Swan Song for Ohio City’s ‘Unique Thrift Store’

 by Joyce Robinson

The first time I ever entered Unique Thrift Store was the winter of 2014. Even after I left the shelter March 4, 2015 and moved to Euclid, Ohio, I still continued to shop at Unique. The last time I shopped at Unique was Friday, September 30th, 2016. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived at the NEOCH offices on Monday, October 4th, to found out the store was closing four days later.

In an online article for Scene Magazine, Eric Sandy reported, “…The decision was made by the corporate office to close the store." I could understand closing a poorly performing store. However, Unique Thrift Store in Ohio City, repeatedly won Scene Magazine’s annual “Best of Cleveland” voting contest!

As a former resident of a nearby homeless women’s shelter, Unique was where I purchased a nearly new, wonderfully warm, hooded winter jacket for $13! Two years later, I still wear that wonderfully warm, but not so new, jacket! I was also lucky enough to find a set of beautiful red wineglasses, Pyrex bakeware, and a wooden serving tray, all of which I now use in my home.

One of my fellow shelter sisters had purchased a beautiful quilt for her bed, as well as a very comfortable reading pillow. After she found housing and left the shelter, she gave the pillow to me. Other shelter residents were able to find clothing items not only for themselves, but for their children as well. It was a place where you could enter with $30 and exit with a number of additional pieces to add to your wardrobe or home.

In his online article Eric Sandy also wrote “…Unique has been something of a West side landmark for decades. Rooted in the community, it's nothing short of a beacon for those who laid the groundwork of the neighborhood — and those who rely on cost-effective goods within walking distance…” Ohio City’s Unique Thrift Store will be missed.      Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1        

Cuyahoga County Needs To Provide More Homeless Programs

Commentary by Simona Lynch

Over the past nine years I have experienced homelessness. I have also serviced those whom have experienced this same devastating crisis. During this time, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the services that are provided for homeless people are not enough to help this population maintain self-sufficiency. Yes, I understand that there are many causes of homelessness and some people resist shelter and other assistance. I believe that, as a community, we should all come together with funds for more programs, we should donate unoccupied houses and apartment buildings, and we should volunteer our professional skills and talents to better assist this population.  This will help them to obtain, maintain, and sustain permanent housing.

Currently, homeless women and children in Cuyahoga County are in a desperate need of shelter, employment, transportation, and other services. These are offered, but limited to this population. Last week I witnessed how an overflow shelter is ran and this was disturbing to me. We picked the families up from the Bishop Cosgrove Center and took them to the overflow site. This site only provided snacks, restroom services, and a mat to sleep on until 6:30am. Upon morning time, these individuals must return to Bishop Cosgrove at 7am to wait until the homeless day center opens at 8am.

I questioned why these overflow shelter hours are not extended, a nutritional meal is not served, personal hygiene products not provided, and job listings or Street Cards are not posted.

When people pass out free food and meals, or pass out hygiene items, clothing, and Street Cards can be very beneficial. Providing shelter for a short amount of time helps a bit, but this is not enough assistance for the bigger issue of housing.

How can the community help end homeless and who can we count on? In my opinion, the residents of Cuyahoga County can do this.

I wish I could get a group of individuals to donate money and an unoccupied apartment building for use as a day center for homeless people. Furthermore, this could provide opportunities for employment assistance. Job readiness training, personal wellness training, and referrals to social service organizations should also be provided.  People could get their needs regarding chemical dependency, legal issues, and child care addressed.

These are pressing issues in need of resolution before obtaining or at least while the person is finding housing.  During this time, there would be a probation period and the resident will not be required to return to the streets. I believe that people will want the help and it could be offered up to 18 months while the person is transitioning from homelessness to stable housing. 

Some may ask, “Simona who would you have help you”? I hope people with the same passion and interest of helping end homelessness would volunteer their time and money. This is my answer

Wishful thinking!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

We have a Commitment to Eradicate Homelessness

by Ramona Turnbull

What effect will the newly elected officials have on the commitment to address and eradicate homelessness? 

  A lot of agencies are preparing for the anticipated changes that may take place under a new administration.  Most of these anticipated changes are not beneficial and this is very disappointing.  Most agencies are already struggling to make the most effective adjustments possible with the cuts that have already been made. 

 Specifically addressing homelessness is not an important priority on anyone’s agenda except the people and agencies that have made a commitment to understand the “true” meaning of homelessness.  According to the dictionary, the basic definition of homelessness is “having no home or permanent place of residence.”  However, from my experience homelessness is a whole lot more. 

 To put a face on homelessness (in terms of full understanding) first you must have a full definition and understand how it affects someone that has experienced or is experiencing homelessness.  Not only do you lose your “home or permanent place of residence,” you also feel a loss of privilege, self-respect, dignity, and overall sense of self.  It affects everyday living as you know it before you experience an episode of homelessness.  You also lose your sense of safety and security.  There is no sense of stability, so most victims of homelessness feel lost. 

 That is where the questions start.  The first question is, “What should I do?”  The next is, “Where should I go for help?”  Finally, (in the initial stage of accepting the fact that you are homeless) the next question is, “What do I need to have or bring with me?”  Then, the “What if…” questions begin.  What if no one can tell me where I need to go?  What if I don’t have what I need to get shelter?  If I can’t get shelter, what can I do or where can I go?  Next, it is time to find the answers to these questions.

 Most people know to call 2-1-1 for assistance, but there are some that do not.  Once you get an address, the next question is how can I get there?  Once you finally get into an emergency shelter, you do not know what to expect, but you are grateful for having someplace to sleep.  That’s why the rule book explaining what is expected from you, what to expect from the staff, and what will be done to meet your basic needs such as:  food, water, and ability to shower is so important.  It is considered a guide and is constantly broken and changed. 

 Once you have achieved this very difficult and emotional status, the next question is, what do I do next?  So, you go to the staff and ask questions, but they are too busy and the shelter is too overcrowded to talk.  This goes on for a week and finally you realize that you are on your own.  YOU HAVE RIGHTS!  You have the right to be treated with respect, referred or informed about community resources, and rules or policies you do not understand.  You have the right to have all these things explained to you in detail, if necessary.  If you are not able to get any of this information, you cannot move forward, which is very destructive to anyone seeking to leave the shelter as soon as possible.

 That is where organizations like NEOCH come in. This organization is especially useful because many individuals do not realize they still have rights when they become homeless. They feel like they have lost “everything”.  They regularly take complaints.  They meet with the shelter directors and can voice your concerns. They also have a new page on their website which outlines your rights in a shelter.

 This organization has been advocating for the homeless population since 1988.  It is a non-profit coalition that consists of a fourteen member board, including service providers, housing activists, members, and homeless people.  In partnership with “homeless” people, NEOCH has a variety of programs and services that they are very “passionate” in preserving.

 Each and every one of these programs are so important that it is difficult, if not impossible, to choose which to eliminate or set aside.

 How do we make the decision on what is needed to eradicate homelessness under the Trump Administration? This is especially crucial to consider since this is the first time in history that the elected official does not have a platform. The answer to this question is keeping the outstanding organizations, like NEOCH, and effective programs in place. Focus and dedication are the drive behind these. Also important to note, are the shared foundational principles between these organizations and the basis of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

 Before Jane Addams’ Hull Houses, the homeless had nowhere to go and very little assistance.  This included men, women, and children.  Although we have come long way since the Hull Houses, I believe the focus should be “Jane Addams come home.” This would place basic needs first, building on them, and prioritizing them like never before.  There are changes coming and I pray there will be more positive changes that will allow us to keep moving forward.  NEOCH IS A VITAL INSTRUMENT THAT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO CONTINUE PROPERLY ADDRESSING AND ERADICATING HOMELESSNESS.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

 

You Have To Give In Order to Get

by Mike Vorhees

I was homeless for fifteen years and have struggled with alcohol and drugs for more than twenty years. When I say homeless, I mean living under bridges, sleeping on the streets, and along the river bank. I had no faith or coping skills and reality did not seem real. Life is different for me today and it all began to change one night in the winter of 2002. I met Bob Ukovic and Deacon Joe from St. Paschal’s, while they were volunteering with a group for outside homeless people.

 This interaction went on for many years. I would look forward to meeting up with them weekly. They would bring me a warm meal and clothing, and have conversations and prayer time with me. Their actions really began giving me self-worth and hope. I then started meeting new people from St. Paschal’s on their Knight Rider runs. I really saw God’s love as I watched them serve us with understanding and love. Their actions encouraged me to better myself and become useful again.

 For the last five years, I have been off the streets and living in an apartment overlooking Lake Erie. This was made possible by ministry members working with other resources and items donated by St Paschal parishioners. As I slowly brought my life back together, staying sober and listening to what God wants me to do, I realized I can help others who have been in my situation.

 During the past two years, the Knight Riders group has allowed me to be a volunteer to help others. I have been humbled and honored to be a part of this ministry. I will be forever grateful for the love, hope and trust they have given me. They also showed me a Parish that is amazingly supportive and truly believe in the work they do. This means they believe in me! We are all God’s beautiful people. Thank you Clowns and Helping Hands Ministry and Saint Paschal Parish and the Blessed Sacrament for being the hands and feet of God.

 If you would like to learn more about the homeless, I will have a video on the NEOCH website under Success Stories.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

What Can We Do To Cut Down on the Violence in Our Society?

by Mike Owens

There was a story in the news lately about a couple who had a restaurant and they had a 5 year old child.  They did not have a babysitter for the 5 year old, instead they let the 5 year old play in the back of the restaurant while they worked.  One day they called the police to report that the child was missing.  They reported that the child had walked out of the back of the restaurant.  There was a heavily wooded area in the back.  The police began to search for the child.  Others in the community joined in the search.  They searched for over 24 hours and did not find the child or any sign that the child had gone out the back door and into the woods. 

The police continued to question the parents.  Finally after almost 2 days there was a break in the case.  The police found the body of the child hidden in the restaurant somewhere.  They said the body was concealed inside the restaurant.  A couple hours later, the parents were arrested for the death of their own child.  The mother admitted beating the 5 year old with her fists.  The father admitted finding the child and trying to give her CPR and he tried to revive her.  The child was already dead.  Apparently the parents conspired to hide the child and to lie to the police and say that the child was missing. 

I am very saddened about these parents that allegedly killed their daughter and put her in a walk in freezer.  It seemed to me that when they went to court they showed no remorse.  If they didn’t want her they should have given her up for adoption.  It is really sad that people who want a child can’t have any and some of the ones that have children either leave them in a dumpster or they kill them.  Some people don’t deserve children.  I can’t stand people who hurt children.  We need a strong foster care system that can prevent these deaths.  This is not a problem with poor children, but is a problem in our society.

God bless the children who have been hurt and that are in heaven.  I pray that whoever has a child and decides to keep the child doesn’t hurt them.  All a child wants is tender loving care and if you don’t want the child, give it up for adoption.   It would be better for the child to go to a better and loving home than to be left on the streets or end up getting killed or have to be raised by people who see them as a burden and don’t want them.  A lot of these children raised by parents who don’t love them wind up not having enough food to eat, are raised with violence and end up committing crimes and violence because they were not loved.  They don’t understand what it’s like to be loved and they act out because of it.     A child should not be brought into the world to be abused.  They deserve to be raised by loving parents and not to have to fear that they are going to be physically, emotionally or verbally abused every day.   

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

The Shelters Have Taken a Step Back in Cleveland

By Michael Boyd

When I first became homeless it was in 1989.  My mother had just passed away and my father put me out.  I had come back home to help my mother before she passed.  The shelters were called “sites” then.  I remember there was a “Site A”, a garage across from Cosgrove’s with thin plastic mats on concrete floors.  We had thin wool blankets.  It was always cold in the wintertime. [Editor’s note: Site A was just a garage with a pull down garage door and one toilet for 70 guys that was not fit for human habitation.]  “Site A” was one of the first shelters I had ever been in. 

Years later I became homeless again. The year was 1999 and I went to “2100,” the current men’s shelter in Cuyahoga County.  My first night there I had just gotten out of prison.  There were a lot of men who had mental illnesses and would not take their medicine. These individuals could not sleep at night and they were not used to being indoors.  I watched a man urinate on a wall, very close to another man that was sleeping.  There is not much space in the shelter. The smell of body odor from all of the residents stays in your clothes, then it stays in your nose.  You cannot seem to get rid of it.  It seems like it is in your skin. 

I woke up the next morning at about 6:30 am with men yelling. They were trying to hurry us out of bed because we had to be off of the mats in 15 minutes. This reminded me so much of prison. They yelled at us in the same way.

Two days later, I made a doctor’s appointment with a local health clinic for homeless people. I told Dr. W that I could not sleep. I had pain in my knees and in my hips. I had just recently gotten into a fight and my arm was numb from the shoulder to the fingertips. I also told him my ulcer was bothering me. He gave me “sugar pills,” the “placebo drug,” because they were running a test to see if one drug worked and if the other did not. He also gave me 100 milligrams of Zoloft, which is an antidepressant and anxiety medication. They gave me medicine that I did not need. I took one of the pills and it made me sleepy. I could not shake it off to get up the next morning. 

We had to be out of the shelter by 8 am in the dead of winter. It felt as if there was no sympathy. Even the Animal Protective League would bring the animals in during the brutal cold. We were treated worse than animals.  We were yelled at and often disrespected. The point is, the shelters are not at all what they are thought to be. They are hard places to live in. 

Today, things have not changed much in the shelters. Most of the people who help run the shelters have been there since I stayed there the first time. In my opinion, they will give apartments to people that they know. I know a guy who got two apartments through a social worker and that is because he knew a couple of people down there. They have been playing favorites for years at the shelters.

I think if they would just find a way to deal with the people and their different personalities, positive changes could develop. Back in 1989 the mentally ill were housed at a different site.  Now they are housed in with the general population. It is causing a lot of fights. Literally, the men’s shelter has taken a step backwards when it comes to housing the mentally ill and keeping peace in the dorms.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

It is More Difficult to Find Help with Paying Bills for Disabled

By Mike McGraw

Do you ever feel like getting all your rent and utility and credit card and other bills paid on the right schedule is a full-time job on top of the full-time job you work to have the money to pay those bills?

Now imagine those amongst us with intellectual disabilities severe enough to impair their abilities to manage the modest funds that our society sees fit to send them in the form of Social Security benefits. It's for that reason that Congress in 1939 amended the 1935 Social Security Act to create the representative payee system. A payee is a person or entity who is entrusted to manage the beneficiaries’ resources and specifically their finances for them.

Payees and beneficiaries may live in your neighborhood; maybe you know that you know someone in such a relationship or maybe you don't realize; maybe you are someone who performs payee duties well.

When an organization called Consumer Protection Association closed its doors in Cleveland about a year ago, many disabled beneficiaries for whom it acted as a coordinator of payee services had their lives thrown into disarray. Advocates for disabled persons and those experiencing homelessness told me that they are familiar with many other cases where problems with payees' management of benefits caused beneficiaries to fall into situations as dire as homelessness. While some of these situations may rise to the level of criminality on the part of unscrupulous payees, it's also easy to image well-intentioned family members overwhelmed by their own lives struggling and falling short of doing what is needed for a related beneficiary, especially if the payee has to live far away, and so on.

Rutgers University law school professor Reid Weisbord published a law review article calling for the payee system to incorporate a reform allowing for a concerned family member of beneficiaries to adopt an advisory role with the ability to prod payees to provide basic necessities to the beneficiary without becoming the payee themselves. When I reached attorney Kristen Henry of Columbus-based Disability Rights Ohio by telephone in early November, she called Weisbord's ideas "a great idea for a lot of reasons", while allowing that it might be called "authorized representative" in order to expand its eligibility to concerned persons not related to the beneficiary. Henry said that a "model" for this kind of relationship already exists in other federal programs like Medicaid and she said it works well.

An advocate for those experiencing homelessness in encouraging me to research this article pushed further towards an idea of having the law actually compel the payees to set aside enough of a share of a person's benefits to allow for decent housing before doing anything else. This idea seems to tie into a concept of a human right to housing, and seems to be consistent with recent trends in the homelessness and addiction treatment communities to put "housing first" in all their matters.

 When I tested this idea with Bill Denihan -- who as head of Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board has far-reaching interaction with disabled beneficiaries and their payees – during an October interview at the ADAMHS offices, he called it a "broad-brush call" and was sensitive to the autonomy of beneficiaries in saying that "since we're talking about their money, it would have to be a movement that came from them, not from us."

Henry, while seeming favorable to the mandate concept in principle, said it would be "a little more difficult to operationalize", bringing in the valid point that it would be hard to generalize what share of various beneficiaries’ benefits would need to go to housing when different individuals would have different levels of access to programs like Section 8 subsidies, or perhaps some would and some wouldn't have relatives to live with -- not to mention, as I interjected, widely different levels of rent levels in different areas of the U.S.  Henry did allow that without necessarily mandating dollar amounts, reform could “introduce rules about reporting about addressing these primary concerns first."

