Starting Over After Some Time Away from the Paper

By Artie Jr.

I was born in 1955; I have lived in Cleveland all my life.  I had worked at several hotels as a member of the janitorial staff and then had taken a job at a thrift store.  My job there consisted of assisting with receiving of donations people brought to the store, or donations we picked up from people’s homes.  I had a great deal of satisfaction from my job and a good support system with my parents and siblings, whom I still lived with.

A few years back I lost my job at the thrift store.  This was devastating and I was having a hard time finding another job.  At roughly the same time my parents and a few of my siblings passed away over a short period of time.  Between the loss of many loved ones and the loss of my job, I fell into a deep depression.  I slept for long periods of time and began to feel like life was not worth living.

It was at this time I entered the hospital for treatment for my severe depression.   Through my stay at the hospital I was connected with service providers who helped me receive appropriate medication and treatment for my depression as well as signing me up for social security disability.  Although this was a long tough road, my life is finally coming back together and I am feeling stable.

 I live in my parents’ home with a brother –in law and one of my nephews.  I have a dog that provides great companionship.  A neighbor of mine has gotten me involved in a local church; which has been a great support system for me.  I volunteer at the church, doing things like lawn maintenance.  I have made many positive relationships at the church which have helped to lessen the depression and pain of the loss of many loved ones.

 A few months back I was again struggling with depression and contemplating returning to the hospital.  I decided to call The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, to see if I could resume selling street newspapers.  I was given the ok, and am working towards getting my permanent badge.  Having a job again, a support system through my church, and sharing my parents home with family members has helped me feel better, and kept me from having to return to the hospital for depression.  Life is going pretty good right now.

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

Many of the Poor in Ohio are hiding in Plain Sight

By Marjie Defede  (Rayland, Ohio)

I have been laid off from my career for almost two years, and during that time, I’ve come to believe two things:  there IS an Amish Mafia and there IS a Secret Poor Peoples’ Network.  Anything you want to know about the Amish Mafia, you can find on the Discovery Channel.  The Secret Poor Peoples’ Network is harder to discover; that’s why I dubbed it a “secret.”  But mark my word, it’s there.  And maybe it’s time to uncover it. 

What is the Secret Poor Peoples’ Network?  Simply put, it’s the loosely organized group in every community that is well served by social programs; those who not only know where to go for help when they are in need, but also find themselves sought out by the service providers, to offer them help they might not need, but can get anyway because they’re poor.  Just a perk for being part of the inner circle of the low-income world.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m part of the outraged conservative crowd that claims entitlements are bad and lazy people are ripping off the social system.  Well, some are, but anecdotal information I’ve received from those leading such programs indicate the number of cheaters is small.  There are those “professional victims,” folks who come from a family with generations of afflictions and a knack for working the system.  My situation – and that of many of the “new poor” lands us somewhere in the middle.  We hold our heads high and try to survive, but there comes a time when we have no choice but to reach out for help.  Trouble is, where do we go? 

There’s no support system for those of us who have not traveled down the road of need before.  There are no social service professionals reaching out to help us.  We have to find them, because we’re not part of the Secret Poor Peoples’ Network – the group that’s so easy for those professionals to reach.  Where is the resource network for those of us that need help, but our income is a few dollars over the poverty level, and we can’t qualify for home energy assistance,  food stamps, Medicaid, home repair grants, prescription assistance?  The list goes on and on for the programs that have turned me away.  Falling through the cracks is no fun.

 So, I say to all of you who work to help those in need:  what are you doing to assist the “new poor?”  Do you think the “new poor” even know you and your programs exist?  And will you consider leaving your social service agency/food pantry/mental health center – to reach out to them?  We might not look like we need your help because we look good/smell good/speak well – but we are right under your nose; we are the ones you are missing; we are the “new poor.”

POSTSCRIPT:  Since I wrote this, I came down with a nasty head and chest cold, and have been fighting a terrible infection, something quite common to those with the compromised immune system that goes along with my “signature” chronic illness, Crohn’s Disease.  That prompted me to give our state’s assistance system one more try and apply again for Medicaid.  A polite call from a compassionate caseworker ensued, who sadly told me there is no medical help for any adult in Ohio, unless one has children, is over 65, or is disabled.  It does not matter if you have absolutely no income.  So, there’s that.  It also brought to mind reports that Governor Kasich continues to call for Medicaid expansion in Ohio.  You know, Governor, you can do that without vying for legislative approval.  Just ask the Ohio Controlling Board to allot more federal dollars for expansion.  Or, try these two words:  “executive order.”  It’s that simple.  Are you up to it?  We’ll see.  Meantime, I’ll be trying to get healthy and trying to find a job that can allow me to lead a productive life.  Maybe I can get a job with the Amish Mafia. 

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

Mr. Graham Got Me Started in Cleveland by Teaching Me to Be Nice

By Raymond Jacobs

A tribute to someone-- my friend Mr. Graham. He was a longtime panhandler downtown and he brought me into the business. In 1994, I came to the mean streets of Cleveland fresh out of the penitentiary in Louisiana after 26 years, a long time after I left Vietnam. I met my friend, Mr. Graham. The best thing about him was that he was a courteous, kind man, who taught me how to panhandle on the streets of Cleveland. He was a kind man who never bothered anyone. He was always considerate and kind at the same time. I was aggressive back then. Mr. Graham said, “No. Don’t panhandle like that. Stand back away from the people, put a smile on your face, and say God bless you, no matter what. Watch and see, you’ll make much more money.”

I met Mr. Graham when I was on parole. So after they dumped me in Cleveland, I met Mr. Graham and he was one of my very first friends here. He put me on the right track. With the money I got from panhandling, I could eat. Some nights, I even made enough for a hotel room.

Knowing each other throughout the years, we shared everything—stories, times. If I had and he needed it, I would give it to him. If he had and I needed, he gave it to me.

One morning on my way to St Malachi, a place where you get a food and a place where you can relax, I ran into Mr. Graham. He said, “Where are you going?” I said, “To St. Malachi to get some breakfast.” He said, “A good panhandler panhandles for his breakfast.” I said, “I’m not too good of a panhandler.” He said, “Neither am I.” So we both went to St. Malachi for breakfast. I got a cup of coffee, a peanut butter jelly sandwich, and we both walked away at the same time. I won’t forget that story because he was just a kind guy. We panhandled at the old stadium together too. Instead of being mean or greedy, Mr. Graham taught me to be kind and courteous, which allowed me to get a good amount of money.

Later on, we both slept behind the log cabin in the Flats. I was cleaning up the park, because I thought that was the right thing to do, since I was sleeping there. Some kid came up and offered me a job, but I said, “Can I do it?” The kid said, “Yeah, anyone can do it, just talk to my mom.” So I talked to his mom and I started doing security.” His mom also gave me a steak dinner. The only reason I got that job was because I was keeping the park clean.

 So winter was starting to set in, Mr. Graham had left, but the woman I worked for gave me a key and a place to stay for a bit. Mr. Graham would still come by and look out for me and I would look out for him. He left because he got his settlement at the end of ’94, but we were still friends constantly.

So, that was the beginning for me – the beginning of a better life. I got all this because of Mr. Graham.  He taught me how to be a better person. I wouldn’t have gotten these opportunities without him.

I started selling the Street Chronicle newspaper in 2007 and I do like selling the newspaper better than panhandling. But without Mr. Graham as a friend, I wouldn’t have been able to be established in Cleveland.

His friendship meant my life because without his friendship, I wouldn’t have had a life in Cleveland. He taught me how to share. He was my friend and I felt like he deserved this.

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio

Dealing with the Death of an Intolerable Relative

By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

One of the hardest things I ever had to do was deal with the death of my mother. When people think of the word “mother” they think of someone who is kind-hearted, caring, loving and nurturing but my mother was none of these things. People say that there is nothing better than a mother’s love. I say there is nothing more painful than a mother’s love.

My mother died in her apartment. Her body was found the morning of July 30th. She was my mother and I was her only child so I had to deal setting up her cremation and cleaning out her apartment. The hardest thing for me to deal with was interacting with the people involved. The people at the Medical Examiner’s office, the funeral home and the apartment complex were all so sympathetic. Everyone was “sorry for my loss.” It bothered me that I had to pretend to be sad because no one would have understood my feelings. To them it was my mother who died, and they felt I should have been sad, hurt or crushed because if they had lost their mother that would have been how they would have felt.

