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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 outreach (35)

Friday
Nov282014

I Am Thankful for...

Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance...for being non judgemental in helping people who have made poor choices or are struggling with demons. 

Tyrone H now of Care Alliance...for quickly learning the ins and outs of providing help to the shelter resistent and getting a full time job to work with people struggling with housing issues.

Denise (her picture is on the front of our website now) our latest hire for the training position...for being so compassionate to the people in her care.  For learning how to move from offering comfort to offering a hand up. 

Metanoia...for offering a safe warm place inside on the coldest nights of the year and for helping the most vulnerable in our society. 91 people found help on this last Sunday.

Cosgrove Center...for helping keep people, families and children fed on cold days and for being willing to become the host for the Central Intake site.

Transitional Housing programs...for working to move people into stability during their own time.  Some people cannot be housed quickly.  They need time to get their life together.  They need time to get a skill that will lead to a job or get clean or get medical help for their past trauma.   Transitional shelters have a role in our society and should not be shuttered as HUD and Cuyahoga County are pushing. 

Putting families into housing...I am thankful for Habitat for Humanity and the City Mission program to place families with children directly into houses.  It is always amazing to see a child's face light up when they go into a new place to live.  When they have overcome so much living in a shelter and then realize they have a safe place to live is the best part of this job. 

First Call for Help/211...It is often overlooked, but having a phone number to call 2-1-1- or 436-2000 is an essential service that should be more valued by all the social service community.   Since no agency (except NEOCH) has humans answer the phones anymore, we should give more praise to this amazing service of answering the phone 24 hours a day.   The people over at United Way really care and know more than anyone what is really going on in the community.  They knew first that family homelessness was on the rise and that suburban hunger was getting out of control.  I am so thankful for First Call for Help.

HousingCleveland.org...Cleveland is one of only 2 communities in Ohio that helps low income people find housing without having to go through a case worker.  We have 800 units available today on the site and a database of 32,000 units.   It is a free service for both landlords (4,500 landlords use the service) and homeless people looking for housing.  It is an affordable service that 33 states have adopted. 

Toni Johnson...A veterans affairs employee who knows everything about homelessness.  She is out in the community keeping her ear to the ground about resources for her clients.  You will see her on the East Side and in East Cleveland.  She has contacts for children and 80 year old veterans.   We are so glad she is working to serve homeless people. 

The ID Collaborative...It took a hit this year with funding running out, but it is an amazing program.  It is a model for the United States and serves hundreds of people every year.  This should be considered an essential service funded before other programs.  It is amazing how one small piece of paper (birth certificate) or a card (State ID) can stop a person's life.   Without ID you can't vote, get into housing, get a job or get preventative health care.  We need the ID Collaborative to be healthy and fully funded. 

What are your ideas for what you are thankful for in the homeless community?  Submit in the comments section or in the discussion section of the website.  We will post other ideas on our blog.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
Nov282014

How Many Homeless Are in Downtown Cleveland?

Over the last 16 years, we have had a long decline in the number of homeless people sleeping in Downtown Cleveland.  From 60 in 1998 then the shelter opens in 2000 and the number went down to 4 people.   Then it spikes up to 40 in 2006 for some reason and now it has remained steady at 3 people in 2012 to 2014.   We did not survey in 2011 because of the Occupy movement sleeping downtown. 

We started doing this count on Black Friday during the Mike White administration because homeless people were being arrested, threatened with arrest, and transported out of the City during the Thanksgiving season.  NEOCH sued and eventually won a settlement with the City.  We then began surveying homeless people downtown to see if they were being harassed or threatened by the police.  We also kept a count of the number of homeless people.  This is a low number since many homeless people go into stay with families during the holidays.  The shelters are not as busy on Black Friday compared to other Fridays.  Now we have 16 years of numbers of people sleeping downtown, and it is a huge success. 

The big change that happened in the early 2000s was the introduction of the big shelter in Cleveland that did not turn anyone away.  Then in the mid 2000s, there was the stepped up outreach, the introduction of the Permanent Supportive Housing units for the long term homeless and the downtown clean up crews.  Then over the last three years, we have had the Metanoia Project that has reduced the number of people sleeping outside across the City.  All these together have resulted in fewer people sleeping outside.  It is not that we have solved homelessness or even solved people sleeping outside.  There are far more visibly homeless people sleeping on the West Side of Cleveland then there were 10 years ago. 

Denise, the outreach trainee and I met "Darnell" this morning sleeping outside.   He said that he had been kicked out of the 2100 Lakeside for defending himself in a fight.  He was not aware of the Metanoia Project and was trying to stay warm until the library opened.  We offered Darnell a ride and gave him a hygiene kit.  No matter how many shelter beds, how much housing built for homeless people and how many workers are out on the streets, there are always emergencies.  There are always people who will not go into shelter or are kicked out of their house on any given night.  There are people who do not know where to find help and wander the streets in Cleveland. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Tuesday
Nov182014

Jim Skerl at St. Ignatius Constructed a Program to Befriend the Forgotten

As we start the winter season when our focus switches to keeping people warm, we remember the founder of the Labre Project locally, Jim Skerl.  The Plain Dealer did a nice job in remembering this amazing teacher from St. Ignatius High School with a series of articles including a nice piece by Terry Pluto

West Side Catholic, which is right across the street from St. Ignatius, expressed their grief over the loss of Skerl:

Words cannot adequately express the community’s sadness over the loss of Jim Skerl , teacher at St. Ignatius.  Mr. Skerl impacted so many in the community through his work with L’Arche and as the founder of the Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless and the St. Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearers Society.  His legacy lives on in the lives of those he touched – including mine.

We have to remember the revolutionary nature of the Labre Project.  In a time of fear of everything and lawsuits, Jim was able to figure out a way for young energetic students to go outside to meet with those resistant to shelter where they live.  He convinced concerned parents of the value of the program first as a way to deliver food to the streets, but the program quickly evolved into a way to build friends with those living outside.  These young people first at Ignatius now at John Carroll and CWRU go out and deliver food, clothing and winter items to those often forgotten by society.  With this extending a helping hand, they listen and hear from the population.  The build a bond that extends after a person gets into housing.  They provide the most powerful weapon against homelessness in listening and treating people with respect.

These students know what is happening on the streets of Cleveland.  They know who is staying outside and they are often the first people homeless people meet when they move out of their housing.  They can often link them to "professional" outreach workers at the agencies.   These students are talking to these guys and treating them with compassion no matter their mistakes or human faults.  The Labre Project helps move people to get off the streets.   It keeps people safe while they are living without housing. Finally, it gives the students a lifelong desire to incorporate community service into their daily life.  They graduate realizing that their volunteer efforts helped the community and they want to do more. 

We will miss this quiet revolutionary from the near West Side of Cleveland.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Thursday
Nov062014

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.

Monday
Oct132014

How Can Akron Better Serve Homeless People

The City of Akron was sued last week by students from the CWRU Law School for displacing people and then dumping their valuables.  This is a throw back from the policies of big cities in the United States from the 1990s.  Frustrated over the growing number of homeless people and what seemed like throwing good money after bad, cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York turned to law enforcement to solve a social service crisis.  NEOCH sued the City of Cleveland to stop the sweeps and the dumping of materials from people just trying to survive.   They sent their police force out to arrest, threaten arrest and terrorize a fragile population.

The Chicago Coalition won lawsuits as did Miami advocates against their municipal governments back in the 1990s.  These cities had to pay homeless people for their homeless policies. They used their armed police force to make it illegal to be homeless.  Those policies were found to be expensive and ineffective, but Akron seems to be stuck in the 1990s over their homeless policies.  In visiting Akron, they have a bad problem with people begging for money in almost every freeway off ramp.  They have many people sleeping outside and very few outreach workers.  It is no wonder that community leaders are frustrated with the large number of homeless people.  But handling the problem with law enforcement is the opposite solution to the department.

Remember that cracking down on panhandling does nothing to the homeless populations.  All panhandlers are not homeless and all homeless are not panhandlers.  We have been working with people who are resistant to shelter for 22 years, and so we have some better ideas:

  • Guaranteed access to shelter is critical to the success of any homeless policy. If there is not a place to refer a person then there will be people sleeping outside.  If when the shelter beds are full they shut their doors, what do you expect a person to do?  If you go to the shelter on a regular basis and they do not have a bed for you, then you are going to give up and sleep outside.  It is also inhumane to push people around the downtown when there is not a bed inside available.
  • Coordinated outreach services is also needed to provide the best possible services to those living outside.  This can help connect a veteran to the VA and those struggling with PTSD with mental health services.  It is important to build trusting relationships with those resist going to shelter.  If there are not people on the streets interacting with people on the streets, they get forgotten. 
  • Laws don't work--competition does!  Akron has the most severe legislation in the State of Ohio and it has not eliminated panhandling.  In fact, there are now a class of low income people who have a license to panhandle.  They now have a City sanctioned "job" called begging for money.   Sweeps and dumping of a homeless person's stuff does not work.  It only exacerbates the problem because people get tickets and get arrested, which makes it less likely they will find a job.  If you want to address homelessness and specifically panhandling, you have to have an alternative.  Social service providers should be provided funding to get people off the streets.  Those who can help the most people off the streets should be financially rewarded.  There should be a competition for finding panhandlers real jobs.  We need to provide an effective alternative or the problem will continue to grow. 
  • Police are not social workers.  They should not be drafted into forcing people into shelter or arresting people for purely innocent behavior of being outside.  Police should not even be in the business of telling homeless people to move or warning people that they will have their "stuff" thrown away.  Social workers and outreach staff should be asked to engage people living outside and provide help before anyone threatens the individuals who are resistant to going into shelter.  Let's look at it in a similar situation to an eviction.  There is an official written notice and then the individual has their day in court.  Then before all these checks and balances are undertaken can the bailiff come out to supervise the throwing away of items.  Society allowed these individuals to establish a home outside and forgot about them for months if not years, it is unfair to then attack these campsites and destroy their homes.
  • Build affordable housing or plan on more and more money going to emergency services.  We cannot have a community in which wages are stagnant and 5-6% of the population are unemployed, and then people are punished for living outside.  There are another group who are permanently unemployed, and we are losing affordable housing every year.   We still have people who have behavioral health issues, and so there are these huge holes in the social safety net.  We can't let people fall into homelessness and then punish them for finding a way to survive. If we continue to see destruction of affordable housing, there can only be more homeless people in our cities. 
  • Akron should support the creation of a street newspaper sold by homeless and very low income people.  Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo all have papers sold on their city streets.  It is an effective alternative to panhandling.  This is much more dignified way to earn money--selling your words on the street.  Cleveland Street Chronicle could help establish a paper.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry