Who You Gonna Call?

NEOCH is one of the last non-profits that actually has a human answering the phone as much as possible.  We get a ton of hangups, but we try to be available to answer questions in the community.  Since the shelters moved to a coordinated intake system even fewer places in the homeless social service system answer the phone.   We want to help, but for the most part there are only a few things we can help you with.

We do get some calls that are just people calling every single place possible hoping that they come across a guardian angel who will say, "We will give you rent to stay in your apartment come on down."  In Cleveland, this is as likely as calling around asking for a leprechaun to give up his pot of gold.  But most people are desperate for help so it is understandable.  Their world is collapsing around them and the phone is the only thing they have as a possible life saver. 

There is a trend among callers to say, "Hello, how are you doing?"  I know they are trying to be nice in the hopes that the person on the other line will offer the help they are looking for, but it is annoying.  They do not care how I am doing because I have said "terrible," or "rough" or any number of other responses and they just go forward and ignore your response.   Also, there are 23,000 homeless people, so we really don't have the time to chit chat about our issues.  We would prefer if you just ask the question so we can work on the 150 other things on our plate.   

Here are some reasons to call NEOCH (216/432-0540):

  1. If you see a homeless person that you are worried about and may need some outreach.  We will send an outreach staff person to come out to intervene. 
  2. If you are staying in a shelter or homeless service and need help filing a grievance or registering a complaint, give us a call. If you stay outside and feel you are being harassed or mistreated, please give us a call.
  3. If you are having any problems or have questions about voting for homeless people, give us a call.  If you need to know where to go to get mail or the address you should use as a homeless person to register to vote, call us.  If you are challenged at the polling place or get notification that your ballot may not count or were forced to vote by provisional ballot, give us a call. 
  4. If you work as an outreach worker and are calling for donated items, we love to hear from you.  Workers call for socks, tents, sleeping bags to see what is in stock. 
  5. Also, if you want to donate items to SocksPlus and need us to come downstairs to unload your car, feel free to call.
  6. If you have a public policy or advocacy issue that you want to talk to us about, we would love to hear from you.  If you want to ask why your family could stay together when they entered shelter or why do you have to give your social security number in order to get shelter, give us a call.
  7. If you want to volunteer for NEOCH, feel free to call and talk to Joyce.  If you want to volunteer with a direct service provider do not callGo to our website directly.
  8. If you want to sign up for one of our trainings or to get a login for the HousingCleveland website, feel free to call. 
  9. If you want to schedule a time for a formerly homeless individual to talk about their experience in moving out of homelessness with the Street Voices Program, please give Ken a call.
  10. The only job that we have is to sell the Street Newspaper.  Feel free to call Ken to set up a training in order to sell the paper. 

 Here are some areas that you might want to just go to our website and avoid calling.

  1. If you need a one page guide to local homeless services called the Street Card just go here to the website to print one out.  There is a vet street card, a family street card and even an easy to print card. 
  2. If you are confused about how to get into shelter in Cleveland and just need someone to explain it to you, here is a web page just for that purpose.  Or you can click the "Find Help" Button on the top of each page of the NEOCH Website. 
  3. If you want to find an old story from the Grapevine or the Chronicle, many but not all are on our website. 
  4. If you want to volunteer, it is probably easiest to go to our website to narrow down the choices.
  5. If you have questions about statistics and research, it is way easier to look at those on our website. 
  6. If you want to find available housing, it is best to look at Housing Cleveland.org for the 700 units that are available right now. 
  7. If you need a lawyer, we only have legal clinics out in the shelters.  You cannot call to get legal help anywhere.

These are reasons NOT to call NEOCH because we cannot help you!!!

  1. If you want to get in shelter, don't call!!!  Just go to 1736 Superior 2nd Floor.  There is no reason to call anyone, we cannot provide any information on the phone.  Every bed is assigned by Coordinated Intake on Superior and they cannot do that on the phone.
  2. If you need a referral to a social service provider or telephone number call 2-1-1 and not NEOCH.  We cannot help with this. 
  3. If you want rental assistance, we cannot help.  There are 55,000 people locally who need this kind of help, so you have a lot of people ahead of you. 
  4. If you need help to prevent an eviction call the Cleveland Tenants Organization, but please do not call NEOCH. 
  5. If you need help relocating to another community, please do not call NEOCH.  We do not want to see any more of a loss in the local population.  
  6. We do not have any jobs available except for the Street Newspaper.  No reason to call us.
  7. We do not give out donations directly from our office.  You have to get those from the outreach staff.  No reason to call NEOCH looking for donations. 
  8. We know that bus tickets are like gold in the homeless community.  There is no reason to call NEOCH or anywhere for a bus ticket--Gold is rarely given over the phone to a stranger.  Transportation is very expensive for low income and homeless people locally, we know that and you don't need to call us to remind us of this. 
  9. If you need utility assistance, don't call NEOCH.  There is a HEAP number to get an appointment and you can get that at 2-1-1. 

Wish that we could help more or that the County redesigned the Jobs and Family Services sites to be the one stop center for everyone struggling in the community.  This could increase confidence in government or show people that government can help.  We are at an all time low in confidence in government and this could help.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Outreach Leaders in Cleveland Stay Informed

Every month at the NEOCH Leaders meetings, NEOCH features one or two agencies and has a speaker from each agency present to the leaders what services the agency provides, how the agency operates and how the agency coordinates with other agencies so the leaders leave the meeting with a great understanding of how they can connect their clients with the featured agencies or other partners who attend the meeting.  At the March NEOCH monthly leader’s meeting, there were presentations from two agencies, one from United Way's First Call for Help/2-1-1 and one from Frontline Services Coordinated Intake.  

One of the many reasons people call 2-1-1 is that they may need an emergency shelter bed.  First Call for Help/2-1-1 is an information agency in Cuyahoga County for all the homeless services.  2-1-1 specialists listen to the caller’s needs and refer the caller to many community resources 24 hours a day, every day.  No matter what the problem may be, from needing medical care, to food or shelter, 2-1-1 is aware of each agency and how they can serve each client that calls. It could be a quick question or it could be a natural disaster like a fire, but 2-1-1 specialists are there to connect callers to information, services and advice from GED classes to prescription assistance. 

2-1-1 specialists refer people to Coordinated Intake and are familiar with the process for someone who suddenly becomes homeless. Frontline Services administers Coordinated Intake as a one-stop place to access the emergency shelters that are available in Cuyahoga County. The program is funded by Cuyahoga County and staff from EDEN Inc and Cleveland Mediation Center are stationed out of the Cosgrove Center on the Second Floor.  When someone is referred to Coordinated Intake, efforts are made to find them housing with a family/friend or to provide them with bus transportation out of town to a relative, etc.

When that is not a possibility then Coordinated Intake works with the person and determines the barriers to the person regaining housing and figures out a housing plan (short and long term) for them.  In the meantime, they are placed in Emergency shelter.  Single men go to 2100 Lakeside and families and single women either go to Norma Herr Woman’s Shelter or the Domestic Violence Center, Zelma George, Family Promise, West Side Catholic Center or Laura’s Home.  When these places are full there are overflow beds at Zelma George, West Side Catholic Center and Family Promise.

From there, those with low to moderate barriers to housing may be ready to leave on their own into housing or qualify for Rapid Rehousing (a program offering a security deposit and 4 months of rental assistance to families), and they are signed up for benefits.  Those with higher barriers to housing also qualify for Rapid Rehousing and may get even more help if their situation hasn’t changed in several months.  Some who end up with a disability or mental health diagnosis may receive a permanent Eden voucher for housing. 

All of the people who call 2-1-1 and go through Coordinated Intake/Central Intake receive an assessment, then it is determined what kind of help they need, even the unstated needs which the specialists who work with them are able to determine.  They then go into an emergency shelter with a housing plan and exit strategy in place. 

After hours and weekends, between 8 pm Friday and 8am Monday and week nights after 8pm, single men and women are to go directly to the main men's shelter or women's shelter.  Families are put in overflow beds until Monday morning when they can meet with the intake specialists to get their assessment and housing plans.  Coordinated Intake has 7 days to initiate rapid rehousing for these families and many of them are housed within 30 days. 

There are many other pieces of the puzzle and living in a temporary shelter may not meet the expectations of most people.   Men who are part of a family have to be screened to find out if they are a sex offender, families may be split up while they are in temporary shelter.  Shelters are not the most ideal places to stay.  They have their own set of problems: the food may not be what you are used to, some of the shelters may be overcrowded, and the conditions may not be ideal.  The shelters have rules and regulations that most people are not used to living by.  You are living amongst strangers who may have disabilities or varied backgrounds. The staff at the shelters may not be as compassionate as they should be or are burnt out.  Staff members may not even know what programs are available to you, which can be frustrating.

People homeless for the first time may be going through a trauma; they may be a victim of domestic violence.  Children may be pulled out of their schools and away from their friends, to live in the midst of strangers.  There are many things that may play a part in this being one of the worst times of a homeless person’s life.   Programs like 2-1-1 and Coordinated Intake give some of these people hope as they are assessed and given a housing plan.  They know where beds are available, which makes it easier on the family not able to find their own shelter.  Beds do not sit empty like they did in the past, and people with multiple barriers to housing are not stuck in the entry shelters.  Families may get encouragement from the fact that there is help available to them through Rapid Rehousing. 

I learned a lot about the behind the scenes work and mechanics of helping a person or family get a shelter bed when they have no place to stay.  I am so glad there are agencies like First Call for Help/2-1-1, Coordinated Intake and NEOCH who help individuals facing homelessness make their transition back to housing a little easier than it was before.  Cuyahoga County previously did not have an intake system and has come a long way from what it used to be with Coordinated Intake and 2-1-1.  This is a relatively new system for Cuyahoga County and it is progressively getting better.

NEOCH works hard to advocate for homeless individuals, working to make some of the conditions at the shelters better.  NEOCH fights for more shelter beds and to alleviate overcrowding.  NEOCH wants the shelters to be a safe place for men, women and families.  NEOCH wants to insure that clients at the shelters are adequately fed, and that they receive the materials they need to get out of the shelter system and into housing as quickly as possible.

by Denise Toth

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

First Call For Help Adds Statistics to Website


From the First Call For Help Dashboard website June 2015 http://www.211oh.org/trending/

This is really helpful to see trends in the community.  2-1-1/First Call for Help has introduced a "dashboard" to show up to date statistics about people calling for help.  This is typically inside baseball behind the scenes stuff, but it is very helpful to show where there are holes in our social safety net.  We have collected updated stats here and we have a blog that we put interesting graphs that we find regarding poverty and homelessness.   Housing is always high on any of the lists from First Call For Help.

New 2-1-1 Community Dashboard
Thanks to a generous grant from the CareSource Foundation, and in partnership with RTM Designs, United Way 2-1-1 created a dashboard for the community to monitor real-time 2‑1‑1 trends. By visiting 211oh.org/trending you can view counts of needs and trends for various age demographics and topics, including housing, food and behavioral health. The grant provides all 2‑1‑1 centers in Ohio who utilize ReferNet, the opportunity to create local dashboards based on the Cleveland model at no cost to them. This is a work in progress, and we're looking forward to the next version, which will include unmet needs and outcome data.

Really nice upgrade.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

I Am Thankful for...

Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance...for being non judgemental in helping people who have made poor choices or are struggling with demons. 

Tyrone H now of Care Alliance...for quickly learning the ins and outs of providing help to the shelter resistent and getting a full time job to work with people struggling with housing issues.

Denise (her picture is on the front of our website now) our latest hire for the training position...for being so compassionate to the people in her care.  For learning how to move from offering comfort to offering a hand up. 

Metanoia...for offering a safe warm place inside on the coldest nights of the year and for helping the most vulnerable in our society. 91 people found help on this last Sunday.

Cosgrove Center...for helping keep people, families and children fed on cold days and for being willing to become the host for the Central Intake site.

Transitional Housing programs...for working to move people into stability during their own time.  Some people cannot be housed quickly.  They need time to get their life together.  They need time to get a skill that will lead to a job or get clean or get medical help for their past trauma.   Transitional shelters have a role in our society and should not be shuttered as HUD and Cuyahoga County are pushing. 

Putting families into housing...I am thankful for Habitat for Humanity and the City Mission program to place families with children directly into houses.  It is always amazing to see a child's face light up when they go into a new place to live.  When they have overcome so much living in a shelter and then realize they have a safe place to live is the best part of this job. 

First Call for Help/211...It is often overlooked, but having a phone number to call 2-1-1- or 436-2000 is an essential service that should be more valued by all the social service community.   Since no agency (except NEOCH) has humans answer the phones anymore, we should give more praise to this amazing service of answering the phone 24 hours a day.   The people over at United Way really care and know more than anyone what is really going on in the community.  They knew first that family homelessness was on the rise and that suburban hunger was getting out of control.  I am so thankful for First Call for Help.

HousingCleveland.org...Cleveland is one of only 2 communities in Ohio that helps low income people find housing without having to go through a case worker.  We have 800 units available today on the site and a database of 32,000 units.   It is a free service for both landlords (4,500 landlords use the service) and homeless people looking for housing.  It is an affordable service that 33 states have adopted. 

Toni Johnson...A veterans affairs employee who knows everything about homelessness.  She is out in the community keeping her ear to the ground about resources for her clients.  You will see her on the East Side and in East Cleveland.  She has contacts for children and 80 year old veterans.   We are so glad she is working to serve homeless people. 

The ID Collaborative...It took a hit this year with funding running out, but it is an amazing program.  It is a model for the United States and serves hundreds of people every year.  This should be considered an essential service funded before other programs.  It is amazing how one small piece of paper (birth certificate) or a card (State ID) can stop a person's life.   Without ID you can't vote, get into housing, get a job or get preventative health care.  We need the ID Collaborative to be healthy and fully funded. 

What are your ideas for what you are thankful for in the homeless community?  Submit in the comments section or in the discussion section of the website.  We will post other ideas on our blog.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

New Staff at Critical Positions

Diane Gatto was appointed as the Director of First Call for Help/211 in Cleveland.  This is a United Way critical program for the community that is often forgotten because it works so effectively.   They offer essential referral help to those looking for food, shelter, health care, job training or legal assistance. They regularly update treatment services available and they can provide for all the hotlines numbers (domestic violence, rape crisis, suicide prevention, and veteran's services) anytime.   211 operates 24 hours and they have a fantastic website that is regularly updated.  All the information that they provide is verified on a regular basis.  Diane has been with the organization for years and knows everything about running a telephone referral system.  She has her finger on the pulse of the community and has a great understanding of the needs of those living in poverty.  First Call for Help administers the referral system in many of the surrounding counties.   They run Community Voice Mail and are co-coordinator of HousingCleveland.org.  They don't get enough credit for all they serve and all they do for this community.  They do a good job and do not create waves and have never been involved in a scandal.  They stay under the radar, but provide one of the most important services for so many people.  Diane takes over for the long time director Steve Wertheim who left in June. 

Ron Register took a leadership position at 2100 Lakeside Shelter after a year stabilizing St. Herman's shelter.  Register will oversee programming at the largest shelter in Ohio.  He has previously worked with the veterans at the shelter and now will take a broader approach to the shelter.  He attended the last Resident Council at the shelter and will take a lead in solving some of the issues homeless people have at the shelter.   If there is going to be a solution to homelessness in Cleveland, 2100 Lakeside is a critical piece of the pie.  It is going to take a stable and functioning entry shelter for men, before we can start thinking of solutions and solving some of the big problems in the community. The biggest festering issue in the community is where do sexually based offenders live in our community with all the fear, reporting, and stigma associated with them decades after they completed their incarceration?

Finally, we welcome Harriet Petti as the new Advocate for the ID Crisis Collaborative.  Yes, this is a position in the community and is extremely important to low income residents of the County.  There are thousands who just need that one piece of paper in order to get the healthcare, housing or a job that they need to move forward.  Now, many need to even show ID in order to vote in person.  Cleveland is one of the few communities in the country that focuses on this small obstacle that can open up doors.  We talked in the last month about the new Social security rules that will harm low income people, and this staff will take on these and other issues.  The state is regularly updating their rules, and the reality is that there is no one looking out for low income people when rules are changed in how a person gets their own birth certificate, state identification, or social security card. Ms. Petti worked for Goodwill, the Sewer District and volunteered with Hard Hatted Women.  She will be working to figure out a way out of this Catch 22 of the social security print out and work to streamline the process so people can quickly restart their life after they lose all their important documents.  We wish her luck.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.