Updated Veteran's Street Card Published

Be on the Look Out! – Updated Vet Street Card

Ever wonder what services are available to homeless veterans?  Do you know a veteran who is facing homelessness?  There is help!  The new Veteran’s Edition of the Street Card is a publication of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and is updated every year.  This one page card has been published on the website and can be found here:  /street-card/

The new edition lists every agency which helps veterans in the Greater Cleveland and surrounding areas. It’s a valuable document for those experiencing homelessness.  You are welcome to print copies and hand them out to veterans that you know.  It features the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans which has a toll free number, and the ability to use Live 24/7 chat to connect with them.

The new Veterans Street card is front and back and lists agencies in the Downtown, South, West and East sides of town.  It provides bus routes and important telephone numbers for veterans.  Every agency that a homeless veteran will need access to can be found on this card including finding Shelter and receiving benefits.  This is a great tool for Outreach Workers to use when they are out serving the homeless population.   All of the programs listed help veterans directly without a referral.  NEOCH is currently working to update the standard Street Card as well as the Family Street Card.  All of the Street Cards are available on the NEOCH website.  

by Denise Moore

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

 

Why Did Veterans Affairs Not Run From Transitional Shelters?

We are down to around 250 veterans in Cuyahoga County who are homeless.  This is a huge victory and shows remarkable progress since 2010.  NEOCH has repeatedly said that the figures released every summer from HUD about the homeless population is so far off as to be deceptive and causes harm to the homeless community.  This is not the case with the VA because they are actually reaching out and looking for real homeless people.  The HUD stats rely too much on shelter beds which are decreasing every year.  We have seen cities throughout the United States claiming huge victories in the reduction of veteran's homelessness, and at least in Cleveland this does seem to be real progress and not just paper progress.  There are beds available for veterans and their is a full effort to go out and find people where they live.  I don't agree with this gimmick of "functional zero," but there is no doubt that they have made huge progress in significantly reducing the number of veterans who find themselves homeless.   How did they do it? 

We could learn from the success at the Department of Veterans Affairs for leading the way in reducing the number of people who find themselves homeless.  From what I have seen, here are my observations on why they are successful:

1. Housing opportunities are available to the population with diversity the key to this housing.  They have never turned away from all forms of shelter/housing.  They fund housing vouchers, transitional shelters and emergency beds.  They offer fixed facilities as well as scattered site housing.  They try to serve the unique needs of each person and not forcing people into the cheapest or "best" type of housing as determined by "experts" in the community.  This is in stark contrast to HUD which focuses funding on one type of program and forces all other options to die for lack of funding.  One year, they are big on transitional shelters or supportive services or permanent supportive housing or now "rapid rehousing."  They keep jumping around and no longer allow the local community to make these decisions. 

2. They have worked on all the issues facing veterans and not just shelter or housing. They can help with addiction, mental health issues, physical disabilities or legal struggles.  They have always gathered other resources in the community to help veterans.  There is a group that can help with clothing, furniture, utility connections, student loan debt or forgiveness or identification.  They also try to make it easy for people with transportation assistance.  This is the opposite of the HUD funded programs who have adopted a policy of "YO-YO" or You are On Your Own, and just like a yo-yo the individual is up then down and up again depending on how lucky they are in finding appropriate resources. 

3. They have a strong commitment to finding people where they live and not expecting people to come to the VA.  The VA funds beds in the shelters, they set up tables at drop in centers and soup kitchens.  It is not unusual to find a veteran's representative on Sunday night at the overnight drop in center.  If they hear a vet is sleeping under a tree near the Shoreway, they will come out to interview the guy and see if there is a place for him to live.  They are at the hospitals, jails, libraries looking for veterans in need of help.  HUD funded programs often make it difficult to access for fear of being overwhelmed with individual's angry over the small funding available locally.  The VA throws their doors open to anyone with an honorable discharge and tries as hard as they can to help them. 

4.  They are tapping the expertise of a broad cross section of charitable agencies and not relying on one agency doing everything.  This is a change in the last five years that they asked for help from other groups and are paying those groups for offering help to veterans.  It previously was a closed system and only federal employees offered help to homeless veterans.  Now, nearly every agency in the community has been drafted into helping with some money available to help.  There are health care providers, the court system, shelters, housing providers and other government agencies are all offering assistance to stabilize the population.  There is also the Veteran's Service Commission which can help with the incidentals of setting up a house or a monthly bus pass to get a veteran to work or even car repairs so they do not lose their job.  There is nothing like the Veteran's Service Commission available to other non-veteran homeless people, and they have changed locally as well to be more responsive to homeless veterans.

5. Healthcare was the first step with all the other services built around getting the individual stable including their behavioral health.  The largest public health system in America is the VA healthcare.  It is notoriously slow and full of huge paperwork backlogs.  I have not seen this in Cleveland and from what I hear, the veterans are pretty happy with the healthcare they get locally.  We all need healthcare at some point, and the VA uses this universal service as the gateway to the rest of the network. 

