News Stories for this Week

There was an explosive report issued out of the University of Berkeley and proof that cities are making it illegal to be homeless.   The report shows that 58 cities are passing laws that are unequally enforced on homeless people.  They cited anti-camping laws among others as unfairly targeting homeless people for criminal citations. 

Channel 3 has been looking at people who live outside in this extreme cold. They talked to Rick and before that Christine.  They have been talking to people who stay outside.

Channel 19 put aside their tabloid news and did a nice story about the Salvation Army Canteen (not a Cantina).  The Salvation Army feeds hundreds in East Cleveland and Cleveland. 

St. Louis takes steps to make it easier to participate in the voucher program and makes it difficult for landlords to refuse to take a voucher.  We need similar laws that would not allow landlords to discriminate against voucher holders. 

We love the libraries and in Cleveland they are really helpful to homeless people.  This is a story about how libraries are trying to adapt to the number of people who are homeless and using the facility.  This is a Huffington Post article about libraries attempts to help homeless people with jobs and health care. 

How about a public restroom in Cleveland?  New Mexico was looking at introducing a shower bus that goes around the community to help people maintain their hygiene. 

Mother Jones did a long story about Housing First.  I am always dubious about quoting statisitcs (72% drop) when we know how unreliable counting homeless people can be.  They do a good job of outlining all the good items about homelessness.  It does not mention some of the draw backs of the programs or how the programs that are saving money can spend that savings on other homeless people.  It is a good overview of the issues and the program characteristics.

Brian Davis

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National Updates for March 2014

New York City

The new police chief of New York City, Bill Bratton, has tripled the number of arrests for panhandling as was done in the first two months of 2012.  This is a crackdown on those who sit by the subway asking for change which is annoying, but these guys need the help.  I have never understood giving people who are down on their luck a ticket for begging for money.  This seems like kicking a man when he is down.  Do they allow these guys to beg for the fine that they will be charged for asking for help?   Unless you provide an alternative for these poor people it will only perpetuate the problem. 

Washington DC

As every city in the United States is struggling with family homelessness, Washington is in an especially complicated position that the Courts are demanding changes.   The Mayoral candidates are at least talking about homelessness and ways to increase access to housing in the Capital City.   The families were not being provided privacy and violates they were violating a city law to protect children.  Cleveland does not have a law similar to this DC law, but we have a 25 year history of not turning anyone away at the shelter door.  We try as hard as we can never to turn a family, a man, a child or anyone away.  Why would a fragile 47 year old with AIDS be any less important in the nation's capital than a child?  Why not offer anyone who needs help a shelter bed and not just children?

Extreme Weather on the East Coast 

I missed this story in February from Tell Me More about the extreme weather conditions.  We are so far out ahead of most other states in the United States.   We have operated three overflow sites this winter and nearly two thirds of the nights since November 15 have been extreme weather this winter.  I am so glad that Cleveland does not only open overflow shelters in the winter.  People are more likely to suffer hypothermia during a cold rain that they do not get warmed quickly.  The National Coalition for the Homeless has a report on their website about the responses to cold weather.  Some open their winter shelter if it is under 20 degrees while others wait until 10 degrees.  

Chicago, Illinois

There was a nice story this Friday on Storycorps about a homeless young person and their embarrassment over being homeless that appeared on NPR.  This was the story of a teacher who discovered one of her students had become homeless and did not have a family to take care of him.  They reunite after he has stabilized in foster care.

Nashville Tennessee

In a unique way to get around food restrictions, religious groups are asking for the freedom to give out food as part of their ministry.  This law tries to sway Tennessee legislators without mentioning hungry or homeless people.  They are strictly asking for religious liberty which should be attractive down in the South.  Many Southern states have enacted laws limiting when and where people can be fed, so the activists in Nashville are trying a novel approach. 

