Be Safe In This Time of Division

On November 15, 1996 activist and founder of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, buddy gray, was killed by a guy that buddy had helped get into housing.  buddy had opened the drop inn center shelter by taking over a public building and worked as its executive director.  He started a development corporation to try to get homeless and low income people into any redevelopment strategy.  This is the post card that Bonnie sent out to mark the death of her partner, buddy. 

A mentally ill man entered the shelter and shot gray six times then sat and waited for the police to show up.  Most felt that buddy had become the focal point of anger and resentment in the community.  He had pushed the community to open the shelter after a friend had frozen to death on the streets of Cincinnati.  He was pushing against the millions of dollars pouring into Over the Rhine to redevelop the neighborhood as an artist and education center.  This made him a target because he was perceived as holding back neighborhood progress. Many in the community felt that a mentally ill man who was helped into his apartment by staff at the Drop Inn Center focused all his demons on this one person that the community was blaming for the poverty in the neighborhood.  Developers wanted to move the Drop Inn shelter and the other social services in order to build a school of the arts in the neighborhood.  Many were blaming buddy for their misery just as today there is a misplaced blaming of immigrants. 

We live in a similarly divisive time in America.  We are seeing a rash of hate crimes on mosques, women in hajabs, and barristas at Starbucks.  There is a great deal of anger in a deeply divided country.  The Election of 2016 was full of hate like we have never seen before. It exposed a lot of resentment and anxiety that exists in the United States.  There is a search for an enemy for why wages have stagnated, no safety net, the middle class is shrinking, and a generation that is not going to be better than their parents.  We have selected immigrants, Muslims, trade deals and elites as the reason for all the nation's problems.  But it is not a stretch to see that homeless people could be a target in this divided country.  There are so many who do not understand homeless people and are afraid that they could become a homeless person, they may strike out at this fragile group who are exposed outside everyday.    There are going to be many social justice individuals who will be viewed as the enemy for protecting individual rights or protecting these "targets" for hate.

We have to learn from the death of buddy gray.  Hate can kill people.  If we are shielding immigrants from government intrusion into the privacy rights of its citizens, we need to be careful.  If we are protecting fragile populations from bullies, there is always a backlash.  There are a lot of untreated mentally ill people out there who feed off anger and hate in our country.  We have to all be aware of who is around and we have to pay attention to the signs.  We cannot be as confrontational and cannot become a target in our community.  If people start personalizing the argument, it may be necessary to step back for our own safety and the safety of our families.  Social Justice types are not going to be that popular in the middle of America where we are most divided.  We need to be careful in the next few years. 

Brian Davis

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PS: buddy gray never used capital letters when signing or printing his name, so we are respecting that here.

Homelessness Updates

Did New Orleans really solve veteran's homelessness?  Media in the Big Easy have spent the past few weeks examining the proclamation by Mayor Landrieu that veteran's homelessness has been ended in New Orleans and found the program lacking.  There is always the problem of counting homeless people that makes it difficult to proclaim victory.  There is the problem of the varied definition of what is a  veteran that complicates the matter.  Are you a veteran after 2 months of service or 2 years of services? Then there is the problem that homeless people are so fluid and fall in and out of homelessness on a daily basis.  It is bold to make this proclamation, but until you end all homelessness it is impossible to declare victory with just one population. 

It is true that there are tons of veteran's resources available now. If you spent time in the military and were not dishonorably discharged, there is so much help available right now.  We really have all the tools at our disposal to end veteran's homelessness.  But there are a lot of hard core vets who have no contact with anyone and will be hard to reach.  It would be unnerving for a retired Marine corporal to be sitting in the library waiting for the rain to subside and read in the Times Picayune that your city had "solved" veterans homelessness while you struggled with PTSD and were bouncing around from family to living in a car.  The Marine is thinking once you solve a problem, you stop dedicating resources and staff, and move on to something else.  It would seem like you missed the train that will never come around again. 

Toledo Blade wrote about what homeless people do during the extreme cold.  This was an interesting story about the huge number of people who use the library as a drop in center.

Lakewood teens again spend the night outside in the cold to call attention to homelessness on the North Coast.  We have featured stories about previous groups from Lakewood Congregational church about their sleeping outside in the Street Chronicle.  We appreciate them calling attention to the plight of homeless people in the cold.

Bloomberg has a good article about why the President never talks about rent.   The same could be said about homelessness, and the president only mentioning homelessness when he is volunteering on a service day.  I think that the architect of modern homelessness, Ronald Reagan, was the last President who was forced to talk about solutions to homelessness.  But half the population rent from a landlord and state or federal elected office holders rarely talk about it.

The City of Cincinnati became the third city to enact a homeless hate crimes bill.  Cleveland has one of the laws, but it is rarely used.  Most of the time a hate crime is a felony and local laws do not address crimes of that severity.  The State of Ohio would need to pass legislation to include homeless people in the existing hate crimes statute to make it real.  It is good that the city is trying to do something about the attacks on homeless people and were willing to talk about these issues. 

Brian Davis

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Update from Around Ohio

Former Cincy Coalition Director, Donald Whitehead

As part of the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting, we go around the table and give a presentation about housing, homelessness, and civil rights issues from the field.  I, as a board member, gather information from around Ohio to try to present to the NCH Board.  Pictured here is fellow board member, Donald Whitehead who now resides in Florida.  Donald is a great ally for people experiencing homelessness in Ohio as the former Director of NCH and former director of the Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. 

Cleveland:  The County went fully to a Central Intake system with diversion policy in April 2012 as directed by the federal government.  The last three years have seen huge summer increases in family homelessness. The mission based shelters are on the outside looking in and being told that if homeless people go to those facilities without going to Central Intake they will not be eligible for public funds for rent or public facilities such as transitional shelters.   We have issues with the diversion policy in Cuyahoga County with regard to families.  It is confusing and often results in families mistakenly leaving the shelter without taking a bed.  The only short term rental assistance available in Cleveland is for families.

NEOCH has constructed a great way for homeless people to speak and act collectively called the Homeless Congress.  The group has two representatives from each of the shelters as well as people who sleep outside, and we have a monthly meeting with 35 people attending every meeting.  We are still working on getting a shelter standards bill with third party grievances and tough oversight of the shelters passed by the new County government.  We are making progress in getting the current regulations to be made public and working on changes.   

Hundreds of police were disciplined for being involved in the police chase of two unarmed homeless people that resulted in their death at the hands of police.  The thirteen officers who fired the 130 shots at the two have not yet been charged pending the prosecutor finishing the use of deadly force report. In Cleveland, we are working to expand outreach and safe havens to women because of the serial murderers and the kidnapper who were targeting women.

Cleveland is facing a $1.7 million in cuts to the Continuum funded programs.  The County did come to a Homeless Congress to ask people living in the shelters how the cuts should be implemented locally.

Cincinnati:  The 100 year old Anna Louise Shelter lost their struggle with Western and Southern.  Their building was purchased and they will have to relocate.  The Corporation just wore them down and they could not continue the fight.  There have been homeless people sleeping around the County courthouse for years  in Cincinnati.  The sheriff has evicted them.  The Coalition went to court, but lost the request for a restraining order.  They have had protests and doing media work, but so far no arrests.

Toledo:  They are having a big fight between the Continuum and the Mayor over cuts to the shelters mostly in the Block Grant funding. They have a new Continuum leader after the previous person retired after previous years of fighting among the shelters and the government.  The whole funding of the shelters and possible closing of shelters has become an election issue in the race for the Mayor.  They also did not meet the bare minimum score from HUD to receive funding and so only got renewal funding of the existing shelters.

Columbus:  The City and the shelters are still having issues with overflowing shelters.  The Coalition went to City Council and got $100,000 additional dollars to take care of overflow.  The group that oversees all federal programs and dollars in Columbus have strained relationships with some of the shelters and the Columbus Coalition.   The City leadership is working on a plan to expand the shelters for single adults--finally.  They have changed so that all the case workers are mobile and travel to the shelters instead of having different case workers at every shelter.  Still working on a diversion plan, but it is not complete yet and not yet in practice. 

I talked a great deal about the victories in voting that are positive for all homeless people in Cleveland.  We won the right to extend our agreement with the state until after the 2016 Presidential election.  This will allow homeless people without identification will be able to vote in person on election day and will standardize the counting of provisional ballots throughout the state.

Brian Davis

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Anna Louise Inn Sold

I was reading the Streetvibes (Cincinnati's Street newspaper) from Cincinnati and they detailed the sale of the Anna Louise Inn to developers.   We covered this last year with a call for boycotting Western and Southern over their bullying of this shelter and permanent supportive housing.   The folks at Streetvibes and the staff of the Cincinnati Coalition are not too happy about the deal. 

The shelter operator decided that the long drawn out court case was not worth it anymore.  Developers had paid enough so that the shelter could relocate to a new facility and serve the same number of women.  There will be a boutique hotel on the site so that the employees of Western and Southern will not have to think about homelessness on their way to work. 

Josh, the Executive Director, was especially clear that they would remember the actions of Western and Southern and their CEO John Barrett.  This one hundred year old landmark in Cincinnati has to move.   These women trying to find stability will be pushed to some other part of town.  The agency will be forced to start over in a new facility, and Western and Southern will have succeeded in pushing a Not-in My-Backyard strategy. 

Brian Davis

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Victory Over Parks Restrictions in Cincinnati

We received a note from Cincinnati officials that they had two victories over the last few weeks.  The Board of Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to uphold the previous decision of the Historic Conservation Board in favor of the Anna Louise Inn.  There will be other hearings and at least one appeal in the near future.   This is very good news in the long process to have the shelter expand to serve more women and provide housing to those working to re-establish stablity against the wishes of fianancial services company Western and Southern.

The Cincinnati Park Board voted to strike down a law that would allow "special rules" to be created for Washington Park, which is the large park in the Over the Rhine neighborhood near many of the Cincinnati shelters.   In the past, the park would simply hang up a sign with the word "rule" and police could enforce the "rule" like it was a law with fines and tickets.  This had allowed Cincinnati Police and the local development corporation to develop special rules, hang them in the park without public input, and have the police enforce those rules.  Three low income and homeless individuals filed suit in early September against the Park Board.  On September 20th, the Park Board voted to end the practice of introducing "special rules" without public oversight and discussion.  This means that all special rules were null and void, and will have to go through the typical legislative process. 

Brian Davis

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Boycott Western and Southern

Across this country, affordable and transitional housing saves lives

by providing many people with the opportunity to succeed and live the fulfilling lives they deserve.  Sadly, affordable housing is under an increasing attack.  People in need of affordable housing are criminalized and stereotyped.  In Cincinnati, Ohio, this attack is at an all-time high.  There are many examples from around the country, but chief among them is the attack on the Anna Louise Inn.  For 102 years the Anna Louise Inn (ALI) has provided affordable housing to women.  The structure in which ALI is housed was built by the President William Howard Taft's family and donated to the manager of ALI, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) in 1909.  The Tafts opened their hearts and wallets to homeless women in a prominent place in Cincinnati.  They did not try to hide this impressive building in the country or some place off the beaten path.  Talking to people in Cincinnati, it does not take very long before you will meet those who say, “Oh, ALI saved my mom’s life or my aunt’s or my wife’s or my sister’s…” 

Cincinnati Union Bethel has worked for years to create a plan to serve the growing number of homeless women and they received funds to renovate the Anna Louise Inn in order to continue for another 100 years to provide safe, quality affordable housing.  Western and Southern (W&S), the very large, very wealthy national insurance company, has their headquarters near the Anna Louise Inn.  Western and Southern decided that they do not want the women who live at ALI to live near their offices anymore and in fact W&S wants to take over the building in order to build luxury condominiums and play areas for the wealthy.  They have launched a campaign to oust ALI on the misguided notion that women with very low incomes are dangerous and bad for business.  W&S went as far as to sue the non-profit that runs ALI, Cincinnati Union Bethel and the municipal government, in attempt to delay the project.  The goal was to run out the clock on the tax credits issued to ALI to expand thus threatening the Anna Louise Inn’s very existence and the lives of so many seeking refuge from the financial storms of the last five years.  Western and Southern has championed itself as a corporate leader in Cincinnati, but has acted to divide the city and pit one class against another.  The advocates in Cincinnati are asking for a national boycott to remind this national corporation that every community needs to find a home for women struggling in our society.  We have to send a message to Western and Southern- women and affordable housing are valuable and contribute to our society and should not be pushed to the fringes.   One of the largest insurance companies in the United States must stop the legal actions against Anna Louise Inn, and figure out a way to quickly move these women back into the community so that they will have enough disposible income to be able to afford life insurance.

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board has endorsed this boycott, and supports the message that Western and Southern needs to accept the Anna Louise Inn and assist their expansion of the transitional shelter and the permanent supportive housing project.  We want to see Western and Southern drop any further lawsuits. 

What can you do:

  • Sign on to the Petition at Change.org
  • If you have life insurance from Western and Southern or they manage your finances consider looking somewhere else for your insurance needs or financial advice.
  • If you are a business and have any financial relationship with Western and Southern consider a resolution to move your funds or take your business to another organization that has a more neighborly relationship with its home city.
  • Boycott the Western and Southern Tennis Tournament this summer in Cincinnati. Instead send those dollars down to the Anna Louise Inn or the Cincinnati Coalition to support homeless women.

Brian

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OCHA Updates

OCHA is the Ohio Coalition of Homeless Advocates and we meet periodically in Columbus to discuss issues that might be important to the other cities.  Typically, we have Dayton, Appalachia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo represented.  Here are a few updates from the meeting this week.

Cincinnati

The Anna Louise Inn Shelter has been fighting to expand and was delivered a set back on Friday in their dispute with Western and Southern Financial Services. Anna Louise Inn is a battered women's shelter and home for recovering prostitutes, and has a desperate need to expand after a century of service.  After being in the same location for over 100 years, the place needs renovation and expansion.  The Union Bethel parent non-profit had raised the $12.4 million for the renovation and the City of Cincinnati had approved the expansion.  Western and Southern sued to stop the expansion, and proposed buying the facility.  For some reason the judge remanded the City to start the rezoning process over on the renovation.  Staff at Union Bethel have committed to continue the struggle.  They are convinced that this will take place, but it will just take longer. 

The Cincinnati Coalition published a report on the State of Family Homelessness in Cincinnati.  All the stats and recommendation can be found here.

Columbus

The City is struggling with diversion issues and central intake for single adults.  They have moved to only allowing people into the single adult shelters exclusively by phone.  The Faith Mission had been the central intake site, but found it too difficult to oversee.  Now, if you want shelter in Columbus, you have to call a number similar to 211 and they will direct you to a shelter.  This is a new system, but it is presenting some challenges for those who do not have access to a phone.  Diversion has been in place for a couple of years, and has raised some concerns by the advocates. 

Cleveland

We have to congratulate Care Alliance in Cuyahoga County for receiving a national award to improve their clinics. This $5.5 million in federal health care support will improve the Public Housing clinics that the agency administers.  They are going to begin a $3 million capital campaign to complete the renovations.   Care Alliance is the Health Care for the Homeless in Cleveland.  They have a beautiful facility over on St. Clair with amazing dental facilities.  We rely on their help with homeless outreach, because they can send medical personel out to help people.  Care Alliance has done an amazing rebound since the days when they were shedding their programs and closing down outreach in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The current director, Francis and Linda before him have really moved the organization to a solid foundation.  This is great for Cleveland, and we hope that it will help them to be ready for the huge changes taking place in 2014 with the national health care reform. 

Brian Davis

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