Comments to HUD Using Orwellian Language

This comment from Brook F. was left on our Blog about the Department of Housing and Urban Development trying to redefine the word "homeless."  It is such a good comment it deserves its own entry.  Here is a link to the blog entry and below is Brook F's comment.

Being homeless IS NOT HAVING YOUR OWN HOME, either renting or owning, THAT YOU CALL YOUR OWN. Homelessness is: living with family or friends because you DON'T have your OWN HOME due to loss of income, due to health or disability, or due to extenuating circumstances out of your control.

Being homeless and living in another's home, a shelter, or on the streets creates severe limitations socially, emotionally, physically and financially. It also is at a cost for those who are providing you shelter, in particular those who open their homes to you. They become burdened as well, despite their helpful intentions: an increase in utility usage, food, loss of privacy (for both families in the home), and a strain on the familial or friend relationship.

This is JUST A SMALL PORTION of what it means to be homeless. I know. I am a homeless person. I just got back on my own recently. It was not easy. It was with the help of others' services. I am also a full time social work student at Case MSASS, working towards my MSSA. HOMELESSNESS is more than just being "on the streets" or in "an uninhabitable" place to sleep. It is a mindset you fall into, it is a way of surviving, it is being stared at, ridiculed, pitied, ignored, dehumanized, and devalued. MY LIFE MATTERS. And so do the MILLIONS of other homeless lives in this country. We want sustainable, livable wage work, affordable and safe housing and neighborhoods, and to be seen for the human beings we are, with intelligence, wisdom, insight, and understanding of the world and others around us. WE ARE YOU. We always have been you-- Just harder hit.

Brook F left on the NEOCH website on March 13, 2017

Unfortunately, many who work in the shelters or social service providers are not listening and continue to insist on using the offensive phrase "literally homeless."  I will correct anyone who uses it with me, but the federal department keeps using it and making this offensive language common. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

HUD is Playing Orwellian Mind Games

*The Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of “literally homeless”: “Individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning: (i) Has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation; (ii) Is living in a publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state and local government programs); or (iii) Is exiting an institution where (s)he has resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution."

This is from Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services talking about HUD's new strategy for redefining homelessness with words instead of actual housing.  This is similar to their functional zero campaign or "complete counts" that are neither and pushing plans to end homelessness that were actually ending homelessness for only a small group.   HUD is becoming a master at using the George Orwell tools for changing reality. 

"Don't Call Me Literally Homeless. I believe I am figuratively homeless!"The latest is the use of "literally homeless" to describe the opposite of the word literally.  Everyone in the world understands the abstract concept of a home, and they also understand the opposite of that concept.  Those who do not work in the shelters or homeless services understand a homeless person is one who does not have a place to live.  The world understands those who pay themselves for a motel room, sleep on a couch, or a basement are in fact literally homeless.  HUD is trying to say that the arbitrary definition made up by a bureaucrat is now "literally homeless."  It is like some kind of sick joke that the Ministry of Love would propose in the world of Big Brother.  Imagine the heartbreak of a family who had the teacher tell them that the school teachers believe that the family is homeless because they are sleeping on a couch or a motel, and then they go to get help from the County and the smug caseworker says, "Sorry, your family is not literally homeless. Come back when you lose everything and are living on the streets because you don't qualify for help." It is horrible to treat taxpayers like this.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Outlook for Homeless People in 2018 in a Carson/Trump Administration

Draining the Swamp 2018-19 Issues Facing Homeless People

For homeless people, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the most important agency and the decisions made in Washington have a huge impact on the lives of people without housing, those waiting for housing, and those who cannot afford the market rate for rent because they do not make enough money. The head of HUD is often more important to homeless people then who is the President of the United States. Cleveland receives $30 million from the federal government specifically for working to end homelessness.  We gave our outlook for 2017 here.  It was our estimate that homeless families are going to have a tough time, but 2018 is going to rough for every homeless person. 

Outlook for HUD funded programs

  • We will most likely have to increase the family homeless situation to 50 additional beds by 2018 on top of the 75 from 2017.  We could see some small relief with an expansion of the Pay for Success program to more families, but that will not decrease the need for more shelter beds.  
  • Many of the resources for single adults will have dried up and more and more people will be asking for shelter. It is unlikely that Cleveland will be able to continue to guarantee access to shelter for those who request it, because we have closed so many beds over the last 10 years.  We will have to figure out a strategy for what populations get a bed every night and which population is sent out to make it on their own. We hope that Metanoia will find a space so that those who cannot get a bed will have an overflow space year round. Metanoia will need to be prepared to serve 250 people per night including around 40 single women.
  • We will most likely see another 2 to 8% cut to our homeless funding. This will mean another program will have to close in early 2019. At this point, the Permanent Supportive Housing programs or the rental assistance programs will be the last programs left standing to be cut. So, either we will have to evict people or eliminate supportive services to these extremely fragile people.
  • There will be more of a push to privatize Public Housing so another reduction in the number of units available. Housing Choice Voucher will most likely be spared having already been cut to the bone.  A privatization makes it harder to apply and harder to enforce common rules for providing quality housing to the population. HUD oversight staffing were already significantly reduced and that will continue.  Media will have more and more stories about horrible subsidized housing conditions and tax payers will demand cuts. “We should not have our tax dollars going to these horrible conditions,” even though it our own fault for cutting the HUD oversight staff.  
  • The tax credit program for the development of housing will probably continue to expand, because the new administration seems to favor programs that result in tax cuts. Again, this is not a program to serve those living below poverty in Cleveland.
  • In Cleveland, this will most likely mean a decline of 200 units in affordable housing because of a nationwide cut to HUD funded housing programs. Cleveland officials have done a good job maintaining the inventory while other cities have seen huge loses. We will not see the loses that will be seen in other cities, but local leadership will not be able to prevent all losses. 
  • No fair housing enforcement activities over because there will be an internal fight over who is in charge of these investigations. 
  • Those who have stayed in Permanent Supportive Housing or other subsidy programs for five or seven years will be told that they need to find other housing options.  Some of these individuals will show back up at the shelters asking for help. 

Other Issues for 2018-19 for Homeless People.

  • A further rise in hate crimes against homeless people on a national level.  Whenever there are more homeless people and government is passing laws harmful to homeless people or massive budget cuts, hate crimes against this vulnerable population rises. We will need a strong local Coalition to oppose these hate crimes, and it is unlikely that advocacy and public policy groups will be able to find funding when there will be so much human service needs overshadowing good government groups.
  • Medicaid expansion will begin to be decreased in 2018 with only the poorest of the poor able to access the public insurance. The state will also be requiring a small co-pay for Medicaid.  This will slowly deteriorate the number receiving coverage. This will force clinics like Care Alliance to begin to take on more of the indigent care out of local funding. This will decrease the health of the population and decrease access to mental health or drug addiction treatment.
  • Another rise in assistance for the opioid crisis with more funding for treatment and even an increase in detox when more suburban young people are dying from the addiction, but there will not be the ability to get Medicaid reimbursement for some of these supportive services as was the original plan for Permanent Supportive Housing. This will mean that fewer people will have access to these units.
  • Mental health funding may even see a boost in 2018 because of a State election and regular encounters between law enforcement and those with a mental illness living outside, but we will still have to deal with the reduction in Medicaid reimbursements.
  • Funding for private hunger programs will continue to increase, because Cleveland has always been generous in the face of hungry children. We will probably see a sharp drop in those eligible for food stamps. We will need to increase the number of hot meal programs at religious organizations and the pantry programs. We will need to expand the school lunch program to also offer dinners or backpacks of food for the evening for those living in poverty.
  • There will be many more people showing up at the shelters with deep intractable debt issues making employment and housing stability extremely difficult.
  • Cash assistance will become a non-factor in the struggle to reduce poverty. Very few are eligible anymore because of lifetime limits and the small grants.
  • Disability programs will be cut and turned into jobs programs to try to find employment for people who are currently on disability or who apply for assistance. Bureaucracies have a hard time pivoting to new ideas. This will take a long time to catch on and many families will fall through the cracks.
  • Cleveland shelters will be under threat of defunding because they are unwilling to provide data to ICE workers.
  • More homeless families with health issues will be asking for help in our community.
  • Coordinated Intake will be in place to decide who gets a shelter bed and who gets sent to gymnasiums that are opened up every evening at closed down schools.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

What is Ahead for Homeless in the Carson/Trump Administration?

