The County is the caretaker of much of the assistance for homeless people in Cuyahoga County. We receive around $24 million in funding for homelessness and housing programs. County staff complete the application for funding, and do a very good job of following all the rules to maximize our allocation. While nearly every other city in Ohio has faced a loss of funding because of problems with their application, Cuyahoga County has never had this issue. They could do a better job of overseeing the shelters use of these funds, but that is another post. Every jurisdiction that receives homeless funding must have a local committee to oversee the funds. In Cuyahoga County, this group is the Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board. There is a committee called the "Review and Ranking committee" which forwards the list to the Cuyahoga Council for approval.
This year, the federal government required the County Continuum committee to approve a plan for how to count homeless people on January 27, 2015. This "Point in Time" count is the dumbest thing done by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. There are a huge number of problems with the count including that it does harm to the homeless community by dramatically under-representing the number in a community. The Homeless Coalition representatives both voted against the plan. No one else joined in opposing the plan to attempt to "count" homeless people. We would have no problem if federal government wanted to count the number living in shelters in Cleveland. We can all trust that data, and we know that would be accurate. Once they open it up to counting people outside on one night the data is useless. Our issues with the Point in Time Count are:
- The media and elected official misunderstand this data and regularly inaccurately portray this as some kind of census of homeless people. There is no way to make the leap between one day and the number for a year. It is factually flawed.
- It violates all rules of collecting statistics for research. To make this leap from those who you see on the streets to actually measuring a point in time stretches reality. The variables of abandoned buildings, RTA rapid transit and buses, and hospital waiting rooms where homeless people may be staying make it impossible to do an actual point in time count.
- Most of the other similar sized cities estimate the number of homeless people while Cleveland does not. This makes it look like we have a tiny population compared to other cities. They lie and we are honest locally.
- This exaggeration by other cities harms Cuyahoga County funding. We get fewer resources because we have theoretically reduced the number of people sleeping outside.
- No matter how great a job we do in serving homeless people (and we are doing a pretty good job), we are still the second or third poorest city in America. With so many living in poverty, there are going to be many people struggling with housing.
In other news, we heard that neighbors have filed a lawsuit to stop the next Permanent Supportive Housing project from going forward. This will slow down the development of affordable housing for disabled homeless people in Cleveland. It will cost additional funds to defend this lawsuit to overturn the building permit issued by the City of Cleveland.
Shelter numbers for 2014 were released and we will post those on our website, because we trust those numbers.
The County limited the scope of the Public Policy committee to focus on a couple of narrow items. There are huge issues in our community that shelter providers and social service groups should consider and layout a plan. There are huge issues such as the explosion in family homelessness, the relationship between police and homeless people, problems with mentally ill homeless people, and recognizing and better serving victims of human trafficking in the women's shelters. The providers are busy dealing with the crisis of homelessness everyday, and just don't have the time to weigh in on solutions.
There is still funding available to renovate the local shelters from the State of Ohio. There are four projects going forward, but there is still funding available to help improve the facilities of local shelters.
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