Upcoming Discussion of the Value of Supportive Housing

Here is an announcement from Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services:

This is a reminder of the annual, full Continuum of Care (CoC) Member meeting scheduled for Friday, June 16th,  10:00 AM – 11:30 AM. Anyone who is interested in reducing homelessness in Cuyahoga County is considered a member of the Continuum of Care . As always, everyone is welcome to attend the CoC meeting.

The location of this special meeting is the newest Housing First Building:

                 Commons at West Village
               8301 Detroit Avenue,  Cleveland, OH 44102.

There is a parking lot with the building.

 Agenda

Katie Kitchin, Director of the Ohio Office of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and Barb Poppe, formerly head of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) will attend and present the following information for your review and feedback:

Based on analysis of Cuyahoga County Annual Performance Reports for each intervention type of Street outreach, Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, Rapid Re-Housing, Supportive Services Only (SSO) and Permanent Supportive Housing – what are the projected GAPS in the interventions in Cuyahoga County, and rolling up data statewide, the State.

Assess how our CoC is:

  • implementing Housing First practices,
  • aligning with federal benchmarks and criteria and progress toward reaching functional zero for each subpopulation
  • aligning with HUD’s Recovery Housing brief;
  • identifying promising best practices;
  • other items to be determined
  • In addition, CoC members may be asked for feedback on “who” can be diverted from homelessness; “who” could or would benefit from TH; and after ending chronic homelessness, who should the next target population be for prioritizing PSH?

This is a lot to cover in an hour and half!

Please RSVP to 216.420.6844 if you want to attend this meeting.

Thank you!

Editor's Note:  This will focus on how great Permanent Supportive Housing is for the community and will not address the overcrowded shelters, the large number of homeless deaths, the huge waiting lists for housing, and the inability for a homeless family to find help. It will also not focus on the value of spending 80% of our homeless dollars that to PSH instead of the loss of 450 beds of shelter locally.   Other than all that everything is looking good for homeless people especially on one day in January when County officials count.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

How to Misuse Statistics

"Homelessness has dropped--but do you believe the numbers?" was the headline in the Plain Dealer.  It was weird that they are asking the public to weigh in or did they not get enough experts to weigh in so they have no idea?  Are the readers qualified to make this assessment?  Are the headline writers asking if the following article is fake news?  Then they don't even answer the question in the article by only presenting one side of the story and only interviewing Bill Faith of COHHIO.  Is this some kind of new journalism where the newspaper just asks questions and expects us to come with our own answers?

I can answer the question right now, no, homelessness has not decreased but the number of shelter beds in Cleveland has dramatically decreased.  Just during the Obama administration, Cleveland lost 328 shelter beds locally.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to count people when they are not in shelter.  Twelve years ago, we were spending 80% of the dollars locally on shelters and now we spend 80% of our homeless dollars on Permanent Supportive Housing.  Why are we using homeless dollars to pay for people living in housing permanently?  Why aren't they taking money from mental health, addiction services or some other housing program to pay for the 620 people residing in these units in Cleveland?  HUD can say that there is a 20% decline but it has no validity if there are not beds for people to sleep in then how do we measure?

The other major issue is that these stats are based on a one day count.  This is useless because the number of homeless people on January 25 in a cold city is different compared to the number of homeless in a warm weather city.  The number of people in shelter in Cleveland in January is much different compared to September.  There is no way to make a generalization from one day and make that into a trend.  It is like saying that because January 25, 2016 was 20 degrees colder when compared to January 25, 2015 that means that 2016 was substantially colder than 2015.  One day out of 365 means nothing.  Imagine if the Census counted only on one day with a bunch of volunteers who are not trained while removing 20% of the housing in a particular city every year and then tried to count all those people sleeping rough. No one would put any faith in the Census or use the data.  

Just read the report from HUD on the Complete Count if you have any questions (but I am not giving a link because it is useless information).  The first 20 pages are all about how bad the data is and every city does it differently and that it should not be used for broad trends.  The media, including the Plain Dealer, do not read the reports and then uses the data improperly.  The National Coalition for the Homeless issued a nice press release about the issue. The experts are trying to say to the new administration, "Hey, you did not waste all those billions on Permanent Supportive Housing over the last 12 years.  Keep funding us, because look we have reduced homelessness by 20% or some other bogus figure."   It is bogus science that should be thrown away, and propaganda from lobbyists who want to show that homeless money is not just thrown down a well of waste. 

There is no doubt that the PSH units have kept many thousands alive in the United States.  The problem is that they are overselling the program.  Most other trends in the community are bad, and PSH is the one program that is attempting to reverse the trends.  All the losses in subsidized housing (Public housing, Section 8, and HUD funded private landlords) far overwhelm the small gains in PSH.  The shelters are full and every bed has a waiting list.  Homeless deaths are up; addictions are up; family homelessness is up.  Better access to healthcare is the other bright spot in our landscape.  Homelessness is up in Cleveland and Ohio, but shelter beds are down.  Don't believe the hype from HUD or the so-called experts.  These so called experts will rue the day, when the State and Federal government cuts funding for homelessness and saying, "You guys said homelessness is down and we have other priorities.  If homelessness is down we can afford to cut the budget by 20%."   Rough times ahead.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Rest in Peace: Transitional Shelters

We had a presentation from the consultant the County hired in July about the changes that are taking place with regard to the Department of Housing and Urban Development funding and the rules associated with receiving funds from the federal government.  Suzanne Wagner, a national consultant and huge cheerleader for Permanent Supportive Housing, came to Cleveland to tell us that the time is up for transitional programs.  The studies have all been done, the research is complete and the transitional programs are too expensive and keep people homeless for too long.  So get ready to convert the transitional shelters to something else.

We have steadily moved forward with this plan to eliminate transitional programs by de-funding all the transitional beds for women.  Some of those units were transformed into permanent supportive housing with the optimum word permanent.  While the average  transitional bed may turn over once or twice a year, the average PSH bed turns over once or twice every 10 to 15 years.   If these beds are not replaced it creates a back up on the front end of the shelters.  We have steadily lost transitional beds while steadily increasing the number of overflow or temporary beds locally. 

Yes, there are studies that show PSH are more economic for the community, but they do not compare apples to apples with regard to transitional programs.  They never factor in the capital cost of building a permanent housing unit when compared to the transitional shelters.  They do not factor in that the homeless pool of resources is not growing and yet the homeless programs have to slice the pie thinner and thinner.  We have to pay the housing costs of those in PSH every year with homeless funding along with all the other "priorities" we are mandated to serve coming out of Washington.  We have to prioritize family homelessness and youth homeless while our money is all going to Permanent Supportive housing which neither youth nor families typically qualify for.  In 2015, we spent 83% of the federal homeless dollars on Permanent Supportive Housing according to Cuyahoga County with a similar budget as we had in 2005.

Facility                                                  Monthly Cost                                 Yearly Costs

  • Emergency shelter costs                   $5,000                                        $26,800
  • Transitional Housing                         $2,700                                        $32,500
  • Rapid Rehousing                               $880                                           $6,500

This was distributed by Wagonner and comes from the HUD Family Option Study July 2015.  Again the problem is that this does not factor the cost of building these units and it does not factor in the loss of housing vouchers in the community that support these projects.  These vouchers were previously used to support a broad cross section of low income people.  Now, they are confined to a limited population in a geographically small area.

The problem with all of this is that 20 years ago, we heard from similar consultants who came to Cleveland telling us how great transitional programs can be for the community.  They said, "Look, your alcohol, drug and mental health programs are failing you, and so you need to create alternatives locally where people have the time to find the treatment they need."  They told us that transitional programs are a "game changer" and will significantly reduce homeless.  Our advocates at the time in the community said, "Okay, lets try it."  We invested in nearly 1,000 units of transitional housing in the community to ease people out of homelessness into housing.  The big issues were that they screened many out of joining the program (so does the PSH program), and they kept people for a longer period of time than was necessary (but no where near permanently!).  We needed these beds in our community for people with big issues.  The transitional shelters were slow in preparing the bed when a person left but they became an integral part of our response to homelessness.   It was confusing if these beds should be under the landlord tenant law since many lived there longer than the typical lease, but many found the help they needed in a transitional program.  Instead of fixing these shortfalls, HUD and Cuyahoga County are moving to eliminate public funding for transitional shelters. 

In November 2015, Cuyahoga County will declare "functional zero" in the number of homeless veterans.  So, this has to be considered a victory and we should use the lessons we learned from "solving" veteran's homelessness.  The Veterans Administration never moved away from transitional shelters and we have many veteran only transitional beds still in the community.  They were a strong part of the response to vets struggling with PTSD or traumatic brain disorders.  They were important for veterans in recovery or those with long term health issues.  We had a diverse number and type of programs available to homeless veterans.  Some transitional programs were tied to employment opportunities, some were tied to their health issue and other transitional programs were within HUD funded programs.  The system obviously worked since we are declaring victory.  Why is HUD forcing people to fit into these narrowly constructed programs?

Aren't there 700 people in the community who would benefit and would be better citizens if they had time to recover in a transitional program?  We need a diverse response to homelessness, because our society is diverse.  We need rental assistance for some, transitional for others, legal help for some and shelter for others.  One size does not fit all in the homeless community.  Say goodbye to the transitional shelters which are already gone in Chicago and Columbus.   It was nice while it lasted, but they have been declared obsolete by HUD and the County.  Those with a disability who may need a longer time to get stable are out of luck unless they stay homeless for a year and have the "right" kind of disability. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Denver And Homelessness

The National Coalition for the Homeless met in Denver Colorado for their twice yearly face to face meeting and held a conference on criminalization of homelessness.  Denver is one of the 25 largest cities in America, and has made some progress on homelessness in America, but has a long way to go.  It is the state capital so there are far more resources available in Denver than other Colorado cities, but there are many people sleeping outside.  There is no guaranteed access to shelter like in New York and Cleveland. 

The police regularly ask homeless people to move along, but never answer the question, "to where?"   There are many who travel through Denver to greener pastures.  I met a man who was sleeping outside from Bangor Maine by way of Washington and Chicago who was deciding on whether to stay or move on.  The outreach teams had tried to work with him in his first three weeks in Denver which is more than happens in most cities.  There also seems to be a growing number of people migrating to Denver because of the recreational marijuana, which is a far more expensive of a habit than cigarettes.  Housing is extremely expensive with supply not matching demand.  They have far fewer abandoned properties when compared to most Midwestern cities, but they do exist. 

Denver has many more laws on the books restricting homeless people and a pretty strict panhandling law.  They do have a pretty amazing healthcare for the homeless operation with five clinics, including a brand new clinic attached to their permanent supportive housing project with dental services and a complete pharmacy.  I was impressed with the level of care delivered to homeless people with an attempt to make the healthcare for the homeless clinics a medical home for low income people.  They screen people who come in for mental health issues while they are assessing their physical health needs.  People do not have to make appointments somewhere else and then face other challenges such as timing and transportation.  The new Denver health care for the homeless clinic has a huge and respectful waiting area and a seamless process to apply for housing once they have sought healthcare assistance. 

In Cleveland, most of the services are built around the shelters and even with Coordinated intake those staying at shelter are easiest to find and usually get access before those waiting on the streets.  In Denver, the system seems to be centered around health care as the first point of contact for most.  Those without housing seem to look healthier than I have seen in the Midwest or the East Coast.  I don’t know if this is from the amount of walking necessary in western cities or the number of farm and domestic workers among the homeless population.  Transportation is much more accessible in Denver when compared to Cleveland but not like DC, NYC or Boston. 

Denver is a clean city, but about three times the number of people sleeping outside compared to Cleveland.  There are no where near the numbers of people living outside as Washington DC, San Francisco or Boston.  There were a number of grassroots organizations helping to provide a voice to those living in shelters or on the streets.  There was not a real advocacy Coalition focused on the needs of homeless people and providing input to government or the social service community.   This is not unusual for a capital city where advocacy groups get overshadowed by the State Coalitions and all the money and resources goes to state efforts.  There is not the tradition to organizing in union cities like Cleveland, Philadelphia and Chicago.  So, there is not a strong tenant association or commitment to organizing low income residents of the city. 

They are making progress and have built large numbers of affordable housing units reserved for homeless people.  They have permanent supportive housing for families which most cities have not found the ability to fund.  They are working on funding a law enforcement diversion program which is supposed to save the city money over incarceration.  Finally, there are horror movie scary Mimes performing in Downtown Denver, which is unsettling, but at least they are not dressed as clowns. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Teach In Last Week on the Importance of Outreach

We had a really nice open house at Winton on Lorain last week to see how wonderful these units are for the community.  We had presentations by EDEN and Frontline Services and many of the outreach workers in the community.  The highlight of the evening was with Roy and Mike talked about moving from the streets into housing.  They both talked about the importance of Jim Schlecht for helping to find their way into housing. 

County Council persons Dale Miller and Yvonne Conwell both attended to hear about this critical resource in the community.  Both Roy and Mike spent years on the streets, both turned to alcohol or drugs to cope and both were able to make it through a year of recovery. Winton on Lorain is right next to the VA transitional housing program, and that corner near the freeway has dramatically approved over the last 10 years. 

It was quite an education provided by Toni Johnson and Denise Toth who spoke about how valuable outreach is in the community.  They talked about building trusting relationships and not giving up on the people outside.  All the outreach teams talked about the difficult times many of these guys have in finding help.  The guys talked about the huge hills they had to climb to get back into housing.  We will have the next Teach In during the lunch hour and hopefully others will be able to attend. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

The Value of Outreach and Supportive Housing

The public is welcome to attend if you want to know how these programs work in the community.  We want to show politicians and other community leaders the value of both outreach and Permanent Supportive Housing.  You can see this beautiful new building on the West Side of Cleveland and how the homeless programs have transformed this neigbhorhood.  We ask that you RSVP by calling NEOCH at 432-0540. 

