Homeless Congress Notes for November

November 10, 2016---Cosgrove Center

Upcoming events were addressed and it was announced the Councilman Reed was asked to attend the meeting, but he couldn’t because he is out of town. 

Ruth Gillett, Office of Homeless Services, attended the meeting and talked about the changes to the OHS Advisory Board and participation by three members of Homeless Congress.  She also discussed the Rapid Re-Housing Program that is tentatively set to begin in November (now it looks like January 2017).  She explained that the staff at the two big shelters will be trained on how to refer residents to the program.  This will include making certain that the resident being referred meet the criteria.  She informed the members that the purpose of the program is to help move out of the shelter.  Some income will be necessary to maintain housing, but it will provide three or four months worth of rental assistance to move into housing.

The target population from those staying at the shelter will be residents that have been there the longest and have the ability to pay rent with employment or disability assistance.   There will be a housing locator assigned to the participant to assist in locating affordable housing.  Shared housing with a roommate was an option discussed as a way to be able to afford and maintain housing. 

One of the members wanted to know who is supervising the program.  Gillett informed him that the program is a collaborative effort between the Office of Homeless Services, EDEN, and Frontline Services.  Another member asked who determines whether or not housing passes inspection because there have been problems with the housing he is seeking.  It has not passed the inspection three times.  He was informed that there is a standard set of regulations that the housing must pass to receive any government money. 

There was a question about getting Housing Choice Vouchers and the waiting list and everyone was informed that Voucher Program will not be available until around 2018.  Ruth Gillett went on to say that the Rapid Re-Housing Program is not only for long term disabled homeless residents.  She said this program should be able to assist 300-400 single adults.  She also informed members that utilities are not included in the rent vouchers, so anyone interested in getting housing through Rapid-Rehousing should seek housing that includes utilities.  They will be responsible to pay them otherwise.

EDEN has developed a list of landlords that are willing to participate.  One of the members wanted to know how to resolve a back payment for past EDEN housing.  Ruth explained that he could make payment arrangements by calling the EDEN office.

Bidding for providing services for the women’s shelter was the next topic discussed.  The deadline to submit the bid to oversee the shelter was November 29, 2016 (extended to January 2017 after the meeting).  Brian Davis, NEOCH, feels this is not enough time for interested agencies to prepare and get their bid submitted.  Due to holidays and Election Day, this will make it very difficult to prepare and coordinate information to be able to bid.  He and Loh asked if there was a chance for an extension.  Disputes between residents residing at the women’s shelter was the next concern addressed. There was some discussion about the conditions at the shelter and the problems with the fights between residents.  There was a question about the County allowing for the women to move women who are disruptive to be moved to another facility.  What was the County's recommendation for where a woman stays after there is a dispute between shelters? There is nothing formally in place to address this except to suspend one of the residents from the shelter, especially if there is a restraining order in place.  Ruth stated that at this time, if one resident files a restraining order against another, North Point could be used to house one of the residents. 

Next, there was a discussion about the priority list for the issues at the women’s shelter and the meetings with Frontline Services over the list.   They were informed about the surveys that will be distributed to the current and past residents of the women’s shelter.  They had received copies in their packets and they were asked to read over the surveys and if they felt any changes needed to be made.  They were also asked to think about what changes they feel should be made for the Homeless Congress future in response to the election.  They were also asked if funds should be focused on overflow for shelters or funding organizations to work on public policy changes.  The unanimous decision was overflow.  Overflow was supported as the highest priority.

*The next meeting date is December 8, 2016

by Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Notes from the October Homeless Congress

Anastasia, an instructor from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and her students attended.  They wanted to discuss some projects she has in mind to with some of the residents from the shelters.  Project Find is the name of the projects she is working on.  One purpose of this project is to bring more awareness to homelessness. 

Each of her students were introduced and communicated their ideas to the members of the Homeless Congress.  Ross, Malinda, and Matthew are the first names of the students.  They had surveys to distribute to the members and to be delivered to the shelters.  They expressed just how important art is and the different ways it could help.  

The students asked for ideas and feedback.  One suggestion was artwork in the shelters and murals.   The members asked about doing some art projects at the men’s shelter.

Anastasia discussed the projects they did last year.  She talked about the mural that was created to put up at the women’s shelter to create the spirit of resiliency.  She also talked about the art classes she conducted at the shelter.  She suggested ideas about projects that would bring awareness to homelessness.  Ms.  Valentine of the Cosgrove Center talked about the art projects on the third floor and informed everyone that there will be an Art Gallery in February.   Ms. Valentine informed Anastasia about the art classes on Tuesday and Thursday’s from 10:00am-2:00pm at Cosgrove.

The raffle was held and one female and one male won the prizes.

Ruth Gillett was next on the agenda.  She presented a PowerPoint presentation about the new Advisory Board. She talked about the project to end veterans and youth homelessness.  She also discussed the new rapid rehousing funds for single homeless adults.  Youth are defined as those between ages 18-24, and the goal is to get them into housing as soon as possible.  It is coordinated intake’s responsibility to link them to the proper resources.  They must address the reason the youth is homeless.  Some of the situations discussed include those kicked out of the house or those exiting foster care. 

In November, short-term rental assistance for single individuals will begin.  The goal is to do a better job linking them to resources.  Better preventative measures is a goal to help end family homelessness.  Gillett stated that there is a need to utilize the shelter system according to the highest need.  The rental assistance that will be provided through this program, is in a progressive engagement model.  It can go up to 6 months, 8 months, and then transfer to a long term program if that is what the individual needs. 

Most people can get back on their feet within 4 months of assistance.  Shared housing was also readdressed as an option.   Another participant asked if she has to be homeless for a long period of time to get the rapid rehousing.  The answer was no.  Another wanted information on what the process and criteria to successfully get Rapid Re-Housing is.  Ruth’s response was that information will be made available as soon as it is all in place, and she will return to discuss at the November meeting.

Also discussed was reasons why landlords are hesitant to accept participants of Rapid Re-Housing.  Brian Davis discussed the Fair Housing Regulations and that landlords may be improperly screening out those with criminal backgrounds.  Davis also discussed urging City Council to pass protections for tenants against discrimination based on their source of income.   It has not been passed in Cleveland as of yet, but we would like it to be passed in Cleveland so that the landlords cannot discriminate against people with vouchers from getting an apartment. 

Next, the meeting for the women’s shelter residents at Frontline was discussed.  The meeting will be on October 20, 2016 at 1:00pm.  They will be meeting with Eric Morse, the COO of Frontline to discuss needed changes at the shelter.  Frontline recently renewed the contract to be the provider at the women’s shelter for another year.  Topics for the meeting are the 12 recommended solutions that were agreed to prior to Frontline renewing the contract.

Cleveland Mediation Center is no longer a part of Frontline and Brian Davis wanted to know if the women residing at the shelter would be willing to trust them as a group to resolve grievances with the shelter.  At the time of the meeting, the answer was no.  This will be further discussed later.  Brian asked if there are any problems that need to be addressed now.  One of the women staying at the shelter talked about how rude the security officers are that are working at the shelter.  Another complaint about trans women staying at the shelter and the women having no experience with this issue.  These two issues were added to the agenda to be further addressed.  The Congress meets on the second Thursday of the month at Cosgrove. 

by Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

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

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.