A Tough Time of Year for Homeless People

By Raymond Jacobs   

The holiday season and homelessness is not a great thing.  Most people sit at home eating pumpkin pie, drinking schnapps , having a good time, while people on the streets are barely surviving.  They panhandle or sell the paper or whatever it takes to get a dollar to survive.  Behind every person there is a story.  My story is about a guy named “Mike” who went to college and graduated.  He had a good paying job, a nice car and one day he decided he was going to take his mother to work.  That day turned his whole life around.

He had a car accident.  His mother was killed.  It was Christmas eve about 15 years ago.   Mike became homeless, a derelict, a drunk, a bum.  He hangs around the near West Side of Cleveland.  Never got his life back together after that. He blames himself.  Every holiday season, he talks about how he is going to kill himself.  Even among the homeless, the holiday season is a time for a large number of suicides.  Mike has no one to see or spend time with or visit.  He lost his Mom and everyday he blames himself for her death.

All of his friends know that it is not his fault.  I have called the crisis intervention number many times for him.  They have talked to him.  I just don’t know what to do for him.   He has no family left and no one to turn to but himself.  His mother’s death was a tragedy and every day of his life he blames himself.  He is still homeless today.  For 15 years he has been homeless.  He goes into shelter and back in the day he stayed at Project Heat.  He has gone to VOA.  He only eats one meal a day.  Every dollar he gets he uses for alcohol. 

He stays off to himself during the holidays. He is alone and does not talk to anyone especially during Christmas.  If you have no one to turn to, you are really in trouble.  He ain’t a bad guy.  He has his problems.  He blames himself for his mother’s death.  I have seen Mike help out stranded cars and never asked for a dime.  Unlike most homeless people, he picks up trash and tries to keep the area clean.  He runs stuff to the garbage can. 

I have been there and get depressed, especially during the holidays.  You feel so lonely and all alone.  You feel abandoned.  I know what he is going through.   You feel like nothing is there.  It is not like a normal time of year.  Every holiday you feel alone.  Like no one else is around and there is no one but other drunks to talk to.   It brings a wave of depression and suicidal thoughts.

I think that just talking to Mike would help.  I think that taking a little time to interact with homeless people would help.  I don’ think people should give Mike and other panhandlers money, but they should talk people more.   It would help Mike and other homeless people if more people were friendly.  Time out of their life might get these guys to realize that others care.  It might get him into a program or get him to talk to a psychiatrist or some doctor.    

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

Central Coordinated Intake Keeps Residents of Laura’s Home on the Outside of Any Public Resources

By Nicki Gorny

When Trudie-Ann Etchison was referred to Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center in September 2012, she expected to stay for maybe a week or so. And even after she started the Christian organization’s long-term program of basic job training courses and mental health services, she still expected to leave Laura’s Home by August of 2013.

But after more than one year of classes and certifications, Etchison finds herself among the Laura’s Home residents who are unable to move into their own housing after being denied access to many of the city’s affordable housing programs. In March, said Richard Trickel, CEO of the City Mission, Laura’s Home staff found out that the City Mission-run center would be considered outside Cleveland’s Central Intake system, which administers city resources such as housing programs. Laura’s Home residents had previously been eligible for Central Intake resources, Trickel said.

Now women are told they must leave Laura’s Home before becoming eligible for public homeless or many housing programs including rental assistance. For some, like Wanda Woods, this means leaving Laura’s Home and starting over at one of the County funded family shelters.

“I’m not going to take my children out of shelter and go into another shelter,” said Woods, who stays at Laura’s Home with her son, 9, and daughter, 6.

Laura’s Home residents are still eligible for programs, such as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, that are not administered through Central Intake, Trickel said. But CMHA hosts a typical waiting list of 2-4 years, he said, leaving Laura’s Home residents with limited options.

“I’m trying to be patient, but it’s hard,” Woods said. “This was my first time in a shelter. I didn’t know that I had to go through all of this to get housing.”  Woods is not eligible for rental assistance through Central Intake that other families in the community can access.

When she first called 211 to find a shelter in October 2012, Woods said, the First Call for Help operator told her about Laura’s Home and said she would have to be there by 7:30 p.m. to get a bed that night. She didn’t think she would get her children there in time, she said, but she did and her family has stayed at Laura’s Home ever since.

