Monday, April 27, 2009

Quick Takes

Bookmark This Blog

End Homelessness

As part of the family of websites and blogs, there is one dedicated to Ending Homelessness. I would advise checking it out on a daily basis. Shannon Moriarity always has something interesting to say and always does a good job collecting stories from around the United States. Just as a recent example:

More Tent Cities Popping Up Around the United States. This is a follow up (one of many) on the Sacramento Tent City. Luckily, this is not a huge issue anymore in Cleveland.

She mentions the history of University of Mississippi, Michael Oher, who was drafted on Saturday by the Baltimore Ravens, but spent his childhood homeless on a regular basis. The best part of this story is about the varied definitions of homelessness across the federal government. The Department of Education has a broad definition while HUD has a limited definition. NEOCH and the National Coalition for the Homeless support a broader definition. The new definition proposed in the reauthorization of the homeless funds in DC is the most complicated and convoluted definition I have ever seen. If this passes, it would take twice as long for the shelters to determine if a person is homeless or not. We hope that the Congress comes to their senses and revises the definition before passing this bill.

Shannon talks about the release of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report "Out of Reach," which provides details on the amount of money necessary in each community to afford housing. This did not get as much coverage as it has in the past. A couple of years ago, in many communities a person had to have 2 or more full time jobs in order to afford housing. With the slight increase in the minimum wage in Ohio and in the United States it is not as stark a figure. There is still no where in the United States that a minimum wage job will allow a person to afford the fair market housing, and no where does a disability payment allow a person to find housing affordable without a subsidy.

Shannon also recently commented on the Soloist and many other issues. I would advise bookmarking it, and checking it out on a regular basis.

Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Grading the Administration 14

Weekly Grades for the Administration on Poverty: B

I got to see many senior officials of the Administration, who showed up to talk to advocates about housing issues. Sometimes, just showing up is half the battle. The administration announced the signing of the national service bill, which is a huge step to address poverty. There was another health care meeting to allow small businesses to talk about the crippling costs of health insurance. The President has decided to take on the staggering debt with both credit card reform, and a change in student loans for college. These are both huge issues for lower income people. Student loans are such a rip off since the federal government takes all the risk, but a private company makes all the profits. This is a great day for making college more affordable in America. It has to get through the Congress, and over the massive number of lobbyist, but the fact that the Administration is willing to make the fight is a big step.

The Administration also held a gathering of all the major disability organizations in the Country to talk about policy, government accessibility, and other issues facing those with a disability. The real purpose was to listen to these groups and hear their concerns. Overall, a good week for the struggle to end poverty. Also, a good way to go into the 100th day.

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Busy Week

National Low Income Housing Coalition Conference

I was in Washington DC for the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting and then attended the National Low Income Housing Coalition conference. It is difficult to come back after five days in DC. So, I have been extremely busy with preparation for answering the homeless recovery funds--no posts this week. But I have dug out, and now have a minute to write. The Sunday before the conference was an all day briefing with housing coalitions throughout the country. All are experiencing funding problems with the states trying to balance the budget with funding traditionally reserved for poor people. The conference started on Monday April 20, and was informative and helpful. A brief review:

Stan Collender, a federal budget expert and former Roll Call columnist and comedian, opened the conference. He gave us good context for the conference talking about this unique time in our history. This is the one year that the Congress will be willing to pass a budget in the negative. Don't expect that next year or anytime in the future. He broke down some of the myths about the budget and gave us some context. The most important statement that caught everyone in the audience was that we all have a real messaging problem with affordable housing. Collender does polling and said that affordable housing groups have done a poor job in convincing the public that housing is a part of the infrastructure, jobs and leads to spin off development. Most people believe affordable housing helps the individual, but does not translate to the bigger picture. This is a huge problem, and every poverty group in America needs to start talking about this perception problem.

Barney Frank,a representative from Boston to Congress and chairman of the House Finance Committee, spoke to the lunch time crowd. Rep. Frank has become the target for the Right wing pundits as the cause of the financial collapse. They point to his support of Fannie Mae or Community Re-Investment Act for the reason for the collapse of housing. They point to his support of the Bush Administration toxic relief program or on and on making him the villian. The speech received a lot of coverage from the major media, but I don't think he made news with the speech. Rep. Frank dispelled many of the myths, and explained how most of the subprime lending did not come from CRA regulated banks. He talked about many of the proposals that he and his collegues are working on to address this housing crisis:
  • A subprime lending regulatory bill.
  • They will find a way to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.
  • Increase FHA backed lending.
  • Tenant protections for renters facing foreclosure.
  • A Section 8 reform bill to fix the housing voucher program.
  • They will work to preserve all affordable housing including Public Housing.
  • Finally, a restriction on the securitization of loans.
All of this while passing a budget and keeping the plane in the lane. Rep. Frank took some questions and then answered questions from the media outside the ballroom.

NLIHC published a great book at the conference on all the housing issues facing the United States. They go through the history of an issue, and talk about their position on potential piece of legislation. NLIHC Director, Shelia Crowley went over the major issues that the Coalition is actively working on passing. The big items at the forefront of their agenda were: more money for the Housing Trust Fund, foreclosed renter protection, and a 200,000 voucher increase in the Housing Choice (Section 8) voucher program.

I got to attend a few interesting workshops especially the future of Public Housing. Maxine Waters staff, Charla Ouertatani, was great. Ms. Ouertatani said all the right things about Public Housing and seemed to have a great understanding of the problems. She talked about a requirement of 1 for 1 replacement of all public housing that are taken down. A dropping of many of the barriers put in place to keep people out of housing, increasing tenant protections, and more resident involvement in the decision making.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was a breath of fresh air with a full understanding of the problems facing America and taking a lead role in the cabinet. For about 20 years, the HUD Secretary was relegated to second tier cabinet member and spent most of their time on non-housing related issues. Donovan seems to be ready to take on the problems facing the United States in the housing sector. From the 20 years of underfunding all the subsidy programs to the abuses in the loan industry, Donovan has a great deal of work ahead. He has four years of no sleep and a great deal of pressure to succeed.

Finally, we got to hear from the Domestic Policy Council Director, Melody Barnes, who looked at the broader picture of poverty in America. She put in context that health care, education reform, job development must fit into the affordable housing solutions to the problems facing this country. She mentioned a few taboo subjects including rental housing, which were not uttered for the last eight years within the White House. Overall, one of the better conferences that I have attended, and well worth the expense.

Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grading the Administration: 13

Weekly Grades for the Obama Administration on Poverty: D

Again, not much to say for unlucky week 13. Obama was out of the country for most of the week, and so it seems as though the government does very little on domestic issues during the President's absence. There was another middle class forum held to talk about making college affordable. There was a new HUD staff person selected who actually knows the words "Fair Housing," which is a good thing. This is HUD Fair Housing month, which was ignored for about a decade. There is a great deal of work going on within the administration on getting the stimulus dollars on the streets. There was more inside baseball talk about government reform to make the executive branch more effective. The President spent tax day with a few "ordinary Americans" discussing tax policy and the federal government. This does not deserve many points, but at least it is an effort. No points for the foreign trips or the release of the tax returns, so this week is a D in the academic scale. Now that Obama has travelled all around the world it is time to focus on domestic policy and poverty. Hey, just expand the ideas on the White House website about poverty with a little more flesh on the proposals, and the administration would get a C. They better hurry--It is almost the end of the first semester.

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Local Reports from Advocates

Homelessness Around the United States

I am a board member of the National Coalition for the Homeless, and at every board meeting we go around the room and hear local reports about homelessness in the United States. It is a great opportunity to hear about the troubles and struggles in other cities in America four times a year. There are some successes, but they are few and far between and are usually centered in Minnesota and Denver. Here are some of the things that I heard over this weekend. Overall, homelessness is up across the United States with only a few exceptions, and non-profit organizations are struggling to stay alive in this horrible economy.

Minnesota: They are taking a portion of the state’s money for supportive services, so these funds will just supplant state or local funds. Foreclosures are still up. Advocates are trying as much as possible to make sure that the new prevention dollars get to the poorest people and the money is not taken to replace local or state dollars because of the huge budget problems.

Montana: Still seeing an increase in foreclosures. There is extreme poverty on the Indian Reservations in Montana that does not even compare to the homeless issues in other parts of America.

Arkansas: Statewide Homeless Coalition is on life support. HMIS has been helpful in the rural communities—20,000 families were entered in the system and 38,000 children in the system. Trust Fund passed, but no money was put in the trust fund. $10.5 million in prevention resources are available for Arkansas. Immigration violations of homeless people, basically the undocumented are being used as slave labor.

DC: With regard to federal stimulus dollars the Mayor has decided to grab what he can to replace local funding for existing programs. Community has gutted the housing program budget and so will be assigned a case manager, but not getting a house. Pushing for homeless hate crimes into an Omnibus Crime bill, and looks like it will be passed in June.

Texas: Governor turned down $550 million for extended unemployment. Looking to expand legal services to homeless people with prevention dollars. State housing trust fund may receive a boost. Hate crimes bill introduced, but unlikely it will pass. Introduced a statewide voice mail bill—there is good support. May pass a voter ID law in Texas. Using stimulus dollars to educate, certify homeless people, and get them into a job while supplementing their wages.

Detroit: Foreclosures way up. Criminal justice focus of Mayor and Governor, and they are working on helping people leave jail and find stability with a job/housing.

New York City: 36,000 in shelter system including children. 4 out of 5 people in the shelters are from families. 970,000 families a year in one year. 13,000 new families entering the shelters. Eliminate priority for homeless people in the Section 8 program replaced with a time limited program 2 year. Government trying to swap out local dollars ($74 million) to fund prevention programs with the new stimulus dollars so there will be no increase or additional benefit. State budget battles, but luckily did not see major homeless cuts. Seems to be a crackdown on street homeless people maybe because of upcoming mayoral vote.

Ft. Lauderdale: Ranked 50th compared to the rest of the nation in education in Florida. Highly regressive tax system exists in Florida. Big budget problems and yet part time legislators have no solution. Local homeless coalition does a memorial day, living wage work, Stand Down, voice mail, and strong focus on re-entry programs. Working on passing an alternative to incarceration resolution in the state.

Miami: Activists are trying to make sure that the stimulus dollars get to the people. Use existing structure, but Miami Coalition will monitor. Florida third in foreclosures in the United States. Trying to change the bankruptcy law to protect the primary home of individuals. Trying to overturn the residency restrictions especially to help those who have turned to living under bridges for voting and other purposes.

Nashville TN: New staff at the homeless power project, and they are trying to work on the stimulus money--$2 million in prevention and $4 million in public housing money will be available to the City. Concerned that these funds will not result in jobs, and so long term homeless will not be changed. Homeless commissions just keep studying the problems, but not producing results at the local and state level. Nashville has a number of tent cities and there is a lot of media attention of one of those tent cities. They are working on trying to get low-income people into the green jobs initiatives.

Sacramento: Tent City has received a ton of attention (300-400 people were living on private property). Some were victims of the economy, but most were long term homeless. The government has extended the winter shelter until June. Some advocates are trying to educate public about the reasons people are living in the shelters: current system does not serve the population. Couples, those with pets, and too much stuff with them were the big reasons why people were not going inside congregate living arrangements. Put 40 people into housing and opened a safeground for people to keep their stuff. No one has been arrested to this point yet. Real spotlight should be on the lame 10 year plan in Sacramento. Need to rethink long-term homeless strategy, and take into account long-term services to families. Some of the local advocates feel that the Sacramento government’s response has been horrible, and staged a protest on Friday. Prevention and Rapid Re-housing funds coalition put together to respond to the prevention funding. Need to coordinate all the public money coming in to serve homeless people. Hate crimes bill reintroduced in state legislature in California.

Denver/Colorado: Grand opening of 100 new green apartments—50 for affordable housing and 50 for long term homeless people. Working on another project using federal stimulus dollars/foreclosure dollars for Denver. State Interagency Council is trying to coordinate stimulus dollars for the state of Colorado. Not seeing an increase in foreclosures, and stimulus dollars are being used to build new projects. Mayor of Denver has been a good advocate, and the Sheriff is doing a rental assistance program for those re-entering society with a mental illness.


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Monday, April 13, 2009

What Can I Do?

Photo by Pleasure Simmons--Photography Graduate from 2008. For ordering prints please contact the Coalition at 216/432-0540.

A Few Opportunities for Lobbying to End Homelessness

1. Cleveland Hearing on People's Budget Priorities
Epiphany Catholic Church at 11901 Oakfield Ave. will host a forum on Federal Budget priorities on Thursday night at 6 p.m.. Community groups and individuals can give testimony of up to three minutes. Testimony will be collected and given to Congressional and Senators from Ohio. This is sponsored by the Peoples Budget Priorities c/o Peace in the Hood. For more information call 216/283-4400 ext. 2266.

2. Lobby Day with COHHIO on Wednesday April 22 or Thursday April 23 with ABLE
The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio will host a their lobby day on April 22 in Columbus. The focus this year will be the two foreclosure bills pending in the Ohio House at this time. Cathy Johnson at COHHIO is the contact and she can be reached at 614/280-1984. If you cannot make it down to Columbus, but are talking to your local representative make sure you mention how much you support HR 9 because it protects tenants from facing surprise homelessness when their landlord is foreclosed on. This is a critical bill to begin to end this foreclosure crisis.

Thursday April 23, 2009 the Advocates for Budget Legislation Equality (ABLE) will be going down to Columbus to assist legislators understand the importance of state funding for health care, child care, elder care, housing and food programs. They wll be leaving from Merrick House early in the morning and traveling down to Columbus as a group. The ABLE group wants to call attention to some of the rough decisions that are going to have to be made with the upcoming budget, and try to put a face on these decisions. For information call Larry or Tim at 216/651-2606 for more information.

3. Support the Development of a Local Housing Trust Fund
After a couple of years of work, the County Housing Trust Fund Implementation Task Force will report on their work to the County Commissioners on Thursday April 30, 2009 at sometime between 11:30 to Noon. If you have time, please show your support for a fund that would be dedicated to preserving or building affordable housing locally. There is a fund for the arts, for stadiums, and for conventions, but not for housing. We need the Commissioners to accept this report, and then work with the state of Ohio to get authority to put a fund in place. We could use some people in the seats to show support for the creation of a Housing Trust Fund April 30, 2009 at the Cuyahoga County Commissioners meeting on the fourth floor of the County Administration buildin--1219 Ontario Ave. We hope that you can make it or when talking to County Commissioners let them know that you support this housing trust fund.

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Grading the Administration 12

Weekly Grades of Obama Administration on Poverty: F

I don't have much to say this week, but the administration did very little toward addressing poverty. I looked at all the federal websites that had anything to do with poverty, but could not find anything. There was another health forum this week, but the biggest issue was the increase in the defense budget. The proposal is to increase defense spending by 4% over last year. There is a decrease in spending on weapons and more money on personnel, but this is money that could go for butter. Even if we reduced the defense spending to the level of the Carter or Nixon administration that would be a step in the right direction. During this recession, we need more butter and fewer guns. One weapon's system could solve homelessness in Cleveland. This is the first F for the administration, and I hope that this is not a trend. Semester grades are coming out soon.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Summit Voice Mail

Nice Article in the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday

On Monday, the Akron Beacon Journal had a very nice article about the introduction of Community Voice Mail down in Summit County. Nice photograph of a person who had successfully used the program to find a job and stabilize her housing, and a good profile of the program. Our old staff person, Mike Gibbs, helped start up the program down in Summit County and now has distributed 500 boxes to people trying to find housing in the Akron area. He worked for NEOCH for seven years starting the program from scratch and helped it grow to the second or third largest program in the United States. We miss Mike, but appreciate that he has become the Johnny Appleseed of Voice Mail in Ohio. It is nice to see some good news about homelessness every so often in the media.

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What Can I Do?

FOCUS Your Attention on Foreclosures

The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) is asking Ohioans to join them in Columbus on April 22 for a FOCUS on Foreclosures Lobby Day in support of Ohio House Bills 3 and 9. NEOCH supports the FOCUS group, and have written to support Rep. Mike Foley's HB 9. If you are interested in joining them, please contact cathy johnson at to become a part of their listserv and receive regular updates.

Ohio House Bill 3 is an important bill for homeowners facing foreclosure. Currently, it:

  • declares a six month moratorium on foreclosures [even though some banks have stated they are imposing their own foreclosure moratoriums, Cuyahoga County alone is still seeing more than 1,000 foreclosures a month];
  • gives courts the power to modify mortgage agreements, allowing not only for homeowners to remain in their homes, but also ensuring mortgage companies get their money;
  • allows for a homeowner to remain on the property after foreclosure should the mortgage company not require the property for personal use. Every meeting with large gatherings of homeless people the topic always moves to how can there be so many vacant homes and so many
  • establishes a Mortgage Services Registration Law which requires mortgage lenders to adhere to business standards (including responsibility to the borrower) and to provide homeowners with information regarding resources and rights before foreclosure; and
  • sets up the Foreclosure Prevention Revolving Trust Fund, which provides money for grants for preventing and mitigating foreclosure issues.

Ohio House Bill 9, on the other hand, provides important rights for renters whose landlords are facing foreclosure, including:

  • requiring landlords to inform tenants should the property face foreclosure [too many tenants don’t find out about the foreclosure until the sheriff shows up to evict them];
  • requiring landlords to inform tenants of date, time, and place of sale at least 21 days before the sale of the property; and
  • requiring any rental agreement on a foreclosed property to continue as a month-to-month agreement, thereby making the mortgage company the landlord, because there’s no reason a tenant who always pays rent on time should be punished when the landlord is foreclosed on.

If you have the time and the means, please contact COHHIO and join them on their lobby day. Speak with your representatives and let them know that these bills are vital in protecting Ohio’s citizens and keeping Ohio’s families in homes. Again, if you are interested, contact cathyjohnson at or call them at 614-280-1984.


Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Grading the Administration 11

Weekly Grades for the Obama Administration on Poverty: D

This was a rough week to give a score, because nearly all the work of the administration involved international and foreign policy. I had to dig deep to find anything that had to do with poverty coming out of the executive branch this week. I would give an Incomplete for lack of any work done, but the administration is bigger then just the President. So, I looked at what the various departments are doing and found a few things that will help, but it is scarce. This week we have to give the Administration a D for their work on poverty.

The G-20 did approve a large allocation to fight poverty in developing countries. How can we get Detroit and Cleveland to qualify as a developing nation? The department of Health and Human Services is sending out billions to improve Head Start. This is no doubt a program that helps lower income children with proven success. They are also announcing the increase in rural health clinics as part of the stimulus bill. Again, a needed expansion in a country that has developed a formula for converting a person's health to a dollar figure. There will be a series of health care reform forums and the administration is looking for input. Finally, the Department of Education is starting to send some of the capital dollars out to improve schools throughout the United States. That is all that I could find for this last week. Obama was traveling most of the week, and said very little about poverty back home.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

NEOCH Annual Event

NEOCH Hope Blossoms

The NEOCH Annual Fund Raiser is set for Friday May 1, 2009 at Massimo da Milano. We will have a silent auction, a key note speaker, and a few awards given out. The invitations are in the mail, but you can also sign up on our website. It should be a great event this year and we are back on the near West Side of Cleveland. We hope that we can reconnect with all those supporters out there, and make a few new friends. We have kept the event affordable again this year, and hope that you will be able to sign up. Call NEOCH if you have any questions at 216/432-0540.

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

Interesting Comment

We Have Another Alumni of the Shelters Reading This Blog

If you check out the comments section of this blog, you know that CynDe regularly comments on the conditions within Cleveland as a former member of the homeless community. She regularly responds to the issues raised in this blog, and we love hearing from someone who has made it through the trauma of homelessness and is doing well far from the bustle of Public Square. Now, we have a new person who stayed at CWS, and does not have the best memories of those days. Telerisghost commented on two of our recent posts about her experiences as a homeless Mom in Cleveland. She raises a couple of interesting points. I do not believe that St. Malachi meal is going to close, but I will follow up with this comment. My understanding was that there were two religious communities at Malachi and they would be merging into one, but I will look into this and report back. But, I absolutely agree that Malachi is one of the best programs in the City and part of the fabric of our community. That program not only feeds people on Monday nights but they operate a food window everyday and a shower program. The volunteers at Malachi deal with the hunger of those staying on the near West Side, but also the soul with medical help and care for those struggling by their many volunteers. NEOCH actually sent a letter to the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese last week asking that in this consolidation of churches that we not lose any services such as the meal at Malachi.

Both CynDe and Telerisghost commented on last week's blog entry on the Presidential address and the question relating to homeless. CynDe had a post on her own blog about the press conference before our post went up. Both agree that the pathetic poverty income that comes with disability is keeping many people homeless. Some of the politicians in DC last year tried to survive on the standard food stamp allocation for one month. This was a great exercise, but there is still a food safety net that exists in the United States, so there are places that give out food products and hot meals to supplement food stamps. How about these politicians including Obama try to survive on the typical monthly disability check? There is no emergency rent saftey net in America that a person on disability can turn to when they have a health care emergency one month and need additional medicine. There is no emergency car repair fund when a disabled person can't afford to fix their vehicle, which is critical while living in a suburban or rural environment. As I said before, America, including those surviving on disability payments, needs a raise. In addition, as soon as a person is approved for disability they should be given a housing voucher so that they would pay no more than one third of their income for housing. This is critical to keeping people from sliding back to homelessness. Welcome to the blog, Telerighost, and we look forward to reading your side of the story.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

How Did I Miss This?

Stella Maris and the Beautiful Coffee Shop

Bridging the Gap held a forum on housing yesterday at the Stella Maris auditorium. I presented with Bill Callahan and Hope Farmby from Housing Research, but I have to say that the facility was impressive. I go to the West Side regularly, and I don't know how I missed the Stella Maris facility. They have a beautiful auditorium for meetings with an attached wonderful coffee shop across the parking lot from the dormitory. The Gallagher Center opened in 2006, and I missed it. It is a great venue for meetings, and a wonderful coffee shop for members in recovery. It is a great place that provides a fitting place to take the steps back to stability and clean living. It is impressive. The website gives a good overview of their programs and services. If you are over near the Superior Viaduct stop in to see this impressive facility.

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