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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Outlook for Homeless People in 2018 in a Carson/Trump Administration

Draining the Swamp 2018-19 Issues Facing Homeless People

For homeless people, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the most important agency and the decisions made in Washington have a huge impact on the lives of people without housing, those waiting for housing, and those who cannot afford the market rate for rent because they do not make enough money. The head of HUD is often more important to homeless people then who is the President of the United States. Cleveland receives $30 million from the federal government specifically for working to end homelessness.  We gave our outlook for 2017 here.  It was our estimate that homeless families are going to have a tough time, but 2018 is going to rough for every homeless person. 

Outlook for HUD funded programs

  • We will most likely have to increase the family homeless situation to 50 additional beds by 2018 on top of the 75 from 2017.  We could see some small relief with an expansion of the Pay for Success program to more families, but that will not decrease the need for more shelter beds.  
  • Many of the resources for single adults will have dried up and more and more people will be asking for shelter. It is unlikely that Cleveland will be able to continue to guarantee access to shelter for those who request it, because we have closed so many beds over the last 10 years.  We will have to figure out a strategy for what populations get a bed every night and which population is sent out to make it on their own. We hope that Metanoia will find a space so that those who cannot get a bed will have an overflow space year round. Metanoia will need to be prepared to serve 250 people per night including around 40 single women.
  • We will most likely see another 2 to 8% cut to our homeless funding. This will mean another program will have to close in early 2019. At this point, the Permanent Supportive Housing programs or the rental assistance programs will be the last programs left standing to be cut. So, either we will have to evict people or eliminate supportive services to these extremely fragile people.
  • There will be more of a push to privatize Public Housing so another reduction in the number of units available. Housing Choice Voucher will most likely be spared having already been cut to the bone.  A privatization makes it harder to apply and harder to enforce common rules for providing quality housing to the population. HUD oversight staffing were already significantly reduced and that will continue.  Media will have more and more stories about horrible subsidized housing conditions and tax payers will demand cuts. “We should not have our tax dollars going to these horrible conditions,” even though it our own fault for cutting the HUD oversight staff.  
  • The tax credit program for the development of housing will probably continue to expand, because the new administration seems to favor programs that result in tax cuts. Again, this is not a program to serve those living below poverty in Cleveland.
  • In Cleveland, this will most likely mean a decline of 200 units in affordable housing because of a nationwide cut to HUD funded housing programs. Cleveland officials have done a good job maintaining the inventory while other cities have seen huge loses. We will not see the loses that will be seen in other cities, but local leadership will not be able to prevent all losses. 
  • No fair housing enforcement activities over because there will be an internal fight over who is in charge of these investigations. 
  • Those who have stayed in Permanent Supportive Housing or other subsidy programs for five or seven years will be told that they need to find other housing options.  Some of these individuals will show back up at the shelters asking for help. 

Other Issues for 2018-19 for Homeless People.

  • A further rise in hate crimes against homeless people on a national level.  Whenever there are more homeless people and government is passing laws harmful to homeless people or massive budget cuts, hate crimes against this vulnerable population rises. We will need a strong local Coalition to oppose these hate crimes, and it is unlikely that advocacy and public policy groups will be able to find funding when there will be so much human service needs overshadowing good government groups.
  • Medicaid expansion will begin to be decreased in 2018 with only the poorest of the poor able to access the public insurance. The state will also be requiring a small co-pay for Medicaid.  This will slowly deteriorate the number receiving coverage. This will force clinics like Care Alliance to begin to take on more of the indigent care out of local funding. This will decrease the health of the population and decrease access to mental health or drug addiction treatment.
  • Another rise in assistance for the opioid crisis with more funding for treatment and even an increase in detox when more suburban young people are dying from the addiction, but there will not be the ability to get Medicaid reimbursement for some of these supportive services as was the original plan for Permanent Supportive Housing. This will mean that fewer people will have access to these units.
  • Mental health funding may even see a boost in 2018 because of a State election and regular encounters between law enforcement and those with a mental illness living outside, but we will still have to deal with the reduction in Medicaid reimbursements.
  • Funding for private hunger programs will continue to increase, because Cleveland has always been generous in the face of hungry children. We will probably see a sharp drop in those eligible for food stamps. We will need to increase the number of hot meal programs at religious organizations and the pantry programs. We will need to expand the school lunch program to also offer dinners or backpacks of food for the evening for those living in poverty.
  • There will be many more people showing up at the shelters with deep intractable debt issues making employment and housing stability extremely difficult.
  • Cash assistance will become a non-factor in the struggle to reduce poverty. Very few are eligible anymore because of lifetime limits and the small grants.
  • Disability programs will be cut and turned into jobs programs to try to find employment for people who are currently on disability or who apply for assistance. Bureaucracies have a hard time pivoting to new ideas. This will take a long time to catch on and many families will fall through the cracks.
  • Cleveland shelters will be under threat of defunding because they are unwilling to provide data to ICE workers.
  • More homeless families with health issues will be asking for help in our community.
  • Coordinated Intake will be in place to decide who gets a shelter bed and who gets sent to gymnasiums that are opened up every evening at closed down schools.

Brian Davis

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Homeless Need Blankets and Hygiene Kits

It is that time of year again to remember the hundreds of people who do not use the shelters in Cleveland.  Socks Plus, our partnership with Community West Foundation, Care Alliance, St. Pauls Community Church, and Metanoia.  We have already received our first shipment of boots and other supplies. We are real low on blankets and hygiene kits.  We are available for drop off from 9 to 4:30 p.m. nearly every day.  We need your help with winter items to give out on the streets. We have an updated flyer that you could print out and distribute.

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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Outreach Training for Homeless & Religious Groups

The Community West Foundation funded NEOCH to provide increased training to outreach teams both volunteer programs as well as the full time homeless social service providers.  The second Teach In for the group is September 1 at 5:30 p.m. and will be provided by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank locally.  This is the premiere food program in the United States, and they will provide public policy updates, safe preparation of food, and some of the benefit programs available through the Food Bank.  We need you to RSVP in order to secure your slot since we have a limited space.   We will post a copy of the flyer in the near future. 

Here is a flyer to print out and distribute to others.

ACLU Settles Lawsuit with City of Cleveland Over RNC

ACLU representing NEOCH, Organize Ohio and Citizen's for Trump sued the City of Cleveland two weeks ago.  In a whirlwind case before Federal District Court Judge James Gwin.  The ACLU and NEOCH won in the first hearing on this issue, and the City of Cleveland immediately filed an appeal.  There were hours of negotiations last Thursday and then back and forth hammering out a written settlement.  As soon as we get the settlement agreement, we will post it.  Here is some new coverage, both national and local on the issue. 

The PBS Newshour covered the story here. 

  • District Judge Gwin ruled City’s protest regulations unconstitutional, ordered negotiations
  • ACLU argued that City’s Event Zone was too large, and that rules within it were too restrictive; judge agreed
  • ACLU and City came to an agreement Friday, settlement is likely to be finalized Monday
  • Citizens for Trump and Organize Ohio sued due to protest restrictions
  • NEOCH sued because some prohibited items in the Event Zone are needed by homeless who live there

The Cleveland Plain Dealer had some very good coverage of the lawsuit and the settlement here.  They also published a nice editorial about how bad these rules were for protestors and homeless people here.

  • Agreement reached Friday between ACLU and City will result in smaller Event Zone
  • New Zone will exclude west side of Cuyahoga River and public parks
  • The hours of the protest will be longer so that they correspond to when delegates are actually present in Cleveland.
  • Deal includes longer parade route that are closer to the site of the convention. 
  • Event Zone restrictions will not apply to homeless population.
  • "Negotiations are being handled by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is known for his ability to broker settlements," according to the Plain Dealer.

The Toledo Blade had a good summary of the story here and tied the story to the lawsuit filed in Philadelphia over the Democratic convention. 

  • District Judge Gwin ruled Thursday that City’s event zone restrictions violated First Amendment
  • Dismissed lawsuit filed by ACLU on behalf of Citizens for Trump, Organize Ohio and NEOCH and ordered mediation by District Judge Polster on Friday
  • Shortly after settlement announced Friday, ACLU of PA filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Philadelphia regarding restrictions during Democratic National Convention.

The LA Times also gave a summary of the story here and had colorful language about the free speech implications.

  • In court Thursday, ACLU argued that RNC Event Zone was a “black hole for 1st Amendment activities”; City countered that Cleveland’s regulations were less restrictive than other cities
  • District Judge Gwin ruled that “unduly large” security zone was not tailored to security issues
  • Gwin ordered negotiations between the ACLU and the City in order to narrow the restrictions

Here is the coverage from Channel 3 WKYC

Here is the Atlantic magazine coverage is here.

Politico's story focused on how both pro and anti-Trump protests under the City's original plan were going to be in the same are causing issues of possible turmoil.

The American Bar Association Journal talked about the judge questioning how the City could successfully stage a CAVS championship parade for a million, but could not handle a couple thousand protestors.  "However, Gwin questioned the city’s reasoning and asked how the convention protests were different from the more than 1 million people who filled downtown Wednesday for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade and “traveled through streets in what will become the event zone,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported."

by Brian Davis and Megan the 2016 Intern

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RNC and Homeless People Update

Nice article in the PD today by Mark Naymik about the problems with the expansive event zone restrictions announced last week.  The Police have assured the Plain Dealer and WEWS TV 5 reporter Joe Pagonakis that they will not displace homeless people.  We have not seen this in writing yet and do not understand why homeless people were not specifically referenced in the legislation published on May 25.  with all the outside law enforcement coming into town, we need to have something in writing.   Below is the letter that we sent.

We need someone from the City to put in writing the policy regarding residents who stay outside downtown.  By the way, we got some grief for identifying general places that homeless people sleep in Cleveland.  We saw that Naymik was criticized for identifying Riverbed Road and other hotspots.  This is silly.  If you live in Cleveland or work downtown, you know where generally homeless people sleep. It is not a secret, and nor should it be a secret.  We do not believe that we should ignore or hide homeless people.  We should be talking everyday about how to get our neighbors back into housing.  No one has a right to be ignored.  Many are living on public property and we should be working everyday to get them inside.  It is disrespectful and undignified in the richest country on the planet to have all these people living outside.  We cannot sue the City over their sweeps policy of trying to move people out of sight and out of mind, and then keep their homes secret from the media or politicians.  The more visible, the more likely they will be housed.  I would expect if my street were targeted for destruction during the RNC that a reporter would come to my door to ask, "What do you think?" Just as they are doing now with homeless people.

But we will continue to push for a resolution of the problem with the upcoming RNC. Here is the link to the article featured on WEWS.

by Brian Davis

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Cleveland Police Meet to Discuss RNC and Homeless People

The homeless social service providers had a really good meeting with the Cleveland Police Department in early May to talk about the upcoming Republican National Convention. There is a lot of concern that homeless people especially those who do not use the shelters will be targeted by angry demonstrators.  There is concern from homeless social service providers that this fragile population will be swept up in the anger of the current political environment in America.  Police also have a concern that demonstrators who are only in Cleveland for disorder and chaos will attempt to blend into the homeless community.

Thanks to Commander Stephens and Officer Petkac for hosting the meeting at their brand new Station on Chester.  We also need to thank new Council member Kerry McCormack and all the homeless service providers who attended. 

Some of the things we need to work on include:

  1. Security planners are trying for the smallest footprint to minimize disruptions to as close as possible to the Quicken Loan Arena as possible. Key working strategy is "minimally invasive."
  2. We need to solidify plans for the near West Side of Cleveland including an overnight drop in center.  We need to have a safe place two weeks before and during the convention for homeless people. We hope Metanoia will be open for one or two weeks.
  3. We need to make sure that the shelters keep people during the day so that they do not have to be out during the day.
  4. We also need a day time drop in center on the East Side of Cleveland.  This came into question because a number of facilities are having issues with not having security available.  Cleveland Police cannot be deployed to private facilities during the Convention.  They have to be ready to work all of the hours of the convention if necessary.
  5. We are going to offer training advice with police from out of town with a "Dos and Don'ts in working with homeless people in Cleveland flyer.  These flyers can be distributed and will be a part of the orientation.
  6. NEOCH staff will be the liaison between the police and the outreach teams.  Any issues contact Brian at NEOCH and he will get with our contacts at the Police Department.
  7.  Jim Schlecht talked about securing rental assistance for a group of homeless people during the convention.  He mentioned how New York City had helped 85 people get into housing when they hosted the convention in the past.
  8. There was also discussion of some tickets to special events or creating a "Stand Down" type event so there are alternatives to homeless people to being downtown during the convention. 
  9.  We did learn that there should not be major road closures despite the rumors to the contrary.  At this point the Lorain Carnegie Bridge will not be closed, but it could be packed full of travel buses so may want to be avoided.
  10.  It looks like East 9th St. will be dedicated to transporting media and delegates with a lane for these buses and livery vehicles.  This means that cross traffic will only be allowed at Lakeside, Superior, Euclid and Carnegie.  Best to walk Downtown and avoid using a vehicle during the convention. 
  11. Payne Ave. will have a parking lane for police cars, but should be available for auto traffic.
  12. We will have one final discussion with the Cleveland Police in late June to get all of our ducks in a row.

On a personal note, the homeless community is going to miss Commander Stephens who will retire after the convention.  He was very forthcoming and transparent in his dealings with homeless people over the last five or six years.  He came to the Homeless Congress after the shooting death of two homeless people in 2012 and asked for calm.  He guaranteed that there would be an investigation and admitted the police had made extreme errors in judgement that contributed to the death of these unarmed citizens.  He was committed to a fair process for investigating and seeking justice in the death of Williams and Russell.  He agreed to return to explain the results after the judicial system had completed their work.  This was before the trials, the justice department intervention and all that has transpired since that fateful night in the East Cleveland school yard.   Commander Stephens has tried to foster a level of respect for those without housing living in the Third District in Cleveland and continue the work of Commander Gonzalez.

