Tuesday Night Meal Returns!!

I received a note from the Rescuing the Perishing group that they have a home again.  If you remember they were asked to move in December from behind Frontline Services main building on Payne Ave. out of an overly litigious concern by the agency.  (Lawyers ruin everything).  The City of Cleveland searched for a temporary location and found a lot next to the Women's Shelter for a couple of months.  This week Safety Director McGrath informed the group that they could use the old Third District headquarters at East 19th and Payne to feed people.  This is great news and a huge service to the population.  It provides a good meal to homeless people especially women and does not interfere with other business in the community.  There is not the access to restroom and running water like their was at Frontline, but it is better than one of the dark and abandoned parking lots in the area. 

Here is the note from Sue at Rescuing the Perishing:

We have a forever spot!  Safety Director Mike McGrath called my husband Jack last Tuesday and told us we can use the old Third District parking lot at E 19th and Payne Ave to feed our people on Tuesdays from 7:00-8:00.  What a relief! We were there last night and served 86 people. Not bad for a first time effort!  Thanks for your help!

Sue at Rescuing the Perishing

Brian Davis

Posts Reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


Homelessness in the National News

With the recent strings of police misconduct, it was sad to see police officers taunting a homeless person in Florida.

In some areas, city governments are taking steps, if minor, to limit the unjust actions taken by police against a large part of the population. Los Angeles is trying to increase police awareness about mental illness and de-escalation techniques. However, it is not going far enough, they need to account for how mental illnesses affect people when considered legal charges.  The LA Times takes a look at one mentally ill homeless woman caught in the legal system after being charged with assaulting a police officer.

Two St. Louis individuals are doing their own interesting take on the Food Truck craze. They are looking to create trucks with showers for homeless people to use.

Findings in San Jose show that many stereotypes of why people are continually homeless are very off-base. At one homeless healthcare program, 71% of the patients had brain impairment.  The sample size is small and will need further research to determine a definitive link.

To prevent homelessness, people need affordable housing. One Seattle study shows that a $100 increase in median rent corresponded to 15% increase in homeless population.  The study published in the Journal of Urban Studies showed that population growth and low vacancy rates also contributes to an increase in homelessness.

Stereotypes are countless when it comes to the homeless. This story provides an insight into what it is really like to be homeless and going to school. Many do not know the resources available to them and are afraid or ashamed to ask.  This is a first person account of being homeless in college.

Los Angeles recently announced a program to help homeless people clear minor citations and fines. This is a much needed step toward ending the criminalization of homelessness.  Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in June launching a one-time, statewide amnesty starting Oct. 1 to dismiss up to 80% of infraction-related debt and restore suspended driver's licenses.

In London, anti-homeless spikes have begun to pop up. One activist group could not stand the idea of this and built beds over these spikes.   There is a nice photo associated with this video story.

A study done in the United Kingdom has had results that show the longer someone is homeless the more costly that person becomes to society. The quicker homelessness is dealt with, or even prevented, the more money saved.

As Los Angeles houses more homeless people than any other city, the homeless crisis still increases. This article argues the issue is that no matter what LA does to combat homelessness the problem still remains that there is not nearly enough affordable housing.  This is an op-ed from a Los Angeles City Council member.

Faith-based groups speak out in San Antonio against ordinances that seek to criminalize generosity. Activists are saying that if you wish to feed a homeless person on the streets, you should be able to do so unabated. Local religious leaders were being ticketed for serving food to homeless people.

Non-profit organizations in New York City are providing homeless children a chance to attend a camp like every other kid.  During the summer, they provide children a chance to go to sleepaway camp sessions and to get away from the shelters.

One Atlanta initiative at the largest shelter in the South has homeless people planting urban, organic gardens to feed shelters. These gardens let the homeless individuals eat fresh food and obtain job skills. This is at the Metro Atlanta Task Force Shelter which has been under constant attack for the past 10 years by the City of Atlanta.

Evansville, Illinois is implementing a similar policy to Cleveland’s Coordinated Intake for homeless people. One of the biggest problems for the homeless if finding and understanding all the resources available. These policies give homeless people a central place that has the information to navigate all the services.

by Dan the Intern

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Articles in the News Around Homelessness

WEWS-TV 5 had a nice story on family homelessness and the overflow problems in Cleveland. We have had seven months of overflow shelter for families.  What month do we say this is no longer an overflow problem, but a lack of family bed problem.  We closed Continue Life earlier this year, and West Side Catholic reduced the number of transitional beds for family.  This is what happens when you cut back on beds available to families, you have to pay to transport and open up church basements for these emergencies.

The New York Times had a strange story about the feeding program.  I understand presenting a balanced story, but this is just strange.  The proponents of the law do not have any evidence or proof that feeding programs are "counterproductive."  It is one side saying that laws against feeding are morally bankrupt and lead to unnecessarily going to jail for purely innocent behavior while the other side is saying, "but we don't like to see poor people lining up to eat."

A positive story from Vox media about the decline in uninsured individuals in the Lesbian and Gay community.  Health insurance will also reduce homelessness in America when people aren't forced to decide between rent or medicine or food.  

The National Center on Family Homelessness has found that one in 30 children are homeless in America.  Since Ohio was right in the middle for the states around the national average, this would mean that 9,137 children were homeless in Cuyahoga County in 2013 and 88,323 were homeless in Ohio during the same time.   NCFH uses the Department of Education definition of homelessness which includes those sleeping in garages and friend's basements while they search for housing.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

National Updates for March 2014

New York City

The new police chief of New York City, Bill Bratton, has tripled the number of arrests for panhandling as was done in the first two months of 2012.  This is a crackdown on those who sit by the subway asking for change which is annoying, but these guys need the help.  I have never understood giving people who are down on their luck a ticket for begging for money.  This seems like kicking a man when he is down.  Do they allow these guys to beg for the fine that they will be charged for asking for help?   Unless you provide an alternative for these poor people it will only perpetuate the problem. 

Washington DC

As every city in the United States is struggling with family homelessness, Washington is in an especially complicated position that the Courts are demanding changes.   The Mayoral candidates are at least talking about homelessness and ways to increase access to housing in the Capital City.   The families were not being provided privacy and violates they were violating a city law to protect children.  Cleveland does not have a law similar to this DC law, but we have a 25 year history of not turning anyone away at the shelter door.  We try as hard as we can never to turn a family, a man, a child or anyone away.  Why would a fragile 47 year old with AIDS be any less important in the nation's capital than a child?  Why not offer anyone who needs help a shelter bed and not just children?

Extreme Weather on the East Coast 

I missed this story in February from Tell Me More about the extreme weather conditions.  We are so far out ahead of most other states in the United States.   We have operated three overflow sites this winter and nearly two thirds of the nights since November 15 have been extreme weather this winter.  I am so glad that Cleveland does not only open overflow shelters in the winter.  People are more likely to suffer hypothermia during a cold rain that they do not get warmed quickly.  The National Coalition for the Homeless has a report on their website about the responses to cold weather.  Some open their winter shelter if it is under 20 degrees while others wait until 10 degrees.  

Chicago, Illinois

There was a nice story this Friday on Storycorps about a homeless young person and their embarrassment over being homeless that appeared on NPR.  This was the story of a teacher who discovered one of her students had become homeless and did not have a family to take care of him.  They reunite after he has stabilized in foster care.

Nashville Tennessee

In a unique way to get around food restrictions, religious groups are asking for the freedom to give out food as part of their ministry.  This law tries to sway Tennessee legislators without mentioning hungry or homeless people.  They are strictly asking for religious liberty which should be attractive down in the South.  Many Southern states have enacted laws limiting when and where people can be fed, so the activists in Nashville are trying a novel approach. 

Brian Davis

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Food Can Kill the People Living Outside

State Rep. Marlene Anielski serves food at the 2013 Hand Up GalaAs many Americans sit down at Thanksgiving to break bread with family and friends, there are some who feel a sadness that everyone does not have the means for a feast in late November and so they want to volunteer to serve a meal to the "less fortunate."  There are thousands who reflect on the holiday and want to take a day to help the hungry.  Reservations to serve Thanksgiving meals are typically full in June of the year, and some of the big providers take reservations the previous year for this Thanksgiving.  Then there are those religious organizations who feel it is important to "minister" and serve those who stay outside.  This is a core belief for some to bring their understanding of God to people having a rough spot in their life with something warm to fill their stomachs.  

There are so many who call this month wanting to serve homeless people or want to take meals to people outside.  We understand this thinking and we know that this is how many religious communities expand their reach.  At the same time there are many cities cracking down on this activity such as Los Angeles and many Florida communities.  Before there is any misconceptions about what we have to say in this post, it must be clear that NEOCH is absolutely opposed to any government regulating any religious organization from "ministering to homeless or hungry people."   We have fought any attempt at legislation in Cleveland and in many of the Southern cities in the United States who try to restrict access to food.   NEOCH would love to see all food served inside in a manner respectful of the population, but we understand that many churches feel that enduring the weather is part of the experience of distributing the food.  It takes many back to a Biblical time with explicit directives from prophets and even God to serve the hungry.  We are clear that we will fight any attempt for government to restrict religious outreach or restrict access to food. 

In saying all that, there must be some responsibility among the churches and religious groups to not harm the people living outside.  Too much food or too much junk food can kill people.   We had a problem with volunteers wanting to come downtown to serve food only on Saturday or Sunday when there were a dozen other groups doing the same thing.  Fragile individuals with various health issues would hoard the food and eat it Wednesday when there was no meal in the downtown.  This food would spoil and rot without refrigeration and these guys would poison themselves.   We had rats attracted to the sites where this bounty of food was being served.  There were no bathrooms and not enough trash containers that created other issues.   There was no coordination; no clean up, and people were going to the hospital because of the poor food distribution.   Many of these mentally ill guys would throw away all the pasta or vegetables and keep only the Hostess cupcakes or sweets served with each of the 7 meals on Sunday.   They would be sick and would be getting very little nutrition from the food being served. I have no idea how the spiritual enrichment was going, but the food was killing people.

Again, it is inappropriate for government to jump in to regulate this situation, but the religious groups need to act more responsibly.   What we did in Cleveland to avoid legislation and avoid people dying was develop a "Covenant" for the groups.  They agree to coordinate schedules and move to a more appropriate place to serve the food.  The big issue was a large space with proper trash and a bathrooms available so people could wash up before they eat.   The churches got to continue to minister to people who are resistant to shelter or those who are hungry outdoors in an environment that they were comfortable.   The City got the groups to move away from the Public Square, but did not pass a law to restrict access to food.  Everyone got what they wanted and we do not see the issues we had in 2006.   The system is controlled and the church groups saw the potential harm they were causing.  They had not realized the health issues and chaos they were causing among social service providers and City leaders. 

Resist government restrictions, but don't close your eyes to the problems!  Spirtual outreach comes with some responsibilities. 

Brian Davis

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Food Bank Expanding to Increase Food Stamp Utilization

The Cleveland Foodbank Help Center is officially open.  They have four new full time staff dedicated to answering the phones, completing applications, and helping community members access a variety of nutrition based and other programs.  The rates of food stamp/SNAPS programs is relatively low considering how many people are eligible for the help.  This is especially true among those who leave shelter who we find only 68% of the families leaving shelter receive food stamps. These services are needed in the region. 

The Food Bank Program is able to direct anyone in their 6 county service area (Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Richland, and Ashland) to the pantry, hot meal, or produce distribution site that is closest to their home, through a quick phone call.  They are also able to complete applications OVER THE PHONE for benefits including Food Assistance (Food Stamps), Cash Assistance (Welfare), Medical, Utility, and other programs available through the Ohio Benefit Bank. 

This is the first location in Northeast Ohio to be able to help connect people to these program applications over the phone.  They have trained Benefit Counselors that can help walk a client through the whole process and help them understand and navigate the system.  There are more than 50,000 people in our community that are eligible for assistance and are using the benefits they deserve simply because they don’t know they are available.  The Food Bank staff take calls Monday through Friday from 10am- 4p.m.   This allows us to remove the barrier of transportation and help people navigate the difficult path of asking for assistance.   The Help Center Number 216-738-2067 or toll free at 1-855-738-2067.

The Food Bank can also send staff out to a location to talk to groups of clients/ staff directly about benefits that are available for them.  They can schedule a time to talk to staff at a meeting or a gathering of social workers.  They can pass out flyers or referral sheets about the services available.

For more information on the services go to the Food Bank's website or you can e-mail  Manager of Benefits Outreach, Jamie Sullivan at jsullivan (at) clevelandfoodbank (dot) org.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Homelessness in the News

Heat Wave has an Impact on Homeless and more homeless in shelter due to heat

Palm Beach TB Outbreak Covered Up

NPR covers Philly Food Ban

New York City: Homelessness Getting Worse

Rhode Island Passes Homeless Bill of Rights

Some homeless people are not good people

Heat and Homelessness

Extreme weather is always dangerous for those living outside.  Most people remember homeless people when Cleveland gets a big snow storm, and the media calls for more help.  But when temperatures reach over 100 degrees those outside are in nearly the same danger as those outside in January.  Dehydration can come on quickly.  The world starts spinning and the individual becomes disoriented, and can quickly pass out.  For those isolated and living alone, this can be deadly.  On Saturday, one of our vendors at the West Side Market, while selling the Street Chronicle, did not drink enough water and had to be taken home by a Good Samaritan.  If you are going downtown, bring an extra water bottle for the homeless guy you see.  Most have the good sense to be inside, but on the weekend it is harder to find air conditioned places open to seek shelter from the heat. When the County declares a shelter emergency, the facilities are not suppose to close during the day as is the custom.   I assume that this happened on Friday and Saturday. 

TB Outbreak in Homeless Community

A report from the Palm Beach Post today showed that in April the CDC reported a huge outbreak of individuals with tuberculosis in Jacksonville, Florida.  Public health officials were focused on their massive budget cuts that the Governor had just signed into law,and the closing of Health Departments in the state.  The spread of infectious disease in the homeless community is what keeps shelter providers up at night.  Since homeless people move around so much, any infectious disease can quickly move through a congregate living facility and infect thousands.  MetroHealth Hospital takes the lead in Cuyahoga County in overseeing infectious disease control.  From the article, it sounds as though because of budget cuts, Florida took their eye off the ball by not controlling TB outbreaks early with a protocol of vaccinating everyone who comes in contact with the infected individual.  The case went untreated for 18 months and some who came in contact with the individual later died.

Philadelphia "Helps" Homeless by Restricting Access to Food

We have discussed this before here in March. NPR did a story this week about the City of Philadelphia trying to restrict religious and other groups from distributing food outside.  Beware of the Mayor who only wants to help a population by passing laws that takes away their rights.  We have discussed how foolish this whole plan is to limit the core mission of many of these churches.  The law will not go into affect until a judge hears the challenges to the restrictions.  Here is the Mayor's take on limiting religious freedom:

"I believe that people, regardless of their station in life, should be able to actually sit down, at a table, to a meal inside, away from the heat and the cold, the rain and the snow, the vehicle exhaust and all the other distractions of everyday city life," said Mayor Michael Nutter to NPR.

I agree with the sentiment, but it is not the job of government to tell people where they can receive food.  This should be a non-profits job to strike a compromise that everyone can agree on as was done in Cleveland.  Check out the link to the agreement we fashioned in Cleveland. Everyone wants homeless people to be able to enjoy a nutritious meal, but they don't need the big stick of government spending time and resources beating up on churches or their congregants.

New York City Homelessness Increasing

This was from a month ago in the Huffington Post, but we missed it.  Wanted to call attention to it for a couple of reasons.  First, this is by an independent academic observer so it is not an advocate saying that the local homeless administration had failed.  Second, New York City was championed by the previous federal administration and the Bloomberg administration as being on track to end homelessness with a 10 year plan.  The previous InterAgency Council director made frequent trips to New York to heap praise on the Mayor for "solving homelessness" by building thousands of  permanent supportive housing units.  Many complained that federal cuts to mainstream programs like Public Housing and the voucher program was no way to "end homelessness,"  but very few were listening intoxicated by these beautiful new apartments for homeless people.  Now things are coming back to bite the administration who spent so much time on moving the "long term" homeless into housing they forgot to work on the family population.  There is no way to "solve homelessness" with big holes in the safety net, which only got bigger with the downturn in 2008.  We did not see an expansion of cash assistance, child care help, student loan forgiveness, employment training, and medicare expansion before 2014 in order to stabilize the families losing housing, jobs, health insurance, and prices of staples increasing.  It is no wonder that family homelessness is increasing in New York City and Cleveland and most American cities.

Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights

This is some great news out of the state of Rhode Island with the passage of the Homeless Bill of Rights.  We hope that this is the start of a trend to reverse 20 years of municipal actions making it illegal to be poor.  There were some items compromised out of the legislation, but it is a great start for the drive to create a kindler, gentler society.  The law protects people from using public spaces, equal treatment by government, and protects against discrimination by an employer because of a person's housing status.  The law makes it easier for homeless people to establish residency in order to vote, there are privacy rights guaranteed by law for those who use the shelters and services, and establish rights for those who sleep outside to some degree of privacy.

Homeless People are not all Good People

In Florida, a homeless guy was renting out houses to unsuspecting people who had no idea that they were paying rent to a "landlord" who did not have ownership of the property.   The homeless population are no different then the general population.  The vast majority of people are kind trustworthy people who are working to find a hand out of homelessness, but there are a few who are criminals looking for an easy score.  Just like the guy who raped an elderly woman at St. Clair Place in Cleveland, and was found hiding in the shelter down the street, there are some bad people among the vast majority of upstanding citizens.  When a neighbor is found to be a predator, it does not taint the whole street as bad.  When a homeless person is found to be a criminal hiding among the population, it should not make people uncomfortable around all homeless people.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Feeding Restrictions Sweep the Country

Both Philadelphia and New York City mayors have announced plans to restict access to food for hungry residents. The Philadelphia Mayor announced in mid March that he was going to try to restrict distribution of food in parks. New York City officials are restricting access to donated food to the shelters. Both these efforts will fail, and we know in Cleveland the pitfalls of trying to bring some order to the chaotic world of food distribution.
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