Monday, May 29, 2006

Remember the Homeless Vets This Week

The Day After Memorial Day

Yesterday was a day to reflect on soldiers that have died in service to the United States. It is altogether fitting and proper to do this no matter your opinion of the current military policies. How about on the day after Memorial Day or sometime this week we all think about the number of veterans who return to the United States and become homeless? Please take a few minutes to think about those honorably discharged who return to their home soil and lose their housing. In the United States and in Cleveland about one-third of the men who are homeless are veterans. This translates to around 5,000 people in Cuyahoga County who are homeless veterans every year. Studies show that 85% of the homeless veterans living in shelters are honorably discharged. I am not so sure how honorable it is to be discharged to a shelter, but that is for others to decide.

Here are a few things that you could do to demonstrate your respect for veterans who become homeless:
1. Sign up to volunteer at one of the shelters that serve veterans. They need help year round not just around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I might suggest Volunteers of America or 2100 Lakeside Shelter.

2. Write a letter to your local city government asking what they are doing to make sure that no veterans become homeless. Send copies of those to NEOCH and any response you get.

3. Support the advocacy work of the Coalition for the Homeless by signing up as a member or sending a donation to NEOCH--put Veteran's Service Initiative in the memo section.

4. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper asking the question for our elected leaders: "Why are we creating more homeless veterans everyday when we never did take care of the Vietnam era vets?" Again, please send a copy to NEOCH.

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

Coalition Vice President Improves

Bufford Makes Steady Progress

On May 11, Marcia Bufford, NEOCH Board Vice President and Advocate of the Year, was shot and remained in critical condition for two weeks. On May 24, she regained consciousness and could sit up. She understood speech and began recognizing people this week. All the well wishers were very helpful in making this possible. The first few days things looked bleak. We understand that it will be a long slow recovery, but it is so great to see Marcia's eyes open and ready again to take on the world.

Marcia still has a bullet lodged in her neck. It looks as though that will never be able to be removed. She still seems paralyzed on one side of her body. They did have to wire her mouth shut to allow the bones in her jaw to heal. I am sure that it is very difficult for Marcia to not talk, and it is probably very confusing. The family is limiting the number of guests to keep her blood pressure at a safe level, and Metro Hospital critical care unit were overwhelmed. We all look forward to Marcia returning to the Board of Trustees.

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Voice Mail Website Updated

Cleveland Community Voice Mail Expands Website

Cleveland Community Voice Mail now has a new website with dozens of zany features. Ever have a problem with CVM, but been unable to get a hold of a CVM staff person? Now you can find a solution with CVM website under Common Errors for both case workers and clients as part of the main website. Did you lose your copy of the "Message Retrieval for Clients" sheet or are you trying to decipher instructions on an overly notated and doodled out-of-date "Quick Guide for Case Managers"? Now you can download these and any other completely updated form found in (or those missing from) your CVM binder. Best of all, you can fill out the Intake/Outcome form online from the convenient location of your computer desktop. How do you get there? Just click on the Community Voice Mail link on the front page of the NEOCH website or click on any of the links provided. Check it out and feel free to give us your kudos and criticisms through comments to this post or from the feedback on our website.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Tough Week at the Coalition

NEOCH Vice President Still in Critical Condition

Last week, Marcia Bufford was shot. She was the apparent victim of a domestic violence attack. She still sits in a hospital bed at MetroHealth unconscious and on a breathing machine. Marcia has touched so many in Cleveland as is apparent by the large number of visitors stopping at the hospital. It is so difficult for everyone to see her lying in the ICU just six days after being honored as the advocate of the year at the NEOCH Annual Meeting. She turned a one minute acceptance into a seven minute retrospective of her life. To some this might be annoying, but to those who know her this is her way. She and all of her friends are so proud of her accomplishments and how far she has come in the last 10 years. We had a board meeting last week and no business was conducted as we were all shocked over the events of the last week. Truth be told very little work was done at the Coalition this week as we worried, wondered, struggled and mourned.

When Marcia came to NEOCH she was working in a retail job. She started volunteering and then became a VISTA for the Coalition. From there she has always worked in human services. The staff of the Coalition are so thankful to both the Mobile Crisis Team and the Domestic Violence Center for their help in talking about some of these issues. They were extremely helpful in answering questions, talking about the anger, confusion and pain of this situation. The Witness/Victim Group for Cuyahoga County are also very useful in explaining the process and they can help track possible domestic abuse in the court system.

Marcia is hanging on, and the Board and staff are hanging on to hope that she may pull through.

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

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shelter Storm and Voice Mail Updates

Homeless Concert and Other Updates

On Friday, the Shelter Storm blew into Y-Haven. Promptly following their resident meeting, I got up to play for the residents. Due to the show being held during the day, this session of the Revue Tour was attended by only myself. The rest of the standard storm chasers were missed, but Y-Haven was kept jumping and bumping none the less.

Although my performance was well received, as they were singing along and doing what I have heard at least one musicological historian refer to as “hollering,” the stars of the show were the residents themselves who took the time to step on stage and share their talents.

The first resident to show off was Sean Sanford, 2nd place winner of the NEOCH poetry contest. He read his poem, “Tears of an Addict.” I must now apologize, for I did not make any good notes on the names of the rest of the people that sounded off. However, their anonymity does not in any way diminish what they shared. We were joined by a soul singer, a resident choir, and even a staff member who can do some mean splits.

So, to sum up, Y-Haven is now one of my favorite places to play. I was not able to fill the majority of the requests they called for. This is nothing new. I know many songs, but no one ever requests the ones I know. Despite that, we all had a wonderful time. IÂ’m glad I was able to represent the Revue Tour there and hope the next time I can drag some poor hapless artist along with me.

In other news, I forgot to offer my congratulations to Denise Uter of the East Side Catholic Center for signing up the most clients to voice mail on Voice Mail Day. Congratulations, Denise. Congratulations are also due to Sonya Ruff of VOA, who placed second in the Voice Mail Day contest. We plan on holding similar contests throughout the summer, so stay tuned. Thanks to everyone who participated and to all the agencies and case workers who continue to use and support voice mail.

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

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Marcia Bufford Shot Today

NEOCH Thinking About our Advocate of the Year

Marcia Bufford was honored on Friday night at the NEOCH Annual Meeting as the 2005 Advocate of the Year and was voted the new Vice President of the Coalition. Today, we hear that Marcia was shot and is in critical condition. Both the Board and staff are thinking about our friend and colleague during these difficult days. We are all struggling to focus on our work with Marcia lying unconscious in the hospital.

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

National Review Publishes Police Hate Commentary

LAPD: To Protect and Serve Some People

The National Review Online published a story by a current Los Angeles Police Department attacking the U.S. Appeals Court decision striking down the Los Angeles attempt to make it a crime to be homeless. We posted a summary of the decision that prevents the Police from arresting people for purely innocent behavior of sitting, sleeping or standing when every shelter is full in Los Angeles. Josh Kanary has his own comments about the LAPD.

Jack Dunphy, columnist for the National Review Online and LAPD Officer, does not have a good grasp of the law as shown in his article The Constitutional Right to Be a Bum. The article refers to the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that a Los Angeles ordinance making it a misdemeanor to "sit, lie or sleep upon any street, sidewalk, or other public way" is unconstitutional. Opinions on the item of legislation aside, Dunphy'’s rationale is most unlearned for one who claims to be an officer of the law. The article shows that the officer is not smart and has nothing of worth to add to the heated debate over anti-homeless legislation.

Dunphy describes the scene of a group of homeless people sleeping on the streets as, "men (and a few women)...drinking, smoking crack, shooting heroin, fighting with (and occasionally murdering) each other." When describing what the police can do about "those besotted bums down the street," he says, "There's not much we can do...They are enjoying the blessings of freedom guaranteed them by the Constitution, as interpreted by the ACLU and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."

Although, it is true, the police can no longer arrest homeless people for just being out on the streets, there is something the police can do about people engaged in what he describes as a "frothing maelstrom of depravity." Laws are in place to outlaw the smoking of crack, shooting of heroin, and the fighting (and occasionally murdering) of each other. All the police would need to do is arrest them for the crimes they are seeing them commit. To see the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as the immunization of homeless persons is at the least a poor understanding of the interpretation.

The above occurs in the first three paragraphs of a three page article and contains all the arguments LAPD Officer Jack Dunphy offers against the court decision. He spends the rest of his article questioning the credibility of the plaintiffs and of the judges of the majority opinion, offering little but hearsay, rumor, and good old-fashioned instinct to substantiate his perspective.

Dunphy quotes Judge Kim Wardlaw as saying plaintiff Robert Lee Purrie "“has lived in the Skid Row area for four decades."” This rare fact in his rant worthy of a poorly Xeroxed 'zine is quickly followed by his statement, "The inescapable conclusion is that he lives there...because he likes it." Conclusions such as mental illness, physical disability, racism, and classism show that the conclusion "because he likes it" is, in fact, very escapable.

Jack Dunphy concludes his article about the Ninth Circuit Court of AppealsÂ’ decision with random facts and assumptions about Judge Wardlaw'’s life, such as, "The Wardlaws were among the Clintons'’ guests who enjoyed a stay in the White House'’s Lincoln Bedroom,”" and, "I'm confident there are two commas in the price tag of her home."” Although these facts may have their place elsewhere, they make for a disjointed conclusion to an article about a court's decision.

The fact of the matter is, given only this article as a window into his life, Jack Dunphy is a stupid man who is both ill-informed and wrong. Taken together, those adjectives add up to one frightening police officer. Further explorations of Officer Dunphy'’s lack of intelligence can be made in the poor grammatical structure of his online article, beginning with his sentence, "How, then, to explain the life of, to cite one example, plaintiff Robert Lee Purrie, who, according to Wardlaw's opinion, 'has lived in the Skid Row area for four decades.'"

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lying is Better Than Contract Steering???

HUD Policy is Another Fad that Will Lead Nowhere

A few weeks back, I published a letter in the Plain Dealer about the Department of Housing and Urban Development's offensive and stupid policy of focusing all their attention on long term homeless people to the detriment of all other homeless populations. There is so much to discuss with this policy, but in the interim a lot has happened at the Coalition and with HUD. We will postpone this discussion for now. The most amazing thing happened at HUD in the last few days. The HUD Secretary said at a conference that he cancelled a contract because the contractor said something negative about President Bush. Aside from the fact that this is illegal, it is dramatic expansion in the new policy of intolerance of any dissension. First, the entire Executive Branch was silenced with the threat of polygraphs and prosecutions. The media were criticized for questioning power in a time of war. Now, contractors cannot even speak freely.

When newspapers started raising concerns about the legality of this story, the Department said it was just a story that did not actually happen. What if Nixon had thought of this strategy--cop to a lie in order to cover-up the crime? His presidency might have survived by just admitting to a lie to divert attention from the break in and the hijacking of the government. I hope that this posting and statement does not get our small HUD contract pulled.

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

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What could you buy with $70 Billion?

Congress is close to a Deal to Cut Taxes by $70 Billion

The Shopping Spree of a Lifetime. What could we buy for $70 billion?

  • We could end homelessness in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Portland, Louisville, and Atlanta. Just think with the money from the tax cut, we would no longer have homelessness in 16 of the larger American cities.
  • We could pay the cost of every voucher for every individual on the waiting list of every housing authority in America. In Cleveland, there are over 1,300 on the Housing Choice Voucher Program waiting list. There would also be money left over for improvements in Public Housing.
  • We could expand our current effort to address homelessness in the United States by 50 times with the money from the tax cut.
  • We could bankroll our state housing trust fund for over 1,000 years, which provides housing assistance and the construction of new housing in Ohio.
  • We could serve 70 times as many people as we currently do with mental health assistance in the state of Ohio. This would allow us to finally do what our government promised when they closed all the asylums in our community.
  • We could increase our state resources directed at the local foodbanks by 13,000 times what they currently support.
  • We could fund the Cleveland Homeless Coalition for 200,000 years or give a direct subsidy of $1,555 to every person without healthcare in the United States.
There is so much that we could do with $70 billion, but wouldn't it be much better in the hands of those making above $200,000. They will take this money and put immigrants to work or open health clinics in the Congo or cure AIDS. This $70 billion is best used in the hands of the well off because they are smarter than we the people.

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

Monday, May 08, 2006

What's Goin' On?...

Homelessness Throughout the United States

Here are some things that I learned while in Washington.
Indiania passed a more restrictive ID law then Ohio's. I have no idea how it is not a Poll Tax like the one that was struck down in Georgia. They did start a Housing Trust Fund using the Real Estate Tax.

Puerto Rico has an involuntary commitment bill pending that would allow the police to pick up homeless people with a suspected mental illness and confine them in a mental institution against their will. There is a competing law that makes it hard to pass laws that criminality homelessness. A judge did determine that Puerto Rico could restrict the speech of panhandlers.
Philly has three competing plans to end homelessness in 10 years. Does that mean that it will end in 3.5 years? Philadelphia is ground zero for the research on long term homelessness, which is being shoved down all of our throats by HUD.

New York has $1 billion in TANF surplus just sitting around the halls of Albany. At the same time there were massive cuts to many programs including human services.

In D.C., many of the programs have not received money for nearly a year. This has caused major chaos in the nation's largest shelter: Mitch Snyder's old CCNV. They have had a series of directors and are having problems keeping staff. They have around 1,300 people there every night.

The great state of Minnesota seems to be one of the only states actually making significant progress. They have this cool X committee of homeless people who are making decisions about how to spend money and what programs would should be funded. One of the programs that they are working on is a storage facility for homeless people (which homeless people in Cleveland has said is a high priority, but few listen). The state is running a rental assistance program.

Colorado developed a 10 year plan that does a lot of work on Housing First, and some work on presumptive eligibility for those who are homeless. Colorado also used their Tobacco Tax to dramatically expand medical services to homeless people.

The Cities that were on the Meanest Cities List were not very happy. Sarasota (the first meanest city) held a big hearing on the matter. Puerto Rico also was very upset by the matter and invited a Bush official down to show what a great job they do. The Las Vegas Mayor said that he was going to beat up the Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless if he was ever in Washington D.C. Las Vegas was listed in the top five meanest cities. Lawrence Kansas, also in the top five, also very upset.

South Carolina has $45 million in unspent HOME dollars, which provides federal funds for housing. They had an issue with Clemson athletes using Section 8 vouchers to pay for their housing. There is a growing issue with some legislators trying to force non-profit developers to pay property taxes for their housing of formerly homeless people. This would bankrupt many of these developers.

Finally, Los Angeles has a new Bring LA Home plan with a goal of $150 million for permanent supportive housing and $100 million for a County Trust Fund. There is also a need for $300 million for Mental Health expansion services with a total cost of $11-$12 Billion to end homelessness in Los Angeles. There is a proposal for a $1 Billion County Housing Trust Fund. There was a big controversy about private hospitals dropping patients in Skid Row. The biggest offender was the Kaiser Hospital, which are trying to correct the problems. There is an effort to expand the homeless children and youth program in the schools. Finally, the City is trying to pass restrictive laws to expand sentencing requirements for certain areas of town like a 2 mile radius around Skid Row.

Things are bad, but at least there is an organization working on these issues with the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sorry for the Long Absence...

NEOCH was Busy, Pardon our Delay in Posting

I was in Washington lobbying Congress on a few items, which we will discuss later. All staff have worked on the Annual Meeting on Friday night, and so have been busy. The meeting was great and their is a good description of the event on the Homeless Grapevine blog. Massimo da Milano is a great venue for the meeting--close to downtown, parking, and convenient.

We had another record number of visits to the website in April--8,164 for the month or 272 average visitors every day.

Community Voice Mail Day was a success with nearly 100 people signed up and East Side Catholic Shelter and Volunteers of America winning the gift certificates for signing up the largest number of users. Also, Council woman Phyllis Cleveland sponsored a resolution proclaiming April 26 as Cleveland Community Voice Mail Day.

Speaking of Voice Mail, they are doing a complete redesign of their website. Look for it to go live this next week.

I was in the nation's capital last week for the National Coalition for the Homeless meeting and some lobbying activities. Washington DC is always very depressing with all those men in suits who could easily solve homelessness driving and walking past the thousands of homeless people every day who reside on the streets. We had a very good meeting and added a few new board members. The National Coalition is beginning to stabilize after a rough patch.

Since we had two weeks without posting, we will try to post everyday for the next few weeks.


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