Go To The Hunger Center

By Beryl Jean Khabeer, MA

It’s  close to dawn.  I sit this night, no food in the apartment rented out to the “severely mentally ill.”  And I grimace over how in a span of decades, I’ve attempted escape from this Poverty-stricken Hour in which I now anger.

How in 1976, I procured a BA degree after a psychotic experience, and on 1800mg of Thorazine, I struggled from Seclusion room to Seclusion room and I graduated, Deans’ List from a prestigious, private New England college.  Only to go home to an employment agency that, personnel advising, still more school or more skills!

I garnered all required education classes successfully achieving the merit to Student Teach.  Only to have my Student Teaching Advisor in 1981 ominously ask, “Did you change your name?”  And almost as soon as I nodded, “Yes,” she remarked, “Well, since you’ve changed your name, no matter how well you do in this Student Teaching, you will NOT pass.”  I withdrew before any damage to my record could be done.

Without skipping a beat, I applied for graduate studies in Philosophy.  Got in with a Teaching Assistantship.  I tutored Logic after experiencing a Catatonic State with many of my charges going on to successfully complete Law School, Social Work.  And me?  The beautiful MIND behind it all?

I matriculated with merit and minority monies in 1993 to Michigan State University; A PhD Candidate, only to be told by a “liberal” professor in the Philosophy Department that “Having black PhD’s is like Housing.  You can NOT have too many black professors, because, then the white students won’t come to the university.”

I guess, I AM JUST TOO SHIFTLESS AND LAZY TO ADMIT TO ANYTHING.  And I’m too dumb and helplessly insane to survive any other way than by America’s good hearted charity processes.  So on this night, even as the pensive anger rises in this charity “box” in which I sit with no food my red-hot fingers dial that last chance.  “I’ve had enough” crisis hotline-only to hear the worker’s societal solution as my reward for all my challenges over which I have triumphed, “Go to the Hunger Center.”

(  2July 18, 2006) 

Postscript:  For those needing recent memory feedback, in March , 2006, I asked the counselor in the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) at Windsor Hospital what will it take for me to successfully enter the mainstream of society?  He asked me only TWO questions, and then gave his verdict.  First question to which I answered in the affirmative, “Do you sometimes see things other people don’t see?”  And second question, “Do you hear things sometimes that other people don’t hear?”  After I truthfully answered “Yes” to each question, he answered very firmly, “You will NEVER get into OUR society!”

2011 (happy) Addendum:  seen/been in Twin Towers 9/11 in Aug. 1974.  MIND experts had diagnosed:  ‘delusional thinking, hallucinations.”

I had heard a Voice say in June, 2009, “Behave yourself.  Go to law school.”  I was accepted into a law school, 2010 tentatively I will attend it in another city, start May, 2012.

(December 3, 2011)

Happy Holidays from Supermutt!

 By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

Around this time of the year many people are in the giving spirit and like to give freely from their heart. Many families happily gather together and enjoy each other’s company. A lot of people feel sympathy for those who are homeless because they are without a home to share their holidays with. Other people give because it is the end of the year and close to tax time.

If you were one of those people who got the opportunity to sit down and share a Thanksgiving dinner with your family be thankful, not everyone has a family to sit down and share a meal with. It is true that homeless people don’t have a home to cook or eat a meal in, but there are many people who have a home and a kitchen to cook a meal in and don’t have anyone to sit down and share a meal with. They spend their holidays alone and sometimes that can cause them a great deal of emotional pain.

The next set of holidays are here and as you plan to buy gifts for your loved ones remember that the best gifts in life don’t always cost money. You don’t have to go broke or put yourself in financial debt, but many people choose to because it is easy. If a person has a job and a credit card it is easy for them to charge up a lot of material things and pay it off later.

The best gift you can give your loved ones is your time. Sure expensive gifts are nice but your time is much more valuable. Many people find that giving their time can to be too hard. Many times they are too busy working and dealing with their personal lives to share a great deal of time with their loved ones.

Even though it may be hard for you, this year try to give those you love a little of your time, especially the children, the elderly and the disabled. If you bought them a gift take the time to see how they like the gift you got them. If you bought your child a video game system let them show you how to play it and play a game with them every so often. If you bought your grandmother or mother a set of pans, let her cook you a meal in them every now and then. If you bought your loved one an art set or a musical instrument take the time to look at their artwork or listen to their music from time to time.

When you take the time to take an interest in what your loved ones are doing and say encouraging words to them it will mean a lot to them. Time has a lot of power and it builds great memories. A little of your times shows a person that you care and backs up the words, “I love you.”

Children who have parents who take time with them are well behaved, feel good about themselves and grow up emotionally healthy. Elderly people who have someone to spend time with them are more active and happy. Many elderly people who spend a great deal of time alone are often mean, crabby and sit around the house miserable.

The key to a longer life is being loved. If a person feel loved and valued they will value themselves and do whatever it takes to stay healthy so that they can be around their loved one as long as they can. The love from others gives them the drive to get up each day and live their life to the fullest. Those who don’t feel cared for don’t live they exist. Without love in their life, their lives seems meaningless and they are unable to fully value themselves.   

