Lead Safety Network Gathering Announced

Cleveland Lead Safe Network (CLSN) is hosting our Summer Convening on Thursday July 27th at 4PM at 3500 Lorain Avenue. 

 We're pleased to have Councilman Larry Sykes from Toledo City Council as our guest speaker. Councilman Sykes was instrumental in getting the Toledo Lead Safe Housing ordinance enacted one year ago. He was also active in the effort to fight off State Pre-emption of local lead poisoning laws.

 We expect to have a presentation on the proposed Lead Safe Housing ordinance that is being prepared for Cleveland City Council.

 Seating is limited so please register in advance by email (just hit reply and leave your name, phone and organization) or leave a voice message at 216/359-1060.

 Then share the below flyer with everyone in your rolodex or email contacts file.

 From Spencer Wells

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Thanks to HUD and Folks at CAHA

Thanks to the local Department of Housing and Urban Development staff and Office Director Pamela Ashby for the certificate yesterday at my last Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting as Executive Director of NEOCH.   CAHA started in the late 1990s by NEOCH, Cleveland Tenants Organization, Legal Aid Society,  Alliance of HUD Tenants, HUD, City of Cleveland Community Development, CMHA, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and Cuyahoga County Department of Senior of Adult Services.  It was started to work to preserve and protect affordable housing.  The goal was to assure that all groups were operating on the same page with the same information.  It was an attempt to know before a property was lost to foreclosure, and then advocates could go about their work to bring publicity and mobilize coalitions. 

I have had the honor to work to with Phil Star (CAHA Chair), Spencer Wells, Cleo Busby, Linda Warren, Peter Iskin, Scott Pollock, Marty Gelfand, two executive directors (Mike Foley and Mike Piepsny) from CTO and many others to keep this program going for years.  I worked to schedule guests for the meeting every month.  NEOCH is committed to continuing this group and is proud that CAHA serves 30 members on the first Monday of the month.  Thanks to everyone for setting aside time every month to talk about affordable housing in our community.

Brian Davis

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Housing Cleveland 10 Years Old

Ten years ago we were all shocked by the storm hitting the Gulf Coast and then over the next two weeks the inept response to those struggling with the disaster.  We saw how the Army Corps of Engineers had done a disservice to the region by creating a failed levee system that resulted in drowning of the Crescent City.  In Cleveland, we helped with a relocating hundreds of people in both temporary and long term assistance.  Cuyahoga and Cleveland officials along with the Red Cross, Mental Health Services, and hundreds of volunteers opened the Cleveland Convention Center to those struggling with the loss of their housing.  The community pulled together to make it as easy as possible to find relatives and find housing in Greater Cleveland.  We were fortunate to have just opened the website HousingCleveland.org only two weeks before.  This allowed caring landlords to list their property just as hundreds were traveling north to find a place to live after their houses were flooded in the Gulf region.

The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority directed all of their landlords to the site to list their property.  Within one month we had already populated the site with 4,000 potential units and 400 available units.  Everyone wanted to help and we had this wonderful website overseen by the North Carolina Not-for-Profit Company, Socialserve who helped set up this resource.  They have the call center to respond to questions and help landlords list their property.  Socialserve also calls landlords who have not logged in and keep the information updated.   NEOCH helped to set up a local advisory board of housing, government and social service providers to manage the website.  The local community really embraced the website, and it quickly shot up to one of the largest of these housing search websites in the country. 

SocialServe.com recently sold off the software  (click for press release) to focus on customer service and expansion.   We have had as much traffic as much larger cities, and the website has expanded to 36 states from the dozen or so 10 years ago.  The disaster services folks in many states have embraced the website realizing how valuable it is to have a place to list available housing units in the event of a natural disaster.  The website is free to use for both the individual searching for housing and landlords listing their property.  We partner with CMHA to list the properties in which landlords who accept a voucher may have vacancies.  The call center has Spanish speaking staff to handle potential tenants who do not speak English. 

We have had before the housing bubble burst over 1 million people searching for housing in one year on the site.  There are 700 available units on the site today.   There are 5,500 landlords using the site who have placed 32,000 units in the database.  There were 992,500 searches done over the last year by nearly 300,000 users.  There is an ability to log in to the site for housing case managers to get additional information about the properties on the site.  It is only operational in Cuyahoga and Summit Counties at this time, but we hope to expand it statewide.  We are happy to celebrate 10 years of HousingCleveland.org and look forward to future growth. 

