Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mangano Must Go!!

More Harm Than Good

The Washington Post did a profile of Phil Mangano, the Director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness today. (Thanks to CynDe for sending the link). I guess Mr. Mangano is working on securing a job in the Obama administration. There was some mention in the article from NPACH advocates about Mr. Mangano's problems, but they did not go into enough detail. There was also a feature on one of the NPR programs Tell Me More yesterday about Mr. Mangano in an effort to bolster his resume. Anyway, I don't think that the NPR host or the Post gave enough of the other side of the story on Mr. Mangano. Here is my impression of Mr. Mangano from my position in Cleveland and Board Member of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Bottom line for President Elect Obama get rid of Mr. Mangano. Send him back to Boston to write his memoir on the relationship between his struggle against homelessness and the abolitionist movement, which can sit on the shelf next to all the Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness.

Why Mr. Mangano should be fired, and why he has caused great harm to homeless people in America:
1. Hurricane Katrina: The largest number of people made homeless in a few short days in the history of the United States. It would seem that the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness would take the lead in the recovery effort. Since Mr. Mangano had instead focused on "long term homelessness," they had no ability to deal with natural disasters and were as unprepared for Katrina as the rest of the Executive Branch. Mangano never spoke up and said that there was a problem or that the administration dropped the ball in the destruction of one of America's great cities.

2. The Phrase Chronic Homelessness: This expression came into vogue under Mr. Mangano. I and many homeless people hate this phrase. It sounds like a disease that homeless people have contracted. Does it catch or spread through some kind of airborne pathogen? Homelessness is already a politically charged expression that many homeless people hate to use, but add the word "chronic" and it is like being tagged with the label "Black Plague Victim."

3. Malcolm Gladwell is Wrong: The entire theory that Mr. Mangano champions is based on Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 book The Tipping Point. Gladwell has a history background, and is a writer/journalist. He is not a social scientist or a researcher. He is a good observer of culture and then attaches scientific principles. It is a good read for the masses with simple explanations of complex problems. Basing public policy and millions of dollars on the work of one British/Canadian writer seems extreme to me. Hey, I like George Carlin, but I would never suggest that we put all our health dollars on Broccoli as the cure for Cancer as Carlin had recommended. I have talked about this flawed Malcolm Gladwell strategy here and here and here. Basically, Gladwell followed one homeless guy around and found that he costs our society a bunch through incarceration, emergency room, and mental health care costs besides shelter and food costs. This is all correct, but as I have said many times is that if you remove this guy from the system and put him in housing the emergency room and jails are not going to pay the shelters the money they saved so that the shelters can serve others. The other issue is that a focus on long term homeless does not work for every community in the United States. It may work in Boston and New York City, but this policy is harmful to Jeffersonville, Indiana and Lorain County, Ohio. There is not one policy created in Washington that will cure homelessness throughout the United States.

3. He never criticized his Boss: Mangano was a good soldier for the Bush administration. He travelled the country racking up huge frequent flyer miles spreading the gospel that George W. Bush cares about ending homelessness in America. This was the biggest spin campaign in the history of politics. It was all a big show with ribbon cuttings instead of offering real solutions or real money. They pulled the rug out from under Public Housing and gave the cities chump change for permanent supportive housing. The Mayors got to champion a brand new apartment building, but did not see that the Public Housing was falling down around their cities. Mangano took money from shelters and put it into brand new buildings for the long term homeless. He never told us how to pay for the long term management of these buildings, but they sure looked nice when they opened. Mangano never said anything bad about the Bush administration lack of a real housing policy (until this last week). The HUD budget submitted by Bush to Congress has for the past seven years called for major cuts to the major housing programs, and Mangano never said anything about how this would only increase homelessness.

4. Ten Year Plans Are Fake: Mr. Mangano cannot speak for more than six minutes without using the phrase "ten year plans". The first 10 year plans were passed in 2000, so we should start seeing an end to homelessness in those cities in 2010? The dirty secret is that many of these plans were only to solve long term homelessness or 10-20% of the population. While we spent a substantial portion of our resources (every new dollar for five years) on solving 10-20% of the problem. The damn broke over the last two year and many of cities were flooded with homeless people while HUD was focused on single adults with a disability. Most of the plans are sitting on the shelf. Others are discredited and forgotten, and the few that are left are suffering because of the recession. In Cleveland, family homelessness is way worse than it was in 2002. We did all this work on providing 400 new apartment units for single adult homeless people with a disability and it has not had any impact on the shelters or homelessness. There are five people waiting for help for every person we took off the streets. The ten year plans in almost every city will be quickly forgotten as soon as the ink is dry. Besides, why do we have to wait 10 years to solve homelessness for everyone?

5. Homelessness Has Grown: Bottom line is that a person should be measured on the success based on the numbers of people suffering. If you are appointed homeless czar and homelessness increases: you get fired. If you are paid to coach a football team and they lose 12 out of 16 games in a season: you are fired. If you are put in charge of rebuilding Iraq, and it breaks out into Civil War: you get fired (or you get the medal of freedom--but that is a different problem). Despite HUD trying to reclassify homeless people or change their status, by nearly every measurement there are more homeless people than there were at the start of the Bush Administration. We do not trust the HUD count, but I do trust the Cleveland Public School numbers. The school district has had a program to serve homeless children for 20 years, and they saw a 40% rise between 2006 and 2007. Even though we have developed more shelter beds in Cleveland, we still have people sleeping on mats on the floors in our shelters. More homelessness means the guy in charge has to go.

6. Families are Suffering. When I started working with homeless people, families were served first and were provided the most resources. This changed with Phillip Mangano who forced shelters and homeless services to focus on long term single adults. Now, families have to split up, and they spend much more time homeless in Cleveland. They have a hard time finding rental assistance, and children are on the move in great numbers. There are long waiting lists for housing, and a Mom has little chance of finding help with rent. We removed welfare with time limits, and now families struggle to keep their heads above water with stagnant wages. The Homeless Czar rarely talked about families. Mangano did not see the Foreclosure Tsunami that has destroyed many cities in America, and caused such pain to families. He never said that the Bush push for a "homeownership society" might not be the best policy for everyone. There is now a five year wait in Cleveland for families to get a rent subsidy for housing thanks to Bush policies.

7. He Never Criticized Bad City Policies. For the past dozen years, many cities that Mr. Mangano visited were developing policies that only made homelessness worse. They were passing anti-sitting or panhandling laws to make it illegal to be homeless. This would only extend the time a person will not be able to find housing or a job. It is a fact that those with a criminal background have a harder time finding stable housing or a decent job. Never when Mr. Mangano was shaking these Mayor's hands did he raise the issue of bad local policies. He had a great speech and heaped praise on these Mayors for their fake 10 year plans, but never said anything about sending the police out to arrest people sleeping on sidewalks. We never heard anything about compounding the problem with incarceration of mentally ill people. It is like presiding over the ribbon cutting of a new dam, and ignoring the screen door built into the center of the dam.

8. We Needed Some Coordination Among the Federal Agencies. The InterAgency Council was supposed to break down barriers in serving homeless people. It was to coordinate all the federal departments so that the HUD rules match those of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veteran Affairs, Education and Labor, etc. This never happened. We still do not have a common definition of homelessness among the agencies. Everyone of the agencies have done stupid things that harm homeless people. They do not work together to reduce the time it takes to be judged disabled or speed up the employment help. They do not have a common screening mechanism or work together to have one agency provide supportive services while the other provides housing. The federal government is just as dysfunctional for homeless people as they were when this crisis started in 1984.

Mr Mangano: you were wrong about the policies to end homelessness and you were silent on the injustices done toward homeless people over the last eight years. There are still 22 days to get the Medal of Freedom from this White House. It is time to move on; take your Powerpoint and look at a job again in the entertainment industry. Hey, how about traveling the country pushing a 10 year plan to restore the status of the Compact Disc?

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Good Comment

Do Homeless People Get Lost in the System?

There was a really good comment from CynDe after we posted the names of the people who passed away over the last year.
"It is just as tragic to see a list of names as it is to know their fate. A list of names is just as impersonal as a statistical number. Most of the grief I feel is because they are just a name, nothing more."
I have been thinking about this comment for a couple of days. There was a longer piece about Anthony Waters in the Homeless Grapevine, which does give some background about Mr. Waters. But CynDe is right that we do not feature much background on the men and women who pass away. We have a hard time even getting the names let alone any more information. It is nearly impossible to get personal information on people who become homeless. There is a great deal of embarrassment, so very few people are willing to admit that they were homeless. Families also are embarrassed, and so they do not want to be viewed as having abandoned a relative. There are strong privacy laws that protect the release of information of homeless people. We can get names once a person dies, but would not be able to get much more.

I wish that there was some way to get more information about homeless people--even just their talent or skill that we lost in the community. I have thought about how many talented people are wasting away in our shelters and drop in centers. How many great photographers, artists, community organizers, leaders, inventors, and diplomats are sleeping in America's shelters. With 1% of America becoming homeless every year, there have to be hundreds of potentially great Americans who will never get to show their true talent because they cannot find housing. How much does our society suffer, because such a large number of people are focused on survival? CynDe's point is valuable. I wish there was a way to give the full measure of those who passed and not just the name.

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

Monday, December 22, 2008

Extreme Cold: Deadly for Homeless People

What Happens When it is So Cold?

We do not have a very good natural disaster program for homeless people, but most of the shelter directors realize the extreme danger of anyone being out in the cold for an extended period of time. While there is not typically an official designation of a cold weather emergency in Cleveland, most of the shelters react well to extreme weather conditions. It seems that the City and County rarely get involved in declaring a weather emergency out of fear that they will have to put more money out to take care of additional staffing during the often unpredictable weather of the region. Today, temperatures are in the single digits in Cleveland and so most of the shelters do not kick anyone out during the day or they implement extended hours. On a normal day, most people have to leave the emergency shelters (to go look for non-existent jobs and unaffordable housing) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

When it is this cold the shelters work together to keep their doors open so that no one has to stay outside. There are hundreds who sleep outside, and the social service outreach teams try as hard as they can to convince people to come inside on these rough weather nights. When a few hours outside can result in death, some of the outreach workers can probate an individual if they worry about the individual dying on the streets. Most of those who stay outside are protected from the elements. They either sleep under 10-12 layers or light a fire or they sleep on the heated sidewalks downtown. Some of the sidewalks can give a second degree burn because they are so warm, so the men have to be careful with this solution. There are others who stay in abandoned or vacant housing in the community. Having stayed in an abandoned house, it takes a large number of candles to provide any kind of heat. Also, starting a fire in an a building is extremely dangerous. Even those people who sleep in abandoned garages and start a fire on the concrete have to figure out a way to ventilate the building so that they do not suffocate.

Life boils down to three things: finding warmth, finding food, and keeping safe when staying outside in Cleveland. Everything else is lost. Family, friends, relationships, resumes, bureaucratic red tape, and sports are all forgotten. In one of the most industrially advanced countries on the planet, it always amazes me that we waste the talents of some of our citizens by keeping housing out of reach for so many. During this festival of lights, please remember homeless people who use light as a part of their survival. They stay in candlelit abandoned properties and hunker down at night in the dark waiting for the light of a new day and the hope of a warm apartment, a job in a heated office, or a warm place to have a bowl of soup.

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Homeless Who Passed Away in 2008

Homeless Memorial Day Names 2008

NEOCH hosted a small gathering of activists to remember those who passed away over the last year. This was the 22nd Annual Candlelight Vigil, and this was the largest number of names that we have ever read. Here are the names of those who lost the struggle this year. If you are a part of a religious congregation please offer your prayers or condolences for these individuals and their families.

Olu Akintunde


Charles D. Anderson

John Andresh

Ronald Armstrong

Cliff Barnhart

Rosemary Battle

Terry Beachman

Paul Bianco

Jacob Bobrowski

Robert Cherney

James Cofield

Ralph Duhan

Robert Eady

Barney Elias

Carol Fergus

Larry Gahan

Jacinda Glover

Carol Good (male)

Jack Hanrahan

Jesse Harris

Gary Hubbard

Joseph Irby

Thomas Jackson

James King Jr.

James King

Perry Kucinich

Rufuss Lenard

Mariam Lozada

Craig Lucas

Marnie Macon

Marion McWilliams

Thomas Milo

Robert Morgan

Bruce Morris

Mary Murphy

Melvin Nance

Robert Okragley

Donald O’Neal

John Pickell

Stanley Pieck

Mark Pirtle

Thomas Rapose

Barbara Rossi

Calvin Sledge

Jeff Stoudemire

Lois Swaysland

Wayne Anthony Tyler

Anthony Waters

William Whalen

On one of the coldest days of the year, on the shortest day of the year, we gathered together in one of the best meal programs in the City to remember those who lost their lives. We joined 70 to 80 cities around the United States to mourn the loss of some of our friends. We look back at this rough 2008, and pledge to try harder to protect the lives of people in 2009.

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

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Day in the Life

Homeless Memorial Day

Thomas died last night. He passed quietly in the night at the shelter. His wife was sleeping down the street at another shelter. They both had health issues, but imagine the loneliness of dying in a homeless shelter in Cleveland away from your spouse. Imagine waking up and the guy on the lower bunk had died. The loss of housing, worldly possessions, car, and safe place is one of the hardest things in the world to endure. It is the ultimate injustice that the life of a person slips away while sleeping in a charity bed. Thomas' wife is not handling it very well.

Thomas is one of 50 people that we found passed away over the last year after experiencing homelessness. This is the largest number of people who died in the 22 year history of the annual candlelight vigil in Cleveland. We will remember those we lost at the candlelight vigil on December 21, 2008 at St. Augustine Church in Tremont. The Homeless Memorial Day is at 12:30 p.m. on West 14th across from Lincoln Park. Treasurer Jim Rokakis will say a few words, and we will light a candle to honor those who passed away. The public is welcome to join us at this important event for the community. We continue to hope that this is the last Vigil.

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gov. Strickland: VETO, VETO, VETO Voting Bill!!!

Fake Voting Reform Passes House

The State Representatives in a party line vote, passed a bogus "reform" of the voting system. This is purely an attempt to disenfranchise voters. We previously blogged about the Senate bill here, but the House managed to make the bill worse. We all have to urge the Governor to veto this fake reform bill. The bill was bad as it was originally drafted, but the House made it worse. The changes from the original bill include:
  1. There is only one site per county in which early voting can take place. This will put into law long lines in many counties for the foreseeable future. On a couple of Sundays the line was a block long at the Board of Elections in Cleveland, and other cities had similar issues. Instead of addressing these problems, the state legislature is going to make long lines the standard.
  2. A reduction in the power of the Secretary of State by limiting her ability to disqualify board appointments. The retaliation platform.
  3. Restrictions on observers at early voting locations.
  4. The other change was that they removed the piece of the law that would violate federal law by starting early voting 20 days out instead of stopping registration 60 days out. The 60 day registration deadline would have definitely been challenged by the Feds. This, however, effectively eliminates the golden week, which was great for homeless people.
  5. Then there is one piece of happy reform in the law: the observers can greet the election workers at the polling location.
I understand the emergency nature of passing this law in the lame duck session so that observers will be able to say "Good Morning" to the election workers in the March elections, but I still think that the Governor needs to veto this law.

As stated before, here are the problems with the law:
  1. Only 13,000 people took advantage of the golden week, and no one has said that there was any fraud during this week. They are once again fixing a problem that does not exist.
  2. Since we have set up an illegal poll tax for homeless people who have to pay for identification in order to vote, golden week is the best option for homeless people who do not have a valid state identification.
  3. The release of mismatch data will allow more and more challenges at the polling place. This causes anger and mistrust of the system and more lawsuits. Do we really want party officials in dark glasses and trench coats and lawyers singling people out and challenging a person's right to participate in democracy?
  4. The social security and driver's license database were never intended or constructed to be a backup for the voting database. This is only going to cause problems and confusion and again will reduce confidence in the voting process in Ohio. (After 2004 and 2006 how much lower can it go?)
  5. The bill is not bi-partisan and was crafted at the last minute to retaliate against one party for their gains during the last two statewide elections.
We need you to step forward, Governor and veto this horrible bill.

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oklahoma Senator Picks on Homeless

Open Letter to Tom Coburn:

Thank you for your keen interest in protecting the public from Government waste, Senator. Having intimate knowledge of one of the items on your 2008 list, I have to wonder if you are misguided about all of the items on your list. I worked on the Community Voice Mail program in Cleveland, and know that it can help thousands of people for around $20 a person per year. It will save the community hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since you are so far off the mark about Voice Mail, how many more of the items in your report are equally off base? As you are aware this is from your report:
"Voicemail for the Homeless -- Ohio ($15K)
While the homeless in Summit County struggle to find food, shelter and clothing, this Ohio community made sure they were not lacking in one essential service: voice mail. A $1 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) will carve out $15,000 for the free voice mail service. Interestingly, the community spent only $10,000 of the same CDBG grant on transitional housing for “homeless single parents.”
You guys in DC waste millions on prescription drugs, Medicaid, Defense contractors, and rebuilding Iraq why pick on a small program helping homeless people? As a doctor, I would have thought you could understand the need for Voice Mail for homeless people. How does a person staying in a shelter schedule a follow up test at a medical clinic without a telephone? How can extended family get in touch with a relative who is staying in a facility that cannot release even the names of the people in the shelters? How does an employer extend a job offer to a person who does not have a stable place to live? How does a landlord get word back to a person sleeping in their car that they passed their credit/background check and can move in?

The ability to have contact with the world can dramatically shorten a person's homelessness. In Cleveland, Voice Mail was successful in 60-70% of the people who were enrolled in the program. We served 3,000 people a year with the program, and with more funding we could have served more people. I am sure that the $62,000 per year we spent on the Voice Mail program in Cleveland saved the community at least 10 times that amount. It reduced shelter costs, health care costs, unemployment costs, mental health care, criminal justice expenses, cash assistance, and Medicaid costs. Instead of condemning this program, you should be championing this program as a one of the most cost effective in the United States. I would ask you to name one other program that costs $20 for one year and has a 60-70% success rate in helping people find housing, a job or other help.

One thing that we can agree on is that the country would be best served if the private sector would pay for this service. We believe that this should be part of universal service in the United States as defined by the Telecommunication's Act. Congress had the opportunity to require voice mail as part of the tax collected by the phone companies. Or the public utility telephone companies should pay for voice mail systems across the United States so that every homeless person has a telephone number and a place to get messages. Criticizing new technologies that can help people reduce the time spent homeless makes you sound like a Luddite. By the way, as long as we are talking, the Continuum of Care funding which supports almost all the transitional housing programs in the country needs to be doubled or tripled. The federal funding has remained static for four years, and it only pays for the renewal of the shelters as they were originally funded. Basically, most shelters in America have not received a cost of living increase for a decade or more. Please give the shelters a budget increase and Akron will not need to spend any CDBG dollars on transitional shelters and they can fund other innovations in the future.

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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hunger and Homelessness Report

No One Really Gives This Report Much Confidence

The United States Conference of Mayors report on Hunger and Homelessness in America was released on Friday. While this report was for years, largely dismissed by advocates and by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as pure conjecture. This is a survey of the Mayor's offices from 25 cities in America of statistics such as meals and shelter capacity etc. Even the activists in the 25 cities have never considered the information reliable. The reality was that using the Mayor's report based on the percentage increase every year would mean there were approximately 25 million homeless people in America. Anyway, it is a December tradition to get the Hunger and Homeless report, which always shows an increase in homelessness. For 20 years, this report has stated publicly that American Mayors are struggling with increases in homelessness. This has not made a damn bit of difference. During the Clinton, Bush 43, and Bush 41 administrations, this report meant nothing. Obviously, the Mayors do not carry much weight, especially if the report is so widely discredited by government and advocates alike.

I always thought that the full report was a failure, but the Cleveland numbers were usually pretty accurate. I knew the person collecting the numbers and I knew that he was relying on accurate information, so it was a good baseline for trends in Cleveland. This year, the numbers are based on the "complete count" mandated by HUD for every city. This is the once a year attempt to count everyone who is homeless in every city in America on one day. Basically, a bunch of volunteers try to count thousands of similarly colored marbles while they are in motion. The complete count is the most useless exercise ever mandated by government. This is now the basis for the Mayor's homeless report including Cleveland's listing. The hunger report is fine, because it is based on something real: meals delivered or consumed. We can all agree that homelessness has increased in nearly every City in America (including Cleveland), but the numbers in the report are useless.

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

USA Today Article on Homeless/Foreclosures

Miami Taking Property vs. Cleveland Asking for Property

As part of this strategic planning process, we have found that many think that I am too aggressive with my advocacy. I have never understood this, but it is an impression among many social service providers. I have visited cities in which the homeless advocacy group constantly antagonize the local administration. The advocates in Cincy created their shelters by squatting on warehouses. Many homeless groups are at war with their cities, and regularly disrupt city business. In Portland, the activists spent the winter in tents on the steps of City Hall. Yes, we have sued the City six times, and I regularly criticize the County for their failure to lead. Unlike others in this struggle, I do not resort to personal attacks against Mayors, bureaucrats or shelter staff. I believe most people working on this problem are fundamentally good -hearted people who want to do right, but may not have the skills to do their jobs. Those who are in it for themselves and have bad motives for working on homeless issues I ignore. My biggest concern is not effectively serving my main constituent: homeless people. For those who do not work with homeless people, there is a ton of anger among people kicked out of their houses. If we do not reflect a little bit of that anger, I believe we are not doing our jobs. How can a person maintain their humanity and not have their blood boil to see Mom's separated from their children and veterans with silver stars sleeping under bridges?

Another example of the style differences in my approach and those activists in other communities appeared in the USA Today on Thursday. In Miami, the homeless activists are fed up and seizing property that are currently in foreclosure. A number of our younger members have for years urged a similar approach in Cleveland. They grew frustrated with our unwillingness to help with these quasi-legal approaches. I have not resorted to leading a charge to take over houses in Cleveland. First of all, it could jeopardize a group's non-profit status. Second, what purpose would it serve? The City does not like the vacant buildings anymore than homeless people do. At this point, the banks are more powerful than the cities. Remember, Cleveland tried unsuccessfully to limit predatory lending only to be shot down by the courts. So, we would put a family in a building. The banks would charge the family with trespassing, and even if the courts or police would not take action, the banks would figure out a way that the family would never ever gain ownership of the house. In Ohio, it takes 21 years to gain ownership of a building through squatting. So, where would we be at the end of the day? The person who helps these families would gain some notoriety for standing up to the city, and banks but they would not be harmed when the banks and holding companies retaliated against the family.

I personally would support families not leaving their houses when the lending company tricked or acted irresponsibility or illegally in drafting the loan, as long as the family was prepared for the hardship they would have to endure in court. In reality, it is more of a short term solution, since it is unlikely to result in a home for these families. NEOCH did defend the squatters at Camelot in the late 1990s, but while we were in court the Mayor sent a wrecking ball to destroy the building. (That guy was a dictator.) I think that the approach that we are taking with asking for support from the City is a better solution. As an update, we still have not had any movement from the City or County, but Councilman Cimperman sent us a nice letter of support for the concept. We are still going to push this issue, and try to get a demonstration project funded that would act in partnership with the City or County.

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

Local News

A Few Updates from the Homeless Community

Here are a few updates that did not fit in the last Homeless Grapevine #86, which is currently on the streets of Cleveland.

North Point Transitional

North Point has moved to its second class of residents. This transitional shelter opened at the beginning of 2008, and featured a six month time limit to encourage individuals to find jobs, housing and move out quickly. The facility started out without a kitchen and place to serve a hot meal. The kitchen is in place and North Point is full as of mid November. As of October 1, 163 people were placed in a job or training program with an average wage of $9.00 per hour and 67% of the original residents securing a new job. Fifty to eighty found permanent housing with between 23 and 35 having returned to the entry shelter, 2100 Lakeside.

Overflow Needed

One of the hopes with the opening of North Point would be a decrease in the need for an overflow shelter in the community. The entry shelter, 2100 Lakeside, has struggled to keep down the numbers and shuffle beds throughout the night, but has remained full. The County was forced to open the basement of Volunteers of America again on November 17, 2008 with 35 people traveling across the river to sleep at the overflow shelter. On the Sunday before overflow opened there were 35 men sleeping in the hallways at Lakeside Shelter. Experts predict that without a huge infusion of jobs for Cuyahoga County, the overflow needs will only increase. The women’s shelter has also seen high numbers resulting in women sleeping on mats.

County Budget Cuts

As the major media outlets have documented, the County will face a huge budget deficit in 2009. This will have an impact on the homeless shelters in Cuyahoga County. The Disabled Men’s Shelter, 2100 Lakeside, and the Community Women’s Shelter will have to take a 5.5% cut next year. This could result in reduced staff or a reduction in the time the facilities are open. In addition, the transitional and permanent housing programs that serve homeless people will reach a milestone in 2009: they will use every dollar allocated by the federal government just to renew their budgets for one year. There will be no more room for new programs or any additional housing vouchers to serve homeless people with a disability. North Point will not have to face a budget cut until September 2009, and it is hoped that the economy will have improved by that time.

Homeless Death in Akron

The Akron Beacon Journal is reporting on the death of Wayne Anthony Tyler who was found hanging from a tree near the Ohio Erie Canal. His hands were bound, and his body was badly decomposed. He was tied to the tree by a noose. Tyler had struggled with a mental illness and homelessness. Police are investigating according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

Self Help Law Center Closes

The Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program has had a pro se clinic at the May Dugan Center for the past year. The center allowed people to go in and print out legal proceedings and do legal research. The Center will close in December 2008, because only a few used the facility every week. The Legal Assistance program will maintain a weekly clinic at the May Dugan Center on Wednesday mornings to offer legal advice to homeless people and those in danger of homelessness along with nine other clinics in the community. The main Coalition office on Perkins will have computers available for use, and there is a hope that a new self help center will open closer to the courts next year.


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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Sheriff With A Heart?

Hamilton Ohio Sheriff Puts Up Barriers to Foreclosure

I believe that Sheriff Jones was the Butler County law enforcement officer who wants a huge federal crack down on those huddled masses seeking to breath free in the United States, but he seems to have a heart with regard to foreclosures. This story of his effort to stem the tide of foreclosures was picked up across Ohio. If Sheriff McFaul gave a similar order in Cuyahoga County, we would see this massive migration to the shelters. See, unlike in most other communities, we still have guaranteed access to a shelter bed. There would be a large number who would be forced to show up at the Community Women's Shelter or 2100 Lakeside in order to save their home. The staff would have no choice, but to turn all these new people away. We can figure out what to do with 30-60 extra people showing up on one night, but this would result in 400-600 people showing up at the shelters. The former home owner would then go back to the Deputy Sheriff to report that they had no where else to stay. The two entry shelters have been full for the last month, and even though we do not typically get those home owners facing foreclosure at the shelters, they would be forced to go to shelter. Usually home owners have some funds and stay with family and friends or rent an apartment before they fall into the shelters. If the rule was that the only way to stay in your home, you had to go to see if the shelters are full there would be this huge line formed at the two shelters. We also might see large number sleeping in cars, which is not a huge problem locally at this time.
HAMILTON, Ohio -- An area sheriff has ordered deputies to ignore eviction orders when people have nowhere else to live. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said evictions in winter weather and during an economic recession are heartless and those cases should be sent back to the courts and resolved some other way. Jones on Tuesday ordered deputies to ensure that people have shelter before they're forced out of their homes. “It doesn’t cost much for me to be compassionate, and I’m not going to cause somebody to die because I wasn’t compassionate,” Jones said. He also sent a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland asking him to issue a state order to stop forced evictions for at least the winter months. “There has to be some attention drawn to somebody that’s going to be thrown out of their houses that doesn’t have anywhere else to go,” Jones said. The sheriff could face court action if a bank or landlord challenges his refusal to honor a court-ordered eviction. Jones said he would face any consequences of his order.
It may not be the best solution, but at least it is the government trying to do something to help keep people from being homeless.

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

Woodchopper's Ball this Weekend

Guitar Fest Moved to the Kent State Keva Center
Brian Henke's Woodchopper's Ball this weekend was moved to the Keva Center at Kent State this weekend. Kent Stage is hosting the Big Chuck movie, and so Woodchopper is now at Kent State. The music extravaganza is set for Saturday December 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Still featuring some of the best acoustic music on the planet:
Featuring Nine of the Best Acoustic Guirtarists in the World!
Michael Chapdelaine
Helen Avakian
Kyle Reeder
Will Chshier
Brian Henke
Tom Shinness
Stacy Hobbs
Frankie Starr
Kerry Kean

Tickets are on sale now from Kent Stage click on the above link. All proceeds benefit the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

There Are a Number of Angry People

Photo by Pleasure Simmons--Not for republication--copyright maintained by artist.

We Received this Back in the Mail Today

We sent out our membership mailing a couple of weeks back, and discovered that there are a few people who are very angry about the results of the last election. I have no problem with this type of anger, but write down your name and be willing to stand behind your opinions. This was delivered anonymously. If nothing else we would take this individual off our mailing list, so that we do not raise the ire of a former donor with any future request for a donation.
"Please forward this request to the White House and suggest that the President consider it as part of his redistribution plan. Ask that he distributes to you whatever he wishes from the additional portion of money he will be taking from me as part of that redistribution. Good Luck.

p.s. And, as long as Obama is president, please send all future requests for a charitable contribution directly to the White House."
This was written in same festive red printing, but without a name attached. How are we supposed to forward all future requests if we do not know who this person is? I am not sure how effective this plan will be to send all charitable requests to the White House, but we are willing to try. I pay pretty close attention to national politics and policies that would have an impact on homeless, and have not heard about this Obama redistribution plan. I will keep an eye out for an announcement as part of the transition. Thanks for the information, and maybe we need to give the new guy in office a chance to take the oath before we start criticizing him.

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

Health Care Survey Released Thursday

How Do Homeless People Access the Healthcare System?

NEOCH surveyed 320 homeless people over the last month to solicit input on their experiences with health care. We will release the report on Thursday night December 11 at 6 pm. at Trinity Cathedral. We will have demographic information along with information on the number who became homeless because of chronic health conditions. The report goes into some depth about the last time homeless people in the community used the clinics vs. the hospitals; the last time they had dental care; or the time spent waiting for health care. More than half of the homeless surveyed used Care Alliance or the Free Clinic, and we will have a representative from Care Alliance on hand to receive the report.

Join us at Trinity Cathedral on East 22nd and Euclid in Conference Room A and B to receive a report on the state of health care for homeless people in Cleveland at 6 p.m. We will have a few speakers who have had issues with the current health care delivery system as well as a few leaders in the community. All are invited. If you have questions please call Josh at 216/432-0540.

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

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Census Trouble?

Is Anyone Else Worried about the 2010 Census?

The New York Times had an editorial this weekend about the problems with the 2010 Census. I have been thinking about this for the last few months. What is happening with the next Census? The New York Times seems to say that there is some conspiracy here. I have no idea, but I do know that in 1998 we were meeting with the Census staff every month. We already had a detailed plan for counting homeless people by April 1998. The City was hosting meetings with all the social service providers in the City at that time. They were trying to build confidence, and map a strategy for counting everyone in shelter. It is almost the end of 2008, and we have not had one meeting yet with the Census. I know that they have hired some staff, but I have seen no plans yet. I am worried. This could be very bad for Cleveland. If we do not count all the poor people in Cleveland, we could face a 300,000 person city or a 150,000 drop in the population.

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

Testimony Before Senate

Lame Duck Congress Attempts to Change Voting Law in Ohio

In December 2005, the Ohio Legislature voted to overhaul the voting process in Ohio. This end of the term overhaul was wildly successful with homeless, immigrants, unions, minority groups, students, and those serving the elderly all suing the state over the last three years. Ohio became the laughing stock of the country, because we could not run an effective election. So, now at the last few hours of this Congress, they are back at it. The State legislature dominated by Republicans is not trying to fix all the problems from 2005, but are proposing new issues for NEOCH and others to sue. So, I went down along with the NAACP, League of Women Voters, ACLU, COHHIO, and Common Cause to testify against this silly bill which would extend the deadline to 60 days before election day. This is a clear violation of federal law, and would result in Ohio being the only state in the union with a registration deadline greater than 30 days before the election day.

Here is a most of what I said:

"We are back here again during the end of a term as we try at the last minute to reform the voting laws in Ohio. It was December 2005, at the end of the last Congressional session that state legislators went behind closed doors and crafted a bill to restrict access to the ballot box. Now, having two years to work on changing poorly constructed HB 3 from 2005, we are at the end of the term and we are trying to restrict access to early voting.

Three years ago, we testified against HB 3 which reformed the voting law to include identification requirements. In fact, the hearing in December 2005 featured a large number of groups opposed to the bill and then only the author of the bill testifying in support. No one listened when we said that this was a bad bill and should be defeated. No one heard us list the flaws in the bill, and the state was repeatedly sued because of the unclear and contradictory law. So, today, I am here to take the opposite position in hopes that you will again disregard what this expert is saying and do the opposite. If you think all these community groups who oppose this bill are down here just to sway the election for one party and not in an effort to make sure that every legitimate voter has a chance to vote, then we will argue in favor of this bill. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless strongly supports Senate Bill 380 further restricting access to voting, and we urge you to pass this bill in to law so that fewer people will be able to cast a ballot or will have to wait in long lines or vote when it is least convenient.

The last voting reform was so successful, we should do it again at the end of another legislative session. Students, immigrants, unions, homeless people, and groups representing the elderly all sued the state over the last voting overhaul in Ohio. This strategy has inspired such confidence in the legislators and elected officials in control in 2005 that many of those politicians who passed the HB 3 have moved into the private sector and out of the limelight. So, I say keep trying to reform the voting process because for every homeless person who was a likely Democratic voter who is forced to cast a second class provisional ballot there is an elderly woman and likely Republican voter who will have to cast a provisional ballot because she has no driver’s license and lives in a nursing home. For every union household who will no longer be able to vote early and register at the same time there is a suburban traditionally Republican family facing foreclosure who are not sure where they are supposed to register now that they are sleeping on a friend’s couch so they go to the Board of Elections and change their registration and cast their ballot at the same time.

So, who will be affected by this change in the law? There are the thousands in foreclosure who are unsure where they are allowed to vote. There are homeless people who are waiting for the state of California to send their birth certificate so that they can get a state identification. They used the “golden week” to change their registration to the shelter where they currently reside and then cast a ballot since they already waited in line. Thousands of elderly people went after church to vote on a bus in Cuyahoga County, and a few had relocated to a nursing home in 2008 so they updated their registration at the same time. Voting multiple times is the fraught with huge risk, and is the least likely way to corrupt an election. Once again, this bill is addressing a problem that does not exist in the state of Ohio, and that is what it seems we sent you people down here to do. This law also makes it easier for party officials to challenge voters by releasing information on database mismatches. We believe that it is a good idea to model our system of voting after Soviet style tactics where party officials in trench coats challenge the validity of veterans who show up to vote without the proper identification because it worked so well in 1970s USSR.

Voting is the cornerstone of our confidence in government. If it is the strategy of the state legislators is to limit access to the ballot box then this legislation needs to be passed. If it is the strategy to undermine confidence in government then this bill is the perfect compliment to the 2005 House Bill 3, because the state will no doubt face more lawsuits. If the state legislators long for the days of a poll tax that restricted access to the ballot box, then this bill will maintain the mistakes of the last bill. Identification is not free in Ohio so for a homeless veteran to vote a standard ballot on election day they must pay a fee to secure identification. By the way, military identification does not contain an address, which was a requirement from the last voting bill passed. If you are nostalgic for the days when only land owners voted then keep the current rules in place that make it difficult for homeless people to vote.

If state legislators want to show that the state can stop the assault on home rule by challenging the Help America Vote Law, which requires registration deadlines no more than 30 days before an election, then vote for this bill. Who cares about the 11 states that allow voter registration within two weeks of the election or on the same day as the election without any reported problems. Who cares that Ohio would be the one state with a deadline more than 30 days before an election. Ohioans should not care that there are no reported problems in traditional Republican states of Alabama, South Dakota or Utah which has registration deadlines within one or two weeks of the election.

It is a good idea to continue to tinker with the voting process, so that Ohio can continue to viewed nationally as unable to administer an honest election. These last minute laws will only reinforce that national reputation. We should keep the courts busy with repeated challenges to voting procedures and challenges and contradictory statutes. Think how many lawyer we will keep in business over the next four years challenging this law. In a down economy, it is important to keep lawyers in business. This could be considered a mini-stimulus bill for lawyers in Ohio. Most people are not educated about the issues, so current elected officials who spend all day working on these issues should figure out ways to make it harder for the undereducated to vote. Please pass this law, because the last voting overhaul was so successful we need to keep going"

The vote in next week. The state legislators quizzed the Board of Elections Chairperson from Allen County who supported this bogus legislation for over one hour. They dismissed those opposed to the legislation after only a few questions, and the author of the bill left during the testimony of all those who opposed the legislation. So, this bill will pass. Our only hope is that Governor Strickland will veto this bill in an effort to allow the Secretary of State to craft a comprehensive bill that will fix all the problems with the voting system.

Brian Davis

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

Supreme Court Rules Against Voters

Ohio Supreme Court Throws Out 1,000 Legitimate Voters

On Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the 1,000 provisional ballots in the U. S. House of Representatives Kilroy vs. Stivers race would not be counted. This was a Republican generated lawsuit that was a direct assault on the settlement that we made with the State of Ohio. The other 25,000 ballots will be counted today, but those individuals who did not sign the provisional ballot envelope will not be counted. They basically overturned our settlement with the State of Ohio on the counting of provisional ballots, and made a new rule that did away with a bunch of voters. The problem was that Franklin County had the voters fill out the envelopes themselves contrary to the Secretary of State's advice, while the other two counties in which Stivers and Kilroy were competing had the poll worker fill out the outside envelope. There was no dispute in the other two counties of Madison and Union counties, and they had long since certified their provisional ballots. Franklin County was still up in the air until Friday.

It is sad that the Supreme Court disenfranchised so many people. The Republicans who filed suit did not, in the end, get their candidate to win. With the counting of the other 25,000 provisional ballots, the Democratic candidate, Kilroy, prevailed by over 2,000 votes. In the end, the 1,000 disputed ballots did not matter, but it still is frustrating for these individuals to lose their legitimate vote.

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