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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.

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Questions Not Asked on Weekend Edition on NPR

There was a toxic individual on Weekend Edition Sunday on November 9, 2014 who tied anti-feeding programs with "enabling" homeless people.  The worst was his controversial theory was unchallenged by the host.  He provided facts not supported by academic evidence.  We have a lot of experience with this matter having negotiated an agreement between the local churches and the City of Cleveland.  Robert Marbut who sells these controversial policies by claiming that church feeding programs are enabling homeless people to live outside.  "And if you give food on the street, you end up in a very convoluted way, but still an important way, you end up preventing people from going into 24/7 programming," Marbut said on the show.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the church groups are doing and a huge misunderstanding of homeless people in the community.

Despite his claim to have spent time on the streets visiting homeless people, he does not understand addiction, mental health issues or poverty.  He is not advocating for a massive infusion of funds to build more affordable housing, he is proposing rearranging the deck chairs to force more people into treatment.  No city has reduced homelessness or those living outside by 80%, so his numbers are bogus.  There is no treatment on demand in most cities, and so cracking down on food distribution and quality of life issues only makes poor people into criminals. There are decade long waiting lists for affordable housing, so that even people who work full time at minimum wage cannot afford the market rate for housing.  You can't make laws that reverse decades of neglect of affordable housing.  Finally, the churches are not feeding outside because they are trying to make it easy for homeless people to live on the streets.  They are following Biblical passages to go to where the poor live and minister to them.  They are not looking to end homelessness or even to end hunger, but to proselytize to those in need of spiritual help by breaking bread with those without a home. 

Government should never get in the business of regulating the harmless activities of a church and feeding hungry people is life sustaining not enabling. There was no discussion of the other four pieces of legislation passed in Ft Lauderdale which makes it illegal to be homeless (no sitting, no camping, etc.)  We have reduced the number of people sleeping downtown for a number of reasons including a compromise with the church groups.  We did not ask the City to use law enforcement for regulating social services.  We are not under the delusion that we reduced homelessness.  We just moved the population to another area of town.   The distribution of food does not have anything to do with homelessness.  By reducing the amount of food prepared by churches does not force people to go into a shelter or a treatment center.  It forces them to move out further from the downtown or resort to criminal activity in order to get food. 

Reuters did a nice job with a feature on the cook who was arrested, which was far superior to the interview conducted on NPR.  Here are the questions that Ms. Martin missed when interviewing this homeless whisperer for cities:

  1. Who is verifying the numbers you claim with your plan to not enable homeless people with food results in fewer homeless people? 
  2. Isn't it cruel to withhold food from humans who do not have a place to store food safely?
  3. If government is allowed to restrict the distribution of food by a religious groups can they also demand membership roles in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings who are not keeping sober or bar them from giving out clothing to those who spent their money on lottery tickets instead of winter clothing?
  4. Aren't you proposing a massive expansion in affordable housing and treatment for all the people seeking food? Are there beds going to waste because church groups are enabling people with food? 
  5. You claim to be staking out the middle ground here, but the advocates who fight these ordinances claim that they do not want feeding programs.  They want housing, but do not want to restict access to a life sustaining activity until America provides universal access to housing.  Shouldn't cities be creating the sober housing and residential treatment programs for the thousands living outside and then ban feeding outside?

It is a shame these questions were never asked of this broker in human misery.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


Ft. Lauderdale: Center of Hate Toward the Poor

Ft. Lauderdale officials are taking heat world wide for the arrest of a 90 year old chef and two religious leaders for the crime of feeding low income and homeless people.  They approved a series of anti-homeless measures with the most prominent outlawing the serving of food outside without a permit.  Comedian Stephen Colbert roasted the City last night mocked the Mayor for arresting this "perp", Arnold Abbott, for carrying the dangerous weapon of food.

  "So clearly he knows what Jesus said in Matthew. 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.  I was thirsty and--look out! The cops are here! Hide the Loaves and Fishes!' And I am glad...they eventually caught up with him."

The National Coalition for the Homeless Sent a letter to the Mayor asking for a re-evaluation of the legislation. 

[Full Disclosure:  I helped in the drafting of the NCH letter.] Most are focusing on the anti-feeding law and that is appropriate, but there are four other laws including the prohibition against a homeless person to sit down in the public space that are just as offensive.   These laws go back to the 1990s when cities were using law enforcement to try to "solve" homelessness.  They have failed and in fact, most cities found it only increased the number of homeless people.  Repeatedly ticketing homeless people make them unemployable and unable to engage a lease for housing.  We have also seen the correlation between a rise in hate crimes directed at homeless people when cities begin to pass laws directed at those without housing.  Ft. Lauderdale, by preventing people from being able to eat, goes to the front of the line in legislating hate against a fragile population.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

By the way if you want to express your concern over these extreme laws here is the Mayor's e-mail:  Send us a copy of the e-mail if you decide to write neoch (at) neoch (dot) org. 


Blanket Drive Starts Now

It is that time of year to help us out collect items for out blanket drive.  We have set a goal of 3,000 blankets this year.  We are going to ask our members for help as well as local businesses, unions and religious groups who might have congregants or employees collect items for those resistant to shelter.

We have a flyer available at the bottom of this entry that you can use to print out or distribute to family or employees.  We also have a webpage dedicated to the blanket drive here.  We collect blankets and donations at our office then give them to the outreach workers in the community.  We give to Care Alliance staff, Frontline Services, Metanoia, Labre and Volunteers of America and others.  We give to the people who are developing relationships with those living outside. 

This year we have an outreach trainee, Denise, who is working with people who are reluctant to go to shelter.  She is learning about all the resources available to homeless people and all the programs that may be able to help.  The trainee position is funded by the Community West Foundation and they have blogged about our blanket drive here.  She will be working with the religious groups who minister to the people living outside and then attempting to connect with the "professional" organizations.  Denise will be distributing these winter items to the veterans, couples and homeless individuals trying to stay warm this winter.  By the way, the last trainee, Tyrone, our previous trainee, was hired by Care Alliance as their afternoon/evening staff. 

We can come and pick up donations if there are more than 35 items.   Just call 432-0540 to make arrangements.  We are near Cleveland State University and you can drop off donations anytime between 9 and 4:30 p.m.   We also have some Saturday hours.

Blanket Donation Flyer to print out and distribute.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


NEOCH Files Suit to Protect Provisional Voters

As was reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch, NEOCH filed suit regarding the counting of provisional ballots with SB 216 against the State of Ohio. This is an extension of our 2006 lawsuit regarding identification and voting.  Our settlement was that homeless people without ID had a right to vote.   This typically involved provisional ballots, and so we had an interest in making sure that the County Boards of Elections counted the provisional ballots.

The new law required completion of the envelope without a mistake and would throw out the entire ballot if their were errors in the completion of the absentee or provisional ballot.  The problem was that there was not a standard that each County had to meet.  We attempted to negotiate a directive to clarify the law with the Secretary of State.  For a Secretary of State who was pushing for standard early voting hours, he would want a standard counting method throughout the state for absentee and provisional ballots.  We are afraid that there would be some counties who reject most of their provisional ballots on highly technical grounds while others would be more permissive. 

These were the same plaintiffs involved in the 2006 lawsuit who fought to allow low income voters to vote even if they did not have an ID.  We worked on this lawsuit since the summer and negotiated with the State over clarifications.  We were not looking for a decision before the current election, but we want the federal courts to decide if voter intent should count as opposed to the ability to follow sometimes confusing instructions.  Ohio should try to figure out a way to enfranchise as many voters as possible including those who have a difficult time understanding the written word. 

We hope that the court will allow us discovery in this case to see the impact on SB 216 on voting in Ohio.   We hope to be able to take a look at the percentage of rejected ballots across the state to see if there are discrepancies from one county to the next. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Second Hand Up Gala Gallery

We have posted a second gallery of pictures from this year's Hand Up Gala here.  We also did the drawing for the auction last week.  It was supervised by Community Shares staff to make sure that it was fair.  Seven out of the 16 prize packages will go to homeless people at the next Homeless Congress meeting. 

We also posted the First Gallery on our front page of our website.  We changed the front page so that important items can easily be found.  The picture here is Anthony's Mom.  She attended the Gala to see her son make some remarks about coming from the streets to a good solid job and housing.  Anthony was featured in the program book and had successfully graduated from our photography program. 

We will be sending out the prizes to the auction winners this week and we will have our wrap up meeting to plan for 2015. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.