What Would You Be Willing To Do To Survive Homelessness?

By Bobbette Robinson

     Homelessness has become a bigger and bigger problem across the country. This epidemic is being addressed in a variety of ways.  Examples are housing and service programs, emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing.

     The amount of homeless youths has dramatically increased.  Each year more than over a million kids in America will face a period of homelessness.  In Cleveland we see more and more families becoming homeless.  They were sleeping outside, in an emergency shelter, or in a transitional housing programs.

     In 2014, there were millions of people doubled up living with family and friends in America, which was the most common living arrangement prior to becoming homeless.  Most people who have never experienced homelessness don’t know how hard it is to survive in this situation.  What would you do to survive?  These are the kind of questions that go through a person’s mind who has unexpectedly became homeless.  Would you be willing to climb into a dirty dumpster that is full of trash to shield yourself from extremely cold temperatures?  Would you seek shelter in an abandoned building, use newspaper to cover yourself to keep warm, and ignore the rats sharing that space with you?  Would you sleep in an underground sewer tunnel or under a bridge or on a dirty floor?  How far would you go to “survive” homelessness?

     There is a great need for more help to people losing their housing and I know that it is a very serious issue or crisis.  The number of crisis shelters are decreasing while the need is increasing.  There is other help available through Outreach programs for people living on the streets, community service centers to assist families, and there is a program called like Laura’s Home in Cleveland.  Laura’s Home in Cleveland provides shelter to families and has responded to the “most pressing needs” of homeless children every day.  Everyday 50 to 90 families call asking for help that Laura’s Home cannot help because they are completely full.  They are committed to helping the kids who come in the program get into housing and stay in school.  We need more places like Laura’s Home in our community including shelters for single women who need help.  I don’t think people realize how bad it is right now for homeless women and families. 

     In order to better understand homelessness, I think that people need to think what they would do if they were homeless.  I know what I would do since I have been homeless.  But what would you do?   What are you willing to do to survive homelessness?  I know that it changes who you are after surviving homelessness?   Would you be able to survive homelessness?  I think that there are a lot of successful people who would not survive homelessness.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

Fighting Against 21st Century Literacy Tests for Voting in Ohio

By Megan Shanklin

This spring, NEOCH, along with the Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Husted regarding the Ohio laws on counting absentee and provisional ballots.

The laws passed in 2014 by Ohio Congress and signed into law by Governor Kasich, S.B. 205 and 216, adds address and birthdate fields to the identification sections of provisional and absentee ballots, reduces the post-election time that provisional and absentee voters have to show proper identification from ten to seven days, and prohibits poll workers from filling out affirmation forms and identification envelopes unless assisting someone who explicitly asks for help on the basis of disability or illiteracy. Moreover, both S.B. 205 and 216 impose “perfect form” requirements, requiring elections boards to reject absentee and provisional ballots with any errors or omissions in the identification information, or where the information does not match the voter’s record in the statewide voter registration database. In 2014, more than 4,000 ballots were discarded because of such errors.

On June 7th, 2016, district court Judge Algenon Marbley agreed with NEOCH that these laws were an unconstitutional violation of voters’ rights. Secretary of State Husted did appeal the ruling, and oral arguments for the appeal took place on August 4th. We are still awaiting the appeals court ruling, but for now, the laws have been overturned.

We are particularly grateful to our attorney, Sandhya Gupta, who put a lot of work into making sure that Ohio citizens retain our right to vote. I recently talked to Ms. Gupta about the case and the work that she did for it. She explained to me the Plaintiff’s (NEOCH) main argument against these laws: “Provisional- and absentee-ballot voters' ballots should not be disqualified on the basis of minor mistakes and omissions, when those voters' identities could otherwise be verified. We argued that such disqualification was unconstitutional,” in violation of the 14th amendment, “because it put a severe burden on the fundamental right to vote without a sufficient state interest. We also argued that the requirement for full and accurate completion of the forms imposed a literacy test, which the Voting Rights Act prohibits.” Our attorneys also argued that due process was violated by shortening the period of time allowed to correct mistakes on ballots, and that it was too restrictive to limit poll workers to only assisting those voters who ask for help on the basis of disability or illiteracy.

As for the Defense’s justification of throwing out ballots with errors? Ms. Gupta put it pretty plainly – they didn’t have any. “Defendants tried to rely on the positive aspects of asking for the five-fields information, for example, the fact that including this information on a provisional ballot form could help register a voter for the next election, or that it could help locate a voter in the database. But these reasons did not explain why a registered voter's ballot had to be thrown out if a board could still identify the person.”

As part of the discovery process in the case, our attorneys sent subpoenas to county boards of elections around Ohio. Most importantly, they were looking for rejected absentee and provisional ballot forms. They also received accepted ballot forms that they could compare rejected forms with. In looking at the ballots, Ms. Gupta explained to me that they found something interesting – the laws determining whether ballots should be discarded or accepted were applied inconsistently throughout the state.

”Among the counties that we examined in this case, boards of elections in smaller, rural counties, with greater populations of white voters, were more relaxed about counting ballots with five-fields errors than those in larger, more urban counties, with greater populations of racial-minority voters.” Even worse, “the Secretary of State's office admitted that they never bothered to investigate this inconsistency of application.”

I asked Ms. Gupta whether the discriminatory and disenfranchising effects of S.B. 205 and 216 deviated from their intended effects. Her response? No, they didn’t. “We argued that the legislature did intend to disenfranchise people with these laws—specifically, racial minorities. Not only did we have testimony from a legislator stating that one of the supporter-legislators made racist remarks when the various election bills were being discussed, but also there was other indirect evidence that we believe, when taken as a whole, showed the legislature intended these discriminatory effects.”

