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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
Tuesday
Sep192017

NEOCH's Voter Purge Case goes to the US Supreme Court. 

In a press release on September 18th 2017, Demos and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  annouced that they will take NEOCH's purge case to the US Supreme Court.

They "filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court detailing how Ohio is violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by targeting registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period for eventual removal from the registration rolls — even if they have not moved and are still fully eligible.

 Targeting people for removal simply based on non-voting is a powerful tool of voter suppression. In 2015 alone, over 40,600 registrants in Ohio’s largest county, Cuyahoga, were purged from the rolls using this flawed process, and countless Ohioans have been denied their right to vote as a result of these unlawful purges. These purges are in direct violation of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA)—that explicitly states that voters can be removed if and when they are ineligible to vote—not voting often enough does not make a person ineligible

The widespread disenfranchisement caused by Ohio’s purge process spurred NEOCH and the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), and Ohio resident Larry Harmon to challenge the practice in federal court. A federal appeals court ruled against Ohio, finding that Ohio’s purge practice violated the NVRA’s prohibition on removing registrants from the rolls for not voting. The state appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in this case, Husted v. Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, on November 8th"

As we have seen time and time again, homeless voters and other marginalized voters have to fight to make their voices heard in the electoral process. We worked hard to bring these voters into the electoral process, but unfortunately, the state of Ohio’s practice of purging registrants for their failure to vote locks the doors to the ballot box for many of these voters, which we believe is in violation of federal law and jeopardizes our democratic process.  

Here is a quick fact sheet about the Husted v. APRI 

Ohio’s Attempt to Purge Our Democracy

Ohio election officials use a controversial procedure to target voters for removal from the registration rolls based on their failure to vote “frequently” enough – a procedure known as the “Supplemental Process.” Under this process, Ohio counties initiate a removal procedure targeted at any voter who has failed to vote in a two-year period. Ohio assumes that anyone who has not voted in a two-year period must have become ineligible to vote by reason of a change in residence.  Based on that questionable assumption, Ohio targets these voters with a mailing requiring them to confirm that they are still eligible to vote.  If the voter does not respond to the notice or vote in the subsequent four-year period, the voter’s name is stripped from the registration rolls.

Many voters only vote in presidential elections, every four years. That does not mean they have changed their address or lost their eligibility to vote – instead it could mean that they are less interested in mid-term elections; or that they had work or family responsibilities that made it difficult to vote in a particular election. Nonetheless, many voters in Ohio get caught up in the state’s purge practice time and time again – finding themselves under constant threat of being removed from the voter rolls. And, if a voter sits out a single presidential election cycle, they are in danger of being purged from the rolls, even if nothing about their eligibility to vote has changed.

In 2015, hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters who had last voted in 2008 were removed from the voter registration rolls, with over 40,000 purged in Cuyahoga County alone. Many of these voters—as well as voters who had been purged under Ohio’s Supplemental Process in previous years—went to the polls in November 2015 and March 2016 only to learn that their names no longer appeared on the rolls, and were denied their fundamental right to vote. 

Case Background on Husted v. APRI

In 2016, after having notified Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), the public policy organization Dēmos and the ACLU of Ohio brought a lawsuit on behalf of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), and Mr. Harmon, a Navy veteran who voted in 2008 but was ultimately purged under the Supplemental Process even though he was living at the same address and remained fully eligible to vote.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Ohio’s controversial purge of infrequent voters from its voter rolls in September 2016, finding that Ohio’s Supplemental Process violates the NVRA’s prohibition on removing voters from the rolls by reason of a voter’s failure to vote. The federal district court then entered an injunction covering the November 2016 presidential election that ultimately allowed more than 7,500 Ohioans to cast a ballot and have it counted in that election. All of these people were eligible voters who would have been denied their right to vote under Ohio’s unlawful process, if the District Court had not invalidated Ohio’s improper practices.

Secretary of State Jon Husted filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting the Court review and overturn the Sixth Circuit’s decision. In May, the Supreme Court granted the petition; it will hear arguments on November 8. 

Summary of What’s at Stake

Ohio’s Supplemental Process is an illegal process that unfairly places the burden of re-registration on voters whose eligibility has not changed.

The NVRA was signed into law in 1993, with bipartisan support, to protect the right to vote, increase the number of registered voters, and ensure that states properly maintain their voter rolls.

 Accurate maintenance of the voting registry is important and necessary, but that is not what Ohio’s Supplemental Process does. Ohio’s voter purge practices are based on false assumptions and result in the indiscriminate removal of far too many eligible voters.

At a time when there are approximately 50 million eligible citizens not registered to vote, it is critical that the Supreme Court strike down Ohio’s illegal process and ensure that other states across the country do not follow Ohio’s example to unlawfully remove eligible voters from the rolls and deny them their constitutional right to vote.

 

 

 

 

Saturday
Sep092017

We add our voice to the concerns raised by The City Mission about the Family Homeless Crisis

 

There is a crisis in Cleveland - a terrible lack of resources for women and children who are experiencing homelessness. All of the family shelters are full and the overfull shelter is almost to capacity.  The county does not have shelter in place to give support to these families.  Rapid Re-housing is available but this program alone will never be enough. Thankfully, The City Mission, who runs the overflow, still remain committed to not turning anyone away. As of today, families have not been forced to sleep in the street.
 

However, there is no plan – no long term proposal being considered. There are no extra funds being made available. There is no solution which we can see.

Over the last year, NEOCH has voiced concern over the current lack of capacity and planning to provide women and children with housing and care. We are attempting to increase our own capacity to do more advocacy around this unrelenting crisis through our Hope for the Homeless campaign. We are currently in the process of our own study and advocacy program into the crisis.  

We have joined our voice with The City Mission, who has been leading conversations about what the community needs to do. In September, The City Mission responded to this crisis by opening their gymnasium as the family overflow shelter.  Since then they have taken the lead   in conversations with private individuals and religious communities to figure out how to respond to the crisis.  These conversations continue.

To learn more about the work of The City Mission, you can see the story recently done by Channel 5.  

Rich Trickle, the CEO of the City Mission, recently sent a letter to Mayor Frank Jackson and the President of the Cuyahoga County Council, Dan Brady, looking for a permanent solution to the crisis.

We add our voice to these concerns and believe that the county needs to find a long-term permanent solution to this crisis. NEOCH also believes in a Cleveland that cares for the families who live in our city. 

"This letter is an attempt to bring to your attention a critical need facing our city today. Right now in a Cleveland there are multitudes of homeless women and children and as city we are woefully underprepared to care for them or even meet their most basic needs. Currently there are only 4 facilities that provide beds and shelter for families (when I use the term family I’m referring to a mom and her kids): The City Mission - 55 rooms with 166 beds, Westside Catholic Center - 35 beds, The Salvation Army - 35 rooms and Family Promise - 8-10 families. Each of these facilities is full to overflowing. The City Mission (Laura’s Home) in addition to operating at capacity, receives on a monthly average 374 calls from moms (with a total of 776 children), 379 calls from single women, and 87 calls from pregnant women all requesting shelter at Laura’s Home. Unfortunately, because the facility is always full the answer is no, please keep calling. 

In addition, many women with their children report to Central Intake requesting shelter. Because Westside Catholic and the Salvation Army are full these requests are denied. The County does not have any emergency shelter in place to care for these dear families - they have no where for them to go. So, last September The City Mission volunteered to open its gym for the County to use as an emergency overflow shelter for families. Since then Central Intake sends moms and their children to our gym every night. The number has been steadily increasing - right now we are seeing, on a regular basis 20 moms and 30 kids, sleeping on mattresses on our gym floor each evening. These families are bused to our gym and begin arriving around 7 pm. In the morning, they are picked up and taken to the Bishop Cosgrove Center where they spend the day. In the evening the cycle begins again. Because these families are not yet placed in one of the three County approved shelters (Westside Catholic, Harbor Light or Family Promise) they are not given access to any services - they languish in limbo until space is available in an approved shelter. This is an appalling, unconscionable situation. Furthermore, the use of The City Mission gym was meant to be a temporary, short-term fix. I’m afraid it has become the solution.

Please do not mis-understand the intention of this letter. The City Mission is happy to provide our facility as a haven for these poor families. However, now that a year has gone by and there is no discussion, no expressed concern, and seemingly no permanent solution forthcoming, I’m alarmed. 

Cleveland is a great city. It is filled with compassionate, philanthropic people. I believe, if the people of Cleveland understood our current lack of care and provision for homeless women and children, they would be appalled. This isn’t right and it certainly doesn’t represent the heart of our great town. The City Mission stands ready to do whatever we can to help, but the County must step up and provide a permanent solution." 

Sincerely,

Rich

 

Chris Knestrick

 Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Tuesday
Sep052017

Homeless Congress Meeting Notes for August

Homeless Congress

August 10, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The meeting began with the new Director of Operations at NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, re-introducing himself to some of the members that had not met him yet.  Afterward, We went over the purpose of the Homeless Congress, what the Congress has done, some of the goals that have been attained or will be addressed, and why it is so important, which is, it can be a “bridge to City and State Officials” and it “allows homeless people to have a unified voice.”  Everyone in attendance was asked to complete the membership form in the back of the packet.  After informing everyone what the agenda was going to be for the meeting, Chris asked for an approval of the agenda. Members were informed of the dates for upcoming events which are the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, and the ADAMHS Board meeting.  

It was announced that Ruth Gillett will not be attending any more meetings unless there is a specific reason for her to do so because she feels the members were being rude to her.  No one was purposefully rude to her but, being the bearer of bad news, as far as they were concerned, she did not like their response and seemed to take it personally.  It was not any member or participants intention of disrespecting anyone at the meeting, but we would like to extend an apology to her if she felt that it was. 

She was attending the meeting to keep the Homeless Congress up to date on the status of the Rapid Re-Housing Program and the Shelter Policies that would be put into place soon.  She also got input from the members for both projects.  She informed everyone, at the July meeting, that the Shelter Policies would be voted on by the Office of Homeless Services on July 20, 2017.  It was announced that the Single Adult Housing Committee presented to the Office of Homeless Services and the policy that they recommended passed. There were only two votes against the policy, one was Loh (member) and the other a representative from NEOCH. A copy of the Shelter Policy was included in the packets that were passed out to members.

Next, the discussion was about the bidding process for a service provider for the Norma Herr women’s shelter.  Loh informed members that Frontline will not be able to get any long term contracts as the service provider even if they choose to bid (which they have acknowledged more than once that they will not be bidding).  RP problems and the bidding process was the next concern.  Some of the concerned members asked what would happen if no one bids.  One response was that the current provider’s (Frontline) contract would have to be extended.  Another response for the RP problems is that there needs to be a quarterly report on the grievances that are turned in.    

One member wanted to know “why there are no residents involved in this process?”

This was discussed for a while and another member stated that the bidding process should also be public information.  Specifically, a member wanted to know what would or should happen if there is no provider in place by August. (We now know that there was one bid to the RFP) At that point everyone was informed that there are at least two agencies interested in applying for the contract and the date to submit a proposal has been extended to August 18, 2017. 

Larry Bresler, Executive Director of Organize Ohio, then began his presentation by informing members that one of the members and dedicated participants, Norman Wolfe, passed away.  He provided information on the viewing and funeral arrangements.  He then informed the members that Norman, he, and Ramona Turnbull were involved in orchestration of the End Poverty Now march and participated in the New Poor People’s Campaign.  He then presented about the new project called “The Truth Commission” and wanted to ask for volunteers to do personal testimonies on six focus areas (4 personal testimonies for each).  The focus areas are: 1) Environmental degradation, 2) Criminalization of the poor, 3) The right to housing including utilities, 4) The right to living wage jobs, 5) Right to quality education, and 6) Right to healthcare.  

The information provided by the personal testimonies would them be presented to people chosen to be commissioners.  The commissioners would then meet and “come out with their initial findings.”  Finally, the Mayoral candidates would be asked to respond to the findings.  There will also be music and poetry readings “presented while the commissioners are deliberating.” NEOCH will follow up with the members to make sure anyone who is willing to do a personal testimony be accommodated.   

Next, Ms. Eleace Sawyer introduced herself as the new President and CEO of Care Alliance and she wanted to discuss the changes or added services that will be put in place soon.  These positive changes do affect the members of the Congress and homeless population.  Care Alliance provides services at the women’s shelter twice a week.  She asked for feedback about the services being provided and need to be provided.  One member informed her that Dave’s Pharmacy will be moving and there is no pharmacy close enough to walk to for current residents at the women’s shelter to get prescriptions filled.  Ms. Sawyer talked about the Federal Pharmacy Program which may be able to assist to address this problem.  She also stated that she will be addressing this concern.  She informed members that nutrition and podiatry services are also being put in place to address the needs of the homeless population. 

She talked about having someone who is homeless or formerly homeless on their Board.  In addition, she would also like a representative from her staff to attend the Homeless Congress meetings.  Care Alliance also applied for transportation and were able to secure two vehicles.  One member commented on the fact that in Alabama it is considered a crime to be homeless and there is no healthcare.  Members informed Ms. Sawyer about how glad they are that Care Alliance is looking into addressing the food problems and will be in touch with the Food Bank to see what type of relationship can be established to better address the lack of nutrition in the food being served to the residents at the shelters.  One resident suggested a town meeting. She discussed special meetings and talked about looking at data about all the 911 calls made from Norma Herr by the residents.

Next, Akshai Singh:  Organizer, Cleveland for Public Transit, took the floor to discuss issues like fare cost, reliability, safety, and racial profiling by the RTA Police.  He also discussed service cuts and fare hikes.  The next fare hike is coming up soon and it will be a fifty cent increase on the current fare.  The fare could go from $5.50 to $6.00 at that time.  The organization he is representing is working to lower fares.  He informed the members that the Cleveland public transportation is the least affordable and there is no assistance for people who rely on public transportation.  He said they need to find local solutions and state side solutions.  Group members meet with RTA on a quarterly basis.  They will be discussing what improvements are needed so that the Mayoral candidates and the City Council can use it to improve the transportation system, make it more affordable, and reliable.  The next meeting is on August 31 at 7:00 pm.  One member stated that there is limited seating at the bus stops in certain areas (only 2 people can sit).  Another added that there are no public bathrooms in the Rapid Stations.  Mr. Singh stated that the RTA has been cutting services for the last 4 years.  The last topic on this subject was about the cost of tickets for riding when you don’t have one in advance.  This discussion went on for a while before the meeting was brought to a close

 The next Homeless Congress meeting is September 14th at 1:00pm.

Friday
Aug252017

You Can Now Register On-Line in Ohio

Cleveland has a competitive Mayoral primary coming up in September and then there are some important local races this November with every City Councilmember forced to campaign.  This is the first election with on-line registration.  It is too late to register for the primary, but there is over one month to register for the November election. 

September 12, 2017 is primary election day in Cuyahoga County.

October 10, 2017 is the deadline to register to vote for the November election.

Here is the Ohio Secretary of State's office link to register on-line.

Here is the Ohio Organizing Collaborative Link to register online to vote in Ohio?

According to the Ohio Organizing Collaborative staff, "For the first time, Ohioans are able to register to vote and update their registration through the Secretary of State’s website. So whether you’ve sat the last few elections out, moved since you last registered, or never voted before, you can get registered or update your registration today.  The last few months have been… kinda scary. I don’t know what the future holds for Ohio and our country, but I do know that there are important elections coming up this year and in 2018 that will have a huge impact our communities. That’s why it’s so important that we all register and vote."

The November election is November 7, 2017 polls open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m.  Remember that for homeless people "Vote by Mail" is the best option

It is so important for everyone to participate and to actually vote.  No matter how many barriers Ohio puts in your way, people died for everyone to have the right to cast a ballot.  Please do your civic duty and vote in both the primary and the General Election.

Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Wednesday
Aug232017

Two Homeless Related Court Decisions

From the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the City of Houston for citing homeless people under its new anti-camping ban. The ACLU of Texas, Dechert law firm, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the motion for TRO last week after police raided a homeless encampment. The order is can be viewed here.

Check out this quote from the order's conclusion:

 "The plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are subject to a credible threat of being arrested, booked, prosecuted and jailed for violating the City of Houston’s ban on sheltering in public.  The evidence is conclusive that they are involuntarily in public, harmlessly attempting to shelter themselves—an act they cannot realistically forgo, and that is integral to their status as unsheltered homeless individuals.  Enforcement of the City’s ban against the plaintiffs may, therefore, cause them irreparable harm by violating their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment due to their status of “homelessness.”  Robinson, 370 U.S. at 666–67.  Moreover, there is no evidence that the City will suffer harm if a restraining order were issued, thereby, preserving the status quo that existed prior to the issuance of citations." 

NEOCH Comments:

In a strange juxtaposition, the City of Houston said that this law would reduce aggressive panhandling?  I have no idea how these two ideas are connected, but surprisingly no rainbows with pots of gold would result with this anti-camping law.  The shelters are all full in Houston with the average wait for a bed with only five shelters available. "The emergency shelters in Houston are full and have been so for years [Id. At 67 para. 16-17]. Therefore, homeless individuals wait in lines, daily, at the five shelters for any available space only to be turned away for lack of space. [Id. at pp. 75-76 para. 3-4]."

This is only a temporary ruling to prevent further tickets for "sheltering in public" while this case is litigated in Federal Court, but there is strong powerful language in the restraining order. 

In another case detailed by the Associated Press, the US Appeals Court has decided that day laborers are free to flag down motorists to solicit work.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal appeals court says day laborers in a Long Island town have a First Amendment right to solicit passing drivers for jobs. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday struck down a 2009 law banning the solicitation in Oyster Bay. The law had never been enforced. Here is a link to the full article.

 

This could doom the new City of Cleveland law regarding panhandling toward passing motorists.  In June 2017, the City removed its "aggressive panhandling law" and replaced it with a law prohibiting flagging down cars to solicit money.  A good civil rights attorney could make the case that panhandlers have the same First Amendment right to free speech as the day laborers.  Look for this to be the next front in the struggle for free speech.

Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.