Two Homeless Related Court Decisions

From the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the City of Houston for citing homeless people under its new anti-camping ban. The ACLU of Texas, Dechert law firm, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the motion for TRO last week after police raided a homeless encampment. The order is can be viewed here.

Check out this quote from the order's conclusion:

 "The plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are subject to a credible threat of being arrested, booked, prosecuted and jailed for violating the City of Houston’s ban on sheltering in public.  The evidence is conclusive that they are involuntarily in public, harmlessly attempting to shelter themselves—an act they cannot realistically forgo, and that is integral to their status as unsheltered homeless individuals.  Enforcement of the City’s ban against the plaintiffs may, therefore, cause them irreparable harm by violating their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment due to their status of “homelessness.”  Robinson, 370 U.S. at 666–67.  Moreover, there is no evidence that the City will suffer harm if a restraining order were issued, thereby, preserving the status quo that existed prior to the issuance of citations." 

NEOCH Comments:

In a strange juxtaposition, the City of Houston said that this law would reduce aggressive panhandling?  I have no idea how these two ideas are connected, but surprisingly no rainbows with pots of gold would result with this anti-camping law.  The shelters are all full in Houston with the average wait for a bed with only five shelters available. "The emergency shelters in Houston are full and have been so for years [Id. At 67 para. 16-17]. Therefore, homeless individuals wait in lines, daily, at the five shelters for any available space only to be turned away for lack of space. [Id. at pp. 75-76 para. 3-4]."

This is only a temporary ruling to prevent further tickets for "sheltering in public" while this case is litigated in Federal Court, but there is strong powerful language in the restraining order. 

In another case detailed by the Associated Press, the US Appeals Court has decided that day laborers are free to flag down motorists to solicit work.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal appeals court says day laborers in a Long Island town have a First Amendment right to solicit passing drivers for jobs. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday struck down a 2009 law banning the solicitation in Oyster Bay. The law had never been enforced. Here is a link to the full article.

 

This could doom the new City of Cleveland law regarding panhandling toward passing motorists.  In June 2017, the City removed its "aggressive panhandling law" and replaced it with a law prohibiting flagging down cars to solicit money.  A good civil rights attorney could make the case that panhandlers have the same First Amendment right to free speech as the day laborers.  Look for this to be the next front in the struggle for free speech.

Special to NEOCH from Brian Davis

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Homeless Still Need Help in the Summer!

Joyce Robinson of NEOCH sorts items purchased with SocksPlus funds

It is hot and the dog days of summer.  No one is thinking about homeless people at this time.  Did you know that the population does not decline in the summer.  Yes, the number of men staying in the shelter decreases in the summer.  Many find it easier to sleep outside during the summer.  They use the drop in centers for showers and meals, but spend their time sleeping in tents, under bridges or in abandoned structures.  So, it is not as though they have ended their homelessness as much as they took a break from shelter. 

The number of families experiencing homelessness actually increases during the summer.  Grandma has been helping out the daughter and her kids so that they do not have to change schools during the school year, but cannot take a summer of the kids around the house endangering the Grandma's housing if the landlord finds out.  It is too much of a strain for many families and they relocate to the shelters. 

The homeless outreach teams are out building relationships with people who choose not to use the shelters.  Metanoia outreach staff are delivering hygiene items to guys hanging out at the shower program at St. Malachi.  We are going to the dinners over at St. Patricks to see if there are life sustaining needs that these guys might have.  Care Alliance outreach nurses are taking blood pressure and looking for sleep deprived individuals who live outside.  PATH workers are driving homeless people to medical appointments and making sure that they are taking their medicine.  Our Community West Foundation funded outreach trainees Fred and James are taking out sleeping bags and tents to people who do not want to give up their pet while they are without housing. 

Photo by Bob Tuneberg, from The Villager Newspaper and Crocker Press and Community West FoundationThe point is that homelessness is not just a winter problem.  We have had a large year-round problem with homelessness for 30 years here in Cleveland, and we do not see any relief in the summer.  We need your help.  We need water for those who try to make it off the streets on their own.  We need hygiene kits for those who use the showers at the Cosgrove Center.  It gets cold at night so we still distribute blankets year round.  Here is the list of items that we collect and distribute. We have posted photos on the front of the website to remind people that we need items even during the summer to distribute.  If you can't help with donated items, just send a donation and we will purchase the items to give out.  Just put "outreach" in the memo line so we know that they go to help those living outside.  You can also donate cash to the Community West Foundation to the SocksPlus program.  Those funds go to the outreach collaborative organized by NEOCH.  Thanks for your help.

by Brian Davis

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Cleveland Has A Really Nice Downtown

 We did our regular count of homeless people on Black Friday again this year.  We started this back in 1999 in response to a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland.  This was the traditional weekend during the White Administration when homeless people were swept off the sidewalk.  Police were dispatched to go out and harass homeless people out of sight by saying, "Get up and get out or you will be arrested."  NEOCH sued and won a settlement which is still in force.  Since that time we go out and check on the population and count how many are outside.  In 1999, there were as many as 60 people sleeping outside.  This year, there were three.  Before you cheer there are a few caveats.  One, the overnight drop in center at Metanoia is now open and draws about 60 people inside.  Second, this is the lowest number for the entire year.  It is a holiday weekend and many people go visit family and are welcomed back in the house even for a short time.  Third, we have reduced the overall number of long term homeless through coordinated outreach, Permanent Supportive housing and guaranteed access to shelter.  Last year, there were eight in the downtown, so this is also down from last year. 

This is only a small geographic area of the 20 blocks downtown.  We drive and walk every street downtown looking for people who choose to sleep outside.  It is not a count of anything that can be used for any academic analysis of homelessness.  One thing that we have to say is how nice Cleveland's downtown is compared to other cities.  Look at these pics below.  We should be proud of the Downtown.  It is pretty special.  There are not homeless people sleeping on benches, in the bushes, in bus shelters like there are in other cities.  The homeless service providers should be richly rewarded for keeping down the population by doing everything they can to keep the shelter doors open.  Thanks to Frontline Services, Lutheran Ministry, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, Metanoia, West Side Catholic, EDEN and all the other groups that feed, cloth, and shelter homeless people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In any other city in America these benches would have homeless people sleeping on them.

 

 

 

 

Look how clean the bus shelter is. Many cities have homeless people sleeping in the bus shelters 

 

 

 Brian Davis

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Clean Up Continues in Flats

Dennis finished up his training at NEOCH with a clean up follow up.  Thanks to Ohio City Development for their help with providing a dumpster.  There was so much trash collected by the students at CWRU that we needed another week to finish the cleanup.  So, homeless people and a few volunteers threw away the rest of the trash collected on April 2.  The St. Ignatius students will finish the job on April 30.  This comes the week that it was announced $2.5 million will go to the stabilization of the hill.  This is a small downpayment on the $49 million needed to stabilize the entire hill.

Brian Davis

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Other Things to Donate

One of our friends who lives outside saw the post about donations needed in the summer and wanted to add a few things to the list.  We give out items all year round, (click on the link to view our list) but here are a few things that we need for the summer:

  • Rope and plastic canvases especially larger plastic with ring holes for the rope are very helpful.   This is to fortify places against the elements. 
  • Blankets--we are actually out of blankets right now.  We are overwhelmed with blankets in the winter, but at a loss in the summer. 
  • Tents are at a premium during the summer, and we can always use those portable for the guys who decide not to utilize the overcrowded shelters.
  • Towels, washcloths and sheets.  We typically give most of the sheets to the shelters, but most homeless people need towels and washcloths.  These are big items that go really fast when we get them in.

During the summer the number of families increase, and over the last three years this has been especially acute.  We have had to start busing families to an overflow center to serve everyone asking for shelter during the summer.  This overflow center is closing this month, and I have no idea what will happen to families in September.  I have not heard from anyone what will happen if more families show up asking for shelter than we have beds.  Here are a few items that the Coordinated Intake could use:

  • Baby Formula and small new play toys
  • Diapers and car seats
  • Strollers and snacks for young kids (breakfast bars, dried fruit, dry cereal, etc.)

If you have items for those living outside or for Coordinated Intake, you can drop them at NEOCH and we will get them to the appropriate people seeking help.  You may ask, "Why do I have to drop them off when some groups come out and pick them up?"  That is true that there are groups that pick up clothing and household items, but those groups often sell their items to fund their transportation and storage.  We are not spending our time going to the suburbs to pick up items.  We are spending our time distributing the items donated to those seeking help.  If you want to guarantee that the items you donate will go to people in need for FREE, then you have to do part of the work.  You will have to drop them off at those groups who are distributing the items to those living in the shelters or on the streets.  If you don't mind that a percentage of your donation is sold to make money for the non-profit then call one of those groups who comes around to pick up your gently used items. 

Brian Davis

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Socks Plus Campaign Begins at Stand Down

In 2014, staff from the Community West Foundation toured some of the encampments around Cleveland and sat down to talk to those who live outside.  Nearly every one they talked to said that they needed warm socks and boots.  The outreach workers also agree that boots and socks are in short supply for most of the year.  Health care clinics are regularly dealing with foot issues because of all the walking done by homeless people.  The Community West Foundation staff caucused and decided to focus some funding on what they are calling the "Socks Plus" campaign to raise support for socks and boots for homeless people who spend a great deal of time outdoors. 

NEOCH is gathering quality socks and boots along with other winter items to distribute to as many people as possible over the next few weeks.  Community West staff, Peter Schindler, attended the homeless Stand Down and then came to the Metanoia Project to see the first distribution of the Socks Plus campaign.  NEOCH outreach worker, Denise Toth, gave away thermal winter socks and thermal hoodies on Saturday evening to everyone at the Metanoia Project.  We are gathering backpacks now that the Stand Down is over to give out to homeless people who are reluctant to go to shelter.  These backpacks will be full of thermal tops, handwarmers, gloves, boots and the thermal socks.   We will continue the distribution through the spring and may add rain ponchos or other items to keep people dry. 

The Second District Police also gave away items this weekend that they collected including new underwear and new socks at Metanoia.  We want to keep people warm and dry this winter. We do not want to see people losing limbs or dying because of the cold in Cleveland.  Our primary goal while working with homeless people is to keep them safe.  The most dangerous time for hypothermia is the spring when it is hard to keep dry.  The lower temperatures and the rain is a killer for homeless people. Thanks to the Community West staff and all those who donate to the Socks Plus campaign. We will keep the community updated about the distribution of these critical items as part of the Socks Plus campaign.

Brian Davis

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Homelessness Updates

Did New Orleans really solve veteran's homelessness?  Media in the Big Easy have spent the past few weeks examining the proclamation by Mayor Landrieu that veteran's homelessness has been ended in New Orleans and found the program lacking.  There is always the problem of counting homeless people that makes it difficult to proclaim victory.  There is the problem of the varied definition of what is a  veteran that complicates the matter.  Are you a veteran after 2 months of service or 2 years of services? Then there is the problem that homeless people are so fluid and fall in and out of homelessness on a daily basis.  It is bold to make this proclamation, but until you end all homelessness it is impossible to declare victory with just one population. 

It is true that there are tons of veteran's resources available now. If you spent time in the military and were not dishonorably discharged, there is so much help available right now.  We really have all the tools at our disposal to end veteran's homelessness.  But there are a lot of hard core vets who have no contact with anyone and will be hard to reach.  It would be unnerving for a retired Marine corporal to be sitting in the library waiting for the rain to subside and read in the Times Picayune that your city had "solved" veterans homelessness while you struggled with PTSD and were bouncing around from family to living in a car.  The Marine is thinking once you solve a problem, you stop dedicating resources and staff, and move on to something else.  It would seem like you missed the train that will never come around again. 

Toledo Blade wrote about what homeless people do during the extreme cold.  This was an interesting story about the huge number of people who use the library as a drop in center.

Lakewood teens again spend the night outside in the cold to call attention to homelessness on the North Coast.  We have featured stories about previous groups from Lakewood Congregational church about their sleeping outside in the Street Chronicle.  We appreciate them calling attention to the plight of homeless people in the cold.

Bloomberg has a good article about why the President never talks about rent.   The same could be said about homelessness, and the president only mentioning homelessness when he is volunteering on a service day.  I think that the architect of modern homelessness, Ronald Reagan, was the last President who was forced to talk about solutions to homelessness.  But half the population rent from a landlord and state or federal elected office holders rarely talk about it.

The City of Cincinnati became the third city to enact a homeless hate crimes bill.  Cleveland has one of the laws, but it is rarely used.  Most of the time a hate crime is a felony and local laws do not address crimes of that severity.  The State of Ohio would need to pass legislation to include homeless people in the existing hate crimes statute to make it real.  It is good that the city is trying to do something about the attacks on homeless people and were willing to talk about these issues. 

Brian Davis

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Importance of Outreach 2

Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance has dedicated his life to homeless people.  He works outside building trusting relationships.  We honored him in 2013.  Here is the photo gallery from that celebration.  This is a longer interview than the previous interview with Denise.  Jim is one of the best to give his thoughts on the importance of outreach.  While the federal government does not put much funding into outreach, we believe that it is an invaluable service in Cleveland.

It is hard to measure the success of outreach, but spending some time with people with a mental illness or PTSD victims is important.  Helping people overcome their disabilities to get into housing is extremely rewarding.  Jim gives some real world examples of how outreach changes lives.  Let us know what you think here or leave a comment below.

The Importance of Outreach

Denise Toth is our current Outreach Trainee.  She has learned a great deal over the last two months in working to find housing for those living outside.  She is learning about all the services available and trying to encourage people to come inside.  Denise is building a trusting relationship with those outside everyday in Cleveland. We are hosting a series of videos with outreach workers to demonstrate how important this service is to Cuyahoga County.

NEOCH is trying to show the value of outreach services in our community.  The federal government has been reducing its commitment to supportive services, but we want to show how important is to keep in touch with people discouraged from "the system."  We want to try to reach people who choose not to go to shelter and are struggling to make it through the winter.  We are out on the streets helping to keep people alive, but also to not waste their talents living outside.  This program is funded by the Community West Foundation.

Brian Davis

More News Briefs from this Week

Huffington Post posted a commentary about how homelessness has decreased.  We have covered how ridiculous the HUD count is and statistically invalid these numbers are in the real world.  We also know that the folks at Laura's Home/City Mission would disagree.  If any national expert tells you that homelessness is down, they have no credibility with what is going on in the real world.

Brennan Center for Justice has a series of commentaries from state's that changed their voting procedures. DeNora Getachew, from the Brennan Center, is looking at the changes in voting that took place in the 2014 election.  She has looked at Texas, Iowa, and Ohio so far.  She interviewed me and staff from Souls to the Polls to talk about the harm caused by the loss of Golden Week and evening hours to vote early.   One interesting note, the progressive state of Illinois is working to increase access to voting with new legislation:

  1. It will implement electronic registration, which means more voters will have the opportunity to sign up when they interact with a government agency.
  2. It will create a permanent same-day registration (SDR) system. SDR will increase convenience by allowing citizens to register and vote on the same day, either before or on Election Day.
  3. It will increase early voting options by extending them to include the three days — most notably, the Saturday and Sunday — before Election Day.

San Jose has completed clearing "The Jungle" which some say is the largest number of people in one encampment.  This is one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States and there were over 60 acres of tents and self constructed homes that were torn down.  The San Jose Mercury News editorialized about the cost of not providing housing to these residents.  The LA Times looked at the issue here. Huffington asks the relevant question what happened to those who were "cleared" from this encampment?

The White House posted an entry on their blog about the Cuyahoga County Pay for Success program. We looked at the issue here

Brian Davis

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How Many Homeless Are in Downtown Cleveland?

Over the last 16 years, we have had a long decline in the number of homeless people sleeping in Downtown Cleveland.  From 60 in 1998 then the shelter opens in 2000 and the number went down to 4 people.   Then it spikes up to 40 in 2006 for some reason and now it has remained steady at 3 people in 2012 to 2014.   We did not survey in 2011 because of the Occupy movement sleeping downtown. 

We started doing this count on Black Friday during the Mike White administration because homeless people were being arrested, threatened with arrest, and transported out of the City during the Thanksgiving season.  NEOCH sued and eventually won a settlement with the City.  We then began surveying homeless people downtown to see if they were being harassed or threatened by the police.  We also kept a count of the number of homeless people.  This is a low number since many homeless people go into stay with families during the holidays.  The shelters are not as busy on Black Friday compared to other Fridays.  Now we have 16 years of numbers of people sleeping downtown, and it is a huge success. 

The big change that happened in the early 2000s was the introduction of the big shelter in Cleveland that did not turn anyone away.  Then in the mid 2000s, there was the stepped up outreach, the introduction of the Permanent Supportive Housing units for the long term homeless and the downtown clean up crews.  Then over the last three years, we have had the Metanoia Project that has reduced the number of people sleeping outside across the City.  All these together have resulted in fewer people sleeping outside.  It is not that we have solved homelessness or even solved people sleeping outside.  There are far more visibly homeless people sleeping on the West Side of Cleveland then there were 10 years ago. 

Denise, the outreach trainee and I met "Darnell" this morning sleeping outside.   He said that he had been kicked out of the 2100 Lakeside for defending himself in a fight.  He was not aware of the Metanoia Project and was trying to stay warm until the library opened.  We offered Darnell a ride and gave him a hygiene kit.  No matter how many shelter beds, how much housing built for homeless people and how many workers are out on the streets, there are always emergencies.  There are always people who will not go into shelter or are kicked out of their house on any given night.  There are people who do not know where to find help and wander the streets in Cleveland. 

Brian Davis

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