Public Transit Round Table: Join us.

You are cordially invited to "Public Transit Community Round-Table", an open event organised to raise all voices in our community to Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, a.k.a. GCRTA, for the urgent needs of our community and GCRTA's own survival.  The Digital version of the Invitation is attached for your information and recommendation to your organisation [either the Board or the Administration], all your employees as individuals in our community, and of course, those whom receiving your services to join force in order to advocate for the accessible, affordable, reliable, and safe public transit, which has been missing in our community, for job opportunities, stable housing, health cares, and recovery which too many members in our community have been struggling with, as well as vitalising our community economically, culturally, and socially

0001 (2).jpg

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Ohio May Reinstate Practice of Purging Voters From Its Rolls for Not Voting Court Decision Could Lead to Disenfranchisement Across the Country

In a 5-4 ruling in Husted v. APRI, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld an Ohio voter purge practice that removes infrequent voters from the registration rolls. The decision creates a danger that other states will pursue extreme purging practices to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters across the country.

“Today’s decision threatens the ability of voters to have their voices heard in our elections,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos, which led the legal team challenging the state’s practices. “The fight does not stop here. If states take today’s decision as a sign that they can be even more reckless and kick eligible voters off the rolls, we will fight back in the courts, the legislatures, and with our community partners across the country.”

In APRI, Ohio asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court decision that found an Ohio practice of targeting registrants who have not voted in a two-year period for removal from the voter rolls — when there is no evidence that the voter has become ineligible — violates a federal law known as the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Court assented to Ohio’s request, holding that the state’s process does not violate the NVRA’s prohibition on using non-voting as a basis for canceling registrations because, although the state indeed targets eligible voters who have not voted recently, the non-voting is not “the sole criterion” for removing a registrant.  

“To have a healthy and functioning democracy, we must increase — not restrict — access to the ballot,” said Andre Washington, president, Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI). “Practices, like Ohio’s, that remove eligible but infrequent voters from the registration rolls disproportionately disenfranchise low-income voters and voters of color.”

In 2015 alone, hundreds of thousands of infrequent voters were purged from Ohio’s voter rolls. Over 40,600 registrants in the state’s largest county, Cuyahoga, were removed under the process allowed by the Supreme Court today. The majority of these registrants lived in low-income communities and communities of color.

“The Supreme Court decision to allow Ohio to purge its citizens from the rolls is a setback for voting rights nationwide,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Our democracy weakens when states are permitted to take actions that discourage voter participation. By constructing obstacles that make voting more difficult, Ohio is sending the wrong message to its citizens.”

“Countless voters, including homeless and housing-insecure Ohioans, have already been stripped of their rights as a result of Ohio’s unjust and illogical purge process,” said Chris Knestrick, executive director, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH). “By greenlighting Ohio’s purge process, the court allowed states to shut out the voices of these voters.”

Dēmos and the ACLU of Ohio first filed suit on behalf of Ohio APRI, NEOCH, and Ohio resident Larry Harmon in 2016, prevailing in the circuit court and securing relief that protected the right to vote for purged Ohio voters in November 2016 and every other election in the state to date.

“Today’s decision is a blow, not just to Ohio voters, but to the democratic process. Giving the green light to Ohio’s purge process could have a ripple effect across the entire country. Despite this setback, the court’s decision will not hinder our current and future advocacy efforts. Marginalized populations remain extremely vulnerable to state-sanctioned voter suppression and disenfranchisement, and we will continue to fight to uphold the rights of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections, and beyond,” said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio.

 “Voters should not be purged from the rolls simply because they have exercised their right not to vote. This ruling is a setback for voting rights, but it is not a green light to engage in wholesale purges of eligible voters without notice.",” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

A New Era for the Women's Shelter...Trend or Outlier?

NEOCH has long documented the history of abuses and neglect at the Norma Herr’s Women’s Shelter. “Abusive”, “toxic”, and “predatory” are just some of the words that have been used to describe the inhumane conditions there. Thus, it is with great optimism that we regard the momentous occasion of this past Tuesday, May 1st: the day the YWCA began operating Norma Herr Women’s Shelter full-time.

First and foremost, we want to acknowledge and respect the struggle many have endured to reach this point of optimism. For over a decade, NEOCH has organized hand-in-hand with the women of Norma Herr, outreach workers, and service providers to build awareness of the issues at Norma Herr. Particularly, we want to honor the courage and bravery of the many women who spoke out against the terrible conditions at the shelter despite being fully aware of how speaking out could negatively affect their stay at the shelter. We are all indebted to the bravery of these women and other activists.

Second, thank you to Margaret Mitchell, Teresa Sanders, Nicole Evans and the rest of the team at the YWCA. Their leadership, courage, and love for our community has answered NEOCH’s long call for new service provider at the women shelter. NEOCH believes that the YWCA will bring a client-centered approach that will respect the dignity of all the women that walk through the doors. It is deeply appropriate that an organization whose mission it is to “eliminate racism and empower women” would have the courage to redo how services are provided to women in crisis in our community.  We know it is not a easy task to run the women’s shelter, but is is one of the most important in our homeless services system. There will be complaints, complications and very little thank you’s from this point forward. There will also be those that are wanting to partner with you and see you succeed. Count NEOCH as one of these partners. So before NEOCH receives our first “official” complaint and continues our advocacy work, on behalf of the NEOCH and our members, thank you. Thank you for your work, your mission, and your courage.

The YWCA’s transition into being a new provider comes at a time when NEOCH is under new leadership. I started this position in July 2017 and have been running ever since. I have about 10 years of experience volunteering at the Catholic Worker drop-in center on the west side of Cleveland, and I still volunteer there in the evenings. One of the saddest realities is when women who are experiencing homelessness ask me for a ride to the place where they are going to lay their head that night. I ask them if they want to go to the Women’s Shelter and they tell me, “no way,” and would instead have me drop them off under bridge or at another precarious place. This has happened countless times in the last 4 years. Thus, during my first few months as the director of NEOCH, I sat down with both Margaret Mitchell and Teresa Sanders to talk about the YWCA taking over operations once the County had opened the bidding process. I understood that this was an opportunity to rewrite how services are provided to women  who are experiencing homelessness in our community. I have gone to county council multiple times to support your work. I have sat in meetings with elected officials to support this transitions. We are on board the YWCA train that is coming to Payne Ave., and we want to build with you, as we want you to succeed to providing the best services possible.

While we are excited and hopeful about the fact that YWCA is running the shelter with increased resources, we want to acknowledge that it is not enough.  The needs continues to grow and more resources must be provided to continue supporting people facing a housing crisis. We have a lack of affordable housing in our community. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a person needs to make $15 a hour to afford a 2 bedroom apartment. This has led to to a increase of 24% in family homelessness over the last two years.  Furthermore, a homeless prevention program is almost non-existent in our community. Everyday, outreach workers and case managers scramble to help families and individuals pay rent and utilities so prevent evictions. They jump from organization to organization asking for support, trying to pull enough funds to prevent someone from becoming homeless. Cuyahoga County had 18,385 evictions in 2017 - mostly for non-payment of rent. Without a comprehensive plan to develop Cleveland without raising rents, we will see more and more homeless, and thus more and more (avoidable) stress placed on the shelter system.

We need to make sure that financial resources are available to the people that need them most. There seems to be plenty of money. Sadly, the county seems to have unlimited funds for other projects that don’t benefit poor, the near-homeless with insecure housing, and people experiencing homelessness now. The county gave a 2 million dollar loan for this high end apartments that will rent “for 1,300 to 1,600 a month.”. The County structured a $140 million deal to help billionaire Dan Gilbert pay for stadium renovations. And who knows how many undisclosed millions of dollars–in the form of tax cuts–were offered to Amazon in the attempt at obtaining “HQ2”?

When it comes time to supporting issues for those experiencing homeless, the County needs to stop looking in their couch cushions for spare funds but rather open their wallets to provide substantial resources. This struggle is a reminder that we are indeed a welfare-state, except our welfare often goes to billionaires instead of those that really need it. We are however excited that the County did eventually offer more funding for the Women’s Shelter. We only hope that it represents the beginning of a trend of vibrant support for social services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. This is an optimistic moment for Cleveland’s homeless, and we need to build on this momentum.

By Chris Knestrick and Vishal Reddy

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Homeless Congress - April 12, 2018

For the remainder of the meeting the YWCA was in charge. Nicole Evans of the YWCA, who as of May 1, 2018, will take over as the Executive Director at the Norma Herr Shelter as the YWCA takes the reign from Frontline

  • What can we do to help make your homeless experience be as brief as possible?
  • To empower women to receive the institutional services that they are entitled to overcome the homeless experience, trauma, physical abuse, substance abuse, and self-suffering.
  • Encourage women to make Informed decisions for themselves
  • To increase resources that are available to women in the shelter to establish independence in the community.
Read More Editorial: Voting rights for homeless part of Supreme Court voter-purge case from Ohio

This editorial, by Director Chris Knestrick, was published on on the day of the Voter Purge case at the US Supreme Court. NEOCH was one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Men of the Lakeside Avenue homeless shelter in Cleveland are assigned sleeping bunks and mats in this 2002 file photo. The rights of the homeless in Ohio to stay on the voting rolls even without a fixed address, other than, sometimes, an intersection, are an issue in the Ohio voter-culling case to be argued at the U.S. Supreme Court today.(Roadell Hickman, The Plain Dealer, File, 2002)

Men of the Lakeside Avenue homeless shelter in Cleveland are assigned sleeping bunks and mats in this 2002 file photo. The rights of the homeless in Ohio to stay on the voting rolls even without a fixed address, other than, sometimes, an intersection, are an issue in the Ohio voter-culling case to be argued at the U.S. Supreme Court today.(Roadell Hickman, The Plain Dealer, File, 2002)

CLEVELAND -- Every vote counts -- and our democracy is strongest when each voice can be heard, and every eligible citizen can cast their vote. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) believes that participation in the democratic process is critical for those struggling with their housing.

For decades, we have worked with Cuyahoga County officials through litigation and organizing to assure that homeless people have access to voting.

Our work - and more importantly the fundamental rights of the populations we serve - is at stake in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, which will be argued before the Supreme Court of the United States today.

I have over 10 years of experience working with the homeless community in Cleveland and directing advocacy efforts with the international and local community, and in July 2017, I became NEOCH's director. Since then, my time has been devoted to our mission to organize and empower homeless and at-risk men, women and children to break the cycle of poverty through public education, advocacy and the creation of nurturing environments. My work is about having people experiencing homelessness gain access to the seats and halls of power where decisions that impact them are being made.

Because the voting booth is one of the last places that people can turn to change policy, ensuring that our members and the people we serve can participate in the democratic process is at the core of our mission. Over the years, we have conducted voter-registration drives at homeless shelters and drop-in centers, coordinating and providing transportation to the polls, and conducted educational training sessions about how homeless men and women can cast a ballot and have it counted.

We know that members of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless were purged from the voting rolls. Therefore, speaking out against the practices challenged in the Husted lawsuit - in which NEOCH is a plaintiff - is a necessary piece of our mission and work to ensure long-term success and prevent those struggling with housing from feeling disempowered in our democratic system.

Ohio's county boards of elections used a "supplemental process," under the direction of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, that, for example, unfairly purged hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible voters in 2015 from the Ohio voter rolls who had not voted in an election since 2008. More than 40,000 citizens were removed in Cuyahoga County alone.

Furthermore, voters were notified by mail and those who did not affirmatively respond triggered the process, which could lead to their ultimate removal. This process falsely assumed that voters who fail to vote in multiple elections have moved, ignoring the multitude of other reasons someone might not participate in each election.

Being un-housed makes life precarious, and getting to the ballot box can be difficult when you are simply struggling to survive. Many members of NEOCH and the people we serve, for example, are frequently on the move and are unable to provide a permanent address at which they would receive such a notice. While Ohio allows such individuals the ability to use intersections and other nontraditional addresses, it makes it that much more difficult to receive notices via mail or ensure that they remain registered to vote prior to elections they wish to cast a ballot in. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for these same individuals to not participate in every single election due to difficult personal circumstances or otherwise unforeseen events. We know that homelessness is difficult, but voting should not be.

This process is particularly troubling as Ohio is historically one of the key states that factor into who wins presidential elections.

It is critical that the Supreme Court strike down Ohio's illegal process to ensure that all eligible Ohioans can vote, and that other states around the country are not able to remove voters in a similar fashion. Thus, the Ohio voter purge should not just trouble my fellow Ohioans, but all U.S. citizens.

I worry that if processes like the one used to remove otherwise eligible Ohio voters are upheld by the court, it will send a clear message to the homeless community that their votes do not matter, and their voices should not be heard.

There are already enough barriers for Ohioans - and individuals around the country - struggling with housing day to day; the constitutional right to vote should not be one of those barriers. Voting may not be a priority for each of these individuals at the time of each election, but protecting their right to vote is just as important to their survival as finding housing so that they can have a say in the laws and actions of the United States.

Chris Knestrick is director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

NEOCH's Lawsuit will be heard in the US Supreme Court on January 10th, 2018

Ohio’s Supplemental Process targets voters who fail to vote in a two-year period for eventual removal from the voter roll based on the presumption that such voters have moved. As a direct result of this process, countless voters who remain fully eligible to vote are stripped from the registration rolls and denied their fundamental right to vote.

Last year, NEOCH along with the Ohio APRI, and Ohio resident Larry Harmon sued the Ohio Secretary of State, alleging that the Supplemental Process violated federal law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Ohio’s controversial purge of infrequent voters, finding that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the National Voter Registration Act’s prohibition on removing voters from the rolls by reason of a voter’s failure to vote.

We filed this lawsuit because we believe that the right to vote should not distinguish between rich and poor but the supplemental process appears to do just that: targeting the most vulnerable among us. The supplemental process send a clear message to Ohio’s homeless population that their voice should not be heard. That is not what democracy is all about. 

Furthermore, The day-to-day challenges that the homeless face may already keep them from getting out to vote. And because the homeless do not reliably receive mail, the supplemental process penalizes them, making it even less likely they will be able to vote. This is neither sensible nor just; it is cruel.

As a result of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the federal district court entered an injunction for the November 2016 presidential election that ultimately allowed more than 7,500 Ohio voters to cast a ballot. All of these were eligible voters who would have been denied their right to vote under Ohio’s unlawful process, if the Sixth Circuit had not enjoined Ohio’s improper practices.

In February 2017, Secretary Husted requested that the Supreme Court review and overturn the Sixth Circuit’s decision. The Court agreed to hear the case in May and set oral argument for January 10th.

Here is a great video from the ACLU. 

Rest in Peace Buzzy.

The Street Vendors community lost one of our own this weekend.  Melvin “Buzzy” Bryant passed away quietly in his sleep over the Christmas Holiday. He sold the Cleveland Street newspaper for around 20 years and in doing so touched many people’s lives. His smile and eagerness to greet people made him one of the most loved vendors at the West Side Market.   


He was an incredible person with an amazing story. He was homeless for 10 years, spent time in prison and became a community activist and educator.  His lived experience taught him deeply about politics and the need for a deeper sense of community. He brought a deep wisdom to every conversation.  He was always looking out for other vendors. When our meetings got tense, Buzzy would step in and mediate disagreements and seek resolutions. His presence will be missed by so many.  Buzzy, thank you for wisdom shared.  

Buzzy was scheduled to sell the paper outside the West side Market on Saturday, December 30th from 10 to noon. In honor of him, Angelo Anderson will sell the paper to raise money for his family in this time of need.  

Memories of Buzzy from The Vendors

“He was an amazing person, friend and co-worker and I am really going to miss him.  My heart is still broke that he is gone.  It is not going to be the same without him.”  - Tammy Hobbs 

“I am going to miss Buzzy a lot without him being at the Westside Market and NEOCH offices things will not be the same because he was part of the crew.”  - Mike Owens

“Buzzy was a good friend and he would do a lot to help a person out.  He was a lot of fun to be around.  I have known him for a long time and I will miss him. “  - Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

“I’ll never forget Buzzy, we did a lot of things together.  Nobody could have been a bigger Indians fan than he was.  He went to many games a year down at the stadium.  He was my friend for 30 years.  I am totally going to miss him, I was to go before him.  We harassed each other all the time." - Raymond Jacobs

"He had a winning smile, a great attitude and he would give you the shirt off of his back.  That is one thing people didn’t realize about him.  Damn, I am going to miss him."  -  Angelo Anderson

"I lost a dear friend on Christmas Day. His name was Melvin 'Buzzy' Bryant. August 17, 1947-December 25, 2017. Buzzy was a sweet man. He never had a bad word against me or anyone else. I went to his funeral adn his family treated me like a human being. The vendors at West Side Market came to See him. There was a dinner for Buzzy after the services. I went with his neice to the gathering. Buzzy only got flowers for his casket. Buzzy was cremated. Buzzy, you will be missed by me especially." - Delores Manley

Words from NEOCH's Staff: 

"I am going to miss Buzzy.  He was fun, flirty and in his mind, a Lady’s Man!  He always had a smile on his face as well as a quick wit.  I’m going to miss reading his wonderfully informative articles and just miss his presence.”  Joyce Robinson

“He always had an amazing smile and a genuine greeting.  He always enjoyed people and made everyone feel like you were his best friend.  He was full of wisdom and always looked at things with a mature perspective and he tried to learn from everything.  He will be truly missed.”         - Denise Moore

"Buzzy one of our leaders at The Street Chronicle. He taught so many of us how to live through the hardships of life. His heart was for his people and his wisdom was shared with everyone." - Chris Knestrick  

Below is Buzzy's last article which was published in the November 2017 issue of The Street Chronicle

The State of the Country

Well the election is over and we have a new president, Donald Trump.  Let’s review these first 100 days and the state of the country since he has become president of these UNITED STATES.  The Dow is still going up, there are a few more people working, we don’t have a new Health Plan, poor people are expecting to become poorer, he still has Russia hanging over his head, and he has hired most of the people close to him and they are now FIRED.  It’s like watching The Apprentice in real life, but it’s happening at the White House. 

His popularity has gone down. So it really hasn’t been a great 100 days for President Trump.  I as an American citizen feel upset.  Not because I didn’t vote for him, but because from my observation he is running the country like he ran his TV show, The Apprentice.  He doesn’t have a clue about how to run a country.  I hate to think of the future after Trump.  He’s hired all these people with no experience in public service, but all were put in positions that can cripple the United States.  They are learning secrets about this country that the average citizen doesn’t know.   Who knows what they will use it for once they leave their positions.  We already have Bannon saying he can help the president more by his dismissal because of what he has learned being by his side.  Now we have a White Nationalist who has obtained secrets about the United States back on the air stirring up more trouble and the United States being torn apart at the seam.

 Trump supporters are distancing themselves from the president.  The country is in disarray.  What is it as Americans that we can do or say?   Where do we go from here?  Can we ever get back to being America?  Are we headed down the road of no return?  America what will our future hold for our children?  These are questions we must begin to answer for ourselves and our children.  Something positive has to be done to get America back on the right track.  I ask all Americans to stand up for what is right.  Let’s get America back to where America needs to be, on top; a country where people want to come, because most of us still believe in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

I just hope that we don’t get into war with North Korea, because more middle to low income people will die for America while upper middle class and rich people stay home and tell the returning soldiers, “Thanks for your service.”  Let’s bring back the draft so those who weren’t around can witness how people dodge serving this country in the Armed Forces.

As I remember, during the campaign for President Donald Trump’s message was, “Let’s Make America Great Again.”  Well how great has he made America?  Stand up America. We deserve better; not with force, but with Peace.  Until next time, keep the faith.


Homeless Congress Notes for December 2017


The meeting opened at approximately 1:05p.m., in the St. Peter Room at Bishop Cosgrove Center.

After opening the meeting, Chris mentioned that two members of the homeless community had been found dead in the East 23rd and Superior Avenue area.

Chris mentioned that usually, everyone in attendance would introduce themselves, however, because of the larger than normal number of attendees, personal introductions would not take place. He did, however introduce Natasha Wynn, NEOCH’s newest outreach trainee.


LOH – as the representative for the Homeless Congress at Cuyahoga County Council Meetings and the ADAHMS Board, asked those present to spread the word about Homeless Congress to those unable to attend meetings.

NORMA HERR RESIDENT – food is bad, and Staff does nothing to nip altercations

LOH – Re: Eden and Frontline: Finally, doing things that should have been done all along because a new provider is coming on board.

Norma Herr finally has a microwave, a television, and film on the windows of the shelter, so that people outside can’t see inside the shelter.

NORMA HERR RESIDENTS – Voiced concerns regarding the shelter and staff:

  • Chopped meat looks green…
  • Will we ever have Wi-Fi?
  • Will the food improve?
  • Ongoing issues with the bathroom…
  • EDEN was unable to fix the faulty renovations to the shelter…
  • Staff takes donations intended for the residents…
  • Have to go through the worst to get to the better
  • Problem: People in recovery housed with people who are currently using…

KATIE DONOVAN ONDERS – from the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association Homeless Legal Assistance Program (CHLAP), talked a little about what CHLAP is and how it works.

  • Pro bono attorneys will visit homeless shelters to provide legal advice and assistance to homeless and at risk individuals.
  • All shelters have access to the list of services the pro bono attorneys can provide
  • Attorneys will volunteer at various levels, ranging from intake interviews, providing brief advice, or accepting cases for direct extended representation.
  • Ms. Donovan stated that she would take issues to attorneys to see what actions can be taken, in response to the following incidents that Congress attendees experienced:
    • 2100 Lakeside resident was robbed and assaulted, but had to call 911 himself, staff did not
    • Residents at 2100 Lakeside need to be separated by age and situation; because they aren’t situations occur.

LARRY BRESSLER -- Organize Ohio, spoke about the number of reports of homeless individuals who had received poor treatment at St. Vincent Charity Hospital.

St. Vincent Hospital is the closest hospital to both 2100 and Norma Herr shelters, but homeless people are treated badly there.

Example: A resident of 2100 Lakeside who had been “examined” following an assault, was given pills and discharged from St. Vincent, only to later discover that he had broken bones that had not been dealt with.

Mr. Bressler asked that Homeless Congress members join with United Clevelanders Against Poverty Poor People’s Campaign, which meets once a month on Thursdays. The next meeting is January 11, 2018. At this meeting, the testimonies of homeless individuals who’ve been mistreated by St. Vincent will be collected.

ERIC AND HEIDI – Cleveland Federal Community Leadership Institute They are participating in a project to gather information about issues that a certain population such as the homeless, or veterans, or youth, or aging people face every day. Working on a small scale and with no budget, Eric and Heidi’s goal is find out what they can do to help the homeless with issues such as: finding employment, finding God (spirituality), financial literacy, housing obstacles due to felonies.


METANOIA: Will be open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Please spread the word to others living on the street so that they know that Metanoia is a safe place they can go to to get out of the cold.

NEXT MEETING: Thursday, January 11, 2018, to be facilitated by Joyce Robinson and Vishal Reddy, as Chris will be in Washington, D.C.

Notes taken by Joyce Robinson

Updated Street Card Published

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless announced the publication of the Homeless Street Card for 2018.  We are so thankful to University Hospitals for sponsoring this years printing.  The Homeless Street Card is a front and back piece of paper updated every year that contains extensive information on resources such as shelters, meal sites, job training agencies, health clinics, chemical dependency services and drop in centers. This valuable and convenient resource makes it easy for homeless individuals to find the assistance they need to get out of their situation

Read More

Homeless Congress Notes for November 2017

In the back room of the Cosgrove Center on Wednesday, November 8th (had to reschedule from the normal Thursday time), about 45-50 folks gathered around for November’s Homeless Congress meeting. We discussed several items and then jumped into the main agenda. The main agenda items were:

  • YWCA Update on Women’s Shelter
  • Campus District Inc. Efforts

YWCA Update on Women’s Shelter

From the YWCA, we had two guests: Teresa Sanders, Vice President of Social Services Programs and Operations, and Tish Gomez, Family Engagement Specialist. Teresa Sanders gave an update on the situation with YWCA and the Women’s Shelter.

YWCA Mindset: When Teresa mentioned to someone that the YWCA was interested in running the women’s shelter, someone remarked back, “Why would you run into the burning building?” Teresa said that for her, homelessness is a social justice issue and that everyone deserves to be housed. Teresa knows that one of the goals of the women’s shelter should be to ensure women secure housing so they can stay out.

Transition: Teresa felt that the transition needed to happen smoothly. This meant that if the contract was signed by December 1st, then it would be by March that the transition would be finalized. Teresa guaranteed that shelter operations would continue during that transition period. During the transition period, Teresa will be reaching out to

Changes: Teresa outlined several potential changes which included bringing more service providers into the building, increasing the number of case managers, and regularly meeting with the women in the shelter. Teresa also suggested that the YWCA’s highly transparent culture would reduce the likelihood of there being a toxic culture in the Women’s Shelter. The YWCA will create a highly transparent grievance protocol.

Staying the Same: Despite the YWCA’s religious roots, Teresa reaffirmed that no religious programming would be imposed on the women in the shelter. Also, Teresa confirmed that the women’s shelter would remain a shelter for just women.

Campus District Inc.

From Campus District Inc. (CDI), we had two guests: Bobbi Reichtell, Executive Director, and Rachel Oscar, Community Organizer.

Bobbi spoke at length about the importance vitalizing of the neighborhoods around the CSU campus, especially because many of the homeless services are centered in this community. Bobbi spoke about the Campus District’s recent ideas to beautify some of the spaces near the shelters in the neighborhood. The area around Norma Herr was of particular concern for CDI. Taking questions from the Congress, Bobbi said that the Mayor’s office is against any type of proposal that would dislocate or move the current shelters. Several members of the congress felt that cosmetic solutions for the neighborhood would not deal with some of the deeper issues in the community. Bobbi acknowledged that beautifying the space alone would not solve all the issues. She said that CDI is serious about working to also address those other issues, but that creating a community that is more visually appealing can also play an important part in vitalizing a community

Homeless Congress’s October Meeting Notes

In the back room of the Cosgrove Center on Thursday, October 12th, about 15-20 folks gathered around for October’s Homeless Congress meeting. We discussed several items and then jumped into the main agenda. The main agenda items were:

  • Potential involvement with the Poverty Truth Commission

  • Revisiting Homeless Congress’s 2017 priorities and brainstorming some potential 2018 priorities

  • Women’s Shelter Update

  • ADAMHS Board Letter

Prior to setting the agenda, Chris opened the space for the members of the congress to share non-agenda items.

Rude Treatment from Homeless Services Staff: One gentlemen mentioned the condescension he experiences from homeless services staff, whether it be at 2100 Men’s Shelter where he stays at or at the Welfare Office. Other members of the congress agreed.

Some members pointed out that this rudeness from staff is particularly strange because many staff in these institutions are previously homeless. However, they no longer empathize with the currently homeless, forgetting that “one missed paycheck is all it takes to be homeless”. Staff that were previously homeless instead now use their relative position of power to rudely treat people currently experiencing homelessness.

One gentlemen mentioned that it would be useful to have a monitor or auditor who ensures that homeless services staff are friendly and kind instead of patronizing.

Specialty Shelters: One gentleman mentioned that the current shelter situation is only based on one’s gender. He remarked that this causes an issue as some of the individuals at the shelter are experiencing severe mental illness. This an issue for those experiencing mental illness, as they are not provided the resources (caseworkers, therapy). This is also an issue for the other individuals in the shelter, as they feel the level of security protocol they are subject to is not suited for them. Having a separate shelter for those experiencing mental illness was suggested as a possibility.

Another member of Homeless Congress quickly suggested that Specialty Shelters used to exist in Cuyahoga County but were slowly phased out as funding has decreased. Chris mentioned that this occurred also due to HUD’s extreme focus on Permanent Supportive Housing to the detriment of developing a better shelter system. One member asked if foundations in the area, particularly Cleveland Foundation, provide funding for homeless services. Another member of Homeless Congress replied that foundations have become more focused on educational/youth initiatives than those focusing on homelessness.

2016-17 and 2017-18 Homeless Congress Priorities: Homeless Congress’s 2016-17 priorities were 1) shelter standards through regulations, 2) shelter requirements by law, 3) medical/health support at shelters, 4) Passing the Homeless Bill of Rights in Cleveland, 5) separate facility for severely mentally ill homeless men and women, 6) addressing discrimination of voucher holders, and  7) tiny homes campaign.

In this discussion, several things were mentioned:

  • Jobs: One member would like to see jobs and securing employemnt be an added focus. She felt that many individuals experiencing homelessness are still capable of working. Yet, the stigma associated with being a homeless individual limits their job opportunities. The inability to find employment through this disenfranchisement only makes it harder to no longer be homeless.

  • Addiction: Another member of Homeless Congress cautioned against seeing money as the only barrier to escaping homelessness. He feels that there needs to be a serious and genuine push to deal with addiction and mental illness within the homeless services provider. Even if individuals with mental illness and/or addiction secure housing or employment, they often return to the shelter system. They are often unable to maintain housing and employment without the proper emotional/mental

  • Toxic Culture At Norma Herr: One gentleman remarked that a staff member at Norma Herr remarked that going to Norma Herr without knowing anyone already there who could protect or take care of you meant that “you were f******!”

Women’s Shelter Update: Chris explained the situation regarding the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, currently run by Frontline Services. The YWCA was the only bidder to offer to run the shelter. However, the County’s offer fell short of their requirements to run a dignified shelter. The city’s offered budget of ~$2 million was well below what the YWCA felt was reasonable based on the standards they wanted to see in the Women’s Shelter. Ultimately, the YWCA declined the County’s current offer to run the women’s shelter, though they left the door open if the offer were to change.

The next meeting is Wednesday, November 8th at Cosgrove Center. We hope you can join us there.

Notes taken by Vishal Reddy 

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.