Friday, December 31, 2010

Save the Date

Rally for A Sane Budget for Ohio

There is a new collaboration of groups concerned about the future of Ohio schools, the Housing Trust Fund, social services, and state support for local government. The group is called OneOhio Now. The national economy is in recession, Ohio's revenues continue to fall below what's required to meet people's rising needs. In response, Ohio has over-relied on reducing services that assist communities and vulnerable families. In its next two-year budget, our state faces a record shortfall of up to $8 billion. Schools, police, hospitals, libraries, and local services are all endangered. It will take a balanced approach that includes revenues to minimize the impact on Ohioans and ensure our state emerges strong when prosperity returns. NEOCH has signed on as a supporter of this organization.

Their first major event is January 14, 2011 at 2 p.m. in Columbus at the Ohio Statehouse. You can RSVP for the event here. NEOCH can help with carpooling if you are interested in going, but do not want to drive. The group has been able to get three opinion pieces published in Cincinnati, Akron and Dayton. We hope that you can attend this first in a series of gatherings to come over the next six months. If you need any more information Andrea Fejes e-mail and telephone number are available on the One Ohio Now website.

While we prepare for massive state cuts, please get some rest and have a Happy New Year!! Homeless Advocates are going to need their energy over the next six months.
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Street Newspaper Featured in Plain Dealer

Angelo Anderson Featured

Vendor and founder of the original Cleveland street newspaper, the Homeless Grapevine was featured in the Plain Dealer today regarding the publication of the new paper. There is a video that accompanies the story on the website and a photograph of Angelo by one of the Plain Dealer's best, Marvin Fong. Thanks to Mike O'Malley for taking an interest in things happening on the streets of Cleveland.

The Cleveland Street Chronicle has been out for the last two weeks and people seem to be enthusiastic about a new paper. WTAM picked up the story today.

Ben Gulyas commented on his efforts to raise dollars to publish a paper. If anyone out there would like to sell the paper or knows someone struggling who is willing to go out in the cold to sell the paper, send them down to our address at 3631 Perkins between 9 and 5 p.m. The vendors pay 35 cents and they can sell the paper for as much as $1.25. The vendor keeps the profits. Since there are so few vendors at this point, they can make a good income if they are willing to put in the time to establish a customer base.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays from NEOCH

Happy Holidays from NEOCH!

As we finish the year, we at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless want to thank you for all your support in 2010.
We advocated for the 20,000 who found themselves without housing by marketing the affordable housing website that allows individuals to find a home. We also work to assure that public resources are available to those in need of a hand up. NEOCH works every day to assure that anyone in need of shelter has a quality decent place to spend the night.

For those who avoid shelter, we coordinate the diverse agencies providing outreach services. Our goal is to provide access to well informed professionals, public assistance, blankets, resources, or food in order to build a trusting relationship with those living outside.
We work to educate media, young adults and communities of faith about homelessness and the solutions to homelessness with 36 presentations in 2010. We work to teach organizing skills to people experiencing homelessness so that those individuals will have the tools to work on finally solving the problem associated with a lack of affordable housing.

We have worked with local universities and the federal government to host interns and support staff who work to solve problems, such as creating the Family Street Card, maintaining our website, and assisting with all of our research projects. In light of the huge anticipated changes taking place after the last election and the passage of the HEARTH Act that will fundamentally change homeless services in the United States, the NEOCH director has taken a leadership role with the National Coalition for the Homeless Board. He meets regularly with federal officials to assure that the needs of those living in Ohio are heard in Washington DC.

We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with your support. We could not have done it without you! Pictured here are three of our five staff paid through federal grants. Proving once again that NEOCH has the ability to stretch a dollar and that your federal tax dollars are reinvested in the local community. 2011 will be just as challenging with the changes in state and county government.

We hope that you can make a tax deductible donation to NEOCH over the holiday season so that we can continue our work to bring housing justice to Greater Cleveland. You can support NEOCH by going to our website and clicking on "donate now" or just following this link here. Your support is needed now more than ever.

With Appreciation,
NEOCH Board and Staff
Wishing you a joyful holiday season and a healthy New Year.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Candlelight Vigil

Rabbi Joshua Caruso attended the 2010 to deliver a prayer for those who passed.
Chuck Germana, new County Council member, attended this year to represent Cuyahoga County. Photos by Kimberly Sandoval.

Advocates Remember 50 People Who Passed Away this Year

Thanks to all the members and friends who attended the 24th Annual homeless memorial day on December 21, 2010. We were honored to have new County Council member Chuck Germana attend the vigil. He represented the County as the new form of government takes the lead in addressing homelessness locally. We had Rabbi Caruso of Fairmount Temple who has provided a prayer in his fourth Vigil and Rev. Allen Harris from Franklin Circle Church offered a prayer. This year St. Patrick's opened up their doors and allowed us to do the vigil before the regular Tuesday night meal.

We read the names of 50 homeless people and a number of friends who served homeless over the last few years. The names will be posted on our website on Tuesday. A Plain Dealer photographer attended, but the memorial did not make the cut on Wednesday. Fox 8 attended and did feature the story, but did not post it online, so we cannot link to it. We will post a few more pictures on our website from the memorial.

This is one of 150 memorials taking place around the United States. This is the second year of December 21 designated as Ohio Homeless Memorial day. There were vigils in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, and Cincinnati at various times on December 21. This is the 24th Vigil held in Cleveland, and by far the largest number of "friends of homeless people" were read at the 2010 event. We had Rita, the shelter director, killed, a former staff at Lakeside passed, and advocates who worked to provide food or a reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness. Typically, we have one or two people on the friends on the list. This year, there were seven.

Homeless people are often forgotten in our society and have become a fixture downtown who typically blend into the surroundings. The least we can do as a society is take time during the holidays to remember those who experienced homelessness at their death. The Candlelight vigil is the most important event for the Coalition of the whole year. We pause to light a candle with other low income and homeless individuals along with advocates and those working in the shelters to remember the friends who we lost this year.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Support a Street Vendor

Arthur Price passed away this year, and did not get to see the new Cleveland Street Newspaper. He would have been pleased to see the paper come back.

Cleveland Street Chronicle Debuts, Replaces Homeless Grapevine

The new street newspaper of Cleveland, the Cleveland Street Chronicle, is hitting the streets this holiday season thanks to a local group of poets. The East Side Poets worked over two months by hosting charity poetry readings and personal donations to raise the funds needed to publish a new version of the street newspaper. The poets are thanked on the front page of the Cleveland Street Chronicle’s inaugural issue. Many will remember that poet Daniel Thompson was a big supporter of the paper and had much of his poetry published in the paper. He would have hated to see the paper’s demise last year and would have been proud to see the street paper rise from its ashes because of fellow poets.

“We had to give up the old name (Homeless Grapevine) because of how many scofflaws abused the paper after it mothballed last year by using it as a cover to panhandle,” said Editor-in-Chief Brian Davis. “We figured that a clean break and a fresh start would enable this paper to survive.” You may find vendors Downtown and at the West Side Market again selling the paper for $1.25. The vendors will have green badges to show that they are legitimate. Those homeless vendors buy the paper for 35 cents and keep the profits from the sale of the paper for rent or Christmas gifts. The paper is a first step back into the workforce for many, and a number of the stories are written by current or formerly homeless individuals.

Please support these entrepreneurs as they try to raise a few dollars during this frigid holiday season. And don’t miss the chance to catch up on all the latest news, thoughtful commentary, changing statistics, and insightful poetry direct from the streets of Cleveland.

Posted by Luke Drotar
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Monday, December 20, 2010

New Street Newspaper is Out

Cleveland Street Chronicle Hits the Street
The new street newspaper for Cleveland is on the streets. A group of poets got together and raised enough dollars to publish a paper. It is now on the streets and available for $1.25. There is a lot of poetry, and we thanked the poets who raised dollars right on the front page. There will be vendors showing up at the West Side Market and Downtown selling the paper. They will have green badges to show that they are legitimate. Please support them as they try to raise a few dollars for the holidays.

We had to give up the old name (Homeless Grapevine), because so many people were abusing the paper after it was mothballed last year. We figured that we needed a clean break, and start fresh with the paper. We have to thank Brent also for all his work getting this paper out. Brent is a real friend of the paper and all of us appreciate all his help. He is going to make about 15 people have a great holiday this year because they will have income again.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Candlelight Vigil

Memorial to Remember those Who Have Passed Away

The 24th Annual Homeless Memorial Day will take place on December 21, 2010 at St. Patrick’s Meal Site 3610 Bridge Ave. at 5:00 p.m. This candlelight vigil will feature newly elected County Council member Chuck Germana as speaker along with three religious leaders. Media are welcome to attend and photograph the vigil.

Joining with other cities throughout the state and country, the Cleveland vigil will include an inter-faith memorial service from the Jewish and Christian faith traditions. In 2009, Ohio legislators designated December 21 as Ohio Homeless Memorial Day. Every big city in Ohio has a similar vigil to remember those who have passed away. This year marks the beginning of a new form of government in Cuyahoga County, and that is why we have asked County Councilman Chuck Germana to speak. Beginning in the 1990s, Cuyahoga County has taken the lead from the City of Cleveland in funding and providing services to homeless people.


Take Our Poll

Should NEOCH Distribute Donated Thong Underwear??

Every year in December we collect toys and blankets to distribute. All the toys are donated new mostly from major toy manufacturers in the United States. This year, we received a donation that stopped us in our tracks. We received 80 new individually wrapped thong underwear packages for distribution to the homeless population. No, I did not mean to type long underwear, which we would love to have donated. A major corporation donated new (high priced) thong underwear to homeless groups throughout the country.

What do you think that we should do with the thong underwear? We have posted a poll on the right hand side of this blog to solicit your opinion. You are also welcome to comment on this post. Is it appropriate to donate to women living in a homeless shelter thong underwear? Is it appropriate to distribute this underwear to facilities that are closely associated with churches and the religious community? Some people connect thong underwear with date night, and so is it appropriate giving these items out? Besides high school boys, is there a thong underwear lobby who will be offended by even having the discussion? There are certainly religious conservatives who will not want the thong underwear distributed on their property. What do you think that we should do with this thong underwear for the holidays?

PS: If you can donate blankets, we are always looking for this help. If you have more than 35 blankets to donate, we will come out and pick them up. We distribute them to people sleeping outside and to the shelters in Cleveland. During the winter months, we can never have enough blankets.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

How Are the Homeless Stimulus Funds?

Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing

Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services attended the last Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting last week. Media are not allowed to quote anything from that meeting, but I can pass along the stats from the presentation. Cleveland received $14 million (including money from the State of Ohio) in 2009 to be spent over 30 months. According to the OHS stats, we have spent $3.17 million in Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Assistance as of 12/3/2010 which translates to 2,658 households helped. For some reason they did not have a breakdown by agency as of 12/3/2010. The three largest providers of services (Cleveland Mediation, MHS, and Eden) are all spending above the average amount necessary per month to assure that all the money out by July 2012. But they did get a late start in spending money and did not really start spending until the first quarter of 2010.

All of these stats need to be taken in context. The assistance can be something as small as identification fee or can be one year of rental assistance. It can be moving expenses to relocate to better housing or paying off back rent. The funds support the Housing database in Cleveland, housing search specialists, and housing case workers. There are an average of 12,000 evictions just in Cleveland and 22,000 evictions in Cuyahoga County, and recent estimates are that 45,000 are in need of subsidized housing locally. Housing instability is increasing locally with the foreclosure crisis spreading out to outer ring suburbs, and the lack of development of new affordable housing options to match the units that are taken off line. One example of the serious need locally is the fact that the Parma Housing Authority opened the waiting list for the 400 vouchers that they have available and over 20,000 people applied for these vouchers. On another note, the agency running HPRP in Dayton, the Dayton Urban League, closed up shop two weeks ago which puts a hardship on those facing eviction in Montgomery County.

The County released statistics for the month of October 2010 which showed:
74 people got an intake at the shelter doors, and 20 were "diverted" to some other housing option and 7 were given "fast track housing." The rest (47) went into shelter or disappeared. On the prevention side, 81 intake referrals were done and 99 households were served for an average of $1,182 per individual household. I have no idea how more households were served than intakes done, but those are the stats we got.

The big change over the last three months were that a Ruth Gillett and a couple of the service providers decided that there would be some changes in the program. These changes were not approved by any oversight body in the community or homeless people or the broader homeless social service providers were not given the opportunity to comment on the changes before they were implemented. As of October, only those individuals currently living in subsidized housing can get eviction diversion/prevention funding. That is right, only those who already are assisted by the federal government every month now can get access to eviction help. These individuals would not need as much support since the federal government pays some of their rent. The most expensive and difficult population to serve, families with children, who enter the shelters will not be eligible for rental assistance unless they were living in public housing, had a voucher or were in a HUD funded building.

The NEOCH staff and board frustration with the system is the lack of transparency by the County in making these decisions. We also have concerns that the social service providers are keeping this program quiet to prevent a flood of people trying to access these funds. There is not a standard referral system to get these funds. We keep asking for the best process for referral of potential clients, and no one will give a definitive answer. There is no process even for people in subsidized housing written down anywhere that says go to this location or call this number in order to get help. In Cincinnati, there is one telephone number to call to get an interview. The rental assistance distributed from July 2009 to July 2010 by CEOGC locally also had a telephone system set up to schedule an appointment. For this program there is no set way to access the dollars mostly out of the fear about a riot as the City of Detroit experienced.

Our final frustration is the fact that the intake for diversion and rapid rehousing is done at the two entry shelters. This is the first time in our history that rental assistance was linked to shelter. Our fear is that more people will show up for a shelter bed just to get the rapid rehousing dollars. Since every shelter is already full every day, we do not need anything to attract additional people to the shelters. Maybe the Cuyahoga county reform will provide some transparency to the federal stimulus dollars being implemented by the County. We can only hope.

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**Blog Update As of 12/20/2010** In an effort to have full disclosure, Dan Joyce of Cleveland Mediation Center called today objecting to this blog entry. He refused to engage in "back and forth" about these issues, but wanted to make sure that we were aware that some of the things in this blog are not correct. Dan said that it was not true that they only give assistance to those in subsidized housing. He also said that some are approved for assistance, but don't receive it until the next month, and that is how the numbers can be more than the number requesting assistance.

Dan has never published exactly what the qualifications are for homeless prevention and where a person goes to get these funds, so it is no wonder there is confusion in the community. Also, in full disclosure, Dan was not at the Ruth Gillett presentation at CAHA, so I do not understand how he has the ability to clarify the information given out. It seems strange that a person not at a meeting would call to clarify my perception of the information given out. That is how things work in the community with some of the non-profits. It can be frustrating especially if you are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless and you depend on agency staff to be open with the information. All of these are federal tax dollars, but it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get real information about how to access help in the community. Dan did not address all the other concerns that I expressed in the blog, and I am not holding my breath that he will in the future.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sleeping Outside in Cleveland 2010

Award winning photo by Pleasure Simmons of Downtown Cleveland from the 2008 NEOCH Photo project.

Outdoor Count

Every year since 2000, volunteers have gone outside to count the number of people who sleep downtown. This was in response to the lawsuits in the 1990s challenging the City of Cleveland repeated arrests of homeless people for sleeping outside. We eventually settled with the City and then every November, we go out to make sure that homeless people are not being harassed. This year we saw a decline to only 14 people staying in the downtown. This is really good news for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and the folks at Block by Block who act as ambassadors to keep people visiting downtown. This is the first serious decline in five years. With the horrible economy and the lack of jobs, I thought for sure that we would see an increase. This is also good news for the City and County that have done all they can over the last few years to keep the shelter doors open. Finally, we have to recognize the most important reason that we have such a small number: the fantastic outreach teams in Cleveland.

We really have an exceptional group from Mental Health Services, Care Alliance, Volunteers of America, Helena from Downtown Cleveland Alliance and the Veterans Administration who are on the streets every day. We have support from 2100 Lakeside, St. Pauls outreach, the Salvation Army, as well as the John Carroll, Case Western Reserve and St. Ignatius Labre Projects to serve the population. All of these men and women who go out in the cold and rain to assist those resistant to shelter deserve a ton of credit. They are working to build a relationship with the men and women living outside to try to move them back to stable housing. They are out on the street protecting people from freezing temperatures and from the health effects of the elements.

The Thanksgiving week is typically the low point for the winter, because many family take their loved ones in for the weekend. So, this is the smallest number who will be outside for the entire winter, but it is a good number. We have a graph on the blog measuring the last 10 years to give some idea of the history of downtown homeless. We had over 60 people sleeping in the immediate downtown in the late 1990s and today we are down to 14. That is pretty impressive.

There are many that complain about panhandling and homelessness, but compared to nearly every other American city, we really don't have a big problem. There are not people sleeping on every corner like in Washington DC. There are not people trying to wash your windshield at every traffic light like San Francisco. There are not massive encampments of homeless people like in Columbus. There are not the hundreds turned away from shelter every night like in Cincinnati. We have a lot to be proud of in Cleveland with regard to keeping the number of people sleeping outside down to a small number.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

We Need Your Help!!!

Stand Down 2011 Coming

NEOCH is in need of transportation assistance for the Homeless Stand Down 2011

We are in need of people with vans to help transport guests to and from the Homeless Stand Down in 2011. As well as assisting to transport, we are looking for donated goods to the Homeless Stand Down. Transportation is vital to making the Homeless Stand Down possible. Listed below is the three dates of the event, transportation services needed for all three days.

Location and Dates

Sunday January 30: Masonic Temple, East 36th and Euclid Ave.

Winter Clothing Given Out, 9am – 2pm

Saturday February 12: HSD Care-Van traveling to various shelters in Cleveland.

Friday February 18: Health Fair, 9am-2pm

What is the Homeless Stand Down?

The Stand Down is a winter retreat for individuals experiencing homelessness and/ or poverty. Several social service providers offer free health screening, massages and haircuts to those in need at one location. Guests spend the day indoors, out of the cold enjoying food, a hand up, and entertainment. They are also provided with winter clothing and many more needed items.

For those with a few extra hours, we could use your help to volunteer with the transportation committee of the Homeless Stand Down. Contact Larry Davis, the director of transportation for the Homeless Stand Down at 216-432-0540 x 103 or at larrydavis (at) neoch (dot) org. Help give those in need a hand up, thank you and God bless.

Larry and Holly
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Monday, December 06, 2010

Homeless Congress this Thursday

County Council Member Connally to Meet with Homeless Individuals on Thursday

PRESS RELEASE: The Homeless Congress will meet on December 9, 2010 at 1 p.m. at the Bishop Cosgrove Center with C. Ellen Connally before she takes her position on the new County Council. The meeting takes place on the second floor of the Cosgrove Center in the gymnasium, and we typically have representatives living at various shelters in the community. We have invited all of the new County Council members to attend and to begin a dialogue with homeless people, and Judge Connally has agreed to discuss our issues.

The Homeless Congress has secured endorsements from 4 candidates including Judge Connally that they would support potential legislation to regulate the shelters. “Many homeless people are concerned about the conditions within the shelters, and we want a local law that will regulate the publicly funded emergency housing facilities,” said Brian Davis of NEOCH. The Congress, the Coalition, and homeless people are asking for local regulations that will be enforced by some office within the County with an ability for homeless people to file a grievance if the shelter is not performing. “We are willing to negotiate on exactly what the legislation looks like, but we want a place that will have the authority to oversee the shelters. We want to avoid another situation in which 100 women slept in a shelter for the summer with only one working shower as happened this summer,” said Davis.

Homeless people hope to have regular interactions with the County Council and County Executive as they restructure County government.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Benefit Concert for NEOCH

Woodchopper’s Ball Benefit Concert

9 of the finest acoustic guitarist anywhere performing
Proceeds are donated to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

When: Saturday December 11, 2010

Where: Kent Stage in Downtown Kent Ohio
175 East Main Street

Time: 7:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:00

Reserve Seating Available at $23 or $27 at the door
All proceeds benefit NEOCH.

"The Woodchoppers Ball" is an annual benefit concert for The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, currently held every December at The Kent Stage The Woodchoppers Ball concert in the past have included, Pete Huttlinger, Todd Hallawell, Stephen Bennett, Don Ross, Andy McKee, Doug Smith, Alex Bevan, Antoine DuFour, Patrick Woods, Michael Kelsey, Jim Earp, Kev, John Doan, David Mayfield Neil Jacobs, Jim Volk, David Gillis, Jason Dennie, Robin Kessinger, Acoustica, Bill Dutcher, Jon Mosey, Ryan Anderson, Kerry Kean and Woodchoppers Ball MC, Charley Brown.

Purchase tickets at the following location
Box office: 330-677-5005

For more information on this event please contact: NEOCH at 216/432-0540 or visit Brian Henke’s website at

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Prospects Over the Next Two Years

Elections Have Consequences

There are big changes underway within homeless services and these changes will have huge consequences on the struggle to move away from the "poorest city in the nation" designation. This has nothing to do Republican vs. Democrats. This has more to do with the number of people elected to office who do not like government. There is now a clear majority in state government and within the legislative branch of the federal government in Washington who see government as a huge problem and cannot see government solving problems. Here are a few broad concepts about what homeless people can expect as a result of the elections. We will have a detailed document about what the community can expect with specific project outlooks available to our members, because just as there are consequences for elections there are specific rewards for being a member of the Coalition.

Federal Government:
There is a strong push to return to the 2008 federal funding levels. This will have the most significant impact on the Housing and Urban Development funding, which supports many of the shelters and housing programs in the community. The big issue is what will happen with all the programs developed out of the 2009 stimulus bill that was passed. The original thought was that the prevention programs and rapid rehousing programs would receive additional funding after the 30 months of stimulus funding was exhausted. It was thought that the federal government would add funding to the Emergency Solutions Grant, and would be able to support the existing emergency shelters as well as at least a piece of the programs that prevent families from entering the shelters or the quick movement back to housing. After the election, it is very likely that there will not be enough funds to support both the emergency shelters and the prevention programs, and therefore the local community will have to make big decisions.

State Government:
At the state level there will be huge changes. These would include the privatization of various departments within state government, and even more competition for state dollars. There will be more of a focus on rewarding better outcomes, and probably an overhaul of the state emergency shelter program. It is likely that the state will fund new priorities of the new administration. Ted Strickland had worked as a counselor in a prison before his political career, and there were a number of re-entry programs started over the last few years. It is unlikely that the new Governor will have this same affinity for trying to ease people back into the community. It is unlikely that there will be a state housing trust fund, and this will put additional pressure on the state housing tax credit program. It will be interesting to see what happens with welfare benefits and the job training program, because there is a state matching requirement in order to receive the federal dollars. Both programs will probably mean a greater emphasis on serving those who are most likely to succeed and those people with multiple problems or barriers to stability will be left behind.

The mental health and alcohol drug addiction services will probably be cut again in this budget cycle. It is unlikely that every county will get funding due to forced mergers and cuts. Those who hate government will want to see better outcomes, and might force competition among the big agencies receiving government funding to assist those struggling with addiction or mental illnesses. They might also reward those programs that can show private sector investment to match state funding. Big government opponents often believe that Alcohol services can be done more effectively by religiously based organizations similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. This could lead to the total elimination of publicly funded treatment programs in Ohio. We may hear the same words we heard echoing through the 1990s in the State House with regard to a number of state funded programs, "We provide so few dollars of general assistance to individuals in Ohio that it was not worth it and tax payers might as well cut the program all together." I could see this same logic used on the alcohol and drug addiction programs. This was not the opinion of the single adults who were barely hanging on with $100 in cash that went to parent to allow them to stay in an unused bedroom or to buy hygiene items or clothing in order to find employment. But this bizarre logic is often used down in Columbus to put a positive spin on budget cuts. It is almost like they are saying, "Government has done such a horrible job in addressing the problems facing our society because we have for 20 years starved government for funds that now we might as well eliminate government funding and let the private sector solve the problems."

Cuyahoga County
All these changes at the state and federal level will mean that some tough decisions will have to be made at the local level. We will have to decide on the priorities for scarce resources. In 2010, all the county funded human services programs had to take a 6% cut or more. It is likely that the state funding to cities and counties will be cut or even eliminated, which will blow a huge hole in the County budget. We will have to decide on funding for shelters, transitional shelters or supportive services. We will have to decide if outreach services are more important than eviction prevention. County government will have to figure out how to fund food programs in the suburbs or domestic violence beds within the City. All of the homeless services will have to prove their value to the community in competition with health care, foster care, job training, or child support enforcement programs. How will we be able to operate a 24 hour a day helpline at the same time as we fund a case worker at all the new permanent supportive housing programs. At the local level, there are a few powerful agencies that dominate the current homeless landscape who will probably have to take a haircut in their budgets, and there will be smaller programs without the political influence who will not survive past 2012.

All of these "haircuts" mean cuts to staff, a decrease in financial oversight, a reduction in bus passes available, and fewer housing opportunities available to low income people. We will talk about the impact on homeless people with these changes and the potential struggles faced as a result of the election of anti-government forces to lead critical parts of the government in upcoming posts.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Collecting Your Shelter Stories

Have You Had Experience with Cleveland Shelters?

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Congress are collecting the stories from people who have previously lived in a shelter in Cleveland. We want to hear both the good and the bad experiences. We want to hear from you about your discharges from the shelter or the first day that you showed up at the shelter. We want to hear about staff treatment, and the things that surprised you while staying in a shelter. We would like to know if the shelter met your expectations, and if you felt safe. We want to know that your tax dollars were being used to effectively serve the population.

NEOCH and the homeless people who attend the Homeless Congress have been trying to convince City Hall that there is a need for oversight of the shelters. The Homeless Congress members decided to start collecting stories to present to local elected officials. We have made this easy on our website. Sprinkled throughout the site is the above logo. You can click on the logo and complete the form to easily send information to the Coalition about your experiences with shelter. We will keep your identity private, but we may follow up with you to verify the information. Please send this information onto others that you know who spent time in the shelters. We want to present an accurate picture of the shelters in Cleveland.

Brian Davis
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hunger and Homelessness on the Rise in Ohio

The National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Highlights Recent Increase in Demand for Services

PRESS RELEASE: The National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 14-21) highlights the challenges faced by millions of Americans who lack access to basic necessities. The campaign, coordinated by The National Coalition for the Homeless, occurs each year the week before Thanksgiving, and also showcases effective programs in Ohio, such as Cuyahoga County’s Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH).

“Northeast Ohio never recovered from the 2001 downturn, and we are struggling every day find space in church basements to provide a warm space to everyone looking for shelter,” said Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Brian Davis.

Focusing attention on hunger and homelessness issues is especially important in Ohio as legislators begin conversations on how to balance a gaping hole in the state budget that’s estimated at $8 billion. The USDA’s recent report on household food security indicated that more than one in seven Ohioans faced a daily risk of hunger. Ohio ranks 9th highest of all states on the measure of food insecurity.

Homelessness is considered a lagging indicator of a troubled economy, meaning that people exhaust all other options before accessing shelters for help, says Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO). “Across the state, the numbers tell the story of increasing hardship among those who’ve lost their jobs, are in foreclosure, or have unexpected medical bills,” says Faith.

In Franklin County, the Community Shelter Board will spend 3000 percent more this year than last on overflow costs for family shelters. In the Miami Valley, the two primary family and single adult shelters saw a 35 percent and 27 percent respective increase in occupancy in the first two months of November 2010, compared to the same period last year. And in Cuyahoga County in September alone, 275 men who had no previous experience with homelessness, entered the county’s largest shelter.

The Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week coincides with the launch of the 20th anniversary of the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, a flexible funding source that responds to growing homeless numbers as well as to the critical housing needs of Ohio’s military veterans, senior citizens, people with disabilities and working families.

“The priority of the OHTF has always been to direct dedicated funds to those most in need,” noted Faith. “This is a unique funding source that becomes even more important when social service safety net programs are cut to the bone.”

The OHTF began in 1990 when voters approved a constitutional amendment making housing a public purpose. Following years of advocacy from COHHIO and member groups, the Ohio legislature approved in 2004-2005 an increase in the recordation fees to create a permanent dedicated funding stream for the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.

Since then the OHTF has distributed more than $369 million to a diverse universe of projects, including adult and youth shelters, affordable housing development projects, home repair, rehab and energy savings projects, Habitat for Humanity of Ohio, funds to enable home ownership, support services to help those in need stay in their homes, and service coordination for seniors, among other projects. “These funds have been the safety net needed for more than a million people in every county in our state, with half or more going to projects in rural counties,” said Faith.

COHHIO/NEOCH Press Release issued November 16
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hand Up Gala a Success

182 Guests Served At the 2010 Hand Up Gala

The Gala took place on Tuesday November 9 at the Cosgrove Center. We have posted two pages of pictures on our website for the public to see the event. There is still an opportunity to donate by clicking on the "donate now" button on this blog or on the website in order to participate in the auction. The drawing to distribute the auction will be Monday November 15, 2010. There are also a few pictures on the front page of the Hand Up Gala page.

There was a fantastic committee that organized the event. We have to thank Nicole, Luke, Larry, Don, Cathey, Dominica, Dorothy, and Michelle for their service over the last three months. We have to thank the Brush High School Sound Station Show Choir and Brush Chorale. A big thanks to Chef John Alderwereld and Chef Mark Lyons from the Sans Souci Restaurant in Cleveland for preparing this awesome meal. Vicky Knight and Anytime performed and thanks to the NEOCH Board and Catholic Charities' Board for volunteering to serve the meal and seat the guests. This was a substitute for our regular annual event fundraiser and silent auction. Instead of asking for money this year we prepared a four star meal for homeless people and asked our donors to support the two organizations and this event. We only spent 19% of the money raised to advertise and host the meal (administration). There were nearly one hundred businesses that donated food and auction items to make this event a success.

Remember, there is still time to donate for this event and check out the pictures.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Congrats to New County Council

Four Winning Candidates Support Regulating the Shelters

Congratulations to all the winning candidates for Cuyahoga County Council, and especially the four candidates who said that they would support some form of Shelter Standards. These men and women have an amazing job ahead of them. They have to restore confidence in government while creating a new form of government. The shelter standards are critical for this community to finally have protections against capricious evictions from shelters. This is also important for the community so we never ever place homeless people into a shelter with only one shower for 100 people. Here are the four that claimed that they would support some local standards.

District 2 Council Member
Dale Miller

District 4 Council Member
Chuck Germana

District 7 Council Member
Yvonne Conwell

District 9 Council Member
C. Ellen Connally

The Homeless Congress and NEOCH will continue to press all the new County Council to pass these regulations.

Brian Davis
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hand Up Gala Next Week

Annual Event in which Homeless Get to Enjoy the Fine Meal

PRESS RELEASE: Nearly every non-profit in the community has a special event in which their members dress up, go to a fine dining restaurant, listen to speeches, and participate in a silent auction. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has hosted a benefit similar to this for the last six years. We also invite a number of beneficiaries of our program to attend, and we usually have a speaker from our Street Voices project talk to the members and thank them for helping the organization serve the public. This year we decided to turn things on their head. We partnered with Catholic Charities to send out the invitations to our members and supporters, but we are preparing the meal for the homeless and hungry of Northeast Ohio instead of our patrons.

The Bishop Cosgrove Center (a program of Catholic Charities) and NEOCH have partnered on the first ever Hand Up Gala on November 9, 2010 to provide an amazing meal to homeless people prepared by Chef John Aldewereld of San Souci Restaurant at the Renaissance Hotel. This special meal will benefit both charities as they prepare for another difficult Cleveland winter. "We are asking the public to support the Coalition and the Bishop Cosgrove Center so that we can do our valuable work throughout the year. Your help will allow homeless people to enjoy this fantastic meal that would normally be served as part of our annual event," said NEOCH executive director Brian Davis. "Put away your evening gowns and you will not need that strategy guide on when is the best time to bid on a silent auction item. This year, we need your support to provide a memorable meal to people hurt by the loss of a job or the foreclosure of their home," Davis said.

Tickets are $40, and can be purchased at the NEOCH website at Everyone who buys a ticket will be entered into a drawing to win some fantastic gifts provided by area business partners. Some of the auction items include theatre tickets, hotel stays, restaurant gift certificates, tickets for a Lolly the Trolly Tour, Cleveland Browns signed football, and the Midwest League Champion Lake Erie Captains, along with many other items. All proceeds support the costs associated with running the two organizations.

Executive Sous Chef John Aldewereld has a four star meal planned, and we will create a wonderful ambiance for this once-in-a-lifetime meal featuring table cloths, china, and floral centerpieces. There will be a jazz ensemble, and we hope to have local celebrities serve and act as hosts for the event. We will serve 225 low income, homeless, and hungry individuals.
This event is supported by sponsors including Keybank, Avalon Foods, Berghaus Flowers, and Morgan Linen.

For those who are not aware, the Cosgrove is a wonderful institution in Cuyahoga County. Here is more information about their services:
Catholic Charities supports a comprehensive continuum of care to fragile populations throughout Northeast Ohio, including at the Bishop Cosgrove Center. They offer a breakfast and lunch to hundreds of hungry people everyday and offer supportive services to those who have struggled to find a hand up out of poverty. The Bishop Cosgrove Center also serves the neighborhood with a pantry program, and they have a 20 year history of providing comprehensive care to those struggling with poverty.

Written by NEOCH Staff
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Homelessness in the County Election

Very Little Discussion of Homelessness

As a non-profit organization, we do not get involved in electoral politics, but with the lack of much discussion on homelessness in the County Executive election we really did not have much of a chance to get involved. There was one question asked about homelessness in the debates between County executive candidates from September. This was a horrible question that linked homeless people to a lack of security. Now, I love WCPN and recognize it as the best news radio station in Ohio, but Eric's question was offensive. I like Mr. Wellman normally, and I know that he was getting the questions from the audience but this question should have been discarded. If someone from the audience had asked a racist question or a sexist question, it would not have been used.

But here is the only question that we could find about homelessness during the County election debate. Most of the candidates pointed out the false comparison between safety and people who were downtown and experiencing homelessness. Also, these are people and so they do not like being referred to as "the homeless." They are not homogeneous and share very little common characteristics except their housing status.

Cuyahoga County Executive Debate
September 28, 2010 on the CSU campus
Candidates for County Executive
hosted by Eric Wellman of WCPN

Candidates: Matt Dolan, David Ellison, Ed Fitzgerald, Ken Lanci, Tim McCormack, Don Scipione.

Eric Wellman Asks Question: Stay in Downtown Cleveland [and] Making the streets safer; making the streets of downtown Cleveland pedestrian friendly and safer connects directly to stimulating downtown business safety is a necessity to add it to encourage foot traffic and family friendly activity downtown. The needs of the homeless population in downtown Cleveland need to be addressed to make steps for this goal. As County leaders, how will the Council apply a formal statement of engagement with the homeless population in downtown Cleveland?

Tim McCormack: Is this about safe streets or the homeless?

Eric: I think it's about both. The question pertains to the homeless.

Tim McCormack: When I was present of the county Commissioners, we had two homeless shelters, one for women and children that was horrific. I walked in and inspected one late night and ordered that we get those people out, and within months we built a new shelter for women and children as well as many mental health persons within that population. 2100 Lakeside was built in about three months. 1,000 plus men are there every night [Editor's Note: Lakeside can only serve 400 people with a maximum of 550 with overflow--not 1,000 people]. Many of who are veterans, now all of you think some times the worst were pathetic in many as in where there lives have gone. So I was very active in building that must important to close off. Service wrap around drum addition, mental health and housing services are all their now on site in order to move them to viability.

Don Scipione: I don't see the relationship between homelessness and safety. First of all, I agree with Tim's clarification of the question. There are two separate issues. Now, are talking about the homeless situation. This is what County government does it part of there responsibility deal with people who can not help themselves, we get to create a more variant society that will lend it self to more people working at job and prosperity that's a long term solution, but let's not get confused. San Francisco... has anyone ever been to San Francisco and seen a homeless person? They are all over the place that's not stopping tourist coming to the city.

Matt Dolan: Here is an example of the co-operation level we talked about; we can be involved in public safety. We are the administrative arms of law enforcement and the city has a jail and the county has a jail that is an example. You work with the city and let the administrative arms of the county run the jails that allows the city to be what they are responsible for public safety and law enforcement. More people, more officers on the street so that the people feel save to come downtown to work downtown and create the thriving atmosphere that I talked about in my opening. The County has to change, as Tim McCormack says, its delivery of services wrapped around those who run...administrate and operate 2100 Lakeside; continue those relationships with the non-profit sector so that we are administrating those county services as effectively as we can to get people back to work and in good health.

David Ellison: The homeless are not necessarily criminals and they don't... I have a problem with the question just like the others do. The County, the majority of County, its work is to provide health and human services and its primary obligation until this new charter was passed. The reality is that it's not working very well right now and in the time of greater economic stress, it's going to work even more poorly. We have to find a way to engage the people who don't have homes that are homeless and at the same time address the problems of criminal behavior and punishment and that kind of thing. If people don't have options and opportunities except to commit crime or to be out on the street, our system is working and we should be looking to solve problems.

Ed Fitzgerald: When I was Mayor in my city, we made sure we preserved human services so that those who do find themselves to be homeless have options. We have a very aggressive program when it comes to trying to provide housing, especially transitional housing. We have had some success with. My city, as we sit here today, is 27% smaller in terms of personnel, which allowed us to make a lot of physical progress, but we used some of these savings, and put them into our Police Department, which is now 10% larger. We integrated those Police officers into them up and down our commercial area- we have what is called neighborhood police officers. It has worked. Our crime rate overall is down 18%, and robberies in my city are down by 20% - our overall crimes are down by more than 40%. The county can play a roll in this. Over 10% of county employees are Sherriff Department employees. They have a downtown patrol that would be a good first step. There is more they can do to support local law enforcements and direct services.

Ken Lanci: I had the opportunity to spend several hours at the homeless shelter. I went in the afternoon to handle the intake. There were 330 people that day. We served meals and after that, I sat down with several of the homeless to try to understand how they got there. I think we have put more emphasis on prevention. (When the horse is out of the barn, it is really hard to go get him.) What I came back with is the feeling that our Judges, in a lot of cases, are over sentencing people for non-violent crimes. Crimes, which one would think, you would have to think about them in the perspective of who is going, what there record and do they deserve this? Because when you sentence someone to prison, you have ruined their opportunity to get a job. So therefore, they end up, if they have a family, with family or relatives or they end up in a homeless shelter. My focus is going to be on prevention working to be able to help them before they get there.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don't Read the PD Comments Section

Plain Dealer Covers Benefit

I know that I should never read the comments on the Plain Dealer website. They are always so hateful toward homeless people. The anonymity provided by the site seems to bring out the worst in people. I do not understand how the Plain Dealer requires rigorous oversight of the letters section, but gives free reign to those commenting on their website. There is no verification, and the commentators can say anything that they want. I shouldn't read them, but they are on the bottom of every story.

So, I think we need some clarity here. This is a benefit to raise money for Catholic Charities and NEOCH. We traditionally do a dinner and auction in May to raise money. It is always a wonderful event, but very few of our own constituency are able to attend the event. We got the idea this year to allow everyone of our supporters to put the dress and business attire back in the closet, and instead support a once in a lifetime meal for a group that does not usually get the opportunity to enjoy a fine dining meal. The $40 ticket price does not cover the cost of the meal. The tickets are the same price as our May benefit. It is just our constituency gets to enjoy the meal this year.

The low income in our city appreciate your donations of canned foods and other donations, but how many nights of pasta with red sauce is healthy? The Cosgrove does an amazing job of spreading dollars to serve everyone who comes to the door everyday. They are a critical resource in this community, and rarely get the credit they deserve. We have all had a tough two years in the United States with service cuts, massive job losses, and much moving due to the loss of housing. These individuals who have faced job loss or were the victims of a predatory lender or experienced a health care crisis that bankrupted them deserve a good meal once a year. I would refer you to Christine Lavin for the genesis of this idea:

If I had a million dollars
If I were and entrepreneur
I would rent the Plaza Hotel for a day
Rent an Englishman for the door

I'd send out embossed invitations
Announcing: Come one, Come all
To the social event of the season
The Annual bag ladies ball

From the streets of Greenwich Village
From the benches on Tenth Avenue
From the tenements of Harlem
Would come bag ladies two by two
Dragging their treasures behind them
Humming some faraway song
It's a sight New Yorkers will never forget
Bag ladies marching along
Now they'll each get a suite for the evening
With a bath and a telephone
They'll dine in the elegant Oak Room
With their bag lady friends, not alone

They'll sip Champagne in the Palm Court
Stroll down the carpeted halls
Now excitement is mounting for everyone
At the annual bag ladies ball

Precisely at 10 the music begins
Bag ladies crowd the dance floor
There's waltzes and foxtrots and tangos and two steps
And sambas, merenges and more

They exchange the politest of pleasantries
As they gracefully sway to the tunes
When the band takes a break, they're served Ice cream and cake
And are all given silver balloons
The Bag Ladies Ball is an awesome song written and performed by an amazing artist. Yes, we could pay for 1,000 meals with the donations that come in, but that is not the point of the Hand Up Gala. The point is to provide a memorable meal to people who have struggled during this downturn. The point is to try to support the two organizations by gathering volunteers and regular contributors. The point is to raise the profiles of both organizations, and most of all to provide something memorable to the people who felt the full force of the downturn.

Brian Davis
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homeless People Do Vote

Early voting activities from 2008--staff photo

Homeless Coalition Urges Those Experiencing Homelessness to Vote Early

PRESS RELEASE CLEVELAND OHIO: The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is organizing homeless people to urge them to vote early at the Board of Elections main location on Euclid Ave. In 2010, NEOCH settled its four year old lawsuit with the State of Ohio over voting procedures especially with regard to the counting of provisional ballots. “We finally reached a settlement with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner earlier this year that assures clear guidelines are distributed to all 88 Boards of Elections regarding voting procedures for homeless people,” said NEOCH director Brian Davis.

Highlights of the settlement include:

  1. The Secretary will issue a directive to all 88 Boards of Elections that clarifies that homeless people have a right to vote, and that all legitimate ballots must be counted.
  2. Homeless and low income shall not be deprived their right to vote because of poll worker error or because of differing interpretations of the law by local boards.
  3. The settlement spells out specific requirements for counting provisional ballots after election day. Provisional ballots are cast if the individual does not have identification on election day or there is some other issue with their registration when they show up at the polling place. In 2006 and 2008, there were wide disparities in the percentage of provisional ballots accepted as legitimate votes among the 88 counties. This settlement should standardize the counting of provisional ballots so that every county is operating under similar guidelines.
  4. A legitimate registered voter who votes in the correct precinct and has completed the provisional ballot correctly but does not have identification can present the last four digits of his or her social security number and that ballot will be accepted as a legitimate ballot when the provisional ballots are reviewed.
  5. The settlement clarifies why a provisional ballot would not be accepted and therefore not counted as a vote in this and every election through 2013. Just because a person is registered at a shelter or street address, the Board of Elections cannot reject their provisional ballot.

If a homeless person does not have identification, they can vote early at the main office of the Board of Elections. They will only be asked for their last four digits of their social security number of state identification number if they vote early. They will not have to show anyone their ID by voting early. It is for this reason that the Coalition is urging shelter staff to alert their clients of the ease in voting early. “With the change in the County government and the important state election, it is critical that all homeless people vote in 2010,” said NEOCH executive director Brian Davis.

Securing and maintaining identification is difficult and expensive for many homeless individuals. Voting is the great equalizer in the United States. Everyone from the doctors at the Cleveland clinic, the rocket scientists at NASA Glenn Center, and homeless people have a right to cast one ballot to select who will lead this country,” said Davis. The Settlement with the State of Ohio is posted on the NEOCH Website under, and the Coalition is always willing to help anyone in the state with questions or concerns about voting. Early voting ends November 1, 2010.

written by Brian

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In Memorium

Fond Memories of Bernadette

I was honored to speak at the memorial for Bernadette Janes last week. The family collected a carload of canned goods for the Cosgrove Center. It was a nice celebration of Ms. Janes' life organized by her family. All the social justice warriors of Cleveland attended. One of her sisters from Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice sent me this memory. I know that Bernadette's family was collecting memories on a website, but here is one more from Ms. Ikuta.

One day, I met round-faced white haired woman from Whittier, California. She told me that she is new to Cleveland area. She just moved here because her only daughter and son decided to settle in Lakewood. She wanted to meet like-minded people and decided to try a few organizations like Women Speak Out, city Club and Peace action because she was active with several progressive organizations in Whittier.

I often picked her up to attend meetings and we had rather passionate discourse about peace and justice issues and mental health care accessibility.

I could feel that her passion went much farther into opera singing, extensive reading of progressive books such as written by Howard Zinn, Noan Chomsky and many other thoughtful writers. She also hummed some tune while driving to and from the meetings and told me how she wished she could have developed serious singing career but it was not in her card. She grew up in a large family where extra money for cultural development was scarce.

As she spoke of her lost dreams her tone of voice was neither sour nor bitter and took pride in surviving so many challenges including her stint in the US Marine Corp. I still cannot believe this small woman was in that tough Marine Corps outfit. In spite of her agreeable smiles, there must have been tough core person in her short body.

She often spoke of her daughter, Debby and son Corry with deep caring and affection no matter how life could get tough. Bernadette certainly was a brave woman as well as wise.

As a board member of Women Speak Out she contributed much. She offered good ideas and was willing to take on big jobs such as calling volunteers who might be willing to work at the Holiday Peace Festival and Bazaar every year.

She never failed to get work done as she promised and it was good to be able to count on her. Even when she suffered from excruciating back pains she did all she could to keep out work moving. She certainly was a rare person of commitment and devotion.

Bernadette, Thank you for all you have done for us. We miss you very much. I can imagine you singing away from the top of your lungs standing with angels on a fluffy cloud and watching over us as we continue our struggles.

Yoshiko Ikuta

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another Incident at a Shelter

Shelter Safety??

We have talked about the increase in metal detectors at the shelters back in May. Just last week, the shelters met to talk about suggestions for improving the safety within the shelter. I guess a number of the homeless population did not get the safety forum powerpoint, because a homeless guy stabbed another guy at St. Herman's Shelter in Cleveland. As I mentioned back in May, we need a broader discussion about shelter safety and not just a discussion focusing on bag checks, metal detectors and law enforcement.

A can of soup wrapped in a sock can be a weapon (Even Campbell's Pepper Pot soup?). Focusing only on keeping weapons out of the shelter is similar to invading another country to fight a war on terror. In a free society it is impossible to keep everyone safe all the time no matter how many bag checks, metal detectors and rules the shelter develops. We need to turn our attention to all of the tasks that keep residents and staff safe, and not just looking for weapons. There are so many other issues involved in the death of a shelter director, this latest stabbing at St. Hermans, and the gun incident at one of the local shelters. The biggest issue is mental illnesses within the shelters, and the inability for some to find help. There is an issue over the lack of proper training on de-escalation techniques for shelter staff. There is the problem over an inability to teach conflict resolution to both residents and staff. There is the basic injustice of living in a shelter and having no where to turn if there is a problem. There are a lot of anger issues among the homeless population. We see issues of people being treated as a number (Bed 23) and not a human being. There is the sadness over the break up of a family or the loss of housing. It goes on and on, and so far our only response is for the homeless population to "assume the position" like a criminal when they enter the shelter.

We never had a community wide discussion to address all the issues around safety. We never reassured volunteers that the shelter staff realized that there is a problem with a perception of unsafe conditions, and are working on a response. If people keep hearing about these incidents within the shelters are they going to give money? Are they going to volunteer? People are being harmed on a regular basis. People have already died. What is it going to take for the City and County to admit that there is a problem and begin to address it?


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Friday, October 15, 2010

Coalition Updates

Photo by Sabrina Otis

County Council and Hand Up Gala and Updates

Thanks to Channel 5 WEWS for attending this last Thursday Homeless Congress meeting. We also want to thank Phyllis Crespo candidate for District 7 County Council for showing up at the September meeting and Jeff Kipp for attending the October meeting. Crespo indicated written support for the standards, Kipp expressed support but did not provide support in writing. We have posted the update County Council supporters on our website. At this time, we have two County Executive candidates out of the six who support the legislation. We have at least one candidate from every district except District 6,8,10. We have Republicans, Democrats, Green party members and Independents who support the potential legislation. Also, thanks to WTAM for doing a story on the shelter standards.

The Hand Up Gala is coming together nicely with musicians on board, some local celebrities will be serving and hosting the event. The meal is planned, and we are gathering menu items. We have sent out the invitations and are preparing the guest list. If you want to donate to this event it is easiest to go here or directly here.

Quick Takes:
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul requires their shelters to provide a change of address for everyone that enters the shelter. This is great for voting participation rates. Cuyahoga County requires all publicly funded shelters to do the same, but no one actually verifies this so I am not sure it happens like it did in the past.
  • Without the eviction assistance that we had available because of the stimulus last year, the shelters in Cleveland better be prepared for large numbers of overflow. Last winter, we had nearly $2 million available to families struggling with their housing. This year, basically only those in a subsidized housing or living in Lakewood will have access to rental assistance.
  • I attended the ESOP gala last night, and got to hang out with some of the best housing people in the City. Judge Pianka, Dennis Kucinich, Jim Rokakis, and of course the staff of ESOP, CTO, and NEOCH were all present. If the people in that room could take control of the mortgage/foreclosure problem in our community, we would have this problem solved by December.
  • One more thing about the ESOP Gala...There were so many bankers represented I was surprised that one did not get on stage and say, "Since there are so many homeowners/ former homeowners in the audience, if anyone comes across the origination documents for millions of mortgages could they pass them forward or drop them in the lost and found in the lobby of the hotel. "
Brian Davis
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Friday, October 08, 2010

Homeless Congress Asks for County Help

Poor People's March in Downtown Cleveland in 2008

County Candidates to Meet with Homeless and Congress Asks for Support for Regulating the Homeless Shelters

After two frustrating years attempting to work with the City of Cleveland to get a minimum standards bill passed, the Homeless Congress is now asking Cuyahoga County candidates to support the development of a shelter standards bill for Cuyahoga County. In an absolute violation of the state standard, the County placed 100 women per night in a shelter that only had one working shower. The Congress is asking for local regulations that will be enforced by some office within the County with an ability for homeless people to file a grievance if the shelter is not performing. All of the publicly funded shelters are in the City of Cleveland, but the County takes the lead in the providing the funding for the shelters.

The Homeless Congress has asked every candidate running for the new Cuyahoga County Council and County Executive to support the adoption of some form of local shelter regulation that every publicly funded shelter will have to follow. We have also invited the candidates for the two downtown districts (7 and 3) to attend the Homeless Congress meeting. District 7 candidate Phyllis Crespo attended the September meeting and Yvonne Conwell and Jeff Kipp both candidates from District 7 will attend the October 14, 2010 Homeless Congress meeting at 1:00 p.m. at the Cosgrove Center to talk directly to homeless people.

The candidates who have indicated support for the Shelter Standards Bill include:

  • David Ellison and Ken Lanci candidates for County Executive
  • Ryan McGilvray candidate for District 1 County Council member
  • Dale Miller candidate for District 2 County Council member
  • Patty Gascoyne and Alan Crossman candidates for District 3 County Council members
  • Ann Marie Donegan candidate for District 5 County Council member
  • Phyllis Crespo and Yvonne Conwell candidates for District 7 County Council members
  • Laverne Jones Gore and C. Ellen Connally candidated for District 9 County Council members
  • Kathryn Gambatese candidate for District 11 County Council member


The Homeless Congress began in July 2006 with two representatives from each shelter and six from the 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter coming together to put forward an advocacy agenda that serves the needs of those experiencing homelessness. The Congress meets with elected officials, social service providers and bureaucrats who hold the power of the pursestring. The Congress has worked on shelter standards, a hate crimes bill, a foreclosure recovery plan, and a recommendations for housing and jobs for homeless people. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless organizes the conference and takes notes and sets up the meeting, but the decisions are made by the members of the Congress. They meet on the second floor of the Cosgrove Center once per month in the gymnasium (enter through the back in the cafeteria).

Update 10/14/2010: Chuck Germana candidate for District 4 agreed to support the shelter regulations.

Brian Davis
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