Monday, August 31, 2009

Veterans Affairs Conference Announced

VA Will Try to End Homelessness in Five Years

The Department of Veterans Affairs is pleased to announce the Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Veteran Summit, “Ending Homelessness Among Veterans in Five Years”, being held November 2 - 5, 2009 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park, located at 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC 20009.

This summit will bring together specialists in homeless prevention and intervention services, from both the Department of Veterans Affairs and community agencies, to exchange information, innovative thinking, and create partnerships to promote advances in the field. There are opportunities to present, and non-governmental agencies are invited to participate.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has all the materials regarding the conference here:

We will have more information as the conference approaches.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fourth Anniversary of the Levee Breaking


Man Made Disaster Remembered in New Orleans

Four years and the media is remembering the aftermath of Katrina. The Lower 9th is slowly rebuilding, but are they safe for the next hurricane? I found this article interesting that the current New Orleans police commander urges people to leave the City in a future hurricane. Over 1,400 died as a result of the flooding of the City. The New York Times magazine did a long feature on the decisions made at the Memorial Medical hospital and explored the question of whether the individuals who died there were murdered or euthanized.

New Orleans lost most of its public housing and a large number of subsidized housing units. It lost a sizable portion of its poor population and many African Americans. There are still FEMA trailers, and a great deal of overgrown land. They never did get Memorial Medical hospital back, but at least the Saints came back. The levees are still not rebuilt to the point that they can withstand a major "storm event." There are vacant houses all over town much like the devastation wrought by the foreclosure crisis in Cleveland, but unemployment is 3 points below our fair city. And still we wait for the prosecutions for those who left the Big Easy so ill prepared. Do we need a truth and reconciliation commission for New Orleans? Someone needs to be held responsible for all of the destruction caused by the poorly constructed levee system, and the inability to evacuate the city. The City is still not restored after four years, and we cannot even tell the residents, "Never again."

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Shelter Workers Not Protected

H1N1 (Swine Flu) Planning for Homeless Shelters

I attended the meeting today to talk about plans for a flu outbreak within the shelters in Cleveland. Thanks to Care Alliance and the Office of Homeless Services for coordinating this meeting. I was shocked to learn that shelter workers are not on the list of first immunized with the vaccine when it comes out sometime in October. Shelter staff are not considered emergency front line staff. There may be immunization of shelter workers who are working with children or pregnant women who are high priority for vaccination. This leaves the men's shelters, which are some of the largest facilities in our communities, without coverage for staff. If there is an outbreak of flu, will these workers show up to work? Will they risk their families getting sick if they go to work? It just does not make sense that these 250 to 300 people in the community will not be the first to get the vaccine so that we do not have to close all these shelters. If there is an outbreak and staff stop showing up for work, the shelters will close and these sick people will be sent out into the community. These potentially sick individuals will try to stay with family and friends and risk spreading the illness throughout the community. This is not very good planning to not have these workers healthy and keeping the shelters open. It does us know good to plan and train these staff if they get sick or refuse to show up for work.

Other things I learned today that need some attention:
1. Based on CDC estimates, we will probably see 2 to 4 people die from the flu in our shelters in Cleveland.
2. Because of the high number of smokers and people with compromised immune systems, the homeless population is at especially high risk for both types of flu.
3. We do not have enough hospital masks for staff or those already infected staying in the shelters.
4. There were nine shelters who did not show up for this meeting (which is of some concern).
5. They will set up isolation units within the shelters for those who get sick.
6. The shelters cannot send people out if they have flu within the facility, so this will mean a change in the way shelters operate.
7. There is not much planning going on within the shelters to meet disasters or emergencies in general so this is going to take a lot to get ready in the next few weeks.
8. We do not know if there will be one or two shots for swine flu--this would mean two or three shots are going to be necessary this flu season. One for the regular flu virus and then another series in October for H1N1.
9. Care Alliance is stepping up its regular flu shot routine to cover more people, but the swine flu is the big unknown and a lot of questions remain. We do not know if there is going to be enough vaccine in the local community.
10. There are not a lot of resources right now specific to flu and homeless people on the net or circulating.
11. Shelters have to take people in who show up to the door, but what if they are sick? Do they risk infecting the rest of the population? These are questions that need to be addressed in the near future.

We will continue to track these issues.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Updates from Previous Posts

Health Care, Poor People, and Shelter Standards

Today on NPR's Morning Edition they featured a story about health care for homeless people in the context of the current debate about health care reform. I posted something about the need for health care reform to reduce homelessness last week. It was a good story indicating that 70% of the homeless population do not have access to any insurance including Medicare/Medicaid across the United States. I believe that in Cleveland that figure is at 80-85% according to Care Alliance. Single adults in Ohio do not have access to Medicaid and very few are old enough to be eligible for Medicare. This puts pressure on the Free Clinic, Care Alliance, MetroHealth, and the neighborhood family practice clinics to provide charity care to the 16,000-17,000 who find themselves homeless and without health care in Cleveland every year.

