Saturday, February 23, 2008

Packing People in the Shelter

Lakeside Shelter is Overflowing

The FAA and Department of Homeland Security closed Aviation High School as the Overflow Shelter for homeless men in Cleveland on February 1, 2008. With the snow and the cold this week, how have homeless people faired since this decision was implemented? 2100 Lakeside shelter is bursting at the seams, and on Thursday February 21, 2008, 25 guys waited throughout the night for a bed to open. The plan put in place by the City and County as we prepared for the closing of Aviation High Overflow Shelter did not work. The sooner that they admit that their plans failed, the sooner homeless men will be able to sleep peacefully in a bed. It is bad enough carrying all your stuff around, sleeping in a shelter, and being homeless without having to sit up all night waiting for a bed in the land of plenty in the richest country on the planet.

A little history is in order here. 2100 Lakeside legally houses 385 people a night. As we have learned "if you build it they will come." The shelter was full the day it opened, and every time they put more beds into the facility the population increased. In 2003, while the shelter was under the direction of the Salvation Army, there were some nights that 600 people showed up seeking a bed. St. Ignatius and some of the other shelters offered hallway space to accommodate the overflow on a temporary basis. In 2004, Aviation High School opened as the overflow site housing between 135-220 people per night. The Crawford Aviation Museum talked about buying the building in 2005, but it remained a shelter.

In late 2005, the City was contacted from the federal authorities began putting pressure on the City to close the shelter out of terrorism concerns. The shelter bordered Burke Lakefront Airport, and there was concern for the safety of the airport with 150 unscreened people sleeping a few yards from the airport grounds. The City resisted federal concerns, and pushed back a series of deadlines for relocation. Why would a terrorist become homeless and sneak onto Burke Lakefront to steal the WKYC helicopter or the KeyBank Learjet? The final deadline imposed by the Federal government was January 31, 2008. After that date the City could not use the abandoned high school. The City and County had over one year to put in place a replacement plan for Aviation.

The County Office of Homeless Services took the lead, and did a lot of innovative things to replace the overflow. They forced the rest of the men's shelters to take people into their programs first from the Lakeside Shelter. They opened a series of permanent supportive housing, and provided additional housing vouchers. They opened North Point Transitional shelter in an old motel, which can house 160 people. North Point is a great idea that we should be proud of in our community, but it is not overflow. We opened beds at Oriana House, and tried to quickly move people out of Lakeside. All worthwhile efforts, but they do not address the problem of overflow. As I have always said, "if you build it they will come." If you improve the system (North Point) more people who were living on the margins of homelessness will show up.

So, the day after Aviation closed on Saturday Feb. 2, despite 160 people having moved over to North Point, Lakeside shelter was overflowing. The staff at the shelter had asked the City for 100 beds of overflow. The County granted them 30 spaces at the Volunteers of America, and told them to deal with it. Luckily, the City Mission stepped in and offered an additional 30 spaces. Even with 60 overflow spaces the shelter has had 10 days of people waiting for a bed to open in the hallway and cafeteria. As stated above there were 85 people over the legal limit on Thursday. Sixty were provided a cot or mat at Volunteers of America and the City Mission, as the two overflow sites. Twenty five people had to wait for people to get up in the middle of the night to go to work in order to get a bed. The plan is not working. City and County officials should have listened to the professionals working at the shelter or even the Homeless Congress and have provided 100 overflow beds. A County Commissioner or the Mayor needs to step in here and open a warehouse that we can put 100 cots at night as the overflow. We have plenty of vacant buildings. Put them to use! Sunday night is going to be rough for homeless men in Cleveland seeking shelter.

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

NEOCH Board Against Time Limited Shelters

Coalition Board Supports Homeless Congress

The NEOCH Board of Trustees at our February 21, 2008 meeting endorsed the policy statement passed by the Homeless Congress with regard to time limited shelters. That statement as passed by the Congress is:

There is a movement within the City and County to limit the time that a homeless person can stay at the publicly funded shelters in Cleveland. At this point, the two entry shelters, 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter and the Community Women’s Shelter, do not have a time limit on the length of stay. Every other shelter in the community has a time limit for length of stay. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless does not support the expansion of the time limits to include the two entry shelters. This policy statement came from the Homeless Congress who adopted this position at their January 2008 meeting. The Congress takes positions on issues in the community only if every member gathered at the monthly meeting agrees. NEOCH agreed at the February 2008 meeting to endorse the position of the Congress with regard to their opposition to time limits on the length of stay at the shelters. Congress and the Coalition Board members believe that until those who fund the shelters figure out how to pay for housing for people with a sexually based offense, a criminal background, chronic behavioral health conditions, and/or a substantial personal debt then it does not make sense to limit the time a person can stay in the shelters. Congress and NEOCH Board members are concerned that there are so many people who have huge barriers to stable housing that a time limit will only increase the number of people sleeping outside. We recommended that government officials work on increasing the supply of housing available for those re-entering from a corrections facility, those with huge debt problems, and those with an addiction instead of spending time on policies that will harm the homeless community.

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

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jackson Request for Federal Help

Mayor Wants a National Urban Initiative

I really like the request that the Mayor made to the Presidential candidates in exchange for his endorsement. This is exactly what every elected official should demand. For too long the feds have turned away from American cities. We need a major infusion of dollars to reclaim the 20 years of neglect. I saw Sicko and 60 Minutes tonight about how much better they have it in Europe. They have accepted that paying more in taxes so that everyone has a better standard of living. With a better standard of living, crime goes down. People are safer, and have more time for family and living in Europe. When are we going to change?

NEOCH is pushing for a National Housing Policy like we had back in the 1960s and 1970s. We are going to push the new President to adopt a National Housing Policy in the first 100 days of 2009. We need the federal government to care that millions in the United States cannot afford a place to live. We need the funds that only the Federal government can provide to solve homelessness. Is it greed? Is it guns over butter? Is it selfishness? This path can only lead to continued unrest and eventual collapse.

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

Homeless Foreclosure Story Goes National

Associated Press Story Today on Foreclosures

The Associated Press published a story today about the foreclosure crisis in Cleveland. A story by Tom Sheeran went out across the wires in the United States and was published in Chicago, DC, Detroit, and pretty much every city in the United States. It appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network here and SF paper here and Detroit here. It immediately shot our website traffic from about 122 a day to 800 today. We had as many people visiting our website in the first 17 days of February as we had in all of January.

I talked to a friend in Texas who could not understand this problem we face in Ohio. The foreclosure crisis is much different in the other parts of the country. Most of the foreclosures in Austin were in suburban, usually higher end neighborhoods, and far away from the homeless population. He said that the police would be quick to respond to a squatter in the areas where foreclosures are cropping up in Austin. It is so different in Cleveland. Almost every neighborhood has witnessed the devastation of foreclosed properties. The temptation of all these abandoned properties is too much. Any walk down the any street in Cleveland has obvious empty houses. There is no way that law enforcement or community groups can monitor all these properties. Foreclosures are really bad in Cleveland.

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

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hate Crimes Against Homeless People

New York Times Takes Up Hate Crimes

The New York Times on Thursday took up the issue of attacks on homeless people. The problem is especially acute in Florida, and the National Coalition has taken up the challenge by putting together a homeless curriculum as well as a Statewide VISTA program to educate young people against violence. Despite all the attacks, not one state has passed a homeless hate crimes bill. Five states rejected the idea in 2007. Ohio will take up the issue in 2008 with a bill introduced by State Representative Michael Foley.

We see the need for this bill after a heinous attack in January in Akron. According to the Plain Dealer, five individuals kidnapped a homeless person, burned the man, and assaulted him over two days. The victim, John Rice, spent three days in the hospital and will need continued medical treatment. One of the strange correlations is that the meaner the City is to homeless people the more likely that citizens will attack homeless people. Florida has repeatedly been selected by the National Coalition as one of the meanest states in the United States toward homeless people. The Coalition gave Akron an award last year as the Roadblock of the Year for their horrible panhandling law. It seems as though when a city passes a law at a specific population like homeless people, it is a signal to the citizens especially young people that it is open season on that group. It is almost like it is a signal to a disturbed, unstable, and frightened group that the municipal government will ignore crimes against this largely forgotten and isolated population residing on the streets of everyone of the major cities in the United States.

If you talk to your local Ohio State representative ask them to support HR 419, the homeless hate crimes bill. It would allow prosecutors to ask for additional penalties if a person is convicted of a hate crime against homeless people. Thanks.

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

Friday, February 15, 2008

Correction and Ione Biggs

Teach In and Biggs Award

The next Teach In is actually set for Thursday February 28, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. This is a 3 hour tour of homelessness in Cleveland and a chance to hear from people who have moved out of homelessness in Cleveland. The focus will be on those who are resistant to shelter. There is full description of the Stand Down at on our website. We had mistakenly listed it as next week.

Also, the Coalition is announcing today submissions for the Ione Biggs Social Justice Award. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless would like to recognize the amazing work of Ione Biggs and keep her legacy alive in Greater Cleveland. We have partnered with representatives from Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice, the Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Tenants Organization, Women’s Re-Entry Network, and the Church of the Covenant to select a representative to receive the Ione Biggs Award for outstanding contribution to advancing social justice in 2007 and to encourage others to follow in her footsteps. We intend to announce the winner of the award at the NEOCH Annual event “Help us End Homelessness” on May 2, 2008. This application is due to NEOCH by March 17, 2008. You may also submit your entry online through the NEOCH website.

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

Friday, February 08, 2008

Much to Do in the Next Month

Upcoming Events for the Coalition

The next Teach In is set for Wednesday February 20, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. This is a 3 hour tour of homelessness in Cleveland and a chance to hear from people who have moved out of homelessness in Cleveland. The focus will be on those who are resistant to shelter. There is full description of the Stand Down at on our website.

The Self Help Legal Clinic ribbon cutting is February 26, 2008 at 1 p.m. The Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program invites the public to the grand opening of the Pro Se Legal Assistance at the May Dugan Center. This clinic will allow those who are having a hard time finding a lawyer to take their case to go to the clinic and print out their legal proceeding and file the case on their own behalf. This pro se clinic can help with simple legal proceedings like a response to evictions, expungements, and divorce with no children. May Dugan Center is located at 4115 Bridge Ave. on the near west side of Cleveland. CHLAP offers a weekly legal clinic at the May Dugan Center every week, along with their clinics in the shelters they serve nearly 600 people a year.

An update on the Heading Home/County Trust Fund March 10, 2008 at 3:30 pm. The City/County organized a strategic plan for addressing the housing crisis in Greater Cleveland. The Coalition and the Cleveland Tenants Organization will host a public meeting to discuss the Heading Home implementation plan and the plans for finding funding for the development of affordable housing. We need your support and your assistance in implementing this important initiative. We will provide opportunities for involvement in the effort to start constructing new affordable housing units again. The meeting is March 10 at 3:30 p.m. at the Coalition offices in the third floor conference room. All are invited.

NEOCH is hosting the 3rd Annual Homeless Poetry Competition. As part of our Annual fundraiser, NEOCH hosts a competition to hear from local poets who have experienced homelessness. Anyone who has been homeless between March 2007 to March 2008 is welcome to submit a poem. Details are available through the Coalition at 216/432-0540. The winners will be announced at the NEOCH Annual fundraiser on May 2, 2008. Get your poems into the Coalition offices in the next month.

NEOCH is looking for local Photographers: We are also looking for photographers or those who want to learn how to be a photographer. We have an internship available for 7 photographers who will be trained on the art of photography and will receive a stipend, bus pass and a camera as part of the two month internship. Any homeless person with a physical or mental disability is welcome to apply through one of the local homeless shelters. The art will be displayed at two locations, and will be available at the Annual fundraiser. The images will be published in the Grapevine and will have the opportunity to sell the work and keep the profits. For more information call Teri’ at the Coalition.

Save the Date on the NEOCH Annual Fundraiser. Speaking of the fund raiser, mark your calendar for May 2, 2008 as the date for the NEOCH annual fund raising event. We will have details and ticket prices available in the next month.

NEOCH Annual Meeting is March 20 at 5:30 p.m. The Coalition will have a low key Annual Meeting to review the previous year and look forward with regard to the Coalition. The Annual Meeting will take place at the Coalition offices and will offer a light meal. Homeless individuals, members, key stakeholders in the community are invited to attend. You can meet the 2008-2009 Board of Trustees and find out ways to help the Coalition regroup after a tough year.

Training for Housing Cleveland website: In case you did not know, Cuyahoga County is the only place in Ohio with a fantastic all encompassing website of affordable housing available to rent. has 1,500 available units and has over 200 unique users everyday searching for housing. We will have a training for how to use the website on February 25, 2008 at 2:30 p.m. at NEOCH. The training is directed at tenants, potential tenants as well as community development organizations or neighborhood centers. All are welcome to attend. To RSVP please call Mike at the Cleveland Tenants Organization at 216/432-0617 or the Coalition.


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

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bad Times in Cleveland

What if We Had a Recession and No One Noticed?

The Coalition, along with First Call for Help and the Cleveland Tenants Organization, presented to the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance on Monday. Three of the four horsemen of doom and gloom reported to local housing advocates on the state of poverty. (Dana from Hunger Network--the fourth horseman of doom was not part of the event, because that would be too depressing for one meeting.) As Steve Wertheim from First Call for Help said, this is the worst he has seen things in Cleveland in his 30 years of work. Mike Piepsny from Cleveland Tenants Organization talked about the evictions in the community and the large number of people who pay nearly 50% of their monthly income on rent in the community. I distributed and talked about the State of Homelessness report full of depression and stunning statistics.

After sitting through the meeting and hearing all the negative trends in the community, I had to wonder how much worse could it get? I kept wondering that we might miss this whole recession because we have fallen as far as we can fall. Our housing has collapsed; we lost a majority of our manufacturing jobs; and we have a higher than average number of uninsured. Do we have a blank canvas on which to build? One bad sign from this weekend...the main shelter needed overflow even with North Point Transitional opening with 160 new beds.

Aviation High School, which houses between 100 and 160 people a night, closed on Friday. It was the beginning of the month when many people have money to pay for a place to stay with friends, and traditionally the smallest number of people sleeping in the shelters for the month. It was not especially cold and North Point opened, offering space for 160 people. Everything pointed to at least a little breathing room for the shelter at 2100 Lakeside. But even with all these things working for the shelter, they still had to have people sleep on the mats and had to bus people over to the Volunteers of America and City Mission. This is going to be a rough few months if we need overflow on the first weekend without Aviation. I thought we would make it until the last week of February, but the lesson we have never learned in this community is that if you build it they will come. Every improvement to the shelter system has resulted in more people seeking help. We all hope that this does not push the County to end guaranteed access to shelter.

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

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stand Down 2008

Homeless Attend Health Fair at Cleveland Convention Center

On Friday February 1, 2008 at the Cleveland Convention Center over 600 homeless people attended one of the largest Health and Human Services fairs in our history. We should have final numbers in two weeks, but it was packed Friday. The Convention Center is a great place for the event, and we thank them for all their help. There were 60 providers including 20 health care providers on site. Haircuts and massage specialists. Great food from Catholic Charities, and nearly every shelter were a vital part of this year's event. In the picture, you can see Leonard Spence registering people to vote. We registered 21 people to vote. (Yes, homeless people do vote!) NEOCH also signed up 23 people with new voice mail telephone numbers.

It was a great event this year, and there will be plenty more photos in the next Grapevine. Gospel artist Jeff Major attended and then did a concert at the Word Church. Radio One did a large amount of free advertising of the event, and we had help from the County, City of Cleveland, Salvation Army, Veterans Administration, Cosgrove Center, Trinity Cathedral, Lakeside Shelter, and InterAct Cleveland. There are two more smaller events coming over the next two weeks. InterAct is still looking for a few volunteers for the Stand Down on President's Day. Special thanks to Pam, Megan, and Sr. Donna from InterAct, Nicole from Cosgrove, Kathy and Karil from the Department of Public Health, Rosemary from County Office of Homeless Services, Josh and Larry from NEOCH, Toni from the VA, and Dorothy from Divine Outreach Ministry for all their work in planning this event.

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