Her experience at the Laura’s Home has been positive overall, she said. After participating in the intensive, long-term program, she got a job with Emerald Medical Staffing. She applied for housing independent of Laura’s Home in July. Since then, she said, she has been struggling to understand why the Central Intake system bars her from programs for which if she was staying at any other family shelter in the community she would be eligible.

In October, she entered Laura’s Home Living Free program, which allows residents to remain at Laura’s Home until their financial debts are paid off. “I’m not trying to stay here for ever,” she said. “I’m trying to find a new place to stay.”

For Etchison, staying at Laura’s Home still feels like being homeless even though the County has declared that residents who enter Laura’s Home before going to Central Intake lose their homeless status. 

“It’s not Trudie’s house. It’s Laura’s House,” she said. “You have to eat when they want you to eat. You have to be in when they want you to be in.”  Even if Etchison had gone to Central Intake after staying at Laura’s Home for a week she would have lost her eligibility for rental assistance or transitional shelter.

Etchison enjoys her own bedroom and a shared bathroom at Laura’s Home, and said she is grateful to the program particularly for the spiritual growth it has facilitated in her. In her more than one year at the women’s center, she said, she has taken some of the long-term program classes up to three times and received approximately 20 certificates in areas such as spiritual renewal, office and classroom cleaning, and entrepreneurship.

“Now I’ve done everything here,” she said. “It’s time to get my own place.”

Etchison put in her application for housing at EDEN, which she said best serves people with mental health concerns such as herself, and has been waiting ever since. In spite of the obstacles posed by Central Intake’s control of city resources, she said, she said she feels confident that she will eventually live by her own rules.

“I think it’s going to work out,” Etchison said.

Editor’s Note:  The Cleveland Street Chronicle offered Cuyahoga County and/or Ruth Gillett, Director of the Office of Homeless Services the opportunity to respond to this article.  We offered her the exact amount of space in this issue of the Chronicle.  She declined the opportunity to respond.  NEOCH, the publisher of the paper, filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to overturn the decision to declare residents of Laura’s Home as not being homeless. 

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

A History of Fifty Years of Community Planning with Norman Krumholz

Interview by Michael McGraw

Michael McGraw: Professor Norman Krumholz, it’s a real pleasure to talk with you. I know that you were Director of City Planning for the city of Cleveland, originally appointed by Mayor Carl Stokes, and retained throughout the 1970s.
Norman Krumholz: That’s right, Mayor Stokes, and then Ralph Perk and Dennis Kucinich.

MM: And in that capacity, you had a lot to do with the formation of RTA as the public, consolidated agency that it became around 1975, and you’ve been very vocal about RTA’s interests and activities since then.
NK: Quite true!

MM: And, I wanted to ask you – the purpose of this interview is for the Street newspaper, which is concerned particularly with low-income Clevelanders, and their interests generally, work and housing and so forth, and that can certainly include public transportation. And I know that, and I’m paraphrasing here, you can correct me – you’ve been quite consistent over the years in saying that RTA should, before it does anything else, if it does nothing else, to focus and the needs of those people who really need public transportation, in order to meet their needs before it looks after anybody else, and you’ve also been identified with the view that buses are often the best way to provide that kind of service most cost-effectively – right?
NK: I think that’s all true, and if you need any backup, there’s an article that I wrote in 1975 and another one in 1982, from the Journal of the American Planning Association, that describes in part the positions and stands that I took on public transit.

MM: I know in the last few weeks or so, that there has been some press about RTA considering extensions of the Red Line and/or the HealthLine. Some possible different routes and scenarios to the east, to Euclid, and at least one possible scenarios going right over there to the Collinwood Arts District, and there are several different scenarios under long-term study. I wonder what you think about these recent proposals that I’m talking about extending the Red Line to the east, and how you see those as fitting RTA’s long-term vision as a system that’s going to be able to first and foremost provide service to those who need public transportation most in Greater Cleveland.
NK: Well, in general, I take the position against the extension of fixed rail transit, fixed rail transit being the type that goes from the Airport to Windermere, and then out to Shaker Heights. I’ve been opposed to that because, it is, on the basis of a number of different cities, an expanded fixed-rail transit into low density areas, it’s not very cost-effective. In virtually every case, the cost of capital construction has been underestimated, and the ridership has been wildly overestimated, and the cost of maintenance has been underestimated as well. So, all of this is in the literature, and it’s fairly clear that fixed-rail transportation is not a good idea, unless you have extraordinarily dense corridors that will use transportation, such as New York City, Chicago, or other communities where there is very very dense residential and commercial development along these corridors. Fixed-rail transit cannot be moved easily as you can guess. We can’t pick up the tracks and move them to other locations. So, I’ve been really very opposed to the extension of rail transit to low-density areas. And I think the proposal to go out to Euclid along the main line of the RTA is probably subject to the same kind of criticism. That is to say there’s not enough conceivable ridership to make that cost-effective.

