Homelessness Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

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

Posts reflect the opinions of those who sign the entry.

Toledo Fighting over Homeless Funding

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is pushing an untested strategy of centralizing the intake on homeless people.  They are urging cities to undertake this system where everyone goes to the same place to be screened for the best path off the streets. Cleveland moved to a Central Intake model in 2008 for men, and in 2012 for families.  The shelters that receive public money must participate in the Central Intake.  The benefits are that shelters cannot screen people out who are hard to serve as they had done in the past.  The problem in Cleveland is that the Central Intake are in shelters which draws more people to shelter.   We have a full discussion about Central Intake on our member hub.  Basically, in Cleveland the system has worked for single males, but it has not been that successful for families.  In Columbus, they moved from a system similar to the Cleveland Central Intake to a phone based system which has also had issues.  It seems as though only Dayton has not struggled with Central Intake in Ohio.

The Toledo providers have rejected the introduction of Central Intake in a letter to the administration and the local organization that distributes all the federal homeless dollars.  The shelters do not believe that Rapid Rehousing and Centralized intake are an effective alternative to shelter.  The shelter directors object to everyone calling the United Way 211 telephone number to get access to shelter. There is also the concern that victims of domestic violence cannot be "rapidly rehoused"  The shelters have charged that the powers that be in Toledo want to "dismantle shelter programs."  Finally, they do not want their funding cut to support an unproven strategy in the community.  In the end, after the dispute was made public, the Council restored funding to the five shelters slated to be cut.  Toledo used an additional allocation from the Community Development Block Grant to restore funding similar to the amount received in 2012.  

The Toledo Blade wrote an editorial in May urging a compromise. The editorial board said, "the homelessness board has been rigid, and at times incorrect, in interpreting federal guidelines on so-called rapid rehousing."  One article pointed to the bombastic and authoritarian rule of Homelessness Board staff member, Deb Conklin, as the reason for the rift in Toledo.   Conklin pointed to the shelter directors stuck in the past and trying to do things the way they have been done in the past.  Conklin said that in a time of reduced funding, things had to change to move people out of homelessness faster.  On June 1, 2013 a new director of the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board was announced with Conklin retiring. 

Brian Davis