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.                                    

 Ice       

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.