Brian Davis

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VICTORY!! Housing Trust Fund Preserved

Good afternoon housing advocates!

Because you responded when asked, because you made the calls, sent the emails and made the necessary personal contacts, the message to save the Trust Fund got delivered to our lawmakers. Because of all you did, this became a priority in Conference Committee, and because of all you did, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund was restored.

A few shout-outs in and around the Statehouse: To Reps. Ryan Smith, Kirk Schuring, and Denise Driehaus, who were backed by House leadership and other Reps, and who pushed Senate leaders who ultimately agreed to drop the proposed change. To Sens. Mike Skindell and Charleta Tavares and the Democrat Caucus for their unwavering support. And to the Kasich administration, including the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Ohio Development Services Agency, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and especially the Office of Budget and Management, and the Office of the Governor for understanding the important role the Trust Fund plays in both protecting vulnerable populations and moving the economy forward.

We encourage you all to thank your State Representatives and Senators for their support as soon as possible.

This demanding exercise taught us a couple of things: 1) together we can impact housing policy; and 2) we still have a lot of work to do. We learned there is a high level of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge at the Statehouse about what the Trust Fund is and does. A continued lack of understanding will keep the Trust Fund and all of our housing programs vulnerable to future attacks like this, so doing a better job of educating our public officials has to be a top priority.

We urge you to get to your members yet this summer, while it’s fresh in their minds, and show them the value of the Trust Fund in your community. 544 organizations across the state signed on to the letter to the Governor. Let’s use the momentum and strength we’ve all created to elevate the importance of our state’s greatest housing resource!

With gratitude,

Bill Faith
Cathy Johnston
Suzanne Gravette Acker

This post is from the staff of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio

Weekly Update on Homeless Stories in the News



Here are a few interesting news stories about homelessness from the last week.  Click on the blue text to view the source article.

by Dan the Intern

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Cleveland Tough Featured Vet Robinson on WCPN

This is reprinted from the WCPN.org website and a story by Brian Bull from a series called Cleveland Tough. Listen to the story here.  Here is the full series of stories.  Photos also by Brian Bull.

My name is Joyce Robinson, I’m a 56-year-old previously homeless, unemployed female veteran.  I was in a garage apartment when I became homeless.  I sold most of my furniture, jewelry, uhm... I went to Half Price Books and sold records and books, and everything.  But after a while, I thought, "You know what? I’m just gonna let this go."  I called the Veterans Service Commission, and they referred me to the West Side Catholic Center. That’s the shelter that I stayed at.

Early reflections of living in the shelter

The first night was difficult for me. And that first night through the next seven days, I cried. Every single night. I had truly hit rock bottom. The first week I was just walking around in a haze. 'Cause I think that when you become homeless, you lose something of yourself. It’s like, "Okay... I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost this, I’m a loser."

On the accommodations and care

I was there about three weeks and then I got my own room, which is good. There was a twin bed, a rocking chair, a chest of drawers, and a little side table.

They gave us a washcloth and a towel. Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush... everything you would need for your hygiene.

Upstairs, there were five bathrooms. And it was difficult, especially during school times because parents with children, occupying everything. Because not everybody’s idea of 'clean' is the same.  I had to be in at 6 o’clock every night. That was the most difficult thing for me. Not being able to just go when you want to and come back when you want to.  But after a while, it was a comfort to know that I had this regimen. It helped in the healing process.

Perceptions of the homeless

If you were to ask any ten people ...what they think of when they think of a homeless person, I don’t think that I would fit that description. I have a Master’s Degree. Been in the military. I’ve raised a daughter to adulthood successfully.  But when you think of homeless people, you think of people living under the bridges, pushing carts, they don’t want to work. You made a choice to be homeless. Which is ridiculous.

Making her way back to independence

In June of last year, I became involved in a program at Veterans Administration. We would transport patients to appointments, basically re-acclimate us to the work world. Having to be at work at a certain time, doing whatever and getting a paycheck. Helped me get back into residential living.  I just recently moved and am now in my own apartment.  My daughter is excited for me, she says, "Now when I come to visit, I’ll have some place to stay."  I said "sure, you can pull up a piece of floor."  But she’s excited for me because she knew it was very difficult.  Stepping into my new place was almost as scary as the first night I was in the shelter, because I had my routine down, and I have nothing but time.  And it’s like, "Oh, what do I do now?" (LAUGHS).  I remember... I was with a friend. I kept looking at my watch.

