Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thank You County Council

Transformational Art Center at the Bishop Cosgrove Center.  Photo by Luke Drotar. Look for an article and more pictures in the next Street Chronicle to hit the streets soon. 

Voter Mailing Going Forward
We have covered this story over the last two weeks over the controversy over mailing of absentee ballots here and hereA great deal of back and forth between the State of Ohio and County Executive Ed Fitzgerald took place over the last week.  The Plain Dealer scolded the two with an editorial asking that the Secretary of State and the County Executive to work things out.  Setting aside the fact that the local newspaper should always defend our local politicians (no matter what party) against any state intrusion in local decision making, we did not understand what Fitzgerald was being scolded for by the PD.

There was a comment in one of the blog postings about voting regarding the collective bargaining ballot issue and voting "A good way to gain momentum (is) to shove Issue 2 down the rest is the state's throat. Are you about homelessness or political advocacy?"  I am not sure what this comment means since we have not commented on SB 5 in a few months, but our answer is both.  NEOCH is about advocacy organization and a homeless organization.  We are about forwarding solutions to homelessness and not just offering charity to the population, Cousin.  We believe that we need to involve ourselves in policy discussions so that we do not continue to send people into homelessness or continue to make it more difficult to get into stable housing.  When we cut funds to affordable housing, or eliminate job training programs for homeless people, or make it more difficult for homeless people to vote, NEOCH comments.  This is not a feeling among our staff; it is our mission.  Forwarding public policy and protecting homeless people from bad laws is the reason that NEOCH was created.  We have an obligation to notify the public about advocacy that has an impact on homeless people, and our membership has come to expect this information over the last 20 years.

Voting is the cornerstone of democracy, and if anyone in our society needs to vote it is the homeless individual.  They see how government policy has failed, and should be first in line to call for changes.  They, of all citizens, need to petition their elected officials to fix the long wait for subsidized housing, the unfair wait for disability screenings, the poverty level assistance for those born with a disability, or the crippling debt caused by a chronic health condition.  The changes in the rules for voting will make it more difficult for those with a low income and especially homeless people to participate in the democratic process, and therefore it is an issue for NEOCH.  If not NEOCH who will place these issues in the court of public opinion?  Homeless people have a great deal going on in their life such as looking for housing, a job and a place to sleep every night, and they deserve a reminder from Cuyahoga County concerning "vote by mail" opportunities.  Just getting a piece of mail from your government while you are homeless gives you a small sense that you are still equal to the citizen living in Moreland Hills, and therefore it is worth the expense.

We have to congratulate the Cuyahoga County Council and Executive who put aside politics and vote 10 to 0 to send out the mailing.  Both Republican and Democrat saw that their constituent would benefit from this information.  They realized that anything that we can do to keep down the lines on election day is important.  We should do anything we can to not overwhelm those sweet older women at the polling places as a government.  State officials tried everything they could do to interfere with the voting process, by falsely claiming that this would given Cuyahoga County an unfair advantage.  The Secretary of State improperly threatened that he could force the Board of Election to reject those applications.  How could the board distinguish between the mailing and the form printed out from the Secretary of State website?  And then the state auditor said that he could look at the County expense to see if it served a public purpose.  How could encouraging voting not be a public purpose?   All of these statements can only be seen as activities to disenfranchise voters and suppress turnout.   Thank you County Council members for setting aside politics and doing the right thing for your constituents.  This is a victory for our advocacy and good government.

Post Script:  Thank you to State Representatives: Budish, Foley, Antonio, and Williams as well as State Senators Mike Skindell and Nina Turner wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation regarding voter suppression activities.  This is similar to the letter the National Coalition wrote to the Justice Department regarding voter suppression activities around the United States and specifically in Ohio.  

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Updates from the Coalition

Upcoming Dates and Updated Information
The latest advocacy newsletter from the Coalition is available and was sent electronically to our members. If you would like a copy, you just need to become a paid member of NEOCH here.  We have made updates to the NEOCH website recently including an update of the 15 items available to auction for anyone who donates to the Hand Up Gala will have their name entered in a random drawing. The Hand Up Gala is set for October 21 with a kickoff luncheon for those who frequent the shelters and meal programs. 

NEOCH staff met with County Council member Julian Rogers yesterday to discuss regulating the shelters.  He agreed that there needs to be some kind or regulation in law, and was willing to put his name on the website that if presented with a law, he would support it.  This means that the Homeless Congress has gathered six members of the Cuyahoga County Council who have publicly proclaimed their support.  We hope to have a piece of legislation to discuss in the fall.  We have talked to two or three other members, but did not get a firm commitment.  

Finally, on the NEOCH website, we have updated the list of homeless liaisons for each school district in Cuyahoga County.  This resource page is available to children who are struggling with the housing, and need help to maintain their school participation.  It is federal and state law that children and youth who become homeless do not have to have their education disrupted, but who do you go to in order to get help with transportation?   This page gives the 2011 to 2012 liaisons for every school district in the County.  All of the charter and private schools must have a liaison, but we do not have the means to list all those contacts.  Contact your school administrator if you or your children need help maintaining your a stable educational environment during a period of homelessness.  If you have problems, feel free to call NEOCH at 216/432-0540. 

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Friday, August 26, 2011

National Voting Advocacy

National Coalition Complains About Voting Changes

The National Coalition for the Homeless has written to Attorney General Eric Holder seeking a Justice Department investigation into all the changes that have taken place over the last nine months in voting rules and the concern that homeless participation will suffer with an upcoming Presidential election.  The letter prominently features the changes in Ohio law, which NCH fears will disenfranchise homeless people.

"Ohio increased the size of precincts, which could increase the lines on Election Day, a huge problem in the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio.  Poll workers will not be required to tell voters that they are at the wrong precinct.  The Ohio legislature increased the number of technical reasons for not counting provisional ballots, which homeless people are often forced to use because of their residency problems.  They have reduced the number of early voting days including eliminating Sunday voting and outlawed Counties from reaching out to voters that have mailed early voting forms"
There is a page on their website detailing the issue, and guides advocates through the process of sending a similar letter to the Attorney General.  Many of the changes in the laws across the country are targeted to disenfranchise lower income voters.  These new laws are passed largely along party lines, with the claim that these new rules protect against voter fraud, but the new rules disenfranchise more voters than they catch engaged in fraudulent activities.  No one has been able to prove that there are duplicate or non-citizen voters.  In fact, the only allegations of irregularities were ACORN canvassers registering multiple voters in an effort to collect a bounty on each registration form turned in, and most of these rules do not address registration issues. 

We urge you to follow the National Coalition's lead and send a note to the Attorney General asking for an investigation.  We believe that many of these new laws violate the Voting Rights act and are a violation of the Help America Vote Act.  Congressional leaders sent a similar letter earlier this year, but that was centered on the new mandatory identification requirements.  The ID issue was cited in NCH letter, but there are bigger issues of disenfranchisement issues in Georgia, Rhode Island, Florida and Maine that serve only to reduce the number of potential low income voters.  Take Action!  Write to the Attorney General and ask for an investigation to protect access to the polls by those without housing.

Brian Davis
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Voting Advocacy Opportunity 2

It Looks Like the County is Going to Send Out Early Voting Applications.

Update from Previous PostOn Monday we told you about the conflict at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections over sending out early voting ballot request forms.  As predicted Republican Secretary of State issued an order preventing any Boards of Elections in Ohio from sending out an unsolicited mailing to voters urging them to vote early.  Husted is claiming that smaller counties don't have the money to send out unsolicited mail so no county should do it.  This does not make sense since it saves money and time for the large counties to encourage early voting.  It prevents the long lines in high population density counties and not having to hire large numbers of workers on election day to handle the crowds.  Think how long the lines would have been in Cuyahoga County in 2008 if the 50% who voted by mail had to show up in person and vote.  The good news is that advocates contacted Cuyahoga County officials and urged the County to send out the mail instead of the Board of Elections.  County Executive Ed Fitzgerald announced that he was going to ask County Council on Monday to authorize this mailing.  This is good news, and you can call your County Council member to thank them and urge them to vote to send out this mailing.  We hope that at least in Cuyahoga County this is not a partisan issue, and all Council members will see the value of urging people to vote early in this upcoming election.  

It brings up the reminder that Cuyahoga County voters need to sign the petition to get House Bill 194 on the ballot next year.  If advocates can collect 300,000 signatures, the changes in voting procedures would be on hold and Ohioans can decide if this limiting early voting was a good idea.  We need to decide if not informing voters that they are at the wrong precinct is a good idea.  We need to decide if large counties should be allowed to send out postage paid early voting applications.  NEOCH and the Cleveland Tenants Organization are gathering signatures.  If you would like to help please call the office at 216/432-0540. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When Police Attack?

California Has an Issue with Rogue Police

There were two recent attacks by law enforcement officers on those experiencing homelessness in California.  All this is happening on the heals of another Governor of California vetoing adding homeless people to the hate crimes law.  In Fullerton California, a homeless man with a mental disability was beaten to death by police in early July 2011, and there has sprung up a series of protests and City Council inquiries into the death.  There were allegations that the police were injured in the encounter, this turned out to be incorrect.  The homeless man, Kelly Thomas, was hit with a stun gun in the encounter with the police, but that was not reported in the first release of information.  The officers are currently on paid administrative leave while the case is being investigated, which caused more anger at the August 18 City Council meeting.  

The other incident involved the Bay Area Transit Police on July 3 in which a homeless man, Charles Hill, was shot and killed. Much of the attention involving the case has been on the BART police shutting cell phone service in the hopes of shutting down a protest that were planned for August 2011.  But the protest was over the death a man who was reportedly drunk and carrying a knife and then shot by BART police.  San Francisco advocates are upset that a drunk man could not be restrained without using lethal force.  The video seems to show that the officer was not very close to the man, and did not seem to be in any danger. 

Both these incidents demonstrate that police are in the difficult position because they have to deal with individuals in our society that other institutions have cast aside.  Both our alcohol and drug system as well as our mental health system are allowing too many people to live without a home, and then the disabled often end up being housed in jail.  The other issue that is obvious is that police forces need better training for dealing with fragile populations such as the mentally ill or drug addicted.  Since society has dumped this responsibility on police to deal with homeless and disabled individuals, they should have extensive training on the interaction with homeless people.  Every police force should have officers assigned to be liaisons to the homeless social service providers to head off problems before they get out of control.  And, finally, I believe that California and every state needs to pass a hate crimes protection bill for homeless people.  We know from the National Coalition's report that homeless people are routinely targeted especially by young people.  I have to believe that if police are killing homeless people with little consequences that will set a tone in the community.  I fear that more young people will feel that society accepts some casualties within the homeless population, and will step up attacks on fragile and vulnerable individuals without a secure place to rest their head at night.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Voting Advocacy Opportunity

Cuyahoga County: Send Out Notice of Early Election

This morning the Cuyahoga Board of Elections split along party lines about sending out applications for early voting in the November 2011 election. As you are aware, the State of Ohio passed a law in June which bars local county boards of elections from paying for a mailing that includes a blank early voting application. That law will take effect in late September unless advocates collect enough signatures to get the voting law on the ballot. The County had already approved the funds for a mailing, but the Board of Elections just needed to send out the mailing. This morning the Board could not achieve a majority of votes to authorize this mailing. It is likely that Republican Jon Husted, current Ohio Secretary of State, will side with the two Republican Board members in Cuyahoga County and not approve the mailing.

Cuyahoga County has the opportunity to claw back these funds for the mailing from the Board of Elections, and do the mailing themselves. This is not a Presidential election, and these odd year elections can sneak up on voters. The shut in, the person who travels a great deal, and the homeless individuals waiting for their birth certificate from another state so that they can get identification, would appreciate a blank application in the mail to complete and send back to make sure that they do not miss the opportunity to vote. This is a bad state law that we hope will be overturned by voters. We need more participation in the election, and reminding voters only boosts turn out. Urge the County Council to send out this mailing to all eligible Cuyahoga County voters. They have a month and half to make this happen. Give your Councilperson a call to urge them to send out this early voting information mailing. Here is the contact information:

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hand Up Gala 2011

Fund Raiser to Kick Off Winter Activities

The Bishop Cosgrove Center and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless introduce the second annual Hand Up Gala 2011 on October 21, 2011. NEOCH is partnering with Catholic Charities to host the Hand Up Gala 2011 in order to improve the lives of men and women in Cleveland with additional help getting people to jobs and winter supplies such as blankets and winter clothing. We will kick off these activities with a gourmet meal prepared by a Celebrity Chef in an event we call the Hand Up Gala. We hope to build on the successful 2010 event, and raise support for the two social service organizations in Cleveland. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is using this Gala to kick off our winter 2011-12 events and Cosgrove is using the proceeds to assist homeless people with their transportation needs.

The Hand Up Gala this year will again be prepared by a local celebrity Executive Sous Chef John Aldewereld of the Sans Souci Restaurant, and none of the proceeds go to preparing the dinner. Last year, we served 185 people who were able to enjoy music and a wonderful meal prepared by San Souci Chef John Aldewereld and Michael Lyon. This year we are holding the Gala on October 21, 2011 and we need your support for this event. Please donate to the Coalition to support the Hand Up Gala, and all the proceeds go to NEOCH's winter activities or the Bishop Cosgrove helping with the transportation of homeless people.

Our two nonprofit charities serve hundreds of people every month struggling with their housing, and want to combine our expertise to provide a great meal for homeless people. We are working every day to reduce homelessness and improve the lives of those experiencing homelessness in Cleveland. 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. Catholic Charities supports a comprehensive continuum of care to fragile populations throughout Northeast Ohio. The Bishop Cosgrove Center offers a breakfast and lunch to hundreds of hungry people everyday and provides supportive services to those who have struggling to find a hand out of poverty. Bishop Cosgrove serves more than 50,000 meals to the hungry every year.

This event is in lieu of the typical non-profit dinner and auction. It will mark the beginning of our winter blanket collection and the Cosgrove are using the proceeds to purchase bus tickets and provide transporation to homeless people to get them to jobs, housing or medical appointments . Last year, NEOCH collected and distributed over 3,000 winter blankets to homeless people. In this spirit, the Bishop Cosgrove Center and NEOCH are planning the Celebrity Chef Luncheon on October 21, 2011, as an opportunity for the homeless community to come together to enjoy some great food prepared by one of Cleveland’s famous chefs. We are seeking your support to make this event a success. Everyone who donates at least $45 to the event will have their name entered in an auction. At this point, the Doubletree Hotel on Lakeside, Cleveland Public Theatre, the Nautica Queen, among others have provided auction items. For a complete list of auction items go here.

We hope that you will support this unique event in the community.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CWRU Socks: Social Justice Question #2

CWRU: Working While Homeless

The students of CWRU are doing a project in which all the incoming freshmen are reading the same book. The Common reading program is centered around Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel. As part of this project they are collecting donations and socks to distribute to homeless people in Cleveland. NEOCH is assisting with this project by putting together a section of our website that provides additional information and resources in the community. One aspect of this project is to prompt the students to begin to talk about social justice issues. We have put together a series of social justice questions around housing and homelessness. We hope to solicit discussion here on the blog and in the local community with comments and debate. Here is the link to the first social justice question posted over the weekend.

Question: Is it just that men utilizing the main shelter in Cleveland work every work day for long hours at temporary labor companies, but at the end of the day they do not have enough money to pay rent even in a motel room?

Working long hours every day and not being able to afford even a motel room at the end of the day is a blatant injustice. Measures have been set up in this country supposedly to prevent this kind of injustice, namely minimum wage laws. But a 2009 study confirms the flurry of complaints that advocacy organizations and the Department of Labor have gotten about temporary labor companies using illegal practices to effectively pay their workers below the minimum wage. Paying minimum wages to begin with, these companies charge their workers with various “fees” that drops their wage substantially below the legal minimum, in addition to offenses such as not paying proper overtime.

Companies are able to do this because as “temporary laborers,” their workers are very disorganized and lack any collective bargaining power. But obviously just because these companies can get away with what their doing doesn’t mean that they should do it. The problem, is that this issue is so pervasive that companies view themselves as being “put at a competitive disadvantage” by not engaging in such illegal wage violations. Clearly something needs to be done to stop these practices once and for all. But without the help of unions on their side, these workers must rely on the government to step in for them.

These wage violations are a huge problem for homeless people because they often find it incredibly difficult to earn enough money to be able to support themselves and their family even if they are earning minimum wage. The fact that they can work all day and still not be able to afford to put a roof over their head is incredibly disheartening. As is the fact that these companies are blatantly taking advantage of these vulnerable workers while fully realizing the desperate housing situation of many of them.

by Sam the Intern
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Update on the CMHA Voucher Lottery

Waiting List Lottery Deadline Extended to Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 5 PM EDT

From a Press Release by CMHA: The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) announced today that it is extending the entry deadline for its Housing Choice Voucher Program Waiting List Lottery until Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 5 p.m. EDT. The deadline has been extended in order to ensure that everyone who wants to enter the Waiting List Lottery has an opportunity to do so, after technical difficulties may have prevented many interested households from submitting entries when the lottery first opened on Monday.

“While we have experienced some technical difficulty yesterday, as of today, over 20,000 entries have been submitted. Nevertheless, in an effort to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to complete the entry process, we felt an extension of the timeline was the fair and prudent thing to do,” said Jeffery K. Patterson, CMHA Acting CEO.

To submit an entry online, interested entrants should visit the Waiting List Lottery Web site at Seniors and persons with disabilities can contact the HCVP Waiting List Lottery Call Center at 800-223-4969 from 8 a.m. EDT – 8 p.m. EDT to obtain assistance with submitting an entry.

More information about the Lottery and the HCVP is available on the HCVP Waiting List Lottery web site at or by calling the HCVP Waiting List Lottery Call Center at 800-223-4969 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily and on weekends.

Editor's Note: That is pretty amazing that with the site only open for 10 to 11 hours so far already 20,000 people applied. Now, some will be duplicates and will be kicked out of the final total, but there are a lot of people in need. Is the market for housing so unstable that kids graduating from high school put their name on the list figuring that they may need help in the next five years? Once you get to the website, click on "application" then the link with English or Spanish depending on which language you are comfortable and finally click "begin". Make sure that anyone struggling with housing applies because the site will not be open again until 2016 or 2017 most likely.


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Monday, August 15, 2011

What is Happening Around Homelessness?

Upcoming Dates

Remember that this week is the week to get your clients to sign up for a housing voucher. Right now the website is down, but it should be up soon. This is only going to be up for this week. You can also go to to get more information. The housing voucher program is only open for a short time every five years. If you do not get on the waiting list this week, then it could be a long wait. Last time 40,000 people applied and 10,000 were put on the waiting list.

Hand Up Gala--October 21, 2011
Mark your calendars for the second annual fine dining meal for homeless people will be October 21, 2011 at the Cosgrove Center. The dinner will again be prepared by Sans Souci chef John Aldewereld, and will mark the kickoff of the winter activities for NEOCH. This is a fund raiser for both Catholic Charities and NEOCH in addition to raising awareness. Cosgrove will use their funds for transportation, and NEOCH will use our funds for our blanket and winter supplies distribution program. Check the website for more details and to look at the pictures from the event last year.

Homeless Congress September 8 at 1 p.m.
Every month homeless people meet to discuss issues that have an impact on the entire community. The big issue is passing a County minimum shelter standards bill. The meeting takes place at the Cosgrove Center at 1 p.m. typically on the second Thursday of the month.

Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting--September 12, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.
Every month housing advocates, landlords, social service providers and government officials meet to work to prevent any further loss in affordable housing. Typically, there is a speaker who details new projects or expanded opportunities or gives a status update on critical programs in the community. Then someone from HUD provides information on any troubled property in the community. The meeting is the first Monday of the month at HUD 1350 Euclid Ave. unless there is a federal holiday (like in September).

Finally, NEOCH is introducing an electronic newsletter only for paid members of the organization. We hope to send this out every two weeks and will give additional resources as well as look at current advocacy around homelessness. If you are a paid member of NEOCH, send us an e-mail to make sure that you are on the list (neoch (at) neoch (dot) org.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

CWRU Socks: Social Justice Question #1

Photo by Cheryl Jones from the Grapevine Photo Project

CWRU: Is the Mortgage Interest Deduction Fair?

The students of CWRU are doing a project in which all the incoming freshmen are reading the same book. The Common reading program is centered around Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel. As part of this project they are collecting donations and socks to distribute to homeless people in Cleveland. NEOCH is assisting with this project by putting together a section of our website that provides additional information and resources in the community. One aspect of this project is to prompt the students to begin to talk about social justice issues. We have put together a series of social justice questions around housing and homelessness. We hope to solicit discussion here on the blog and in the local community with comments and debate.

Question: Is it just that the U.S. Government gives a huge mortgage interest deduction of $110 billion per year to home owners while only $4.79 billion is spent on targeted homeless programs in the United States?

Sometime during what historians call the Progressive Era in this country, the government determined that homeownership should be a part of the American dream, and they decided to try to make that dream attainable for everyone. Since then, the government has instituted a plethora of policies in the name of “increasing homeownership.” What most people either forget or choose to ignore, however, is that while the middle-class has consistently expanded over the last century, those left behind, those stuck in the trap of poverty and homelessness, have had precious few bones thrown their way. If the government truly wants to help those most in need with the dream of owning their own house, it should reexamine how it currently spends much of its discretionary money.

The $110 billion that is spent (or more accurately, not collected) per year in mortgage interest deductions is consistently advertised as helping those in the lower-income brackets afford to own a home by allowing them to deduct mortgage interest payments from their income taxes. However, if this is truly the government’s aim, helping lower-income homeowners, they are largely wasting their money. This is because the vast bulk of mortgage interest deductions come from those with the highest incomes. According to the Tax Foundation, those earning in excess of $75,000 per year account for 53.8% of mortgage interest deductions claimed, while accounting for just 16% of all tax returns filed. In contrast, those earning less than $30,000 per year account for just 9.3% of mortgage interest deductions claimed while accounting for 51.9% of all tax returns filed.

There are several reasons why mortgage interest deductions disproportionately benefit the wealthy, the biggest being that in order to receive a mortgage interest deduction, one must itemize their tax return, which many lower-income taxpayers do not do because the incentive for doing so is much less for them than for those in higher income brackets. The bottom line is that if this is a way for the government to “help out” lower-income homeowners, it isn’t really working. In fact, all it is doing is accounting for lost revenue from wealthier Americans, those who can afford to own a house without benefiting from such deductions. Now consider the $4.79 billion that is spent annually on targeted homeless programs. This is such a small number compared to the government’s overall budget that it is laughable. And yet, compared to tax breaks that benefit the wealthy, it has been proven over and over that such direct spending on lower-income, poverty stricken populations is much more effective in helping the overall strength of the economy. This means that the government can expect to get more back for its money.

So why is it that the government spends so little money on homeless services? It’s not really surprising when you consider that compared to middle-class Americans, homeless people have so little political clout, and thus are often ignored by politicians. That means that from a government purporting to do everything in its power to help those in need, homeless people aren’t receiving their fair share of the pie. So no, it isn’t just that while homeowners receive $110 billion per year in mortgage-related tax breaks, homeless services agencies are left scuffling with their meager $4.79 billion. The reasons listed above are largely economic, but it also goes against every moral and ethical obligation that we as a society should feel to completely ignore those of us in the unfortunate situation of not being able to afford a home.

by Sam the Intern
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Recent Affordable Housing Updates

Mayor Frank Jackson and State Rep. Mike Foley at the 2007 Candlelight Vigil

July CAHA Meeting

There was no Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance Meeting in August. The last meeting was in July, and we invited State Representative Michael Foley and City of Cleveland Community Development staff member Bill Resseger. The CAHA meeting is a monthly meeting to work together to try to prevent any further decline in the amount of affordable housing in northeast Ohio. Rep. Foley previously was the director of the Cleveland Tenants Organization and previously led the urban initiative when the Democrats controlled the House in 2009 and 2010. Rep. Foley is a strong partisan for urban communities and a strong Democrat, but he is perhaps the foremost expert on housing issues down in Columbus. This is why we bring Rep. Foley to the CAHA meetings, and besides everything now is a partisan in this deeply divided society.

At the July Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance (CAHA) meeting, members had a grim picture painted about all the changes that have taken place in the Ohio Congress in its first half-year. Rep. Foley talked about some of the deep threats to urban communities with the passage of the new budget. In Foley's opinion these cuts are a threat to Cleveland and will destabilize affordable housing in the community. State Representative Michael Foley began the meeting by outlining the opposing parties agenda, which he characterized harms Cleveland and those living in the big cities.

First up on the chopping block is the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, which had its funding cut by 40%, including a $3 million cut in funding previously supplied by utility companies and not by tax payers. There's no good reason for this, according to Foley; it's simply an ideological attack. There was a dramatic cut to local city and county governments, including the elimination of Ohio's estate tax, 90% of which went to local governments. In addition, income tax rates are being lowered on Ohio's wealthiest citizens, along with a new Invest Ohio tax credit, which, according to Foley, contains no requirement for any proof of job creation.

A source of much public outcry has been the recently passed election reform, which drastically reduces the ability of many voters, especially those who are most disadvantaged, such as homeless people, to be able to cast a ballot. In a party line vote, the Republican party reduced early voting and mail-in voting periods, as well as discounting many earnest but "mistakenly filled-out" ballots and requiring more information to fill out a provisional ballot. The tightening of voter ID laws are most likely to pass in the near future according to Foley. [The bill might have died with the sponsors resignation from the Ohio House over a drunk driving arrest.]

Foley concluded his long list of problematic legislation that has passed recently including allowing companies to drill for oil and gas on state land and siphon water from Lake Erie for commercial use. Foley was concerned over the redistricting that could eliminate representation from Cuyahoga County. Foley stressed how frustrating a process these first six months have been, and he felt that much of the legislation will hurt the average Ohioan, not to mention those most reliant on public assistance.

Bill Resseger from the Cleveland Department of Development then took the helm to explain how budget cuts have and will impact affordable housing in Cleveland. He mentioned that since 2002, both CDBG and HOME have seen at least a 30% decline in funding, but that legislators are still looking at these two programs for more cuts. Some of these cuts will be reduced because of the r the Neighborhood Stabilization funded programs, beginning next year. Another troubling fact is that much of the stimulus money that Cleveland to address the foreclosure crisis got went to tearing down buildings.

On the plus side, the city will see an additional $450,000 in Emergency Shelter Grant money coming. These funds will probably soften the blow of the ending of the 2009 stimulus used to prevent homelessness which will probably end in March or April of 2012. The City is putting money into renovating Neal and Boulevard to go along with the private funding. In addition, things appear to be moving right along for further expansion of Permanent Supportive Housing projects in the community. However, with all the budgetary cuts coming out of Columbus and Washington affecting local governments all over Ohio, it will be harder and harder to maintain an adequate availability of affordable housing moving forward. At a time when the housing market is still in peril and many homeless and low-income people are struggling to put a roof over their head, it is going to be more difficult for cities to preserve affordable housing and it looks like developing new housing is off the table.

by Brian with Sam the Interns help
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Friday, August 05, 2011

CWRU Hosting Sock Drive

LinkSocks from Spartans and Common Reading Program

The Students at Case Western Reserve University, as part of 2011 orientation, are doing a Common Reading Program with the book Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel. Professor Sandel teaches government at Harvard, and will speak at the Fall Convocation on Wednesday August 31 at Severance Hall regarding justice issues. As part of this presentation and orientation programming, students are collecting new socks to distribute in the Cleveland shelters and to those resistant to shelter in the area as a sign of their commitment to justice. NEOCH has put together a section of our website to assist the students with local resources. There are links all over our website to this page

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, one of the leading social justice organizations in the community, is partnering with CWRU and the "Socks from Spartans" program to assist with the distribution of this vital resource in the homeless community. NEOCH will also act as a springboard for discussion about issues of justice in the area of housing and homelessness. The Coalition for the Homeless has year round volunteer opportunities or internships for students, information about homelessness/social justice and we also have developed ways to weave the knowledge learned during orientation into the day to day college experience while working on solutions to big community problems. The Justice Harvard website has recent interviews with Professor Sandel and a discussion section.

NEOCH have already begun distributing the socks. Yesterday we took a large bag over to the Cosgrove Center to distribute. Thanks to the students for all their help. There is nothing like putting on a new pair of socks especially after having to walk all day interviewing for jobs, trying to find food, and looking for housing in the community. We would be interested in hearing from CWRU students about the orientation, about the book Justice:What's the Right Thing to Do? or about the collection of items to distribute to homeless people in the comments section.

Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Price of Austerity

Emergency Shelter and Hunger Funds Cut by 40%

I am supposed mention good things to balance out the depression of homelessness and poverty that permeates this blog. So, the good news was that Cleveland was not listed as one of the top 10 sickest housing markets in the United States. Our friends in Dayton and Detroit are both on the list, but Cleveland was spared from the "sickest list." Now for the bad news.... There was a great deal of debate over the last month about a double dip recession, and austerity measures slowing the economy. There were many who talked about the 1937 Congressional push to cut the debt while the country was still trying to crawl out of the Great Depression. This only caused the economy to slide back into depression, and many are afraid we are facing the same thing today.

One example was the cuts to the 2011 budget, and programs that serve the very low income. Every year the shelters and the soup kitchens and food pantries divide up funds from the FEMA federal budget as part of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) funds. This has remained relatively stable for the last decade with a spike in dollars as part of the 2009 stimulus. This year, the shelters and hunger programs will face a 40% cut in funds. The United Way is the caretaker of these funds locally, and here is their summary of the situation:

Congress has appropriated $119,760,000 nationally to supplement the emergency food and shelter programs which represents an $80,240, 000 decrease (approximately a 40% decrease) in the amount that was allocated for phase 28. The amount of FEMA/EFSP funds awarded to Cuyahoga County for phase 29 [2011] is $572,482 which represents a $250,861 decrease in the amount that was allocated to the county in phase 28 [2010] ($823,343).

This is going to be a huge hardship for the hunger programs which received over $400,000 last year from the federal government. All of these funds are divided by formula so the shelters with the largest number of beds get the biggest allocation, and the food programs that give out the largest amount of food get the largest amount of the money. 2100 Lakeside receives a sizable amount of the dollars from the FEMA/EFSP allocation, and their residents will feel the loss.

The federal homeless dollars are relatively stable this year, but the Community Development Block Grant funds (which supports a few of the homeless programs) is facing a 30% cut over the next two years, and there are cuts coming from the State of Ohio for behavioral health programs. All of this austerity is going to hurt those who could not find help against predatory and housing bubble or those who tried in vein to find a bailout for their unemployment. At a time when food resources are stretched thin throughout the county, the federal government is cutting funds to the food pantries. At a time when more people are looking for housing in our community, the feds are cutting funds to shelters.

Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.