Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shelter Still Lacking in Showers

NEOCH Scolded For Asking for Decent Conditions

In an interview with Ohio News Network about the debacle surrounding the temporary location of the Community Women Shelter, Cleveland’s chief of Public Affairs, Natoya Walker Minor, claimed that NEOCH is “completely wrong on [our push for improved condition for the 80 women currently sleeping at the shelter].” She went on to say that the issue “has gained too much notoriety for a temporary situation.”

Much of the notoriety the issue has gained has been because of the Board of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless voicing concerns over the shelter, which is accommodating more people every night than that building can handle, and only has one shower. Because of these issues, NEOCH feels that this location is unacceptable for human habitation, regardless of whether it is a temporary situation. After all, half the women who enter the shelter today will not be there by the middle of August. So, there entire experience with homelessness will be at a facility without enough showers, beds, sinks or toilets.

Because the city and the county have largely dismissed the pleas and concerns of the NEOCH Board, they have filed complaints with the State, the fire department, and other government entities. NEOCH Board members, however, question the planning process that preceded the shelter’s relocation. Walker Minor and Cuyahoga County Director of Homeless Services Ruth Gillett said they spent between six months to a year planning the renovations and move of the shelter, but were unable to find a facility with showers.

"The question is why do city and county officials think that inhumane and intolerable living conditions are acceptable under any circumstances -- temporary or otherwise? That is the most disturbing part of all of this,” said board member Rosie Palfy. The NEOCH Board cannot understand how any plan involving a temporary shelter did not consider the shower needs of the women and the natural increases in homeless women every summer. The facility has had over 100 women on some nights with even pregnant women sleeping on the floor on a mat.

“I’ll be the first to admit, it is inconvenient,” Walker Minor told ONN. NEOCH maintains that this inconvenient solution is not an acceptable one, especially after a year of planning. If there was an apartment building with 90 residents and only one working shower, that building would quickly be condemned and the residents would be immediately moved into a facility that is in compliance with the law. “Why do homeless women and pregnant women have to suffer through this summer sleeping on the floor without adequate bathroom facilities because of poor planning and an unwillingness to seek help from the public to pay for a decent temporary shelter,” asked Marcia Bufford, NEOCH Board President?

These problems, accompanied by the sweltering heat Cleveland has encountered recently, combine to exacerbate the issues facing the women staying at the temporary shelter. The shelters need to maintain compliance with some minimum level of basic standards, and should not place women who have already experienced extreme hardship into a facility that is so overcrowded and does not provide a place for women to practice good hygiene as they prepare for job interviews or a meetings with potential landlords.

Press Release by Marcia Bufford and Rosie Palfy
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

High Poverty Areas and HUD Funding

Local Cleveland Shelters Ask HUD for Additional Help

A diverse group of advocates and Cleveland area service providers are proposing that communities with a history of acute poverty have access to additional funding in accordance with the implementation of the HEARTH law. Advocates and social service providers have a concern that traditionally high poverty areas will be harmed by the new regulations, and will not be able to access the high performing community designation and any funds that accompany this designation. We have expressed our concerns with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and have included that letter.

As set forth in the law, communities must meet certain performance guidelines in order to qualify for additional or bonus funding from HUD. Over the last ten years, the City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County has been the recipient of these additional funds to strategically assist the continuum in better serving those experiencing homelessness. The additional funding has enabled us to increase housing capacity and maintain a high quality of service to a growing homeless population, while also establishing one or two new strategic housing programs per year.

As you know, the soon-to-be-implemented HEARTH Law will mandate that additional bonus HUD dollars may be allocated to those communities that attain “High Performing Community” status. In order to qualify for this designation the community must: decrease the length of homelessness by 10%, reduce recidivism to 5% a year, implement the use of HMIS in every program, reduce the number who become homeless, and include programs that serve youth and families. We are asking that a similar fund be established for High Poverty Communities of equal value to assist those communities experiencing the highest rates of distress in the United States.

We maintain that severely impoverished communities nationwide, like Cleveland, could have substantial difficulty in decreasing the length of homelessness, reducing recidivism, and/or reducing the number of individuals and families who become homeless. In Cleveland, again as with many communities, there are mitigating factors that will significantly compromise endeavors to attain the “High Performing Community” status as set forth by the HEARTH Law.

While we will make every effort to be a High Performing Community, in the event we are not able to achieve those goals, we believe that the poorest cities in the United States need additional support from HUD to continue to address the issue of homelessness caused by the loss of jobs and a reduction in the ability to secure housing. Communities, such as Cleveland, need additional resources to continue to provide quality care to homeless people in an already stressed system. We believe that in a time of long waiting lists for mental health and alcohol and drug services as well as overcrowded shelters, quality programs specifically designed to serve and reduce the homeless population will be forced to close because of the huge demand and significant competition for limited resources.

We propose that if a community meets four (4) of the ten (10) factors that demonstrate a history of acute poverty, and is chosen by the HUD Secretary through a similar selection process as outlined in the HEARTH legislation for a “High Performing Community,” they have access to a pool of resources to reduce homelessness. The ten (10) factors are as follows:

1. The community experiences a natural disaster of national significance as declared by FEMA (flooding, earthquake, etc) in the previous year.
2. If according to the American Community Survey/US Census, the community is consistently listed among the top 20 poorest big cities in the nation.
3. In any of the last three years, the community experienced a decrease of 20% or more in State mental health funding.
4. In any of the last three years, the community experienced a decrease of 20% or more in State alcohol/drug addiction funding.
5. The community’s annual unemployment rate increases by more than 10% from one year to the next.
6. The community experiences a 10% increase in the number of evictions from one year to the next.
7. The community experiences a 10% increase in the number of households delinquent on their mortgage or there is a 20% increase in the number of foreclosure filings in any of the last five years.
8. The community experiences a 10% increase in the number of individuals receiving food stamps from one year to the next measured over the last three years.
9. The community experiences a 5% increase in the number of indigent care cases at local hospitals within the Continuum from one year to the next in any of the previous five years.
10. The community experiences a 5% increase in the number of offenders returning from the prison system from one year to the next any time over the last five years.

Again, in keeping with these ten (10) mitigating factors, we propose that if a community is quantifiably assessed to present with at least four (4) of the above-mentioned items, it receive access to a similar level of funding as those communities designated as a “High Performing Community.”. We are proposing that a community be measured over the last five years, and if at least four (4) extenuating factors are found in any of those five years, HUD designate the community as a “High Poverty Area,” and offer access to additional funding. The community should be allowed to maintain dispensation from “High Performing Community” status for a period of no less than three (3) years into the future while they work through their poverty issues. Additionally, the community should be re-evaluated every year, as part of the application process, to determine progress toward reducing poverty and meeting HUD guidelines.

We are sending this ahead of the introduction of the HEARTH guidelines in hopes that these concepts are included in the draft. As those serving on the “front lines” to effectively meet the needs of the homeless population, we thank you for your time and consideration of this correspondence.

This letter sent to Congressman Dennis Kucinich and and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Assistant Secretary of Community Development. It was signed and written by the directors of the Salvation Army Harbor Light Complex, Y-Haven transitional shelter, LMM 2100 Lakeside shelter, Joseph's Home transitional shelter, New Life Community, and Transitional Housing Inc. along with NEOCH.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Women's Shelter Population Growing

Is there anywhere that is free out there in Cleveland to house 100 homeless women?

Rising Temperatures and Resident Counts at Women’s Shelter Continue to Worry NEOCH Board Members

Nearly two weeks after Natoya Walker Minor, Cleveland’s Chief of Public Affairs, and Ruth Gillett, Cuyahoga County’s Director of Homeless Services, refused an invitation from the female board members of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless to spend two nights at the Community Women’s Shelter, conditions continued to deteriorate over the holiday weekend.

As the weekend temperatures soared, so did the number of homeless women seeking shelter at the temporary location. The almost 80 women found themselves enduring the scorching heat wave in a shelter with only one shower. During previous years, this shelter has traditionally housed about 100 women a day during the summer months. Despite this fact, Walker Minor and Gillett made the decision to relocate the women to a facility designed to house only 50 people when the publicly-funded shelter closed in early May for renovation.

Each government official said that they had spent years planning for the renovation and searching for temporary sites, yet they chose a building with only one shower, five sinks and five toilets. Walker Minor and Gillett declined the invitation to stay at the shelter, whose facilities they agreed were “inconvenient”, but “doable.”

Due to their poor planning, the residents have been forced to use showers at the nearby Bishop Cosgrove Center and North Point Men’s Transitional shelter. Cosgrove was closed over the holiday weekend as well as on Monday. During this time, the women’s only other option was North Point, which only has one shower available for their use.

“There are too many people living in that shelter. They've run out of beds, so some women are sleeping on mats on the floor. This building is clearly not designed to accommodate the needs of that many people," said Rosie Palfy, a NEOCH board member. "There is absolutely no way that nearly 80 women can be expected to adequately bathe themselves under these conditions."

The steady increase in the number of women sleeping in this shelter has caused concerns about the women’s hygiene and safety while in the shelter. The current situation violates not only Ohio’s Basic Shelter Standards, but also Cleveland’s building and housing codes. Aside from these issues, the limited number of showers continues to cause worry about its inaccessibility to disabled women and fear about the residents’ ability to find and maintain employment.

“We cannot risk women getting a staph infection or losing their job because they cannot maintain their personal hygiene,” said Marcia Bufford NEOCH's board president. The board continues to fight for shelter standards and stands unified in their decision to challenge city and county officials to improve the living conditions for homeless women.

Marcia Bufford and Rosie Palfy are the contacts for this information

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Post Script: After this release was developed, we have been told that 100 women are now sleeping in the shelter. Ruth and Natoya would know this if they had accepted our offer to sleep at the shelter.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cleveland: A Nice Place to Live

Photo by Pleasure Simmons, which was one of the images selected by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance Photo competition.

What Makes Cleveland Great???

The City of Cleveland feels scorned by the loss of LeBron James, and we all feel like electing Dan Gilbert as the County Executive for what he wrote and said. Cleveland is not all about sports, and no matter if the Indians, Cavs and Browns stink we have a great deal going for this city that often goes unrecognized. In the area of housing and homelessness, there are a number of things that make us among the top cities in America.

1. Guaranteed Access to Shelter: There are still some issues to work out on release of information, intake, and disciplinary procedures, but we still maintain the appearance of allowing everyone who comes to the door into the shelters. If a person is willing to abide by the rules they will have access to one of the publicly funded shelters. This is expensive and causes overcrowding, but it is a life saver for many. The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials should be thanked for all their work to protect homeless people.

2. Peace with the Police: The City of Cleveland signed a consent decree in 2000 that settled 10 years of lawsuits. The Coalition repeatedly sued the City over their policy of arresting and threatening arrest of anyone who decided not to sleep inside. We finally settled the lawsuits, and the City agreed not to arrest or threaten arrest of those who are sitting, sleeping, standing, or eating on the sidewalk. This agreement has held for the last 10 years. In that time, the population of those living outside has decreased.

3. Project ACT: The homeless children and youth program at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is over 20 years old and a model in the United States. They try to serve every child that becomes homeless in our City. They make sure that the child's school is not disrupted if the family becomes homeless during the school year. They serve thousands of children every year.

4. EDEN Inc./Shelter Plus Care: Cleveland is unlike most of other cities in that a private non-profit distributes the vouchers to the disabled. We have over 1,000 vouchers currently on the streets providing housing to homeless people with a disability. This is a great resource that the County has continued to put more funding every year into this program, and is a great supplement to the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

5. Coordinated Outreach: In both Columbus and Cincinnati, they have one or two teams out on the streets, and in both cities one of the outreach teams is a for-profit social worker employed by the downtown business district. Cleveland has five or six teams that go out on the streets to try to build a trusting relationship with homeless individuals. These teams have mapped out the entire city, and regularly meet with people as they struggle to stay alive. They have saved countless lives and moved hundreds into the shelters or housing.

There is plenty more, but this is a good list for now.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

LeBron Is Not Homeless!!!

End the Madness

NEOCH is usually in the top five under Google News Searches for "Cleveland Homeless." We were knocked out of the top five this week with two stories (AP and Salon) with a subject of LeBron James being "homeless." It all ends today, and we can get back to real stories of homelessness. Go Home Mr. James!!!

Brian Davis
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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New Resources on the Website

Veteran's Street Card and Legal Schedule Updated

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless updated our website with the new Veteran's Street Card for 2010. Our website features the regular Street Card from 2009 and the 2010 East Cleveland Street Card. We are working on getting the Street Card printed. In addition, we are working on a Family Street Card to assist families that are experiencing problems with their housing. These should both be updated by the end of the summer.

In addition, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association in partnership with NEOCH have added an additional clinic to the schedule for 2010. We have found attorneys who will staff the clinic at Trinity Cathedral beginning in August 2010. This clinic will offer legal advice to those who are in danger of being homeless or who are currently homeless on the third Wednesday of the month. The updated legal schedule is now on the website for distribution.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Take A Bottle of Water To Work Week

Water Needed Downtown

Your assignment for this incredibly hot week is to help out a friend with a bottle of water. Tonight and all this week put a plastic bottle of water in the freezer. Take it out on your way to work and give it to someone sitting or sleeping downtown. Even that annoying panhandler will appreciate a bottle of water especially with some ice in it. Water can be a life saver for the men and women who stay outside.

If you are not comfortable approaching someone on the streets, drop bottled water or even gallons of water at the NEOCH, Care Alliance, Volunteers of America, West Side Catholic or 2100 Lakeside shelter offices. We can all use water during the summer, and we will get it to the people most in need. To find one of these facilities go to the First Call for Help website. They all ring the downtown, and they are probably on your way into work. But to make thing easy, if you work downtown you can just drop the water bottle in a homeless individuals cart or bag. My experience is that we typically have as many homeless people die of heat exhaustion as we have die of hypothermia in Cleveland.

Please keep your fellow citizens in mind this week as you go downtown. Water is a great way to make a difference in another person's life.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

More Restaurants Should Do This

BBQ Eel, avocado roll, sesame vinaigrettes

BBQ Eel, Avocado Roll, Sesame Vinaigrettes

Dante Restaurant Commits to Feeding Homeless for a Year

[From our Friends at LMM] Dante Restaurant in Tremont has generously offered to donate food to Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry’s 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter once a month for a year.

The first Saturday of each month, this busy, high-end restaurant will cook and deliver a fresh, nutritious meal to feed 200 men who are homeless. This is the first time that a restaurant has ever made this type of commitment to 2100 Lakeside. The money that is saved on food will be reallocated to strengthen other services provided at the shelter, designed to ultimately build self-sufficiency and help transition men out of homelessness.

“The donation not only impacts us financially but provides the men with the added benefit of having a restaurant quality meal rather than the industrial style cooking we provide - an experience they might not otherwise ever have,” said Michael Moguel, Director of Operations at 2100 Lakeside.

The effort was coordinated by Mauricio Rocha, Dante Restaurant stakeholder and staff member, with Dante Boccuzzi, chef and owner of Dante Restaurant. I always wanted to be in a position of doing something like this – helping people that need help. The restaurant is doing well so I talked with Dante and we decided to give a little back to the community,” said Rocha.

Boccuzzi was eager to get involved and said, “It’s my duty to help the needy and I’m in the position to bring some comfort and relief to people that need it.” This unique partnership is so vital in the way that it is helping men who are homeless to see the community support that is behind them and the number of people that want to help them improve their lives.

Dante Restaurant, which opened in Tremont on January 9, 2010, now serves more than 600 people a week.

From Press Release of Jessica Rocha of Lutheran Metro. Ministry Cleveland Ohio.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

City and County Officials Refuse to Sleep in Shelter

No Access to Showers is “Doable” for Women Struggling With Housing but Not for County and City Bureaucrats!

Last week female board members from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless extended an invitation to Ruth Gillett from the County Office of Homeless Services and Natoya Walker Minor Public Affairs Director of the City of Cleveland to spend two nights at the shelter. After Gillett and Walker Minor toured the shelter, they informed the women that while it was “inconvenient” to only have only one shower on site, it was “doable.” After one year of planning this renovation, Gillett and Walker Minor made the decision to relocate the women to a temporary shelter without a shower, and now they refuse to sleep in a shelter that they created.

Gillett responded via an e-mail letter saying, “It would serve no purpose other than to take space away from someone who needs it.” Walker Minor did not respond. Gillett’s response is puzzling since just this weekend the facility had 9 women sleeping on mats in the day room, and the women would welcome City and County officials to join them on a mat in the shelter.

The Community Women’s Shelter is the entry point for the women’s shelter system, and is not supposed to turn anyone away. It was recently moved to a commercial building at 1701 Payne Ave. that has only one shower that must serve 77 people every night. The City and County, in a letter to the Coalition, contends that this is only a temporary issue, because the regular shelter is currently undergoing renovations and will be ready in the fall. We have to ask if the City would issue an occupancy permit to any residence in the community if in order to shower, the resident had to walk to a building down the street. “We want Ruth and Natoya to spend the night at the shelter and then tell the community if 1701 Payne is appropriate for the mothers and grandmothers who become homeless this summer,” said board member Rosie Palfy.

The Coalition Board is unified in its condemnation of the City and County for violating building and housing codes, Ohio Basic Shelter Standards, basic hygiene requirements and infectious disease protocols by placing 70 women for the summer in a facility that is absolutely unacceptable for congregate living. The NEOCH Board want the two women who made this decision to see how difficult it is for disabled women to maintain their personal hygiene in the Community Women’s Shelter. We want to show that without access to showers it is difficult to find or maintain a job, and we want Walker Minor and Gillett to see how their decisions are harming these women. “Anytime they would care to join us in an overnight or weekend stay, the female board members from NEOCH will gladly join them. We cannot risk women getting a staph infection or losing their job because they cannot maintain their personal hygiene,” said NEOCH board president, Marcia Bufford.

Press Release by Marcia Bufford and Rosie Palfy

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