I wrapped up the interview with Henry by trying to get a sense of whether making any of the above reforms would require new legislation from Congress. She thought that it was possible that the family/authorized representative idea might be something that the Social Security Administration could enact through its own rule-making authority even without new legislation.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

Feeding the Hungry Means a Lot

By Kim Supermutt Goodman

When I was a kid I was deprived of many things. As a teenager, food and utilities were some of things that I could not get. To escape the woman who gave birth to me (my abuser), I would leave home and roam the streets, because I had no means to do anything else. One Sunday when I was 17, I made my way downtown, where I noticed a camper sitting on Public Square passing out food. I was hungry, so I went up to them and got a bagged lunch. I opened up the brown bag and saw that it had a bologna sandwich, a pop and cookies. After everyone received a bagged lunch, we were able to get more sandwiches. I ended up getting 2 bologna sandwiches and 2 PB & J sandwiches and I felt as if I were in Heaven!

Each Sunday I returned downtown with the hopes of seeing the camper, which later became a trailer. This never failed me. In the winter, there was also chili or soup, in addition to the sandwiches. I was happy because many times on Saturdays I did not have an opportunity to eat. Each Sunday in the winter I would take a container to gather as much soup or chili as I could. Each Sunday I ate and brought home a container of chili or soup, a couple bologna sandwiches, and about 6 PB & J that I shared with the woman who gave birth to me. The chili was very good and it had macaroni noodles in it. The soup always had a chicken noodle base but sometimes bologna was added to the soup. That was the first time I had bologna noodle soup, but it was good.  

When I was homeless, I’d go to the trailer to eat and would collect a couple of PB & J sandwiches for later. That trailer got me through a lot. When I was no longer homeless I’d go to the trailer, from time to time, for old times’ sake. When I was downtown working the Browns games sometimes I would stop at the trailer to get a cup of coffee and a PB& J. One time when I was working it was raining, Bill who operated the truck gave me a Browns’ raincoat.

When I started to do better, I stopped going to the trailer because I didn't want any more bologna or PB&J sandwiches. I ate enough of that stuff when I was homeless. I wanted to eat more high class. Recently, I was working the Browns game and I did not make any money that day. I was cold so I decided to stop at the trailer and get a cup of coffee to warm up and to see if they had soup or chili. When I walked up to the trailer, Bill looked very happy to see me. He gave me a hug and asked me how I had been. We chatted for a while. He gave me two bagged lunches, a bowl of chili, and an extra sandwich. Before I left, Bill gave me another bowl of chili and a bag with three PB &J's in it. Bill gave me a hug and said, "Don't be a stranger."

I am not a big fan of bologna or grape jelly, but for some reason, those bologna sandwiches and PB&J sandwiches tasted so good to me. Maybe it is because they were made by people with compassion in their hearts and given to me by someone who was concerned with my well-being. When I first met Bill and his camper, I was just a food-deprived teenager. For a whole decade I depended on that trailer for food. Then after that I showed up occasionally for a visit. Now that I am doing well, I am still welcome to get food from the trailer, and still receive the same warm welcome as I did when I was in need.

I am so thankful and grateful for Bill and the Bethel Temple Church in Parma! They operate the Brown Bag Outreach Program that feeds the homeless and the hungry. They do not just feed the hungry, they take the time to get to know each person they serve on a regular basis. They also make attempts to meet their needs if they can. They pass out food and offer smiles, hugs, and handshakes to people who do not always receive these things. If you do not have supportive family members in your life to make you feel special, these little things that Bill and his church members do will make you feel special. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

Vendor Needs to Remember to Take Time for Healing

By Jennifer Black

I have been feeling depressed lately. I am grateful for the days that I am able to get up in spite of the fact that my medications are constantly being changed, forcing my body to re-adjust. Some days my chest aches or my legs go numb because of the medications.

It seems like around the holidays I become more depressed, in addition to the pain I feel every day. Every holiday I try to buy gifts for all the children in the neighborhood where I live because a lot of them do not receive any presents. I go to churches and other places that hand out gifts because I do not always have the money to buy many gifts. The running around and trying to please everybody more than myself has to stop.

I give the gifts out of the kindness of my heart, but I get no appreciation for the work I do. It would be nice if someone would just knock on my door and say, “Here Jen!” That would be great, but it seems as if everyone acts as if I’m supposed to buy the children gifts because I have been doing this for so long!

I love the kids, but I think I need to slow down a little bit next year. I run around, even when I don’t feel well. However, I would hate to disappoint the children. I plan to cause myself less stress next year.

I think that instead of buying gifts, I may cook a little something and invite a few people over for a meal. I may call a couple of churches handing out toys and pick up some from them. As far as going out and shopping the way I usually do, I probably will not do that because it is difficult and painful.

Simply because I am choosing to take care of myself first in 2017, does not mean that I do not care about others. Putting myself first does not mean I am being selfish. If I do not take care of myself, I will not be able to do the things I want to do and enjoy doing for others.

This is why I give thanks that I am a Street Chronicle vendor. Being a vendor encourages me to get out of bed and out of the house. Working with the public at the Westside Market helps lower my levels of stress, tension, and depression.

Taking care of myself and my needs first leads to less stress, less depression, and a happier Jennifer. A happier Jennifer will be better enabled to help bring joy to others.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

Homeless Numbers Going Down!

By Daryl Dawkins 

Homeless Numbers Going Down! That is the headline in many newspapers across the nation, but the shelter systems are consistently full; a minimum of 375 men on a regular basis at the men’s shelter in Cleveland. Furthermore, many people go into overflow.

 While the Housing First program is making a difference in effectively housing the chronically homeless, the number of new people entering a state of homelessness keeps climbing!  More young people aging out of foster care with no housing plan continue to add to a population that includes women, children, the unemployed, and/or the underemployed unable to pay rent.

I have seen no decline in the number of homeless. In fact, I have seen an increase in the number of young men, ages 18-25. Many have anger issues and no family ties.  The younger ones are being housed at this time because of the 100 day initiative for homeless youth, but there is a mental health barrier that exists in that population.  Many have trust issues and we witness issues with severe mental illness and psychosis in their age group.  They have a lack of social and employable skills, also making housing these young men a challenge.  A lot of them come from the foster care systems and some come from single parent homes.  They no longer want to abide by the rules set during youth.  Some of these young men pose a danger in the home and their mothers force them out. As a result, they end up in the shelter system.