MM: What about the HealthLine, which has been getting a lot of great press in a couple of different media outlets about it apparently getting bang for the buck in terms of development along Euclid Avenue. I have seen discussion about studies for extending the Healthline East rather than extending fixed rail. What is your opinion of extending the RTA Healthline East.

NK: That again would depend on the density, which reflects ridership capacity, in the corridor that they’re looking at. I’m not familiar with the area of East Cleveland and Euclid into which that’s going to pass, but I suspect it’s not of the density that’s needed to be cost effective.
However, extending the HealthLine, the HealthLine is just a #6, the old #6 with a fancy vehicle. And extending a bus line can be done on a demonstration basis, and it can be changed and modified, and use a different route and all that sort of thing with apparent ease. So if they want to extend the HealthLine, and it seems that the corridor that they’re proposing has enough ridership, then that’s something that could be supported, and least on a demonstration basis.

MM: OK, would you say there’d be a lower density threshold for what you’d consider rational to do for extending the HealthLine than for a heavy rail route.
NK: I don’t think there’s any question about that. The cost of heavy rail makes it very very improbable for it to be cost effective. So I think that proposal is really all fog. At least I hope so.

MM: OK, so you think there’s really not much chance of that particular proposal going forward?
NK: I hope not. Federal budgets are being cut, and there’s very very little money at the local level to support such a program.

MM: You know, I want to take a little different tack, I was telling you I was also out on an evening engagement. I saw a New York Times about the Boston MBTA extending some evening service into 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. And a lot of emphasis in the particular article that I read about these younger 20- or 30-somethings being able to get home from their nightlife rather than take taxis. What do you think about the RTA providing later night service to help people get home from jobs cleaning offices, as janitors and things, or getting people home from West 6th or bars without drunk driving?

NK: I think if you want to extend late night service to service late night customers, which are probably not going to be all that many, chances are you are going to engage in something that is going to tax RTA’s financial capabilities. So I don’t think there’s much room for that sort of thing. The young smarts who are going out drinking on New Year’s Eve, for example are probably not going to their clubs by public transit. The last time I took a date out by public transit was in my high school prom, which goes back like a hundred years. You don’t take date out on public transit. So I think that’s largely a vain hope. What I would be afraid of is taking service away from people who depend on service for their whole mobility around the metropolitan area, and I’m very much concerned or more concerned about people who have to go to work at all hours of the day or night, then people who are out drinking and carousing during the evening.

MM: If RTA is going to extend a little further out into the inner ring and outer ring suburbs, how do you think this should impact the fare for the bus or rapid? I think we know that poverty has dispersed somewhat from just the core urban areas certainly into the inner-ring suburbs. Is there any way RTA is set up now for a fare proportional to the distance of the trip, and would this increase ridership especially by those living in proverty?

NK: Obviously, the way RTA’s fare structure is set up it’s a flat rate. So you pay the same to ride on the Shaker Line from Green Road to the Airport as you would to ride from say E.55th Street to the Airport, and those are entirely different worlds. I would prefer, given my concern for the lower-income population, using public transit, I would prefer that the fare structure be set to the mileage, the amount of mileage traveled. So instead of a flat fare you’d have a graduate fare, where the closer in you are, which is where most of the poverty in our area is located, the less you would pay. The further distance you are, the more you would pay. But RTA has considered that and rejected that, part of the reason they’re rejected it is that the people who live further out actually pay more in sales tax than the people who live closer in. And so they don’t think it’s fare from that perspective, and the sales tax in Cuyahoga County pays more than half of RTA’s budget. So they have to be very sensitive and respectful of that. But I think that a flat fare is discriminatory against the inner-city poor, and I would prefer a number of things that would lower their cost.

MM: OK, it’s a bit of an open question, but what if anything, kind of transit element or consideration, could be added to the Opportunity Corridor project to make it something that would benefit transit riders, lower-income riders in the area?
NK: Well, they could do a number of things. They could use the present configuration so that bus lines would be able to transverse the present proposal. Or, better yet, they could use the existing streets, they could forget about the Opportunity Corridor entirely, and use existing streets, and connect more closely with existing public transit, and with redevelopment efforts in the existing neighborhoods. For example – instead of using the Opportunity Corridor, which is supposed to cost maybe $350 million, that an early estimate, it’ll probably run over $400 million by the time it’s done, they could simply improve the route from the stub at E.55th. Driver’s coming from the West Side, they’d make left turn, go up E.55th the Quincy, make a right turn to E.105th, make a left turn and there you are at the Cleveland Clinic. And so, they would improve the existing roadway, and at the same time, improve the neighborhood through which that roadway would pass. They could do that at a small fraction of $350 or $400 million. That’s the configuration I would prefer.

MM: Professor, thank you for your time.

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

Holidays Inside, Celebrating in My Apartment

By Buzzy

Every since I’ve been off the streets and enjoying my apartment, I’ve learned to appreciate the holidays a little bit more. Let’s begin with New Year’s with all of its resolutions and making sure that this year is better than the last. Then there’s Martin Luther King Day where we celebrate the birthday of a man who did so much for the betterment of the African American as well as other minorities who had their civil rights violated. As we move into February there’s Valentine’s Day, the day for lover’s sharing, their love for each other with candy and flowers.

Unfortunate, for March is not big on holidays. So we move on to April and Easter. The day our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was Crucified for our sins. Whether you are a believer or not, He has played an enormous influence in the lives of millions, me included. Now we’re on to May, where we remember the death of soldiers on Memorial Day. Not just the soldiers who have given their lives for this wonderful Nation, but our loved ones as well. All are remembered. June only has once momentous occasion. The beginning of summer and school is out. Who is the happier the children or adults?

Now we’re more than half-way to the end of the year, here comes July and Independence Day. The day our nation began on its road to becoming the greatest nation on earth. With all our positives and negative attributes, more people are still rushing to get to these United States rather than leaving it. August has been left out the holiday month, but I celebrate it because yours truly was brought into this world to bring happiness joy to all I meet. Now, we are winding down Spring, Summer, and now Fall is upon us. Good old September--back to school and Labor Day. The day those of us who labor hard for family and self can relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Yet some of us still have to work!!

In October when the leaves are falling, there are two holidays.  One is mainly for the women which is Sweetest Day. The day we shower our women with chocolates so they can put on a few sweet pounds!! Then Halloween, the ghouls and goblins day. The day when the freaks and geeks come out to scare and make people laugh. While the children are enjoying dressing up in all kind of costumes, the treats they get going door to door are a bonus. I think that the adults enjoy all the tricks. Here it is November again time to give thanks at Thanksgiving, for all the things we are thankful for. Now we have finally made it back to Christmas to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ. Although we have greatly changed the real meaning of Christmas by commercializing it, I still think it is a good time to give over receiving.

The reason I wrote about these holidays is to explain the meaning they have to a person who is on the streets homeless and people who live in a home. The only real difference is people on the streets don’t really care about holidays that.  People living in the shelters or on the streets don’t celebrate much--just living day to day. So as these holidays pass you by this coming year remember the homeless and show them some support throughout 2014.  

Thank you for your support and for buying the STREET CHRONICLE.  God bless you keep the faith, and have a safe and prosperous year!! 

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

Giving Back After Getting More

By Jennifer Black

 After being diagnosed with cancer in July of 2011, I thought I wouldn’t have the time or the strength to do a lot to help myself, let alone help others. God gave me a second chance, and I beat the illness and have more time in this world. I went through radiation and chemotherapy. I was really sick and went through my treatment. The doctors told me that usually people with lung cancer they don’t live after one year. When I went for my CAT scan in October they said they did not see any more cancer cells.

 They want me to come back in March to look at it again. They did find spots on my lungs so I have to go in for treatment, now in February. If it is not one thing it is another. Twice a week for two hours I stand outside the West Side Market on West 25th and Lorain Ave, passing out the Cleveland Street Chronicle, a Northeast Ohio Street newspaper that’s, profits goes to the vendors who are low income. I enjoy vending because I get to meet a lot of people in the community, at the same time give it something back. I also love putting smile on someone else’s face while I’m vending.

One day at a time. Giving back, after getting more, I still take pain pills. Some days I have good days and some days are bad. Some days I can’t get out of bed. I can’t stay on feet to long. I am real short of breath. I still feel like I’m sick. I hurt all day. I get dizzy. My arm goes numb; I still feel I have cancer.

Without that Medicare, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t think I am well. I think I am going to have to get a second opinion. That is why I took this job with the paper. It takes my mind off the pain; they are talking about taking me off Medicare. I don’t know what I would do. I was on disability before my cancer. I have always had health issues and they diagnosed me with a regular disability and put me on Medicaid. I feel lucky to be on disability and Medicaid because I don’t have a problem paying for medicine or going to the doctor. I just wish I could get healthy.

I am tired all the time. I know a lot of people who have to pay for their medicine or doctor co-pays even on Medicaid, but I don’t. I feel real lucky. I hope the cancer does not come back. I don’t want to be sick. Lying down seems to make it hurt worse and I try not to think about the pain. I hope that God takes away the cancer and will make me well. I am tired of suffering.    

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

Ray Charles Overcame His Disability and Inspired Us All

By Diana Robinson

Ray Charles was a musician and a songwriter. He was born September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia. Ray had a passion for music ever since the age of three. Ray Charles grew up with both parents and one other sibling, his brother George. At the age of four, George (Ray’s brother) drowned in his mother’s laundry tub. Ray Charles was the only person to witness to what happened to his brother, but he never thought his brother’s death would affect him later in life. Ray Charles was starting to lose eye sight at the age of five, and went completely blind in both eyes at seven years of age.

Ray went to a school that was for the deaf and for the blind from 1937-45, in St. Augustine. That is also where Ray developed his talent for music.

 Ray Charles grew up listening to gospel, jazz and blues, but his school only taught classical. Becoming really good in playing the piano, Ray would practice and practice every day after school; until he became “the schools premiere musician.”

Ray soon became great at playing vocals, also saxophone and the keyboards, as well as the trombone. Back in the 1950s, people were calling Ray Charles a “pioneer” because he mastered rhythm and blues as well as gospel and combining both to create soul music. Everyone loved him then. Ray Charles’ father died when he was ten years old and a few years later, his mother died as well. So Ray grew up with friends of his parents that took him in.

Ray Charles moved around a lot. Wherever he would go, he would always find a job playing music. Ray Charles played with the southern band that was called “The Florida Playboys.” Then he started searching for his own band. Ray worked with a few record labels before coming to Atlantic Records. “The Midnight Hour” and “Roll With My Baby” became hits. And don’t forget “Mess Around;” that song was actually the first number one song as a vocalist and a blues ballad. Ray Charles cut his first live album at the Newport Festival. And in 1956, Ray Charles put together his first female group called “The Cookies,” then later developed the female singer group into “The Raelettes.” Having great success with Atlantic Records, Charles moved onto further his talent in other areas but also to increase the money earned from his music. Ray started singing pop music and country music, and later helped racially integrate music.

After singing with ABC records, Ray Charles became one of the first African American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company. Ray Charles was called the only true genius in show business by Frank Sinatra.

 The influence upon Ray Charles music background was individuals like Art Tatum, Nat King Cole, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, and Charles Brown. Rolling Stone ranked Charles number ten out of one hundred greatest musicians of all time in 2004.

 Ray Charles became a legend everywhere, back then and still today with his versatile musical talents. Ray was married six times and had twelve kids with nine different women. Back in 1961 to 1964, Ray really started struggling with heroin addiction and marijuana uses and it almost destroyed his career. He was arrested about three times for the same crime, heroin use, and then sent to rehab. Ray Charles never did drugs again.

 Ray Charles died June 10, 2004 due to liver failure in Beverly Hills, California. Ray Charles let everyone know that a disability may slow you down, but you keep moving forward. Fight for what you believe and want in life. Follow your dreams and take care of your family.

Ray Charles used to always listen to music growing up and watching the church choir or musician/ band leader play at places around his neighborhood. Ray Charles and I are blind in both eyes.  We share our love for our children, and I was inspired how he took care of his kids. It takes anyone time to get adjusted to their disability, but we both did it.      

