Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Lack of Collaboration

Unhelpful Websites

I was doing some searching various websites to see if there are negative or positive stories about the Coalition, and I noticed a few strange things. By looking at the websites it is clear that there is very little collaboration among the homeless service providers. One rare exception was not even a homeless service provider at all. We do not always see eye to eye with Downtown Cleveland Alliance, but at least they have the courtesy to put a link to the NEOCH website on their website about homelessness.

On the opposite extreme, I checked many of the other homeless social service providers in the community and I could not find one that linked to NEOCH. The worst was the County Office of Homeless Services barely mentions NEOCH (1 time), and never provides a link to our website. site. OHS does not provide a link to the housing website or the United Way First Call for Help website. There is very little helpful information on any of the homeless social services websites especially anything that might be useful to homeless people.

The Downtown Alliance talks about the Grapevine and provides a link to NEOCH on their Homeless Education Page. The County Office of Homeless Services did a complete change of their website (no link--go find it yourself), and did not include one mention of the NEOCH website. This is strange since we coordinate the outreach for the community, we produce the Street Card--one page guide to homeless people on available services, and we have our most popular part of the website--the schedule of where lawyers are staffing clinics in the shelters. We are five of the top 10 search results for "cleveland homeless" on Google, and have 3,000 unique users a month to our website. NEOCH staff and board regularly complain and criticize the County for their slow response to the problems faced by homeless people, but why not provide a link so that homeless people can get off the streets?

I checked Hitchcock Center, Volunteers of America, Y-Haven, West Side Catholic, Salvation Army, and Mental Health Services websites. On all of those site there were only two mentions of the Coalition and no links. We all think that what we do is the most important thing in the community, but the Street Card lists every service available to homeless people and is updated every year. It seems that the providers would want to provide access to a one page guide to homelessness. Since the public libraries are busiest drop in centers for homeless people in our community, there are a great many web surfing homeless people. Most of the emergency shelters kick people out during the day and a large number of the 1,200 homeless people sleeping in the emergency shelters go to the air conditioned, comfortable libraries in our community.

Of course one of the best resources in the community is the 211/First Call for Help website. You can find every homeless service provider, and nearly every social service provider in the community on those sites. The 211 website combined with the Housing Cleveland website provide all the information that anyone might need to get off the streets. It is a shame that the County does not support these two valuable resources with all that they need, and they do not even provide a link from their Office of Homeless Services website.

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

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Homeless Coalition Updates

Photo appearing in the new Grapevine #84 by 2008 Photography student Cheryl Jones.

After Four Months--Grapevine is Available

The Grapevine was forced to take a break, but we are back on track. We have a bunch of new vendors and the new paper is out. Available downtown, and at the West Side Market. We had to take a break and re-group, but things are looking good. There are some great photos in the new paper from students taking the 2008 Photo class. There are stories about North Point Shelter, and a few stories about homelessness across America. There is one interesting story about the City of San Francisco passing a shelter standards bill. The Grapevine has a few sad stories about hate crimes in Ohio and those who had passed away in 2007. Check it out.

We had a nice Teach In this week. The next Teach In is set for September 16, 2008 and will focus on voting and identification issues at 5:30 p.m. We will have an ability to RSVP on our website in June.

The new Street Cards are out and available on our website. We have distributed 4,000 so far. Thanks to University Hospital for printing this year's Street Card. In case you are not familiar this is a one page piece of paper that lists all the services available to homeless people right from the streets. We have published 18 updates of the street cards over the years. saw a huge increase in users over the last month. This must have something to do with the large number of foreclosures in Cleveland, but the housing search website saw over 1,700 more searches done this year over last. We have doubled the number of unique users from the same period as last year. In the last month, 6,517 unique users made over 50,000 searches on the website--a new record.

In a similar story, the Plain Dealer covered the story today of the dramatic increase in homeless children using the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. We are so lucky to have Project ACT in our community. Imagine everything in your world collapses including your housing, but Project ACT is there to make sure that your school situation does not have to change.

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

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Question About Blog Ethics

We Got a Call from Tom Meyer

Two weeks ago, WKYC broadcast a terribly distorted "investigation" about EMS runs to 2100 Lakeside Shelter. We took Tom Meyer's to task for exaggerating the importance of this story and the offensive mention of sexually based offenders for no apparent reason. We also sent a note to the News Director of WKYC. Now for the ethical quandary--Tom Meyers called to respond. Do we print what Meyer said on with his call in the blog if we did not discuss publicizing his call? The broadcast was public, and our concern was public, so do people have a right to know about Tom Meyer's reply since the station has decided not to issue a correction? He has to know that NEOCH publishes the Homeless Grapevine, and he never said that his call was off the record. If the reporter code is you must tell a reporter in advance that your comments are "off the record," and the reporter must accept those terms, does that code apply to anytime a reporter talks to you? Besides, we are the homeless advocacy organization in Cleveland, and he never gave us a chance to respond to his one-sided story.

So, I will go ahead, and if he complains we can take this down or apologize. Needless to say, Meyer did not see my point of view. He said that he stood by the story and since I was the only one to complain he was not going to apologize. He specifically said that he was not doing stories just to please me. Thank God, since I do not watch any local news. I was told by a colleague that there was a "hit piece" on Channel 3 the night before. Thanks to the marvels of the internet I could watch this story online. Meyer was concerned that we had not written the note to him first instead of involving his boss. Why would we reach out to the reporter who did not reach out to us?

Meyer said that the number of sexually based offenders was a fact, and so it was correct to put it in the story. He did not seem to understand my point that it was also a fact that one-third of the men are veterans or that 40% work regular jobs. Those are facts that he could have presented had he talked to the shelter staff. Meyer felt that the two sides of the story were both represented and they included EMS on one side and the City of Cleveland on the other. He did not think it was a good idea to shove a microphone in front of the shelter staff. I guess that the staff and shelter residents were just causalities caught in the crossfire. Meyer was proud that he had made it clear on camera that he was not saying that homeless people did not deserve health care or ambulance assistance, and felt that the story was relevant. He did not say why he had not mentioned the statistics for EMS runs or the on-going contract dispute.

Homeless people will not get an apology, and local news continues to slip in the abyss of fake news and ratings. I am so happy that sweeps week is over for a couple of months.

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

Monday, May 19, 2008

Youth Issues Discussed at NEOCH

Teach In -- Thursday of this Week

You can RSVP for a 3 hour discussion on homeless children and youth in the Cleveland area. This photo is from the last teach in, when we talked about homeless outreach efforts. We will meet at NEOCH at 5:30 p.m. on May 22, 2008 at the Coalition offices to participate in this forum. There is a presentation by a group of current or formerly homeless people, and presentations by a few agencies who serve homeless people.

You can call NEOCH or go to the website under Programs to reserve a space (

3631 Perkins Ave. Third Floor
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Homeless Book Club Meets

How is Your Government Handling Homelessness: TALK!

The poorly named "advisory" board of the Office of Homeless Services met this last week. This group has all the right people at the table, but they advise no one. They talk a great deal about homelessness, but rarely act. It is a good chance to get together every other month and talk about homelessness similar to homeless book club. Can you believe that your government convenes a meeting only every 60 days to address homelessness? If it is any comfort to you they do meet for two hours every 60 days.

Again, nothing was decided, but we did get to hear a few updates. They are moving closer to having all the big shelters in the database so that those numbers will actually make sense. Right now the numbers are useless, but that does not stop the Federal government from publishing the results and using those numbers to tell us that they are "solving" homelessness. We heard a misguided presentation by the State Disability advocates and their "Home For Good" campaign to find service dollars for the permanent supportive housing programs. We have discussed how supportive housing is oversold and a Hummer of a program when the community needs many Ford Festivas instead. It took real courage for the group to accept the recommendation to renew the funding for all the existing programs currently funded by the federal government.

There was some discussion of working on a Central Intake point, but this is a concept we can expect to see in 2018 since the County is in charge. We heard about the plans around hospital discharge--no mention of the horrible Channel 3 story. The most interesting part of the meeting was the update on North Point Transitional Shelter. Remember this was the facility opened January 15, 2008 because Aviation was closing. The experiment is now five months old with only one month left for the 160 residents who opened the place. Here are the numbers:

The demographics of the North Point population:
  • Only one-third of the men had one year of homelessness or more.
  • 66% were addicted
  • 55% had recent experience with the criminal justice system.
  • 25% had un-addressed child support issues.
  • Only 14% are veterans
Currently here are the statistics:
  • 71% are now working.
  • 14 are determined not to be able to work, and the shelter is looking to transfer them.
  • 5 have moved into housing
  • 16 were discharged mostly for violating rules.
  • 19 left on their own.
  • 15 have not been able to find a job.
  • Average income at this time is $8.75 (below the housing wage and the living wage).
  • They guess that 20-25 went back to Lakeside Shelter
What does this all mean? It is hard to find affordable housing even with a job. There are a number of people who were screened out of the program and they were kicked out or left on their own. This might have been because they had to select so many people in such a short period of time. The men are not finding jobs that will make it easy to find housing, and a lot of people will have to leave in June or ask for an extension. The one good piece of news is that the County agreed to give the men a year grace period in collecting child support payments while they get back on their feet.

The average number at Lakeside shelter was only 370 in April, down from 401 in March. The County hopes that a large number will be moving out of North Point in the next month so that there is no need for overflow at Lakeside. We shall see.

Update: East Side Catholic closed in December, and the Catholics turned off the heat, but not the water. So the pipes burst and the building is no longer usable. There are a few providers looking at filling the hole left by the East Side Catholic shelter serving 30 families, and now they will have to find a new building.

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

Take A Minute to Do a Survey

Homeless Coalition Wants Your Opinion

As you are aware, the Coalition nearly went out of business last year. We have recovered, but are working to figure out our role in the community with the help of a consultant. We want to make sure that we are positioned to find stable and reliable funding for the next five years while we work on addressing homelessness.

Dear NEOCH Friends:

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) is undergoing a planning process to develop a strong roadmap for the future of the organization. In order to best serve the community in the months and years ahead, we would appreciate your input into the planning process. We ask that you take a few minutes to complete a brief survey by June 3, 2008. To access the survey please copy and paste the following link into your browser or just click on this:\?sm=2qKjGMMzuavZTna_2b6tcoBw_3d_3d.

Most sincere thanks,

Janus Small, Janus Small Associates
NEOCH Planning Facilitator

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Laugh In Writer Passes

Jack Hanrahan, writer and harmonica player, stayed at Lakeside Shelter

Jack Hanrahan, quite a notable homeless person from the streets of Cleveland, passed away a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been ashamedly busy to make note of it on here until now. However, I knew Jack Hanrahan a little, and I wanted to talk about his passing here so perhaps others can get to know him a little. Like I said, I didn’t know him well, but I really enjoyed the little time we spent together.

When I first met Jack Hanrahan, I was performing at the 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter. He asked if he could play harmonica with me while I played guitar, and I let him. He played really well and I stopped to talk with him for a little while after the show.

When he first told me his name, I thought he said his name was Jack Hammerhand. I was thoroughly impressed with such a barbaric moniker and knew that at least the name would make him unforgettable if not his harmonica playing. However, this character turned out to be filled with more depth than I would have a chance to explore.

He told me he used to write for the Care Bears cartoon show, and I humored him. I meet lots of people in my line of work, and I occasionally come across people who make various preposterous claims. I figured, who am I to judge? If I said, “You’re lying!” and it turned out he did write for the Care Bears cartoon show, I would look like a fool.

Well, I would’ve been quite the fool, because it turned out I was making music with one of the writers on the Care Bears cartoon show. On top of that, he was a writer for Laugh-In, Heathcliff, Get Smart, Inspector Gadget, Snorks, Tom and Jerry, Sonny and Cher, Captain N, and the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. I stood face to face with the architect of my treasured childhood memories and I didn’t even realize it.

All notoriety aside, he was a wonderful man to talk with and get a good raspy laugh out of. He said he would make me famous and that he still had connections in Hollywood, but I never took him up on it. I’m not so sure if he really could’ve made myself or anyone famous, but honestly, nothing about that man would ever surprise me now. He was the hypnotist on Repossessed, a not very remarkable Leslie Nielson vehicle that I used to watch religiously in my youth, and I couldn’t see through the weary world scars to that character that sits in some pleasant valley in my memory bank. If you told me he was the one who introduced Aerosmith to Run DMC, not the least mark of surprise would cross my face.

Anyways, I just wanted to thank the man for filling my youth with television characters and moments that are the very essence of nostalgia. Few things move me like nostalgia, and little did I know that in my 29th year I would meet the very chimney that sent my childhood nostalgia along the wind and into the world.

Thank you, Jack. You used the world as your canvas for a short time, and many including myself are the better for it. You will be missed.

Joshua Kanary

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board

PS: There was a memorial for Hanrahan this past weekend organized by his friends.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Good CAHA Meeting

Good Information About the State of Cleveland

The Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance Meeting from last week was one of the better meetings. We had David Cooper from the Cleveland Department of Building and Housing, who went through the gruesome details facing the city. Cooper talked about the City's efforts to manage this crisis by taking down 950 buildings last year compared to 220 in 2006. The City is estimating 8,000 to 10,000 structures abandoned. They are working on search warrants in order to enter houses with questionable ownership to determine who is responsible for maintaining these properties. The City has put up another $6 million for this year. Last year, with the assistance of Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland spent $9 million to take down houses. The Department has created an Operation Efficiency Task force to make sure that they are boarding and taking down properties in an efficient manner with coordination of all other City Departments. The City has boarded up 1,860 properties in the first four months of this year.

The City Department of Building and Housing averages $8,500 to demolish a building. The one benefit of the crisis is that Cleveland is getting a pretty good deal to demolish a house. Simple economic theory says that with volume comes economies of scale, and cheaper prices to take down these homes. Wards 5, 12, 10, and 14 are the hardest hit.

CMHA also gave a presentation on the state of affairs when they are being funded at 83% of what everyone agrees is the cost of running the agency. They have 8,700 units occupied, which is the highest number since 1989. CMHA has about 1,500 move outs every year and 6,700 people on the waiting list. 60% of those waiting are waiting for a one bed room apartment, because the housing authority has designated 29% of their units for those 50 and over. With welfare reform, now only 4% of the total CMHA households receive cash assistance as their main source of income. 20% are employed and 21% receive a disability check as their primary income. 23% have no income at all. There are 17,000 total people living in a CMHA properties throughout the community. The Housing Authority was represented by Scott Pollack who went through all the current modernization development projects to keep their units in good working order. The Housing Authority gets knocked, but they actually perform a vital function as a key agency in preserving our critical infrastructure. I wish that they would get rid of their senior only (50 and over) housing, but otherwise they do a good job with shrinking resources. We should all make this a high priority to restore CMHA funding for next year.

Finally, Steve Wertheim came to report on final results from 2007. There were 148,100 calls made in Cuyahoga County to First Call for Help. The two biggest reasons for calling were requests for help with utility bills at 14,900 calls and information about the local food pantry at 14,600 calls. Homeless shelters (11,100 calls) and foreclosure assistance (7,900 calls) were the next largest number of calls. Home rental listings rounded out the top five with 5,700 calls and job finding assistance was close behind with 4,300 calls.

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

Thursday, May 08, 2008

WKYC Slams Lakeside Shelter

Tom Meyer Presents One-Side of the Story

WKYC-TV, normally a decent local television news program, presented a one-sided story last night about homeless people. I know that local television news are only out for ratings and focus their energy on sex, blood, violence, and scandals so what should we expect? My experience is that WKYC is usually a step above the low bar set by television news, but last night was a low point for these guys. What happened to presenting the other side of the story? What happened to talking to homeless people or homeless advocates or even the shelter directors that you have defamed? What happened to journalistic standards? Tom Meyer should be ashamed of himself for presenting such a distorted fairy tale.

For background, the story was about the large number of EMS runs to the Lakeside Shelter. This is a problem, and we all recognize that there is an issue. This is too complicated of a story to put into a nice sound byte, but that does not stop "the investigators" from trying. Here is the laundry list of problems with Mr. Meyers distortion of the news:
  1. Why didn't the shelter get to comment?!!!
  2. What the hell does the number of sexually based offenders have to do with this story? Why was this even mentioned except to enrage the viewer? Did Mr. Meyer bring this up to say that sexually based offenders who have completed their jail time do not deserve an ambulance? or health care? or to live in our society?
  3. $145,000 to $545,000 for public safety runs to the shelter seems cheap to me. If we are willing to buy for millions of dollars a vacant building in this community clean it of asbestos and then sell it again for a loss or pay millions every year for a few sports teams to have beautiful houses in order to make money with ticket sales than the least we can do is pay a half million to keep homeless people alive and safe at the shelters. We waste so much money in this community, and you begrudge homeless people the right to 215 calls to EMS?
  4. Homelessness is not fun and there is nothing enjoyable about staying at a shelter so calling the fictional story "2100 Club" is just offensive.
  5. What do you expect, Mr. Meyer? Until we have universal health care in the United States, hospital emergency rooms will become the primary care facilities for the poorest among us. Any collection of 450 disparately poor people in the same place will require large scale and expensive supportive services with food, health care, and counseling.
  6. Even the lead in to the story was wrong... Tim White said, "Most of those emergency calls can be traced to one location." Are they saying that the majority of calls come from Lakeside? This is factually incorrect. If there were 1,018 Safety calls in one year to Lakeside, that would mean that there are less than 2,040 total calls in the City of Cleveland for all three safety forces. In fact, EMS alone handles over 85,000 calls a year. Lakeside is a drop in the bucket at 215 calls. I am willing to bet that calls to the jail and some of the larger subsidized housing properties exceed 215 EMS calls in a year.
  7. Insurance requirements dictate that only a health care professional can say if a call is serious enough for an ambulance within the shelters. Shelter staff are not qualified to make a decision about the seriousness of a health care need. No staff want to have a guy die because they refused to call the ambulance. Put a doctor at the shelter in the day and evening (more than $545,000 a year) and you would cut the number of calls way down.
  8. This is a battle taking place between City Hall and EMS and Fire officials. Why do you have to put homeless people in the middle of this battle? At least identify the contract dispute taking place and be honest that EMS is using our airwaves to try to get a better contract.
I suggest the shelter call down to WKYC to make sure that it is acceptable to call EMS each time they think about calling 9-1-1. Since they are so close to the shelter the guys at Lakeside shelter should stop into the clean, beautiful lobby of WKYC and thank Mr. Meyer for such a fine example of journalistic ethics. I am sure that they would not mind if the residents wait in the lobby until Mr. Meyer has time to accept the thank you of all 400 guys.

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