How You Can Help During the Holidays

Giving to an Agency is Still Helping And They Can Multiply Your Donations to Serve Hundreds

Each year as the holidays approach NEOCH receives many calls from well-meaning individuals wanting to personally help the homeless by taking them gifts, blankets and food.  We are asked where the homeless gather and where they can find the tent cities, the homes that unsheltered people live in.  The following is NEOCH’s response to those requests.

It is not the best public policy to encourage people to stay outside with the hope that a Good Samaritan will come by to help a guy struggling with mental illness, anger issues, addiction or PTSD.  We encourage homeless people to go inside to libraries, drop in centers and meal programs during these cold weather days. 

We do not provide home addresses of homeless people because no one wants a stranger showing up at their home offering gifts.  No one would want the Coalition to give out the home address of the readers of this blog so that some well-meaning religious person could show up at theirdoor to offer you something that you did not ask for.  It is dangerous to be wandering around the streets of Cleveland with presents to give out to random people who look homeless.  You may be hurt by an addict looking for a score.  If you really want to give directly to an individual then give to a panhandler who is visible typically in a well lit area, but understand that most panhandlers are not homeless and whatever they say on their signs are most likely hype similar to advertisements for free phones by cell phone companies.

There are many agencies who spend the whole year developing relationships with homeless people.  Give to them if you want to help or you can volunteer with them.  These agencies and outreach workers know the needs of each one of the unsheltered homeless and can best meet those needs if they are the ones handing out the donated items.  These agencies have professionally trained staff to help and they are aware of the dangers and mental issues of their clients.   Here are a few agencies who employ staff to go out and help those living rough outside: Care Alliance, Metanoia, 2100 Lakeside, Frontline Services, CWRU Labre, St Ignatius Labre, Salvation Army,  JCU Labre, Sub Zero Mission and the VA.

There was a really good episode of the TruTV series Adam Ruins Everything called Adam Ruins Giving who busts many of the myths about canned food drives, donating and clothing drives.  He publishes the facts referenced in the episode here.  The show pointed out an agency like NEOCH, the Foodbank, Salvation Army, or West Side Catholic can take your cold hard cash and turn it into serving hundreds of people.  We can have staff search around for businesses who will give us a deep discount or even free stuff because they have a relationship with us.  We got a donation a couple of weeks ago and the donor was wanting to spend a thousand dollars at an Army Navy store for homeless people, but the owner had to charge retail prices for the items.  Instead the donor gave to NEOCH and we got 35% more for our money at the same store, because the store can donate to a non-profit but could not donate to an individual.   I know it is not as personal as giving directly to a person, but it is way better for society. Yes, all the non-profits have overhead and administration costs, but that just means paying a person to call around for the best price and then going over to pick up the items and prepare them for distribution. 

We have a number of places on our website that you can volunteer and directly serve homeless people. As mentioned in the Plain Dealer story there are plenty of places to donate who provide items directly to homeless people.  They include:

I know you have seen it on TV or on the movies that you want to brighten the day of the less fortunate during the holidays.  But homeless people need help year around and are overwhelmed with food, presents, and good will during the holidays.  They are often burnt out from all the good will and may not be appreciative of the help.  Donors may be disappointed that the homeless person does not seem appreciative of the help.  Many are dealing with overwhelming life issues and are carrying heavy burdens or struggle with a mental illness which may make them lash out.   We cannot give out the "home" addresses of those struggling with housing.   If you want to help the homeless community there are plenty of better ways to do that.  Even with the best intentions,  just popping into a homeless gathering place with a few presents could cause more problems than not.  You may not have enough for everyone, causing resentment and calls of favoritism or hurt feelings.  Finding someone who already works with this population and knows the people personally is the best way.  Check out the website for good ideas for helping.

Happy Holidays!

Brian Davis

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Volunteers Needed for Voting Event

Volunteer in support of Democracy in America. Kareem Abdul Jabbar did not think it was necessary to struggle to sign people up to vote.  He said:

Ignorance is not something that really lends itself to a meaningful discussion. So some of these people really shouldn't vote, because they don't know what the issues are. And I think people that are voting in the blind are doing a disservice to our country by not being better informed. ... I hope that everybody understands the issues and votes their conscience according to a well-informed effort on their part.

By knowing what the issues are and how things can proceed, given what the issues are, I think we get a lot more done when we have the electorate being well informed. And it is my fervent hope that a well-informed electorate is the result of all this. ... Some [people] definitely aren't prepared to vote. And that's unfortunate, but it's a fact.

This is an interesting discussion for academia by a Great American and Champion of Social Justice, but NEOCH believes that everyone should vote. Despite Abdul Jabbar being one of the greatest thinkers to ever appear on Sesame Street, we disagree, and maybe there should be an option for "none of the above" voting.  A portion of those new voters are not prepared to vote, but the majority have something valuable to add to the discussion.  It is my experience that homeless people are surprisingly well informed about the issues.  They read the paper and talk about some of the main issues facing those living in poverty.  We want everyone, even the uniformed, to sign up to vote.  Please help us by signing up as a volunteer. 

Brian Davis

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HandsOn Looking For Help During the RNC

HandsOn Northeast Ohio is coordinating a large scale, 1 day corporate volunteer project during the week of the RNC. We are looking for a neighborhood with several anchor projects, a compelling one-site project or different anchor projects for each day. 

Here is the detail on the project:

  • 500-1000 total volunteers
  • Physical work or large scale assembly
  • When: Week of the RNC - July 18-July 22 
  • Timing: 8-12/AM Project 
  • Rain or shine projects

Issue area is open. They could help fund/build a playground, camp clean up, do vacant land support, senior support, murals, general painting, installations, landscape, environmental projects and much more. 

If there is a space that is a gathering spot for community or a project space indoor/outdoor that could be create or renovated that encourages civic engagement, this would be greats. 


  • All supply cost will  be covered by the company
  • HandsOn will provide reusable supplies that we have
  • HandsOn will help manage the project (helping to assess needs, tooling, prep work, and day of event support)from start to finish
  • Be apart of a signature engagement event with high media value

So, dream big. Please circulate to your networks. We are looking to have project option ideas in the next week because of the timeing. 

Thank you in advance for the consideration. You can click here to sign up as a volunteer or call (216) 432-9390 for more information.

All the best,
Jeff Griffiths

How Can I Volunteer for the Homeless Stand Down?

Our partners over at HandsOn NEO are looking for help with volunteering over at the Homeless Stand Down.  Here are the Volunteer Needs:

Homeless Stand Down 2015 Donation Sorting:

  • Various days/evenings/weekends Mid -December-January 22nd (Sign up to follow)
  • Veteran's supplies donation sorting - various dates, late December/Early January (location tbd)
  • Great for youth and families
  • Great for groups of 5-10 individuals

Homeless Stand Down Setup:

  • Friday, January 23rd 10am-5pm (multiple volunteer shifts) @ Cleveland Public Auditorium 
  • Help setup donations, decorate, and organize supplies
  • Great for groups of 10+ individuals
  • Drivers with large capacity vehicles are needed for donation transporting to Stand Down site

Homeless Stand Down 2015:

  • Saturday, January 24th, 7am-3pm @ Cleveland Public Auditorium 
  • Positions include- 
  1. Personal Shoppers to help guest find basic need items
  2. Distribution Managers helping organize donations
  3. Volunteer Guardians/Security 
  4. Kids area volunteers
  • Great for groups of 5-20 individuals  
  • Limited opportunities for teen volunteers. 16 and up only. No other youth volunteers are allowed. 

Homeless Stand Down 2015 CareVan Setup:

  • The week of January 25, 5:30pm-8:00pm (location tbd)
  • Help sort and organize donations 
  • Great for groups of 5-10 individuals

Homeless Stand Down 2015 CareVan Days:

  • Saturday, January 31st and Sunday, February 1st 9am-2pm 
  • Drive a van, serve a meal, hand out donations, etc.
  • Great for groups of 4-7 individuals 
  • Drivers with large capacity vehicles  are needed for donation transporting to CareVan sites

Click here to register for HSD volunteer positions. Go to the January calendar on the HandsOn NEO website.

***Volunteer registration is a first come, first served opportunity

***All volunteers MUST be signed up through the HandsOn website. There will be NO walk up volunteers allowed

***There will be Stand Down Pre-Event Overviews for 2015 volunteers. These Pre-Event Overviews are optional. You will receive email confirmations and appropriate instructions prior to the event. Stand Down volunteers DO NOT have to attend a HandsOn NEO volunteer orientation to participate. 

Call for entertainment volunteers! We are looking for entertainment for the 2015 Homeless Stand Down. This includes main stage performers, roving entertainment (caricatures, jugglers, drum circles, etc.) and kids area entertainment (face painting, puppets, etc.) Click here to express interest via a survey monkey questionnaire.

 Other specialized positions: We are looking for spiritual leaders from different faiths to be onsite to support those at the event. We are also looking for Spanish speakers to serve as translators. Finally, we are looking for licensed massage therapists to be onsite for back or hand massages. Interested parties should email HSD (at) handsonneo (dot) org.

Are you part of a group who wants to volunteer? Can 216-432-9390 or email HSD(at) handsonneo(dot)org for group registration.

You must use the HandsOn NEO website to volunteer, and it is an extremely rewarding experience. 

Brian Davis

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Volunteer to Help NEOCH Voting Activities

We posted a blog entry about the potential chaos coming up with voting in Ohio.  This includes a few remarks from the wonderful decision by Federal Court Judge Peter Economus on the importance of Early voting and Golden Week.

If you would like to help with the upcoming election we have a number of opportunities coming up and we need your help:

Here is a pdf of the flyer if you want to download it and send it around to friends or family.

Larry Davis Completes Service: Joins Board


Photo by Norman WolfLarry Davis has worked as the NEOCH volunteer coordinator for the past eight years.  Here he is pictured preaching to guests at the 2012 Annual Meeting on March 20, 2013.  He has set up the Annual Blanket Drive and coordinated transportation issues for the Annual Homeless Stand Down.  He has scheduled volunteers to work here at NEOCH and the Street Voices speakers. 

Larry did a ton of work on voting last year transporting 220 people over to the Board of Elections to vote.  He was also a precinct captain on Election Day.  In his private life he volunteers with the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants as well as serving as a Deacon in his church.  Larry has always been willing to step up to help low income people find housing and maintain that housing.  At first, he started at NEOCH as a volunteer but coming in nearly every day.  Then he was hired as a VISTA member for two years.  After successfully completing the VISTA program, he took a position with Mature Services at the Cleveland Tenants Organization as a tenant organizer.  Finally, he finished his working career at NEOCH all the time remaining a volunteer here at NEOCH.  Now, he has a job driving for an organization serving disabled children.  During his tenure at NEOCH Larry married his wife, Cathy.  Larry is a veteran of the US Navy and has a tremendous understanding of the Landlord Tenant Law. He is one of the best advocates for a tenant when trying to balance the power dynamic with a landlord.

We recognized his years of service at the NEOCH Annual Meeting.  We recognized all the time and talent he has donated to very low income and homeless people.  Those in attendance congratulated him for all that he has accomplished over the years.  After the meeting, the board voted to have Larry join the NEOCH Board so that he can continue to serve.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Volunteer Opportunity on Election Day

We have a fantastic opportunity to volunteer on Election Day Tuesday November 6—anytime.  We are looking for volunteers to transport homeless people back to their polling place of origin.  If people have become homeless anytime over the last 30 days, they might need a ride back to their polling place to vote.  We have notified shelters that we are available to help.   We still need volunteers early 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and late 3 to 6 p.m.  If you have a car and can help, give us a call at 216-432-0540.  If it is after business hours leave a message at ext. 100.   Or just send an e-mail back to this e-mail letting us know your availability.   We really need your help to assure that homeless people have access to the ballot box.  We have an entire homeless voting section here.

Brian Davis and Larry Davis


My Time Volunteering at NEOCH

By Duncan Peters

When I first learned about NEOCH I was uninterested in coming here. I did not want to do my Project Real here at all. The reason for this was because I have a tendency to be a bit lazy and I do not like doing work. Especially writing papers or typing articles. When I arrived here, I tried to have a positive outlook on the situation. I knew I would be stuck in this for about a week so I had to make the most of my days here.

The first day was a little rough for me. I wasn’t expecting the work load that I was given, but I did not complain. I noticed that basically all day, I was sitting at a computer. Knowing me, I’m a hands-on kind of guy, and I usually prefer to go out and do things. Sitting at a desk all day was not my “cup of tea”.

As time went on, I began enjoying myself here at NEOCH. The people are incredible and it is a family environment. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and they taught me so much in this one week. Everyone is always laughing and joking and they make any and everyone feel comfortable. I became accustomed to the computer work and it doesn’t bother me anymore. This is a good thing for me since ill be writing a lot of papers in college. I learned the system here rather quickly, and it’s not as bad as I assumed it would be.

NEOCH changed my perspective on life as well. They showed me how the real world is and how cruel people truly can be. It’s not easy trying to do things on your own in this world. NEOCH showed me how the homeless people were treated and how they lived on a daily basis. It is a terrible and frightening sight to see. These people are denied their rights. They are not treated like every other citizen. It angers me to know that people will beat these homeless people and kill them just because they are on the streets and have no where to go.

What I loved most about being here at NEOCH, was going to the meetings. I felt so important being there and being involved. Even though I had nothing to say, I had some background information from the paper work I had to create. When I went to City Hall and also to the Bar Association, I was amazed and the information that I received was unbelievable. I’m the type of person that loves to learn and that is what kept me motivated throughout this entire process. I’m glad that I came to this place, and I hope that one day I will return. This has been one extraordinary experience.

Editor's Note: Duncan is a senior at Benedictine High School and did a week at NEOCH assisting and volunteering.  He helped with our advocacy, street newspaper, and public policy work.  We wish him well as he prepares for college at John Carroll.