Update on the Housing Trust Fund

Good Afternoon Advocates!

The outpouring of support for saving the Trust Fund has been phenomenal! We are getting reports of hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails going out to dozens of members of the General Assembly. Teams of people have been working the issue around the state and nearly around the clock! As a result, nearly 500 organizations have signed the VETO REQUEST LETTER we plan to give the Governor, should that become necessary. Please make sure your organization signs, and forward this to your networks, if you haven’t already done so.

The Trust Fund issue could be decided on in conference committee as early as sometime tomorrow, so please continue making calls to your House and Senate members urging them to them to support the House version of the Housing Trust Fund language – not the Senate version -- while the budget bill is in conference committee.

We are closely monitoring progress at the Statehouse and will get the word to you as soon as we know the Trust Fund’s status. We will be ready to hand-deliver the Veto Request to the Governor’s office if needed.

Here is a terrific recent editorial from the Akron Beacon Journal. Please push this out through your social media using the Twitter hashtags #DontBustTheTrust and/or #SaveOHTF and please RT and Favorite other Trust Fund supporters!

Thanks to all and let’s keep it going.

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

Ohio Housing Trust Fund in Jeopardy

Good Afternoon Advocates,

Today, the latest changes were made to the state budget through the Omnibus amendment in the Senate. Despite your tremendous advocacy efforts last week, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund remains in jeopardy. The budget still contains the proposal to cut Trust Fund revenues in half and redistribute the other half to newly created county entities that lack housing experience and coordination.

If the amendment makes it through the legislative process, it will go into effect July 1st. The state will have only half of the money it currently administers, so unless this change is rejected, all organizations currently funded with Ohio Housing Trust Fund dollars will see dramatic reductions without any clear access to local funds.

[Local updates: If the Senate version passes, approximately $25 million will be divided among the 88 counties, so Cuyahoga County will never get back the funding we received in the past. Small counties will get a small amount of the funds that they will not have enough to do a housing project. That money will sit or will be wasted.  Since most of the counties around Cuyahoga send their homeless to the Cleveland shelters to get help, we deserve a larger portion of the Trust Fund.]   If you know any local media people, please send it on. You’re welcome to add a quote of your own.

Attached also is a fact sheet with a list of the reasons why this amendment is a terrible idea.

We need your help today in calling your house and senate members. Ask them to support the House version of the Housing Trust Fund language – not the Senate version -- when the bill goes to the conference committee later this week.

Here are the contact lists for the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.

Please let us know how your legislators respond.

Thanks for your support,

Cathy Johnston
Advocacy Director
614-280-1984 X 25

Join NOBLE For Advocacy Day

We support NOBLE and Organize!Ohio as they work to ask State legislators to improve the Ohio budget to benefit poor people in Ohio.  The budget is the document passed by our state legislators that shows their priorities.  This current budget leaves homeless and low income people behind.  The state budget will cut many services while providing tax cuts.  Local governments, food programs, education and public transportation are suffering in this county.

Byron has organized a bus trip down to Columbus to talk to legislators on May 13 leaving Merrick House in Tremont at 8 a.m.   We are encouraging homeless and those just off the streets to attend this important bus trip to Columbus.  You must call Byron at 216/651-2606 to attend. 

Brian Davis

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Faith Says Very Little Good in Ohio Budget

Bill Faith attends a Medicaid Expansion Rally in Columbus. Photo from COHHIO.org Bill Faith, executive director, of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, spoke to the April Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting.  He brings a wealth of information about the State of Ohio budget and its impact on housing and homelessness.  Bill focused on the budget that the Governor submitted, which are subject to House and Senate approval.  Many of the Governor's proposals are destined to be slashed because the Republican dominated Ohio Legislature does not want to ever ever ever raise taxes anywhere, never upon pain of death.  Here are some highlights of his speech:

  • The National Housing Trust will most likely now have funds in 2016, but it looks as though Ohio will only get about $10 million or less to preserve or expand affordable housing. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency will develop an implementation strategy similar to priorities set by the HOME program.  These funds are no where near the level of cuts at the federal level to Public and Housing Choice Voucher over the last few years.
  • The State will receive additional funds to help build additional housing for disabled individuals in conjunction with State Medicaid and Drug and Mental Health Boards (only 508 disabled individuals selected throughout the state).
  • Bill talked about the horrible job the state did in renewing people on Medicaid as part of the Obamacare expansion.  There was a very long application with confusing details on where to return the form and thousands did not respond. 
  • Maybe additional PRC funds through the welfare department for job placement and retention assistance.  This is the proposal by COHHIO to counter the huge proposal to put huge funds into a new case management system at the local welfare offices. 
  • Massive cut to the income tax which benefits the richest people in the state the most.  These $4.6 billion in the two year budget could do so much for improving infrastructure, local governments, increasing the housing trust fund, and public transportation. But sadly a missed opportunity.
  • No controversy so far about expanding Medicaid because there are so many now on the program and benefitting from the service.
  • There may be an expansion of the childcare assistance from those below 200% of poverty to those under 300% of poverty income.
  • May be an increase in funds for Developmentally Disabled. This came about because of a series of lawsuits that showed that the system is overly reliant on institutional care for the developmentally disabled.
  • The State may allow more of the Recordation funds go to the State Housing Trust Fund to go to a Housing reserve funds.
  • COHHIO wants the state to do more to preserve mental health and recovery housing in the state as well as figure out a way to bill Medicaid for more of the supportive services offered at Permanent Supportive Housing buildings in the state.
  • There is a toxic bill that would gut the fair housing regulations (SB 134) in the State of Ohio and make it more difficult to file a claim of discrimination.  COHHIO fighting this potential regulation.
  • The state agency that distributes tax credits is making some big changes this year to correct some of the problems from the previous year.  COHHIO will weigh in on these changes.
  • The Hardest hit funds for those in foreclosure is over and the funds to renovate shelters in the State was a one year allocation. 

Next meeting is May 4 with First Call for Help and the State of Fair Housing at 1:30 p.m. at HUD lower level in Cleveland.  The meeting is open to all.

Brian Davis

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Ohio News Updates

Cincinnati Councilman introduces a law to protect against hate crimes.  The article mentions that Cleveland has a hate crimes law, but it is a mere formality.  It only applies to misdemeanors and is a recommendation not a requirement. How many attacks on homeless people were ever misdemeanors?  It was a feel good piece of legislation.  The Cincinnati folks want something with more teeth to address a rise in attacks on homeless people in the Queen City. 

Additional state dollars given to the shelters in and around Cleveland.  In the face of three years of federal cuts backs and shelters that closed in 2014, there is a small amount of support from the state.  Emergency shelters have been starved for funds and these state dollars will not close the gap.  It will keep hope alive that more funds are coming, but it will not make up for the huge loss of public support shelters have faced since the downturn.  The trend in Washington is to fund expensive housing for the people who have been homeless the longest, veterans and young people.  Everyone else is out of luck trying to find help in the face of budget cuts.  In Cleveland this means nine months of overflow for families.  

US Conference of Mayors report released including a number of Ohio cities.  Take the data with a huge grain of salt.  They are typically just asking one guy at City Hall what they think about homelessness and hunger.  These guys call around to advocates, United Way or food programs and pull a figure out of the air.  They are typically based on nothing hard or solid and they vary throughout the country.  So, there is no way to compare Cleveland to Chicago or San Diego.  But they do have the bigger trends in our community dead on.  We are seeing huge increases in families and more people seeking help with food.   We are seeing more young people who are homeless because we are finally paying attention to this problem.  Despite the turn around, wages are still stagnant and people are then becoming homeless.  Affordable housing is still out of touch for many living in cities with huge waiting lists and housing being taken out of the inventory because of age.  So, pay attention to the message but ignore the numbers in the report.

Front Steps is rebranded name of Transitional Housing Inc.  The program started back in the 1980s when a bunch of nuns got together to fill a need for single women without a place to live.   They found an abandoned traveler's cheap motel that was slipping into the river as their home.   It featured 60 individual apartments for homeless women with a unique funding stream which was the brain child of a few near west politicians including Mary Rose Oakar.   It was owned by CMHA, but run by this non-profit organization and funded through the HUD Homeless Continuum and not the public housing funding.   It was funded as an innovative program before HUD was giving a regular allocation to each city to address homelessness.  The problem for many in the community was that those who got into the shelter then could transfer to a public housing unit so they were bypassing the waiting list.   In 2012, the program went through a strategic plan with the County staff and many others sitting in and offering suggestions.  It was decided by CMHA and the THI non-profit to move to permanent supportive housing model and away from transitional shelter.  This resulted in a huge cut to the homeless funding and an expansion to serve men.  They set up a special waiting list at CMHA and had to negotiate between three organizations to get people into the housing.  We will miss the transitional shelter in the community where every unit turns over about once a year to a program that is, well...permanent.  Housing programs typically only have a turn over rate of between 5 to 10 percent each year.  This only adds to the problem of single women trying to find a temporary shelter bed in the community.  We welcome more housing, but the cost is that people women have a harder time finding a short term place for their housing emergencies. 

