Find Help

Follow us on Twitter
Donate to NEOCH

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.

Wednesday
May062015

Project ACT/City Music Conference and Concert

Our friends over at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Project ACT are hosting an event over at the Masonic Temple.  This will be a conference and concert around the issue of homeless youth in our community.  Project ACT is one of the leading school programs in the country in serving kids who become homeless during the school year.  They rapidly respond to make sure that their school term is not interrupted.  They work with the community to provide transportation and additional tutoring to the 3,900 kids who become homeless.  We have the contacts for every school district in Cuyahoga County here if you need additional help.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Apr292015

House Committee Eliminates National Housing Trust

Call Your Representative TODAY to Oppose the Bill’s Treatment of the National Housing Trust Fund in the House Appropriations

The proposed FY16 appropriations bill for HUD passed today by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) would eviscerate the National Housing Trust Fund. The bill:

  • Transfers all funding that is supposed to go to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) into the HOME program.
  • Forbids Congress to put any other funding into NHTF.

The House Appropriations Committee press release on the proposed THUD bill states that the bill will provide level funding of $900 million for the HOME program, but fails to mention that it would do so only by raiding the NHTF.

The House Appropriations Committee will consider the THUD bill when they reconvene after their recess next week. Please reach out to your Representative before May 12 and urge him or her to oppose the bill’s treatment of the NHTF.

When you contact your Representative, share with him or her that:

  1. The NHTF is the only federal program that provides new money specifically to expand the supply of rental housing that is affordable for extremely low income (ELI) households. Nationwide, there is a shortage of 7.1 million rental housing units that are available and affordable for ELI families. In most of the country, ELI is less than the federal poverty level. The shortage of rental housing that extremely low income households can afford is the reason so many people are homeless in the United States.

  2. The funding for the NHTF is a dedicated source of revenue on the mandatory side of the federal budget, and as such, is not subject to annual appropriations. Funding for the NHTF is based on an assessment of 4.2 basis points of the annual volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is a reliable, predictable stream of funding that is supposed to be separate from HUD appropriations. It is not subject to sequestration.

    As an appropriated program, HOME has suffered deep cuts in recent years, including cuts dictated by sequestration. Its FY15 appropriation of $900 million is less than half of the FY10 appropriation. The Appropriations Committee should not be managing the sequester cuts to HUD programs by raiding mandatory funds that have a dedicated purpose.

  3. Neither program is funded anywhere near what is required to address the unmet housing need.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

If your Representative sits on the Appropriations Committee, tell him or her to oppose the THUD Appropriations bill’s treatment of the NHTF. Urge your Representative to remove all references to the National Housing Trust Fund when the bill is marked up in full committee after next week’s recess.

To find out if your Representative sits on the Appropriations Committee, visit http://appropriations.house.gov/about/members/.

To find contact information for your Representative, call the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351, or visit NLIHC's website and enter your zip code on the right side.

Thank you for your support from the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Wednesday
Apr292015

Local Reports from National Coalition Meeting

 The best part of the National Coalition for the Homeless meeting is hearing from other communities what is happening locally.  There are a lot of tremendous ideas and amazing advocacy going on in the local community.  This last meeting was held in Denver and we already posted some observations about Denver and Colorado.  Here are some highlights from what is going on around the country from NCH Board members. 

Minnesota

  • Struggling with trying to maintain state funding for homelessness and affordable housing with a tough budget.
  • Activists are working on fair housing issues within the state to rebalance the home ownership rate in Minnesota which is one of the lowest in the Country for African Americans.

Chicago, IL

  • The Homeless Bill of Rights passed the State (one of only three).
  • Agreement on sweeps by the police that resulted in throwing items away for those resistant to shelter.  Police will give one week notice before a "clean-up."
  • Working with re-entry folks on human trafficing issues.  Pilot program with the housing authority for trafficked women to get into housing.
  • Working on additional funding for affordable housing.
  • They had a setback in an SRO law passed which makes it difficult to transfer ownership because of neighborhoods gentrifying and wanting to eliminate low cost housing.
  • Fighting for a $13 minimum wage.

Indiana

  • Indianapolis Mayor vetoed their bill of rights passed by the City Council.
  • Large HIV outbreak in the southern part of the state--started an emergency needle exchange program and are working with trafficked women to try to limit spread. 