These are my thoughts on what we can expect in Cleveland over the next few years based on my 24 years of experience. I have lobbied in Washington and Columbus for decades and some of these “new ideas or better ways of doing business” have come up before.  We have not had all branches of government under one party in both Ohio and with our federal government in decades. So if this is ever going to be implemented it has to happen now. There has never been a better chance to cut funding in human services and put in practice some of the conservative ideas that have been discussed for decades.  I also read documents by the Washington Post and others detailing every campaign promise made by Donald Trump over the last year and a half. Overall in 2017 in Cleveland we will most likely continue to struggle with increases in family homelessness, but we should see a reduction in the number of single adults facing homelessness.  Here are my observations.

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the key government agency providing funds to local community for affordable housing, homeless shelters, and the major funding for services to homeless people. The Trump Administration has appointed Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department. He has no government experience and spoke in opposition to the fair housing goals of the agency. HUD enforces the Civil Rights era Fair Housing laws to break down barriers for minority, religious minority, gender and those with children facing discrimination. Here are some possible changes in the upcoming year:
  • The last publicly funded homeless transitional program in Cleveland will be defunded when the Salvation Army PASS program is converted from beds to rental assistance.  Cleveland saw the defunding of 328 beds during the Obama Administration. This will only make it harder for single men to get out of 2100 Lakeside into housing. There will be new funding for single adults to get rental assistance which will ease some of the burden. Homelessness among single adults will most likely decline in 2017.
  • We need 50 new shelter spaces for families immediately and 75 by the end of the year as we continue to struggle in 2017 to find shelter beds. Cleveland is compassionate and usually steps up to serve families better. I believe that religious and business leaders will step forward to fund additional shelter space. This could present a conflict with the County over intake rules and counting these homeless people.
  • We will most likely see another 2 to 8% cut to our homeless funding.  This will mean another program will have to close in early 2018. This is especially likely since we keep reading how the HUD report shows we have decreased homelessness in Ohio based on flawed statistics, but the impact will not be until 2018.
  • It is likely that both Public Housing and the Housing Choice Voucher program will see a decline in their budget.  They are currently operating at a little under 90% of the funds they need.  This means fewer dollars for maintenance, a longer time to get units back on line and fewer staff to process paperwork.  Bottom line is that the 21,000 people waiting for Public Housing and the 8,000 on the voucher waiting list will wait longer than the three to five years to get a place. There will also be a debate about transferring public housing properties to become privately funded and administered by private sector developers.  This will not have an impact in 2017, but in the future.
  • The tax credit program for the development of housing will probably expand. These programs bring down rents, but they do not make them affordable for low income residents.
  • HUD subsidized housing is going to be difficult to cut. These are all private landlords but everyone who moves in is subsidized like the voucher program. They have tried everything to reduce costs over the last 20 years, but nothing much has worked. I am going to guess that they will try to cut off lower performing housing which would mean there would not be a change until 2018.
  • There will be an attempt to defund fair housing while they “study” better ways to handle discrimination and disputes between owners and those seeking housing. I can see a moratorium on these programs while they investigate the issue. 
  • It is likely that there will be a debate about time limits for those living in subsidized housing, but those would not have an impact for a couple of years. The debate would open many divisions within the community and would be similar to the “welfare reform” debate.

Other Changes

  • We will see a rise in hate crimes against homeless people. Whenever there are more homeless people and government is harmful to homeless people with cuts, hate crimes against this vulnerable population rises. We will probably get help from the local law enforcement, but no relief by the US Department of Justice who will unlikely have anything to do with civil rights, fair housing, hate crimes or discrimination claims.
  • Medicaid expansion is unlikely to change in 2017, but has been so helpful to improving the lives of homeless people. 
  • We actually will most likely have more funding for addiction services/treatment either through the State of Ohio or through the federal government or both because of the opiod crisis. 
  • Mental health funding looks stable and will face no changes. 
  • Funding for private hunger programs will mostly likely be stable or may even increase.  There will be some changes to food stamps debated in 2017, but not to be implemented until 2018.
  • Welfare (cash assistance) will be further reduced to only those engaged in a work program, but this has such a small reach anymore in the community it really has no impact on homeless people.
  • The new administration will try to limit Social Security Disability and the Worker’s compensation program for injured workers.  Both programs will face greater scrutiny and longer waits.  Many homeless people are eligible for disability, but give up because the process takes so long and the rules for being on the program are so restrictive.
  • Privacy in the shelters will begin to be an issue with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking for data on non-citizens using publicly funded shelters.  The local community will have to take a stand if this is going to be an issue.
  • Cleveland should be able to significantly reduce veteran’s homelessness in 2017. There will still be homeless veterans but they all should be on a path to stable housing.
  • The number of young people who graduate foster care into homelessness should be dramatically reduced in 2017.

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Fake News: The Homeless Numbers Are Made Up

New report once again misleads lawmakers and the public about the supposed ‘decline’ in numbers of people experiencing homelessness in the United States.

Washington, December 19, 2016 –
As we rapidly approach the end of another year, cities around the country are preparing vigils recognizing those who have lived and died without adequate housing in 2016. November’s release of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress by the Department of Housing and Urban Development may give those attending some small cause for hope, describing a 3% decrease in the number of men, women, and children experiencing homelessness, counted on a single winter night, over last year’s number.

Unfortunately the report leaves out some important information. For instance, the count in question tallies those staying in emergency and transitional shelters, as well as those who can be located outside. HUD’s recent decreases in funding for such shelters means fewer members of the homeless population are easily accounted for. HUD provides bonuses to communities that decrease their count, creating a disincentive for those conducting counts to locate every unsheltered person in their neighborhoods.

Furthermore, HUD only asks communities to report those who it considers “literally homeless.” This doesn’t include the large numbers of individuals and families who are doubled up or “couch surfing” with friends and relatives. This unrealistic definition of homelessness explains why HUD reported just over 120,000 children experiencing homelessness on a given night, while the Department of Education has reported well over ten times as many children youths registered as homeless in recent years, a number that has more than doubled over the last decade.

The reports of HUD and other governmental and non-governmental organizations purporting to chart a decline in the numbers of those experiencing homelessness are doing a disservice to those men and women who we have lost this year without the basic dignities afforded by secure housing. While so many of those who are tasked with ending homelessness in America won’t admit to the actual scope of the problem, they cannot be relied upon to enact meaningful solutions to it.

The National Coalition for the Homeless calls upon the Department of Housing and Urban Development to face up to the reality that homelessness is not diminishing in America. We call on HUD and its allies to work with us and other organizations to put into place housing policies and investments that will ensure an end to the memorial vigils that have become a disgraceful necessity every December 21st, the longest night of the year.

# # #

Full Disclosure: NEOCH Executive Director is a Board Vice President for NCH.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is a national network of people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to a single mission: To prevent and end homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected. www.nationalhomeless.org 

 

Enterprise & CSH Should be Ashamed by These Statements on Ben Carson

There are a few bold statements on the new Secretary.  This is how you should respond to this unqualified HUD Secretary being named. 

Here is what the National Low Income Housing Coalition said.

Here is what the Coalition for Economic Survival in LA said.

If you want to know what not to say, I have included those below from Enterprise and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.  What could you possibly say about a person with absolutely no experience selected to lead the Housing Policy for the United States?  This is a horrible pick for a cabinet position and should be roundly condemned.  He does not know anything about affordable housing except that he lived there as a child.  He does not understand what HUD does or how critical it is to the infrastructure of the United States.  Enterprise Community Partners and the Corporation for Supportive Housing both issued tame statements about their hopes to work with the new administration.  This is why there is so much anger out in the County.  We need lobbyists who will put country before their personal industry or trade association.  These guys might as well issued a statement saying, "We depend on HUD for our very existence, please do not cut our funding!   We do great things in the past, so we need the expensive Permanent Supportive Housing programs to go on or we will be out of jobs!"

These are two agencies who will have an audience with the next HUD Secretary are "hopeful," and based on these statements we know they will praise him and say what a great job he is doing.  While the homeless guy sitting in a shelter in Cleveland will never get to meet the HUD Secretary, but we know a homeless guy would express anger that a guy who spoke against Fair Housing as social engineering and has blamed poor people for their personal failings during the campaign is nominated for this job. We depend on big organizations to represent our interests in Washington since we will never have a chance to meet with the HUD Secretary, and we need you to get a backbone and speak truth to power. 

  • What happened to not being politically correct anymore? I thought that is what the Trump victory signaled?
  • Why not ask how this is not political payback for Carson's support of Trump, which is contrary to what this new administration campaigned on?
  • What about talking about the lead poisoned kids in deteriorating housing in Cleveland because the waiting list for a voucher is 5 years or more?  What about talking about this political appointment as a slap in the face of the family sleeping in a gymnasium because all the shelter beds are full?
  • There are hundreds of thousands of people suffering because of their lack of housing, and this HUD Secretary has said this job is going to be a cinch on Fox News.  This statement alone disqualifies him from office. 
  • Permanent Supportive Housing is not the silver bullet that will solve all of our problems.  We are in big trouble if Public Housing, Shelters, Vouchers and Foreclosure assistance were all cut while PSH programs were fully funded. 

I know what they will say, "We need to give him a chance" or "We are going to have to work with him so we can't blast him right out the door."   I can't tell you that these fluffy statements are not going to insulate any of us from the cuts.  Carson is not going to care who said good things or bad things when it comes to balancing the budget.  All that was promised (middle and upper income tax cuts, building a wall, deporting millions, reducing corporate taxes, more military and veterans spending) is going to leave a huge budget hole and housing is not going to be protected because you issued a nice statement in December 2016.  You have to see that neither candidate spoke about housing and so unless a real advocate for affordable housing had been selected for HUD Secretary, you have to see the trainwreck coming.  Is Carson going to stand up and demand more funding for housing in America because Enterpise harkened back to his days living in public housing in a press release? 

Some might say that these statements are sell outs.  I would just say that they are cowardly and shameful. We deserve better advocates in Washington who will tell the public what is really going on, and not trying to spin this as some positive thing.  Just because a guy was born on a farm does not qualify him for Secretary of Agriculture or those who travelled a lot as a kid should be put in charge of the FAA or Secretary of Transportation.  It does not work like that.   Disgraceful.

Ben Carson Accepts President-elect Trump’s
Nomination for HUD Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump today nominated Dr. Benjamin (Ben) Carson as the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed, the leading retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate will serve as the 17th HUD secretary.

Enterprise congratulates Dr. Carson on his nomination to this important Cabinet-level position and will work with him on ensuring that all Americans have access to an affordable home in a healthy, thriving community connected to vital resources such as good schools, jobs, transit and health care.

Dr. Carson gave keynote talks at two of Enterprise’s national conferences when he was head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine, sharing his personal journey of growing up poor in Detroit. His story captures the power and promise of a stable home, strong parenting and fierce dedication. We are hopeful that these experiences will make him a powerful advocate for building the critical link between healthy communities and healthy children and families. 

For more than 30 years, Enterprise has worked in partnership with HUD and its leadership to strengthen federal affordable housing solutions. As a bipartisan organization, we have engaged HUD leaders across parties on efforts to close the nation’s growing affordable housing gaps and strengthen communities nationwide. Today more than one in four families who rent their homes – 11.4 million households in total – are “housing insecure,” spending at least half of their monthly income on housing.

Collaborating with HUD on a wide range of issues – promoting healthy, lead-free housing, advancing rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, advocating for the Neighborhood Stabilization Act during the nation’s foreclosure crisis and many others – has shown us what a powerful force for improving lives the department can be, especially for low- and moderate-income people.

Enterprise will work tirelessly with HUD and our partners around the country to make progress on our shared mission of building diverse, dynamic communities, increasing racial, economic and social equity, and supporting the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Together with President-elect Trump, HUD Secretary Nominee Carson, incoming members of the next administration and the 115th Congress, we will strive to build an infrastructure of opportunity for low-income families across the United States.

As we all prepare to gather with family and friends during the holiday season, our thoughts remain with people and communities most in need. We are grateful for your continued support and partnership.

Best,

Terri Ludwig 
President & CEO-- Enterprise Community Partners

Here is the Corporation for Supportive Housing Statement:

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Dr. Ben Carson to be the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

We are eager to work with the Trump Administration, Dr. Carson and Congress to create more opportunities for Americans to access affordable housing, and to ensure the most vulnerable individuals and families in need of supportive housing are housed in their own homes and healthy.

Our economic future depends on finding sustainable ways to ensure everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, age, family status or income, can access and afford safe, decent rental housing. Not only is this crucial today, but for our children and grandchildren too.

For those in need of supportive housing, their very lives depend on finding stable homes with access to the healthcare and other services that offer them the chance to move forward with independence and purpose, which benefits everyone in the community. In too many instances, our nation continues to over-rely on expensive institutional care that inadequately houses and fails to address the needs of the most vulnerable people, shortchanging them and the rest of us. Supportive housing is a proven, cost-effective alternative that empowers individuals and families to thrive within our communities.

Evidence tells us housing is a key social determinant of health for individuals and communities alike, and CSH will continue to work with policymakers at all levels to enhance and increase the integration of housing and healthcare.

CSH will be in the forefront of ensuring the new Administration and Congress have the extensive data, reports and personal stories demonstrating beyond question that supportive housing works, is cost-effective, holds down healthcare and public safety costs, revitalizes neighborhoods, and creates jobs and economic development, making a real difference in communities across this country.


By Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Draining the Swamp in America

What does draining the swamp look like?  Some say it is about ridding DC of the "establishment" and lobbyist, but then we see only establishment and lobbyist figures so who knows.  Here are my thoughts on what is ahead for homeless people in Cleveland.  I am basing these projections on what Donald Trump said when he ran for office and how it will impact homeless people.  Some have said that those were just statements for the campaign, but his supporters will expect delivery on these ideas.  I have also looked at the Campaign website for some hints and base these projections on previous attempts by Republicans in Congress.  Some of these items were stopped because of divided government which is not the case at this time.  Voters were angry at the "establishment" for not responding to their concerns, so they are not going to stand for Trump not fulfilling these promises.  Here are the four websites that I looked at to formulate these projections:

The other issue for those of us in Ohio is that Trump has said on the Campaign trail that he is fiercely loyal and feel that those who have slighted him should be punished.  He repeatedly talked about the Congressmen who turned their back on him and those who did not live by the pledge they signed to support the Republican nominee for President.  The Governor of Ohio as well as the Senator just re-elected both distanced themselves from the President Elect.  Governor Kasich never endorsed the candidate and stated that he would not vote for Trump despite the popularity of the Presidential candidate.  Portman revoked his endorsement after harassment allegations arose and stated that he was going to waste his Presidential vote with a non-existent write in candidate.  There are debates about whether to end the earmarks ban, but Ohio may not benefit since we only have one member in leadership and that retaliation problem by a vindictive administration.  In addition, there is a plan for infrastructure improvements, but would Ohio score poorly because of our leadership team not supporting the Republican nominee?  If there is a dramatic infrastructure program that could put the skilled laborers sleeping in our shelters in Cleveland to work.   Overall, it looks like Ohio is going to be a rough place in the next four years.  

A Rise in Hate Crimes Against Homeless People

There is a great deal of fear and anxiety in America and typically people we do not understand become targets.  Homeless people, those who stay outside, and panhandlers are certainly misunderstood and often viewed as the enemy.  They are the visible expression that America is not a great place for everyone.  We fear that there will be a rise in hate crimes against homeless people because of the sharp rise in hate crimes over the last few weeks.  The next Justice Department is unlikely to be as sympathetic to protecting people living on the streets as the current Civil Rights Division.  

Medicaid Will Likely Contract

There was such hatred for the Affordable Care Act and the cornerstone of so called "Obamacare" was the expansion of Medicaid to those living at 132% of poverty or below.  This is unlikely to survive any change in the health care law.  Homeless people will have to go back to the emergency room for care.  Before Medicaid expansion in Ohio less than 20% of the population had insurance.  Today, between 70 and 80% of the population have insurance.  This has dramatically improved the health of the population and we were talking about using health care expansion to pay for stable housing because housing is healthcare. This is off the table and will not happen in the current environment. There is talk of moving to a "health savings account" system, but I am pretty sure that the savings accounts of homeless people will be overdrawn. There is also talk of privatizing Medicaid which will be great for the big insurance companies, big pharma, and horrible for low income people who are frequent health care customers. 

Dramatic Changes in Housing Programs

There is no real housing lobby in Washington.  We have not had a national housing policy since 1972, and no real production of housing for decades.  There was no discussion of housing in the Presidential election, and the beneficiaries of housing unfortunately do not vote.  People who live in subsidized housing are not protected like seniors who vote in huge numbers and protect Social Security like no other program.  I see two options for the next Congress to begin to cut the budgets for housing programs.  One is to privatize the market as much as possible, which the new Businessman in Chief would support.  The other option is to time limit the housing like welfare reform.  They actually could do both to contain costs.  Congress could provide a five year lifetime limit on subsidized housing to try to reduce the huge waiting lists (7,000 people on the voucher list in Cleveland and 21,000 on the public housing list in Cleveland).   The privatization has already started with housing authorities going to banks for private funding to rebuild their properties.  This will only be accelerated in the next few years.  Time limits would quickly fill up the shelters with disabled and fragile people who have no ability to pay the market rate for rent in Cleveland or any community. 