Accessing Shelter Remains a Struggle for Many

By Don Strasser

Street Speech Columbus, Ohio

It’s Friday morning at 6 am when a few Outreach workers have assembled in the Faith Mission parking lot. They are about to begin their day counting homeless persons sleeping outside. Sunlight has just begun to seep trough the spaces between the downtown buildings and the air is filled with sticky moisture forecasting a very hot day in Columbus, Ohio. It is still quiet outside. Businesses have yet to open and the cars from suburbia have not yet started flooding onto the city streets.

We begin our travels on 6th street. Dotted along a chain link fence are rounded humps of piled blankets. “Hello”, we say. “We are from Outreach”. There is no movement and there is no response. We move on and try again, “Hello, we are from Outreach. Can we talk to you?” A body moves and a young face emerges from a sleeping bag. “We would like to talk to you so we can understand why you are sleeping outside and not in the shelter.” With an accent, which is unfamiliar I meet Oscar. I learn that he is 24 years old and originally from Nigeria, but he has been here since the age of 7. He is on the street because he missed a curfew and cannot apply to return to the shelter until he has been out of it for 30 days. Oscar told me he and his friend missed the “last bus”, causing them to be “kicked-out”. Oscar has no money and does not know how he will find a job. His family members are all deceased except an uncle, who has 4 children and thus has no resources to help Oscar.

Further onward, we find Dee, a 52-year-old African American woman. She is on the street tonight and for another 27 nights because she got into a fistfight with another resident at the shelter. Dee reports that sometimes “I cannot keep my mouth shut”, and her inciting words started the altercation. No one was hurt, but the rule is firm that if someone at the shelter becomes involved in a fight, expulsion is the immediate consequence. Dee tells us that she has been homeless on and off for 10 years. She has children and she has a sister, but they are not in any position to help her. She even has an income from Social Security, but someone else manages her money because “I have bi-polar”. Dee goes Southeast and has a Case Manager there, whom she plans to visit today to see if she can get any help with housing.

Our last stop is with Kate and Howard. Kate is a fragile-looking young woman with glasses and a whispering voice that can hardly be heard. Howard is also young, but much more confident and self-assured than his partner. It seems that both of them continue to attend high school in an effort to finish their senior year. Neither of them can go home because Howard is black and Kate is white and neither family approve of their relationship. They are both 17 and are hoping to get into a shelter. However, they have been on the waiting list and are ambivalent about leaving one another, when a bed does become available. One of the Outreach workers tells them that Howard should wait until Kate gets a bed, as there are many more spaces available for men than women. The idea is that once Kate has a safe place, Howard should not have too much trouble being accepted for admission.

During our search we encountered several other people who refused to talk to us. Some were clearly psychotic and simply made no sense when they spoke. Others were fearful that we might somehow harm them, and then others probably preferred sleeping than talking to us.

When the general public thinks about homelessness, they typically conjure up the image of a man who stays in a shelter. And in this community our shelters are certainly filled with hundreds of men as well as women and families.

But there is also another group of homeless persons who can be found in almost any large metropolitan area. These are the people like Oscar, Dee, Howard and Kate. They are often vilified and viewed as troublemakers, drug addicts, welfare dependents and other unsavory names. This group also includes those designated as sex offenders, arsonists and other criminals. The truth is that some of these people should not be roaming the streets, but held in a secure environment. However, most of the folks whom we met on the streets today are pretty ordinary; they are individuals who had encountered bad breaks and family dysfunction and their judgment was frequently unsound.

There had been a time when these people were welcomed into Columbus’ shelters. Mel Schottenstein founded the Community Shelter Board in 1986 with a vision for homeless persons, which was inclusive and generous. As CSB writes in its promotional material about Schottenstein “his bottom line inability to accept any situation that left a man, woman or child without food or shelter motivated Columbus to provide for all citizens in need of assistance”. Today that vision has been significantly eroded and resources for all homeless persons are becoming increasingly scarce.

As resources shrink, rules grow, and more are pushed out or turned away. One of the rules with which many people find difficult to live is the imposed curfew. In most shelters residents must return by 8 PM to retain their bed. Accommodations are made for that work schedule prevents them from arriving back at this time. If however someone misses the curfew time, they must vacate the shelter immediately and may not return for 30 days, though an individual can appeal the decision and occasionally be reinstated if the shelter agrees that the curfew violation was for legitimate reasons. Persons who are evicted from shelter may also seek a bed at another community shelter, however at current capacity levels, simply getting in has become more and difficult.

A more challenging rule for some people who use shelter is the time limitations, which have been imposed. Shelter residents are expected to stay no more than 30 days. While there is some flexibility in this number most shelters will be requiring people to leave after one month. Exceptions to this might be for people who have a job starting soon or an apartment, which will be ready within a reasonably brief time period. The intent is to keep people out of shelters and get them into housing as quickly as possible, and to deal with increasing homelessness and demands on shelters. This is an appropriate goal for those individuals who have resources to rent an apartment. However there are many who do not have money available for housing or a job to sustain the cost of an apartment. And there are those who face additional barriers such as criminal record or sex offense, which keep them from accessing many programs and government subsidized housing.

We believe that rules and regulations governing shelter admission and length of stay will continue to become more and more restrictive. This trend is only the beginning of a period when resources for all those in poverty will continue to shrink. Cutbacks have only just begun and funding predictions for the future spell doom and gloom.

Copyright, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Cleveland Street Chronicle in December 2011.


By Ken Smith

I was a tenant at one of the HUD housing apartments for 8 years and seem line the owner of the building that I stayed in didn’t care about some of the tenants rights.

I had a part time job, which required me to travel out of town.  Each year when I went out of town, someone or some force would kick my door in.   First time I asked the manager to turn the camera towards our side of the building, they did not pay any attention, and didn’t turn the camera to my side.  So basically the owner didn’t care about our side of the building.

The people on the south side of the building did not have cameras, only the north side of the building got support from the cameras.  Every time I went out of town for the part time job, there were someone or force that would kick my door in because they knew the south side of the building did not support the camera action that is why the people on the south side of the building kept getting kicked in because the owner of the building didn’t want to spend money to make the cameras

Spin around so we had to make loses because of his greed.  That is was is not fair, all the tenants have stories, this true story happened to me, Ken Smith – downtown Cleveland.

Copyright, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Cleveland Street Chronicle in December 2011.

Are you looking for me?

By: Shelia Duncan Rawls

On July 25th. 2008, I was found under a bridge on Main Street.

The Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office tried to find who I was.  They visited several homeless shelters and circulated my photo among the homeless community. After the coroner’s office exhausted every attempt to find out who I was, the Callistian Guild along with other social service organizations buried me at Potters field in Highland Heights, Ohio and now I am known as John Doe, with a case number.

In June of 2011 while looking for her uncle, a woman discovered that I was here. The coroner’s office was excited, because finally someone was looking for me. Unfortunely, I was not the one she was looking for. Every so often this women calls the coroner’s office to see if anyone has found me, she has even named me George. Why would a total stranger care about me? How could I be dead and my family is not looking for me?

Throughout life, I was someone’s brother, uncle, husband, father, or someone’s lover. Surely, I must be someone’s friend.  I know that I was someone’s son. What happened? It is unbelievable that I am dead and no one is looking for me. Please forgive me for the choices that I have made in my life.  I know that these were heartbreaking for my family. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t love you; I just didn’t know what else to do. Please someone look for me.

 On December 21st 2011, National Homeless Memorial Day, Candlelight Vigil Service was held at St. Patrick’s Hunger Center honoring those persons who died homeless or having experienced homelessness. I am saddened that my family was not there to represent me. May God bless the stranger who shed the tear for me. Please someone look for me. 

Copyright, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Cleveland Street Chronicle in December 2011.

Commentary: How Do I Re-Start My Life?

I Am Working Toward the Third Start of My Life

 By: Mike Vorhees

My life is getting better by living in the Volunteers of America shelter and by going to meetings and by doing what I’m supposed to do and not just what I want do. My life has also gotten better by me changing, by going out and doing outreach, and by sharing how my life has changed with others. I can now rest at peace at night. I eat three meals a day. I shower every night instead of one a week or not at all. I don’t worry anymore about how I’m going to get money for alcohol today. I get up every day, say my prayers on my knees, and read my meditation books.

I’m having hip surgery in February. As long as I stay sober, things will work out for me. I also feel pretty good about being sober these last six and a half months. My life has changed dramatically for the better since being sober. I don’t have to worry about sleeping under a bridge. I don’t have to worry about the police arresting me. I don’t have to worry about being beaten up. Basically I can go where I want to go; when I was drunk, people didn’t want me around. I was an idiot when I was drunk. The only people who wanted me around when I was drunk were the people that were helping me use and/or using me to use. There are some people that I used to talk to when I was using that won’t even talk to me anymore now that I’m sober. I now see that my real friends are the ones that want to help me stay sober and have better for myself, the ones that show me respect.

Now that I’m six and a half months sober, I’ve been working with my MHS case worker about housing. As long as I stay sober, whatever I want will come true. What I am looking for in life is having a home of my own, staying sober one day at a time, and helping another person out with troubles they are having. My goal is to be a street outreach worker for one of the homeless agencies of Greater Cleveland. I want to maybe help someone who’s an active alcoholic or drug addict to better their lives for them and everyone around them. I’m very happy to be able to write this story for this paper. God Bless you. And until then, may God keep you. Amen. If you have any further questions, you can contact me through NEOCH.

Copyright, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Cleveland Street Chronicle in December 2011.

Commentary: How Do You Survive on Disability?

How do you survive on disability?

 By D. Kindness

I am a 52-1/2 –year old disabled person and I get $640.00 a month in SSI and SSD checks. I also get a food stamp check for $200.00 a month. We have not had a raise since Obama came into office. A person cannot live a decent lifestyle on $840.00 a month. Obama bailed out the automobile businesses the minute he got into office. The President’s income is over $200,000 a year [Editor’s Note: The Presidents salary is actually $400,000], and he thinks we disabled people should be able to live on $640.00 a month. A house for rent such as a two bedroom would cost, $485.00 a month plus a security deposit that covers the whole $684.00 plus the $200.00.

I would have to borrow to pay the rest if I was not lucky enough to own my home. The mortgage is $280.00 plus insurance which is $105.00 a month plus utilities. I have been forced to use my food money to pay my bills. I’m an American, and I should not have to live like this. People always dog me to get a job. I wish I can get a job, a decent job, not no push over job. I can’t survive with a minimum wage to do maximum wage’s work. The economy is bad and the businesses can pick and choose their employees. There are 100 people for every job. 

I know also, many companies get tax breaks for hiring certain populations.  I think that this can be abused.  If a store owner don’t like that person, he would get another free employee for 6 months.

