Super 8 Motel in Columbus Hates Homeless People

In a story that appeared on Think Progress, a couple was driving on Saturday through Columbus to Dayton and met a homeless couple in a fast food joint.  The couple saw them crying in their milkshakes about not being able to get in the shelter for the night.   George and Joyce Gruss paid for three nights in a motel for the two who did not have ID to check in.  The Super 8 Motel in Columbus kicked the homeless couple out after the Gruss family left to get to Dayton.  This was over the weekend when it was so horrible in Ohio with temperatures falling below 0 degrees and a sizable wind chill.  Here is a little from the Think Progress story:

George got a call that ruined their good deed. It was a security guard at the Super 8. He said the hotel had checked on the room and when the couple couldn’t produce ID, it kicked them out. “We argued with them,” he recalled. “I told him we paid for the room.” Even though he said they were willing to risk any potential damage to the room, the guard insisted that because guests have to be 21 to stay in rooms and the couple had no identification to prove they were over that age, they couldn’t stay.

“He ended the conversation by saying, ‘Oh by the way, your repayment is not refundable,'” George said. He hadn’t cared about the money until that point. “I felt like I was robbed.”

It shows how valuable identification is for homeless people.  Cleveland has a program to fund identification which is rare.  It also shows how stupid Columbus is with their coordinated intake.  If you cannot make it to the shelter by a certain time, you lose your bed.  If the bus is late or not running because of the cold, you sleep outside.  Finally, this story shows how horrible businesses are to homeless people.  They get mistreated and abused by small businesses and corporations who can only see hassles with homeless people and not the humanity of kicking someone into the snow and cold. One hotel in New York City refused to house homeless families with vouchers paid by the state.  They do realize that homelessness is a temporary situation, and the people offered a break will become customers the next year.  Single adults in Cleveland average 15 days of homelesnsess and 50 days for families.  They are not homeless for life, and should be viewed as future customers.  We hope that the Super 8 chain gets a black eye from this lack of humanity.  I will avoid them in my travels over the next few years. 

Brian Davis

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Columbus Street Newspaper Video

The Columbus Coalition for the Homeless publishes a monthly social justice paper called Street Speech. Low-income individuals buy and sell the newspaper and collect donations from Columbus citizens. These low-income individuals get a sense of pride knowing they are making an honest living and feeling better about themselves. If you want to find out more about Street Speech or the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless check out their website here: http://www.columbushomeless.org/.   This was put together by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio to educate pedestrians in Downtown Columbus about the value of the street paper. 

The Columbus paper has grown substantially over the last eight years.  It is much bigger than the Cleveland Street Paper which has published for 21 years.  The paper has a newer editor who has been with the paper for the last year.  It is a really good paper for the capital city.  Check out the video interviews with Columbus Street Speech vendors. 

by Sarah and Brian

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Update from Around Ohio

Former Cincy Coalition Director, Donald Whitehead

As part of the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting, we go around the table and give a presentation about housing, homelessness, and civil rights issues from the field.  I, as a board member, gather information from around Ohio to try to present to the NCH Board.  Pictured here is fellow board member, Donald Whitehead who now resides in Florida.  Donald is a great ally for people experiencing homelessness in Ohio as the former Director of NCH and former director of the Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. 

Cleveland:  The County went fully to a Central Intake system with diversion policy in April 2012 as directed by the federal government.  The last three years have seen huge summer increases in family homelessness. The mission based shelters are on the outside looking in and being told that if homeless people go to those facilities without going to Central Intake they will not be eligible for public funds for rent or public facilities such as transitional shelters.   We have issues with the diversion policy in Cuyahoga County with regard to families.  It is confusing and often results in families mistakenly leaving the shelter without taking a bed.  The only short term rental assistance available in Cleveland is for families.

NEOCH has constructed a great way for homeless people to speak and act collectively called the Homeless Congress.  The group has two representatives from each of the shelters as well as people who sleep outside, and we have a monthly meeting with 35 people attending every meeting.  We are still working on getting a shelter standards bill with third party grievances and tough oversight of the shelters passed by the new County government.  We are making progress in getting the current regulations to be made public and working on changes.   

Hundreds of police were disciplined for being involved in the police chase of two unarmed homeless people that resulted in their death at the hands of police.  The thirteen officers who fired the 130 shots at the two have not yet been charged pending the prosecutor finishing the use of deadly force report. In Cleveland, we are working to expand outreach and safe havens to women because of the serial murderers and the kidnapper who were targeting women.

Cleveland is facing a $1.7 million in cuts to the Continuum funded programs.  The County did come to a Homeless Congress to ask people living in the shelters how the cuts should be implemented locally.

Cincinnati:  The 100 year old Anna Louise Shelter lost their struggle with Western and Southern.  Their building was purchased and they will have to relocate.  The Corporation just wore them down and they could not continue the fight.  There have been homeless people sleeping around the County courthouse for years  in Cincinnati.  The sheriff has evicted them.  The Coalition went to court, but lost the request for a restraining order.  They have had protests and doing media work, but so far no arrests.

Toledo:  They are having a big fight between the Continuum and the Mayor over cuts to the shelters mostly in the Block Grant funding. They have a new Continuum leader after the previous person retired after previous years of fighting among the shelters and the government.  The whole funding of the shelters and possible closing of shelters has become an election issue in the race for the Mayor.  They also did not meet the bare minimum score from HUD to receive funding and so only got renewal funding of the existing shelters.

Columbus:  The City and the shelters are still having issues with overflowing shelters.  The Coalition went to City Council and got $100,000 additional dollars to take care of overflow.  The group that oversees all federal programs and dollars in Columbus have strained relationships with some of the shelters and the Columbus Coalition.   The City leadership is working on a plan to expand the shelters for single adults--finally.  They have changed so that all the case workers are mobile and travel to the shelters instead of having different case workers at every shelter.  Still working on a diversion plan, but it is not complete yet and not yet in practice. 

I talked a great deal about the victories in voting that are positive for all homeless people in Cleveland.  We won the right to extend our agreement with the state until after the 2016 Presidential election.  This will allow homeless people without identification will be able to vote in person on election day and will standardize the counting of provisional ballots throughout the state.

Brian Davis

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OCHA Updates

OCHA is the Ohio Coalition of Homeless Advocates and we meet periodically in Columbus to discuss issues that might be important to the other cities.  Typically, we have Dayton, Appalachia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo represented.  Here are a few updates from the meeting this week.

Cincinnati

The Anna Louise Inn Shelter has been fighting to expand and was delivered a set back on Friday in their dispute with Western and Southern Financial Services. Anna Louise Inn is a battered women's shelter and home for recovering prostitutes, and has a desperate need to expand after a century of service.  After being in the same location for over 100 years, the place needs renovation and expansion.  The Union Bethel parent non-profit had raised the $12.4 million for the renovation and the City of Cincinnati had approved the expansion.  Western and Southern sued to stop the expansion, and proposed buying the facility.  For some reason the judge remanded the City to start the rezoning process over on the renovation.  Staff at Union Bethel have committed to continue the struggle.  They are convinced that this will take place, but it will just take longer. 

The Cincinnati Coalition published a report on the State of Family Homelessness in Cincinnati.  All the stats and recommendation can be found here.

Columbus

The City is struggling with diversion issues and central intake for single adults.  They have moved to only allowing people into the single adult shelters exclusively by phone.  The Faith Mission had been the central intake site, but found it too difficult to oversee.  Now, if you want shelter in Columbus, you have to call a number similar to 211 and they will direct you to a shelter.  This is a new system, but it is presenting some challenges for those who do not have access to a phone.  Diversion has been in place for a couple of years, and has raised some concerns by the advocates. 

Cleveland

We have to congratulate Care Alliance in Cuyahoga County for receiving a national award to improve their clinics. This $5.5 million in federal health care support will improve the Public Housing clinics that the agency administers.  They are going to begin a $3 million capital campaign to complete the renovations.   Care Alliance is the Health Care for the Homeless in Cleveland.  They have a beautiful facility over on St. Clair with amazing dental facilities.  We rely on their help with homeless outreach, because they can send medical personel out to help people.  Care Alliance has done an amazing rebound since the days when they were shedding their programs and closing down outreach in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The current director, Francis and Linda before him have really moved the organization to a solid foundation.  This is great for Cleveland, and we hope that it will help them to be ready for the huge changes taking place in 2014 with the national health care reform. 

Brian Davis

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