Monday, September 29, 2008

We Won in Court Today

Early Voting Starts on Tuesday!!!

The Ohio Supreme Court and Federal District Court Gwin both issued decisions in support of our position that voters should be allowed to vote and register over the next week. It was covered by the PD in the previous link, and in the Dispatch as well as the Beacon Journal. I was surprised by how close the Ohio Supreme Court decision was so close at 4-3. The argument seems clear to me in that we should make it as easy as possible for citizens to cast a vote. The lawyer who argued the case for Madison County in Cleveland did a terrible job. Madison County had the opinion that they could defy the Secretary of State's order. Our opposition did not seem to have a good handle on how their position would throw the other 87 Boards of Elections into chaos. They have done this same process for years. It is only in the last two major elections (2006 and 2008) that there was "no fault" early voting. The deadlines are clear, and there is plenty of time to figure out if there is fraud in the system before the votes are actually counted on November 4. There will be no duplicate voting because of these decisions. I think it just makes it looks like one party is trying to supress the vote.

We are moving forward to try to get everyone to the polling places early. Some of those will need to register or change their registration. Democracy triumphed today.

I have to say also, that the Board of Elections in Cuyahoga County has done a good job getting ready. They are ready with trained workers and easy access to the building. If you are voting early remember that you still have to go through the metal detector.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

ACLU Files Suit to Protect 7 Day Window

ACLU Asks Court to Allow All Registered Voters Access to Absentee Ballots
Files Lawsuit to Protect Newly Registered Ohioans’ Voting Rights

CLEVELAND- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit late yesterday challenging Madison County’s decision to deny absentee ballots to newly registered voters in violation of directives sent by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. The lawsuit was filed in the in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), 1Matters, Project Vote and two individual voters.

“If newly-registered voters are prevented from casting absentee ballots in person or by mail, thousands of Ohio voters will be disenfranchised. Many people, including students who only recently became old enough to vote, need to have access to absentee ballots because they may attend school in a different county or state, but still reside at their home address,” said ACLU of Ohio Staff Counsel Carrie Davis.

The situation began as a result of Secretary Brunner’s August 13, 2008 directive requesting that local Boards of Elections prepare for people who wish to register and vote during a five day overlap in voter registration deadlines and the beginning of absentee balloting. Currently, a voter must be registered to vote 30 days before the date of the election, and absentee balloting begins 35 days before the election. The Board of Elections in Madison County has stated they will only provide absentee ballots to voters who have been registered more than 30 days before the date they requested an absentee ballot, rather than 30 days before Election Day. The issue is also currently before the Ohio Supreme Court in the case Ohio v. Brunner, and the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Secretary Brunner’s position earlier this week.

“All voters should have equal access to the ballot box. According to the decisions by the Madison County Board of Elections, voters who registered close to the 30 day deadline would be unable to apply for a timely absentee ballot,” said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “Treating one group of voters differently than another is clearly unconstitutional and violates numerous federal statutes.”

The complaint also asks that Secretary Brunner take all steps necessary to ensure that voters will be able to request, receive and submit an absentee ballot upon their registration.

NEOCH, 1Matters, and Project Vote are non-profit, nonpartisan organizations. NEOCH and 1Matters provide services to homeless Ohioans and are planning to help thousands register and cast absentee ballots in this election. Project Vote provides technical assistance and direct service to the civic participation community, encouraging voter education and engagement. The two individual voters are Sherie Penix and Daniel George. Penix is a voter in Madison County who wishes to register and cast an absentee ballot. George is a volunteer in Cleveland who drives homeless and elderly voters to the county Board of Elections to register and cast an absentee ballot.

"Political maneuvering should not block Ohioans’ access to the ballot box. These registrations and ballots will be vetted like any other person’s would be. Hopefully, the court will act to protect these voters’ rights and halt any further partisan challenges," Davis concluded.

From the ACLU Ohio Website

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More on Voting

Thanks to Jennifer Brunner, Ohio Secretary of State

Great News for opening access to voting in Ohio!!!
In case you did not hear, the Board of Elections is extending hours from September 30 through the election. This will make it even easier for homeless people to vote and register at the same time. Jennifer Brunner settled a tie with the local Board of Election over the early voting hours for Cuyahoga County. We now have seven days to vote and register to vote or change your address at the main office of the Board of Elections (2925 Euclid Ave. --right on the new Silverline RTA).

Basically, September 30-October 3 and Monday October 6, the Board is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

They are open Saturday October 4 from 9 am-1p.m.

They are also open Saturday October 5 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Please help spread the word. This seven day period is the golden opportunity for very low income and homeless people to participate in the democratic process. There will be no need to try to send mail to people without addresses or worries that a change of address application was not received or that the Board got the individual's mail back when they tried to contact them. This is the second major election with this window in which you can do both vote and register at the same time. After October 6, you will need to be registered in order to vote early.

We are having a training on Saturday September 27 at 11:30 a.m. at the Coalition offices (3631 Perkins Ave. third floor) to be ready for the upcoming week. If you have anytime to volunteer, we need your help. Please call Josh at 216/432-0540 if you want to attend or for more information. **Thank you for the correction**


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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Two Interesting Stories on the News...

Speaking of Voting....

CNN had an interesting piece that may have gotten lost in the news of American financial meltdown here.

Also, CBS had a story about hate crimes against homeless people. Just a brief update on crimes against homeless people in Cleveland.

1. There was a paintball attack in August against a homeless person walking from the bus to the men's shelter.

2. After the game last Sunday night against the Steelers, a group of Brown's fans attacked a sleeping homeless person downtown and put him in the hospital. We have not been able to confirm this as a hate crime, because the guy is still hospitalized and not willing to talk right now. But we heard from two people that the guy was beaten to the point that he needed 50 stitches. We will continue to follow up to see if we can get confirmation and will be allowed to release his information publicly.

NEOCH coordinates a meeting with all the outreach workers in Cleveland once a month to gather information about attacks, violence and trends within the homeless community.

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

Speaking of Voting...

All Hands on Deck: We Need Your Help with a Survey!!!

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine have an opportunity for you to volunteer to assist with preparations for the upcoming election. We will be going to shelters throughout the community to survey homeless people about their interactions with the health care system and how that contributed to their homelessness. NEOCH volunteers will be registering people to vote at the same time. The Homeless Grapevine will survey homeless people on their opinions on the upcoming election for publication this fall. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS. All volunteers will meet at the Coalition offices and will go out in teams to the various shelters. We need a large number of volunteers to help. The times and dates are:

Saturday September 27 at 12:30 p.m.

Monday September 29 at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday September 30 at 10:30 a.m.

Wednesday October 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday October 2 at 5:30 p.m.

If you can volunteer for any of these times please call Joshua Kanary at 216/432-0540 or e-mail publicoutreach (at) neoch (dot) org.

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

Shelter Voting will Proceed

The Goal: 2,000 Homeless People to Vote in Two Weeks!!!

Despite the Republican Party lawsuit, which attempts to block homeless people from participating in early voting beginning September 30, we are moving forward. We need your help volunteering to transport homeless people to the main Board of Elections from September 30 to October 7. This is amazing that anyone is objecting to this plan. This was a law that the Republican party wrote with no input from outside experts. We sued to block the law with our ID lawsuit. So, NEOCH and homeless people were no fans of this massive change in election law. Many experts provided input at the hearing that this law was poorly crafted. Remember that the law written by the Republicans who controlled the Ohio legislature for 12 years, said a voter could use a military id as long as it contained an address. There are very few military identifications, if any, that list an address. So, now that we are trying to use a law that they wrote to help homeless people to vote, they are objecting. The nerve. We have used this law for years except that before 2006 a person had to say that they were going to be out of the City or otherwise unavailable to vote on election day.

It is a burden to get homeless people to vote, and we should all try to make it easier instead of putting up barriers. This is a great opportunity for a homeless person to register and vote at the same time. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get mail within the shelters. So, mailing an absentee ballot to the shelter is a huge crap shoot. By definition, homeless people need to change their address with the Board of Elections after having lost their homes. Since we have come to accept homeless people in every city in America, we should make it as easiest as possible for this population to participate in the democratic process.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Statement concerning the women claiming to be from "Project Hope"

