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This blog is dedicated to distribute current information about the Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland or poverty or the state of homelessness. Entries are written by board or staff of the Coalition. The opinions contained in this blog reflect the views of the author of the post. This blog features information on shelters, affordable housing, profiles, statistics, trends, and upcoming events relating to homelessness. We welcome comments, and will remove offensive or inappropriate messages. All postings are signed by the author.

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Voting Lawsuit Settlement Will Not Help Homeless People

The American Civil Liberties Union settled a lawsuit with the Secretary of State over early voting this month.  We got a couple of extra weekend days of voting, but we lost the principle.  I say we, because homeless people have been a part of lawsuits about early voting in the past and many of the Souls to the Polls ministers assisted with transporting homeless people.  This settlement did not help more homeless people to vote and it did little for poor people. 

Why can't people who move frequently register a change of address and vote at the same time?  Why can't we allow people to register and vote 35 days out while there is plenty of time to check on their eligibility? Or even 15 days out? There are states that allow same day registration and their elections are secure.  Isn't early in person registration and voting more secure than voting by mail where we have no idea who is actually casting the vote? 

All that trouble to sue and in the end it is not easier to vote in Ohio.  The so-called Golden week where a resident can vote and register in person at the Board of Elections was worth fighting for.  It was a symbol of the State encouraging the lowest income to vote by making it as easy as possible.   Golden Week was a turning away from the Poll Taxes of the South and all the efforts to make it hard for minority populations to cast a ballot.  This is a sad settlement which allows the State of Ohio to limit the ability of lower income people to vote.  If the conservatives can force civil libertarians into settlements that makes it harder for poor people to vote, where will they go next?  They base all these changes on "securing against fraud," which does not really exist.  What other fake threats can conservatives invent to limit access to the ballot box?  What other restrictions on voting will they test?  How far away are literacy tests or mandatory State IDs to vote or limiting the number of staff who can help with voting causing huge lines in urban centers? 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


New SocksPlus Donation Flyer

Community West Foundation put together this really nice donation flyer.  We are still collecting and distributing items locally for homeless people.  You can print out the flyer and distribute it below.

Socks Plus Donation 2

Brian Davis

Post reflect the opinions of those who sign the entry.


Cleveland Tough Featured Vet Robinson on WCPN

This is reprinted from the website and a story by Brian Bull from a series called Cleveland Tough. Listen to the story here.  Here is the full series of stories.  Photos also by Brian Bull.

My name is Joyce Robinson, I’m a 56-year-old previously homeless, unemployed female veteran.  I was in a garage apartment when I became homeless.  I sold most of my furniture, jewelry, uhm... I went to Half Price Books and sold records and books, and everything.  But after a while, I thought, "You know what? I’m just gonna let this go."  I called the Veterans Service Commission, and they referred me to the West Side Catholic Center. That’s the shelter that I stayed at.

Early reflections of living in the shelter

The first night was difficult for me. And that first night through the next seven days, I cried. Every single night. I had truly hit rock bottom. The first week I was just walking around in a haze. 'Cause I think that when you become homeless, you lose something of yourself. It’s like, "Okay... I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost this, I’m a loser."

On the accommodations and care

I was there about three weeks and then I got my own room, which is good. There was a twin bed, a rocking chair, a chest of drawers, and a little side table.

They gave us a washcloth and a towel. Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush... everything you would need for your hygiene.

Upstairs, there were five bathrooms. And it was difficult, especially during school times because parents with children, occupying everything. Because not everybody’s idea of 'clean' is the same.  I had to be in at 6 o’clock every night. That was the most difficult thing for me. Not being able to just go when you want to and come back when you want to.  But after a while, it was a comfort to know that I had this regimen. It helped in the healing process.

Perceptions of the homeless

If you were to ask any ten people ...what they think of when they think of a homeless person, I don’t think that I would fit that description. I have a Master’s Degree. Been in the military. I’ve raised a daughter to adulthood successfully.  But when you think of homeless people, you think of people living under the bridges, pushing carts, they don’t want to work. You made a choice to be homeless. Which is ridiculous.

Making her way back to independence

In June of last year, I became involved in a program at Veterans Administration. We would transport patients to appointments, basically re-acclimate us to the work world. Having to be at work at a certain time, doing whatever and getting a paycheck. Helped me get back into residential living.  I just recently moved and am now in my own apartment.  My daughter is excited for me, she says, "Now when I come to visit, I’ll have some place to stay."  I said "sure, you can pull up a piece of floor."  But she’s excited for me because she knew it was very difficult.  Stepping into my new place was almost as scary as the first night I was in the shelter, because I had my routine down, and I have nothing but time.  And it’s like, "Oh, what do I do now?" (LAUGHS).  I remember... I was with a friend. I kept looking at my watch.

She says, "Joyce... you’re not at the shelter. You have all the time in the world."  And I says, "Oh, that’s right. I do."  It’s a great feeling.  My apartment doesn’t have everything in it just yet... but it’s mine.


Robinson on the early phases of living in a shelter

Initially, my day was filled with... to be honest, just walking around in a haze. Just trying to figure out how I got here, now what do I do? Just getting used to the routine. After the weather broke, I’d walk across the Lorain-Carnegie bridge for exercise which is good. Or walk to the library, or walk around the West Side Market area.

After a while, I’d attend the employment clinics and those were great because presenters gave us tips on job searching, helping us with resumes, that kind of thing. Though them, I also participated in a three-week program for veterans. It helped me with job search, refined my resume, and really built up my confidence again.

Because when you become homeless, you lose something of yourself. "I’ve lost my home, I’ve lost this, I’m a loser." And I remember talking with one of my counselors at East Side Vets Center, and she asked me how I felt. And I said, "I felt worthless" and she said, "Are you sure ‘worthless’ is the word you’re looking for?"

And as we talked, she said, “I think the word you’re looking for is ‘unproductive’.” But I think at that time when I said “worthless”, at that point that’s what I felt. But after talking to her I think “unproductive” was a more accurate term. But you feel that way, it’s like... I don’t know.

On getting emotional support from VA specialists

What helped me get back to residential living was going through the program at VA, and Toni Johnson (Cleveland VA Medical Center’s Women’s Homeless Coordinator) was very instrumental because she connected me with a primary care physician there, and in talking to a psychiatrist, was prescribed anti-depressant medication. Because I really hadn’t realized how depressed I was. And just going to counselors and talking to them about the situation…it was difficult because it was like trying to tear a scab off a wound and digging in there, I realized I’d been carrying garbage from 35 years ago. And as we went through therapy, I saw how it affected my life up this point. It was a good six months before things were clear to me.

On making friends at the women’s shelter

I made some friends at the shelter. I was closer to the veterans. One moved to Alabama in August. Another one moved to Georgia... I think in October. And there was one who moved in June of last year, it’s interesting because she went to school with my daughter and she knew my daughter. Those were the closest three I think.

I stay in touch with them. And am keeping them abreast of my situation. “So…have you moved yet?” “Yes.” “Yay! Yay!” “Did you get furniture?” “Yay!” “A bed?” “Yay!” So it’s great keeping track of them. The one in Alabama was the one who got me out and walking, and walking really helped me to decompress and de-stress.

On her job with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

Having been homeless for 14 months, and now working with the homeless on this side of it, it’s really interesting. Part of what I do is contacting political officials, different organizations, and fielding calls from people who need resources and being able to suggest various resources, because I’ve used them myself, or am more familiar with them now because I’ve worked with the organization.

And I like the fact there’s so many aspects to this positon. Data entry, meetings, going to shelters, and talking with resident council members, going to meetings with the Homeless Congress, and seeing what’s going on. If people really understood that homeless are not happy to sit and accept handouts, but are really trying to do something to help their plight and other homeless people, it might just change the idea of what homelessness is and what homeless people are about.

We have lists of agencies, on street cards which are really great because they list medical facilities, churches and all they provide, that kind of thing. Even if you lose your home and temporary stay, there are places that you can go for assistance. The sooner you do the better.

One thing…there are more resources for families and males, single females is really difficult as far as finding shelter.

Now if you’re a veteran, there are more options. But for the average female, it’s difficult to find a place to go because lots of places are geared towards families. More and more families are becoming homeless. Needing shelter. Like they’re priority. We at NEOCH have tons of information on things that you can do. Or call 211.

That’s the thing. If you think you’re going to do it, don’t feel you have to do it by yourself. You don’t have to be alone, there are resources and people out there to help you, it takes a load off. It’s awesome the assistance available, but you have to ask.

And don’t be afraid to ask.

On what people can do to help the homeless

I just want to say that when people see people on the street, a lot of the homeless I’ve noticed from working here, they do not ask for assistance because they’re not very trusting. The ones who really need the assistance aren’t the ones asking for, 50 cents, whatever. These people don’t ask, they’re sought out, found by outreach workers.

If you see someone down on their luck or whatever, if you don’t want to give anything, say a prayer for them. You have no idea what happened in their life to bring them to that point. If you feel that you want to assist, take clothing and hygiene kits to the shelters. Volunteer at a shelter, or NEOCH, to see up close what it’s like to work with the homeless.

Don’t be so quick to judge because what you think may not really be. If you really want to help, don’t give your money, give your time. That’s the thing.


Join NOBLE For Advocacy Day

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

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

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.


When is Drug and Alcohol Treatment Going to Advance?

This American Life over the weekend (Episode 554--"Not It") had a feature on Puerto Rican residents being flown to the cities within the continental U.S. and dropped in unlicensed treatment facilities.  The reporter and the host seemed surprised over all of this, but I kept waiting for something shocking.  The Alcohol and Drug treatment folks have done an awful job of helping people deal with their addictions for decades.  They have focused on the punitive approach and avoided the healthcare and behavioral health aspects of addiction.   They have a one size fits all approach to the addiction (12 steps), and have not changed for 70 years despite a 90% failure rate. They set up artificial barriers to participation and then dismiss the majority of the people seeking help.

This program interviewed an HIV positive citizen of San Juan who was promised a better life in Chicago.   When he got to Illinois, he failed out of the program and now does not speak the language and does not have access to his HIV medicine.  He is homeless and none of the things promised materialized.  These promises were made by the city health officials in San Juan and what is the equivalent of our state government.  He was not told that these facilities he was going to were not licensed by the City or the State of Illinois.  He was not told that if he cannot maintain his sobriety he would be on the streets in a rough climate, and he was not told that he would have to find his own way back home.   It is radically different to be homeless in the tropical island of Puerto Rico compared to the mean, cold streets of Chicago.  The government and agency officials that the reporter talked to were not sympathetic.  They said that there is such a huge problem with addiction that they can not handle the number of people who need help. 

They governor of Puerto Rico said that he would welcome his brothers back, but did not see a huge problem with this strategy.  Most seemed to believe that these big cities would be able to handle the problem.  There was not the embarrassment or deer in the headlight moment of, "Mr. Wallace, you caught me--now get out!" Instead, we got a big shrug from all the officials.  The person in both Chicago who received these refugees and the program director in San Juan both spoke openly about the program.  They were not making money off the shipping people off the island.  They did not see the harm.  They felt that the people who failed were weak or irresponsible. 

In my 20 years of working at NEOCH, this is what I have seen up and down the Alcohol and Drug system.  They screen most people out because they don't want the negative element to contaminate the whole bunch, and then most of the people fail out of the program.  Never does anyone say, "This is not working, lets change our strategy."  There is no medicine or combination of medicine and treatment to help people with this brain disorder.  There is the 12 steps and nothing else.  Those that fail out are punished with homelessness and alienation from their family.  They are viewed as toxic and shunned for fear of their "disease" spreading.  There are waiting lists for help, and then everything revolves around talk therapy.  The day the addicted individual is ready to stop drinking, they have to have money or insurance or they wait for detox and treatment.  We lose so many people who go back to drinking because on the day that they make the decision to quit there is no space and so they go back to the streets and drink. 

Why haven't we come up with alternatives to 12 steps and making people homeless if they fail out of a 12 step program?   We could clean up 60% of the problems associated with homelessness if we just had some effective treatments for the behavioral health problem known as addiction.  If we treated it as a health concern and not a lifestyle choice, we could begin to make progress.   This casting people to the wind and hoping that they get better is only surprising in how far they had to travel in the This American Life radio story, but it is no different than evicting people from transitional programs to live on the streets of Cleveland.  Or kicking people out of their suburban home because their addiction is out of control.   I know how difficult family members are who are spending all their money on drugs or alcohol or those who cannot take care of their kids because they are drunk every night.  I just refuse to believe that our advanced society has not come up with an answer that does not involve homelessness and sleeping on the streets of Chicago or Cleveland to deal with addictions. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

PS Our staff person Joyce, will be on the WCPN series Cleveland Tough this Thursday morning.  Tune in for the Brian Bull stories about individuals who have overcome so much.  Many of these stories are struggles to overcome addiction.