Brian Davis

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People Seem to Be Sheltering In Place

Homeless people seem to be sheltering in place and not going outside.  Everything including some of the healthcare clinic sites and drop in centers are closed today, but most people are inside.  The brave and hearty outreach teams have gone around to campsites over the last 24 hours to make sure people were safe.  We have about 8 people who the local outreach teams are checking on regularly.   The students from John Carroll, St. Ignatius, and CWRU Labre projects are still going out to check on the people they have built a relationship with over the years.  The Frontline Services staff are covering the community and helping those with mental health issues or disabilities find safe places to live.  Jim Schlecht, Tim Walters, Carl Cook and the other staff from Metanoia are keeping their drop in center open in this extreme cold.  We are giving out handwarmers, thermal sleeping bags and thousands of blankets to keep people safe.  Even with a wind chill of negative 20 degrees, people decide to stay outside under a tent and piles of blankets.  One woman told an outreach worker that she was worried her stuff inside her tent would be stolen if she went into the shelter or drop in warming center.  

The two big shelters are not turning people away and operating overflow shelters across the community.   We do not turn anyone away who requests shelter in Cleveland, and that is especially difficult during these tough winter weather.  The women over at Seasons of Hope safe haven are keeping four to six fragile women off the streets.  NEOCH staff came in today despite car issues and the 57 degree temperatures inside our office to make sure that if we received calls from social service or pedestrians we could dispatch help.   As one First Call For Help worker reported, it has been nice to see neighbors and pedestrians paying attention to homeless people and engaging them by asking about their safety.  People have called the 2-1-1 helpline to ask for assistance for people they worry about.  We are concerned that we lost track of a couple we kept an eye on during the last arctic cold spell near the freeway.  They were told that they have to move because of a cleanup, and we have not seen them for a week.   We hope that they decided to go inside and just haven't contacted anyone, but we are looking for them.  The Stand Down staff over at Handson NEO reported such an outpouring of help from the community, they have a surplus of winter items left to distribute.  We have been going over and collecting items that we need from their storage site.  We will post more about the Stand Down (it was great) as we get through this emergency. 

Brian Davis

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A Rough Day in Cleveland Due to the Weather

We had a great plan.  We had so many people working to protect the poorest of our citizens in Cleveland.  We had safety forces, government, and social services all working together to help.  Yet we still lost someone due to the cold. Monday and Tuesday night and Tuesday during the day, we had many teams of workers and volunteers out working to protect people living on the streets.   We offered thermal sleeping gear, blankets, tents, handwarmers, shelter spaces and even nights in a hotel.  There were about a dozen people who refused to come inside no matter what we did.  Then there was one gentleman who we did not find and he passed away.   We have a hard time interacting with people who stay in abandoned buildings.   It is impossible to go on private property and check all these abandoned buildings.   We lost a member of the homeless community who froze to death while squatting in an abandoned house that we were not aware was living in that part of town.

There were outreach workers travelling outside last night from 6 to 10 p.m.  We gave out hundreds of blankets over the last few days.  The streets of Cleveland were deserted over the last two nights.   We know that a couple of homeless people went into the recreation centers that stayed openon Monday night and staffed by the Red Cross.  Most people went into the shelters and every shelter bed was full with three overflow shelters operational.  The Metanoia project brought scores of people inside who would be staying outside in the cold if they were not open.  But with all this human capital and resources going to protect people, we still lost one. 

There are so many different reasons people are on the streets.  There are hundreds of reasons people reject living in the shelters.  There is mental illness, a rejection of charity, pride, alcoholism, anger, fear, and on and on and so many more.   We did everything we could, but we could not be everywhere. 

Tuesday was a rough day for homeless people and for local social service providers.  I know that a number of the staff who showed up to help were dealing with their own issues back at their own homes.  Some had water pipes breaking at their house, but they were working to save lifes at the centers.  Some had their furnace go out and still went in to help people.  Some had their cars die in the cold while they were helping people with the meals.  The temperature at NEOCH was 52 degrees on Tuesday, but we still stayed hours to follow up on calls for help or for those in need of a ride.  Even with everyone communicating and all the resources and all the donations given out we still lost one person.  It is tough working in the shelters. 