My mother’s death actually made me feel a sense of relief, because of everything she had put me through. When my mother had me she was not ready to be a mother. She was totally dependent on my grandmother even though she was an intelligent and able-bodied person. She didn’t know how to make sacrifices for me or how to show gratitude to her own mother for providing for her and me. As a kid if I tried to lie near my mother or try to hug her, she would push me away and accuse me of being too clingy. She was not the type to say she loved me, or say encouraging words to me or be supportive of me. When I would hurt myself I would cry because I was in pain. Instead of my mother doing whatever it was that parents did to comfort their child, she would yell at me for crying or beat me if I cried too much. When I complained about not having friends my age or told her about kids picking on me, she said it was my fault for being “weird.” After my grandmother passed away my mother didn’t feel a need to go out and get a job or public assistance. We lived in the house with no lights, gas or phone and very little food. Every time I complained about being hungry she told me that she was hungry too and I needed to do something about it.

From the time I was twelve until I was about twenty my mother verbally tore me down. She robbed me of my self-esteem, stripped me of my self value and took away my self-confidence. Then she expected me to go out into the world and be successful so that I could take care of the both of us. My grandmother had taken care of my mother from the time she was born up to the time my grandmother died, and my mother expected me to pick up where my grandmother left off. My mother felt that I owed it to her to take care of her because when she got pregnant with me. She felt I screwed up her life. I tried to get a job, but I struggled with employment. A lot of times I would get a job and within a month get fired. After getting rejected by a lot of employers and fired by many jobs I started a hand painted t-shirt business. Instead of being supportive of my business venture my mother destroyed it. She told me I wasn’t smart enough to run a business, accused me of with-holding and hiding money from her and hid my tax forms so I couldn’t file my taxes on time.

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

Indigent Burials: When No One Can Afford to Bury You

By Nicki Gorny

Approximately two out of three funerals at Bican Bros. Funeral Home in Cleveland don’t match the traditional idea of a funeral.

In these funerals, a thirty-minute viewing in which the deceased lies on an aluminum cot allows family members to identify a body and say a final good-bye, explained funeral director Amy Bican. It’s a service Bican Bros. conducts for approximately 200 Cleveland families each year through its indigent burial program.

An indigent burial, funded and arranged by an individual’s city of residence rather than the individual’s family, applies to those who die without any family or financial means for a burial.

“They fall back on us to make arrangements,” said Thomas Gilson, medical examiner for Cuyahoga County.

For the 6-8 indigent burials situations Jilson said he sees pass through his office each month, a number he said increases during economic downturns, the first step is a “good faith effort” to locate the next of kin.

Family, once located, may be willing to make arrangements for the deceased, he said. When family cannot be found or cannot afford a burial, Jilson said the city initiates funeral arrangements.

Most cases of indigent burials occur within the city limits of Cleveland, he said, estimating the number at 85 percent. But funeral costs are covered by an individual’s city of residence. So a Brunswick resident, he said as an example, would be covered by Brunswick regardless of whether the resident died in Brunswick, Cleveland or a different city.

For the City of Cleveland, Bican Bros. Funeral Home is contracted to provide indigent burial and cremation services. Now in its third year with the indigent program, Bican Bros. receives city funding for the funeral home’s services, Bican said.

The arrangement allows Bican Bros. to hire funeral director apprentices, she said, and offers valuable experience to the mortuary science school graduates while providing a needed service in the city.

Following cremation, authorized by the individual’s family or by the coroner when no family can be located, Bican said the funeral home holds remains for one year. Those that remain unclaimed are then turned over to the city for burial.

In three years, she said, the funeral home has only made two or three deliveries. Since the city buries cremated remains in plots of 12, this totals between 24 and 36.

“Of 600,” she estimated, “that’s not a huge amount.”

In Cleveland, these remains are taken to Memorial Park, otherwise known as the Potters’ Field, said Michael Cox, Director of Public Works. 

The gravesite, located on Green Road, currently has no signs indicating a cemetery or individual graves, Cox said. But this is to change within the coming year, he said, as the city is starting to receive sufficient funding to purchase headstones for each grave. These will include a name for each of the 12 individuals buried in each grave.

Gilson, the medical examiner, said respect for the deceased is important in arrangements such as indigent burials.

 “That’s part of the function of the office,” he said. “To see they’re treated humanely.”

Correction:  This article was altered online to reflect the correct spelling of the medical examiner of Cuyahoga County Thomas Gilson

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio

I Remember A very Depressing Holiday

By Michael Boyd

As I sit here, I think of the best Christmas I had.  But first, I have a little story about myself.  I was born here in Cleveland, the sixth child out of ten, 8 pounds 3 ounces. 