Brian Davis

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CAVS Iman Shumpert Gives Out Donations to Guys Struggling

Denise from NEOCH along with Tyrone of Care Alliance were asked to escort Cavaliers starter Iman Shumpert out to meet some of the men living on the streets of Cleveland.  This was not the typical visit by a celebrity who serves a meal at one of the shelters from the safe distance of a soup ladle.  Shumpert approached the Cavs on his own after seeing the guys gathering at St. Malachi everyday on his way into work.  He wanted to give something out to the guys and saw the SocksPlus website about the greatest need on the streets being socks.  Denise told me that he seemed genuine about his concern and wanted to meet people where they were living as a friend. 

Shumpert visited a couple of campsites, St. Hermans, Metanoia and St. Paul's Community Church drop in to interact with the men and women who will not be in housing tonight.  He was really anxious about getting on the streets to deliver socks.  Shumpert told Denise that it was in his heart to give out the clothing out of his own funds.  Denise reported that he was sincere and seemed like a gentle guy, and she appreciated taking him around the streets of Cleveland. 

Thanks to the CAVS for the help and putting us together with Mr. Shumpert. 

Brian Davis

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New Video on the Importance of Outreach

We were able to tape Jimbo before he passed away and posted that video last week here. We have the Toni Johnson Video on the front of our website right now.  We also have Dennis our current outreach trainee below.  We have  a Youtube channel (search NEOCH on YouTube).  These videos are an attempt to convince the public and elected officials how important outreach is to the community. The federal agency (HUD) is not funding outreach as much, but it is so critical to building trust and maintaining contact people with fragile people.  All of these are archived on our outreach page as well.

Jimbo Passed Away

Paul Sherlock wanted to let everyone know that he heard from the family of Jim Vitu that there would be a service at the church in Valley View this Friday 1/15/16 at 10 am.  The name and address of the church are below.  Please help spread the word.  Thank you.

Valley View Village Church
11401 Tinkers Creek Rd. Valley View, OH 44125 

 We were all sad to hear the news that Jim Vitu passed away, but we were so fortunate to have interviewed him in December here at NEOCH. He was in his late 50s and had only recently gotten off the streets.  He spent so many years on the street, and finally found some peace and a place inside for his stuff.  He was such a nice gentleman to everyone who gave him a helping hand.  The college students over at John Carroll and Case Western Reserve were all fond of Alabama Jim and visited him every week.

Brian Davis

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Need Help with a Homeless Person Call Us

As we enter the winter, you may worry about a homeless person that you see outside.  Feel free to call us.  We added Bellefaire Homeless Youth Program to the flyer, and updated our web page on outreach.  The webpage has a version of the flyer to print out and hang up at your workplace.

Before calling law enforcement, call NEOCH to get a professional outreach staff out to help.

Brian Davis

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Indy is a Messed Up Place For Homeless People

I got to see a copy of this documentary last month, and it is pretty amazing.  If you are in DC in December, I highly recommend this film.  It makes you glad you live in a more advanced community that does not disrespect its poor population compared to Cleveland.  The film is like a documentary version of Brazil or Naked Lunch where the City of Indianapolis puts unreasonable and unbelievable restrictions on these encampments.  "Go to shelter, but there are not enough shelter beds and you can only stay for a week."  We do not have the level of outdoor homeless population as they have in Indy and we certainly don't have these large scale tent cities.   This is a nice portrait of what happens if you follow the HUD plan to close transitional shelters, focus on very specific populations and de-fund all the supportive services in a community. Check it out.

Brian Davis

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How to Make the Grocery Bag Sleeping Mats

Grocery Bag Sleeping Mat

Dimensions: 32-36 inches by 72 inches

Material

  • 10mm crotchet hook (P Size), or larger
  • Scissors
  • 500-700 Grocery bags
  • 4 Hefty refuse liner black bags, 45 gal. size

Directions

  1. Cut off handles and holding tabs of grocery bag
  2. Cut off the bottom seam
  • You are now left with a square
  1. Cut from side-to-side into 4 equal parts
  2. Take 2 Loop circular pieces and knot them together to create your plastic yarn
  3. Continue knotting rest of the pieces together
  4. Crotchet your plastic yarn into a mat

Notes:

  • Make sure loops are even
  • One single crotchet stitch
  • Crotchet in the back loop of the stitch when you turn over. It makes them a little more comfortable I think. It gives them that ridge which might keep out the dampness better.
  • Not all 500-700 bags need to be cut at one time, it can be done in sections.  Cutting the bags takes the most time, and can be done as a team.

Follow up Videos can be found here:

 For Questions call NEOCH at 216/432-0540 or leave a comment below this listing

by Dan the Intern

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