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About NEOCH

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
Monday
Jan232017

Judge Raymond Pianka Had the Perfect Job

There is a lot of anger and dissatisfaction with government at all levels, and we do not hear enough about successful government operations.  We heard from a guy campaigning for President who recently said, "Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves," who basically identified "American carnage" as his view of the current landscape.  We can all be proud of Cleveland Housing Court as an example of a government institution that is working and is highly successful.  It is a model in Ohio and the United States largely because of the direction of Judge Raymond Pianka.

Pianka passed away this weekend and he was a giant in the struggle to preserve and protect affordable housing.  He was a really good judge because he was fair and tried to work with landlords and tenants who were trying to follow the law.   People might not be aware that there are only two Housing courts in Ohio (Cleveland and Toledo) and they make the process so much more responsive to people.  Pianka wanted to work with the tenants who came before him as well as the landlords. He pressured landlords to keep their properties safe and decent and did not want tenants to just take matters into their own hands and withhold the rent.  There is a legal way to put rent into escrow, and his staff were always willing to help the tenant with this process.   He created a model mediation program that should be replicated at other local municipal courts who are often not welcoming to the tenant who shows up not understanding the law.  Pianka hired smart people who did all they could to help to meet the needs of the community. He always pushed the staff to be responsive and helpful to taxpayers no matter if they were sitting on the right or left side of the court.

"It has been my privilege to be the Housing Court Judge for more than half of the Court’s 'life.' During that time, the expertise of the Court’s staff has grown, as has our ability to fulfill the original goal of the Housing Court: the coordinated, consistent, fair adjudication of housing cases and resolution of housing-related issues in the City of Cleveland."

from Cleveland Housing Court Website signed by Judge Pianka

All of the issues facing Cleveland's housing community were seen everyday by the Judge Pianka and his staff including the lead issues, the destruction of affordable housing, evictions, bedbugs, foreclosures and houses that are in disrepair.  He has always been available when we asked for help.  In January, Robert Fuchs, Cleveland Housing Court staff presented at the monthly Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting.  Gary Katz, another staff, presented in September at CAHA and is a regular participant at our Housing 101 over the last three years.  They are responsive to providing numbers to NEOCH and other agencies on evictions, put-outs and mediations.  Pianka was the one lifeline for many in the community when we were being flooded by foreclosures.  He did all he could to provide some sanity to an insane situation.  During the height of the foreclosure crisis in the early 2000s, Judge Pianka stepped forward to act as the only law in what he had to see was 1870s Deadwood South Dakota without order and where the predatory and land barons were destroying the town.    I have personally witnessed his attempts to show compassion within the law when a senior citizen showed up without any understanding of what is going on with their housing.  He made the law understandable for we the people. 

Here is my best example why it will be hard to replace Judge Pianka.  There is a rule in Public Housing and much of the subsidized tenants in the community that they have to pay a minimum rent of $25 or $50 per month, but if this is impossible they can be offered a "hardship exemption."  Judge Pianka understood the rules and demanded that tenants be offered the hardship exemption before being evicted.  If they were not offered the exemption the case was delayed or dismissed, because the landlord knew the rules and did not follow them.  I have seen many of my constituents show up facing eviction and that was the first time anyone mentioned a "hardship exemption."  The suburban judges should follow this same rule, but they often let the eviction proceed.  It is a little thing, but it was fair and saved many from evictions. 

I have seen both landlords and tenants from around the area come down to the Justice Center to get copies of the easily understandable forms that the Cleveland Housing Court offers.  The staff are great about talking through the eviction process and what is going to happen before they go into the court.  They try to avoid the stain of an eviction on a person's record or the humiliation of putting all their belongings on the sidewalk.  No councilman, neighbor, or tenant wants to have their stuff put on the street.  Judge Pianka understood all of this as a former Councilman and he always tried to act in the best interest of the community.  We will miss Judge Pianka and his sudden death will leave a huge hole in the struggle to preserve and expand affordable housing in Cleveland. 

Nice piece in the Plain Dealer about the Judge.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Saturday
Jan212017

Welcome to All Event

Thanks to St. Colmans staff and volunteers who came together for this meal.  The NEOCH staff did a great job organizing the dinner that was planned as an alternative to to the inauguration activities.  We did not want to do a protest or demonstration because we are exhausted from the difficult election season.  We did want to mark the radical shift taking place in our country and call attention to those harmed by this hostile rhetoric we heard throughout the debates and even during the inauguration speech we heard earlier in the day.

 We wanted to show that we will welcome immigrants, visitors and refugees from around the world.  Cleveland is committed to being a safe place for people from around the world.  The sign which was made by staff and volunteers said "Welcome All" which was the spirit of what we were trying to accomplish.  There are so many frightened people in our neighborhoods and we wanted them to know that there are institutions in our community who can help.  This may be advocacy organizations like NEOCH or church groups like St. Colmans Catholic Church.   We are a compassionate community built on the hard labor of Irish, Hungarian, Russian, Dominicans, Italians, Syrians and thousands of other nationalities who make this city strong. 

We wanted fragile or communities under threat to know that there are many who are willing to help. We wanted to tell documented and undocumented immigrants that Cleveland will support them.  Our city is losing populations to Florida, Arizona and California.  We need the hard work and innovative ideas from around the world to keep Cleveland moving forward.  After all, most of us have family or ancestors from other places.  We are a young country built by immigrants. 

We came together because we see immigrants as perhaps under the greatest threat.  There was such anger and vitriol in 2016 toward immigrants that we are all going to need to stand up to these threats.  It was a really nice dinner with donations from Giant Eagle and volunteers from both NEOCH and St. Colmans.  Thanks especially Eileen Kelly from St. Colmans for all the work she did to make this a success.  The volunteers and staff are great at doing an efficient and assembly line of food.  They really take care of their hungry neighbors over around Lorain Ave and West 65th St.   We also must thank Denise Toth who spent most of last week preparing for the dinner.  She did everything she could to make this dinner welcoming.  We had games, icebreakers, and music for those who gathered.  We had nice conversations between those who showed up for the food and those who wanted to volunteer.  There were students, social service staff, older folks and elected officials.  It was a good alternative for the tone and tenor of the inauguration speech earlier in the morning.  Thanks.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Monday
Jan162017

Thank You for the Donations: Keep them Coming

 

We have been getting a lot of donations over the last two weeks.  We also got boots in from the SocksPlus program through Community West Foundation.  We take these items for donations.

  • New Socks
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Tents
  • Plastic Tarps
  • Tissues/Baby Wipes
  • Gloves/winter hats
  • RTA one day bus tickets
  • Backpacks
  • Sleeping bags
  • Blankets esp. outdoor heavy duty blankets with plastic on one side
  • New Underwear (any sizes) esp. long underwear.
  • Towels/hand wash cloths
  • Bottled water
  • Hygiene Kits to include: Trial size soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, toothbrush, disposable razor, lip balm in a freezer bag.

We typically do not take clothing or sweaters because we would just be overwhelmed and we don't have the space.  There are many who would take the clothing items and make it available to homeless people.  I know that all the organizations are struggling with space as well, but there are plenty of groups who take the clothing.  It is okay to donate clothing to those who come and pick them up.  Sure, they sell the clohing, but it goes to a good cause.  Why do we care where our cast off clothing goes? 

Here is our page on donations available.  Here is the page on SocksPlus to give more details on how to donate. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday
Jan162017

Stand Down 2017

 It was remarkably calm this year in the 26th year of the Homeless Stand Down in Cleveland.  Handson NEO does a good job with staging this event.  The Stand Down was at Cleveland Public Hall and featured 43 social service providers and a breakfast, a hot meal and a bag lunch.  There was a special section for veterans and a ton of donated boots, coats and socks distributed.  There were tons of medical groups led by Medworks and Care Alliance.  There were haircuts and the fantastic Cleveland Photographic Society who gave out portraits to the guests.  Here are some photos from the event.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Thursday
Jan122017

Cleveland is a Welcoming Community

If you are looking for an alternative to the Inauguration, here is an idea.  You can volunteer with us.  You can bring food or placemats or centerpieces.  You can contribute gift cards or other raffle items.  You can sign up to perform at this event.  You can just attend to break bread with our friends.  The contact information is at the bottom of the flyer.  NEOCH will be closed on Friday so our staff can go out and volunteer. 

Here is a flyer that you can use to send around.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.