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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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Entries in homeless veterans (20)

Tuesday
Jun272017

Updated Veteran's Street Card Published

Be on the Look Out! – Updated Vet Street Card

Ever wonder what services are available to homeless veterans?  Do you know a veteran who is facing homelessness?  There is help!  The new Veteran’s Edition of the Street Card is a publication of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and is updated every year.  This one page card has been published on the website and can be found here:  http://www.neoch.org/street-card/

The new edition lists every agency which helps veterans in the Greater Cleveland and surrounding areas. It’s a valuable document for those experiencing homelessness.  You are welcome to print copies and hand them out to veterans that you know.  It features the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans which has a toll free number, and the ability to use Live 24/7 chat to connect with them.

The new Veterans Street card is front and back and lists agencies in the Downtown, South, West and East sides of town.  It provides bus routes and important telephone numbers for veterans.  Every agency that a homeless veteran will need access to can be found on this card including finding Shelter and receiving benefits.  This is a great tool for Outreach Workers to use when they are out serving the homeless population.   All of the programs listed help veterans directly without a referral.  NEOCH is currently working to update the standard Street Card as well as the Family Street Card.  All of the Street Cards are available on the NEOCH website.  

by Denise Moore

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

 

Saturday
May072016

Why Did Veterans Affairs Not Run From Transitional Shelters?

We are down to around 250 veterans in Cuyahoga County who are homeless.  This is a huge victory and shows remarkable progress since 2010.  NEOCH has repeatedly said that the figures released every summer from HUD about the homeless population is so far off as to be deceptive and causes harm to the homeless community.  This is not the case with the VA because they are actually reaching out and looking for real homeless people.  The HUD stats rely too much on shelter beds which are decreasing every year.  We have seen cities throughout the United States claiming huge victories in the reduction of veteran's homelessness, and at least in Cleveland this does seem to be real progress and not just paper progress.  There are beds available for veterans and their is a full effort to go out and find people where they live.  I don't agree with this gimmick of "functional zero," but there is no doubt that they have made huge progress in significantly reducing the number of veterans who find themselves homeless.   How did they do it? 

We could learn from the success at the Department of Veterans Affairs for leading the way in reducing the number of people who find themselves homeless.  From what I have seen, here are my observations on why they are successful:

1. Housing opportunities are available to the population with diversity the key to this housing.  They have never turned away from all forms of shelter/housing.  They fund housing vouchers, transitional shelters and emergency beds.  They offer fixed facilities as well as scattered site housing.  They try to serve the unique needs of each person and not forcing people into the cheapest or "best" type of housing as determined by "experts" in the community.  This is in stark contrast to HUD which focuses funding on one type of program and forces all other options to die for lack of funding.  One year, they are big on transitional shelters or supportive services or permanent supportive housing or now "rapid rehousing."  They keep jumping around and no longer allow the local community to make these decisions. 

2. They have worked on all the issues facing veterans and not just shelter or housing. They can help with addiction, mental health issues, physical disabilities or legal struggles.  They have always gathered other resources in the community to help veterans.  There is a group that can help with clothing, furniture, utility connections, student loan debt or forgiveness or identification.  They also try to make it easy for people with transportation assistance.  This is the opposite of the HUD funded programs who have adopted a policy of "YO-YO" or You are On Your Own, and just like a yo-yo the individual is up then down and up again depending on how lucky they are in finding appropriate resources. 

3. They have a strong commitment to finding people where they live and not expecting people to come to the VA.  The VA funds beds in the shelters, they set up tables at drop in centers and soup kitchens.  It is not unusual to find a veteran's representative on Sunday night at the overnight drop in center.  If they hear a vet is sleeping under a tree near the Shoreway, they will come out to interview the guy and see if there is a place for him to live.  They are at the hospitals, jails, libraries looking for veterans in need of help.  HUD funded programs often make it difficult to access for fear of being overwhelmed with individual's angry over the small funding available locally.  The VA throws their doors open to anyone with an honorable discharge and tries as hard as they can to help them. 

4.  They are tapping the expertise of a broad cross section of charitable agencies and not relying on one agency doing everything.  This is a change in the last five years that they asked for help from other groups and are paying those groups for offering help to veterans.  It previously was a closed system and only federal employees offered help to homeless veterans.  Now, nearly every agency in the community has been drafted into helping with some money available to help.  There are health care providers, the court system, shelters, housing providers and other government agencies are all offering assistance to stabilize the population.  There is also the Veteran's Service Commission which can help with the incidentals of setting up a house or a monthly bus pass to get a veteran to work or even car repairs so they do not lose their job.  There is nothing like the Veteran's Service Commission available to other non-veteran homeless people, and they have changed locally as well to be more responsive to homeless veterans.

5. Healthcare was the first step with all the other services built around getting the individual stable including their behavioral health.  The largest public health system in America is the VA healthcare.  It is notoriously slow and full of huge paperwork backlogs.  I have not seen this in Cleveland and from what I hear, the veterans are pretty happy with the healthcare they get locally.  We all need healthcare at some point, and the VA uses this universal service as the gateway to the rest of the network. 

6. There is no wrong answer to the veteran struggling with housing.   They do not force them to fit their problems or disability into one path off the streets. They do not say that they can only help after the veteran has been homeless for one year's time or reserve certain programs for veterans who have been homeless for a long time with a disability.  They are not pitting one veteran's group against another for limited resources.   I do have to say that one problem with the VA is that members of the national guard do not get the same treatment as the five branches of the US military.  This seems unfair since we dramatically changed our use of the National Guard during the previous administration.  We used them in an active combat zone, but did not upgrade the benefits they receive after their retirement.  This is something we need to address in Congress. 

7. They have combined income with their housing assistance. So, they work with people on getting them veteran's benefits, social security disability, or income from a job.   Their case workers realize that housing is critical, but paying for that housing is just as critical.  They have always worked on getting the veteran the benefits that they deserve.  There is nothing comparable in the rest of the homeless system, but we do not work on jobs and disability help like the VA case workers.  They have also had veteran's industries linked to housing programs for those engaged in job activities having a place to live while they build up a work record.  The system is much more developed and robust for veterans than is available in the traditional shelters. 

8. They do not rely on fictitious numbers to pretend to be succeeding.  Both HUD and the VA release national reports on their progress and neither are any good.  Both reports are flawed; I would say complete works of fiction.   The difference is that the VA does not rely on these numbers to paper over their successes or failures.  HUD uses these works of fiction to claim success when everything else points to failure.  Cleveland reports a decrease in homelessness over the last year while all other evidence suggests things are bad and getting worse.  Why do we see a smaller number of  homeless people in Cleveland--because we lost 444 beds over the last seven years.  Fewer beds means fewer homeless people to count=smaller numbers of homeless people.  HUD shuts down shelter for lack of funding while the VA will begin shutting down shelters for lack of need.  There are beds available at many of the VA shelters right now, but that does not mean there is not the need.  HUD and the County do not care about the demands or the need, they base decisions on funding and cost savings in the community. 

9. They finally realized that there is a huge amount of distrust for the VA and so they have these alternatives available.  Veterans especially from the Vietnam era do not trust the VA.  They were betrayed by the agency for years especially around the issues of Agent Orange.  There are many vets that I meet who are angry with the VA and say that they will not go there.  I can remember the on the ground nurses in the 1990s recognizing this problem, but it seems that the senior administration are finally hearing this issue.  There are plenty of older men who say, "I will never go to the VA because they did me wrong in the past."   This is why it is so critical to not require that it is not necessary to go to the VA first to get services.  A veteran can start the path back to stability at the shelter, the drop in center or the VA hospital.  It is not mandatory to start with the VA operated programs to find help. 

Congratulations on making so much progress.  Now it is time to teach HUD what they are doing wrong and force Congress to fund homeless services like they fund the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
Dec292015

Joyce is Back in Action!!!

Here are a few interesting stories Joyce found while surfing the net about homelessness.

Food insecurity and homelessness continue to plague many of the nation's largest cities, according to a new report released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Across 22 of the cities surveyed — including Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; and San Francisco — the amount of emergency food assistance increased by 3 percent between Sept. 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015. In addition, homelessness increased across all of the cities by an average 1.6 percent over the same period. 

Many community college students, who often balance jobs, families and studies, struggle with paying for food and housing, according to a new study. A survey of more than 4,000 undergraduates at 10 community colleges determined that half of all community college students are struggling with food and/or housing insecurity, said researchers at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hidden behind the government district in downtown Phoenix sits a cluster of homeless shelters, food banks and clinics. Of the services offered, few help those participate in one of the most basic civil rights of American citizens — the right to vote. Both local and national election processes present the difficult tasks of finding a ballot, getting to a voting place, accessing election information and acquiring the necessary identification to register and cast a vote. 

A 24-year-old homeless woman who cops said had been living in her car with her 3-year-old daughter in Las Vegas for about a week was charged Monday in the automobile rampage that killed one and wounded at least 35 others Sunday night.  (For members we have a short piece about could this happen in Cleveland in the Member Hub by logging into the website.)

Students in the College of Health and Human Development often find careers in fields that serve the homeless. Whether they are administrators of health care facilities, managers of social services, physicians, counselors, or any number of other service-related careers, students will likely, at some point in their career, work with people wrestling with homelessness.  For this reason, the college is committed to helping students prepare to serve those who are homeless with care and compassion.  

Front Street Community Health Center in Juneau has a new permanent nurse practitioner after a year of temporary medical providers. The health clinic, which caters primarily to people who are homeless, has gone through a lot of growing pains since it separated from Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium two years ago.  

Homelessness in Hawaii has grown in recent years, leaving the state with 487 homeless per 100,000 people, the nation's highest rate per capita, ahead of New York and Nevada, according to federal statistics. The increase, driven by years of rising costs in the island chain, low wages and limited land, thrust the image of people sleeping on beaches alongside the state's famed one of a relaxing tropical paradise.

Though it has made much progress, the Department of Veterans Affairs is likely to miss its target on two ambitious goals: ending veteran homelessness in 2015 and ending the backlog in disability claims.  The latest count available showed about 50,000 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2014.

To address the crisis of homeless families in Central Florida — where one of every 17 children spent at least part of last year living in a motel, shelter, the family car or someone else's home — leaders called Tuesday for a major increase in affordable housing and support from politicians in Tallahassee. "While some of those kids do have a roof over their heads, the fact that they may be doubled up with family members or living in a one-room hotel with their entire family — that's not sufficient to create the kind of self-esteem and security they need," Jacobs said.

November was National Youth Runaway Prevention Month, and one local man was going to do all that he can to raise awareness. Kyle Wales was approached by Youth Services and Chiselbox to help spread the word for the upcoming Wheeling Sleep Out, an annual event to raise community support and funds for Homeless Youth in the Ohio Valley. 

More than 500,000 people  a quarter of them children  were homeless in the United States this year amid scarce affordable housing across much of the nation, according to a study released on Thursday. Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Hawaii have all recently declared emergencies over the rise of homelessness, and on Thursday Seattle's mayor toured a new encampment for his city's dispossessed.

The Incarcerated Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 732 has created care packages for the local homeless population and those who have lost their homes, complete with a sleeping bag, garment bag, mittens, toiletries and a mat woven from nonbiodegradable plastic shopping bags to keep them from sleeping on wet ground.  

By Joyce Robinson

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Aug132015

Homeless People in the National News

In Utah, a pilot program is seeking to clear the homeless of petty crimes. These crimes often prevent homeless, and formerly homeless from fully integrating into society. This program provides homeless people a chance to do what many places will not: re-enter society fully.

A public defender in Florida is calling for the end of low-value arrests of homeless. These types of arrests in the long run only cost the city more money than they are gaining from arresting these people for overdue fines and petty crimes.  It is a similar expression of the Justice Department in Bell vs. the City of Boise. 

The old Walter Reed VA hospital which was the site of a scandal over deplorable conditions is set to be repurposed as a place for homeless veterans to stay in D.C. This old hospital will become a Permanent Supportive Housing complex with on-site staff to help these people with special needs.

Three Michigan cities have the potential to end veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. Though many say it’s a radical goal, they are making real change and claim to be close to ending veteran and chronic homelessness.

A homeless man in Anaheim is left paralyzed after being attacked. Yet, the man is not as mad at the attackers as he is at the city officials, who have shown consistent indifference toward the homeless in the city. He was attacked by a group of young people tagging various buildings.

Homeless people rack up a lot of fines and warrants for petty crimes that they are unable to pay off or are unable to show up to their court date. A judge in Boston is doing the right thing and is holding special “Homeless Court” sessions, where she hears the cases of homeless people with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. In many cases, if a person shows they are committed to improvement, she will dismiss the charge.

Some cities do not provide a lot opportunities for the homeless to receive free meals. In Mendocino, California, one man has to forage for food, because there is so few places to receive meals in the city.

Even something as small as a haircut can make a big difference in the life of a homeless person.  It allows them to connect with their former selves from before homelessness, and also allows them to be more presentable at job interviews. This goes to show that the littlest of things can make a big difference.

People often think of winter as the hardest time for homeless people, but for homeless college students the hardest part is the summer. During the school year, college students can live in the dorms, but when breaks come, like summer break, these students are left with nowhere to go.

by Dan the Intern

Thursday
Aug062015

NPR Stories About Homelessness

For Homeless Families, Quick Exit From Shelters Is Only A Temporary Fix

NPR did a series of reports on homelessness last week.  The first was on Rapid Rehousing and the second was regarding the work on ending veteran's homelessness. Rapid re-housing can be very helpful to give someone a place on a temporary basis when a person or family finds themselves homeless. The program is designed to be simple and temporary, however, the simplicity of the program can be its downfall. This program treats every homeless individual as a member of the same demographic with the same problems. Some cities flat out ignore other problems facing homeless people.  Doing so with any group of people is a red flag, and with the homeless community, rapid re-housing has many major issues. Programs for the homeless need to be flexible to individuals. In Cleveland, only families have access to Rapid Rehousing.  Some individuals cannot obtain a stable jobs in the time they are receiving the assistance, and sometimes, even if a person obtains a stable job, they cannot afford market rent without the assistance. Congress is not going to increase funding for homeless services anytime soon, so rapid rehousing must start implementing policies to be more successful. 

The U.S. Declared War On Veteran Homelessness — And It Actually Could Win

Since President Obama took office, there has been a 300% increase in funding for homeless vets. By doing this, the number of homeless vets has decreased significantly in many cities. Some cities have even reached “functional zero” meaning that if a homeless veteran requests housing, they immediately receive it. Yet, the use of the “functional zero” terminology is a double edged sword. Officials use “functional zero” as though it is the same as ending homelessness, but it is not. If veteran homelessness, or homelessness in any capacity were to end, then funding for that would not be needed. To maintain a “functional zero” state of homelessness, funding must also be maintained. Steve Peck, president of U.S. Vets in Houston, was attempting to raise funds, when donors said that they thought homelessness was over. Well, it needs to be made clear that there is a difference between the eradication of homelessness and “functional zero.”

There was one story about New Orleans and the whole concept of "functional zero" among veterans.  Another important aspect of this story was the importance of flexibility. Jim Zenner was a veteran of Iraq facing severe anger issues and depression from his time in the Service. So, when he found himself homeless with his son due to these circumstances, he would have been unable to gain shelter if it was not for one organization bending the rules for him. He later helped build and run a readjustment facility for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The importance of this piece of the story lies in the organization’s bending of the rules. Homelessness comes in many different forms with countless scenarios, and far too often, if someone does not meet the classifications of the prototypical homeless person, they lose out on resources.  Resources and programs for the homeless must be flexible to the needs of individuals and groups, not merely one or the other.

by Dan the Intern