I attended the Poor People's March on Friday with about other activists in Cleveland including peace activists, those opposed to poverty, those advocating for universal health care, and unions. It was a nice event well guarded by the Cleveland Police, and they were allowed to walk down the in the street angering motorists this year. I did hear one speaker at the Federal building advocating for straying from MLK's non-violence credo. This was disappointing when viewed with the backdrop of violence displayed at the Town Hall Forums. No politician or elected official showed up.

There are now 23 Cleveland City Council Candidates who have signed onto regulating the shelters. This includes 11 candidates who were in office as City Council members in 2008. If you see any candidates over the next two weeks leading up to the primary ask them about the shelter regulations. We regularly update this site as soon as we hear from the candidates.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yellow Meters Not a Big Deal

Why are So Many Talking About the Donation Meters?

I have only one problem with the yellow donation parking meters that the Downtown Cleveland Alliance installed downtown, but they are not a big deal. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about these meters. There are those who love them and feel a sense of triumph that we are finally doing something about panhandling. There are many who feel that this is some weak attempt by the City to make money off of the charity of pedestrians. Neither of these scenarios are true. My biggest concern is that people will feel that we are addressing homelessness with the table scraps that will be collected. Homelessness is an expensive problem to solve that has resulted because our federal government has tried to find ways to cut costs. They have cut housing, job training, health care, and entitlements, and basically passed those costs onto the local community. That is why we have so many homeless people and why there are so many people who resort to begging for cash.

This is not a City of Cleveland program, and none of the money goes to the City. No city employee will even be collecting the money. These funds may benefit a few panhandlers who need identification not just to get social services, but to get housing, jobs and in many cases prescription drugs. Most people will continue to give to panhandlers, because they will want to give directly to a person without the administrative overhead. Finally, panhandlers rarely organize themselves and will not complain very loudly because they do not want to call attention to themselves. It is unlikely that we will ever see a panhandler revolt or even a panhandling protest.

With this in mind, I have to question the Plain Dealer editorial on Friday. This big corporate interest in Cleveland with their own building and security personnel is condemning the poorest people in our community who have decided that they have no where else to turn but to beg for money in the hot sun or the rain.
"JEERS . . . to panhandlers who don't like the yellow meter idea. They may prefer the direct approach, but most pedestrians don't enjoy it. It's possible that because of the meters at least a few people will be moved to charity, rather than just moving across the street to avoid a panhandler."
What is the purpose of this swipe? The biggest fear for these suits from the suburbs up to now is if it is going to rain on Saturday thus wiping out their golf or tennis game now are concerned about the complaints of panhandlers. Here is something to be afraid of: put these yellow meters in the lobby of City Hall and the County Administration building so that our elected officials can put in spare change into them every time a corporation or businessman comes in begging for a tax abatement or a variance for their building.

Bottom line is that these are not a big deal. People need to calm down about the yellow donation meters. We still have the choice to give or not to give. This is just one more opportunity to do something charitable. Now, the panhandlers just need to figure out how to quickly accept credit card donations in order to get a leg up on the yellow meters.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Update on the Shelter Regulations

New Support After Scene Article

The Homeless Congress had three candidates return their form over the last day after the Scene Magazine put a story on their blog yesterday. We now have 17 of the 57 candidates including 8 who were in office in 2009 have endorsed the regulation of the shelters. The primary election for Cleveland City Council is in two weeks, and then there will be 60 days before the regular election. The primary will narrow the field to two candidates who will run in November. Homeless Congress members will continue to solicit support from the candidates right up to the November election.

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Question of the Day?

Why is Health Care a Commodity?
photo by Toni Anderson

Why is the health care of my employees and my family at the mercy of an insurance company? Why is anyone allowed to make a profit off of my well being? Why are people so happy with insurance company staff making medical decisions for Americans? Why do we keep paying for health insurance that goes up at 2 or 3 or 4 or even 5 times the inflation rate every year?

There are so many homeless people who do not have any health insurance including Medicaid. There are so many homeless people improperly discharged from hospital to shelter. Most of the homeless population falls through the cracks or they make their medical decisions about which emergency room to go to based on which will not ask them about a previous bill. We need free universal health care in the United States right now! We could significantly reduce homelessness if we could get everyone preventative health care. Those with a mental illness, alcohol or drug addiction or long term chronic health condition would have a significant increase in the quality of their lives if they had better access to a doctor. The Free Clinic, Care Alliance, MetroHealth, and the other neighborhood family practice health facilities do a good job, but the other big players are AWOL in the struggle to improve the health care for homeless people. All of our work would be easier if there was universal Medicare or the Veterans Administration programs were expanded to serve everyone.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Update on Shelter Regulations

Homeless Congress is Collecting Signatures

The members of the Homeless Congress sent out letters to every candidate for City Council (57) to ask that if elected will they support some form of regulation of the publicly funded shelters in Cleveland. We have heard back from 14 who claim that they will support the legislation including five incumbents, and two came back returned to sender. Last week was our first meeting since the first letters went out, and one candidate, Maryanne Petranek, attended the meeting. Her message at the meeting was that she does not support more government regulations, and wanted to see a City Council committee set up to change the homeless system. This did not sit very well with the members of the committee who had spent months writing this potential piece of legislation, but Ms. Petranek sat through the meeting and listened to the concerns of the members of the homeless community. It was nice to see that she had enough interest in the civic problems facing Cleveland that she attended the meeting.

Today, she sent in her form expressing her support for the potential regulations with this note on the back:
"Thank you for allowing me to speak at your meeting on Thursday, August 13, 2009. I do not support federal $'s for shelters but I do support the local community supporting the individuals who have become homeless for whatever reason.

We need a paradigm shift and a new model to assist people in becoming free of the bondage of homelessness.

I will be happy to meet with anyone who will help construct this new model to end homelessness permanently and give every human being the opportunity to live as an individual, making his/her own choices in a healthy community.

Sincerely, Maryanne Petranek"

Petranek is running against Council President Martin Sweeney and Norbert Dennerll Jr. who endorsed the regulations four weeks ago. We are willing to post any message from Sweeney or Dennerll in response to Ms. Petranek's comment, since NEOCH and the Homeless Congress are not taking any position in support of any candidate for City Council. The next Congress meeting is September 10, 2009. Any or all candidates are welcome to attend.


Update 8/19: Scene Magazine did a short article about the quest for shelter standards today in their magazine. Also today, current Council President, Martin Sweeney endorsed the shelter regulations today.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Care to Our Veterans

It is Not All Bad News

Photo by Toni Anderson from the 2008 Photo Project.

I was listening to Bob Edwards weekend this morning on WCPN. His second hour was all about homeless veterans mostly in DC (you can listen here for $2.95).

It made me start thinking about how we treat our veterans in America. As a frequent visitor to our nation's capital, I am always amazed by the number of homeless people sleeping in the parks, but also how many veterans there are in DC. It is almost like these guys heard a calling that if they moved to the home city of their commander and chief all their problems would be solved. After all, the Defense department and the veterans administration are both headquartered in DC. Every soldier knows that if they are injured but can make it back to HQ, they will be saved.

The Obama Administration has big plans to end veteran's homelessness in the next five years (five years sooner than all the plans from the Bush Administration). There is a big summit in DC in the fall to talk about the plans. The VA has dramatically improved their website to provide more information to veterans in need of housing, and they have given out thousands of housing vouchers to veterans.

While it is true that no veteran should become homeless in United States, we have not done a very bad job serving this population. In most cities, including Cleveland, the Department of Veteran's Affairs runs a model program that other systems should replicate. Yes, people fall through the cracks and staff are not always the most compassionate, but the system is comprehensive. There are outreach workers, shelters, transitional facilities, treatment, mental health counseling, jobs programs, health care, and housing vouchers. We have the Brecksville facility in Cleveland which is just beautiful. It is peaceful and a nice place to recover and rejoin society. There are holes in the system, but it is some higher level of respect for those veterans who have served in the military. I hope that we can end homelessness for veterans and take the lessons learned to end homelessness for everyone.

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Demonstration This Friday

Photo from the 2008 Demonstration

Martin Luther King Jr. Remembering the Dream



“Still Fighting For The Dream”




AND MLK’s “I Have a Dream” SPEECH

Friday August 21 at 12 Noon

Assemble at the State Office Bldg.

(W. 6th and Superior)

Walk to the County Building, to City Hall

And end at the Free Stamp Park

Speak out on our nation’s Crisis of Poverty

Be inspired by poetry, music, and dance in the park

From 2pm to 5pm, at the Free Stamp

With Basheer Jones & Al Porter of the Hip Hop Workshop

Sponsored by: the Family Connection Center 216-751-2260

Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor 216-321-1677

Endorsers: Advocates for Budget Legislation Equality (ABLE), Basheer Jones, Bail Out the People Movement, Black on Black Inc., CMSD Parent Ambassador, Cleveland Jericho, Cleveland Fist, Cleveland Peace Action, Global Education, Interreligious Task Force, Jobs With Justice, the Money Spot, NE Ohio Anti-War Coalition, NE Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Organize Ohio, Parents in Progress, Single Parent Action Network, United Clevelanders Against Poverty

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Housing Fair 2009

Housing Issues Service Fair 9/25/09

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and a number of other non-profits are coordinating a housing fair for homeless people. We intend to have actual landlords and apartment owners available to take applications. The goal is to get as many people as possible into housing or at least on a short waiting list.

If you would like to volunteer for this event, contact Randy Cunningham at the Cleveland Tenants Organization at 216/432-0616.

Brian Davis
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Donation Meters Come to Cleveland

Photo by Toni Anderson--Photography Class Graduate

Downtown Cleveland Alliance Unveils Donation Receptacles

With little fanfare, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance has finally gotten its former parking meters--now donation meters up and running. After a long period of negotiations with the City, the program went live over the last month. They have placed about a dozen meters around the Downtown to begin collecting money that will support programs that help homeless people. Based on the first few weeks, this will not be a huge amount of money, but it will probably support the Change Bus and purchasing identification for homeless people.

The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty criticized these programs in their recent report. There is nothing on the Downtown Cleveland Alliance's web page yet, but we got reports that they are now available downtown. The Alliance runs the downtown clean up and safety program with the yellow shirt staff on bikes and walking around the City. They also run an old circulator bus that transports homeless people to healthcare and other appointments. Finally, DCA has a paid social worker who interacts with homeless people and homeless programs. This social worker has in the past had some funds to give out to pay for birth certificates and state identification. The funds raised from the donation meters will go to support the DCA outreach efforts.

PS Thanks Toni for the Photo.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wall Street Journal Brings Bad News

Have We Given Up on Solving Homelessness?

I am one of the biggest homeless Civil Rights guys in the country, but this news out of Nashville seems like a sign of surrender. The Wall Street Journal brings news that the some cities are allowing tent cities to grow. I don't want law enforcement to crack down on homeless people, but I certainly don't want Mayors to tolerate the development of substandard living conditions. This is what I see happened with shelters in Cleveland. We started putting shelters in temporary locations with the thought that they would close when the crisis was over. Then in the late 1990s and into the beginning of this decade, we made the large shelters into permanent structures. It was a sign that the City had accepted that we will never end homelessness.

Now, we are accepting tents as an alternative to shelter. So, we given up the thought that everyone living in the richest country on the planet should have a roof. We have even given up the ghost that we can provide a shelter bed to everyone in need. It should be the highest priority of every city government to draw a line in the sand that we do not cross. It should be a sign of failure of local government to tolerate tent cities. Tents are cheap, and they can keep people alive, but should we create a neighborhood of tents? How about we tolerate a tent city only if the Mayor, the police chief, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, and the CEO of health insurance company were all forced to live there. I am sure if we forced elected and business leaders to see what it is like to live in a tent for an extended period of time, all of these individuals would have some kind of housing quickly.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Crimes Against Homeless People

New Homeless Hate Crimes Report Issued

The National Coalition for the Homeless issued their annual look at attacks on homeless people yesterday. It got front page coverage on Saturday in the New York Times with details of attacks in Las Vegas and they mentioned the brutal murder of Anthony Waters in Cleveland. Today, NPR's Weekend Edition interviewed Brian Levin a criminologist from California who argued that we needed to add homeless people to current hate crimes laws. Levin helped NCH compile this report. He talked about the reality that we are seeing twice as many attacks on homeless people according to this report when compared to every other hate crime leading to murder (as tracked by the FBI). This report also shows that 70% of the crimes are perpetrated by those age 25 or below. We need Ohio legislators to add homeless people to the hate crimes statute.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Question of the Day?

Why No Cleveland Street Soccer Team?

This weekend was the national tournament to pick the team that will represent the United States in Street Soccer in DC. The question of the day is why doesn't Cleveland have a Street Soccer team? It is a great empowerment project to send current or recently homeless people to represent your city in a national tournament and possibly to compete for the United States in an international tournament. The team from San Francisco won the tournament, and a team will be picked that has the best players from all the teams to go to Milan to compete. ESPN always has some coverage of the event. HBO did a special on the tournament for Real Sports a couple of years ago.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

City Council Candidates Sign On to Regulations

Homeless Congress Ask Candidates for Help

The members of the Homeless Congress have sent letters to all 57 candidates running for City Council asking for support of legislation that would regulate the shelters. After two weeks, nine candidates have signed on in support including three incumbents. We hope to get a response to the mailing this week. You can check out the website to see the list of candidates who support some kind of regulation of the local homeless shelters. The big issue for homeless people is that they need one place within government to go to complain about conditions. The members of the Homeless Congress have pushed this legislation for the last two years, and hope to see some progress in the fall.

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