By Ellen Kriz
Summit County softens stance on panhandling
Summit County recently proposed tightening restrictions on panhandlers, but following criticism from some County Council members, the administration is pulling back on some of the proposed measures. They will no longer consider requiring panhandlers to obtain licenses or wear orange safety vests. The concern is that constitutional rights would be violated by such restrictive measures. The legislation will, however, prohibit aggressive panhandling tactics, lying about identity or monetary struggles, and begging within twenty feet of banks or ATM’s. Begging will also be prohibited between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. If the law is passed, it will be effective only in townships like Bath which cannot pass legislation on their own.
Controversy over homelessness reopens old wounds in Ohio City
The Housing First Partnership was attempting to open a Permanent Supportive Housing Project in Ohio City. The organization was attempting to build a 55-unit permanent housing building on Lorain Avenue in an old Hollywood Video site. Neighbors were concerned about safety threats and decreased housing values. The project also was opposed by a few community leaders who felt that Ohio City already hosts enough social service projects, and that the building should not be constructed on prime real estate. The State of Ohio denied the project tax credits because of a number of issues including the cost per unit and the smaller communities who received priority over large communities like Cuyahoga County. There are currently 450 supportive housing units in Cuyahoga County, and the group will try again next year for tax credit support.
Toledo Shelters Fear Loss of Funding will Reduce Beds
For nearly twenty years, Toledo has received thousands of dollars from the federal Community Development Block Grant, but this year, several Toledo shelters were denied access to these funds. Family House in particular will lose 10% of its budget, nearly $85,000 while other shelters will experience similar losses. As a result, the shelters will have to cut back their services significantly. Toledo will receive additional funding through the new Emergency Solutions Grant this year, but those funds are restricted to housing assistance and preventing homelessness. These changes must be approved by the Toledo City Council before they can take effect. A number of groups have complained to HUD that Toledo officials do not understand the limitations of the new ESG funding.
Rhode Island Approves Homeless Bill of Rights
A Homeless Bill of Rights which ensures that homeless individuals are treated equally in terms of employment, housing, law enforcement, and voting, was passed by the Rhode Island Senate. The House passed a similar bill, and the Governor signed it into law in June inviting advocates from the National Coalition to the bill signing. There is a great deal of excitement about the law and it has been called “landmark legislation.” It is the first bill of its kind in the country, and it is supported by several major local non-profit organizations. Perhaps success in Rhode Island will prompt other states to advocate increased equality for homeless populations.
Cleveland student David Boone worked hard to go from homeless to Harvard
The Plain Dealer reported on the graduation of David Boone and his plans for the fall to attend Harvard University. This was not unusual except that Boone spent part of his high school career homeless and sleeping in the bleachers. He was accepted to 22 of 23 schools and turned down Yale and Princeton to study engineering at Harvard. Boone was homeless for a good portion of his childhood. He often spent his nights on a park bench off of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and used his book bag as a pillow. He did his homework in the Tower City rapid station because it was heated, and he went to school at 5 a.m., mostly because he had nowhere else to go. As a child, he experienced gang violence after being pressured to join and dealing with his sister’s boyfriend who was a rival gang member. According to the Plain Dealer in a story that went national, one night, his home was attacked by gang members, and his family consequently split apart. He was left to fend for himself. His hard work and perseverance through tremendous difficulty have finally been rewarded as he prepares for college and a new beginning.