Sacremento, CA

  • Increase city trust fund to $25 million
  • Working on coordinated exit planning from various publicly funded programs.  They also have an employment collaboration working with homeless agencies.
  • Working on a better system for serving those addicted with a more "on-demand" system.
  • Statewide homeless bill of rights did not have the votes will be re-introduced in January 2016.
  • They did the DC criminalization survey  and found 75% of those surveyed had been arrested or threatened with arrest for purely innocent behavior of being homeless.
  • 2,900 anti-camping citations issued in Sacramento from 2012 to 2014.

Sentencing Project (national)

  • US leads the world in incarcerated individuals by large numbers. 
  • They have become involved in the Black Lives Matter campaign because of the relevance to their goals of bringing justice to the judicial system especially in cities. 
  • There is a true bipartisan effort to reform sentencing esp. for drugs.  The right wants to look at cost savings and the left is looking at justice.  Trying to limit excessive sentencing and look back at previous over sentencing.

Arkansas

  • The Coalition in Little Rock is barely hanging on and trying to speak up when necessary.

Austin, Texas

  • Gathering stats around the interaction between police and homeless people.
  • Sued the City over landlords not taking Section 8 voucher program under anti-discrimination law.

Atlanta, GA

  • 250 beds closed over last four years.
  • Now the men's shelter has had to serve 60 to 100 families every night with mats on the floor.
  • No new housing being developed locally, and last year 30,000 applied to the housing choice voucher program.
  • Working on fair housing complaint against HUD over loss of shelter locally.
  • Still working to resolve the ownership of the big shelter
  • Working with LGBT you to expand access to shelter.

Florida

  • No Medicare expansion and the indigent care has created a huge hole in the state budget.
  • Serious funding problems for services to the mentally ill.
  • Housing Trust fund is raided every year. 
  • Orlando has a new commission on homelessness that is working on putting together funds for Permanent Supportive Housing.
  • Working with the Veterans Administration on their "vulnerability index."

Mississippi

  • Formed a new regional Continuum of Care with the Mayors around the City of Jackson.
  • Purging the Public Housing Waiting list to get rid of the names that have been on there for seven to nine years and they are starting fresh.
  • Creating food gardens with some of the social service providers, and more groups are using food bank assistance to get fresh food.

Puerto Rico

  • The territory or commonwealth is nearing bankruptcy, which puts a strain on all public services.
  • They are trying to encourage billionaires to live in Puerto Rico and pay taxes.
  • The Bloomberg consulting group has been working with cities on urban issues including San Juan, and has a draconian approach to serving homeless people.  Basically involves shipping them out.
  • Trying to reform the police and teach them how to not violate the rights of homeless people. 
  • Ever increasing numbers of homeless people seeking help. 
  • Talked about the WBEZ/This American Life radio program about the relocation of addicts to non-licensed facilities in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City.  These men get stuck in the cities and have no way to return to the island.  

Denver

  • The Right to Rest bill has galvanized Denver's homeless population around this law.
  • The Denver auditor criticize the City for not meeting its goals to end homelessness that they signed 10 years ago.  Declared that there were not measurable outcomes and little progress.  Also criticized the city for enforcing a "no camping" ordinance as more costly than effective.
  • Denver increased population and no vacancies has created a rental crisis and causing rents to increase.
  • Denver is trying out social impact bonds with 300 frequent flyers in the jails to provide housing alternatives and any savings in law enforcement/court fees would go to the investors in the bonds.   

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Apr292015

Colorado Turns Down Homeless Bill of Rights

Hate and Lies Prevail in Denver

The Colorado State Legislative committee turned down the Right to Sleep/Homeless Bill of Rights legislation this week in Denver.  This is part of a national movement to pass bills of rights throughout the country.  In response to the large number of people who are harassed by police for innocent behavior of sitting, sleeping, standing in the public space, advocates tried to reduce the involvement of law enforcement in the distribution of social services.  

In surveys done in Colorado, San Antonio, San Francisco, Washington, and Oregon, they found 80 to 90% of the population experience discrimination by law enforcement in their communities.  This was an attempt to reduce interactions between law enforcement and homeless people in the State of Colorado. In the survey conducted in Denver, 70 percent of respondents said they were harassed, ticketed and even arrested for sleeping outdoors, and nearly as many, 64 percent, for simply sitting or lying down to rest.  73 percent said they had been turned away from shelters when they tried to enter. 60 percent also said they had their property seized by city employees and/or law enforcement.

The bill would specifically:

  1. The right to use and move freely in public spaces without time limits or discrimination based on housing status.
  2. The right to eat and share food in public spaces
  3. The right to occupy a motor vehicle that is parked on public property.
  4. The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in public spaces.