Brian Davis

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What is Happening in the United States Around Homelessness?

I attended the National Coalition for the Homeless meeting in April.  Here are some of the things that I heard.  Our two members from Florida were not able to attend, but Florida is still working on stupid laws to restrict access to food.  These are general notes.  You can go to the specific state/community for more information or contact the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Thanks to Gloria for typing up these notes.

Local Reports

Illinois: Working on events around the 20th anniversary Homeless Education Law which was the foundation of McKinney Vinto Homeless Kids Act.  Trying to get $3 million from State Legislature to serve the huge rise in homeless kids in the Illinois school districts since 2009: 26,000 to 55,000 kids in the last full school year.

Mass/NH:  Advocates are doing a lot with hunger and homelessness in New England.  There were 50,000 Kids in Massachusetts schools in the last school year.  They are working on a Children’s Bill of Rights law for the state.

Austin, Texas: No Hate Crimes to report.  The City is mostly in compliance with no sit ordinance. Working on developing permanent supportive housing and constructing a manufactured home area to keep people out of the shelters.  Developing a strategy of “no dischargers to homelessness.”  City is focusing on preventing homelessness.

Minnesota: 6% increase in numbers of homeless families.  Affordability of housing continues to be a problem.  The City of Duluth passed Homeless Bill of Rights.  Developing housing in communities for those disadvantaged because of low credit scores. Want to try to rehab the large number of foreclosed properties.  Working on a minimum wage increase and a second chance re-entry ACT.

Sacremento CA: Homeless Bill of Rights put on hold in the State.  The funding for the Housing Trust Fund lost in legislature.  The City is building a new arena – 70 construction jobs to homeless people, but on the negative side there will be six single room occupancy buildings lost or 75 total units of affordable housing lost. The City is considering aggressive panhandling ordinance in the next month.  There was money allocated for the Safe Ground to assist with keeping the space clean and removing trash unfortunately the members are fracturing and need to regroup.  The number of homeless children in the schools has tripled in the last few years now at 250,000 student in California.  Sacramento did a really intensive Homeless Death study used and is now being used by nurses to improve outcomes.

Georgia: Legislative session is a Biblically short 40 days.  They passed even stricter voting charges that make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote. A NYC Mayor  Bloomberg funded group is in Atlanta planning around homelessness and housing.  This despite the fact that homeless family numbers exploded in NYC during the Bloomberg administration because he eliminated affordable housing funding.  It seems that a private equity group has been purchasing subsidized housing and may be interested in converting it to something else.  The main shelter in Atlanta continues its legal struggle against the City of Atlanta and other community leaders who have shifted funding for homeless services resulting in huge losses of shelter beds.

South Carolina: There are no State or local dollars going to homelessness--only dollars is from HUD Continuum of Care funding at $9 million. Tried to get rental assistance in state but that was killed in the legislature.  The state charges $50 for a person to get ID if they are coming out of jail.   There is a lot of interest in homelessness and housing, but no political will to do anything about the situation. 

Louisiana: Redevelopment of a nursing home for affordable housing has taken years because of opposition by local government.  They have been in court for years and the people who want to redevelop the property have continually won, but the project has still not happened.  The Justice Dept came in to investigate and found why the City of New Orleans has continually violated the law to redevelop this property.  The State has punished the city for not developing the property and not being in compliance, but the City has not backed down and seem to not care about homelessness and remains opposed to the development.

What is going on in the Nation’s Capital?   War on Poverty brought up a lot of discussion on the merits of the food stamp, Medicare, and other 1960s era legislation.  The right wing is saying that all the programs have failed on want to block grant all the programs to the States to develop 50 different laboratories for how to deal with poverty.  They insist that there is too much focus on inequality instead of economic opportunities available to Americans.  It looks like the House Tax Reform efforts are dead, and it seems a long shot that immigration reform will happen.  There is some light on Sentencing Reform with the Justice Department proposing commuting the sentences of a number of the 100,000 people held for long prison sentences for federal drug offences.  They are reviewing clemency decisions and there will be small number who have their sentences commuted under limited circumstances.  This President has been the least generous President on clemency in modern history.  There is some Congressional interest in sentencing reform because of the huge amount of money we spend on incarceration.   There is a bill that would ban receipt of food stamps for life for any ex-offender and no Federal Housing benefits.

New York City: Bad news because of the huge numbers of families asking for shelter-- 53,000 homeless families each night with 22,000 children – highest number in American history.  400,000 apartments lost – lower income families saw their housing disappear over the last five years.  New administration has completely changing course. Recognized the deplorable conditions within some of the shelters and are trying to move families out of these facilities.  Plan to put 6,000 homeless families into housing.  Need state resources, which is a problem because the legislature is pretty dysfunctional.  They will introduce a new affordable housing plan in the next week.  The bad news is that Bill Bratton was appointed Police commissioner.  He has not been good to low income and minority members in his previous jobs.  He is working on stepped up enforcement of panhandling on subway.  The did stop the “Stop and frisk policy" which the court and the new administration declared discriminatory.   NY is working on new ID opportunity for immigrants. 

Boston/Massachusetts: Good Mayor for housing elected in Boston and there is a Lame Duck governor finishing up his term for this year.  They continue to see growth of those living in shelters/motel homeless who are receiving some kind of assistance.  They are looking for funding for care for people leaving a mental health or behaviorial health institution.  They are a laboratory for the new ACA healthcare access & resources integrated care must include housing, must be important part of the diversion gap.

Indiana: No Statewide Coalition yet.  Local police & mental health partnered to figure out when is it appropriate to arrest.  Food and shelter programs being harassed and shut down across the state.  Concern that there is a real disconnect in HUD saying numbers down and communities saying there is a rise in homeless families.  Many shelters lost public money and now are exclusively funded by private sources.  They have no incentive to collaborate or be a part of coordinated intake.  Shelters are still dying in our communities.  They are having issues with the Complete count numbers by HUD done in January throughout the United States.  

Arkansas: Problems with shelters numbers going up but funding for the shelters going down because of changes in definition of who is homeless that has shown a decrease in need.   They did shoot down a voter registration law.

Washington state:  There is a threat to the dedicated revenue source that provides rental assistance.  Because of state budget issues they want to take funding from this revenue source to go to other sources.

Puerto Rico: very difficult economic times that are challenging everything that the territory does.  The homeless groups are not as committed to civil rights issues as they were in the past.  Tough budget times are challenging the homeless groups trying to keep beds available to homeless people.  PR had passed Homeless Bill of Rights, but now there is an effort to see how it has been implemented and followed by police and others.  May want to change what we they have to provide real protections to the community.  Health concerns in the shelters has caused a lawsuit within the continuum over new regulations.  The local homeless advocacy have been cut in half making it difficult to operate Speakers Bureau in the territory.  Going more toward services less on advocacy.

Mississippi: 33 shelters in whole state. Number of people coming back home who need help has increased over the last three years.  The shelters continue to experience funding losses.   More people coming back home means a reduction in housing.  Dropouts from college because they can’t afford to continue and then become homeless.

Denver/Colorado: Recreational marijuana has made it difficult for the social service providers to come up with policies to meet this new reality.  There is an inadequate supply of family shelters, local government and state need to address this continued problem. Denver has found that they need 27,000 housing units with a subsidy. They do plan to create 3,000 units, but don’t have the money at this point; overflow shelter usage has decreased. “Camping” ban increased engagements with police.  They rebuilt a shelter that has been mats on the floor to improve conditions.  There are NIMBY problems in a number of communities.  One community is trying to build a wall around their shelter keep what they perceive as problems contained.  Medicare Expansion – 15% before of the Denver healthcare for the Homeless patients had Medicare in 2012– 25% had Medicare in 2013 and they expect 50% this year.  This is a huge boost in helping to support these programs. They are working on doubling the size of their health care clinic in Denver.  There is a nice treatment program for homeless people in Southeast Colorado that has a long waiting list. Developing another seventy-eight supportive housing units. HUD & VA are trying to work on a coordinated intake and assessments to serve homeless and veterans who are experiencing housing issues. 

Brian Davis

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Medicaid Expansion Rally in Columbus

Late Tuesday morning we boarded the van at NOBLE/Organize!Ohio offices and headed to Columbus for the Medicaid Expansion rally.  Knowing in advance that the politicians of the House and Senate were on their respective breaks, I did not think this was going to be much of a trip.  The rally was being held indoors in the atrium of the Capitol, which in hindsight should have sounded off bells and whistles.  After taking the elevator to the first floor, we approached the entrance to the atrium and immediately ran into a wall of humanity.  Our small group, obviously on time but last to arrive, resolved to sitting on the stairs outside of the atrium proper where the speeches could be heard.

I, on the other hand, would not be denied a space in the atrium where I could see and hear the speakers, two being veterans, and take photographs of the gathering.  I politely excused myself through the thorn of important looking men in two piece suits and women wearing professional dress suits.  I finally make it to the opposite side of the room where the stage was set up and located a spot that I could stand and not block the line of sight of anyone’s view.  I had been standing there for a few minutes and nice woman watching me offered me a vacated sitting spot next to her on what once was an exterior window seal.  The spot was not bad, I could hear the speeches and see the woman doing the signing, but, taking pictures was impossible

So, to the mezzanine I headed where other shutterbugs had camped out the best vantage spots for snapping off mega pixels of pictures.  (Editor's Note: This must have been the same spot with the Associated Press since it is almost the exact same picture).  When I approached my peers at the rail, an amazing thing happened—the wall of shutterbugs parted and I was motioned to a newly cleared rail spot so that I could take my turn at snapping off several mega pixels of images.  I got there just in time to document the reason so many suits were there.  Ohio’s top elected official, Governor John Kasich was being announced and most of the onlookers were happy to be joined by a conservative who supports the expansion of Medicaid.

All levity aside, after lobbying for Medicaid expansion in recent months with the knowledge that the Governor supported the expansion of Obamacare in his budget, he was clearly disregarded by his own party.  It was fitting that the Capital atrium was filled wall to wall with many organizations, individuals, and elected officials that lobbied for the expansion and to have the Governor address those that have supported him through the process.

The Governor’s speech was well received and the contents were exactly what everyone wanted to hear from him. Kasich said that he was not done fighting and urged the crowd to continue to push their legislators.  He did not disappoint anyone in our delegation or any other group that worked hard but so far unsuccessfully toward passing the budget with Medicaid expansion included.

NOW is the time to get this done!

Extend Health Coverage in Ohio

by Norman Wolfe

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Bill Faith Featured at the May CAHA Meeting

 

Phil Star and Bill Faith at CAHA 2007The next Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting is May 6, 2013 at HUD (1350 Euclid Ave) in the US Bank Building lower level at 1:30 p.m.  We will have the Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, Bill Faith who will give an overview of the state budget process, talk about some national policy issues, and the protection of the state housing trust fund. Bill is the leading advocate down in Columbus for the past 20 years on housing and homelessness.  He keeps his fingers on the pulse of the Ohio legislature and can tell us how bad things will be for housing developers and homeless service providers over the next two years.  Bill will be our only guest at this meeting so there should be plenty of time for discussion and questions.  We hope that you can attend. 

Brian Davis

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Rally in Columbus to Expand Medicaid

Photo by Norman WolfeOn Tuesday, April 9th, a bus load of Cleveland lobbyist, assembled and organized by Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality (NOBLE),  headed to Columbus to voice their concerns on the items that were going to make up the 2013 Ohio State budget.  The headlining issue was the Medicaid Expansion suspected of being removed from the budget.  Teams of delegations were formed and we headed out to either planned appointments or several unscheduled stop-ins on officials that could not meet with a delegation.  Three members of the Homeless Congress attended the lobby trip.

My delegation consisted of a varied cross section of Cleveland’s constituents which included senior citizens and one single parent with his, well behaved, child, to illustrate our diversity.  Our team was assigned Senators Shirley Smith, Frank LaRose, and Michael Skindell’s aide.  We talked up our points that the individual team members felt covered concerns that affect many Ohioans that suffered similar financial problems and placed them in dire straits.  All testimonies were delivered eloquently and were received with genuine attention from the legislators and their staffs.

Although each member of the senate that we spoke to was informative and forthcoming, the highlight of our delegation was our session speaking with Senator Shirley Smith.  She was happy to host our team and at the same time, a group of clergymen, headed by Bishop Tony Minor, joined our team for the meeting with the Senator.  As soon as the Senator walked in the door, she informed the assembled group of the signing of a bill to remove employment restrictions and some limitation of expunging misdemeanor and felony convictions, an obstacle for reentering citizens seeking jobs (for more information, click here.)  Then she turned her attention to our delegation and heard the testimony of those struggling in this economy.  She responded gracefully adding comments to provide additional assistance for each person.  It was clear that the senator was knowledgeable of the Cleveland area and some of the people who names were mentioned during our presentations.

At the end of the day we were informed that the Medicaid Expansion was taken out of the House budget and would be sent over to the Senate without the expansion.  We will need to continue our efforts to push for this critical piece of the budget to be included in the final budget. 

By Norman Wolfe

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