Here is a Prime Example of Why Frontline is Not a Good Partner

This is the e-mail we received yesterday from Frontline Services:

Dear Colleagues-

Since our move to 1736 Superior, the Coordinated Intake program has operated 7 days a week from 8:00a to 8:00p.  Coordinated Intake, which is a collaboration of FrontLine Service and the Cleveland Mediation Center, has been working extremely hard with those we serve to effectively explore options to shelter and provide timely shelter placement.

This email is being sent to you because we are changing the days of on site operations.  Because of a recent funding gap, effective immediately, (NEOCH added underline for emphasis) our new hours of operation will be Monday through Friday, from 8:00a to 8:00p. We will no longer operate on site Saturdays and Sundays.

Saturdays and Sundays will follow our after-hour protocol. Single men and women seeking shelter will go to 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter or Norma Herr Women’s Center, respectively. Singles arriving at shelter during the weekend will be sent to Coordinated Intake on Monday for a complete intake and assessment.

Families seeking shelter will need to contact 2-1-1 who will link them with an on-call staff person. The on-call person will triage by phone and attempt to divert. If needed, they will meet at FrontLine Service to complete the intake and proceed to emergency shelter placement.

It is our hope that the need to discontinue on site weekend hours will not greatly impact service delivery. Please feel free to contact me.

-LaTonya-

Director, Emergency Housing Services

FrontLine Service, formerly MHS

No warning, no letting the outreach teams or churches who may be dropping off people over the weekend.  They did not let us know so we could update the Homeless Street Card.  They did not hold a discussion with all the partner agencies to talk about the pros and cons and alternatives.  We just had a County Homeless meeting last week and they could have warned us that this might be coming.  Funding does not change so dramatically that the largest homeless service provider in the community cannot take a few weeks to ease into this decision.  They are really bad partners to the rest of the small groups in the community who are providing referrals or trying to work on the issue of ending homelessness.  This will be fine in five years when Frontline Service takes over every charity in Cuyahoga County and we are all Frontline employees, but at this time the agency does not provide very good services to homeless people.

They do a really bad job overseeing the Women's Shelter and they are not really solid partner when they need multiple organizations working on the same page.  We have a bunch of questions about what we are supposed to do without Coordinated Intake on the weekend and no venue for getting answers.  Are they going to pay First Call for Help to take all these extra calls and spend all this extra time with homeless families?  How will we assure that we circle back to the men and women who became homeless on the weekend to make sure that they complete the Central Intake application?  Who will declare that we need to open an overflow site if many families show up this weekend needing help? Wish there was a partner who cared about the opinions of the rest of the Continuum or the County demanded that the shelters and services play nice with eachother.

Brian Davis

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Coordinated Intake Moving on February 24

From Frontline Services in Cleveland:

From NEOCH: For those who live outside or are resistant to go to shelter this is a big step forward.  This also should help with all the staff in one place so that when there are a lot of men the staff who traditionally serve women can step in to offer assistance.  We will be promoting this move over the next month and staff will be educating the public about this move at many upcoming meetings.  

Here is a copy of the flyer that you can print out and display

Brian Davis

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Updates on Laura's Home and Homeless Congress

We had new County Council Anthony Hairston as our guest at the Homeless Congress meeting this week.  As with most meetings of the Homeless Congress, there is a lot of anger within the homeless community over discharges and the treatment that they receive by the shelter system.  Hairston was good about patiently listening to his constituents and pledging to follow up on many of these issues. 

We did learn that there has been movement in the Laura's Home situation after the article appeared in the Plain Dealer.   Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services attended the meeting and indicated that there was a meeting last week between the County and the agency for which an agreement was drafted.  We are not sure if the agency, City Mission, is going to accept the agreement and we will post the results next week.  The agreement as described by the County was that they would allow homeless individuals to go to Laura's Home first, but they must report to Coordinated Intake within a week.  All current residents would be allow to go over to Coordinated Intake to complete the application for help and maintain their homeless status.  This is exactly what the Homeless Congress had requested way back in October before they were shut down by County Council member Yvonne Conwell (we posted the letter in our member HUB section).  Conwell blamed HUD policy for turning down their request.  I guess if a member of the big time Congress gets involved then HUD rules go out the door, but if their constituent working for the Homeless Congess they don't care.

Also at the meeting, we discussed problems at the Community Women's shelter including food issues, staff disrespect and threats of improper discharges.  Hairston listened patiently to all the problems and at the end vowed that he would work with the Congress, the shelter, and the Office of Homeless Services to resolve some of these issues. The lack of an effective grievance procedure in the community was a big topic of the meeting.  The Cleveland Mediation Center was contracted to do this service, but most in the homeless community do not consider CMC as an independent third party since they are a partner in the Coordinated Intake.   If you were forced into arbitration over a defective part in your GM car, would you accept that that a staff member of the Delphi corporation, a partner of GM in the construction of your car, would hear your concern?   This is what it is like for a homeless person except that CMC has no ability to overturn a decision by a shelter, and almost always the punishment has already happened. 

The members of Congress and NEOCH are working to improve the shelter regulations in our community.  Here are the current regulations.   One surprising issue that we have stumbled on was reporting of deaths within the shelters.  The County agency that funds all the shelters has refused to collect information on anyone who dies in the shelter.  Homeless people and advocates cannot believe that there is not a place that people can go to find information on how many homeless people died in the shelters in Cleveland.  Jails, nursing homes, hospitals, mental health facilities all have a protocol for notifying a funder or governmental agency about deaths.  Shelters do not have to complete a piece of paper that says that there was a death and the reason for the death.  Every death is reported to the Medical Examiner, but there is no paperwork prepared,  collected and provided to government by the staff at the place of death.  This seems strange that shelter staff do not have to report to the health department or the Office of Homeless Services about a death.  We discussed this issue with the Councilman Hairston.

Finally, we discussed the possibility of the County passing a law to protect homeless people using the shelters.  We want to put into law that the shelters will not turn people away, will construct a third party grievance procedure to arbitrate disputes.   Here are the big list that we had first proposed.  We have since paired it down to 15 recommendations that we would like to see passed into law.  We had worked with Councilman Julian Rogers who then took a job with CSU.  We are hoping that Councilman Hairston takes up the legislation and works with the Homeless Congress to improve the conditions in the shelters. 

Brian Davis

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HUD Rejects Our Complaint About Coordinated Intake

In April 2013, the County decided that anyone who does not go to the Coordinated Intake first would not be considered homeless and therefore not have access to the rest of the services in the community.  For men, you have to go to 2100 Lakeside shelter first before going to any other facility in the community for assistance with your homelessness.  Women and women with children must start their journey at the Norma Herr Center at 2227 Payne Ave.  If they go to one of the privately funded shelters in the community before going to Coordinated Intake, they lose their ability to access rental assistance, transitional housing or any other publicly funded homeless service.   So, if a woman goes to Laura's Home because she needs a place for her kids for the night and stays there for a month then she tries to get in something more stable the family would be told that they are not homeless and therefore do not have access to a transitional shelter or rental assistance.

We complained and the Homeless Congress complained to the County about this rule as being unfair because these women did not know the rules when they came to the shelter.  There should be a grandfathering of all the women who were in the shelter before the policy went into place at a minimum.   We also felt the policy is a direct attack on religiously based shelters that do not rely on taxpayers for support.  Why should a shelter that receives no public money force their clients to go to the County Coordinated intake first?  Why should these private religiously based shelters be forced to take women from the County intake system who may not be a good match for their facility?  If a Christian based shelter is paying the full price of the shelter, food and clothing, should they be forced to serve an unmarried couple or a woman who may need health or mental health assistance that the staff are not trained to offer?  There is no public money going to Laura's Home and they want the ability to serve the clients that would fit with the religious teachings that are part of the daily activity of the shelter.   It does not seem fair that if the women is living in a privately funded shelter, she should lose access to publicly funded services.  She paid her taxes and just because she did not know the rules of being homeless in Cleveland her family will have to spend extra time homeless. 

The County Council backed the County staff decision to exclude residents of Laura's Home, City Mission, St. Herman's and Maggie's Place from receiving publicly funded services and blamed the HUD policy for this decision. We wrote about this in our member section of the website (must login). Here is the response from the County (again in the member section of the website).  NEOCH then went to HUD to complain about this policy.  All we got back was this:

Outcome/Conclusion:   The Cuyahoga County CoC [Continuum of Care=federal funding grant recipient] coordinated assessment and central intake process is compliant to the requirements at 24 CFR 578.7 of the CoC Program interim rule.   Regarding the 3 women, the continuum’s action is substantiated by their central intake process.  

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or if I can be of assistance in the future.

Sincerely,

Tonya Proctor   

This is not going to go over well with conservative Congress members who often have strong support from religious organizations.   HUD is allowing this split between private shelters and publicly funded shelters at a time in which the federal government is cutting shelter funding.  They are allowing the County to treat those who go to privately funded shelters as second class citizens who are not entitled to the same tax supported services as the rest of the tax payers.  The City Mission has been a part of the homeless system in Cleveland for over 100 years.  I do not understand why County officials want to alienate the Mission?  They have been a part of our response locally whenever the shelters are full by providing overflow space.  They have offered shelters and transitional space for years, and now their clients are being scolded for going to the mission before Coordinated intake.  Even staying one night at Laura's Home before going to Coordinated Intake, they lose their status as a homeless person.  This is a horrible policy and County officials need to rethink this mistreatment of residents who are just trying to find a warm place to lay their head after being kicked out of their housing. 

Brian Davis

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At Least We Don't Live in Columbus Ohio

We have real problems with diversion as part of Central Intake mostly based on concerns of women at the shelter.   We do not believe that it is ever a good idea to return a woman to the place she was last night if there is a possibility that the women will experience domestic violence.   The County is following a trend in the United States to interview people and ask them where they slept last night, and then try to negotiate a place to stay with family, friends or landlord that is not in the shelters.  This is called Diversion and it is the latest trend out of Washington DC.  Over 20% of the people do not get a shelter bed and are relocated back to the community.   I am skeptical that a victim of domestic violence would tell a total stranger that she is being abused if she is embarrassed or ashamed that she has stayed with the abuser for an extended period of time.  We don't have clear rules for serving the population at the Central Intake site and there is not an established grievance procedure if the person is diverted improperly.  New York City advocates have pushed back and delayed implementation of the diversion program, but in Columbus, Ohio it is a nightmare. 

Columbus has a phone based system that the person seeking shelter calls in to get a bed. I talked to a guy, "Alex," who I trust to give me the real situation and his experience in trying to get shelter in Columbus.   He showed up at Friends of the Homeless and was told that he has to call to get a "reservation" instead.  So, they let him use the phone to call to get a bed.  He waited in their lobby on hold on the phone for an hour and half to get a bed before they kicked him to the street because he was on the phone too long.  He found another phone and called in finally reaching a human.  This person asked his name, social security number, date of birth and some other highly personal information to tell a total stranger on the phone.  They then asked him "Where did you spend last night?"   Alex said, "I am uncomfortable telling you where I slept last night."  The rude Central Intake staff told Alex, "Well, when you are comfortable talking about it call us back,"  and hung up the phone leaving Alex without a place to stay.   This whole process in Columbus just seems evil to me.  If Alex had been given a shelter bed there is also a time limit on the reservation, so if he does not get to the shelter in a timely manner the bed is given to someone else.  It is much easier to be dirty and devious on the phone than it is in person. 

That is why I say once again, "At least we don't live in Columbus Ohio.

Brian Davis

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Families Facing Issues with Central Intake

NEOCH staff are not big fans of Coordinated Intake for families.   We have written in our member section about the problems with families going to Laura's Home first.  We have talked about the confusion faced by many families who are diverted back to family or friends.  Now, we are seeing women with kids who show up later at night not having a place to sleep.  

We passed the summer with LMM staff picking up families and took them to the overflow site.   This system worked and we did not have to pay for expensive hotel rooms or see long waits for shelter.  This fall now that we have passed the time that we need overflow shelter, we are having problems with families that show up at 10 p.m. and all the beds in the county are taken.  This does not happen every night, but we have seen cases such as last weekend when there were women with kids waiting a very long time for a bed or not being able to find a bed at all.  There were seven kids in a facility not designed for children last Saturday because they had no where else to go.  

When the system became overwhelmed in New York City, the Central intake system became a deplorable holding center for homeless kids to the point that one child committed suicide after being sent back to the Department of Homeless Services Intake Center.   New York City is similar to Cleveland in that neither City is supposed to turn homeless families away from shelter.  The NYC shelter system is governed by lawsuit and Cleveland's shelters are governed by 20 years of practice and a contract.  To reform the intake center in NYC, the lawyers went back to court to get a decision that the City was in contempt of a 30 year old court decision.   In Cleveland, we can complain and hope that someone is listening with authority to help families at 10 p.m. on Saturdays. 

If we do not address this today when it is rare for a Mom to sit for six to eight hours for shelter or are turned away because there is no where to go, it is going to happen more frequently.  We need to set up a system in which a Mom and kids show up at 10 pm after every shelter bed is full and there will be an emergency plan to keep the family safe.  We cannot have seven young children sleeping in a home not equipped or licensed for sheltering kids anymore.  We don't want the Coordinated intake site to become an endless holding area for families and the stuff of nightmares for the kids that have to go there.

Brian Davis

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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

Calling on Religious Organizations for Help

Every summer for the past three years we have seen a sharp increase in families looking for housing assistance, and with cut backs at the federal level we expect similar numbers this summer. We have had innocent children by the hundreds who are requesting shelter with their parents.  Social service providers have struggled to meet this demand.  We have had families who had to have Dad go to one shelter while Mom goes with the children to another shelter or made the decision to temporarily relinquish custody of their children, because the shelters were so full.  The system has changed dramatically over the last few years with the development of a Central Intake system.  This allows every family to have an extensive intake done to plan out the best path back to stability tailored to the individual needs of each family. 

We are inviting Religious Leaders to a meeting on April 30, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at 1744 Payne Ave. (the MHS administrative offices) to discuss opportunities for collaboration.  NEOCH is planning this meeting with the largest homeless social service provider in our community, Mental Health Services.  Our goal is to figure out what resources religious groups can bring to the table.  We would like to explain the new referral system for obtaining a shelter bed, and we want you to hear from us what we kind of help we need to serve homeless families.  We also hope to share with you our strategy to meet the needs of the families who request shelter, and you can see if there are areas in which your volunteers or specialists can help.

If you need a copy of a flyer to distribute to your members call 216/432-0540 or email neoch (at) neoch (dot) org.   We ask that you reserve a spot for the April Family Homelessness meeting so that we will be able to configure the room with the proper number of chairs. We know that the religious leaders of Cleveland have a strong commitment toward social justice and hope that they will step forward to help homeless families. 

Brian Davis

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Veterans Street Card

We have published the updated Veterans Street Card this month.  With the new funding for ending homelessness among veterans a great deal has changed over the last year.  The new Veteran's Street Card includes the 1-800 number for those need help.  There is the new Family Services grant for Mental Health Services and the new Central Resource Center that opened for Veterans are all on the new Street Card.  Feel free to print out the Street Card and make as many copies as you want.   The Street Card has all the services available to veterans on one piece of paper.  It has bus routes to the facilities and gives an overview of the services at each facility.  

My staff and I got to tour the new Central Resource Center for the VA.  It is located at a newly renovated building at 7000 Euclid Ave.   The paint is still fresh and the furniture has yet to be broken in.   They have space for community groups to come in and consult with veterans.  The VA staff would prefer that newly homeless individuals start their path back to stability.  The facility is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and they encourage veterans and those who work with veterans to send them over if they need help.  All of the diverse programs that the Veterans Administration oversees from medical to treatment to employment assistance can all be accessed through this Center.   Even non VA funded projects that serve Veterans such as the Veterans Service Commission and VOA veterans programs can be found at the Center.  They are building their programming and their schedule for partners utilizing the site.   There are veterans meeting at the facility regularly and the place has not even been open one month. It is a nice entry point for those who gave a piece of their life to defend and protect the Constitution as a member of the US Military.  I would have liked to see a similar pleasant atmosphere for the non-veterans Central Intake site instead of locating it in a shelter as we have done in Cleveland, but the veterans have a really nice facility.

Brian Davis

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VA Cleveland Community Resource and Referral Center Open

 Two veterans, William and Larry, give out presents to homeless kids as part of the 2011 Toy Drive

The Veterans Administration announced the Cleveland Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC)  is now open.  They are located at 7000 Euclid Ave., Suite 202, in the Midtown neighborhood of Cleveland.  Their hours of operation are Monday-Friday 8:00 AM-8:00PM.   This is part of the VA initiative to end homelessness in the veterans population by 2015.  We applaud this great idea and welcome it for Cleveland.   We believe that having a central intake center separated from the shelters is the right way to go.  We believe that this will be a great addition to the struggle to end veterans homelessness. 

They provide outreach services to veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Their CRRC team consists of social workers, case managers, vocational rehab counselors, supportive employment (HVSEP) and a medical support assistant.  The CRRC philosophy is deeply rooted in collaboration with community partners who also serve our veterans.  The community partners are invited into the CRRC to meet with veterans or provide an educational session from budgeting to dealing with landlord tenant issues.   For homeless veterans where it is clinically appropriate, the CRRC offers washer/dryer and shower facilities to assist them in moving forward.   For a consult or to speak with someone from the CRRC call:   MAIN LINE (216) 391-0264.

Brian Davis

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Voting Activities 40 Days from the Deadline

Photo by Sabrina OtisThanks to Bishop Cosgrove Center, Family Promise, Y-Haven, North Star Re-Entry Drop In Center, Norma Herr Center for helping with voting this week. 

1. The Big News for this week is that the Coalition had another victory in court!!  In case you did not see in the Tuesday Plain Dealer, a federal judge sided with us ordering the state to issue a directive that the local boards of elections must count provisional ballots including those that were the result of poll worker error.  We are still encouraging homeless people to vote early, but those that do show up on election day without ID and are misdirected to the wrong table or directed to fill out the form incorrectly by the poll worker their ballot will still count.  The Secretary of State has vowed to appeal, but it is an important victory to assure that those we get to vote will likely have their vote count. 

2. With a little over one month left to register people to vote it is important that we all inquire with our clients that those we meet can receive mail at the place that they are registered.  The State is going to send a vote by mail registration to every voter in the next few weeks.  Those that come back in the mail will force the board to mark that voter as inactive and they could then have to vote with a provisional ballot in November.  So, people may feel that they are registered, but if they lost their house or were evicted they need to update their registration.  This is the first major election with Central Intake, which is a tremendous opportunity in the community to correct every single person’s registration.   Everyone that comes into Central Intake should fill out a form in these last 30 days to update their registration.  After October 9, they cannot correct their registration and will have to vote at the place that they were last registered.   But this is a unique opportunity to have everyone who becomes homeless in Cuyahoga County update their information so that they can participate in deciding who will be President, Senator, Ohio Supreme Court judge and federal representative.  We all have seen the attempts to suppress the votes of people without income to afford a birth certificate, minority voters who went to the polls to vote on the weekend with their churches, and minimum wage workers who cannot take off work to vote during the day but are skeptical of voting by mail.  We need your help to get these voters to register and to convince people that early voting or voting by mail is just as secure as election day voting. There are a ton of issues coming up that will have a huge impact on homeless people and the continued employment of those who serve homeless people.  The implementation of health care reform, possible block granting of homeless funding to the states to distribute those funds to other programs, or cuts to Medicaid or food stamps, or the fiscal cliff we are all facing at the end of the year with the federal budget will all be voted on in early 2013.  The bottom line is this is an important election and we need everyone to participate.

3. NEOCH believes that the best option for homeless people is to vote by mail.  Those voters will need to fill out the vote by mail application and send it to the Board.  You can get a copy of the vote by mail from the Cuyahoga Board of Election site or on our website:  /homeless-voting/ .  You can print these out and make copies of these forms for your clients.  If you turn these in with the registration you should staple the two forms together so that they do not get separated over at the board of elections. 

4. Finally, here are a few more details on that training that the Ohio Votes is hosting in Cleveland--September 11 at Trinity Cathedral. You can use the link below to sign up your staff for this training.  There are CEUs available to social workers.  http://www.nonprofitvote.org/voter-engagement-training-cleveland.html.

Brian Davis

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OCHA Updates

OCHA is the Ohio Coalition of Homeless Advocates and we meet periodically in Columbus to discuss issues that might be important to the other cities.  Typically, we have Dayton, Appalachia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo represented.  Here are a few updates from the meeting this week.

Cincinnati

The Anna Louise Inn Shelter has been fighting to expand and was delivered a set back on Friday in their dispute with Western and Southern Financial Services. Anna Louise Inn is a battered women's shelter and home for recovering prostitutes, and has a desperate need to expand after a century of service.  After being in the same location for over 100 years, the place needs renovation and expansion.  The Union Bethel parent non-profit had raised the $12.4 million for the renovation and the City of Cincinnati had approved the expansion.  Western and Southern sued to stop the expansion, and proposed buying the facility.  For some reason the judge remanded the City to start the rezoning process over on the renovation.  Staff at Union Bethel have committed to continue the struggle.  They are convinced that this will take place, but it will just take longer. 

The Cincinnati Coalition published a report on the State of Family Homelessness in Cincinnati.  All the stats and recommendation can be found here.

Columbus

The City is struggling with diversion issues and central intake for single adults.  They have moved to only allowing people into the single adult shelters exclusively by phone.  The Faith Mission had been the central intake site, but found it too difficult to oversee.  Now, if you want shelter in Columbus, you have to call a number similar to 211 and they will direct you to a shelter.  This is a new system, but it is presenting some challenges for those who do not have access to a phone.  Diversion has been in place for a couple of years, and has raised some concerns by the advocates. 

Cleveland

We have to congratulate Care Alliance in Cuyahoga County for receiving a national award to improve their clinics. This $5.5 million in federal health care support will improve the Public Housing clinics that the agency administers.  They are going to begin a $3 million capital campaign to complete the renovations.   Care Alliance is the Health Care for the Homeless in Cleveland.  They have a beautiful facility over on St. Clair with amazing dental facilities.  We rely on their help with homeless outreach, because they can send medical personel out to help people.  Care Alliance has done an amazing rebound since the days when they were shedding their programs and closing down outreach in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The current director, Francis and Linda before him have really moved the organization to a solid foundation.  This is great for Cleveland, and we hope that it will help them to be ready for the huge changes taking place in 2014 with the national health care reform. 

Brian Davis

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