I have also seen an increase in elderly gentlemen, aged 55+. There is a large percentage with addiction issues who have severed or fragmented their family ties.  These older men are going to be difficult to house because of prior evictions, heavy addictions, and felonies.  These issues disqualify them from obtaining subsidized housing.

Another one of the barriers to housing that creates a unique problem is housing sex offenders.  We are slowly getting other people into housing and finding no subsidized housing available for the sex offender population.  This leaves a growing number of men who have committed sex offenses without the ability to find suitable housing.  As this bottleneck grows we are going to have a population of men who have trouble finding and keeping employment. Without a suitable living wage, they are also unable to find and keep housing.  These men will, therefore, always be in the system.

Overflow has been a consistent challenge that includes women and children as the number of homeless families increase. There is currently a bus that takes the overflow to an outside facility to sleep for the night. They can say that the homeless numbers are going down because of the success in housing those who are designated “chronically homeless.” However, the truth is that the numbers are being stabilized again by the newly homeless. 

In my opinion the number of homeless is easy to estimate and harder to realize, due to the transient nature of many of the homeless in our country.  They are saying the number of homeless in a lot of the cities went down, but just as many are saying that the same number went up. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24 #1

Hard Time for All of Us at the West Side Market

by Tammy Hobbs

A year ago, when you walked into the West Side market, the business was booming! There were a lot of customers and a lot of happy vendors. The Street Chronicle was selling really well. There were a lot of people carrying bags of meat and produce. It looked like Christmas every day because everyone was happy and the place was bustling.

Things have changed. The business has been really slow at the West Side Market lately. Ever since they started fixing the parking lot, business has been declining for the vendors inside and out. Today, you see less people, less bags, empty booths where vendors used to be, and the vendors that are there now are experiencing less business.

My sales of the Street Chronicle have been declining.  I used to sell at least 30 or more papers in an hour, but now I am lucky if I can sell 5 papers in an hour! Business picked up a bit during Christmas, but now it has slowed down again. It has been really hard for the NEOCH vendors during this first of the year.

I am going through a lot in my personal life. I am getting ready to have a double hip replacement and my refrigerator went out on me. I lost all my food in my freezer. So every time I work, it helps me to be able to buy food for myself. I feel sorry for the vendors at the West Side Market.

The news is reporting that the business at the West Side Market has gone down 50% due to the construction of the parking lot. Please pray that the business picks back up for everyone. It has been a struggle with the lack of business and there is a lot of food that does not get sold. When there are no customers at the Market, then there is also no work for the Street Chronicle vendors.

I do have a blessing to report: One of my customers blessed me with a gift card for the holidays, so I was able to buy food for my family and actually put Christmas Dinner on the table. This was a nice surprise and I want her to know how thankful I am for her generosity.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24 #1

How I Helped my Family Out of Homelessness

by Diana Robinson

Being the oldest sibling, I am proud to have been able to help my family when they needed me.  I appreciate them coming to me, instead of living on the streets.  I never turned them down.  Mostly, we helped each other. 

The people that I helped began with my husband. When we met, he had no place to stay.  I let him stay with me and we became a couple and had five children.  He stayed with me for twenty-one years, until I forced him out because I was tired of his behavior.

 I helped my sister, Angela, who stayed with me until she joined the Air Force.  She left her daughter with me and came to get her after she finished training. 

 I helped my sister, Gwen, and her son before she married her husband.  The people she stayed with moved and did not want her and her son to move with them.  They moved and left her in an empty house.  She called me, so I went to get her and her son and brought them home with me.  She stayed with me for a while and her potential husband came occasionally to visit until they got their place. Later, I leased her an apartment in the same building I live in.  I paid her first month’s rent and she stayed there until she got on her feet.  She became pregnant and got married.  They needed more room, so they moved to another apartment.  She is doing well.

 I have helped my other sister, Bobbette, periodically.  She left her husband, who was in the Air Force, and came to Cleveland.  She stayed with my mother for a while and then moved in with me.  I still help her out now and then.  The last two family members I assisted were my niece and nephew, my sister’s children.  My niece stayed with me until she became pregnant, then moved in with her boyfriend.  My nephew stayed with me until he moved into a rooming house.  He is working two jobs and doing well. 

 I’ve always had plenty of food and was always able to make room for my family.  Being the eldest sibling, I have always felt that it was my responsibility and I was proud to be there for them.  Now they are doing well and making something of themselves.  I know that if I needed them they would be there for me too.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle #24.1

Driving People to the Polls Helped Our Democracy

by Kenneth Payton

Driving people to the polls to vote was an awesome experience. Transporting and talking with people about the importance of voting was a good thing.

A few days before Election Day, several of us drove about 40-50 people to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to vote. On the day of the Election, we drove to all the shelters, picking up 2-3 people at a time, transporting another 35-40 people.

For one man, this was the first time he voted. The look on his face made me feel good about the work I had done and the time that I had spent bringing people to the polls. It was very important to me to try to bring as many people as I could to not only register, but also to vote. Taking these people to the polls was a great feeling!

At the Bishop Cosgrove Center, I picked up about five people, including a young lady and a young man. After we left the polling facility, they repeatedly thanked me. I told them, “No problem.”  The young man said to me, “Thank you again, because if you had not come, I would not have voted!”

I took a man who was living at The City Mission to his polling center on Lakeshore. Unfortunately, the man did not have the proper ID. I tried to tell the poll workers where the man was living and that we were at the right precinct for him to vote, but the staff said that without proper ID they could not help him. I turned the situation over to Brian Davis at NEOCH and he was able to take care of the problem.

