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

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Response to Hateful Letter to the Editor

This letter that I penned was never published in the Plain Dealer, but the original letter should be corrected with facts and in my opinion should have never been published because it is hate speech.  There is a link to the original letter, but I would avoid reading it if you have high blood pressure.

Dear Plain Dealer Editor:

I was surprised to read the letter from Carmen Melillo Sr. in the Plain Dealer on September 6, because I was unaware that editorial policy had changed to allow grossly inaccurate and stereotypical information to be published without any clarification.  I have never understood why a paper allows anonymous hateful and incorrect comments on their electronic platform, but did not realize that the paper had decided to allow blatantly false claims in the letter’s section. 

Your letter writer seems to confuse the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program for all subsidized housing in the community since in all of Cleveland there are only 7,000 total vouchers being used and they are spread out all over the City.  They are not concentrated in one building or one area of town. Your own statistics published with the article on “social engineering by Stephen Koff shows that the large majority of CMHA clients are African American, and so your letter writer’s reference to “bad habits and culture” has to be seen as subtle forms of racism. 

There is no evidence that the majority of voucher holders in Cleveland were not born and raised in the community.  There is no evidence that those who need help with their rent are more violent or have a problem with addiction at a higher rate than other tenants.  Your letter writer seems angry with absentee landlords, but misdirects that anger at tenants who are just trying to find housing for their family as they struggle to find a better job.  Nearly everything in this letter was incorrect and full of hate.  The Housing Choice Voucher program and voucher holders should not be libeled in this way and the readers deserve opinion pieces based on some actual facts. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.