Brian Davis

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Update on Cleveland's Extreme Weather

 The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County convened a conference call today with social service providers and the Red Cross to make sure that we are ready to serve people living in unstable housing conditions locally.   Here are some of the things we learned:

1. The Metanoia Project at St. Malachi, 2100 Lakeside Shelter and the Community Women's shelter are the points of contact for City and County safety forces.  The RTA, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, St. Paul's and Care Alliance can offer transportation help to get people to these locations. The RTA was offering bus passes to get the person back to their "home" after the crisis is over. 

2.  The police and other Public Safety forces can offer a ride if the individual needs help to get out to the cold. 

3. Downtown Cleveland Alliance will be also providing transportation to shelter as is St. Paul's Community Church.  There are a number of outreach teams on the streets today and tonight looking for people who may need help. 

 4. Bellefaire has shelter provision and possibly transportation  for anyone under 18. Bellefaire JCB·Homeless Youth Hotline·24/7·- 216-570-8010.

5. Red Cross is providing supplies such as winter gloves, hats and cots/blankets.  Salvation Army is willing to provide food help to shelters that get overwhelmed.

6. All City Recreation centers will be available during open Hours as warming centers.

7.  211/First Call for Help can offer help with transportation if there is an individual on the streets that needs a ride to one of the warming centers or shelters. 

8.  The shelters are not turning people away and right now are operating two overflow sites for single adults and one overflow site for families.  These are administered by LMM.

9.  LMM at 2100 Lakeside Shelter is collecting cold weather donations 24 hours a day to give out to the agencies locally. 

10. If you need shelter go to 2100 Lakeside if you are a male and 2227 Payne Ave for women/children and they will find a space for you in the community.  You may have to be transported to some other location, but they will find space for you.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Extreme Weather Plans in Cleveland for Homeless People

Many are worried about homeless people during this extreme weather.  Most of the shelters and social service providers are on the job today working to keep people safe.  The shelters stay open when it is this cold.  They do not turn people away and they do not make them leave during the day.  There are overnight warming places available (St. Malachi and Seasons of Hope for Women) that serve those who do not go to shelter. The City is also opening the Recreation Centers as warming centers.  The Plain Dealer's Tom Feran has done a series of articles on the cold here, here, and here.

Many outreach workers have gone out today and yesterday to convince those who are resistant to shelter to come inside.  NEOCH is coordinating this information and working to get everyone inside today.  We have three sites we are working on right now, but we think everyone is doing a good job staying safe.  The area we do not have very good coverage is East Cleveland.  I am not sure what is happening out there with those who sleep in abandoned buildings.  I do not know if there is outreach to them, and I am not sure what the City is doing to get those people inside.

The shelters never run out of space in Cleveland.  They will open overflow sites (City Mission, VOA, and a group of churches) if the entry shelters (2100 Lakeside and Norma Herr) are full.  We never turn people away including on the extreme weather nights.  If you want shelter in Cleveland, we will find a place for you.  RTA is working on a plan for today to provide transportation to some of these warming centers if people are in need and have no way to get to those places.   We will provide more information later.  Some of the groups are willing to offer short term motel stays if there is no other options in the community.  If you want to help, you can drop cold weather items at our office until 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and most Saturdays (3631 Perkins third floor--near CSU).  But don't go out if it is not necessary.  We have plenty of items at this point.  You could help refresh all the outreach teams with donations next week. 

Brian Davis

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We are Still Collecting Blankets

The NEOCH Blanket and donation drive is November 15 to March 15, 2014.  With the weather expected to get down to dangerous lows over the weekend and then next week, we are ready.  We have had scores of people dropping items off this week.  The shelters are ready to keep people inside if necessary. Typically shelter residents leave in the morning and return in the evening, but if it is too cold the County declares an emergency and people stay inside all day.  We will open the overflow shelters so that we do not turn anyone away.  We will most likely open the Metanoia Program on Monday or Tuesday if the temperature continues to decline as is forecast.  All the shelters will do whatever it takes to keep people safe.   Here are the items we collect as part of the blanket drive:

  1. New Socks
  2. RTA one day Bus Tickets
  3. New underwear (any sizes)
  4. Trial size soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant
  5. Toothbrushes, trial size soap or deodorants, disposable razors, Ziploc sandwich bags
  6. Blankets
  7. Towels/ hand wash cloths
  8. Tissue/Kleenex
  9. Hand sanitizer
  10. Water Bottles

Here is the page on our website detailing what we collectYou can drop stuff off M-F 9-4:30 and this weekend Noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. If you want to help in other ways, we have a number of suggestions on our website.

