Norman Wolfe Passes Away Suddenly

The basis for all that we do at NEOCH is forgiveness.  In the United States, we do not value forgiveness and we punish some people for life.  Typically, those who cannot afford legal representation, people of color and the disabled repeatedly face barriers because of past mistakes.  In addition, we put such a stigma on people who become homeless, those with a disability, and re-entry folks that it is like they are walking around with a scarlet letter.  

Norman Wolfe was a quiet man who overcame a lot of these barriers in life. He made big mistakes in his past and he paid dearly.  He served the United States in the Navy, and fell all the way to the men's shelter in Cleveland.  I met Norman because he filed a grievance against mistreatment that he was receiving at a veteran's only bed at the shelter.  He was so angry over how the grievance process failed at the shelter that he kept pushing for the development of a Resident Council at the shelter.  Even after he was able to secure housing, he would attend the Resident Council meetings, take notes and push the shelter staff to respond. 

Norman was a regular at the Homeless Congress meetings and represented other homeless people on the NEOCH Board.  In 2015 and 2016, he was volunteering for Organize Ohio and the state budget folks called NOBLE.  Norman was the Master of Ceremony for an all day discussion of the NOBLE advocates in preparation for the 2015 state budget struggles.  He also helped organize the End Poverty Rally and March on the first day of the Republican Convention in July of 2016.   Norman was elected to the County Office of Homeless Services advisory board.  He walked with a cane, but many other homeless people leaned on him to protect their rights.  

NEOCH gave him the Advocate of the Year award in 2014 and wrote up an overview of his accomplishments here.  Norman was so helpful working to try to reform the shelter rules and regulations locally because he had experience with how these rules play out at midnight.  He was able to get in writing that shelters should not discharge people into the night for non-criminal activity. This reduced the number of times women would miss meals at the Community Women's shelter because they were in "time-out."   He visited Columbus to push for a fair state budget for those working to re-enter society and those struggling with their housing, and he helped push for reform of the women's shelter. 

Two pieces of unfinished business that Norman was passionate about in Cleveland that we hope someone will take up the struggle.  We were never able to get a fair grievance process locally within the shelters and social services.  Norman came to the Coalition originally because he could not find justice with regard to the mistreatment he received from VA staff working at the big shelter.  He always wanted to see an impartial third party grievance process started, but we never were able to get this accomplished. 

He also tried to convince the shelter that veterans in the shelter should not have non-vets come into their community at the big shelter to use a veteran's bed at night if the veteran is out for the night on a pass.  The problem is that the County requires every bed in the big shelter be full every night or they will not pay for overflow, so some of the beds are used multiply times a night with a change of sheets.  Guys go out to work at midnight or don't come back until dawn and so the shelter has to navigate this difficult choreography to have every bed full every night.  Norman was pushing that since the Vet Community at 2100 Lakeside are paid through a per diem contract with the federal government and not County funds and that vets are allowed to be away from the shelter for 48 hours and still maintain the bed, they should not have drunk guys or severely mentally ill filling a bed when they are away.  The problem is typically these one-night overflow guests are disruptive and can send a guy working on his sobriety over the edge.  Norman could never convince the shelter to keep the Veteran's community independent and free from outside destabilizing individuals.

Norman will be missed by many members of the Homeless Congress and his quiet voice will be silenced at the County Office of Homeless Services advisory. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Post Script: Norman Wolfe's family has finalized his funeral arrangements & his obituary will be published soon. The viewing will be held at 12:30pm on Wednesday, August 16, followed by a funeral service at 1pm at Pernel Jones & Sons Funeral Home located at 7120 Cedar Avenue, Cleveland 44103. Norman will have a military burial at on Thursday, August 17 at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

Cleveland is a Welcoming Community

If you are looking for an alternative to the Inauguration, here is an idea.  You can volunteer with us.  You can bring food or placemats or centerpieces.  You can contribute gift cards or other raffle items.  You can sign up to perform at this event.  You can just attend to break bread with our friends.  The contact information is at the bottom of the flyer.  NEOCH will be closed on Friday so our staff can go out and volunteer. 

Here is a flyer that you can use to send around.

Brian Davis

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County is Too Big for the Part Time County Council?

We did get a response from one of the Councilpersons about the flyers we have sent out. This Councilperson told us that the Council had appointed Councilwoman Conwell to focus on homelessness. It is interesting take on the issue of homelessness that the County Council has divided up the work among the 11 members.  According to this elected official, since the County Council members are part time members they don't have time for all the problems facing the County.  They have assigned Councilwoman Conwell to homelessness and she reports to the other 10.  I asked if we could get a re-vote on this issue since Ms. Conwell previously worked in a shelter and seems to have a dim impression of homeless people.  Also, since homelessness touches every single other issue it does not seem like a good division of resources. 

We have re-entry folks struggling with homelessness, we have victims of abuse, rape and violence who fall into homelessness.  We have families that cannot find childcare or health care and fall into homelessness.  We have developmentally disabled who are too old to receive assistance from their parents or foster care kids graduating to homelessness.  We have pregnant women who are not able to provide a healthy environment for their children.  We have 50,000 who felt that they needed help with housing and we have no where for homeless people to recover after an illness.  All these problems involve homeless people but they also overlap with welfare, senior and adult services, MetroHealth, Re-entry, fostercare, criminal justice, housing, development, jobs, etc.   Homelessness is a problem that every Councilman and Councilwoman need to be involved in solving.  Homeless people are the canary in the coal mine and when they show up asking for help we know that the safety net has failed. 

The County has taken the lead on funding the shelters and deciding how to spend $34 million in public money so every Councilman needs to be involved.  Every Council person should know the level of misery they are subjecting females without housing to every day.  They should know how their budgetary decisions have an impact on the streets.  They should know that their agents are turning people away from shelter through a trick known as "diversion" or that it is really really hard to get shelter on the weekend.  They should all know that their decision to remove 82 beds will make men's overflow necessary on more nights in the 2016-17 winter.  They should all realize that without a men's or women's shelter for the severely mentally ill more people will sleep outside. 

Ms. Conwell is a very nice woman who has a special place in her heart for the cute homeless kids in our community, but she should not be the only Council person educated about homelessness.  There are homeless people from Dave Greenspan's Fairview Park or Rocky River and his suburbs.  There are homeless families from Parma and Chuck Germana's District, and Sunny Simon should be aware that Mom's who flee their house in Beachwood because of violence have to go to the women's shelter on Payne Ave. because we have no other place to go with an available bed.  There are no shelters in suburbs so people who have problems with government failing them will end up in Cleveland looking for help.  They call me all week and can't believe that there is no safety net for common problems and that the only response is go to an unsafe and overcrowded shelter downtown.

This is not what we voted for when we voted down the County Commissioners form of government and the scandals.  We wanted all 11 Councilmembers to know about all the problems facing their district and not one-eleventh of the problem.  We want change, and in my opinion we have not seen any changes.  I cannot think of one thing that the County Council can claim in the last six years except creating nicer offices and a nice place to meet for the senior staff of Cuyahoga County.  Please tell me one thing that the Council has done to improve the lives of poor people in the biggest County in Ohio?  If the Council has in fact adopted this division then Ms. Conwell should be at our Homeless Congress every month and regularly meeting with homeless people.  She should not be having secret meetings without residents of the shelter if she wants to get a real picture of homelessness.  Please tell me in the comments section what you think of the Council and if you have seen anything from them in six years?

Brian Davis

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Have You Seen These Elected Officials?

 

The County takes the lead in providing services to homeless people, and the Homeless Congress has been trying to schedule meetings for a year with no response. Councilwoman Conwell came to a meeting in March 2014 then scheduled a secret meeting with shelter directors without homeless people present.  We have huge issues that we need to talk about.  The current County strategy is not working and more people are showing up asking for help.  We need to hear from our elected officials about homelessness.  Joe Pagonakis of WEWS confronted the Council about the overcrowded conditions at the Women's Shelter and we still have not seen a change.  In fact, the county is planning on putting 20 additional beds into the shelter despite the fact that there are 30 to 60 women who need a bed every night.  We need help ASAP!!  Tell your elected official to schedule a meeting with the Congress or come to their meeting!!

Brian Davis

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Open Letter from Homeless Congress to County Council

January 5, 2016

Dear County Councilperson:

What Happened to You????

We have not seen you or heard from you as one of the elected leaders of Cuyahoga County with regard to homelessness within the County.  We met with you in the past and heard that you would go back to work with your colleagues on some of the problems raised by homeless people and so far nothing has happened.   The County has taken the lead in the distribution of homeless funds locally, and so we have no where else to turn for help.  Loh (a resident of the shelters) along with others have been coming to the County meetings to talk about the sorry state of the Women’s Shelter and we have not seen many changes.  We have written and e-mailed you on multiple occasions and heard nothing.  We have called to invite you to the Homeless Congress meetings and we meet every month at the same time.  So far nothing.  We NEED COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIALS TO PROVIDE MORE GUIDANCE TO THE $34 MILLION WE SPEND ON HOMELESSNESS!!   We will come to your office to meet.  We will come over at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.  We can meet at one of the facilities you fund or you could pop in to the Women’s Shelter at 8 p.m. so you could see the level of human misery that you are funding. 

There are so many issues facing people experiencing homelessness locally that are not being addressed.

  1. Families are struggling to get shelter on the weekend because intake is not open.  They are told to come back on Monday.  Housing emergencies take place on the weekend as well!  We have seen a rise in families and our current strategy is not working. 
  2. The Community Women’s Shelter is full with 60 to 80 people over the bed capacity every night.   18 new beds added to the shelter does nothing to solve the overcrowding problem.  Why are we solving these issues with half measures?  We need to build additional capacity for single women or Mom’s trying to get clean while they struggle to reunite their family. 
  3. If you want to reduce the infant mortality rate, you could start with a shelter for pregnant women that we lost in 2014 with the closure of Continue Life.  How do we serve pregnant moms effectively if the only space available is to sleep on the floor of the kitchen at the extremely overcrowded shelter?
  4. Are we creating a problem in the near future by closing 82 beds of transitional shelter for men?  Will we regret this decision when the men’s shelter is overcrowded in 2017?  Can we guarantee that short term rental assistance is an effective alternative to a shelter bed?
  5. Will there be blood on the hands of the County if a woman is abused, seeks shelter, does not disclose abuse in her past and is “diverted” back to her abuser?   Should these interviews be done in front of children, and is there a way to encourage disclosure while still protecting her keeping custody of her children?
  6. Can the County reduce some of the barriers to maintaining childcare and assistance while a person transitions from shelter to housing and a job? 
  7. How do we serve the severely mentally ill in the shelters when they disturb the other residents and sometimes are violent and there is not trained personnel to help at 1 am?
  8. When is the County going to demand that the State pay for the housing of sexually based offenders who have no where to live because of the mandatory reporting laws passed by Ohio legislators? The shelters cannot afford to be the housing for sex offenders!!

The Homeless Congress meets on the Second Thursday of every month at 1:00 p.m. at the Cosgrove Center 1736 Superior Ave.  We have included a copy of the flyer for you to mark your calendars.  We also have a Missing Poster to try to creatively encourage you to attend one of our meetings.  We will take down the missing posters from the NEOCH website once we finally hear from you.  We have tried to schedule something for over a year with County Council members and not heard from anyone or the Council had a secret meeting and did not invite any homeless people.  Please call us and let us know if you will attend or if we can schedule a meeting with you.  There were 9,000 homeless people who used the shelters in 2015 and another 15,000 who met the Dept. of Education definition of homelessness who did not go to shelter.  They are your constituents and they need your help.  

Please call or e-mail to schedule a time to meet with the Congress!!

Sincerely,

Brian Davis

On behalf of the Homeless Congress

 

Volunteering to Serve Homeless People For Holidays

Originally appeared on our Facebook Page (Cleveland Homeless)

Will NEOCH be having any volunteer opportunities around Thanksgiving?

 

Yes, we always have volunteer activities available and we welcome your help. Our Thanksgiving volunteer activity is a homework assignment to raise the issue of homelessness with a local elected official. We hope that you will set aside some time while serving a meal, putting together hygiene kits for distribution, or donating clothing to the Cosgrove Center to do some advocacy to end homelessness in Cleveland. Ask a suburban councilperson what they are doing to address domestic violence in their community? If they say they refer them to the DV Center in Cleveland please inform them that is respectfully the wrong answer. We only have a small number of DV beds (40 compared to 90 in Akron). These beds are always full and many women have to flee to the horrible Women's shelter because of a lack of space. Tell him or her that the suburbs need a better response and hope that they do something better for their residents in 2016. Let us know about your Councilperson's response and we will publish them.

You could ask your County Council person why they have done nothing to help the county funded Community Women's Shelter on Payne Ave. You could ask them to visit at 9 p.m. to see all the people sleeping on the floor and the horrible conditions then implement the Homeless Congress recommendations about the women's shelter. You could ask them why the County Animal Shelter is better than the County Entry Women's Shelter.

You could reach out to County Executive Armond Budish to ask why the County is second guessing families and turning them away from family shelters in a Orwellian named policy of diversion. Ask him to meet with NEOCH to discuss these issues. You could ask him to implement a moratorium on diversions so that families do not resort to sleeping in their car or risk going back to an abuser because they are turned away from shelter. Let us know what he says.

You could call up United Way or local religious leaders and ask what they are doing to help with this huge rise in family homelessness in Cleveland? How are they helping to serve these kids who are scared because they see the fear on their parent's faces? Why do we not have a bed in the community for these families?

You could ask Cleveland officials why there is a tax to support the arts, but no specific tax to build affordable housing? There is no local housing trust fund, but money is raised for theaters, orchestras, and museums? There is plenty to do to fill the hunger needs of the population, but think how many people would benefit from working on a new family shelter or a fund to build affordable housing?
It seems like an overwhelming problem, but the community stepped up in the past when there was a need and you have to know that things are really bad right now for families. We encourage you to volunteer and dedicate time to clothing, food, and hygiene kits over the next month, but we need you to work on policy and advocacy at the same time. We have a volunteer section of our website that has other projects in the community you can work on, but we also have an advocacy section with issues we could use your help in solving.

Brian Davis

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Homeless Congress Members Working to Improve Women's Shelter

 How the Homeless Congress is trying to Improve the Community Women’s Shelter

  • NEOCH and Homeless Congress members filed 43 complaints over a one week period. We sent copies to the Cleveland Mediation Center and County Public Policy Committee.  The shelter gave a two sentence response to most of the complaints even those that were very long (3 pages).  Some complaints were never answered, and two women appealed but only one woman has been able to pursue her appeal. No one from the County or the Public Policy Committee asked to follow up on the grievances.
  • One vocal advocate living at the Women’s Shelter gave copies to the County Council and ADAMHS Board (both funders of the shelter).
  • This same vocal advocate and resident of the shelter regularly attends both Council and ADAMHS Board meetings and regularly provides public comment about the need for governmnet oversight.
  • Invited County Councilwoman, Yvonne Conwell, to the May 2015 Homeless Congress to hear complaints.  She attended and said that she would take the information back to her colleagues and ask Pernell Jones Jr to host Congress members at a hearing.  Never heard back.
  • Invited every County Council person to either attend one of the Congress meetings or ask that a couple of members of Congress to meet at their office.  Have not heard back from most of them.
  • There were a number of stories about the Women’s Shelter published in the Cleveland Street Chronicle newspaper this last month.
  • Invited CEO of the Alcohol and Drug Addictions and Mental Health Services Board to the June 2015 Homeless Congress.  He attended and promised to have a discussion with their board about a separate shelter for severely mentally ill and to join the women for dinner (unannounced) at the Women’s Shelter to see how things are going.  He is going in for back surgery so has not been able to do these activities.  We will continue to follow up.
  • The CEO of Frontline (Susan Neth) attended the last Office of Homeless Services County meeting on 7/8 and said that they are aware of the issues and in response they have done the following:
  1. Cleveland Mediation Center is facilitating “Listening Circles” and then bringing the information collected to the shelter directors.
  2. Moved the suggestion box to a more secure location out of the hands of on-site staff.
  3. CMC is providing customer service training to the staff.
  4. EDEN (owner of the building) has been made aware of the facility problems and is working on raising the money for making improvements.
  5. There are on-going discussions and she will update the group about progress.
  • This female advocate and resident of the shelter has asked for some improvements to the shelter as part of her grievance appeal and she gave those in writing to the shelter staff in June. There will be a follow up meeting later this month to discuss these.  Her suggestions were:
  1. She identified problems with staff and gave praise to another group of staff.
  2. She wants a better process to protect people’s safety.
  3. More cameras and use of that video to determine if staff are acting professionally.
  4. Assignment of a client rights officer to be able to gather video and release it to City Prosecutor if there is violence so that residents can file orders of protection.
  5. Specific rules for volunteering at the shelter and no punishments for those who volunteer and keep the shelter clean or save the shelter money.
  6. Residents of the shelter should elect two other residents to sit in on complaints about staff to represent the interest of the residents.  There should also be feedback to the residents that a complaint was heard and action was taken so it is worth completing a grievance.
  7. An independent resident council should be established that will not lead to retaliation or favoritism of residents that attend the meeting and will have written notes with a response from the shelter.
  8. If complaints are filed regarding staff behavior the residents should know that the shelter senior staff responded and an action (not specific) was taken.
  9. Senior staff should host a meeting of the residents at 1744 Payne to hear all the client grievances specific to staff without fear of retaliation.
  10. The grievance procedure needs to be changed to be more timely, transparent, and should have some results that make it worth completing a complaint.
  11. The shelter does not seem to be following the 2014 grievance procedure that the County mandated especially with regard to discharges.  That needs to be corrected.

We are working regularly on the issue, but have all this activity made any improvements in the shelter?  Many of the residents expressed concern that the shelter has not made many changes at the July Homeless Congress meeting since they started putting pressure in March of 2015. 

Brian Davis

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Update on the Housing Trust Fund

Good Afternoon Advocates!

The outpouring of support for saving the Trust Fund has been phenomenal! We are getting reports of hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails going out to dozens of members of the General Assembly. Teams of people have been working the issue around the state and nearly around the clock! As a result, nearly 500 organizations have signed the VETO REQUEST LETTER we plan to give the Governor, should that become necessary. Please make sure your organization signs, and forward this to your networks, if you haven’t already done so.

The Trust Fund issue could be decided on in conference committee as early as sometime tomorrow, so please continue making calls to your House and Senate members urging them to them to support the House version of the Housing Trust Fund language – not the Senate version -- while the budget bill is in conference committee.

We are closely monitoring progress at the Statehouse and will get the word to you as soon as we know the Trust Fund’s status. We will be ready to hand-deliver the Veto Request to the Governor’s office if needed.

Here is a terrific recent editorial from the Akron Beacon Journal. Please push this out through your social media using the Twitter hashtags #DontBustTheTrust and/or #SaveOHTF and please RT and Favorite other Trust Fund supporters!

Thanks to all and let’s keep it going.

Cathy Johnston
Advocacy Director
614-280-1984 X25
cathyjohnston (at) cohhio (dot) org

House Committee Eliminates National Housing Trust

Call Your Representative TODAY to Oppose the Bill’s Treatment of the National Housing Trust Fund in the House Appropriations

The proposed FY16 appropriations bill for HUD passed today by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) would eviscerate the National Housing Trust Fund. The bill:

  • Transfers all funding that is supposed to go to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) into the HOME program.
  • Forbids Congress to put any other funding into NHTF.

The House Appropriations Committee press release on the proposed THUD bill states that the bill will provide level funding of $900 million for the HOME program, but fails to mention that it would do so only by raiding the NHTF.

The House Appropriations Committee will consider the THUD bill when they reconvene after their recess next week. Please reach out to your Representative before May 12 and urge him or her to oppose the bill’s treatment of the NHTF.

When you contact your Representative, share with him or her that:

  1. The NHTF is the only federal program that provides new money specifically to expand the supply of rental housing that is affordable for extremely low income (ELI) households. Nationwide, there is a shortage of 7.1 million rental housing units that are available and affordable for ELI families. In most of the country, ELI is less than the federal poverty level. The shortage of rental housing that extremely low income households can afford is the reason so many people are homeless in the United States.

  2. The funding for the NHTF is a dedicated source of revenue on the mandatory side of the federal budget, and as such, is not subject to annual appropriations. Funding for the NHTF is based on an assessment of 4.2 basis points of the annual volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is a reliable, predictable stream of funding that is supposed to be separate from HUD appropriations. It is not subject to sequestration.

    As an appropriated program, HOME has suffered deep cuts in recent years, including cuts dictated by sequestration. Its FY15 appropriation of $900 million is less than half of the FY10 appropriation. The Appropriations Committee should not be managing the sequester cuts to HUD programs by raiding mandatory funds that have a dedicated purpose.

  3. Neither program is funded anywhere near what is required to address the unmet housing need.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

If your Representative sits on the Appropriations Committee, tell him or her to oppose the THUD Appropriations bill’s treatment of the NHTF. Urge your Representative to remove all references to the National Housing Trust Fund when the bill is marked up in full committee after next week’s recess.

To find out if your Representative sits on the Appropriations Committee, visit http://appropriations.house.gov/about/members/.

To find contact information for your Representative, call the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351, or visit NLIHC's website and enter your zip code on the right side.

Thank you for your support from the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Join NOBLE For Advocacy Day

We support NOBLE and Organize!Ohio as they work to ask State legislators to improve the Ohio budget to benefit poor people in Ohio.  The budget is the document passed by our state legislators that shows their priorities.  This current budget leaves homeless and low income people behind.  The state budget will cut many services while providing tax cuts.  Local governments, food programs, education and public transportation are suffering in this county.

Byron has organized a bus trip down to Columbus to talk to legislators on May 13 leaving Merrick House in Tremont at 8 a.m.   We are encouraging homeless and those just off the streets to attend this important bus trip to Columbus.  You must call Byron at 216/651-2606 to attend. 

Brian Davis

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Norman Wolfe: Advocate of the Year 2014

Norman Wolfe is a former member of the NEOCH Board and current member of the Homeless Congress.  He volunteers with NOBLE working on the Ohio State budget issues and their impact of those decisions on homelessness and those living in poverty.   Wolfe is a veteran of the US Navy and had previous experience with homelessness.  One of the most important programs of the Coalition that Wolfe worked to restart was the Resident Council at 2100 Lakeside.  He felt that this empowered the men at the shelter to confront senior staff about problems and work on resolution of those issues.

Wolfe pushed for the Resident Council to give residents a chance to voice their frustrations and not face the possibility of retaliation.  The meetings focus on solutions to improve the conditions within the shelter, and staff respond in writing to the concerns.  The resident council has resulted in improved training, staff changes and better movement throughout the shelter.  Wolfe has led a community discussion about the budget earlier this year and led protests, meetings and visits to the Statehouse with Organize!Ohio in 2014 for the struggle to expand Medicaid in Ohio. 

Norman was gracious about winning the Advocate of the Year award.  He said that it was unexpected, and he was honored to be selected.  He talked about the work he has done over the last year and he thanked all those from Organize!Ohio for coming out to support him.

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

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NEOCH Work in 2013

Advocacy

  • NEOCH staff worked with other groups to push an expansion of Medicaid in Ohio attending rallies, writing letters and writing editorials to assure that most of our constituents had access to health care.
  • NEOCH was able to successfully settle our lawsuit over voter ID with the State of Ohio to extend it until after the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Held 12 meetings of homeless people to talk about solutions to homelessness. This included meetings with the Cleveland City Council, County Council and State Representatives.  We also held a meeting with the Cleveland Police after the shooting death of two homeless people in East Cleveland in late 2012. We focused on shelter budget cuts and the impact of Sequestration locally on poor people.
  • Worked to improve the conditions in the shelters including improved access to grievances and a posting of the rules for operating a shelter in a public venue.

Public Education

  • As part of our Homeless Memorial Day and candlelight vigil, we read the names of 54 individuals who passed away in 2013 and had some experience with homelessness.
  • Brought attention to the religious community the need for overflow shelters for families because of the dramatic increase this summer in the family homelessness in Cleveland.
  • The Housing Cleveland website which NEOCH co-administers has 27,803 apartment units (49% outside Cleveland) and 4,800 landlords listed on the site.  There were and 157,000 unique users in 2013 conducting almost 773,000 searches with 4,300 units added and 75,800 units modified on the site.
  • We sent staff and Street Voices speakers out to 18 presentations at churches, colleges, and schools in the region. We trained a new class of speakers including two high school students who were homeless. 
  • We found funding for uniforms for the vendors of the Street Newspaper to stabilize this program in which homeless people can write uncensored stories about their issues and sell those words on the streets of Cleveland.  We published four issues in 2013.
  • The Coalition assists with the monthly Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance monthly meetings and featured Ed Rybka and Anthony Brancatelli, CMHA, the director of the State Coalition, and federal elected officials.
  • We hosted a series of affordable housing forums teaching over 150 people about HousingCleveland, Fair Housing, Landlord Tenant issues, veterans homelessness, and permanent supportive housing.

Community Organizing

  • NEOCH organizes a monthly Homeless Congress meeting allowing homeless people to meet with elected officials and work on solutions to homelessness. 
  • Collected and distributed over toys and blankets during the winter season.
  • Published four Street Newspapers providing $28,000 to low income individuals in Cleveland.
  • NEOCH helped to organize the 2013 Homeless Stand Down at the Cleveland Convention Center serving nearly 1,200 homeless people with donations, haircuts, meals, and the important social service providers all in one location.  Co-organized the Hand Up Gala dinner for homeless people for the fourth year providing 230 meals to the hungry.  We are working to organize the women staying at the main women’s shelter in Cleveland.

We also assisted with the Homeless Legal Assistance program with 10 legal clinics in the shelters, but we do not have the numbers on how many people we were able to serve in this program.

Brian Davis

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What Does Sequestration Mean For Homeless People?

We have a complete Advocacy Alert on our website here, but here is our best guess of what the impact on homeless people in Cleveland will be with the Sequestration.  We are most concerned about CMHA and the impact of this and the Continuing Resoltion has on Public Housing.  You can check out our advocacy alerts here.

  • Public Housing saw an 11% decline in the amount of money they were supposed to receive in March 2013.  This means for now they are not moving anyone into housing and freezing their budget with a hope that this will be resolved by the end of the month.  They need a fix on the huge cut they received as a result of the Continuing Resolution in 2012.  If things are not resolved by May 2013, both the voucher and public housing programs will face some awful choices since they are near 100% occupancy. 
  • The unstable federal budget means that many housing programs are waiting to see what happens.  Capital development projects are slowing down, program expansion is not happening, and housing programs are more reluctant to take new people into their units.  This is causing the entry shelters to not have as many people leaving for permanent housing.  The front door of the shelters are wide open accepting new people, but the door to permanent housing is barely open and fewer people are leaving the shelters. 
  • The Center for Budget Priorities and Policy Priorities estimated that Ohio would lose 4,685 housing choice vouchers over the next year which would mean that Cleveland would lose about 750 vouchers.  CBPP estimated a $12.9 million dollar cut to Ohio Public Housing Agencies if the Sequestration stands, which would translate to around $2.5 million for CMHA. 
  • In Cleveland, EDEN Development Corporation acts as a public housing authority but is also a non-profit housing development corporation.  EDEN runs the Shelter Plus Care Program and provides housing to mentally ill individuals, disabled and those who have been homeless for a long time.  They have been told that they will receive a 6% cut in funding if the Sequestration stays in place, which would mean around 115 people will not be housed over the next year.  This could mean not putting anyone else into housing or in the extreme an ending of some contracts. They still have not resolved how they will deal with the impact of Sequestration.
  • If the cuts remain, the local shelters would face a decrease in $1.35 million probably beginning in early 2014.  Every shelter would probably have to eliminate a staff person from their payroll or reduce specialized meals for diabetics and fresh food from the menus.  They may eliminate all help with transportation or even close the doors when the shelter beds are full instead of finding a place in the community to serve the population.
  • The shelters funded by the City of Cleveland are funded with pre-Sequester money until June.  If this is not resolved there would be across the board cuts starting in June with progressively harsher cuts culminating in early 2014  when the big cuts would hit. 

What can you do?

National and State advocates believe that this will be resolved in the US Senate.  So we are asking that you call your Senator from Ohio with the simple message: Sequestration means families in Cuyahoga remain homeless for a longer period of time costing the community millions.  We need the Sequestration ended today! Call Senator Brown 202-224-2315 and Senator Rob Portman 202-224-3353 to register your concerns. 

Join Us At NEOCH

Veterans and Veteran's Administration Staff at the 2012 Homeless Memorial Day

For the past 27 years NEOCH has published a Homeless Street Card.  We have organized the Homeless Memorial Day and read the largest number of names in our history.  We helped with the Homeless Stand Down, coordinating outreach, and placing volunteer attorneys at the shelters.  We need your help right now to join the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  We have sent you a piece of mail with an envelope to return to NEOCH or you can donate directly on our website here.  The 2013 membership campaign is underway.  Please join us as we fight to prevent homelessness for the growing number women and children by making a tax deductible donation during this critical time.

 

NEOCH membership matters!  You will have access to the special section of our website.  You will get a periodic advocacy newsletter from the Coalition, and you will be invited to special events such as volunteering at the Gala or the Homeless Memorial Day.  We depend on your support to show politicians and bureaucrats that we have the support of hundreds of people in the community.  Also, 10% of our budget comes from our membership.  We need your help today!!

 

If you appreciate the work we did registering people to vote, we need your support for our membership. If you enjoyed all the information that we posted this year on our website including the complete redesign of the site, we need your support on our membership campaign.  If you used the HousingCleveland.org website that we help market and maintain, then we need your support.  If you think that it is important for homeless people to have access to legal advice, then we need you to support our membership.  Donate today to take advantage of the tax benefits for 2012, and your membership will last through 2013.  

 

Brian Davis

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Meeting with HUD Secretary

As part of the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting, we had the privilege of meeting Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.  He attended the meeting on Sunday afternoon before flying out of Washington.  Attending with the Secretary was

long time HUD staff member Mark Johnston who is responsible for special populations for HUD.  We have posted a summary of the meeting with the HUD Secretary in our latest newsletter (available on our website to our members on our website). 

Donovan was complimentary of the work of the advocates and social service providers from around the country.  He firmly believes that with a renewed commitment to prevention and moving people quickly into housing, we can end homelessness in America.  We thanked him for the lengthy discussion with Jon Stewart on homelessness on the Daily Show.  We do not hear much about homelessness on a national television show so this was a treat for advocates to see in early March.  Donovan indicated that unlike most HUD programs there is bi-partician support for homeless programs.  While homeless programs have faced level funding for the past two years, every other program has seen cuts.  The President has proposed an increase in homeless funds for the 2013 budget in order to implement the HEARTH changes. 

Shaun Donovan touted a HUD plan to address the mortgage crisis and provide resources for the National Housing Trust Fund.  All of this was spelled out in testimony before Congress on March 21.  He acknowledged the tough environment in Congress, which is making it difficult to serve all parts of the United States with housing assistance.  Donovan agreed that HUD was a long way from implementing the goals contained in HEARTH especially those goals for rural housing.   He said that HUD was doing all it could to get every subsidy fully utilized, and was urging the local communities to focus on providing those in need of the deepest subsidy.  Donovan also had sent out a memo to the field asking the Public Housing groups to re-evaluate their policies around those re-entering.  It seemed that there was a myth that HUD was pushing a policy to erect strict barriers to those with previous experience in the criminal justice system.  This was not the case and the HUD Secretary's letter has resulted in many jurisdictions changing their plans to allow those re-entering after serving their time to find housing in the local community. 

Donovan is looking at avenues for collaboration especially with the Department of Health and Human Services.  He was hopeful that the new health care law would withstand challenge, because he indicated that it would go a long way to reducing homelessness.  If those struggling with behavioral health can find a home to receive treatment, they are many steps closer to finding a residential home. 

NCH members asked for a similar letter to the field from the Secretary about the importance of shelter.  In a time of huge increases in need, some communities seem confused by the focus on prevention.  Many are withdrawing funding for shelter to redirect resources to housing first initiatives.  No matter how many times, Mark Johnston and other HUD officials say that shelter is still critical, cities are not hearing the message.  We believe that a letter from the HUD Secretary clarifying that we need shelters as part of the strategy to end homelessness would go along way toward providing support for the shelters.  In addition, we asked that homeless people be more involved in how funds are distributed.  We want to see local officials meet with those living in the shelters to talk about funding priorities and strict oversight of the resources provided by HUD.  Finally, we asked that the HUD Secretary put in a word with the President for a White House conference on homelessness. 

 Brian Davis

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Cleveland Power Summit

Advocates Gather at St. Ignatius
The advocacy world of Cleveland will gather at St. Ignatius High School this Saturday March 24, 2012 for the Cleveland Power Summit from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. To register and for more details go to the Organize!Ohio website. 

 

This is a chance for social justice advocates to gather to develop a consolidated policy agenda.  Some of the areas that they will cover include housing, health care, environmental issues, hunger, children and youth issues, education, jobs and living wages, supportive services, governmental funding, and basic human rights.  This will be a chance to strategize about social justice issues that could be adopted in improve the lives of Greater Clevelanders.  The conference is free and lunch will be available.  To register go to the Organize Ohio website.  They also have childcare available to those who have young children.  Advocates from CTO, ESOP, UHCAN, and LMM are all co-sponsoring this event.

Brian

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