Bill Introduced to Change the Definition of Homelessness

In an effort to capture the number of young people who do not go into shelter, the Senate has proposed a new bill to reform the way homeless people are counted.  Al Jazeera America did a really nice story about the issue.  We had this fight 10 years ago when the HEARTH Act was being debated.  Advocates from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Youth  wanted to align the definition of homelessness with the Department of Education definition. 

The DoE uses a standard definition that we all think about when we think of homelessness.  The HUD definition does not include those doubled up, coming out of jail, those within a few days of homelessness or those who regularly staying in a motel.  Advocates from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Corporation for Supportive Housing and staff of HUD hated this idea to have one broad definition of homelessness.  They felt that it would triple the population of homelessness overnight. It would make it impossible to count during their annual point in time counts.  All the successes claimed by the Permanent Supportive housing movement would be lost with the stroke of a pen.  What administration wants to be in office and preside over a time when homelessness increased by 200 to 300 percent in one year? 

A compromise was struck by maintaining the HUD definition for most of the programs with additional hoops to jump through in order to be able to use a small piece of the federal funding to serve young people or families.  This compromise is obviously not working, and so now Congress has proposed a change. NEOCH supports this change in the law to align the definitions of homelessness across the federal agencies.  We oppose the Point in Time count as a huge waste of time, and we are not sure that the 100,000 homes created over the last five years are meeting the need of our most disabled and long term homeless people. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Housing 101 Announced for March

Part of the mission of the Coalition is to better educate the public about housing and homelessness.  To fulfill this part of our mission, we try to organize periodic sessions explaining the complicated system of affordable housing in our community.  Our first session for 2015 is March 20 at the NEOCH Conference RoomWe have a page of our website explaining the workshop with a copy of the flyer to advertise the event. 

This year, we will have the following guests invited to present:

  • We will have an overview of the HousingCleveland.org website with a focus on the fragile populations functions.
  • We will have a look at the Cleveland Housing Court/mediation services and special services available for those facing an eviction.
  • We will be provided an overview of the services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs locally and the other programs serving veterans.
  • There will be a presentation on fair housing and how to assert your fair housing rights locally. 
  • Finally, a look at Permanent Supportive housing and Coordinated Intake at the workshop.  Staff from Frontline Services will talk about access, supply and program expectations within the homeless programs.

The workshop is $15 for those who will need Continuing Education credit for social workers and $10 for those who who do not need the CEUs. The workshop is March 20, 2015 from 10 to 1 p.m. at NEOCH. There is a flyer to complete and send back or you can check out our webpage

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

County Staff and Providers Discuss Homelessness

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. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Ohio News Updates

Cincinnati Councilman introduces a law to protect against hate crimes.  The article mentions that Cleveland has a hate crimes law, but it is a mere formality.  It only applies to misdemeanors and is a recommendation not a requirement. How many attacks on homeless people were ever misdemeanors?  It was a feel good piece of legislation.  The Cincinnati folks want something with more teeth to address a rise in attacks on homeless people in the Queen City. 

Additional state dollars given to the shelters in and around Cleveland.  In the face of three years of federal cuts backs and shelters that closed in 2014, there is a small amount of support from the state.  Emergency shelters have been starved for funds and these state dollars will not close the gap.  It will keep hope alive that more funds are coming, but it will not make up for the huge loss of public support shelters have faced since the downturn.  The trend in Washington is to fund expensive housing for the people who have been homeless the longest, veterans and young people.  Everyone else is out of luck trying to find help in the face of budget cuts.  In Cleveland this means nine months of overflow for families.  

US Conference of Mayors report released including a number of Ohio cities.  Take the data with a huge grain of salt.  They are typically just asking one guy at City Hall what they think about homelessness and hunger.  These guys call around to advocates, United Way or food programs and pull a figure out of the air.  They are typically based on nothing hard or solid and they vary throughout the country.  So, there is no way to compare Cleveland to Chicago or San Diego.  But they do have the bigger trends in our community dead on.  We are seeing huge increases in families and more people seeking help with food.   We are seeing more young people who are homeless because we are finally paying attention to this problem.  Despite the turn around, wages are still stagnant and people are then becoming homeless.  Affordable housing is still out of touch for many living in cities with huge waiting lists and housing being taken out of the inventory because of age.  So, pay attention to the message but ignore the numbers in the report.

Front Steps is rebranded name of Transitional Housing Inc.  The program started back in the 1980s when a bunch of nuns got together to fill a need for single women without a place to live.   They found an abandoned traveler's cheap motel that was slipping into the river as their home.   It featured 60 individual apartments for homeless women with a unique funding stream which was the brain child of a few near west politicians including Mary Rose Oakar.   It was owned by CMHA, but run by this non-profit organization and funded through the HUD Homeless Continuum and not the public housing funding.   It was funded as an innovative program before HUD was giving a regular allocation to each city to address homelessness.  The problem for many in the community was that those who got into the shelter then could transfer to a public housing unit so they were bypassing the waiting list.   In 2012, the program went through a strategic plan with the County staff and many others sitting in and offering suggestions.  It was decided by CMHA and the THI non-profit to move to permanent supportive housing model and away from transitional shelter.  This resulted in a huge cut to the homeless funding and an expansion to serve men.  They set up a special waiting list at CMHA and had to negotiate between three organizations to get people into the housing.  We will miss the transitional shelter in the community where every unit turns over about once a year to a program that is, well...permanent.  Housing programs typically only have a turn over rate of between 5 to 10 percent each year.  This only adds to the problem of single women trying to find a temporary shelter bed in the community.  We welcome more housing, but the cost is that people women have a harder time finding a short term place for their housing emergencies. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Random Thoughts

Dallas spent years in court and had to pay the legal fees of a local church over feeding of homeless people. Dallas had to pay $225,000 settlement to the Big Hart Ministries and are not allowed to restrict access to food. Are you listening Ft. Lauderdale and the other cities in Florida?

I came across a sad documentary about an advertising executive named Brian Davis from London England.  Not a good ending, but a poignant story about the in ability to find help with mental illness and substance abuse. 

HUD discusses the "Limitations" of their point in time counts then they proceed to make conclusions based on this limited data. 

"The good news is that, nationally, we are continuing to see decreases in key areas like homelessness among veterans and chronic homelessness."  This is incorrect.  It should say that we are continuing to see decreases on one random day of the year.  The problem with this data is that it is so flawed, no one should make any broader point except that on one day in January homelessness decreased. 

Remember the Homeless Memorial day and Candlelight Vigil is Sunday at 7 p.m. at Metanoia.  If you want to make sure that we read the names of individuals who may have passed away over the last year give us a call (216/432-0540) and talk to Joyce.   Please join us for this important event.

Who is going to pay for Permanent Supportive housing?  California and some other cities in the United States want to use Health care dollars to pay for housing.   As we have said many times, there were no long term plans for how to fund these programs.  The tenants are disabled and will not be able to contribute much to their housing, and are unlikely that they will move out.  They need 24 hours of case management and that is expensive.  So where will the money come from to support these units?  It is a good idea that health care dollars go to support these units, because without this housing these people would be living on the streets and using the emergency room.  The problem is that government does not always do what make sense especially in a timely manner. 

Thanks to Brian Henke for helping organize the 12th Woodchopper's Ball this weekend at the Kent Stage.  We made over $3,000 for the organization.  Brian is a fantastic guitarist and he has a number of CDs available for sale. 

Atlanta caught an alleged serial killer of homeless people.  The man killed four homeless individuals, two while they were sleeping.  The suspect was arrested for jumping a transit fare, and then identified as a suspect in two murders of homeless people.   After interviews, he was charged with the murder of two other individuals in Atlanta. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Interesting News Stories Around Homelessness

NPR story on Skid Row.  It all started so well describing the disaster area that we call Skid Row.  They talked about this concentration of poverty and the number of years that the area has been neglected. 

"What I describe Skid Row as is the biggest man-made disaster in the United States," says the Rev. Andy Bales, who runs the shelter and has worked on Skid Row for almost 10 years.

Bales says things had been improving on Skid Row, but they've taken a bad turn since the recession. He says hospitals from the region, and even other states, have been dumping homeless patients on Skid Row illegally, and that jails are releasing inmates without enough preparation. Resources have also been reduced for shelters in favor of other approaches.

It then went all downhill when the discussion shifted to permanent supportive housing.  As we have said repeatedly on these pages, PSH projects are fine and needed, but they do not solve homelessness.  If 20% of the population are long term and eligible for the PSH projects, then housing all of those individuals will leave 80% of the population still homeless. No matter how you spin it, the money saved in the community by removing the 20% will not go to address the other 80% of the population.  Finally, we never solve the problem for the 20%, because we cannot build enough housing at one time to end long term homelessness.  So, we help a few people, but even the problem with the long term homeless is not "solved."  It is only reduced in the community. There are plenty of other homeless people who replace those placed in PSH buildings.

This is similar to a hurricane hitting Ft. Lauderdale and destroying 50,000 homes, and the HUD Secretary steps out to say, "Don't worry, we got this. We plan to build 3,000 homes to solve this problem by 2020."  People would laugh him out of the room.  They would say that the population would move or be dead by 2020.  They would demand immediate action to solve the problem of homelessness for the 50,000 who lost their housing.  This is why there is this disconnect at the local level.  HUD officials are prescribing a cure for an illness that has nothing to do with what is going on in the community that we live in. 

Officials Want DC Family Shelter to Close.  We talked about the horrible family shelter in Washington DC.  Human Service workers in DC are trying to close the former DC General Hospital and replace it with a better facility.  The article does not mention any timeline or source of funding to replace all these units.  There is a goal of one-to-one replacement of the beds of DC General, but it is going to cost millions to provide for all these families.

On October 22, Vice media took a look at the inability to speak about homelessness in the United States. Peter Brown Hoffmeister looked at how we talk about homelessness.  He does a really good job talking about all the hardships faced by homeless people.  I spent some time living outside with a few homeless people and was unaware of all the things that were a threat to a person without a place to go home to.  The dangers of getting wet, learning how to sleep with one eye open were big issues.  The Vice media has a really nice in depth article on all the things people facing a homeless person and all the things the general population does not understand.

The National Coalition for the Homeless Board Members look at the need for expanded housing voucher program.  In most cities there are years long wait.  In Cleveland, there were 64,000 people who tried to get a voucher when it was opened and only 10,000 people had their numbers drawn.  We will wait for seven years before the voucher list will re-open.  There are so many who cannot afford housing and need a little help.  They make minimum wage and cannot afford the rents even in a rather inexpensive housing market like Cleveland.

Tokyo has a record low number of homeless people despite being one of the most populous cities in the world.  They are actually solving homelessness, while we are only paper solving homelessness in the States.   We talk about slight reductions in homelessness, but when you look behind the numbers there are so many who are not counted but living in basements or garages.  There are families who never get counted because they are not visible.  There are so many kids who couch surf and don't counted.  We need to look at how Japan is dealing with affordable housing compared to the United States.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Interesting National Stories

It was not even a month ago that social service providers from Cleveland and around the United States were in New Orleans for the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference and now the City undermines its effort to build a trusting relationship with a raid on a large campsite. I guess City officials did not learn anything from the conference.  They did not give sufficient notice (2 days) and they did not have sufficient housing available to the 160 people sleeping outside.  In addition, they came with garbage trucks to throw away all the belongings.  The City officials called it a public health hazard ignoring the health concerns of the individuals with no where else to go.  Many suspect that this has more to do with the upcoming New Orleans Saints football season than it had to do with public safety.   Even the article from the Associated Press gave very little information about housing assistance offered to those sleeping under this bridge.  There are so many reasons why these guys are under a bridge including mental illness, sexually based offenses, debt issues or other reasons that prevent the individuals from signing a lease. 

There were two stories on NPR about the advancements made in San Antonio in how to better serve Mentally Ill individuals.  These three articles talk about the savings to the healthcare and law enforcement community by keeping mentally ill out of jails and emergency rooms.  They claim a $50 million dollar saving over the last five years through their efforts.  Jenny Gold talks about police officers trained to better deal with those with a mental illness.  We saw the negative outcomes in St. Louis this week with police firing on a knife wielding mentally ill man.  San Antonio seems to be taking a different approach.  There was also a story on the data gathered and used to provide better services to the mentally ill in San Antonio.  We do some training in Cleveland, but we are a long way from diverting mentally ill people from jail.  Cleveland police waste a ton of resources on arresting and processing and incarcerating mentally ill individuals.  Look at the long arrest record of Malissa Williams before her killing in November 2012 after that fateful police chase. 

The statistics offered by HUD on homelessness are flawed to the point of being useless. 

The Washington Post looked at levels of homelessness in the United States with this graphic.  Since it is nearly impossible to count homeless people living outside who are constantly moving around. This graphic can be better understand by showing the extent of shelters in the United States. We have advanced to the point that we do a good job counting homeless people living in shelter, and those numbers are solid statistics.  The problem is that if a City does not build or increase shelters or locks the door when they are full then they have no relationship to the number of homeless people.  So, California and New York put a great deal of money into housing and homelessness, while Louisiana and most of the Southern states contribute very little.  There are large numbers of homeless people sleeping outside in Florida because of the weather that do not get counted in this study.  Take this survey and graphic with a grain of salt and realize it is more a picture of the concentration of shelters in the United States.

