CAHA Meeting Cancelled for Monday

We have written about the desire by Cuyahoga Suburban Development staff to learn the addresses of those who live in the suburbs and receive rental assistance from EDEN (mentally ill and other disabled clients).  We have developed a petition to respond to this invasion of privacy on the Change.org website.  We are still collecting signatures here...http://chn.ge/1f8RF6A to sign in support of getting the suburban government out of the business of monitoring the addresses of the disabled.  The staff at First Suburbs Consortium after reading the petition and hearing concerns asked to be put on the agenda for the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance Meeting.  There was not room on the December meeting agenda, but we made space for the Monday January 6, 2014 CAHA meeting for a fuller discussion.  Right before Christmas, staff of the First Suburbs Consortium dropped out of the meeting. 

We have decided to cancel the CAHA meeting for Monday and move forward with our regular agenda for the February 3, 2013 meeting at 1:30 pm at 1350 Euclid Ave.  It is a shame that the housing community will not have a chance to put the issues on the table and hear the reasons for this information and the reasons that so many oppose this invasion of privacy.  NEOCH staff hope that this issue is dead in 2014 and the First Suburbs will not be asking for this information in the future.  

Brian Davis

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Change.org Petition in Support of Suburban Privacy

The Cleveland Plain Dealer featured an article about a brewing dispute between the suburbs and EDEN inc. over the rights for the suburban communities to know the addresses of all EDEN voucher holders.   [We have to identify for full disclosure that we have a board member who works for EDEN, but he had nothing to do with the development of the NEOCH position on this dispute or the petition on Change.org.]

We have started a Change.org petition to address this issue.  The First Suburbs Consortium demanded that EDEN turn over their list of addresses this summer before they would be willing to support public dollars going to the last Permanent Housing Project owned by EDEN.    Both Cuyahoga County and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have sided with EDEN saying that they do not have to turn over the names or addresses of their tenants. In fact, in the Plain Dealer article the County has stated that this would undermine fair housing laws and HUD weighed in with a letter in 2012 indicating that this is a poor policy and would undermine the local and national efforts to prevent and end homelessness.  We certainly agree with this position. 

The suburbs are claiming that they have successfully leveraged the list of voucher holders by CMHA Housing Choice Voucher Program and so therefore they should be allowed to get the same information from EDEN.  The difference is that nearly every voucher holder with EDEN is a disabled individual and many have struggled with homelessness. We objected to CMHA giving over this information so this is not a defense for invading the privacy of tenants.   There is no good reason for the suburbs to collect this information.  It will only make it more difficult to convince landlords to accept vouchers from EDEN if they have to deal with government and potentially neighbors raising objections. Remember, these are the same folks that wanted Section 8 tenants to have to go to "school" to learn how to live in the suburbs of Cleveland in a policy pushed by Cleveland Hts. Mayor Ed Kelley a couple of years back.

I have personally seen where a caller complained about a decaying property to a local suburb and the Development staff disclosed that the property was a "Section 8 tenant."  Even though this information is supposed to be confidential, the suburban staff identified the tenant as low income with the federal government paying part of their rent.  To the neighbors who are complaining, they hear this and think bad property is associated with a Housing Choice Voucher Tenant holder when in fact it is usually a bad landlord issue. We have witnessed the hate and misunderstandings associated with homeless and disabled people.  We believe that disclosure of CMHA voucher holders and certainly EDEN voucher holders will harm the program, leave tenants vulnerable to hate crimes and make landlords less likely to participate in these programs. 

We have set up a Change.org petition to encourage people to sign in opposition to this policy here.  Just click on the link and enter your name on the Change.org website.  Please join this campaign: http://chn.ge/1f8RF6A. We ask that if you talk to your local Mayor or City Council member that they oppose this policy of collecting the names of the disabled living in their community.  Please send us any responses that you get from your local community.  We all need to stand with EDEN and the tenants of EDEN in opposition to this invasion of privacy by the suburban communities. 

The First Suburbs Consortium has responded to the petition and tried to thread the needle that identifying addresses does not identify the names of the tenant.  This is a distinction without a difference.  The potential for hate or threats will be directed at all tenants who are receiving government help not a specific tenant.  This polarized culture we live in makes the risk too great to identify where a disabled tenant lives in this community.  If a community can rise up and spread myths and exaggerations about homeless people and homeless programs to stop the development of a brand new housing facility or pass off racism and classism as a movement to "reduce government" anything is possible.  They could not ask that MetroHealth release the addresses of its patients to see if they paid for ambulance runs and they should not ask EDEN to provide the addresses of their disabled clients for any reason.  

Please support our petition by signing it. 

Brian Davis

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Kathy Kazol at CAHA

Kathy Kazol in December 2012 received the Medical Mutual Pillar Award for her lifetime of work in developing housing for fragile populationsWe asked Kathy Kazol to present at the last Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting in January 2013 as she prepares to retire from EDEN Development Corporation.  This was billed as a graduate level discussion explaining how to develop affordable housing based her 20 plus years of service to the community.  EDEN is the lead organization in much of the Permanent Supportive Housing programs and the Shelter Plus Care program locally.  Kazol has helped developed hundreds of fixed units of affordable housing and created thousands of housing vouchers.  She has built EDEN into a major housing developer and created the opportunity to house thousands of our citizens.   She was able to stitch together diverse funding from all levels of government in order to piece these deals together. 

I think the most important information that she passed along which really set me at ease was her thoughts on the future funding for Permanent Supportive Housing.    I have always been concerned that we are developing all these units of housing that only work with social service staff on site to offer case management help to the population and yet we do not have a dedicated long term revenue source to maintain these services.  Would these buildings that house 60 to 120 severely disabled people become problems because the funds for the social workers drys up was a real concern.  Kazol said that she believes that the new Affordable Care Act will create opportunities for a funding source for these services.  One of the key provisions of the new health care law is that medical centers will be rewarded for stabilizing their clients and keeping them out of the emergency room.   This will present an opportunity in the community to partner with health care agencies who can assist with behavioral health issues.  There is no doubt that it is much easier to serve a population that is in housing then it is to serve someone sleeping on the streets or in the shelters.  It is likely that a person without housing will show up in the emergency room repeatedly with ever more desperate health issues. 

Other items that Kathy Kazol of EDEN talked about include:

  • She focused her career on doing what was best for her clients.
  • She believes that housing agencies need to spend more time on what was happening with government and the changes that are occuring.
  • Kazol believed in stealing good ideas from other communities.
  • Kazol was not a big fan of asking permission to do what was right.  Many communities will put obstacles in the way to serve fragile populations.  [My experience is the same that those who fear the unknown are much louder than those who don't care.]
  • Kazol has worked over the last year working on setting up the internal processes to secure the organization for long term.  After a period of huge growth she has worked to set up the administrative systems to sustain this growth.
  • She talked about the incredibly low disability payments that make it so most disabled individuals cannot afford housing as a struggle that still needs to be addressed. 
  • Kazol did refute my concern that green building causes a reduction in the number of affordable houisng units being built.  She indicated that the cost was not significant and the benefits were significant.  The benefits far outweigh the costs.
  • EDEN has 750 operational units of housing and 1,800 housing vouchers. 
  • Another issue that others will have to take up with policy changes includes what to do with sexually based offenders and where do they live?
  • We need to reduce the regulations in order to produce more housing, and preserve the Tax Credit program.
  • The homeless funding is driving the agenda in housing, but there are other populations who need housing.  How do we house populations that are not a current preference for the HUD homeless funding?
  • Finally, sometimes disputes come down to people just being bad people and trying to live next to them is impossible.  Sometimes a group or a family just has to pick up stakes and move somewhere else. 

We will have a feature on Kathy Kazol in the new Street Chronicle.  Look for it on the streets in the next two weeks.

Brian Davis

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