Wednesday, March 31, 2010

State of Homelessness 2009

Worst Economy in Over 50 Years; Only Slight Increase in Homelessness

NEOCH Publishes Report on the 2009 State of Homelessness in Cleveland

In 2009, local unemployment rose to its highest point in a quarter century, hunger increased, and the housing market continued to deteriorate, during that time homelessness rose only by a small amount. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District reported a 17% increase in homeless children as compared to 2008. Foreclosures have remained steady while homelessness in the suburbs increased, which put additional economic pressures on the shelters. There was an increase in calls to the domestic violence hotline, but a decrease in the number of men using the shelter system.

This is just a small sample of the information available in the report recently published by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless: State of Homelessness 2009. The report includes: statistics on Ohio poverty and homelessness, the demographics of Cleveland shelter residents (72% African American), homeless children within the Cleveland school district (17% increase), the level of shelter funding (a 5% decline), and the calls requesting shelter help to 211 (6% increase). We include usage information for and local eviction numbers (remains steady in 2009); data on single men in Cuyahoga County (a slight decrease) and the resulting impact on area homelessness. The report looks at two new projects in Cuyahoga County: the Central Intake project and the new Homeless Prevention program, which both provide a wealth of data. The report shows in detail the short period of time that most people spend homeless (23% spend a day or less and 75% are homeless for less than a month). We feature, for the first time, data on the population of homeless people who are “doubled up” from MSASS report. The State of Homelessness Report 2009 provides a narrative on the positive trends that improved the state of homelessness in 2009.

The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have put in place a rich network of prevention services and emergency services that kept the homeless population at a reasonable level despite this horrible economy. One big improvement that assisted the community last year was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding that went to rental assistance in 2009. Locally, the Council of Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland began distributing rental assistance funds in August, and have since helped nearly 700 households prevent evictions. The community saves thousands per household by keeping people out of shelter and instead providing them services while still housed.

The report discusses the “lost women” in our community who were targeted by a serial killer in 2009, and the need to improve services to those struggling with addictions. Also detailed are a number of “dangerous trends” affecting homelessness in our area that need to be addressed by community leaders. Finally, the report concludes with a list of proposed solutions to reduce homelessness in 2010 and beyond. The report is illustrated with photographs taken by graduates of NEOCH’s photo project, a two-month photography training internship for homeless persons with physical or mental disabilities.

This is the third year that NEOCH has published its State of Homelessness report. NEOCH, an advocacy organization, presents this information as the basis for discussion of the problems facing our community. The report was funded by the St. Luke’s Foundation and the City of Cleveland. The complete report can be found at NEOCH’s website.


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Friday, March 26, 2010

Annual Awards from NEOCH

NEOCH Recognizes Those Who Forwarded Our Mission

New Board President, Marcia Bufford gives out awards to Michelle Russell as the David Westcott Volunteer of the Year and Michael Piepsny as the NEOCH Advocate of the Year.
The NEOCH Annual Meeting was last night and we had a very nice discussion about the Coalition and our plans for the next year. There was a nice potluck dinner, and we published our 2009 Annual Report as well as our State of Homelessness Report for 2009. We elected a new group of officers, and reviewed the work of the Coalition over the last year. Michelle has volunteered every week for the past year for the Coalition doing development and community organizing work. Mike Piepsny has always worked closely with the Coalition including taking up the Bridging the Gap program, assisting with the Housing Trust Fund committee, and working on an employment program right now. We are sorry that you missed it.


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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time for the Thank Yous

First Step to Universal Health Care

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has always advocated for Universal access to quality health care as one of the solutions to homelessness. We could significantly reduce the homeless population if there was a better health care system including prevention, drug treatment, mental health and management of long term chronic health conditions for those who are poor. The United States took the first step toward this objective on Sunday with the passage of the health care reform bill. This is not what many advocates wanted, but it is a step forward. It is not public health care, but it is certainly better than we have now.

It is time to reach out to your elected officials and thank them for their vote on Sunday. The staff at the local district offices of your Congressional member need to hear some positive words. I have heard that Congressman's Kucinich's staff have had to endure some of the most horrible hate from the callers and visitors over the last week. For those who support health care reform, you should reach out to Congressman Ryan, Fudge, Boccieri, Kaptur, Sutton, and Kucinich to thank them for their courageous vote this weekend. Too often the supporters stay quiet because they are happy with the results or do not have the time, but to provide some balance it is time to thank those who voted for this historic piece of legislation.

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NEOCH Annual Meeting

2009 NEOCH Annual meeting. Pictured are board members and former staff Josh Kanary.

Release of State of Homelessness and Annual Report

This Thursday at 5:30 p.m. the Board of Trustees of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless invite you to our annual meeting. The meeting is at NEOCH 3631 Perkins Ave. on the third floor. Just press Call 32 to get into the building. All members are invited to attend. We will release our State of Homelessness report for 2009 that features statistics and trends within the community. We also will release our annual report. NEOCH gives out our awards to our volunteer of the year and advocate of the year. We hope that you can attend.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Children Who Become Homeless

This image is from the Homeless Grapevine photo class, and shows the image of a Mom caring for her child. The subject of the photo is not related at all to the incident discussed.

Who Do We Represent?

The Plain Dealer announced today a panel that would investigate the death of a homeless toddler earlier this year. Alexandria Hamilton died after being scalded in a motel. Her mother had a number of complaints of neglect and her children had been assigned to foster care in the past. Only a few weeks before the child's death the family stayed in one of the Cleveland shelters. I have no idea about the specifics of this case, but I know that some of the homeless social service providers are concerned that we did not do all we could to protect this child or the Mom. The bottom line is that a homeless child died, and just as the Department of Children and Family Services is conducting a review, the homeless system should conduct a similar review.

It raises bigger issues that we should address to avoid any future problems. It is unlikely that without extraordinary and unusual intervention by a homeless social service could we have changed the outcome in the Hamilton case. But a review of the homeless social service system and its interaction with children may prevent a future death. Government which funds all these services should request a review and make the participation of the homeless services mandatory.

The first confusion that needs to be addressed locally is who does the case worker at the shelter represent--the Mom or the homeless child? For licensed social workers this is clear and they have rules for their interaction with both mother and child, but unfortunately not all the homeless social service providers are social workers. We need to have every shelter clearly define their role when a Mom comes to the shelter, and those guidelines should be posted. At what point will they call the Department of Children and Family Services? See, many Moms avoid the shelter because they think that they will be reported just for taking their child to a shelter. There is also the Catch 22 that we have set up some facilities as absolutely not appropriate for children, but what do we do when every other shelter bed in the community is full? This was a much bigger problem six years ago in Cleveland compared to today, but it is still a problem. If a Mom takes her child to a shelter that is really not appropriate for children, but she has no other choice do we call the child abuse hotline? Is she better risking her child's well being in a car or in a shelter that is overcrowded and has a sizable population of women actively using? From the Mom's perspective since it is unclear at what point a shelter staff member will call the child abuse/neglect hotline, they often risk spending the nights in the car over the unknown of the shelter.

I have personally seen cases in which the mere fact that a Mom cannot provide adequate housing as the basis of a case being opened at Children and Family Services. Once a case is opened there are hearings and monitoring and oversight that takes place to protect the child. These are critical and a vital oversight role for the government to protect innocent victims, but often times poverty, foreclosure, loss of job or a chronic health condition disrupts the housing of a family. The agency has to balance the well being of a child with the economic struggles of a family, and there is no margin for error. This is one of the few instances in which a mistaken unification order or the closing of neglect case that results in the death of an toddler can be easily traced back to the decision of a single government employee. It is hard to hide behind a bureaucracy or rely on a private entity/charity to make these decisions in child abuse/neglect cases. Heads usually roll when a child dies after charges of neglect were overturned. My concern is that it is safer and the easier decision to take the homeless child away from the mother and put them in the custody of the County.

Finally, how do we improve our internal communication system within the shelters to keep in contact with women who leave the shelters with their children? How do we maintain contact with the homeless family after they leave the shelter to make sure that they are not living in a worse environment? Is there a way to assign a child advocate to every family that enters the shelters that will remain in regular contact with those children as they move through the system so that they are constantly moving closer to a stable home? This could prevent any loss of school time, assist with the smooth transition between shelters, or assist with determination of neglect. We have privacy and massive government bureaucracy's to contend with, but if it saves one child's life and reduces the time a kid remains homeless, it will be worth it.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Homeless Female Veterans

Interesting Story on ABC News

In case you missed it over the weekend, ABC News did a feature on female veterans who become homeless. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Journal of Public Health looked at the extent of homelessness among female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. They found that women are four times as likely to find themselves homeless as their male counterparts. ABC News interviewed a number of women veterans returning to the states and struggling with childcare, housing and trying to find jobs.

In Cleveland, we have a few outreach workers and Department of Veterans Affairs staff dedicated to serving the needs of female veterans. We also have a few shelter beds in the community purchased by the VA to house women returning from oversees. We have a few family facilities in the community that can offer help. One of the best resources that were developed over the last few years are the Veteran's Housing Vouchers. These are invaluable services to the families of veterans struggling with their housing. We are only limited by the resources to help those veterans who are homeless. The VA has the other pieces in place of job assistance, treatment, outreach, shelter and health care. The missing piece is we do not have enough affordable housing available to these veterans.

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Don, a Stand Down volunteer who also does speaking engagements for NEOCH is pictured above. The bottom photo shows the crowd toward the beginning of the March 5 at the Cleveland Convention Center. All the red shirted people are volunteers. The Homeless Stand Down could not take place without the hundreds of volunteers. We owe all the volunteers a huge thank you.

Stand Down Details Friday March 5, 2010

Here are some more statistics from the last day of the Stand Down.

Day 3: Friday March 5, 2010 Health Fair

360 guests came through the front doors
09 guests checked in at the front desk.

260 volunteers were present on day three.

36 volunteers who receive services

270 guests enjoyed breakfast

279 guests enjoyed lunch

35 massages were provided

10 Reiki

57 podiatry exams were provided

298 hygiene kits were distributed

5 groups performed live entertainment

7 people were registered to vote

71 social service agencies were available for information

More details soon.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Mike Tribble

Another Death Within the Homeless Community

Our good friend from the 2100 Lakeside, Mike Tribble died on Monday while battling cancer. He was fiercely independent, and tried as hard as he could to start a shelter for homeless people on the West Side. It did not work, but he was passionate about homelessness. His memorial is 2 pm. at Boyds on March 13, 2010. He worked for many years at the largest shelter in Ohio. He would do anything to help those struggling with homelessness or addictions. He was always willing to offer a ride or a place or an ear to a guy in need of help.

We had a friend of Mike's submit a reflection. It is called "Farewell Mike"

Once in awhile you come across a person who is the perfect definition of volunteer. We are talking about a person who has no time for the BS, or for people trying to take advantage of the less fortunate. A person who would give his last dollar if he saw that someone else really needed it.

Mike Tribble was such a person.

He used his own money to purchase anything that was needed to complete whatever project he set in his mind. He was a person who, if he saw someone needing to get to the doctor, would provide them with bus fare, or even take them himself, without any question of reimbursement.

Mike never asked anything of anyone except to just ”keep it real” when you came to him for help; he never said a lot but was always watching and seeing who was doing what. He didn’t see white, black, Hispanic; he saw those people that he would be willing to help, and those he would not waste his time on. He could look at any situation and if he could not help you, he would tell you, upfront, that was out of his area. He would take individuals under his arm and try to help them to get their bearings, or if nothing else, just provide someone to talk to. To Mike it didn’t matter what brought you here, it mattered whether you were trying to get yourself out and what he could do to assist you in that goal.

If this world had more people like Mike Tribble it would be a more caring world.

To me this is the day that 2100 Lakeside lost a very big asset, and Independence community lost a very positive role model. You will be missed very much Mike!! But you will live on in those lives that you touched, and were able to help. We will celebrate your time with us!!

Gone but never forgotten!!

Written By David Harmon II with the help of LMM Staff

The Lakeside shelter is divided into six communities and one is the Independence Community in which Tribble worked.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

East Cleveland Food

Volunteers (above) flood the near west side hot meal program at St. Augustine for a Christmas dinner in 2007.

Plain Dealer Covers Food Desert in East Cleveland

Yesterday, the Plain Dealer's Mike O'Malley did a nice look at the food issues in East Cleveland. We have been working on this issue for the last three years even before the loss of First Presbyterian Church. We were concerned with the steady rise in the number of people that use the food truck operated by the Salvation Army. It was a nice touch to talk about the driver of that truck who happens to be living in the shelter every night. This is one of the many under-reported stories in Cleveland. The number of homeless women and men who volunteer in the community is substantial. I know that the guys at Y-Haven do a ton of work serving as poll workers. I know that there are hundreds of guys at Lakeside who patrol/clean up the neighborhood to keep the "home" looking nice. My experience is that nearly every shelter in the community has been a positive for the neighborhood that they reside. It is unfortunate that there is such a negative stereotype with regard to shelters.

I know that the Hunger Network has realized that there was an issue in East Cleveland, and they have convened a meeting for next week to talk about these issues. We do have a pdf of a Street Card just for East Cleveland on our website. We are working on updating this card at this time, and will have it out by May of this year. It is hoped that with a new administration in East Cleveland, we can finally make some progress out there. For most of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, the homeless policy in East Cleveland was a rapid ride to Downtown Cleveland. I am sure that with the spotlight from the Plain Dealer so that now the best and brightest minds in our community are aware of these problems, we can solve this issue.

Brian Davis
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Sunday, March 07, 2010

InterAgency Council Seeks Comments

Only One Week Left to Comment on Federal Plan

Picture by Cheryl Jones of the Grapevine Photo project 2007.

There is only one week left to make suggestions for the InterAgency Council on Homelessness Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The Plan was mandated by Congress by May 2010, and very little was done during the Bush Administration. So, now there is a push to get public comment on a plan by March 15, 2010. Here is the link to go to in order to comment in six different program areas. So, all you experts out there it is time to comment. All those who keep saying that there is a better way, you need to add your voice to the national debate. The InterAgency Council has held a series of town halls throughout the country, and they have gathered information from their website. You have one week to submit your thoughts and your ideas and your crazy plans. They will take all this information and run it by the various cabinet offices and come up with a roadmap for the various departments to use. It is hoped that Commerce, Labor, Justice, HHS, HUD and Education will use the information to shape future funding and future program design.

It can't hurt, and at least they are asking. We the people should get to shape the future of our struggle to end homelessness in America. NEOCH will be submitting comments and most of the national groups have submitted. We encourage you to do the same.

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Another Successful Stand Down

Friday's Health and Service Fair at the Convention Center

Larry, directing transportation outside, William sitting with a red shirted volunteer on Friday, and Luke checking a guest into breakfast attended all three Stand Down's this year. The final one wrapped up on Friday at the Cleveland Convention Center. We were able to serve over 1,700 guests over the three days and gave out hygiene kits, bus passes, information, haircuts, messages, and a ton of clothing.

InterAct Cleveland is the main sponsor of the Stand Down now, but the show could not go on without the hundreds of volunteers and all the social service and health care providers who attend. We gave out more haircuts than we have ever done in the past. In addition, we also had the largest number of social service providers gathered together to serve homeless people compared to the previous 18 years of Stand Downs. We have to recognize the City of Cleveland and the Department of Public Health for securing the facility and helping bring all the health care organizations to the event. The Department of Veterans Affairs does a tremendous amount of work helping to stage the Stand Down. Care Alliance and MetroHealth are critical healthcare partners for the success of this event. The FoodBank and Catholic Charities Cogrove Center are important partners to provide the breakfast and lunch. Finally, the Stand Down could not exist without Sr. Donna, Toni and Pam from InterAct Cleveland. They dedicate so much time to make this event a success. They deserve heaps of thank yous from all of us in the community for taking up this wonderful social service fair. It was another fantastic event with food, entertainment, health care, jobs, housing, referrals, and specialty services all in one place to provide for every need of the homeless population of Cleveland.

As we get more stats, we will post the information and more pics.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Melville Charitable Trust Again

Still Looking For Solutions?

In January 2009, we wrote about the Melville Charitable Trust, and then in February the program director responded. It is a year later and I still hear the same advertisement from the Melville Charitable Foundation on NPR on a regular basis. They still have not found an end to homelessness, and from their website they are no closer. It is not complicated, and for way less than the money that they gave to NPR I could have provided a solution by now. I guess maybe I am just wondering why they don't change their underwriting announcement. I can't be the only one who hears that every week and wonders, "how long does it take to come up with a solution to homelessness?"

Recently, an advocate from California, Art Vanden, posted a rant on our site about Melville and advocacy groups. Here is the comment that he submitted.
One of the most vile of scams is that so many "homeless advocacy" groups are in it for their salaries and not much more. There was a "charity" in Fresno advertising nationally as "motor homes for the homeless" an advocacy group who's plea for donations of higher end motor homes to help the homeless... Well in reality they were selling motor homes to to lots around southern CA to advocate for homeless people's need for housing (printing brochures) Their president claimed a vast salary and they had a large staff "no homeless of course" to shift the donated motor homes into their pocket and of course "help the homeless"

I've volunteered some advertising on my website because by the sound of their mission statement, they sounded like they were really doing something beautiful and needed.

So, upon some complaints from members on the site I did some further investigation (I volunteered) in the Fresno area... It would seem that their entire budget went to "advocacy"??? Hmmm??? they obviously were doing damn good, big office, plenty of staff... All to produce a flyer/advertisement describing the need for the homeless to have homes...

POVERTY PIMPS... ALL "advocacy groups are indeed POVERTY PIMPS.

Just look at the facts of how much the Melville Trust donates to NPR for their name recognition... Now, look at how much they have given to actually "print their flyers" and 700k over the past ten years to a Connecticut educational program is a spit in the face of all homeless people.

Now let's see Melville trust disclose their hierarchys (sic) salaries, I would bet it is a lot more than they helped the homeless with.
I do not understand the relationship that Mr. Vanden makes between a foundation that gives money to national groups like NPR along with Connecticut groups and advocacy groups that try to push public policy issues locally. I think he misunderstands advocacy groups.

As a representative of an advocacy group, I have to say that it is true that most of the cost of running our organization is salaries and rent but we have a role in the community. We are not a charity that provides food or housing or a shelter bed. If the United Way organizations that serve people were doing public policy, community organizing and advocacy along with their services, there would be no need for us. We do not provide direct service to individuals facing the emergency of homelessness. We support and respect those throwing life preservers to individual's struggling with poverty. Advocates wade up stream and figure out why people are falling into the water and try to build retaining walls. We push our Mayor and County Commissioners to keep homelessness in mind with every decision. NEOCH is looking for large scale housing solutions or the development of jobs programs or universal access to health care. Without advocacy groups there would not be money for family shelters and all the shelters would be mats in basements, homeless people would not be able to vote, there would be far fewer affordable housing units in Cleveland, and all health care would be provided through the hospitals among other changes.

I agree that all directors of charities should not have excessive salaries. I agree that all charities should have strong community oversight that can move a neighborhood, city, county, or state toward some tangible goals. But, I think that community organizing and facilitating discussion among a group is an important activity. Assisting lower income people to speak collectively is a useful function and facilitating meeting that allow homeless people to speak directly to politicians is a critical function. Just providing a meal and a shelter bed is important, but it does not solve the problems associated with homelessness, the lack of jobs or the lack of housing. Please take a second look at Advocacy organizations, Mr. Vanden.

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