Homeless Local Updates

By Brian Davis

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless publishes a blog and updates it regularly called Cleveland Homeless.  Here are a few items that we are tracking on the blog. 

Voting Update

The State of Ohio is trying to reform access to in-person voting, which will make it more difficult for homeless people to cast a ballot on election day.  House Bill 159 was proposed to require a state identification in order to vote.  This overturns a 2005 law and damages the settlement that NEOCH reached with the State of Ohio in 2010.  This will make it more difficult for homeless, the elderly, students, and poor people to vote in person on election day.  The state is proposing paying for a state identification, but not the cost of birth certificates.  There is also the difficulty over proving residency for a homeless person in order to get identification.  NEOCH and other advocates oppose this legislation.

Disabled Shelter to Close

Cuyahoga County officials are going to close the one shelter reserved for fragile men in Cleveland and moving those men into 2100 Lakeside shelter in order to save money.  Many men who currently use the disabled men floor at North Point are concerned about this move.  At the Homeless Congress many of the men fear that they will be exploited in the much larger shelter at 2100 Lakeside.  The men at Lakeside have expressed concern that the intensive case management needed to serve the men will not be provided, and there will be problems at the much larger shelter.  The Coalition is concerned that homeless men and other social service providers were not involved in the discussion, and the loss of a shelter that can serve the specific needs of disabled men is harmful to the homeless community.  In fact, the Coalition has always supported a smaller facility for people with a disability for both men and women. 

Cleveland Hts. Stimulus Funding

In 2009, the city of Cleveland Heights received $715,000 to help prevent homelessness as part of the federal stimulus program. The city pooled their resources with Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland - $13 million to serve any low-income residents in the county facing eviction.  Last year, there were approximately 500 people who faced eviction at the Cleveland Hts. Municipal Court.  As of January 2011, Cleveland Hts. had only used 12.2% of their available funding ($87,000).  The federal government says that the City must have 60% of their dollars expended by July 2011 or it will be redistributed to other communities, and all money must be spent by July 2012. 

As an example of a community that received and utilized similar funding, Lakewood received over $900,000 from the federal stimulus and partnered with Lakewood Christian Services to spend the funds.  As of January 2011, Lakewood had allocated 67% of their funds to help prevent evictions.

WEWS TV contacted Cleveland Hts. officials who reported that they were going to keep a portion of the funding for their citizens, but were going to give over the funds to Cuyahoga County to use for others facing an eviction.  County officials have opened up the process to make it easier for Cleveland Hts. residents to obtain eviction help, but there is some recognition that they will not be able to use the funds earmarked for residents of this east side suburb. 

Homeless Prevention Funds

In late 2010, the federal stimulus dollars provided to Cuyahoga County to prevent evictions and homelessness was earmarked for only those individuals in a subsidized apartment.  This change in policy caused a great deal of confusion among those seeking help.  The County is well ahead of the pace to distribute all the funds on time, and will not return any of the assistance to the federal government.  The federal stimulus dollars have helped to reduce the time people spend within shelters in Cleveland. 

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio