NEOCH Staff Participate in Cost of Poverty Experience

COPE: Cost Of Poverty Experience

“The over committed can miss a few deadlines. Dieters can take a break from their diet. The busy can take vacations. One cannot take a vacation from poverty.” -Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan

The Cost of Poverty Experience is a training that offers participants a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in our community. It is a look into the obstacles that are faced, the decisions that are made, and the consequences that impact these families every day. The CareSource Foundation has partnered with Think Tank (an Ohio non-profit) to develop COPE, which was co-designed with low-income individuals who have shared their story so that participants could gain greater understanding.  Greater Cleveland Community Shares was the local host of this poverty experience.

Joyce Robinson oversees the shelter experience photo by Dawn Ramsey

The exercise, which simulated one month of poverty, was broken up into four, 15-minute "weeks". 45 different types of “family units” consisted of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 members including adults, youth and school-age children. Each "family" was given instructions regarding circumstances specific to them. Adults were employed or unemployed but seeking work; youth and children had to attend school, as well as experience a "week-long" school break.

Fourteen stations represented services a typical low-income family would use- minimum wage employer(s), county human services, rent and mortgage/evictions, police and jail, court and probation services, pawn shop, bank and loan, gas stop, family wellness center, faith center, mega mart, community services, homeless shelter, school. Each station had its own set of rules regarding how to handle/deal with clients, as well as its own agency-appropriate props; i.e. the Homeless Shelter had six "beds", a "Do Not Shelter List" of clients who didn’t obey the rules, a "Homeless Shelter Form" to completes, a list of "Shelter Rules" to dispense, as well as “bedbugs” for those who were in the shelter for more than one week.

Prior to the start of the exercise, when participants were asked "What is Poverty?" responses included: lacking, struggling, violence, choices, hunger, sustainability, chaos, fear confusion. At the end of the exercise, when asked again, "What is Poverty?" responses included anxiety, increased heart rate, and frustration.

Participants who played the roles of adults talked about spending a lot of time just waiting, having a lot of "balls in the air", lack of understanding regarding resources available, having to make decisions quickly, always being behind, not having enough time, not having enough money at the end of the month, being rejected or charged more for services. They also spoke of parents as being strong, hard-working and resilient.

Those who played the roles of children talked about the stress of being alone a lot because parents had to work, having a lot on their plates, and that the primary relationships they had with adults were not with their parents, but with people "in the system," such as teachers and social service workers.

Systemic barriers can help cause or perpetuate poverty. As systems and as individuals, organizers of the event said, "We are isolated.  We need to think about how relationships, between the system and individuals can help to create community. Instead of talking at each other, insisting that the 'other side’ listen to us, we need to talk with each other and listen to what the other has to say."

Overall, I thought this demonstrated how you cannot take a break from poverty.  This showed everyone that from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed, you have to deal with the ripples that come from living in poverty. 

by Joyce Robinson

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Draining the Swamp in America

What does draining the swamp look like?  Some say it is about ridding DC of the "establishment" and lobbyist, but then we see only establishment and lobbyist figures so who knows.  Here are my thoughts on what is ahead for homeless people in Cleveland.  I am basing these projections on what Donald Trump said when he ran for office and how it will impact homeless people.  Some have said that those were just statements for the campaign, but his supporters will expect delivery on these ideas.  I have also looked at the Campaign website for some hints and base these projections on previous attempts by Republicans in Congress.  Some of these items were stopped because of divided government which is not the case at this time.  Voters were angry at the "establishment" for not responding to their concerns, so they are not going to stand for Trump not fulfilling these promises.  Here are the four websites that I looked at to formulate these projections:

The other issue for those of us in Ohio is that Trump has said on the Campaign trail that he is fiercely loyal and feel that those who have slighted him should be punished.  He repeatedly talked about the Congressmen who turned their back on him and those who did not live by the pledge they signed to support the Republican nominee for President.  The Governor of Ohio as well as the Senator just re-elected both distanced themselves from the President Elect.  Governor Kasich never endorsed the candidate and stated that he would not vote for Trump despite the popularity of the Presidential candidate.  Portman revoked his endorsement after harassment allegations arose and stated that he was going to waste his Presidential vote with a non-existent write in candidate.  There are debates about whether to end the earmarks ban, but Ohio may not benefit since we only have one member in leadership and that retaliation problem by a vindictive administration.  In addition, there is a plan for infrastructure improvements, but would Ohio score poorly because of our leadership team not supporting the Republican nominee?  If there is a dramatic infrastructure program that could put the skilled laborers sleeping in our shelters in Cleveland to work.   Overall, it looks like Ohio is going to be a rough place in the next four years.  

A Rise in Hate Crimes Against Homeless People

There is a great deal of fear and anxiety in America and typically people we do not understand become targets.  Homeless people, those who stay outside, and panhandlers are certainly misunderstood and often viewed as the enemy.  They are the visible expression that America is not a great place for everyone.  We fear that there will be a rise in hate crimes against homeless people because of the sharp rise in hate crimes over the last few weeks.  The next Justice Department is unlikely to be as sympathetic to protecting people living on the streets as the current Civil Rights Division.  

Medicaid Will Likely Contract

There was such hatred for the Affordable Care Act and the cornerstone of so called "Obamacare" was the expansion of Medicaid to those living at 132% of poverty or below.  This is unlikely to survive any change in the health care law.  Homeless people will have to go back to the emergency room for care.  Before Medicaid expansion in Ohio less than 20% of the population had insurance.  Today, between 70 and 80% of the population have insurance.  This has dramatically improved the health of the population and we were talking about using health care expansion to pay for stable housing because housing is healthcare. This is off the table and will not happen in the current environment. There is talk of moving to a "health savings account" system, but I am pretty sure that the savings accounts of homeless people will be overdrawn. There is also talk of privatizing Medicaid which will be great for the big insurance companies, big pharma, and horrible for low income people who are frequent health care customers. 

Dramatic Changes in Housing Programs

There is no real housing lobby in Washington.  We have not had a national housing policy since 1972, and no real production of housing for decades.  There was no discussion of housing in the Presidential election, and the beneficiaries of housing unfortunately do not vote.  People who live in subsidized housing are not protected like seniors who vote in huge numbers and protect Social Security like no other program.  I see two options for the next Congress to begin to cut the budgets for housing programs.  One is to privatize the market as much as possible, which the new Businessman in Chief would support.  The other option is to time limit the housing like welfare reform.  They actually could do both to contain costs.  Congress could provide a five year lifetime limit on subsidized housing to try to reduce the huge waiting lists (7,000 people on the voucher list in Cleveland and 21,000 on the public housing list in Cleveland).   The privatization has already started with housing authorities going to banks for private funding to rebuild their properties.  This will only be accelerated in the next few years.  Time limits would quickly fill up the shelters with disabled and fragile people who have no ability to pay the market rate for rent in Cleveland or any community. 

Sequestration on Steroids

Veterans programs, military, and social security will be protected according to Trump campaign promises.  While all other government programs will be subject to an across-the-board budget cut. Trump campaigned on a 1 to 2% cut in government spending to tackle the debt.  This would have a huge impact on social services.  We already lost shelter beds every year since Sequestration started and this will only accelerate with any cuts.  It is hard to cut 1% of the beds locally, so entire programs close. Shelter beds, treatment programs, re-entry programs, food stamp programs, health care for those without money, transportation dollars, and food assistance will be reduced.  The unemployment compensation and worker's compensation program has huge debt problems in many parts of the country. Both worker's assistance programs could be further privatized to attempt to eliminate federal bailouts.  

Block Granting

The Congress has tried this in the past but not very successfully.  Food stamps is the last of the entitlements that is not time limited.  While most homeless people do not collect food stamps, this is the program most likely to face a time limit and a block granting to the states to administer.  Funding for the shelters could also be block granted to the states.  Again, this might not be so bad for some states, but in Ohio rural communities always seem to get a disproportionate amount of federal and state dollars. The rural legislators are far more powerful than the urban legislators and demand a larger piece of the pie.  The example is the Ohio Housing Trust Fund which is slanted toward suburban and rural communities and those who live in urban communities suffer.  

Priorities for Other Government functions

We know that immigration, building a wall, deporting millions, an infrastructure program, legal and judicial resources to defend these positions, renegotiating trade deals, and improving care to Veterans will be the priority for the administration.  Trump has also promised a big tax cut for corporation and the middle class.  All of these will leave little room in a balanced federal budget to also fund shelters, housing, welfare, Medicaid, and food assistance. Again, because these programs do not have a powerful lobby they will not fair well in a Trump administration.  There was a promise to end all government funding for "sanctuary cities" that construct a wall between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers.  This type of precedent could impact many of the largest cities in America and their homeless services funding.  If the feds withhold money from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco for being "sanctuary cities" can those housing dollars go to Columbus and Youngstown?  It also could be a dangerous precedent used by the federal funds to withhold dollars from local communities that do things that the President does not like. 

Immigration debates could also seep into funding for the shelters in another way.  The shelters have always had a strict privacy protection so that even families have a hard time getting information on their loved ones.  Will the federal government demand the publicly funded shelters turn over their rosters to screen them against the list of 2 to 3 million people that the Trump administration is looking to deport?  The President may demand that they open their HMIS data to federal ICE officers for inspection.  The shelters may be swept into this national debate for offering a safe place to anyone who shows up at the door vs. receiving federal dollars to keep out foreign nationals.

Most of the Plans Require a Growing Economy

The Paul Ryan "A Better Way" Plan repeatedly outlines the need for a healthy growing economy in order to facilitate projections for growth in charitable giving and a recovery of the housing market.  Under President Obama, the economy has grown steadily for seven years.  It cannot go on with growth forever.  There will always be downturns, and we do not have the safety net services that we had in the past.  We will not have the tax base to absorb the number of people who need help.  We do not have the shelters, the affordable housing, the job training programs that we had in the past.  We are ready with food, but every other safety net has huge holes.  It will be tough for everyone.  

Veterans Homelessness Will Most Likely End

There are a few good things that are most likely coming in the next few years.  With the public pronouncements of improving the Department of Veteran's Affairs.  The Obama administration made a good headstart on ending veteran's homelessness.  With a renewed focus on improving the entire VA network in the new administration, it is a good bet that veteran's homelessness will end over the next few years.  

Treatment Could Actually Expand

The one area of positive reform of the social safety net might be the rate of incarceration and then the diversion into treatment programs.  There has been bi-partisan plan to reform the criminal justice system to reduce some of the costs.  This could translate into more resources into treatment to keep people out of jail.  This could benefit Northeast Ohio which is buckling under the opioid epidemic.  This may be a scratch in the end if hundreds of thousands lose health insurance locally.  We could overwhelm the few additional treatment and detox beds with those without health insurance.


  • Fewer affordable housing options because of time limits or privatization and a continued decline in the number of shelter beds.
  • More homeless families with health issues or an inability to find a job.
  • More single homeless people with fewer places to go.
  • Cleveland has guaranteed access to a shelter bed.  This is unlikely to survive with the expected federal funding cuts. 
  • Fewer homeless veterans and more treatment beds in the community.
  • The local community will be expected to pick up the slack for a withdraw of funds from the Federal government. Image Post Swamp After Being Drained
  • Trump has pledged 25 million jobs and that will benefit homeless people.

There are many in the social justice community who are worried about individual liberty, privacy and hate crimes.  There are those in the social service community worried about federal block granting and huge cuts in healthcare, housing and job programs.  These two worlds rarely co-exist, but may be forced into a shot gun wedding.  There are a lot of unknowns, but if the Trump Administration fulfills half of the promises he campaigned on, homeless people are going to be in big trouble.  By Thanksgiving 2017, the face of poverty will be much different compared to 2016.

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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Poverty Discussion at Organize Ohio

A group of people  from the Poverty Initiative from New York City, many whom are low-income leaders from the Midwest, East and South are coming to Cleveland today.  As part of that we will be panel discussion from 4:00-5:30 and 6:00-7:30 on issues of poverty in Cleveland.  There will be dinner served in between the panels.  You are all invited to attend and participate in those panel discussions and join in the dinner.  It will be held in the large conference room here at 3500 Lorain Avenue.  Our own Ramona will be presenting at this forum.  

Larry Bresler

Organize! Ohio

3500 Lorain Avenue Suite 501A

Cleveland, Ohio  44113


We Are Doing an Amazing Job of Working on Homelessness

Graph from the New York Times February 25, 2016

This graphic shows the Top 10 Most Distressed Cities in the United States as determined by the Economic Innovation Group.  Above are the factors that led to this calculation to determine the Top 10 cities in the United States.  This extraordinary that Cleveland tops the list as the most distressed city in the United States.

What is also amazing is that only 9,000 people show up for shelter in the most distressed city in America.  We estimate around 22,000 to 24,000 people are homeless over the course of a year in this city with 36% of the population living below poverty and a 2% decline in employment during the recovery years from the Great Recession.  We must be doing a great job to keep homelessness down to a manageable number and compared to other cities.  We don't have huge numbers sleeping on the streets like Detroit or Cincinnati or Newark.   We don't have the number of homeless compared to non-distressed cities like Washington DC, San Francisco or Sacramento, CA. Cleveland has to be doing something with housing and homelessness in order to keep our numbers down compared to other distressed cities and even non distressed communities or our poor people are moving to greener pastures in the South. 

Brian Davis

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New Ohio Rankings on Website

Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has some new information on our website.  This could be helpful for your senior high school reports or college essays about homelessness.  Some very interesting statistics on Ohio and how it ranks in several different areas compared to the other states.  It’s a report card that shows the weaknesses and strengths on some crucial subjects that make a difference for those who live in Ohio.

How much do you know about Ohio?  You will be surprised at some of the statistics an intern named Megan at NEOCH found out about Ohio and compiled so we can quickly see where Ohio ranks next to the other states in categories like Housing, Population and Demographics, Homelessness and Poverty, Economics, Health and Welfare and Crime. 

How many percent of registered voters actually turned out to vote in Ohio?  Where does Ohio rank among 50 states in reducing homelessness?  Is Ohio’s rate of population growth closer to the top or bottom of the scale when compared to 50 other states?  Which state has the highest poverty rate in the nation and how close is Ohio to it?  Where did Ohio rank in its number of murders, robberies and rapes?  Is it possible that Ohio is 7th from the worst state in any of those three violent crime categories? All of these stats are found on our site with an easy to read graphically enhanced webpage.   We encourage you to check out our new section and read some statistics that paint a graphic picture of Ohio and it’s standing amongst the states.  

The site evaluates the state’s performance and growth by showing how Ohio stacks up against its peers.  It even shows the quality of life and life expectancy for the state for the nearly 12 million residents of Ohio.  How long can you expect to live when you reside in the state of Ohio? Check out these very informative statistics to find out.  It’s a very eye opening picture of the state of Ohio and where it falls in categories that are compared across the board for every state in the union.

by Denise Toth

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Ohio Rankings on the Site

  Over the last four weeks I have been compiling data about Ohio and how it ranks among the other states.  I must admit, when I started this project it was tedious and mostly consisted of number crunching and html conversion.  However, the more time I spent with the data, the more meaning it took on.  It began to tell me a story about Ohio, a story I would like to share with you.

   The purpose of my data collection was to gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding poverty and homelessness.  Furthermore my intent was to use and share this data to generate solutions for poverty and homelessness.  The data I collected was categorized under five major headings; Population & Demographics, Economics, Housing, Families & Homelessness, Health & Welfare and Crime & Criminal Justice

   Throughout my research of Ohio, I encountered some data that was consistent with my expectations, and other data that completely surprised me.  Overall what seemed most notable about Ohio was that it was very rarely ranked in the top or bottom five states, but it was consistently ranked far below average in almost every area effecting poverty.  To me this data suggests that issues effecting poverty and homelessness are not even on the radar of state and local politicians and that oversight of social service providers is lacking.

   The data I collected confirmed my previously held belief that the factors that contribute to homelessness and poverty are intricate and complex.  While there is no single cause of poverty in Ohio, I was able to identify several prominent contributing factors.  These factors include; lack of higher education, lack of employment, racial and socio-economic discrimination, lack of effective social service structures, lack of public resources and lack of public responsibility.   Each of these contributing factors separately is a complex problem, yet together they create a seemingly unbreakable cycle of homelessness and poverty that seems impossible to improve. Without a thorough overhauling of all existing public infrastructures, it is difficult for me to imagine an end to poverty and homelessness.

  Some of the most surprising data I found that pointed to lack of higher education was that Ohio ranks very high for K-12 education, 16th in the nation.  Yet conversely Ohio ranks 39th in the nation for the overall attainment of Bachelors degrees, 40th in the nation for college debt and 39th in the nation for women with 4 or more years of college education.  This indicates a major disconnect between public education and higher education, suggesting that either not enough of it is provided, people are leaving Ohio to receive a higher education and not returning, or higher education is not accessible or affordable.

  The data suggesting severe unemployment problems in Ohio was surprising as well.  Ohio’s population growth is incredibly low and is ranked 44th in the nation, while Ohio still ranks 32nd in the nation for job growth.  Ohio’s workforce is ranked 47th in the nation.  This data suggests that even though businesses are in need of workers, they are still not creating new jobs.

     Even though Ohio ranks very poorly when compared to other states in poverty and homelessness, higher education, unemployment, personal income growth, crimes involving theft, overall heath and keeping people from losing their housing, these issues are not at the forefront of the political arena or even talked about by the media.  It certainly points to neglect in many different areas.  This clearly is a problem that needs extreme talent, creativity, innovation and cooperation to be solved.  It cannot be solved by any one person.  All of us as Ohioans need to come together as a community and take responsibility for our struggling citizens and hold our political leaders and social service providers accountable to begin to solve problems in our society. 

by Megan Bonem

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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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Added A Few Stats to the Website

We have posted the 2013 statistics from the shelters.  These statistics show 8,300 people used the shelters in 2013 (Oct. 2012 to September 2013).   There were 6,000 single adults and 646 families who used the shelters in Cuyahoga County.   The average stay in an emergency shelter for a single adult is 18 days and for a family nearly 60 days.   69% of the shelter population leave the emergency shelter with some income (including non-cash income).   While only 15% of the single adults leaving the shelter have earned income.   Single individuals leave the shelter with 67% of the population go to a permanent destination. It is interesting that about 45% of the sheltered homeless have not experienced homelessness in the past. 

Some of the statistics that we did not include are the first quarter stats for the shelters from October to December 2013.  The most frightening stat was that the emergency shelters operated at 120% of their capacity for single adults.  This means for most of the first part of the winter, we were operating overflow beds in the community.  Average stays for singles but has decreased in the first quarter, but the family population number of days spent in the shelters has increased.  These numbers do not give the definitive number of homeless people, but they give a good idea on trends and some demographic information.

We also updated the poorest city list for poverty in the United States. We have the top 100 poorest cities according to the US Census from 2012.  It is interesting seeing how some of the largest cities in the United States either have a large number of super rich people to offset the number of poverty people or are doing a good job in keeping down poverty.  It is interesting to see how many of the Midwestern cities are stuggling with poverty in the United States. 

Remember, that you can follow us on Twitter.  We are up to 25 followers.  We are clevhomeless on Twitter.  Gino is regularly updating our twitter feed.



Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Don't Get Sick in Texas if You Are Poor!

The second most populous state in the union is not a good place to get sick if you are poor.  Texas has 17.9% of their population living below poverty and the state leaders have decided not to extend health coverage to poor people. That is 4.5 million people who do not have an ability to afford health care coverage.  They are too poor to afford health care through the Affordable Health Care Act, and will not have the ability to have 100% of their coverage paid by the federal government.  Some of those living in poverty are children or elderly and so already have health coverage.  Some are disabled or have health care coverage at a job that pays below the poverty rate, but none of the 4.5 million will be able to obtain Medicaid. 

Florida, a state run by a health care executive, has also made the decision to forgo millions in federal dollars and the ability to improve the health care of probably somewhere around 1.6 million people of the 3.2 million people in Florida living in poverty.  Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina are also making the purely political decision to punish their citizens for electing democrats to federal offices.   There are 25.39 million people in the United States who are currently living below the poverty level in the United States and have picked the wrong state to live in. 

Will people in Nashville see that their neighbors in Louisville, Kentucky are doing a lot better because they have health care?  Will the residents of St. Louis, Missouri move across the mighty river to Illinois in order to get health care coverage?   Never before have people followed government benefits when living in poverty, but will they for health coverage?  Will a Dad with a disabled wife working at Hobby Lobby making minimum wage in Oklahoma City move his family to Little Rock to gain health coverage?   Will the 54 year old chronically unemployed woman in Concord, NH move across the border to Vermont so that at least her health care will be taken care of? 

We have posted a summary of the population of the states that are not going to expand Medicaid with the number of people living in poverty in those states.  We will keep those numbers updates as more and more states come off the list after seeing the errors of their ways.

Brian Davis

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Sticking Up for the Johnson Administration Poverty Position

We had a nice story today in the Plain Dealer about activists wanting a new emphasis on poverty in the Plain Dealer.  Thanks to Larry at Organize!Ohio for putting together this event.   We also read about a press conference in Washington DC from Senator Marco Rubio bashing the "War on Poverty" and previewing the conservative response to the high poverty rates in the United States.  I would like to mark the 50th anniversary of the Lyndon Johnson announcement of the "War on Poverty" in January of 1964 as a big step forward for the United States.  

First, it has to be said that the entire War metaphor is off base and problematic.   By no stretch of the imagination can this be seen as the same as the US response to German/Japanese aggression in the late 1930s or even the Vietnam conflict that was ratcheting up to a full scale war in the early 1960s.   The Johnson administration should accept some criticism for using the war metaphor and the political symbolism of fighting a two "wars" at the same time or using one assault on poverty to distract the public from the drums of war heating up in Southeast Asia. 

Progressives who came to the event in Cleveland on Wednesday at Lutheran Metro Ministry want a renewed interest in supporting the programs created by the Johnson administration.  All of these programs are under attack.  With cuts to Food Stamps, regular attacks on Medicaid, and misunderstandings about unemployment assistance, there is a lack of support for government programs.  We have not done enough to put a dent in poverty with record numbers of people falling below the poverty line.  The minimum wage and wages in general has been stagnant in America for decades.  There are more than 46 million people living in poverty, and we have not worked to address income inequality since the early 1970s.  

Regarding the response from the other side led by Senator Rubio who was also calling for fundamental changes are not ready for prime time.  No legislation was proposed by Rubio and some of the ideas have already been tried and failed.  We already reformed welfare nearly out of existence and that did not reduce poverty and lift the boats of single moms who utilized the program.  Rubio said that, "Our government programs at best offer only a partial solution."   His push was to turn over all the Johnson poverty programs over to the states.  These block granting of programs will only make communities such as most of the South fall further behind in education, health of their citizens, and real income.  The reality is that despite Rubio's comments the needs of the poor are the same in Portland and Toledo as they are in St. Petersburg and St. Louis.   We all need the proper housing, nutritious food, health care, employment that pays a living wage for a family, and quality education to leave poverty.  It is not complicated, and we should not make this into some science experiment.  Every time we try block granting, the state takes their cut and half the states do not meet the goals of the national program and those citizens are left behind.  The proof that letting the states make the decision about how to address poverty will not work can be summed up by the graphic from FamiliesUSA showing 25 states that are not going to expand Medicaid.  These states, for purely political reasons, are not going to help their poorest citizens gain access to health care. 

I wanted to put in a pitch for the value of the Johnson administration effort to reduce poverty.  While we have not figured out how to move large numbers out of poverty, these programs have improved the safety net.  The health of children across the United States has improved because of access to immunizations and doctors.  Infant mortality has decreased and people have better access to food and clean water.  The life span of Americans has increased.  Sanitation is widely available which has reduced disease. Early childhood education is available and preparing kids for school.  Yes, those gains are often lost because of our poor schools, but we need to look at the gains and not throw those out as a way to reduce federal expenditures toward reducing poverty.   We need to boost our commitment toward housing which was not emphasized in the 1964 speech.  We need to quickly move beyond the Affordable Care Act to a Medicaid-for-all system to eliminate the for-profit middleman involved in our health care.  We need to do more to place people into jobs that pay a families living wage and charge companies a fine for every full time employees using food stamps or other government subsidies. Even though Johnson used an awful metaphor to kick off this struggle to reduce poverty, it has to be said that the programs kicked off in 1964 have made America stronger.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Homeless Counts and the Danger of Releasing Numbers

I did not do a good job of describing the NEOCH position on the release of numbers by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.   We have talked about this every year that these numbers come out, and a report is issued for Congress.   This is to prove to legislators that the millions spent on homeless services are worthwhile and not sending good money after bad.   In the 1980s and early 1990s, there were so many exaggerated numbers released by advocates, researchers, local government, and social service providers that Congress demanded some real numbers.  Now, we get this terribly flawed report with no basis in reality.  In fact, the first 20 pages of the report to Congress is a disclaimer of how unscientific these numbers are, and how each city attempts the count in a different manner.  There is no standard for the count, and there is no way for the information to be explained to the media/public in a simple manner. 

We feel that the annual count is a horrible waste of time and money, and the release of the data is harmful to our community.  Locally, our volunteers do a meticulous job of documenting every person who they come across.  This dramatically undercounts the population.  In other cities, they rely on huge estimates, because there is not enough time to actually count everyone.  HUD offers little guidance and does not throw out bogus numbers.   All the good numbers are put together in the same report as the fictitious numbers and delivered to Congress.  Some cities that use wildly excessive will benefit from additional funding and media attention.  Those cities who use understated numbers will be viewed as not needing the funding, and resources will go to other issues such hunger and literacy. 

The US Conference of Mayors released numbers at the end of each year.  These are equally fictitious numbers but at least they have no basis in how funding is decided.  They are also rely on the expertise of some staff in the Mayors office in a number of cities.  There is no pseudo-science involved in the US Conference of Mayor's report.  These experts can rely on calls for help or just a gut feeling to put out numbers. They all submit some facts to back up their reason for saying that hunger or homelessness has increased or decreased.  There are a lot of advocates who hate the US Conference of Mayors report, but I am not troubled by the report.  It does not purport to be a definitive number or based on some walking around looking at bags of clothing outside.  It is the opinion of Mayors throughout the United States about the amount of suffering among their citizens.  Some Mayors will use this to show how the federal government has failed while others will show how great a job they are doing as a Mayor.  This is a highly political document so it need to be taken with a grain of salt.

We have said many times that if you want real numbers government has to pay for them. They have to contract with universities who are trained to do research to come up with real numbers.  You could study nine or ten cities and then some rural and suburban communities, and then make some multiplier to come up with real numbers for the country.  How many of those living below poverty according to the US Census will become homeless in a 12 month period?  Is it 5%, 7% or 12% experience some form of homelessness?  Does this vary by rural vs. urban communities?  Do communities like Detroit with larger impoverished populations become homeless in larger numbers because the safety net is so overwhelmed?   These are all questions that need answered with real research by trained professionals, and it will cost money.  Put aside the annual count and any observations made from this flawed data.  It means nothing and there is no way to compare these numbers from a bunch of volunteers. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Promissory Note Still Comes Up Short for Housing

50 years ago, African American leaders gathered in DC to seek justice and equality.  Most remember Martin Luther King Jr. delivering  the single best oratory speech since the Gettysburg Address, but John Lewis, A. Phillip Randolph and Roy Wilkins also gave powerful speeches.  Just focusing on the world of housing which was a critical plank in the push for jobs and freedom in 1963 there have been strides, but the United States has a long way to go to repay the debt.  We have seen poverty and homelessness disproportionately impact African Americans for 150 years. This last year, 80% of the County's homeless population were African American while only 30% of the population of the County were black (as defined by the US Census).  Poverty numbers are nearly double for African Americans in Cuyahoga County compared to other races. 

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

The fair housing act was passed to combat discrimination in both private and public housing, but predatory lending had a devastating impact on the dream of owning a house for many Americans of African descent.  We have witnessed African American mayors in many cities in the 1990s and 2000s jailing a large number of African American men who needed a hand up because they were homeless.  Still today, the leadership of Columbia South Carolina is going to jail people who refuse shelter.  This weekend in which we marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Raleigh North Carolina police threatened arrest for feeding homeless and low income individuals who unfortunately are disproportionately African American. Shelters are routinely restricted from certain neighborhoods or entire cities. In almost every city in America (not including Cleveland), if a citizen loses their housing they end up worse than the way we treat animals, because there is no right to live inside in America.  Most have to spend some time on the streets or places not fit for human habitation because when the shelters get full they do not have an overflow system especially in summers. 

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.

Despite the Fair Housing Act, housing projects for low income people are routinely blocked by neighbors.  Out of fear and probably some lingering racist stereotypes, some neighbors on the near West Side of Cleveland blocked a permanent supportive housing project two years ago.  Even the churches in the liberal bastions of Cleveland Hts and Shaker Hts faced opposition when they tried to open their basements to shelter largely black homeless families.  Fixed public housing are still not available in Lyndhurst, Beachwood, or Rocky River which means poor people do not have the diversity of choices in where to live or what schools to send their children when compared to middle or upper income Americans.  It is easy to see that when a child starts out life behind their peers in the suburbs it will be hard for them to catch up when they never have to the opportunity to join hands with a child from another race. 

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

African Americans have a significantly higher unemployment rate today similar to the rate in 1963.  They have home ownership rates that are much lower than the general population (28% fewer African Americans own homes when compared to White populations in 2009).  They have sky-rocketing incarceration rates disproportionate to the population and disproportionate to the criminal population of America.  Prison has become the new public housing where African Americans are forced to find education and health care.  I believe that King and the other speakers would be speaking, mobilizing and marching about the injustice of the criminal justice system today.  We have created our own unforgiving Apartheid system that keeps a segment of the population poor, without a job and without housing for decades. 

We had a national housing policy that Presidents ran on up until 1980.  We do not have a plan to house our own citizens in safe, decent or affordable manner.  We do not have a way to care for disabled individuals even with a place for them to live.  We are moving backward in providing voting rights to African Americans who may want to vote for Mayors or Governors who will do something about the disparity in jobs, housing, or health care.  We have no problem accepting that African Americans will be searched on the streets for no other probable cause then the color of their skin or denied even an application for housing for no other reason then the color of their skin. 

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Every list of problems facing our society African American are on the top from incarceration, homeless, high school drop out rates, those without health insurance to the hungry, jobless, and impoverished.  Any objective analysis of the state of American Americans has to show open oppression has turned to willful neglect.  We have included the words of King here because of their power even after 50 years.  It seems that the "whirlwinds of revolt" that King referenced are not continuing to shake the foundation of democracy, but instead we have the tornado of acceptance and complacency that marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.  We as a society have come to accept that black neighborhoods will have bad schools and are indifferent to African Americans living with periods of homelessness that destroy families and destabilize the male population.  Only a portion of our society is "free at last."

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Congress Takes on Poverty

Congressman and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan hosted a hearing on poverty in America and failed to include anyone currently living in poverty.  NEOCH is in business to provide a voice to those often forgotten by society, and we could have provided any number of individuals to help illustrate the point.  We could have sent a number of our Street Voices speakers such as Don to talk about long term health issues that keep him living in poverty.   The long waits for the state to determine if a person is in fact disabled and deserves government support to keep them in poverty for the rest of their lives is another reason for poverty in America. 

But Congressman Ryan was not looking for an answer to why there are a large number of people living in poverty.   He wanted to make a political point that anti-poverty programs have not worked.  He was interested in showing that cash assistance, Medicaid and food stamps programs are not working.  He would not be interested in hearing from an ex-IRS agent who had her family dissolve and could not find behavioral health care in America.   Most commentators mentioned the symbolism of the candidate who constantly had to explain the 47 percent comment throughout his campaign then hosting this hearing. 

What was the point of all this?  Why host a hearing on poverty and not invite any American actually facing poverty?  The purpose is to drum up support for eliminating the entitlement to food stamps and block grant Medicaid and undermine Obamacare.  It would not be helpful that Raymond, a veteran, would talk about how he will have to work for the rest of his life because he does not have access to any safety net system.  Congressman Ryan did not want to hear from anyone struggling to feed their children with food stamps or the family terrified that their 21 disabled son cannot take care of themselves and will have no where to get help as an adult.  There was no witness called from the senior population who could talk about how they love Medicare and feel that it was one of the greatest government programs ever invented because that would not be part of the Ryan script.  No one testified how great the school lunch program was to provide the proper nutrition to the kids who could then focus on learning.  And there was no one represented who could talk about being able to sleep in a shelter bed in Cleveland despite the increasing numbers because the government stimulus program. 

The anti-poverty programs for the elderly are working because it is so engrained in our society.  Every suburb has a senior citizen assistance department, and to that end we have only a small number of homeless people over 60 years of age.   There is not the level of rural poverty as there was in the 1960s.  The family safety net system is not working and needs reformed, but not the remedy proposed by Congressman Ryan.  We need a dramatic expansion in government support for families to lift them out of poverty.  It was ironic that in the same week fast food workers demanded a higher wage in order to lift themselves out of the need for government support, Congressman Ryan was hosting a hearing to figure out how to make it harder for those same workers to get government help. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


February Links

Photo by Cheryl Jones
A Couple of Interesting Stories

The Huffington Post published an article today about the impact of dramatic cuts on families.  We have seen a sharp rise in family homelessness in both Columbus and Cleveland over the last four years.  The most frightening part of this story was from a young child in Detroit:

“He said, ‘Oh, I’m not eating dinner because it’s my brother’s turn tonight. Tomorrow is my night.’”

The report from the Annie E. Casey foundation found 67% of the children live in concentrated poverty in Detroit.  Michigan has made dramatic changes in cash assistance and dropped 11,000 from the roles.  Over 400,000 are unemployed in Michigan, but only 60,000 receive benefits.

CNN featured an inspirational story about Lamont Peterson and his journey from homelessness to Light Heavyweight world champion. It is nice to see media stories in which homelessness does not seem like a permanent condition.    

The AP is reporting that the City of New York cannot proceed with their diversion plan as we reported previously.   The decision concentrates on the way that the policy was introduced.  The judge did not rule on the merits of the policy at this point.  The City is characterizing the policy as one that anyone can walk in for services whether they need it or not.  The Mayor of New York needs to stay in a shelter for a week, and he would realize that it is not a place where people would volunteer to reside.  This is the final step for most people who have lost everything else. It is an insult for the City to say to a desperate individual that they must impose on their Aunt Rose's hospitality or sleep on the streets.