I carry a copy of the Lord’ Prayer

By Bobbette Robinson

I carry a copy of the Lord’ Prayer close to my heart and recite it as a prayer for all the homeless people.  When I say the Lord’s Prayer, I think about the large number of homeless people sleeping on streets. I’m trying to reach out to get help for homeless people; there’s not enough out there. We need more prayers for homeless people. I picked the Lord’s Prayer because Christ was born homeless.

There are people sleeping in doorways and on the streets, and that isn’t safe. Together as a city we should get more shelters for people and also provide people with something to do. Some people are on the streets because of addiction, and we need to get them help.  I see some homeless people in casinos who know they should be using all their money for housing. We have to help people with addictions overcome their addictions so it doesn’t ruin their life.

I need help with reaching out to people who need help. Some people who live in shelter have income, and for people who get income, there should be a limit to how long they can stay at a shelter. There are people with no income who need the shelter more.  We need more people to reach out to homeless people, and we need social workers to come out and get the people with income together to get them housing.  [Editor’s Note:  This is the opinion of the author and not NEOCH, the publisher of the Street Chronicle.  We believe that shelters should not have time limits and that anyone who requests help should be offered at least a shelter bed. We believe that offering everyone help will yield better results than time limits on shelters and making people homeless if they stay too long at a shelter.]

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

 

Safe instead of Sorry

By Lucile

I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good I can do, or any kindness that I can show, let me do now, for I shall not pass this way again.

In 1940, this is what took place. I was fifteen years old. America was at war with the Japanese. The Japanese bombed the US and the US bombed them.  America won the war.

Jobs developed through the 1960’s. 

In 1970, depression broke out. The car industry had almost closed. Cleveland, Ohio turned into a rust belt.

2014. This may be a comeback city.  In the past few years, Cleveland had developed immensely. Several homes are being added at the end of the Hope Memorial Bridge on the right-hand side, near the West Side Market.  Who knows what the next decade will bring? For better or for worse?  For America?

My advice to Clevelanders is be safe instead of sorry. Be careful, not dareful.  God bless all you!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

The “Dad” Factor

By Alexander “Dad” Hamilton

Today’s topic is the “Dad” factor. A lot of people ask me why I go by the name Alexander “Dad” Hamilton. In this piece I am going explore the “Dad” factor and exactly why I go by that name in the community. You see there are organizations like the Fatherhood Initiative that teach how to be fathers. They provide workshops and support groups that give the tools to teach people who find themselves in the parenting role, about fatherhood. Then there’s people like me who step up to the plate and become “Dads” to people who don’t have a father figure they can turn to for wise and sage advice.  There are Dad’s needed for those coming from broken homes.

We all know that broken homes often times, lead to broken people and broken people, more often than not, make poor decisions. These are not bad people they are just people who have been emotionally, and/or sometimes mentally hurt and they are basing their decisions off of their past experiences. Some of these past experiences in our upbringing can often times determine who we become as adults.  No one starts out in life wanting to lead a life of crime, but because crime is all a person sees; it’s often the life they turn towards.

My job as a community “Dad” is to change that. I want to take the people who have been forgotten or cast aside to show them that what they know is not all they are. That there’s more to life than what they know. I desire to take the underdog, so to speak, and create champions by providing helpful advice just like a natural father would their son or daughter.

In my opinion, our community is sick and the remedy is more caring and less judging as a father. I am in a unique position to provide that providing facts and love. Facts help the person see the situation they are in for what it is. Love shows them that I care and want them to succeed and that success is possible. I’ve heard people say that change is all about the first step, and the first step is to recognize when you need help. The second is to know who to turn to. If you are facing a situation that you need fatherly advice on don’t hesitate to call me. You can get me by sending an e-mail to the Street Chronicle. After all, I am Alexander “Dad” Hamilton. You can send me a message at streetchonicle@neoch.org and the editors will pass it on to me.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May  2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Violence In the Shelters and Meal Programs

By Artie

At St. Monica’s they had a guy who got stabbed in the neck.  They need more security. They need more shelters and healthcare for homeless people in our community so that these problems would not happen.  People need psychiatrists or some professionals to talk through their problems.   A couple of years ago there was a guy at the bus station, he said he’d been in Iraq, when really, he was a crack head.  There are a lot of scammers trying to get money that need help with their addictions.

I lost my mom recently. I have had some hard times over the last few years.  God will take care of it. At the church I go to, they started a homeless food bank. I’ve volunteered there and it helps people out. Things would be better if we all had God in our hearts.

It’s shame that these boys come home from the wars and they are sleeping on the streets.

The Chronicle does a lot of work to help people out.  I really like being a part of the paper.  It’s not worth getting stressed out about everything.  Stress will kill you.  

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Vendor Remembers Her Mother Who Passed Earlier this Year

By Bobbette Robinson

I buried my mother March 8th and I miss my mother. All the good times we had going out to lunch and talking on the phone. She liked to look at the stories and soap operas, such as Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful. She also liked to look at Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  We used to go to the casino because she liked to gamble, and we would have lunch at Subway at Tower City. I used to love to have lunch with her all the time. I used to talk to her every day at 6 o’clock in the morning.  I would sit up every day waiting for her phone call and she would talk about her gospel programs.

She loved to travel and she used to go visit her mother every mother’s day and talk with her mother all the time. She loved to travel, but was afraid of airplanes.  My mother liked to throw parties, specifically birthday parties. She loved being around her family, grandkids, nieces, and nephews. The main reason why she was would throw parties was because of her family. She loved to decorate, especially for Christmas, and loved being around her family for the holidays. She was the oldest of 8 kids; there were four girls and four boys. She was also born in Virginia and when I was a little girl I stayed with some of my family from Virginia for a few days. She had four children, three girls and one boy.  My mother never drank or smoked. My mother loved to eat; her favorite meal was spaghetti and fish. She also loved to cook and taught me how to cook, clean, and wash clothes. She liked to go shopping and her favorite stores were Dillard’s, Kaufman’s, and shopping at Tower City. She liked to go to the movies and her favorite movies were all the Tyler Perry movies. We would stay up and look at movies all night.

My mother used to work as a housekeeper at Baymount and then she worked at Cleveland Clinic as an executive. She loved her job cleaning. When she caught a cold or illness, she still went to work, but when she was found to have brain cancer, she couldn’t go back to work anymore. She used to talk about how she wanted to go back to work, but she couldn’t because she was sick. When she got sick, she didn’t want to die in the hospital, she wanted to die at home. We had to take care of her and clean up after her which was ok. We got to hear her last breath. She couldn’t do the things she wanted to do. She passed away from brain cancer, but I remember my mother as a very dedicated and loving person. She retired at 62 and died at 70 in March. I love her and miss her a lot.