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

Survey Says! Women Voice Concern Over Shelters

By DeWanna Hall

For the past two weeks, I have been traveling to Cosgrove Hunger Center surveying women who live in the Women’s shelter, in hopes of gathering women to meet and discuss their concerns at the shelters. From these surveys, a series of questions were asked regarding the food/bathrooms, operations, changes they would like to see, and their willingness and participation in future meetings. These surveys were kept anonymous and confidential to respect the privacy of the women.

Most of the women had similar answers about the changes they would like to see happen at the shelter. Among those changes were more resources that would help women look for jobs, better counseling for the women, and to be treated fairly and with respect. One of the residents discussed a need for more housing programs and improvements on where women are being placed. “The shelter should be used as a central station for welfare and to get more out of resources like housing and jobs.” Some of the women have been waiting for months to see social workers to receive the help that they really need. Others are not happy with the lack of care that goes on in the shelter. The surveys consisted of 21 responses to six questions; each one answered, and each one had a voice and told a powerful story.

 As I sat and listened to the women talk adamantly about their concerns and issues, just by the look in their eyes, anyone could tell that they wanted their voice to be heard. This is why I was happy to be there for them, to hear their concerns and possibly give some hope that things will get better or change.  I am sure it is hard for many of the women to see that change based on what most of the women told me, especially when women are being treated unfairly. Many women talked about their struggles with staff and not being understood by staff. One resident, just like many, spoke about seeing a more compassionate and caring staff while others felt, “the whole staff needs to change because (we) can tell staff is tired of dealing with homeless people.”

Everyone knows that change does not happen overnight. Most of the women want to see some outsider helping to set up meetings to improve the shelter and maybe branch into having women’s resident council meetings in the future. Staff of the Homeless Coalition met with the women in December to discuss the survey and their concerns. We posted flyers about the meeting and for any woman interested; we made sure to spread the word to other women in the shelters as well. In hopes of having this meeting, women will be able to speak out their concerns as well as improvements that need to take place at the shelter and having their voice heard.

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

Random Acts of Kindness: Yearning for Home

By Cindy Miller

Often local people ask me why, after spending 30 years away from Toronto, Ohio, did I decide to move back here?  My reply has always been that I had an "insane" moment.

I spent the last fifteen of those years in Metro Cleveland starting with the first ten of those years in Berea, five months in a homeless shelter downtown and ending with living in a Section 8 apartment in East Cleveland.

I had given careful consideration as to where I would move once I received my disability award.  I was looking forward to being 'whole' again, to enjoying life in Cleveland and all the amenities that Cleveland had to offer; great food, entertainment, the arts, baseball games, the parks, public transportation and a diverse ethnic population are all fine examples why I consider Cleveland to be the best location in the nation; at least for me.

For some reason, I still yearned for home; for the colorful beauty of the Appalachian foothills and my love for the Ohio River. 

I returned many times for visits and I saw a thriving little town that was dying.  I was thankful I no longer lived here; it was so depressing.

There was a huge opportunity to make some good money due to a Shell Oil project planned for Wellsville, Ohio only ten miles away.  Apartments were needed for the influx of workers.  I decided to buy a house with a separate upstairs apartment that I could rent out to workers but this so-called “done deal” fell through.
 
I returned home; to a place that had changed economically for the worst.  Industry nearly gone, staggering high unemployment, a lot of poverty, vacant storefronts and a much diminished population are only few examples.  The planned Shell project was a start of what could have made a difference in many of the communities in the Ohio Valley.

Now I was stuck with a house that would be difficult to sell in this economically depressed area.

I needed an outlet; a project and it needed to be something that I was interested in and had a passion for.

I really "bellied up to the buffet" of projects and have been overwhelmed in the process. I had my 'work' cut out for me and it was not going to be easy; the mind set here seemed unfavorable for change even if it is for the betterment of the community.  There is a lot of "stinking thinking" by those set in their ways. 

Fortunately, this is not the consensus of all residents.  I sought out those folks who were making a positive impact and wrote about many of them in my previous articles.

There are a lot of groups in town making a difference but the frustration for all lies with the lack of volunteers; something that probably many small towns face.  It seems that the same folks handle all the responsibilities and, frankly, we are burned out.

I am involved with a multitude of projects within the community and assistance would greatly be appreciated.  It's a lot of work.

