Follow Up on City Mission Forum

Saturday June 10 at 9 a.m. at the City Mission, NEOCH is partnering with Metanoia, West Side Catholic and City Mission to follow up on the forum that we had back in April.  This meeting is an attempt to set up a task force of religious folks to find solutions with the crisis in homeless families. We regularly have 5 to 10 families in the gym waiting for a bed to open locally.  The forum will be in the main building of City Mission 5310 Carnegie Ave. come into the main entrance (the building on the corner of 55th and Carnegie). We’ll meet from 9 - 10:30.  It is a a little late to call City Mission for more details, but you can call and leave a message for Linda if you want to get on the e-mail list for future meetings 216-431-3510.  

 by Brian Davis

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Sue DiNardo: Founding Board Member of NEOCH Passes Away

This is the kind of person Sue DiNardo was at West Side Catholic Center: there are over 500 Sue DiNardo from the West Side Catholic Facebook page 2014photos on the West Side Catholic Center Facebook page and only one of Sue.  (Even this photo seems to show her more concerned about her neighbor's well being over her own plate.) She has worked at the facility for nearly two decades and was never making speeches or calling attention to herself or evidently having her picture taken. I looked through around 7,000 pictures at NEOCH including Stand Downs, ribbon cuttings, Homeless Memorials, Annual Meetings and could not find a picture of Sue. She put her head down and got stuff done without a lot of fanfare or accolades.  She was a founding board member of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and signed our Articles of Incorporation back in 1987. 

She was in a leadership position on the NEOCH Board when I started here in 1994.  We would hold the board meetings at the Salvation Army where she managed the family shelter.  In all the years I knew her, she did what she was asked to do without complaint.  So, if there was a need for a co-chair of the Office of Homeless Services, she stepped up.  There was a need to take a leadership role at NEOCH when the director left, and Sue stepped forward.  She worked with the board and staff of the Cleveland Tenants Organization to keep NEOCH functioning during a rough spot, and she did whatever she was asked through four directors at West Side Catholic Center. 

She was not confrontational or loud or unsure.  She was full of compassion and wanted to get things done.  She worked at the Cadillac of shelters in Cleveland at West Side Catholic Center, and then took on the challenge of moving Family Transitional Shelter to a scattered site model for housing families called Zacchaeus House under the West Side Catholic umbrella.  She was steady and reliable and wanted everyone to get along to provide the best possible service to those struggling with housing. She dedicated her professional life to serving homeless families in Cleveland and was able to see the development of an impressive system of shelters and services.  In the early1980s, there were only a couple of services for homeless families mostly because it was so rare to see a family without housing before that. The number of families exploded in Cleveland, and Sue was working behind the scenes with religious groups to keep people safe.  Sue helped to create NEOCH and many other programs in Cleveland in an attempt to make homelessness a brief interruption for families and not a lifelong disabling condition. 

She touched the lives of thousands who may never have known her or were not aware that Sue's hard work made their life easier.  All the kids who enjoyed a meal at the shelter did not know how much Sue had done to make that possible.  All the men who got a winter coat and the hundreds of people that Sue's staff sat with while they filled out a housing application were lucky that Sue decided to bring her skills to homeless services.  She wasn't championing all that she did for Cleveland, but she worked tirelessly filling out grant applications and completing the truck loads of paperwork that the federal government requires to receive public funds.  She was a calming presence on our board when there was a dispute between the free speech folks and social service sector.  Sue DiNardo will be missed in the homeless community.  She was an unsung hero to homeless families; always trying to alleviate any suffering in Cleveland and accepting people with all their frailty, faults and failings. 

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Had a Few Successes Recently

Ice and Leslie at the Cosgrove Feast and Fellowship in OctoberFamily Homelessness

The Community Women's Shelter no longer housing children.  We raised the issue with the County, the media and the public and we saw a change in October 2016. The Women's Shelter is way overcrowded and there were many homeless families looking for help.  The County came up with the solution of putting women with children inside the already overcrowded women's shelter.  NEOCH felt that the County should declare an emergency and ask for help.  The City Mission stepped forward to help and is now housing families in the gymnasium.  They purchased cots and toys for the kids.  This shows that with public private partnerships, we can solve problems.  We thank City Mission for their help in this time of crisis.

Began negotiations on the Women's Shelter changes

Frontline Services has begun meeting with women on the priority issues to improve the shelter.  We will post the priority items and provide regular progress for the shelter.  So far, we are planning on a survey of the women and the creation of a resident council to rewrite the rules.  There are many questions outstanding that need answered from the agency.  This is only a small step but at least the two groups are talking.

Purge Lawsuit

After a loss at the district court our legal team scored a scored a victory in the Appeals Court and ruled against the Ohio Secretary of State for the way he purged voters.  We posted the information on our voting blog from Demos about the suit here.  The issue was that the Secretary of State notified voters that they may be removed from the voting rolls, but gave them vague or confusing instructions for what the voter should do to correct this situation.  The lawyers spent weeks on negotiating this and eventually had to go back to court to get the federal court to order a resolution.  It was a victory for common sense and voting rights. 

Central Kitchen

In 2015, we kept hearing at meetings that the food at the two big shelters was subpar. The two shelters had contracted with the Lutheran Metro Ministry program called the Central Kitchen.  We had Central Kitchen staff attend Homeless Congress meetings, but it was not getting better.  So, we set up meetings at the Central Kitchen last year and things are getting better.  They hired a new head chef this summer and have made the trainees go out and serve the food at the shelters on a regular basis.  The residents admitted at both the Homeless Congress and at the Resident Council that things are improving at the Central Kitchen.  We congratulate the staff over at Central Kitchen, and hope to see continued improvement.

Brian Davis

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Draining the Swamp in America

What does draining the swamp look like?  Some say it is about ridding DC of the "establishment" and lobbyist, but then we see only establishment and lobbyist figures so who knows.  Here are my thoughts on what is ahead for homeless people in Cleveland.  I am basing these projections on what Donald Trump said when he ran for office and how it will impact homeless people.  Some have said that those were just statements for the campaign, but his supporters will expect delivery on these ideas.  I have also looked at the Campaign website for some hints and base these projections on previous attempts by Republicans in Congress.  Some of these items were stopped because of divided government which is not the case at this time.  Voters were angry at the "establishment" for not responding to their concerns, so they are not going to stand for Trump not fulfilling these promises.  Here are the four websites that I looked at to formulate these projections:

The other issue for those of us in Ohio is that Trump has said on the Campaign trail that he is fiercely loyal and feel that those who have slighted him should be punished.  He repeatedly talked about the Congressmen who turned their back on him and those who did not live by the pledge they signed to support the Republican nominee for President.  The Governor of Ohio as well as the Senator just re-elected both distanced themselves from the President Elect.  Governor Kasich never endorsed the candidate and stated that he would not vote for Trump despite the popularity of the Presidential candidate.  Portman revoked his endorsement after harassment allegations arose and stated that he was going to waste his Presidential vote with a non-existent write in candidate.  There are debates about whether to end the earmarks ban, but Ohio may not benefit since we only have one member in leadership and that retaliation problem by a vindictive administration.  In addition, there is a plan for infrastructure improvements, but would Ohio score poorly because of our leadership team not supporting the Republican nominee?  If there is a dramatic infrastructure program that could put the skilled laborers sleeping in our shelters in Cleveland to work.   Overall, it looks like Ohio is going to be a rough place in the next four years.  

A Rise in Hate Crimes Against Homeless People

There is a great deal of fear and anxiety in America and typically people we do not understand become targets.  Homeless people, those who stay outside, and panhandlers are certainly misunderstood and often viewed as the enemy.  They are the visible expression that America is not a great place for everyone.  We fear that there will be a rise in hate crimes against homeless people because of the sharp rise in hate crimes over the last few weeks.  The next Justice Department is unlikely to be as sympathetic to protecting people living on the streets as the current Civil Rights Division.  

Medicaid Will Likely Contract

There was such hatred for the Affordable Care Act and the cornerstone of so called "Obamacare" was the expansion of Medicaid to those living at 132% of poverty or below.  This is unlikely to survive any change in the health care law.  Homeless people will have to go back to the emergency room for care.  Before Medicaid expansion in Ohio less than 20% of the population had insurance.  Today, between 70 and 80% of the population have insurance.  This has dramatically improved the health of the population and we were talking about using health care expansion to pay for stable housing because housing is healthcare. This is off the table and will not happen in the current environment. There is talk of moving to a "health savings account" system, but I am pretty sure that the savings accounts of homeless people will be overdrawn. There is also talk of privatizing Medicaid which will be great for the big insurance companies, big pharma, and horrible for low income people who are frequent health care customers. 

Dramatic Changes in Housing Programs

There is no real housing lobby in Washington.  We have not had a national housing policy since 1972, and no real production of housing for decades.  There was no discussion of housing in the Presidential election, and the beneficiaries of housing unfortunately do not vote.  People who live in subsidized housing are not protected like seniors who vote in huge numbers and protect Social Security like no other program.  I see two options for the next Congress to begin to cut the budgets for housing programs.  One is to privatize the market as much as possible, which the new Businessman in Chief would support.  The other option is to time limit the housing like welfare reform.  They actually could do both to contain costs.  Congress could provide a five year lifetime limit on subsidized housing to try to reduce the huge waiting lists (7,000 people on the voucher list in Cleveland and 21,000 on the public housing list in Cleveland).   The privatization has already started with housing authorities going to banks for private funding to rebuild their properties.  This will only be accelerated in the next few years.  Time limits would quickly fill up the shelters with disabled and fragile people who have no ability to pay the market rate for rent in Cleveland or any community. 

Sequestration on Steroids

Veterans programs, military, and social security will be protected according to Trump campaign promises.  While all other government programs will be subject to an across-the-board budget cut. Trump campaigned on a 1 to 2% cut in government spending to tackle the debt.  This would have a huge impact on social services.  We already lost shelter beds every year since Sequestration started and this will only accelerate with any cuts.  It is hard to cut 1% of the beds locally, so entire programs close. Shelter beds, treatment programs, re-entry programs, food stamp programs, health care for those without money, transportation dollars, and food assistance will be reduced.  The unemployment compensation and worker's compensation program has huge debt problems in many parts of the country. Both worker's assistance programs could be further privatized to attempt to eliminate federal bailouts.  

Block Granting

The Congress has tried this in the past but not very successfully.  Food stamps is the last of the entitlements that is not time limited.  While most homeless people do not collect food stamps, this is the program most likely to face a time limit and a block granting to the states to administer.  Funding for the shelters could also be block granted to the states.  Again, this might not be so bad for some states, but in Ohio rural communities always seem to get a disproportionate amount of federal and state dollars. The rural legislators are far more powerful than the urban legislators and demand a larger piece of the pie.  The example is the Ohio Housing Trust Fund which is slanted toward suburban and rural communities and those who live in urban communities suffer.  

Priorities for Other Government functions

We know that immigration, building a wall, deporting millions, an infrastructure program, legal and judicial resources to defend these positions, renegotiating trade deals, and improving care to Veterans will be the priority for the administration.  Trump has also promised a big tax cut for corporation and the middle class.  All of these will leave little room in a balanced federal budget to also fund shelters, housing, welfare, Medicaid, and food assistance. Again, because these programs do not have a powerful lobby they will not fair well in a Trump administration.  There was a promise to end all government funding for "sanctuary cities" that construct a wall between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers.  This type of precedent could impact many of the largest cities in America and their homeless services funding.  If the feds withhold money from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco for being "sanctuary cities" can those housing dollars go to Columbus and Youngstown?  It also could be a dangerous precedent used by the federal funds to withhold dollars from local communities that do things that the President does not like. 

