Nice Bit of Reporting on WEWS Channel 5

This is a wonderful piece of reporting on WEWS on our "Missing in Action" Poster by Derick Waller.  What did we learn from this piece?

  • Yvonne Conwell picked up the phone for the News Media, but will not respond to homeless people.
  • She claims that someone said she was not "compassionate," but no one has ever accused her of a lack of compassion that I have ever heard? In fact, the opposite is true if you check the notes from the last meeting when Councilman Dale Miller attended the Homeless Congress.
  • The flyer looked good on camera in color. 
  • The advocates were symbolically out in the cold while the elected official was comfortable inside. It worked metaphorically as well.
  • I am not sure what "I was the one who reached out and got the ball rolling..." means, but she is obviously upset by our advocacy. This problem has existed since 1998, but at least back then there were other options available. 
  • We raised the same issue back in October on WEWS, and it is still bad.  So for all the talk and meetings, the women still feel there are problems.  If I sat over at the Cosgrove Center for a couple of hours per day, I could collect at least 50 legitimate grievances that would go unanswered about the Women's Shelter. 
  • The County gave over $300,000 to the women's shelter.  We did not find out who asked for them to throw money at the shelter by hiring more staff?  There is a culture of poorly trained staff who disrespect the residents, and no resident or former resident would suggest adding money for more staff. Plus, the shelter only opens at 3 p.m. so how much help could these women get at the end of a day.  What landlord or employers or mental health counselor is available after 3 p.m. to help?
  • Conwell has "seminars for families and children about preventing homelessness?"  Unfortunately, there are no families or children staying at the shelter we are talking about to learn about preventing homelessness.
  • If we have 130 beds and 30 new beds now and yet there are regularly 185 people sleeping at the shelter how does that help? Shouldn't we try to solve the problem and not try to solve half the problem?  This is the only shelter available for single women in Cuyahoga County so shouldn't we plan for the number of women who actually show up not the number we hope show up before 7.
  • Conwell is having another "closed door" meeting but I was not invited, and this was not advertised for the women at the shelter. Wow, what if I volunteered to have my mouth taped shut just so I could report back to the women then could I come?

What needs further explanation:

  • This was one of the many missing flyers that we issued identifying most of the County Council.  Mr. Waller at WEWS picked this one out to follow up on primarily because the shelter is in Councilwoman Conwell's district.  Also, the secret meeting was circled and viewed as attractive to the media.
  • Ruth Gillett at the Homeless Congress meeting on Thursday disputed that that the Councilwoman had in fact conducted a "secret" meeting, but it is curious that the director of the shelter, the director of Cleveland Mediation and the COO of EDEN (owner of the Women's Shelter building) showed up for the meeting and no residents of the shelter attended. We have the notes on our blog in the above link. 
  • Imagine if you went to County Council to complain that the County funded Prosecutor was not prosecuting mostly white police officers for shooting black people in our community, and they said don't worry we are giving him additional funding to solve this problem.  You would be angry over this turn of events.  This is how the women at the shelter feel.  They complained about staff out of control, no one believing them, retaliation, no oversight and no one responding to grievances.  The response from the County was more money to the same agency running this shelter.  From the perspective of the residents, the County is rewarding Frontline Services for the mistreatment of homeless women.
  • If there is any dispute if this shelter is out of control, there is an easy solution send County staff over there at 9:30 p.m. to see for themselves.  Or better send a staff in undercover to see the treatment that they receive as the typical homeless woman. 
  • If there is a dispute about the numbers, there is an easy way to solve that issue--visit the shelter at 10 p.m.  But does that even matter?  If our policy is not to turn people away and the shelter claims an average of 174 per night with only 160 beds on site how does that make sense?  Doesn't that say to taxpayers that you need a new shelter to serve the growing population?
  • NEOCH staff were criticized for always focusing on the negatives and never being satisfied.  Those are both true statements, and that could be the mission of a homeless advocacy organization.  The Women's Shelter has not improved for two decades and we have tried many different things to get a change.  We have been criticized all along for being sexist, a bully and single minded.  We have had our funding eliminated and put on the persona non-gratis list of many meetings, but at the end of the day it is really bad over at 2227 Payne Ave.  We keep getting dragged back into these discussions, because women regularly complain about the conditions.  Other shelter staff complain and regularly whisper thanks because they are afraid the County will retaliate if they publicly criticize the largest service provider in the homeless community. 
  • Two incidents happened recently that lead me to my position.  The first was in August when a women attempted suicide in the lobby of the shelter and no one from the staff or security believed her and called the EMS.  Other residents were afraid and after a 20 minute delay called themselves.  After a few grievances including the woman who attempted suicide filing a grievance, the shelter management without seeking the 9-1-1 call log declared the whole incident was false and staff acted properly.  This woman should never have stayed at the shelter, but then even after her attempt she was there for a few more months.  Then only last month a woman had her service dog taken by the dog training academy determined the environment was too bad for the dog, but they left the human in these conditions.  Senior management determined that there was no issue here and they had done all they could for the resident even though staff had ignored and harmed this women getting into housing.  NEOCH sent a Department of Aging outreach staff over to the shelter, supervisors told her that she was no longer at the shelter even though the women was sleeping upstairs.  Over the time that the service dog was at the shelter, one supervisor regularly antagonized the women, criticized and threatened the elderly woman to the point that she is afraid to talk to the media or a lawyer about this situation for fear of being forced out of the shelter. 
  • The Congress and the NEOCH Board agree that there needs to be some dramatic changes at the shelter including a termination of all staff and a do-over hiring everyone with new interviews involving residents.  We have set up a page on our site to ask for big changes
  • The building was renovated for the expectation of an average of 100 people per night with the number of bathrooms for 100 women and heat, washers and cafeteria geared toward 100 women.  Now there between 174 to 210 women coming to the shelter, some with addictions others mentally ill and a few with both behavioral health issues.  Many are getting out of jail while others had their children taken from them.  There are those frustrated over not being able to find a job or survivors of abuse.  They are all crammed together sent out on the streets from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and provided a substandard meal at the shelter.  There is no programming and festering anger at night with so many people tripping over each other.  What did you expect would happen at this shelter on the edge?