I serve as vice-president of community relations for the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization; of which I was co-founder.  We hold or even co-sponsor events to attract visitors to town as well as raise money for several charitable causes, most notably to directly help cancer patients with their financial concerns.  Last year we raised over $25,000 at one event.

I am a member of the Toronto, Ohio Chamber of Commerce and I was asked to serve on the 2014 board; all due to my community involvement. 

If I hear of someone in need or a group that needs publicity, I will write releases and contact media outlets to help them in their PR efforts.

However, despite being so busy and finally making a dent in helping to make my community a better place to live, I spent a lot of years very unhappy here; I felt I didn't make the right choice to return, my health had failed dramatically and my finances had dwindled down to the point that my house faced foreclosure while the medical and utilities bills kept piling up.

What I didn't know was that people were noticing and word was spreading about what I was doing within the community; not only on an official capacity as part of an organization but it had everything to do with my personal convictions of helping humans and animals in need.  Whenever I put out a call for help on Facebook, people responded.

My own personal project has been to help homeless animals in need; primarily stray cats.  This all came about by accident when a feral mother gave birth to two litters of kittens within several hundred feet of my property.  I cared for their mother with food and water and when she left her kittens after they were weened, I tried to find them homes.  I was unsuccessful in those attempts and the local shelters were full. 

Needless to say, presently, I have ten cats. 

Fortunately, I found resources for low cost spaying and neutering and felt the importance of educating others, especially those who are complaining that they are feeding and leaving water outside for the neighborhood kitties but will not accept responsibility to alter those cats, thus preventing more litters to be born.

A multitude of people came forward to help me in times of need; with my own medical bills and vet bills for the cats, with surprise food drop-offs and with donations for two fundraising sales I held to benefit the "quality of life" shelter that put me in touch with low cost spaying and neutering services.

Well, the surprises keep coming.

As I write this, one week before Christmas, I received a mailing addressed to me with no return address or signature on the card within.  I opened the card to find a $100 bill and a note that read, "Dear Cindy, buy something nice for YOURSELF" and signed "A Friend". 

Two days later, I received a gift wrapped package containing a dual thermal feeding and water 'buffet' to put out on my porch for the four neighborhood cats that pass through my property.  The person who delivered it understood my frustration with the problem I was having with water freezing in the dish.  An added surprise was in the gift card - three $20 bills.

I am feeling more comfortable living here knowing that there are so many people who will come forward to help another person, an animal or a cause that helps local folks.  It just takes getting the word out so that people can respond and I am noticing such a response daily; not just at Christmas.

Residents of Toronto, Ohio help others.  They just need to know who is in need.

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

What Does the Rise in Poverty Say About our Society?

Commentary by Angelo Anderson

I’m wondering how we change the landscape of having people sleeping on steam grates on side streets in downtown Cleveland, Ohio to stay warm.  Does being on a side street make them invisible? Or do we choose to ignore them because of why we think they are there?  If these people were sleeping by the casino or stadium would we arrest them and charge them with what--staying warm overnight? 

There are many of us who make assumptions as to why a person is sleeping outside on a grate; or the ground with covers trying to keep warm.  Have ‘YOU’ every considered the real reason why? Or do you believe the propaganda fed to us through various media channels and the opinions of others regarding homelessness? Do you know?

How fast is a nation’s decline when we ignore the fact that poverty is growing and especially family homelessness growing?  

POVERTY is scarcity, dearth, or the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money.

Close the institutions that house and treat the mentally ill and they are left on their own, sometimes on the streets.  Where do they go?  Who is willing to help?  No monitoring, no medication – this leads to a lack of trust, outbursts and breakdowns.  All of these are behaviors that are not socially acceptable and why?  Our society has not found a place in its melting pot for those who don’t fit the mold.  As survivors, these mentally ill turn to the streets and create a space they can call their own.  In their minds, they too need a place to call home.

Cuts to unemployment benefits, SNAP, WIC, Head Start Programs, cuts in funding to Public School Systems, rising tuitions and shrinking availability of student loans and grants and POVERTY GROWS!   Without access and information, people can only teach what they know.  We often mirror our environments. Lack of access to resources, or the red tape to get resources makes it difficult for those living in certain communities. 

Inability to obtain employment that provides for life’s basic necessities – POVERTY IS SUSTAINED!  This cycle is often found in low-income, under-educated populations, however it is now starting to spread to middle-class suburban populations due to our nation’s declining economy and marginal job market.

