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.

Demetrius Barnes: Volunteer of the Year 2014

Roy Love, Demetrius Barnes, Larry Davis Annual Meeting held in 2015

Demetrius Barnes has volunteered with NEOCH for over 5 years.  She comes into the office almost everyday and is willing to help with anything.  Barnes does clerical, phone calls, filing and sorting of donations. If you attend one of the meetings at NEOCH, you have probably received a call from Ms. Barnes.   She lives in the MidTown area and wants to give back to her community.  Barnes has great hopes to use the skills she has learned at NEOCH to find a permanent job.  She has volunteered for her church and for the Bishop Cosgrove Center in the past, and attends the Homeless Congress and Hand Up Gala as well.

Ms. Barnes enjoyed the dinner at the annual meeting and felt the evening was very special. She was surprised that she won the volunteer of the year award.  She almost missed the event because she was nervous about attending.  We are so glad that she showed up and we are glad that she shows up everyday to help.

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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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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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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Award Winners for 2012

Photo by Norman Wolfe

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless held its annual meeting for 2012 this week.  It is a time to reflect on the past and look forward.  The Board sets an agenda for 2013 and elects a new group of officers.  The most important thing that we do is give out awards to people who have gone above and beyond to serve homeless people over the last year or provided a lifetime of service to the community. 

This year we recognized Senator Nina Turner as the advocate of the year.  Senator Turner helped poor people to vote by proposing legislation, demonstrating and assisting with lawsuits. She argued repeatedly that Ohioan need to vote on the weekend, and homeless people took advantage of the early voting in huge numbers.   She reallly went out of her way to protect access to the ballot box and for that reason we presented her as the 2012 Advocate of the Year.   Senator Turner could not attend because she was in a hearing in Columbus, but her father, Tallib Ilaahee, attended in her place.  He gave a brief inspirational speech about the value of voting to Cleveland (pictured above is Ilaahee and Board President Marcia Bufford).

Jeff Bricker formerly of North Point Transitional Shelter (pictured below) accepted the award as a Champion of Homeless Voting as did Shindana Frazier of the Salvation Army Railton House.  The staffs of these two facilities were acknowledged for their work.  We have a seperate entry about these folks.

Jennifer Kocan won the Volunteer of the Year award for her taking on the Interim Executive Director position while the organization reorganizes.  Jennifer worked to find funding and finding additional support in the community for the organization.  She worked to keep the organization functioning through the economic downturn. 

Grace Gamble, a high school student at Beaumont High School received our first Student Volunteer of the Year award for all her work on the 2012 Hands Up Gala. 

Finally, we recognized Larry Davis for his eight years of service to the Coalition including as a VISTA and a member of the Mature Services Senior re-training program. 

We have posted our Annual Report on our website here...

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting


Board President Marcia Bufford and Board member Michelle Russell from 2010The NEOCH Annual Meeting is next Wednesday March 20, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at NEOCH (3631 Perkins Ave. Cleveland 44114).  Typically, at the Annual NEOCH Meeting, we:

  • Release our Annual Report.
  • Update the community on our 2012 Accomplishments.
  • Talk to our constituents about our plans for the next year.
  • Present Awards to the Social Service Voting Champions.
  • Give out our Advocate of the Year award.
  • Give out our Volunteers of the Year awards.

We had hoped to have Senator Nina Turner at the event to present our voting awards, but it looks as though she will be in session in Columbus.  There will be a light meal served and we will be on the third floor of our offices on Perkins.   We ask that you reserve a space so that we know how many people will attend 216/432-0540. 

Brian Davis

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NEOCH Annual Meeting

Congratulations to Chandra and Stowe NEOCH Award Winners


The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless held its annual meeting on March 15, 2012.  We introduced our 2011 Annual Report which is available on our website here.  We also gave out awards and had a nice meal provided by the Board.   Subodh Chandra was recognized as the Advocate of the Year for all his work protecting the rights of homeless to vote in person.  The Board recognized Brent Stowe from Lakewood as the Volunteer of the Year for 2011 for his help in restarting the street newspaper locally.  Toni Johnson (pictured above), a long time friend of NEOCH, and current staff of the Veterans Administration gave a keynote address about all the changes taking place to end homelessness among veterans.  She talked about the unmet need of the families of veterans locally and nationally. 

Subodh Chandra was pulled away from the event for an emergency, but had done so much work over the last four years in representing the interests of homeless people against the State of Ohio's attempts to limit access to the ballot box.  He won a retraining order in 2006 and 2008 election to assure that ballots would be counted in a consistent manner throughout the State.  He did a great deal of work on a settlement signed in 2010 that will govern the 2012 Presidential election.  Chandra has always been supportive of uncomplicated access to voting in the United States as the cradle of democracy.

Brent Stowe (pictured on the right) works at American Greetings and is the man behind the Street Chronicle.  He is a great graphic designer and we could not do the paper without his help.  He has volunteered his time to dramatically improve the layout of the paper.  He quietly gets the job done quickly and efficiently.  Stowe graduated from Kent State University and has a background in graphics and artwork.  

The Board voted officers for the next year to include Marcia Bufford as President, Roy Love as Vice President, Michelle Russell as Treasurer, and Brenda Gray as Secretary.  We looked at the main programs that the Coalition worked on in 2011.  Marcia Bufford highlighted some of the goals the Coalition is working on for 2012 and beyond.  


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