Immigration debates could also seep into funding for the shelters in another way.  The shelters have always had a strict privacy protection so that even families have a hard time getting information on their loved ones.  Will the federal government demand the publicly funded shelters turn over their rosters to screen them against the list of 2 to 3 million people that the Trump administration is looking to deport?  The President may demand that they open their HMIS data to federal ICE officers for inspection.  The shelters may be swept into this national debate for offering a safe place to anyone who shows up at the door vs. receiving federal dollars to keep out foreign nationals.

Most of the Plans Require a Growing Economy

The Paul Ryan "A Better Way" Plan repeatedly outlines the need for a healthy growing economy in order to facilitate projections for growth in charitable giving and a recovery of the housing market.  Under President Obama, the economy has grown steadily for seven years.  It cannot go on with growth forever.  There will always be downturns, and we do not have the safety net services that we had in the past.  We will not have the tax base to absorb the number of people who need help.  We do not have the shelters, the affordable housing, the job training programs that we had in the past.  We are ready with food, but every other safety net has huge holes.  It will be tough for everyone.  

Veterans Homelessness Will Most Likely End

There are a few good things that are most likely coming in the next few years.  With the public pronouncements of improving the Department of Veteran's Affairs.  The Obama administration made a good headstart on ending veteran's homelessness.  With a renewed focus on improving the entire VA network in the new administration, it is a good bet that veteran's homelessness will end over the next few years.  

Treatment Could Actually Expand

The one area of positive reform of the social safety net might be the rate of incarceration and then the diversion into treatment programs.  There has been bi-partisan plan to reform the criminal justice system to reduce some of the costs.  This could translate into more resources into treatment to keep people out of jail.  This could benefit Northeast Ohio which is buckling under the opioid epidemic.  This may be a scratch in the end if hundreds of thousands lose health insurance locally.  We could overwhelm the few additional treatment and detox beds with those without health insurance.

Snapshots

  • Fewer affordable housing options because of time limits or privatization and a continued decline in the number of shelter beds.
  • More homeless families with health issues or an inability to find a job.
  • More single homeless people with fewer places to go.
  • Cleveland has guaranteed access to a shelter bed.  This is unlikely to survive with the expected federal funding cuts. 
  • Fewer homeless veterans and more treatment beds in the community.
  • The local community will be expected to pick up the slack for a withdraw of funds from the Federal government. Image Post Swamp After Being Drained
  • Trump has pledged 25 million jobs and that will benefit homeless people.

There are many in the social justice community who are worried about individual liberty, privacy and hate crimes.  There are those in the social service community worried about federal block granting and huge cuts in healthcare, housing and job programs.  These two worlds rarely co-exist, but may be forced into a shot gun wedding.  There are a lot of unknowns, but if the Trump Administration fulfills half of the promises he campaigned on, homeless people are going to be in big trouble.  By Thanksgiving 2017, the face of poverty will be much different compared to 2016.

Brian Davis

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Joyce is Back in Action!!!

Here are a few interesting stories Joyce found while surfing the net about homelessness.

Food insecurity and homelessness continue to plague many of the nation's largest cities, according to a new report released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Across 22 of the cities surveyed — including Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; and San Francisco — the amount of emergency food assistance increased by 3 percent between Sept. 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015. In addition, homelessness increased across all of the cities by an average 1.6 percent over the same period. 

Many community college students, who often balance jobs, families and studies, struggle with paying for food and housing, according to a new study. A survey of more than 4,000 undergraduates at 10 community colleges determined that half of all community college students are struggling with food and/or housing insecurity, said researchers at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hidden behind the government district in downtown Phoenix sits a cluster of homeless shelters, food banks and clinics. Of the services offered, few help those participate in one of the most basic civil rights of American citizens — the right to vote. Both local and national election processes present the difficult tasks of finding a ballot, getting to a voting place, accessing election information and acquiring the necessary identification to register and cast a vote. 

A 24-year-old homeless woman who cops said had been living in her car with her 3-year-old daughter in Las Vegas for about a week was charged Monday in the automobile rampage that killed one and wounded at least 35 others Sunday night.  (For members we have a short piece about could this happen in Cleveland in the Member Hub by logging into the website.)

Students in the College of Health and Human Development often find careers in fields that serve the homeless. Whether they are administrators of health care facilities, managers of social services, physicians, counselors, or any number of other service-related careers, students will likely, at some point in their career, work with people wrestling with homelessness.  For this reason, the college is committed to helping students prepare to serve those who are homeless with care and compassion.  

Front Street Community Health Center in Juneau has a new permanent nurse practitioner after a year of temporary medical providers. The health clinic, which caters primarily to people who are homeless, has gone through a lot of growing pains since it separated from Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium two years ago.  

Homelessness in Hawaii has grown in recent years, leaving the state with 487 homeless per 100,000 people, the nation's highest rate per capita, ahead of New York and Nevada, according to federal statistics. The increase, driven by years of rising costs in the island chain, low wages and limited land, thrust the image of people sleeping on beaches alongside the state's famed one of a relaxing tropical paradise.

Though it has made much progress, the Department of Veterans Affairs is likely to miss its target on two ambitious goals: ending veteran homelessness in 2015 and ending the backlog in disability claims.  The latest count available showed about 50,000 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2014.

To address the crisis of homeless families in Central Florida — where one of every 17 children spent at least part of last year living in a motel, shelter, the family car or someone else's home — leaders called Tuesday for a major increase in affordable housing and support from politicians in Tallahassee. "While some of those kids do have a roof over their heads, the fact that they may be doubled up with family members or living in a one-room hotel with their entire family — that's not sufficient to create the kind of self-esteem and security they need," Jacobs said.

November was National Youth Runaway Prevention Month, and one local man was going to do all that he can to raise awareness. Kyle Wales was approached by Youth Services and Chiselbox to help spread the word for the upcoming Wheeling Sleep Out, an annual event to raise community support and funds for Homeless Youth in the Ohio Valley. 

More than 500,000 people  a quarter of them children  were homeless in the United States this year amid scarce affordable housing across much of the nation, according to a study released on Thursday. Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Hawaii have all recently declared emergencies over the rise of homelessness, and on Thursday Seattle's mayor toured a new encampment for his city's dispossessed.

The Incarcerated Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 732 has created care packages for the local homeless population and those who have lost their homes, complete with a sleeping bag, garment bag, mittens, toiletries and a mat woven from nonbiodegradable plastic shopping bags to keep them from sleeping on wet ground.  

By Joyce Robinson

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Beau Hill: Social Service Provider of the Year

Beau Hill is the Coordinator of the Harbor Light Project and contact for homeless services within the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland. He is co-chair of the County Public Policy Committee of the Office of Homeless Services and oversees the shelters, detox, community corrections, and outreach headquartered in the Prospect Avenue facility.  Hill leads the effort to reduce human trafficking in Cleveland, and has assisted the County in improving the regulations of the local shelters. 

The biggest success over the last year was the posting of rules that prevent discharge from shelters in the evening unless there is criminal activity.  The other victory from 2014 was the financing of a new family shelter in Cleveland operated by Salvation Army.  This has been a dream of many, including Hill, for years to move the Zelma George shelter into their own brand new facility built to serve the unique needs of homeless families.  With funding from the State of Ohio and Cuyahoga County, the project was approved in 2014 to move the Salvation Army family shelter back into its own building behind Harbor Light.   For these reasons, NEOCH recognizes Beau Hill as the Homeless Social Service Provider of the Year.

 Hill was appreciative of the award and cited his religious belief as the reason he does this work.  He thanked the NEOCH Board for selecting him for this award which has not been given out since 2010. 

Brian Davis

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Interfaith Hospitality Moves Away from Congregations

      I have been volunteering three or four times a year since the Interfaith Hospitality Network came to Cleveland Hts in 1997.  I started sleeping in the church cafeterias and social halls for 15 years with families struggling to find a place to live.  Interfaith Hospitality merged with New Life Community to form Family Promise and now they are doing away with hosting families at the facility of these partner religious congregations.  Instead families will stay at one facility and church members will go to that location and volunteer.  The last church to host the families was Communion of Saints on the St. Ann's campus.  This may be better for the families because they don't have to travel to the day center in the morning and in the evening.  My concern is that the religious groups will not stay active.
      I am sorry to see the host congregation concept die in Cleveland.  I really love this program and will miss it.  I testified for it at Cleveland Hts. And Shaker Hts. City councils when neighbors spoke of their safety concerns.  I work with the shelters every day in Cleveland, so I would have something to compare the host congregation concept to.  I am not sure that shelter staff, county people and the administrators understand how valuable this program is to the community.  The value comes from being different from all the others shelters and services.  It works for many because of the involvement of so many different volunteers.  It puts in to practice the concept of the village taking care of those struggling.  Homeless families are screened and then accepted into the network.  They don't take victims of domestic violence or families that would be too difficult to serve by the volunteers.  The families are helped during the day by a social worker and then are transported to one of the churches to sleep over night.  The day shelter has showers and a place to do research and computer work.  Volunteers at night make dinner, help with an activity and sleep overnight with the families.  

    I do not see the burnt out staff and huge turnover that I see at almost every other shelter in Cleveland.  The volunteers who prepare a meal, plan a game or sleep overnight want to be there.  We were not punching a clock and we did not dread hearing the stories of tragedy we hear form the families.  The volunteers only donated their time quarterly so they were not callous or jaded.  The volunteers brought a thousand different talents to the families.  Some might have known a job lead, others may have known a vacancy in an apartment, while others may have known the superintendent of schools to cut through the red tape of getting transportation back to the child’s school of origin.  Some of the volunteers could pick up the phone to get I.D. for a child while others can get immunization records we have.  There are hundreds in each congregation who can offer help to these families.

       It is a hassle to provide transportation but that is what makes the program work. It is a pain to organize all the volunteers with their busy lives, but the volunteers are a huge irreplaceable asset.  The trained day center staff can work on housing, jobs and stability, and they do not have to worry about food, sleeping and monitoring.  In my book it works!

       In a time of huge increases in homeless families in Cleveland we need a bigger network not a reduction.  In a time when we are housing 20 families in overflow every night in Cleveland, we need the churches to do more not less.  In a time when we lost family shelter beds such as the closing of Continue Life, we need more access to family shelters and not less.  We heard that this move may also result in the reduction in the number of families that Family Promise can serve.   Congregations, individual parishioners and clergy will forget about the problem if they are not forced to become involved at least quarterly. It is a hassle to have to rally the volunteers, food and space to serve these 4 or 5 families, but it keeps the issue of homelessness in front of the congregation. 

     Some of the volunteers are sitting down with the parents to talk about their issues.  They learn how long the waiting lists are for housing.  They hear how employers will not hire a person who does not have a solid address.  They face discrimination in employment, housing and even from some in the social service sector because of their homelessness.  The volunteer may learn how tough it is for a family to be in overflow or the struggles to get transportation to their child's school.  I fear that without the time that they have to volunteer, the church groups will move further away from the problem of homelessness. 

     When I started volunteering for the Homeless Grapevine, the big churches were running a number of the shelters and the religious groups were critical to the success of the homeless programs.  Now, there are very few of the programs associated with churches and very few religious leaders regularly talking about homelessness.  We have come to accept homeless families as a part of the landscape and I fear that this move by Family Promise will only accelerate that trend. 

