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This blog is dedicated to distribute current information about the Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland or poverty or the state of homelessness. Entries are written by board or staff of the Coalition. The opinions contained in this blog reflect the views of the author of the post. This blog features information on shelters, affordable housing, profiles, statistics, trends, and upcoming events relating to homelessness. We welcome comments, and will remove offensive or inappropriate messages. All postings are signed by the author.

The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event
Wednesday
Nov082017

October Homeless Congress Notes

Homeless Congress’s October Meeting:

 

In the back room of the Cosgrove Center on Thursday, October 12th, about 15-20 folks gathered around for October’s Homeless Congress meeting. We discussed several items and then jumped into the main agenda. The main agenda items were:

  • Potential involvement with the Poverty Truth Commission

  • Revisiting Homeless Congress’s 2017 priorities and brainstorming some potential 2018 priorities

  • Women’s Shelter Update

  • ADAMHS Board Letter

 

Prior to setting the agenda, Chris opened the space for the members of the congress to share non-agenda items.

 

Rude Treatment from Homeless Services Staff: One gentlemen mentioned the condescension he experiences from homeless services staff, whether it be at 2100 Men’s Shelter where he stays at or at the Welfare Office. Other members of the congress agreed.

 

Some members pointed out that this rudeness from staff is particularly strange because many staff in these institutions are previously homeless. However, they no longer empathize with the currently homeless, forgetting that “one missed paycheck is all it takes to be homeless”. Staff that were previously homeless instead now use their relative position of power to rudely treat people currently experiencing homelessness.

 

One gentlemen mentioned that it would be useful to have a monitor or auditor who ensures that homeless services staff are friendly and kind instead of patronizing.

 

Specialty Shelters: One gentleman mentioned that the current shelter situation is only based on one’s gender. He remarked that this causes an issue as some of the individuals at the shelter are experiencing severe mental illness. This an issue for those experiencing mental illness, as they are not provided the resources (caseworkers, therapy). This is also an issue for the other individuals in the shelter, as they feel the level of security protocol they are subject to is not suited for them. Having a separate shelter for those experiencing mental illness was suggested as a possibility.

 

Another member of Homeless Congress quickly suggested that Specialty Shelters used to exist in Cuyahoga County but were slowly phased out as funding has decreased. Chris mentioned that this occurred also due to HUD’s extreme focus on Permanent Supportive Housing to the detriment of developing a better shelter system. One member asked if foundations in the area, particularly Cleveland Foundation, provide funding for homeless services. Another member of Homeless Congress replied that foundations have become more focused on educational/youth initiatives than those focusing on homelessness.

 

2016-17 and 2017-18 Homeless Congress Priorities: Homeless Congress’s 2016-17 priorities were 1) shelter standards through regulations, 2) shelter requirements by law, 3) medical/health support at shelters, 4) Passing the Homeless Bill of Rights in Cleveland, 5) separate facility for severely mentally ill homeless men and women, 6) addressing discrimination of voucher holders, and  7) tiny homes campaign.

 

In this discussion, several things were mentioned:

  • Jobs: One member would like to see jobs and securing employemnt be an added focus. She felt that many individuals experiencing homelessness are still capable of working. Yet, the stigma associated with being a homeless individual limits their job opportunities. The inability to find employment through this disenfranchisement only makes it harder to no longer be homeless.

  • Addiction: Another member of Homeless Congress cautioned against seeing money as the only barrier to escaping homelessness. He feels that there needs to be a serious and genuine push to deal with addiction and mental illness within the homeless services provider. Even if individuals with mental illness and/or addiction secure housing or employment, they often return to the shelter system. They are often unable to maintain housing and employment without the proper emotional/mental support.to

  • Toxic Culture At Norma Herr: One gentleman remarked that a staff member at Norma Herr remarked that going to Norma Herr without knowing anyone already there who could protect or take care of you meant that “you were f******!”

 

Women’s Shelter Update: Chris explained the situation regarding the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, currently run by Frontline Services. The YWCA was the only bidder to offer to run the shelter. However, the County’s offer fell short of their requirements to run a dignified shelter. The city’s offered budget of ~$2 million was well below what the YWCA felt was reasonable based on the standards they wanted to see in the Women’s Shelter. Ultimately, the YWCA declined the County’s current offer to run the women’s shelter, though they left the door open if the offer were to change.

 

The next meeting is Wednesday, November 8th at Cosgrove Center. We hope you can join us there.

 

Notes taken by Vishal Reddy 

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 



 

Monday
Nov062017

Become a member of NEOCH this month. 

Four months! It been only that long since I started as the new Director of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. The work of defending the rights and dignity of people experiencing homelessness in our community is important as ever. The lack of affordable housing because of gentrification continues to fuel a rise in homelessness. There is no doubt that NEOCH will be an important organization to advocate when our community is impacted by federal policy and local development decisions. We have already won some important advocacy campaigns. None of this was possible without your involvement.

When the Irishtown Bend project sought to forcefully displace the two dozen homeless residents, we organized and advocated. We called for a relocation plan that respected the dignity and agency of the people that call the Riverbed home.Through our efforts, those involved in the project committed to finding the funds to make sure there is a dignified relocation plan for the residents.   

However, for every success, there is more critical work to be done. Today, family homelessness is on the rise in Cuyahoga County. Appoximately 50 woman and children are sleeping on a gym floor every night. The Women’s Shelter is housing forty more women than they have beds. The Men’s Shelter is regularly operating an overflow shelter. With federal cuts and increasing demands for supportive services, we need to make sure that people have access to and knowedge of the services.  This is why we put hours into research to publish a Street Card, which provides people in crisis quick and easy information to access services.

With your continued financial support we will be able to do even more. Our goal is to continue making a difference in our community and in the lives of those experiencing homelessness in Cuyahoga County. Your support can make our outreach more effective, our advocacy more courageous, and our relationships stronger. 

That is why I am writing to you today. We need you to make us strong. We need you to become a member of NEOCH.  In exchange for your membership you will receive: a subscription to our advocacy newsletter called The Bridge, advocacy alerts, invitations to special events, Street Card updates, a voice for homeless people, and a strong coalition and social change.

It is through your support that we continue to be a force for change in this community.  Please consider donating and becoming a member. As always, your contribution will be tax deductible and your membership will further the good work being done in our community. 

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Chris Knestrick

Director 

P.S. Because of you, Cleveland’s homeless have a friend!  

You can click here to donate online! 

 

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Friday
Oct132017

Join us for our Housing 101 workshop on October 20th and December 1st from 10am to 1pm 

Thursday
Oct052017

HOMELESS CONGRESS Notes-- SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 -- COSGROVE

 

After introductions of those in attendance, and giving an overview of the Homeless Congress (what it is; how it functions; where and how to address complaints), Christopher Knestrick asked for the approval of, or additions to, the meeting’s Agenda.

INTOXICATED WOMEN AT NORMA HERR - A resident of the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter voiced a concern regarding intoxicated women being allowed to stay in the shelter. She stated that intoxicated women were not allowed in a women’s shelter she’d been in Columbus. Mike Moguel, from 2100 Lakeside Homeless Men’s Shelter, explained that in Cleveland, “…we’d rather try to help people, than turn them away.”

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL SUBMITTED - Loh stated that an organization, (whose name Loh did not mention), had submitted an RFP (Request for Proposal) to take over the operation of Norma Herr Women’s Shelter. She was pleased that neither the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM), nor Frontline Services had submitted an RFP, and felt that the organization that submitted the proposal would be able to turn Norma Herr around and turn it into a functional shelter. When residents asked why representatives from that organization were not at the Homeless Congress, Chris mentioned that they (YWCA) wanted to talk with the Norma Herr residents and we are trying to find a time to do that.

SECURITY - A few present, and some former, residents remarked that staff and security do relatively little regarding violent situations that occur at Norma Herr. Staff doesn’t police violent behavior, security tends to turn a blind eye when incidents occur. One resident stated that the off-duty police officers who work as security for shelter “…need to work, and not just collect paychecks!” If on-duty Cleveland Police officers are called, the officers ask staff how they want the situation(s) to be handled.

LACK OF PROGRAMMING - Residents also believe that the lack of structure and the lack of programming available for the women contribute greatly to the number of fights that occur. As one resident declared, “The women fight because there is nothing else to do at the shelter!”

ADAMHS BOARD/SHELTER FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES – Chris invited input from the Congress regarding the next step(s) to take regarding the letter sent to the ADAMHS Board, June 30, 2017, about the need for a shelter for women with mental health issues. It was suggested that because Valeria Harper recently replaced William Denihan as Chief Executive Officer, and is getting up to speed with her new position, maybe another letter should be sent for her to review. Another suggestion was for members of the Homeless Congress to make phone calls to City and County Council members. Loh stated that she would attend the next ADAMHS Board meeting -September 27, 2017 at 4:30p.m., in order to encourage the board to review the letter.

CRISIS INTERVENTION CALLS - Quality Assurance Committee looked in to the number of Crisis Intervention calls made by the Men’s and Women’s Homeless Shelters:

  • ·         2015-2016 – #1 2100 Lakeside Homeless Men’s Shelter – the most calls for crisis intervention
  • ·         2015-2016 - #2 2727 Payne Avenue, Norma Herr Women’s Shelter

Mike Moguel, of 2100 Lakeside, said the men’s shelter had a lot of EMS calls due to residents suffering from seizures and drug overdoses. 2100 has partnered with Care Alliance, and has a nurse who comes to the shelter three times a week for the residents. Looking into spending money in order to have an additional nurse onsite at the men’s shelter. A Nurse Practitioner from Care Alliance is needed to see to the needs of the residents by conducting healthy diet programs, budgeting for food and nutrition issues addressed.

CHRIS suggested Inviting shelter providers –Frontline, Ruth Gillett to talk to Norma Herr residents regarding health concerns that are not taken into consideration at the shelter.

A North Point resident stated that unlike the shelters at 2100 and Norma Herr, North Point is Transitional Housing. He said that North Point is very much like Job Corps, with the population’s average age being 24 years and older. He also said that there has been an alleged sexual assault at North point, and many more calls to EMS that the staff has not been aware of.

Questions were raised about why a person has to stay in a homeless shelter for such a long period of time before getting help. It was explained that the length of the stay is necessary in order to declare a person chronically homeless and thereby get the assistance they are entitled to. A person is considered chronically homeless if they have experienced four episodes of homelessness in a three-year period, or one episode of one year.

TRUTH COMMISSION ON POVERTY – Chris reminded the Congress that the Cleveland Truth Commission on Poverty will take place Saturday, October 14, 2017 at Franklin Circle Church, from 10a.m.-4p.m., and encouraged attendees to provide written and in-person testimonies. Loh and Rosie Palfy said that they planned to attend.

DELORES GRAY – Dolores Gray, a community activist, business owner of Women on the Move –an organization which helps women and families find employment, and Zumba instructor, spoke briefly about the importance of voting and the upcoming mayoral primary. She assisted Homeless Congress attendees, who were not registered to vote, with completing voter registration forms.

Attendees were reminded that the next Homeless Congress meeting will take place Thursday October 12, 2017at 1 p.m. at Cosgrove in the St. Peter’s Room.

Monday
Sep252017

Family Homelessness Crisis Needs to be Addressed

 

“Mommy, where we at? The shelter again?”- Amaya, age 3.


Homelessness is not just a solitary struggle. The reality is 41% of homeless are comprised of families, a large majority of which are headed by single-mothers. Mothers and children are the fastest growing homeless demographic. In Cleveland, this crisis is growing, and it’s growing fast. We sought to explore the impact it’s having on the already precarious shelter system.

For a family, the path to access emergency housing in Cleveland is facilitated through Cuyahoga County’s Coordinated Intake office (run by Frontline). This one-stop-shop process is designed to direct families to need-appropriate resources within the community. Families are meant to be placed into a shelter or “diverted.”  Diversion, a policy that NEOCH does not support, seeks to place families in non-shelter locations such as with friends or family. Only once they are in a shelter will they be assigned a caseworker or seen if they are eligible for the Rapid Re-housing program. Rapid Re-housing is the only county program available to move families out of the shelter system. Unfortunately, permanent supportive housing is not available to families because the federal funding for the program is reserved for single adults. This system of giving resources only once the family is placed in the shelter means the family’s future is dependent on obtaining a spot in one of the city’s shelters. Families are thus beholden to the hope that these shelters aren’t at capacity.

 Hope doesn’t get them far though: family shelters in Cleveland have been at capacity for a while. Because all the family shelters are full, families are then sent to the overflow program at the City Mission if they are not diverted. Their family overflow program houses roughly 20 mothers and 30 children each night in their gym. It should be noted that the City Mission began the family overflow program in their gym last year in September 2016 because so many families were already being turned away since the other family shelters were full. The overflow program was meant to be a temporary solution to the crisis afflicting families, giving the County time to come up with alternatives. But quickly, it too has reached capacity, and there is still a lack of any concerted effort on the County to even acknowledge there is a family homelessness crisis.

What happens when even the overflow shelter is at capacity? First, countless women and children must continue fending for themselves, having been told by both the shelters and the single overflow program that they are at capacity. Second, the lives of those in the shelter are even more strained than normal since the shelters aren’t equipped to handle this quantity and those in the overflow program can’t be connected to resources until they are officially in a shelter. In the overflow, they will wait for weeks in a gym to be placed in a shelter.

We talked to several families who are currently staying in the overflow shelter to learn more. Tierra, who became homeless after issues with her abusive boyfriend, told us her's and her 3-year-old daughter's "daily routine". They leave City Mission gym before it closes at 7am, carrying all their belongings with them. Then, they gets shuttled to Cosgrove Center where she must wait outside on the street with her 3-year-old child and belongings till its 8am opening time. After eating breakfast and lunch there, she leaves Cosgrove Center at its 2:30 closing time. Having nowhere to go at that point, she takes takes her child to the beach or library till 7pm when the City Mission opens again. Then, she falls asleep with countless other families on the gym floor of City Mission and attempts to sleep till the next morning.

In the absence of a stable shelter situation, families must expend a great deal of energy to simply go from place to place. Any semblance of consistency or normalcy is gone. Under this flux, struggles compound and build on one another quickly. One mother, Simera, has been at Overflow in the City Mission for a month now. She has been struggling to obtain medicine for her months-old son who’s sick. Another mother, Joanna, laments the fact that her teenage son, Draymond, is unable to attend school. He's already missed the first few critical weeks of school, who knows how many more he’ll miss this year?  The crisis and trauma of homelessness makes it difficult for her to get her son back into the CMSD. What is a mom to do when they are simply trying to survive?  

Also, the families who are in overflow shelter have no assigned caseworker who monitors them and keeps them up to date on the status of obtaining a permanent spot at a shelter. The lack of a transparent criteria or process for obtaining housing heightens this uncertainty; none of the families we spoke to knew what the criteria was to determine the order for families receiving shelter placements. Is it the number of children a mother has? Is it how long the family has been in the shelter? Is it the perceived likelihood the family maintains housing? None of the families knew for certain.

In one year from September 2016 to August 2017, the family overflow program at the  City Mission went from providing 71 nights of shelter for 23 women and 48 children to last month providing 1016 nights of shelter for 336 women and 680 children. That’s a 1400% increase in nights of shelter provided in one year. The county NEEDS to address this situation, and they NEED to address it FAST. There is a severe, growing crisis of family homelessness. Temporary bandaids like the City Mission’s emergency family overflow have quickly become permanent bandaids.

The county has proposed Rapid Re-Housing as THE solution to the crisis of family homelessness. However, this program is facing serious difficulties. Rent is only guaranteed for 3 months, tenants are given only 30 days to find housing, and some families are even unable to pay rent afterwards that period expires. Shelters are having difficulty finding landlords to take Rapid Re-housing, as they’re in a difficult situation, as they risk a possible eviction if there is no permanent income to pay the rent. We are now even seeing cases where families are re-entering the shelter system after attempting Rapid Re-housing.

The options for homeless families become extremely limited. Family homelessness is clearly going up. Yet, the Office of Homeless Services claimed in a letter that “the number of families accessing emergency shelter through the Coordinated Entry System has been relatively the same over the past several years.”  NEOCH disagrees. We believe that we are in a crisis and other service providers agree. Something needs to be done.

The fact that a mother and her four month old child need to sleep on a gym floor for a month before they have any access to shelter services is the heartbreaking reality. Ultimately, to deny that there is a crisis is irresponsible, as the lack of further solutions to address this community crisis will continue to hurt the women and children who need support in a time of their individual crisis.

By Vishal Reddy 

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.