There was one young man who was very memorable. This was his first time voting, and the look that he had on his face was so glad to see us. I told him that a lot of people fought for us to have the right to vote, so we also need to take the opportunity to vote.  When he asked me what I thought about the candidates, I told him it is time to pray. He laughed! That was a good day!

The Election Board staff was on point and always helpful. They answered questions, helped guide people through the steps to vote, and they also helped with directing the cars into and out of the parking lot for early voting. I was able to drop off and pick up with ease.

Other than the incident over the I.D., which was quickly resolved, and one issue with a rider, there were no problems in all of my travels.

In order to improve the voting process, I think that there could be more detailed, top to bottom job training for the poll workers on Election Day. This would allow various problems to be easily resolved when voters arrive at the polls.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1  

COPD & Emphysema is Serious and Should Not Be Ignored

by Raymond Jacobs

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a lung disease, and it can sometimes come with emphysema. Emphysema causes you to feel short of breath because it prevents new air from getting to your bloodstream. Over a period of time, your inner walls will weaken and they’ll eventually break down. COPD, and Emphysema, is serious because it affects your breathing, and if not treated, can then affect your heart.

The reason I’m writing about COPD and Emphysema is because these are health problems that I am dealing with right now. It started with me having pneumonia a couple of years ago. I got out of the hospital and I was alright. Not too long afterwards, I had problems breathing, but I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed it was something that happened after you recover from pneumonia; I didn’t know.

As time went on it got worse. I couldn’t walk too far or do a lot of the things I was used to doing. Each time I walked, even a short distance, I get short of breath and have to stop. I thought I was getting pneumonia again, so I went to the doctor and found out I had COPD and emphysema. That was not what I wanted to hear.

I receive treatment for my illnesses and I’m breathing a lot better now. I feel better, too. Sometimes going to treatment can be a real pain in the butt, but it is keeping me alive. There is no cure for COPD and Emphysema, so I will be dealing with it for the rest of my life. If you have problems with your breathing, please go see a doctor. COPD, and Emphysema, is nothing to play with!                                                                                                                             

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

County Debates Time Limits on the Emergency Shelters

Commentary by Brian Davis

 Cuyahoga County is one of the last communities in the United States that does not turn people away from shelter.  If a person or family seeks shelter, we will find a bed.  It may be an overflow bed at first, but we will not turn a person requesting help back to the streets.  The County is now debating whether the publicly funded shelters will put a time limit on the shelters which would effectively end the guaranteed access to shelter.  There is a concern with the rise in numbers of single adults seeking shelter and the length of stay that continues to grow. We never look at what is the cause of these shelter increases like a rise in poverty, or unemployment, or entitlement changes, but we try to solve these problems divorced from the rest of the system.  The proposed solution is to put a time limit on the shelters and discharge those who refuse to go into housing.  The County staff have repeatedly brought these suggestions to the Homeless Congress in Cleveland and asked for input from the residents of the shelter. 

 This may seem crazy that people would turn down housing and the knee jerk reaction is to punish people with a night on the streets to change their mind.  But it is not that simple.  There are thousands of reasons to turn down housing and we cannot make a blanket rule that meets all the challenges faced by homeless people.  They could be targeted by gangs or an abuser in the neighborhood that was selected for them.  They may need some support and do not want to be left alone to die without anyone noticing.  They may know that they will not be able to afford the unit and will be evicted in two or three months making them unable to find housing in the future.  They may feel that the location is unsafe or may be nearly impossible to get to a job from some locations.  There are a few who have a disability that clouds their thinking, but most have other reasons for turning down housing.  Even for those who have a mental illness, it is not easy finding a “payee” to take care of their finances. 

 The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless opposes time limits for shelter.  We believe that this only sets up an unnecessary barrier that leaves people sleeping on the streets.  It does not accomplish the goal of freeing up shelter beds as much as the deplorable conditions of some of the shelters does.  It will just result in more people sleeping outside, which should not be an effective public policy. 

 We are the richest country to ever exist.  If we cannot offer a bed to taxpayers so that they do not sleep outside, then there is something wrong with us.  If we keep saying that the shelters are the triage like a hospital then act like a hospital.  Emergency rooms serve everyone who walks in no matter how many times they have been in the hospital.  The purpose of a shelter is to keep people safe and if they are sending people out in the cold because they have stayed too long, then the shelers are not fulfilling their primary purpose.  This is especially true for women who are more vulnerable to horrible outcomes if they are not in shelter.

 The system is so fractured and uneven that women receive a far inferior service compared to men.  It is not fair that we criticize people struggling with housing when they receive vastly different experiences with the social service community.  How about we start blaming the staff for not being trained properly or for mistreating residents or crushing their will with oppressive policies?  If the staff were better prepared to help homeless people with housing and income then maybe there would be shorter lengths of stay.

 We should be proud that we have always opened our arms to embrace people struggling with addiction, employment, debt or housing.  We have never turned people away in Cleveland and we should champion this fact.  This has resulted in far fewer people sleeping outside when compared to almost every other major American city in the United States.  We have fewer people who die on the streets and we have far fewer health issues associated with people attempting to sleep upright (on a bus) or outside.

 Our faith community is called to shelter homeless people.  If our publicly funded shelters go forward with a time limited shelter system, the faith community will step forward to keep men and women safe.  These private shelters will have nothing to do with the County’s management system, counting, coordinated intake or the other requirements placed on shelters that receive government funds.  We will create two separate systems for homeless people if we go down this path. 

 There are 21,000 people on the Public Housing waiting list and for most people there is a 3 to 5 year wait for affordable or subsidized housing.  The welfare safety net system was torn apart years ago.  The job training programs do not serve homeless people very well, and even those who receive a disability check cannot afford a to rent a place.  We estimate 54,000 people need some subsidy to be able to afford rent locally, and debt is a huge issue with most people struggling locally.  With all these problems that we have to overcome, we do not need to complicate those living in poverty shelter time limits.       

