Saturday, February 25, 2006

New Study on Corporate Welfare

New Report Shows Non-Profits Pay Low Wages

There is a new study released by the state welfare department that gives a good overview of the companies that are using state programs in place of paying decent salaries. This was well reported in the Plain Dealer and on many blogs. The top 40 employers included service employers, restaurants, temporary labor companies, and non profits. Most of the reporting has included the fact that Wal Mart and McDonalds top the lists. Wal Mart is #1 in the State of Ohio in employees on Medicaid, #4 in individuals receiving cash assistance, and #2 with employees receiving Food Stamps. This is good information, but hardly shocking. It is also not shocking that Minute Man, Manpower, and Kelly Services, Custom Staffing are also on the lists.

What I found amazing was the number of non-profit organizations on the list
16. Goodwill 2,216 people
21. YMCA 1,648
25. Cleveland Clinic 1,486
29. Interim HealthCare 1,250
30. University Hospital of Cleve. 1,191
38. Salvation Army 648

Food Stamps
14. Goodwill 1,536 people receiving assistance
26. YMCA 932
29. Cleveland Clinic 844
35. UH of Cleveland 620
38. Salvation Army 574

This list should be the non-profit Wall of Shame list. How do they help people if their own employees cannot survive on the wages and benefits that they pay. How humiliating is it that three health care providers do not provide health to their own employees? The big issue with Goodwill is that it is intended as a training program for disabled individuals, but these individuals never get out of training wages. Perpetual training is not a real service to society. We have complained about Salvation Army for years and their notoriously low wages. I have known men who worked at the shelter and had to stay their periodically because they did not earn enough money. Check out this nice report that Ohio Policy Matters helped get released.

Also, check out Roldo's Squeaky Wheel blog. There are a number of interesting posts about poverty that were recently added.

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

Friday, February 24, 2006

State of the City is Hopeful

Jackson Outlines a Positive State of the City

Keep in mind that the Homeless Coalition has had to sue the City of Cleveland six times over the last 15 years, but I was very impressed with the Mayor's State of the City Speech. I liked the humility to say "Politicians say this stuff all the time, and I want to be measured on results" coming from a Mayor. I like the focus on education and regionalism. I hope that the suburbs realize how many homeless people come from outside of Cleveland to Downtown looking for help, and how little Greater Cleveland contributes to solving homelessness. I hope that regionalism will result in no poaching of jobs and no dumping of evicted tenants into other communities. I like the idea of the Mayor convening these groups with innovative ideas to discuss problem areas and then actually acting on those changes.

I really felt that for years no one was watching the store for average Clevelanders. No one cared that health care was hard to access. No one who could do anything would listen to the cry for help with rising utilities. No one, and I mean no one in the Administration or the County, would listen to the complaints of homeless people. No one cared that job programs did not serve the population very well--dedicate your life to this training and we will help you, but we cannot give you any money. No one in the administration would ever listen to the needs of the neighborhoods. They seemed to be going after the home run every swing and we never ever got on base. I am the consummate pessimist, but at this time I am looking forward to the next four years.

I liked the focus on quality of life and educational excellence. The Mayor said that everyone from the business executive down to the individual sleeping on Superior cares about the school system, and he was correct. Our survival as a city are based on the success of our schools. I want to see results as does the population that I serve. We want City Hall to care about the problems of accessing a shelter, accessing decent housing, and accessing a living wage job. I do want to live in a Great City again. I want to have homeless people trust the police force will take seriously crimes against victims who have no home. I am so glad that I did not hear about any more playgrounds for rich people. I liked that Mayor Jackson wanted to hold the state accountable for helping our city. I hope that he will also take on the federal government, which has gone to war against the American City.

We shall see if Jackson can heal the East vs. West issues, the Downtown vs. Neighborhood issues, the Black vs. White, and Poor vs. Those in Fear of Being Poor. I am ready to help.


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

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Date Movie Makes Light of Attacks on Homeless People

Please Do Not Go See Date Movie

After the much publicized beating death of a homeless person in Florida, it is unbelievable that a new Hollywood movie would make light of beating up homeless people. I just do not understand the humor in this scene. This was taken from Screen from the just released move "Date Movie."
"Yelling 'Bum fight,' Julia (Alyson Hannigan) rushes over to a bum on the street, punches and then repeatedly kicks and hits him (all played as a spoof of lighthearted romantic comedy montages). Grant (Adam Campbell) then joins her, kicking the guy in the crotch before the two rob him."
Please do not spend money on this movie. It is disgusting and inappropriate at this time. Thank you 20th Century Fox and thank you to the Scary Movie writers/directors for showing why America is the only country in the world with real freedom of speech-- and why we are the only country with stupid people willing to abuse that power so that others will want to end that freedom.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Ups and Downs of a Program

BTG Flies High and Comes Back Down to Earth

The Bridging the Gap program had a transforming year. They began the year with a large number of staff with the addition of the AmeriCorps National Service program, and everything was going swimmingly. This was great to have the added help, but this federal program was a nightmare from the administrative side. It was impossible to get reimbursement, and they demanded an entirely new accounting system to serve strictly their program. There was so much time spent on admin. that we almost forgot the mission of ending homelessness for individuals and families. We had plenty of support help, and this allowed us to house around 100 individuals or families despite the obstacles.

The biggest accomplishment of 2005 was the creation of The affordable housing database provides a free service to the thousands of people in need of help with housing that we do not have the personnel to deal with. Nearly a thousand people a day use the website thanks to the collaboration put together by First Call for Help/211 and BTG along with a great group of social service programs. Legal Aid, the Cleveland Tenants Organization, CMHA, May Dugan Center, and Maximum Independent Living are but a few of the organizations participating in setting up this important local resource. Leigh Ann Ahmad, our former program director, found, a national non-profit, that set up the database for a very reasonable price.

The program was forced to move into the NEOCH offices late in the year, because their building was closing down. Free rent can't last forever. They also lost their program director (not that way, she moved), and we turned down the opportunity to continue to operate the National Service program. This was a rough decision, but it was best for the organization. The group reorganized and rebounded. They have set goals for the new year and are working on putting together staff and volunteers to house as many people as possible.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Looking at Blogs on Homelessness

Homelessness on the Web
There is a lot of interesting blogs directed at homelessness around the net. Here are a few samples.

The biggest star in the homeless community was Kevin Barbieux who actually had started a newspaper in Nashville then a blog before blogs were cool. Somehow, I missed it but Kevin moved early in 2006 to Las Vegas. There is a good article comparing the two cities:

There is an interesting blog from Los Angeles, which the government is now referring to as the homeless capital of the United States. I do not agree with many of the stuff presented by this guy but at least it is updated regularly. It gives a good overview of what is going on in LA. The guy comes at it from the perspective of a provider and not an advocate, plus he is pushing a book he wrote. LA Homeless Blog.

An older board member of the National Coalition for the Homeless and a guy deeply committed to God, social justice and country also has a blog. Chuck Currie is a UCC Seminarian and does a blog. He was originally from Seattle and brought an important perspective to the NCH Board that we sure miss. He has an interesting piece on separate schools for homeless children.

Finally, there is an interesting series in the Minnesota alternative paper. It is a series of interviews with the men and women who stand by the freeway on-ramps. Take it with a grain of salt, but it brings some humanity to people who are often viewed with the same regard as those signs that warn only motorized vehicles on the freeway. It can be found at:

Good reading. Brian

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

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Recent Updates

A Few Quick Notes

Thanks to the Center for Community Solutions for hiring George Zeller--the best researcher on jobs in Ohio. He has dedicated his life to documenting poverty, and was never afraid to speak truth to authority with statistics. We don't give Cuyahoga County much credit for addressing poverty, but we have to thank the County Commissioners for making this possible. So it raises two questions...Will George be able to criticize the County since they are paying his tab? If CEOGC is the anti-poverty organization in Cuyahoga County and they have no researchers anymore are they operating in the dark?

Mark May 5, 2006 on your calendars. Friday May 5 at 6 p.m. at Massimo da Milano is the fifth annual meeting/fund raiser for NEOCH. Tickets will be released in the next month, and more details will follow.

The Teach In is set for February 27 at 6 p.m. This event will focus on outreach efforts in the city, and alternatives to going downtown and feeding homeless people. We will visit 2100 Lakeside Shelter and many of the agencies that provide outreach will talk about their experiences. Please RSVP by calling NEOCH or sign up on our website.

We are now in the middle of the Homeless Stand Down. InterAct Cleveland is taking the lead in this years Stand Down--an all day service fair for homeless people. On Friday February 10 it took place at the Cosgrove Center. Today, on Saturday February 11, Pilgrim Church in Tremont hosted an event to distribute clothing. Next week, they are opening up Old Stone Church and Trinity Church as warming centers during the holiday weekend.

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

Technology and Homeless People

How Important is Voice Mail?
As I sit here at the NEOCH offices on a lazy Friday afternoon, I have found that our connection to the internet is down. It has made me realize, as it makes anyone realize, how reliant we are on the web. This much is obvious. But, what I think isn't obvious is how technology we take for granted helps to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am in no way selling the ideal that technology is inherently evil. Technology exists as an inert pile of matter that, without reason or independent thought, lacks all capability for good or evil. So as to not ramble on, I will leave this topic behind.

I work on the Cleveland Community Voice Mail project here at NEOCH, which provides free voice mail to the impoverished of Cuyahoga County. Someone without a phone lacks an important tool required for attaining a job and qualifying for vital social services. All mission statements and well-worn PR declarations aside, if one cannot put a phone number down on a job application, the boss cannot get a hold of them. Employers are fickle people and will look for any reason to throw out apps in an attempt to cut down on the oversized stack. No phone number means no chance.

However, there was a time when a phone number wasn't necessary because phones were not that common. Back then, a homeless person was not at as much of a disadvantage as one is today. With the advancement of technology, so, too, comes the necessity for this technology. As society becomes more and more reliant on more and more stuff, those who cannot afford to have a lot of stuff will find themselves at a heavier handicap. This is all especially true with cars, credit cards, Bachelor degrees, cell phones, and the topic of my theme, the internet.

I want to say, "Think about that the next time you tell someone to 'Get a job!' " But, being a post on the NEOCH blog, I can't help but feel I am preaching to the choir (you are the choir). This is nothing revolutionary, but an observation of our rapidly digitizing nation and its effect on isolating populations within our communities. Having constant access to the internet is something we assume everyone has, and anything less is a minor annoyance between calls to the cable company.

I guess what I'm trying to point out is how scary the future is for the homeless if nothing is done about the matter soon. While the rest of the nation races up a ladder, snatching at the elusive golden snitch, the homeless are trapped on the same rung they were sitting on in 1776. This has less to do with the manner of the homeless and more to do with the state of the society they live in. It makes me sad, and this seemed to be a good forum in which to share that sadness. What can we do but try to ensure that the necessary tools are readily available? A ditch can't be dug without a shovel. A home can't be built without a hammer.

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Predatory Lending Law Moving

You Did Nothing and Thousands Lost Their Homes...

The Ohio Senate is moving a predatory lending law rapidly through the legislature after the State of Ohio earned the dubious distinction of leading the nation in bankruptcies and second in foreclosures. This after a 2001 report that bankers successfully got shelved that had recommended only modest changes. Advocates were sidelined with having to submit a minority report, but even the small steps were rejected by the Senate leadership. This is the reason so few people bother voting in the United States--no one will be held responsible for bad decision-making. Someone should have to pay for the inaction of four years ago.

These guys in Columbus did nothing because the banking industry said that they could monitor themselves. How big of a moron do you have to be to believe that sharks would protect the small innocent fish? How many thousands lost their homes over the last four years, because of stupidity down in Columbus? If we could return to the days of public humiliation or drawing and quartering leaders that mess up, I believe that we would have near universal participation in the electoral process.

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

Monday, February 06, 2006

HUD Budget Announced Today for 2007

Katrina Allows Homeless to Spare Huge Budget Cuts

It is a mixed bag today with the announcement of the HUD Budget and the impact on homeless people. Homeless direct funds were increased to $1.5 billion from FY 2006 level of $1.326 billion. Most of the increase will go to the current trend at HUD of funding Supportive Housing programs which serve people who have been homeless for long periods of time. We talked about this fantasy program before that sounds good, but the devil is in the details. Communities are told that "supportive housing" is the magic bullet and these programs should be the top priority, but the catch is that the cities have to figure out a place to find the services in supportive services. Bottom line is that with national attention focused on the hurricanes and the other homeless issues the homeless dollars were spared.

Section 8 tenant based rental assistance will get an increase of $500 million, which translates to about 1 and a half additional vouchers for Cleveland. At least its not a cut! There is a $600 million dollar increase for the HUD buildings, which only means that the program will continue, but not grow. Public Housing will get no increase. This is bad news since they have sustained so many cuts and costs have continued to increase. In effect this is going to really hurt all those programs that have put off maintenance and renovations hoping their ship would eventually come in.

The worst assault in the housing field is the CDBG cuts, which are going to devastate communities like Cleveland. We do not use much of this money for homeless programs in Cleveland, but it is used for neighborhood improvement. This program is slated for a $1.1 billion dollar cut or nearly a fourth of its total budget. This is part of the continued war on cities by the Administration. It is almost like they are punishing American cities for 25 years of voting Democrats into office with only a few exceptions. This budget has to be passed by Congress, and in an election year that is going to be real tough. The tension between those who want a balanced budget and those who want to show that they are solving problems will be interesting. The only losers in this type of debate is all of us.

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

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Program Review: Voice Mail

2005 Golden Phone Award Winner

Cleveland Community Voice Mail had a big year in 2005 with a move, technology upgrade, a hurricane, and a few accolades. CCVM celebrated five years of operation in Cleveland, and then found that they were asked to leave their headquarters of the last five years. CCVM found a place in the Westown neighborhood, and had to upgrade the system that provides the messages to homeless people. This involved kicking everyone off the system, shutting the old one down and starting fresh. With this new system we were only able to serve 2,200 people (about half of a typical year.)

Voice Mail helped with the Katrina evacuees by providing a 1-800 number to those who came to Cleveland. This allowed them to keep in touch with family members from around the country. CVM expanded its program in Lorain County by serving a larger number of agencies and individuals. With the expansion, we were able to provide local numbers in Lorain County instead of the 1-800 numbers. The new system will also allow us to expand to the rest of Ohio without the huge costs that were a barrier in the past.

Program Director, Mike Gibbs, was selected for the national board of the Community Voice Mail Program starting in 2006. The big news of the last year was the Cleveland program was awarded the Golden Phone Award by the national group in Seattle. There are 34 Voice Mail programs in the United States. The program has big plans for 2006.

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

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hate Crimes Against Homeless People

Attack on Homeless Individuals Sleeping on Public Square
October 2005:
An individual who asked that his name be withheld reported sleeping on the sidewalk just off of Public Square when he was attacked by a passerby who threw a brick at him. He needed to be hospitalized, and has stopped sleeping outside in a visible location. He now sleeps with a group of individuals for security.

December 2005:
On December 29, 2005, Don was sleeping on Public Square in front of 55 Public Square when he was attacked by two white individuals who were nicely dressed and in a Toyota sedan. He was inside a sleeping bag at 4 a.m. when the attack occurred, and could not defend himself except to cover his face. The two were using sticks and kicking him. One of the sticks actually broke after repeated hits. A BFI garbage collector broke up the attack, and called an ambulance. The attackers had broken his jaw and he had multiple bruises all over his body. He had to get five stitches on his face. There were no other witnesses to the attack, but the BFI garbage collector. Don has not stayed on Public Square since then. He intends to only sleep with larger groups from now on so he is not visible or alone. He did give a police report to an officer while in the hospital.

The Ft. Lauderdale beating made national news, but these attacks have grown sharply in the United States. They happen in Cleveland, and we are meeting with federal officials next week to get national legislation to study and also to stop these attacks. It is my opinion that those hate video tapes showing homeless people being beaten that were sold on the internet three years ago have led to de-humanizing homeless people and a dramatic increase in beatings and attacks.

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