Brian Davis

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More Homelessness in the News

Homelessness and Governing

Recently, the city council of Madison, Wisconsin has passed legislation to prohibit discrimination based on housing, which the mayor vetoed.  However, homeless people were added to the list of protected classes by the city council overriding the mayor’s veto.

San Francisco just opened America’s first LGBT homeless shelter.  Though it is not big enough to address the whole community, it is a step in the right direction. The Jezzie Collins Shelter is one of the few new shelters created in the United States after huge federal cut backs over the last three years.  

An innovative plan in Hawaii plans to renovate 70 retired buses into homeless shelters.  However, with the highest per capita homeless population in the US, it is time for Hawaii to evaluate what the real problems are in their state.

Activists are asking that Hawaii work to solve homelessness, not make it harder for individuals.  A new study by the University of Hawaii says that homeless sweeps are more harmful than good. "They found that the people living there suffer property and economic loss, physical and psychological harm, and possible constitutional violations," according to the KHON TV report.

Public Defender, Robert Wesley near Orlandoand Orange County Florida stands up against the criminalization of homelessness, and, to an extent, the city is finally listening.  He said that these arrests were "a revolving door" for homeless people. Wesley specifically wants to revamp the arrest procedures for violating local ordinances — including urinating in public, having an open container, trespassing and sleeping in public — that almost exclusively affect homeless people. Instead of being taken to jail, officers would give violators a "notice to appear" in court, according to a story in the Orlando Sentinal.

In St. Cloud, Minnesota, high schoolers and the local Coalition for Homeless Men built the state’s first tiny house.  Yet, it still has a long way to go until someone can live there.  Many zoning and safety laws can prevent someone from having their tiny home. 

Cuts to ‘Food Stamp’ funding has caused nearly 255,000 people in Wisconsin to survive on 1 meal a day.  A disproportionate amount of these people are elderly or disabled.  One Congressman was surviving on Food Stamps and had their benefits cut down to $16 because they did not submit a utility bill as verification. 

No longer are cities merely criminalizing homelessness, but also criminalizing helping homeless people. San Antonio’s law costs one woman up to $2,000 just for feeding homeless people out of her truck.  She is fighting the ticket and the law.

Individuals Making a Difference

A Washington D.C. teen transitions from homelessness to finishing her first year at Georgetown.  She  discussed the difficult transition and disadvantages she faced compared to their wealthy classmates.  This Washington Post article talked to other young people who got out of homelessness. 

One former homeless veteran in Portland, Maine decided to give back to other homeless veterans.  He founded the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance to connect homeless vets to the services that are available to them, and for those that do not desire the services, he helps in any way he can. 

A Seattle man is trying to change the stereotype of homelessness, largely through Facebook.  Rex Hohlbein started a non-profit called Homeless in Seattle, where he takes photos of homeless people and writes short stories about them in, while also operating a Facebook page that allows every day citizens to help with the needs of the homeless.

In Ann Arbor, landlords are helping to end homelessness by doing what all landlords should do, accept housing vouchers. In response, the Washtenaw Housing Alliance is honoring these individuals. (nice pic of a homeless couple in a tent with their dog--all things not welcome in shelters).

by Dan the Intern

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News Updates on Criminalization, Youth and Other Homeless Stories

by Dan the Intern

Homelessness, Government, and Politics

Homeless Youth


Opinions are those who sign the entry.

Weekly Update on Homeless Stories in the News

Here are a few interesting news stories about homelessness from the last week.  Click on the blue text to view the source article.

by Dan the Intern

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News on Homelessness in America

Mother Jones has a nice take on the Food Ban in Ft. Lauderdale here.

More arrests in support of the anti-feeding ban in Ft. Lauderdale. This article includes the Orwellian response from the City indicating that this law helps homeless and hungry people?

More arrests and tickets after a demonstration in front of the Mayor's House.  An individual can give out food, but a religious group cannot give out food outside.

We detailed a lack of beds for Domestic Violence beds in Cleveland, and the New York Times looks at the  problem in one of America's largest cities

Alabama looks at homeless children in the Huntsville School District.  These are frequent features in high poverty areas, but elected officials in the deep South rarely take on solutions to these issues.

NEOCH recently hired a female veteran who has struggled with homelessness. There is a national story about the rise in female veterans facing homelessness in the United States.

The Veterans Administration is on a one year deadline to end homelessness among vets.  They are really going to have to bring every partner together to reach the hardest to serve individuals who have been exiled from the system for years if this goal will be real.

We have no idea where Manteca California is located, but they are banning people living outside.  This would be great if they guaranteed safe decent housing inside, but that never happens. 

Brian Davis

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Interesting News Stories Around Homelessness

NPR story on Skid Row.  It all started so well describing the disaster area that we call Skid Row.  They talked about this concentration of poverty and the number of years that the area has been neglected. 

"What I describe Skid Row as is the biggest man-made disaster in the United States," says the Rev. Andy Bales, who runs the shelter and has worked on Skid Row for almost 10 years.

Bales says things had been improving on Skid Row, but they've taken a bad turn since the recession. He says hospitals from the region, and even other states, have been dumping homeless patients on Skid Row illegally, and that jails are releasing inmates without enough preparation. Resources have also been reduced for shelters in favor of other approaches.

It then went all downhill when the discussion shifted to permanent supportive housing.  As we have said repeatedly on these pages, PSH projects are fine and needed, but they do not solve homelessness.  If 20% of the population are long term and eligible for the PSH projects, then housing all of those individuals will leave 80% of the population still homeless. No matter how you spin it, the money saved in the community by removing the 20% will not go to address the other 80% of the population.  Finally, we never solve the problem for the 20%, because we cannot build enough housing at one time to end long term homelessness.  So, we help a few people, but even the problem with the long term homeless is not "solved."  It is only reduced in the community. There are plenty of other homeless people who replace those placed in PSH buildings.

This is similar to a hurricane hitting Ft. Lauderdale and destroying 50,000 homes, and the HUD Secretary steps out to say, "Don't worry, we got this. We plan to build 3,000 homes to solve this problem by 2020."  People would laugh him out of the room.  They would say that the population would move or be dead by 2020.  They would demand immediate action to solve the problem of homelessness for the 50,000 who lost their housing.  This is why there is this disconnect at the local level.  HUD officials are prescribing a cure for an illness that has nothing to do with what is going on in the community that we live in. 

Officials Want DC Family Shelter to Close.  We talked about the horrible family shelter in Washington DC.  Human Service workers in DC are trying to close the former DC General Hospital and replace it with a better facility.  The article does not mention any timeline or source of funding to replace all these units.  There is a goal of one-to-one replacement of the beds of DC General, but it is going to cost millions to provide for all these families.

On October 22, Vice media took a look at the inability to speak about homelessness in the United States. Peter Brown Hoffmeister looked at how we talk about homelessness.  He does a really good job talking about all the hardships faced by homeless people.  I spent some time living outside with a few homeless people and was unaware of all the things that were a threat to a person without a place to go home to.  The dangers of getting wet, learning how to sleep with one eye open were big issues.  The Vice media has a really nice in depth article on all the things people facing a homeless person and all the things the general population does not understand.

The National Coalition for the Homeless Board Members look at the need for expanded housing voucher program.  In most cities there are years long wait.  In Cleveland, there were 64,000 people who tried to get a voucher when it was opened and only 10,000 people had their numbers drawn.  We will wait for seven years before the voucher list will re-open.  There are so many who cannot afford housing and need a little help.  They make minimum wage and cannot afford the rents even in a rather inexpensive housing market like Cleveland.

Tokyo has a record low number of homeless people despite being one of the most populous cities in the world.  They are actually solving homelessness, while we are only paper solving homelessness in the States.   We talk about slight reductions in homelessness, but when you look behind the numbers there are so many who are not counted but living in basements or garages.  There are families who never get counted because they are not visible.  There are so many kids who couch surf and don't counted.  We need to look at how Japan is dealing with affordable housing compared to the United States.

Brian Davis

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Thursday on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams

The National Coalition for the Homeless has worked to assist NBC News with a feature on Family Homelessness in America over the last couple of months ago.   Thursday at 10 p.m. on NBC on the television program Rock Center with Brian Williams will feature an awareness piece on family homelessness. If you paid attention to this website or the Street Chronicle--family homelessness is on the rise and families are the fastest growing population in Cleveland and many other cities.    Here’s a trailer for your viewing -

Brian Davis

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