Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ohio Needs a Homeless Hate Crimes Bill

Hate Crime Against Homeless Report released today

Rep. Foley's bill made national news today in the USA Today. The national hate crimes report was released today and can be downloaded from the National Coalition for the Homeless website. NEOCH helped put this report together, which showed Ohio is the fourth most dangerous state in the United States for homeless people. Please do not read it cover to cover. The brutality and depravity of some of our nation's young people will turn your stomach. We hope this is a call to action for Ohio state legislators to add homeless people to the state hate crimes statute and pass Foley's bill. We hope that the County prosecutors drop their opposition to this bill. If any other minority or religious group was being targeted at this level, there would be a national outcry and immediate legislation passed at a national level.

There was also a nice profile of a local homeless individual, Eugene Clemons, targeted two weeks ago by a group of thugs on the East Side of Cleveland in today's Plain Dealer. I have a hard time understanding how a veteran who served his country and worked a full day of work is beaten to the point of being hospitalized by a group of young people. We did not identify this gentleman in this blog because he did not give us permission. I have been looking for him for a couple of weeks. I am glad that the Plain Dealer caught up with him. The Cleveland Police Chief did respond to our letter complaining about the police not taking a report. Summer is the worst time for hate crimes against homeless people, and we need to meet with the new Third District (old fifth district) commander to talk about this disturbing trend.

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

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mike Foley to Headline NEOCH Dinner

State Representative Foley is Keynote Speaker of NEOCH Dinner and Auction on May 2, 2008

Mike Foley, former director of the Cleveland Tenants Organization will be the Keynote speaker for the May 2, 2008 Dinner: "Partnering to End Homelessness." The Auction and Dinner are at GESU Family Center at 6:30 p.m. at 2490 Miramar Boulevard across from John Carroll. You can RSVP through our website, and even pay for your tickets online. We will give out the Ione Biggs Award for Social Justice as well as announce the winner of the fourth annual poetry contest winners. There are some fantastic items donated by local businesses and non-profits to be auctioned off at our seventh annual dinner and auction. We hope that you can join us.

If you have any questions, call Teri' Horne at 216/432-0540 ext. 101.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Community Meeting: Housing Trust Fund

Mary Brooks Comes to Cleveland to Talk About Developing a Housing Trust Fund

On May 8, 2008 at 3 p.m. a the NEOCH/CTO conference room, we will have invited guest Mary Brooks from the Center for Community Change in Washington DC. She is an expert on the development and use of Housing Trust Funds, and has assisted communities like Franklin County and the State of Ohio with the development of a dedicated revenue source to build affordable housing. We are having a meeting earlier in the day with the County Commissioners. This meeting will set a time line and assign tasks to bring on additional allies. All are welcome to attend this critical meeting to work toward a $10 million resource to build additional housing in the community.

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

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Foreclosure to Homelessness

National Homeless Report Calls For ACTION to Break the Foreclosure to Homelessness Cycle

, DC
– The National Coalition for the Homeless released a report today forecasting an increase in homelessness due to the foreclosure crisis. The report, Foreclosure to Homelessness: the Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis, summarizes the findings of a national survey of state and local homeless coalitions conducted in winter 2008 to ascertain whether their communities were seeing an increase in homelessness due to the foreclosure crisis.

Among the survey findings:

  • 61 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in homelessness in their communities since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007.
  • Respondents reported a variety of living arrangements among the newly homeless victims of the foreclosure crisis, including stays with family and friends, in emergency shelters, and on the streets.
The report criticizes state legislatures and Congress for their inattention to homelessness prevention initiatives in their response to the foreclosure crisis. “Nearly forgotten in the foreclosure crisis are the thousands of homeowners and renters who have become homeless once their equity is exhausted,” said Bob Erlenbusch, President of the National Coalition for the Homeless. ”We hope this report will sound an alarm and inspire policymakers to take proactive measures that prevent more Americans from falling from foreclosure to homelessness.” The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is reporting a 40% increase from 2006 to 2007 in the number of homeless children seeking help from the Homeless Children and Youth Program, and they are attributing part of this increase to the foreclosure crisis.

Among the policy recommendations offered by NCH to break the foreclosure to homelessness cycle is an infusion of funds into the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program, a highly effective program already in place to provide rental and mortgage assistance to persons at risk of homelessness. At the request of NCH and other organizations, Congress is now considering action on this recommendation as part of foreclosure relief measures.

Foreclosure to Homelessness: the Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis
, is available on the NCH web site at www.nationalhomeless.org on the front page.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is the oldest national organization advocating with and on behalf of persons experiencing homelessness. Our mission is to end homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless engages in public education, policy advocacy, and grassroots organizing. We focus our work in the areas of housing justice, economic justice, health care justice, and civil rights. Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is a Cleveland area advocacy organization working to amplify the voice of homeless people.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Are We Creating Angry Machines?

How Long Will We Pay for Iraq?

While I was in DC, I talked to a Vietnam veteran who was trying to get people to listen to his warnings about what we all need to be prepared for with the returning Iraq War veterans. He said that his one year tour of duty in Vietnam messed him up for a couple of years after he came home, and he became homeless for a period of time in the 1970s. The blood, the life-and-death decisions, the tension, the sleep deprivation, the pressure, the explosions, the horror of war are overwhelming to one's mind.

This war with many of the same issues as Vietnam, an insurgency using any means necessary to defend their home against outside aggressors, is certain to screw up many of our soldiers. The difference is that we no longer have one-year tours. We have 15 month tours and the stop loss program can send people back into the theater repeatedly. Has anyone planned for the cost of mental health, housing, and health care for the these soldiers? My friend in DC worried that we were creating "monsters" who will not be able to function in society. Every car backfiring or hostile driver, or family conflict is a potential explosive situation. Already, we have had veterans murdering their spouses and veterans crawling into drain pipes to die. How many will become homeless because of the extended tours of duty? How many will need lifelong mental health counselling because of the stop loss? I fear that this war and its consequences will make the aftermath of Vietnam look like a cake walk.

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

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hate Crime Against Homeless in Cleveland

System Failed One Homeless Man

Last Saturday, a homeless guy was sitting near the freeway overpass on Superior Ave. on a milk crate. He was not bothering anyone, just enjoying the first nice weekend of the year in Cleveland. He was attacked by a group of young people who beat him for five minutes with a board with nails in it. He stumbled over to the Lakeside Shelter, and collapsed.

The worst part is how this homeless guy was mistreated by the system. The Police refused to take a report because the guy did not know his attackers. MetroHealth treated his broken wrist, but not the leg wounds from the nails. He was discharged almost immediately despite his open wounds. Those wounds are now infected and he needs almost round-the-clock care. Beaten by a group of disturbed individuals, then violated by the police and finally kicked to the curb by the hospital. A day in the life.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is it Charitable to Make People Suffer?

Change of Fortune… FOR THE WORSE!

For those of you unaware of the situation, we here at NEOCH have run afoul of a “charitable” organization known as Change of Fortune Foundation. This foundation is a program of Skyline Financial Group based in sunny LA, an investment and MORTGAGE COMPANY. The beginnings are outlined in this Free Times article from June 29, 2007 (scroll down to “Help From Above”):

If you don’t feel like reading it, the short version is these big wigs from California showed up in little old Cleveland to buy up homes and give them to homeless families rent-free so they can get back up on their feet. They had bought four houses for four families and planned to have 10 families moved in by the end of 2007. In addition, the families would receive free investment, financial, and job training.

However, that article was written in June 29, 2007, and could therefore only report on what the Change of Fortune Foundation said they were going to do. What they actually did, after they were out of sight of the cameras and reporters, was give keys to only three families. Here’s how this worked out:

  • The first family, LaTosha Hanna’s family, was given keys to a home with a broken furnace, missing windows, and broken locks.
  • The second family was given keys to an unlivable house with a broken furnace, busted water pipes, and missing windows. This family NEVER MOVED IN to the house due to the problems and wound up finding housing on their own.
  • The third family we don’t know much about, but we do know this:
    • the third family to receive keys was not the homeless family that was selected by the mayor’s office to live there, and
    • the third family is PAYING RENT.

Luckily, the Free Times revisited the situation recently and published a new article about the goings-on. Please check it out here (scroll down to “No Good Deed”):

Anyways, now that you’re caught up, I wanted to offer some response to Skyline’s remarks in the article as well as some personal insight into the Big Wigs of foundation who are acting more like the Three Stooges.

The rent-free window is supposed to pad savings, [Ken Miller of Change of Fortune] says, allowing tenants to build the financial wherewithal to fix credit problems [Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

That’s funny, didn’t you say you were going to provide help in fixing credit and financial problems originally?

[Change of Fortune CEO Gene Parker] also is commited [sic] to helping [the families] get back into the game of life with; job training, credit repair, investing. [Change of Fortune Press Release, June 18, 2007]

Whoops. It looks like you did make that promise, albeit in a grammatically incorrect way. In Change of Fortune’s defense, they aren’t very savvy in the ways of the normal world.

So, why aren’t they doing anything? Well, they respond to that with:

Change of Fortune had hoped that minor problems with the houses would be covered by the new tenants. [Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

I was taken aback by this, because when I asked them why they were not making repairs, they informed me that I was a clown. They seem to have taken a different strategy in responding to that question when speaking with a member of the press, which, in retrospect, is probably a wise decision.

However, we’ve been asking Change of Fortune for months about making these repairs, and not once did they say, “We were hoping LaTosha would take care of it.” Instead, they usually told us, “We’ll get on it… let me get back to you… we’re sending someone out right now to take care of it.” Not that expecting a struggling homeless single mother with a sick child to make repairs that they should’ve made before they gave it to her is admirable, but at least letting us know that they expected Ms. Hanna to make the repairs instead of giving her false hope that "Change of Fortune" staff were about to make those repairs any moment now would’ve probably been a better strategy.

"Some people, they want a big screen and not just a TV," Miller says. [Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

LaTosha never asked for any TV, let alone a big screen TV.

They want a mansion and not just a house.” [Ken Miller, Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

LaTosha never asked for a mansion, just someone to keep his word.

“We've bent over backwards to make sure LaTosha had a home.” [Ken Miller, Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

Here is their definition of bending over backwards:

  • October 28 – November 10
    • Ken Miller received a phone call almost every day letting him know LaTosha Hanna’s furnace was not working and that the water company is going to shut off Ms. Hanna’s water because of a past due bill from before she moved in. He did not return these calls.
  • November 16
    • Change of Fortune pays some of the past due water bill, but not all.
    • Ken Miller is informed that LaTosha found someone on her own to fix the furnace.
  • November 17
    • Change of Fortune arrives at LaTosha’s home in order to see what needed to be fixed. Nothing is fixed, but they do make the following promises:
      • the windows will be fixed,
      • the locks will be fixed,
      • a screen door will be installed
      • a motion light for the backyard will be installed.
  • November 18 – January 20
    • Nothing is done.
  • January 21
    • LaTosha’s lawyer sends a letter to Change of Fortune demanding the repairs to be made in 30 days.
  • January 22 – February 19
    • Nothing is done.
  • February 20
    • Change of Fortune shows up at LaTosha’s house and tell her they will find someone to make the repairs.
  • February 21 –
    • Nothing is done.

Perhaps I’m a little “old school”, but where I come from, “bending over backwards” for somebody implies that you actually do something. Saying you’re going to do something does not actually get that thing done. You don’t just make declarations, there’s a whole process involved after you declare what you’re going to do, and it usually involves doing what you declare. Really, you can do almost anything, just as long as what you’re doing isn’t nothing. If you’re doing nothing, you’re doing it wrong.

“Very seldom do I get a call and it's like, ‘Hey, thanks, I'm going to school now.'” [Ken Miller, Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

You didn’t get that call because LaTosha isn’t going to school now, nor has she received any help from Change of Fortune in her attempts to return to school. Do people usually call you and thank you for things you had nothing to do with? If so, I can understand why you’re so disappointed no one’s called you about returning to school. I never get a call from anyone about school, either. I understand your pain.

“It's, ‘Hey, there's a knob that needs to be fixed' or something.” [Ken Miller, Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

All the knobs in the house work fine. Do you even listen to us when we call? We have never said anything about broken knobs.

"What happened is, all the resources under Change of Fortune, with all the repairs that had to be made, had become exhausted," Miller says. [Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

So, all the resources of a self described “financial empire” [Change of Fortune Press Release, June 18, 2007], all the resources that were intended to be used to house 10 families by the end of 2007, were exhausted half-repairing one house for one family. I would love to see an itemized list of expenses next to the moneys they set aside for rehabilitating 10 houses for 10 families for 2 years. Either they were building these houses from the ground up out of solid gold wood or they just set aside a shot glass of dollars out of the bathtub of moonshine that is their financial empire.

"We went to get other nonprofits involved to assist us to make this work, but they didn't want to help." [Ken Miller, Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

You needed money and you went to nonprofits? A MORTGAGE COMPANY needed money, so they went to not just any nonprofits, but nonprofits in Cuyahoga County, the foreclosure capital of the nation and one of the poorest communities in the US? Of course they didn’t help. If I walked down to LMM’s 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter and said, “Hey, Duane [the director], I’m gonna give free homes to all your clients, but I don’t have any money, so can you give me money to do it?” of course he is gonna say no. If we had the money to put homeless people in houses, we’d be doing it already.

"But we'll do a better job during the selection process from now on," [Ken Miller] adds [Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008]

You didn’t have anything to do with the selection process. The clients were chosen by Bridging the Gap and the City of Cleveland. Perhaps instead of “we’ll do a better job during the selection process” you should reword it to “we’ll do the selection process.”

and yes, that's a dig at Hanna, whom [Ken Miller] says has "just been totally unreasonable" [Cleveland Free Times, April 9, 2008].

Change of Fortune apparently defines totally unreasonable as a single mother living alone with her young daughter asking to have locks on her home. A group that said, “It is unconscionable that men, women and children are living in shelters,” [Change of Fortune Press Release, June 18, 2007] also finds it unreasonable that homeless families should live somewhere safe.

These guys really irk me. It’s not enough that they’re totally taking advantage of a vulnerable single mother, but they have to have really annoying personalities to boot. Whenever I listen to them talk, I feel like I’m at a medicine show. They flew in with free gifts, and we accepted the gifts on behalf of our client and expected that these businessmen would live up to their words.

In the end, all that’s important is that these repairs get made so LaTosha and her daughters can move on and begin to get their lives back in order. If anyone out there in cyberland wants to help out, the number for Skyline Financial Group, the parent organization of Change of Fortune, is 818.716.3610.

The CEO is Gene Parker III. He’s the one who signed LaTosha’s lease. Please call and remind him that LaTosha Hanna still needs locks and her windows fixed. He doesn’t respond to either myself or LaTosha, so maybe you’ll have some luck. Also, ask him if he switched the water bill into Change of Fortune’s name like he’s supposed to. I know he said he was going to, but he said a lot of things. Finally, ask him to keep his promises on all the City of Cleveland by offering free housing to homeless people.

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

Monday, April 14, 2008

No COHHIO Conference for Me

Researchers Lead Us Down the Wrong Path

There is such a limited amount of research about homelessness in the United States that a few good papers will get you a long distance on the public dole. Dennis Culhane from the University of Pennsylvania is one of those researchers who actually took the time to figure out where homeless people were coming from and how long they stayed homeless. This was very useful information, but the conclusions drawn by Mr. Culhane were far off base. Culhane did research in NYC and Philly, two cities that have very little in common with Cleveland or Toledo, and nothing in common with Lorain or Sandusky, Ohio. He has parlayed this research into regular gigs with federal agencies and speaking engagements around the country. All of us in the field have to pay for his sketchy science.

Every agency funded by the federal government now has to try to count homeless people coming in the door no matter how bad the undercount or the infringement on the privacy rights of our clients. We have to do a one day count that has no basis in reality. Think of the the "guess the jellybeans in the jar" game. We have to bear the bulk of the costs of all these distractions taking us away from actually getting people housing at the local level. The Culhane research brought us the terribly expensive Permanent supportive housing option, which we talked about in December and NEOCH has a policy paper that the Coalition published about the problems with supportive housing. In the end, we are no closer to ending homelessness in America then we were 20 years ago.

The basis of the Culhane theory is that by removing those who have been homeless for long periods of time, the community can save 60-80% of their resources. This is a great theory on paper, but in real life it does not work. If we could just save the excess water dumped on Northwest Ohio and transfer it to drought stricken Atlanta, all would be right with America. This theory does not work with weather and it will never work for people. But Culhane is milking this theory for all it is worth. How does this play out in the local community? Our shelters are starved of cash to the point that they are all closing. Public housing has had to cut all of their supportive services and has no money to renovate their buildings for years. There is no money to house poor people or families because all of our resources go to those disabled individuals who have been homeless for years.

I will not be attending the COHHIO conference featuring the ivory tower theories of Dennis Culhane. We slog through every day trying to clean up the messes made by researchers living 1 million miles from the streets of Cleveland.

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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What is Happening to Homeless in America?

National Coalition for the Homeless Meeting in DC

First, just two weeks ago we identified Alphonso Jackson as the worst HUD Secretary in history. Today, the Washington Post had a front page story on how bad the HUD Secretary was as he exits this week. Check out Jackson's improper emphasis on homeownership, while easing scrutiny of mortgages. Maybe this colossal failure will force HUD to return to the safe rental housing, but I doubt it. Home ownership is the American dream, and people vote for dreams no matter the costs.

I was in DC last week for the cherry blossoms and the National Coalition meeting. The best part of the meeting is going around the room to find out what is happening in the local communities. I have to say that even though Anita from Georgia was not able to make the meeting, Atlanta is certainly one of the worst places for homeless people in the United States (besides New Orleans). In fact, having visited there last year I have to believe that Atlanta is the future New Orleans. They are at war with poor people, and have eliminated almost every shelter and now working on eliminating public housing. When you isolate poor people and the City is struck by tragedy (a lack of water, tornado, fire, terrorist attack, etc.) hits the city, low income people suffer disproportionately. [Photo by Kevin Cleary from Cosgrove Center in Cleveland].

Here is a rundown of things going on around the country:
Baltimore: The Mayor of Baltimore is putting extra effort into addressing homelessness. She shows up at the shelters unannounced. She volunteers at the shelters with her senior staff, and has started to make progress with a planning process, a push for advocacy, and two replacement shelters.

South Carolina: More barriers put in place by the State legislature to building affordable housing. New rules based on NIMBY issues. They passed a Housing Trust Fund, but

Virginia: Advocates concerned about the new rules for the homeless mentally ill in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Los Angeles: The biggest concentrated disaster area in the country for homeless people has to be Skid Row Los Angeles with thousands of homeless people sleeping outside every night. In response police are cracking down on "quality of life infractions" by issuing 15,000 jaywalking tickets last year. City officials have rejected the 10 year plan because it was based on "need," which they determined to be unreasonable. They want a re-write the plan based on the number of resources available.

Kansas: Still working on a planning process, and have developed a few new housing resources in Wichita.

Arizona: Phoenix has a foreclosure crisis that is out of control. Tuscon has seen an increase in hate crimes against homeless people. The state is in such financial crisis that they are proposing stealing money from the State Housing Trust Fund to offset their expected $1.7 billion deficit.

Colorado: Denver is making progress on the development of permanent supportive housing goals, and they are committed to not disrupting the lives of homeless people during the Democratic political convention in 2008. They opened a 20 bed facility for vets using tax credit financing, and have recently built 100 units of new housing.

Austin, TX: They are looking at opening a park with tents, mobile homes, and other entry type housing opportunities to ease people back into permanent housing. This is an interesting experiment that we will have to keep an eye on. I have never seen this type of mixed housing sharing a space.

Minnesota: Advocates are working on funding their permanent supportive housing goals, but they want their projects to include families. Ohio needs a similar plan.

DC: They are working on a Housing First fund. One of the bigger shelters is closing down after the loss of a separate shelter last year.

Jeffersonville IN: They are suffering under large numbers of foreclosures, and people coming to the shelters in need of help. They have made some progress in coving the uninsured in Indiana. Jeffersonville was rocked by the suicide of a local Iraq War veteran who fled South and crawled into a drainage ditch in Florida and died because of symptoms associated with PTSD.

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reserve a Space for the Annual Event

Your Seat Awaits You

Dear Friend of NEOCH:

We would love if you would attend our annual event "Partnering to End Homelessness" by reserving a seat from our website. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless made it through a rough year. Come celebrate with our Board of Trustees the triumph of making it to 2008, as we detail our plans for long- term stability in our struggle to end homelessness. You can reserve your ticket or table at the Seventh Annual Dinner and Auction from our website at www.neoch.org under “Contact Us” .

The dinner and award ceremony is Friday May 2, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. at the GESU Family Center at 2490 Miramar Blvd. in University Hts. This is the only special event fundraiser for the Coalition all year. We need your support to maintain the important services offered by the Coalition including the Street Card, website, advocacy, Grapevine and Legal Assistance. The Partnering to End Homelessness event features a keynote speaker, the awarding of the Ione Biggs Award, a wonderful dinner, poetry and an auction.

Ticket prices are:

Corporate/Organizational Sponsor at $500 ($420 tax deductible)

Table of Friends $400 ($320 tax deductible)

Individual tickets are $50 ($40 tax deductible)

You can pay for your tickets with a credit card or Paypal account from the website using Network for Good services. Or if you prefer you can reserve your space from the website and pay by check through the U.S. mail. We would love to have you join us at this important event.


Teri’ Horne

Associate Director

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

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Homeless Congress Talk to Councilman Zone

Homeless Congress Talks About Shelters, Vacant Buildings and Overflow

We had a small crowd for the Homeless Congress meeting last week because of the ballgame going on at the same time. Approximately, two hundred or more homeless people work the game through clean up crews or the parking lot attendants at nearly every home Indians game. Despite the new name of the ballpark, indentured servants wait in the wings to clean up the beer and trash as the cheers fade away in the not-so-progressive field. We had about 15 homeless individuals, a couple of agencies, staff from Dennis Kucinich’s office, a representative from the County Office of Homeless Services advisory (the Homeless Book Club), and Councilman Matt Zone.

Councilman Zone was invited to the meeting (along with his 20 colleagues) to hear the concerns of homeless people over the conditions in the shelters and urge passage of the shelter standards bill in Cleveland. He heard an earful:

  • One woman said that she was told by the shelter staff to put her baby in the foster care system while she looks for housing. She did and now that she found housing, she was told that her babies were up adoption. Bad advice.
  • The men at Lakeside shelter are upset that when they visit family, go to the hospital or have to do a third shift job and they come back to find someone has taken their bed. This sounds reasonable to the world because we are not running a hotel here, but to the men the new person is unknown and coming into the community straight from the street. He could be drunk; he could be stealing items; he could be bring bedbugs. There is concern that the only way that 2100 Lakeside works with 400 guys is to divide the facility into six smaller shelters and force people to work and make milestones to move into the better communities. Sticking a guy who may have a prison mentality right into one of the higher communities even for a night, is a recipe for disaster. They want a reversal of this policy by creating sufficient overflow to address make this not necessary.
  • There were concerns about shelters throwing away a person’s identification.
  • There was concern about the training of staff who work at shelters and screening them for drugs and relapse issues among the staff.
  • One of the shelters has a massive bedbugs outbreak, and the men were concerned about the ability to sleep in a facility with bedbugs.
  • One other shelter primarily serves fragile populations of disabled and elderly men and does not have a defibrillator for heart attacks or the proper emergency equipment.
  • Finally, the women expressed concern about the hot water tank repeatedly breaking in the Community Women’s Shelter.

Councilman Zone listened to all the concerns and agreed to take the concerns back to Councilman Cimperman and the city administration to activate this committee and begin discussing the Shelter Standards in Cleveland.

Other issues that we discussed included a proposal by the Congress to look at the abandoned property in Cleveland, and look into how those buildings may be turned over to homeless people in a modern urban homesteading initiative. We are going to invite community development folks to the next meeting to talk about the issues.

The County staff could not attend so they sent current North Point director Ed Gamerchek as a representative of the poorly named Office of Homeless Services “Advisory” Board. I say, poorly named because they really do not advise anyone. He received the Homeless Congress concerns about time limits along with the similar concerns expressed by the Coalition. He came to assure the group that no time limits were being talked about, but there was a concern about the amount of time spent in the shelters by some individuals. It should be noted that this is an extremely small number (single digit percentage of the total) who spend more than one year in the men’s shelter. There was also concern that some people were rejecting available spaces in transitional shelters thus there are vacancies in the transitional facilities and overcrowded conditions in the emergency shelters. The men said that the problem was that the County needs to step up and demand the transitional shelters make it easier to get in, and there must be a safety net so that if you fail out of the transitional facilities you do not have to start over at the beginning of the emergency shelter without a locker or fixed bed. It takes a lot of time and patience to move through the system, but there are set backs in a person’s recovery and the guys do not want to have to go all the way back to the unsafe and disruptive entry system.

We thank Councilman Zone for coming and listening, and we hope that he and other Council members will continue to join us. Thanks to Ed for attending, and the other community members for their help. We should recognize Laurie Rokakis and Congressman Kucinich for bringing two gift baskets to the meeting in March that we raffled off during the meeting.


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