Harriet McDonald of the Doe Fund wrote a commentary for the Huffington Post striking back against the National Alliance to End Homelessness push for more Permanent Supportive Housing. This is a battle that advocates lost about six years ago, and there are still a few out there who want to turn back the clock.  Cleveland has developed 570 units of housing under the "Housing First" model, and they are beautiful new housing for a fragile population.  Unfortunately, this is the only housing being developed in most communities so it is hard to criticize.  Ms. McDonald makes some very good points that there are losers in this race that are not being served because we have turned 80% of our resources toward long term, disabled homeless people.  We see family populations exploding and single unemployed people who cannot find any help.  We see that young people who stay with family and friends are not eligible for help. 

We have written often questioning the long term funding for these projects, the real savings realized by the community, and the fact that these buildings are being over-sold in the community.   But in the face of federal cuts to other mainstream housing programs and the prioritizing of HUD funds exclusively for PSH/Housing First projects, what choice do we have.  In the end, we tried exclusively emergency shelters that served a limited number of people and that did not work.  We tried transitional programs that screened out more people than they served and quickly evicted residents for falling off the wagon.  That did not work very well.  We did not fund supportive services at Public Housing, which caused huge issues for neighbors.  So, we are left with Permanent Supportive Housing as the latest trend.  It would be much better to have all these types of housing services available to the population, because everyone is different and everyone responds to different intervention techniques.  But we don't have enough money or political will to give multiple approaches a chance to work.  The NAEH types and the Housing First people won.  They had great publicity and pushed one sided research on the community.  They made big boasts that they could shut down shelters if Mayor's jumped on the band wagon with Housing First.  We get some nice buildings in our community that will demand 24 hours of supportive services for the next 30 years, and unless we build millions of units we are still going to need shelters. The next administration may feel that these PSH buildings are fads and will be onto something else, but right now Housing First is the only game in town.

One tough story from the Friday StoryCorps series on NPR about a family living in their car in the Seattle area.  This is an interview between a Mom and her teenage daughter struggling to survive after the collapse of housing market in the United States.  The father had been a part of the corrupt Countrywide group who contributed a great deal to destabilizing the housing market in America.  I wonder how families who were victims of the predatory lending of Countrywide heard this story?  It would have led to a lot of healing in our community if Angelo Mozilo and David Loeb of Countrywide were sentenced to one year of living in an automobile on the streets of any major city in America.  I think that many of these "Masters of the Universe" who's corrupt business practices led to the financial downturn, should have been made to experience the results of their banking procedures.  They should have been sentenced to having to live in abandoned properties or forced to try to sell houses squeezed between two abandoned properties.  They should have had to sleep on the streets or in shelters to talk to some of the victims of their greed. 

The interview was tough to hear about this teenager having to go to school everyday and return to a vehicle at night.  She tried to study and apply for college while consolidating her life into a tiny space.  The sleep deprivation, the inability to have a place for her stuff, and the stress on the family must be overwhelming.  It was a powerful story worth a listen.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

City Councilmembers Show Up For Teach In

Cleveland City Council members, Mamie Mitchell, Phyllis Cleveland, and Zach Reed attended the Teach In last night to focus on Permanent Supportive Housing and Outreach Services.  We had Peter from the Community West Foundation and Valeria from the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cleveland attend the event.  It was a nice event with our gracious host Gerald, the Property Manager of Greenbridge Apartments. 

We heard from a couple of residents of the buildings who spent years living on the streets of Cleveland.  A few men and a woman talked about being "rescued" from living outside and the outreach workers saving their lives.  One gentleman who now lives on the west side in one of these brand new beautiful Permanent Supportive Housing Projects talked about it being time to come inside.  He was so thankful for meeting Jim Schlecht to help him relocate to his own apartment building.

Paul, one of the volunteers, included a touching note from a guy who lived in a hole in a wall in the folder for each participant who was so thankful for all the work in trying to get him into housing.  We may publish this in an upcoming issue of the Street Chronicle.  Paul talked about the mental illness and fragile people he sees outside. We got to hear from three professionals working on building trusting relationships with homeless people including, Toni Johnson, Steven Campisi and Jim Schlecht.  Thanks to EDEN Inc. and Frontline Service for help in setting this up and presenting at the forum last week.  Thanks to Elaine and Christine for offering the space and talking abou the history of these fantastic buildings. 

With federal sequestration over the last two years, we are losing funds for homelessness and housing in Cleveland.  Federal cut backs are potentially costing us outreach staff and state cutbacks will mean that we will not have a ribbon cutting in 2016 of a new Permanent Supportive Housing project.  This will break an eight year streak of opening brand new buildings.   The purpose of this event was to highlight to the community the great partnership among the many groups.  From the Department of Veterans Affairs and Care Alliance finding people on the streets to Frontline Services and EDEN moving people into apartments, it is a nice system that is working for 570 people in Cleveland.  We need the local community to step up to support these programs to make up for the loss of federal funds.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry. 

Housing, Income, Health Care and Myths

Nice article in the Huffington Post about spending time as a homeless guy.  The guy was a Navy vet and claimed that the month he spent as a homeless guy was the toughest thing he ever did in his life.  This is a short article on some of his experiences.

There was also a good article about the need for diversity in housing to address the affordable housing crisis.  This talked about the many different funding sources necessary to put together affordable housing. This comes out of Seattle from a developer and legislator who is pushing for expanded rights to tenants and a comprehensive plan to build affordable housing or at least to use the resources that they have in a more strategic manner in Seattle.  We have called for a similar plan in Cleveland

Akron has gotten into the Permanent Supportive Housing Market. Congrats. Cleveland has about 560 units with plans for one more next year.   We just completed our Teach In to showcase how beautiful these places are locally.  We will post more on this in the next week.  There was community opposition, but one local developer in Akron really pushed the proposal forward.

Washington Post highlighted the number of states with lower minimum wage laws when compared to the Federal minimum wage.  This is part of the income inequality debate that is increasing at this time. 

This is a sad commentary that I have seen before.  The reality is that time spent homeless does decrease the lifespan of the individual. 

Dr. Kelly Doran, an emergency room physician, sums it up pointedly: "chronically ill, chronically homeless patients who we see so frequently...are likely to be dead within a few years if we do not do something to change their situations."

It is for this reason on none other that we need to overcome community opposition to affordable housing.  We need to save someone's life, and recognize that homelessness is a health care issue.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

From the Streets to Permanent Supportive Housing...

        It is a rare occasion when we are able to converse freely with formerly homeless persons about living on the streets of Cleveland. It is an even rarer occasion when they are able to publicly broadcast their individual stories and teach others of the importance of housing. This is why YOU ARE INVITED to attend the Permanent Supportive Housing and Homeless Outreach Teach In on August 7, 2014 at 6 p.m.  A diverse and energetic panel consisting of both homeless persons and outreach workers will present fresh and unique perspectives on the journey out of homelessness. There will also be a lively discussion, a tour of one of the apartments, and refreshments available. This is your chance to truly understand homelessness and build relationships with those living outside.

         This presentation is for Cleveland City Council and County Council members as well as staff of the Alcohol and Drug and Mental Health Board of Cleveland.  Media and other members of the public are also invited.  RSVP BY CALLING 216/432-0540. This event is co-sponsored by Frontline Service and EDEN Inc.

COME JOIN US!

Thursday August 7th at 6:00 PM to 8:30 p.m.

Greenbridge Commons

East 75th St and Euclid Ave.

We just ask that you RSVP.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Cognitive Dissidence At Alliance Conference

I did not attend the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference, but could not help but be overwhelmed with Tweets from the Conference.  I have only attended one NAEH conference and did not find it very helpful because of the cognitive dissidence between the national group and what is happening in the field with real homeless people.  The government response to homelessness is championed as "progressive and based on science" while I find that they are responsive to a problem as it looked 20 years ago and then it takes another five years to pivot to respond to current issues.  Researchers with a business interest in steering cities toward their way of thinking gave us PowerPoint presentations on putting resources into their method of solving homelessness.   Then when I got home, I looked around and saw that the majority of homeless people who need help are not disabled, have not been homeless for a long period of time and just don't have enough money to afford rent.   Then the big social service providers are talking about chasing the dollars and outcomes and have lost sight of the humanity and reason that they were in existence.   The decisions made at these conferences seem to just transfer limited resources from one fragile population to another population declared the flavor of the month (youth or veterans or disabled, etc.).

Here are some examples of what I mean from the flow of tweets this week...

Secretary Castro pledges his commitment to HUD's work to end homelessness at the conference

Has a HUD Secretary ever said to a crowd, "I pledge that I will not be working to end homelessness?" or "Things are so bad in Washington that we will see an increase in homelessness over the next five years?"  Or "We hope that we can keep treading water and we hope that the number of people who die while sleeping on the streets will be kept to a minimum."

. at said investing in makes moral & fiscal sense. He's said this before.

That is a true statement, and no one can disagree that brand new beautiful apartments will not help a community.  What about the increase in family homelessnessss (who do not qualify for PSH) and what about the emergency services that are cut because we are slicing the pie even thinner?  80% of our money locally now goes to PSH, but we do not have 80% more money then we had five years ago. In fact, we have about 20% fewer dollars then we have five years ago. I find it interesting that Rich Trickel at the City Mission was talking about the huge numbers he is seeing while national advocates were proclaiming victories about lower veteran's homelessness and reducing long term homelessness.

66 women and children requested shelter yesterday - unfortunately there was no room. Overwhelmed by :

  Struggling to reconcile pronouncements of ending with the crushing numbers of families. ’taddup

We have these pronouncements (expressed in tweets) about requiring change in the system in order to solve homelessness:

: we must create systems change around now, or we could be back here in 10 years.

The promise of rapid re-housing to end must be linked to increasing family incomes to sustain housing over time.

We often increase homelessness by inviting people into the system when they really needed diversion from the system.

In Cleveland, we have 22 families sleeping in a church basement nearly every night because we do not have enough space in our shelters.  It does not seem that system change, rapid rehousing or diverting people has done much to change this dynamic locally.  We have dramatically changed the system with "coordinated intake" and yet we have the largest number of families in our community that I have ever seen.  We have rapid re-housing for families which does a great job in keeping the amount of time a person spends in shelter down, but it does nothing to reduce the numbers.  There are five people waiting for help for every person we can offer a bed to in our community.   And Cuyahoga County has set up a diversion program which "diverts" between 20 to 30% of the population.  This only puts off the inevitable.  We are not solving their issues, but delaying them asking for a bed. 

. Great partnering with you on Combating Criminalization of Homelessness at ! Resource to share:

I am glad this was mentioned at the conference because this is a huge issue in America where cities are hiding homeless people by making it illegal to be visible.  But just because there is a discussion does not mean we are doing anything about it.  When is the federal government going to get tough on these cities and say, "Look, we give you millions to solve homelessness.  If you don't stop passing laws and repeal all the laws you have passed directed at homeless people, we are going to convert all your homeless money into housing vouchers.  And another thing, stop having police arrest homeless people for disorderly conduct, because a city that does not provide housing is by definition a conduct that is disorderly.  It does not help to ticket or jail a guy sleeping outside, so stop it."

We CAN end youth homelessness by 2020.

Diversion is not a "NO" it's a "how can we help you from becoming homeless". Best for client, best for homeless system.

Ending Family Homelessness does not require more shelters. One of my Fav Slides from

Ending homelessness is not anti shelter if shelter is doing what it's supposed 2 be doing as a process not a destination

Nan Roman : We don't just believe we can end , we know we can end homelessness, & we know how to do it.

Excellent. Now prove it.  Stop the flow of homeless people coming from jails.  Stop pitting one population such as veterans against other populations such as the unemployed for limited dollars. Start counting youth who couch surf among the homeless population.  Start using the Dept. of Education definition of homelessness.  Stop using bogus counts as proof of anything except that we can get volunteers to do anything we ask.  Stop complicating our job at the local level with campaigns that do not in fact "end homelessness."  A goal of 100,000 homes was reached earlier this year and at least in Cleveland we still have the same number showing up at shelter and the similar numbers of abandoned and vacant housing. The reason: 560 new housing units of PSH do not shut down one shelter bed locally.  If you want to close down shelters build 5,600 housing units locally.  Everything else only replaces units that are taken off line because they have reached their natural lifespan.  How about ending homelessness for everyone in a timely manner not one group at a time?  This only makes other non-preferential groups homeless for longer and longer periods of time.   By the way, if we keep championing reductions of 2% or 4% in a year for one group, we lose sight of the real goal.  We will never get to the point of declaring victory by championing these small decreases in one population. 

: is the epitome of a dedicated & effective public servant. Her commitment to ending is absolute

Honoring for her amazing work at @usichomelessness. THANK YOU, BARB!

B. Poppe: the goal is a world in which family homelessness is a rare and brief occurrence and no family is w/out shelter

I like Barb Poppe and Nan and all the gang, but what is the big picture here?  Is the United States better off for homeless people than it was 40 years ago?   When I started 18 years ago there were 6,000 people in Cleveland experiencing homelessness and about 3,500 using the shelters.  Now there are 22,000 people and 9,000 people using the shelters every year.  NEOCH was created because of the rise in family homelessness, but no where near the numbers we are seeing over the last three years.  We have displaced so many people, incomes are stagnant and there are way fewer entry level jobs that can support a family then there were 30 years ago.  We have millions more people receiving a disability check, but they cannot afford the rent.  So, I am not sure it is time to pat anyone on the back for contributing much to homelessness. At this time, I see nothing going on to address family homelessness in America.  I see things getting worse for families with cuts to food stamps, unemployment compensation, and housing programs.  No one should be celebrating.

Bottom line most of our Veterans do not need Transitional Housing programs to succeed. "Housing First" just works better.

Very few families need Transitional Housing to solve their homelessness in SLC.

This is why social service types should not become involved in collecting statistics. These graphs do not show this conclusion.  The transitional programs are not sitting empty in our community.  They may not be serving our highest need population or they may take too long to help, but none of the data shows which program a veteran or family may need.  Here is the way to look at this issue.  Cuyahoga County has 1.35 million people and 230,000 living in poverty.  We have about 350 transitional beds in our community.  No one can say that there are not 350 people of the 230,000 living below the poverty level in our community who "need" two years of case management support to get back on their feet.  These sweeping generalizations that are based on nothing but opinion undermine confidence in these speakers.  It may be too expensive or too long to provide help, but there is a need for housing units in our community and we should have a diversity of beds. The vet sleeping near the Willard Park garage would have a different opinion about his need for a transitional shelter bed then most of the speakers at the NAEH conference.

Nan Roman of "Be honest about limitations. Don't fear data. Use data strategically".

Nan Roman: is a symptom of larger economic forces. Our work is only beginning.

Nan Roman: (Point in Time) PITCount estimates aren't just a count of beds. Beds went up while family homelessness went down

Is this a job creation program for homeless social services for the next 50 years or do we want to end homelessness?  Every advocate I talk to says family homelessness is going up (Cleveland, Atlanta, New York, Washington DC, Minnesota) and yet many at the national level are saying there is a decrease. By the way, if you do not have guaranteed access to shelter how can any count be trusted?  If you say to a family that there is not space in the shelter so go stay with your Mom, in their mind they are still homeless, but by HUD standards they are not.   Counting homeless people is a flawed exercise that is not based on any science.  It is not real data that has any usefulness for community planning or developing an emergency response to homelessness.  We have seen 45 years of increases, how can we be at the beginning?   It diminishes the work of the Housing NOW march and the McKinney Vento legislation and the Runaway youth effort and all the other work that has been done to say we are at the beginning.   But if we are looking at "larger economic forces" then why was there no discussion on an increase in disability payments or giving the nation a pay increase with improvements in minimum wage?  Why no discussion about debt specifically student loan debt that moves people to bankruptcy and homelessness? What about sanctioning cities for making it illegal to be homeless?  Why not forcing cities to provide housing to every one of its citizens?  Why not designing mandatory mentoring programs with city employees who get compensated for keeping people out of homelessness?  How about outlawing any discharge to a shelter?  There are so many big picture items that would actually have an impact on ending homelessness that no one is talking about.  Instead we focus on managing the crisis and counting the number of people we help out of the river after their family has dissolved and they have nearly drowned.  Pushing paper better in our community will not end homelessness.

Fascinating juxtaposition of talks: lamenting in-the-box thinking, and current speaker is celebrating bureaucracy.

Not spending one more dollar on case management and just investing in assertive engagement in Multnomah County? Horrible idea.

Heartfelt gratitude and respect for and working to end homelessness against all odds & sneers.

Every Rescue Mission must have a long term housing strategy

Your county can afford to keep in hospital for 3k a day but can't afford rent for 1k a month? -Mitchell Katz

Can't think of 1 thing in 312 days on the road ending homelessness last year supporting abandoning case mgmt 4 assertive engagement

Phoenix, AZ reached functionally zero chronically homeless. This is attainable in Erie County, NY too.

So many different strategies and so many different theories.  By the way, since the VA crisis of fake data started in Phoenix did anyone question their data on long term homeless?  Just reading the stream of tweets from the National Alliance conference is depressing and makes me want to raise the white flag  to surrender to those who say we have lost the war on poverty.  Most people in America believe that we will always have homeless people and listening to these "national experts" in New Orleans makes it seem more likely.  I got into this with the desire and feeling that America could end homelessness quickly if we just had the political will.  If you listen to these "national experts" you may be inspired that you can help a percentage of the population, but not in ending homelessness in America. If there are a million homeless people in America why set a goal for building 100,000 homes?  It makes no sense.

We are so far off course in how we address real people's problems.  We are so misguided in how we approach addiction, mental health, forgiveness, and housing from the national level.  Most of what gets said is to justify poor decisions and a lack of resources.   We seem to be developing an entire science for justifying homelessness in America.  There is no inspiration or immediacy from the group. The further we get away from the generation who won a world war, placed a man on the moon and ended an intractable war in Vietnam, the less confidence we seem to have that we can accomplish big goals. We now set goals for managing a problem instead of setting goals for quickly ending a problem.  We know how to end homelessness and it is not through data, diversion, counts or thinking small.   We need more affordable housing, more income for the population, enforcement of civil rights, and universal access to health care including behavioral health. If we focused on these four areas there would not be homelessness.  Civil rights include the right to a quality education for every student and the right to live inside in a safe environment.

 "Ending vet. homelessness isn't just something we should strive to achieve, it’s something we can do."

"The fact that right now our country has more than 58,000 homeless veterans...is a stain on the soul of this nation." -

: If we end homelessness for our veterans, we'll show we can finish the job for everyone experiencing homelessness

"As a nation, we've reduced veteran homelessness by 24% over three years & under this Administration." -

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, graciously attended the conference and spoke to the group. She said that we had reduced veteran's homelessness by 24%.  After the scandal that cost the VA Secretary his job, can we trust any of the figures that they are giving us?  But even if we do accept the stats, we only have until 2015 to house the other 75% to meet the President's goal--the glass is three fourths empty.  From the twitter feed, it seems that she focused her thoughts on ending veteran's homelessness in America.  I do not understand this concept.  We did not set a goal of ending polio among seniors.  We focused on eradicating polio for all.  We do not try to immunize all African American kids--we went after all kids.  We did not set up a highway system in Republican states or try to provide equal access to voting or government for one minority group.  The goal was not to eliminate child labor in the North or set up a social security safety net for disable seniors.  We do not solve problems in America piecemeal.  When did this work where we take on a huge issue in our society and address it with one population at a time.  If we do in fact end veteran's homelessness in 2015 and we have been working on the problem for 45 years, can we set a goal of 2275 for an end to family homelessness next?  

Maybe it was just getting a flood of 140 characters of information instead of hearing complete speeches, but it was a depressing week with NAEH14.  We are far away from ending homelessness in America.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

August 7 Teach In

We are planning an event to highlight the amazing work of the outreach teams.  We want to show off the amazing Permanent Supportive Housing Programs in Cleveland and the impact they have on people's lives.  We will hear from a couple of residents and then have the ability to go see where these guys came from by visiting their former campsites. We would welcome that you join us.  We just ask that you RSVP to attend.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

A Well Respected Man: Bill Resseger

       He is nothing like the Kinks' song except for the title.  Bill Resseger is retiring this summer from his decades of service to the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development.  He has a wealth of knowledge that the City is unfortunately losing.   He knows everything about the funding of homeless services and the development of housing.  He knows how to assure that the City gets its fair share of State and Federal dollars to preserve and expand affordable housing.  Resseger has an even temperament and was a calming presence even when the neighborhoods were being robbed by predatory lenders and financial services industry.   Resseger served six mayors from the low key Ralph Perk to the explosive Michael White and finally the former tenant organizer, Frank Jackson.  
        He knows government regulations and how to get funds into Cleveland.  He is an expert on funding of homeless services, and has a long history for what would work and what will not work.  We recognized his years of service at the CAHA meeting yesterday.  Bill Resseger was part of the founding of Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meetings to preserve affordable housing locally back in 1998.   This was a time when there was a huge threat to affordable housing with the loss of thousands of subsidized housing units.  In the late 1990s, Community Development was more about bailing water from a sinking ship than it had to do with developing anything.  Resseger was not the guy running around screaming that "Rome was burning."  He was not the guy who organized town hall meetings or criticizing stupid decisions by government.  Resseger was the guy who showed up every day and did his job. 
       He knew how to cut through red tape and understood bureaucratic written instructions to complete a grant application. He learned how to go from paper applications back in 1974 to the all electronic world of 2014.  He knew how to satisfy the federal beast which was always requesting more and more information.  He was good at cleaning up messes and implementing the goals of six different administrations in community development. He probably saved the City millions in fines and settlements that plague other cities efforts to spend federal development dollars. He knew his job.  He knew the social service system and the people he served: taxpayers.
      He was not the speech maker or the General who put together a strategy for moving a neighborhood forward.  He performed the essential job of keeping the wheels of government working.  Bill Resseger quietly told politicians that their grand magic bullet plan for saving the city was not workable, was corrupt, was stupid or all of the above in the most subtle and understated way possible.  He could translate vision into paperwork, and often did.  We saw this when he worked to transform a strip club/prostitute motel into a transitional housing shelter.  The barely clothed female dancers were told that they would be out of a job on the day that the Mayor was showing up to do the ribbon cutting on the new shelter, which made for an awkward afternoon for community development. 
        He did not always agree with us, but he was always honest.  If Bill took no position on an issue, we knew that the City would most likely not take a position.  I wish he would have been more adventurous, but Lakeside Ave. is littered with the carcasses of adventurous public employees.  We always got a fair hearing with Bill Resseger and the tax payers of Cleveland were well served by his long career.  He championed the City of Cleveland and always defended their interests at the table.  I never heard him complain about bad bosses or terrible elected office holders either in the executive or legislative branch.  He did every job he was asked to do.  He was a shining example of public service in a time when government service is often criticized or scorned. 
        We have a much improved shelter system in Cleveland.  We do not turn people away at the shelter door, which Bill can certainly take partial credit for along with Ruth Gillett.  We have some beautifully renovated subsidized buildings in the City and we did not have the wholesale loss of housing that we saw in Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit and Chicago.  We have robust Permanent Supportive Housing and senior housing developments, which seems to be the only game in town for developing housing in America.  We have the innovative lease to purchase program operated by Cleveland Housing Network and a Public Housing program that did not wither away because of a lack of federal support.  We do not have the incredible number of people sleeping on the streets as we see in Washington, San Francisco or Detroit, and we have some neighborhoods on the rebound locally.  Thanks Bill for showing up and serving the citizens of Cleveland. 
___
Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
__
PS: If you have any questions about how much of a behind the scene guy Bill Resseger is, try to find a picture of him.  Go ahead...in this age of Facebook and photographs of everything on the internet...try an image search for Bill.  It does not exist.  He has been sitting at his desk filling out paperwork while the rest of us have been posting selfies and updating our profiles. 

Permanent Supportive Housing Featured on WCPN

Solution: Permanent Supportive Housing

David C. Barnett had a nice story on WCPN yesterday regarding the new permanent supportive housing projects.  We appreciated hearing from a resident "Joan" who lived at one of the apartments.  We know many people who have been on the streets for years living in these properties.   We have a former vendor who has a huge issue with alcohol living in the Broadway neighborhood.   His former residence was a tent next to the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. 

We have 560 units now in Cleveland spread out throughout the community.  These buildings are turning desolate and deserted corners of town into vibrant neighborhoods.   These apartments are great for a group of people in our community who need the help.   The staff go out of their way to keep evictions down and work with the men and women.  This is part of the 100,000 units campaign featured on 60 Minutes over the weekend.   We have a friend of the Coalition who slept in a box car over near 2100 Lakeside Shelter for years.  He would come to our meeting and rail against the shelters and services.  He complained about staff mistreatment and stupid rules that the shelters implemented.  He got into one of the first housing units and took his loud voice to establishing a tenant council in the building.  He has prospered over in the building and seems to be doing well.   It was exactly what he needed. 

These are all beautiful buildings and in Cleveland we have opted for new construction for most of the Permanent Supportive Housing.   They are great places to live and wonderful examples of what we can do as a society to improve the lives of homeless people.  We should be proud that we have done a great job in targeting these units to the people who have been on the street the longest.  It should be obvious, but Irene Collins' words are exactly on target,

"It’s much less expensive than having someone out on the streets where any doctor appointment would be at the emergency room, or checked into a psych rehab hospital, which is very, very costly.  The cost of keeping someone in a shelter is a whole lot more than the cost of keeping someone in some kind of permanent housing situation where they are a lot more stable."

My concern is that these units are being over sold.  They will not end homelessness.  They are not a silver bullet, and I am not sure it is good idea to exclude so many who could benefit from these services.  There are many large families that are going to cost the community millions of dollars if they spend a long period of time homeless, but the PSH programs are reserved for single adults at this time.   They will not even replace one shelter bed in Cleveland.   We have as society neglected affordable housing for 30 years so the 560 units will not have much of an impact on homelessness.  We have lost 10,000 units locally from neglect and properties falling down from age.  We need to develop 1,000 units a year for the next 10 years and we could start closing the shelters.  Remember when they opened the CMHA Housing Voucher waiting list in 2011, 64,000 unduplicated people tried to get on the list in Cleveland. 

We also have to remember the high cost of the PSH units for the future.  We have to pay for the supportive services and the 24 hours of staff care provided for tenants in the building.   We need to pay most of the rent for these individuals for probably the rest of their lives.  They will most likely make somewhere between $0 per month to around $700 for disability assistance.  This means that 50-100% of the tenants rent will need to be picked up by the government for the rest of their life.   These are expensive for the community to operate and we do not have a dedicated revenue source for the rent and support services. 

Finally, there are those who keep saying that these projects save the community money.  This is true, but it does not save the shelters any money.  It saves law enforcement, health care providers, mental health community, and hunger programs money.   It is much cheaper to house 400 people in a dorm room with a few staff to watch them when compared to the maintenance and case management for an apartment building.  Walls and privacy adds costs to any project.   The problem is that the hospitals, jails and mental health agencies are not going to take the savings and turn it over to the homeless programs.  They are going to spend the savings of the 570 people currently in the PSH on other poor people.  MetroHealth is not going to reward 2100 Lakeside shelter with the $50,000 they saved on our friend who lived in the box car from his frequent trips to the emergency room every year.  They are going to spend it on the other 100,000 poor people they see every year. 

Housing First is a great concept with some wonderful properties, but there are plenty of families, veterans, young people who could benefit from being in these units but do not qualify.  Even though families are the fastest growing population in the community, they do not typically qualify for these beautiful apartments. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.