Brian Davis

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Homeless People and the Extreme Heat

This has been a rough week in Cleveland for those who are homeless and do not want to go into shelter.  Five days of heat advisories have been tough on the population.  On Monday evening, a man died outside of the main shelter, and we are waiting for the Medical Examiner to make a decision on the cause of death of this 70 year old homeless individual.  The men’s shelter has opened earlier in the day all this week, and is trying to keep the lines down and has offered water to everyone around the facility.  The Volunteers of America outreach are handing out gallons of water this week as they conduct their outreach on the streets.  Care Alliance found a gentleman in an abandoned house who was near death because he was not able to get around and there was no running water in the house. 

 Anyone who wants to go into shelter in Cuyahoga County is admitted.  We will find a place for everyone inside.  It may be a matt on the floor at first, but they will have access to a bed in a couple of days. You will have access to water, showers, and food inside.  There are still hundreds who will not go into shelter because they don’t want to deal with the rules, the hundreds of “roommates” or feel like they are accepting charity.  Many will stay outside no matter if there is a shelter space available.  We have a wonderful team of agencies which send outreach staff out to help those living outside. 

I found this useful article from the Boston Department of Public Health on tips for the public in a time of extreme heat.  I think that it applies to Cleveland as well:

Be Our Eyes and Ears

If a person in need approaches you or you observe someone needing help, and you believe this may be a medical or safety emergency, please contact 911 immediately.

Passed Out or Suffering from the Heat and Sun?

If a person appears passed out, do not assume they are “just drunk,” instead call 911. People can become dehydrated rapidly in extremely hot weather and anyone “passed out,” lying in the sun or badly sunburned is medically at risk.

Water, Water Everywhere

Many homeless people do not have ready access to water. It is both compassionate and helpful to offer bottled water to homeless persons in addition to sunscreen or hats for sun protection.  Suggesting moving into shaded areas may also help someone with sun or heat exposure.  If you do not feel comfortable with approaching a homeless person staying outside, but you worry about them, you can call NEOCH to make sure that an outreach worker makes contact 216/432-0540.   You can deliver water to NEOCH, Care Alliance, any of the Volunteers of America sites or 2100 Lakeside shelter.  Any of these agencies will get the water out to people in need. 

A Place to Stay Inside

Homeless shelters listed on our Street Card offer people who are particularly vulnerable or at risk of heat-related health problems the option of staying in for the day on these hot days.  With the introduction of Central Intake, men go to 2100 Lakeside and women go to 2227 Payne Ave. to get a shelter bed anywhere in the city.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Homelessness in the News

Heat Wave has an Impact on Homeless and more homeless in shelter due to heat

Palm Beach TB Outbreak Covered Up

NPR covers Philly Food Ban

New York City: Homelessness Getting Worse

Rhode Island Passes Homeless Bill of Rights

Some homeless people are not good people

Heat and Homelessness

Extreme weather is always dangerous for those living outside.  Most people remember homeless people when Cleveland gets a big snow storm, and the media calls for more help.  But when temperatures reach over 100 degrees those outside are in nearly the same danger as those outside in January.  Dehydration can come on quickly.  The world starts spinning and the individual becomes disoriented, and can quickly pass out.  For those isolated and living alone, this can be deadly.  On Saturday, one of our vendors at the West Side Market, while selling the Street Chronicle, did not drink enough water and had to be taken home by a Good Samaritan.  If you are going downtown, bring an extra water bottle for the homeless guy you see.  Most have the good sense to be inside, but on the weekend it is harder to find air conditioned places open to seek shelter from the heat. When the County declares a shelter emergency, the facilities are not suppose to close during the day as is the custom.   I assume that this happened on Friday and Saturday. 

TB Outbreak in Homeless Community

A report from the Palm Beach Post today showed that in April the CDC reported a huge outbreak of individuals with tuberculosis in Jacksonville, Florida.  Public health officials were focused on their massive budget cuts that the Governor had just signed into law,and the closing of Health Departments in the state.  The spread of infectious disease in the homeless community is what keeps shelter providers up at night.  Since homeless people move around so much, any infectious disease can quickly move through a congregate living facility and infect thousands.  MetroHealth Hospital takes the lead in Cuyahoga County in overseeing infectious disease control.  From the article, it sounds as though because of budget cuts, Florida took their eye off the ball by not controlling TB outbreaks early with a protocol of vaccinating everyone who comes in contact with the infected individual.  The case went untreated for 18 months and some who came in contact with the individual later died.

Philadelphia "Helps" Homeless by Restricting Access to Food

We have discussed this before here in March. NPR did a story this week about the City of Philadelphia trying to restrict religious and other groups from distributing food outside.  Beware of the Mayor who only wants to help a population by passing laws that takes away their rights.  We have discussed how foolish this whole plan is to limit the core mission of many of these churches.  The law will not go into affect until a judge hears the challenges to the restrictions.  Here is the Mayor's take on limiting religious freedom:

"I believe that people, regardless of their station in life, should be able to actually sit down, at a table, to a meal inside, away from the heat and the cold, the rain and the snow, the vehicle exhaust and all the other distractions of everyday city life," said Mayor Michael Nutter to NPR.

I agree with the sentiment, but it is not the job of government to tell people where they can receive food.  This should be a non-profits job to strike a compromise that everyone can agree on as was done in Cleveland.  Check out the link to the agreement we fashioned in Cleveland. Everyone wants homeless people to be able to enjoy a nutritious meal, but they don't need the big stick of government spending time and resources beating up on churches or their congregants.

New York City Homelessness Increasing

This was from a month ago in the Huffington Post, but we missed it.  Wanted to call attention to it for a couple of reasons.  First, this is by an independent academic observer so it is not an advocate saying that the local homeless administration had failed.  Second, New York City was championed by the previous federal administration and the Bloomberg administration as being on track to end homelessness with a 10 year plan.  The previous InterAgency Council director made frequent trips to New York to heap praise on the Mayor for "solving homelessness" by building thousands of  permanent supportive housing units.  Many complained that federal cuts to mainstream programs like Public Housing and the voucher program was no way to "end homelessness,"  but very few were listening intoxicated by these beautiful new apartments for homeless people.  Now things are coming back to bite the administration who spent so much time on moving the "long term" homeless into housing they forgot to work on the family population.  There is no way to "solve homelessness" with big holes in the safety net, which only got bigger with the downturn in 2008.  We did not see an expansion of cash assistance, child care help, student loan forgiveness, employment training, and medicare expansion before 2014 in order to stabilize the families losing housing, jobs, health insurance, and prices of staples increasing.  It is no wonder that family homelessness is increasing in New York City and Cleveland and most American cities.

Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights

This is some great news out of the state of Rhode Island with the passage of the Homeless Bill of Rights.  We hope that this is the start of a trend to reverse 20 years of municipal actions making it illegal to be poor.  There were some items compromised out of the legislation, but it is a great start for the drive to create a kindler, gentler society.  The law protects people from using public spaces, equal treatment by government, and protects against discrimination by an employer because of a person's housing status.  The law makes it easier for homeless people to establish residency in order to vote, there are privacy rights guaranteed by law for those who use the shelters and services, and establish rights for those who sleep outside to some degree of privacy.

Homeless People are not all Good People

In Florida, a homeless guy was renting out houses to unsuspecting people who had no idea that they were paying rent to a "landlord" who did not have ownership of the property.   The homeless population are no different then the general population.  The vast majority of people are kind trustworthy people who are working to find a hand out of homelessness, but there are a few who are criminals looking for an easy score.  Just like the guy who raped an elderly woman at St. Clair Place in Cleveland, and was found hiding in the shelter down the street, there are some bad people among the vast majority of upstanding citizens.  When a neighbor is found to be a predator, it does not taint the whole street as bad.  When a homeless person is found to be a criminal hiding among the population, it should not make people uncomfortable around all homeless people.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry