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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Hand Up Gala

Two Charities Join to Provide Fantastic Meal for Homeless People

As Cleveland receives the dubious distinction of being the second poorest city in the United States, Catholic Charities and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless collaborate on the first “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 for support from the public to purchase tickets so that homeless people can attend this four star luncheon with all the amenities cooked by a gourmet chef,” said NEOCH executive director Brian Davis.

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 to the Nautica Queen and the Midwest League Champion Lake Erie Captains, along with many other items. All proceeds support the advocacy organization, NEOCH, as well as the Cosgrove Center and their daily meal and social service programming.

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 Bishop Cosgrove Center

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.

And then for those who are not aware the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

NEOCH devotes time and resources to advocacy, public education and programs designed to assist homeless men and women break the cycle of poverty and work their way out of homelessness. A few of NEOCH’s initiatives include free legal assistance, an affordable housing website, and publications of research and reference guides. NEOCH sponsors a number of different programs, including the Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program, and co-sponsors the annual Homeless Stand Down service fair. NEOCH also educates the public about homelessness through initiatives such as Teach-Ins and the Street Voices Speakers’ Bureau.

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Appreciation for Pat Clifford

Gentrification Forces Winning

It is not often that you get to show appreciation for someone who has not died, but Pat Clifford was fired from the Drop Inn Center in Cincinnati which I guess is similar to dying. The Coalition is having an evening of appreciation for Pat's work. For the new readers, Pat was the Cincy Coalition director and then he stepped in to running the shelter after buddy gray was killed. The Cincy Drop Inn is constantly under pressure to stay in business against the corporate/gentrification forces in Cincinnati. Those business folks finally got enough power on the Drop Inn board and terminated Pat right after he returned from vacation this summer. If you have the ability and want to support social justice, feel free to attend this event.

Come celebrate and honor Pat Clifford’s 20-plus years of service to the Drop Inn Center and the Over-the-Rhine community! Pat believes that it is the responsibility of all of us to end homelessness. Show your support for this ideal by coming together with others to honor Pat’s continuing presence in our community and his work with us moving forward.

Date and time: October 19th, 6:00 PM-9:00 PM

Location: Coffee Emporium, 110 East Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine

Appreciation Program at 7:00 PM

Food and drink provided. Open and free to the public

Sponsored by friends of Pat Clifford. Pat requests that any donations be shared with the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and InkTank.

If you can’t attend, please consider sending us a written statement or photo of Pat to be displayed at the event. Send to Catherine Stehlin at the Cincinnati Coalition before Friday, October 15th.

Send to: Josh Spring LSW

Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless

117 E. 12th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Office: 513-421-7803


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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Easily Offended??

Zero Eviction Day Angers City Leaders

On Monday, advocates gathered at an abandoned house owned by a mortgage company which has other eyesores on their books. The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, NEOCH and the Homeless Congress were asking City/County leaders to take bold action to turn some of these buildings over to all the people sleeping in shelters. This seemed low key and entirely sensible. It seemed like a common sense request that no one would oppose--similar to the clean water act or the clean air act. How does anyone oppose "clean air" or "zero evictions?" Turns out that linking the City of Cleveland or any government with the foreclosure crisis or the assertion that the City may be allowing property to deteriorate is a mortal sin. Don't do it or face the wrath of city leaders.

Everyone understands that the City did all the could in suing the mortgage companies, passing a law to protect home owners, and yelling about this issue in Columbus and to the national media. The concern of almost every homeless person in Cleveland is, "Why there are so many vacant houses and at the same time the shelters are full?" They long for a bold Mayor like Kucinich or Stokes who will create an urban homesteading program to turn these eyesores over to homeless people. They just want to hear from City leadership that they recognize this paradox and are trying to do something about it. They want an FDR or Teddy Roosevelt to move mountains to create a program to close down the shelters while moving people into the millions of houses that sit vacant. The men sitting on their bunks at 2100 Lakeside want the City and County to use the new County Land Bank to take over property and turn it over to able bodied skilled workers who can take off the boards and cut the grass and bushes on these houses. City leaders did not see this demonstration as a cry in the wilderness for bold ideas. They took it as a criticism of the cities response to the foreclosure crisis.

We got spanked for even hinting that the City was not doing all they could. We were taken to task for not recognizing all that the City has done to help homeless people and stem the tide of foreclosures. And they shook their finger at us for our "astonishingly ignorant" message. It would seem that government would want people out in the streets angry about what the banks did to this city. I have found that people and especially elected officials are today hyper sensitive to any criticism. They hear a whiff of anger or second guessing their decisions, and they shut down. It is difficult to be a social justice advocate when city leaders bristle and run away from an issue.

So, for all the city leaders out there: "We respect all that you have done to make sure shelters do not turn people away at night, but that does not mean you could not put in writing a plan to close all the shelters and get all those people into housing in the next four years. We appreciate the leap of faith in your vote of confidence in the Permanent Supportive Housing projects, but we will not let you off the hook for preserving and expanding other housing opportunities in the community. We love and thank you everyday for the rich diversity of non-profits that you fund, but that does not mean we will not push you to force these groups to deliver a minimum level of care and work together on a coordinated plan to eliminate duplication of services. We expect the ethical stewardship of public money, but will praise you for any attempt to provide health care, housing, income, and civil rights to fragile populations. We acknowledge all that you did to stop the foreclosures, but you need to do more to help those who were forced out of their housing to get them quickly back into some kind of housing.

by Brian Davis
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Update on Street Newspaper

We are Close to Publishing

The poets have been able to get close to the $1,000 mark, and we are starting to make plans for publishing this fall. We are collecting stories, poetry and photos for the Grapevine or whatever the new paper will be called. The poets put together a blog entry explaining their efforts to support the street newspaper. If you want to help, NEOCH is accepting donations to help with the paper. You can donate directly from our website or send us a check. Please send donations to:

NEOCH/Homeless Grapevine
3631 Perkins Ave #3A3
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Zero Eviction Day

Time to Reclaim The Housing??

To commemorate Zero Evictions Day as designated by the International and US/Canadian Alliance of Inhabitants ( a grassroots coalition working for the rights to housing) Northeast Ohio Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign along with the United Clevelanders Against Poverty, Northeast Coalition for the Homeless, the Homeless Congress and others will be holding a protest calling for upon the government and banks to turn over vacant foreclosed home for housing for persons without homes. This comes at a time when there are substantially more foreclosed properties in Cleveland and the United States than there are people who experience homelessness.

It will be happening this Monday at 1791-1793 East 31st Street , Cleveland (between Paine and Superior ). We chose this property in part because it is an example of a vacant property that has been abandoned by the bank that now owns it. We will be meeting at 1:00 pm at the property. The event will be over by 2:00 pm.

We hope that many of you will be able to participate.


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