Interesting Stories Over the Last Week

Pam Fessler at NPR is on fire with homeless stories.  Two in the last week and relevant to what is happening in American cities.  The criminalization of homeless people is a huge issue facing this country.  In Hawaii, most of Florida and even Boise Idaho, the municipal government has given up trying to end homelessness and instead are house people in jails.  These cities are spending precious resources to incarcerate people for purely innocent behavior.  This is what makes the Justice Department filing so important.  Also, the Department of Housing and Urban and Development are giving extra points for cities that are doing a better job with reducing criminalization and discharges. 

One interesting note that was not in the story.  The City of Denver is trying something novel to avoid paying for incarceration by taking out municipal bonds to pay for avoiding jail.  These are similar to the Pay for Success program that Cleveland is undertaking.   They will pay back the bonds based on the cost savings for each person enrolled who does not go to jail but instead stays in housing.  This is a unique twist on social investment bonds and it all starts in January. 

Fessler also did a story on Permanent Supportive Housing, and the wonderful new property being constructed in DC.  The story appeared on the radio, but is better viewed online with the amazing picture of this new building.  Los Angeles is just dipping their feet into the new permanent supportive housing projects.  For a city as large as LA, they have only a small number of units in development.  After a period of no housing being developed these small numbers (100,000 nationally over last five years) are a drop in the bucket compared to the need. 

The problem is that we are paying for these units out of the money we had previously spent on shelters and only 20% of the population qualify.  This is the reason that shelters are closing and more families are struggling with housing.  These would be wonderful if it was all new money funding these projects.  If the veterans have reduced homelessness by combining shelter and housing and supportive services why is HUD doing the opposite.  These are beautiful units being developed, but they cannot be the only response to homelessness.  If we do not have an option for everyone who shows up requesting help, we will see only increases. 

Bringing Pets into the Shelters

Speaking of people who do not fit in the current shelter system:  what do we with homeless people who show up with their pets.  Huffington Post had an article about shelters that are now allowing pets. This is a group who are typically unwilling to kill or give up their "only friend" on the planet: their pets.  The article talks about a new a new partnership between a pet store and Family Promise.   We need this to start in Cleveland.  We have such a hard time placing people with animals.  It also shows the merits of having smaller shelters rather than the big facilities that Cleveland is stuck with at this point. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Cogswell Hall--100 Years

Staff of Cogswell Hall saw our post about Cosgrove Center and their 20 years of existence and wondered if we could mention Cogswell Hall serving Cleveland for over 100 years. Their building was renovated back in 2009, but the original construction was in 1914.  Their growth and continued existence is impressive and they are celebrating with an event on September 19 called Coming Home.  Now for those who do not know Cogswell Hall is a permanent supportive housing apartment building on the near West Side of Cleveland.   They are helping those who have been homeless for a long period of time back into housing.  They have social services and other help available to this mostly disabled population.  They should be congratulated for making it one hundred years, and we should celebrate this newly renovated building improving our neighborhoods in Cleveland.  We are also proud that they are fellow Community Shares Members here in Cleveland.  Staff at Cogswell Hall are always helpful with voting, protecting client rights and other social justice issues. 

In looking back at the Cogswell Hall history, it really shows how the city has changed in the last 150 years.   We have grown up and improved our fair housing obligations, but what have we lost during that time?  Cogswell Hall started serving exclusively women and now takes all, but is there a need to serve women in a separate facility?  All the previous incarnations of Cogswell Hall are still necessary in Cleveland, but have sadly disappeared.  They started as a temperance union for women, which is not something we talk much about today.  In an age of medical marijuana, very few are talking about outlawing alcohol.   That would be pretty much the end of professional sports, reality shows, tractor pulls, wrestling, and demolition derbies if we outlawed alcohol consumption.  In 1892, they became a halfway house for those leaving the women's workhouse.  They were a training facility and provided "anti-alcohol encouragement."  These are services we need today.  We have Women's Re-entry, but they don't have a building for transitioning the women back to full time employment and stable housing.  This halfway house for women coming out of incarceration is a type of program we could use today.

In 1899, Cogswell Hall moved to the West Side and worked on preventing young girls from getting into trouble.  Now, we have the YWCA doing the same type of program, but working with a slightly older group of young women.  We could use more programs that work with young women to keep them out of trouble.  The Cogswell Hall current building was built in 1914 and had 27 rooms and was known as the training home for girls.  The group changed their name to Cogswell Hall in 1952--renamed after its founder.  In the 1970s, Cogswell started renting apartments to older women 60 years of age and older. This might be one group that the market is sufficiently serving at this time.  We have an aging society and we may see a need for senior housing in the next 10 to 20 years, but at least right now we are meeting the housing needs of seniors.  Many landlords want to rent to seniors because they do not have parties and typically have steady income.  With only around 1% of the homeless population over 60 it is not a huge issue in Cleveland in 2014. In the 1970s, I am sure that Cogswell Hall served a vital service to seniors. 

In 2004, Cogswell Hall started accepting fragile women of any age and providing supportive services.  While fair housing standards say that apartment owners cannot discriminate based on gender, there was some merit to serving women separate from men.  Women experience violence leading to homelessness at huge rates.  This often makes it difficult to live in the same building with men.  Women still face discrimination in the workplace, pay rate discrepancies, and archaic hiring practices that make it necessary to provide additional help. They still face landlords who prey upon women and they need fair housing protections, but we could use separate facilities to serve especially fragile females.  We keep losing programs for women in this community, and that makes it harder to serve women and female headed households.  We lost East Side Catholic shelter, Triumph House, the Care Alliance program for women, Family Transitional, Transitional Housing Inc, and now this month Continue Life for pregnant young moms.  All these programs were lost in our community and only a handful of the beds were replaced.  We are not doing all we can do to serve homeless women in our community.  While we have made great strides in providing fair housing for minority populations and women, there has been a cost.  This major step forward has actually set back the fragile females who need extra assistance overcoming obstacles in our community.

The building over on Franklin is impressive and the wrap around services offered are wonderful.  Cogswell Hall serves a critical need in our community as they have done for 100 years.  We hope that you can support Cogswell Hall in 2014 to mark their landmark anniversary.  We wish them good luck on their fundraiser.

Brian Davis

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Housing 101 Has Space for you

The next Housing 101 will take place at NEOCH on June 13 at 10 a.m.  We still have space for you to attend. We will have a discussion of the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law and the local law by Randy Cunningham of CTO.  We will also have a look at Permanent Supportive Housing and the local fair housing law.  All of the presentations will give the participants a chance to find resources that they can utilize in the community.  We will have a look at the HousingCleveland website as well as the services available to homeless veterans. 

How do you get help with evictions?  How do you get access to a login for the Housing Cleveland website?  How does a veteran start their journey toward stable housing in our community?  How does a person who has been homeless for a long period of time access permanent supportive housing?  How does a prospective tenant get help with potential discrimination when they are searching for housing?  All these questions will be answered at the forum.  Hope that you can attend.

Here is the page describing the June 13 event and a flyer that you can print and distribute

Brian Davis

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PLEASE SAVE THE DATE 

 ASSURING STABLE HOMES

  Strategies to Prevent Homelessness

for Youth Transitioning from Foster Care

A local conversation

 

Monday, June 23, 2014

4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

 (Program from 4-6 p.m.,and networking reception from 6-7 p.m.)

 Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center

127 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44114

Invited speakers include :   

 Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness

Gary Stangler, executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative

Jennifer Ho, senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development    

 Please feel free to extend this invitation to your colleagues and others who might be interested in this convening.

Registration details will be forthcoming.

Sponsored by: 

 

 

Permanent Supportive Housing Featured on WCPN

Solution: Permanent Supportive Housing

David C. Barnett had a nice story on WCPN yesterday regarding the new permanent supportive housing projects.  We appreciated hearing from a resident "Joan" who lived at one of the apartments.  We know many people who have been on the streets for years living in these properties.   We have a former vendor who has a huge issue with alcohol living in the Broadway neighborhood.   His former residence was a tent next to the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. 

We have 560 units now in Cleveland spread out throughout the community.  These buildings are turning desolate and deserted corners of town into vibrant neighborhoods.   These apartments are great for a group of people in our community who need the help.   The staff go out of their way to keep evictions down and work with the men and women.  This is part of the 100,000 units campaign featured on 60 Minutes over the weekend.   We have a friend of the Coalition who slept in a box car over near 2100 Lakeside Shelter for years.  He would come to our meeting and rail against the shelters and services.  He complained about staff mistreatment and stupid rules that the shelters implemented.  He got into one of the first housing units and took his loud voice to establishing a tenant council in the building.  He has prospered over in the building and seems to be doing well.   It was exactly what he needed. 

These are all beautiful buildings and in Cleveland we have opted for new construction for most of the Permanent Supportive Housing.   They are great places to live and wonderful examples of what we can do as a society to improve the lives of homeless people.  We should be proud that we have done a great job in targeting these units to the people who have been on the street the longest.  It should be obvious, but Irene Collins' words are exactly on target,

"It’s much less expensive than having someone out on the streets where any doctor appointment would be at the emergency room, or checked into a psych rehab hospital, which is very, very costly.  The cost of keeping someone in a shelter is a whole lot more than the cost of keeping someone in some kind of permanent housing situation where they are a lot more stable."

My concern is that these units are being over sold.  They will not end homelessness.  They are not a silver bullet, and I am not sure it is good idea to exclude so many who could benefit from these services.  There are many large families that are going to cost the community millions of dollars if they spend a long period of time homeless, but the PSH programs are reserved for single adults at this time.   They will not even replace one shelter bed in Cleveland.   We have as society neglected affordable housing for 30 years so the 560 units will not have much of an impact on homelessness.  We have lost 10,000 units locally from neglect and properties falling down from age.  We need to develop 1,000 units a year for the next 10 years and we could start closing the shelters.  Remember when they opened the CMHA Housing Voucher waiting list in 2011, 64,000 unduplicated people tried to get on the list in Cleveland. 

We also have to remember the high cost of the PSH units for the future.  We have to pay for the supportive services and the 24 hours of staff care provided for tenants in the building.   We need to pay most of the rent for these individuals for probably the rest of their lives.  They will most likely make somewhere between $0 per month to around $700 for disability assistance.  This means that 50-100% of the tenants rent will need to be picked up by the government for the rest of their life.   These are expensive for the community to operate and we do not have a dedicated revenue source for the rent and support services. 

Finally, there are those who keep saying that these projects save the community money.  This is true, but it does not save the shelters any money.  It saves law enforcement, health care providers, mental health community, and hunger programs money.   It is much cheaper to house 400 people in a dorm room with a few staff to watch them when compared to the maintenance and case management for an apartment building.  Walls and privacy adds costs to any project.   The problem is that the hospitals, jails and mental health agencies are not going to take the savings and turn it over to the homeless programs.  They are going to spend the savings of the 570 people currently in the PSH on other poor people.  MetroHealth is not going to reward 2100 Lakeside shelter with the $50,000 they saved on our friend who lived in the box car from his frequent trips to the emergency room every year.  They are going to spend it on the other 100,000 poor people they see every year. 

Housing First is a great concept with some wonderful properties, but there are plenty of families, veterans, young people who could benefit from being in these units but do not qualify.  Even though families are the fastest growing population in the community, they do not typically qualify for these beautiful apartments. 

Brian Davis

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A Few Quick Updates

CWRU Civic Engagement Conference and Learning Center along with the InterReligious Task Force on Central America had their 14th Annual Teach In conference on a cold snowy day in February.  I was one of the presenters regarding homelessness in Cleveland.  It was amazing how many students came out to participate.  Sarah Kalloch of Oxfam and Dr. Rhonda Williams of CWRU Social Justice Institute were the two keynote speakers for the conference.  

100,000 Homes Campaign was featured on 60 Minutes on Sunday February 9.  It was a nice piece on the savings for the community in providing housing before wasting time with services.  Check it out if you did not see it.  The problem is that 100,000 homes are not going to make a dent in the need.  We have neglected affordable housing for 30 years, 100,000 homes is not going do much for the community.  Don't get me wrong these are beautiful buildings in Cleveland that have everything the population needs.  It is just not enough and it takes too long to develop. If we were developing 100,000 new units with support services every year, we would start seeing a reduction in emergency services.  At the end of the day this summer of 2014, we will reach the 100,000 homes magic number.  Then what?   We will not have closed any shelter and the cities will be stuck with the long term cost of supporting these buildings and the disabled residents living inside. 

Golden Week is probably dead this week.  It looks like the State legislature is going to kill the week that allows homeless people to register and vote at the same time.  It is far enough before the election that the eligibility of the voter can be determined.  It is perfect for people who move frequently such as homeless people and it makes it easy to kill two birds with one shot.  I do not know why state officials do not want to make it easier for people to vote.  I do not see the harm or the potential fraud when a voter is allowed to register and vote at the same time.  This vote to kill Golden Week can only be considered a voter suppression activity. 

Long Term Unemployed Still Without Help.  It is now 41 days since the long term unemployed were kicked off the benefit program.  This is the time that the renters will start seeing evictions because they cannot afford their housing.  This is the time that they will start seeing financial emergencies, and one of our own Senators voted down the proposal to extend benefits for the next three months.  We found a way to keep supporting big farms and certain pet projects in the Farm bill, but we can't help out-of-work Americans struggling to avoid homelessness?

Brian Davis

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Thank You to Our Veterans

Today is Veterans Day, and we honor those who served their country.  This Veterans Day comes as we continue to see between 20 and 24% of homeless population made up of individuals who served the United States.   There is a plan to end Veterans homelessness by November 2014.  This is a good thing, but we are a long way from that reality.  We saw a report from HUD this last year that showed a decline in veterans homelessness, but that was based on fiction and guesses that could never withstand academic scrutiny.  We will never be able to end homelessness among veterans if we cannot even figure out the extent of the problem.  Veterans still have a hard time getting help with their mental illness in the vast bureaucracy.  Everyday another veterans returns from Afghanistan troubled, uncertain, and without the proper support to return to civilian life. 