She says, "Joyce... you’re not at the shelter. You have all the time in the world."  And I says, "Oh, that’s right. I do."  It’s a great feeling.  My apartment doesn’t have everything in it just yet... but it’s mine.


WEB EXTRAS:

Robinson on the early phases of living in a shelter

Initially, my day was filled with... to be honest, just walking around in a haze. Just trying to figure out how I got here, now what do I do? Just getting used to the routine. After the weather broke, I’d walk across the Lorain-Carnegie bridge for exercise which is good. Or walk to the library, or walk around the West Side Market area.

After a while, I’d attend the employment clinics and those were great because presenters gave us tips on job searching, helping us with resumes, that kind of thing. Though them, I also participated in a three-week program for veterans. It helped me with job search, refined my resume, and really built up my confidence again.

Because when you become homeless, you lose something of yourself. "I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost this, I’m a loser." And I remember talking with one of my counselors at East Side Vets Center, and she asked me how I felt. And I said, "I felt worthless" and she said, "Are you sure ‘worthless’ is the word you’re looking for?"

And as we talked, she said, “I think the word you’re looking for is ‘unproductive’.” But I think at that time when I said “worthless”, at that point that’s what I felt. But after talking to her I think “unproductive” was a more accurate term. But you feel that way, it’s like... I don’t know.

On getting emotional support from VA specialists

What helped me get back to residential living was going through the program at VA, and Toni Johnson (Cleveland VA Medical Center’s Women’s Homeless Coordinator) was very instrumental because she connected me with a primary care physician there, and in talking to a psychiatrist, was prescribed anti-depressant medication. Because I really hadn’t realized how depressed I was. And just going to counselors and talking to them about the situation…it was difficult because it was like trying to tear a scab off a wound and digging in there, I realized I’d been carrying garbage from 35 years ago. And as we went through therapy, I saw how it affected my life up this point. It was a good six months before things were clear to me.

On making friends at the women’s shelter

I made some friends at the shelter. I was closer to the veterans. One moved to Alabama in August. Another one moved to Georgia... I think in October. And there was one who moved in June of last year, it’s interesting because she went to school with my daughter and she knew my daughter. Those were the closest three I think.

I stay in touch with them. And am keeping them abreast of my situation. “So…have you moved yet?” “Yes.” “Yay! Yay!” “Did you get furniture?” “Yay!” “A bed?” “Yay!” So it’s great keeping track of them. The one in Alabama was the one who got me out and walking, and walking really helped me to decompress and de-stress.

On her job with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

Having been homeless for 14 months, and now working with the homeless on this side of it, it’s really interesting. Part of what I do is contacting political officials, different organizations, and fielding calls from people who need resources and being able to suggest various resources, because I’ve used them myself, or am more familiar with them now because I’ve worked with the organization.

And I like the fact there’s so many aspects to this positon. Data entry, meetings, going to shelters, and talking with resident council members, going to meetings with the Homeless Congress, and seeing what’s going on. If people really understood that homeless are not happy to sit and accept handouts, but are really trying to do something to help their plight and other homeless people, it might just change the idea of what homelessness is and what homeless people are about.

We have lists of agencies, on street cards which are really great because they list medical facilities, churches and all they provide, that kind of thing. Even if you lose your home and temporary stay, there are places that you can go for assistance. The sooner you do the better.

One thing…there are more resources for families and males, single females is really difficult as far as finding shelter.

Now if you’re a veteran, there are more options. But for the average female, it’s difficult to find a place to go because lots of places are geared towards families. More and more families are becoming homeless. Needing shelter. Like they’re priority. We at NEOCH have tons of information on things that you can do. Or call 211.

That’s the thing. If you think you’re going to do it, don’t feel you have to do it by yourself. You don’t have to be alone, there are resources and people out there to help you, it takes a load off. It’s awesome the assistance available, but you have to ask.

And don’t be afraid to ask.

On what people can do to help the homeless

I just want to say that when people see people on the street, a lot of the homeless I’ve noticed from working here, they do not ask for assistance because they’re not very trusting. The ones who really need the assistance aren’t the ones asking for, 50 cents, whatever. These people don’t ask, they’re sought out, found by outreach workers.

If you see someone down on their luck or whatever, if you don’t want to give anything, say a prayer for them. You have no idea what happened in their life to bring them to that point. If you feel that you want to assist, take clothing and hygiene kits to the shelters. Volunteer at a shelter, or NEOCH, to see up close what it’s like to work with the homeless.

Don’t be so quick to judge because what you think may not really be. If you really want to help, don’t give your money, give your time. That’s the thing.

Faith Says Very Little Good in Ohio Budget

Bill Faith attends a Medicaid Expansion Rally in Columbus. Photo from COHHIO.org Bill Faith, executive director, of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, spoke to the April Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting.  He brings a wealth of information about the State of Ohio budget and its impact on housing and homelessness.  Bill focused on the budget that the Governor submitted, which are subject to House and Senate approval.  Many of the Governor's proposals are destined to be slashed because the Republican dominated Ohio Legislature does not want to ever ever ever raise taxes anywhere, never upon pain of death.  Here are some highlights of his speech:

  • The National Housing Trust will most likely now have funds in 2016, but it looks as though Ohio will only get about $10 million or less to preserve or expand affordable housing. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency will develop an implementation strategy similar to priorities set by the HOME program.  These funds are no where near the level of cuts at the federal level to Public and Housing Choice Voucher over the last few years.
  • The State will receive additional funds to help build additional housing for disabled individuals in conjunction with State Medicaid and Drug and Mental Health Boards (only 508 disabled individuals selected throughout the state).
  • Bill talked about the horrible job the state did in renewing people on Medicaid as part of the Obamacare expansion.  There was a very long application with confusing details on where to return the form and thousands did not respond. 
  • Maybe additional PRC funds through the welfare department for job placement and retention assistance.  This is the proposal by COHHIO to counter the huge proposal to put huge funds into a new case management system at the local welfare offices. 
  • Massive cut to the income tax which benefits the richest people in the state the most.  These $4.6 billion in the two year budget could do so much for improving infrastructure, local governments, increasing the housing trust fund, and public transportation. But sadly a missed opportunity.
  • No controversy so far about expanding Medicaid because there are so many now on the program and benefitting from the service.
  • There may be an expansion of the childcare assistance from those below 200% of poverty to those under 300% of poverty income.
  • May be an increase in funds for Developmentally Disabled. This came about because of a series of lawsuits that showed that the system is overly reliant on institutional care for the developmentally disabled.
  • The State may allow more of the Recordation funds go to the State Housing Trust Fund to go to a Housing reserve funds.
  • COHHIO wants the state to do more to preserve mental health and recovery housing in the state as well as figure out a way to bill Medicaid for more of the supportive services offered at Permanent Supportive Housing buildings in the state.
  • There is a toxic bill that would gut the fair housing regulations (SB 134) in the State of Ohio and make it more difficult to file a claim of discrimination.  COHHIO fighting this potential regulation.
  • The state agency that distributes tax credits is making some big changes this year to correct some of the problems from the previous year.  COHHIO will weigh in on these changes.
  • The Hardest hit funds for those in foreclosure is over and the funds to renovate shelters in the State was a one year allocation. 

Next meeting is May 4 with First Call for Help and the State of Fair Housing at 1:30 p.m. at HUD lower level in Cleveland.  The meeting is open to all.

Brian Davis

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COHHIO Gives Summary of Ohio Budget

February 2, 2015

MEMO TO HOUSING ADVOCATES
FROM: Bill Faith, Executive Director, COHHIO
RE: Biennium Budget Bill Housing Provisions

Today, the Kasich Administration released its budget proposal for the next two years. Over the coming days and weeks, there will be lots of details to uncover but we want to highlight a few issues related to housing and homelessness where we know the administration is taking some action.

1.) The Ohio Housing Trust Fund - The OHTF will continue to receive the $50 million in each of the next two years, but an additional helpful step is the formation of a reserve fund to help stabilize year-to-year funding fluctuations. Since 2003, the OHTF has been supported by a fee tied to recording of documents at the county level up to a maximum of $50 million per year. The budget proposal amends the OHTF statute to create a $15 million reserve amount to be used to fill the gap in years when the $50 million level is not reached.

2.) Homeless Youth Employment Assistance - Historically, funds available through WIA (Workforce Invest Act) -- now WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) -- have not worked well in many communities assisting homeless people or other vulnerable populations, such as transition aged youth. WIOA funds are now being shifted to focus on disconnected youth (including homeless youth) ages 16 to 24. Additionally, the Administration has committed to focus more job opportunities and supports to homeless youth, with a portion of the governor’s discretionary WIOA funds helping homeless youth gain employment as they stabilize their housing.

3.) Continued Health Care Coverage – Everyone remembers the battle two years ago to extend health care coverage for more low-wage workers and vulnerable people left out of the Medicaid program. The Governor’s budget provides for the ongoing funding and coverage necessary to support this critically important health care coverage.

4.) Supportive Housing and Medicaid -- The Administration has signaled that it supports, through changes in the state Medicaid plan, an expanded package of supportive services which will allow housing and service organizations to help people who experience chronic homelessness remain in stable housing.

5.) Other Housing Resources in Budget Plan

a.) The budget plan includes $5m to expand the recovery housing capacity over the next two years. This continues and expands on the $10 million provided last year in the mid-biennial review.

b.) Initiates a pilot program for a subsidy to housing providers that support low-income people with disabilities at $1 million a year through a partnership with the Department of Medicaid the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

c.) Sustain funding for Residential State Supplement program at $15M annually while MHAS works to improve the quality of the RSS housing.

6.) In addition to the budget points mentioned above, the administration will leverage the following additional resources it has received or is expected to receive in the near future:

a.) Ohio will begin preparing for the receipt of National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) dollars, expected to be approximately $10 million a year. The Kasich Administration announced February 2nd that the Ohio Development Services Agency will administer the NHTF and OHFA will develop the allocation plan and allocate program funds. The NHTF will provide revenue to build, preserve, and rehabilitate housing for people who are extremely low income.

b.) A $3.6M Cooperative Agreement to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI) grant was awarded to OMHAS to provide programming and services for individuals who are chronically homeless. The funds will be used to leverage PATH to reach 820 people over the next three years in 5 Ohio cities.

c.) Finally, Ohio is expected to receive news in early 2015 of being awarded almost $12 million in HUD Section 811 grant that will allow OHFA and Medicaid to develop and subsidize over 500 units of rental housing with supportive services for low-income adults with a disability. This resource will work with existing units to create long-term housing success.

To learn more about how these and other budget measures will impact housing across the state, consider attending the COHHIO conference April 13-15.

All the best, and thanks for your support.

Bill Faith, Executive Director
COHHIO

HUD Announces Funding for Cuyahoga County

The Department of Housing and Urban Development ahead of the Secretary of HUD appearing on the Daily Show, awarded to Cuyahoga County $25,342,376.00 in funding for homelessness and housing. 

a) Every shelter and service provider seeking renewals funding received the money they requested.  They get what they got to fund the shelter or service when they opened--no cost of living increase ever in the HUD world.

b) Renewals involving leasing/rent assistance received increases from the amount requested because of the recalculation of the rent amounts to align with Fair Market Rents in Greater Cleveland. This is true for all except one Shelter Plus Care program.  The County is going to ask for a correction on the one program.

c) All other renewals were approved for the amount requested.

d) The County wrapped a bunch of programs into two "reallocation requests" for funding from funds that were left once HUD funds all the renewals.  These projects may not have scored high enough locally, but changed their program to meet current expectations. The County rolled a bunch of programs together to submit two big requests for funding. This strategy was risky, but worked in putting them all together into two projects.  "All in" approach to funding requests.

 

The bad news was that the one new project submission for housing vouchers attached to the new Permanent Supportive Housing building on Detroit Ave was not approved.  We will see what impact this has on the funding for supportive housing locally.

$3.88 million of the funding goes to transitional shelters and supportive services or 15% of the funding.  The other 85% of the funds go to housing long term homeless or disabled homeless people in Cuyahoga County.

  • Cincinnati received $15.38 million.
  • Toledo received $4.88 million in support
  • Columbus only received $11.06 million which seems low to me.
  • Dayton received $8.37 million.
  • Akron received 4.47 million.

Brian Davis

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Homelessness Updates

Did New Orleans really solve veteran's homelessness?  Media in the Big Easy have spent the past few weeks examining the proclamation by Mayor Landrieu that veteran's homelessness has been ended in New Orleans and found the program lacking.  There is always the problem of counting homeless people that makes it difficult to proclaim victory.  There is the problem of the varied definition of what is a  veteran that complicates the matter.  Are you a veteran after 2 months of service or 2 years of services? Then there is the problem that homeless people are so fluid and fall in and out of homelessness on a daily basis.  It is bold to make this proclamation, but until you end all homelessness it is impossible to declare victory with just one population. 

It is true that there are tons of veteran's resources available now. If you spent time in the military and were not dishonorably discharged, there is so much help available right now.  We really have all the tools at our disposal to end veteran's homelessness.  But there are a lot of hard core vets who have no contact with anyone and will be hard to reach.  It would be unnerving for a retired Marine corporal to be sitting in the library waiting for the rain to subside and read in the Times Picayune that your city had "solved" veterans homelessness while you struggled with PTSD and were bouncing around from family to living in a car.  The Marine is thinking once you solve a problem, you stop dedicating resources and staff, and move on to something else.  It would seem like you missed the train that will never come around again. 

Toledo Blade wrote about what homeless people do during the extreme cold.  This was an interesting story about the huge number of people who use the library as a drop in center.

Lakewood teens again spend the night outside in the cold to call attention to homelessness on the North Coast.  We have featured stories about previous groups from Lakewood Congregational church about their sleeping outside in the Street Chronicle.  We appreciate them calling attention to the plight of homeless people in the cold.

Bloomberg has a good article about why the President never talks about rent.   The same could be said about homelessness, and the president only mentioning homelessness when he is volunteering on a service day.  I think that the architect of modern homelessness, Ronald Reagan, was the last President who was forced to talk about solutions to homelessness.  But half the population rent from a landlord and state or federal elected office holders rarely talk about it.

The City of Cincinnati became the third city to enact a homeless hate crimes bill.  Cleveland has one of the laws, but it is rarely used.  Most of the time a hate crime is a felony and local laws do not address crimes of that severity.  The State of Ohio would need to pass legislation to include homeless people in the existing hate crimes statute to make it real.  It is good that the city is trying to do something about the attacks on homeless people and were willing to talk about these issues. 

Brian Davis

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Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Forum on Monday

The Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance (CAHA) is Monday January 5, 2015 at 1:30 pm. at US Bank Centre Building at 1350 Euclid Ave. Lower Level.  It should be an interesting meeting about the state of the Community Development Organizations in Cleveland.  

We have talked about the changes that have taken place over the last few years in the world of the Community Development organizations with the presentations of both UCI and Famicos at CAHA.  At the January meeting, we have invited Kathy Hexter of Cleveland State University and Bryan Gillooly of Bellaire Puritas CDC and Timothy Tramble of Burton Bell Carr Development to provide a look at the work of the CDC now and in the future.  How do they organize neighbors and how will they maintain access to affordable housing locally?  What will the pressure to show outcomes mean and the neighborhood work necessary to clean up after the housing foreclosure crisis?  We have invited City of Cleveland officials to also talk about the changes in the Ward boundaries and the effect of the cuts to Community Development Block grants.

As always we look at any troubled property in Cuyahoga County.  This is the 17th year of CAHA. A monthly meeting to check in on the status of affordable housing locally.  The goal is to stop the loss of affordable housing.  All are invited to attend.  Contact NEOCH to get on the e-mail list.

Brian Davis

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Updates of Homeless News Stories

Akron man convicted of murdering homeless individual. Dimitry White killed Anthony Thomas because he was angry that Thomas was charging $5 to enter a house.  Amazing, that a person is killed over trying to make a buck or actually five bucks. 

A judge has prevented enforcement of the Ft. Lauderdale feeding ban.  This is great news for the social justice crowd.  The city has received international bad press for the feeding ban including a threat from the hacker group Anonymous. 

Madison Wisconsin officials are struggling with how to shelter all those who request shelter.  They are also struggling with opening of a day center.  There are issues that the shelters do not open until it gets below 21 degrees and there are capacity issues.

Chicago has an out of control waiting list for housing.  The waiting lists have not been open since 2008 and 2010 for the voucher and public housing.  They have combined the two lists into one application and 282,000 asked to get a spot on the wait list.

