Saturday, March 31, 2007

Marketing Breakdown

New Orleans to Host Conference about Suicide

Now, I would be the first to admit that marketing is not my forte, but even I recognize this as a potential train wreck. The American Association of Suicidology is hosting their conference in two weeks in New Orleans! I am all for supporting New Orleans, and we have written a great deal about how disgraceful the recovery effort, but this is one conference they might have passed on. The Conference is focused on 40 years of preventing suicide--"moving forward with education and training". That is all well and good, but New Orleans? Didn't they think that pundits might get word of this and poke fun at the city. If we keep giving pundits more opportunities to poke fun at a City doesn't that make it more likely that the City will try the hemlock? Suicide professionals from around the country coming to the City most in need of someone to talk the City down from the ledge? Some will say that it is fitting that a community that was just designated as the most dangerous in the Country needs more than any other some help from suicide prevention professionals. Was Mayor Ray Nagin feeling low and this was a way to disguise his seeking counseling by inviting hundreds of suicide counselors to his city? No matter how you look at it hosting a conference for suicide prevention professionals in the devastated city of New Orleans is ripe for humor.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Upcoming Events in Community

Mark Your Calendars

Bill Faith of COHHIO on Monday
The Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting on Monday April 2, 2007 at 1:30 p.m will feature Bill Faith of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing Ohio. Bill is the state director and chief lobbyist for housing and homeless issues. He will talk about issues related to state and federal budget issues. He will also talk about the possibilities of funding a federal housing trust fund and increasing the revenue going to the state housing trust. The meeting takes place in the U.S. Bank building at East 14th and Euclid Ave. in the lower level. All are welcome to attend and there will be time for questions.

COHHIO Conference April 23 and 24
If you would like to know more about housing and homeless issues in Ohio, COHHIO sponsors an annual conference and lobby day. The conference is Monday April 23 and April 24 in Columbus. To register or for more details go to the COHHIO website at On Wednesday April 25, housing advocates will descend on the state capital to push for the state to get back to serving poor people. The state has not had a housing agenda for years and has turned its back on poverty issues. The April 25 lobby day attempts to remind state legislators that three cities in Ohio are high on the list of the poorest cities in America.

ABLE Also Going Down to Columbus
The Advocates for Budget Legislation Equality has organized in Northeast Ohio to push for fairness in education, human services, health care and housing issues with the State budget. They are taking a bus down to Columbus to lobby for equity in the budget on April 26, 2007. If you would like to go down with the bus please call Tim at May Dugan at 631-5800.

NEOCH Annual Fund Raiser
Mark your calendars for May 4, 2007 and join us for the NEOCH Annual fund raiser. We will have special keynote speaker Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and the announcement of the award winner of the Ione Biggs Social Justice advocate of the year. The fund raiser is at Massimo da Milano at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased from the NEOCH website or through the NEOCH office. The invitations will be mailed next week and you can sign up online beginning on Monday. If you have questions about any of these activities feel free to call NEOCH at 216/432-0540.

Also next week we will post the important legislative issues that the Coalition is following in the federal, state and local legislative and executive branches of government.

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Shelter Showdown Set

East Side Catholic Strikes Back Against County

After the County Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board voted in January to withhold future funding until East Side Catholic family shelter found a fiscal agent to manage their money, the shelter staff and board have finally responded. They have obviously calculated that they are too valuable to the community and the County will back down. They might be right, but my experience says that the County usually wins it just takes a great deal of time and aggravation.

For those who do not remember and do not want to go back to the link, East Side Catholic received repeated warnings about problems with the shelter. The County has had issues for two years now with the shelter and the administration of the shelter. It seems that the director left and the board dissolved. There were problems with an audit, and the programming that the women were receiving in the shelter. Anyway, there were serious problems and all the Board including the Coalition for the Homeless supported the actions taken by the County.

East Side Catholic sent a harsh letter to Ruth Gillett of the County Office of Homeless Services rejecting the oversight and demanding a meeting with the Federal Department overseeing shelter funds and Cuyahoga County. "East Side Catholic refuses to forfeit its FY 2006 grant award...East Side Catholic will not waive its rights to make application for FY 2007. " The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development gives a great deal of discretion to the local government entity to manage each of the projects. There are thousands of project sponsors in the United States and HUD depends on the local jurisdiction to provide oversight of each shelter. The FY 2007 applications are already done and currently under review. East Side Catholic already missed the local application deadline and is certainly going to be skipped.

I especially like this line from their letter, "East Side Catholic continues to have grave problems receiving complete and clear information from OHS. " Ain't it the truth. Ruth is notorious for providing incomplete and vague information. That is how she has survived in government for so long. No matter if this is true or not, the County will win. They beat Care Alliance and in the end owned the Care Alliance buildings. They eliminated University Settlement from federal funding. The County will eventually prevail. It seems that the staff and Board of East Side Catholic feel that the County is weak and can be bullied. That is a facade that the OHS staff put out, but it is not the case. There will be a long drawn out battle, which may lead to the entire program failing and hundreds of homeless families struggling to find a place to live. This is emblematic of how things work in the homeless system--no coordination, much competition, very little cooperation, lots of fights, and very little progress is ever made toward the goal of ending homelessness. The worst part of this is the negative impact this will have on a population that is already struggling in our community: homeless families.

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Thank You Secretary of State Brunner

Homeless Coalition Supports Firing of the Elections Board Members

The NEOCH staff and board have participated in observing the last two elections to make sure that homeless people were allowed to vote. We have done a great deal of work at all levels from registration to assisting people in voting. We absolutely support Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner's decision to ask for the resignation of all the Cuyahoga County Board members of the Election's Board. They have repeatedly fallen down on the job, and failed to provide assurances to a fair and open voting process. They have allowed poor decisions by the administration of elections to stand. They themselves have made poor decisions as a board and allowed political implications to get in the way of confidence in voting. I cannot tell you how many times over the last five years the question of, "Will my vote even be counted?" comes up when we are doing voter registration drives. This was a question we rarely heard in mid 1990s, but now it is commonplace.
Here are a few reasons we feel that the Board should resign:
  1. They should have cleaned house with all new leadership after all the problems in 2004.
  2. They made a bad decision in picking the Diebold electronic voting system and not providing enough training for the workers in the 2006 election.
  3. They did not stand up for Cuyahoga voters when Blackwell was sending out directives to keep voters away from the polls in 2006.
  4. They did not take seriously the problems with the Board not following procedures when the two election workers were indicted last year.
  5. They did not do enough to enforce the NEOCH vs. Blackwell lawsuit settlement in November 2006. Many precinct committee staff did not understand the settlement, and were never told about the settlement, so turned away voters without ID. Even staff sent from the main office were unaware of the settlement.
  6. The Board members never provided any guidance on the role of the election observers in the 2006 election. This caused a conflict at the precinct that I monitored, and the Cleveland police had to be called to settle the dispute.
  7. They provided no guidance on the privacy of the voter while they cast their vote. There is no directive from the Board about photographing voters as they are casting their vote, and the ability to cast a ballot without a cameraman filming. Many homeless people do not want to be photographed while they do anything including voting.
Overall, the Board members do not act in the best interest of voters and do not supervise the election in an effort to arrive at a fair outcomes. They have allowed partisan political considerations to taint their responsibility to the administering the signature act of our democracy. We applaud the Secretary of State for asking for the full Board's resignation, and we hope that the next Board will operate in a more open and honest manner, free of the problems of lines, cutting corners and delays in release of the results.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Guerrilla War on the Streets of America??

Images of Police in Virginia... A Threat to Democracy

The Coalition for the Homeless passed a resolution four years ago in opposition to the war. The NEOCH board at the time felt that without proper justification for the war, we could not justify spending $200 billion on a war with so many glaring domestic needs. Boy, did we underestimate the cost of the war in 2003. Over the weekend, we saw some alarming images from the Pentagon anti-war protests. All the images of police showed masked, heavily armed and body armored, storm trooper type men all with the words "State Police" and no other identifying marks. This frightening image should be illegal in the United States. The police surrounded the Pentagon with shields and gas masks and overwhelming force against a bunch of loud but non-violent demonstrators. Those that enforce the laws of the United States during an act of peaceful assembly against the government should have their faces visible and should be clearly identifiable with their names or badge numbers in big bold letters.

NEOCH has staged many demonstrations in the past, and we always had a far too many police officers babysitting us, but never any in riot gear. The issue is that anonymous police can easily venture into excessive force with peace of mind of any possibility of consequences. How do you complain about an officer hitting you with a night stick if there are 400 officers who all look the same in front of you? This is a sure sign of the growth of the police state when we see anonymous riot police defending government buildings during a protest.

There is no reason for the police to not be clearly identified except to protect themselves from individual accountability. It is not the case that police officers are targeted like in Mexico or Columbia by death squads. There is at most the possibility of minor vandalism from demonstrators, but Riot police are a threat to our democracy and the ability for "we the people" to exercise our rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government. We have seen plenty of video from Tacoma, Washington and San Francisco and many other places where police use excessive force on demonstrators and then chuckle about it afterwards. We need to take back control over the heavily armed police and make them subject to civilian oversight. Most of the time it is the police that cause the escalation in violence and not the demonstrators.

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

Friday, March 16, 2007

NEOCH Annual Awards

Annual Meeting Held on the Ides of March

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless issued its Annual Report last night at Franklin Circle church. It will be available on our website in the near future. We elected our new Board for 2007-8, and gave details on our plans for 2007. The treasurer gave his report on the state of the NEOCH finances, and Teri' Horne did a summary of the activities undertaken over the last year. Finally, the Board elected a new executive committee for the Coalition. The most anticipated part of the Annual Meeting was the awards ceremony. There is no red carpet or band to play the winners off the stage, but it is nice to recognize people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. In addition, NEOCH gave out one notice of condemnation to the City of Akron.

Joan Burda--Five Years of Service
We celebrated Joan's five years of service to NEOCH as the Director of Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program. She has doubled the number of clinics operated by the CHLAP lawyers and is now working on establishing a pro se legal clinic on the near West Side. This facility would allow low income people to come in and print out their legal documents and file themselves court proceedings. She has served thousands of homeless people over the last five years, and the Board appreciates her dedication to the job.

Jim Schlecht--NEOCH Advocate of the Year
Jim is the outreach worker for Care Alliance, and has worked with homeless people for decades. He is also a noted peace activist and champion of those abused by capitalism. The Board proclamation cited his tireless service to protect fragile populations from the elements. They thanked him for his compassion and steadfast work for social justice in forwarding solutions. NEOCH recognizes Jim Schlecht's work to oversee the 2006 Housing Stand Down, and his work to develop a 24 hour drop-in center in presenting the Advocate of the Year award.

Bernadette Janes--NEOCH Volunteer of the Year
Bernadette volunteered with the Cosgrove Center and for the Coalition as a writer. She was recognized by the Board for her distinguished career assisting organizations throughout the community. The Board cited her countless hours working with the Homeless Grapevine in documenting the struggles that homeless people face everyday.

City of Akron--Roadblock to Progress 2006
The NEOCH Board condemned the City of Akron for their efforts to make it illegal to be poor within the city limits by passing the worst law against pan handling in the United States. For providing criminal backgrounds to the long list of barriers a person living in Akron must overcome if they fall on hard times, and for not forwarding solutions to homelessness were a few of the reasons cited by the Board in proclaiming the City of Akron as the Biggest Roadblock to Progress in 2006.

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

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Plain Dealer Covers Homeless People

Homelessness in the Daily Paper

We have all read a great deal about homelessness over this last week. On Friday, The Plain Dealer had a very nice story about the Homeless Congress and the efforts to create some standards within the shelter system. How could homeless people want clean linens or a good meal? It took nearly three months to get consensus on the shelter standards that all those who came to the meeting could agree. It has been a very interesting process, and now the real work begins. We need to have the City Council pass this legislation as soon as possible with few changes. We need to bring some discipline to the shelters and establish a place to go to complain. Our next meeting is in two weeks, and then we move onto real solutions.

Today, there was an article about the identification program in The Plain Dealer that we helped to start a few years back. This is another one of the positive outcomes from the VISTA national service program at NEOCH that carries on long past those VISTAs having gone onto "real" jobs that pay "real" money. In the post-9/11 world it is very difficult to get a birth certificate from many states, and the costs have gone up all over the country. This program funded by the Cleveland Foundation and Fairview Lutheran Foundation sometimes is the key to someone getting a job or housing. There are some people who become homeless and only need a minor hand up and they are on their way to stability. Identification is the first step for every homeless person on their way back to an apartment.

Peace and Justice Forum...
NEOCH participated in the Catholic School's social justice forum at St. Ignatius on Friday 3/9/07 along with nearly every homeless service provider in the community. I was fortunate to be able to present along with Michelle and Greg, two formerly homeless people, to a group of students from all over Greater Cleveland. It is always hard to tell if the young people got it or not. Will one of these scholars be inspired to solve the problem of homelessness in Cleveland or even in America? It is hard to say, but it was a nice event.

To Quote or Not to Quote...
A journalist asked a question in the comments section that I thought I would address here. Anything in this blog can be used for publication as long as the proper attribution is made. We want this information to be in the community, debated and discussed.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Family Forum Reflection

Women Gather to Plead for More Attention

The Family Homeless Forum was not as well attended as we had hoped, but it was a wonderful forum with a four women doing a great presentation about their experiences. We prepared a good overview of family homelessness locally that will be on the website shortly. We intend to send the report to every elected official, foundation, and major religious institution in the area. Family homelessness is on the rise with 9,000 individuals from families who experience homelessness every year. Nearly one third of the total number of children in the Ohio school system who were homeless came from the Cleveland Public Schools last year. And the situation for families is only getting worse.

Federal policy has turned away from family homelessness, and this has caused great instability within the family shelters. Two of the 12 family shelters in the community are on the rocks and in danger of closing, and the waiting list for families getting into subsidized housing is 3-5 years. Michelle talked about how she had to wait for help because she did not have a drug problem and was not disabled. We heard from one woman about the lack of facilities for both Moms and Dads to stay together in the same shelter. One woman talked about having to make the decision to go back to an abuser, because she could not find any housing after a felony conviction. Sabrina talked about the horrible experiences within the shelters, and the fact that she had no where to turn for help.

The experience of homelessness is rough enough without prolonging that stay with silly and incorrect policies. In the past, we did everything, as a society, in our power to make sure that kids were protected from the most extreme forms of poverty. It seems that there are so many families suffering that we have just given up. We need local leadership to step forward, roll up their sleeves and begin to build more housing to keep families together.

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

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Updates from the Coalition

The Latest Dispatch from the Homeless Coalition

Annual Meeting of the Coalition
We normally have a stuffy formal annual meeting, but this year the Board of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has decided the annual fundraiser from the Annual Meeting. So the 2006 Annual Meeting will be March 15, 2007 at Franklin Circle Church at 6 p.m. NEOCH will give out awards to the Advocate of the Year and Volunteer of the Year. We look at 2006 and ahead to 2007. Finally, NEOCH will elect a new board and present the 2006 Annual Report. We would love to have you join us for the Annual Meeting. It is free and we hope homeless people will be able to join the meeting. We are going to award a Roadblock of the Year to the person or organization that prevented the solving of homelessness in Northeast Ohio.

Media Wave Causes Stir
The Plain Dealer story two weeks ago with the headline about $22 million coming to Cleveland for homelessness always creates waves. It makes our meetings with homeless people difficult, because homeless people read the paper. They see a whole bunch of money coming to Cleveland and wonder why they eat pasta every night or why they cannot get housing. So, we get blamed for wasting funds or being incompetent for not solving homelessness with "all that money." We also get calls asking how they can set up a shelter so that they can get in on this federal gravy train. After I tried to convince the woman that called this week that this was not money for shelters and that public officials are not going to fund shelters anymore, she said, "I am not going to be deterred by anything you say, because God has told me to do this and I saw the article about the $22 million." There is no way to argue with God or money. Columbus only got $6 million, and they claim nearly the same number of homeless people, and so their providers are ticked off.

By dividing $22 million among the 20,000 people who are homeless every year, the funds only cover $1,100 per person who is homeless in Cleveland. 90% of the $22 million are just to keep the doors of the transitional shelters and the permanent housing programs open. Many of these funds are for very specific populations while the economically homeless have to find their own ways.

Aviation High School Has a Deadline

The main shelter in Cleveland, 2100 Lakeside, operates on the principle that anyone who comes to the door must be offered a bed. This has forced the shelter to operate an overflow facility at Aviation High School. This was a temporary solution that is now three years old. The federal government is not really happy with this solution with ex-cons, sexually based offenders, and an unknown group of people basically sleeping on the grounds of an airport. They have laid down the law--the overflow must close by November and there will be no further argument. This would seem to be plenty of time, but the County and City cannot agree and no one is talking to homeless people. This is going to go down to the wire, and the results are not going to be pretty.

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

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Gentrification=Attacks on Poor People

Neighborhood Wars

Gentrification is insidious in that it slowly overtakes a neighborhood. It is feared by poor people, and spreads fear throughout the neighborhood. People start believing that all their problems within the neighborhood are caused by poor people. They start to believe that if they do not kick out the poor people their housing values will decrease and they will lose their nest egg or become homeless themselves. In Tremont, Ohio City and now starting in Detroit Shoreway there is this drive to "develop" the neighborhood. It is usually led by the neighborhood development corporation and by a small group who are single minded in their focus to improve property values. These are worthy goals, but it all falls down when the health of all income levels are not taken into account. There are many CDC directors who try to work with both low income and higher income households and the attempt to balance the needs of each. There are some who try to integrate the neighborhood and champion diversity. But a few who just let the developers go wild, and are hostile to poor people.

Some CDCs restrict access by non-profits who serve poor people out of a fear of attracting homeless and the downtrodden. They condemn and bulldoze property that is unsightly. They demand action by the City to make it illegal to be poor (panhandling, anti-"camping," and anti-feeding ordinances). They constantly chew the ear of the elected local official until the Councilperson finally breaks and forgets about their poorer constituents and follows the vision of the rich developers (potential campaign donors) to move away from affordable housing.

The results are:

  • All the shelters get pushed to the "bad" parts of town away from bus lines, social services, and government offices.
  • The innovative ideas like pay to stay places (non-profit flophouses) or sweat equity affordable housing co-ops or one stop service centers do not get tried.
  • Land is left vacant or used as community garden/park space to avoid the development of affordable housing.
  • It is harder to locate a place to live that is affordable to a person making service sector wages.
  • When people fall out of their housing through eviction they fall all the way to shelter or the streets. There are no longer safety nets to catch people.
  • Housing gets more expensive city wide because certain markets are shut off to people.
This is gentrification and the results of gentrification. The Center for Community Change does some work on gentrification. Also, the National Low Income Housing Coalition has some articles on NIMBY issues.


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