Thursday, October 25, 2007

Aviation to Remain Open

Feds Give Overflow Permission to Stay Open Unit January

As you may know, the Federal Aviation Administration has informed the City of Cleveland that the overflow shelter currently at Aviation High School must close. The FAA claims that it is a safety concern to have 200 unknown people sleeping right next to Burke Lakefront Airport because of some bizarre homeland security rules. Even though the City and County have been aware of this deadline for over 20 months, they could not come up with an alternate site in all that time. The County spent about 8 months trying to free up space in the current system to avoid having to fund an overflow shelter at all. While this was a worthy effort, County officials should have looked for alternate locations at the same time.

North Point Inn motel was purchased in the summer 2007, but the 160 bed facility will not be ready by the Halloween 2007 deadline set by the FAA. The motel needs a sprinkler system before the Fire Marshall will allow the building to re-open as a shelter. The City begged for more time and the FAA has given the community until January 2008 to get North Point ready. It seems that the FAA feels that the terrorists hiding among the homeless population take the holidays off, and so the news choppers at Burke are safe for now. For that reason, they gave the shelter an extra three months to remain open. We will call that the holiday homeless security exception to the homeland security rules.

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

Speaking of the Health Care Crisis...

Hagan Asks UH and Clinic to Help Serve More Poor People

In today's paper, the Plain Dealer did a story about indigent care and the response by our local health care empires. We have talked about these problems for years in the pages of the Grapevine. The shelters see these issues every day with people improperly discharged from the hospitals. We also just posted a discussion about the nursing home problem today on this blog. Our health care system for poor people is broken and needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up. NEOCH and others are trying to get some facts from the shelters on the number of people in need of some nursing care every day right now living in shelter.

I can tell you that there are now more than one ambulance trip per night from LMM 2100 Lakeside shelter to the hospitals. The "emergency" rooms have become the primary care doctors for most homeless people. The wait in the "emergency" room is now typically6-8 hours, but on busy nights can be double that wait. There are just so many people at the "emergency" room waiting for non-emergency care or prescriptions that the system is at a breaking point. Many homeless people shop emergency rooms based on previous debt. For example, they do not want to be hassled about a $10,000 bill at Lutheran so they will walk down to MetroHealth. Why the hospital would present a $10,000 bill to a person who has not earned that amount of money in the last five years combined is a mystery to me? We now have a public health system in which a person starts off at the business office discussing their ability to pay before they ever see a health care professional.

A big first step for these quasi-not-for-profit hospitals would be to pour huge resources into the neighborhood health centers and the Free Clinic. Having more doctors available in Hough NEON Health Center, or Care Alliance or McCafferty Health Center or any of the other facilities would make some difference in reducing the problems at the Emergency room. Commissioner Hagan, a great champion of MetroHealth, needs to continue to push UH and the Clinic, but he cannot forget the neighborhood based health care system that has a proven track record and could alleviate some of the problems at the "emergency" rooms.

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

Plain Dealer Creates Homeless?

Shocking News: Nursing Homes Fill Beds With Homeless People!!

On Sunday, the Plain Dealer did a three page story about the out of control nursing home industry. There is no doubt that the nursing homes are under-regulated. There is no doubt that state government is at their mercy, and will do anything that the nursing home industry wants. The nursing home lobby is one of the most powerful in the state, and will figure out a legislative "fix" to the problems raised by the PD. The nursing home owners will probably be richer after this story, and the "fix" by their representatives in Columbus. The problem is that homeless people will suffer as a result of this story. It seemed as though the St. Vincent doctor and homeless people were exploiting the system and the article made it seem that nursing homes were unsafe because they allowed homeless and mentally ill to over stay their welcome.

Most homeless people do not want to be in a nursing home, because they feel like it is almost like a pre-release corrections facility. Also, most homeless do not need round the clock care. The shelters have the opposite issue with almost no care because there are just too many people. We have one facility, Joseph's Home, that can house 9-10 men and can offer care by nurses, but it is not a nursing home. That is all we have in a county of 1.3 million people for people who become homeless. There are 10 beds that offer care between a nursing home and just a bed in a shelter. I am not saying nursing homes are the answer, but until there is something else why rock the boat? All this will mean is that nursing homes will kick people out after 30 days and there will be larger numbers in shelters.

I knew a guy who had no legs and was in a wheel chair. He stayed on Euclid Ave. for years and would panhandle every so often. He could not take care of himself and spent some time with the guys at Camelot. There was no way he could live in an apartment. Finally, he got into a nursing home over in Euclid, Ohio. It was not the best for him, and he was always threatening to leave, but what other choice did we have? He would have died if he had stayed on the streets for one more winter. He had huge health complications that were only exacerbated by the rain, snow, and heat of the streets of Cleveland. I don't have all the answers on this, but I know that the massive number of homeless people in nursing homes are going to suffer this winter because of the Plain Dealer story.

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

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sorry for the Delay...

NEOCH Has Been Busy

Sorry, that we have not posted for two weeks...we have been working on the plan for the future of NEOCH. It is nearly done, but still needs some finishing touches. We are working on transferring two of our programs to another non-profit agency in Cleveland. We have made good progress in assuring the continued existence of Bridging the Gap housing program and Cleveland Community Voice Mail program. We will post the plan on our website as soon as it is done.

NEOCH has been working on a ton of other issues as well. On Wednesday, I spent the entire day down in Columbus trying to finally settle the homeless voting ID lawsuit. We hope that everything is settled by the end of the year in the NEOCH vs. Brunner (formerly Blackwell) lawsuit.

We believe that we have made a break through in this food problem on Public Square. We believe that we have reached a compromise with the City on a good alternate location. We just need to work out the agreement before Monday and we hope to get agreement with all the groups. Unfortunately, our e-mail system at NEOCH has been down for two days. It is extremely difficult to get work done in this day and age without an e-mail system. If you have sent us an e-mail recently, it most likely came back. We should have it repaired by Monday. Sorry for any inconveniences.

Finally, we are working on some other community planning activities in Cleveland including the implementation plan for Heading Home--a housing/homeless prevention strategic plan. In addition to all the other things we do including Teach Ins, Stand Down, Resident Councils, and Homeless Congress meetings, it is a busy time.

One last thing...RealNEO has another great post about the campaign to educate the public about panhandling. It may be a sign of the apocalypse, but we are the last city in Ohio to roll out this plan. The same company, Block by Block, is doing "clean up" of the Downtowns in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo along with a bunch of other cities in the Midwest. Cleveland is late to game of educating the public that some people are dishonest when asking for money. Remember that dishonest behavior is not confined to panhandlers. It is my experience that politicians, telemarketers, salesmen, professional fund raisers, corporate spokespeople, and lawyers who represent big business interests, have been know to shade the truth when asking for your hard earned money. But you probably wouldn't know that because no one is "educating" you about that with a poster and a washboard.

For those of us downtown everyday, this advertising campaign is part of the landscape, and just blends into the Cityscape. I am just thankful that the City is not passing another law directed at homeless people and instead spending time on this "education" campaign.

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

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Public Square "Cleaned"

Feeding Groups Have No Where to Minister

October 2 was the beginning of the enforcement of the curfew and (2) tickets were issued for sleeping on Public Square after 10 p.m.. NEOCH has worked this entire summer on getting all the churches, synagogues and Food Not Bombs to coordinate services (while struggling to stay in business). We eventually want all the groups to move inside so that homeless people can enjoy a meal in the same manner as the rest of us in a clean safe environment without rain or wind to contend with. We need a place with a bathroom and running water, and plenty of trash receptacles. After three months, we were real close to a breakthrough. We had a great meeting last week and all the groups were working on the same page to find an indoor location.

As part of the curfew, there was a clean up of Public Square with a washing and inspection. The Department of Health found 24 rats nests, and ordered an immediate response to this health crisis. They ordered massive extermination efforts, and in doing so do not want any groups to give out food on Public Square. The Health Department is going to start enforcing their permitting requirements to serve food. At this point, no group has a permit. The city does not want the food distribution groups to use the other parks for fear that it will just transfer the problem. The City has suggested the lot on Davenport as an alternative site for now. Davenport is north of Lakeside around East 18th. It is far from the Square, and it is a parking lot with no places to sit down. I am sure that the churches are going to be angry about this situation after all the meetings this summer. This all came down on Wednesday October 3 at around noon when the Chief of Police and the entire command staff stopped a group from unloading their food on the Square. Then they tried to move to another park and that did not work because law enforcement stopped them. The group was told that if they unload that they would be arrested.

All of this came down less then a week after our great meeting with all the groups that are caring for homeless people on the Square. The timing is unfortunate, and could put a rift between the City and the food groups. NEOCH sent the following letter to the City.

Ms. Natoya Walker:

After a sleepless night, I would like to ask that you reexamine the Public Square decision. I feel that NEOCH is partially responsible for the actions taken yesterday, and we request that you talk to the Mayor about a better interim solution then the Davenport site. NEOCH was the one that brought the outreach workers to the discussion, and they reported the rats. We were so close to some compromise, and this decision will only alienate all the people that we have tried to work with over this last summer. We have broken the trust built up with the religious congregations, Food Not Bombs, and we have harmed our own clients. I am sure that it was not the intention of any of the outreach workers to close off Public Square, when they brought the problem of rats to the attention of the City. It will make them leery of talking to the City about issues if they are afraid that the City will take action to further alienate the homeless population.

Everyone that I talked to felt the meeting last week was great, but this action puts into question everything that we have done. We need some bold and creative ideas right now. What has happened because of this decision is that everything these groups feared when sitting down to talk about this problem of feeding outside is now taking place. We have moved homeless people out of sight behind a building far from Public Square. Christian groups have provided the loaves and fishes to groups for over 2,000 years, and we cannot just end the practice in one day. We were so close to reaching a solution, but I fear that this latest action will force these groups to respond in the judicial system.

I would ask that the best and brightest minds within the administration get together and come up with an interim step between Public Square and an indoor location. Might I suggest putting a dumpster out of sight near one of the following parks as the Square is cleaned up:

  • Jesse Owens Park across from the Justice Center.
  • Malls A, B, or C
  • Chester Commons
  • Or ask the County for use of that green space in between the County Administration building and the road with two hour meters next to Mall B.

All of these places have benches or a place to sit down, and are close to the Square. We could even accept if you set a time limit of Thanksgiving for use of these spaces to have an indoor location ready. The Davenport site is just not going to work. I am sure that the groups will volunteer to clean up the park and stay around until the last person is gone. I would hate to see the City get into a confrontational relationship with groups that feel it is part of their mission and their faith to minister to the stomachs, hearts and minds of those living outside. Please talk to the Mayor and reconsider this ban on the use of public parks for food.


Brian Davis

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

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Unusual Use of the Blog

Answer to Your Questions

Since blogging is relatively new form of communication and many of the rules or protocols have not been constructed, we got a comment that deserves wider distribution. The Coalition is an advocacy organization and we hear from 4 or 5 people a day looking for help. This is not our primary role in the community, but there are so many people looking for help with housing that many spend the entire day on the phone trying to find help. So here is the comment:
"I am online looking for help for my niece. She has two kids and is going to be on the street. I was hoping for some information from anyone who has been in this situation. Her case worker never calls back and if you do here from someone they say she can not get help without having a job. She can not get a job because she has no one to watch the kids. It is hopeless. What should she do?"
Answer: The first thing to do is use the First Call for Help database which is available online at This is a comprehensive database of all social services in the County. It is a wonderful resource that is regularly updated. First Call for Help is such an important resource in our community with their 24 hour telephone helpline, but also the on-line information. The second thing to do is go up the chain of command at the welfare (Jobs and Family Services) until someone responds. I hear this complaint a lot about case workers not responding. It never makes any sense to me how they have kicked off thousands and thousands of people from the welfare roles, and yet the case workers on County payroll will not respond. What are they doing? The County is getting the same amount of money from the Feds/State for a much smaller case load today. If your case manager will not respond to get your niece child care go to his or her boss. If the supervisor will not respond keep going up the chain until you get to Joe Ganntner the Director.

My main message would be that it is not hopeless. Please do not give up. So many people just give up and never get the benefits that they have a right to as tax payers in this County. Persistence is the key. Just keep calling, and keep showing up, and keep demanding an answer. Eventually, the system will respond usually in your favor just to get rid of you. PLEASE DON'T GIVE UP!!!

Finally, make sure that you vote and you tell your elected officials how disappointed you are in the social safety net. The County Commissioners administrative staff will take down messages or you can ask to talk at the end of the Commissioner meetings on Thursdays. We have a lousy economy locally so thousands are in the same place as your niece, but that is no excuse for the inability to find help. Good luck and keep on fighting.

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