Hospitals in Texas are struggling with how to serve homeless people.  They often put people back in the woods and they show up in the emergency room within days.  Texas is one of the states that have not expanded Medicaid that would provide incentives to get the lowest income enrolled in health insurance.

Brian Davis

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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. 
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Brian Davis
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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. 

An Open Letter to City and County Government

Dear Mayor Jackson and County Executive Fitzgerald:

We are writing to urge the City of Cleveland to develop an affordable housing plan similar to the one released by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. The Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan1 intends to lower income inequality by making new housing units available to more households with lower incomes (under about $25,000 a year). Specifically, the plan consists of investing $41 billion for 200,000 units of new and preserved housing.  At a Brooklyn meeting, De Blasio insisted that, “in a progress city, everyone should have the opportunity for affordable housing, and that’s what this plan sets out to achieve”. Indeed, advocates for affordable housing certainly see this plan as worthy of admiration and imitation.

Housing New York streamlines regulations and processes in hopes of opening up new development opportunities, containing costs, and speeding up affordable housing construction. De Blasio also means to double the capital budget, target vacant and underused land, and protect tenants in rent-regulated apartments. Certainly, these goals make Housing New York the largest and most ambitious affordability plan of its kind in our nation’s history, but if the plan is successful, the 200,000 units of housing will be enough to serve more than a half-million people in New York City. That said, we believe that Cleveland should try to put together a similar plan called Housing Cleveland in the next few months. As Mayor de Blasio demonstrated, the proposal for a housing plan of this scale need not be a lengthy procedure. After only 5 months in office, de Blasio announces a plan that tackles affordable housing issues quickly and aggressively, and there is no reason why Cleveland cannot do the same.

In Cleveland, there is a rising number of fair housing complaints combined with an inadequate supply of housing that meet basic requirements. We have talked about a funding source in the creation of a Local Housing Trust Fund, but it has not happened.  There are waiting lists of 19,000 for public housing, 6,000 for voucher programs, and 64,000 people applied for housing in 2011 when Section 8 was opened. 22,000 people are homeless and a growing number of homeless families are attempting to find shelter every night.  There were 30 families sleeping in the overflow shelter in Cleveland last week, because we did not have space.  Also and unfortunately, Cleveland did not receive any of the state tax incentives to build housing in the competition announced last month, which means a year of not developing any affordable housing.  We also see repeated cuts to housing and homeless programs with Sequestration and other budget austerity programs resulting in the closing of shelters, elimination of rental assistance, and reductions in staffing for housing and homeless programs. 

Observing these numerous issues at hand, we must suggest that it is urgent for the City of Cleveland to follow in New York City’s footsteps. We must step up our efforts to build and preserve affordable housing, and so we ask you, as the Mayor of this progressive community, to please consider pushing for a Cleveland Housing Plan.  I am sure that we have the talent within the administration or with our non-profit partners to develop a Cleveland Housing Plan by the beginning of 2015.  

Sincerely,

Brian Davis

We have posted our one page advocacy alert on our website that you can print out and distribute to supporters

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CAHA Housing Meeting from June 2014

At the recent Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting held on Monday, June 2 at the US Bank Centre, attendees discussed various changes, updates, and projects concerning public housing.

Starting off the meeting was Priscilla Pointer Hicks of the Housing choice Voucher program. Hicks, retiring this summer, gave a summary of the CMHA Voucher program. She detailed the effects of HUD’s 2013 budget cuts, such as slowed voucher issuance, weaker customer service quality, and the loss of a third of her staff. In addition, Hicks mentioned that 900 vouchers are currently underutilized due to an increasing turn-over rate of homeless veterans. Moreover, only 95% of the budget is being spent, which is a stark contrast to the ideal 97% and last year’s 105%. The lower spending can be seen as a direct consequence of the staff and budget cuts. However, Hicks was also quick to recognize the many positive aspects of her program and the numerous improvements underway.

For one, the program’s customer service call center is being replaced by their caseworker system in which individuals are assigned a personal caseworker. Also, a new inter generation housing property containing 40 units will be a new addition to the community. These positive changes are harbingers of a brighter future for the public housing sector, and we have Hicks to thank for some of these changes. She served her community selflessly for 15 years but will now hand over the reign to Latweeta Smyers, a former New Orleans housing director of asset management. We wish both Hicks and Smyers luck in their future endeavors.

Scott Pollock of CMHA Public Housing spoke next and presented his periodic look at the Housing Authority. Pollock spoke on matters regarding the federal budget, current demographics of housing residents, and development activities. Of those development activities, one stood out in particular: RAD, the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. A voluntary program of HUD, RAD allows public housing and modern rehabilitation (Mod Rehab) properties to convert to long-term Section 8 rental assistance contracts. RAD, according to Pollock, is spearheading the future of public housing by generating funds the CMHA Public Housing program requires now that capital funding is in decline.

The capital fund is currently at $1.9 billion – a slight increase from last year but not quite sufficient nonetheless. In D.C., the House proposed budget of $4.4 billion was also unsatisfyingly lower compared to the President’s budget of $4.6 billion, highlighting further budget concerns for HUD with direct implications on Pollock’s program. On a brighter note, Pollock touched upon six new projects in the works, some of which include a cedar extension unit and a heritage view unit, both of which have been funded and approved. Pollock then briefed the rest of the group on the amendments of the 2014 Housing Agency plans and the future hearing to be held in July of this summer. He expressed hope for better quality housing and increased funding for the future.

Other notable updates in the meeting included a report on the proposed move of HUD Multifamily staff out of Ohio and a report on Troubled Properties. On a final note, all these changes and updates discussed at the meeting will surely have an impact on the community, and we hope that the members of the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance will continue their work to foster positive change. Please contact  Brian Davis at (216) 432-0540 for questions and suggestions about the meeting.

by Lora Zuo

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Housing Cleveland Website is a Wonderful Resource

HousingCleveland.org is a website constructed by a whole host of non-profit and government organizations.  A FREE website for housing related needs. Helping people to have access to affordable housing in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  Dedicated to working smart by providing resources that offer significant opportunities for families with the need to find safe, decent and sustainable housing.  It also offers understanding of tenants and landlord rights, providing information regarding evictions, conflict mediation services, social services assistance, housing vouchers, disability housing, fair housing oversight and family housing/energy savings.

HousingCleveland.org allows case workers for low-income individuals, such as homeless people, to easily search and navigate extensive listing within Cuyahoga County.  Encouraging landlords to list their properties on the site, and providing tools and resources for homeowners to have easy access to the process.

HousingCleveland.org is a guide to building strong families while sustaining housing opportunities. Dedicated to helping families and the community by providing quality service to address the needs of clients that range from simple to complex.

HousingCleveland.org has grown to become the premiere affordable housing listing in Ohio, with a database of 33,500 housing units, 1,183 apartment units are currently available.

HousingCleveland.org is a reliable, high quality, easy-to-use application.  Generates rent comparison base on comprehensive, detailed rental information, rating tools for locating housing in areas with specific features, such as schools, crime, lead safe guidelines and much more.  We can serve your housing agency needs by solutions that utilize leading edge technology that will meet both local and statewide housing needs.

by Gloria McCurdy

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Housing 101 Has Space for you

The next Housing 101 will take place at NEOCH on June 13 at 10 a.m.  We still have space for you to attend. We will have a discussion of the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law and the local law by Randy Cunningham of CTO.  We will also have a look at Permanent Supportive Housing and the local fair housing law.  All of the presentations will give the participants a chance to find resources that they can utilize in the community.  We will have a look at the HousingCleveland website as well as the services available to homeless veterans. 

How do you get help with evictions?  How do you get access to a login for the Housing Cleveland website?  How does a veteran start their journey toward stable housing in our community?  How does a person who has been homeless for a long period of time access permanent supportive housing?  How does a prospective tenant get help with potential discrimination when they are searching for housing?  All these questions will be answered at the forum.  Hope that you can attend.

Here is the page describing the June 13 event and a flyer that you can print and distribute

Brian Davis

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Fair Housing and How to Find Housing in Cleveland

Reminder that there is a Housing Forum for social service providers and clients to learn more about housing programs in Cleveland.  Housing Research and Advocacy Center will provide an overview of the Fair Housing Laws and where you can go to get help.  We will go through Housing Cleveland and discuss some of the broad categories of housing locally.  There will be time to answer questions as well. 

Thursday May 15 at 10 A.M on the Second Floor of the Cosgrove Center.

Brian Davis

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