You may see a story on 19 Action News tonight regarding two woman claiming to help people under the agency name "Project Hope." First, we are sorry that any student and/or lower income individual was taken advantage of by the two allegedly deceptive individuals preying on people looking for help. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is not a partner and has no relationship with this group claiming to be Project Hope. NEOCH merely offered space to this organization as we would do with any groups claiming to help homeless people. As soon as we found out that these two women were not from Project Hope and may be deceiving the public, we notified the Cleveland Police. We have offered space for meetings, for free, to hundreds of groups over the last five years on Perkins Ave. We have never screened groups or made it difficult for the relatively small number of organizations trying to help homeless people to use our space. However, because of the situation today in which a group was arrested while using our conference room, NEOCH has implemented the following policy going forward:

1. We will only offer space to existing non-profits that we have an existing relationship.
2. We will not offer space to any new group.
3. We will ask that any group that wants to use our space must sign an agreement that they will use the space exclusively for meetings and will not use the space to provide counseling or direct client assistance.

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

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

CMHA Publishes Annual Plan for 2009

If You Have Concerns About Public Housing Comment on Their Plan

Every year during the summer, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority publishes their plan for the next year. This plan goes to the federal government for approval, and in it they layout changes in admission criteria, buildings, leasing policy, support services, etc. We are concerned by a number of pieces within the plan, and feel that constant budget constraints have led to poor decisions made about the future of the organization. With the passage of the National Housing Trust Fund, CMHA will be a critical partner to finally beginning to build and repair affordable housing in Cleveland. We need to resolve all of these issues so that everyone has confidence in the housing authority acting as a partner for change.

First, the good news...most of the plan involves changes to better serve disabled residents and disabled applicants. Most of the plan needs to be commended for doing a great job in providing a hand up to the disabled population. This came about as a result of an audit, which found that the agency needed to do more to meet fair housing requirements. No matter how it came about it is good for the community, and for that we thank CMHA.

I am especially disturbed by the expansion of the number of senior housing buildings in our community contained in the plan. We all know those over 50 years of age are easier to serve, but we do not need a housing authority to serve our easiest to help. We need CMHA to lead in providing housing to the hardest to serve. Currently, 26% of your total public housing inventory is off limits to the major portion of our community in need. To expand the number of units off limits to single adults struggling to find stability is against the City’s Consolidated Plan. We do not need anymore senior housing in this community. We need CMHA to step up to put forward our plan to empty the shelters and not empty the nursing homes.

Other specific concerns include:

  1. Set the Minimum Rent at $0 for both programs. We would ask that both the Housing Voucher program and Public Housing return to a rent structure based on what a person can afford. With the minimum rent, many of our clients are still eligible for $0 rent, but, in order to receive it, they must be informed of and then go through the hurdles of applying for a minimum rent exemption. CMHA’s implementation of the exemption rule has been uneven. Those between jobs or waiting for their disability should not be expected to find a way to pay rent of $50 or $25 (the current minimum rents). We believe that if you are going to put this burden on the tenant to file for a hardship exemption then we would prefer a $100 minimum rent so that it is high enough that everyone eligible will in fact take that option. At this time, the agency benefits from those not going to the trouble of asking for an exemption that they deserve, because it is not worth the effort.

  1. We renew our opposition to any expansion of the senior only buildings contained in the plan. CMHA already limits 2,510 units to a select population. There are very few seniors or near-seniors on the waiting list. There is a short wait in the community for senior housing with most of the vacancies in Cuyahoga County in senior or near senior properties. This is a betrayal of one of the poorest communities in America to replace units and then allow only seniors back into these properties. CMHA is not acting as a good partner for the shelters, homeless people, and the anti poverty groups in this community by serving a population that is not in need. We ask that CMHA get back into the business of serving homeless people who happen to be under 50 years of age. At this point, the younger population wait 4 to 5 years to find a place to live. We do not believe that this further designation of senior housing is consistent with the City of Cleveland’s Consolidated Plan. If this goes through and is approved by the CMHA Board, we will ask that the Congress look into the Public Housing Senior Only designations and their impact on the community.

  1. We believe that the Plan is missing information about the Replacement of units slated for Demolition: In addition to the pending demolition plan for 221 Garden Valley units and 61 Outhwaite units, the Plan calls for the additional demolition of 59 Cedar Extension units, 128 Garden Valley units, and 3-4 buildings at Lakeview Terrace. Meanwhile, CMHA is proposing new construction of only 81 units at Garden Valley and a possible, unspecified project at Outhwaite and/or Collinwood, Lee-Harvard, or East Cleveland. The Plan Summary makes the vague promise that CMHA “will continue to seek other development opportunities for creating replacement housing.” NEOCH firmly believes that there should be one-to-one replacement of all demolished public housing units. With homelessness on the rise, CMHA should not demolish any unit of affordable subsidized housing without replacing those units or making a concrete plans to do so.

  1. We do not understand Why an Unborn Child is not classified as a person. First, in a conservative political environment this is a bad idea. this provision forces a mom to request a one bedroom and then have to move after the baby is born to a larger apartment. If a fundamentalist lawmaker received this plan they would be very angry that this seems to encourage abortion. Second, why would you want a new Mom to have to move? This policy seems to contradict with the moving policy, and should allow the staff to place the woman in an apartment that “best meets their needs.”

  1. Maintenance and Housekeeping Classes should remain an option for CMHA residents not a requirement. We do not believe that these classes should be required for all tenants. We are not sure that they are universally convenient or accessible to all tenants including those with a disability or those who live in scattered sites. We do not want another milestone that a person must meet to maintain their tenancy. It seemed that allowing staff to assign the classes is a good compromise. Some of the tenants could teach these classes and should not be forced to go to a class that they do not need.

  1. All of the Recommendations of the Re-Entry Task Force Should be Adopted. Over the last year two years, advocates have worked to reduce some of the barriers to housing for those coming out of incarceration. We did not see much attention to these recommendations in the plan. We ask that CMHA fully adopt those recommendations to allow those who have paid their debt to get on with their life with the fewest barriers as possible, and assure that all staff are aware of these changes.

  1. Income Re-determination Should Occur Once Per Year. We would like to see both public housing and the voucher program have similar rules so that tenants can keep additional resources until their annual re-determination if that increase is less than 25% of their total income in order to save funds for non-subsidized market rate housing.

  1. Assign a staff from Public Housing/Housing Choice Voucher to be the liaison to the homeless service providers. It is critical that we free up space within the shelters quickly. Therefore, when a person’s name or number is drawn for a public housing unit, the person should move quickly into housing. We need one staff person that we can talk to in order to cut through the bureaucracy and free up the space in the shelters for other homeless people.

If you agree with these recommendations, you can drop a note to CMHA by next Wednesday September 17 at 10 a.m. or attend their public meeting at their headquarters on West 25th near Detroit Ave (board room). Send concerns to 1441 West 25th St. Cleveland, Ohio 44113. All the documents are available on their website at


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

Monday, September 08, 2008

Still Room for Next Teach In

NEOCH Focuses on Identification and Homeless Voting

The next Teach In will focus on identification and voting registration issues. This is critical to the assisting homeless people with voting in-person on election day. There is still space for the next Teach In on September 16, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. at the NEOCH conference room. Please RSVP to Joshua Kanary at 216/432-0540 if you can attend this meeting. We will have Linda Stamm from West Side Catholic and an expert on identification issues. We will go over all the issues that the Coalition is focused on with regard to voting, and opportunities to volunteer. We will have a representative of Ohio Votes and most likely a representative of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. This should be a interesting 3 hours of information as we prepare for the 2008 Presidential election. We also tour one of the local shelters to look at their work in getting homeless people to participate in the democratic process.

If you cannot make this time, we will have a training on September 27, 2008 at 11:30 a.m. for those who want to help get homeless people to vote. We are still looking for vans and van drivers for September 30-October 6. If you can help call 432-0540.

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

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Kickoff for 2009 Stand Down

Photo by InterAct Cleveland of the Ear, Nose and Throat Docs from MetroHealth Hospital who attended the 2008 Stand Down for free exams.

Stand Up for the Next Stand Down

It is time to gear up for the next Stand Down. We will begin the process for collecting clothing, hygiene kits, and winter clothing. We will begin gathering volunteers for this huge undertaking of three days of social services, rest and relaxation. The official kick off is Sunday September 21 at 2 p.m. at Calvary Presbyterian Church at East 79th and Euclid Ave. The 2009 is set to begin the last week in January in 2009 with the big event at the Convention Center on Friday February 6. Presenters will talk about opportunities to volunteer, goals for this year, and an overview of the previous efforts. For more information call Toni Sacco at InterAct at 216/241-0230 for more information.

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