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1                                                

William Denihan: Agency Turn Around Expert

By Michael McGraw

William Denihan is the current Chief Executive Officer for the Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County (ADAMHS).  He managed the merger of the Drug Board with the Mental Health Board.  He was Safety Director and Police Chief during the Michael White administration and took control of the County Department of Children and Family Services when they were struggling.   He has announced his retirement after this year, and the Street Chronicle wanted to interview him before his retirement. 

Mike McGraw: Mr Denihan, thanks for being with us. As I said, I write about issues of concern of poverty and homelessness for the Street Chronicle.  What is your opinion of having a separate shelter for severely mentally ill people where they can get the care they deserve and are not exploited by other residents of the shelter.  This is the position of NEOCH staff and board.   Does that sound familiar at all, and is there any update you could give us of the conversation of making something like that happen in northeast Ohio?

William Denihan: OK, so we're talking about Brian Davis, who's the head of the Northeast Ohio Homeless Coalition. I had several conversations with him, so let me make a clarification. That we try to work on a situation where the homeless people, specifically the mentally ill people, are in the least restrictive setting. There's a law to that effect. We strive to get them in the least restrictive setting. It has to do with the de-institutionalization that was begun under President Kennedy. And that deinstitutionalization is when they look at least restrictive environments. And that is in the community with other people. And that's the way it should be. And I don't think we ever engaged in any philosophical conversation as to what he believes in and what I believe in. I believe that, to me, that’s the law, and so I act accordingly. And respecting Brian Davis, I think we would act accordingly also. So I think I answered that first part. They should be in the least restrictive environment.

MM: Another area that I think we were interested in, I saw you on a local TV clip about the time that Consumer Protection Association folded down, six months or a year ago. Do you have any interest in having persons on the payee system, having the payee system be reformed so that maybe they would set aside money for housing or for basic material needs for persons that are intellectually or physically unable to make those decisions for themselves?

WD: Well, boy that's a broad-brushed call. Let me do one thing at a time. The payee system is a system that's taking their money, holding it and giving it to them. And since we're talking about their money, it would have to be a movement that came from them, not from us. And they could form their own association, and say we want this many nickels taken out of every check. But it should not be orchestrated by us. I don’t believe that that's appropriate, unless they ask us, as a group.

MM. They as a group, so who would constitute, how would they group…

WD: Boy, that's another good question. As a group that has the money that they're willing to give up. I don't believe it's a unique situation, I do not believe we should assume that we do that. And the only way that would work is if that's what they want and how their money spent.

MM: OK, my only other question was as to persons with homelessness, if detoxification is an urgent need, are we anywhere near the resources we would need to have locally, to have detoxification on demand for anyone in the community?

WD: Well, that's a great question coming right now, today. When we're realizing that we're more than doubling the number of deaths from the heroin tsunami that's going on right now. And when you look at the number of deaths, and you realize that our capacity of available beds is far below what is necessary to do a good job. So, we see that with the requests for detox immediately that folks are told they have to come back. And those are the worst words to have to tell an addict that has made up their mind that they need help -- that's we're not here to help. And that's a horrible thing to say, that's not what an addict needs to hear. An addict needs to hear the same thing someone with a broken arms hears -- stay right here I'll take care of you. Not come back in two weeks. That's wrong. And that's wrong, because we have the capacity to help them heal physically, and some could argue that there's some physicality to the disease of drugs, and that to tell a person you have to wait and come back is the worst thing for them to hear. So, believe my job now is to fix the hole in the ship. And there's a hole in the ship where some firms are having to tell people a bed day available. And that's what my job should be, so that's what I'm doing.

MM: Is there anything else you'd like to add on the subject of mental health and mental illness particularly as it would affect persons experiencing homelessness or precariousness in terms of the housing situation.

WD: Well, homelessness is a very special subject of mine. I've been around this as long as Brian Davis has. I remember meeting him back in the early 1990s when he graduated from Case. I was so impressed with him I was downtown on a Sunday afternoon, around 17th and Superior and he and a couple of his friends were cleaning up the sidewalk where the men during the week and had been throwing their cigarette butts. Not telling anyone, not using it, that was how he was spending his Sunday afternoon. And gave me a whole different viewpoint of Brian Davis. He's a legitimate good leader and I respect him. And I can't do everything we wants me to do I wish I could, but I can't because I don't have the resources to do it. I live like you live in a society here that says we're only going to spend this amount of money for the least of us. And I disagree with that. So if we find ways to give money to make things work, we'll do it. For example, the women's shelter needs roof repair. I think we'll end up donating money to Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries who runs it to help sustain the building. Well my sense is we'll do that every year, so why not put money aside and take the building down and build a brand new building. That's where my thinking is. But there's always an urgency to fill a hole in something that take your mind of the bigger prize.

MM: Yes, I think that's a very quotable statement that I think would related to a lot of problems we have in society, don't you think? I agree with that.

WD: So, one of the things that was asked of me was, would I bring a brand new homeless shelter. And I would love to do that. But I would first love to build an environment that didn't require a homeless shelter. So I think it's a two-edged sword. To have a better facility for a temporary arrangement for those who don't have housing? Yes, I would like to have the best. But my job is all the programs under alcohol and drug and mental health and certainly the homeless fit in there. And we don't have the money so that when a person comes in and wants detox we have to turn them away. So, that's one of the problems that we have. So my hope is that someday we eradicate the heroin/fentanyl scourge so that we can spend time on capital programs like building something for the homeless.

MM: So the heroin scourge is a big, big, perhaps #1 priority?

WD: It is the #1 priority because it's the #1 killer. The #1 killer used to be falls, then it was car crashes, now its heroin.

MM: I think you've given me plenty work with. Thanks so much for your time.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1

Bedbugs Made Me Flee My Apartment and Become Homeless

by Bobbette Robinson

When I was homeless I stayed at a shelter, with my niece, and my sister. I lost my apartment because I had a landlord who would not fix the place. There were bedbugs in the building and the landlord would not do anything about it. I moved from one apartment to another and that is when I realized there were bedbugs in the new apartment I had just moved into. I lost everything. I could not take any of my belongings with me due to the infestation of bedbugs.

When I complained, my landlord gave me a half-filled bottle of some kind of spray.  I sprayed my unit and nothing happened. He did not have the proper supplies.  My landlord gave me no notice and told me I had to leave that day. I ended up leaving my apartment and going to live in a shelter. I lost everything I owned.

I was hurt because I could not receive my deposit back.  I did not have any money to take him to court so I had to leave and leave everything I owned behind.  I went to stay at the women’s shelter and was there about two months. At first, I had to sleep on the floor for about a month. I was transferred into a small room; it was nice. I was in a room with clean people and there were no bedbugs. I had help from friends and family. I ended up moving in with my sister and then with my niece. My son helped me with a deposit and I saved enough through disability and selling the Street Chronicle newspaper to pay for my first month’s rent.

I moved into my new apartment and it was nice. I had to sleep on the floor for a while and I had to save money to buy a refrigerator, stove, and some furniture. However, I am doing well now.

One thing I learned is to ask questions and take a good look at a place before you move into it.  There is a problem with bedbugs in a lot of buildings in Cleveland. You can save yourself the headache of being homeless by asking neighbors and landlord’s questions before you move in.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March2017 Issue 24#1

A GREAT RESOURCE AND CHURCH ON THE WEST CITY OF CLEVELAND

by Artie Price

I want to tell you about the church I go to and what they do.  The name of the church is CITY REACH and its west side location is at 3801 Clark Avenue.  Our Pastor is Justin Maslanka and his wife’s name is Suzie. 

At Christmas time they had a Christmas Dinner for the needy and homeless people.  We had about 150 people come to the dinner. 

They pass out food every Thursday from noon to 2 pm through their food pantry ministry.  This is for people who live in the area around the church.  They also pass out hot meals and visit people in the hospital to pray for them. 

He is a great preacher and I get a lot out of the services.  It is a wonderful church.  Church services are at 5:00 pm on Sunday nights.  You do not have to dress up. Jeans and t-shirts are welcome!  The church has a very casual feel.  There is a live band for worship. 

I was going through a hard time and they prayed for me.  When he laid hands on me the first time I felt the power of God come over me and I was healed!  From that point I have felt better and have had no more problems.  I have seen Justin give hurting people food and minister to them.  He has a lot of compassion and helps people with their needs.   I feel love from the church every time I go into it.

Sometimes Pastor Stan Sifers preaches for Justin.  He always has a smile on his face and he always helps people.  He has given me a ride home when it was raining and he has offered to pick me up and take me to church.  I feel like this is my family.

They have a children’s ministry at the church also.  It’s called ReachKidz ministry and it meets each week for children ages 2 through 6th grade.

They are at 3801 Clark Avenue at the corner of W 38th and Clark.  I would love to see readers of the paper visit us!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24 # 1 

Vendor Sees Problems With a Changing of the Guard

Commentary By Buzzy

 Ladies and gentlemen we have come to the end of the road. Voters have spoken and history has been made again. Someone who has made a lot of people glad, sad, and mad all at the same time, is now the President. This is a businessman who has never served in public office, someone who has never been in the middle class, a person who has managed bankrupt businesses several times.  Some people are saying he is going to make America great again.

I had an inkling that America would do this; it was in the cards. The Democratic Party had eight years to get the country out of the recession, kill Bin-Laden, and reduce unemployment. So now let us see what the Republicans are going to do.

 Mr. Trump says he is the law and order President. This means it will be open season on the inner-city youth, Roe vs. Wade will probably be repealed, and Obama Healthcare will be gone. Furthermore, Mrs. Clinton will be going to prison, and Putin and Trump may invade Syria, splitting the country in half like post war Germany. This may result in more low-income persons going to war, because no rich or famous ever go. They abolished the draft so that their children can stay home and say thanks to the veterans who do come home. Seeing people killed day after day takes a toll on any human being mentally and physically.

 I just do not understand the purpose of electing Mr. Trump President. He has, according to most people, never looked out for anyone but himself and his family. It makes no difference to me who became President as I am at the bottom of the ladder in America. Even with Obama as President, things did not get that much better for inner-city blacks or the poor. This likely would have been the same if Hillary Clinton had won. I believe she sealed her fate by not choosing Bernie Sanders as her running mate. Virtually unknown, Tim Kaine could not help her win the state of Virginia where he was the Senator, but Bernie helped her win the state of Vermont.

 Democrats have been in an uproar with conspiracy theories, but the voters received what they wanted- a businessman in the White House. People are talking about some of Mr. Trump’s major cabinet picks, but he should not worry because the Republicans own Congress.

Democrats just sit back, hoping that the Republicans do not go to war again and put us into another recession.

 I wonder what kind of advantage being President is going to give Mr. Trump while he is in office and once he leaves office. What kind of first lady is Mrs. Trump going to be -- is she just going to stay in the background, or champion some cause?

 All I know is that these next four years are going to be something to behold. Will all the social services be abolished? Will Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, Food Stamps, Head Start, and housing the homeless still get any funding? I wonder why neither candidate said anything about homelessness?

 How many people will actually leave America? How will the wall be built? Which immigrants will be deported? Will civil rights be abolished? Will the only people who will have to worry about having their lives destroyed be those who are not rich, famous, and members of some kind of hate group?

 I do not want to hear people who did not vote crying the blues. I will not pass judgement until the end of these four years. This is when we will be glad, mad, or sad, because it will be time to once again have a Changing of the Guard. In the meantime, let us sit back, relax, and watch the show, because we will probably hear those famous words, “You’re fired.”    

 Wishing everyone a Very Happy and Healthy New Year!                                                                              Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March2017 Issue 24#1