My mother decided to plan her own funeral before she passed; she wanted a church home going service. She picked out her colors that she wanted for her funeral which were blue. Her home going service was very nice and family had come from all over; it was bigger than what I thought it was going to be. My mother was a very outgoing, likeable person, thoughtful, and respectful to others. Any hard time that I went through in my life, my mother was there for me to get through those hard times. My mother will definitely be missed and the thought of her is motivation enough to keep moving forward in my life.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Annie’s Eyes

By Diana Robinson

Annie Sullivan grew up very poor living with siblings and both parents.  Her father used to beat her on regular basis, when he was drunk.  Most people used to call Annie a spitfire because of her temper and her attitude.  Growing up she went through so much tragic stuff.  People, who don’t know Annie, wouldn’t know that she had a sweet and kind side to her as well.

Annie’s father abandoned her and her siblings when she was eight years old, right after her mother died.  Then her eldest two brothers were sent to the poor house.  Her youngest brother was very frail and he died soon after arriving at the poor house.  Annie stayed there until she turned fourteen years old.  Soon after she heard about a school for the blind and luckily she was sent to Perkins School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Growing up having a troubled and terrible childhood, Annie was having problems at the Perkins School.  She never learned how to read or write nor was she taught proper manners. She would speak to everyone who tried to teach her horribly and she would quickly get offended.  One thing about Annie is that she had determination.  She was eager to learn to read and write, and soon she was able to do both.  Annie studied hard and stayed focused until she was finally caught up with the other children her age.  When it was time for Annie to graduate, she graduated at the top of her class.

The Director of Perkins School developed a good relationship with Annie over the years and after graduation they assisted her with getting a position of being a teacher, in the household of the Kellers.  The household was in Alabama so Annie had to relocate.  The child, Helen Keller was deaf and blind and out of control.  With the help and stubbornness of Annie, Helen made great progress.  Annie taught her how to achieve and accept.  Annie had a very hard childhood and because of problems with her eyesight, she did not let any obstacles come in the way of her doing what was best for her student Helen. 

For fifty years she stayed with Helen as well as assisted her even when her own achievements were eclipsed.  Lastly, Annie is a survivor; she survived a horrific childhood at the same time losing her eyesight.  She never gave up her persistence to succeed in life.  Her disability did not define her but helped to make her stronger.  Annie Sullivan taught Helen Keller a lot, but foremost she taught her endurance and kindness.

In life there will always be obstacles and things pulling you down-- but don’t give up, stay positive and never let your disability define you.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Vendor Talks About Broken Dreams in our Society

By Kim Supermutt Goodman

All children have dreams. Some are realistic such as growing up to be a singer, athlete, or doctor. Some others are unrealistic such as wanting to be a princess or a superhero, but all of these are healthy. When a child lacks the love and support they need in their life, they are robbed of the ability to have healthy childhood dreams. They develop negative feelings about themselves and the world around them. Does any child really grows up and says, “I want to be an addict,” or “When I grow up I want to have a mental illness?”  No, these are not the dreams that children have. Homelessness, addiction problems and mental illnesses can be the aftermath of broken dreams. Broken dreams are often caused by years of struggling, years of failing, having people constantly discrediting their abilities, having people abuse them and neglect their needs and from having little or no support from positive people. Some people’s dreams become broken because something may have happened in their lives that they couldn’t control.

To many, the American dream means having the opportunity to go to school, graduate, get a good job, get married, have children, buy a house, buy a car, work for 20 or 30 years, and retire. For children who were born to at least one loving parent and have at least one supportive family member, it is easier than for children who weren’t. It is not easy for a child to stay motivated if they have no support and it is not easy for a child to learn if they are made to feel stupid. It is not easy for a child to learn “right” from “wrong” if they are not being taught what is “wrong” and what is “right”. What will these children believe as adults?

If you see a group of teenagers using profanity and acting in a way you find disrespectful or inappropriate don’t just assume that they are “bad” or that they should know better and look at them in a negative way. Instead consider that they might be the product of their environment. If no one taught them right from wrong they don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Your parents might have taught you that it is disrespectful to use profanity in front of your elders, but their parents may use profanity around them and use profanity when talking to them. To them, profanity is normal and acceptable. Remember these things as you deal with people every day. Think about these things before you pass judgment on someone because of the situation they are in. Many people only know the world in which they were a part of and don’t know how to open their mind up to see that their world is not the only world that exist.     

Some people find it hard to get and keep a job. It is not always because they are lazy and don’t want to work. It may be because they don’t have the confidence to chase after the job they want. They may not have the social or communication skills or the emotional maturity to keep the job if they get it. Other people seem to end up doing one illegal thing after another or end up in jail for not being able to control their actions. They may do these things because they believe they need to in order to survive. In many cases, no one taught them how to live and function in the world properly. They can’t control their behaviors and actions because they were never taught how.

There are many reasons why people have broken dreams but before you look down on them or say something to contribute to their broken dreams, stop. Instead, do something to motivate the person. If a person talks about a dream that they have don’t tell them they can’t even if you believe that they are not capable of achieving their dream. Telling a person that they can’t might confirm their belief that they are incapable. If a person complains about struggling or failing, say something encouraging or uplifting because it might just give them the motivation to try harder or try again. If a person has an idea they want to share, listen to them because, if not, they might give up on their idea, and they might believe that the American dream is lost.  

If you see a person who is homeless, has a mental illness or an addiction problems don’t look down on them because they are already down. Their dreams are broken and their spirits are broken. Smile and speak to them to acknowledge that they exist and to show them there are some nice people in the world. If you are a person who was lucky enough to have people in your life who cared enough about you, don’t take them for granted. Be thankful.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Healthcare Costs Can Be Hard on Poor People

By Michael Boyd

My back hurts, so I go to the hospital. They find out I don’t have insurance and they don’t give me medicine. Then I get billed $2,000 for an x-ray and some aspirin.

The clinic I go to isn’t authorized to give narcotic medicine,  so they give me aspirin and tell me to do these stretches. They say get into these crazy positions. Well, if I could get into those positions, my back wouldn’t hurt in the first place.

The job situation is rough.   If it wasn’t for me doing the Chronicle, I don’t know how I would have made it through the winter. Going to a temp. agency, they take out taxes and transportation, you don’t have any money left. So how can you save to get out of being homeless?  So then you just have to keep going. Then you hope you don’t get robbed of all the money you’ve been saving.

At the age of 46, if you don’t have education, it’s rough finding a job. No one wants to hire a 46 year old who can barely stand up for an hour, even at McDonald’s.  If it wasn’t for God I’d be doing things to make money illegally. God has changed that.

By my doing the Chronicle, it’s not about the money. It’s about telling people where they can donate clothes. When they tell me they’ve told me they’ve donated clothes at West Side or St. Malachi’s.

I found out Jennifer is cancer-free.  I’m happy, even though she gets on my nerves—a lot. My daughter turned 21 and my grandson turned one so I will press on.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

March For Justice

By Norman Wolfe

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, April NO CUTS COALITION a labor-community coalition working, gathered to prevent cuts in federal programs that provide basic survival needs to people.  The march focused on government cuts and reductions in programs that serve the poor.  The three main issues were: extending unemployment compensation for the long term unemployed, raising the minimum wage, and restoring food stamp cuts pushed over the last six months.  The march was held in Ohio City, gathering at Market Square Park on the corner of 25th and Loraine Avenue.  The event was well organized and attendance was high with much energy.

I immediately spotted Debbie Lettau in the crowd, who I mentioned in passing that I would be at the March and was pleased that she was there.  I knew that Larry Bresler would be there but had to hunt him down.  I found him standing alone which it was unusual because he is always surrounded with people.  Obviously easy to spot standing out among the gathered group of people was Paul Sherlock who I recently had the pleasure of meeting during my outreach ride along with Jim Schlecht.

We started the march at Market Square Park, walked north for two blocks on 25th Street, and doubled back to Lorain Ave.  We marched west on Lorain Avenue from West 25th street to West 44th and Franklin where a welcoming meal was laid out, testimonies from marchers, and speeches by invited speakers. St. Paul’s Community Church was the host for the speeches and testimonials. It was a long walk, but the weather was great.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

No Sympathy for the Struggles of the Single Person

By: Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

Many charitable organizations are quicker to help families than a single person. A “family” is defined as at least one adult with a minor child under the age of 18. Many people feel pity for the poor child who is forced to live without certain material things. Most people don’t feel pity for the single person because they feel that all they have to worry about is themselves. People often feel a single person is free to go to school without distractions or work any job with any hours and if one job is not enough go out and get a second one because it’s not like they have kids to rush home to. Life is not that simple for all single people.

Many single people came from abusive or neglectful homes. Some single people were in the foster care system and aged out at 18. Instead of having normal unrealistic kids’ dreams such as being a princess or a superhero that later turn into more realistic dreams such as being a nurse or a teacher, these kids often have dreams of being loved by their parents or by a family. By their young adult years many abused, neglected and foster care system kids grow up to be homeless young adults because they don’t have parents or family to turn to.

Many poor and homeless young adults try to go to college but get discouraged because they feel inferior to their classmates who came from caring and supportive families or get frustrated from the stress of dealing with the world alone. Many times it is hard for the homeless person to focus due to a lack of sleep. Some single people who were abused and neglected find it hard to sell themselves to an employer to get the job. It is hard for a person to tell someone how great they are if they feel that they are a bad person who is not worth loving. All the person knows is they need a job so they can take care of themselves.

Once a person gets a job their next step is to get a place to live. When the person gets an apartment they usually sign a one year lease, but if they lose their job they often get behind on their rent. Many times, they end up being evicted and back on the street. Some people turn to payday loans and end up getting a loan, repaying it and re-borrowing it but when the job is gone the loan usually ends up being a huge debt. As time goes on the single person often accumulates a bunch of debts because they have to take financial risks in order to survive.  Single people have no one to turn to for help or support. Then when they get another job they often end up dealing with having their wages garnished.

After so long the single person may experience frustration because of their struggles, anger for not having supportive parents and family and many times give up because they don’t have anyone to encourage them or keep them motivated. The single person has no one and is often left to wonder what is wrong with them and why they can’t get ahead. Some people also deal better with the emotional pain of their past. Many times after not getting the jobs they want or need, after getting fired too many times, after so many evictions, after so much debt, after so many garnishments and bill collector calls, after so many broken dreams and hearing over and over that they need to do better in life many single people do what they think they need to do in order to survive. Some single people do illegal things, use people to get their needs met or turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort because they have no one to comfort their pain.

While single people are trying hard to survive and do the right thing there is limited help available for them. Once a single person has a nervous breakdown from their stress or develops a mental illness such as depression or PTSD then they become eligible for disability benefits. Once a single person develop an addiction problem then they can enter a rehab program and get help with employment and housing and even get access to support groups to build a relationship with others. When a single person gets in trouble with the law, while in prison they can get their G.E.D. and learn a trade and many times get encouragement from other inmates and sometimes get help with employment and housing after being released.

It seems as if a parent can get help with employment, housing, clothing, furniture, rent and utilities just because they have a child but the single person can’t seem to get a lot of help until all of their dreams are broken or after their lives are screwed up.  

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

 May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Living in a Tent in the Flats Is Great Only During the Short Summer

By: Raymond

 Well, the weather’s starting to break, folks.  Every summer somewhere in Cleveland, they have a group of tents, and in this tent city the homeless live.  They cook their own meals a lot of times outside or go to the churches to eat. It’s better than being in the shelters; you get a lot of fresh air at night. These guys go to the meal programs during the day to take showers.

 I completely lived outside from 1994 and ‘95 with my friend Kenny.  We lived by the log cabin in the Flats, and behind it. We lived by the bridge. We lived on the banks of the Cuyahoga. That was the first time I came to Cleveland, with $24 in my pocket.  I pan handled for food.  I ate in restaurants. Sometime I’d buy a pound of meat and loaf of bread in the grocery store. Sometimes, me and Kenny would get a rotisserie and eat it. Boy, those summers were great. The winters weren’t that great, they were cold. As one of my friends told me as I was leaving Louisiana to come to Ohio, “Ohio’s the land of igloo’s, Eskimos, and polar bears.” I saw your first Ohio winter, and Lord, I believe that.

 Now, I’ll tell you all folks, why I like Ohio. Nine months of winter, three months of summer, snow in September. Boy I can’t wait. The only thing I’ll miss about this place is the people, not much else. Until next time, see y’all later. Have a good week and good summer.   Make sure you buy a paper this summer.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Drowning in the Debts of an Addicted Husband

By: Simona Lynch

 I was married to a crack addict in Atlanta, Georgia. I came home one Tuesday evening (I worked a 12 hour shift.)  When I came home, all my furniture, electronics, everything was gone. My husband didn’t pick me up at work that day. That was 2 years ago, and I haven’t seen my car since.

 The pusher, or whatever you want to call him, came to my door. He said, “Your husband gave me this stuff.  But I don’t want this. I want my cash.” If he didn’t get it, he would take it out on me.  I went to get my debit card to get my daughter and me a hotel room. It was gone.  I called the police. They took me to every homeless shelter in the community. They were full to the max, so they took me out of the community.  I had a hundred things were going through my head.   With this shelter, you can only be there for 30 days. There were no buses or public transportation. I had no car. I had 2 jobs and now I was unable to work.

 I was forced to come back to Cleveland. I moved from house to house with different family members. I tried to find work. I have a business degree, medical assistant, nurse’s assist, and certificate in drug and alcohol counseling. All the positions offered were temporary.

 That’s how I started volunteering with the Homeless Coalition.  I’ve always volunteered for organizations to help homeless people. I never thought I’d be homeless myself. Everything I’d been though, I’ve been through that for 6 years. I’ve been evicted. My ex-husband would take food or our food stamps.  It’s not just the addicts. It affects the family too. It diminishes one’s self-worth, one’s self esteem, and self-image.  It makes one question themselves. Why should I put up with this?

 I got counseling for myself and my daughter, It’s affected her having to move around to different shelters. It takes a lot of praying, and reading the Bible. I found stable but temporary employment.  I found CMHA housing, and am moving toward permanent housing.

 Some people look at homelessness, and think it happens only to someone with an addiction, or with no education, or someone with a mental illness. That’s not always true.  Also, you need to think about those people with an addiction or mental illness or no education who become homeless, but it also ripples out to their loved ones.   Those wives and the children tied to an addict can do everything right, but still be drowning in debt from the husband.  It is tough to separate from a self destructive type with a mental illness or with an addiction.

 Before I was married, I live in Shaker Heights, I taught at a technical school.  I traveled and I always had the desire to help other women with children.  I never thought I’d be in the same situation. In the blink of an eye, life can change. I didn’t know my husband was and addict until nine months after I got married.

 I never used drugs, I do not have a mental illness.   I am not uneducated.  All those are myths are not true for me. My goal is to inspire, and educated and empower women who find themselves in the same situation. A lot of women have lost their minds and turn to drugs and alcohol, or give up and begin to rob and steal.  Once I am stable, I want to teach others how to keep fighting and not give up.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Families Struggle to Deal with Family Health Issues

Comentary by Jennifer Black

 I went last week and had a CAT scan and this was the second time they told me I don’t have any cancer. But now, I have emphysema, so I went from one thing to another.  Then they found spots on my liver so I have to have another CAT scan done to see what’s up with that. I’d be happy if God would just let me get well so I can start bettering my life.  One day at a time, I get up. I’m not as tired as I used to be. I lay around a lot, but I’m not really tired anymore, I have more energy. And thanks to NEOCH and the street newspaper because that gives me something to do. I get to look forward to doing something in the community rather than lying in bed. Lying around makes me feel sick and drained.

I look forward to spending time with my grandson, I get him every weekend. I’m starting a relationship again with my daughter and son. I’d like to spend time with my mom, but I haven’t heard from her.  My mother is raising my niece’s baby and that’s not fair because she’s old. I have been trying to get in touch with her, and I’m concerned. I really just want to hear from her. 

I had to get an ultra sound for my tumors. So now I have to find out about those. I’m all messed up. I’m just praying to God so that I eventually get well. I want to live a long time for my grandson. It would be nice if I could find some support group I could go to. I want something to do during the day to look forward to. I want to start doing things differently because God gave me a second chance. Right now, I’m taking it one day at a time. I like going to the West Side Market because you meet so many interesting people. I’m glad to be part of the NEOCH program.  Because God gave me a second chance, I want to do things differently this time.

I’m in the process of trying to move. Right now where I’m living is not a stable place to be. I’m praying for another place to stay. I’m leaving it in God’s hands. I’m just happy to be here.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

MY FRONT PORCH VIEW - A Look at an Impoverished Rust Belt Town

Arctic Vortex Challenges, the Call to Help the Homeless and Recalling a Past Encounter

By: Cindy Miller

 There are a multitude of topics I could have written about for this current issue of the "Cleveland Street Chronicle" such as the Affordable Care Act and its effect on the local rural population, the continued effects of the mounting unemployment in the Ohio Valley and Medicaid Expansion; just to name a few.

 This past winter weather presented me with many challenges of maintaining a safe and running vehicle and the dangers I faced from exposure the weather could have presented with my current health situation.  In other words, I was restricted from leaving my home to interview people during the Arctic Vortex.

 With this in mind, and being thankful that I have a home, I still spent many hours daily reflecting on the plight of the homeless in Cleveland and within my own Ohio Valley home region.

 I found I was not alone in these thoughts.

 News of the opening of warming centers, for many who lost power, seemed to spark interest in helping the homeless. 

 One newly created warming center in Steubenville was focused on helping the homeless.  Volunteers came together to cook meals, gather warm clothing, sort hygiene products and offer compassionate understanding.  Area pizza shops delivered hot pizzas to the warming center.  Volunteers saw to it that the homeless received medical care and transportation.  One gentleman, living by the river, received a fishing pole and tackle so that he could fish. 

However, keeping the Friendship Room Warming Center in daily operation has presented problems.  The building used is the site of a ministry known as the Urban Underground, a place to help youth in Steubenville.  This limits the time spent for adult usage, especially since warmer weather days will be the norm.  A new, full-time location must be found.

 As of this writing, a friend who volunteers at this center was able to arrange for me a future meeting with the center founder.  A full story will be featured in an upcoming issue.  The Friendship Room Warming Center is the name of the Facebook page.

 Several area nurses, who do missionary work, made public pleas for coats, gloves, socks, blankets, sleeping bags, hygiene products and food for folks living in camps in East Liverpool, Ohio in Columbiana County.  Unfortunately, East Liverpool has no shelters for homeless people and these nurses provided health checks to those who showed up; some of which have children living with them.  Naturally, there is the fear of discovery that the family is homeless which could result in the family having to break up.

A former next door neighbor, now living in Pittsburgh, was inspired by NEOCH and the clevelandhomeless Facebook page to answer the call to create 'care kits' for distribution to the homeless and anyone in need throughout the tri-state area.  Not only do these 'care kits' provide needed products for humans, she has also taken into consideration the needs of their pets. She, her psychologist husband and her two children put these together. 

 Here on the Toronto, Ohio home-front, no warming centers were opened with the reason being that no calls were received for help. 

