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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
Jul202017

The Cost of Poverty Experience

Our own staff, Joyce Robinson is participating and helping people think about being homeless.  Not sure if there is still space available but you can contact the agency at Eventbrite to see if there is space.

Thursday
Jul202017

New Photo Gallery Page on Website

One of the most important aspects of our advocacy is the images that go with it.  NEOCH has a 30 year history of taking photos, teaching a class to those living in shelters, and hosting camera friendly events like the Homeless Stand Down.  We can talk about the impact of reducing the number of shelter beds locally, but showing the children holding their bags as they move slowly down the sidewalk has a great deal of power.  Showing the elderly homeless guy living outside his "house" that he made out of milk cartons says more than we could ever do with text.  People don't read as much as in the past and may miss the meaning of an advocacy alert, but they can't forget the homeless guys standing in front of their "home" at Ward Bakery that they called Camelot with the police assault vehicle ready to evict them by force. 

We have put together a web page with all the galleries that appeared on the front of our website over the years.  These are some of the best of our photo displays or Homeless Stand Down photos.  These include our poignant photos from the Homeless Memorial or the impressive Hand Up Gala fine dining meals from the past.  This is contained under the education section of our website and is labelled photo galleries.  We will be adding to these slideshows  on this page using our 12,000 images from our history.  There are black and white galleries and artist specific galleries.  If you saw an impressive picture from the past it is most likely in one of these slide shows.  Check them out.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Monday
Jul172017

Panhandling Laws Changing But How About Outreach?

 

Columbus is the most recent big city in Ohio to announce that they are not enforcing their "aggressive solicitation" panhandling law.  This follows a US Supreme Court decision that struck down limitations on free speech such as asking for money.  Then the cities began following the Supreme Court decision with Youngstown, Akron, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo being forced to withdraw their panhandling laws.  Free Speech champion and panhandling law slayer, Joe Mead of Cleveland State University is the man behind the elimination of these laws.  He typically sends a letter under the letterhead of the American Civil Liberties Union calling attention to the Supreme Court decision and asks the City to stop enforcing these anti free speech laws. 

Most cities ignore him and then he has to file suit on behalf of those struggling in the city.  John Mancini in Cleveland was tired of being harassed by the police on East 9th or West 4th or anywhere around the Public Square and he joined Prof. Mead to file suit against the City of Cleveland enforcement of a panhandling law.  NEOCH had become aware of problems at the end of last year when the number of homeless people receiving panhandling tickets had seemed to increase and we were stuck working to find some of our clients when their number came up for housing.  It turned out they were in jail for not paying outstanding panhandling fines.  We had requested under the Ohio Open Records Act a copy of the number of panhandling tickets.  We found 1,517 panhandling tickets were issued from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2017. Here is the memo from the City of Cleveland in response to our request:

Here is the information from the City of Cleveland provided in March 2017:

ORC 605.031* and 471.06* Cases      From 1/1/2015 - 12/31/2016

Offense Code                                                      Total Count

 471.06                                                                   106

471.061                                                                 19

471.06A                                                                 53

471.06B                                                                768

471.06C                                                                1

471.06D                                                                7

471.06E                                                                 7

471.06F                                                                 17

605.031                                                                 12

605.031B1-M1                                                     38

605.031B1-M3                                                     5

605.031B1-M4                                                     61

605.031B2-10-M4                                               94

605.031B2-10-MM                                              77

605.031B3                                                            4

605.031B6                                                            9

605.031B9 M4                                                     137

605.031B9 MM                                                    102

                                           Total Case Count: 1,517

It is for this reason that NEOCH joined the ACLU lawsuit against the City of Cleveland. We also referred a number of our constituents to the ACLU who all were being regularly harassed with anti-free speech tickets. While most of the panhandlers do not meet the Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of homelessness, they are all certainly poor and struggling. They carry signs declaring that they are struggling and need help.  The ultimate self-proclaimed Scarlet P for "poverty," and for some reason the cities object to people announcing that they are struggling with stability and need help.  But were these laws effective? In June, the City of Cleveland withdrew the panhandling laws and passed a new law that restricts access to people flagging down cars.  This was a great going away gift for my tenure at NEOCH having spoke out against these laws in 2005 when they were first passed in Cleveland.  Thank you City officials for coming to your senses after a dozen years.

