CityBeat Blogs - Homelessness http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-157.html <![CDATA[Seelbach Proposes Protecting Homeless Under Hate Crime Laws]]> A proposed city ordinance could add homeless people to groups protected by hate crime laws, making Cincinnati one of just three cities to do so. The proposal by Councilman Chris Seelbach could add up to 180 days in extra jail time for those convicted of crimes against people because they don't have homes.

“Homeless people are targeted because they’re vulnerable," Seelbach said during a news conference today in Washington Park, during which he also announced a proposal to add money for winter shelters. “This hopefully will send a message to everyone that even though homeless people may seem vulnerable and on the streets, their lives and their safety are just as important as every single person in Cincinnati we live and work with every day.”

Both proposals will need to be approved by Cincinnati City Council, but Seelbach says he's confident a majority of council will support them.

Six-hundred-thousand Americans experienced homelessness last year. One-fourth were children. Many are veterans.  The National Coalition for the Homeless has been tracking homeless hate crimes since 2000. Over a four-year period starting in 2009, there were 1,437 attacks nationally and 357 deaths, according to a report from the coalition.

Currently, gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin and disability are protected under hate crime state and federal hate crime laws. Only two cities, including Cleveland, consider crimes against people because they are homeless to be hate crimes. Cincinnati would be the third if Seelbach’s proposal passes. Several states have committed to begin considering such violence hate crimes, including Alaska, California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington. Legislation has been introduced into the Ohio General Assembly multiple times proposing a similar move but has been voted down.

“It will hopefully send a message to our community that people experiencing homeless do matter and that the city takes this seriously,” said Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition Director Josh Spring. “Primarily young people, high school and college age, commit these crimes. And if they’re caught, their response to why they did it is, ‘Why does it matter? It’s just a homeless person. We’re just cleaning up the streets.’ We want the city to say it does matter.’”

Cincinnati has seen a number of incidents of violence against the homeless, and the Coalition here has worked for years to get such actions classified as hate crimes. Four years ago, Robert Mehan was beaten and nearly killed as he was walking on Walnut Street downtown. A young man picked Mehan up and slammed him into the ground. He then beat him with beer bottles. Mehan was in a coma and almost died.

In July, John Hensley, a 49-year-old staying at the Drop-Inn Center, was leaving for work cleaning Great American Ball Park when he was attacked from behind by Alexander Gaines, 19, Brandon Ziegler, 21 and a 17-year-old minor. The three punched, kicked and kneed Hensley for 15 minutes. They’re currently facing charges in Hamilton County courts.

“They didn’t say anything, they were laughing," Hensley told a reporter after the incident. "I feel I was targeted because I am a homeless guy leaving the Drop Inn Center at 4 in the morning and no one was around, they thought they could get away with it and they didn’t.”

While the classification of such violence as a hate crime may make those experiencing homelessness safer in the long term, Seelbach’s other proposal, which would add $45,000 in funding for the city’s winter shelter, will bring more immediate relief. That’s a big change from the situation in the past, advocates say.

“We’re extremely happy about the change over the last several years,” Spring says. “It was not that long ago that the winter shelter did not open until it was 9 degrees wind chill or lower.”

Last night, The Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine housed 292 people, according to Arlene Nolan, the center’s director. The winter shelter opened Nov. 19 this year, much earlier than usual.

“We’ve been able to accommodate well over 30 percent more than our normal capacity,” Nolan said.

Increased funding for the winter shelter “is something that is critical in assuring that we meet our ultimate goal, which is to make sure no one freezes to death on the streets in Cincinnati during the winter,” said Kevin Finn, director of Strategies to End Homelessness.

More than 750 people used the county’s 11 shelters last night, according to Finn. That’s just part of the city’s homeless population — others are staying with other people they may or may not know or sleeping in camps around the city.

Family shelters in the city are receiving about a dozen calls a day, according to Spring, and can only accommodate about 20 percent of the families who need their services.

“There is no silver bullet to ending homelessness or preventing people from attacking people who are experiencing homelessness,” Seelbach said. “This is part of the solution. The other part is strategies to end homelessness and getting people who are experiencing homelessness back into a house. That takes everything from the Drop Inn Center to transitional housing to permanent supportive housing and everything in between.”

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<![CDATA[As Federal Funds Go Down, Homelessness Goes Up]]>

More demand for housing aid and less money from the feds have combined to create a simple but brutal equation swelling the number of homeless individuals and families in the Cincinnati area and across the country. As more low-income people need affordable places to live, they have fewer housing options to choose from and less federal aid available to them, data shows. That’s left an increasing number of families and individuals on the streets.

In 2011, $2,225,000 was available to Hamilton County residents for rental assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year, it’s just $750,000. These federal funds provide much-needed aid to families struggling to make rent payments.

The cuts come at a time when affordable housing is getting harder to find. The amount of available affordable housing has decreased by 6.8 million units since 2007, while the number of very low-income renters who need it has grown by more than 2.5 million, according to data from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The money spent on rental aid in the past made a dent–a study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness found the number of people experiencing homelessness in the United States dropped by 17 percent from 2005 to 2012, despite the economic recession and national housing crisis. Especially effective was the 2009 Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Act, which spent $1.5 billion to aid families experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Locally, federal programs have been crucial. Nearly all families in Hamilton County who received rental assistance through such programs avoided becoming homeless, according to a report by Strategies to End Homelessness, a Cincinnati non-profit.

Despite the success of the program and increasing need, the number of people in Hamilton County served by federal anti-homelessness efforts has dropped by more than 56 percent since 2011.

That year, 2,810 people received rental or utility assistance in Hamilton County from programs provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That number dropped to 1,870 in 2012, and dropped again to 942 in 2013. This year is on pace to see a similar number–about 966– receive the services.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless in the county is rising. 8,271 people in Hamilton County experienced homelessness last year, according to the Strategies report. That’s up from 7,838 people in 2011 and 7,983 in 2012.

Families are hit especially hard hit by federal spending cuts.

"I have never seen this many families come to us from sleeping in a car," Darlene Guess, director of client programs at Bethany House Services, told the Cincinnati Enquirer July 9. The Cincinnati area's five shelters that serve homeless families in the city help about 1,000 families a year, service providers estimate.