Brian Davis

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Overflowing Shelters and the Cost

 Columbus once again struggles with overflowing shelters and people being turned away.  This is a perennial problem in the Capital City.  They never seem to get things in place during the winter.  Of all the things we complain about in Cleveland, the sheltering of people who ask for help is not something we complain about.  The City of Cleveland and especially Ruth Gillett of the County Office of Homeless Services do it right every year.  We never have the problems that other cities experience.   We don't have to fight about the temperature getting to certain point or if the temperature reading is at the airport or downtown. 

Columbus seems to have problems every year with overflow.  Every year they claim to have everything under control and every year there is a problem.  Last year, they opened an overflow for men far from downtown and then the day care center next door objected.  Now this year, they were not prepared for all the families.  Why not avoid all these issues by just offering shelter to everyone who comes to the door?  Avoid all the hassles by just figuring out a way to handle overflow in the summer when there is not the demand, and then it will be easy to fill the gaps when it matters.  This is life and death, and Columbus has been on the wrong side for years. 

Is it expensive to offer a bed to everyone who asks for help.  The county would have to provide staffing, transportation and cooperation among the agencies.  Guaranteed access to shelter saves lives and government should do whatever to save lives.  We must keep people alive while they get back on their feet or reconcile with family or conquer their demons or work through their mistrust of other people. 

Brian Davis

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News Briefs for the Week

Chef Arnold Abbott named Advocate of the Year by National Coalition for the Homeless.  He stood up to the bullies in Florida who were holding food hostage down in Ft. Lauderdale.  He is 90 years old and has been repeatedly ticketed for following his religious belief to give out food to homeless people.  He was ticketed on a regular basis after trying to distribute food to homeless people as he had done for over a decade.  Chef Abbott appeared on national news programs regularly to demonstrate the injustice of not being able to get food to its people.  He also challenged the law in court and was able to get a stay of the tickets until a judge makes a decison.

More Republican Governors are opting to expand Medicaid.  This is free money from the health care reform to get the lowest income residents to access affordable health care and it is 100% paid by the federal government.  It is purely political to not accept these funds.  We provide a chart of the amount of money being lost by the states refusing to accept Medicaid expansion

Number of homeless families increasing in the Bay area. As in the Cleveland and many other communities, there is a sharp rise in the number of homeless families.  We have focused our attention on the long term homeless, and families have suffered.  

NBC News covers large number of homeless families.  This is one of the typical stories during the holidays when we turn our attention to those struggling with housing.  It is especially accute this year when families are overwhelming the system or when we have so many kids sleeping in a church floor in the overflow shelters.

National Alliance to End Homelessness has a good summary of the results of the budget compromise on homelessness.   It is $271 million less than the President had requested.  This will keep funding level for the homeless programs and only the housing vouchers for veterans will increase.  It is an amazing change in Washington when advocates are championing that "at least the government will not shut down" as good news. 

Finally, some good news out of Washington with the funding of the National Housing Trust Fund.  The program was created in 2007, but the housing market collapsed and so no funding was ever delivered.  This fund should create and preserve affordable housing in the United States.  Ohio has a state Housing Trust, but Cuyahoga County does not have a local resource to build new housing

Brian Davis

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Articles in the News Around Homelessness

WEWS-TV 5 had a nice story on family homelessness and the overflow problems in Cleveland. We have had seven months of overflow shelter for families.  What month do we say this is no longer an overflow problem, but a lack of family bed problem.  We closed Continue Life earlier this year, and West Side Catholic reduced the number of transitional beds for family.  This is what happens when you cut back on beds available to families, you have to pay to transport and open up church basements for these emergencies.

The New York Times had a strange story about the feeding program.  I understand presenting a balanced story, but this is just strange.  The proponents of the law do not have any evidence or proof that feeding programs are "counterproductive."  It is one side saying that laws against feeding are morally bankrupt and lead to unnecessarily going to jail for purely innocent behavior while the other side is saying, "but we don't like to see poor people lining up to eat."

A positive story from Vox media about the decline in uninsured individuals in the Lesbian and Gay community.  Health insurance will also reduce homelessness in America when people aren't forced to decide between rent or medicine or food.  

The National Center on Family Homelessness has found that one in 30 children are homeless in America.  Since Ohio was right in the middle for the states around the national average, this would mean that 9,137 children were homeless in Cuyahoga County in 2013 and 88,323 were homeless in Ohio during the same time.   NCFH uses the Department of Education definition of homelessness which includes those sleeping in garages and friend's basements while they search for housing.  

Brian Davis

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Housing NOW at 25 years

Thanks to the National Coalition for the Homeless for the photoThe National Coalition for the Homeless and the Center for Community Change hosted a 25th Anniversary celebration of the Housing NOW march in Washington DC.  Jerry Jones, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless moderated the event and gave some reflections about his experiences.  Panalists included Shelia Crowley of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Peter Edelman a professor at Georgetown Law School and previous staff in the Clinton administration, Mary Lassen of the Center for Community Change, and T. Sanders a Speakers' Bureau member for NCH.   Donna Brazile a political commentator set the tone for remembering the day at the beginning of the event and NCH Board President and ED of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, John Parvensky closed the ceremony with his reflections. 

There were between 75,000 to 150,000 people who came from all over the United States to protest the growing homeless population.  Michael Stoops of NCH and Mitch Snyder of CCNV in DC organized the march which featured celebrities such as Coretta Scott King, labor leaders, and religious leaders on hand to protest the growing number of families falling into homelessness and the lack of a federal response.  The panelists on Monday October 27, talked about the development of HOPE VI legislation to rebuild public housing as well as the affordable housing HOME program that were expanded after the March in 1989. There were local attention toward homelessness and federal dollars going into addressing the problem in the nation's capital.  Ms. Sanders put a face on the problem by showing how a family deals with homelessness 25 years later.Peter Edelman talked about one-third of the population are living near poverty and the impact that has on our society.  He went through the laundry list of problems associated with mass incarceration, the lack of funding for education system in America, and the changes in family structure. Edelman wanted to make it clear that we are doing better in addressing poverty since the War on Poverty started during the Johnson administration (22% were living in poverty in 1961 and 11.3% living in poverty today).   But over the last 25 years, we really had not made much progress because we have not had the political will to address the problem. 

It made me reflect on how things had changed over the last twenty-five years.  I was volunteering for the Homeless Grapevine 20 years ago, and things are much different.  I looked at the stats from back then and there were between 3,500 to 5,000 homeless people in Cleveland.  The Coalition was started back in 1987 after advocates started seeing more and more families showing up asking for help.  There was not the infrastructure to serve families and no one in the community wanted to see a bunch of kids who had become homeless.  The school district had around 100 to 200 families that had become homeless and church leaders were worried.  The Mayor's office did not have a response, but were concerned about the growing number of homeless people.  There was discussion of opening the basements of government buildings (including the lobby of the Justice Center) for the winter.  Today, we have 9,000 unique individuals using the shelters and the school district had nearly 4,000 families during the last school year.  We have overflowing shelters nearly every night.  We estimate around 22,000 homeless people last year and there were over 500 families who asked for shelter last year. There are substantially more homeless people in Cleveland and in most cities in the United States since the march in 1989.

Families are trying to find a space during the day for their kids in Cleveland.  Politicians at the state, federal and local level rarely talk about homelessness even when asked at debates.  There is no plan for how to end homelessness for everyone.  We have focused resources on veterans and those who were homeless a long period of time, while single women and family homelessness has grown.  We have certain populations pitted against each other for limited funding.  We have 60,000 people locally in need of some assistance with their rent, and a shredding of the social safety net in the United States.  We don't have the kind of help we had in the past for those facing eviction and homelessness.  Cleveland still has a commitment to providing shelter to everyone who comes to the door, but that now involves mats on the floors of churches even for families.  Most other cities in the United States turn people away when the shelters are full.  Advocates marched on Washington 25 years ago to demand action on a national housing plan and homelessness has only grown across America.  Presidential candidates no longer talk about homelessness and Mayors do not campaign on how they will solve the problem.  They have to deal with all the issues that come because we have a segment of the population living on the streets or in shelter.  No one is talking about solving the problem.  No one is demanding immediate action.  Even with all these vacant homes, we are not looking at a five or ten or twenty year end to homelessness.  It seems that it is time for another march on Washington to revive the push to end homelessness in America. 

Brian Davis

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More Cuts to the Shelters in 2014

The Office of Homeless Services "Advisory Board" met this week and approved another 2% cut for the transitional shelters and safe haven programs in Cuyahoga County.  Staff and County Review and Ranking committee members have come up with a strategy to better compete at the national level by eliminating social-service-only projects as much as possible because HUD hates funding service instead of housing.  It is hoped in the second round of funding the 2% can be restored, but there is no guarantee. We also learned at the meeting that because of stating publicly that we have cut long term homeless, Cleveland is penalized.  This dubious statistic was criticized by Richard Trickel in a guest blog, and NEOCH agrees that this 73% decrease in long term homeless is at best deceptive at its worst is an outright lie. It is understandable for the Department of Housing and Urban Development focused its funding on housing if Health and Human Services stepped forward to fund services.  We are getting cuts from the federal government while the number of homeless people especially families is increasing. 

At the meeting this last week, representatives from the Salvation Army and West Side Catholic both expressed concern over the continued declines in funding for shelters. Both expressed concern that any further cuts (7% two years ago, 5% last year and now 2% this year) could results in further closing of local shelters or the loss of beds.  In 2014, Continue Life closed after a cut in funding from HUD.  It is no wonder we have such a problem with families in light of shelters closing in Cleveland.  Over the years, we lost Triumph House, East Side Catholic, Continue Life, the Upstairs program (single women), and Family Transitional.  We have had reductions in other programs resulting in a huge gap in beds available to homeless people.  This would be fine if we were not also losing affordable housing in the community. 

Congress passed the HEARTH Act a couple of years ago, which mandated huge changes in the homeless funding system.  It prioritized long term homelessness, and mandated outcomes to reduce homelessness.  The bill passed with language that sought a doubling of the funding for shelters and housing programs for homeless people. In the toxic environment of Washington DC, this never happened.  Instead, we have seen a steady decline in funding, and shelters are closing.  HUD made these huge changes in the process and the rules and the expectations, but did not give the shelters additional funding to implement these changes. Remember, the shelters do not get an increase in funding for cost of living changes every year.  The funds that they received when they first started getting federal dollars is the top funding available to them.  They can reduce their request, but cannot ask for additional funding.   How many programs or households could survive if they had the same income from their core funding source for 20 straight years? 

With the cuts made by United Way, we have a real crisis in serving homeless people.   No matter what the County says about a decrease in long term homelessness, there are more people seeking help.  There are more people outside than we saw living outside last year, and there are fewer options for women and women with children.

Brian Davis

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Postcard Published to Dispel the Myths About Homelessness

Norman and his Public Relations committee of NEOCH decided that we needed more attention to homelessness and the work of the Coalition.  They worked with Brent, one of the best graphic artists in the community, to put together the above postcard.   We used David Hagan's portraits of homeless people from the 2005 show that he did.  He took beautiful portraits of homeless people and we had a show with their images.  He gave each participant a framed portrait that they could hang when they got stable in their housing.  Remember, the majority of homeless people are without housing for less than 30 days.  

Anyway, Randall from the NEOCH Board convinced Jakprints to print the postcard, and we are now distributing them around town.  We hope to raise awareness of the work of the Coalition by directing people to our website. We also hope to change the impression that homelessness is not just the guy sleeping outside on the steam grates.  There are elderly, young moms, veterans, children, and all different races of people who have become homeless.  You are welcome to pick some up at the office or we can send them out to you. 

Brian Davis

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Families Facing Issues with Central Intake

NEOCH staff are not big fans of Coordinated Intake for families.   We have written in our member section about the problems with families going to Laura's Home first.  We have talked about the confusion faced by many families who are diverted back to family or friends.  Now, we are seeing women with kids who show up later at night not having a place to sleep.  

We passed the summer with LMM staff picking up families and took them to the overflow site.   This system worked and we did not have to pay for expensive hotel rooms or see long waits for shelter.  This fall now that we have passed the time that we need overflow shelter, we are having problems with families that show up at 10 p.m. and all the beds in the county are taken.  This does not happen every night, but we have seen cases such as last weekend when there were women with kids waiting a very long time for a bed or not being able to find a bed at all.  There were seven kids in a facility not designed for children last Saturday because they had no where else to go.  

When the system became overwhelmed in New York City, the Central intake system became a deplorable holding center for homeless kids to the point that one child committed suicide after being sent back to the Department of Homeless Services Intake Center.   New York City is similar to Cleveland in that neither City is supposed to turn homeless families away from shelter.  The NYC shelter system is governed by lawsuit and Cleveland's shelters are governed by 20 years of practice and a contract.  To reform the intake center in NYC, the lawyers went back to court to get a decision that the City was in contempt of a 30 year old court decision.   In Cleveland, we can complain and hope that someone is listening with authority to help families at 10 p.m. on Saturdays. 

If we do not address this today when it is rare for a Mom to sit for six to eight hours for shelter or are turned away because there is no where to go, it is going to happen more frequently.  We need to set up a system in which a Mom and kids show up at 10 pm after every shelter bed is full and there will be an emergency plan to keep the family safe.  We cannot have seven young children sleeping in a home not equipped or licensed for sheltering kids anymore.  We don't want the Coordinated intake site to become an endless holding area for families and the stuff of nightmares for the kids that have to go there.

Brian Davis

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Help Us Keep Homeless Families Together in Cleveland

Over the past few months, NEOCH, Frontline Services, formerly MHS Inc., and Cuyahoga County have been working to address the rising problem of family homelessness. Each May, Cuyahoga County sees a rise in families in need of housing—a rise that continues to increase throughout the summer and lasts into early fall. Many reasons can cause this rise in homelessness, ranging from relocation in warmer weather, an end to the school year for kids, or personal reasons unique to each family. For more information on the causes of family homelessness, see our past blog post here.  

So far this summer, we have reached out to local religious organizations and been offered generous support and overflow space. We have dedicated a page to how religious organizations can get involved located here, including a list of the current religious organizations supporting our response to family homelessness.

We are working to gain support of these organizations who are dedicated to serving the religious needs of the community and have helped support NEOCH and other homeless agencies in the past. Already Cuyahoga County has located overflow space that has been used to support families. In one typical night, there can be 15 families (for a total of roughly 63 family members) in need of housing and it is thanks to the support of these religious communities that these families have safe shelter.

However, now we look at equipping these spaces with the essential goods they need to continue to house families. We are hoping to collect donations of healthy snacks and breakfast foods for both overflow housing and Central Intake. By providing these foods, we can ensure these families have breakfast on weekends when food centers may be closed. 

If you are interested in getting involved with the family homelessness initiative, please contact NEOCH at (216) 432-0540 or advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org where you can learn more about what we need and how you can get involved.

By Laura Dunson (NEOCH Intern)

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County Responds to Family Homelessness

Each summer as school ends and warmer weather (usually) begins, more and more families find themselves without shelter and a place to sleep. Family homelessness itself can be caused by many reasons: poverty, unemployment, difficulty accessible affordable housing, addiction, domestic violence, etc. But around every April, Cuyahoga County slowly sees a rise in the number of families in need of shelter. Why the rise now?

A lot of reasons can add to why family homelessness grows during the summer. With the kids in school up until now, parents may have been unwilling to leave their current place—wanting their kids to finish the school year. Sometimes having all the kids home for the summer makes it difficult for elderly parents or grandparents to keep extended family under the same roof.  As summer comes and kids are at home more often, it may cause added stress in the household and lead to part of the family leaving.  The warmer weather may make moving and travel more accessible when Cleveland’s chill made it less of an option before. Families and landlords may be less willing to force out tenants during the cold months, but in the warmth they are more likely to evict. Paying for child care during the summer can cause additional financial problems and contribute to a rise in homelessness. Finally, we have centralized the shelter system so everyone goes to one facility for help.  This had made it more difficult for people to wait for the best shelter bed to open with repeated calls.  The family has to show up requesting shelter to get in line for a bed.  Before a mother could talk her friend into allowing the family to stay while they waited for a bed at a shelter.  Now, the family goes to Central Intake to line of for a bed.  All of these reasons and many more unique and personal reasons can help explain why the summer months see more children with parents arriving at the shelters, searching for a place to sleep.

But unfortunately, each summer as these families search for shelter, there are limited places to send them. Families need different sort of shelter than individuals—families require more privacy and a safe and supportive place for children.  Finding housing for a group is a bigger task than finding a bed for a single person.

NEOCH, MHS Inc., Cuyahoga County, and several faith communities in the area have worked together to find a solution to this problem.  Here is the current plan to address family homelessness this season:

1. Intake hours for families: 8:00 - 7:00 Mon- Fri; 9:00- 5:00 Sat/Sun. This encourages families to be proactive and acknowledges the families searching for housing due to need versus interest in staying in a hotel room.

2. Overflow accommodations will be met through a church in Cleveland Hts. and Zelma George Emergency shelter beds.  The day after a "one night" stay, staff will try to find a longer stay shelter or permanent diversion.

3. In mid July, Family Promise will begin using a church in the Broadway neighborhood as a permanent site for 4 families. 

Finding this housing was an incredible relief, but we aren’t done yet. We are still in needs of supplies to help make these changes and housing go smoothly. A list of needed supplies can be found here.  If you are interested in getting involved or making donations, please contact NEOCH at advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org more information. We will be putting together information that religious organizations can use to provide help to homeless families in Cleveland.

 

By Laura Dunson, NEOCH Intern

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Large Cut to Homeless Shelters and Services Announced

The City of Cleveland received some unexpected news about a large decrease in funds for the Emergency Solutions Grant which supports the emergency shelters and the housing rental assistance programs in Cleveland.  City and County staff have not developed a plan yet for how these reduced funds will be distributed locally.  It was reported by HUD that Cleveland would receive a 22% decrease in funds while Akron received a 25% decrease. 

Cleveland has used its funding to pay for basic emergency shelter staffing, food, and transportation costs in the shelters.  We have decided to use the housing assistance funding to pay for rental assistance for families to avoid shelter or move quickly out of the limited shelter spaces.  This is especially critical at a time when we are seeing record numbers of families entering the shelters.  For the past two years, we have seen a huge increase during the summer months of families asking for shelter help in Cleveland and many other cities. 

We have posted a table showing the cuts in Emergency Solutions Grants for cities and for counties here.  (Thanks Gloria for making these colorful graphs).  HUD attributes these cuts to the Sequestration funding cuts and the austere budget passed by Congress earlier this year.   They have also begun using the American Community Survey from the US Census as the basis for distributing these funds.  Previously, they were using this strange formula which very few understood.  It is obvious that Cleveland and other similar Midwestern cities benefited from the previous formula.   We will keep you up to date on how this will impact the shelters.

Brian Davis

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The Faith Community Gather to Help Homeless Families

On May 28th, a group of representatives from Mental Health Services, Inc. , Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, local churches and community activists met to address the rising problem of family homelessness in Cleveland. 

Family homelessness is a distinctly different problem in that it dramatically increases during the summer months when school ends and kids are not in school and may make it difficult for grandmothers or friends to maintain their house. During the summer, parents with their children are more likely to leave where they had been staying before and soon find themselves without a place to sleep. Not all shelters are able to take Mom, Dad and kids, but with the county’s commitment to finding shelter for everyone who needs it, advocates and activists work hard to find a decent place for every family in our community.

These religious leaders and advocates met to discuss a new plan for addressing family homelessness this summer. Working with the faith community, local shelters are working to add additional capacity in the system.  To this point, we have had to put families up in motel spaces, which costs the County a lot of money.     There are emergency spaces available where they sleep one night and then return for a better placement.  The County wants to work to find an effective alternative to motel spaces, and representatives at MHS said that they were close to finding a solution probably in the next week.

Now, the representatives are tackling the next problem—finding donations for these families. Often when they come to the shelter, these parents and children have little to nothing but are in need of food and products such as diapers, car seats or strollers. The representatives hope to offer the children toys and art supplies—products to help make the space more at home for children and parents alike.  MHS, Inc. and NEOCH are asking for additional donations of things such as:

  •       Diapers (all sizes)
  •       Infant formula (unexpired) and baby bottles
  •       Brown bag snacks for kids: Juice Box, snack bar, applesauce, etc.
  •       New Car seats, all sizes (Ohio law prohibits using used car seats)
  •       “Pack & Play” for toddlers
  •       Strollers—new or used
  •       Bus tickets
  •       Children’s dvd’s & books—preferably secular books and dvds.
  •       Art supples: crayons, coloring books, etc.

Any organization or community interested in partnering with this initiative can contact Angie Sulak at 216-583-0615 ext 1427 or sulaka (at) mhs-inc (dot) org or contact NEOCH at advocacy (at) neoch (dot) org more information. I am going to be working this summer to convince local Houses of Worship to join this partnership to keep families together and move them out of the shelters quickly.

By Laura Dunson, NEOCH Intern

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New Almanac of Family Homelessness Published

We received a beautiful and comprehensive American Almanac of Family Homelessness published by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness

This is a huge book in the style of a coffee table book from the 1970s.  Every page has some wonderful charts or graphs. For policy wonks this book is not to miss.  There is a page dedicated to each state with statistics on the major cities within those states.  These stats are based on flawed Annual counts, which dramatically undercounts families.  (We will print in the next Street Newspaper).  The annual count gives a good overview of homelessness demographics and can provide some interesting comparisons.  They are not accurate, but they are interesting comparisons.  For example, there is no way that there are more families in Hamilton County then there are in Cuyahoga County, but that is what the stats say. This is a reflection of the number of shelter beds counted in Cincinnati compared to Cleveland, but it has no greater meaning. Not all of our family shelters report their numbers while every shelter reports in Hamilton County.

The other nice aspect of this Almanac is that they go through issues that are impacting family homelessness in America.   They discuss causes of family homelessness, foreclosures, and family homeless sub populations.  They go into great detail about the unfortunate destruction of transitional shelters in America.  They look at homeless youth, Head Start, Food stamps, and Social Security Disability.   The Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness looks at minorities and homelessness, those who live in rural communities, and federal aid for homeless students.  You can read the almanac directly from their website, but it does not do it justice until you see it.  I would recommend policy agencies purchasing a copy of the book.  

The final section has a brief look at positive programs that are making a difference in the United States to improve the lives of homeless families.  There are no programs mentioned in Ohio which is unfortunate, but there are some interesting ideas.  There are some clunkers in the list like the Denver Donation Meter Program which we are never big on programs that single out one population (panhandlers) for shame and derision.  While others seem interesting like the Minneapolis Family Housing Fund that has built 26,000 units of affordable housing or the Chicago Hopes program to engage homeless children in enrichment activities while in the shelters. 

Brian Davis

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