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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Award Winners at the Campaign to End Homelessness











NEOCH kicked off the Campaign to End Homelessness with a dinner on October 19 and as part of the evening, we gave out awards.  At the top is the award for Champion of Ending Homelessness for Paul Sherlock who is pictured with Roy Love the NEOCH Board President.  Sherlock is the Board President of Metanoia and is a long time volunteer on outreach.  Below is the 2015 Ione Biggs Award winner, Dr. Marcia Zashin who is pictured speaking as she accepted the award.  Zashin was given the award for her lifetime of work protecting the rights of homeless children to a quality education.  The bottom picture is the Biggs Family with Mayor Frank Jackson who won the award in 2006.  Ione Biggs daughter, who looks exactly like her Mom, flew in from Baltimore for the dinner.  They picked the winner this year for the award this year. You can check out the history of the Ione Biggs Award here.  

The other image is Sandhya Gupta as the Civil Rights Champion for 2016 for all her work on the voting lawsuit this year.  Gupta is an associate at the Chandra Law Firm and has represented us in our lawsuit against the State of Ohio to protect legitimate voters to have their ballots counted.  We will update the entire awards section of our website in the next week.

Brian Davis

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Awards A Part of the Campaign to End Homelessness

We will have music and a family who has struggled with homelessness will be a part of this event on October 19.  We will have a really nice dinner for those who attend, and we will give out awards to three outstanding advocates working to end homelessness locally.  We will give out the Ione Biggs Social Justice Award to Dr. Marcia Zashin and then an award to Paul Sherlock from the Metanoia Project and Sandhya Gupta of the Chandra Law Firm.  We ask that you RSVP to secure your seat.  St. Ignatius Breen Center at 2008 West 30th St. on Lorain Ave. 

Brian Davis

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Angelo Anderson Recognized by City of Cleveland

Angelo Anderson of 2100 Lakeside Shelter and Cleveland Street Chronicle

Angelo Anderson spent eight years living on the streets of Cleveland in the early 1990s, but turned his life around and used the next 25 years serving people who find themselves without housing.  He started the street newspaper, the Homeless Grapevine, first as a photocopied newsletter and then a real newspaper with the words of homeless people. 

Anderson worked to expand the Homeless Stand Down to include veterans and non-veteran homeless people. He has worked on housing people with a program called Bridging the Gap.  Anderson began working at the largest shelter in Ohio in 2000, and he has cooked, done catering and restaurant work.  His hobbies include fishing and he sometimes organizes outing for the guys at Lakeside shelter.  Angelo frequently speaks to church groups and school groups about homelessness and you can still find him on Saturdays selling the street newspaper at the West Side Market.

On February 26, 2016, the Community Relations Board and the City of Cleveland honored African Americans of note working in the City of Cleveland.  Mayor Frank Jackson was on hand and Blaine Griffin of the Department of Community Development.  Others of note working to serve low income individuals included Charles See of Community Re-Entry, Margaret Bernstein previously of the Plain Dealer and currently with WKYC-TV, Loretta Ferguson Freeman of No Return to the Streets that works with at-risk youth.  The committee recognized Celeste Terry of the United Black Fund and Latasha Watts of the Purple Project for her work with foster children locally.  Juvenile Court Judge Michael John Ryan was the keynote speaker, and there was a nice reception for the individual's honored.  The committee gave five $1,000 scholarships to Cleveland Metropolitan School District children going on to college as part of the celebration.

One strange piece of the celebration was the honor to Valerie Wright a sociologist from OSU who wrote a book entitled Could Quicker Executions Deter Homicides? The Relationship between Celerity, Capital Punishment, and Murder.  This seemed strange to me that a Black History Month celebration does not seem to recognize the history of executions of African Americans as a tool of terrorism.  Here is the description of the book from the LFB Literary Scholarly Publishing:

Wright examines whether waits for executions impact the deterrent value of capital punishment. She also seeks to determine whether race has a role in producing or inhibiting deterrence. She asks whether blacks and whites are equally responsive to how quickly executions are carried out, as well as, whether the effect of celerity varies with the race of the executed. Longer waits on death row are not related to murders. Indeed, executions and having individuals on death row may be contributing to higher rates of homicides. In states and years where there are no executions, homicides among blacks are about thirty-six percent lower, and in states and years without anyone on death row white homicide rates are about forty percent lower.

Am I wrong that the explosive title of this book and the premise of deterring crime through faster executions would not be something to celebrate by African Americans?  It just seems that executions in America are a racist form of punishment used disproportionately against African Americans and any discussion about the speed of those executions is beside the point.  I understand that this is a scholarly work that many have wondered about, but should an African American group give an award to an academic who studies this question?  Maybe the title of the book should have been, Execution is Obviously Racist, but Does it Deter Homicide? What do I know?  I am just a white guy, an outsider, observing all this. 

Congratulations Angelo on the recognition for the 25 years of work serving homeless people and the City Hall event was a nice wrap up of Black History month.

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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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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Ione Biggs Award Winner

Jay Westbrook and Maria Smith were honored by the Homeless Coalition as the 2013 and 2012 Ione Biggs Social Justice Award winners respectfully.  We presented them with a plaque that they can display on their office wall.  We also have a recognition plaque in the office with the engraved names of the previous winners. We keep Ione Biggs name alive in Cleveland with this Social Justice award, and each of the winners knew Ms. Biggs and were fans of her advocacy and dignity.

For those who do not know, Ione Biggs was one of the first female police officers in Ohio.  She had a long history of fighting for the rights of women especially women of color.  She was an anti-war activist.  She was a long time friend of NEOCH and regularly attended our demonstrations for improved conditions in the shelters.  Biggs was a member of the City Club and she was regularly asking leading questions to those who had to face her for the weekly lunch.   The Ione Biggs Social Justice Award is intended to highlight the life achievements of the recipient in the area of community service, public policy, access to justice, and equality that changed the lives of those who live in Greater Cleveland.  Previous winners include David Westcott, Gail Long and Frank Jackson. 

Maria Smith is an attorney at Legal Aid Society of Cleveland specializing in eviction prevention and she has a deep understanding of re-entry and benefit issues.   On the award that we gave to Maria Smith as the 2012 Biggs winner it said,

For a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the advancement of equality, civil rights, structural change, as well as increasing the opportunities of the politically, economically and socially disadvantaged in Greater Cleveland to obtain affordable housing or maintain existing housing. Smith has worked to create a society that can forgive and can provide equal access to its people.

Maria Smith has worked to keep people out of the homeless shelters and pushing an agenda to forgive those who have served their time.  She advocates for reducing barriers to affordable housing and broadening access to subsidized housing units.  Smith works on a daily basis to prevent improper evictions.  She has co-chaired the County Re-Entry Task Force, which has created greater opportunities for those attempting to re-integrate into society and find stability. Smith has made a long career in arguing against spending US tax dollars on death and war arguing for allowing tax payers to direct public dollars to peace and human services.  We congratualate Maria Smith for the decades of service to Cleveland, homeless people and creating a just society.

We also recognized retired Councilman Jay Westbrook of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.  Here is the inscription on Westbrook's award:

For a distinguished career serving the people of Cleveland and assisting the economically and socially disadvantaged to access federal resources and maintaining a safe place to live in our community. He provided honorable service to those struggling with housing and living in poverty attempting to work toward a more just society.

Westbrook was one of the leaders of the strategic plan that led to the creation of the County Office of Homeless Services in the early 1990s.   He has worked to preserve and expand affordable housing in Cleveland, and was always a friend to the Homeless Coalition.  Westbrook was railing against the financial services industry for raping the Cleveland neigbhorhoods years before the tidal wave of foreclosures.  He helped try to pass legislation to protect the neighborhood which were all challenged by the banks and mortgage servicers.  Westbrook as City Council President and member of the leadership team on City Council maintained universal access to shelter for the last 25 years.  We believe this policy has saved the lives of thousands of people locally.  We congratuate Jay Westbrook as the 2013 Ione Biggs Social Justice award winner.

Brian Davis

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