Last night I ate chicken wings from the garbage can on 4th street it’s a good place to find doggie bags from the restaurants on that street. I walked over to the alley next to May Company, got in the corner and slept.Read More
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless announced the publication of the Homeless Street Card for 2018. We are so thankful to University Hospitals for sponsoring this years printing. The Homeless Street Card is a front and back piece of paper updated every year that contains extensive information on resources such as shelters, meal sites, job training agencies, health clinics, chemical dependency services and drop in centers. This valuable and convenient resource makes it easy for homeless individuals to find the assistance they need to get out of their situationRead More
In the back room of the Cosgrove Center on Thursday, October 12th, about 15-20 folks gathered around for October’s Homeless Congress meeting. We discussed several items and then jumped into the main agenda. The main agenda items were:
Potential involvement with the Poverty Truth Commission
Revisiting Homeless Congress’s 2017 priorities and brainstorming some potential 2018 priorities
Women’s Shelter Update
ADAMHS Board Letter
Prior to setting the agenda, Chris opened the space for the members of the congress to share non-agenda items.
Rude Treatment from Homeless Services Staff: One gentlemen mentioned the condescension he experiences from homeless services staff, whether it be at 2100 Men’s Shelter where he stays at or at the Welfare Office. Other members of the congress agreed.
Some members pointed out that this rudeness from staff is particularly strange because many staff in these institutions are previously homeless. However, they no longer empathize with the currently homeless, forgetting that “one missed paycheck is all it takes to be homeless”. Staff that were previously homeless instead now use their relative position of power to rudely treat people currently experiencing homelessness.
One gentlemen mentioned that it would be useful to have a monitor or auditor who ensures that homeless services staff are friendly and kind instead of patronizing.
Specialty Shelters: One gentleman mentioned that the current shelter situation is only based on one’s gender. He remarked that this causes an issue as some of the individuals at the shelter are experiencing severe mental illness. This an issue for those experiencing mental illness, as they are not provided the resources (caseworkers, therapy). This is also an issue for the other individuals in the shelter, as they feel the level of security protocol they are subject to is not suited for them. Having a separate shelter for those experiencing mental illness was suggested as a possibility.
Another member of Homeless Congress quickly suggested that Specialty Shelters used to exist in Cuyahoga County but were slowly phased out as funding has decreased. Chris mentioned that this occurred also due to HUD’s extreme focus on Permanent Supportive Housing to the detriment of developing a better shelter system. One member asked if foundations in the area, particularly Cleveland Foundation, provide funding for homeless services. Another member of Homeless Congress replied that foundations have become more focused on educational/youth initiatives than those focusing on homelessness.
2016-17 and 2017-18 Homeless Congress Priorities: Homeless Congress’s 2016-17 priorities were 1) shelter standards through regulations, 2) shelter requirements by law, 3) medical/health support at shelters, 4) Passing the Homeless Bill of Rights in Cleveland, 5) separate facility for severely mentally ill homeless men and women, 6) addressing discrimination of voucher holders, and 7) tiny homes campaign.
In this discussion, several things were mentioned:
Jobs: One member would like to see jobs and securing employemnt be an added focus. She felt that many individuals experiencing homelessness are still capable of working. Yet, the stigma associated with being a homeless individual limits their job opportunities. The inability to find employment through this disenfranchisement only makes it harder to no longer be homeless.
Addiction: Another member of Homeless Congress cautioned against seeing money as the only barrier to escaping homelessness. He feels that there needs to be a serious and genuine push to deal with addiction and mental illness within the homeless services provider. Even if individuals with mental illness and/or addiction secure housing or employment, they often return to the shelter system. They are often unable to maintain housing and employment without the proper emotional/mental support.to
Toxic Culture At Norma Herr: One gentleman remarked that a staff member at Norma Herr remarked that going to Norma Herr without knowing anyone already there who could protect or take care of you meant that “you were f******!”
Women’s Shelter Update: Chris explained the situation regarding the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, currently run by Frontline Services. The YWCA was the only bidder to offer to run the shelter. However, the County’s offer fell short of their requirements to run a dignified shelter. The city’s offered budget of ~$2 million was well below what the YWCA felt was reasonable based on the standards they wanted to see in the Women’s Shelter. Ultimately, the YWCA declined the County’s current offer to run the women’s shelter, though they left the door open if the offer were to change.
The next meeting is Wednesday, November 8th at Cosgrove Center. We hope you can join us there.
Notes taken by Vishal Reddy
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
Four months! It been only that long since I started as the new Director of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. The work of defending the rights and dignity of people experiencing homelessness in our community is important as ever. The lack of affordable housing because of gentrification continues to fuel a rise in homelessness. There is no doubt that NEOCH will be an important organization to advocate when our community is impacted by federal policy and local development decisions. We have already won some important advocacy campaigns. None of this was possible without your involvement.
When the Irishtown Bend project sought to forcefully displace the two dozen homeless residents, we organized and advocated. We called for a relocation plan that respected the dignity and agency of the people that call the Riverbed home.Through our efforts, those involved in the project committed to finding the funds to make sure there is a dignified relocation plan for the residents.
However, for every success, there is more critical work to be done. Today, family homelessness is on the rise in Cuyahoga County. Appoximately 50 woman and children are sleeping on a gym floor every night. The Women’s Shelter is housing forty more women than they have beds. The Men’s Shelter is regularly operating an overflow shelter. With federal cuts and increasing demands for supportive services, we need to make sure that people have access to and knowedge of the services. This is why we put hours into research to publish a Street Card, which provides people in crisis quick and easy information to access services.
With your continued financial support we will be able to do even more. Our goal is to continue making a difference in our community and in the lives of those experiencing homelessness in Cuyahoga County. Your support can make our outreach more effective, our advocacy more courageous, and our relationships stronger.
That is why I am writing to you today. We need you to make us strong. We need you to become a member of NEOCH. In exchange for your membership you will receive: a subscription to our advocacy newsletter called The Bridge, advocacy alerts, invitations to special events, Street Card updates, a voice for homeless people, and a strong coalition and social change.
It is through your support that we continue to be a force for change in this community. Please consider donating and becoming a member. As always, your contribution will be tax deductible and your membership will further the good work being done in our community.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
P.S. Because of you, Cleveland’s homeless have a friend!
After introductions of those in attendance, and giving an overview of the Homeless Congress (what it is; how it functions; where and how to address complaints), Christopher Knestrick asked for the approval of, or additions to, the meeting’s Agenda.Read More
“Mommy, where we at? The shelter again?”- Amaya, age 3.
Homelessness is not just a solitary struggle. The reality is 41% of homeless are comprised of families, a large majority of which are headed by single-mothers. Mothers and children are the fastest growing homeless demographic. In Cleveland, this crisis is growing, and it’s growing fast. We sought to explore the impact it’s having on the already precarious shelter system.
For a family, the path to access emergency housing in Cleveland is facilitated through Cuyahoga County’s Coordinated Intake office (run by Frontline). This one-stop-shop process is designed to direct families to need-appropriate resources within the community. Families are meant to be placed into a shelter or “diverted.” Diversion, a policy that NEOCH does not support, seeks to place families in non-shelter locations such as with friends or family. Only once they are in a shelter will they be assigned a caseworker or seen if they are eligible for the Rapid Re-housing program. Rapid Re-housing is the only county program available to move families out of the shelter system. Unfortunately, permanent supportive housing is not available to families because the federal funding for the program is reserved for single adults. This system of giving resources only once the family is placed in the shelter means the family’s future is dependent on obtaining a spot in one of the city’s shelters. Families are thus beholden to the hope that these shelters aren’t at capacity.
Hope doesn’t get them far though: family shelters in Cleveland have been at capacity for a while. Because all the family shelters are full, families are then sent to the overflow program at the City Mission if they are not diverted. Their family overflow program houses roughly 20 mothers and 30 children each night in their gym. It should be noted that the City Mission began the family overflow program in their gym last year in September 2016 because so many families were already being turned away since the other family shelters were full. The overflow program was meant to be a temporary solution to the crisis afflicting families, giving the County time to come up with alternatives. But quickly, it too has reached capacity, and there is still a lack of any concerted effort on the County to even acknowledge there is a family homelessness crisis.
What happens when even the overflow shelter is at capacity? First, countless women and children must continue fending for themselves, having been told by both the shelters and the single overflow program that they are at capacity. Second, the lives of those in the shelter are even more strained than normal since the shelters aren’t equipped to handle this quantity and those in the overflow program can’t be connected to resources until they are officially in a shelter. In the overflow, they will wait for weeks in a gym to be placed in a shelter.
We talked to several families who are currently staying in the overflow shelter to learn more. Tierra, who became homeless after issues with her abusive boyfriend, told us her's and her 3-year-old daughter's "daily routine". They leave City Mission gym before it closes at 7am, carrying all their belongings with them. Then, they get shuttled to Cosgrove Center where she must wait outside on the street with her 3-year-old child and belongings till its 8am opening time. After eating breakfast and lunch there, she leaves Cosgrove Center at its 2:30 closing time. Having nowhere to go at that point, she takes takes her child to the beach or library till 7pm when the City Mission opens again. Then, she falls asleep with countless other families on the gym floor of City Mission and attempts to sleep till the next morning.
In the absence of a stable shelter situation, families must expend a great deal of energy to simply go from place to place. Any semblance of consistency or normalcy is gone. Under this flux, struggles compound and build on one another quickly. One mother, Simera, has been at Overflow in the City Mission for a month now. She has been struggling to obtain medicine for her months-old son who’s sick. Another mother, Joanna, laments the fact that her teenage son, Draymond, is unable to attend school. He's already missed the first few critical weeks of school, who knows how many more he’ll miss this year? The crisis and trauma of homelessness makes it difficult for her to get her son back into the CMSD. What is a mom to do when they are simply trying to survive?
Also, the families who are in overflow shelter have no assigned caseworker who monitors them and keeps them up to date on the status of obtaining a permanent spot at a shelter. The lack of a transparent criteria or process for obtaining housing heightens this uncertainty; none of the families we spoke to knew what the criteria was to determine the order for families receiving shelter placements. Is it the number of children a mother has? Is it how long the family has been in the shelter? Is it the perceived likelihood the family maintains housing? None of the families knew for certain.
In one year from September 2016 to August 2017, the family overflow program at the City Mission went from providing 71 nights of shelter for 23 women and 48 children to last month providing 1016 nights of shelter for 336 women and 680 children. That’s a 1400% increase in nights of shelter provided in one year. The county NEEDS to address this situation, and they NEED to address it FAST. There is a severe, growing crisis of family homelessness. Temporary bandaids like the City Mission’s emergency family overflow have quickly become permanent bandaids.
The county has proposed Rapid Re-Housing as THE solution to the crisis of family homelessness. However, this program is facing serious difficulties. Rent is only guaranteed for 3 months, tenants are given only 30 days to find housing, and some families are even unable to pay rent after that period expires. Shelters are having difficulty finding landlords to take Rapid Re-housing, as they’re in a difficult situation, as they risk a possible eviction if there is no permanent income to pay the rent. We are now even seeing cases where families are re-entering the shelter system after attempting Rapid Re-housing.
The options for homeless families become extremely limited. Family homelessness is clearly going up. Yet, the Office of Homeless Services claimed in a letter that “the number of families accessing emergency shelter through the Coordinated Entry System has been relatively the same over the past several years.” NEOCH disagrees. We believe that we are in a crisis and other service providers agree. Something needs to be done.
The fact that a mother and her four month old child need to sleep on a gym floor for a month before they have any access to shelter services is the heartbreaking reality. Ultimately, to deny that there is a crisis is irresponsible, as the lack of further solutions to address this community crisis will continue to hurt the women and children who need support in a time of their individual crisis.
By Vishal Reddy
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
They "filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court detailing how Ohio is violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by targeting registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period for eventual removal from the registration rolls — even if they have not moved and are still fully eligible.
Targeting people for removal simply based on non-voting is a powerful tool of voter suppression. In 2015 alone, over 40,600 registrants in Ohio’s largest county, Cuyahoga, were purged from the rolls using this flawed process, and countless Ohioans have been denied their right to vote as a result of these unlawful purges. These purges are in direct violation of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA)—that explicitly states that voters can be removed if and when they are ineligible to vote—not voting often enough does not make a person ineligible
The widespread disenfranchisement caused by Ohio’s purge process spurred NEOCH and the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), and Ohio resident Larry Harmon to challenge the practice in federal court. A federal appeals court ruled against Ohio, finding that Ohio’s purge practice violated the NVRA’s prohibition on removing registrants from the rolls for not voting. The state appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in this case, Husted v. Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, on November 8th"
As we have seen time and time again, homeless voters and other marginalized voters have to fight to make their voices heard in the electoral process. We worked hard to bring these voters into the electoral process, but unfortunately, the state of Ohio’s practice of purging registrants for their failure to vote locks the doors to the ballot box for many of these voters, which we believe is in violation of federal law and jeopardizes our democratic process.
Here is a quick fact sheet about the Husted v. APRI
Ohio’s Attempt to Purge Our Democracy
Ohio election officials use a controversial procedure to target voters for removal from the registration rolls based on their failure to vote “frequently” enough – a procedure known as the “Supplemental Process.” Under this process, Ohio counties initiate a removal procedure targeted at any voter who has failed to vote in a two-year period. Ohio assumes that anyone who has not voted in a two-year period must have become ineligible to vote by reason of a change in residence. Based on that questionable assumption, Ohio targets these voters with a mailing requiring them to confirm that they are still eligible to vote. If the voter does not respond to the notice or vote in the subsequent four-year period, the voter’s name is stripped from the registration rolls.
Many voters only vote in presidential elections, every four years. That does not mean they have changed their address or lost their eligibility to vote – instead it could mean that they are less interested in mid-term elections; or that they had work or family responsibilities that made it difficult to vote in a particular election. Nonetheless, many voters in Ohio get caught up in the state’s purge practice time and time again – finding themselves under constant threat of being removed from the voter rolls. And, if a voter sits out a single presidential election cycle, they are in danger of being purged from the rolls, even if nothing about their eligibility to vote has changed.
In 2015, hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters who had last voted in 2008 were removed from the voter registration rolls, with over 40,000 purged in Cuyahoga County alone. Many of these voters—as well as voters who had been purged under Ohio’s Supplemental Process in previous years—went to the polls in November 2015 and March 2016 only to learn that their names no longer appeared on the rolls, and were denied their fundamental right to vote.
Case Background on Husted v. APRI
In 2016, after having notified Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), the public policy organization Dēmos and the ACLU of Ohio brought a lawsuit on behalf of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), and Mr. Harmon, a Navy veteran who voted in 2008 but was ultimately purged under the Supplemental Process even though he was living at the same address and remained fully eligible to vote.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Ohio’s controversial purge of infrequent voters from its voter rolls in September 2016, finding that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the NVRA’s prohibition on removing voters from the rolls by reason of a voter’s failure to vote. The federal district court then entered an injunction covering the November 2016 presidential election that ultimately allowed more than 7,500 Ohioans to cast a ballot and have it counted in that election. All of these people were eligible voters who would have been denied their right to vote under Ohio’s unlawful process, if the District Court had not invalidated Ohio’s improper practices.
Secretary of State Jon Husted filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting the Court review and overturn the Sixth Circuit’s decision. In May, the Supreme Court granted the petition; it will hear arguments on November 8.
Summary of What’s at Stake
Ohio’s Supplemental Process is an illegal process that unfairly places the burden of re-registration on voters whose eligibility has not changed.
The NVRA was signed into law in 1993, with bipartisan support, to protect the right to vote, increase the number of registered voters, and ensure that states properly maintain their voter rolls.
Accurate maintenance of the voting registry is important and necessary, but that is not what Ohio’s Supplemental Process does. Ohio’s voter purge practices are based on false assumptions and result in the indiscriminate removal of far too many eligible voters.
At a time when there are approximately 50 million eligible citizens not registered to vote, it is critical that the Supreme Court strike down Ohio’s illegal process and ensure that other states across the country do not follow Ohio’s example to unlawfully remove eligible voters from the rolls and deny them their constitutional right to vote.
As of today, families have not been forced to sleep in the street.
However, there is no plan – no long term proposal being considered. There are no extra funds being made available. There is no solution which we can see.Read More
August 10, 2017---Cosgrove Center
Organized by NEOCH
The meeting began with the new Director of Operations at NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, re-introducing himself to some of the members that had not met him yet. Afterward, We went over the purpose of the Homeless Congress, what the Congress has done, some of the goals that have been attained or will be addressed, and why it is so important, which is, it can be a “bridge to City and State Officials” and it “allows homeless people to have a unified voice.” Everyone in attendance was asked to complete the membership form in the back of the packet. After informing everyone what the agenda was going to be for the meeting, Chris asked for an approval of the agenda. Members were informed of the dates for upcoming events which are the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, and the ADAMHS Board meeting.
It was announced that Ruth Gillett will not be attending any more meetings unless there is a specific reason for her to do so because she feels the members were being rude to her. No one was purposefully rude to her but, being the bearer of bad news, as far as they were concerned, she did not like their response and seemed to take it personally. It was not any member or participants intention of disrespecting anyone at the meeting, but we would like to extend an apology to her if she felt that it was.
She was attending the meeting to keep the Homeless Congress up to date on the status of the Rapid Re-Housing Program and the Shelter Policies that would be put into place soon. She also got input from the members for both projects. She informed everyone, at the July meeting, that the Shelter Policies would be voted on by the Office of Homeless Services on July 20, 2017. It was announced that the Single Adult Housing Committee presented to the Office of Homeless Services and the policy that they recommended passed. There were only two votes against the policy, one was Loh (member) and the other a representative from NEOCH. A copy of the Shelter Policy was included in the packets that were passed out to members.
Next, the discussion was about the bidding process for a service provider for the Norma Herr women’s shelter. Loh informed members that Frontline will not be able to get any long term contracts as the service provider even if they choose to bid (which they have acknowledged more than once that they will not be bidding). RP problems and the bidding process was the next concern. Some of the concerned members asked what would happen if no one bids. One response was that the current provider’s (Frontline) contract would have to be extended. Another response for the RP problems is that there needs to be a quarterly report on the grievances that are turned in.
One member wanted to know “why there are no residents involved in this process?”
This was discussed for a while and another member stated that the bidding process should also be public information. Specifically, a member wanted to know what would or should happen if there is no provider in place by August. (We now know that there was one bid to the RFP) At that point everyone was informed that there are at least two agencies interested in applying for the contract and the date to submit a proposal has been extended to August 18, 2017.
Larry Bresler, Executive Director of Organize Ohio, then began his presentation by informing members that one of the members and dedicated participants, Norman Wolfe, passed away. He provided information on the viewing and funeral arrangements. He then informed the members that Norman, he, and Ramona Turnbull were involved in orchestration of the End Poverty Now march and participated in the New Poor People’s Campaign. He then presented about the new project called “The Truth Commission” and wanted to ask for volunteers to do personal testimonies on six focus areas (4 personal testimonies for each). The focus areas are: 1) Environmental degradation, 2) Criminalization of the poor, 3) The right to housing including utilities, 4) The right to living wage jobs, 5) Right to quality education, and 6) Right to healthcare.
The information provided by the personal testimonies would them be presented to people chosen to be commissioners. The commissioners would then meet and “come out with their initial findings.” Finally, the Mayoral candidates would be asked to respond to the findings. There will also be music and poetry readings “presented while the commissioners are deliberating.” NEOCH will follow up with the members to make sure anyone who is willing to do a personal testimony be accommodated.
Next, Ms. Eleace Sawyer introduced herself as the new President and CEO of Care Alliance and she wanted to discuss the changes or added services that will be put in place soon. These positive changes do affect the members of the Congress and homeless population. Care Alliance provides services at the women’s shelter twice a week. She asked for feedback about the services being provided and need to be provided. One member informed her that Dave’s Pharmacy will be moving and there is no pharmacy close enough to walk to for current residents at the women’s shelter to get prescriptions filled. Ms. Sawyer talked about the Federal Pharmacy Program which may be able to assist to address this problem. She also stated that she will be addressing this concern. She informed members that nutrition and podiatry services are also being put in place to address the needs of the homeless population.
She talked about having someone who is homeless or formerly homeless on their Board. In addition, she would also like a representative from her staff to attend the Homeless Congress meetings. Care Alliance also applied for transportation and were able to secure two vehicles. One member commented on the fact that in Alabama it is considered a crime to be homeless and there is no healthcare. Members informed Ms. Sawyer about how glad they are that Care Alliance is looking into addressing the food problems and will be in touch with the Food Bank to see what type of relationship can be established to better address the lack of nutrition in the food being served to the residents at the shelters. One resident suggested a town meeting. She discussed special meetings and talked about looking at data about all the 911 calls made from Norma Herr by the residents.
Next, Akshai Singh: Organizer, Cleveland for Public Transit, took the floor to discuss issues like fare cost, reliability, safety, and racial profiling by the RTA Police. He also discussed service cuts and fare hikes. The next fare hike is coming up soon and it will be a fifty cent increase on the current fare. The fare could go from $5.50 to $6.00 at that time. The organization he is representing is working to lower fares. He informed the members that the Cleveland public transportation is the least affordable and there is no assistance for people who rely on public transportation. He said they need to find local solutions and state side solutions. Group members meet with RTA on a quarterly basis. They will be discussing what improvements are needed so that the Mayoral candidates and the City Council can use it to improve the transportation system, make it more affordable, and reliable. The next meeting is on August 31 at 7:00 pm. One member stated that there is limited seating at the bus stops in certain areas (only 2 people can sit). Another added that there are no public bathrooms in the Rapid Stations. Mr. Singh stated that the RTA has been cutting services for the last 4 years. The last topic on this subject was about the cost of tickets for riding when you don’t have one in advance. This discussion went on for a while before the meeting was brought to a close.
The next Homeless Congress meeting is September 14th at 1:00pm.
Cleveland has a competitive Mayoral primary coming up in September and then there are some important local races this November with every City Councilmember forced to campaign. This is the first election with on-line registration. It is too late to register for the primary, but there is over one month to register for the November election.
According to the Ohio Organizing Collaborative staff, "For the first time, Ohioans are able to register to vote and update their registration through the Secretary of State’s website. So whether you’ve sat the last few elections out, moved since you last registered, or never voted before, you can get registered or update your registration today. The last few months have been… kinda scary. I don’t know what the future holds for Ohio and our country, but I do know that there are important elections coming up this year and in 2018 that will have a huge impact our communities. That’s why it’s so important that we all register and vote."
The November election is November 7, 2017 polls open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Remember that for homeless people "Vote by Mail" is the best option.
It is so important for everyone to participate and to actually vote. No matter how many barriers Ohio puts in your way, people died for everyone to have the right to cast a ballot. Please do your civic duty and vote in both the primary and the General Election.
Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the City of Houston for citing homeless people under its new anti-camping ban. The ACLU of Texas, Dechert law firm, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the motion for TRO last week after police raided a homeless encampment. The order is can be viewed here.
Check out this quote from the order's conclusion:
"The plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are subject to a credible threat of being arrested, booked, prosecuted and jailed for violating the City of Houston’s ban on sheltering in public. The evidence is conclusive that they are involuntarily in public, harmlessly attempting to shelter themselves—an act they cannot realistically forgo, and that is integral to their status as unsheltered homeless individuals. Enforcement of the City’s ban against the plaintiffs may, therefore, cause them irreparable harm by violating their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment due to their status of “homelessness.” Robinson, 370 U.S. at 666–67. Moreover, there is no evidence that the City will suffer harm if a restraining order were issued, thereby, preserving the status quo that existed prior to the issuance of citations."
In a strange juxtaposition, the City of Houston said that this law would reduce aggressive panhandling? I have no idea how these two ideas are connected, but surprisingly no rainbows with pots of gold would result with this anti-camping law. The shelters are all full in Houston with the average wait for a bed with only five shelters available. "The emergency shelters in Houston are full and have been so for years [Id. At 67 para. 16-17]. Therefore, homeless individuals wait in lines, daily, at the five shelters for any available space only to be turned away for lack of space. [Id. at pp. 75-76 para. 3-4]."
This is only a temporary ruling to prevent further tickets for "sheltering in public" while this case is litigated in Federal Court, but there is strong powerful language in the restraining order.
In another case detailed by the Associated Press, the US Appeals Court has decided that day laborers are free to flag down motorists to solicit work.
NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal appeals court says day laborers in a Long Island town have a First Amendment right to solicit passing drivers for jobs. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday struck down a 2009 law banning the solicitation in Oyster Bay. The law had never been enforced. Here is a link to the full article.
This could doom the new City of Cleveland law regarding panhandling toward passing motorists. In June 2017, the City removed its "aggressive panhandling law" and replaced it with a law prohibiting flagging down cars to solicit money. A good civil rights attorney could make the case that panhandlers have the same First Amendment right to free speech as the day laborers. Look for this to be the next front in the struggle for free speech.
Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
There is a lot of celebration for the proposed construction of Ohio City’s Irishtown Bend project. There have been radio interviews, newspaper articles, and community forums, although with very few public details about this new park. Despite all of this publicity, nothing is mentioned of the 20 to 35 people who are experiencing homelessness who live on the riverbed, some for upwards of 20 years.
The 17-acre proposed park would be cover most of the riverbed of West 25th Street from Detroit Ave to Columbus Road. The first phase of the project is a massive stabilization of the land, which will cost $49 million. The second phase, the actual construction of the park has no public price tag yet. Despite money flowing in from many agencies and foundations, the cost of relocating the Irishtown Bend residents - which NEOCH estimates would cost around $18,000 - is not a part of their budget.
NEOCH is appalled by the fact that the human cost of this massive project was not a top priority. We believe that the project organizers have both an ethical and legal obligation to relocate these residents.
In a recent meeting between NEOCH and Ohio City Inc., we were told that there was no money available in the current funding for relocations but that they would try to find some. Did none of the funders or grant seekers consider that these residents would need a new place to sleep at night? Do they not consider these residents to be valuable neighborhood constituents?
Under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act of 1970, if federal money is used in a project, there is a legal responsibility to offer relocation money to those affected. In the meeting, Ohio City Inc. said they do not plan on using any federal money to stabilize the riverbed and they don’t know where the money is coming from to build the park. This is false. The Plain Dealer reported that the Lake Link Trail, funded by a $3.3 million federal grant, already has plans to be located in the Irishtown Bend. Clearly, there seems to be plans to use federal money in the second half of the project.
NEOCH believes this is a tactic to avoid legal responsibility. It allows them to start the work with non-federal money, and then bring in federal money after the people have been displaced. We believe courts have found this shifting of when federal resources are used to be in violation of the spirit of the relocation law. If the organizers do not prioritize the people who call the Irishtown Bend home, they are at risk of losing all federal grants, including the one designated for the Lake Link Trail.
The residents of Riverbed road each have their own human story. There is no one uniformed reason why they have chosen to make a home in this location. One couple has chosen to remain together as they try to make their way back down south to where they are from. The shelter system does not have an option for couples to remain together as they attempt to overcome homelessness. They would be forced to separate. Another man does not want to lose his dog. He has already lost everything he had through homelessness but remains committed to his companion. If he would enter the shelter system, he would be required to separate from his best friend.
We at NEOCH are prepared to defend the legal right of those who live in this location. We are voicing our concern because the residents continue to ask our outreach workers about what they should do. They have very few options available to them for housing and fear being forcefully displaced and having their property destroyed.
If and when this project receives adequate funding to relocate people in a dignified manner, NEOCH is prepared to offer our assistance in these efforts. We have coordinated the main homeless outreach collaborative in the city for years. In so many ways, we are the most experienced and equipped to support such efforts. We have strong relationships with the residents of Irishtown Bend.
Rather than zip lines and boulder scrambles, the funders of this project need to center their work on the individuals who live there. Just as Irishtown Bend offered refuge to Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine of the 1800s, this location continues to be a refuge for those who have no place to call home. NEOCH demands that these women and men are offered just and timely relocation.
Update as of 9/6/2017:
Since publishing this post, there has been a successful advocacy campiagn to make sure that funds will be provided for the resident. The local media picked up the stories and there were stories written by Scene Magazine, and WKYC.
On August 31st, NEOCH's members and supports showed up at a community meeting to demand relocation for the residents that live on Riverbed Rd. You can check out our twitter post here. During the Q & A, the Executive Director of Ohio City Inc. publically promised to find the money to relocate people. You can watch the video below.
Subsequently, on 9/6/2017, Representative Nickie Antonio called together a meeting between all the stakeholders in the project (The City of Cleveland, Councilman McCormack, The Port Authority, The Office of Homeless services, the Metro parks), the service providers ( Care Alliance, Frontline, Metanoia, and NEOCH) along with some of the residents. We discussed the timeline for the start of the hill stabilization. It was clear that the start date has been pushed back to the spring/summer of 2018. Ohio City Incorporated has taken on the role of convening the social service providers and facilitate the process. We will continue to pressure to make sure that this process happens, is transparent, and incorporates the voice of those residents who are currently living on Riverbed Rd. Furthermore, during the course of the meeting, the residents of Riverbed Rd, who were present, asked the group to have NEOCH facilitate the relocation. It was stated that "We trust NEOCH more than any other service provider and want them to be the one's facilitating the relocation plan." We are honored by this comment and would be willing to facilitate the relocation of the residents as long as there are funds available to develop a dignified relocation that allows for the residents to have agency in the relocation options available to them.
by Chris Knestrick
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
LOH UNCOVERS The COVER-UP
Norma HERR vs. Norma HELL
In light of the fact that Cleveland has reduced the number of taxpayers-funded public emergency homeless shelters, it was great that they finally opened up the bidding process so that other providers could submit a bid for the Women’s Shelter. [Editor's Note: There was also a bid out for the Men's Shelter at the same time, but the current provider submitted a bid for the Men's Shelter.] The first round happened earlier this year, and it came out as an unbelievable disaster for those who are in need of true help. Fortunately, I, the "Troublemaker" Loh as some call me, did NOT stop going to various County Council meetings to speak during the public comment period, even after bids were submitted. My statements, complaints, and/or even suggestions were backed up with visual evidence that I provided to all the elected officials and County Council staff at the meetings, and further proven by other women brave enough to attend meetings and finally spoke up. The women staying at the Payne Ave. shelter offered their own suffering experiences under the fear of all kinds of retaliations and losing their housing.
However, during the waiting period for "the moment of truth" ... or the moment of "ugly truth," before the County announced anything about the shelter, somebody at the current service provider's organization suddenly had a light bulb turn on up above their head to start a series of beautification procedures to camouflage the ever neglected and abused facility. The staff found that there were more visitors coming to check out the the conditions and wanted to Come INSIDE of this HELL! The very first thing to draw my attention was, at the end of April when the beautification started, a specially designed new Flyer was printed out in multiple copies and colours with FrontLine Services logo to distribute, and later, also posted by the Main Entrance. I had to laugh-out-loud (lol), thinking "WHOM do they want to impress--innocent visitors or suffering residents?"
When I pointed out to the security officer, other residents passing by actually paid attention to what I said. Then, they read the flyer and began their own LOLs while shaking their heads, or started loud cussing with all the complaints using lots of colorful words. But, I wasted no time, and in a few seconds I re-composed MY version of the middle part on Flyer, specifically, the section titled "OUR COMMITMENT," due to my own strong feelings toward the Fake News stated on this flyer to give people false hope. It was my mission to fight back the injustice and to uncover the covers-ups at the next County Council Meeting. I intended that this flyer would be shown and accompanied by my parody version to present to the elected Council. But, even this one paragraph was enough to ease the tensions in the shelter by making them "lol" harder and move on at that moment. Then, within one day, word by word and line by line, I finished the whole re-composition to parody the flyer with a little input from a non-homeless individual as the reality checks for this dysfunctional place. Then later, I presented both documents at two County Council meetings in May as part of my public comments. Please look at the bottom of the Printed Flyer, there is a graphic of House printed in the center. Coincidentally, I already have a non-homeless friend who graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art last year made a logo for our Homeless Arts Project a while ago which is an image of a Broken House Split into Two Halves. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to put on the "designer parodied graphics" on to parody all the way for the full effect: a house of false promise vs. a broken house in reality!
~~~Commentary by LOH~~~
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
We encourage our members to attend the Community West Foundation Annual Meeting to hear from our partner Richard Trickel with his speech "Homeless Families and Faith in Action." Trickel is the CEO of the City Mission and a partner in meeting the needs of the growing number of homeless families. He is on the front lines in trying to serve the 50 to 90 mothers who call everyday looking for help with a shelter beds in Cleveland. They have opened their gymnasium to the family overflow and are working on a task force to meet the needs of homeless people locally. This should be a good speech, and we hope that you will attend. Community West is a partner of NEOCH in the SocksPlus program.
by Chris Knestrick
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
While City Council does not do much toward ending homelessness in Cleveland, they could. At this time, the County has taken the lead with regard to homelessness, but all the shelters are in the City of Cleveland. In addition, 76% of the people using the shelters are previously housed and tax payers of the City of Cleveland. NEOCH is planning to host a series of discussions with the candidates running for City Council in the four districts with the most homeless people in Cleveland. This will focus on developing questions around homelessness for these discussions.
We hope to have people currently experiencing homelessness as well homeless service providers attend the meeting on Tuesday August 29th to come up with potential questions. Then after the primary when there are two candidates left, we intend to hold these discussions in a shelter or homeless service provider's site in these four Wards. Please join us to develop the potential questions for Cleveland City Council members.
by Chris Knestrick
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
It is hot and the dog days of summer. No one is thinking about homeless people at this time. Did you know that the population does not decline in the summer. Yes, the number of men staying in the shelter decreases in the summer. Many find it easier to sleep outside during the summer. They use the drop in centers for showers and meals, but spend their time sleeping in tents, under bridges or in abandoned structures. So, it is not as though they have ended their homelessness as much as they took a break from shelter.
The number of families experiencing homelessness actually increases during the summer. Grandma has been helping out the daughter and her kids so that they do not have to change schools during the school year, but cannot take a summer of the kids around the house endangering the Grandma's housing if the landlord finds out. It is too much of a strain for many families and they relocate to the shelters.
The homeless outreach teams are out building relationships with people who choose not to use the shelters. Metanoia outreach staff are delivering hygiene items to guys hanging out at the shower program at St. Malachi. We are going to the dinners over at St. Patricks to see if there are life sustaining needs that these guys might have. Care Alliance outreach nurses are taking blood pressure and looking for sleep deprived individuals who live outside. PATH workers are driving homeless people to medical appointments and making sure that they are taking their medicine. Our Community West Foundation funded outreach trainees Fred and James are taking out sleeping bags and tents to people who do not want to give up their pet while they are without housing.
The point is that homelessness is not just a winter problem. We have had a large year-round problem with homelessness for 30 years here in Cleveland, and we do not see any relief in the summer. We need your help. We need water for those who try to make it off the streets on their own. We need hygiene kits for those who use the showers at the Cosgrove Center. It gets cold at night so we still distribute blankets year round. Here is the list of items that we collect and distribute. We have posted photos on the front of the website to remind people that we need items even during the summer to distribute. If you can't help with donated items, just send a donation and we will purchase the items to give out. Just put "outreach" in the memo line so we know that they go to help those living outside. You can also donate cash to the Community West Foundation to the SocksPlus program. Those funds go to the outreach collaborative organized by NEOCH. Thanks for your help.
by Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry
July 13, 2017 Meeting--Cosgrove Center
Organized by NEOCH
After taking a month off, the new director of NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, organized the new era for the Homeless Congress. Roy Love, Board President introduced Chris to the Homeless Congress members. He talked about the work he has done prior to taking the job at NEOCH. He acknowledged that he is aware that the Homeless Congress has a voice and his commitment to help NEOCH and the Congress achieve their goals. After he told everyone a few things about himself, he opened the meeting for questions including the fact that he was born in Cleveland, Ohio. After a few questions and a short discussion, he turned the meeting over to Ruth Gillett.
Ruth Gillett took the floor to present on the work of the Single Adult Housing Committee of the County Office of Homeless Services. First, she acknowledged that there were three members of the OHS Advisory Board in attendance, myself included. She then invited the members of Congress to attend the OHS meetings. Her next order of business that she wanted to discuss was the fact that she feels that she was disrespected at the last meeting. She informed everyone that she does not attend the meetings to be disrespected. However, Ruth didn’t specify how she was disrespected.
She began her presentation of the new proposed policy for the publicly funded shelters by stating that the beds are a “safety net” so people don’t have to be on the streets. Ruth wanted to be clear that the shelters in Cleveland don’t turn anyone away and are supposed to be a temporary or short term. The goal is to assist the resident to move out of the shelter and into housing. At this point, I commented on the fact that the men’s shelter has an E community that does not have time limits and acknowledged that the women’s shelter doesn’t have anything like that in place. I felt this was important enough to bring to everyone’s attention because it is the “only” single women’s shelter in the city of Cleveland. Ruth stated that it was County policy that no one is forced to leave the shelter unless they break the law.
Ruth continued that the focus is on housing first model for providing assistance. She talked about the different paths to obtaining housing and the goal of the staff is to find out what “your path” is and how to get you into housing quickly. She went over what needs to happen for an individual to maintain the housing? She stated the purpose for this Single Adult Committee and went over their recommendations. The single adults will meet with staff and put together a housing plan within 45 days of arriving at the shelter. The staff is responsible for making sure everything that is needed to meet the housing plan is done. Staff are supposed to also assist the client to access employment and benefits.
Ruth talked about the importance of referring an individual to the Rapid Re-Housing program for assistance. Rapid Rehousing program will provide the participants with a short tem rental subsidy (up to 2 months rent + security deposit). She reminded members that it is also possible to have a roommate to split the cost of the rent and/or utilities. This will allow a resident at a shelter to be able to move without having to stay longer to save money for rent and the security deposit.
One of the attendees argued that at the women’s shelter the staff does nothing to assist them. Ruth informed this resident that this is “the projected program,” which means that they will be put in place in the near future. She explained that the projected program is not just about the client, it’s about holding the staff accountable as well. Another member asked if the people who don’t have an income are just overlooked or “left alone.” Her response was, “No”.
Ruth then addressed the fact that members felt banning people from the shelter was a punishment for not complying with the three offers for housing rule that will be in place. If a resident is offered housing three times and does not accept any of them, they will lose privileges at the shelter. Ruth stated that the objective is not to put people back on the street and that many choose to stay at the shelter for one reason or another. She added that the three housing options will be in areas the participant chooses with the assistance of housing locator. Ruth explained that the main reason for the three housing offer refusal discipline is to provide “incentive” to leave the shelter and move into their own housing.
One of the members said she also received no help from the staff and the housing lists they provided were outdated. In addition, she complained about other problems obtaining housing. One example was if an applicant has a felony. Mike Moguel, Operations Director at 2100 Lakeside Shelter, responded to her complaint by informing her that is the purpose of the housing locators and what the applicant is willing to do. He said the housing locator can assist getting past any barriers. He added that there is an EDEN housing locator for hard to place participants. After further discussion about housing locators and requirements for the program, Ruth let everyone know that having a disability or not having disability is not the focus of the Rapid Rehousing program. The focus is on those with a low income.
There were a series of questions about the difficulty people had in reaching staff at the shelters for help. Chris Knestrick informed Ruth that he was concerned about people being punished for turning down housing for the hundreds of legitimate reasons to turn down housing. His examples were: someone getting beat up or something bad happening in the area the proposed housing is located or being located near a previous abuser or far off a bus line. His other concern was that the policy puts the burden on an already fragile population living in the shelter, but does not hold the staff accountable. He then asked her if the staff is not following the rules or doing what they should be doing, what is the accountability process?
Ruth felt that he was being insulting by asking that question. She explained that the resident is involved in locating potential housing, her presentation was recommendations that will be voted on at the next Advisory Board Meeting, and there are milestones that layout staff responsibilities. She then asked if “firing them (the staff) or shooting them was the answer he is looking for?” She then stated she tries “to work with humans as humans to provide positive results for humans. It’s all about tracking progress.” He apologized if his question sounded insulting and then stated, “To him, it sounds like the only humans being held accountable are the ones coming into the shelter.” She stated that is “what he is reading into it and the information being presented will be voted on this coming Thursday, July 20th at 9:00am at the ADAMAS Board.”
An attendee that had recently moved from Toledo and now staying at the women’s shelter said Toledo, Ohio is more effective in addressing homelessness. She said the women’s shelter staff here show no compassion, love, or concern. Another shelter resident stated that “she was in a bad situation before she came to the shelter and the shelter staff does not make it any better.” Another resident staying at the shelter said her phone was stolen while it was still in the package and staff did not assist her, and another wanted to know “what is going to be done about elderly residents who have to sleep on the floor on mats?” Ruth was not able to answer any of these questions so, I asked about the proposal that we were discussing. I wanted to know what basic services a resident would receive once they turn down three offers of housing. My question was “exactly what would the residents at the women’s shelter not be receiving?”
Ruth’s response was, “Once (this policy was) in place, the residents participating in the programs would be able to stay in at the shelter whereas the one that don’t would not.” It is unclear what this means, but it seems that the only thing a resident would get would be a bed at night otherwise they would have to leave the shelter for most of the day. Mike Moguel said that the way it would work at the Men’s shelter would be that if a resident in a dormitory turns down three offers that the resident will be moved from the dorm and put into the E Community.
Seniors not being accommodated was revisited. Ruth said that issue is being addressed with the goal being not to have any elderly in a shelter. Fairhill Center is the only shelter that only serves elderly individuals. The resident went on to complain that at this time, the elderly residents at the women’s shelter have to sleep in chairs, on bare floors and they are tripping over each other.
Chris then asked the members if they support the proposal that was presented by Ruth. Most of the members of the Homeless Congress said they do not. The main reason was staff accountability and it is not clear exactly how the proposal will be implemented especially at the Women’s Shelter. One member, Loh explained that EDEN is designed to place residents that have severe disabilities and the other program is for people that don’t have disabilities. She warned them that if they don’t have a “stable job” the Rapid Re-Housing program may not be a good solution. She also commented about then lack of resources (bus tickets or transportation) available to assist residents to look for stable housing.
The women’s shelter update was the next topic of discussion. Members were informed that the proposals to oversee the women’s shelter for 2018 are due July 28th and neither Frontline nor Lutheran Ministry will be submitting a proposal. A resident of the shelter said the shelter needs more organization, oversight and structure. She further stated that within seven days her purse was stolen, she got into a fight, and was put out for three days with no information on where to go. She complained that at Norma Herr, she felt that she was just there to have somewhere to lay her head and good luck with the rest. The resident complained that staff at the Women’s Shelter don’t give out any information to help residents link to resources.
A letter to the ADAMAS Board was discussed next to inform members that Ms. Valeria Harper of the ADAMAS Board was invited to attend a Homeless Congress meeting. She was invited to discuss the importance of opening a separate shelter for homeless individuals with severe mental health challenges. The last order of business was to acknowledge that NEOCH will no longer be taking complaints from residents at the Norma Herr women’s shelter or 2100 men’s shelter. It was suggested that the complaints be referred to Cuyahoga County Council: Yvonne Conwell or Cleveland City Council: T.J. Dow.
The next meeting is August 10, 2017 at Cosgrove Center
By Ramona Turnbull
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry
The basis for all that we do at NEOCH is forgiveness. In the United States, we do not value forgiveness and we punish some people for life. Typically, those who cannot afford legal representation, people of color and the disabled repeatedly face barriers because of past mistakes. In addition, we put such a stigma on people who become homeless, those with a disability, and re-entry folks that it is like they are walking around with a scarlet letter.
Norman Wolfe was a quiet man who overcame a lot of these barriers in life. He made big mistakes in his past and he paid dearly. He served the United States in the Navy, and fell all the way to the men's shelter in Cleveland. I met Norman because he filed a grievance against mistreatment that he was receiving at a veteran's only bed at the shelter. He was so angry over how the grievance process failed at the shelter that he kept pushing for the development of a Resident Council at the shelter. Even after he was able to secure housing, he would attend the Resident Council meetings, take notes and push the shelter staff to respond.
Norman was a regular at the Homeless Congress meetings and represented other homeless people on the NEOCH Board. In 2015 and 2016, he was volunteering for Organize Ohio and the state budget folks called NOBLE. Norman was the Master of Ceremony for an all day discussion of the NOBLE advocates in preparation for the 2015 state budget struggles. He also helped organize the End Poverty Rally and March on the first day of the Republican Convention in July of 2016. Norman was elected to the County Office of Homeless Services advisory board. He walked with a cane, but many other homeless people leaned on him to protect their rights.
NEOCH gave him the Advocate of the Year award in 2014 and wrote up an overview of his accomplishments here. Norman was so helpful working to try to reform the shelter rules and regulations locally because he had experience with how these rules play out at midnight. He was able to get in writing that shelters should not discharge people into the night for non-criminal activity. This reduced the number of times women would miss meals at the Community Women's shelter because they were in "time-out." He visited Columbus to push for a fair state budget for those working to re-enter society and those struggling with their housing, and he helped push for reform of the women's shelter.
Two pieces of unfinished business that Norman was passionate about in Cleveland that we hope someone will take up the struggle. We were never able to get a fair grievance process locally within the shelters and social services. Norman came to the Coalition originally because he could not find justice with regard to the mistreatment he received from VA staff working at the big shelter. He always wanted to see an impartial third party grievance process started, but we never were able to get this accomplished.
He also tried to convince the shelter that veterans in the shelter should not have non-vets come into their community at the big shelter to use a veteran's bed at night if the veteran is out for the night on a pass. The problem is that the County requires every bed in the big shelter be full every night or they will not pay for overflow, so some of the beds are used multiply times a night with a change of sheets. Guys go out to work at midnight or don't come back until dawn and so the shelter has to navigate this difficult choreography to have every bed full every night. Norman was pushing that since the Vet Community at 2100 Lakeside are paid through a per diem contract with the federal government and not County funds and that vets are allowed to be away from the shelter for 48 hours and still maintain the bed, they should not have drunk guys or severely mentally ill filling a bed when they are away. The problem is typically these one-night overflow guests are disruptive and can send a guy working on his sobriety over the edge. Norman could never convince the shelter to keep the Veteran's community independent and free from outside destabilizing individuals.
Norman will be missed by many members of the Homeless Congress and his quiet voice will be silenced at the County Office of Homeless Services advisory.
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
Post Script: Norman Wolfe's family has finalized his funeral arrangements & his obituary will be published soon. The viewing will be held at 12:30pm on Wednesday, August 16, followed by a funeral service at 1pm at Pernel Jones & Sons Funeral Home located at 7120 Cedar Avenue, Cleveland 44103. Norman will have a military burial at on Thursday, August 17 at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.