Sequestration on Steroids

Veterans programs, military, and social security will be protected according to Trump campaign promises.  While all other government programs will be subject to an across-the-board budget cut. Trump campaigned on a 1 to 2% cut in government spending to tackle the debt.  This would have a huge impact on social services.  We already lost shelter beds every year since Sequestration started and this will only accelerate with any cuts.  It is hard to cut 1% of the beds locally, so entire programs close. Shelter beds, treatment programs, re-entry programs, food stamp programs, health care for those without money, transportation dollars, and food assistance will be reduced.  The unemployment compensation and worker's compensation program has huge debt problems in many parts of the country. Both worker's assistance programs could be further privatized to attempt to eliminate federal bailouts.  

Block Granting

The Congress has tried this in the past but not very successfully.  Food stamps is the last of the entitlements that is not time limited.  While most homeless people do not collect food stamps, this is the program most likely to face a time limit and a block granting to the states to administer.  Funding for the shelters could also be block granted to the states.  Again, this might not be so bad for some states, but in Ohio rural communities always seem to get a disproportionate amount of federal and state dollars. The rural legislators are far more powerful than the urban legislators and demand a larger piece of the pie.  The example is the Ohio Housing Trust Fund which is slanted toward suburban and rural communities and those who live in urban communities suffer.  

Priorities for Other Government functions

We know that immigration, building a wall, deporting millions, an infrastructure program, legal and judicial resources to defend these positions, renegotiating trade deals, and improving care to Veterans will be the priority for the administration.  Trump has also promised a big tax cut for corporation and the middle class.  All of these will leave little room in a balanced federal budget to also fund shelters, housing, welfare, Medicaid, and food assistance. Again, because these programs do not have a powerful lobby they will not fair well in a Trump administration.  There was a promise to end all government funding for "sanctuary cities" that construct a wall between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers.  This type of precedent could impact many of the largest cities in America and their homeless services funding.  If the feds withhold money from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco for being "sanctuary cities" can those housing dollars go to Columbus and Youngstown?  It also could be a dangerous precedent used by the federal funds to withhold dollars from local communities that do things that the President does not like. 

Immigration debates could also seep into funding for the shelters in another way.  The shelters have always had a strict privacy protection so that even families have a hard time getting information on their loved ones.  Will the federal government demand the publicly funded shelters turn over their rosters to screen them against the list of 2 to 3 million people that the Trump administration is looking to deport?  The President may demand that they open their HMIS data to federal ICE officers for inspection.  The shelters may be swept into this national debate for offering a safe place to anyone who shows up at the door vs. receiving federal dollars to keep out foreign nationals.

Most of the Plans Require a Growing Economy

The Paul Ryan "A Better Way" Plan repeatedly outlines the need for a healthy growing economy in order to facilitate projections for growth in charitable giving and a recovery of the housing market.  Under President Obama, the economy has grown steadily for seven years.  It cannot go on with growth forever.  There will always be downturns, and we do not have the safety net services that we had in the past.  We will not have the tax base to absorb the number of people who need help.  We do not have the shelters, the affordable housing, the job training programs that we had in the past.  We are ready with food, but every other safety net has huge holes.  It will be tough for everyone.  

Veterans Homelessness Will Most Likely End

There are a few good things that are most likely coming in the next few years.  With the public pronouncements of improving the Department of Veteran's Affairs.  The Obama administration made a good headstart on ending veteran's homelessness.  With a renewed focus on improving the entire VA network in the new administration, it is a good bet that veteran's homelessness will end over the next few years.  

Treatment Could Actually Expand

The one area of positive reform of the social safety net might be the rate of incarceration and then the diversion into treatment programs.  There has been bi-partisan plan to reform the criminal justice system to reduce some of the costs.  This could translate into more resources into treatment to keep people out of jail.  This could benefit Northeast Ohio which is buckling under the opioid epidemic.  This may be a scratch in the end if hundreds of thousands lose health insurance locally.  We could overwhelm the few additional treatment and detox beds with those without health insurance.

Snapshots

  • Fewer affordable housing options because of time limits or privatization and a continued decline in the number of shelter beds.
  • More homeless families with health issues or an inability to find a job.
  • More single homeless people with fewer places to go.
  • Cleveland has guaranteed access to a shelter bed.  This is unlikely to survive with the expected federal funding cuts. 
  • Fewer homeless veterans and more treatment beds in the community.
  • The local community will be expected to pick up the slack for a withdraw of funds from the Federal government. Image Post Swamp After Being Drained
  • Trump has pledged 25 million jobs and that will benefit homeless people.

There are many in the social justice community who are worried about individual liberty, privacy and hate crimes.  There are those in the social service community worried about federal block granting and huge cuts in healthcare, housing and job programs.  These two worlds rarely co-exist, but may be forced into a shot gun wedding.  There are a lot of unknowns, but if the Trump Administration fulfills half of the promises he campaigned on, homeless people are going to be in big trouble.  By Thanksgiving 2017, the face of poverty will be much different compared to 2016.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Guidance from HUD for LGBTQ Individuals Using Shelters

Guidance from the Great Funding gods in Washington on how shelters need to serve Transgender individuals using HUD funded facilities.  These are extremely helpful, but when is Cuyahoga County going to display these rules so that everyone including residents of the shelter understand these rules?  We have been pushing to get these rules displayed and Cuyahoga County officials have been unwilling to require posting the LGBTQ rules in the shelters. 

A Message from Harriet Tregoning,

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development

I am pleased to inform you that we have reached an important milestone in HUD efforts to ensure equal access for all persons in our programs. On September 21, 2016, HUD will publish a final rule in the Federal Register entitled Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs.

This rule will ensure that all individuals have equal access to many of the Department’s core shelter programs in accordance with their gender identity. This rule becomes effective October 21, 2016.

I encourage all CPD grantees to promptly review their policies to ensure consistency with the new rule.

Following what had previously been encouraged practice by HUD, providers using funds awarded through the Department’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), including those operating single sex projects, are now required to provide all individuals, including transgender individuals and other individuals who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, with access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with their gender identity without being subjected to intrusive questioning or being asked to provide documentation.

HUD’s new rule will require a recipient, subrecipient, or provider to establish, amend, or maintain program admissions, occupancy, and operating policies and procedures (including policies and procedures to protect individuals' privacy and security), so that equal access is provided to individuals based on their gender identity.

Other provisions and changes to the rule include:

  • Eliminates the prohibition on inquiries related to sexual orientation or gender identity so service providers can ensure compliance with this rule.  The removal of the prohibition on inquiries related to sexual orientation or gender identity does not alter the requirement to make housing assisted by HUD and housing insured by the Federal Housing Administration available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  • Amends HUD’s definition of “gender identity” to more clearly reflect the difference between actual and perceived gender identity.
  • Makes a technical amendment to the definition of “sexual orientation,” which was adopted from the Office of Personal Management’s (OPM) definition of the term in 2012 to conform to OPM’s current definition.
  • NOTE: the definition of “family” remains the same. See FAQ 1529 for specific guidance for projects with CoC and ESG funding.

As a new program regulation, failure to comply with the requirements of this rule will be considered a violation of program requirements and will subject the non-compliant grantee to all sanctions and penalties available for program requirement violations. HUD has provided a suite of Technical Assistance materials to support final rule implementation, which can be found at https://www.hudexchange.info/homelessness-assistance/resources-for-lgbt-homelessness/.  

HUD has also provided a document that grantees can publicly post to inform clients and staff of the equal access requirements, which can be found at https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/5147/notice-on-equal-access-rights/.

HUD is planning to conduct trainings and provide additional TA materials to assist HUD grantees in understanding the new rule and implementing the policies and procedures appropriately. As these resources become available, you will be able to access them on the LGBT Homelessness Resource Page.

Find more information on HUD’s broader work for LGBTQ inclusion in HUD’s programs at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/LGBT_resources. Please direct any questions regarding this rule and any requests for technical assistance to your local CPD representative.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

National Groups Cold Response to Loss of Funding

NCH Board/staff meet with HUD officialsHere is the take from the National Alliance to End Homelessness on the recently announced HUD funding cuts. NAEH has sadly turned into the leading public relations firm for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

"Overall, more people will be housed instead of homeless due to these results. More new projects than usual got funding, and more existing projects than usual lost funding. As a group, the newly funded projects will house more people than the projects that lost funding, because of more focus on exactly that outcome – housing people. The wellbeing of homeless people and the desire to solve the problem of homelessness are driving this change."

In Cleveland, we unexpectedly lost Y-Haven serving 113 people two weeks ago.  We have heard a great deal of anger around the country from groups in Indiana, Florida, Baltimore, Mississippi, and Mesa ArizonaNew York City has been overwhelmed with family homelessness leading to record numbers, but they were cut.  Honolulu declared a "state of emergency," but they were not immune to the cuts for those with a disability.  This was the result of HUD prioritizing housing over transitional shelters.  It is the opinion of the "experts" that transitional housing programs screen out too many homeless people and they take too long to place people into housing.  This is another step toward HUD funding exclusively housing programs while no other federal agency (Health and Human Services) picks up the slack to fund the emergency of being homeless in America.  It is cold comfort to the man who loses housing on the rainy streets of Cleveland that they are stuffed into a church on a mat on the floor because the transitional shelter beds have lost funding. 

We found out the Y-Haven will be able to survive the loss of federal funding.  They are moving to Medicaid funding and have received a lot of support from admirers since the story appeared in the Plain Dealer.  The director has assured advocates and Cuyahoga County that the program will survive after the ADAMHS Board, YMCA, and other local groups have stepped up to help.   The reason that they were cut was that they honestly completed their application claiming that the shelter focused on recovery so had a screening process for those who are working on alcohol and drug issues.  This eliminated some of the homeless population from entering and HUD objected to this screening tool or degree of specialization.  The Salvation Army PASS program is the last standing in Cuyahoga County to receive federal dollars.  We hope that they are preparing for a 2017 budget cut.  

The statement from the National Alliance was heartless and misguided.  There was this loud cry from the field from around the Country asking, "Why did HUD cut our local homeless programs?"  NAEH shot back don't worry the new funding will help more people in the local community.  It was like a federal agency commenting on the impacts of global warming on cities which will most likely flood, "Don't worry, we have planes ready to transport your most vulnerable to Omaha or Topeka."   Thanks, but that is not what we need.  HUD funded rapid rehousing programs which give short term rental assistance and intake centers throughout the country instead of existing transitional programs.  The disabled guy in a wheel chair with a criminal background needs a place to sleep tonight not after a couple of weeks of paperwork, finding a landlord and hoping that accept a voucher for only three months guaranteed rent.  Yes, you will serve more people, but not with the type of service that the local community needs.  The family with two young children or the youth who is couch surfing every night needs a bed to sleep in tonight not a promise for rental assistance in three weeks. 

Yes, there was more competition for the limited dollars, because once again our Congress is not doing its job. They are creating more problems then they are solving.  They delay, deny and put demands on the local community that is only exacerbating the problems of poverty.  In the past, communities had to pit shelters, services and housing programs against each other locally to receive their full allocation.  They ranked the programs and those at the bottom were lost.  Communities got smart and figured out how to play this game, and so now programs were forced to compete against programs at the national level with this horrible tiered funding system.   It certainly does not promote cooperation or solving homelessness as a community.  It promotes distrust and local programs distorting their programs to meet national goals while dismissing local priorities.  It does not matter that Cleveland is seeing opiate deaths or more people released from prison who cannot go back to their houses and need more time to find stable places to live.  We have to skip the shelters and move people into housing.  It does not matter that our family and women's shelter are seeing huge numbers, HUD and their public relations firm NAEH know best. 

The homeless veterans programs have made tremendous progress over the last five years by doing exactly the opposite of how HUD is working on addressing homelessness. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Y Haven Latest to be Sacked by HUD

I have been talking about this slow crawl to the elimination of transitional shelters from the "continuum of care" in Cleveland and around the United States for years.  The Plain Dealer posted a story today about the loss of funding to Y-Haven.  NEOCH has been saying that the transitional programs will disappear for years and trying to get all the shelters to oppose these plans.  I always thought Y-Haven would be the last one left to survive, but I was wrong--there are three left.

Back in 2010, NEOCH approached the shelters to say that there is a danger with HUD funding changes that will fundamentally disrupt homeless services locally and the groups should come together to oppose these plans.  We wrote to all the major shelters (except Mental Health Services) with this pitch:

There are new rules for receipt of funding being driven by HUD, these rules are impacting other public and private funders and current service providers.  Service providers and advocates need to work together to ensure that the coming changes won’t impact our constituents ability to access services.  We feel that if we do not all come together that some needs of the homeless in our community may be overlooked.  The expertise in case management, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment that we have perfected in Cleveland may be lost because of financial constraints, change of focus and the lack of a clear plan.

Our plan was that we should set aside competition and our previous disputes in order to get all the shelters to come together to oppose the County plans around funding Permanent Supportive Housing with emergency services money.  The shelters felt that I was too controversial and a thorn in the side of the County and would not come together around a strategy to oppose the County.  Many of those programs are now out of business or hanging on by their finger nails.  We made the case that this will lead to one shelter closing every year to the point that in the end there will be no funding left for shelters. It was not that we opposed funding for Permanent Supportive Housing.  We just felt that the community should not use money taken from the shelters to build this housing.  After all, a permanent supportive housing unit does not turn over while a shelter bed turns over every 40 days and a transitional bed turns over every 6 or 7 months.  In Cleveland, we closed:

  • Family Transitional Shelter was a scattered site owned by a non-profit. (~30 spaces for families--60 beds total with kids)
  • East Side Catholic Shelter both transitional and emergency shelter for women and families (24 units for families or 44 beds)
  • Cleveland Housing Network Transitional for families (15 beds)
  • Triumph House for families 25 rooms for families (50 beds)
  • Domestic Violence Center (closed one shelter for families or single women) (40 beds)
  • Shelter for Mentally Ill Men at 1701 Payne (40 beds plus overflow)
  • Railton House transitional shelter for men closed last week (56 beds)
  • VOA Youth Transitional Shelter on Walton lost funding and will soon reduce size (20 beds lost)
  • Transitional Housing Inc changed to PSH was previously for single women (61 beds)
  • Templum House closed and merged with the DVC program (community saw loss of three actual Domestic Violence shelters for women and families to one) (8 beds lost)
  • Continue Life both transitional and emergency shelter for pregnant women (18 total beds) in two buildings.
  • Abdenour House for people with AIDS (5 beds).
  • Hitchcock Center stopped being a shelter and became a treatment program--must pay to stay (28 beds lost)
  • University Settlement had two transitional shelter building and were the first program lost locally. (18 beds)
  • Upstairs Program operated by Care Alliance for women with a mental illness (16 beds)

Total Beds lost 479 over last dozen years in Cleveland. We hope that Y-Haven will find the funding to continue and we will not lose those additional 113 beds.  On the positive side we got Zacchaeus House as a replacement for Family Transitional with the ability to serve 14 families in scattered sites and not fixed units that are owned by the agency.  The Salvation Army Women's shelter has room for more families (16 additional units).   We also have Seasons of Hope which is a small house that can serve about 4 to 6 women in a no questions asked facility.  So, we lost 479 beds and gained 35 beds for an overall net loss of 444 beds locally.  We did not lose that money from the federal government.  In fact, we have much more money going to housing for homeless people than we did in 2000.  This money goes to Permanent Supportive Housing (620 new fixed units and about 300 new housing vouchers) and the Rapid Rehousing program which provides three months of rental assistance to families. 

We have fundamentally changed how we serve homeless people in Cleveland from a temporary shelter bed system to a housing program. We lost other beds that were reserved for mentally ill people and addicted folks, but those were not really shelter beds.  This was the expectation pushed by HUD and dutifully implemented by Ruth Gillett at the County Office of Homeless Services. After all, they are the Department of Housing and Urban Development and not the Federal Shelter Department.   The problem with this strategy is that there are a lot of people who need the level of care that they get in shelter that they do not get by being placed into housing. The reality is that housing is much more expensive than shelter so you can only serve a fraction of the number you can serve in a congregate living facility. They claimed this was all based on research and economics, but these "consultants and experts" said the same thing when they brought the concept of transitional shelters to Cleveland in the 1980s. 

The HUD/Ruth Gillett strategy would have worked if the economy had recovered with more jobs available locally or if disability payments would allow people to pay for an apartment or if we were building more housing locally and rental costs were falling.  None of this happened and so we are at a point that there is only one place left for single women struggling with housing.  We have a system overwhelmed with families looking for a bed to the point that we have an overflow system for families.  We also saw a record number of homeless kids this last school year at the Cleveland Metro School District.  I am afraid we are moving back to the days when there are 60 guys sleeping on Superior Avenue.  If we loose the men's transitional programs, the shelters will become extremely overcrowded similar to what we saw in the 1990s in Cleveland. Or will we put time limits on shelters, open the basement of the welfare building or garage floors, or will we begin to turn people away on a daily basis?  Someone needs to fund temporary spaces for people struggling because they got kicked out by their spouse or parents.  Some agency needs to see the value of places for people to live as they recover from a major health issue.  Where do all the sexually based offenders live when they are branded with a scarlet letter for life?

Y-Haven had its issues, but was extremely valuable to the hundreds of men who need time to recover.  When a guy hits bottom and loses everything, he needs some time to get his life together and rejoin society.  The County and HUD are telling him, "too bad; sleep on the street for a period of time." It is tough to recover, take a shower, find a job, type a resume, recharge your phone all while sleeping on Superior. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

HUD Introduced a New OnLine and Smartphone Resource

NEW RESOURCE FOR FINDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN YOUR AREA

In August, 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD unveiled a new tool on their website and a new app that can be downloaded on your phone to help find affordable housing. http://resources.hud.gov/ The new feature and app are called HUD Resource Locator and there are several helpful functions that each one provides.  Housing Cleveland.org has a lot more units and buildings listed, and the homeless resources section is not useful at all. You can find an inventory of the housing in the communtiy and the housing specifically available to seniors and disabled individuals.  These are only the HUD subsidized units so not a comprehensive list of units.   It is much easier to use with a smartphone that can tie into your GPS on your phone to narrow down your location. 

You can:

  •  Find affordable housing opportunities near me
  •  Find a HUD Office Near Me
  •  Find My Local Public Housing Authority/Agency PHA
  •  Find Homeless Resources Near Me
  •  Find Affordable Elderly and Special Needs Housing
  •  View all Resources

The HUD Resource Locator – an innovative mobile app and website to help further expand and enhance traditional HUD customer service.  Now you can search using these new functions and find housing with just a mouse click!    The resource locator will offer real-time HUD housing information at the fingertips of people looking to quickly connect with building managers, public housing authority representatives, and property management companies to inquire about housing availability and other housing-related questions. This gives people leads on where to look for housing, but does not tell the availability of housing like HousingCleveland can provide.

The HUD resource locator is one of several services provided by HUD’s Enterprise Geographic Information System (eGIS). This tool uses GIS technology to pinpoint where resources are located and allow anyone with a smartphone or tablet to get relevant contact information. For example, the new app can be used during a disaster when families need to find housing, or when social service providers are helping persons experiencing homelessness look for available housing assistance. In an era where people are increasingly using smartphones to find information, the HUD resource locator app and mobile site provides an easy tool for anyone to use to find housing resources. The resource locator uses housing data from HUD and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The HUD Resource Locator app delivers real-time HUD housing information at the touch of a button,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “In today’s global economy where more and more people have a smartphones or similar devices, HUD is committed to finding ways to make it easier for Americans to access our resources and find opportunities to move ahead.”

The HUD Resource Locator is a mobile app and mobile website that includes:

  • Information about commonly requested housing-related resources from HUD field and regional offices throughout the country.
  • Location data and contact information for HUD Field and Regional Offices, Public Housing Authorities, Multifamily Housing, Low Income Housing Tax Credit apartments, USDA Rural Housing, and Continuum of Care Homeless staff.
  • Maps that are seamlessly linked via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email and text messages.
  • GIS and Browser Location Detection to show resources in proximity to the user.
  • Ability to export search results to Excel and to generate a custom PDF resource guide.

The app and website puts landlord phone numbers, addresses and up to date property information about available properties at your fingertips. 

The HUD Resource Locator mobile app is available via Apple iTunes, Google Play Marketplace and also on your computer browser at resources.hud.gov.”  It only takes a couple minutes to download, then once installed you give them access to your location and you are ready to do property searches which give you up to date info on what is available in your area.

Brian and Denise and HUD's Press Release

Rest in Peace: Transitional Shelters

We had a presentation from the consultant the County hired in July about the changes that are taking place with regard to the Department of Housing and Urban Development funding and the rules associated with receiving funds from the federal government.  Suzanne Wagner, a national consultant and huge cheerleader for Permanent Supportive Housing, came to Cleveland to tell us that the time is up for transitional programs.  The studies have all been done, the research is complete and the transitional programs are too expensive and keep people homeless for too long.  So get ready to convert the transitional shelters to something else.

We have steadily moved forward with this plan to eliminate transitional programs by de-funding all the transitional beds for women.  Some of those units were transformed into permanent supportive housing with the optimum word permanent.  While the average  transitional bed may turn over once or twice a year, the average PSH bed turns over once or twice every 10 to 15 years.   If these beds are not replaced it creates a back up on the front end of the shelters.  We have steadily lost transitional beds while steadily increasing the number of overflow or temporary beds locally. 

Yes, there are studies that show PSH are more economic for the community, but they do not compare apples to apples with regard to transitional programs.  They never factor in the capital cost of building a permanent housing unit when compared to the transitional shelters.  They do not factor in that the homeless pool of resources is not growing and yet the homeless programs have to slice the pie thinner and thinner.  We have to pay the housing costs of those in PSH every year with homeless funding along with all the other "priorities" we are mandated to serve coming out of Washington.  We have to prioritize family homelessness and youth homeless while our money is all going to Permanent Supportive housing which neither youth nor families typically qualify for.  In 2015, we spent 83% of the federal homeless dollars on Permanent Supportive Housing according to Cuyahoga County with a similar budget as we had in 2005.

Facility                                                  Monthly Cost                                 Yearly Costs

  • Emergency shelter costs                   $5,000                                        $26,800
  • Transitional Housing                         $2,700                                        $32,500
  • Rapid Rehousing                               $880                                           $6,500

This was distributed by Wagonner and comes from the HUD Family Option Study July 2015.  Again the problem is that this does not factor the cost of building these units and it does not factor in the loss of housing vouchers in the community that support these projects.  These vouchers were previously used to support a broad cross section of low income people.  Now, they are confined to a limited population in a geographically small area.

The problem with all of this is that 20 years ago, we heard from similar consultants who came to Cleveland telling us how great transitional programs can be for the community.  They said, "Look, your alcohol, drug and mental health programs are failing you, and so you need to create alternatives locally where people have the time to find the treatment they need."  They told us that transitional programs are a "game changer" and will significantly reduce homeless.  Our advocates at the time in the community said, "Okay, lets try it."  We invested in nearly 1,000 units of transitional housing in the community to ease people out of homelessness into housing.  The big issues were that they screened many out of joining the program (so does the PSH program), and they kept people for a longer period of time than was necessary (but no where near permanently!).  We needed these beds in our community for people with big issues.  The transitional shelters were slow in preparing the bed when a person left but they became an integral part of our response to homelessness.   It was confusing if these beds should be under the landlord tenant law since many lived there longer than the typical lease, but many found the help they needed in a transitional program.  Instead of fixing these shortfalls, HUD and Cuyahoga County are moving to eliminate public funding for transitional shelters. 

In November 2015, Cuyahoga County will declare "functional zero" in the number of homeless veterans.  So, this has to be considered a victory and we should use the lessons we learned from "solving" veteran's homelessness.  The Veterans Administration never moved away from transitional shelters and we have many veteran only transitional beds still in the community.  They were a strong part of the response to vets struggling with PTSD or traumatic brain disorders.  They were important for veterans in recovery or those with long term health issues.  We had a diverse number and type of programs available to homeless veterans.  Some transitional programs were tied to employment opportunities, some were tied to their health issue and other transitional programs were within HUD funded programs.  The system obviously worked since we are declaring victory.  Why is HUD forcing people to fit into these narrowly constructed programs?

