevent the expected cuts in one of the least popular departments in Washington.  It is just that Carson does not seem to have much compassion for the constituents he serves.  He does not seem to be able to put himself back in the neighborhood that he grew up in and see the withdraw of federal funds would just make it worse.  These neighborhoods in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Toledo were segregated through redlining, forgotten when crack poured in, and then crushed when manufacturing left and predatory lenders arrived.  It does not seem likely that Ben Carson will stand up to Congress or the Administration and argue that a decrease in HUD funding will mean gangs, opioid dealers and human traffickers will be the only commerce left in some of these neighborhoods.  Even the poverty businesses (Furniture renters, plasma centers, check cashing, and convenience stores) will flee to look for greener pastures. 

Here are some of the answers provided to Senator Sherrod Brown from new Secretary of HUD Ben Carson:

Fair Housing – LGBTQ

Question: In response to a question on the housing rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals, you stated that you, “believe that all Americans…should be protected by the law.”

You then went on to say that you have said that you believe that, “no one gets extra rights. Extra rights means, you get to redefine everything for everybody else.”

Are there any instances you can think of where protecting equal access to housing opportunities for LGBTQ people would mean providing them “extra” rights?

Answer: I can not.

Do you believe HUD currently provides “extra rights” to LGBTQ people that need to be withdrawn?

Answer: I do not.

Infrastructure and Housing

Question: The President-Elect’s promised 1 trillion investment in infrastructure is one of the pillars of the President’s Plan for Urban Renewal. This is an area where I’ve said I’d like to work together with the new Administration.

Our public housing stock faces an estimated backlog of $26 billion in repairs. I was pleased that in our meeting you said that you are supportive of investing in our public housing infrastructure. Can you elaborate on this?

Will you work with the President to ensure that there is a real infrastructure package to address the needs of our urban and rural communities, and that it includes funding for preserving and creating affordable housing?

Answer: I will absolutely commit to advocating for the inclusion in the President Elect’s infrastructure package.

Housing for People with Disabilities

Question: Very-low income people with disabilities have great difficulty in finding and paying for suitable affordable housing with access to appropriate features and services. Over 1 million very low-income, non-elderly persons with disabilities pay over half of their incomes for housing, and approximately 2 million more people – including those with developmental disabilities – are living in more restrictive, institutional environments than they would choose or are living with an aging caregiver. Rent on a modest 1 bedroom apartment at HUD’s estimated national fair market rent would consume all of the income of a person relying upon Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What do you view as HUID’s role in meeting the housing needs of low-income people with disabilities?

Answer: HUD has both a production/rental subsidy role and an enforcement role. Beyond paying the rent for persons with disabilities, HUD has a responsibility to ensure accessible units are available under the law.

Ending Homelessness

Question: In 2010, Opening Doors, The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, set out goals to end homelessness for veterans, the chronically homeless, families, children and youth and all other homelessness. Through a combination of bipartisan federal investments and in appropriate housing solutions – particularly permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless and HUD-VASH vouchers for veterans – and improved practices at the federal and local levels, we have made real progress toward these goals. Since 2010, such investments have helped reduce chronic homelessness by 27 percent and veterans’ homelessness by 47 percent.

Yet, more remains to be done. According to HUD’s 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, approximately 549,928 people were homeless on a given night in January 2016. Nearly 195,000 of the homeless on this night were in families including at least one child.

Are you familiar with Opening Doors?

Answer: I am.

Do you intend to continue to build on the progress we’ve made thus far?

Answer: I intend to build on progress made since President Bush reconstituted the United States Inter Agency Council on Homelessness early in his Administration that Opening Doors builds on. No one can argue with the goal of ending homelessness.

If so, will you call for additional federal investments to end homelessness for veterans, the chronically homeless, and children and families?

Answer: If confirmed, I will call for continued investment to end homelessness for veterans, the chronically homeless and children and families.

Listening to Assisted Families and Advocates

Have you met and do you plan to meet with assisted families and organizations that advocate on behalf of HUD program participants and low-income families on your listening tour?

Answer: I have and will most certainly continue to meet with our important HUD partners. I will also work to recruit and Assistant Secretary for CPD who has a strong passion for and understanding of these issues.

Do you support dialogue between HUD staff and organized tenant groups to assist HUD in its oversight of housing programs?

Answer: I always believe dialogue is important way to understand each other’s perspective.

Shortage of Affordable Units/Housing Costs

Question: Dr. Carson, you have emphasized in your testimony the personal development component of HUD’s mission. I believe many people share your goal of helping all Americans reach their potential.

But today’s affordable housing shortage is not just a problem of human development, but also of housing development. The market alone is not producing sufficient housing that is affordable to working families and those on fixed incomes.

Housing is generally considered affordable if it consumes no more than 30 percent of income.

A person with a full-time job would need to earn an hourly wage of $20.30 in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental at HUD’s national average fair market rent. This “housing wage” is far above the minimum wage, income available to persons with disabilities who rely upon Supplemental Security Income, or even the median wage earned by renters. While housing costs vary across the country, in no state, metropolitan area, or county, can a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom home. Studies have demonstrated that people performing essential work – like child care teachers, bus drivers, and retail workers – are often unable to afford rent in the communities they serve.

Half of all renters – over 21 million households – paid more than 30 percent of their incomes towards housing in 2014, and a quarter – over 11 million – paid more than half their incomes on rent. Among extremely low income (ELI) renter households (those with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI)), 75 percent pay more than half their incomes on rent. The National Low Income Housing Coalition documents a shortage of 7.2 million affordable and available rental units for the nation’s ELI renter households.

Addressing the wages paid to workers is an important part of the housing affordability challenge. But, so too, is the supply of affordable rental housing.

As HUD Secretary, what steps will you take to address the shortfall in affordable and available rental housing in our communities?

Answer: Lack of affordable housing has many causes. Lack of subsidy is one. Lack of clear and consistent guidance is another. Regulatory and compliance risk is yet another. Too often when I talk about HUD with mayors and elected officials of both parties I hear fear and skepticism I their voices when we talk about the department as a partner. We need to change that. When it comes to deep affordability, though, removing all regulatory barriers won’t get you there. It comes down to subsidy. Subsidy levels haven’t changed appreciably under democratic or republican administrations.

I think we can all agree that we will all make sure housing is a key consideration in every appropriations bill. I foresee years of statements from Chairs and Ranking Members of our Appropriations Committees, however, highlighting bright spots in their budgets, but both equally lamenting the fact that they could not do more. If confirmed I will be a vocal advocate internally for funding, but prioritization will continue to occur in this Administration as it did in the last. I believe in HUD’s mission. I could have pursued other agencies, but I chose to come to HUD. I chose to come to HUD because I think I can make a difference. If confirmed, I hope to have an opportunity to challenge existing norms and take a fresh look at HUD’s programs. If we can lay aside our political differences and come together as Housers, I believe we can find better paths than we see before us. I may be fresh to the fight in Washington, D.C., but I am not fresh to the struggle to improve communities and better lives. I will recruit a bi partisan list of practitioners, not ideologues, to serve as Assistant Secretaries. I will surround myself with people who have a passion for improving the agency, not breaking down its programs. I will work with the career staff to examine what has been tried, why it worked or did not work, and if it did not work, why not. I hope we can do this together. I hope we can work as partners to reexamine and reimagine these programs.

 

Do you feel better now or reassured over the new HUD Secretary? Me either (Who could argue with the goal of ending homelessness?)  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of the author and the italic section of Ben Carson

Friday
Mar032017

Senator Brown Press Release on Ben Carson

Homeless Advocates are worried about the qualifications of Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  This agency sends over $2 Billion dollars out to fund shelters and housing for homeless people.  They do not provide cost of living increases and have piled on more and more requirements to get these funds.  Cleveland receives around $28 million to provide help to homeless people.  80% of these dollars go to permanent supportive housing and the crumbs go to emergency services.  In the last 10 years, Cleveland lost 444 beds with this year the Salvation Army PASS program closing.  We have extreme crowding at the Women's shelter and regular overflow at the Men's and Women's Shelter.  Any further cuts in the shelters will result in more homeless deaths which was the highest in 30 years while the County was championing a reduction in homelessness. 

Senator Brown's voted in favor of the nomination and sent out a press release on why (below).  Carson passed the Senate with a 58 for and 41 against.  He would not have passed under the old rules which required a 60 vote majority, but things have changed in Washington.  Senator Brown has voted against 10 cabinet and administrative members so far.  The Senator also posted the responses to the questions he asked Dr. Carson.  We will post the questions that are relevant to our population in a subsequent post.  It is interesting that the Senator sent out so much detail on why he voted in favor of a nominee.  This is typically something done in responding to why a Senator is voting against a nominee. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) - ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following statement after the committee approved Ben Carson’s nomination, which now goes to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

“Dr. Carson is not the nominee I would have chosen to lead HUD, due to both his lack of experience and his and his often troubling public statements over the last three years. But despite my reservations, and my disagreements with some of his positions, I will give Dr. Carson the benefit of the doubt based on commitments he has made to me in person and to this Committee in his testimony and written responses. This includes Dr. Carson’s promises to address the scourge of lead hazards that threaten the health and futures of children in Ohio and nationwide; uphold the Fair Housing Act and the housing rights of LGBTQ individuals; and advocate for rental assistance, investment to end homelessness, and including housing in the president’s infrastructure plan. I will do everything in my power to hold Dr. Carson accountable for making good on his promises.”

Carson submitted written responses (http://www.brown.senate.gov/download/carson-response-to-brown-qfr) to Brown’s questions for the record to clarify and supplement the nominee’s testimony before the Banking Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Click here (http://www.banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/democratic-press-releases?ID=25663E44-DA87-4032-9F47-8772F346EC77) for Brown’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, at Carson’s confirmation hearing. The webcast of Carson’s confirmation hearing is available here (http://www.banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=71EDE1AD-9AB5-4BAE-8AF4-C6E26C3DF6A5).

Wednesday
Mar012017

ACLU and NEOCH File Lawsuit on Unconstitutional Cleveland Panhandling Law


CLEVELAND—The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a lawsuit today in federal court, challenging two Cleveland city ordinances that criminalize panhandling. The ACLU argues that the ordinances unconstitutionally burden free speech because they target individual speech that asks for money and for help.

One of the ordinances bans standing near roads and asking for money from passing traffic. The other makes it a misdemeanor to panhandle on public streets and sidewalks within 10-20 feet of a wide range of locations including bus stops, valet zones, and the entrances to buildings and parking lots.

“Do we really want the government to decide what people are and are not allowed to talk about?” asked Joe Mead, volunteer attorney with the ACLU of Ohio. “The First Amendment means that cities cannot ban speech simply because people would rather not hear the message. Yet that is precisely what Cleveland’s ordinances do. They single out and punish panhandlers who ask for money, but do not punish any other type of speech.”

Federal courts across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have continuously upheld panhandling as constitutionally-protected speech. The ACLU of Ohio successfully defeated a similar ordinance in Akron last year, and many other Ohio cities have voluntarily repealed these unconstitutional laws.

“In addition to being unconstitutional, anti-panhandling ordinances are bad public policy,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director at the ACLU of Ohio. “Homelessness and poverty are distressing issues, and being confronted with them can make us feel uncomfortable. But criminalizing poverty—especially by ticketing or jailing individuals in violation of the First Amendment—is not a solution.”

Press Release from ACLU

Sunday
Feb262017

NEOCH Annual Meeting Announced

All are welcome to join us at our Annual Meeting for 2016 on March 23, 2017 at NEOCH.  Since we are serving food, we do ask that you RSVP for the meeting.  This is the yearly chance to celebrate social justice in the area of homelessness.  We recognize individuals who have done all they can to forward the cause of ending homelessness in Greater Cleveland.  We give out awards for civil rights, social justice, media, and volunteer of the year.  We look back on 2016 and we will solicit your input on our strategic plan for 2017 to 2020.  We also will release our Annual Report for 2016.  Please feel free to join us. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry