Monday, April 30, 2007

Reply to Your Questions

This Came in the Comments Section of the Blog...

I am from Colombia South America and I am going to travel to Cleveland for the world Sur Fin business show in August. I have read your blog and I wonder if the city has a current political schedule to make the economic improvements? In another issue, what´s the city culture? Does it have a potential market for tourists? I'd like to know what´s the positive side of the city.

Gracias ! :)

Okay, so we usually respond to these in the comments section, but the guy brings up some interesting questions and it is cool that someone from South America reads our blog. Economic improvements are the hope of every Mayor, Governor, and elected official in the area with the hope of bringing more jobs to the region. We have a shrinking population, a dramatic loss of jobs, and stagnant wage structure. We have made some huge policy errors over the last 20 years that started us down this spiral. While Rome was burning, our local and state politicians were fiddling around with dumb laws like concealed carry, IDs for voting, terrorist watch lists, panhandling, and speed cameras. Basically, our elected officials took their eyes off the ball for short term election gains. They forgot their main function was to provide for the common good and not just to figure out the quickest way to get re-elected. There is new leadership all around, and all of us are hoping and praying that these guys get back to the business of creating and retaining jobs in Ohio. After all, it is getting difficult for these politicians to figure out ways to blame someone else for the problems Ohio faces when most just have to look in the mirror to come up with the answers.

Cleveland has great potential for tourists, and I am sure that Cleveland+ is the ticket to start bringing in the guests. Okay, so that was facetious, but no matter what crazy slogan some consultant comes up with Cleveland is attractive. No matter how many times they call us "The Plum" we have a nice Metropark system, a great group of museums, great radio stations, and a very diverse population. There is the West Side Market, the Hessler Street Fair, Coventry, and a very good music scene that makes this city special. This blog focuses on poverty and homelessness--mounds of depression, but Cleveland is a great city.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

National Homeless Picture

Things are Bad All Around

I attended the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting this last weekend. They do this segment of the Board meeting in which each city, state or national organization gets the opportunity to say a few words about how their city is addressing homelessness. Cleveland and Ohio certainly have problems, but nothing compared to some of the cities in the United States.

Atlanta is at all out war against homeless people. They have closed most of the shelters and are trying to make it as difficult as possible for homeless people to survive in the city. They have one of the most restrictive laws regarding identification and voting that has faced repeated challenge in court. Currently, the City of Atlanta is trying to kill all affordable housing in the community. There is a plan to close 5,000 units of public housing by early next year. They are illegally providing housing vouchers for people and telling them that they can only use those vouchers outside the City.

The Washington DC Mayor has turned out to be a disappointment after having run on a friendly homeless platform. In the transition, Adrian Fenty, appointed a commission to look at homelessness in the District, and seemed to be very interested in the issues of affordable housing. Instead, Mayor Fenty has continued to try to close shelters and has not provided adequate resources to the existing shelters.

Los Angeles is also a city that the new Mayor had promised change with the introduction of a huge plan to “end” homelessness. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has also disappointed advocates with criminalization efforts and doing little to address the problem locally. We have discussed in this space the dumping of disabled homeless in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, but the City has seen huge reductions in resources for services as well as housing.

Baltimore is unveiling its plan to end homeless in June. Let’s hope that they do not bring the Bush Administration official, Phil Mangano to town to kick this effort off. It is hypocritical to have the Bush Administration on the one hand cut affordable housing resources then claim to want to end long term homelessness in 10 years. It is almost like claiming to want a quick end to a war while sending more troops to a foreign land to occupy another sovereign country. Wait...never mind.

Texas is trying to get a homeless hate crimes bill passed to have stepped up sentences if a homeless person is attacked and targeted because of his or her homeless status. The City of Austin has exhausted every possible anti-homeless ordinance they can think of including anti-panhandling, anti-sleeping, and loitering ordinances. One new dangerous trend that cities in Florida and the West Coast are passing is “No Feeding Ordinances.” These make it illegal for churches to go into the Downtown and provide food to hungry and homeless people or they will set tight restrictions like only one time a year and no more than 25 people fed at a time. These are crazy, mean spirited and violate the separation of church and state, but the cities have exhausted every other way to make it illegal to be homeless and yet there still are homeless people.

Denver is still having huge battles over identification. Homeless people are caught in the middle of a right wing agenda to restrict immigrants from getting services or any help with a policy to limiting access to identification. Philadelphia and a few other cities are fighting over the creative use of statistics that "show" we are making progress in solving homelessness. Solving homelessness on paper seems to be the new trend by local and federal government agencies. This way they get to send out a press release congratulating themselves for figuring out how to spin data to show progress.

I will post the Cleveland report in the near future in addition to a report from the State housing and homelessness conference this week in Columbus. The COHHIO Conference heard from all the top elected officials in Ohio including Governor Strickland.


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

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Mentally Ill are Going to Take A Hit

Virginia Tech Shooting Means Rough Road Ahead

In September 2001, I was naive and believed all the hot air that I was hearing about tolerance and not to stereotype people. For example, I believed that a bill, the Patriot Act, that had near unanimous approval was not an overreaction--then I actually read the law. I believed what President Bush said to a joint session of Congress:
"I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them."
I was a sucker, and did not realize that we would soon attack two Muslim countries, men who look Muslim would be excluded from airplanes, and the first Muslim elected to Congress would be asked on a national television show how we could trust him? So, now we are told not to jump to conclusions about immigrants or those with a mental illness after the shootings at Virginia Tech. Well, maybe I am jaded or just wiser, but I believe there will be some big changes for mentally ill people. When the United States acts in haste in response to a national tragedy, civil rights usually go out the window. From World War II and the Japanese American forced into concentration camps to the stomping on privacy and individual liberty in the name of fighting terrorism today, we often go overboard with our answer to a crisis.

Are we going to build a bunch of asylums? Are we going to confine people to extended stays in the hospital against their will? Are we going to force people to take medicine against their will? Or are we going to build forced labor camps for immigrants or those bipolar folks in our community? I know that we are not going to provide health care and housing for our citizens, and everything short of that will just make their lives miserable.


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

Saturday, April 14, 2007

If I had a Law Firm...

Akron Man Finds Housing in Mall

The Rolling Acres is nearly abandoned, and one adventurous man, Brandon Shawhan, decided that the Mall would be the perfect place to live. If I had a big law firm, I would assign a few lawyers to represent Shawhan, and put capitalism on trial. There was most likely public subsidy that went into the building of the mall. Mr. Shawhan, for whatever reason, cannot find enough money to pay for housing in our society. He did whatever he could do to survive including borrowing space that was no longer in use. The basis of my case would be the question: does our society have an obligation to house every citizen? If we are all equal and our government has an obligation to protect us then do they have an obligation to provide a place inside to protect us from the elements? If government can sweep in and place us in an asylum for "observation" against our will, then why do we not have an obligation to provide a space inside for every citizen? It certainly would be attractive to the jury that he took up residence at the Diamond's Mens Store, and he was a man who wanted to look sharp.

Akron does not have an adequate supply of shelter, and regularly turns people away. They do not have a publicly funded shelter for men that does not push religion on the client. Akron was named by NEOCH as the Biggest Roadblock of the Year in 2006, because they do not take care of their homeless population. I am not saying Akron has an obligation to force people into shelter, but if the shelter is not even available then they should not be able to prosecute people for finding heated publicly funded spaces out of the weather. This would be a great trial that would generate a lot of media attention.


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

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Finally, Clarification of ID Rules

Brunner Clarifies Voting Requirements

The Coalition sued Blackwell last year to assure that homeless people had a right to vote in the November election. Subodh Chandra and his legal team did a great job in getting clarification of the rules for the last election, but the case still goes on. We are hoping that the legislature will clarify the rules and strike down the ID requirements, but until then the Secretary of State issued a directive. We waited 10 months for Blackwell to explain the rules and he never got around to it. These new rules are basically the same as the settlement that we agreed to last year with the State of Ohio. Here is the link to the Secretary of State's statement clarifying the rules. The ID requirements were a stupid rule passed by a terrified Republican party to keep down Democratic turnout. So, while this stupid requirement for showing ID in order to vote is still the law of the land in Ohio, Brunner's directive is the best that we can do under the current law.

All of this touches on battles that are going on in Washington DC over the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. We keep hearing that the Bush Administration and specifically Karl Rove wanted all these U.S. Attorneys fighting "voter fraud" around the country. They keep talking about these mystery multiple voters, and massive registration fraud. State Rep. Kevin Coughlin had the same file of possible voting violations during the hearings held last year before the HB 3 ID rules were passed, and these were the same files that were being pushed on the U.S. Attorneys. These are all minor cases in which a person registers Michael Jordan or Mickey Mouse, but in nearly every case these made up voters do not show up to vote. There is not this huge wide spread conspiracy. There are isolated problems usually from voter confusion, and the U.S. Attorney's were right to resist moving on these issues. It is too bad the State of Ohio legislators did not resist the pressure to pass legislation over a problem that did not actually exist.

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