The district court agreed that these laws were discriminatory, particularly against African-Americans, and put undue burdens on the right to vote without sufficiently good reason, thus violating both the Voting Rights Act and the 14th amendment to the Constitution.

Interestingly, Ohio is not the only state that has had battles over discriminatory voting laws in recent months. North Dakota, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin have all seen voting lawsuits go through the courts in 2016. I asked Ms. Gupta about the prevalence of these types of cases right now, and she explained that “both the North Carolina and Texas laws went into effect soon, if not immediately, after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, removing the requirement that states with a history of discrimination first get Justice Department approval before enacting any changes in voting laws. That meant that states like North Carolina and Texas became free to do what they wanted, and the legislatures in those states lost no time passing restrictive voting laws that disproportionately affected racial minorities.”

“Other states like Wisconsin and Ohio, led by Republican legislatures, also passed restrictive laws around the same time. The laws were challenged, and now those challenges have made their way through the appellate courts.” With only a few months to go before the November election, voters’ rights in all of these states hang in the balance.

Literacy tests were outlawed 51 years ago by the Voting Rights Act because they were demonstrated to be obstacles preventing people of color from voting. Despite this, in 2014, Ohio’s Legislators passed laws that discriminated against people who failed to read and follow written directions perfectly. It is extremely disturbing to say the least that tactics from the 19th century are being used now in the 21st to disenfranchise citizens. We are so thankful for Ms. Gupta and the rest of the Plaintiff attorneys who worked so hard to fight against these 2014 literacy tests and protect the right to vote for Ohio’s citizens. We are hopeful that the appeals court judges will agree with Judge Marbley and we can go into the upcoming November elections knowing that Ohio’s voters cannot be arbitrarily denied their right to vote.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

The Provision of Services for a Brighter Future at West Side Catholic Center

Commentary by Katy Carpenter   

      The overall trend of homelessness has been changing, according to the Director of Advancement at the West Side Catholic Center (WSCC), Jennifer Highfield. She mentions that it is hard work being poor, and that homelessness is far from simple-the services and programs that are offered at WSCC reflect the complexities of the human experience of homelessness, domestic violence and other housing crisis’s that individuals encounter throughout their lives. Five programs, one mission is how the West Side Catholic Center phrased their work in their annual report-all united by the mission to “assist(s) all who come in need of food, clothing, shelter, advocacy and a path to self-sufficiency” for the clients they serve and to do so in a way that is “grounded in faith, hope, love and respect,” according Highfield, was founded in 1977 by a coalition of churches, and although the Center does have Catholic roots, they are a non-denominational charity and provide services to anyone “experiencing life challenges.”

     The work WSCC does on a daily basis makes a huge impact in this community. The five programs the Center provides are as follows: the Resource Center, Zacchaeus Housing Solutions, Economic Opportunities, Family Services and the Moriah House shelter.

       The Resource Center provides shelter for homeless individuals and those with few economic resources, six days a week. The Resource Center also provides a food pantry program, this program distributes fresh produce on a monthly basis. This center offers meals six days a week, and is open to any individual. The Resource Center also provides household items and clothing to individuals in need. Other services offered under the Resource Center Program are Street Survival Services which offer showers, mailboxes and emergency services to those living on the streets. In 2015, WSCC served just under 6,000 people through their clothing and household distribution program at The Resource Center.

        Zacchaeus Housing Solutions is another program at the Center that helps residents and individuals experiencing hardships find secure housing, and helps individuals sustain housing. This program began as a way to rapidly re-house individuals, but has evolved over the years as funding has shifted. In 2015, The Center provided 90 families with rent subsidies through the Zacchaeus Housing Solutions Program. The Economic Opportunities Program helps clients work towards self-sufficiency through financial education, workforce development and other adult education courses. In 2015, the Economic Opportunity Program impacted 92 clients in finding them stable employment, and educated 92 individuals in the Adult Education and Financial Literacy Programs.

      Lastly, the Moriah House offers four programs in order to address client’s immediate shelter needs and long term housing challenges (and the components that have resulted in homelessness or housing crisis situations). As of 2015, 11,083 nights of lodging have been provided to families staying at the Moriah House according to Highfield.

      I was struck by the environment of warmth, positivity and excitement that surrounded each component of the programs that WSCC offers. They treat homelessness and other challenges at an individual level, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach will not solve anything. WSCC uses a holistic approach to address the root causes of homelessness, instead of just a temporary solution-in order to instill and encourage self- sufficiency. It’s easy to see, why women who are staying at Norma Herr Women’s Shelter participate in the programs at West Side Catholic Shelter. The holistic approach that the Center offers is well respected within the community from both advocates and clients-the idea that the work that The Center does on a daily basis continues to promote self-sufficiency, and also helps give the rest of the community a more accurate and less-biased opinion of those experiencing homelessness. This is key to the success and environment of understanding that WSCC offers.

        In a phone interview with a current resident at Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, she mentions that WSCC is phenomenal. She takes the van from the women’s shelter over to WSCC, five days a week in order to utilize the programs and services at the drop-in center, when transportation is not available she walks to the center. This reinforces the fact that many of the clients that utilize this center, do face transportation challenges, as Highfield suggested in our interview. When asked what separates this drop-in center from other homeless services offered in this city, she was quick to mention the compassionate and understanding staff. She emphasized the feeling that everyone who is a part of WSCC takes pride in what they do and loves people-which she mentioned is not always the case in some services offered elsewhere.

          Her two favorite programs at the center are the yoga classes and the creative writing program. She especially likes the creative writing program, because it allows a space to express her feelings and thoughts in an innovative way. Most important and again very different from other services offered in the city for the homeless and impoverished: is that the staff members are willing to do whatever they can for their clients. They consistently are looking for better ways to offer services to more individuals, in a kinder and more impactful way. They do not turn anybody away from help, and continue to assist residents in taking steps forward as opposed to trapping them in the system, which she mentioned is key for people who have already endured so much. Employees at WSCC work tirelessly to help get individuals what they need, and they do so in a way that makes clients feel comfortable and empowered.

