The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered emergency relief that will protect the right to vote for countless Ohioans who were unlawfully purged from the voter rolls.

The Court noted that Ohio, for years, has been purging voters from the registration rolls using notices that likely violate the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”). It ordered Ohio to count ballots cast by certain Ohio residents purged pursuant to a practice known as the Supplemental Process, which results in removals when a voter has not cast a ballot or engaged in other election activity for a period of six years.

“Today’s ruling will allow Ohio voters—who would have been unlawfully disenfranchised—to cast their ballot this November,” said Stuart Naifeh, Senior Counsel at Demos. “In a state where elections have been won or lost by only one vote, protecting the right of eligible voters to have their voices heard will uphold the fundamental principles on which our democracy is supposed to operate.”

The relief ordered, known as the APRI Exception, requires that individuals who have been purged have their provisional ballots counted if the voter (1) appears in person to vote during early voting or on Election Day, (2) was removed from the registration rolls in or since 2011, and (3) did not become ineligible to vote for another reason subsequent to the time they were purged. Exceptions to the in-person voting requirement exist for uniformed, overseas, sick, and disabled voters who are unable to make it to the polls.

“Black, low-income, and other traditionally marginalized voters have been disproportionately removed under Ohio’s purge practice,” said Andre Washington, President of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). “Illegally removing these individuals from the voter rolls and disenfranchising them prevents Ohio from creating a truly inclusive and representative democracy—one where all its citizens have an equal chance to make their voices heard.”

“This has been a hard-fought victory for Ohio voters,” said Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio. “We are thrilled that the Sixth Circuit responded to this emergency, and ruled to allow unlawfully-purged voters to vote this November. Turnout next week could break historic records. This decision allows eligible voters to participate. This is a bright moment for democracy.”

The relief ordered does not end the Sixth Circuit’s review of the case. The Court is slated to consider the full merits of whether Ohio violated the NVRA’s notice requirements.

“Today’s decision will protect the right of housing-insecure persons to cast a ballot in November and have their votes counted,” said Chris Knestrick, Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). “We will continue to fight to ensure that no person is unlawfully removed from the voter rolls and denied their fundamental right to vote.”   

Homeless liaisons help the homeless children in each of Ohio’s School Districts

Every year thousands of families struggle with homelessness. In Cleveland, there were 2,744 homeless students in 2017.  Statistics show that the percentage of homeless children in Ohio who graduate is less than 25% according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.  Education of today’s children plays an important roll in preventing homelessness.

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NEOCH 2018 Summer Intern Reflections

Summer Intern Picture

This summer, NEOCH had 5 summer interns: Asha Ravichandran (CWRU), Connor McIntyre (JCU), Gillian Prater-Lee (CWRU), Shivani Govani (CWRU), and Zach Chapman (JCU). We asked each of them to write a brief reflection on their time at NEOCH!

Gillian Prater-Lee (rising junior at CWRU):  When I first stepped into the NEOCH office, I liked what I saw.  The room was filled with people laughing, comfy couches, and loads upon loads of donations stacked all around.  This was the type of environment that I wanted to work in: a community of kind and laid-back people working together to fight a difficult battle.  These people have made doing the difficult work of outreach, advocacy, and organizing against oppressive systems an enjoyable time.  In fact, the people and experiences I have had at NEOCH have shaped me as a social justice activist, but, more importantly, as a person.  I’ve worked in the past to organize around affordable housing, but NEOCH gave me the human perspective on how unjust systems shape people’s lives by systemically denying them housing. Talking to and working with NEOCH has made me a better advocate and, I’d like to think, a better person.  My favorite project I worked on is the Funeral for Affordable Housing protest on August 2nd.  This event will allow NEOCH to go out into the greater community and amplify the voices of people experiencing homelessness and others who have had struggles with finding quality, affordable housing.  The event will do what I see as my role in advocacy: centering the voices of people oppressed by systemic forces to create change.  This internship has strengthened my resolve to advocate for affordable housing and against gentrification, and I hope to keep to work with NEOCH in the future.


Zach Chapman (rising senior at JCU): Ever since I started volunteering with John Carroll’s Labre program, my goal has been to eventually work for NEOCH. I really wanted to discover why so many people remain almost systematically homeless. I wanted to learn the meaning behind the word: poverty. I assumed that NEOCH only served people who were on the streets, I was wrong. I also assumed, given my professor’s reactions to my never-ending desire to work at NEOCH, that there was going to be a little bit of rabble-rousing from NEOCH. We were going to push people to get things done! I was excited! I was ready to end homelessness in 10 weeks. While, I didn’t achieve this goal in my time at NEOCH, I did learn so much about the systems that are set in place to prevent people from really getting out of the cycle of poverty.

Poverty seems to be a word which induces fear into the hearts of many. While the typical picture of someone living in poverty is a drug addict or someone who is lazy, I can tell you this is simply not true. Many people who are homeless just lost their job. Many people who live in poverty have just been stuck in the cycle, their mom, and their grandma, both lived in penury, and they never got the resources needed to get out. So, while it is easy to be afraid of those who live in the homeless shelter or under the bridge, I can assure you, they are people just like you and me. They are people, with limited resources.

It was truly shocking to me to learn about how limited the resources are to those who are experiencing poverty in Cleveland. Many rely on non-profit organizations to get them their basic human needs of; food, water, and shelter. I also was shocked to realize how many people in Cleveland live in poverty. Through penning a Homeless Bill of Rights, going on outreach, attending protests, registering people to vote, and various other projects, I have been able to better grasp how systems of poverty affect many residents in Cleveland! I have learned that NEOCH truly cares about ending the stigma around the word poverty, and fights for the rights of all who are poor in Northeast Ohio. I have thoroughly enjoyed these life changing weeks at NEOCH. I will miss seeing all of you, but if you ever want to say “hi” just look for me around town and at Malachi’s on Friday nights! I’m hoping that one day we will live in world where poverty no longer exists. Even more I hope the whisper of poverty is no longer the final nail in a coffin of grief, but a signal of help to be given to those suffering. Let’s fight the system together!


Connor McIntyre (Rising Sophomore at JCU): I am thrilled with how well my internship at NEOCH has gone this summer. My eyes have been opened up to so much and I have found a passion for helping the homeless. I have had so many different opportunities while working at NEOCH, such as weekly outreach, attending and organizing different events and meetings, and so much more. I have also done research this summer and found out a lot about the status of low income housing and homeless students in Cleveland. I want to thank Chris Knestrick, Executive director at NEOCH, for being so hospitable and opening my eyes and heart to the homeless community. The most enjoyable project I have worked on is the startup of a potential Homeless Bill of Rights. Chris called the interns to come up with ideas and really got behind us and got us going on drafting the Bill of Rights. I also want to thank the NEOCH staff and the other interns at NEOCH for being so awesome and for being super supportive and charismatic each and every day. I could not have asked for a better internship experience than I have gotten this summer with NEOCH. 


Shivani Govani (Rising Junior at CWRU): My time at the NEOCH this summer has been incredibly rewarding. Under the supervision of Chris Knestrick, the executive director, I was able to help sign up homeless individuals for the CMHA Housing Voucher Choice program, help create a digital version of NEOCH’s street card that will help many homeless and low-income individuals, and plan a protest addressing the lack of affordable housing in our community. I also learned more about prominent issues in our community such as lead poisoning, gentrification, and fair housing. Additionally, I was able to form relationships with homeless individuals through outreach. I am incredibly thankful for my time at NEOCH and the wonderful staff members and fellow interns who made my time here very memorable.


Asha Ravichandran (Rising Junior at CWRU): Working at NEOCH for the last few months has been incredibly rewarding. This internship has given me the opportunity to work on several projects with my fellow interns that I hope will lessen the impacts of systemic homelessness within our community. From attending a Poor People’s Campaign protest to planning a direct action centered around affordable housing to drafting a Homeless Bill of Rights, I have learned so much about homelessness advocacy. I’ve met great people in the community through registering people to vote and going on outreach trips. And throughout it all, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the wonderful interns and staff at NEOCH. Although I started one week later than the other interns, I felt immediately welcomed by everyone as soon as I stepped into the office on my first day. My internship experience has been so fulfilling, and I hope to use the knowledge I’ve gained about social justice and systemic inequalities to continue serving my community.


NEOCH Interns Take Action with Poor People Campaign's In Ohio and DC

Over the last two weeks, several NEOCH interns had the opportunity to take part in the Poor People's Campaign nationwide movement in Columbus and in Washington, D.C. NEOCH Interns Asha Ravichandran and Gillian Prater-Lee reflected on the experiences:

6/23 DC Rally

6/23 DC Rally

The Poor People's Campaign, a national nonviolent activism movement, professes to do the unheard of today: create an intersectional and comprehensive class-based social and political movement to fundamentally reform the power structures that control our lives. This campaign was inspired by a 1968 movement of the same name  led by Martin Luther King Jr. Rev. Dr. King envisioned a “new and unsettling force” that would address far reaching social, economic, and political inequities. Today, activists across the country have commemorated Dr. King’s legacy by reviving his movement. The campaign is unique within the current wave of post-Trump election activism because it clearly seeks to address how the capitalist system oppresses the poor.  Instead of taking socioeconomic status as simply one of many intersectional identities, the Poor People's Campaign centers the role of capitalist exploitation of the poor and working classes and then layers on other oppressive forces. The campaign also seeks to redefine our country’s distorted moral framework. In a society plagued daily with ethical atrocities, the Poor People’s Campaign’s commitment to morality throughout its advocacy for the poor is a refreshing and necessary addition to today’s political climate.



On Monday, June 18, two other NEOCH staff and I joined nearly fifty advocates from across the state to participate in the Poor People’s Campaign actions at the Ohio Statehouse. This was the group’s final protest rally in Ohio, which capped off a six-week campaign devoted to standing up for the rights of the poor in this state and across the country. Each week of the campaign focused on a specific theme; this week’s was “A New and Unsettling Force: Confronting the Distorted Moral Narrative.”

Learning about the campaign’s mission reaffirmed my commitment to the work I do at NEOCH. While we at NEOCH are focused on ending the cycle of homelessness, we recognize that this is but one component of the epidemic of poverty that plagues our communities, especially in today’s political climate. I particularly appreciate the movement’s aim to redefine our country’s “distorted moral narrative.” Despite the intensely bipartisan nature of today’s politics, it’s important to realize that the issues the Poor People’s Campaign addresses transcend party lines: as the campaign puts it, targeting systemic inequalities is not a question of right vs. left; rather, it’s a question of right vs. wrong.

Monday’s rally began with a few speeches next to the William McKinley Monument across from the Statehouse. One speaker, a full-time employee of Ohio State, noted that she is forced to live paycheck to paycheck—in short, one emergency expense away from a financial crisis. Others discussed the unconscionable ways our government devastates families by separating children from their parents. Leaders of the protest then invited us to write the names of those we had lost due to government- and police-related violence on a banner painted to resemble a brick wall. Our next action was a “Jericho March” around the Statehouse. The approach was inspired by the story of Joshua and his men marching around Jericho seven times, causing the city’s walls to tumble down. During Monday’s march, we walked twice around the Statehouse, carrying the long banner. The first walk was silent, accompanied only by the slow beating of drums. The second time, however, protestors broke into rousing songs and chants, such as “O-H-I-O, Poverty Has Got to Go!” and “Fight Poverty, Not the Poor!” After our march, we watched as six of us who had planned to be arrested blocked State Street. As they were escorted into police vehicles, our chants grew louder, for their arrests represented a distinct message: that we will no longer tolerate the marginalization of the poor in this country.

It was exhilarating to be part of such a passionate movement that advocated for the rights of the dispossessed in our community. The Poor People’s Campaign does not end here; they have planned a mass rally in Washington, D.C  this Saturday, June 23rd. These rallies represent only the beginning of the campaign’s attempt to create a better, more moral society. We at NEOCH hope that their efforts will help to tear down the walls of injustice and lift up the dispossessed.

Pictures from Ohio Statehouse:

Poor People's Campaign Wall Banner.jpg
Poor People's Campaign sign.jpg
Poor People's Campaign Speeches.jpg



This past Saturday I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC with a group of Cleveland poor people and activists to participate in the final day of 40 days of direct moral action on places of power.  Our two vans left Cleveland at 2:00AM to head to DC. Once there, we joined scores of people in the national mall to hear speakers of all identities (though predominantly poor activists) discuss poverty and inequality, systematic racism, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism.  We then marched on the Capitol building while crying chants like "No justice- no peace," "From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go," and "Whose streets? Our Streets!" and iconic, ageless songs that were likely sung at the original Poor People's Campaign like "A Change is Gonna Come" and "Free at Last."

Though the entire day was a moving and deeply inspiring experience, certain elements particularly affected me.  One of which was a conversation with a New York City woman wearing a shirt from a demonstration I attended in Atlanta a few years ago who had driven down to DC from NYC.  It just gave me hope to see other people who have continued to fight for these issues over the years who I have been able to connect with at different points in my life. A woman from Washington state was reduced to tears onstage about how honored she was to be involved in the campaign: she felt that it gave her a chance to change systems that had made her life awful for so long (She said she was the white trash that society threw out but forgot to burn).  Organized labor was represented by local union organizers that shared their lived experiences on the front lines of fighting for fair pay and treatment in the workforce. A group of indigenous people performed a spiritual song that blessed the movement in a beautiful and slightly haunting way, complete with drums, dancing, and singing. A group of rappers and gospel singers kept the crowd energized between speakers while sharing tunes calling for the people to rise up for social justice.  A young African American family stood next to me for much of the three plus hours of speakers, attempting to keep their two children calm as they listened and celebrated the movement. I discussed the policing of activism with a similarly minded protester while marching...

I am still processing all of these and more moments, but this weekend gave me hope that our deeply flawed capitalist society can be forced to change so that all people can be given a life where they can fully recognize their aspirations, hopes, and dreams.  I am thankful for all the beautiful people that shared their stories and energy over the course of the day.

The demands of the Poor People's Campaign align both with my personal views on what a socially just world looks like, and with NEOCH's work to organize with, empower, and educate homeless, poor, and disenfranchised people.  The campaign inspired me to continue my work at NEOCH with a renewed belief that systematic change is possible, and that there are others across the country fighting the same fight. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this activism, and look forward to continue to work with the Poor People's Campaign

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