Back then a black child did not stay in the hospital no longer and on more than a day or two.  My mother for some reason sent me to live with my grandmother, so I didn’t get to know my brothers and sisters until I was about 3 or 4 years old.  Right about that time she had 2 more children.  When I turned 5 years old and it was time for me to go to school, it was time to come home.  The smallest child out of ten children.  I had hand me downs and hand me ups.     

Most holidays we had little or nothing but somehow she always made it work.  One of eight, like any kid ran down stairs, watching my brothers and sisters playing with their toys.  My mother sat me down to tell me she had very little for me this Christmas so don’t cry.  She said, “We will have something on your birthday.”  I look around to see all the smiles on my brothers and sisters faces.  They had joy in their faces and it was priceless to see, it was no greater feeling then the joy of giving.

Of course it bothered me to see everyone playing, but we shared and played together, I didn’t stay with my mother and father for the first years of my life.  I stayed with my grandmother, and I did end up with a toy or two.  I learned to want to see happiness of others.  What can you do to put a smile on your friend’s face?

So on that note; “Do what you can for your fellow man and woman” but remember everyone needs help sometimes in their life.  Have a blessed holiday and I’m praying for you all.  This holiday season; think about how you can help your fellow man.  You can give hygiene items or socks or blankets to St. Malachi or West Side Catholic center.  Be generous this season.

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

Shelters Need Some Kind of Oversight in Cleveland

By Brian Davis
After years of trying to convince Cleveland City Council to take up the issue of regulating the shelters, homeless people turned to the new County government.  The Homeless Congress is a group that meets monthly of homeless people from many different shelters and those sleeping outside to talk about the issues facing the displaced in Cuyahoga County.   Homeless Congress members secured a majority of both County Council members as well as Cleveland City Council members in 2009 and 2010 elections claiming that they would pass some kind of legislation.  This has not happened, and County staff have convinced the elected office holders that the oversight of the shelters would cost too much money and is unnecessary because the County has regulations in each contract.

Homeless people disagreed and reached out to a number of elected officials with meetings to discuss these issues.  One issue that came up was that the 10 pages of 86 regulations that homeless people had developed was way too much for anyone to review or put into practice.  The thinking by the members of the Homeless Congress was that they were putting on paper what would be the best shelters in the County.  They wanted to address every aspect of a person’s stay in shelter and make sure that no matter where you entered, you would have a positive experience.   This was way too much for the policy makers to handle, and they were unwilling to pick out a reasonable piece of legislation to put forward. 

The Congress over the summer took the lead and put together a list of the high priority items that they would like to see passed by either Cleveland City Council or Cuyahoga County Council.  They want these to be in law to protect those seeking shelter locally.  They passed these unanimously at the August 8 Homeless Congress meeting.  They are asking supporters to urge their City Council or County Council members to take these up as soon as possible.

Requirement to Offer Shelter to anyone requesting help

Provide at least one 24-hour emergency drop-in center that provides shelter, mental health services, medical services, and transportation to available off-site services and programs if the facility is full.  Shelters shall not discharge individuals unless there is a plan for housing at a place fit for human habitation or unless there is criminal activity with a police report generated. 

In order to operate a shelter in Cuyahoga County, a non-profit entity must include the following quality of life enhancements

All contracts between the County and shelter operators shall include provisions that require shelter operators to:

  • Treat all shelter clients equally, with respect and dignity, including in the application of posted shelter policies and a legitimate grievance process involving final arbitration by a impartial third party individual;
  • Commit to serving healthy food with one hot meal at the facility. Meals must include accommodations for those with special dietary needs or religious beliefs;
  • Provide shelter clients with pest-free, secure property storage inside each shelter. Shelter staff shall provide closable plastic containers to clients for storage purposes. If storage inside a shelter is unavailable, the shelter operator may provide free, pest-free storage off-site as long as the off-site storage is available to the shelter client up until the time of evening bed check;
  • Ensure that all clients receive appropriate and ADA-compliant transportation services, to attend medical appointments, permanent housing appointments, substance abuse treatment, job-search appointments and job interviews, mental health services, and shelter services;
  • Ensure that the shelter is aware and abiding by federal, state and local fair housing laws with regard to access and continued occupancy of a shelter bed;
  • Clients will receive a housing plan within three weeks of entering a shelter or the central intake prepared with the input of the clients to quickly and efficiently move a household back into stable housing that will give the client the best opportunity to remain in housing;
  • Each shelter over with over 80 beds should have daily health care clinic available to the residents.  All other shelters must have a plan for regular visits by heath care professionals that must be posted in the shelter.  Staff must develop and post a policy for allowing residents bed rest when ordered by a qualified doctor.  This bed rest policy must be posted in the shelter. 

Each Shelter Should Develop a Compliant and Investigation Process

The County shall develop a complaint process that protects residents of the local shelters and assures that an eviction does not result in a person forced to sleep on the streets.  Every shelter must provide readily available resident complaint forms, as well as provide a form upon request.   Shelters with over 80 beds must have staff designated as a clients rights officer to assist those completing a grievance.  Those shelters with under 80 beds should develop a plan for how to assist those who are illiterate or have some other barrier to completing a complaint form to submit a grievance.  Shelters must accept and investigate written complaints from residents, client advocates or those who utilize the service as well as members of the Shelter Monitoring Committee. Shelter staff must respond in writing to written complaints within two business days.  Shelter staff must make every effort to take corrective action within five business days. If the client is not satisfied with the action taken, the shelter operator shall refer the complaint to an impartial third party not connected to any homeless service provider (could be a volunteer attorney) and has no relationship with any of the parties involved in the complaint.  The County Shelter Monitoring Committee and Office of Homeless Services shall receive a copy of the complaint and shall supervise the process, and receive the outcome of the grievance or complaint.  If a resident files a grievance they must be allowed to see the grievance to completion before the punishment is enforced.   There needs to be a government entity that has control over funding that can act on potential problems. The telephone number and address for either the Office of Homeless Services or a shelter monitoring committee special telephone number must be posted in every single shelter covered. This Office of Homeless Services should present a report to Cleveland City Council, Cuyahoga County Council, the Cleveland Mayor, and the County Executive every year as shelter allocation decisions are being made on the number of complaints and the general resolution of those complaints. This information should be made available to the public on a website along with the results of the monitoring evaluation of every shelter.

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

Fun Community Events Help Kids in Need Pt. 2 of the Series

MY FRONT PORCH VIEW - A look at an impoverished rust-belt town

by Cindy Miller

In the previous issue of  "Cleveland Street Chronicle", I wrote about the challenges faced in keeping the food pantry open in my hometown of Toronto, Ohio, located in Jefferson County, southeast of Cleveland. I am happy to report that $3,200 in monetary donations helped keep His Hands Extended Food Pantry open and monthly donations from the many local churches, local organizations and private citizens are helping this food pantry continue food distributions to the 150-plus families it presently serves.

In Part Two of this series, my focus is on helping the kids in need in this town with a population of slightly over 5,000 residents.

While growing up in Toronto, Ohio, I was aware of some of the kids in town who would have been considered 'poor'. Some had an alcoholic father who couldn't maintain a job or drank away the paychecks leaving the family without.  Others lived in a large family where the head of the household may have had a good paying job but could barely support their small children, along with the additional burden of having adult children and their kids all living under one roof. I knew kids whose fathers had died; their mothers took in sewing or did housekeeping to supplement the monthly Social Security and/or veterans survivor benefits their families received. Section 8 housing units for Toronto's low income families did not become available until about 1970.

I posted a query on my personal Facebook page, asking if any of my local friends could recall instances of knowing kids who were considered to be 'poor' or if they felt they could have been considered as being 'poor' while growing up in Toronto in the late 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's. I received three responses, all from women who grew up in other areas of town.

One longtime friend I have known since we were 6 years old responded by saying, "My dad worked, but we always seemed to live in the "dumpy" type homes and we didn't have the "nicest" clothes, shoes, etc. Then I thought of (another family of kids), whose parents were alcoholics and those kids had even less than we did. I don't think it was noticed quite as much then as it might be now. I feel like people see me differently now than when I was in school."

One interesting perspective, from a woman I met five years ago, began with this question,  "How do you classify poor?"  She continued, "My parents worked hard on the farm and grew all the veggies that went on the table. We butchered the cattle for meat. We had a roof over our heads and full tummies. But money-wise, we didn't have it with six in the family. We made our clothes and baked our bread. I traded homemade dill pickles at lunch time for a Twinkie; something my mom never bought. Poor, yes (and) no extra money BUT rich with family values and what was important in life. I wouldn't have had it any other way growing up! We didn't know what poor was for the richness my parents gave us."

The most heart wrenching response came from a woman I knew in high school; telling me of circumstances I was totally unaware of until now.  She was eight years old at the time her father became ill and could no longer work. It wasn't until she was in high school that her father was finally awarded Social Security disability benefits; a struggle that took nearly a decade to get.  She described to me her life of growing up in severe poverty; as one of seven children ranging in age from infant to 17 years of age, living with "the stigma of having a parent that was deemed mentally ill" while watching her mother carry "the burden of coping with a spouse who was ill". She remembers the toll this took on her mom.

She continued, "I have no idea how people, who today work minimum wage jobs, can raise a family. Hell, not just minimum wage jobs, people with decent paying jobs have a hard time. I don't care what people have become as adults, being poor as a child has a profound effect of some kind.  When I was younger, I was kind of oblivious to some things. When I got older is when I really became aware of how touch things were."

In the 50-plus years, since my three friends and I were small children, there have been changes, additions and restrictions to the federal safety nets that help the impoverished, some of which were not even available when we were growing up. Here is an example.

Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) which provided financial assistance to children whose families had low or no income was replaced in 1996 by the more restrictive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program also known as TANF. Often referred to by many as welfare, TANF allotted time limitations for able bodied adults to return to the workforce varies state to state; a condition not required under the previous AFDC program.   In Ohio, there are very few exemptions to the life time limit on assistance while other states are more generous with the hardship exemptions.

With the decline of manufacturing jobs throughout the upper Ohio Valley, the need for assistance to families with dependent children is much greater than it was when my friends and I were growing up here. In Toronto, a number of churches, organizations and businesses have stepped up to help.  What follows are a few examples of events that focus on helping children in need and the groups that organize them.

Riverview United Methodist Church Plays Pivotal Role in Helping Kids

For the sixth consecutive year, the Methodist Women's organization purchased backpacks and, following a list provided by the city school system, filled them with the necessary school supplies needed for each grade, from pre-school through high school. This year, 200 backpacks were filled with supplies, with a majority distributed at this event.  The backpacks, limited to distribution to Toronto City School district children, are set out according to grades pre-school, elementary, middle school and high school. Parents are directed to their child's grade or age group and must sign in, at the event, for each child receiving a back pack which, in turn, helps in collection of names for the Toys 4 Toronto Christmas distribution. 

It was 2011 when Pastor Josh Elliott and church administrative assistant Lu Ellyn Dallas approached the American Legion Post #86 asking if the annual Toys 4 Toronto Christmas toy distribution could become a community project with the church's assistance.  Many businesses, clubs, churches and organizations joined forces to help raise funds, collect toys and volunteer in setting up and serve as personal shopping guides for parents who need assistance on toy distribution day held in December a the Legion Hall. One added bonus is that parents can enter a drawing for any one of many new boys and girls bicycles on display, provided through the courtesy of Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.

Partnerships & Events That Keep Kids Warm

For years, Toronto Kiwanis Coats for Kids program has received some funding through the Toronto Services Committee, an affiliated United Way of Jefferson County agency.  Over the years, money was raised to help support this Coats for Kids program through fun events such as a dunk tank at the Toronto Festival of the Arts and the now defunct Jingle Bell Run which also benefitted Toronto athletic programs.  In 2011, Toronto Kiwanis teamed up with the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization, the Goucher Haunted Hotel and television sponsor WTOV9 in raising even larger amounts of money to help keep Toronto kids warmer each winter.

Since 2011, the husband and wife team of Buster and Tiffany Bowman, owners of the Goucher Haunted Hotel, have donated over $6,000 to the Toronto Kiwanis Coats for Kids program.  The Bowman's unique haunted house offers visitors a form of theater, following a storyline centered around the real Samuel B. Goucher; original owner of the structure built in 1892.  Visitors are escorted, through the many rooms within the 'hotel', by a spirit guide who tells them the story of the real Goucher family and the tragic fate each met within the walls of this historic building.  Primarily sponsored by the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization, with WTOV9 as a television sponsor, attendance increased each year, as did ticket sales from which a percentage of proceeds is donated annually.  The Bowmans, on behalf of the Goucher Haunted Hotel, also contribute to the Toys 4 Toronto fund.

For the past two years, the grandmother/granddaughter duo of Doris Matyas and Tiffany Bowman have set aside a fun day in November when families can decorate gingerbread houses with proceeds benefitting the Toronto Kiwanis Coats for Kids program and another cause in need.  Doris bakes 40 gingerbread houses, assisted by granddaughter Tiffany who helps assemble and transport the newly constructed houses to another location where those who have pre-registered can decorate and keep the finished houses for $10.00.  Materials are paid for by the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization of which both ladies are members.  To date, this event has raised over $400.00 for Coats for Kids.

In this small town, without public transportation or personal transportation for many low income families, Toronto his become rich in providing help for kids in need simply due to increased necessity. 

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

Ron Register Takes on Expanded Role at Largest Shelter in Ohio

By Jacob Gedetsis

“People here are no different than everyone else. We all might be one paycheck, or one crisis away from being homeless ourselves.” Mr. Ron Register said, “Sometimes people think it’s something the homeless population did that got them here. They need to realize that bad things happen to good people sometimes.”

Ron Register has recently been promoted to program director at Ohio’s largest shelter--2100 Lakeside. It is his responsibility, along with his staff of community organizers, to coordinate the use of the 365 beds available, and to provide programs that aid the men sleeping in those beds.  He also must oversee the overflow beds because the shelter is prohibited from turning any man who shows up asking for a bed inside.  This summer, the 2100 Lakeside shelter staff stepped in to help the women’s shelter in Cleveland with help in serving the overflowing number of families using the shelters. 

“We are in charge of developing plans for a set number of guys who might have some difficulties getting out of here. For example, there is one set of guys who might have had some issues with substance abuse. We try to put a plan together for those guys to get treatment.” Register said.

This is just one way that the shelter aids the men in the homeless community. Other services offered at the shelter include: GED programs, job training, 12-steps groups, and specialty groups that deal with stress or conflict management.

 Register originally got involved with the shelter through the furniture operation of the shelter. The shelter provides furniture to men who are setting up homes of their own. “I got involved with people working at the shelter that I knew, and they wanted me to come in and do some things…Getting involved with the furniture end of it, and supplying furniture for the guys that were moving out of the shelter--setting up their places is how I got started.” 

Register said, “My first reaction when I came to the shelter for the first was that anybody could end up in this situation, if you’re not careful…A number of people that I see and have met [at the shelter] are just like people I know.  They have a tough time, and some people are able to work through it with relatives and friends, and some people don’t have that kind of support network. I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the guys here and the guys that I know in everyday life.”

His goals for the shelter, reaches far beyond 2100 Lakeside Avenue. “I’m hoping that we continue to work with and send a message not just inside the shelter, but to the other people that work with these populations that they need the best that we have to offer. They are part of humanity, they are part of us.”

Register received a Master’s degree in Urban Anthropology from the University of Memphis. While an employee of the shelter he spent several years “on loan” at St. Herman’s House of Hospitality. Register helped organize and serve the three hot meals offered there daily. He also helped to organize the 25 beds available at this near west side homeless shelter.  Register stepped in after the religious order running the shelter ran into a leadership crisis and the facility was in danger of closing. 

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

From Dwelling to Apartment And Now to Home:

By Buzzy

 Here we are at the final stage of this journey out of homelessness. As it began on February 28, 2013, after close to fifteen years of being homeless, I didn’t know if I would ever be off the streets. I have now established myself in my home. When I started on this journey, I entered a dwelling that was void of all furniture just a bunch of walls, which kept the elements out. Gradually, it started to shape into an apartment. With contributions from family, different organizations, and regular customers that passed me at the West Side Market as I sold the Street Chronicle. There were Market sales staff who gave me food to eat.  There were newspaper customers who gave me clothes and quilts so I wouldn’t have to sleep on the carpet floors.  I had family members who gave me a television, inflatable mattress, pots, pans, microwave, and living room furniture. Still there were a lot of things missing. What really makes where you live a home?

 I don’t believe it is all these material things that I have described, but a whole lot more. Its entertaining people from time to time.  Its feeling the love of friends and family when they come to see you and you feel the genuine love and respect that they exhibit toward being in your home.

They say, “home is where the heart is.” Well, my heart is now within these walls. I am not ashamed to start calling the place where I live “my home.” I sit back now and reminisce on my homeless career and all the things that I have called my home: a dumpster, a portable toilet, the back of a dock, a plastic bubble, under a bridge, a bus stop, a bus, and probably a whole lot more, but now I really have a home. Praying kept me going.  I’m so blessed.

Where do I go from here? I can say for sure that it will not be backwards. Forward all the way. I am doing the right thing. I have seen so many of my homeless buddies get a chance to get off the streets and off the “homeless roles” only to become repeat offenders in the homeless community. They rejoin the homeless crowd due mostly to bad management of their money and not stopping their negative attitude that they had when they were homeless.  This was mainly a result of drinking and drugging.

When you’re homeless there are no responsibilities. Now, there are tons of responsibilities such as food, rent, utilities, cable, basic supplies and when you have a home you must maintain all these bills if you want to maintain your home. I can tell you I do! I’m not missing those cold days and lonely nights outside. I am enjoying being inside. I was in prison for a long time, I didn’t want to be inside nowhere, but I’m off the streets, and thankful. The Creator has blessed me with this home and I am going to enjoy his blessing until he calls me to my Heavenly Home. As I sit here and try to put my thoughts on paper I am trying to show you how grateful I am for being off the streets.

Oh yeah, before I forget, let me give a special thanks to my co-worker Kim who blessed me with a complete bedroom set, dishes, a couch, microwave, and a lot of things to make this home complete. So, as I finish the living on the streets part of my life, to now living in my own home I must say I am still a little apprehensive about being on my own. So the next part of making this a real home is finding someone to share it with. All I can say is women beware Buzzy is on the look out to share my home with you!

So, ladies gentlemen and children of all ages I hope you have enjoyed this journey with me and that I have found the right words to explain going from the homeless roles to having a home of my own. As this year comes to an end I hope I will be able to tell you I have grace this home with some companionship. So, until next time take good care of yourself and remember to always keep the Faith!!

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio

My Experience with Homelessness Was an Education

By Bobbette Robinson

Yes, I was homeless for a longtime.  I had a hard time trying to find a place for my kids and me.  I have 3 kids: 2 boys and 1 girl.  My children were all right about living with my mother for a while and my father had them by the time they were old enough to go to school. Sad to say, my father passed away, and they came back home to live with my mother and me.  They been with me ever since. My kids turned out okay and their all working except one that is still in school.  He lives with my Aunt. 

Yes, I have lived in shelters and with other family members.  I also, slept in doorways with my friends, I finally found a place and have been there every since.   It’s not the best, but it’s okay until I can do better.  As you know, I’m scared of living in large public housing projects.  That is why it’s hard for me to find a good place to live.  Now I’m looking for something better.  It’s going to take time but I’m okay with that.  My niece gives me help.  It will be all right.

I’m looking for another 2-bed room house or an apartment and I hope I will find something soon.  I’m looking for something on the bus line, with the help of my family and friends it shouldn’t take too long.  I was living with my mother, and it was a little crowded, so my family was helping with my kids and I was seeing the kids all the time.  I thought that by going into a shelter that would help me get a place faster.  They helped me find a place in the public housing projects, but I was scared.   The tenants are too rowdy so that didn’t work for me.  I stayed strong, and ended up in my own home, for me and my kids.  That was years ago and I’m still living in my own place. Thank God for family and friends.  That’s all for right now.

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.

Half way is Only a Half Measure. A Message to Those Still on the Street

Commentary by Angelo Anderson

In music time is kept by measures – if a musician only plays half of the measure then the sound is not complete.

In sports, half the distance to the goal doesn’t get points on the board – one must “go all the way!”

We often hear the phrase “is the cup half full or half empty?” used to assess our outlook on situations and even life. Yet, what is most important to note is that either way at that point – half still requires work in order to be filled to the top or emptied to the bottom.

Discouragement causes us to complete only half of the tasks necessary to get to the goal.  Not being able to immediately see the fruit of our labor causes us to stop half way. 

Getting back on your feet is hard.  It requires time, energy, effort, patience, resilience, and courage.  It does not always happen overnight.  Every endeavor will not come out as planned, yet it should not keep you from pressing forward. 

Drastic circumstances call for drastic measures – yet if you only go half way through with the plan, the measure will not be complete. You have to do the work. You have to stay the course.

Whether it is finishing school or training, completing a job application, making it to an interview on time; following up on resource availability, or asking for help, if you only complete half you will never reach your goal, and you will have worked to empty your cup instead of filling it up.

Copyright Street Chronicle October 2013 Cleveland Ohio.