Aren't there 700 people in the community who would benefit and would be better citizens if they had time to recover in a transitional program?  We need a diverse response to homelessness, because our society is diverse.  We need rental assistance for some, transitional for others, legal help for some and shelter for others.  One size does not fit all in the homeless community.  Say goodbye to the transitional shelters which are already gone in Chicago and Columbus.   It was nice while it lasted, but they have been declared obsolete by HUD and the County.  Those with a disability who may need a longer time to get stable are out of luck unless they stay homeless for a year and have the "right" kind of disability. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

HUD Announces Funding for Cuyahoga County

The Department of Housing and Urban Development ahead of the Secretary of HUD appearing on the Daily Show, awarded to Cuyahoga County $25,342,376.00 in funding for homelessness and housing. 

a) Every shelter and service provider seeking renewals funding received the money they requested.  They get what they got to fund the shelter or service when they opened--no cost of living increase ever in the HUD world.

b) Renewals involving leasing/rent assistance received increases from the amount requested because of the recalculation of the rent amounts to align with Fair Market Rents in Greater Cleveland. This is true for all except one Shelter Plus Care program.  The County is going to ask for a correction on the one program.

c) All other renewals were approved for the amount requested.

d) The County wrapped a bunch of programs into two "reallocation requests" for funding from funds that were left once HUD funds all the renewals.  These projects may not have scored high enough locally, but changed their program to meet current expectations. The County rolled a bunch of programs together to submit two big requests for funding. This strategy was risky, but worked in putting them all together into two projects.  "All in" approach to funding requests.

 

The bad news was that the one new project submission for housing vouchers attached to the new Permanent Supportive Housing building on Detroit Ave was not approved.  We will see what impact this has on the funding for supportive housing locally.

$3.88 million of the funding goes to transitional shelters and supportive services or 15% of the funding.  The other 85% of the funds go to housing long term homeless or disabled homeless people in Cuyahoga County.

  • Cincinnati received $15.38 million.
  • Toledo received $4.88 million in support
  • Columbus only received $11.06 million which seems low to me.
  • Dayton received $8.37 million.
  • Akron received 4.47 million.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Funding Changes Announced

The United Way of Cleveland announced yesterday that they were funding 70 fewer programs in the community.  The United Way website does not make it easy to compare funding from 2013 with the funding for 2014.  But we know that programs such as the Cleveland Tenants Organization and Hitchcock Center for Women were not included in the list of funded groups released yesterday.  It is impossible to compare the amounts from 2013 given to groups compared to those announced yesterday because United Way seems to have scrubbed their website and Google cashed version of the site of the 2013 funding levels.   It does seem that most of the homeless programs were funded including Care Alliance, Cleveland Mediation, Frontline Service, Legal Aid Society, Lutheran Metro Ministry, University Settlement, West Side Catholic, Transitional Housing Inc., Salvation Army and the YWCA.  It is hard to tell if the Catholic Charities programs such as the Bishop Cosgrove Center and Jewish Community Federation Program such as Bellefaire are funded at the same level.  There were a few new programs announced as receiving funding this year by the United Way that serve homeless people including Enterprise Foundation and the Cleveland Housing Network. 

They had divided their funding into Education, Income and Health with most of the homeless providers funded under "Income" which seems kind of a stretch.  Here is how the Plain Dealer described it:

A committee of 120 people--called community impact volunteers--vetted proposals and made funding recommendations. They were guided by strategies the United Way began honing in 2008. Its Collective Impact Approach calls for focusing on the most urgent needs in areas of income, health and education, even if that means parting company with old friends.

Robin Cottingham, a senior vice president at KeyBank who lead the community impact volunteers, said she challenged her volunteers to think about "sustainable impact" and to favor programs that would help prevent poverty, not just fight it.

I don't understand how Cleveland Tenants Organization preventing evictions and people going into shelters is not an essential vital service in the community that prevent poverty, but I was not on the committee.   I don't understand how treatment services are not considered a prevention program for those falling into poverty and homelessness, but that is the decision.  We will have to wait to see the fallout from the United Way change in direction. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development also announced the table scraps available to the homeless programs after a second year of Sequestration.  They had previously announced the renewal funding and Cleveland had all the programs that were high priority funded.   This funding was for the programs that had to all compete with eachother for the money left over from HUD.  So, the Cleveland programs that were not funded as a top priority had to compete with Los Angeles, New York and Columbus for the money left.  We had seven programs that were either new or were not viewed by the local community as a high priority.   Only three out of the seven programs were funded.  The three funded programs were:

  • Another Permanent Supportive Housing Project for $62,699
  • West Side Catholic Collaboration with other women's program to provide transition services into housing for $367,135. 
  • West Side Catholic has a new project to provide rapid rehousing to women and families.  This is to replace the pregnant women program that did not seek renewal funding.

We had already lost the Bridging the Gap program and Continue Life shelter which did not seek renewal funding.   The programs that are currently operational that did not get funded by HUD include:

  • Frontline Services assistance to the Norma Herr Center at $39,032
  • LMM Housing Services to those at 2100 Lakeside at $50,157
  • Lakewood Community Services housing referral help at $41,398
  • Frontline Services Safe Haven for fragile populations at $229,897

We know that we already lost an outreach worker at Frontline Services due to funding cuts earlier this year and the men's shelter had to reduce staff who were focused on finding jobs for the residents.  We  will see how these additional cuts impact the shelters. 

Brian Davis

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CAHA Housing Meeting from June 2014

At the recent Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting held on Monday, June 2 at the US Bank Centre, attendees discussed various changes, updates, and projects concerning public housing.

Starting off the meeting was Priscilla Pointer Hicks of the Housing choice Voucher program. Hicks, retiring this summer, gave a summary of the CMHA Voucher program. She detailed the effects of HUD’s 2013 budget cuts, such as slowed voucher issuance, weaker customer service quality, and the loss of a third of her staff. In addition, Hicks mentioned that 900 vouchers are currently underutilized due to an increasing turn-over rate of homeless veterans. Moreover, only 95% of the budget is being spent, which is a stark contrast to the ideal 97% and last year’s 105%. The lower spending can be seen as a direct consequence of the staff and budget cuts. However, Hicks was also quick to recognize the many positive aspects of her program and the numerous improvements underway.

For one, the program’s customer service call center is being replaced by their caseworker system in which individuals are assigned a personal caseworker. Also, a new inter generation housing property containing 40 units will be a new addition to the community. These positive changes are harbingers of a brighter future for the public housing sector, and we have Hicks to thank for some of these changes. She served her community selflessly for 15 years but will now hand over the reign to Latweeta Smyers, a former New Orleans housing director of asset management. We wish both Hicks and Smyers luck in their future endeavors.

Scott Pollock of CMHA Public Housing spoke next and presented his periodic look at the Housing Authority. Pollock spoke on matters regarding the federal budget, current demographics of housing residents, and development activities. Of those development activities, one stood out in particular: RAD, the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. A voluntary program of HUD, RAD allows public housing and modern rehabilitation (Mod Rehab) properties to convert to long-term Section 8 rental assistance contracts. RAD, according to Pollock, is spearheading the future of public housing by generating funds the CMHA Public Housing program requires now that capital funding is in decline.

The capital fund is currently at $1.9 billion – a slight increase from last year but not quite sufficient nonetheless. In D.C., the House proposed budget of $4.4 billion was also unsatisfyingly lower compared to the President’s budget of $4.6 billion, highlighting further budget concerns for HUD with direct implications on Pollock’s program. On a brighter note, Pollock touched upon six new projects in the works, some of which include a cedar extension unit and a heritage view unit, both of which have been funded and approved. Pollock then briefed the rest of the group on the amendments of the 2014 Housing Agency plans and the future hearing to be held in July of this summer. He expressed hope for better quality housing and increased funding for the future.

Other notable updates in the meeting included a report on the proposed move of HUD Multifamily staff out of Ohio and a report on Troubled Properties. On a final note, all these changes and updates discussed at the meeting will surely have an impact on the community, and we hope that the members of the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance will continue their work to foster positive change. Please contact  Brian Davis at (216) 432-0540 for questions and suggestions about the meeting.

by Lora Zuo

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Next Week Monthly Affordable Housing Meeting

One of the most fragile groups because of the Sequestration and the fact that regular federal budgets are not passed is the public housing authorities around the United States.  We worry about how the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority in Cleveland is surviving with the unstable funding from the federal government.  They have taken hit after hit and forced to rely on reserves that have dwindled over the last five years to house the thousands of people waiting for affordable housing locally.  They have done everything they can to avoid evictions as a result of budget cuts, but it is a huge juggling act.  This next Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting is Monday December 2, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. in the lower level of the US Bank Building (1350 Euclid Ave. ) and will feature both sides of the CMHA programs.

We will feature Scott Pollock CMHA Public Housing to present his periodic look at the Housing Authority at the Monday CAHA meeting.  Pollock will update us on development activities, waiting list numbers, federal budget issues, and current demographics of those housed.  Priscilla Pointer Hicks of the Housing Choice Voucher Program will provide a periodic update on the Voucher Program including occupancy rates, waiting list, turnovers and the saturation into the suburbs.  Pointer Hicks will talk about federal budget projections and the impact on the local agency, and any trends with the voucher program. Finally, Ken Williamson of Senator Sherrod Brown’s office will take a few minutes to discuss the move of the Multifamily HUD unit to Detroit.  The Senator's office has done some work on this issue and would like to report.

All are welcome to attend to hear more about the Housing Authority. 

Brian Davis

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Flawed Number Released on Homeless Count

The biggest waste of money by the Department of Housing and Urban Development has to be the annual count of homeless people.  We always equate this with counting a gumball machine full of Skittles as you pour them out onto the floor.  The first question for both is "why?"  Why would you want to count the colorful Skittles while they are falling on to the floor and are still in motion?  And why would you count homeless people on one day as they traveled around the city?   The second question is how valid is a count in which untrained volunteers drive around trying to play this game of "is that guy a homeless guy sleeping or a pile of clothing?"  NEOCH never wastes its time with this silly undertaking in late January or February.  We do a count of the people sleeping in a small geographic area of the same streets in Cleveland on the same day every year to show the trend of number of people sleeping outside, but we certainly do not make the leap that this is a total count of the population.

The annual count figures were released by HUD this last week, and they show a decline in the United States on the number of homeless people.  The media reports never includes all the qualifications about the flawed data or how meticulous some communities are in the count (Cleveland) and how liberal they are in estimates in other communities (Los Angeles).  Cleveland/Cuyahoga County reported 2,100 people with zero families without shelter. We have to question that there were no families sleeping in cars over on the near West Side trying to avoid police detection. We also reported one of the lower rates of long term homeless in the country at 12.2%.  These are similar numbers as we had over the last three years, and is only a couple dozen above the total number of shelter beds in our community.  Assuming all beds are full and in fact some beds are used multiple times a night for the two largest shelters, the volunteer counters found only a few people outside in Cuyahoga County on that night. This does not match the spreadsheet we keep of homeless people who sleep outside in coordinating outreach workers.

It is hard to count people outside or in cars or in abandoned buildings.   In addition, these are not trained US Census workers doing the count or academics.  These are just volunteers who have an interest in maximizing the count to justify their jobs.   The media covers the story, but does not include any of the skeptics who can say that most of this information is junk. The Washington Post story on the decline in Veteran's homelessness down by 24%, but no mention about how bad the collection of the homeless data is by agencies that serve veterans in the United States.   I have read the report from the Department of Veterans Affairs contained in the HUD report, and can say that it is highly deceptive.  At least in the HUD report they are surveying the same facilities every year.  In the VA count, one third to one half of the facilities surveyed from 2010 are then just estimates in 2011.  This is useless information and there is no way to make a statement that the number of homeless veterans are down by 24% with so many variables.   This is truly picking a number out of the air and reporting it as fact.  

The only way that this data could ever be accurate is to:

  1. use data that is reliable like shelter bed usage or calls to the local first call for help number or kids who are declared homeless by the local school district.
  2. not use outdoor counts which are unreliable.
  3. find a new way to count homeless people in rural communities who never have enough beds to serve the population.
  4. have the data supervised by academics who can make accurate estimations using Census data.
  5. spend time and resources on representative cities, suburbs and rural communities and then make estimations on similar sized cities.
  6. develop some multiplier for total population designed by academics or limit the report to the shelter population because a physical count will never be accurate for a population that lives in the shadows.
  7. verify these numbers with on the ground secondary sources that do not have a vested interest in presenting a decline (government) or an increase in the numbers (advocates for expanded funding).

I never have understood why the media do not view these numbers with greater skepticism.  There is never a balance in these stories or a look behind the curtain.   No one ever reports that if HUD is reporting to Congress such flawed information, how do we expect them to oversee an end to homelessness?   How can they supervise affordable housing if they rely on such bad information from the field?  It is lazy for the media to report this information, and can only be seen as a reprint of a press release from the agency.

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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NLIHC Has a Good Summary of the Shut Down

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has done a good job of summarizing the impact of the shutdown on homeless and housing programs.   Locally, the HUD office is shut down and no staff will be attending the next CAHA meeting if the shutdown continues.  The next Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting is Monday October 7 in the lower level of the US Bank Building with Lou Tisler of Neighborhood Housing Services and Bill Whitney of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank.  Here are the comments from the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

On Monday September 30, Congress failed to provide FY14 funding for the federal government to operate, which caused the government to shut down beginning at midnight on October 1. The House refused to pass a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) and the Senate refused to pass a CR that made funding contingent on modifying the Affordable Care Act, leaving the two chambers at an impasse.

On September 27, HUD issued a contingency plan outlining the impact of a shutdown on HUD programs. HUD’s largest rental assistance programs, the Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, and Project-Based Rental Assistance programs, appear to have funding to continue normal operations through October, either through previously-obligated funding or advance appropriations. After October, HUD’s contingency plan is largely silent.  [We will check on the status of CMHA locally].

 HUD anticipates that approximately 400 employees will be classified as “excepted” from the shutdown and will continue working in order to perform duties for programs also “excepted” from the shutdown. The programs, or functions of programs, that have been deemed “excepted” from the shutdown will continue to operate. These include homeless assistance programs, the distribution of HUD block grants, and FHA insurance programs “where the failure to address issues result in a threat to safety of life and protection of property.”

 In its contingency plan, HUD outlined shutdown status for these major programs:  

 

  • Tenant-Based Rental Assistance. According to HUD’s plan, October’s Housing Assistance Payments and administrative fees will be disbursed but there are no payments beyond October scheduled to be disbursed at this time. HUD will not process requests for tenant protection vouchers for public housing or multifamily actions during the shutdown.
  • Project-Based Rental Assistance. HUD plans to draw on advanced appropriations to continue housing payments for project-based contracts for October. According to HUD’s plan, it will make some payments under Section 8 contracts, rent supplement, Section 236, and project rental assistance contracts (PRACs) where there is budget authority available from prior appropriations or recaptures. HUD will not process any Section 8 contract renewal or waiver requests during the shutdown.

  • Public Housing. Local public housing agencies (PHAs) are not federal government entities and thus will not shut down. But, PHAs receive significant federal funding and their hours and capacities may be impacted by the federal shutdown. HUD’s contingency plan predicts that most of the country’s 3,300 PHAs have the necessary funds to continue providing public housing assistance for the remainder of the month. However, depending on the length of the shutdown, some PHAs may not be able to maintain normal operations. HUD recommends that local PHAs be contacted for information as to their operating levels.

  • Homeless Assistance Grants. According to the contingency plan, HUD homeless assistance grants, including supportive housing for veterans and housing for people with AIDS, will continue to be funded “to protect against imminent threats to the safety of human life.”

  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program, CDBG. According to HUD’s plan, it will “continue to disburse CDBG, HOME funds, and other block grant funds in cases where failure to address issues result in a threat to safety of life and protection of property.” HUD’s plan indicates that “cities and states would not be able to receive additional CDBG funds,” but HUD will disburse CDBG, HOME, and other block grant funds that have already been appropriated, and competitive funds that have been awarded and are under grant agreement.

HUD’s contingency plan provides details on agency functions that will continue or will halt for additional HUD programs. View HUD’s contingency plan under “featured news” on HUD’s website: http://www.hud.gov.

Other programs that impact the lives of homeless people including the Social Security administration, non-medical Veteran's Affairs staff who work on processing benefits, some of the specialized welfare programs were only funded through September 30, and eventually Health and Human Services will not be able to process grants to local healthcare, treatment or mental health programs. 

Brian Davis

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CAHA Looks at Land Trusts on 9/9/2013

The next Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting is moved to September 9, 2013 because of Labor Day. This meeting we will look at the changes that are taking place with HUD locally and how this will impact Cleveland tenants living in HUD backed apartments, current landlords and even the CAHA meetings in the future.  We will also get a good overview of the Land Trust program (not the Land Bank program). 

Marge Misak, Land Trust Program Director at Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland. The presentation will include how the land trust works as a tool for meeting the affordable housing needs of area residents; as a tool for community reinvestment strategies; and as a tool for assuring long-term affordability.  The discussion will include NHSGC's current land trust development as well as engaging participants in a discussion of expanded use of the land trust tool in Cuyahoga County.

Moving HUD MultiFamily out of Ohio.  There is a plan that HUD Multifamily staff to Detroit.  What does this mean for CAHA?  What will this mean for oversight and changes in agency structure to better serve residents and owners of HUD Multifamily Housing in Cleveland and Ohio?  

The meeting is open to the public. It is a 1350 Euclid Ave. in the lower level of the US Bank Building at 1:30 p.m.   This is the 13th year of these meetings locally. 

Brian Davis

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