The reductions come as a result of the 2011 sequester, continuing across-the-board cuts to federal programs that happened as a result of Congress not being able to reach budget agreements. Some of the funds were first allocated during the federal government’s 2009 stimulus efforts.

Shortfalls at HUD caused by the cuts could eventually mean as many as 140,000 fewer families nationally will receive rental assistance, and that 100,000 homeless or formerly homeless people will be cut off from other assistance programs offered through HUD.

Other dynamics associated with gridlock in Congress have exacerbated the problems facing low-income people on the brink of homelessness–Democrats and the GOP in Congress have fought a pitched battle over extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, for instance, as unemployment levels recede at a stubbornly slow pace. Many have reached the end of their benefits, and now struggle to pay rent or mortgages.


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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

A coalition between Equality Ohio and other major LGBT groups on Friday officially declared it will not support a 2014 ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Instead, the coalition plans to continue education efforts and place the issue on the ballot in 2016. But FreedomOhio, the LGBT group currently leading the 2014 ballot initiative, plans to put the issue on the ballot this year with or without support from other groups. CityBeat covered the issue and conflict in further detail here.

The group heading Commons at Alaska, a permanent supportive housing project in Avondale, plans to hold monthly “good neighbor” meetings to address local concerns about the facility. The first meeting is scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest Avenue, on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Some Avondale residents have lobbied against the facility out of fears it would weaken public safety, but a study of similar facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent supportive housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas. In January, a supermajority of City Council rejected Councilman Christopher Smitherman’s proposal to rescind the city’s support for the Avondale project.

Gov. John Kasich’s income tax proposal would disproportionately benefit Ohio’s wealthiest, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found. Specifically, the proposal would on average cut taxes by $2 for the bottom 20 percent of Ohioans, $48 for the middle 20 percent and $2,515 for the top 1 percent. The proposal is typical for Ohio Republicans: They regularly push to lower taxes for the wealthy, even though research, including from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, finds tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t correlated with higher economic growth.

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Mayor John Cranley says he wants Catholic Health Partners to locate its planned headquarters in Bond Hill.

A new Ohio law uncovered more than 250 high-volume dog breeders that previously went unregulated in the state. The new regulations aim to weed out bad, unsafe environments for high-volume dog breeding, but some animal advocates argue the rules don’t go far enough. CityBeat covered the new law in further detail here.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald could face a longshot primary challenger in May. But the challenger, Larry Ealy of the Dayton area, still needs his signatures confirmed by the secretary of state to officially get on the ballot.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland could run against U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in 2016, according to The Plain Dealer. Strickland cautioned it’s not an official announcement, but it’s not something he’s ruled out, either.

A bill that would make the Ohio Board of Education an all-elected body appears to have died in the Ohio legislature. Currently, the governor appoints nearly half of the board’s members. Some legislators argue the governor’s appointments make the body too political.

Science says white noise can help some people sleep.

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<![CDATA[Commons at Alaska Leaders to Meet With Avondale Residents]]>

The group heading a supportive housing project in Avondale on Friday announced it will initiate monthly "good neighbor" meetings to address local concerns, with the first meeting scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest Ave., on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.

National Church Residences (NCR) says the meetings will help "set the highest property, safety, and conduct standards" for the 90-unit Commons at Alaska facility, which will aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income individuals.

"National Church Residences is excited to become part of the revitalization of the Avondale neighborhood," said Amy Rosenthal, senior project leader for NCR, in a statement. "Through this series of meetings, we look forward to sitting down with our neighbors and answering their questions about our organization and in particular the planned apartment community."

The meetings should help address some Avondale residents' concerns about the project. Although several opponents of the facility say their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude that follows so many supportive housing projects, critics consistently argue the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.

Critics' claims actually contradict some of the research done on supportive housing. A study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent supportive housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.

Still, the controversy eventually reached City Council after Councilman Christopher Smitherman proposed pulling the city's support for state tax credits funding the project. In January, council rejected Smitherman's proposal and voted to continue supporting the project. (It's questionable whether a different council decision would have made any difference, since the group already received state tax credits last June.)

By several economic indicators, Cincinnati's worst-off certainly need more support. About 34 percent of the overall population and more than half of the city's children live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Correction: This story originally claimed the facility would house 99 apartments, based on a previous estimate. The amount of apartments was actually reduced to 90 through negotiations. We apologize for the error.

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<![CDATA[City Council Tackles Progressive Agenda]]> City Council on Wednesday advanced a largely progressive agenda that moves forward with initiatives aimed at job training, homelessness and inclusion.

The agenda defined City Council’s first meeting of the new year — the first full session since council decided to continue work on Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project.

The meeting also showed that the Democratic majority — once fractured over the streetcar project and parking privatization plan — now appears to have formed a coalition on most issues facing the city. Perhaps more than anything, that could indicate the direction of Cincinnati for the next four years.

Responsible bidder

Most contentiously, the Democratic majority on City Council rejected a repeal of the city’s contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW) projects.

The rules dictate how the city and county will award contracts for the federally mandated $3.2 billion revamp of the local sewer system.

The city’s rules impose stricter job training requirements on city contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, a Democrat who spearheaded the rules, argues the requirements will help foster local jobs and job training.

But the Republican-controlled county government, which also manages MSD and GCWW, says the requirements unfairly burden contractors and favor unions. Last year, county commissioners halted MSD’s work on the sewer overhaul in protest of the city’s rules.

The county’s halt has put 649 jobs and $152 million worth of sewer projects on hold, according to data released by Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

With the federal mandate looming, county commissioners on Wednesday unanimously proposed a compromise that would create some job training and inclusion initiatives.

“We are approaching a crisis here in this dispute with the city,” said Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who opposes the city’s rules.

Vice Mayor David Mann, a Democrat, said he will look at the county’s proposal. But he cautioned, “I’m not going to repeal it until we have a substitute. To have a substitute we have to have conversations. This could be the beginning of a framework.”

The issue could end up in court. The city’s lawyers previously claimed they could defend the local contracting rules, but the county insists the city would lose.

“Portions of what the city wants will not stand in court. Our lawyers should meet,” Hartman told Seelbach on Twitter.

If the city and county don’t act before February, Winburn said the federal government could impose a daily $1,500 fine until MSD work fully continues.

Supportive housing project in Avondale

A supermajority of council — the five Democrats plus Charterite Kevin Flynn — agreed to continue supporting state tax credits for Commons at Alaska, a 99-unit permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.

Although several opponents of the Avondale facility claim their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude, many public speakers argued the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.

Supporters point to a study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus that found areas with permanent housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.

Other opponents decried the lack of outreach for the project. They claim the project was kept hidden from residents for years.

National Church Residences (NCR), which is developing the facility, says it will engage in more outreach as the project moves forward.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, said council’s decision ignores what most Avondale residents told him.

“The supermajority of residents that I have talked to that are directly impacted by this project are against it,” asserted Smitherman, who is leading efforts against the facility in council.

Even if council decided to rescind its support for the Avondale project , it’s unclear if it would have any effect. NCR already received state tax credits for the facility back in June.

Disparity study

City Council unanimously approved a study that will look into potential race- and gender-based disparities in how the city awards business contracts.

The $690,000 study is required by the courts before the city can pursue initiatives that favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses with city contracts, which Mayor John Cranley and most council members support.

But Flynn and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, a Democrat, voiced doubts that the studys findings will fulfill the legal requirements necessary to legally enact initiatives favoring minority- and women-owned businesses.

Given the doubts, Simpson cautioned that the city should begin moving forward with possible inclusion initiatives before the disparity study is complete.

“I do think we need to rally around a mantra that we can’t wait,” agreed Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

Once the study is complete, several council members said it will, at the very least, provide valuable data to the city.

Other notable actions

• Council approved a tax budget that lowered the property tax millage rate from 5.7 mills to 5.6 mills, which will cost $500,000 in annual revenue, according to city officials.

• Council approved an application for a $70,000 grant that would fund local intervention efforts meant to help struggling youth.

• Council approved an application for a nearly $6 million grant to provide tenant-based rental assistance to homeless, low-income clients with disabilities.

• Council disbanded the Streetcar Committee, which the mayor and council originally established to look into halting the project. Streetcar items will now be taken up by the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The Federal Transit Administration told Mayor John Cranley and streetcar supporters that it won’t extend its Dec. 20 deadline for federal grants funding roughly one-third of the $132.8 million street project. Without the federal grants, the project would likely die because local officials say they are not willing to make up the loss with local funds. That means the city has until Friday to decide whether to continue the project — a decision that could come down to City Council’s swing votes, Kevin Flynn and David Mann, and whether private contributors agree to pay for the streetcar’s annual operating costs over the next three decades.

Meanwhile, streetcar supporters say they have enough signatures to get the streetcar on the ballot. But without the federal funds, a public vote might not be enough to save the project since the charter amendment only calls for using funds allocated as of Nov. 30, 2013.

While some City Council members might vote to rescind support for state tax credits going to a supportive housing project in Avondale, a study commissioned by the group in charge of the project found similar facilities in Columbus don’t harm neighborhoods in which they’re located. The study, conducted by two independent groups, found crime continued to increase in most areas surrounding five supportive housing facilities, but the increases were roughly the same as or less than demographically similar areas in Columbus. Researchers were also told in numerous interviews with Columbus residents that the facilities had a positive effect or no impact on the area. CityBeat covered the controversy surrounding the Avondale facility in greater detail here.

Hamilton County’s shrinking government might sell off several downtown buildings to accommodate the size reduction. The buildings could be converted to condominiums or hotels to appease high demand for downtown residential space.

Despite previously criticizing tax breaks for Cincinnati businesses, Chris Finney of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) will receive tax credits to open his own law firm in Clermont County on Jan. 1.

Addressing the so-called heroin epidemic is a top priority for Ky. officials in 2014. Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky have quadrupled since 1999, putting Kentucky’s numbers above every state except West Virginia and New Mexico, according to a study released in November.

Some Ohio wildlife officers wrongfully hunted deer while on the job, according to the state’s inspector general.

Ohio gas prices dropped in the last work week before Christmas.

The Mega Millions jackpot could break last year’s record $656 million prize.

A video game might help diabetics control their blood sugar by putting them through a genuine workout.

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<![CDATA[Study: Supportive Housing Doesn't Hurt Neighborhoods]]>

Although some members of City Council appear ready to rescind support for a supportive housing project in Avondale, a previous study commissioned by the group in charge of the Avondale project found supportive housing facilities cause no negative impact to neighborhoods in which they’re located.

The study, conducted by Arch City Development and the Urban Decision Group, was commissioned by National Church Residences (NCR) to gauge the neighborhood impact of five permanent supportive housing complexes in Columbus for the chronically homeless, disabled and poor.

The study found crime increases in most of the areas surrounding the facilities, but the increases were roughly the same as or less than demographically similar areas in Columbus.

After interviewing Columbus residents located around the facilities, researchers also reported general agreement that the facilities had a positive effect or no impact on the areas.

Although three of the facilities are located near four Columbus City Schools, researchers wrote Anne Lenzotti, director of facilities for Columbus City Schools, "has received no complaints about any Central Ohio permanent supportive housing project at the district or individual school level."

The study, with its generally positive findings, calls into question many of the complaints voiced by opponents of the Avondale project.

Two members of a City Council committee on Tuesday agreed to advance a resolution that would rescind support for state tax credits going to the 99-unit supportive housing facility in Avondale.

But since the project already received state tax credits in June, it’s unclear whether council’s vote would have any effect on the project’s fate.

Opponents of the facility argue it will worsen Avondale’s problems with poverty, alter the look of the area and damage revitalization efforts. They also complain that NCR failed to conduct thorough community engagement prior to proceeding with the project.

Proponents claim the dispute stems from a not-in-my-backyard attitude that follows so many supportive housing projects prior to their completion. They say more community engagement, beyond what’s already occurred with Avondale Community Council, will begin deeper into the planning process and shape the project’s parameters.

The full body of City Council could take up the resolution rescinding support for the Avondale project on Dec. 18.

Read the full study below:

This article went through some technical difficulties and temporarily disappeared as a result.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Work began yesterday on an audit of Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar project, but streetcar supporters are upset the audit will only look at the costs and not the potential return on investment. The city hired KPMG, an auditing firm, to review the streetcar’s completion, cancellation and operating costs by Dec. 19, the day the federal government says it will pull up to $44.9 million in grants funding roughly one-third of the project. Losing the federal funding would most likely act as a death blow for the project, since most local officials — even some streetcar supporters — say they’re unwilling to allocate a similar amount of funding through local sources. Mayor John Cranley and City Council asked for the audit before they decide whether to continue or permanently cancel the project.

Meanwhile, streetcar supporters yesterday kicked off a petition-gathering campaign to get a city charter amendment on the ballot that would task the city with continuing the streetcar project. But given the federal government’s Dec. 19 deadline, it’s unclear whether the ballot measure, which could go to voters as late as May, stands much of a chance. Streetcar supporters say they’ll lobby the federal government to keep the funding on hold until voters make the final decision on the project.

A City Council committee yesterday voted to rescind council’s support for a supportive housing complex in Avondale that would aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income Cincinnatians. But because National Church Residence already obtained state tax credits for the project in June, it might be able to continue even without council support. The committee’s decision comes in the middle of of a months-long controversy that has placed neighborhood activists and homeless advocates at odds. The full body of City Council could make the final decision on its support for the project as early as today’s 2 p.m. meeting.

City Council could also move today to repeal a “responsible bidder” ordinance that has locked the city and county in conflict over the jointly owned and operated Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). The conflict comes at a bad time for MSD, which is under a federal mandate to revamp the citys sewer system. Councilman Chris Seelbach argues the ordinance, which he spearheaded, improves local job training opportunities, but opponents claim it places too much of a burden on businesses and could open the city to lawsuits. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.

Some City Council members are concerned Interim City Manager Scott Stiles’ compensation package could act as a “golden parachute.”

State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati yesterday resigned as running mate for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald. Kearney’s decision came after media outlets reported that he, his wife and his business had up to $826,000 in unpaid taxes. The controversy grew so thick that Democrats decided Kearney was too much of a distraction in the campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.

An Ohio House Republican pitched a proposal that would slightly increase the state’s oil and gas severance tax, but the industry isn’t united in support of the measure. When it was first discussed, the House plan was supposed to act as a downscaled but more palatable version of Gov. Kasich’s proposal, which received wide opposition from the oil and gas industry.

Speaking against a bill that would tighten sentences for nonviolent felony offenders, Ohio’s prison chief said the state is on its way to break an inmate record of 51,273 in July. The state in the past few years attempted to pass sentencing reform to reduce the inmate population and bring down prison costs, but the measures only registered short-term gains. The rising prison population is one reason some advocates call for the legalization and decriminalization of drugs, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

More than one-third of Ohio third-graders could be held back after they failed the state reading test this fall. But the third-graders will get two more chances in the spring and summer to retake the test. Under a new state law dubbed the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee,” Ohio third-graders who fail the reading test must be held back starting this school year.

Only 5,672 Ohioans signed up for new health plans through the Obamacare marketplace in November. Still, total enrollment in federal marketplaces was four times higher than it was in October as the troubled Obamacare website (HealthCare.gov) improved. Reports indicate the website also vastly improved right before the White House’s self-imposed December deadline to get the website working better.

William Mallory Sr., prominent local politician and ex-Mayor Mark Mallory’s father, died yesterday morning.

A home kit allows anyone to find antibiotics in leaves, twigs, insects and fungi.

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<![CDATA[Committee Votes to Pull Support for Supportive Housing Facility]]>

A City Council committee on Tuesday voted to rescind council’s support for state tax credits going to a 99-unit supportive housing facility in Avondale that would aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income individuals.

But since National Church Residences already obtained tax credits for the project from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency in June, it’s possible the project could continue even if council stands in opposition, according to Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness.

Still, the decision from the Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee comes in the middle of a months-long controversy that has placed neighborhood activists and homeless advocates in a heated dispute. (CityBeat first covered the issue in greater detail here.)

Independent Christopher Smitherman and Republican Amy Murray, the two present members of the committee, both voted to pull support from the project. The issue will now go to a nine-member City Council, which consists of five Democrats, and Democratic Mayor John Cranley.

Smitherman, chair of the committee, claimed the project’s issues spawned from a lack of community engagement.

“I want everybody to take a pause,” Smitherman said. “Respecting our city, in my opinion, means that you do the community engagement at the level that reflects the magnitude of what you want to do.”

Smitherman’s comments followed testimony from neighborhood activists who oppose the facility and homeless advocates who support it.

Opponents insist they support policies addressing homelessness. But they argue the “massive” facility would alter the neighborhood, worsen Avondale’s problems with poverty and damage revitalization efforts.

Supporters claim the dispute stems from a not-in-my-backyard attitude that predominates so many supportive housing facilities.

“In our society, we have a tendency to say we don't want ‘those people’ in our neighborhoods. And history dictates to us that conversations that start with ‘we don't want those people here’ don't typically end well,” said Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

Finn of Strategies to End Homelessness said the facility is part of his organization’s Homeless to Homes plan, which council previously approved to address Cincinnati’s struggles with homelessness.

Finn’s organization aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 in 2012 to roughly 3,500 in 2017.

The Avondale facility could also help reduce Cincinnati’s high levels of poverty. More than half of Cincinnati’s children and more than one-third of the city’s general population live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey.

The full body of City Council could take up the issue as early as Wednesday. Smitherman advised both sides to attend the council meeting and state their cases.

Updated with additional information from Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is preparing to replace running mate Eric Kearney, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Kearney, a state senator from Cincinnati, has been under increasing pressure to drop out of the race following multiple media reports that uncovered he, his wife and his business owe up to $826,000 in unpaid taxes. FitzGerald is running against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014.

Streetcar supporters will seek a city charter amendment that would task Cincinnati with continuing the $132.8 million streetcar project. Supporters say the amendment will act as a back-up plan if Mayor John Cranley and City Council decide to strike down the project after completion and cancellation costs are reviewed through an independent audit. But the Federal Transit Administration says the city would lose up to $44.9 million in federal funding — roughly one-third of the streetcar project — if the city government doesn’t agree to continue with the streetcar before Dec. 19. If the charter amendment gets enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot, voters could decide on the issue as late as May.

Cincinnati’s winter shelter opened today and will remain open through February, according to the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The opening comes after winter storms covered Cincinnati’s streets in ice and snow and sparked a citywide snow emergency over the weekend. The colder conditions will continue into the week, according to the National Weather Service. It was originally unclear whether the shelter would be able to open for its traditional two-to-three months, but a $30,000 contribution from City Council helped pave the way forward.

The woman who was struck by a police cruiser in Over-the-Rhine last month filed a lawsuit alleging the officer deliberately deleted the dashboard camera video of the collision and lied when he claimed his emergency lights and siren were on. The camera stopped recording for about three minutes right before Officer Orlando Smith hit Natalie Cole with his cruiser. Police say the camera malfunctioned. But the incident was the second time Smith’s camera stopped working in the past year; previously, the camera failed to record during a shooting that left one suspect dead and another wounded. CityBeat covered the issues surrounding cruiser cameras in further detail here.

Councilman Charlie Winburn says the city wastefully purchased and dumped 2,000 tons of road salt. Although other council members on the Budget and Finance Committee appeared cautious of Winburn’s accusations, he asked the city administration to investigate the issue.

Ohioans can now enroll in an expanded Medicaid program, which covers anyone up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. In October, a seven-member legislative panel accepted federal funds to pay for expanded Medicaid eligibility for two years despite resistance from the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber named a new president and CEO.

The rover Curiosity found a former lake on Mars.

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<![CDATA[Winter Shelter to Open Tuesday]]>

Cincinnati’s winter shelter for the homeless will open on Dec. 10 and remain open through February, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition announced on Friday.

The announcement preceded a winter storm that covered Cincinnati’s streets in ice and snow and sparked a citywide snow emergency over the weekend. The snow flurries and colder conditions will continue into the week, according to the National Weather Service.

It was originally unclear whether the winter shelter would be able to reach its $75,000 fundraising goal to open for its standard two-to-three months. But concerns were allayed after the previous City Council appropriated $30,000 to help the shelter open.

For its run during the 2012-2013 winter, the shelter housed roughly 600 people.

“It’s a relatively cheap program to run,” Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, previously told CityBeat. “To serve about 600 people with $75,000 is pretty good.”

Although the shelter now expects to be open through February, it could still use additional contributions to remain open into March in case the winter is particularly cold and enduring.

The shelter is made possible by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Drop Inn Center, Strategies to End Homelessness, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. It’s supported largely by private contributions.

Contributions to the winter shelter and Drop Inn Center can be made at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

The Drop Inn Center and 3CDC (Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation) on Friday announced a deal to move the region’s largest homeless shelter from its current location in Over-the-Rhine to Queensgate. The Drop Inn Center says the new location represents “most of the things on our wish list, which is fantastic.” And 3CDC has been pushing the shelter to move since it began its efforts to revitalize the Over-the-Rhine and downtown area, which some label gentrification. Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said in a statement that government officials and developers should be helping maintain affordable housing in all parts of the city instead of moving poor people to other neighborhoods.

Local sewer rates could rise by 6 percent and local water rates will skyrocket by 22.6 percent following proposed price hikes from the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). The higher sewer rates are needed to help pay for a federally mandated sewer upgrade that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, according to MSD officials. MSD says the spike in water bills is necessary because water use is declining and treatment costs are increasing.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has lost more flights and seats since 2005 than any other major airport across the country, which effectively cost the Cincinnati area 33,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion in annual economic activity in the same time span, according to an analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer. The 78-percent drop in flights — far higher than the national average of 19 percent — comes even as CVG’s average fares increased by 26 percent, which were also above the national average of 4 percent.

Commentary from The Business Courier: “(Mayor-elect John) Cranley doubles down on streetcar cancellation.”

Supporters of Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project will meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Cincinnati Hyatt Regency Ballroom to discuss their options to prevent Cranley from stopping the streetcar project. Supporters were recently reinvigorated by the current city administration’s projections that canceling the streetcar project could cost nearly as much as completing it.  

As Ohio’s Republican legislators move to adopt a stand-your-ground law, the research shows the controversial self-defense laws might increase homicides and racial disparities in the U.S. justice system.

Economists generally agree that state officials don’t play a big role in changing the economy in the short term, but political scientists say the economy will still play a major role in deciding Ohio’s 2014 gubernatorial elections. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald argues Republican Gov. John Kasich deserves the blame for Ohio’s economy, given that Kasich initially credited his policies for Ohio’s brief economic turnaround early on in his term. But now that the economy is beginning to stagnate, Kasich refuses to take the blame and points to congressional gridlock at the federal level as the reason for Ohio’s slowdown.

Ohio paid nearly $1.2 million for a string of charter schools that closed weeks after they opened. The schools, which all operated under the name Olympus High School, are now facing an audit and have been ordered to pay back some of the money.

A state job program for disabled Ohioans could lose millions in federal funds after the U.S. Department of Education warned the state it is improperly spending the money on case management and other administrative activities. But the head of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities insists the state program is under compliance.

Ohio’s number of uninsured children is below the national average, according to a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is fast tracking business permits to outpace neighboring states.

With Thanksgiving looming, Ohio gas prices rose in the past week.

Migraine sufferers who also deal with allergies and hay fever might suffer from more severe headaches, according to a study from three medical centers that include the University of Cincinnati.

Would you ride the world’s tallest water slide?

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<![CDATA[City Council Seeks $30,000 for Winter Shelter]]>

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Thursday called for the city administration to locate $30,000 to help fund the winter shelter, which would push the shelter closer to the $75,000 it needs to remain open from mid-to-late December through February.

The shelter currently estimates it’s at approximately $32,000 in contributions, according to Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

The city administration now needs to locate the money and turn the transaction into an ordinance, which will officially allocate the funds. Spring says that should go in front of the Budget and Finance Committee in the next couple weeks.

Although the $75,000 is often cited as the shelter’s goal, Spring emphasizes that it’s only the minimum. If early March turns out to be a particularly cold, the shelter would prefer to stay open for some extra time, which would require money above the $75,000 minimum.

But without the city’s contribution, the shelter won’t have enough money to stay open beyond even 30 days.

Spring says the program is necessary to keep Cincinnati’s homeless population from freezing to death. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld echoed the sentiment at Thursday’s committee meeting, saying it would be shameful if the city allowed people to die due to winter conditions.

The winter shelter aims to house 91 people each night and kept roughly 600 people from the cold throughout the 2012-2013 season, according to Spring.

“It’s a relatively cheap program to run,” Spring previously told CityBeat. “To serve about 600 people with $75,000 is pretty good.”

Still, Spring says money has been more difficult to collect this year. He attributes that to reduced enthusiasm as the concept becomes more commonplace.

“When we started doing this three years ago, it was sort of a new thing,” Spring explained. “It’s not so new anymore, which makes bringing in dollars more difficult. But the need hasn’t changed.”

The shelter is put together by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Drop Inn Center, Strategies to End Homelessness, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. It’s supported largely by private contributions.

Anyone can donate to the winter shelter — and Drop Inn Center — at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

As of Friday, Cincinnati’s winter shelter still needs $43,000 out of the $75,000 required to open from late December through February. That means hundreds of homeless people could be left out in the cold — literally — for at least a month longer than usual if the shelter doesn’t get more donations. According to Spring, the goal each night is to shelter 91 people, although the number can fluctuate depending on the circumstances. For its run between late 2012 and early 2013, the winter shelter housed roughly 600 people, or about $125 a person. Anyone can donate to the winter shelter — and Drop Inn Center — at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”

Officials involved with the $133 million streetcar project are considering around-the-clock work for certain days to speed up delivery of rail and minimize disruptions at busy streets around Over-the-Rhine. The third shifts would reduce the time needed to deliver and install rails around Findlay Market and Liberty Street from one week to a couple days at each location, which would allow the city to avoid closing down surrounding streets beyond a weekend or Monday and Tuesday, according to project executive John Deatrick. He says the extra work is absolutely not related to recent discussions about canceling the project.

The new school funding formula approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled General Assembly means high-minority schools get less state aid than schools with less diversity. Southwest Ohio’s 10 most diverse school districts will average $3,837 in state aid per student, while the 10 least diverse districts will average $4,027 per student. The finding is just the latest controversy for a school funding formula that is supposed to make state aid to schools more equitable. CityBeat covered some of the prior concerns in further detail here.

Despite Mayor-elect John Cranley’s insistence that the streetcar conversation “is over,” The Cincinnati Enquirer continues getting messages in support of the project. Supporters of the streetcar plan to launch a campaign this week to lobby council members and Cranley to back the project. The campaign will begin on Thursday with a town hall-style meeting particularly aimed at stakeholders along the streetcar route. The location and specific time should be announced later today or tomorrow.

Still, as Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier writes, it is unlikely Cranley will break his promise on the streetcar. That means it might be up to the three swing votes on City Council — P.G. Sittenfeld, David Mann and Kevin Flynn — or a referendum to save the project.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport spent nearly $120,000 since July on coaching and job evaluation services for its board and CEO, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. That’s on top of the $140,000 the board spent on travel, conferences and expensive dinners since 2011. Following the disclosures, local leaders have called for leadership changes at the board.

Cincinnati-area businesses only have until Nov. 15 to garner enough votes to enter into a competition hosted by Chase Bank that will divide $3 million among 12 small businesses across the country.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s expansion plans already received approval from Hamilton, Brown, Adams, Scioto and Boone counties. The plan expands the Port Authority’s boundaries from 26 miles to 205 miles along the Ohio River, which the Port says will make the agency more attractive to businesses.

At least 41 percent of 1,600 new apartments in and near downtown are receiving aid from the city of Cincinnati. City officials say the aid helps continue Cincinnati’s economic momentum and urban revitalization. But critics say more aid should go to low-income housing and other Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Virtual Community School of Ohio, an online charter school, didn’t follow rules for educating students with disabilities. CityBeat covered online schools and the controversy surrounding them in further detail here.

Ohio gas prices are down 17 cents per gallon this week.

Cranley has inspired some interesting parody accounts on Twitter.

As if they weren’t terrifying enough, drug-resistant “superbugs” can show up in animals.

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<![CDATA[Winter Shelter Still Needs $43,000]]>

Cincinnati’s winter shelter for the homeless might not be able to open until mid-January if it doesn’t get more contributions, says Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

That means hundreds of homeless people could be left out in the cold — literally — for at least a month longer than usual if the shelter doesn’t get more donations.

Spring says the winter shelter is currently looking at roughly $32,000 in donations if the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office gives $5,000 as previously promised. The city also plans to give a contribution, but it’s looking like they’ll give less this year than they have in the past, according to Spring.

The $32,000 is far short of the $75,000 necessary to keep the shelter open for roughly two months — from late December through the end of February.

“It’s a bit of a precarious place to be at in November,” Spring says. “For regular folks out there and companies that want to invest in people not freezing to death or losing their appendages to frostbite, it’s definitely time to give.”

According to Spring, the goal each night is to shelter 91 people, although the number fluctuates depending on the circumstances of any given night. But the shelter ultimately services hundreds of homeless while it’s open as some people improve their situation and additional numbers fall into homelessness.

For its run between late 2012 and early 2013, the winter shelter housed roughly 600 people.

“It’s a relatively cheap program to run,” Spring claims. “To serve about 600 people with $75,000 is pretty good.”

The shelter is put together by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Drop Inn Center, Strategies to End Homelessness, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. It’s supported largely by private contributions.

“When we started doing this three years ago, it was sort of a new thing,” Spring explains. “It’s not so new anymore, which makes bringing in dollars more difficult. But the need hasn’t changed.”

Anyone can donate to the winter shelter — and Drop Inn Center — at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”

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<![CDATA[Saturday Homelessness March to Protest Displacement ]]> If you had to guess how many people are in Cincinnati are considered homeless, what would be your guess? Would it be anywhere near 7,000?

That's the number of Cincinnatians cited in a 2012 report from Strategies to End Homelessness that are either staying in shelters or in places not meant for human habitation. 

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition will coalesce to recognize the plight of those 7,000 when it holds its annual Homeless Awareness March on Saturday, Oct. 26 starting at 3 p.m. at Buddy’s Place, a permanent housing facility for the homeless located at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.  

Josh Spring, executive director at GRHC, says the march will explore areas in Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District particularly plagued by homelessness. There will be about 10 stops, each of which will be marked by a speech from representatives of several advocacy groups, including the Interfaith Workers' Center, OTR Community Housing, Streetvibes, People's Coalition for Equality and Justice and the Drop Inn Center.

The march comes at a particularly auspicious time for GRHC, which recently helped four homeless plaintiffs file a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office for depriving homeless people of their constitutional rights by threatening to arrest people who sleep or inhabit the common areas around the Hamilton County Courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center downtown. 

Those areas have recently become the center of a public health debate between groups like GRHC and county officials, who have been forced to clean up urine and feces left behind the homeless and argue they just don’t have the resources to keep up.

The GHRC held a protest on Oct. 16 in front of the courthouse asking Sheriff Neil to rescind the policy, the same day the lawsuit was filed.

In an effort to compromise, Spring and other supporters have asked the county to at least wait to stick to the policy until the winter shelter opens in December, but county officials are hesitant to ignore the cleanliness problem for that long.

Advocates such as Spring, however, argue the city should take a “prevention first” approach instead by figuring out what will keep Cincinnatians from becoming homeless in the first place.

Spring says he hopes the march will draw both people who have come specifically to protest displacement and others who come to learn about the nature of homelessness in Cincinnati. "We really hope people walk away with some passion to go and do something about this," he says.

Last year's march was centered around protesting Western & Southern's manipulative legal disputes with the Anna Louise Inn, which provides safe and affordable housing to low-income women. The battle came to an end in May when Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, signed an agreement with Western & Southern to move from Lytle Park to Mount Auburn.

November is National Homeless Awareness Month. Here are a few volunteer opportunities in the Greater Cincinnati area to look into this winter.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

Congress last night voted to end a partial government shutdown that lasted for more than two weeks and avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. In the end, House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner and local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, got less than nothing for their threats of default and shutdown: Obamacare wasn’t repealed or delayed, taxes weren’t cut and federal spending remained flat. Instead, Republicans were left with the worst polling results Gallup measured for either political party since it began asking the question in 1992. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats got the clean budget and debt ceiling bills they were asking for all along. But the funding measures only last until Jan. 15 and the debt ceiling increase remains until Feb. 7, leaving some groups on both sides of the aisle to ask whether the dramatic showdown will happen all over again in a few months.

Four local homeless sued Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil over his attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time. Homeless advocates argue the policy punishes homeless people for being homeless; they say the county should focus on creating jobs and housing opportunities, not arresting people who are just trying to find a safe spot to sleep. But the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office says it’s addressing a public health issue; Major Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.

In the ongoing legal battle for the Emery Theatre, the Requiem Project amended its lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati and lessees and asked the courts to remove UC from ownership of the building. Requiem argues UC has failed to live up to the goals of Mary Emery’s charitable trust by allowing the building to fall into disrepair and non-use over the years. Courts originally approved the development of apartments in the building as long as the profits went toward renovating the theater, but after 14 years apartment operators say there are multiple mortgages on the property and no profits. The trial is scheduled for February.

Commentary: “Governor Finally Accepts Federal Funds.”

Now in print: Mayoral candidate John Cranley, who’s running for mayor against fellow Democrat and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, rejected support from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), and the conservative organization’s history of anti-LGBT causes helps explain why.

Qualls scored higher across the board than Cranley in the scorecard released today by the African-American Chamber of Commerce. Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University, previously told CityBeat that the black vote will likely decide the mayoral election. Council candidates Charlie Winburn, P.G. Sittenfeld, Vanessa White, Yvette Simpson, David Mann and Pam Thomas also topped the scorecard.

Ohio House Republicans may sue Gov. John Kasich for his decision to bypass the legislature and instead get approval from a seven-member legislative panel for the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would use Obamacare dollars to extend eligibility for the government-run health insurance program to more low-income Ohioans for at least two years. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade. CityBeat covered Kasich’s decision in further detail here.

Meanwhile, the Ohio House and Senate are debating three different ways to approach an overhaul of Medicaid and bring the program’s costs down. State Rep. Barbara Sears’ bill pushes for a swathe of reforms and cost controls, while State Rep. John Becker’s bill aims to significantly weaken the program to the absolute minimums required by the federal government. Becker’s proposal would likely leave hundreds of thousands of low-income Ohioans without health insurance.

Speaking in Cincinnati yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the federal government is working to correct the many errors plaguing Obamacare’s online marketplaces. The glitches and traffic overload have made HealthCare.gov, which acts as Obamacare’s shopping portal for Ohio and 35 other states, practically unusable for most Americans since the website launched on Oct. 1.

Ohio’s prison agency reassigned the warden and second-in-command at the Correctional Reception Center weeks after Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro was found dead in his cell.

A 20-year-old woman is expected to recover after her car crashed into a Winton Hills building while she overdosed on heroin, according to Cincinnati police.

Cincinnati is the only Ohio city to make Livability.com’s top 100 places to live.

Headline: “Bad sperm? Drop the bacon.”

A new study argues ancient climate change led early humans to adapt and evolve.

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<![CDATA[Homeless Sue County Over Courthouse Eviction Policy]]>

Homeless advocates gathered in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday to speak out against the county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time.

The press conference came on the same day that four local homeless filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil’s new policy is cruel and unusual because it punishes people for being homeless.

Major Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says the policy is necessary to address a public health issue. She explains that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.

Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says county officials should stop using taxpayer money to address public defecation and focus on the state of the economy. Hes asking locals to tell county officials, “I want my government to invest in jobs and housing, not in pushing people to the margins.”

If the policy remains, Spring says the county could at least compromise and hold enforcement until the winter shelter opens, which would provide another housing opportunity for many of the homeless people who currently rely on county buildings for a safe spot to sleep.

McGuffey says the current timeline for the winter shelter opening — two months — is too much time to wait for what she describes as a public health issue. She says it’s also unclear whether local organizations, which are still gathering funds for the shelter, will have enough money to open it.

At the press conference, Spring was joined by several homeless people who shared their experiences. All the speakers echoed a similar theme: They’re not homeless by choice, and they only sleep on county property because it’s much safer than the alternatives, such as alleys and abandoned buildings.

McGuffey insists no one is trying to demonize homeless people. She says officers try to link homeless people with local human services when possible. Some of that outreach is already underway through trained officers and neighborhood liaisons, and starting next week the county will bring in a trained mental health professional to act as an advocate and outreach coordinator.

But if help can’t be found, McGuffey says officers have to threaten arrest to invoke a sense of immediacy” or homeless people might never leave the properties and the public health issue would go unaddressed.

So far, the sheriff’s office sees the program as successful. Over the past four weeks, it’s brought down the amount of homeless people camping out at the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center each night from 40 to 12, according to McGuffey. She says the reductions exemplify people who were redirected to human services, but there’s no hard evidence showing those people actually got help or whether the reduction is temporary.

Spring says there aren’t enough human services to get all of the city’s homeless help. That, he claims, is the real problem that needs local officials attention.

Over the past decade, City Council fell far short of its funding goal for human services, which aid homeless and low-income Cincinnatians.

Several council candidates, including Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman and Mike Moroski, say increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget will be a priority for them over the next few years. The increase would represent an improvement, but it would still fall short of the city’s 1.5 percent goal.

Meanwhile, Strategies to End Homelessness aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 to roughly 3,500 over the next five years through an initiative backed by the city and county.

As part of Homelessness Awareness Month, Spring and other advocates will march in support of homeless causes later this month. The march will begin at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.

The lawsuit:


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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.

Cincinnati yesterday laid down the first two streetcar tracks, putting the project on a clear path to completion after years of financial and political hurdles. The $133 million project is now expected to continue its construction phase over the next three years, with a goal of opening to the public on Sept. 15, 2016. City officials, including Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, celebrated the milestone and thanked supporters for remaining committed to the project. Meanwhile, former Councilman John Cranley, a streetcar opponent who’s running for mayor against streetcar supporter Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, criticized the city for laying down the tracks instead of delaying the project until a new mayor takes office in December. Cranley insists that he’ll cancel the project if he takes office, even though roughly half a mile of track will be laid out by then and, because of contractual obligations and federal money tied to the project, canceling the project at this point could cost millions more than completing it.

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition yesterday announced it’s suing the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department over a new policy that attempts to remove homeless people from courthouse steps with the threat of arrest. The sheriff’s office says it still intends to redirect homeless people to housing and other services, but it told WVXU that clearing out the courthouse is necessary to invoke a “type of immediacy” to encourage homeless residents “to seek housing and a better situation.” Advocates call the policy dangerous and unfair. A press conference will be held later today to discuss the lawsuit.

State Senate President Keith Faber says he expects Gov. John Kasich’s proposal for a two-year, federally funded Medicaid expansion to gain approval from a seven-member legislative oversight panel known as the Controlling Board. Faber, a Republican who opposes the expansion, says it’s now time for the legislature to consider broader reforms for Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low-income and disabled Ohioans. After months of wrangling with legislators in his own political party to approve the expansion, Kasich, a Republican, on Friday announced he would bypass the legislature and instead ask the Controlling Board to approve federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans for two years. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Mayor Mallory says the Millenium Hotel’s owners agreed to conduct a feasibility study to see what kind of renovations the market will support for the hotel. Mallory told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the agreement is the first sign of progress since discussions about overhauling the shabby hotel began.

To tackle concerns about second-hand smoking, one state senator proposed a bill that would ban smoking in a car when a young child is present. It’s the second time in two years State Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) introduced the bill.

Allegiant Air will offer low fares to fly to Florida from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), ending months of speculation over whether the airline would pick CVG or Lunken Airport.

A state audit released on Tuesday found a local water worker was paid $437 in 2001 for work that wasn’t done.

Cincinnati’s 21c Museum Hotel was named the No. 1 hotel in the country and tied for No. 11 in the world in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Scientists found a way to block the dopamine rush associated with THC and make marijuana un-fun to help people with a psychological dependence on the drug.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

As the Oct. 1 opening date approaches for the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) online marketplaces, outreach campaigns are beginning to take root and aim at states with the largest uninsured populations, including Ohio and its more than 1.25 million uninsured. But the campaigns have run into a series of problems in the past few months, with many of the issues driven by regulatory changes and opposition from Republican legislators at the state and federal level. So far, none of the state’s “navigators” — the federally financed organizations that will participate in outreach campaigns and help enroll people into marketplaces — have been certified by the Ohio Department of Insurance as they await completion of 20-hour federal training courses. Meanwhile, some organizations have been shut out of the process entirely, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, because of regulations enacted by state Republicans.

Strategies to End Homelessness yesterday released its first annual progress report detailing how the organization intends to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County by half from 2012 to 2017. The main strategies, according to the report: prevention, rapid rehousing that lasts six to 12 months, transitional housing for up to 24 months and permanent supportive housing that targets the chronically homeless and disabled. The goal is to reduce homelessness by using supportive services to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s joblessness, mental health problems or other causes, and ensure shelter services aren’t necessary in the first place.

A new study found Ohio school performance is strongly tied to student poverty. Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association says the results shouldn’t make excuse for low-performing schools, but he claims there are other factors the state government should consider when grading schools, including whether low-performing schools actually need more, not less, funding to make up for a lack of resources. Greg Lawson of the conservative Buckeye Institute seems to agree, but he says his organization, which supports school choice and vouchers, will soon release a study showing no correlation between state and local funding and student performance.

CityBeat commentaries:
“Republican Prudes Hold Down Ohio’s Economy.”
“Poor Jenny, Poor Cincinnati.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday held its endorsement interviews with mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, with some of the highlights posted here. Also, check out CityBeat’s previous Q&A’s with the candidates: Qualls and Cranley.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the state’s Identity Theft Unit has received 600 complaints and helped adjust $250,000 in disputed charges since its creation last year.

Libertarian Charlie Earl yesterday announced he’ll run in the 2014 gubernatorial race. Earl served in the Ohio House from 1981 to 1984 and ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2010.

Cincinnati State is getting a $2.75 million federal grant to expand the school’s manufacturing program in the region.

Cincinnati Children’s is testing a new bird flu vaccine.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County received the Auditor of State Award with Distinction for a clean audit report.

A new study suggests people act more selfishly when interacting with wide-faced men.

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