Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Scott King

The Passing of Another Giant in the Civil Rights Movement

Don't get me wrong here...The King family has sacrificed more for freedom than almost every other family in the history of the US. King, Jr gave up personal wealth and comfort for the cause. I have heard two of his children talk and they are remarkable. The passing of Coretta Scott King is a sad day in the history of the United States. But I have to wonder if the state of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta nearing bankruptcy and possibly facing take over by the federal government is representative of the state of justice and freedom in the United States. Is Social Justice in the US nearly bankrupt? Does a government that is engaged in another voluntary unjustified war have any standing to take over a "nonviolent" center? How can Atlanta host a Center of Nonviolent Social Change when they are one of the five meanest cities in the United States toward homeless people? I love the concept of a Center for Social Change, but with hate toward gays, war, the huge split in the country over social issues, domestic spying, jailing journalists, government lies, massive corporate corruption, and the buying of politicians, it is no surprise that the Center is nearly bankrupt.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What Can You Possibly Say About the State of Ohio?

Possible lines in the Taft State of the State Address Today...

I rise today having navigated the State though the last eight years. I feel like there is good news and bad associated with the State of the State of Ohio.

"For example, I have lowered my golf handicap by 10 points in eight years, but Ohio has fallen to 47th in job creation. "

"Homelessness increased every single one of the years of my administration, and we have shot to the lead in housing foreclosures due to predatory lending. While we did nothing to address these problems, we did not face a natural disaster that virtually eliminated one of our largest cities. Some in state government would have preferred that radical Cuyahoga County would have been hit by a disaster, but this did not happen on my watch. Our natural disaster and population loss was drawn out over eight years and did not hit in one day."

"Our education system fell to near the bottom when compared to other states, but at least we got the 'intelligent' design people in the door of our schools."

"We cut the number of people and children eligible for free health care, but that will certainly help the bankruptcy attorneys who have to file for people with large health care bills. The mark of our success is that Ohio leads the nation in bankruptcies filed. [Wait for the cheering]"

"We have done very little to assist those poor people struggling with high heating bills, which I believe reinforces that rugged individualism that built this great state. The lesson of my administration is: 'Don't turn to government for help! Solve your problems yourself!' "

"I have given major tax breaks to corporations so that those executives will have a better bottom line and can spend time volunteering with my OhioReads program and not sweating the numbers. I have dramatically cut all levels of taxes to the point that I could not keep mental health facilities open in this state."

"I have nearly cleared out the manufacturing sector from Ohio with the thinking that we can start with a clean slate. I saw the writing on the wall, and figured that if manufacturing was going to flee the United States, I would hasten their exit. Eventually, the workers of Ohio will not remember the good paying steel, coal, manufacturing industries and will gladly accept any low paying service job that becomes available. I could have never done this without the incredible state legislators gathered today, and so I thank you. We all salute the future burger flippers of Ohio."

"I set a record for the number of times the same proposal was dressed up in different outfits before it passed with my beloved Third (or Fourteenth?) Frontier. With a solid majority of friendly state legislators for my entire term it was a close vote, but in 2005 we got the Third Frontier passed. The bad news is that I also set a record as the only governor convicted of a crime while in office. "

"We stopped measuring the amount of pollution in our waterways to appeal to my libertarian friends, but I did find a way to keep people away from the water by charging for parking in our state parks."

"Keep up the good work. With your help we can make Ohio what it once was--a vast wasteland with very few humans. "

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Artists Unite to Entertain/Educate Homeless People

Calling on all Artists to Perform at Shelters

The Shelter Storm Revue Tour is now recruiting, reviewing, and renewing performers. All varieties of performance styles are called for: pop-tart poets, muse-mute musicians, do-right dancers, comics and politics, ministers and managers of the spoken word. The Revue Tour travels this here county of Cuyahoga, stopping in at shelters and meal sites with little more than a whirlwind of talent and a pocket full of noise. The Revue Tour is set to begin in late February or
early March. If you are interested in providing your talents to the spectacle, please contact (216/432-0540) NEOCH and ask for Josh the VISTA.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Grapevine had a very good year in 2005

Year in Review 2005: Grapevine

We were able to move the Grapevine from unstable nearly closing in 2004 to a little more solid footing in 2005. We published 7 issues in 2005, and improved the look of the paper. At the end of the year we even published in color. We also now publish in all digital, which was a big step for the paper. It would make it a lot easier to publish the Grapevine on the web, but we have never resolved the issue of copyright protections for photos and poetry. The Grapevine also won the Community Shares award for Social Justice reporting in 2004. The Grapevine is also one of the longest continuously published street newspaper in the United States. Basically, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Boston are the only papers older in the US. We will try to publish 9 papers in 2006 and expand the number of places that the paper is available in Cleveland. Also, we hope to have every issue archived on the internet. Finally, the Cleveland Public Library is planning to make the entire history of the Grapevine available on microfiche in 2006. We will try real hard not to condemn the entire world with one poem like we did in 2005.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Emergency Food and Shelter Program

A good model to distribute a little money

There is this little pool of money from the Federal Government called the Emergency Food and Hunger program administered by the United Way (formerly FEMA). They take 1% administration and we distribute around $880,000 in funding each year. There is a local board made up of providers, City, County, advocates, religious and foundations all meet to decide on the distribution of these funds. There is some difficulty in that a number of the providers are also voting members and have to abstain from voting on certain issues, but overall the process works well. If most of the board shows up then it is a very good group, and it does not hurt to have the providers present. The provider community can actually help to explain some of the problems, trends and issues in the system. The group has figured out a fair and equitable distribution of shelter dollars based on the size of the shelter and the number of people served over the previous year. They have also developed a process to convert hot meals to pantry meals in order to compare apples to apples. It is unfortunate all the dollars are not distributed in the community so simply and equitably. There are always issues about an agency's viability and the definition of homelessness, but it seems to work. I always wish that these experts would sit for a day and talk about broader issues like the distribution of all funding in the city, the ways to reduce the numbers in the shelter, and reducing the number of people entering the shelter.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Truth Commission..What Next?

Truth Commission Comes to Cleveland

Yesterday at the majestic Trinity Cathedral, the Truth Commission came to Cleveland. This national advocacy effort led by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and Chari Honkala is based on various UN resolutions signed by the United States that current policy violates. This is a dangerous philosophy since many in the United States hate the United Nations, and others actually feel that the UN is an illegal governmental institution. NEOCH was a co-sponsor and we certainly feel that poverty is an injustice that is a violation of U.S. and international law. We have said many times that in the richest country on the planet, it can only be greed that keeps everyone from obtaining a minimum standard.

It was a good event. One of our friend's testified, Cynthia Miller, and detailed the events leading to homelessness in Cuyahoga County. We also heard from women who were struggling to get assistance from the County. We heard from residents of public housing, and those living in a manufactured home. There were some amazing stories of survival, and hope. There were people testifying who still believe in government even though, for the most part, they were left behind by our government. Very powerful testimony--now what.

What I am always disturbed by is the fact that people pour their heart out for these things and nothing ever comes from it. I hope that this is different. There were a lot of community leaders present (McMickle, Bishop Gries, etc.). I hope that this testimony made some difference, and gets through to someone. I hope these horror stories are used to change policy. I hope that they get posted on a website, and make some impact beyond the chorus. We will see. It is a great deal of work to put these things on, but the real work begins after the event.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Disturbing Day--Meanest Cities

Criminalization Report Issued--Homeless Man Beat to Death

On the same day that the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty released Dream Denied: Criminalization of Homelessness in the U.S. two young monsters in Ft. Lauderdale beat to death a homeless man with a bat. The report lists the 20 Meanest Cities toward homeless people. While Ft. Lauderdale moved off the list this year, 7 of the top 20 cities are in the South and 6 are in the West. The meanest city list is developed by looking at laws and city actions against homeless people like anti-panhandling, sweeps, broad enforcement of laws against homeless people. I have always felt that municipal governments that are "mean" to homeless people give cover to deranged young people who feel that it is acceptable to attack homeless people. I feel like hate crimes directed at homeless people increase in the cities that are constantly attacking homeless people with police, laws, and city attorneys.

The press release for the report is posted on our website. The Top 5 are
1. Sarasota, FL,
2. Lawrence Kansas
3. Little Rock, AR
4. Atlanta, GA
5. Las Vegas, NV

No Ohio City was listed. Chicago is 11th and Pittsburgh is number 20.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Just Met with the Police over Convention Center

A Fresh Wind: Treating Homeless People with Honor

I just came back from a meeting with the City of Cleveland over the problems at the Convention Center. The Third District Police have for the past three years had a better approach toward homeless people with the appointment of two officers to be the liaison to the homeless community, but it was refreshing to see that the City Administration seems to have a new attitude as well. It is rare that the Police are out front of the City, but so be it.

Anyway, the City is giving the residents of the Convention Center another week to move. So they will have given two weeks. They have given specific instructions to the social service providers to do everything they can to find appropriate places for the population. And they have made it clear that law enforcement is the last resort. Senior City officials were present and wanted to figure out what to do for these 17-25 people. All we ever want is to have all homeless people and non-homeless people be treated with respect, and given warning before things are rammed through that have a negative impact on the community.

My only concern was the signs might discourage pedestrians from using this public park. But that is a City of Cleveland problem and not a homeless issue.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Homeless People Evicted from Convention Center

Fire Leads to Eviction

If you are Downtown, you might have noticed these flyers directed at Homeless people. They give a deadline of this Wednesday January 11, 2006 for homeless people to move from the Convention Center property. We are aware of this issue, and have spoken to police and the local outreach workers to try and help relocate some of these individuals and couples. A few of the people have slept in front of the glass doors near the Mall B for years without being disturbed. So why are they being asked to leave now?

It seems that there was a fire targeting a gay couple who slept near the Convention Center and Brown's Stadium. This caused damage to the metal doors of the Convention Center and was the last straw for the staff at the Convention Center. They demanded that police evict these squatters. This has been a relatively safe place since no one walked by these locations and staff had left them alone. These were mostly either couples who have no shelters available or people who have a problem with staying in a congregate living space. So now because of a suspected hate crime, they will all have to move. The Cleveland Police never really did anything because the staff at the Convention Center staff seemed to tolerate all this activity.

This eviction does not fall under the agreement signed with the City of Cleveland in 1999 because the Convention Center is a park, and there are special rules for parks. NEOCH signed an agreement that police would not harass homeless people for purely innocent behavior like sitting, sleeping or standing on the sidewalk. This covers the public sidewalks, but does not cover public parks. It seems that parks have curfews and special laws that were not covered in our lawsuit. We are doing everything we can to try to help those who stay around the Convention Center find appropriate places to live (preferably inside). We all know what a pain it is to move especially in the winter.


Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Stuff on the Website

Tons of NEW THINGS!!

Check out the new items on the NEOCH website. We have a bunch of new press releases and the letter to new Mayor about our priorities. We have also updated the Statistics and Strategies section to detail the problems with the Office of Homeless Services.

The most controversial piece was our top priority for the new Mayor of Cleveland. We asked that Mayor Jackson take more interest in the City/County Office of Homeless Service to curtail the 20 straight years of increases in homelessness. We need the Office to take leadership in solving homelessness. The Office has had 11 or 12 years to make a change, and we still have people freezing to death, and an ever expanding shelters that will eventually bankrupt the County. We need someone to work on preventing homelessness, proper oversight of the shelters, and innovative ideas to move people out of shelters. Read all about the problems and our solutions on the website.


Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Web Traffic in 2005

Review of NEOCH Programs for 2005
We are going to briefly look at the various programs that NEOCH operates and their impact over the last year for the community. We will start with our website, which is easy to generate statistics. We had our best month ever in November 2005 with 5,324 visits and an average of 177 average daily visitors. There were 13,428 pages viewed in November. That is impressive. That is a huge number of calls that we do not have to answer and can work on solving problems. We have to thank Joe Perrelli, a former VISTA, who we have on contract to update our website every month. He is using his educational award to go to grad school at some bastion of liberal indoctrination on the East Coast, and updates our website in his spare time. There were a total of 46,000 visits in 2005 to the website, which is not bad for a small homeless organization in Cleveland. The web has certainly changed the way that we do business. We don't have to send out the street card out to our membership since it is available on our website. We don't send as many mailers out to update people on our work, and we receive half of our grievances now from our website. It is a great public education tool for the Coalition.

The blog that we started in October are still a work in progress. We will jazz them up with some graphics in 2006. Coming soon in this space our predictions for 2006.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

National Service Members Serve and Suffer

Why Am I Living in Poverty?

I find that one of the biggest problems in the world of social services and social justice is this odd notion that in order to successfully serve the impovershed, one must also live in poverty. I
currently serve the AmeriCorps*VISTA program, and it is their policy to pay their members 105% of the poverty level in the area they are serving. Their rational for this is so that we can better understand the people we are serving by living like them.

I do not consider myself greedy nor do I base my success in life on financial status. However, many other people do. There are lots of people in the world who do what they do for the money and would scoff at the position I am currently serving in. Not all of these people are stupid. Many of them are highly productive young go-getters whose talents would greatly advance the world of social justice. But, there seems to be some strange understanding that only those of pure heart should be allowed to do good. So, we must make work involving social justice as uncomfortable as possible to ensure that only those who truly believe in the cause work for it.

I challenge this belief and say why not make serving the country more inviting? I spend a lot of my day working on the development of a statewide voicemail program. Who cares why I'm doing it? If I was doing it for the money, it would still get done. The voicemail program is what's important, not the value of my soul. If they offered a more competitive salary, perhaps someone more qualified would've filled this position and taken care of the program in a more
efficient manner.

I love what I do and am in no way using this blog as an attempt to get a raise. I am just upset that there is a world of talent involved in the market of products and consumers while the market of ideals and societal betterment must pray for the best when dunking into the pool of kind hearted people. Don't get me wrong. The people I work with go above and beyond the qualifications for their position, and social services is full of equally talented people. It's just that the non-profit world could be so much more productive if they had a larger plot of resources to dig from. First, we must overcome our notion that only those who have taken a vow of poverty can make a difference in the world.

Josh the VISTA

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Homelessness by the Numbers

We Hope for a Better 2006

We talked about the bad job that the County did in counting homeless people especially when compared to other cities. There was some discussion about how small these numbers are. So we leave 2005 by the numbers...

  • We wish our 9 staff a happy new year as they prepare to solve homelessness in 2006.
  • We thank our 15 Board members for their guidance and wisdom in a rough 2005.
  • We mourn the 49 homeless people who died in 2005.
  • For the average 55 per day who call the Domestic Violence HelpLine we wish safety in 2006.
  • We wish a better new year to the average of 78 people who are released from prison/jail right in to shelter every month into the three downtown shelters in Cleveland.
  • We hope that 2006 is better for the 120 women who are sleeping at the community women's shelter tonight.
  • We congratulate the 260 men who made it into publicly funded transitional housing shelters in Cleveland and hope that they continue the move to stability in 2006.
  • Everyday, we think about the 550 men at the largest shelter in Ohio, and look forward to better housing in 2006
  • We wonder about the safety of 1,800 or 2,000 people who sleep on the streets or the abandoned buildings in Cleveland every night.
  • We hope for a better 2006 for the average 4,800 to 5,000 people that NEOCH estimates are homeless everyday in Cleveland.
  • We are sorry that Ohio has not addressed the epidemic of foreclosures (second in the U.S.) and wish for a smooth transition for the average 9,000 people going through the eviction process every year.
  • We wish a happier new year for the average 12,000 people who faced eviction in the Cleveland courts in a year.
  • Happier new year to the estimated 25,000 people who find themselves homeless in Cuyahoga County in a typical year.
  • We hope for a more prosperous 2006 for the over 35,000 people in Cleveland who make less than $6,000 per year.
  • We hope for jobs in 2006 that pay a decent wage to replace the 218,400 jobs lost in Ohio since 2001.
  • We certainly want to see better days for the 327,000 people officially considered "unemployed" in May of 2005 in Ohio.

Good luck to all those struggling in our community and we certainly miss their talents while they are preoccupied with survival.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.