 I am certain there are probably a few homeless people in the area; the hidden homeless living well under the radar in wooded areas outside of the city limits to the south. 

Often I am reminded of the morning I met Michael; a kindly older gentleman who was passing through Toronto on his way to Buffalo, New York.

It was 7:30 am the morning of March 4, 2010 when I drove downtown to photograph some of the vacant storefronts on a bright and sunny morning.  I had passed Michael, as he was walking, noting that his face was not familiar looking.  In a town with a population of 5,200, it is quite easy to distinguish residents from non-residents.  The main street through town was deserted, void of traffic and parked cars.  The only people walking the area were me, my friend Judy, on her way to open the Dollar General store and Michael.

As I was photographing some of the buildings, I did not notice that Michael had crossed the street to ask me, "Ma’am, could you direct me to the homeless shelter in town?"

In conversation with Michael, I learned a multitude of things about him; he was born in Mexico, had spent all of his adult life working the carnival/side show circuit, had always been paid in cash under the table and that he had thumbed a ride with a trucker in hope of getting to Buffalo where, he assumed, his grown daughters lived.  Michael also was not sure exactly how old he was but said he thought he was 70 years old.  He also had not seen his daughters since they were little girls, well over 35 years ago.  He never married their mother.

There is no shelter in Toronto but there are several in Steubenville; 8 miles to the south.  When I explained this to Michael, he told me he was at one in Steubenville and that he was tired of waiting for help and that is why he left the shelter the previous night.  He hitched a ride, was dropped off at the north end exit of Rt. 7 and slept in a wooded area off the exit until daybreak.

I gave Michael $5 and directed him to a gas station/convenient store two blocks south where he could get coffee and, perhaps, something to eat while I searched for help.

Getting assistance from the police department proved fruitless. It was suggested by one of the captains that I drive Michael to Steubenville.  That was not a good common sense solution.  I drove home and made a multitude of phone calls to Steubenville and found a shelter where he could be taken.  However, I still faced the challenge of getting Michael there. 

The wait continued until 9 am when offices of Toronto churches opened and I was able to find a minister who was available to meet Michael and drive him to a shelter in Steubenville. 

I followed in my vehicle and walked in with Michael who was greeted with open arms by the staff and residents of the shelter he had left the night before.

I was most impressed by this shelter, a beautiful, fairly new building that was more like an assisted living facility than a depressing old building that was converted to house the homeless.  Residents were enjoying playing board games and dancing in the recreation room; a bright, sun-filled and cheerful atmosphere.  The shelter was specifically for the housing of homeless folks with possible mental health and behavioral issues.

One staff member checked Michael back in and said he would be served breakfast; a hot breakfast which I saw delivered to him in the recreation room.

I had spoken with the assistant shelter director on the phone and we upon my arrival that morning.  Due to confidentiality, he could not disclose, by phone, that Michael was a resident of the shelter nor could he prevent Michael, or any resident, from willfully leaving.

Michael's case provided a multitude of obstacles for this shelter to help him. Having worked his entire adult life paid in cash, there were no records filed with Social Security or the IRS.  He had absolutely no identification and there was no record of his birth that could be found including baptism records.

Efforts were made to find his daughters in Buffalo, however, Michael had not seen them since they were little girls so he was not even certain if they still lived in the Buffalo area or what their married names could be, providing they did marry.

He thanked me for my help.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014   Cleveland, Ohio

Local News on Cleveland Homelessness

Spice Warning Issued

After a large number of hospitalizations because of a synthetic drug called Spice, the two national homeless groups have issued alerts to the shelters in the United States.  The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council have issued a warning for homeless people to avoid these harmful illegal drugs.  The alert is on both national websites.

 City Mission Wins Victory at HUD

The local Coordinated Intake has demanded that every resident go to complete an intake form before going to any shelter in the community or the County would declare them no longer homeless.  The women were told last fall that they could not access any publicly funded program including transitional shelters, housing assistance or permanent supportive housing program.  The women protested to the County and then to the funder of Coordinated Intake, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Both complaints were denied.  The City Mission which oversees Laura’s Home shelter for women and families complained to their Congressional delegation.

In May, the County negotiated an agreement with the shelter to allow the women and men that will allow them to continue to go to the two privately funded shelters and then go to the Coordinated Intake within five days and still maintain eligibility.   All the existing clients will go over to get their intake done to remain eligible for homeless programs.  This is exactly what the women asked for back in October 2013, but were denied by the County and the Federal Department.  It took a Plain Dealer story and Congressional involvement to get compromise on this issue. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014  Cleveland, Ohio

 

Former Vendor and Auto Mechanic, Randy Passes Away

By: Dolores Manley

 On February 21st; I lost a very excellent friend and his name was Randy.  I got to know him over seven years ago from a friend of his, Dave Belak, at their meeting Place. Randy came to live with me that day because my husband was incarcerated.  I was married to my husband for eleven and a half years.  I met my husband at Bob’s Limo Service at East 66th Street, in 1989.  He had his own cleaning business, Diversified Home Specialist.  He died on March 2, 2012 and when he died I did not receive social security for his funeral expenses. 

 For months, Randy helped me out with jobs in and around my house. He had his own auto mechanic’s business with his two brothers.  When he got sick, around two years ago, he was in and out of the hospital.  Randy was very responsible, he got some money and paid me rent. First he went to the store brought groceries for the house. Randy was a heavy smoker and drinker. He loved salt; his leg never healed because of his salt intake. I do believe Randy would still be alive if he would have cut down on drinking and smoking. I will miss him deeply.

 He was always thinking about me on holidays. Randy was always kind to everyone and very generous to people too. Randy tried to get disability from Social Security. He had to fight for his money when he got sick. He even went to the hospital and got the run around with the SSA for being sick.  Also, because SSA pays a month of time they are cheating the sick out of months of benefits. I had to pay for my husband’s cremation and know that I will have to pay Randy’s cremation. I will not get help with SSA, because I was not married to Randy. 

When my husband died, the SSA robbed me of $250.00 because they said that my husband got extra Social Security money before he died. When my husband was trying to get his disability in with disability specialist attorneys’ he almost got it, but SSA intervene and denied him immediately.  Why does it always take so long to get help for a legitimate disability for sick people in Ohio?

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Serving Those Living Outside with Temperatures at 1 Degree

By Norman Wolfe

On Friday, February 28, with the temperature hovering 1 degree above zero, I ventured out on a ride along with Care Alliance’s Jim Schlecht to tour sites of those that are resistant to shelters.  I originally wanted to do this since July of 2013, but I felt that Jim’s time was best served without interference by me. Jim doesn’t take people out, but because of my position as a NEOCH Boarc member, he made an exception.

 Also, I had a friend living on the streets who I wanted to introduce to Jim. At 8:00 a.m. I arrived at Malachi and met Jim at our starting point.  He told me in advance that a long-time volunteer who is friends with many living outside would be riding along with us.  Jim introduced me to Paul who is an imposing presence on the West Side of Cleveland. We left Malachi. Jim is well known for not turning down anyone when they request his help.  As we were about to leave I noticed that Jim had a cup of coffee in hand and during our three hour tour, he was not without it.

 Now we’re loaded in the van and pulling out of the parking lot when he flagged down another driver to make of delivery of sorts to the driver.  He gets back behind the wheel and off we go.  Our first stop was a “camp” under an overpass (I had no idea exactly where we were).  As we approach the site more than a half block away, I could hear barking.  The closer we got the louder the barking.  For some reason I had no trepidation to continue, beside Jim been there many times before.  When the site came into view, I was amazed by the size of the area. I could tell by the spacing of individual tent placing, that there was a degree of personal space allotted to each occupant.  I was surprised that there wasn’t much litter; it was somewhat well kept.  A little deeper into the camp was a large tent structure where the person we were looking for stays.  Although he wasn’t there Jim did leave a blanket and some hand warmers for the owner.  We trekked back to the van and headed to our next stop.

 Our next stop started at a Burger King where Jim knew that the person we were looking for would be waiting. He grabbed a jacket and hand warmers for his client.  We entered the building and found one lone customer sitting at the rear of the dining room having a cup of coffee.  , but this time he was not there.  So,  we headed out to the location that the client’s site is but was stopped before we got too far by the lone customer who told us that the other guy had gone to a nearby church that served meals for those living outside.  Instead of returning to the van, we crossed the street where another street person stayed in a space of the building where he works with the owner’s blessing.  That client wasn’t home either.  So, this time we return to the van off to the church.

 We arrive at the church where we sat with a client with a cup of coffee.  The first thing that I noticed was how his eyes seem to brighten up when he saw Jim.  I could tell that Jim was someone that had earned his trust.  When Jim handed him the jacket, he carefully inspected it as if he was at Brooks Brothers’.  It was evident that the jacket meant the world to him.  I have to admit, I was a bit jealous of the quality of the jacket.  It’s an example of the selflessness of the donor; they didn’t think twice of giving away such a quality item to someone in need.

 While we were there, the worker seems curious about us and started digging for information.  She is very much concerned with those who come to the church and she is very protective.  As it turned out, she had tried to help Jim’s client get a State ID but each of her attempts (2) were turned down because of lack of information on the form (heard this before).  She asked Jim for a business card and she, Jim, and Paul walked off to another room.  So, there I was left with the client at the table alone.  I felt that the cook had taken Jim aside to discuss other matters in general.  All in all it was a productive visit; Jim found his client and delivered much needed items to him; Jim and Paul found another resource for keeping in touch with his client and potential other street people in need.

 Our next stop was a stop site closer to downtown.  When Jim stopped the van, I looked around to see if I could spot where the site was.  I learned that the sites are well-camouflaged, nothing elaborate, just well blended locations.  The client wasn’t there so we moved on the next site.

 This site was in the most incredible location of all the sites we went to, only because the others were where I would have thought them to be.  We hiked to the site to find no one home.  There was evidence that other caregivers had visited the site, but I got to see the care that Jim demonstrated.  Jim placed his care package where he knew the actual property of the owner was; then the gathered up the previous caregivers packages were and placed them along with his.  His concern for details was refreshing.  We retraced our steps back to the van and headed out to the next site.

 The location of this site was ironic in some ways because of the activity being conducted in a nearby spot. It was close to a high end condominium under construction.  There was no one at the site so we just aborted the visit to make one last stop.

 Our last stop was St. Paul Community Church on the near West Side of Cleveland, where Jim and Paul talked to several of the people there that seem to just want to be heard without prejudice.  They found the right two people in Jim and Paul for that purpose.

 Well, it was just around 10:30 a.m. and we were done for the day of in the field outreach.  I’m sure the day was just starting for Jim.  After the many months that it took for Jim to fit me into his schedule, it was well worth the wait.

 Since we can never know the full depth of things we do and the people we influence, finding out about the lives that Jim touches everyday was impressive. A case in point is Paul, who rode with me on the ride along.

 If you’ve been involved in the homeless in any capacity, you know Jim.  Jim has been involved with the resistant to shelter community for many years.  So, I will draw your attention to another advocate for the homeless resistant to shelter community—Paul.  Paul was introduced to me as another volunteer.  However, as it turns out, he is not only a volunteer; he is another facilitator like Jim.  I think facilitator is closer to what these two guy do.  It’s one thing to donate, which in no way reduce the importance of donation, but the donations have to get to the right people that go out and deliver those much needed donations.

 Paul has been an outreach worker for many years and his story is as interesting as Jim’s. Paul goes the extra step, he actually takes people and give them a chance to learn a trade or earn money in order to sustain themselves.

 There is another thing I learned while out with Jim and Paul is.”…that there are businesses, churches, concerned citizens, etc. that” as Paul puts it, “understand what these people are going through and want to help them in some way to get headed in a direction to getting back on their feet.”

 There are number of things that NEOCH and all the partners do that was very evident during the ride along; the clothing that are donated to the homeless is so prominent in the survival of those living outside.  If you have jackets, sweater, trousers, blankets, etc. consider donating them to one of the outreach partners; especially those that need them will well appreciate them.  The winter blanket drive is a year round activity at NEOCH.

 [I had intended to take pictures to accompany this article but their privacy was more important than ruining your mental image of the condition these people live in—besides, you wouldn’t be able to find them anyway.]

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle

May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

A State ID Card Can Often be the Difference between Housing and Homelessness

By: Nicole Ann Gorny

Walking along the Detroit-Superior Bridge, one man approached another with a simple question: “Do you know where Eileen Kelly is?”

 Kelly’s reputation as Cleveland’s go-to source for those who need help obtaining identification documents had preceded her, as her friend—the other man on the bridge—would later point out with the coincidental story. She has been at the head of the Cleveland Identification Crisis Collaborative since it formed in 1999. And after a landmark year in 2013 during which the collaborative financially backed more than 6,000 ID document requests, Kelly was recognized as Advocate of the Year by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

 Kelly, who is also an outreach worker at St. Coleman’s, said she was humbled and honored by the recognition. She added: “All of our staff members and at other agencies are advocates of the year.”

 Through the Cleveland Identification Crisis Collaborative, 24 partner agencies including St. Coleman’s and 2100 Lakeside share resources to help Cleveland-area residents negotiate the messy and often counteractive process of obtaining identification documents. The West Side Catholic Center serves as the fiscal agent, and the collaborative employs one part-time advocate.

 After receiving a major boost in funding three years ago through a Cy Pres distribution, or money that was unclaimed after a class action lawsuit, the collaborative has seen dramatic growth in recent years. In this context, the collaborative is additionally increasing its advocacy efforts to complement the day-to-day work of tracking down documents. 

 A birth certificate in Cleveland costs $25, Kelly said, but the obstacles the collaborative faces tend to be more complicated than just finding money to back vouchers. The collaborative also has to stay abreast of constantly changing rules.

 Just last year, Kelly offered as an example, the social security department instituted a change that requires a person to show a photo ID in order to obtain a copy of his or her social security card. Because a social security printout is required to obtain a photo ID, complications arise. Catch-22 situations such as this litter the path to IDs, Kelly said.

 And considering that IDs are often required in order to gain access to critical resources such as transitional housing, alcohol and substance abuse programs and employment opportunities, obtaining IDs becomes particularly important, said Jim Schlecht, an outreach worker at Care Alliance who is familiar with the situation.

 “If you don’t have those items, even if you’re eligible to get into these programs, you’re paralyzed,” Schlecht said. “You’re stuck down at 2100 or at a campsite outside.”

 While walk-in clinics or staff at each member agency continue to coordinate the often time-sensitive process on a day-to-day basis, Kelly said the collaborative has recently been shifting toward more advocacy-based action as well. “The thing we’re trying to focus on right now is working on solutions, rather than waiting for the next obstacle to be thrown our way,” Kelly said.

 Alternative forms of identification are one area Kelly said the collaborative has been brainstorming. This could mean iris or palm identification, she suggested, or some sort of electronically accessed birth certificate. While members of the collaborative continue to put their heads together, the challenge becomes getting financial and institutional backing. “We’ve talked to so many politicians and government agencies,” she said.

 More broad advocacy efforts are also, in part, where Harriet Petti steps up. Hired as the collaborative’s only employee in July 2013, Petti said her role as advocate tends to extend beyond the day-to-day transactions. This includes seeking sustainable and long-term funding—Kelly noted the current round of Cy Pres money is expected to run out this fall, for example—and speaking up for the rights of those who don’t have printed identification.

 Often government agencies request identification documents, Petti pointed out as an example, even though the government owns and manages the same documents.

 “People should not have to come to us to get their own identity documents,” she said.  

 Editor’s Note:  Cleveland is one of the few cities in the United States with an ID Collaborative that has an advocacy component.  With voting in person now requiring ID this has become an essential service

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Let the Lawsuits Begin in Ohio Voting

Commentary By Brian Davis

Changes in the Hours for Voting.  The Ohio Secretary of State has limited the hours that Ohioans can cast an early ballot in person at the Board of Elections in Ohio.  This will eliminate early evening hours, all Sunday hours, and only two Saturdays for a limited number of hours.  It is expected to create long lines in urban communities who have had maximized the hours available to their voters in order not to over-tax the limited space available for voting.  This is being challenged by a group of ministers and the NAACP in federal court.  Secretary of State Husted argued in a newspaper editorial and on one of the Sunday shows that he was only doing this for “uniformity” of hours throughout the state.  This despite the reality that all the Counties are not uniformed in population or early voting patterns.

Senate Bill 205 prohibits public officials from mailing unsolicited absentee voting applications and prohibits election workers from helping voters fill out their absentee applications.  This is being challenged by the Democratic candidate for Governor as a violation of home rule. This also requires that every part of the absentee ballot envelope be completed or the ballot is rejected.

Senate Bill 238 eliminated Golden Week, which allows voters to register and vote at the same time for one week between 30 and 35 days. According to estimates from the Secretary of State's office, more than 59,000 Ohio voters cast early in-person ballots during golden week in the 2012 presidential election, showing that there is a need for this time for voters to register and/or update their registration and voter during that week. It is also a wonderful way for homeless people who move frequently to participate in voting. This is being challenged also by the ACLU.

Senate Bill 216 creates more reasons to not count provisional ballots, even when it is known that it is a ballot cast by a qualified voter.  It also will make it difficult for advocates such as NEOCH to be able to figure out if a provisional ballot was counted or not counted and for what reason.  This would again reduce the number of legitimate voters who are able to cast ballots.  This law makes the acceptance and counting of provisional ballots confusing and up to the whims of each county.   This law shortened the time a person has to go back and provide proof of identity, and will not allow a person to vote in person without identification.  This law is in direct contrast with the agreement made between the State and NEOCH along with  SEIU in 2010. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle  May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

A Place to Start, Two Years Later

By Anne Nickoloff

A short, plainly-dressed man presses his left thumb into the electronic fingerprint scanner for the ninth time.

 Sitting across from him, John Thomas patiently waits for the thumbprint reader to get a good image. Thomas is a big guy with a big laugh, who makes easy conversation out of hard topics.

 “You just get out?” asks Thomas.

The man's expression is blank, tired.

“Yesterday.”

 The process of checking in to 2100 Lakeside Emergency Men’s Shelter is routine. A fingerprint, a name, a few questions, then a second process at the information center. The questions here involve just the basics. It’s not too nitpicky; never once does Thomas ask about the man's crime or addictions. Never once does he ask about his sexuality.

 The answers to those questions aren’t important here.

 Thomas punches at an old computer’s keyboard with his index fingers, entering the man's information that does matter. “How long you in there?” he asks without looking up.

 “Seven," says the man wearing light grey sweatpants and a t-shirt with one sleeve rolled up, revealing a tattoo on his upper shoulder.

 “Seven what? Months, years?” Thomas asks as he clicks through different pages on the dusty computer screen. Behind the man, a few drips of water plop down from an unseen ceiling leak.

 “Years.”

 A pause, punctuated by the final click of the computer mouse.

“Glad to have you out."

 The man follows a worker down green-striped halls to the information center, passing by fliers and bulletin boards. High up on the wall, an air freshener spritzes out clouds of mist every now and then. Guys shuffle or sit, heads down. Hand sanitizer stations are as common as light switches.

 The shelter stands on a bleak street littered with potholes, in a faded brick building with faded green address numbers that read “2100." It's the address, and the nickname.

 Inside 2100, six different sections (here, they're called communities) house different types of men, with over 350 beds available per night. Thomas walks by each of them like a frequent tour guide. With his flat-brimmed hat and a Michael Jackson t-shirt, he is far from the image of authority.

 There’s one community specifically for veterans, another for men with psychological needs. One for men who require drug treatment, another for working men ready to move out. A community for new arrivals, and a community for urgent stays.

 That last one is the Emergency Community. With 70 beds, 15 mats pushed up against a side wall and a separate room for overflow, it’s the biggest community here.

 The main room is filled with bunk beds, and after its daily cleaning, its walls are sterile white, save for a few inspirational quotes:

“Knowledge is power,”

“Believe you can achieve,”

“Character has no color."

It’s around 11 a.m., and the smell is gone now.

 "We're showing you the good side. Come around at 8 p.m.," says Bill Walker, with a grumpy edge to his voice.

 Walker’s job includes scrubbing down the Emergency Community room after the men leave at 8 a.m. Near the entrance to the area is a large wall mural painting, created by a staff member’s grandson. According to Walker, the artist was killed shortly after finishing.

 The painting is an inspirational collage of famous people featuring the likes of Nelson Mandela and President Barack Obama. Sandwiched between a few recognizable faces is a man who works here— the guy who almost everyone says hello to when he shows up in the morning.

 Mike Sering towers above most other residents when he walks down the hall. He's the vice president of housing and shelter for Lutheran Metro Ministry, which runs 2100. In the Emergency Community’s hallway, Sering’s painted caricature is smiling, his cartoon hand throwing up a peace sign.

 Many different men walk by the mural every day. Men of all different colors and backgrounds, all with different stories and problems. Regardless of addiction, criminal history, sexuality or temperament, all men have a place to stay at 2100, unless they pose a danger to other occupants.

 Since Lutheran Metro Ministry took over the building in 2005, the shelter has accepted almost everyone.

 But for this shelter and many others, universal acceptance is not a simple thing to do.

 In March of 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the official rule titled “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.” The title’s a mouthful; instead, it’s regularly known as the “HUD LGBT” rule.

 The rule is far reaching, applying to any form of housing which receives HUD funding, including shelters. Specifically, the rule prohibits inquiries about sexual orientation or gender identity as a way to choose potential tenants. It prevents discrimination based on these characteristics.

 However, there’s a small exception that applies for places like 2100. While the same basic rule stands, emergency or temporary shelters are allowed to inquire an occupant’s sex to help place them in buildings with shared bedrooms or bathrooms.

 According to Sering, the rule has helped to specify previously grey areas. Lutheran Metro Ministry has discussed the topic since it first took over operations of the building. Back then, Sering asked other shelters about their policies. He remembered hearing a range of answers, some of them reasonable, others along the lines of, “If you can write your name in the snow, then you go to the male shelter.”

 Sering explained: “So, that wasn’t in line with how you identify yourself. I think the rule was willy-nilly; anyone was doing whatever they were doing. There wasn’t consistency. I think we’ve gotten a continuum together on that.”

 Thomas, who communicates with the residents on a daily basis, can see that the shelter abides by the rules, and that most of the guys are good about following them.

 Although it’s been over two years since the HUD LGBT rule became official, many organizations were not as proactive as 2100 shelter. “I would say that it’s largely unknown to a lot of mainstream housing providers,” said Kris Keniray, the director of enforcement at the Housing Research and Advocacy Center.

 Keniray, who attended Oberlin College for women’s studies, was excited when the rule first came out two years ago. “I think it’s a step in the right direction, and short of an act of Congress to change the [Fair Housing Act] law, [HUD] really did what it could to expand protections under its umbrella and in its reach,” she said.

 She still admits that transgender homeless persons can present problematic situations for all-male or all-female shelters, even if these applicants are not common.

Kelly Camlin, Sering’s coworker, met some of the transgender occupants, who wear wigs, dresses and traditionally feminine clothes. When asked, they identify as male; they prefer to stay there rather than on the streets.

 That isn’t always the case.

“Usually we have a couple people in that category [transgender] at any given time,” said Sering. “I think we had a rough reputation before, which is getting better, but still, people could be uncomfortable coming here.”

 In the past, 2100 was known as a place where occupants had to sleep with their shoes on to avoid having them stolen. New programs like the Social Enterprise branch, cheap housing projects and community beautification have helped to improve 2100’s image, though it’s a slow process.

 The pipes still drip, ceiling panels still bloom with dirty water stains and the janitors still joke about duct tape holding the building together.

 "I'm not gonna tell you this is a Cinderella place, 'cause it's not,” said Thomas. “But it’s the best shelter there is."

 The HUD LGBT rule’s arrival wasn’t a big concern for 2100, because, according to Sering, they were already following similar rules for years prior. They treat every man who comes in as a part of the greater community, and expect them to respect each other, regardless of who else may be sleeping in the other bunk.  The issue for 2100 Lakeside shelter before the HUD LGBT rule was that they were one of the only facilities willing to open to their doors to those transitioning from their birth sex, while most of the rest of the shelter network were confused or unwilling to provide shelter to any transgender person.

 “A lot of these guys, they got a heart of gold,” said Thomas.

 Whether it’s stashing food in their pockets to feed the pigeons and cats outside, or reading the announcement board for illiterate occupants, or setting an example for newcomers, the men at 2100 aren’t necessarily what the stereotype of homelessness suggests.

 In almost every major room or hallway, photos of success stories hang with short descriptions of where the men are now. All of them stayed in 2100 at some point.

 Jane Sheets, a volunteer at 2100, claims she knows the secret for these men to get back on their feet. Eighty-one years old and still busy, Sheets comes in to help occupants learn more about interview processes. A man sits across from her at a table in the cafeteria, his head down, eyes down, expression tired.

 “One secret I share with every guy I meet, is that when they go to an interview, they have to have a story,” says Sheets.

Despite having a criminal past, which applies to two-thirds of 2100’s residents, it’s as simple as explaining a story, explaining the difficulties of trying to get better, and working to get out of the shelters. Even if the job is a minimum wage gig, it’s something.

 In the same way, the building itself is something, after getting out of jail or off the streets—for any type of man.

 And the HUD LGBT rule was a place to start for equal rights. Maybe a federal law would be a place to end.           

 Sheets gestures to the man sitting across from her. “He thinks his life is over. At 29!” She laughs, and Thomas joins in.

 The young man’s flat face turns up a bit. The corner of his mouth twitches, becomes a tiny smile.

 It’s a place to start.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle  May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio