Friday, September 30, 2011

Hand Up Gala Press Release

A Unique Special Event that Homeless People Get to Enjoy

For More Information, Call: 
Brian Davis from NEOCH at (216)432-0540.
Nicole Evans from Bishop Cosgrove Center at (216) 781-8262

For Immediate Release: September 29, 2011

Two Charities Join for Second Year to Provide Fantastic Meal for Homeless People

We are pleased to invite you to the second annual “Hand-up Gala” dinner on Friday, October 21st, sponsored jointly by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Catholic Charities’ Bishop Cosgrove Center’s day shelter program.  This opportunity for a meal of fine dining will be in lieu of an annual fundraiser for the Coalition and the Bishop Cosgrove Center.  Serving begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Cosgrove, located at 1736 Superior Ave. (entrance is in the back of the building). We hope to see you there! Over the last two months, the number of families and women who become homeless has skyrocketed locally.  This has caused a closing during the day of the entry shelter in Cleveland, and a 20% increase in the number of people seeking food at the Bishop Cosgrove Center.  As we prepare for the winter in Cleveland, two local non-profits are collaborating on a joint fundraiser this fall.  Catholic Charities and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless will again collaborate on the second “Hand Up” Gala on October 21, 2011 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.  Bishop Cosgrove Center will use their funds to assist the transportation needs of homeless people in Cleveland.  With the purchase of bus tickets, the Bishop Cosgrove Center will hope to get people to jobs, housing interviews or doctor visits.   The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless will use the proceeds from this fundraiser to prepare for the winter and kickoff our blanket and winter apparel drive.  None of the proceeds from this benefit go toward the cost of the meal.  The fine dining luncheon is the kickoff event for this winter, and is held in place of the traditional dinner and silent auction.  “For everyone that donates to our cause at least $45 their name will be entered in a drawing for some fabulous prizes, and the population we serve gets to enjoy a four star luncheon with all the amenities cooked by a gourmet chef,” said NEOCH community organizer Brian Davis.

We are asking for $45, and donations can be made directly on the NEOCH website at Everyone who buys a ticket will be entered into a drawing to win prizes such as restaurant meals, stays at lodges or hotels, and tickets to local arts and culture groups as a thank you for the donation.  Some of the auction items include tickets to the Beck Center, Cleveland Public Theatre tickets, Doubletree hotel stays, a signed Cleveland Brown’s football, 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 Bishop 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 have a number of elected officials who will serve and act as hosts for the event.  We will serve 200 low income, homeless, and hungry individuals.

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Hand Up Gala Update

Donate Today!!!
The Hand Up Gala now has 32 items that we will use to auction off this fall.  Any one who donates $45 will be entered into the auction and we will draw prizes on November 4, 2011 and send as a thank you to those who donate.  The event is a kickoff for our winter fundraising, and will feature a fantastic meal and fine dining atmosphere.  There is a flyer on the auction page that you could print out and send with your donation to this unique event.  We also have a copy of the above flyer available on the Hand Up Gala website.  We would love your support for this important event for both organizations

For every $45 donated, the Bishop Cosgrove Center will be able to buy 8 bus tickets for a homeless individual to get to a job interview or a meeting with a landlord.

For every $90 donated to the Hand Up Gala for NEOCH, we will be able to collect and distribute 4 of the nice indoor/outdoor blankets to keep people dry and safe this winter. 

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Boise and Fullerton Updates

Criminalization and National Updates

In 2009, the city of Boise Idaho passed a "No camping" ordinance to allow police to ticket those sleeping outside anywhere in the city.  Advocates and homeless individuals sued the city in order to strike down this broad law.   In 2011, the city amended the law to only allow police to ticket homeless people for "camping"  when the shelters were full.  This stopped the lawsuit which was declared moot, but it has scarey implications.  It has the impact of forcing people into shelter if they become homeless.  If there is a space available in Boise Idaho, you must sleep there or face a ticket from the police.  This is a backward way to provide help to those struggling with housing.  How can an agency or religious organization build a trusting relationship if the individual is forced into their care?  Isn't that a prison?  The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty is taking the lead nationally to overturn this law, and are debating appealing the dismissal of the lawsuit.

Also, the County Prosecutor out in Orange County/ Fullerton California has charged two police officers with murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Kelly Thomas, a developmentally disabled homeless individual. The LA Times has praised the decision to charge the police officers, and I am pretty sure the National Coalition is going to weigh in soon on this issue. This arrest sends a signal to all law enforcement that they need to handle the mentally ill and developmentally disabled with some compassion or step aside and allow professional outreach teams handle the situation.  The description provided by the District Attorney in Orange County was chilling, and advocates are awaiting for additional charges against the other four officers who covered up this attack.  

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Time To Get Your Absentee Ballot

This Will Take No More Than Two Minutes

NEOCH staff have already commented about the bad deal Cuyahoga County struck with the State of Ohio over voting procedures, but it is a done and we have to live with it.  Now it is time to sign up to receive your absentee ballot by mail.  It is actually very easy on the County Board of Elections website.  All you have to do is answer a couple of questions on the Board of Elections website and they will send it to you.  No hassle.  No standing in lines, and no sending in an envelope.  If you want to go old school, you can print out a form and send it to the Board of Elections at the same site.  Since the County is not going to remind people to vote by sending a form, it is critical to send this link around to family and friends and get them to sign up to receive a ballot in the mail.

The other piece of good news is the House Bill 194, which radically changes voting procedure will likely be on the ballot next year.  It looks like advocates have reached the number of signatures that they need to allow Ohioans to vote on these changes in the law.  NEOCH absolutely opposes HB 194, and helped gather signatures to allow Ohio voters to decide.  NEOCH sued the State of Ohio over the counting of provisional ballots and showing identification in order to vote on behalf of our constituency who often do not have proper identification.  We settled with the state in 2010, and our settlement was up in the air because of the changes in voting law with HB 194.  It looks like with the collection of sufficient signatures HB 194 will be put on hold, and our settlement will remain at least through the 2012 Presidential election.  The best thing to come out of our settlement was a consistent process for counting provisional ballots throughout the State of Ohio.  This allows a homeless person without identification voting in the correct precinct in Medina having the same opportunity to have his or her provisional ballot counted as the homeless person without identification in Franklin County. 

Go to the website today and ask for a ballot by mail today!!!  If you are social service provider, get all your clients to sign up.  Make Fridays, "Participate in Democracy Fridays,"  by making sure your clients are registered and have ordered a ballot for November.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Senator Brown Responds to Call for Senior Support

Senior Services Program Needs Protected
This was a reply from Senator Brown from the letter we sent earlier this summer regarding the cuts to the Older Americans program.
"Thank you for getting in touch with me about the Community Service Employment Act for Older Americans (CSEOA) program.
 Today, our seniors face a tough economic climate.  With rising health care costs, utility bills, and food prices, seniors on a fixed income are forced to make painful cuts that can harm their health and reduce their quality of life.  
The CSEOA program promotes economic self-sufficiency by connecting older unemployed Americans with job opportunities.  Without these additional earnings, many seniors would face even more difficult choices about their health care and personal care needs.  During this period of economic hardship, it is critical that seniors receive the support they need and deserve.
You can be sure that I will continue to support the CSEOA program as the appropriations process moves forward.  Thank you for your advocacy.
Sherrod Brown
United States Senator"
We called for an advocate for this program to protect it from cuts as Senator Kennedy had done for the last 35 years.  This program from the 1960s helps millions every year and can help older folks retrain for new careers.  These programs have been invaluable to the Coalition and to seniors who have worked at NEOCH.
Brian Davis
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Monday, September 26, 2011

A Shameful Day in America

David Westcott and Marcia Bufford at the 2006 Homeless Memorial Day.  Photo by City of Cleveland
An Assault on our Morality

A great friend of the Coalition, David Westcott, passed away a couple of years ago, and was one of the organizers of the local anti-death penalty group. For years I knew David only with regard to his hunger and homeless work.  I was surprised to see him at Old Stone Church for a prayer service when Ohio began executing people again in the 1990s.  I should have realized that David was a part of all the social justice groups in Cleveland, but we had never talked about other issues besides hunger and homelessness.  David would be profoundly sad after the death of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia last Wednesday and the message it sends to the rest of the world. 

We have to say upfront that the death of any law enforcement officer and in fact anyone who dies while serving the public is a tremendous loss for our society.  We cannot forget the initial incident and the victim of the crime in question.  Off duty police officer, Mark MacPhail, intervened in a fight that involved a homeless man.  Sylvester Coles was pistol whipping Larry Young, the guy experiencing homelessness.  Officer MacPhail, a father of two young children, intervened and was shot twice and killed. Intervening to help a homeless guy in Georgia is a courageous and rare act, and we can't forget that this entire incident was about a police offer keeping the peace when he was struck down. 

The problem is that the case against Davis as the shooter had crumbled over the years.  The vast majority of witnesses recanted their testimony, and the two who remained changed their story.  There was no physical evidence or even any evidence tying the gun to Davis.  It just seems that if there is such a large amount of doubt, taxpayers should not tolerate an execution on our behalf.  It is a loss of stature on the world stage that we cling to executions especially with such a flimsy evidence.  It is hard to condemn Iran for keeping our two hikers for two years in jail, when we have engaged in torture of potential terrorists and we executed Davis in Georgia with limited evidence and Humberto Leal Garcia by the state of Texas without giving him appropriate counsel from Mexico. It is just one more of a thousand cuts to our moral standing as a society. As a social justice organization, we are hurt by the taking of a life by the state especially one with so many questions.  As a citizen of the United States, we are all harmed by the state killing a citizen with all the concern, doubt and confusion surrounding the case.  All acts of revenge by the State are improper, but this one was especially painful.

Brian Davis
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fair Housing and Tenant Rights Forum

October 5 Forum for Those Looking For Housing

Every year we partner with the Housing Research & Advocacy Center to educate homeless people about their rights when searching for housing.  This year, we are doing the presentation at the Bishop Cosgrove Center gymnasium on October 5, 2011 at 10 a.m.  The title of this forum is "What should you know when searching for housing?"  This year, staff from the Cleveland Tenants Organization are also presenting.   Some of the items that will be covered include:
  • Where do I go if your rights were violated?
  • How do I resolve problems with a landlord or a potential landlord?
  • Where can I get my housing related questions answered?
  • What are my rights when I apply for housing?
Shelter staff and social service providers are invited to attend. Actually, anyone is welcome to attend.   We will also have time for questions and answers about housing in Cleveland.  The Bishop Cosgrove Center is at 1736 Superior Ave. (only street parking is available).  This is event is sponsored by CTO, NEOCH, Housing Research & Advocacy Center, and

Brian Davis
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More on the Hand Up Gala

Hand Up Not a Hand Out
Plans are moving forward on the Hand Up Gala 2011.  There are some fantastic auction items for everyone who donates.  We have a number of celebrities signed up to volunteer for the event including Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell, State Senator Shirley Smith, State Representative Nickie Antonio and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell will be helping to seat people and serve homeless people at the event.  This will mark the kickoff of our winter preparation.  The Bishop Cosgrove Center will use the proceeds from this event to help the transportation needs of homeless people.  We hope that you will support this important event.  We will have table cloths, center pieces, and a four star meal prepared by John Aldewereld of the Renaissance Hotel Sans Souci Restaurant.   It will be a fantastic event for people who do not often get to enjoy a four star meal with music and a relaxing atmosphere.


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Olivet Baptist Church Collects Blankets

Blankets Collected from Olivet Baptist Church 2011
Thanks for your Support

The members of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church collected well over 400 blankets for homeless people in Cleveland this summer.  This was a part of their "Christmas in July" celebration.  We have already delivered half of the blankets to the Bishop Cosgrove Center and to Care Alliance.  Tonight we will give out the rest to the outreach teams who go out every night and serve those resistant to shelter in Cleveland.  Each of the blankets has a gift tag with the name of the donor.  Thanks to the Adams', the Lawsons', and to Ms. Pitts, and the hundreds of other families who contributed a blanket from the church.  Our volunteer coordinator, Larry Davis, was overwhelmed with the large number of blanket the members of Olivet collected when he picked them up this week.

This reminds us that winter is right around the corner, and we have a goal of collecting 5,000 blankets this winter up from 3,000 last year.  As part of this blanket collection, we are collaborating with the Bishop Cosgrove Center on a kickoff luncheon on October 21, 2011 called the Hand Up Gala.  For everyone who donates their name will be entered into a fabulous auction.  All proceeds that we raise from the fundraiser will go to the collection and distribution of blankets and winter items over the next six months.  You can donate to this fundraiser on-line and indicate "hand up gala" in the purpose line by clicking here.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Poverty and Housing Needs

Shelter Stays Up, Poverty Increases, and People are in Need of Housing

The Community Women's Shelter in Cleveland has seen record numbers in August 2011.  They are way over capacity, and are struggling to serve all the families showing up who are in need.  Cleveland is one of the last cities in the United States that does not turn people away who show up for shelter.  The social service providers work to find a place for everyone requesting help.  We are lucky to live in a city that values keeping people inside and safe.  This has caused the agency running the Community Women's shelter to have to juggle staff and thus close during the day.  The women have to go to the Bishop Cosgrove Center or a library or somewhere else.  This has been a hardship for the women, but the agency is working everyday to serve the historic number of women showing up.  The shelter is more than 60% over the capacity.

Today, the US Census bureau released the federal poverty numbers, which shows that poverty has increased to a figure we have not seen since 1993 and increased by 2.6 percentage points in the last three years.  These are the regional and national figures released today.  The state and municipal numbers will be released later this year.  The South had the sharpest rise in poverty in the United States with African Americans seeing a 1.6% increase in the number of people living below the poverty level between 2009 and 2010.  This shows the Great Recession continues to have a huge impact on our local communities.  The other figure released today was that unemployment rose for the third month in a row.  All of this contributing to the rise in homelessness in Cleveland. 

How this plays out on the local level is that evictions within the City of Cleveland are up, and a record number of people applied for a housing voucher in August.  There were 64,700 unduplicated number of individuals who entered their name into the Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher lottery from August from CMHA.  Only 10,000 names will be drawn so an applicant has a 15% chance of getting a voucher.  The person "winning the housing lottery" could wait up to five years for their number to come up.  The last lottery, in 2006, saw 40,000 unique individuals apply shows the level of need in our community. 

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hand Up Gala Coming Soon

A Great Kickoff for the Winter: October 21, 2011

The Second Annual Hand Up Gala is well under way, and should be awesome with all that we learned last year.  The dinner will take place on October 21, 2011 with a fine dining lunch for 200 homeless and hungry individuals.  We are partnering with the Bishop Cosgrove Center again this year.  This fundraiser is intended to raise support in the community for our efforts to provide blankets and winter gear to homeless people this winter. The Bishop Cosgrove Center is going to use the funds raised from this event to provide transportation assistance to homeless people.

Everyone who donates more than $45 to this event is entered into a drawing for some wonderful gifts provided by area businesses as a thank you for your support.  These wonderful businesses have provided gifts that we will auction off in early November. 

You can donate directly from our website by just clicking on the "Donate Now" button on any page.   Mark Hand Up Gala in the purpose line for your donation, and you will be entered in the drawing.  We will be sending out invitations next week.  We hope that you will support this event.

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Remembering September 11, 2001

I was at work early on September 11, 2001, because I had a speech I had to give to a civic organization at lunch.  We heard about the attacks on the radio, and tried to get more information on the internet.  At that time, the office had a dial up service, and the computers locked up because the system was overwhelmed with traffic.  So, we relied on NPR to give us the information about the attacks.  We were in one of the taller buildings at that time on the near West Side of Cleveland, and I remember that there was talk of a couple of planes near Cleveland air traffic control that were suspicious.  We made the decision to send everyone home early around 10 am. I remember hearing from advocates in New York City who were worried that there were a number of homeless people who slept near the World Trade Centers.  I had to stay in the office because I could not get in touch with anyone at the organization where I was supposed to speak. 

Tanya, my wife, went to pick up my kids from school.  They were in elementary school and did not understand anything that was happening.  They did not understand what was going on, but they saw the fear in the eyes of the adults.  Some of the teachers and parents were crying and this unsettled the kids.  It took a long time to get to the east side of Cleveland around 11 a.m. because the downtown was clearing out.  I made it to the suburbs, and the group decided to go forward with the lunch and the talk about homelessness.  I was surprised and had no idea what to say.  There was a moment of silence and a prayer, and then they had me speak.  I have no idea what I said, and I am sure that no one in the room was listening to what I was saying.  All of our minds were somewhere else.

Everyone in our office carried on from that day wounded, hurt and deeply scarred. I made it home, and watched in shock the television coverage all night.  I remember seeing the Delta airplane at the end of the runway in Cleveland waiting to be searched because it had not responded appropriately before landing.  My most vivid memory from that time was about a month later, I had to fly to DC for a board meeting of the National Coalition for the Homeless.  I had visited Washington on a regular basis, but everything was different in October 2001.  The airport was full of heavy security, and I remember being searched coming in and departing the city.  It was a bad idea to wear my lapel pin from the ACLU on my jacket.   Nearly every public building had been fortified with concrete barriers.  There were military personnel at the front entrance in many buildings, and it took well over an hour and a half to get in to see both elected officials and government employees.  There were a large number of police in the Metro stations, and DC was a different city.

This is how I view the legacy of September 11, 2001 with the transformation of our nation's capital.  I always loved walking around DC at night it is a beautiful city.  That weekend, you could not get near the Congress at night and the statue of freedom which sits on top of the dome seemed less confident and somewhat stunned.  It was amazing to me how many armed security were deployed from the Capital Police to the Secret Service to the Park Police all with heavy weapons.  The only benefit to come out of this event was that the thousands of security personnel watching over DC 24 hours a day kept the thousands of homeless people safe in the immediate days after 9/11.

In looking back that was a tough decade for the organization.  The economy in Cleveland has yet to recover, and that has an impact on the health of all non-profit organizations. We have seen many groups close down, and many others see dramatic downsizing.  Homelessness has not been in the top 40 of issues in the mind of the public over the last 10 years.  It gets one or two mentions in the two presidential elections of the last decade.  With terrorism, war, and the financial collapse, we have survived a tough decade.

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Monday, September 05, 2011

East Side Suburban Housing

September Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance

The September Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance Meeting is the second Monday this month because of the federal holiday this Monday. We meet every month to discuss affordable housing locally to protect, preserve and hopefully in the future expand housing opportunities.

Since being off in August, we are back with a strong presentation for the September forum for Affordable Housing in Cuyahoga County with the other two entitlement communities in Cuyahoga County.  We will have presentations from the staff of East Cleveland and Euclid to discuss affordable housing in the suburbs.  In June, CAHA hosted three entitlement communities and the City of South Euclid to discuss housing/homelessness in the suburbs.  We now have the last two entitlement communities who had scheduling conflicts in June.   Marty Castelletti of the City of Euclid Community Development and Joe Mazzola of the City of East Cleveland Community Development will talk about the state of affordable housing including a look at foreclosures in the suburbs. They will talk about their efforts to assist residents who maybe struggling with their housing and build neighborhoods in their two eastern communities.  We will also hear any other updates from any partners regarding state, federal, CMHA or local developments with regard to affordable housing.  The meeting is at 1:30 p.m. at HUD lower level at 1350 Euclid Ave. (US Bank Building).  All are welcome to attend.

The next meeting is October 3, 2011 will feature Mark McDermott of Enterprise Community Partners

Brian Davis
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Friday, September 02, 2011

A Bad Deal for Cuyahoga County

Husted and Fitzgerald Strike Deal that Harms Cuyahoga County

The deal announced today between County Executive Ed Fitzgerald and Secretary of State Jon Husted is bad for Cuyahoga County voters and unnecessary.  Fitzgerald agreed not to mail absentee ballot applications to voters in the next month and the state would pay to send out ballots to all of Ohio in 2012.  Cuyahoga County Council members must be upset that they all went out on a limb and then got sold down I-71 by their County Executive. They all agreed that this was important for voters and then they got notification in 2012 instead.  It is more likely that a resident would forget to apply in the off year of 2011 to vote by mail than in the Presidential election of 2012. The only benefit is that Cuyahoga County tax payers save the expense of the mailing, but we lose a great deal. 

It is another blow to home rule.  Fitzgerald was afraid of lawsuit, but that suit would have never been successful.  Plus, there are advocates gathering signatures to put the voting bill on the ballot, which would have made the lawsuit moot.  Didn't Fitzgerald learn anything from elementary school?  You have to stand up to bullies or they will just continue to push you around.  We better not have lines at the polling places this fall or Fitzgerald is in big trouble.

Brian Davis
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