ID Collaborative Receives County Funding

We learned this week from Cuyahoga County Council Member Dale Miller that the Council and County Executive have agreed on the County budget for the next 2 years and the ID Crisis Collaborative will be fully funded for a total of $340,000 over 2016 and 2017; the budget for each year will be $170,000, which is the amount we have pieced together for the last two years.   

This means that over the next two years the IDCC's 22 member agencies and churches will be able to help about 9,000 people to get about 14,000 documents -- birth certificates and IDs -- as well as to pay for a part time advocate and part time bookkeeper.  

Thank you to:

  • the ID Crisis Collaborative Steering Committee Anita Branan, Doug Horner and Jim Schlecht, for driving this process through endless meetings all year long, 
  • to our fiscal agent West Side Catholic Center, in particular Chris Urbancic and Anita Cook, for your work to make the voucher system and accounting work so smoothly, 
  • to Harriet Petti and Linda Stamm (our former Advocates) for helping to start the process of seeking County funding, 
  • to member organizations for staff time and for filling in the funding gaps last year, 
  • to all of our hard-working volunteers and generous donors and funders who have made all of this possible since 1999, 
  • to County staff members in all departments for their work on behalf of the people we serve and 
  • to Council Member Dale Miller for his intense advocacy over this past year. 

Because of all of this hard work, we will continue to be able to serve people in need to get their IDs for housing, jobs, health care, and more, through the end of 2017!

The above is from Eileen Kelly (pictured above as she won the 2014 advocate of the year).

The ID collaborative was put together by Joe the VISTA years ago at NEOCH.  One of the many programs started by VISTAs in Cleveland until the State of Ohio started forcing groups to pay for VISTAs or face strict time limits.  We are fortunate to have this program in Cleveland, and we are one of the few cities to focus on this critical need.  It is impossible to get housing or a job without identification, and most elected officials don't realize how difficult it is to get a birth certificate for some.  There are two issues faced by low income people with trying to obtain identification: first, is the expense and the other is the hoops that you must jump through based on your birth place.  If you were born in Maine it is over $60 to get your birth certificate while if you were born in New York City it is difficult and time consuming to get your birth certificate in the mail.  It can take as long as four or even six months to get your birth certificates from some states or from the State Department if you were born on a military base. 

This is such a vital service for homeless people who frequently have their papers stolen or lost.  We have years of experience to help individuals shorten the time and send the correct paper work.  This is a really great program that only works because all these providers came together to make it a success. Congrats to St. Colman's and West Side Catholic Center for taking the lead in the essential service.

Brian Davis

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I Am Thankful for...

Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance...for being non judgemental in helping people who have made poor choices or are struggling with demons. 

Tyrone H now of Care Alliance...for quickly learning the ins and outs of providing help to the shelter resistent and getting a full time job to work with people struggling with housing issues.

Denise (her picture is on the front of our website now) our latest hire for the training position...for being so compassionate to the people in her care.  For learning how to move from offering comfort to offering a hand up. 

Metanoia...for offering a safe warm place inside on the coldest nights of the year and for helping the most vulnerable in our society. 91 people found help on this last Sunday.

Cosgrove Center...for helping keep people, families and children fed on cold days and for being willing to become the host for the Central Intake site.

Transitional Housing programs...for working to move people into stability during their own time.  Some people cannot be housed quickly.  They need time to get their life together.  They need time to get a skill that will lead to a job or get clean or get medical help for their past trauma.   Transitional shelters have a role in our society and should not be shuttered as HUD and Cuyahoga County are pushing. 

Putting families into housing...I am thankful for Habitat for Humanity and the City Mission program to place families with children directly into houses.  It is always amazing to see a child's face light up when they go into a new place to live.  When they have overcome so much living in a shelter and then realize they have a safe place to live is the best part of this job. 

First Call for Help/211...It is often overlooked, but having a phone number to call 2-1-1- or 436-2000 is an essential service that should be more valued by all the social service community.   Since no agency (except NEOCH) has humans answer the phones anymore, we should give more praise to this amazing service of answering the phone 24 hours a day.   The people over at United Way really care and know more than anyone what is really going on in the community.  They knew first that family homelessness was on the rise and that suburban hunger was getting out of control.  I am so thankful for First Call for Help. is one of only 2 communities in Ohio that helps low income people find housing without having to go through a case worker.  We have 800 units available today on the site and a database of 32,000 units.   It is a free service for both landlords (4,500 landlords use the service) and homeless people looking for housing.  It is an affordable service that 33 states have adopted. 

Toni Johnson...A veterans affairs employee who knows everything about homelessness.  She is out in the community keeping her ear to the ground about resources for her clients.  You will see her on the East Side and in East Cleveland.  She has contacts for children and 80 year old veterans.   We are so glad she is working to serve homeless people. 

The ID Collaborative...It took a hit this year with funding running out, but it is an amazing program.  It is a model for the United States and serves hundreds of people every year.  This should be considered an essential service funded before other programs.  It is amazing how one small piece of paper (birth certificate) or a card (State ID) can stop a person's life.   Without ID you can't vote, get into housing, get a job or get preventative health care.  We need the ID Collaborative to be healthy and fully funded. 

What are your ideas for what you are thankful for in the homeless community?  Submit in the comments section or in the discussion section of the website.  We will post other ideas on our blog.

Brian Davis

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Identification Collaborative Out of Money

Cleveland has one of the few Identification Collaborations in the country.  It is a small often overlooked matter for most to get that card in your purse and wallet, but it is often the ticket to nearly everything we do.  A few non-profits came together seven years ago with the help of an AmeriCorps VISTA member at NEOCH to create a fund to provide identification for homeless people. St Colman's Catholic Church and West Side Catholic took the lead with the project, and NEOCH honored Eileen Kelly earlier this year because of her efforts to keep the project going and including advocacy as a key component of the collaboration.    The project is temporarily out of money and this puts all those trying to get a state identification card or their birth certificate at a disadvantage. 

This is a horrible time to be out of money with two months left before the upcoming election.  Remember that if you want to vote in person on Election Day you must show identification.  Most of the ID that is required is tied to housing and a residence (utility bill, government mail to an address, etc.), and of course homeless people do not have a solid residence.   Even though early voting is available in Ohio, there are many who want to vote on Election Day with everyone else.  In fact, some do not think that it is really voting unless they vote on the first Tuesday in November.  Most will not be able to get their birth certificate in time for the registration deadline in Ohio, but it does not hurt to try. 

State identification is necessary for getting into housing, starting a job and obtaining health insurance.  It can take months to get a birth certificate back from some states, and the expense can be up to $60.  We have a system in place to streamline the process for obtaining the birth certificate and they have a law firm that helps with processing the paperwork.  The staff and volunteers with the ID Collaborative have a well developed system for paying for the identification and making sure that the individual has all the documents they need for each state.  One of the major accomplishments of the ID Collaborative was to hire an advocate to push for better public policy regarding identification.  It should be that homeless and low income people should not have to pay for their own document proving they are who they say they are. 

The ID Collaborative is a great partnership and involves nearly every social service provider in Cuyahoga County. We hope that in the next month local government officials will announce additional funds to help with identification.  There are a few agencies kicking in money for their own clients and the schools and Downtown Cleveland Alliance are still helping with identification.   It is such a small hurdle to be able to prove you are who you say you are, but it can be the difference between staying in housing and sleeping outside. 

Brian Davis

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Social Security Delays Changes

Since the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices do not seem to have access to the internet or the E-verify system, we have no idea how they are going to deal with this problem of the Social Security Administration not providing a print out.  This is a huge problem for homeless people which are regularly having their important documents taken or they get lost with all the movement in and out of housing and shelter.  We are still waiting for a response from the Ohio BMV. 

Brian Davis

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Changes in the Social Security Administration

Photo by David HaganThere was news from the Cleveland Identification Collaborative. 

  • Printouts will no longer be issued in February at local offices. Printouts were being used as a document needed to get a state identification.
  • Security and budget constraints require Social Security to stop the practice of issuing printouts.
  • 6 million printouts were issued last year (2012) up from the 200,000 issued in 2002
  • Employers can utilize I-Verify to verify employees numbers there is also a business service offered by Social Security which allows for online verification on a fee basis
  • Carmen Moreno, Regional Communications Director  for Social Security has committed to come to Cleveland to discuss the Collaborative concerns and work toward resolutions, and social service representatives will meet with the Director
  • On transition basis the printouts will be issued through March of 2014

Here is the press release from the Social Security Administration:

As of February 2014, the Social Security Administration will no longer offer Social Security number (SSN) printouts and benefit verification information in our field offices.  However, to ensure a smooth transition, we will continue providing these services if requested until April 2014.  We are making these changes to meet the increasing demands for our services at the same time that our agency budget has been significantly cut by over $1B in each of the last three years.  During this same time period we have invested in technology that offers more convenient, cost-effective, and secure options for our customers to obtain certain services without visiting a local office.

Because the SSN printout is not an official document with security features, and is easily duplicated, misused, shared illegally, or counterfeited, eliminating it helps prevent fraud.  Employers, departments of motor vehicles, and other entities requiring SSN verification can obtain this information in real time or overnight using online government services such as E-Verify and Social Security’s Business Services Online.  Beneficiaries and recipients needing a benefit verification letter can obtain one immediately by registering for a my Social Security account at , or through the mail within 5–7 days by calling our national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213.

I appreciate your support for this effort as we work to provide the best possible service to the American people.  For future updates and news visit .


The State is going to have to change their procedures to reflect that print outs are not available.  The State has issues with federal Real ID provisions as well that need to be resolved in 2014. 

Brian Davis

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New Staff at Critical Positions

Diane Gatto was appointed as the Director of First Call for Help/211 in Cleveland.  This is a United Way critical program for the community that is often forgotten because it works so effectively.   They offer essential referral help to those looking for food, shelter, health care, job training or legal assistance. They regularly update treatment services available and they can provide for all the hotlines numbers (domestic violence, rape crisis, suicide prevention, and veteran's services) anytime.   211 operates 24 hours and they have a fantastic website that is regularly updated.  All the information that they provide is verified on a regular basis.  Diane has been with the organization for years and knows everything about running a telephone referral system.  She has her finger on the pulse of the community and has a great understanding of the needs of those living in poverty.  First Call for Help administers the referral system in many of the surrounding counties.   They run Community Voice Mail and are co-coordinator of  They don't get enough credit for all they serve and all they do for this community.  They do a good job and do not create waves and have never been involved in a scandal.  They stay under the radar, but provide one of the most important services for so many people.  Diane takes over for the long time director Steve Wertheim who left in June. 

Ron Register took a leadership position at 2100 Lakeside Shelter after a year stabilizing St. Herman's shelter.  Register will oversee programming at the largest shelter in Ohio.  He has previously worked with the veterans at the shelter and now will take a broader approach to the shelter.  He attended the last Resident Council at the shelter and will take a lead in solving some of the issues homeless people have at the shelter.   If there is going to be a solution to homelessness in Cleveland, 2100 Lakeside is a critical piece of the pie.  It is going to take a stable and functioning entry shelter for men, before we can start thinking of solutions and solving some of the big problems in the community. The biggest festering issue in the community is where do sexually based offenders live in our community with all the fear, reporting, and stigma associated with them decades after they completed their incarceration?

Finally, we welcome Harriet Petti as the new Advocate for the ID Crisis Collaborative.  Yes, this is a position in the community and is extremely important to low income residents of the County.  There are thousands who just need that one piece of paper in order to get the healthcare, housing or a job that they need to move forward.  Now, many need to even show ID in order to vote in person.  Cleveland is one of the few communities in the country that focuses on this small obstacle that can open up doors.  We talked in the last month about the new Social security rules that will harm low income people, and this staff will take on these and other issues.  The state is regularly updating their rules, and the reality is that there is no one looking out for low income people when rules are changed in how a person gets their own birth certificate, state identification, or social security card. Ms. Petti worked for Goodwill, the Sewer District and volunteered with Hard Hatted Women.  She will be working to figure out a way out of this Catch 22 of the social security print out and work to streamline the process so people can quickly restart their life after they lose all their important documents.  We wish her luck.

Brian Davis

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Social Security Administration Makes it Difficult to Obtain ID

Cleveland is one of the few communities in the United States to have a collaborative ID program for homeless people.  This was organized way back in 2005 by one of our VISTAs, Joseph, at NEOCH with most of the homeless programs in Cleveland participating.  The program is led by staff at West Side Catholic and St. Colman's Catholic Church.  Last week, we were notified that the Social Security Administration had tightened their rules and will not give a printout indicating the individual has a social security number without proof of citizenship and identity.  Since a national identification card does not exist and when people lose their important papers that typically includes a birth certificate, this is a hardship for homeless and low income individuals. 

This June 24th memo issued by the Social Security Administration will complicate the ability for individuals to receive the print out that they do have a social security number.  This printout was used by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles as a secondary document to prove that the individual had a social security number in order to receive a State ID.  Now, SSA is saying that you have to have a State ID first to the get the print out and the State is saying you have to have the Social Security card or print out in order to get the ID card.  It is a Catch 22 that will only complicates the lives of poor people.  This new policy will make it more difficult to get identification and prolong a person's homelessness.  It will take longer to get identification to vote, find housing, find a job and get non-emergency health care.  This will keep people living in the shelters for a longer period of time and cost the City and County money to house, feed and cloth these individuals. 

We heard from one social service provider who wrote a letter on letterhead detailing the association with the client and confirming their records of her social security number, and that worked.  The client was able to get a print out of their social security number from SSA.  This all seems like overkill since the client was always made to swear to their own identity at the SSA office and have that document  notarized becoming a legal document.  What was the issue, and what was the problem they are trying to solve?  Now, they are accepting documents from for-profit sources such as an employer identification card, health insurance card, and school identification card as proof of identity.   There is a thought that a letter from the Department of Jobs and Family Services indicating the individual's social security number might work.  We are not sure how this will all play out and what documents will be acceptable.  Will the Street Chronicle ID that our vendors carry count? Will a letter back from the Housing Authority about the clients housing status count if it has their social security number?  Will the RTA disabled bus pass be acceptable?  Will different SSA offices accept different documents?  It is all confusing and does not inspire confidence in our government. We hope to meet with Congressional staff to look into this issue.

Brian Davis

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Voting Hearing in Cleveland

The US Senate has announced a hearing for Cleveland Ohio on May 7, 2012.  Here are the initial details that we have received:

Field Hearing Details:  The Subcommittee on the Constitution Civil Rights and Human Rights will hold a field hearing examining the impact of the new state voting laws that have recently swept the country, including HB 194 in Ohio.  Among other things, HB 194 restricts early voting, limits the distribution of absentee ballots, and no longer requires poll workers to direct voters to their proper precincts.  The hearing will be held the morning of Monday, May 7, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.

This is being organized Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois with assistance from Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. We encourage everyone who is concerned about the disenfranchisement of poor people at the ballot box to attend.  You might want to submit a statement if you have concerns:

  • about the length of time it takes to get birth certificate which is the basis for all ID.
  • about being challenged at the polling place when you attempt to vote.
  • about the disparity in some counties accepting a provisional ballot (why are the percentage of accepted provisional ballots so varied throughout the State of Ohio?)
  • about the value of Golden week where a voter can register and vote at the same time with plenty of time before the election for the board officials to determine the legitimacy of your registration.
  • about reducing the time to vote by mail or to early vote. 
  • about the board of elections being closed the weekend before the election when many people are thinking about voting and may want to exercise that vote on a normally leisurely weekend.

We have an entire section on homeless people participation in voting on our website here.