So you rich Americans stop telling me get a job. You do not know me, you don’t know my situation, so don’t dog me. My mother worked at General Electric for over 40 years before she died in 1988 of cancer. My family lost her pension due to her death. So, if I have to live on disability insurance, I should not be criticized; I am owed this.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in December 2011. 

Commentary: Climbing in the Port-o-Potty One Last Time

By Angelo Anderson

 Imagine it’s 1:30 in the morning in January in Downtown Cleveland.  The snow has been blowing and falling for days with record breaking wind chills.  You have on a pair of very worn shoes dirty jeans, a hoodie and a jacket that’s made for spring.  You’ve begged a ride on the bus to get downtown thinking you’d go to one of two shelters for men, knowing that at that hour they might not let you in.  Sure enough they’re full. 

 Because you’ve been smoking crack for a solid two weeks straight, you’re dehydrated, hungry, exhausted and depressed.  Dying from exposure is a real possibility.  But you continue to walk to stay warm and look for a place to hold up for the night. 

 The first thing you do is search the garbage cans for something you can use to stay dry.  You find some plastic bags and put them over your socks, silently praying for help.  You get in the middle of the street where the walking’s easier and head over to Superior looking for a steam grate to sleep on.  There’s a danger to this, any burns can be bad and frostbite from sleeping too long in one position is a constant worry.  But you are cold and starting to shiver so that steam grate sure seems like a good idea. 

 Needing some sort of insulation, you start to keep an eye out for some large cardboard, not finding any should have been a warning of how rough the night was going to get.  

Getting to East 20th and Superior and you start to see the bodies.  They look like mounds of new piled leaves that are wet and stuck together, you’ve never seen it this bad, there’s cardboard, newspaper and blankets everywhere as men try to get as close to the grate without getting burned. 

 No space is left unused.  Fear of freezing is now a reality but you have to keep moving, maybe the cave has some room.  The cave is off Public Square in a large office building, with a huge truck bay.   Under the bay is space that runs back into the building about 5 feet and the back wall is the vent for the steam to escape.  Along the way you empty a newspaper stand because the cave can be dirty and damp.  As you turn to go down the ramp you smell the cigarette smoke and wet bodies of 20 to 30 men crammed into a very small space.  The prayers are steady now; promising to change, asking not to die, and seeking guidance to some place safe and warm.  Pain is now part of each step, you move your arms and do jumping jacks to try and warm up.

 As you come out of the truck bay you see the Convention Center and remember that they have tall vents that give off heat. Hoping, you make your way over to this oasis of life.  Like nomads in the dessert, men have been drawn to this last refuge of warmth.  How the tops haven’t caved in from the weight of all the men laying on top is a miracle.  You have to keep walking and praying like never before, this just may be it. 

 You think of all the family you’ll be leaving and wonder how long before they find your body.  You regret all the time lost as you pursued your addiction.  You reflect on how each day has been an empty existence revolving around a stem and lighter and something to smoke.  You come to the realization that you can change your life into something better if given a chance and you start to pray for that chance.  Then you see this port-a-potty and climb in.  You close all the openings with the newspaper you took from the paper stand, lift your feet off the cold floor and a pray for the opportunity to change.

 That man was me… I’m formally homeless and with the help of NEOCH I turned my life around.  The coalition is not only a voice for the homeless, poor and impoverished across the nation, it’s also a place where those who need hope, can find refuge.  They provide opportunities that help homeless individuals become better people.    With NEOCH, those seeking help can come as you are.  There are no barriers and the mission is advocacy.  They help with food, clothing, shelter, legal issues, health concerns and the genuine rights of the homeless population.

But they cannot continue without your support!  I had determination, but many lack this and are afraid.  Your willingness to contribute allows others to become whole again.  It helped me and I encourage you to pass it on.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in December 2011 and in Cleveland Ohio.

Commentary: Why I Have Terrible Headaches?

Why I have Terrible Headaches?

 Commentary by Raymond Jacobs

 On August 29, 2011, while walking thru Public Square about 11 p.m., I was approached by a male whose intent was to assault and rob me. During this encounter, while resisting the assault, I was stabbed in the head.

 Since the assault, I’ve had ongoing headaches. I have also wondered,  “Where were the police?” Shortly after the assault I sought out help.  I received this assistance from a private security guard who was working with a film company.  This security guard telephoned the police department to report the assault and also request EMS service.

 During this assault, I was robbed of only $10.00 dollars and now have an ongoing headache, and a loss of vision in my right eye, which never seems to go away. I also can’t seem to stop asking the question, “Where were the police?”  These ongoing headaches had helped me to realize and understand that the protection and safety of homeless people is not a primary concern of the law enforcement of the City of Cleveland.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in December 2011 in Cleveland.

The Big Issues facing Homeless People in Cleveland

 By Demetrius Barnes

 Editor’s Note: Cleveland Street Chronicle volunteers attended the Homeless Congress meeting in Cleveland and asked participants about their priority issues.  Demetrius Barnes asked the questions and staff took the photographs of the individuals.  A few of the members did not want their last name used or photograph associated with the remarks. 

 Darnell Allen

Street Chronicle: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?

DA:  Well, I was sort of low on temp-income trying to get work.  Most of the time it’s kind of slow during the process of getting housing and getting income.  Then [I had a hard time] trying to get food stamps too.  Most of the time if the company likes you, you more or less get a regular return ticket where you can go maybe a couple of more days during the week to work.

SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?

DA:  Well, mainly my circumstances was [trying to get housing from] Eden. So they really have a lot of, you know, buildings that they have built, so I am waiting on funding.

But mainly it is funding for the majority of the buildings.  So I would like [to see] the Mayor reduce [the rules] so a lot of people can come in [to housing] with what fixed income that they have.  [They should] do alcohol and drug assessments and stuff like that to keep us more clean [and helping us to go] to meetings and going to programs and helping [us] out in the community.

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?                            

DA:  Well the challenge is now a lot of people like to study know and go to the library so mainly they try to be away from that and build their life up and get something like schooling and get something like that.                                                                            

India Ivey

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without having housing?

II:  Being in an abusive relationship, I stuck around for a minute. But I was like, “You are not going to leave, so I might as well leave.”                                                               

SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?                                                                                                                      

II:  Rehab some of these old places [houses] around here. Keep doing that.  I think some people don’t appreciate having a home, [but on the other hand] there are a lot of people out here [who] do.  They really want a house, but, you know, it takes a little luck.

SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?

II:  Biggest challenge, I would say lack of jobs.   I hear a lot of people saying, “I need a job, I need a job, I need a job!”  I want to get my own home, [but my problem is] a lack of job and education. If you go to college and better yourself you can get a job. Yeah, we’ll see.  I took it upon myself to go get an education.                                    


SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without having housing?     

Ice:   I would say because of incarceration, involvement with different drugs and alcohol.  I had a house in my name, I just [let] my people have the house.  I just left.  I wouldn’t even stay in a shelter, I stayed in a box car. Year round I stayed in a box car.          

SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?

Ice:   One of the things that the Mayor has done is a step up with this new Drug Court.  But they need to stop sending so many people to prison for drug abuse. They get like $42,000 a year for this project. [They should ]start taking $20,000 and give people jobs [like] start picking up paper on the streets.  Give [homeless people] some kind of self-worth.  If you can put $42,000 a year per person to lock them up, what you are doing is warehousing them. When they come back, if they want to get high, they are going to get high.  So let that money work for the people.                                           

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?             

Ice:   Acceptability, because everywhere you go [people] have a stigma [about homeless people]. If you dress the part and you look the  part they will treat you [in a respectable manner].  [The public] thinks every person that is homeless is an addict, is an alcoholic.  They think every person who is homeless are questionable, and that is not so.

 Leslie Stachnik

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without having housing?                     

LS:  I lost my job and I couldn’t pay my rent.           

SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?                                    

LS:  A lot of abandoned buildings that we do have in Cleveland, the Mayor should get them fixed up and have them renovated and get them ready for low- income housing.  We have an awful lot of abandoned buildings in Cleveland that we can do that with.  [The Mayor should] have [housing] renovated and have them set up for low-income [people in order to get] a lot of people will be able to get housed.                 

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?              

LS:  Jobs and trying to find a job.  [We need income] to pay the rent, and with bus fare jacked up [it is harder] you need to get around.                            

 Gerald Barnes                        

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without having housing?   

GB:  Drugs and alcohol basically. 

 SC: What is the one most important thing that that Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?                                                          

GB:  Basically, make a program that could show [homeless people] how to be independent and help them to work and learn how to be stable.  Give [homeless people] a job fair thing and teach them how to apply for housing.  We need some kind of work program.    


SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?               

GB:  Probably, money, because without money you can’t have housing and without housing you can’t pay the bills.                                            

 Alisha Williams          

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?

AW:  Domestic violence. I had to get out of [my house] for me and my child.         

SC: What was the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?               

AW:  More funding for women and children. When you have children, who is going to watch them? You can’t watch the children and go out and get a job.             

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?          

AW:  Money and children. When you go out looking for a job when you are raising children you have to have a baby sitter.                         

Darrell Franklin             

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?

DF:  For one it was my Drug and Alcohol addiction,  and then also I am not going to blame it all on that but not taking care of my responsibility and not being responsible.   Not managing my money, not going to work, not taking care of the family, it’s just the way I was thinking, not taking the responsibility of paying your rent, not taking care of your family.  Actually it was the things that I was doing.                     

 SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?   

DF:  The one biggest thing I told Mr. Jackson is to start getting houses together [for homeless people]. Then trying to get banks and stuff to put some of these [homeless] people to work because there is a lot of talent in these shelters.  Instead of tearing houses down, let some on these people come together and [take over] a building. The same way Dan Brady was talking [to the Homeless Congress].  There is a lot of things that this city could do to partner  with these  people in the shelters.  It’s not just let them sit around in the shelter. Give them something to do. We are not saying you have to constantly help us with everything. Let us play our part.                            

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?             

DF:  People dying, death, that’s not just for homelessness.  It’s for people that work too,  some of them getting robbed, some of them coming up with different types of diseases, sleeping in abandoned buildings or sleeping under bridges.

 Howard (not pictured)            

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?   

H:  Well, I came home from prison and my parents died while I was in prison. So, when I came home I had other family members but it was too much of a conflict. I was trying to better myself, you know.  I did  years [in prison], so I am trying to better myself, not to go back into a situation that I had left.  Family members that are not on the same page that you are on.  When I was doing wrong, they were [also] but when I was doing right, they wasn’t. I’ve been home 18 years and I’m not trying to go back.                   

 SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?   

H:  Well, first thing the Mayor should put all his energy into fixing up these abandoned houses, using the homeless people because that would give them a job at the same time and it’s giving them a place to live.  Instead of tearing all these houses down and letting them get stripped out; turn one of the houses over to the organization and let [homeless people] get in.  These guys [in the shelters] have these talents [including] plumbers, carpenters and electricians.                   

SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?            

H:  Employment. Because if you have a job, you going to  be able to rent a house or apartment of something.  I believe the guys out here have the skills, I believe the guys have their education, but they have been so long in this rut, they are not going anywhere.               

 Denise Shaw                  

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?    

DS: [I] got use to living on the streets.                       

SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?                                           

DS:  Help people get into housing and help people get jobs and get education.             

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?       

DS:  Lack of money. It’s hard; it’s rough.

 Lawrence Davis                

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?

LD:  Prison.             

 SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?               

LD:  Give us [empty houses].  We have people that are homeless that have skills. There are a lot of city buildings.  Give us a house and let us rebuild it and let us sell it and pay the city.  Let us keep some of the money for ourselves to get a home. A lot of guys out here don’t have a purpose.                              

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?                      

LD:  Staying alive. We don’t know what tomorrow’s plan for [us is], and there is not nothing safe out here.  The homeless [system] really is not [enough]. The homeless get a little money and then some have their money stolen.                                

 Margret (not pictured)                                                                        

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?      

M:   I was living with someone who was a friend and [we had] a difference of opinion. You know how you stay with somebody and you know when you are helping them out and they don’t like it. [They wanted] me to do more than I’m going to do.               

 SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?

M:   Education. We’ve got to [improve] education [for] people; we’ve got to create some jobs. Education it number one. We’ve got to better our school system [to] educate our children and then we’ve  got to create some jobs.

SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?                 

M:    Lockers, because how can you get a job when you are carrying all those things.

 James Stanton         

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?

JS:  I became homeless, and I was at 2100 [Lakeside Shelter].  Now I’m not homeless I got my own place. I didn’t have the money.  I was living off [a very] low income,  [My income was ] lower than the [rent]. I get 30% out of my check, so that was $324 that I was living off and I couldn’t find a job or anything [that could help with the rent].  We got a raise of $36 [in a cost of living increase], that ain’t even compared to [rise in] food out there and everything else that went up.  Even I have a pill box and that went [up in price].  I had to drop that [medicine].   I bought a P.O.Box for $10.00 now it’s $32.00 every 6 months;  everything went [up] high.              

 SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?

JS:  They keep saying they want to get Veterans into [housing] and have no more homelessness and [they say that we should earn] more and more.  Just like I was saying, I know people at 2100 [Lakeside Shelter] who are collecting big money and they shouldn’t even be there.                             

SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland? 

JS:  Trying to survive.  Doing something [useful]. 

 Brian Mallory           

SC: What was the main factor that led you to be without housing?             

BM:  I was one of the 16 million that lost their jobs in the fall of 2008.  I worked for a parking company that does work all over the United States.              

SC: What is the one most important thing that the Mayor of Cleveland could do which would make the biggest impact on reducing homelessness and getting more people into housing?

BM:  The Mayor needs to be more creative and willing to work more with the public and the private sector and being creative with addressing these issues in this town.  We have plenty of vacant buildings we have plenty of vacant land and we need  to be more creative in creating jobs and using the existing housing stock for providing stock for the homeless.       

 SC: What is the biggest challenge facing a person without housing in Cleveland?

BM:   Getting a job. If you have an address that is the address of a shelter and you are trying to get a job that’s not a blue collar job, in too many cases [there is a stigma]. There are plenty of [human resources personnel] that will not consider you because you live in a shelter.           

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in December 2011 in Cleveland Ohio.


NEOCH Index #5

By Luke Drotar

  •  ·   Number of Ohioans who dropped into poverty last year (Policy Matters) : 213,000
  • ·   Percent change from 2006 to 2011 in the millions of pounds of food distributed by the Cleveland Foodbank : +77
  • ·  
  • ·  
  • ·   Percent change in retaliation and intimidation claims in the congressional workforce from 2006 to 2010 : +50
  • ·   Number of people executed in Ohio since 1999 whose minute-by-minute activities until their last have been logged in-detail by prison employees (AP) : 46
  • ·   Rank of Ohio among all states in executions in 2010 : 2
  • ·   Number of people on death row in Ohio (ACLU) : 154
  •  ·   Rank of Ohio among states with the biggest drops in wages for workers in the last decade (Policy Matters) : 1
  •  ·   Percent of fifth-degree felony offenders who are diverted to probation instead of prison in Franklin County & Cuyahoga County, respectively (Justice Center): 82,660
  • ·   Percent higher pay that a Cleveland police officer will receive to appear in court for a felony case, officers aren’t required to appear for a misdemeanor case (Mona Lynch): 50
  • ·   Percent more likely that a white offender from suburban or out-of-town areas received a reduced misdemeanor charge as compared to an African-American Clevelander (John Kroll) : 77
  • ·   Percent of American adults who believe they can make a difference (Walden U-Harris Interactive) : 85
  •  ·  Number of new cases of veterans receiving compensation for mental disorders in 2006: 32,838
  • ·   Number of new cases of veterans receiving compensation for mental disorders in 2010 (VA) : 60,535.
  •  ·   Percent of students in grades 7-12 who experienced some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically (AAUW) : 48
  •  ·   Median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older, $170,494
  • ·   Median net worth for households headed by someone under 35:; $3,662
  • ·   Ratio of wealth disparity between young-old in 1984: 10 to 1
  • ·   Ratio of wealth disparity between young-old in 2010:  47-to-1
  • ·   Amount of student loan debt added in the United States every six minutes (CBO): $1 million
  • ·   Amount of outstanding student loan debt by the end of 2011: $1 trillion
  • ·   Percentage of Greater Cleveland area households lost incomes since the start of the Great Recession began in 2007 (Census): 8
  • ·   Percentage of Ohioan area households lost incomes since 2000 (Census): 16
  • ·   Percent of the residents in Cuyahoga County who live below the poverty level (An increase of 3% in one year): 18
  • ·   Percent of extreme poverty increase over the last decade in the United States: 33%

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless December 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Why is Being Homeless Mean You Have No Worth in Society?

Why is Being Homeless Mean You Have No Worth in Society?

Commentary by Alma Jones

                         In the United States, there are millions of homeless men, women, and children that live on the street everyday. This is one of America’s largest social problems that need to be addressed more aggressively because in a country of such wealth, no citizen needs to be homeless. The homeless population is quite diverse in terms of their length of homelessness and the number of times they have cycled in and out of homelessness. Some previous year statistics have shown that 38% of the homeless are families with children, 27% of the total homeless population are children under the age of eighteen, and one quarter are veterans of the US military. There are some 40% of homeless people who work, and only a small percentage of the population receive government assistance.  None of this assistance is enough to maintain housing and other vital needs to sustain a family.

            There are some issues that are vital to ones’ well –being; these include shelter, food, income and accessible health care. Some shelters make a Mom and Dad split up, and there are some shelters that offer several programs the mother is required to complete in order to obtain housing.  Most shelters have a strict time curfew that must be followed by all homeless people who reside there. The entire homeless population has a shared need for all of us, such as, affordable housing, adequate income, and health care services primarily focusing on mental health services. The most important thing the homeless population need in their lives is stability and people who truly care about their well-being.

            From a survey that we recently undertook, we found the following results. There are three particular reasons in which I feel we should focus on solving, (1) severe housing cost problems of these households with earnings are at $23,000 or less annually, (2) housing cost is more than most people make in wages, (a full time worker making minimum wage cannot afford a one bedroom apartment at market price anywhere in the county), and (3) the disparity between the wealthy and the impoverished continues to grow without much attention by elected officials. Living in a country of prestige, wealth, and an abundance of resources, these statistics and stories are appalling.

            The survey looked at interactions with police and questions about harassment issues.  Several of those who responded spoke about their human and civil rights being violated by our local police officers.  Many of the homeless citizens have been harassed for sleeping, sitting/lying down, panhandling, and “appearing homeless.” Some have been cited by the police for loitering and sitting/lying down. They have been ticketed by the police; they feel because of their economic status, or their race, and/or disability. Lastly, the biggest issue is the fear that the homeless individual will face arrest. Nine people believe because of race, two believe that they were arrested because of their disability, and one person believed they were arrested for having a dog, which was in fact a seeing-eye dog.

            I will admit there are some legitimate reasons for issuing tickets for violating the law, such as public drinking, urinating, and private property laws. I am sure that a few did break the law, but I don’t think that that gives the police officers the unconstitutional right to harass and demoralize homeless citizens?  Many felt that there were police and security guards harassing homeless people outside the perimeters of the law. Those who responded said the police don’t care about them and would much rather see them in jail.  They claim that they are looked upon as being nothing and worthless by security guards and police. One homeless person was called a derogatory name (“gimp”) by an officer, because he used crutches.  Some of those who had to appear in court said they did not have attorney representation; others who answered said that they knew their rights and tried to assert those rights themselves. These citizens are human beings and they deserve to be treated fair and equal like all citizens in this society. Perhaps we need to train our police officers more efficiently when it comes to dealing with the homeless population.

            Lastly, because of shelter rules and regulations along with shelter over-crowding, we have a number of people who sleep outside. Some of the homeless biggest complaints from the survey include: the police wide use of loitering laws, no place to go to get a shower or wash up, a lack of jobs downtown, no place to live that is affordable, no safe place to hang out without violating the loitering laws, being stereotyped, and no respect from the police.

            There are a lot of homeless people who work and make contributions to this society and because of whatever reason, they became homeless; this does not mean they have no worth in this society. Some citizens are too judgmental and prejudicial when things don’t fit into a traditional way of life. Those who harass homeless people need realize in this housing market, homelessness could very well happen to anyone. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless December 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.


Interview with Mike Piepsny of CTO

A Discussion With Mike Piepsny of the Cleveland Tenants Organization

By Demetrius Barnes

Street Chronicle: Tell me about CTO?

MP: CTO was created in 1975. The Ohio Landlord Tenant Law passed in 1974. So there was this new law that tells landlords their responsibilities and tenants their rights, but no one knew about it.  So CTO was created to provide information on that. Through the years we’ve developed programs related to handling rental rights information, preventing evictions, preventing renters caught in a home in foreclosure from being forced out. We have an organizing program where we help tenants organize in large apartment complexes to hold their landlord accountable, and we have a program that helps the people that are in the homeless shelters enter into stable housing.  Our mission is to preserve and expand safe decent and affordable rental property. And if you look county wide about 35% of people rent, and in the city of Cleveland over 50 % of the people rent.

MP: Okay, well, I went to college at Cleveland State. I was a Political Science major

And I didn’t know what to do with that.  So I went to law school and while in law school, I took a class helping people that were being evicted helping fight their eviction.  I took a class on Housing Law with Mike Foley who is now a practicing attorney. When I finished law school, Mike gave me a call and said, “Hey, you need a job?” I was actually working for a law firm and did not enjoy it.  I came over to Cleveland Tenant’s Organization; Mike [Foley] was the Assistant Director. Mike became the Director in I think about 1999, and in 2006 he ran for State Representative and won.  I took over and have been the Director every since.

 SC: What would you like to see done with all the abandoned housing in Cleveland?

MP:  Well ideally, a lot of the houses are abandoned because the people were getting into mortgages that they couldn’t afford and the bank took over the property. The banks do not want to be landlords, but ideally we would like to see the homeowner be either a tenant in the house or if they can rent those properties.  Banks don’t want to be landlords, but ideally if we can keep people in the property those buildings won’t get stripped of the plumbing, of their aluminum siding.  When [the property is stripped] it reduces the property value of about 80%.  So, if we can keep people in properties, this is what I would like to see.

 SC: What happens to renters in a foreclosed property?

MP:  Well, up into 2009 if you look at property law (about 200 years of property law), when a property changed hands and a new owner took over a lease [that lease went] with the property. So a tenant living in the property if it’s sold, a tenant has a right to stay through the term of the lease.  But when it was a foreclosure it actually terminates the lease. The tenant [may not have] known about [the foreclosure] and they [are often in danger of being] thrown out of the property.  In 2009, President Obama was able to work with Congress and pass a law that provided some protection to tenants. If they are a bona fide tenant, they have a right to stay in the property and finish their lease. If they don’t have a leases they have a right to a 90 day notice before the bank can pursue an eviction.  So it gave some protections [to the foreclosure victims] here in Cuyahoga County.  Although the [Housing Court] Judge Pianka’s been very active about letting tenants know about those rights, the rest of the County [judges] do not. So, if the tenant doesn’t know the federal law and the people don’t know the federal law, they go to court and the bank will file an eviction.  They are [then] being evicted because they don’t know the federal law and they didn’t bring it in as a defense. So renters are still being removed from their property in Cuyahoga County.  The County Department of Development actually funds us to reach out to those tenants. We do about 5,000 counsels a year and we talk to about 2,000 households, but that’s 3,000 households that could have stayed in the property that didn’t because they didn’t contact us.

 SC: Do you think landlords have too much power and should the Landlord Tenant Law be reopened and improved?

MP:  There are some areas of the Landlord Tenant Law that could use clarification. Under Mayor Jackson’s leadership when he was the Councilman in Ward 5 we were able to pass legislation in the City of Cleveland.  In 1999, about 10 years ago I think it was, [we were able to pass legislation] clarifying some of the landlord tenant requirements. It’s not so much who has more power, the law is fair but there are some areas where it’s just not clear.  [For example], who has the right to order responsibility [for a property]?  Although I wouldn’t mind seeing those addressed in Ohio Landlord Tenant Law, once it is opened up, it could mean things are changed that have a negative impact on tenants.

 SC: If the landlord is entering your property without notice what should you do and can a tenant be compensated by landlords for violating the law?

MP:  Okay, in Ohio a landlord have to give 24-hour notice before entering your property. When we train landlords we tell then do it in writing so the tenant has a notice and you have a copy.  A lot of landlords assume because it’s their house they have the right to go in whenever they want.  Although that’s not true, it is the landlord’s house, but it is the tenant’s home.  If the lease does not say anything about changing locks tenant’s can change the lock and not give the landlord a key.

If the landlord gives them 24-hour notice the tenant still has to let him in, and if an emergency happens because the pipes are leaking or someone passed away or something, they could break in and the tenant could be held responsible for that.  But tenants do not have to give the key to the landlord unless the leases says so. So if a landlord comes in without giving proper notice a tenant should notify them of that in writing.  They can certainly contact us. We have form letters they can use and if a landlord continues to do it or retaliates against a tenant, they can actually sue in a small claims court.  They can sue for any actual damages.  Or if the landlord is retaliating against them there are also some additional protections in the Cleveland Landlord Tenant Ordinance that I told you about, where a Judge could automatically fine a landlord for retaliation between $50 and $500 and that money could go to the tenant.  

 SC: What are the biggest issue tenants have in Cleveland at this time?

MP:  Well, it’s not necessary a rental issue…every body knows Cleveland is very poor.        

We’ve lost a lot of good jobs. There are jobs but they don’t pay enough. Someone working minimum wage, I believe has to work between 2 and 3 jobs just to pay for rent. So tenants don’t have a lot of income to be able to afford their home. HUD says you shouldn’t pay more than 30% on rent and in Cleveland more than half the people pay more than 30% of their household on rent. So rents here are low because tenants can’t afford it.  Landlords can’t raise the rent as often as they may need to maintain the property; they can’t rent the property for more money because there just aren’t the jobs here.  It poses a challenge to the housing stock and the neighborhoods. So I think these are the biggest challenges. The great majority of our calls are related to the landlord not maintaining the property, not repairing it, although it’s their responsibility.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2011 published by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.