6. There is no wrong answer to the veteran struggling with housing.   They do not force them to fit their problems or disability into one path off the streets. They do not say that they can only help after the veteran has been homeless for one year's time or reserve certain programs for veterans who have been homeless for a long time with a disability.  They are not pitting one veteran's group against another for limited resources.   I do have to say that one problem with the VA is that members of the national guard do not get the same treatment as the five branches of the US military.  This seems unfair since we dramatically changed our use of the National Guard during the previous administration.  We used them in an active combat zone, but did not upgrade the benefits they receive after their retirement.  This is something we need to address in Congress. 

7. They have combined income with their housing assistance. So, they work with people on getting them veteran's benefits, social security disability, or income from a job.   Their case workers realize that housing is critical, but paying for that housing is just as critical.  They have always worked on getting the veteran the benefits that they deserve.  There is nothing comparable in the rest of the homeless system, but we do not work on jobs and disability help like the VA case workers.  They have also had veteran's industries linked to housing programs for those engaged in job activities having a place to live while they build up a work record.  The system is much more developed and robust for veterans than is available in the traditional shelters. 

8. They do not rely on fictitious numbers to pretend to be succeeding.  Both HUD and the VA release national reports on their progress and neither are any good.  Both reports are flawed; I would say complete works of fiction.   The difference is that the VA does not rely on these numbers to paper over their successes or failures.  HUD uses these works of fiction to claim success when everything else points to failure.  Cleveland reports a decrease in homelessness over the last year while all other evidence suggests things are bad and getting worse.  Why do we see a smaller number of  homeless people in Cleveland--because we lost 444 beds over the last seven years.  Fewer beds means fewer homeless people to count=smaller numbers of homeless people.  HUD shuts down shelter for lack of funding while the VA will begin shutting down shelters for lack of need.  There are beds available at many of the VA shelters right now, but that does not mean there is not the need.  HUD and the County do not care about the demands or the need, they base decisions on funding and cost savings in the community. 

9. They finally realized that there is a huge amount of distrust for the VA and so they have these alternatives available.  Veterans especially from the Vietnam era do not trust the VA.  They were betrayed by the agency for years especially around the issues of Agent Orange.  There are many vets that I meet who are angry with the VA and say that they will not go there.  I can remember the on the ground nurses in the 1990s recognizing this problem, but it seems that the senior administration are finally hearing this issue.  There are plenty of older men who say, "I will never go to the VA because they did me wrong in the past."   This is why it is so critical to not require that it is not necessary to go to the VA first to get services.  A veteran can start the path back to stability at the shelter, the drop in center or the VA hospital.  It is not mandatory to start with the VA operated programs to find help. 

Congratulations on making so much progress.  Now it is time to teach HUD what they are doing wrong and force Congress to fund homeless services like they fund the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

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

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Homeless People in the National News

In Utah, a pilot program is seeking to clear the homeless of petty crimes. These crimes often prevent homeless, and formerly homeless from fully integrating into society. This program provides homeless people a chance to do what many places will not: re-enter society fully.

A public defender in Florida is calling for the end of low-value arrests of homeless. These types of arrests in the long run only cost the city more money than they are gaining from arresting these people for overdue fines and petty crimes.  It is a similar expression of the Justice Department in Bell vs. the City of Boise. 

The old Walter Reed VA hospital which was the site of a scandal over deplorable conditions is set to be repurposed as a place for homeless veterans to stay in D.C. This old hospital will become a Permanent Supportive Housing complex with on-site staff to help these people with special needs.

Three Michigan cities have the potential to end veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. Though many say it’s a radical goal, they are making real change and claim to be close to ending veteran and chronic homelessness.

A homeless man in Anaheim is left paralyzed after being attacked. Yet, the man is not as mad at the attackers as he is at the city officials, who have shown consistent indifference toward the homeless in the city. He was attacked by a group of young people tagging various buildings.

Homeless people rack up a lot of fines and warrants for petty crimes that they are unable to pay off or are unable to show up to their court date. A judge in Boston is doing the right thing and is holding special “Homeless Court” sessions, where she hears the cases of homeless people with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. In many cases, if a person shows they are committed to improvement, she will dismiss the charge.

Some cities do not provide a lot opportunities for the homeless to receive free meals. In Mendocino, California, one man has to forage for food, because there is so few places to receive meals in the city.

Even something as small as a haircut can make a big difference in the life of a homeless person.  It allows them to connect with their former selves from before homelessness, and also allows them to be more presentable at job interviews. This goes to show that the littlest of things can make a big difference.

People often think of winter as the hardest time for homeless people, but for homeless college students the hardest part is the summer. During the school year, college students can live in the dorms, but when breaks come, like summer break, these students are left with nowhere to go.

by Dan the Intern

NPR Stories About Homelessness

For Homeless Families, Quick Exit From Shelters Is Only A Temporary Fix

NPR did a series of reports on homelessness last week.  The first was on Rapid Rehousing and the second was regarding the work on ending veteran's homelessness. Rapid re-housing can be very helpful to give someone a place on a temporary basis when a person or family finds themselves homeless. The program is designed to be simple and temporary, however, the simplicity of the program can be its downfall. This program treats every homeless individual as a member of the same demographic with the same problems. Some cities flat out ignore other problems facing homeless people.  Doing so with any group of people is a red flag, and with the homeless community, rapid re-housing has many major issues. Programs for the homeless need to be flexible to individuals. In Cleveland, only families have access to Rapid Rehousing.  Some individuals cannot obtain a stable jobs in the time they are receiving the assistance, and sometimes, even if a person obtains a stable job, they cannot afford market rent without the assistance. Congress is not going to increase funding for homeless services anytime soon, so rapid rehousing must start implementing policies to be more successful. 

