Dana Irribarren Was a Champion for Ending Hunger in Cleveland

I don't have much to do with the whole hunger crowd, but I met Dana Irribarren 20 years ago as she was trying to establish the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland as an independent non-profit as the Interchurch Council was shedding programs.  I was appointed to a committee to work out an amicable solution to this impasse.  Dana was always one of the strongest voices in the community for more attention and money to fight hunger.  She always made the connections to poverty, health care, and public assistance with our citizens being hungry.  There was a hunger advocacy organization in our community in the 1990s which went out of business, but Dana kept speaking up.

We worked together to try to bring some better coordination of food in East Cleveland in 2010, and Dana always showed up to lend her voice when poor people faced the negative impact of budget cuts.  She hired some wonderful staff who did a great job of advocating for additional pantry sites in emerging areas of need.  Dana served on the United Way Emergency Food and Shelter Committee for decades with me.  She was one of the strongest voices for hunger as a justice issue.  She stood up to the powerful while at the same time convincing business and community leaders to collect and distribute food to those struggling. 

There were disputes with the County and regional food organizations that spilled into the media in 2009.  Dana was quick to recognize the difficulties seniors were having last year or the new pockets of hunger in the suburbs during the downturn.  She was really good at telling the rest of us how bad things were getting in East Cleveland or how her volunteer pantry workers were struggling to fill the need in one of the other inner ring suburbs. 

There are so few experts on poverty in Cleveland.  It is so sad to see another social justice champion leave the scene.  I am going to miss Dana and her voice in Cleveland.   Poor people are especially disadvantaged because of the passing of Dana.  This week donate a bag of groceries to your local food pantry in Dana's name or sign up to serve a hot meal at your church or synagogue.  Below is the obituary sent to us by the Hunger Network as it appeared in the Plain Dealer

DANA L. IRRIBARREN (nee Richter), age 62. Beloved wife of 30 years to Alejandro Irribarren; loving mother of Irvin Oslin (Amanda); cherished grandmother of Grace; dear sister of Daniel "Butch" Richter, Kathy Bleich (Fred), and Sandy Barr; beloved aunt and cousin to many.

Executive Director and founder of the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland, she was part of the fight against hunger since 1977; it was her mission and passion. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate contributions in memory of Dana to The Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland, 614 West Superior Avenue, Suite 744, Cleveland, OH 44113-1306.

Funeral Service Monday, October 19, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at the SCHULTE & MAHON-MURPHY FUNERAL HOME, 5252 MAYFIELD RD., LYNDHURST (BETWEEN RICHMOND AND BRAINARD) where the family will receive friends SUNDAY 2-6 P.M. Interment Lakeview Cemetery. - See more at: http://www.schultemahonmurphy.com then click on Obituaries to search for Dana Irribarren.

SCHULTE & MAHON-MURPHY
5252 Mayfield Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinions of those who sign the entry.

VICTORY!! Housing Trust Fund Preserved

Good afternoon housing advocates!

Because you responded when asked, because you made the calls, sent the emails and made the necessary personal contacts, the message to save the Trust Fund got delivered to our lawmakers. Because of all you did, this became a priority in Conference Committee, and because of all you did, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund was restored.

A few shout-outs in and around the Statehouse: To Reps. Ryan Smith, Kirk Schuring, and Denise Driehaus, who were backed by House leadership and other Reps, and who pushed Senate leaders who ultimately agreed to drop the proposed change. To Sens. Mike Skindell and Charleta Tavares and the Democrat Caucus for their unwavering support. And to the Kasich administration, including the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Ohio Development Services Agency, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and especially the Office of Budget and Management, and the Office of the Governor for understanding the important role the Trust Fund plays in both protecting vulnerable populations and moving the economy forward.

We encourage you all to thank your State Representatives and Senators for their support as soon as possible.

This demanding exercise taught us a couple of things: 1) together we can impact housing policy; and 2) we still have a lot of work to do. We learned there is a high level of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge at the Statehouse about what the Trust Fund is and does. A continued lack of understanding will keep the Trust Fund and all of our housing programs vulnerable to future attacks like this, so doing a better job of educating our public officials has to be a top priority.

We urge you to get to your members yet this summer, while it’s fresh in their minds, and show them the value of the Trust Fund in your community. 544 organizations across the state signed on to the letter to the Governor. Let’s use the momentum and strength we’ve all created to elevate the importance of our state’s greatest housing resource!

With gratitude,

Bill Faith
Cathy Johnston
Suzanne Gravette Acker

This post is from the staff of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio

Ohio Housing Trust Fund in Jeopardy

One Housing Trust Fund vs. 88 New Bureaucracies:
Making the case against the Senate Amendment

The Senate Trust Fund amendment reads: “Requires that half of the fees collected by county recorders for the Housing Trust Fund to be retained by the county for the purpose of housing. Requires that the county auditor, recorder, and a county commissioner, or their delegates, determine by a majority vote how the funds will be used.”

Here are the primary reasons the state Trust Fund process is preferable to the county process the Senate amendment would create:

1) The Housing Trust Fund is administered by a single state agency with oversight by a 14-member advisory board and a 25-year solid track record of accountability. The amendment would establish 88 separate county administrative processes with elected officials, such as recorders and auditors, who may have little or no housing experience.

2) The Housing Trust Fund has statutory protections to ensure that funds are used for those with the greatest housing needs, such as: 10% of funds must be used to support homeless programs, including homeless youth; and there’s an overall preference for projects serving those at 35% of median income or below. The county process has no such protections.

3) Ohio Development Services Agency coordinates efforts with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to leverage the Housing Trust Fund with low-income tax credits and bond financing so that Trust Fund is leveraging dollars at a rate of 9/1. These types of leveraging opportunities would be rare at the county level.

4) The Housing Trust Fund has a statutory limit of 5% or less to be used for administration. The county program would create 88 separate county bureaucracies, each of which would require unspecified amounts of administrative funds to operate. In an era of scarce housing resources, this is an inappropriate use of public funds.

5) The Housing Trust Fund provides numerous opportunities to expand housing options for people in recovery, people with disabilities, and people in need of alternatives to institutional settings. These are done in partnership with other private and state agencies such as Medicaid, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Aging. With the county program those partnerships are greatly diminished.

6.) The Housing Trust Fund is currently of sufficient size that it is capable of leveraging resources from private and public sector sources, and funding several larger impactful housing developments projects each year. The proposed county-based approach would disperse funding, making it much more difficult to leverage funds for the larger, more impactful projects.

7) Housing Trust Fund dollars are awarded on a competitive basis to make sure projects using best practice with solid outcomes are funded first. While projects in all 88 counties can compete for the funds, to ensure funds have broad geographic distribution, there is a statutory requirement that at least 50% of the available resources be awarded to projects in rural parts of the state. This approach assures both fairness and quality in distributing the funds and makes the county process unnecessary.

The State Housing and Homeless Coalition is asking that you call your State Senator today to protest this horrible plan.  If you get a response let COHHIO know below.  To get the call in information to your senator go to the COHHIO website here.

Cathy Johnston
Advocacy Director, COHHIO
614-280-1984 X25
cathyjohnston (at) cohhio (dot) org

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

NOBLE Budget Meeting Well Attended

Every two years advocates get together in Cleveland to strategise about the upcoming budget for the State of Ohio.  The group has largely failed over the last two budget cycles, but they do eek out a few victories.  On a cold snow filled Saturday at the NEOCH/Community Shares offices, advocates met to discuss areas that they felt were important.   There was a good crowd who gave up their Saturday afternoon to plow through the details of the Ohio budget.

They gave a status report for the their successes/failures over the last budget.  The only successes were that the Ohio Housing Trust Fund was not cut and there was a state earned income tax credit was created. The Homestead exemptions was targeted to those over 65 making less than $30,000.  Medicaid was expanded, but over the objections of the legislature. Every other recommendation failed with one incompletion.  Some of the fails from the previous year:

  • Education funding is still below 2010 levels.
  • Childcare still has a cap on family income below federal guidelines.
  • Recommended changes in Kinship care were not addressed.
  • Adult Protective Services to protect seniors is still woefully underfunded.
  • Alzheimer's respite care is half of the level from 2011.
  • They did not expand Medicaid to all of those eligible and reimbursable by the federal government.
  • No relief for those receiving cash assistance to provide flexibility over massive elimination of benefits.
  • Sought additional money for hunger programs.  They received some additional funding, but not enough to meet demands.
  • No additional funding for transportation.
  • Huge losses to local government funding for trash collection, fire, safety forces and other local government services.

Some of the big issues that those gathered are looking for in the next budget for 2015 include:

  • Re-establishment of the tax on rich people who die called the estate tax.
  • Re-establishment of the local government fund to the levels from 2010.
  • Expansion of a housing search website in the state of Ohio
  • A complete overhaul of the tax loopholes in the state of Ohio.
  • A lifting of the cap off the Earned Income Tax Credit.  If you are poor and don't pay enough in taxes, you should still get all the tax credit back. 
  • Re-establishment of a foreclosure assistance fund since those federal dollars are drying up.
  • A reduction in the welfare case loads.
  • An elimination of the work requirements for Food stamps throughout the state and not just the nine rural communities. 
  • Maintain and expand Medicaid expansion.
  • Align the state cash assistance rules with the federal requirements.  With higher than average unemployment in Ohio, we should provide assistance to families struggling in Ohio.
  • Restore funding to the PASSPORT and the hunger programs in Ohio. 
  • Force ODOT to spend 3-5% of their budget on public transportation to serve the 9% of the public without driver's licenses.

The progressives, advocates and concerned citizens will probably not be heard down in Columbus, but it is good to have a positive agenda put forth to help low income, homeless and struggling Ohioans. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.