Norman Wolfe Passes Away Suddenly

The basis for all that we do at NEOCH is forgiveness.  In the United States, we do not value forgiveness and we punish some people for life.  Typically, those who cannot afford legal representation, people of color and the disabled repeatedly face barriers because of past mistakes.  In addition, we put such a stigma on people who become homeless, those with a disability, and re-entry folks that it is like they are walking around with a scarlet letter.  

Norman Wolfe was a quiet man who overcame a lot of these barriers in life. He made big mistakes in his past and he paid dearly.  He served the United States in the Navy, and fell all the way to the men's shelter in Cleveland.  I met Norman because he filed a grievance against mistreatment that he was receiving at a veteran's only bed at the shelter.  He was so angry over how the grievance process failed at the shelter that he kept pushing for the development of a Resident Council at the shelter.  Even after he was able to secure housing, he would attend the Resident Council meetings, take notes and push the shelter staff to respond. 

Norman was a regular at the Homeless Congress meetings and represented other homeless people on the NEOCH Board.  In 2015 and 2016, he was volunteering for Organize Ohio and the state budget folks called NOBLE.  Norman was the Master of Ceremony for an all day discussion of the NOBLE advocates in preparation for the 2015 state budget struggles.  He also helped organize the End Poverty Rally and March on the first day of the Republican Convention in July of 2016.   Norman was elected to the County Office of Homeless Services advisory board.  He walked with a cane, but many other homeless people leaned on him to protect their rights.  

NEOCH gave him the Advocate of the Year award in 2014 and wrote up an overview of his accomplishments here.  Norman was so helpful working to try to reform the shelter rules and regulations locally because he had experience with how these rules play out at midnight.  He was able to get in writing that shelters should not discharge people into the night for non-criminal activity. This reduced the number of times women would miss meals at the Community Women's shelter because they were in "time-out."   He visited Columbus to push for a fair state budget for those working to re-enter society and those struggling with their housing, and he helped push for reform of the women's shelter. 

Two pieces of unfinished business that Norman was passionate about in Cleveland that we hope someone will take up the struggle.  We were never able to get a fair grievance process locally within the shelters and social services.  Norman came to the Coalition originally because he could not find justice with regard to the mistreatment he received from VA staff working at the big shelter.  He always wanted to see an impartial third party grievance process started, but we never were able to get this accomplished. 

He also tried to convince the shelter that veterans in the shelter should not have non-vets come into their community at the big shelter to use a veteran's bed at night if the veteran is out for the night on a pass.  The problem is that the County requires every bed in the big shelter be full every night or they will not pay for overflow, so some of the beds are used multiply times a night with a change of sheets.  Guys go out to work at midnight or don't come back until dawn and so the shelter has to navigate this difficult choreography to have every bed full every night.  Norman was pushing that since the Vet Community at 2100 Lakeside are paid through a per diem contract with the federal government and not County funds and that vets are allowed to be away from the shelter for 48 hours and still maintain the bed, they should not have drunk guys or severely mentally ill filling a bed when they are away.  The problem is typically these one-night overflow guests are disruptive and can send a guy working on his sobriety over the edge.  Norman could never convince the shelter to keep the Veteran's community independent and free from outside destabilizing individuals.

Norman will be missed by many members of the Homeless Congress and his quiet voice will be silenced at the County Office of Homeless Services advisory. 

Brian Davis

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Post Script: Norman Wolfe's family has finalized his funeral arrangements & his obituary will be published soon. The viewing will be held at 12:30pm on Wednesday, August 16, followed by a funeral service at 1pm at Pernel Jones & Sons Funeral Home located at 7120 Cedar Avenue, Cleveland 44103. Norman will have a military burial at on Thursday, August 17 at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

NEOCH Board Announces Going Away Party

All are invited to the Breen Center at St. Ignatius on June 23 between 6 and 9 p.m. to say goodbye to the 22 year Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  The NEOCH Board of Trustees invite you to wish a fond farewell to Brian Davis for his 22 years of service to homeless people.  We are asking that you RSVP for this event. 

Transition Committee

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NEOCH Looking for Development/Public Relations Volunteers

The NEOCH Board has opened up some of their committees for volunteers to assist the agency.  We have two committees which we are looking for additional help and we have posted a job description on our website.  We have a nice board size right now, but we need additional help in fund raising and to create more visibility for the organization in Greater Cleveland.  We are looking for people who want to help dispel some of the myths about homelessness and have an ability to market the organization.  We are also looking for development experts who can help with our special events or want to write grants for the organization.  Some of the items that these committees have done in the past:

  • The Hand Up Gala
  • The pancake breakfast
  • The Post Card project
  • Regular press releases
  • Encouraging additional speaking engagements
  • Our on-line auction
  • Working to expand the Street Newspaper project.

We could use your help if you want to do some work behind the scenes to improve the local homeless coalition.  Check it out.

Brian Davis

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Strategic Plan Posted on our Website


Board Members gathered this summer to complete a strategic plan

This summer the Board and staff of the Coalition put together a plan for the next four years.  They gathered surveys from homeless people, advocates and members of the Coalition to develop priorities.  It was decided not to change the mission of the Coalition, and we set out some values for the Coalition to guide our planning.  Finally and most importantly, we set down five strategic objectives.  All of these are published on our website here.  Internally now staff will use these broad concepts to come up with specific goals for the agency.  We will figure out a way to accomplish these five strategic objectives. 


Strategic Objectives


  1. To provide strong governance in order to remain relevant, vibrant and stable.
  2. To improve and expand the funding sources in order to sustain and expand current operations.
  3. To advocate at the local, state and federal level while mobilizing people experiencing homelessness to achieve improvement in the community by preventing homelessness, reducing the time a household is without housing and ending homelessness.
  4. To become the premier organization in the State of Ohio working to protect, preserve, and expand the civil rights of people experiencing homelessness.
  5. To provide a venue for activists, social service providers and homeless people to organize and mobilize groups to support the NEOCH policy agenda, improve community understanding of homelessness, and expand the safety net services to homeless people, particularly with respect to woman with young children.

Let us know what you think?


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Marcia Leaving the Board

Our former Board and staff member, Marcia Bufford has left the city.  She was currently serving as Board Treasurer after retiring from three years as Board President.  She started out in 1997 as a volunteer with the Homeless Stand Down recruiting and training other volunteers. She then took a turn as an Americorps*VISTA with CTO and with NEOCH.  She did tenant and community organizing for the two organizations.  She leaves today for greener pastures in another state.  She could not find a job here after working with homeless people and children for over a decade. 

She goes to another community to work in a shelter working with families and children.  This leaves a big hole in our agency, and we will miss Marcia.  She has prided herself in good governance and maintaining our ethical integrity as an organization.  Cleveland has not been a good environment for Marcia.  She was shot in the throat back in 2007 and spent months in the intensive care unit at MetroHealth.  She has had a series of bad relationships with men who have left her worse then they found her.   And she has struggled finding a decent place to work in this community.   Marcia has worked for shelters, homeless service providers, children's agencies (both big and small), but has never found stable employement that could be a source of pride. 

Marcia was part of the leadership team during the economic downturn, and worked tirelessly to keep the organization in business.  She wanted to make sure that no matter what happened to NEOCH she did not want homeless people harmed.  Marcia and the other board members worked out a safe landing for all the services we were operating in the 2000s to other agencies.  She is passionate about solving homelessness.  Marcia desperately wanted to see a reduction in the number of people living poverty, and she has tried to dedicate her life to that goal.   Marcia is an expert on diversity training in the workplace, and is always sensitive to racial disparity issues.  She has spoken often of her sadness about seeing in nearly every American city great disparity in the number of African Americans who become homeless when compared to their proportion of the population. 

Both Board and staff wish Marcia the best in her new life.  We will miss her ability to be nice in the face of adversity or opposition.  She had an amazing ability to put on a positive face even when the agency was being unfairly targeted.  Marcia wanted to see the best in our society, but regularly had to deal with the worst.  She did a great job keeping the organization together during tough times.   We hope that she finds a better and more stable life in her next home community. 

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting Looks Toward 2014

Photo by Norman WolfeAt the NEOCH Annual Meeting last week approximately 30 people attended to enjoy Interim Executive Director Gino Scarselli's home made lasagna.  We have to thank Ohio City Pasta foPhoto by Norman Wolfer donating the pasta for the Annual Meeting.  The NEOCH Board gave out awards which can be seen elsewhere on the blog. Gino also gave an overview of all the work we did in 2012, and the important role the Coalition has in the community.  Every 2013 Board member was present at the meeting and they selected new officers for 2013 to include:

  • Roy Love as the new President of the Agency
  • Brenda Gray is the new Vice President of the Agency
  • Norman Wolfe is the new Secretary for the Corporation and
  • Marcia Bufford is the new Treasurer for NEOCH.

We were fortunate to have a number of social service providers attend including some previous Social Justice Advocates of the Year including Jim Schlecht, Toni Johnson, and Michelle Russell were present.  It was great that five members of the Homeless Congress attended the Annual Meeting, and a few of our members came to the meeting.  All the current staff were present including William the Golden Voice of NEOCH, Gloria our early morning smiling personality, and Larry Davis gave his view of serving homeless people at NEOCH.  The main purpose was to lawyout plans for 2013.  Marcia Bufford (pictured above with Jennifer Kocan receiving her volunteer of the year award) who was the Board President at the beginning of the meeting,  laid out the plans for the next year and talked about the importance of NEOCH in the community. 

"In the face of many non-profit organizations going out of business over the last five years in Cleveland, our primary obligation will be to manage the organization through these tough economic times.  The Board has outlined goals to stabilize the organization, find the funding for an Executive Director, and expand membership to include additional religious organizations, and charitable groups to sustain NEOCH.  We want to work to find funding to sustain the critical programs we oversee including the Street Card, the Memorial Day, Stand Down, outreach collaborative, and Homeless Congress.  We intend to do a better job of publicizing the work of the Coalition and expanding the number of supporting members.

Our primary advocacy agenda item for the next year is to improve the shelters so that there is oversight and an effective grievance procedure.

  1. We also intend to work to improve access to the ballot box for homeless voters.
  2. NEOCH will work to expand access to the Housing website in Ohio.
  3. We will continue to educate the public about the myths associated with homelessness especially through social media.
  4. NEOCH will continue to forward solutions to homelessness including the creation of a missing person’s database, a virtual furniture donation website, and an urban homesteading program"

Brian Davis

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Former NEOCH Board Member Dies

When NEOCH was a much bigger organization and we had a larger board, Tony Gaskins was a member of the Board.   Gaskins worked at Channel 5 WEWS TV as a local reporter when he was on the NEOCH Board.  He really cared about some of the stories he covered including the stories about lower income people.   He left Channel 5 in 2006 and left the board.  Gaskins most recently did Public Affairs work for the City of Cleveland Channel 20.  As a Board member, he helped us better frame our message as we were dealing with some advocacy issues in the mid 2000s. He also was a good sounding board to run problems by regarding homeless people's interaction with local government.  

According to WEWS TV, Gaskins died of a heart attack this morning.  The current NEOCH will express our condolences to his family.  He leaves behind a son. 

Brian Davis

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