Award Winners from Annual Meeting

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless gives out awards at our Annual Meeting every year.  On March 23, we recognized a few people who have provided outstanding services to homeless people in Greater Cleveland.  Roy Love is the Board President who presented all the awards.  It was a really nice crowd who showed their appreciation to the people who have helped improve the lives of homeless people.

2016 David Westcott Volunteer of the Year:

            Michael McGraw is recognized for outstanding work writing for the Homeless Street Chronicle newspaper and his regular volunteer work at the Homeless Stand Down. McGraw has helped with the Hand Up Gala and regularly attends NEOCH events.  McGraw is a true champion of the work of the Coalition and is always willing to help advance the mission. 

2016 Advocate of the Year:

            Joseph Mead is recognized for outstanding work representing the interests of homeless and low income people in Greater Cleveland.  Mead of Cleveland State University and the ACLU is recognized for outstanding work advancing the cause of civil liberties over the past year in protecting free speech on the sidewalks in Youngstown, Akron, and Cleveland; for his outstanding work to protect domestic violence victims against evictions in the suburbs of Cleveland, and his protection of homeless people sleeping outside in Akron. He has worked at the Justice Department and is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.

2016 Media Personality of the Year:

            Joe Pagonakis is recognized for outstanding work as a member of the fourth estate. He is identified as the WEWS TV 5 Troubleshooter, and has focused much attention on the poor conditions at the Community Women’s Shelter on Payne Avenue.  Pagonakis is a graduate of Ohio University and has spent his career down the street at WEWS TV.  Pagonakis is regularly putting a face on poverty with stories on human trafficking, housing struggles and the plight of homeless people.

Outstanding Achievements in Civil Rights:

            Brenda Gray served as a board member with NEOCH since 2009, Gray has provided leadership to the homeless community.  Gray is a lawyer specializing in juvenile justice, and volunteered with NEOCH to protect access to legal assistance for homeless people.  Her legal experience was invaluable to the NEOCH board of trustees and she has served as an officer for the Coalition in the past.  Gray was a strong advocate for an independent and healthy  advocacy organization that defended the right to vote and was dedicated to the protection of  individual liberties. 

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting: RSVP Today

Remember to sign up today to attend the Annual Meeting for NEOCH.  We will give out the following awards:

  • Media Person of the Year
  • Volunteer of the Year Award
  • Advocate of the Year
  • Civil Rights Champion for 2016.

We will also release our annual report and release information on our Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2020.

Hope that you can make it.

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting Announced

All are welcome to join us at our Annual Meeting for 2016 on March 23, 2017 at NEOCH.  Since we are serving food, we do ask that you RSVP for the meeting.  This is the yearly chance to celebrate social justice in the area of homelessness.  We recognize individuals who have done all they can to forward the cause of ending homelessness in Greater Cleveland.  We give out awards for civil rights, social justice, media, and volunteer of the year.  We look back on 2016 and we will solicit your input on our strategic plan for 2017 to 2020.  We also will release our Annual Report for 2016.  Please feel free to join us. 

Brian Davis

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Posted a Video to Celebrate 25 Years of Stand Down

Ken Payton holding the award from Handson NEO to celebrate 25 years of the Homeless Stand Down

We posted a video of the slide show at the Annual Meeting to celebrate 25 years of the Homeless Stand Down.  It shows all the different venues and partners that put on this amazing event every year. 


Brian Davis

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Annual Meeting for 2015










We released our Annual Report for 2015 on Thursday March 31, 2016 at the NEOCH Annual Meeting.  Kathy Rothenberg was the master of ceremony for this year and Jennifer Kocan gave an overview of the last year and provided a list of all of our accomplishments.  We were so fortunate that many of the Women staying in the Community Women's Shelter were able to attend the meeting.  It always makes the event special when people experiencing homelessness attend.

Professor Marilyn Mobley of CWRU gave a wonderful keynote address to those gathered.  She was so kind to give of her time and inspired the group to continue to push for social change in Cleveland.  We had a special look back at 25 years of the Homeless Stand Down in Cleveland with photos from the last quarter century (Trying to figure out how to post this slide show??).  We gave out a series of awards to recognize the people who contributed the most to improve the lives of homeless people.

Most Valuable Partner: Peter Schindler of the Community West Foundation (Top left)

Michelle Russell 2015 Advocate of the Year (Top right)

Abby Bova was named the 2015 Volunteer of the Year, but could not make the event since she was on vacation for spring break.  (We will have a longer narrative on each award winner in the next few days and when we post the NEOCH Annual Report.)

I was able to give a few projects that the Coalition is working on for 2016, the most important being helping homeless people to vote.  It was a really nice event and thanks to all the board members for their help.  Thanks to Jennifer for providing the food and thanks to the staff for helping to set up the room.  The board elected the same officers as last year, and thanked everyone for their support. It was a good event and we hope that you can attend next year.

Brian Davis

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Norman Wolfe: Advocate of the Year 2014

Norman Wolfe is a former member of the NEOCH Board and current member of the Homeless Congress.  He volunteers with NOBLE working on the Ohio State budget issues and their impact of those decisions on homelessness and those living in poverty.   Wolfe is a veteran of the US Navy and had previous experience with homelessness.  One of the most important programs of the Coalition that Wolfe worked to restart was the Resident Council at 2100 Lakeside.  He felt that this empowered the men at the shelter to confront senior staff about problems and work on resolution of those issues.

Wolfe pushed for the Resident Council to give residents a chance to voice their frustrations and not face the possibility of retaliation.  The meetings focus on solutions to improve the conditions within the shelter, and staff respond in writing to the concerns.  The resident council has resulted in improved training, staff changes and better movement throughout the shelter.  Wolfe has led a community discussion about the budget earlier this year and led protests, meetings and visits to the Statehouse with Organize!Ohio in 2014 for the struggle to expand Medicaid in Ohio. 

Norman was gracious about winning the Advocate of the Year award.  He said that it was unexpected, and he was honored to be selected.  He talked about the work he has done over the last year and he thanked all those from Organize!Ohio for coming out to support him.

Brian Davis

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Beau Hill: Social Service Provider of the Year

Beau Hill is the Coordinator of the Harbor Light Project and contact for homeless services within the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland. He is co-chair of the County Public Policy Committee of the Office of Homeless Services and oversees the shelters, detox, community corrections, and outreach headquartered in the Prospect Avenue facility.  Hill leads the effort to reduce human trafficking in Cleveland, and has assisted the County in improving the regulations of the local shelters. 

The biggest success over the last year was the posting of rules that prevent discharge from shelters in the evening unless there is criminal activity.  The other victory from 2014 was the financing of a new family shelter in Cleveland operated by Salvation Army.  This has been a dream of many, including Hill, for years to move the Zelma George shelter into their own brand new facility built to serve the unique needs of homeless families.  With funding from the State of Ohio and Cuyahoga County, the project was approved in 2014 to move the Salvation Army family shelter back into its own building behind Harbor Light.   For these reasons, NEOCH recognizes Beau Hill as the Homeless Social Service Provider of the Year.

 Hill was appreciative of the award and cited his religious belief as the reason he does this work.  He thanked the NEOCH Board for selecting him for this award which has not been given out since 2010. 

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting for 2014

NEOCH hosted our regular gathering of advocates as part of the agencies Annual Meeting for 2014 on April 1, 2015.  We gave out three awards this year to Beau Hill as the Social Service Advocate of the Year for 2014.  We have not given out this particular award since 2010.  We gave Demetrius Barnes, the Volunteer of the Year for 2014 and Norman Wolfe was awarded the Advocate of the Year.  We will have details of each in three separate posts.  We released our Annual Report or Community Benefit report and posted it on our website here.  Notice our attempt to stay relevant with modern Cleveland by utilizing "New Brown's Orange" as our color for this year.

Jennifer, the Board Treasurer provided an overview of some of our accomplishments from 2014 which are detailed in the Annual Report. We talked about the fantastic outreach coordination and the hiring of Denise and Tyrone, which has been a huge improvement in our outreach coordination for the agency.  We talked about the Socks Plus campaign and the huge number of donations that we gave out and continue to give out this winter/spring. I gave information about some of the projects we are working on for the next year. Larry did a really nice job in acting as the Master of Ceremony for the Annual Meeting. 

The highlight of the evening for the members who attended was the talk by Julian Rogers of Cleveland State University.  Rogers is a former County Council member and gave us a good summary of how we could improve our advocacy to be more effective.  He talked about:

  • Keep the campaigns simple (one to three items).  Everytime an elected official sees someone from NEOCH they should think about the advocacy campaign.
  • Get to know staff who might be willing to help.  Staff do so much of the work behind the scenes. 
  • Always look for opportunity to compromise.
  • Try partnering with diverse groups who might have similar interests but can strengthen your advocacy.
  • Make sure that the people affected by the issue take the lead in the advocacy.
  • Have a Plan B if your position is not getting much traction.
  • Have a good story about the dream that you want to see fulfilled and in the end this is what you want to see accomplished.
  • Open up the conversation to as many people as possible--don't focus on only one office or one elected office holder.
  • Try to move those who are reluctant to support your position.  How can we better position you for this particular issue or cause.
  • You must have data to support your position.
  • Highlight a specific issue that can be the focus of your campaign referenced turning the shelters into job centers.

The NEOCH Board elected new officers for the next year and thanked everyone for supporting the Coalition over the year. 

Brian Davis

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Upcoming Events for NEOCH

Hand Up Gala 2014The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has a number of events coming up in the future.  We hope that you can participate in a number of things going forward. 

Socks Plus Benefit

March 20 at 5 p.m. at the 78th St. Studio north of Detroit Ave. on the West Side Cleveland.  This will feature poetry and Lydia Bailey's photgraphy.  This was organized by the Community West Foundation and the proceeds will go to the Socks Plus campaign which has delivered boots, socks and winter clothing to hundreds in Cleveland.  We were able to help people into housing and convince people to come inside during the extreme cold. 

Housing 101

March 20 workshop is full so we have scheduled another one on May 15, 2015.  Same speakers and same price.  Similar materials and same time with 3 social work CEUs courtesy of the ADAMHS Board.  We have a page here to print out the flyer to reserve your spot.  We must receive payment in order to secure your place at this workshop.  It is a chance to learn more about homelessness and housing in the community. 

PSH/Outreach Teach In

March 26 at 6 p.m. at Winton on Lorain, we are having another forum on the importance of outreach to get people into housing.  We will also spotlight these beautiful buildings in our community.  We ask that you RSVP so we know how many packets to prepare.  Here are more details.

NEOCH Annual Meeting

April 1, 2015 is the NEOCH Annual meeting.  It is a time to look back at 2014 and give out awards for outstanding service to the homeless community.  There will be light meal and we will issue our annual report.  Again, we ask that you reserve a space at 216-432-0540.

Conflict Resolution/Mediation Training

NEOCH is partnering with the Cleveland Mediation Center to teach outreach teams, homeless people and others how to de-escalate and resolve conflicts peacefully.  This training is funded by the Community West Foundation and there are only 8 spaces left for this training which begins in April 9, 2015.  We need you to RSVP for this event.

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting Announced

All are invited to the NEOCH Annual meeting to give out awards for the last year.  We will have a light meal and talk about our plans for the next year.  We will present our annual report and talk about all of our accomplishments for 2014.  Please give us a call if you intend to attend.  We are still taking applications for the Ione Biggs Award for 2014 here.

Brian Davis

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Ione Biggs Award Nominations

NEOCH will host our Annual Meeting on April 1, 2015 at 6 pm as we look back at 2014 and look ahead to the next two years. As part of the meeting we give out awards including Volunteer of the Year and Advocate of the Year.  This year, we are taking nominations from the community for the Ione Biggs Award.  This award honors one of the pioneers in Cleveland in the area of Civil Rights and Women's rights.  Ms. Biggs was a big supporter of NEOCH and we remember her activism and her passion for social justice. 

We are taking nominations now through March 10, 2015 and a committee of friends and previous winners will pick the winner of the Ione Biggs Social Justice advocate for 2014.  We have set up a page of the previous five winners of the award here.  We have also set up a page on our website to submit a nominations electronically.  Or you can download a .pdf of the nominations form and circulate that to co-workers or complete it and send it in to us. Just click on one of the above blue text links to view the nomination form or the history of the award.

We also put together a page of previous award winners on our website, which has a history of the amazing work of advocates, volunteers and media who forwarded the social justice agenda of NEOCH. 

Brian Davis

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Award Winners from NEOCH

Photo by Norman Wolfe

The Board of Directors of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless presented the Advocate of the Year award to Eileen Kelly at the Annual Meeting on March 19.  We also gave the David Westcott Volunteer of the Year award to Kimberly Fischer for her outstanding work last year.  Eileen Kelly invited a number of St. Colman friends with her to the annual meeting to help celebrate her social justice award.   Kelly helped start the Identification Collaborative in Cleveland nearly 10 years ago, and they have served thousands.   Last year, Kelly did a great deal of work trying to get the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in protecting access to identification for homeless people.  This year the hard work begins of trying to raise enough funds to keep the project going. 

Eileen Kelly has worked to continue funding the identification collaboration.  The key to the success of the ID Collaborative has always been a focus on the advocacy piece associated with getting individual's identification.   The discussions with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles when they are trying to establish residency for homeless people.  There was a change in Social Security Administration procedures that made it more difficult to obtain a print out. The "print out" verifying that the individual has a social security number can be used to obtain a state ID which then allows the individual to receive new social security card.  Kelly led a delegation to confront the Social Security Administration at a meeting convened by Senator Sherrod Brown. It seems like such a small inconvenience when a housed person loses their identification, but for a homeless person it can mean the ticket to housing, a job and the ability to vote. 

We also gave an award to Kimberly Fischer, a recent student at Kent State University as the David Westcott Volunteer of the Year for 2013.  Fischer came to NEOCH a couple of times a week to help and she developed a close relationship with some of the vendors.  She helped vendors write their stories for the paper.  Fischer also helped with setting up two NEOCH Facebook pages and improved the NEOCH website.   While working on her health issues, she volunteered her time to help homeless people.  Fischer was not able to attend the ceremony, but was so appreciative of the award.  She made an impact on the agency and the staff and other volunteers who she worked with on various projects. 

You can see more on the 2013 Award Winners in our annual report.

Brian Davis

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Annual Report Posted on the Website

We had a really nice Annual Meeting on Wednesday night with a full house of over 40 people.  We were proud to give lifetime achievements to Maria Smith and retired Councilman Jay Westbrook as the 2012 and 2013 Ione Biggs Social Justice Award winners. Both graciously tried to find others who deserved the award more than they did, but we finally convinced each to accept the award.  It was nice that both knew Ms. Biggs before she passed away. 

We had some good food (thanks Jennifer) and around 40 people attended the Annual Meeting.  We had a number of members of the Homeless Congress and a couple of our friends from the social service sector. We have posted the NEOCH Community Benefit Report on our website now which details the awards that we presented on Wednesday.  It also gives a brief look at our finances and a history of the last year for the organization.   We gave an award to Eileen Kelly as Advocate of the Year and Kimberly Fischer as the 2013 Volunteer of the Year.  We will have details posted about all of our award winners.  We have added our strategic plan for the next three years to the Community Benefit Report (Annual Report).  We are also working on a web page that will detail all of our award winners from the past.   It is an incredible group of people and we need to remember the great work of all these individuals.

Brian Davis

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Still Room For You at the Annual Meeting

We have the awards ready for retired Councilman Jay Westbrook and Legal Aid Attorney Maria Smith.  We are giving out our Volunteer of the Year award as well as Advocate of the Year.  The first two award winners will receive the Ione Biggs Award for their lifetime of amazing work in the area of social justice.   Then we give out awards for 2013 and two outstanding individuals who went above and beyond last year. 

We will have a light meal and the release of our Annual Report.   All are welcome, but we ask that you Reserve your spot so we know how many people are going to attend.

March 19, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. is when the meal will start.  The program will start at 6 pm.  The Annual Meeting takes place at the NEOCH offices at 3631 Perkins Ave.

NEOCH Annual Meeting for 2013

We have not given out the Ione Biggs Award for a few years.  We typically gave them out during our annual fund raiser.  Since we are doing that event differently with the HandUp Gala, we have not really had a good venue to give out these Social Justice Awards.   This year, we decided that we need to give out this important award again.  We are going to recognize the long career of both Legal Aid lawyer Maria Smith and retired Councilman Jay Westbrook. 

All are welcome to attend the Annual Meeting.  We just ask that you RSVP.  There are other awards that we give out.  We will issue our annual report and we will talk about plans for 2014-15.  Hope that you can make it.

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting Coming in March

Mark your calendar for the NEOCH Annual Meeting on March 19, 2014.  We will give out awards, and look back on the last year.   The most important part of the Annual Meeting is to talk about the future.  This is a critical time for people in poverty and homelessness.  NEOCH wants to be a leader in this struggle. 

We will have a light meal, but ask that you RSVP for the meeting.  We will present our annual report and hope to once again give out the Ione Biggs award. 

Brian Davis

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Voting Champions for Homeless People

One of the most important things that NEOCH did in 2012 was our work registering homeless people and encouraging tPhoto by Norman Wolfhose individuals to step up to the ballot box to vote.  We have to recognize our main partner in this effort is Cuyahoga County.  The County is one of the only in the country that measures every shelter on how they encourage their residents to vote.  Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services has always made this a priority, and we certainly thank her for making this a priority issue.  We co-hosted a training in April 2012 with all the providers to discuss the proper procedure for registering and then assuring that voters actually show up to vote. 

Our other partner and 2011 Advocate of the Year was Subodh Chandra who is our attorney against the State of Ohio over voting procedure.  He was in court for much of 2012 to protect our agreement with the state regarding the identification procedure for in person voting and how those ballots were going to be counted.  The State and the current Secretary of State put every obstacle in place to reduce participation by the lowest income residents of Ohio. 

NEOCH did a ton of work, and we have to recognize Larry Davis for taking the lead on this effort.  He drove the van to shelters and apartments to encourage registrations and he picked up 220 people to take them over to vote.  I went to the big shelters every Friday to pick up registrations.  NEOCH staff collected 324 registrations from shelters and low income housing complexes.  We had 93% of the people that we registered actually showed up to vote because we sent them a number of reminder postcards/letters.  We found that all but 2 of the 301 people who voted asked for an early ballot.  So most voted by mail or went to the Board of Elections and voted.  An amazing 77% voted on the Saturday, Sunday, or Monday before the Election.  We also transported another 37 on Election Day in November. 

The NEOCH Board selected State Senator Nina Turner as our Advocate of the Year for 2012 for all her work in protecting access to the Ballot Box.  She attended every rally.  She became the face of the Obama lawsuit to allow weekend voting and regularly spoke about that in the media.  With a huge number of homeless voters that weekend, this was very important to our Coalition.  Senator Turner sponsored legislation that would have helped our clients vote, but that was defeated.  She attended a Homeless Congress meeting and the 2011 Candlelight Vigil.  For all these reasons, we selected Nina Turner as our Social Justice Advocate of the Year for 2012.

For the first time, NEOCH recognized a couple of agencies that went out of their way to help homeless people vote.  Nearly every shelter and Permanent Supportive Housing participated in voting activities.  There were two holdouts, but I think we have addressed that.  We recognized the staff at North Point Transitional Shelter which is administered by Mental Health Services, and staff Jeff Bricker.  The shelter registered over 30 new people during the summer, and had 45% of their residents vote during the Presidential Election. Jeff was regularly talking about the importance of voting and rallying the residents to participate.

Shindana Frazier (pictured above accepting the award from Marcia Bufford) from the Salvation Army Railton House Transitional Shelter led the effort among her staff in helping homeless people participate in Democracy.   Ms. Frazier and the staff helped register over 32 people in the summer and then worked to assure that the vans came over to the shelter to transport her residents to the Board of Elections.  She was regularly talking to the guys about voting and reminding them that it is easiest to vote early for homeless people.  Shindana Frazier led the staff effort to get her residents involved in voting by making sure that their registration is up to date. For these reasons we named Jeff Bricker of North Point Transitional and Shindana Frazier of the Salvation Army Railton House as Voting Champions for Homeless People in 2012.  All were presented awards at the Annual Meeting of NEOCH last week. 

 Brian Davis

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