Activists came from around the country to support the Colorado initiative.  There were homeless people from Skid Row, Boulder, Seattle, Baltimore, New York City, DC, San Francisco among others who rallied at the State House to push this forward.  They were extremely disappointed and disruptive after it became clear the bill was going to die. 

The Denver Post reported the opposition this way: Kathy Haddock, senior assistant city attorney for Boulder, cited more than $3 million annually the city spends on homelessness (This is the money given to Boulder from the Federal Government and not local funds).

"'Right to rest' is a good phrase, it sounds good, it's a good sound bite, but homelessness issues are not addressed simply by providing people a place to rest," she said. "In fact, using public property to become a replacement home for people means that property also becomes their bathroom, cooking area, trash bin and congregating area.

"As a result, those areas become unusable by others and are very expensive for the city to provide trash removal and human-waste removal services."

Even though these rules only applied to public property, retail lobbyists testified against the bill.  Trial lawyers testified against the bill as did the Chamber of Commerce.   Boulder and other cities in Colorado who have made it illegal to be homeless testified against the bill, because of the "expense" of defending lawsuits.  The cities were worried that police would sue them if they threatened arrest of homeless people. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

PS:  Cleveland has a federal consent decree signed in February 2000 that protects homeless people from harrassment by the police for purely innocent behavior. 

Wednesday
Apr292015

Denver And Homelessness

The National Coalition for the Homeless met in Denver Colorado for their twice yearly face to face meeting and held a conference on criminalization of homelessness.  Denver is one of the 25 largest cities in America, and has made some progress on homelessness in America, but has a long way to go.  It is the state capital so there are far more resources available in Denver than other Colorado cities, but there are many people sleeping outside.  There is no guaranteed access to shelter like in New York and Cleveland. 

The police regularly ask homeless people to move along, but never answer the question, "to where?"   There are many who travel through Denver to greener pastures.  I met a man who was sleeping outside from Bangor Maine by way of Washington and Chicago who was deciding on whether to stay or move on.  The outreach teams had tried to work with him in his first three weeks in Denver which is more than happens in most cities.  There also seems to be a growing number of people migrating to Denver because of the recreational marijuana, which is a far more expensive of a habit than cigarettes.  Housing is extremely expensive with supply not matching demand.  They have far fewer abandoned properties when compared to most Midwestern cities, but they do exist. 

Denver has many more laws on the books restricting homeless people and a pretty strict panhandling law.  They do have a pretty amazing healthcare for the homeless operation with five clinics, including a brand new clinic attached to their permanent supportive housing project with dental services and a complete pharmacy.  I was impressed with the level of care delivered to homeless people with an attempt to make the healthcare for the homeless clinics a medical home for low income people.  They screen people who come in for mental health issues while they are assessing their physical health needs.  People do not have to make appointments somewhere else and then face other challenges such as timing and transportation.  The new Denver health care for the homeless clinic has a huge and respectful waiting area and a seamless process to apply for housing once they have sought healthcare assistance. 

In Cleveland, most of the services are built around the shelters and even with Coordinated intake those staying at shelter are easiest to find and usually get access before those waiting on the streets.  In Denver, the system seems to be centered around health care as the first point of contact for most.  Those without housing seem to look healthier than I have seen in the Midwest or the East Coast.  I don’t know if this is from the amount of walking necessary in western cities or the number of farm and domestic workers among the homeless population.  Transportation is much more accessible in Denver when compared to Cleveland but not like DC, NYC or Boston. 

Denver is a clean city, but about three times the number of people sleeping outside compared to Cleveland.  There are no where near the numbers of people living outside as Washington DC, San Francisco or Boston.  There were a number of grassroots organizations helping to provide a voice to those living in shelters or on the streets.  There was not a real advocacy Coalition focused on the needs of homeless people and providing input to government or the social service community.   This is not unusual for a capital city where advocacy groups get overshadowed by the State Coalitions and all the money and resources goes to state efforts.  There is not the tradition to organizing in union cities like Cleveland, Philadelphia and Chicago.  So, there is not a strong tenant association or commitment to organizing low income residents of the city. 

They are making progress and have built large numbers of affordable housing units reserved for homeless people.  They have permanent supportive housing for families which most cities have not found the ability to fund.  They are working on funding a law enforcement diversion program which is supposed to save the city money over incarceration.  Finally, there are horror movie scary Mimes performing in Downtown Denver, which is unsettling, but at least they are not dressed as clowns. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry