Cleveland Schools Received No Funding from Competitive Grant For Homeless Kids in Ohio


We were notified that the Cleveland Municipal School District would not receive any funds this year from the competitive funding program for homeless children.  This is nearly one third of their total allocation from the State of Ohio to serve homeless children in the district who become homeless during the school year.  Obviously, these funds are not divided by need since Toledo received $0 in 2017 and now Cleveland will get $0 in 2018.  Lorain City Schools also is not going to receive any funds this year.  I could not find the figures for how many homeless children were in each district, but Cleveland saw over 3,000 kids in the district in 2016. We also know that homeless families are on the rise in Cleveland with long waits in the overflow shelter while a bed opens up in the three remaining family shelters. 

In case you do not know, the Cleveland Municipal School District Project ACT program is over 25 years old and will do whatever it takes to get a homeless child back into school as soon as possible.  They help with transportation, uniforms, identification, tutors, and advocacy to make sure that all the children experiencing homelessness do not fall behind.  They visit all the shelters to see if there are any homeless children that are not getting help, and they will work with the surrounding district to make sure that if the child is homeless from Parma they can return to that district to complete their studies for the year.  Project ACT provides tutors to keep the kids at grade level.  So, if their entire home life evaporates at least their school life is preserved and often enhanced with Project ACT. 

The State of Ohio said that they did not fill out a very good grant this year, and obviously Parma did a better job.  Well, I would ask the State officials to come up here and get 3,000 kids back to school quickly and try to keep those kids at grade level while also filling out some stupid grant request.  Why isn't this need based?  Cleveland has to have the first or second highest number of homeless kids in the state.  We should get this money just because we take care of so many kids.  I guess we will have to figure out a transportation system to Toledo and Parma for all our homeless kids in the district since they got the Cleveland money this year. 

Brian Davis

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Post Script:

Replying to 

We will continue to support our students through other resources while we address this with ODE. There will be NO reductions in service!

Thanks to Project ACT Children and Youth Program

I love the Homeless Children and Youth Program at the Cleveland Public Schools. It is a model program that works to get a child back into school as soon as possible after their housing falls apart.  They also provide wrap around services to help a child during their homelessness to help them stay at grade level when their home life is in chaos.   I have worked with Dr. Marcia Zashin of Project ACT for 23 years. 

In fact, NEOCH would probably be out of business if it were not for Project ACT.  When I started at NEOCH, the organization had no staff and was basically only publishing the street newspaper, the Homeless Grapevine.  I was volunteering to keep the paper going while bartending at night.  Dr. Zashin had worked with the previous director to apply for an AmeriCorps*VISTA program for NEOCH and the school district.  Our request was granted and we had to find a place for 11 VISTAs to be divided between the two agencies.  It was too difficult for a huge organization like the school district to handle the administrative burden of working with the federal government, so NEOCH was the lead.  Spencer Wells at the Cleveland Tenants Organization took over NEOCH and hired me to administer the Coalition.  We went from all volunteers to five full time staff working on homeless issues. 

We had to restart the public education, advocacy, training, Street Card, street voices, and anything else these new college graduates who were AmeriCorps*VISTAs wanted to work on.  They did some nice work on investigative stories in the paper, and began to go to the shelters to hear about the horrible conditions.  The other VISTAs stationed over at Project ACT helped expand the Cleveland Public Schools tutoring program, set up a hotline and worked to provide care packages for the families who are experiencing homelessness.  The VISTA's working over at Project ACT set up these great partnerships with artistic organizations so families living in the shelters could go visit the Playhouse or Near West Theatre to participate in art projects.

This partnership blossomed statewide so we were eventually working with every large school district in Ohio.  The programs all expanded and did some great work in the 1990s and early 2000s until VISTA decided that we would have to pay for the VISTAs (time limits).  Instead of focusing on the good work that the VISTAs were doing in Ohio, federal officials focused on how long the program had been at an agency.  We were changing their goals and the VISTAs turned over every year, but the Corporation for National Service decided to give this resource to some other group in the community.  This does not build loyalty for the program, which now that VISTA is on the chopping block it is going to be hard to get groups to rally around the VISTA federal program. 

The NEOCH board saw the value of the organization because we had four staff working on things in Cleveland with our partnership with Project ACT as we stabilized.  The VISTAs were working on creating programs to reduce poverty locally.  The VISTAs spent their time on starting programs like Voice Mail, Bridging the Gap, Homeless Legal Assistance, expanding the paper and various art projects.  They contributed so much to homeless people living in Cleveland, and much of it had to do with Project ACT.  We gave Dr. Zashin the Ione Biggs Award last year for her decades of service in Cleveland.  The other great thing about the Homeless Children and Youth program is that they have great about keeping track of the homeless kids.   They have a much broader definition of homelessness, and so if you do not have a place to live the schools consider you homeless.  In the rest of the system, if you can answer 13 questions and did not just get out of jail, you are homeless.  There is no confusion in the schools. 

Thanks for the appreciation, but I appreciate Project ACT as well.

Brian Davis

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Many Updates in Our Research/Statistics Section

As the graphs suggest, the total percentage of population living in poverty did decrease in 2014 in both the state of Ohio and in Cuyahoga County. There is also a consistent decrease in the number of estimated homeless people at a state and a county level-from 23,512 individuals to 21,512 in the county (a percent change of -7%). At a state level, a decrease from 148,250 individuals in 2013 to approximately 109,649 individuals in 2014 (a percent change of -26%).

It’s not surprising that the number of homeless individuals has decreased, as we based our calculations off of both the total population and the % of that total population living in poverty, and both numbers have decreased (reflecting overall trends in census data in the Northeast Ohio region). What remains an interesting finding in the state level data in regards to % of those living in poverty and estimated homeless individuals in 2008 and 2009, is that it does not reflect the trends we saw in Cuyahoga County. This could be explained by many factors, most significantly perhaps, the housing crisis that hit Cuyahoga County especially hard: see this link here for more information on foreclosures compared to other counties in the state of Ohio.

Although the data suggests that things are getting better, it’s important to recognize that the percentage of individuals living in poverty remains consistently higher in Cuyahoga County compared to the rest of the state. It is imperative that we identify how we can best break the cycle of poverty before it continues to cause homelessness in our community. Prevention is key, and we must continue to work together with advocates, business owners, nonprofits and community stakeholders to address homelessness in Cuyahoga County. 21,512 is far too many individuals to be without stable and decent shelter in our community. You can see the 2014 data that this analysis is based off of here.

Links to Overall Poverty/Homelessness Data for all Previous Years is Below:

Project Act in CMSD School’s: Measuring Progress

Project Act is a program for homeless children through CMSD to address children who are experiencing homelessness, staying in emergency shelters, staying with friends or family because of the loss of housing or due to economic hardship (Project Act). This program offers direct instructional support as well as access to support programs-this year alone, 2,646 children are experiencing homelessness.

A large part of this initiative is measuring just how many children are experiencing these unstable housing situations or homelessness in the district, and what those children who are experiencing homelessness look like. This year the program found that over 2,646 children in our community are experiencing these conditions. Although, a significant reduction from 4,048 the approximate number of children experiencing the same conditions during the 2014-2015 year (1402 less individuals experiencing homelessness or similar unstable situations). This is a percent change of -34.63%, which is an encouraging statistic, although all is well when you really analyze the data and find the disparities of those who are experiencing childhood homelessness or other strained housing situations.

What we found in this year’s data:

It is concerning that 13.8% of the population experiencing these conditions are five or under. Even more horrifying is the disparity that exists among racial lines within the district. With 83.4% of the population experiencing these conditions being African American-while just 6.5% are white children, which happens to be the second largest group represented in the total 2,646 number. If you look at the numbers by Homeless Codes, you will see that by far the largest group represented are children who are doubled-up with friends or family-representing approximately 67.6% of living situations that these children are experiencing. The second largest represented category are children living in homeless shelters, or 20.6% of the measured total population.

Last year’s data:

As mentioned previously, the total population of children experiencing some form of homelessness during last year was 4,048. Children under the age of five, represented 13.4% of the total population of children experiencing homelessness. African American children still represented the largest population represented, at 81.4% of the measured population, white children still comprised the second largest part of the population at 8.8%. When we analyze the data by homeless codes, we see that 70% of the children experiencing homelessness were doubled up followed by 16% of the population in homeless shelters.

Measuring Progress or lack thereof?

Although, there was an overall reduction in the number of youth and children experiencing homelessness reported in the 2015-2016 year, it is important to note that disparities continued to grow within the youth population experiencing homelessness. Younger children still continue to experience the highest levels of homelessness, and African American youth are still disproportionately impacted by housing instability. To see the numbers for yourself, you can follow this link for this year’s numbers and learn more about the Project Act Program here. Just as it is important to not recognize changes and decreases in the data as actual progress, it is paramount that we keep a critical eye on the above figures, and continue to work towards an overall reduction in homelessness.

by Katy Carpenter

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School Liaisons Updated on the NEOCH Website

Every year thousands of families struggle with homelessness.  “According to National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth,  ( 1,360,747 homeless students were reported enrolled by U.S. public schools in the 2013-2014 school year. In Cleveland, there were 4,048 homeless students in 2014-2015.  This is the highest number in the districts history despite a 25% decline in enrollment in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District since 2000. Statistics show that the percentage of homeless children in Ohio who graduate is less than 25% according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.  Education of today’s children plays an important roll in preventing homelessness.

The McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act* is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. McKinney-Vento provides federal funding to states for the purpose of supporting district programs that serve homeless students. The purpose of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth Program is to ensure that all children and youth have equal access to the same free and appropriate public education, including preschool education as non-homeless children and youth.

State and local educational agencies are required to develop, review and revise policies to remove barriers to the enrollment, attendance and success in school that homeless children and youth may experience. Local educational agencies must also provide homeless children and youth with the opportunity to meet the same challenging state content and state student performance standards to which all students are held. The goal is to get students back into school quickly after their family becomes homeless.  They also strive to provide tutors to keep students at their grade level.

Every LEA (Local Educational Agencies, otherwise known as school districts) must designate an appropriate staff person as a local homeless education liaison. Each school district in Ohio has a liaison which makes sure the McKinney-Vento Act is implemented for the district’s homeless children.  Below is a list of the liaisons for each of Cuyahoga County’s Public School Districts 2015-2016.  Each liaison can help with clothing, uniforms, student fees, school supplies, birth certificates, immunizations, medical and dental services, etc.  One student that a NEOCH staff member works with is very excited to know that help is available for her present homeless situation.  Her goal is to graduate from high school and get a secondary education but she did not know that there was so much help available through her school district. Please contact the liaison from the list below to find help.  You can also contact NEOCH offices at (216) 432-0540 for help if your child is in a school that is not listed below.

*Here is a link to the McKinney-Vento act at a glance which explains the definitions of homelessness and how each liaison serves their homeless children:

by Denise Toth

Opinions reflected are those of the author

A Beautiful Idealist Speaks to the City Club

What a contrast between the City Club from one Friday forum to the next.  Friday May 22, they had the elegant idealist, Marian Wright Edelman who was carrying on the King Legacy then the next week featured the distorter of the King Legacy, Jason Riley of the Manhattan Institute and Fox News.  He took statistics out of context to fit a conservative political agenda with a message that seemed to be, "Why don't African Americans criticize other African Americans more?"  Riley built an elaborate philosophy around his theory that blacks were better off when they were oppressed and faced open racism in the 1930s to the 1960s before government started meddling. His conservative slant on society seemed to blossom  because his young niece innocently commented on his academic way of speaking.  There was so much wrong with Riley's premise, his facts, his assumptions and his lack of recommendations that I would prefer to focus on the more responsive, hopeful and practical speech of Marian Wright Edelman. 

Edelman as President of the Children's Defense Fund focused on the reality of life in America with the second highest childhood poverty rate in the industrial world.  She seemed to be dealing in the real world on the streets of Cedar or Kinsman and not the world seen from the newsrooms of CNN or the Wall Street Journal.  She gave some tangible and factual solutions to turn around what she characterized as the "moral disgrace" of child poverty with the promotion of their "Leave No Child Behind" strategy.  She characterized childhood poverty as the "greatest threat to our security" facing our nation, and provided real practical public policy that could reduce poverty.   She wanted to see real solutions for the 6.5 million kids facing extreme poverty with a big focus on housing stability (huge increase in housing vouchers) which appealed to me, of course.  Wright Edelman focused on the poor communities such as Cleveland and Baltimore where 1 in 2 minority kids are poor.  She pushed for more access to jobs that pay a fair wage in communities where people live.  She put a figure on solving this problem of childhood poverty in the US at $77.2 Billion.

Ms. Wright Edelman is an amazing woman who helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr with the Poor People's Campaign in 1968.  After his assassination, Edelman could have curled up and retreated to academia giving up on social activism.  Instead, she focused her attention on lifting up children and becoming one of their loudest and most effective advocates for kids in the United States.  Wright Edelman urges more government involvement in ending childhood poverty and more resources (taxes) going to this problem.  She said, "We don't have a money problem, we have a morality problem."  

Specifics that were included in the Wright Edelman presentation included more taxes for the wealthy, more estate taxes and helping teachers make more money while CEOs make less money.  She stressed the need to "reorder our national values and national priorities" to reflect children as a the first priority. It was especially encouraging to hear her focus on not leaving any child behind including homeless kids, those in foster care and those born into the toughest environment.   Both Riley and Edelman quoted Martin Luther King Jr. with Wright Edelman wanting to speak up for children and hold officials accountable.  The most attractive aspect of the speech were the specific examples of how to child advocacy turns around the lives of individuals.  Edelman talked about specific examples of young people who were successful after graduating from classes in the juvenile detention center or various enrichment activities that are successful for pre-school kids.  She showed some examples of civic minded adults who came out of the foster care system or benefited from the freedom schools. 

The Wright Edelman speech was an inspirational speech to give advocates their marching orders: focus on lifting up children and we will see an improvement in the quality of life for all.  The Riley speech was annoying and just made me uncomfortable that there was not a rebuttal speech given at the same time by Zach or Amy from Policy Matters to provide context and proper framing for the statistics given.  I guess that is what defines the "Citadel of free speech": even the propagandist for libertarian ideas deserves a turn at the microphone.   I really enjoyed the Wright Edelman speech and would encourage listening or watching it on the City Club website.

Brian Davis

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Project ACT/City Music Conference and Concert

Our friends over at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Project ACT are hosting an event over at the Masonic Temple.  This will be a conference and concert around the issue of homeless youth in our community.  Project ACT is one of the leading school programs in the country in serving kids who become homeless during the school year.  They rapidly respond to make sure that their school term is not interrupted.  They work with the community to provide transportation and additional tutoring to the 3,900 kids who become homeless.  We have the contacts for every school district in Cuyahoga County here if you need additional help.

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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Homeless CMSD Student Goes to Harvard

This is not a photo of Mr. Boone. This is a photo taken by one of the Grapevine photo students who had previous experience with homelessness

Margaret Bernstein is correct in her commentary about homeless students this weekend, but she really never gave us anyway to make sure that no student has to sleep on the bleachers again. This should be obvious and in a society that can build casinos, shining cathedrals, and beautiful courthouses, we should never have a child sleeping outside.  Unfortunately, there were very few solutions in Ms. Bernstein's commentary that would have prevented Boone from sleeping outside.  Mentorships are great, having more scholarships are excellent, and lifting children out of poverty are needed, but none of those things would have paid for a place for Boone to have lived when his family dissolved.   And by the way, it takes government funds and taxes to assure that every child has a quality education and a place to live.   After all, the private sector is not going to provide a lease to someone 18 to 22 years old while hundreds of more attractive (on paper) tenants are applying for the apartments available in our community, and a child in high school under age 18 cannot sign a lease or contract.   So, what do we do with unaccompanied youth who couch surf or sleep on bleachers in our community? 

First, it has to be made clear that this is not an overwhelming problem.  There are about 2,500 to 4,000 students who become homeless in the Cleveland Public Schools, but very few of those are not in contact with a parent or guardian.  The schools found about 350 to 600 students spent sometime estranged from their family.  The shelters and services only document a couple dozen youth in the same situation as David Boone.  A small amount of funding could make a huge difference in the community. Here are some suggestions from NEOCH that would actually prevent students from falling all the way to the streets.

Boost the Project ACT program with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District

This is the Title I funded Homeless Children and Youth program for the Cleveland Schools.   They work with teachers to make sure that the kids stay in school and can go to their school of origin if the family becomes homeless. They provide tutors and other help to keep the child from falling behind.  Since teachers are typically the first in our community to recognize a problem, Project ACT is a cornerstone for recognizing and addressing the problem.  Their mandate is to stabilize the child's education, and Project ACT does a fantastic job on getting a kid back into school within 24 hours after a family being identified as homeless.  A couple of things we could do would be for the state to designate the Homeless Children and Youth projects in the 10 largest cities to become the regional authority for all the surrounding school districts.  So, if a child from Orange School District or Parma School District becomes homeless the Cleveland Public Schools would handle their case and assure that they can return to their school of origin quickly.  Instead of having to rely on the 33 districts in Cuyahoga County to do the right thing for the family, the Cleveland Schools should be in the lead and the other schools should follow their recommendations. CMSD has the largest staff and they deal with this issue everyday.

If we are serious about never having another David Boone sleep on bleachers, these Homeless Children and Youth Projects should be the lead in providing housing assistance to these school age children.  They should take the lead as the advocate for the child/young adult on the best placement to stabilize their housing to assure they receive a quality education.  They could negotiate between the juvenile justice, foster care system, families or friends to find them the best housing available.  The student would be assigned an advocate who would help with these decisions, and it would be the responsibility of the advocate to make sure that the young person has a place to call home.  This is going to involve some funding increases to hire advocates in the major cities in the school districts. Unless someone in our community is assigned this responsibility then it falls through the cracks.  Unpaid mentors are great and a big benefit, but at the end of the day we need someone who would not rest until the young person has a stable place.

Educate the Suburban Schools

As part of "No Child Left Behind" and the McKinney Vento law every suburban school district (and charter school) is mandated to appoint a liaison for a child that becomes homeless.  We have a list here.  The problem is that these liaisons are not mandated any training or given any guidance on what they are supposed to do if they find a homeless child in their district.  Who do they call? What do they need to do?  All of these liaisons should be required to have state funded training about homelessness and their responsibilities to homeless children.  A better system would be to provide training and have the major cities homeless children and youth would be your first call to develop a plan to get the child back into school as soon as possible and then find wrap around services to help the child. 

Find Stable Funding for An Outreach Program

If the teacher does not find these students is there someone in the community who will look out for kids who are falling through the gaps?  Is there a group that will go out to the malls, libraries and other places to see if their are kids abandoned by their family?  Is there are program like the Bellfaire Youth Project that can build a trusting relationship with these young people?  Is there are stable source of funding to make sure that they are covering the county?  Where should these funds come from, and how many outreach workers does a community need to cover the county are issues that the state or county government needs to make.  

Once a Child is found in danger of homelessness what do you do?

St. Paul's church on the near West Side of Cleveland has partnered with Bellfaire to open their doors to young people so they are not running the street and being recruited by criminals.  They also have an outreach component to go out and talk to neighbors and store owners in the near West Side about any issues with young people.  Heights Youth Club has a similar approach to serve kids from the east side heights in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club.  Does each neighborhood have safe spaces like these for young people to go that will exercise their body and mind?  If there are not these places kids will find negative relationships to fill their time.  Again, these spaces are extremely valuable to the community, and need to be supported with public dollars. 

Housing for Young People

As we stated above there are very few landlords willing to lease to young people.  The YWCA and the Sisters of Charity Foundation are working on addressing the problem of homelessness among homeless young people.  They are building housing with support services for this population especially young people who age out of the foster care system and then become homeless.   Communities were only given permission by the federal government, in the last few years, to begin to serve this population with supportive housing, and these two groups are taking the lead in trying to meet this need.  Providing housing to any population is expensive, and it is going to take corporate, government, school districts and the religious community all coming together to meet this need with resources and services.  We are not sure what the exact number of people who need this help every year, but there are studies underway.   Cleveland can solve this problem if we can get our political leadership to answer Ms. Bernstein's call to end homelessness for anymore David Boones.  We cannot build a couple of units and rest.  We need to fully meet the need for housing dedicated to serving young people, because doing anything less is far more expensive.  If we lose these kids, we lose them for decades.  Taxpayers will be responsible for their housing, food, incarceration, and hospitalization for life if we lose them during their high school career.  So, the two to three years of housing provided while a young person finds a job, completes their education and can pay their own rent is a great down payment on saving all the costs of homelessness for a community.

Brian Davis

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