We have a number of new programs for veterans including a rental assistance program and a new Central Intake system in which should help.  We still have a lot of silly rules and obstacles in place that keep the dedicated staff from providing the help necessary to get people into housing.  For example, if a veteran gets into a per diem bed at 2100 Lakeside (a shelter bed no different than any other bed in Lakeside) they have a limited period of time or they lose their eligiblity for a permanent supportive housing apartment in the community.  The Veterans Administration is putting a large investment into serving homeless people with nice new buildings including the Domiciliary at the Veterans Hospital.  They are still making bad decisions on some of the subcontractors who have been entrusted to serving the veterans population.  There are still far too many programs that do not get the job done.  There are still too many staff who are don't do enough to get people into housing or serve our veterans with compassion. 

The Domiciliary staff did a ton to get people registered to vote and then getting those veterans to actually vote for who is going to lead the country.  There are plenty of people who honor our veterans, but not enough who are willing to provide the best health care coverage available in this country.  It does not seem that there is enough concern to provide housing to all veterans even if they self medicate with alcohol or drugs.   There is a great deal of rhetoric especially by politicians, but not a lot of coordination of services among all the systems that serve veterans.   With two years left to end homelessness among veterans, there is a long way to go.  We will need a ton of housing vouchers; we need more forgiveness, and we need a massive expansion of health care professionals who specialize in trauma.   We could honor by veterans best by actually ending homelessness among veterans.  Thanks for the free meals being given out today by corporations and businessess.  Now it is time for free housing for a couple of years while the veteran transitions back into civilian life. 

Brian

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Problems With Government Homeless Policies

Housing for Disabled Turned Down for Ohio City

For the first time in Cleveland, the State of Ohio turned down tax credits to move a Permanent Supportive Housing Project forward.  There was some controversy with regard to this project, and the Plain Dealer gave coverage to the groups opposed to this property.  In an amazing stance, the liberal Green Party candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive came out against housing homeless people in his neighborhood.  One former legislator and leader in Ohio City went down to Columbus to testify against the Ohio City Permanent Supportive Housing Project.  It is unbelievable that these residents would rather have a vacant Hollywood video lot rather than a housing property with 24 hours of staff watching out for problems.  Anyway, the State of Ohio turned down tax credits.  It is not clear why the tax credits were turned down.  There were many things operating against this project not the least of which was the community opposition.  We do not know which of the issues led to this rejection.  There was a plan to provide communities with no supportive housing additional points in the selection process.  There may have been behind the scenes lobbying by state legislators, and it could have been that Cleveland area projects were awarded tax credits with five other projects.  There was the problem that the cost of this project per unit made it difficult to compare to other projects.  All of these strikes against the PSH made it difficult for the State Ohio Housing Finance Agency to support this project.  This is a loss for Cuyahoga County and for homeless people who need all the housing opportunities we can fund.  The Housing First people have vowed to keep trying next year.

We have to thank Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, the Office of Homeless Services, Enterprise Community Housing, and the Cleveland Housing Network for all their work on these projects.  We would suggest that both Cuyahoga County Council and the Cleveland City Council pass resolutions opposing the state prioritizing communities without PSH developments over those advanced Housing First projects.

Philadelphia Moves to Limit Feeding Programs

The Mayor of Philadelphia is moving forward on a plan to regulate the distribution of food in public parks.  There is no good reason that City officials should pass laws regulating food.  These can all be done through compromise and agreement without having to resort to a law.  Cleveland has worked out an agreement, and this can be done in any city.   There are many reasons why there needs to be compromise including the health and safety of those eating the food, but passing a law to restrict religions from expressing their faith with the less fortunate is an assault on those religious groups.  These bans and mandatory training will only lead to court challenges and nothing being done for years.  It is unlikely that a court in Pennsylvania will side with the City of Philadelphia on this freedom to practice one's religion. 

Blasting Homeless People with Sound in San Francisco

This is a case of the City failing to act to protect all citizens in a city.  San Francisco has allowed a theater owner to blast loud music, the recording of a jackhammer and other construction sounds to be blasted in an alley to disperse people sleeping there.  You know that authorities would be all over a homeless person playing their music too loud on a boom box or other activities that "disturb the peace" for those in housing.  This blasting of music and noise is just one more example of a city giving up of ever solving homeless people. 

Brian Davis

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