SUSTAINED POVERTY can lead to: homelessness, drug and alcohol use and abuse, criminal activity and violence.

Our society ignores all its ills until that ill hits one of the affluent.  Then we have advocates and rights and protestors who don’t understand ‘why’ something isn’t being done to help.  Well, what about our everyday people who have worked 20 – 30 years and the plant closed the doors?  How about our veterans who serve on the front line so that we can enjoy the freedoms our great country offers; and yet when they have PTSD or shell shock we leave them in the streets to die like the enemy. 

What happens when it’s your company that downsizes after you purchase a home, a car, or have to pay your student loans?  How will you handle it when the insurance company says no to the critical medicines needed for everyday activity?  When will you start advocating for tuitions that are affordable to everyone? 

If not now, then when?  If not you, then who?

“Those PEOPLE” you walk by on the grates – previously worked alongside you.  “Those PEOPLE” you snicker at, miss their children and the comforts of home life.  They would like a smile, a hello, and some acknowledgement of their humanity. 

As our nation changes, there is a greater possibility of you joining one of “those people” on the grates than there is of them joining you in the workforce.

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO

A Glimpse Inside the Shelters in Cleveland, Ohio

Commentary By Angie, the Shelter Inmate 

It is 4 a.m. and she is sitting by the window watching the snow and dreaming.  Imagining herself in a different life, “In my own little corner in my own little room I can be whatever I want to be.”  Sometimes she is a character from one of the books she reads, living a wonderful life in New York City, London or Hawaii and having a staff that caters to her every need.  Limitless cash to add to her enormous wardrobe.  Glamorous vacations to Rome, Europe and Madrid.  Her inner circle includes only the very rich.  She knows nothing about the poor or homeless.  She assumes they deserve to be there because they are too lazy to work. They have no responsibilities hopes or dreams, they are all the same.

If only she knew some of the shelter inmates, perhaps she would see they are just like her.  The only difference is when she played the roulette wheel she won and the shelter inmates lost.  Some of the shelter inmates led productive fulfilling lives until they lost. 

Then someone walks by and interrupts the dream.  The dark clouds of reality bringing with them hopelessness and despair. I am a shelter inmate once again stripped of my individuality and uniqueness. Most of the staff speak to us with a condescending tone. There are more rules than I can count. Our requests go unanswered.  The food is cold and tasteless. I had to sleep fully clothed because it was so cold.  The staff ignores our requests for help with the heat.  Finally, NEOCH was involved and almost immediately the upstairs was warm and we had several space heaters.  It’s not unusual for several bathrooms to be out of order for several days or weeks.

The medical waste container used for disposal of needles has been full for months.  The staff response, “don’t ask me; ask someone else.” I don’t use drugs I am a type II diabetic.  Maybe I need to learn patience; humility or maybe I am here to help someone.  I prayed to God to remove me from an abusive relationship and he brought me here.  My faith has carried me this far and I am grateful.  I stay busy looking for work, attending free classes or workshops.  If I have a bus pass I try to eat at churches or facilities that offer hot meals, hopefully within walking distance. Anything to stay away from the shelter (jail).  There is a great deal of theft at the shelter.  Most of us sleep with our backpacks or purses on or under us.  I find it hard to trust others.  There is lots of hatred, frequent fighting and greed.  Sometimes I feel like a robot voiding my feelings or emotions., fighting to survive the day.  Mentally disabled residents sometimes fall through the cracks. MHS (Mental Health Services, now called Frontline Services) does the best they can.  The following agencies go above and beyond.  NEOCH and West Side Catholic Charities provide food, clothing and help with Alcohol/Drug addiction and health services. Cleveland Downtown Alliance provides transportation to West Side Catholic Center and other locations.  There are all these other groups, agencies and individuals that assist the homeless that I could not possibly mention them all.  God bless you, the readers and supporters of the street newspaper, your chair in Heaven is waiting for you.

I look forward to tonight so I can rest and find some peace.  The bubble that surrounds me is difficult to enter, a response to my environment so I am protected emotionally and physically.  I have been assaulted three times during my time as a shelter inmate.  Twice physically and once sexually, each time a scar remains.  Changing my attitude of the world.

“Another day has begun, another struggle, another journey.”

Thank you. The first step to stopping ignorance is a glimpse.

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO