What is the Homeless Congress?
The Homeless Congress is a meeting held between the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) and residents of Cleveland’s homeless shelters and those resistant to shelters. It is a way for a diverse group of homeless people to come together, share ideas, make connections and push for changes.
Who can attend the Homeless Congress?
Anyone who is currently resident or recent alumni at a local homeless shelter is welcome. We welcome formerly homeless individuals who maintain contact with the shelters and people who currently sleep out on the street. The Congress especially needs people that can make a commitment and will attend meetings in the long run. We need two steady people to represent each shelter.
What has happened at the Homeless Congress?
- The creation of shelter standards
In the past, reps had problems with their shelters and discovered that there are no basic operational standards for homeless shelters in our city. In response, the Congress created its own shelter standards and are planning to get the legislation passed by Cuyahoga County.
- Meetings with State, County and City officials
Representatives from the Mayor’s office, Cleveland City Council members, County Council, representatives from the County Office of Homeless Services, the media, State Senators, Cleveland Police Department, and State Representatives have joined our meetings.
- Appointments to various community boards
Representatives were appointed to two County advisory boards, and the Coalition for the Homeless Board.
What are some goals of the group?
We plan to…
- Meet with media and politicians to combat stereotypes of homelessness.
- Have a say in legislation that affects our population (overflow and central intake of North Point); Downtown issues, foreclosures and access to healthcare.
- Expand job opportunities and housing opportunities for homeless people.
- Eventually, the Congress would like to be involved in deciding how local resources are distributed.
Why is this meeting important?
Think of the Homeless Congress as a bridge to City and State officials for those struggling with housing. The Congress allows homeless people to have a unified voice so that letters can be written, resolutions passed and comments be made all in the name of a recognized organization. The Homeless Congress represents homeless people—women, men, families, those resistant to shelter, veterans, shelter residents, etc. This group is a vehicle for the unhoused to be heard by amplifying their voices.
Are changes really being made?
All reps need to understand that change comes slowly and won’t be noticed overnight. In saying that, legislation has been introduced at the state and local levels that Congress members supported. Proposals submitted on behalf of group and shelters have made changes based on recommendations. Staff meet regularly with homeless people to talk about policies and procedures. City and County officials do listen to the concerns raised at the Homeless Congress. We have prepared a summary of the first four years of the Homeless Congress and what we have accomplished here.
How can I get involved?
If you’re not sure when the next Congress meeting is, call Outreach at (216) 432.0540. All meetings are held on select Thursdays (typically the second Thursday of the month) at 1 p.m. on the second floor (gymnasium) of the Bishop Cosgrove Center (E. 18th and Superior).
Each Congress representative receives an all-day RTA pass for attending a full meeting. We also hold raffles at each meeting. The meetings are a great way to network and to learn of new programs/events in the community; including new housing.
We have a page on our site here that describes the last five years progress made by the Homeless Congress.
Priority Items 2015
In February, we passed the items that we want to work on for 2015. Here are the items that the Congress will focus on in 2015