Homeless Congress Notes for June 2016

The June 9th Homeless Congress meeting was the last meeting before the RNC, so it was important to discuss the changes in the voting process for the upcoming presidential election.

 Ed is a long term member of Homeless CongreFirst, it was reported that Voting Golden Week is back, which allows anyone not registered to register and vote on the same day.  Golden Week is the first week of October.  Between October 5th and 12th is the tentative dates for Golden Week, but this has not been confirmed because it is currently being appealed. 

 NEOCH did win the lawsuit pertaining to Absentee ballots after thousands of ballots were thrown out in the past for something as small as putting in one wrong digit in your zip code.  Information on what is allowed was discussed in detail to ensure that residents are prepared for the upcoming election and NEOCH will be registering anyone that is not registered over the summer.

 NEOCH is also suing because many voters were purged from the voting roles.   The state did not follow the proper procedure in the purge.  Anyone who has not voted since 2008 probably was purged. 

 Members were informed and encouraged to join the Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board.  The current Board members are encouraged to be on a sub-committee.  The term is 2yrs. or 3 yrs.. This will allow the Congress members to better understand what is needed to address the problems they are having to overcome homelessness and be better prepared to address any barriers to housing.  They were also informed that it will not be a problem to use the West Side Catholic Center as their voting address after discussion with the US Postal Service.

 The problems and concerns addressed at the hearing were the next topic of discussion.  The 13 solutions recommended by the Homeless Congress on how to reform the Community Women’s Shelter were discussed and the May 2016 Congress meeting with Cuyahoga County Council President Dan Brady.  He agreed to try to meet the deadline set by Congress for September 2016 which states that “if changes are not implemented by September 2016, the Homeless Congress will revisit the idea of changing the service provider who oversees the Community Women’s Shelter."

Then there was a discussion about the upcoming RNC, and the lawsuit filed by the NEOCH and Organize Ohio by the ACLU.   The problems that the RNC will impose on the homeless population was also addressed. To name a few:  The event zone territory encompasses “4 of the 5 largest shelters in Cleveland, a daytime drop in center and the healthcare for the homeless site”, and the “prohibited items are common items that homeless people carry everyday”. 

 Brian Davis wrote a letter to the Chief of Police to voice his concerns and to advocate for the homeless population to avoid any unnecessary arrests.  He asked that 1) “The event zone be reduced in size”, 2) “Homeless people should be cited as residents who are exempt in Section III (c) …” This is especially important with all the out of town police coming in … or the important bond of trust built up over the years between homeless service providers and the Cleveland Police Department or”, 3) The City could provide $85,000 for two months’ worth of rental assistance…” to put displaced individuals in “housing for the summer”…

 At the time of this meeting a law suit had not been filed.  One was later filed by Organize! Ohio, NEOCH, and Citizens for Trump for various reasons. [In late June, these organizations won the lawsuit.  Organize! Ohio’s complaint was in regard route limitations for the upcoming March to End Poverty 2016 and permits, NEOCH’s was in regard to the restrictions that effect the homeless population and access to services etc.. and Citizens for Trump’s was permit and limitations specific to march routes.]

 The Bishop Cosgrove Center will be closed during the RNC, but shelters will be open. 

 The Justice Center is also doing their part by clearing out a few beds to accommodate for possible arrests.  There was a brief discussion of the ability for those who use the shelter and get a disability check, which we will take up in the future.   Congress needs to focus the August meeting on priorities for the next year. 

 by Ramona Turnbull

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