Only Cincinnati is left among the big Ohio cities that still enforce the panhandling law, and they have a rough one.  If you want to beg for money in the Queen city, you must get a license from the City and wear the license around your neck like a dog.  They have created a new profession of begging for money in the same class of jobs as hair stylist, tow motor operator, real estate agent and insurance broker--all of which need a license.  Akron had the same law with one additional anti-free speech provision and anti-common sense component that a panhandler could not beg for money outside a church?  Thus attacking two pieces of the first amendment in the same ordinance.  Did panhandling decrease in any of these cities with these laws?  Did it take time away from tracking down rapists, those breaking into cars or shoplifters?  How long does it take to write, prosecute, and process 1,517 tickets in two years in Cleveland?

We have talked about the need to tackle this problem as a social services and not with law enforcement. We heard about Albuquerque and their successful effort to find jobs for those ex-panhandlers.  There are good ideas available now that these failed attacks on the first amendment are being struck down.  Someone is going to have to come up with local funds to accomplish the goals of reducing panhandling. We estimate hiring a panhandler outreach staff would cost around $65,000 in Cleveland.   We have shown that coordinated outreach works to reduce the number of people sleeping outside, and we would love the opportunity to show what we could do with those struggling with stable employment. We suggest meeting these guys where they are and work with them on alternatives.   They need a non-traditional job to move back into regular employment, and they need some other options.  Right now, the message is either clean up and punch a time clock or beg for money until you get enough to self medicate or quiet your demons.  There are other options available, but there is no one there explaining those options.  We hope that Columbus, Akron, and Cleveland will put some resources into strategies that actually work and not just locking people up for begging.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Friday
Jul142017

LOH GIVES ANOTHER SIDE OF THE HOMELESS CONGRESS MEETING

When Homeless People Meet OHS, Again:  What A Surprising Homeless Congress Meeting on Thursday, 13th July 2017

  Finally, NEOCH has a new director in charge, so that we can resume our monthly Homeless Congress Meeting to discuss all the lousy miserable homeless issues, again!

     Wait!  Who is coming to the Homeless Congress meeting this afternoon?  Wow, Ms. Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services!  She is brave enough to come back to this "brutal meeting" as she called it to her bosses?!  Oh, What?  She is here to talk about some Single Adults' Housing Strategies business ... AND answers questions?!  Hold on, first of all, Is there such a thing as Housing Strategies for Single Adults?

 

    Secondly, Ms. Gillett will ANSWER questions.  Oh, well, many still remember HOW she answered questions, or actually did NOT answer questions back in March and April, right! Afraid, be very afraid!  Will homeless people mistreat Ms. Gillett again?!  Curious to know ...... As the World Turns ......

       Huh?!  Who is that lovely lady sitting in the last row, definitely a new face at this meeting?  Ms. Gillett went to this lady to greet her, so she must be with Ms. Gillett.  All right, now the meeting starts with Mr. Roy Love, i.e. NEOCH Board President, to get the agenda for this meeting and the minutes of the previous meeting approved. But, an elderly homeless grandma already starts asking questions to Ms. Gillett.  Oh, how hungry are we homeless people!  Trying to find answers for our problems everywhere and anytime.  In all likelihood and most probably we will find NONE!

       Now, the meeting and events homeless people should pay attention in our community are announced.  And...here comes the drum roll...finally, the new guy in charge is introduced, Mr. Christopher Knestrick!  Unfortunately, he is sitting at the front, and not jumping out of a huge cake!  But, he is looking good, and his voice...wow, talk about a new face for NEOCH, and a new voice for homeless people!

      Now, it is time for the Reality TV show!!  What?!  Ms. Gillett always seems like such a nice Grandma, but at this meeting, she suddenly turns into a tough Grandma?  She proclaims that she does NOT have to come to these meetings because we were disrespectful to her in past meetings.  But she still decided to come to inform us the new policy and the vote at a big "advisory" meeting next week.  Wow!  What should we do now?!  All go to sit in a corner and have a "time out" as they do at the women's shelter.  Or, no food tonight ... which happens nearly every night at the shelter, anyway. 

     Well, after she begins telling us about this new policy, the elderly homeless grandma starts in on her legitimate questions which cannot wait any longer, and just like the shelter doors opening at 3 pm, others also start asking questions.  But, they are all well-behaved, waiting to be called on by the new guy in charge.  However, the answers from Ms. Gillett have NOT changed much.  Some questions she ignores while others she does not really answer in a straightforward manner.  Lots of spin, but no real answers, again!

      Now, in the middle, our new guy in charge, honestly and politely, asks two questions.  And, our Tough Grandma, Ms Gillett, says that Chris's question is INSULTING?!  Please!  He is new to the job.  This is his 7th business day at work.  Can't she even give him a little break?!  He only wants to know if there is anything for the staff or case workers when they do NOT do their jobs properly or do NOT do their jobs at all.   The proposed policy clearly states that homeless people will receive NO services at the shelters after turning down three housing offers.  And his questions are based on what he hears right here right now in this meeting from all the questions and comments, and especially, from the women sleeping at the Payne Avenue shelter.

       Guess what Tough Grandma says?  Now, she sarcastically asks what Chris would do with the staff. She wants to know our new guy wants the staff and case workers to be FIRED or to be SHOT in the Dark?!  Well, our new director at NEOCH does NOT mean that and Ms. Gillett knows it, correct?  But Tough Grandma ONLY has a one-sentence answer for Chris's legitimate question:  "The staff will be held accountable."

     She is the one forgetting that in this new proposed policy, there is NO mention of impartial third party to handle the grievances for homeless people.  In addition to that, as always, Gillett never mentions what actions to take when the staff and case workers do not perform or even fail residents.  Our new guy just points out the obvious.  What a plot twist!  Nobody sees that coming.  Or, do they?

       But, wait a minute!  If a homeless person can be FIRED or punished from a homeless shelter to get SHOT in the dark or put in permanent time-out because they turn down three housing choices, why can't the bad staff or careless case workers have their pay cut or face some punishment for not performing  their duties to help homeless people?!

        Anyway, after the presentation and the Q&As, Ms. Gillett leaves the meeting before the meeting is really finished as she has done in the past.  But there are many voices to whom saying, "thank you," and "have a nice evening," ...... and so on.  But, that lovely lady sitting in the last row, she continues writing notes, and she does not leave! 

        Our new guy at NEOCH is brave, no doubt.  After asking his "insulting question" that offends Ms. Gillett, he continues the meeting without having a mental breakdown.  Maybe, he will have a future at this job after all.

       Raffle tickets are drawn, two winners are happily receiving their prizes.  Then time for the update of new Women's Shelter Bidding Process after the failure of the last process.  Oh, FrontLine Service is NOT entering the Bid?  Thanks, whoever made this possible.

 

     And then we talk about the letter to the new CEO of ADAMHS Board to re-state our wish to support a separate facility for homeless people with severe mental health issues.  Sure, the new guy also reminds us NEOCH can no longer help sheltered homeless people to file grievances.  But, now we can go to County Council Meetings to do so. Oh, that lovely lady is still writing notes throughout the whole meeting, even at the end of the meeting? Her hand is probably very, very sore by now, but her notes are probably even more than notes taken by one of her bosses from the County.  Cuyahoga County Councilman, Dale Miller attended the March Homeless Congress meeting  and he really listened to all of us, and of course Ms. Gillett.  We can tell that Councilman Miller really listened because he brought up many of the complaints at a County Council meeting and made staff from Frontline Services answer the concerns of many of the women. And the responses from Frontline staff were not up to the satisfaction of the County Council who cut their contract from 3 years to 8 months. 

        Well, that's about it.  What a meeting!  Let's have a toast to our new guy surviving his first meeting with his "insulting question," and to our being "disrespectful" to a person who earns a salary from taxpayers. 

~~~  Narrated by "Troublemaker" Loh  ~~~

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry
Thursday
Jul132017

Homeless Congress Voices Concern About County Shelter Policy

The Homeless Congress met today after a month off.  Ruth Gillett rejoined the group to present about the Single Adult policy.  The discussion focused a new policy that the County was working on to require participation in a housing plan for the residents.  We had previously discussed this policy on this blog here. This policy was in response to the large number of single adults seeking shelter in Cuyahoga County. Here is a quick overview of the policy that is going to be voted on at the July 20 Office of Homeless Services Advisory for information purposes.

Recommendation from the Single Adults Committee Meeting June 15, 2017

Exit Plan required of all shelter residents:

  • Within 1 week of arrival (at least a start)
  • Needs to include: income, safety, client choice
  • To be documented
  • 45 days

Review of Rights & Expectations

  • Within 24 hrs
  • To include Exit Plan, Follow-up expectations
  • To be documented

Exit Plan Follow-up by Shelter Staff

  • Frequency depending upon level of need
  • To be documented

 Resident Expectation:

  • Actively engage in Housing Plan

Staff Expectation:

  • Communicate with Outreach Partners
  • Continued effort with those who have yet to be successfully engaged
  • To Be documented

If shelter residents have not moved out of shelter after 3 appropriate housing offers the following would take place:

  • Cleveland Mediation Center (Editor's Note: which is now a program of the largest homeless service provider Frontline Services) will host a mediation between the resident and shelter staff
  • If the resident continued to reside at the shelter after the 3 housing offers and the mediation agreement, the resident’s shelter services would be curtailed to basic shelter accommodation.
  • Residents could appeal the shelter service limitation using the shelter grievance policy.

I helped to organize the Homeless Congress today and here is the takeaway from the meeting. The Homeless Congress does not support the current Single Adult Policy being proposed by the Cuyahoga County Committee for the following reasons:

The Policy doesSavetta who had previously stayed at the Women's Shelter not adequately take into account all the reasons people would turn down housing that is being offered, such as,  

  1. not being able to afford rent after the 3 months of rapid rehousing  money runs out, which means suffering the trauma of another eviction.
  2. A person not wanting to live in a neighborhood where they suffered a trauma, such as rape or abuse,
  3. People with  mental illness and/or addictions challenges that are not ready for housing.  

Such a policy could not be justly and fairly implemented into a shelter system that is already broken. Particularly, the Community Women's shelter on Payne Ave.  During the presentation in the Homeless Congress, multiply women spoke to this reality and the lack of services provided by the shelter to support the women to find housing and or jobs.  The congress does not believe that the women’s shelter could  in any way meet the proposed  45 day requirement for a housing plan as stated by the proposed policy. In order, for the policy to be implemented their needs to be a real commitment from the shelters to provide the services to place people into housing. If not, the proposal could be used to target particular individuals as a form of punishment.

The only punitive and accountability procedures in the policy are directed at men and women experiencing homelessness.  There is no accountability for the shelter agencies that do not follow through on the policy. Placing the only punitive actions onto an already marginalized population does not seem just and equitable. The policy must also hold the agencies accountable to building a housing plan and providing the services to achieve it.  

by Christopher Knestrick

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Post Script: The Office of Homeless Services Advisory passed the above recommendation concerning single adults using the shelters in July 2017.  There were only two votes against the policy (LOH and the representative from NEOCH).  We will update readers on the implementation of this policy as we move forward.