The U.S. Declared War On Veteran Homelessness — And It Actually Could Win

Since President Obama took office, there has been a 300% increase in funding for homeless vets. By doing this, the number of homeless vets has decreased significantly in many cities. Some cities have even reached “functional zero” meaning that if a homeless veteran requests housing, they immediately receive it. Yet, the use of the “functional zero” terminology is a double edged sword. Officials use “functional zero” as though it is the same as ending homelessness, but it is not. If veteran homelessness, or homelessness in any capacity were to end, then funding for that would not be needed. To maintain a “functional zero” state of homelessness, funding must also be maintained. Steve Peck, president of U.S. Vets in Houston, was attempting to raise funds, when donors said that they thought homelessness was over. Well, it needs to be made clear that there is a difference between the eradication of homelessness and “functional zero.”

There was one story about New Orleans and the whole concept of "functional zero" among veterans.  Another important aspect of this story was the importance of flexibility. Jim Zenner was a veteran of Iraq facing severe anger issues and depression from his time in the Service. So, when he found himself homeless with his son due to these circumstances, he would have been unable to gain shelter if it was not for one organization bending the rules for him. He later helped build and run a readjustment facility for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The importance of this piece of the story lies in the organization’s bending of the rules. Homelessness comes in many different forms with countless scenarios, and far too often, if someone does not meet the classifications of the prototypical homeless person, they lose out on resources.  Resources and programs for the homeless must be flexible to the needs of individuals and groups, not merely one or the other.

by Dan the Intern

"Functional Zero" for Homeless Veterans Confuses Public

HOMELESSNESS & “FUNCTIONAL ZERO:” A CRITIQUE

“Functional zero:  At any point in time, the number of people experiencing sheltered or unsheltered homelessness will be no greater than the current monthly housing placement rate for people experiencing homelessness.”

                                                   -- Community Solutions (A national Non-Profit working on building Permanent Supportive Housing with offices in New York, California and DC.)

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”

                                                             - - Albert Einstein

For years homeless advocates have argued about the definition of homelessness and how inclusive or limited it should be.  This is not an esoteric exercise, since the answer drives federal resources.

Sadly, some researchers, consultants and advocates convinced Congress years ago to a much more limited definition of homelessness along with focusing resources first on the chronically homeless, with veterans, families and youth all next in line.  This was done of the fallacious argument that once we ended chronic homelessness, we could then devote resources to ending it for the next sub-population.  This did not happen and hundreds of thousands of people experiencing homelessness have remained invisible to our leaders at all levels.

“When people are invisible, you can’t find a solution because you don’t see them”

                                   - Marc Uhry, Fondation Abbe Pierre

Ten year plans to end homelessness are in their second decade or abandoned altogether.

Rather than focus on the systemic and structural systems and policies that have created three decades of mass homelessness – beginning with President Reagan devastating the federal affordable housing budget by 75% in 1980; the continuing dismantling of local, state and federal housing, social services, health and mental health budgets; discharge policies from prisons, jails, hospital and foster care that routinely discharge people to the streets and a minimum wage that keeps people shackled to poverty – we now seek to arrest and define our way out of homelessness

Criminalization of homelessness:   

Despite the admonition by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness [USICH] to communities to move away from trying to “arrest their way out of homelessness,” the number of anti-homeless ordinances in the nation has proliferated.  For example, the Sacramento city has 11 municipal codes that criminalize people experiencing homeless – five for standing, sitting and resting in public places; five for camping in public places and three that criminalize begging or panhandling. 

Prisons and jails have become the housing for people experiencing homelessness, especially people of color and those with mental health issues.

Functional zero: 

Couple this with the newest trend to define our way out of homelessness. 

Community Solutions has created the term “functional zero” which took them three pages of definitional “metrics” to operationalize. What would Einstein say?

Basically, a community can still have 10,000 homeless people, for example, but if  that community can say the number of people entering homelessness is equal to the number exiting- they have reached “functional zero” --- forget the  10,000 languishing on the streets and in shelters. 

This term is harmful and counter-productive to addressing the myriad of reasons why people become homeless and is dismissive of the systemic reasons why people become homeless.

In no other walk of life do we use the term “functional zero”- to end hunger; ending domestic violence; ending gun violence?  Ending discrimination?  In no other walk of life do we address a crisis by redefining it and settling on homeostasis as the new reality.

It is harmful because when politicians and community members hear “zero”- they hear we have ended homelessness – not what Community Solutions has defined it to mean.   Then when it is time to allocate scarce public resources it would not be unreasonable for the public and/or elected officials to argue we don’t need as many resources for homelessness because we have solved it!  Yet we know nothing could be further from the truth.

We have entered into a new era of becoming more sophisticated about managing homelessness – creating a new way to define status quo – however we rapidly move the same number of people entering homelessness as who exit.

Salt Lake City, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix:    These four cities have become the poster cities for “functional zero” in ending homelessness – which make great headlines and sound bites.  But, look at the numbers and what they really meant was ending veteran homelessness …. Oopps …. Not really … chronic (long term) veteran homelessness…. And they haven’t even done that.

Take a hard look at the numbers and trends that each of these four cities report to HUD annually [Source: Homeless Point in Time Count and Housing Inventory Count, 2012, 2013 and 2014]. [ NEOCH has posted the full graph in our Information Blog here. ]

Trends in the four “functional zero” cities:  2012 – 2014:

  • Total number of homeless veterans in the four cities in 2014 was 1,392;
  • Salt Lake City: the number of homeless veterans increased from 247 [2013] to 275 [2014];
  • Total number of homeless people in 2014 was 15,357
  •  The number of total homeless people increased in Salt Lake City from 2,123 [2013] to 2,150 [2014] and in Phoenix from 5,889 [2013] to 5,918 [2014];
  • The total number of Permanent Supportive Housing Units (PSH) in the Four cities in 2014 was 8,831 or 57.5% of the total number of homeless people;
  • The total number of PSH units in New Orleans decreased from 2,670 [2013] to 2,464 [2014].

Clearly none of these cities can legitimately claim they have ended veteran homelessness, yet they have been successful at creating the new urban myth that if we just do what these cities have done we can end homelessness as well. 

USICH:  Federal agencies that belong to USICH have recently moved away from using the “functional zero” terminology and adopted the new “operational definition of ending homelessness” contained in USICH’s recently released amended federal homelessness plan Opening Doors:

An end to homelessness means that every community will have a systematic response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.

This “new” definition of ending homelessness essentially is a retooled “functional zero” definition dressed in new terms.  Of course we want a rapid and systematic response to preventing homelessness.  However, the new paradigm fails to address how we get to that point in the first place.  What about the people who are currently experiencing homelessness?

Tragically for people experiencing homelessness, USICH has opted to size the definition of ending homelessness, based on limited existing federal resources rather than right size the resources to fit the homeless crisis in this nation.

Zero means zero:

While SRCEH supports a “rapid-same-day” response to homelessness, we refuse to abdicate to arresting and defining our way out of homelessness.  Yet, a new report by HUD, Family Options Study, has shown that the rapid rehousing approach is not nearly as effective as a housing voucher strategy.

SRCEH remains committed to galvanizing the political and community will that “zero” truly means ending and preventing homelessness in our community. 

No definitional gimmicks...No smoke...No mirrors.

As a community we first must stop criminalizing people experiencing homelessness and focus on  creating enough affordable housing, social services, health and mental health care and living wage jobs and income that we end and prevent homelessness.

We can end and prevent homelessness if we are intentional about moving beyond sound-bite jargon and squarely address the homeless crisis as a social justice issue and support housing and health care as basic human rights.

Bob Erlenbusch, Executive Director,

Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness [SRCEH]

July 2015

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Homeless People in the National News

Homelessness in the News

When Pope Francis comes to the U.S. in September, he will meet with people who are homeless, immigrants, and the incarcerated.  This is very noble, but, as Lewis Diuguid points out, the visits should be impromptu to avoid politicians from scripting these meetings.

Community policing in Cincinnati is one of the best in the country, but Cleveland’s police do not know where to start when it comes to working with the community.  Upcoming reforms will hopefully see the police making a positive difference in communities.

What community benefit comes from jailing a homeless person, who is obviously not in the right state of mind?  Nothing.  A person consistently, and incoherently calling 911 needs help getting a stable place to live, not prison time. 

If cities want to end homelessness and improve the conditions of shelters, maybe it is time to start adequately funding the services needed to get homeless people off the street.  After the murder of a shelter director by a former client, shelters in New York City are working to improve safety for the staff.  

Student at Chicago Portfolio School has begun designing new signs for homeless.  These new signs, drawn with an artistic touch, are meant to draw people to have an actual conversation with these people and create awareness.  Sometimes it is just small gestures that make a big difference.

Los Angeles City Council legislation would make something as small as putting a bag on the ground a cause for action by police.  LA civil rights activists urge the mayor to veto this legislation.  Criminalizing homelessness does not see the results it expects to see, but hinders the possibility of ending homelessness. 

Rapid Rehousing has been touted as a cure-all for homelessness, but for many, particularly families, it is not enough.  These families are cut off way before they are able to sustain themselves.  This report looks at the limitations or the Rapid Rehousing movement highlighted by a new HUD report.

New Orleans plans to build $7 million dollar centralized homeless shelter with less restriction. However, it faces opposition from business owners, who rely on myths about the homeless community. 