The takeaway from my visit at West Side Catholic is first and foremost, that the population of homeless individuals is changing-these shifting demographics have changed the way the center provides services and have evolved with funding changes. Things we take for granted everyday can make all the difference, and can make the difference between homelessness and being housed. These conversations matter; these services meet clients where they are at, while promoting self-sufficiency and developing tangible skills that will foster sustainability for the rest of their lives. I would argue that this is the provision of services that not only destigmatizes homelessness and poverty, but also creates accountability within the system and in the community. This is finally the provision of services that is more than just a temporary fix, and that addresses the root causes of homelessness, one holistic program at a time. This shifts the conversation from “just making it through the day” to next week, next month, and towards a brighter future according to Highfield.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

The Neighborhood is Changing and Stressful

by Mike Owens

Our neighborhood has always been nice and peaceful.  It’s been a great place to live.  All the neighbors know and enjoy each other.  For the last few years there have been problems that always point back to the same woman.  The problems which have plagued our nice quiet neighborhood have slowly escalated.

We have a neighbor who thinks she is the queen of our street.  She took over our Community Garden.  She threatened a neighbor with a garden hoe and calls them names.  We have gotten together to discuss this and we all wish she would move out of our neighborhood. A lot of our neighbors have moved out of the neighborhood because of her.  

She has a special hatred for homeless people who walk up and down our street.  They come down the street and ask for food or for something to eat.  She tells them she can’t do it.  She says she has no food to give them.  She has called the police on the homeless individuals who are trying to find some food.  She wants to get them in trouble.

She called the housing inspector on a neighbor who bought the house next door to me. She even called the city on me because our grass wasn’t cut yet. You can’t even play your music during the day without her calling the police on you. She is known as the neighborhood troublemaker.  She only cares about herself.  She has no compassion for people.

She loves causing problems for everyone.  We got together and started a petition signed by 35-40 of our neighbors.  This woman is helped by a rental voucher and we would love to have her move so we can have our nice quiet fun neighborhood back.   The petition was taken down to the courthouse to see if there is anything that can be done about getting this woman out of our neighborhood.  She has turned a nice quiet neighborhood into a place where we have learned to expect trouble. 

She recently called the police four times, in one day, on a resident when they were having an anniversary party and they were playing music.  The police had to come out all 4 times.  This woman meddles in everyone’s business.

I wish she would change and not be so hateful.  I just wish we could all get along.

God bless everyone!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

Smiling in the Face of Pain And Reducing Stress

by Jennifer Black

One Day At A Time; That’s how I do it. That’s how I deal with the pain I feel daily.

For a couple of months now, it’s been harder than usual for me to get up in the mornings. Some days I don’t get up. I just sleep in!

Today, I went to the hospital, to see the Primary Care Doctor, for the first time.

They took blood and scheduled an appointment, in a couple of months, for other tests.

I went back to the hospital on September 6th, for an ultrasound, to try to find out why I’ve been losing my vision and keep passing out, off and on, with no warning.

It seems like I’m not getting any better…not physically, anyway. I was doing better last year…

Maybe it’s because I’m so stressed out! I was stressed while my daughter was incarcerated.

Now I’m stressed since she’s been out, because she got out August 29, 2016 and I hadn’t heard from her in about two months.

The fact that my grandson’s father wouldn’t let my grandson see or talk to me, also bothers me. I can’t eat or sleep. I need to stop thinking so much about other people and think more about myself.

That’s why I’m glad that I’m able to work at The Market. Selling the paper at The West Side Market helps me focus on other things besides sitting around and thinking about my problems.

Selling the Street Chronicle helps me focus on other things besides my health and my problems. 

Working helps me to not focus on the pain I feel every day. As I sell my papers, I share my story with the people I sell to. I tell them my name and encourage them to read my article. Working makes me grateful that I’m able to get up and move around.

I can’t wait to see my regulars, like Miss Ann, who has helped us.  Meg, the flower lady, and a lot of the other vendors at the West Side Market, are also nice and have been good to us.

I also appreciate the churches and the centers, on the West side, that provide meals for the homeless and for people like me, who don’t have or make a lot of money. It’s a blessing to those of us who have so little, that these people care so much to help us.

Selling the paper, seeing my regulars, being able to get a meal when I need it…these things put a smile on my face the two or three days a week that I sell my papers at the Market. These things and these people, help me smile in the face of the pain I feel daily.

I’ll be praying for everyone who needs help, as well as for those who do help. Have A Nice Day!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio 

Safer Driving for Older Adults from An Octogenarian

by Lucille Egan

What are some problems that could affect an older adult’s ability to drive?

Poor vision – you are more likely to have problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. These problems may cause problems with the glare from oncoming headlights, or shiny objects especially at dawn, dusk and at night.

Poor hearing – something as simple as earwax can contribute to hearing loss. Being unable to hear sirens, the honking of horns is very dangerous, so be careful.

What are some signs of unsafe driving ability?

Always asking passengers if it is clear to pass or turn

Being unable to judge distances between cars

Drifting across the lane or often bumping into curbs

Driving either too fast or too slow

Failing to yield to other vehicles that have the right of way

Ignoring your car’s mechanical symptoms

Disobeying or not understanding street signs or traffic lights

Not noticing or not responding quickly enough to pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers

If you think you, or another older adult you know could use a driving refresher course, you might want to check out the AARP Smart Driver course, at aarpdriversafety.org, where you’ll learn:

Important facts about the effects of medication on driving.

How to reduce driver distractions.

How to maintain the proper following distance behind another car.

Techniques for handling left turns, right-of-way, and roundabouts.

Age-related physical changes and how to adjust your driving to compensate.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your kindness and support for purchasing the Street Chronicle from me. Hope you have a Great Day, every day, and remember to Drive Care-fully not Dare-fully!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

The Future of America is in Our Hands

By Raymond Jacobs

Over 9 million soldiers and over 7 million civilians died in World War I. World War II was even deadlier. There was atomic bomb dropped and the Holocaust exterminated 6 million Jews. Innocent people including women and children lost their lives. A lot of soldiers lost their lives in the Korean War. To this day the number of lost lives is still unknown and there was never a peace treaty. In the Vietnam war 58,220 American soldiers lost their lives. Which person is going to get us into a war always has to be the consideration when casting a vote .

The Gulf War was a war started by George Bush, the father. The Afghanistan war and the Iraq war were started by George Bush, the son. Both Georges are a part of the Republican Party and were war presidents by choice. I believe that one of the current candidates running for President would take us into a war again. I believe that if elected this candidate would be another war president; so get ready for World War III. Do we really need another war?

During the upcoming election it is important that everyone get out there and vote. Don’t just vote for the president, vote for the other seats too. If you are black, poor, elderly, disabled, a woman, Jewish, Homosexual etc... go out and vote for the candidate who will support your values. We need as many thoughtful, peaceful and intelligent people in office that we can find. We don’t need candidates who appeal to racists and those voting out of fear. In my opinion, if you get the support of the Aryan Brotherhood and the KKK you are not qualified to be President.

There are a lot of people who are saying vote for the lesser of the two evils. I think it is pretty obvious. This election day go out and vote. No matter who you vote for, your vote matters.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland, Ohio.

The Soloist Overcame His Homelessness with A Little Help from His Friends and Family

 By Diane Robinson

Nathaniel Ayers is a talented African American musician, who was diagnosed with a severe mental illness and ended up homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. He was the subject of Steve Lopez’s best-selling book, The Soloist as well as the movie based on that book starring Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez and Jamie Foxx as Ayers.

Here is what I found on the internet about Ayers: 

“Nathaniel Ayers grew up working class in Cleveland. His love of music began when he was a teenager in Ohio where he was a student at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, where he studied the double-bass.  His interest continued when he enrolled as a double-bass student at the prestigious Julliard School for the Performing Arts in New York City the 1970s. His dream was music, and his hard work, allowed him to play for a time in the same orchestra as Yo-Yo Ma.

While on scholarship at Julliard, Ayers started showing signs of schizophrenia. He dropped out and moved from New York, to Ohio, Colorado and eventually Los Angeles. Along the way, he would sometimes call Harry Barnoff, his teacher at the Cleveland Music School Settlement and talk about music.

The journey he began with Mr. Lopez began in 2005 when Lopez heard Ayers, who was homeless at the time, playing a violin on a busy downtown street in Los Angeles. Lopez, a journalist, and Ayers developed a friendship over time. In addition to writing about Ayers and finding ways for him to pursue music, Lopez also introduced Ayers to social services that could help him move off the street.”

His sister started a foundation in his name after the movie and all the articles about him.  I, like Nathaniel Ayers, am African American, was raised in Ohio (from the age of 5 on) and have been homeless.  Like Ayers, I love music (especially jazz and Barry White). Unlike him, I have no musical ability. I can’t sing and I don’t play a musical instrument. Ayers illness was schizophrenia, mine is blindness. With help from others, both individuals and social service organizations, we were able to overcome homelessness.   It takes patience and some agencies plugged into housing resources to make this work.

 

I am intelligent and creative, and although I’m not able to do some of the things I used to love – drawing and sewing - I have not let my blindness stop me from learning new skills – knitting and reading Braille.  Intelligent, smart and musical, Nathaniel Ayers hasn’t let his mental health issues stop him from doing what he loved – making music.  

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland, Ohio.

How a Poem Changed My Life

By Michael Vorhees

The following poem helped changed my life:

As I stumble through this life

Help me to create more laughter than tears,

Dispense more happiness than gloom,

Spread more cheer than despair.

Never let me become so indifferent,

That I will fail to see the wonder

In the eyes of a child or

The twinkle in the eyes of the aged.

Never let me forget that my total effort

 Is to cheer people, make them happy,

And forget at least momentarily,

All the unpleasantness in their lives.

And in my final moment, may I hear You whisper:

“When you made My people smile,

You made Me smile.”

I got a copy of this poem from Bob at Helping Hands Ministry. He gave me the poem, and told me to read it.  He gave me his phone number and told me to keep it on my refrigerator, and use it to call him FIRST if I was thinking about using. He said that if I turned my life over to the care of God, worked the Program and didn’t use drugs or alcohol, things would be better in my life. God’s Will, not Mike’s will. He was right!

I listened to what the man told me. I changed. I got sober and went to AA meetings. I got a place to live. I did, and still do, odd jobs I tried to help other people by going out on Wednesdays, with the St. Paschal’s Helping Hands Ministry, to feed the homeless people.

I figured that if I went out and helped homeless people, and they saw how I’d turned my life around, they might want to change their life around for the better. I don’t talk down to, or about people because I’ve been there. Now I sell the Street Chronicle, talk to people, homeless or not, and try to encourage them to change their lives for the better. And there is a better way to life. I know, because I’m living proof!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland, Ohio.

Making a Change To Improve The Holidays

By Michael Boyd

During the last holiday season I didn’t have any gifts to give to my grandchildren.  Being homeless, you count the days in the winter time.  I lost track of the actual holiday season worrying about getting boots for myself and a decent coat.  By Christmas I didn’t have too much of anything.  But, this year I’m going to make a difference.  I’m going to change it.  Any pennies, nickels, and dimes I get, starting in October, I’ll start saving up for my grandchildren and some of the homeless children I see down there at the shelter.  The life that I have is short and I’m trying to make a difference to make me feel better.  This is what God tells me to do because it’s not about me.  If it wasn’t for my Lord Jesus Christ, I would be nothing.  I can always use the help.

I would like to tell a story of how I first met Sister Corita at St. Augusta.  About 1990, I was living on the streets and had just lost my apartment.  I was trying to get some change.  The Sister told me she would help me get some change to get on the bus, “Just wait a minute”.  In my mind, I was thinking about getting a beer.  I think she knew it.  I sat there for an hour.  An hour passed, so I got up and wouldn’t let her pass me.  She is about 4’10” tall, weighed about 100 pounds and I’m all in her face.  So, then some people got up and said, “Hey, get out of the Sister’s face”!  She made them sit back down and said, “Don’t worry about it.  I got him.”  She said a few choice words to me that I thought a Sister didn’t even know.  She made me mop the floor, clean some tables, and still made me sit there.  I think she knew I wanted some alcohol, so she gave me a bus ticket and sent me on my way, no money.  We’ve been friends ever since.  Real good lady.  God bless and you can always donate to St. Augustine and Sister Corita’s program.  She always needs bus passes.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

The Holidays are Coming to Cleveland

By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

Fall is here! Cool days, wearing hoodies, eating Halloween candy, drinking apple cider and eating and drinking pumpkin anything. These are my favorite things about fall. Fall may not be a favorite season to many homeless people because fall means colder nights. A lot of homeless people are not able to go out and buy themselves a comfortable hoodie, warmer clothing and a warm blanket.

Before you know it, it will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas or Hanukkah/Chanukah if you are Jewish. Holidays are happy times if you have family or people to share it with but it can be very depressing for those who are alone and for those who have lost a loved one. During the holidays many people become cheerful givers. They give for an end of the year tax write off or they give because they feel no one should be without a holiday meal or a gift.

Giving freely from your heart is always a good thing because in return you will be blessed. When donating to the homeless please remember that poverty is  a year round occupation year round. Things that are needed year round are underwear, t-shirts, socks and hygiene products especially deodorant. In the fall and during cold weather months is the best time to donate cold weather clothes, hoodies and sweaters. In the winter it is best to donate winter coats, gloves, hats, scarves, boots, thermal underwear and thermal boot socks. Spring is the best time to donate raincoats, umbrellas and light weight tennis shoes. In the summer it is best to donate short sleeve shirts, short pants, sandals and ankle socks.

If you know a homeless person who sleeps outside and don’t use a shelter, drop in center or meal site consider giving them some nontraditional items such as a can opener and some canned goods. It is nice to buy them a hot meal but if you want them to have something to eat later then consider a can of baked beans, some potted meat, Vienna sausages, sardines or a can or pouch of tuna, something that is not perishable. If you buy a homeless person two cooked meals, one for now and one for later sometimes depending on what the food is it might go bad. It is no fun having food poisoning when you are homeless.

During the holidays while you are celebrating with your loved ones take the time to check on or spend a little time with someone who may be alone or someone who has lost a loved one. Instead of just dropping off a plate of food or a gift to the person who is alone consider eating a meal with them even if it is not on the holiday or doing an activity with them of their choosing. Sometimes having someone’s physical presence around can make the person feel less alone. If a person has lost a loved one they may still be grieving. You might not want to listen to the person mourn or you may not understand why the person is still mourning but what the person needs most at this time is to have someone there for them. Someone to listen, someone who seems to understand how they feel or a shoulder to cry on if they need it. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio         

I’ve Had a Bad Summer in 2016

By Tammy Hobbs

 I haven’t been able to enjoy my summer this year I’ve missed all the things that I do every summer like swimming, Cedar Point, the Zoo, carnivals, and camping.

I haven’t been able to do nothing, because I have to have a double hip Replacement.

Now I have bruised my ribs, and now I can’t enjoy the summer like I have done in the past. I can’t wait until next summer, because I am going to have a good summer. I will have both of my hips replaced. I have never had to spend a summer in the house, not being able to enjoy myself. I am so excited to have my surgery done so I can go on and enjoy my summer next year. But until then I’m house bound…

       See ya’ll next summer.

I will be able to go swimming, camping, fishing, amusement parks, Cedar Point.

I am thankful for my life and I am thankful to be alive, don’t get me wrong. But not to be able to enjoy my summer was a big letdown. So I will really be looking toward to next summer.

Everyone enjoy the rest of the year, because snow will be here soon.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland, Ohio.

RTA Fares Increases and Service Cuts are Taking a Toll

By Delores Manley

I am writing about RTA’s fare increases and service cuts.

On August 14, 2016, RTA’s fares increased; another fare increase will take place August 2017. The basic one-ride fare increased from $2.25 to $2.50. People who have discounted disability and senior passes, now have to pay $48 for a monthly pass! Why do I have to pay forty-eight dollars more a month and I am on SSI and SSDI?

 If the fares increase, shouldn’t service be better?  But it is not. RTA has cut back the service. There are fewer RTA employees to help.  Mechanics don’t seem to be able to keep the buses in good. Elevators are not working, or taking several weeks to be repaired! And when you complain about rude drivers, the complaint department brushes it off.

I am also angry that I pay for a seat and have to stand.  Paying, able-bodied people have to give up their seat for a wheelchair passenger. The RTA employee are rude to the people when they tell passengers to give up a seat. The paying people should be compensated for this. Also when an RTA employee gets hurt by the passenger the camera don’t show all this, increases is ridiculous in my opinion.

I was on an RTA route 16 on a  Sunday  in  August 28, around 1:55 pm  and  I  saw a really nice  bus going to the  suburbs.  It is bus 263 and it is like a Greyhound bus with a much better trip. These passengers have nice comfortable seating, air conditioning in summer, heat in winter. They pay the same fares as people paying for a ride on an older bus that breaks down a lot. And RTA employees want better benefits and money.

I got RTA all wrong, but the people at NEOCH tried to explain to me about the increase. The State does not pay RTA enough to operate compared to other states and when the State doesn’t pay, we have to pay. So everyone including me, need to call the State to release the funds, for public transportation.

Maybe the fares will go back down or at least RTA will get better equipment, keep elevators working properly so passengers in wheelchairs have better access to Tower City, and West 25th Rapid Station.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

Crisis for a Homeless Family in Cleveland

By Denise Toth

 Recently I met a couple, “the Jones” family with three children who had just gone through a devastating crisis after they had a terrible crime committed against them that left them suddenly homeless.  It all began when they decided to rent and move into a nicer house for their 3 children.  They had $1,600 to move with.  They had looked at houses and finally viewed one they liked and were ready to pay the first month’s rent and deposit.  They met with the landlord at the house and paid him $1,600 in cash and received the keys to their new place.  They were so excited because it was big enough for their growing family and it was in a neighborhood of choice.  The next day as they were moving the appliances, the father noticed someone sitting in a vehicle on the street watching them unload and move in the appliances.  A little while later as they were attempting to leave and go get another load, the person watching from the road pulled in the drive and blocked the family from leaving. 

A heated conversation ensued.  The man sitting in the driveway watching was the real owner of the house and not the person they had just paid the $1,600 in cash to.  The owner wanted to know what the man was doing moving into his house and how did he get a key?  The new tenant and his wife were completely baffled as they had just paid to move in and were given a key.  In the end, nobody knew who the person was who claimed to be the owner and took the $1,600 from the couple.  The police were called.  The couple were scammed out of their money and had no place to go, no place to store all of their belongings which they were trying to move into their new place.  All they had was a police report which detailed what had happened to them.  In an instant, they were homeless and a victim of a scam artist.  They suffered a loss that would change their lives that day.  The father had one brother who he had a strained relationship with and his brother said no to helping them out.  All of the mother’s relatives were in Florida and were in no position financially to help them. 

They began by getting a storage unit for their belongings and sleeping in their car at night.  Three children, a dog and 2 adults were sleeping in a mid-sized SUV along with their clothing and most valuable belongings.  They were hoping and praying every day for some sort of a breakthrough.  The father was unable to work as he had a very serious foot injury and could barely walk.  The mother had just started a new job and was working 3-11pm Monday – Friday in a local factory. 

They did not know how to attain shelter or what to do.  They were introduced to Coordinated Intake at 1736 Superior Avenue and the shelter system.  They went there and found out that they had to go to separate shelters.  The father could not stay with his family.  He felt helpless that he could not control what was happening and that he could not be there with his family.  Mom and children were directed to Westside Catholic’s Moriah House for a temporary place to sleep and he was still sleeping in the car down the road from his family at the shelter.

She received a voucher from Coordinated Intake for the Rapid Rehousing program.  It was good for 3 months’ worth of rent at $750.00 a month and the security deposit.  All she had to do was find a landlord who would accept it.  Things were finally looking a little better for them.  They even assigned her a case worker through EDEN who was going to help her with finding a place to stay.   Working 2nd shift with 3 children, one still a toddler, she needed the help!  She began calling the case worker to ask for help.   She was looking for a list of places that were available that took the vouchers or names of landlords to call who had places ready to be rented.  She ended up having to leave messages for the case worker as she never answered the phone.  After a week of trying, she began to get frustrated again.  She was getting appointments but couldn’t find a landlord willing to take the voucher.   I told her I would call the person assigned to her and and talk to her on her behalf.  I called and left messages and messages.  It was over 2 weeks and not one returned call from the woman who was to help her find housing.  No returned calls for the mother and no returned calls for me, an employee of NEOCH.  What a disappointment from a woman whose job was to be there to help the homeless find housing.  I shared this mother’s frustration.

The kids had shelter at night, she was working and they had a voucher for rent.    He was getting her to work at 3pm, picking her up at 11pm, taking her and the children back to the shelter late at night and then picking her up sometimes as early as 7am.   Some days they had to leave early due to renovations going on at the shelter.  The mom was not getting enough sleep at night as she was taking care of her 3 children after getting off of work late at night.  They had nowhere to go during the day, they rode around in their vehicle looking for housing and were saving what food they could from one meal to another to make it stretch.  There was no fridge to keep the baby’s milk cold and no place to rest.  I offered them to come to my house during the day.  It would be a welcome respite for her, she could rest some, the kids could be comfortable, watch tv, and there was plenty of food in the fridge for 3 kids to eat and snack on.  She could get ready for work, make calls for rentals from my phone and dad was there, a few hours they could be a family again.  The search for housing intensified.  The voucher was going to expire soon, only one more week left on it.  She had called and left another message about the voucher expiring only to have the recorded voice message as the only time she heard her case worker’s voice.  Neither of us could understand why we were not getting calls returned.  We were leaving nice polite messages and this woman truly needed help in finding housing. 

I took on the role of the caseworker and was getting the family appointments to look at housing.  She was meeting landlords and looking at houses before she went to work.  Most landlords were not familiar with the voucher and would not accept it.   One appointment was a little after she was to be at work, so I was hoping it would be ok for her to be a little late to work so she could meet the landlord and look at the housing.  Looking for housing took on a most important role as they had just been scammed in this same process.  They were so cautious now.  She was late for work and ended up losing her job, the frustration turned into sadness and she wondered what she was going to do to take care of her family.  His leg and foot were still bad and it took him 5 minutes to get out of the car, there was no way he could work in that condition.  She cried in frustration, she was trying so hard, she was overtired, her kids were in need, they going to start school soon and she was counting on that income to get them ready for school and into their new place. 

I made another call to the case worker and realized a couple days later that she was never going to return any of our calls.  She was a “Housing Specialist” and she simply was not returning the calls of a woman with 3 children who was homeless, trying to keep her family together and struggling to find a place.  This mother was devastated.  She did not know who to call, where to go and she was losing what little hope she had.  The voucher expired in 2 days and she was no closer to finding a place than she was the day her $1,600.00 was stolen. 

I really wanted to help her, I saw how hard she was trying.  I could tell she was not used to living like this, she was frustrated and discouraged and she is a mother that cares deeply for her children.  She was about to lose everything that was in storage, her baby pictures, her children’s clothes, her furniture and appliances.  She was getting no help from the one person she was told would help her. 

I made sure there was gas in her car, made sure there was plenty of food for them to eat and I was giving them a place they could stay during the day to be comfortable while they looked for housing.  I was helping her with the kids, and I know she appreciated that.   She began to talk of moving to Florida to stay with her mom till she got on her feet again.  She was not finding stability or much help in the system in Cleveland.  She was in temporary shelter and knew her time there was short too.  I did not know that she should have went back to Coordinated Intake about the voucher and I did not realize she needed to put her name on their list for a shelter where her and her husband could stay together with the children.  I just assumed that was automatic because she was present with her kids at the shelter nightly.  She honestly did not understand that either.   She was told to call this person at EDEN and that is what she did. 

Today, the voucher has expired.  We could not find a landlord that was interested in taking it, the reason is unknown, but without help, it was very difficult to know who would and who would not take a voucher.  We never got that help. 

This mother is very disheartened and she feels so failed by the system that is in place.  Yes, some of it was miscommunication, but she did fall through the cracks.  She honestly tried and put her all into finding housing, she went to work and did everything she knew to do.  Instead of things working for her here, she has given up and decided to go to her mom’s house in Florida.  She plans on getting a job there and working and saving until she can provide for her family and get a place of her own and back on her feet.  She will more than likely lose all of her belongings, (we did get one month of storage and the late fees paid so she can get the padlock off and get access to her kids school clothing and important papers she needs for them to start school in another state).  She was going to sell her furniture and appliances for gas money for the trip to Florida.

This family became homeless because of a scam.  In one day, one incident, they were left without housing and became homeless.  Yes, there was help for her.  I was so thrilled that she was getting a voucher from Rapid Rehousing.   I was thrilled that was available to her.  It’s a shame there is not a way for those that get the vouchers to be informed of “what’s next” in the process, or, where can I go with this voucher to find housing?   What if I don’t find housing?  What if something goes wrong?  What should I do if the voucher expires before I find housing? What if I start working, is there anywhere for my kids to stay while I am at work?”   Maybe even some of this stuff was discussed with her.  Maybe if this mother and father had been allowed to stay together at night, he could have helped with the kids, it would have taken some of this pressure off of her, she would have had someone to discuss this with or help her instead of getting off work at 11 pm and immediately having to get to the shelter after he picked her up with no time to talk and be ready to walk out the door with nowhere to go at 7am. 

Maybe it was too much with the pressure of being suddenly homeless and broke with a family.  Maybe if the caseworker would have answered her calls and provided her with some prospects for housing, maybe if the landlords were more familiar with the vouchers.  The list goes on, but the fact is that the resources in Cleveland were available, but did not work for this family.  They are leaving after having their hopes up and then dashed at the same time.  Two of their kids need to start school and she can’t fathom the thought of facing some of the problems and attitudes she already has within this system designed to help homeless families in Northeast Ohio.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

Justice Department Files Historic Brief in Bell vs. City of Boise

        By Katy Carpenter

“Imagine a world where it is illegal to sit down. Could you survive if there were no place you were allowed to fall asleep, to store your belongings, or to stand still? For most of us, these scenarios seem unrealistic to the point of being ludicrous. But, for homeless people across America, these circumstances are an ordinary part of daily life”

-The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

The Department of Justice set the stage by addressing the estimated size of the homeless population at 11 million-“on any given night”.  The Bell v. The City of Boise Lawsuit was originally filed in 2009, and was dismissed by the District Court Judge because some of the defendants were no longer homeless, citing procedural grounds. However, the Department of Justice made it clear in their statement of interest that this blatant rearranging of the docket to exclude individuals that had once had their rights violated based on shelter status will no longer be tolerated-and that the criminalization of homelessness is in fact a direct violation of peoples’ Eighth Amendment rights (Bell v. The City of Boise).

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) analyzed more than 187 cities across the nation, and found that over half of these cities (those that were analyzed) had some sort of criminalization in place for sitting, lying or camping in specific places. Advocates at the center also found approximately 1/3 had camping bans in place throughout city limits. Even more astounding is the number of individuals the DOJ predicts sleep unsheltered every night in the United States- approximately 42% of the homeless population. This means that at any time in this country, approximately 4,620,000 individuals are sleeping in public spaces, and are at risk of being criminalized for simply existing.

Bell v. The City of Boise challenges two specific city ordinances, the first being Boise City Code § 9-10-02; this ordinance criminalizes the use of “streets, sidewalks, parks or public spaces as a camping place at any time, or to cause or permit any vehicle to remain in any of said places to the detriment of public travel or convenience.” This ordinance is more commonly known as the “camping ordinance”. The second of the ordinances being challenged is § 6-01-05(A), which criminalizes “disorderly conduct.” Disorderly conduct in the Municipal Code is inclusive of the following: “[o]ccupying, lodging or sleeping in any building, structure or place, whether public or private, or in any motor vehicle without the permission of the owner or person entitled to possession or in control thereof” (Bell v. The City of Boise).

Plaintiffs argued that both of the above ordinances were unconstitutional on the following grounds; the first being that there are is not enough shelter space for the homeless population in the city of Boise, the second being that there are oftentimes restrictions in place at the shelters that do have available spaces-anything from religious prayer to not having available space for pets, and the lack of available shelter space for those experiencing addiction. Plaintiffs also argued that the unreliable reporting and lack of information sharing between the shelter system and the Boise Police Department, made it impossible to get an accurate idea when shelters are indeed at capacity (DOJ), an argument the city used in their defense. Even after the initial lawsuit was filed in 2009 (advocates appealed in 2015), police continue to ticket individuals after multiple reforms in municipal code in both 2011 and 2014. Eric Tars, a senior attorney at NLCHP continues to find that “there are more homeless people in Boise than available and accessible shelter beds”-which is why Idaho Legal Aid Services, NLCHP, and Latham & Watkins continue to commit themselves to this lawsuit, as the city continues to miss the “substance of the argument,” continues to fail to address the root causes of homelessness, and continues to violate homeless individuals Eighth Amendment Rights (NLCHP and Idaho Legal Aid Services).

Some may ask, what the big deal is about, after all the court case was dismissed. Why is it that the comments from the DOJ are something that longtime advocates have been waiting for, and what does this actually mean as far as homeless rights are concerned? The below comments offer a brief statement about the impact the DOJ comments on this case and implications for municipal governments nationwide, as well as the impact these comments have in the advocacy sphere. The DOJ comments on this case do the following things:

The DOJ’s comment provides municipal governments with a legal standard for rules regarding homeless individuals-now laws that criminalize conditions of homelessness, like sleeping or sitting in public when there is no alternative are in direct violation of a person’s Eighth Amendment Rights. These comments also provide municipal governments with a moral guide for creating legislation regarding homeless individuals, emphasizing the need to focus on creating legislation that will provide the necessary tools to address the root causes of homelessness instead of the circumstances that come as a byproduct of being homeless, anything the court suggests is “misguided public policy.”

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, advocates, and the Department of Justice, the criminalization of homelessness is not only a direct violation of Eighth Amendment Rights but it is also not an effective strategy to end homelessness. We need to look to the lack of affordable housing that exists in the marketplace, to the lack of employment opportunities that are available in the community (especially those also facing challenges of reentry), and to the mental illness and dependencies that face this vulnerable population. This historic statement of interest from the Department of Justice is a monumental step in the fight for homelessness rights, and will continue to shape the evolving landscape that advocates for homeless rights work in and around, and will continue to set a precedence for outdated and restrictive laws that violate human rights across the country, emphasizing that homeless rights are human rights.

To read the Department of Justice’s Statement of Interest, you can follow this.  https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/643766/download.

To read the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s Report on ending criminalization of homelessness, you can follow this link below:

https://www.nlchp.org/documents/No_Safe_Place

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland Ohio

More Health Issues for a Street Newspaper Vendor

By Artie Price Jr.

I went to the hospital a few weeks ago to have kidney stones removed. Afterwards, they told me that I had cancer of the kidney!

I have to go for treatments for the cancer…chemo!  My dad had prostate cancer. My mom had cancer, too. I think it’s hereditary. One of my brothers-in-law has cancer, too.

At first, I was depressed. I was not myself. I’d eat, but I’d lose weight!  All I’d do is just walk around, or have to go to the hospital. The doctors think it’s all in my mind, but it’s not.

I felt like I wanted to give my life up, but I believe in God. I went to a church service at West Side Catholic Center on Sunday. My sister was there. The minister cradled me.

I feel so stressed! Sometimes, I feel so stressed, I feel like I’m having a heart attack! But that’s not what it is. It’s just the devil working on my mind. We all get sick, you know.

I haven’t been able to work lately, selling the Street Chronicle at the West Side Market, because I haven’t been able to attend the vendor meetings.  Selling the paper makes me feel good. It gets me out of the house, and around people. Selling the paper helps the homeless people and that makes me feel good.

A lot of people think there isn’t a God, but there is.  If not for Him, we wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be here. I’m healed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland: Working on A Better Strategy

Commentary by Brooks Washington

Many men are moving out of the shelter into permanent housing with help from the governments Housing First Initiative.  This is a great program, but it has a number of flaws that seem to allow some men to get the government to pay for their housing more than once.  This, to me, seems like a waste of money and resources.  We now have tracking programs in place that can help us to determine what keeps an individual in homelessness, but the information is often ignored.  If an individual speaks loud enough about not getting service, and then threatens to go to the top person in charge of government funding or the news with his complaints, they get assistance multiple times.

Often that person is looking for a free ride and has no intention of paying his part of the rent and if his history had been checked it would have come out.  Many people that need a hand up don’t get one because the amount of money available is limited and the restrictions prevent them from being able to qualify for the programs.  While this is a valuable program maybe it’s time to update the eligibility points needed to get into the program.  Also, they could look at who will benefit the most and have a higher percentage of success in living independently. 

The big shelters are slowly being filled with a number of men who have a sex offence in their back ground and are now ostracized from society even after they have served their time.  Many of those men work at a low wage jobs.  Some have a good paying jobs, but are limited in where they can work and live.  Once the community is notified, they sometimes have to start over after losing their employment and or being asked to move by their landlord. 

Maybe after a number of years with no arrest a man can be given a second chance to re-enter society, and be allowed to take advantage of some of the programs that give a hand up.

We also need more affordable single occupancy units in the city along with better access to mental health programs with a housing component attached that help people with different leaves of mental health get into appropriate housing with the support needed to remain independent   

Keep working on it Cleveland we still have some work to do.      

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2016 Issue 23.3 Cleveland, Ohio.