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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