Since Obama began a push to end veteran homelessness in 2010, many cities and counties have essentially eliminated homelessness.  Now, will we see as much success ending chronic, youth, and family homelessness? Cuyahoga County will be declaring a "functional end" to veteran's homelessness on Veterans Day 2015.

A minister in Nashville, Tennessee is raising money to build micro-homes for the homeless. 

Repurposed military base becomes a recovery center for  addicted homeless people.  This shelter is different from many by allowing the residents to run the shelter, while also providing meaningful things to do during the day, such as online classes.

by Dan the Intern

Opinions represent the opinions of those who sign the entry.

Throw Money at a Problem and Government Can Succeed

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been working toward and end to veterans homelessness.  They have set the end of 2015 as the goal for an end to veterans homelessness and it looks like Cleveland is close.  This only proves that governement can solve problems and that throwing money at a problem can solve social service issues. 

We are reaching "functional zero" which is the point at which there is no one left without help.  There is no veteran left behind without a place to stay.  No one has not been screened and is on track to get into housing.  We are approaching that point in Cleveland.  We have only two veterans living outside and all the vets in shelter are moving toward housing.  There are vacancies at almost all the veteran's only beds in the community.  It is becoming harder to fill the women only and men's vet beds, and the VOA new facility on Euclid is really helping to move people into housing.  They are quickly moving veterans who show up into permanent housing even those with huge barriers to overcome.  It has been impressive to see the coordination and the work done in Cleveland to end veterans homelessness. 

We still need to work on families who become homeless and families who the veteran passes away not related to his service.  Overall, we have seen a huge decline in the number of veterans in Cleveland who are homeless over the last five years.  There is a separate court for veterans.  There are housing vouchers for vets.  There are employment programs and coordinated intake sites just for vets.  There is a separate medical system that has not been plagued by the problems in other communities.  We have a really nice hospital and a pretty good behavioral health system for veterans.  There are civil rights protections for veterans and resources available for most intangibles.  A veteran can go to the Veterans Service Commission in any Ohio County to get funds to repair their car to get to work or to purchase identification or buy emergency food after an unexpected bill shows up.  The point is that we have designed a strong safety net for veterans and we are making significant process toward "functional zero."

This should dispel the myth that government cannot solve problems.  We have spent 35 years trying to solve homelessness, but we have never provided enough resources to actually do anything but tread water.  We have never provided enough housing vouchers or built enough affordable housing.  We have never provided enough rental assistance to get people back on their feet.  We have paid only lip service to civil rights protections in housing, law enforcement, and employment.  We have a judicial system that is not serving poor people and until last year a large portion of the low income population did not have access to health insurance.  We still have a pathetic behaviorial health system and do not have an effective way to get emergency resources to families struggling in our community.  Now, we have a map to solve a problem with veterans who became homeless.  If we throw money at a problem, we can solve that community issue.  Next up to solve the problem of family homelessness. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

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.

Housing 101 Announced for March

Part of the mission of the Coalition is to better educate the public about housing and homelessness.  To fulfill this part of our mission, we try to organize periodic sessions explaining the complicated system of affordable housing in our community.  Our first session for 2015 is March 20 at the NEOCH Conference RoomWe have a page of our website explaining the workshop with a copy of the flyer to advertise the event. 

This year, we will have the following guests invited to present:

  • We will have an overview of the HousingCleveland.org website with a focus on the fragile populations functions.
  • We will have a look at the Cleveland Housing Court/mediation services and special services available for those facing an eviction.
  • We will be provided an overview of the services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs locally and the other programs serving veterans.
  • There will be a presentation on fair housing and how to assert your fair housing rights locally. 
  • Finally, a look at Permanent Supportive housing and Coordinated Intake at the workshop.  Staff from Frontline Services will talk about access, supply and program expectations within the homeless programs.

The workshop is $15 for those who will need Continuing Education credit for social workers and $10 for those who who do not need the CEUs. The workshop is March 20, 2015 from 10 to 1 p.m. at NEOCH. There is a flyer to complete and send back or you can check out our webpage

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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News on Homelessness in America

Mother Jones has a nice take on the Food Ban in Ft. Lauderdale here.

More arrests in support of the anti-feeding ban in Ft. Lauderdale. This article includes the Orwellian response from the City indicating that this law helps homeless and hungry people?

More arrests and tickets after a demonstration in front of the Mayor's House.  An individual can give out food, but a religious group cannot give out food outside.

We detailed a lack of beds for Domestic Violence beds in Cleveland, and the New York Times looks at the  problem in one of America's largest cities

Alabama looks at homeless children in the Huntsville School District.  These are frequent features in high poverty areas, but elected officials in the deep South rarely take on solutions to these issues.

NEOCH recently hired a female veteran who has struggled with homelessness. There is a national story about the rise in female veterans facing homelessness in the United States.

The Veterans Administration is on a one year deadline to end homelessness among vets.  They are really going to have to bring every partner together to reach the hardest to serve individuals who have been exiled from the system for years if this goal will be real.

We have no idea where Manteca California is located, but they are banning people living outside.  This would be great if they guaranteed safe decent housing inside, but that never happens. 

Brian Davis

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Street Card Available and On the Streets

Thanks to University Hospitals for Printing the 2014 Street Card

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) has updated its comprehensive guide to homeless services for homeless people known as the Homeless Street Card for the twenty first year. The Cuyahoga County Homeless Street Card is probably the most valuable resource produced by the Homeless Coalition.  It is a front and back piece of paper that contains extensive, up-to-date information on resources such as shelters, meal sites, job training agencies, health clinics, chemical dependency services and other assistance programs.  The Homeless Street Card lists all the services available to those without housing and must be accessible right from the streets.  They can fold it up and put it into a pocket or purse to carry around for reference. The Homeless Street Card also lists bus routes to get to some of these services as well as information on how to get identification.

We have seen dramatic changes in the world of social services with consolidations and the closures of shelters and homeless providers. Now, we have the Coordinated intake in Cleveland for finding shelter and services it is even more important that there is a document to assist people in finding help.  Typically, it is the key to finding food, shelter, and many other services that are critical to the persons’ circumstances.  The Homeless Street Card lists all the services available to homeless people who need assistance right off the streets without appointment or referral.

Through the generocity of University Hospitals, we were able to print 10,000 Homeless Street Cards and have begun to distribute to individuals, shelters, hospitals, schools, police stations, and libraries.  We hope that this one page guide will shorten a person's stay on the streets or in the shelters.  We hope that they can use this resource guide to move out of homelessness quickly.

 The most popular part of the NEOCH website is the page with our Street Cards (www.neoch.org/street_card.htm). On the website, we have also posted a shorter version of the Street Card which can be printed out on regular letter sized paper.   The organization also publishes a Veteran's Street Card for any homeless person who served in the US Military and a Family Street Card for the fastest growing population families.  NEOCH encourages people or agencies to make as many copies as possible and to distribute them to those in need. The newest edition of the Cuyahoga County Homeless Street Card can be downloaded for free at / under Resources/Street Card.  NEOCH can also mail a few copies by calling 216/432.0540.

Brian Davis

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National News Updates

Another story in Talk Poverty about the deplorable DC shelter for families. This link is a good overview of the closure of the previous family shelter and how the city was forced to open a bigger shelter at the abandoned hospital.  We wrote about the child who was taken from the shelter in March and has not been seen since. Sharon Neuman Murphy of Mary's House penned a nice overview of the problem and how politicians are still ignoring homeless families in DC.  We are also seeing a lack of options for families in Cleveland with huge numbers showing up for help and having no where to go.  This story shows the value of shelter regulations in a community.

Frustrated with inaction on the problem of homelessness, a neighborhood NIMBY advocate in DC attacked a homeless person and was arrested.  In the nation's capital in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, one restaurant worker was arrested for violence directed at a homeless person. The attacker had led an effort to stop the construction of an apartment in the neighborhood.  Now he was arrested for spraying a homeless person, screaming at a homeless guy and then throwing his stuff in the streets.  The attacker works at a local bar.  I have to wonder who is more of a problem for the Dupont Circle neighborhood his intoxicated customers later at night or homeless people?

Michelle Obama followed up her speech at the National Alliance to End Homelessness with an op-ed for the McClatchey newspapers. It was a good overview of the problem and it is hard to disagree that we should not honor these veterans by making sure that they do not become homeless.   But these guys volunteered to put their country first by joining the military, and so wouldn't they want the United States to solve homelessness for everyone and not just veterans?  These guys and gals who were willing to sacrifice their life for their country would say that there should not be one homeless kid in the richest country on the planet.  I think that most of these veterans would say, "No, I will give up my spot on the housing waiting list for the Mom who is working two jobs and taking care of her two kids." 

Huffington Post had a video of a homeless guy watching his shelter being destroyed by the police.  This is part of a documentary called "Destiny Bridge" about homeless tent cities and the pastor that cares for a group of people who live in the woods. 

The Cincinnati Coalition is working to expand the Ohio hate crimes law to include homeless people in response to another attack in the Queen city. Cincinnati has always been the one of the least friendly cities in Ohio toward homeless people. This follows an attack on a homeless guy, John Hensley, in the Over the Rhine neighborhood.  Three men were arrested for the attack. Cincinnati Coalition director, Josh Spring, would like to see prosecutors have the option of moving up the charge if they find the individuals went after a fragile and vulnerable population.  NEOCH supports this effort and has unsuccessfully tried to convince legislators of the need for additional protections for homeless people. 

New Mexico intends to try and add homeless people to the Hate Crimes legislation.  This failed in 2013, but one state legislator intends to try again.  The Albuquerque Police were videotaped killing a homeless guy who was in the process of giving himself up that made national news.  Hopefully, with all the bad news coming out of Albuquerque and police aggression will move this legislation forward this time.

The worst news of the day was the killing of Thomas Trent by a 12 year old boy in (of course) violent Florida--the most dangerous state in the union for homeless people. I could only find a couple of references to this story which seemed strange.  This should be a national news story about how we have cast a group of people out of our society and they have become prey for children.  54 year old Thomas Trent was shot to death at 2 a.m. behind a group of stores, and the police used surveillance video to track down the suspect. 

Trent's sister told the Florida Times-Union that her brother was kind and intelligent, and had just been released from the hospital when he was killed. He'd suffered from health problems related to alcoholism, she told the paper.

Brian Davis

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How Are Veterans Doing in Cleveland?

I have been asking around to Veterans that I know in Cleveland about the care that they receive at the Department of Veteran's Affairs Hospital and the services surrounding the VA.  It seems that most people are pretty satisfied with the care that they are receiving locally.  Most of the veterans say that they wished that they could get appointments faster, but that they understand the huge numbers returning from conflict who need help.  They say that the private insurance market is way harder to deal with compared to the VA system.  I have not come across anyone who has the experiences of those described from Phoenix or that the President identified when announcing the proposed new VA Secretary.

The White House released a scathing report Obama commissioned that charged the VA with “significant and chronic system failures.” The report also said the VA is battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health needs.

I understand that the former Secretary had to fall on his sword in order to quell some of the fire that was raging in the veterans community, but I liked Secretary Eric Shinseki.  He was quiet and did not show a range of emotion which probably led to his downfall.  He set a standard of care and expected the staff to follow that level.  He came out of the military culture of honor and service and expected that culture to permeate throughout the Veterans Affairs Department.   He seemed to be stunned that staff would lie and cheat for financial benefit.   I thought that his goal of ending veterans homelessness by the end of 2015 was a good one. 

The Veterans were betrayed and let down by the government they were asked to defend.  Both the administration and the Congressional branch do a disservice to the veterans.  They did not allocate enough funding to serve the nation's wounded.  We have not built a trusting relationship with the Vietnam era veterans and now we are trying to deal with the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  We had requests for seeing a doctor increase by 50% but we only brought on a 9% increase in the number of doctors over the last five years.  They have seen a 78% increase in their budget during that time, but the bureaucracy does not operate very efficiently.  The technology used at the VA facilities are archaic and outdated and frustrating for patients and staff.  There are some 7 million veterans seeking various levels of assistance from the Department with 2 million more patients compared to five years ago. 

According to the New York Times, in the past three years, primary-care appointments have leapt 50 percent while the department’s staff of primary care doctors has grown by only 9 percent, according to department statistics.

They need to figure out a way to streamline services between active military and retired.  They need to ease the backlog of evaluating veterans for benefits.  They should call the health care staff something different to them from the benefits staff who may have denied full benefits.  The VA needs to do something big and bold to regain the trust of the community.   There are some serious holes in the system, but it is not completely broken.

Brian Davis

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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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Suicide In Homeless Community

I feel awful about this encounter we had with a veteran last week. A 30 year old veteran sent a suicide note by e-mail last week to a group of agencies in Cleveland, and NEOCH was on the list.  I don't know why we were on the list, and the e-mail went to our spam folder.   Two of the individuals on the list called the police and even though the vet had meticulously put the GPS longitude and latitude of his body, the police had a hard time finding him.  I do not believe that I had met the young man, but he seemed like an intelligent but troubled person.   Why did he pick out NEOCH to send the suicide note and not the Veteran's Administration?   He had a city in New York listed as his e-mail address and the beginning of the document looked like religious tracts that we get everyday typically asking to claim lost funds, which made it more likely that the e-mail was sent to spam. 

We received a call from the Medical Examiners office on the morning after the suicide asking if we knew the gentleman and had we seen his e-mail.  I did not see it and the e-mail had been cleared out of our spam folder.  The Medical Examiner reached out to the six groups and two individuals listed in the veteran's e-mail for locating next of kin with a copy of the original e-mail.   It seems that the vet had been a foster kid and then went to serve in the military.  For the past seven years after he left the military, he had lived on the streets of Cleveland and in various shelters.   His body was found in a warehouse in the flats.   He sent a Google map with the location of his body and a long explanation for his death.  This veteran had been in many different shelters and worked with many service providers but could not find a place in our society. He died in the building that he had been living for the past several months.  No electricity and alone near the Cuyahoga River.

He recognized that he had a long term disability and was dealing with severe depression.  We did circulate a call for help to all the shelters asking for more information on behalf of the Cuyahoga Medical Examiner's office. I know a couple of agencies came forward with additional information.  Despite the millions available to veterans at this time and the dramatic expansion of services since 2006, he could not find the care that he needed.   He spoke of working for peace in our society, and living his life on the fringes of society.  He seemed like a deep thinker who did not seem to want to raise a fuss about the injustice of his situation.  He included a number of prayers and quotes from historical figures, and indicated that he had reached his end. 

I grieve that our community could not intervene to find a safe place for this veteran.  I am angry that he thought so much, but concluded this was a viable solution to his problems.  I have to keep in mind from my personal experience with loved ones who have severe mental illnesses that this is not rational thinking here.  I wonder why NEOCH was selected to receive this note.  I am overwhelmed by the details in this suicide note and the level of sophistication.  I feel horrible that this young veteran was so alone and could not identify any support network.   I don't understand much of what he is saying in his note, but I am sure that he would have been good to sit down and have a cup of coffee with.  I am confused about what was the trigger here and how we could have done more for this individual.  I am concerned that we have others who spend so much time "sleeping on concrete, under bridges and in abandoned buildings" that they see no relief except a grim one. 

On this day that we honor veterans, we should see that working together we can prove to the veteran and community that we can move mountains.  We also need to see that this is an emergency that we need to move quickly so that those veterans and non-veterans struggling with mental health issues find the specialized help they need.  We must remember that each person is different and what works for one person might not be what is best for the young veteran bouncing from one shelter to another.  We need to go beyond "Thank you for your service" to "Because of your service, our community will do whatever it takes to help."

Brian Davis

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Veteran Success Story

We have one positive and one sad veteran story for Veteran's Day.  This is the story of many groups and individuals working together can move mountains.  The Veteran's Affair staff found a 67 year old female veteran living on the streets of Cleveland in a car near a church on the near West Side of Cleveland.  She refused to go into shelter because she could not give up her two dogs.  One dog could be considered a companion animal for fair housing consideration; two dogs are a stretch.  The veteran refused to take the animals to the APL out of fear that they would be destroyed.  This made it impossible to find even a temporary place to live. 

Care Alliance staff contacted the Cleveland Police who found a safe place for the dogs and got the dogs seen by a veterinarian because of the relationship with the K-9 unit.  The Veterans Service Commission was willing to pay for short term hotel assistance while the female veteran was completing housing applications.  Because of her age there are housing opportunities available in the community.  The Frontline Services Veterans program is helping with rental assistance to get her into housing.   She also may qualify for rental help from the Cleveland Department of Aging.  The pet issue can be a huge obstacle for homeless people.  Many are so attached to their pets that they cannot find a safe place to live that is also safe for their pets. 

This was a feel good story of many groups working together to find a safe place for this woman who had served her country.  We also hope that this marks a change for the Veterans Service Commission to be more responsive to the needs of homeless veterans.  This elderly veteran finally found stability with the help of many different people and organizations in Cleveland.  Thanks to the CPD, Care Alliance, Cleveland VA, Veterans Service Commission, Frontline Services and the many others for honoring this women's service by going out of their way to help.

Brian Davis

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County Council Awards Funds to Veterans

I don't know how we missed this, but the County redirected Veteran's Service Commission money to other veterans programs in Cuyahoga County.  Who knew that the Veteran's Commission money (as much as $1 million per year) was being returned to Cuyahoga County general revenue fund every year.  The new government decided that these funds should go to veterans as they were intended.  In June, the Council approved $733,000 to various government and charities that serve veterans locally. 

Homeless veterans will benefit from these programs including MHS now called Frontline Services will expand their housing assistance to veterans, the Office of Homeless Services will receive funds for the permanent supportive housing for veterans.   The VA will have additional funds to serve homeless veterans.   The Community Resource and Referral Center will receive additional funds to assist veterans with central intake.   The Legal Aid Society and 211/First Call for Help will get additional dollars.  This is great news for homeless veterans. 

We were only informed of this when Councilman Julian Rogers attended the Homeless Congress meeting, and reported on the distribution of these funds.  It would have been great if the Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance program could hire an attorney to work exclusively with homeless vets.  For $75,000 we could hire one attorney for one year to serve 160  to 180 veterans in need of legal advice.   We have wanted to hire an attorney to serve veterans similar to the Project Salute program in Detroit. It would have been a nice program for homeless vets, but no one told us about the resources available.

Brian Davis

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Happy Memorial Day: Remember those Forgotten Veterans

Today is Memorial Day in the United States.  A time when we remember those serving the United States who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  It is great that there are hundreds of volunteers cleaning up cemeteries, and attending memorials or parades.   But what if we remembered those veterans who are largely forgotten by our society but not dead?  There are large numbers of veterans who are homeless and living in isolation from our society including a large number of vets still from the Viet Nam era.  

It has to be said that the federal government has done a lot to end veterans homelessness.  We should all have this goal of finding housing for every American who can't afford a place of their own.   They have created expanded outreach to veterans especially female veterans.  They have created one stop centers to serve the population, and provided a small number of housing vouchers.   They have created family prevention grants, and are doing a great deal more behavioral health care.   But there is a lot more that we could do to heal those who served the United States during a war. 

  • We could have every active duty service man stationed in the United States take two weeks to resolve the backlog of claims made by veterans for disability/health care. 
  • We could pledge that no claim going forward will take longer than four weeks. 
  • We could provide housing vouchers to every single veteran living on the streets of America. 
  • We could provide comprehensive health care to every veteran no matter their discharge.  We have to assume that most of the other than honorably discharged have something to do with what they saw or did while serving in a combat zone.
  • We could guarantee a job to every veteran upon discharge from the service.   If you give three years of your life to the US military, you should be able to have a job when you leave. 

This would be a real special memorial day if we would resolve ourselves to remember those struggling with mental health issues, housing or employment right here on the streets of America.   We should remember those whose talent we are losing.  We should remember the veterans sleeping in the woods in Lorain County, and bring them back safely from the their extended deployment.  We need to make this a truly happy memorial day. 

Brian

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