Why is Cleveland Still Second in Poverty in the US?

Commentary by Angelo Anderson

       I’m wondering how we change the landscape of having people sleeping on steam grates on side streets in downtown Cleveland Ohio to stay warm?  Does being on a side street make them invisible? Or do we choose to ignore them because of why we think they are there?  If these people were sleeping by the casino or stadium would we arrest them? And then charge them with what--staying warm overnight?  There are many of us who make assumptions as to why a person is sleeping outside on a grate or the ground with covers trying to keep warm.  Have ‘YOU’ ever considered the real reason why? Or do you believe the propaganda fed to us through various media channels and the opinions of others regarding homelessness? Do you know?

          How fast is a nations decline when we ignore the fact that poverty is growing while we have extreme wealth also growing?

        POVERTY is about scarcity, dearth, or the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money.  We closed the institutions that house and treat the mentally ill and they are left to their own sufficiency.  Where did they go?  Who is willing to help?  No monitoring, no medication – this leads to a lack of trust and outbursts and breakdowns, behaviors that are not socially acceptable and why?  Our society has not found a place in its melting pot for those who don’t fit the mold.  As survivors, these mentally ill turn to the streets and create a space they can call their own.  In their minds, they too need a place to call home.

       Cuts to unemployment benefits, SNAP (foodstamps), Women’s Infant and Children, Head Start Programs, cuts in funding to Public School Systems, rising college tuitions and shrinking availability of student loans and grant. POVERTY GROWS AND IS PERPETUATED – Without access and information, people can only teach what they know.  We often mirror our environments. Lack of access to resources, or the red tape to get essential resources makes it difficult for the already less fortunate. 

      Inability to obtain employment that provides for life basic necessities – POVERTY IS SUSTAINED – This cycle is often found in low-income, undereducated populations, however it is now starting to spread to middle-class populations due to our nation’s declining economy and marginal job market.

       SUSTAINED POVERTY can lead to: homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal activities, violence, and mental health issues.  

       Our society ignores all its ills until that ill hits one of the affluent.  Then we have advocates and rights and protestors who don’t understand ‘why’ something isn’t being done to help.  Well, what about our everyday people who have worked 20 – 30 years and the plant closed the doors?   

         How about our veterans who served on the front line so that we can enjoy the freedoms our great country offers; and yet when they have PTSD or are shell shocked we leave them in the streets or bushes to die like we don’t care.  What happens when it’s your company that downsizes after you purchase a home, a car, and start tuition payments?  How will you handle it when the insurance company says no to the critical medicines needed for everyday functionality?  When will you start advocating for tuitions that are affordable to everyone? 

       If not now, then when?  If not you, then who?   Those “PEOPLE” you walk by on the grates – some of them worked alongside you.  Those “PEOPLE” you snicker at, miss seeing their children and the comforts of home life.  They would like a smile, a hello, some acknowledgement of their existence.

       As our nation changes, there is a greater possibility of you joining one of “those people” on the grates than there is of them joining you in the workforce.

       I wrote this at the beginning of the year.  Having taken on a new role at one of the local shelters, I feel even stronger about the state of homelessness in our nation.  I believe that at some point we have to develop programs that hold the men and women that are in programs designed to help them get out of homelessness more responsible in paying for the services that they receive.

        If a person is living in a homeless shelter and getting a bunch of meals every day; they have a clean and safe place to sleep; they have a place to wash their belongings; they can receive mail at that facility; they have services in place that help with finding housing or getting medical care; they should be asked to pay something for all that help.  Free services over time become an entitlement in the eyes of many that receive them.

         If a person is getting a monthly check, food stamps, and medical assistance, and pays nothing for having their needs met how are we not enabling them?  If I can take my money and drink alcohol or get high or get a hotel room for a weekend or a week (some of them); why can’t I pay a little for my stay at the shelter?  If I have a payee and I’m staying at a shelter because my payee is not doing the right thing, why can’t I get a new one a get help faster in finding a place of my own?  If we took a different path to lowering the number of people living on the street can we then make a bigger impact?

        By having a percentage of my food stamps go to the food budget of the shelter will that lower their overhead?  If I pay a dollar a night from my check to stay what impact would that make on the program? Could they buy more bus passes or purchase condiments for the kitchen? If I have to save a small percentage of my money to move out can the process be speeded up?

         But what do I know? I’m just a writer for a homeless newspaper, but I wonder.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle October 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Veterans Offered Special Housing Vouchers to Reduce Homelessness

By Lora Zuo

The HUD-VASH program is a partnership between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to provide subsidized housing vouchers for eligible homeless veterans. Ruth, a former combat correspondent for the U.S. Marine Corps, is now a homeless advocate in Cleveland, and James is an older veteran who is currently receiving assistance with his housing through the program

Her HUD-VASH voucher, she. Editor’s Note:  We have changed the first name of the two participants to guard their privacy.

Previously homeless for two a half years, Ruth is now living comfortably in an apartment with her dog and two cats. There is no doubt in her mind that, without her HUD-VASH voucher, she would still be on the streets. The case management provided by HUD-VASH is Ruth’s saving grace.

James say that it help him out in maintaining housing and found out about the program while staying at 2100 Lakeside shelter. He said that,” Everyone was helpful,” and was especially thankful that a Veterans Affairs staff person came with him to find housing. The staff helped him complete the paperwork and make sure that all his documents were together in to speed the processing with the Housing Authority.

Many times veterans come out of service with no knowledge whatsoever of tenant responsibilities and requirements. The HUD-VASH caseworkers navigate these waters for the veterans and aid in their search of housing. Every veteran has an individualized case plan. Their case managers work to provide counseling services, referrals, program documentation, and more. They also track the progress of their clients along the way and follow up whenever needed.

Ruth’s personal caseworker, Raquelle Russell, has certainly gone above and beyond her duty to help Ruth in developing individualized goals, completing the Public Housing Authority application process, and accessing needed services and supports. In 2013, Ruth’s mom was hospitalized for four months. Her health was deteriorating, and she could not consent to surgery in her current state mind. As a result, Ruth stepped in to give consent in place of her mother. While Ruth was meeting with doctors, signing paperwork, and negotiating her mother’s treatment, she missed her recertification date for housing.

All tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers, including HUD-VASH, must be annually recertified to ensure that they meet income eligibility. Ruth, unable to meet that deadline, was in danger of termination. However, Ms. Russell, her caseworker, quickly stepped in and contracted CMHA for appeal paperwork. She salvaged the situation by her prompt response and effective management. Ruth presented her mother’s death certificate at a later hearing and won the case.

There are around 325 VASH vouchers being utilized in Cuyahoga County and another smaller group in Summit County. The program offers case management from the VA system along with the Vouchers offered by the Public Housing Authority. It got off to a rocky start with these two huge bureaucracies trying to work together. The program was criticized in Congress because many communities were not distributing the vouchers in a timely manner. Cuyahoga County officials are now averaging around 95% utilization.

Quite evidently, the HUD-VASH program has been essential to Ruth’s wellbeing, but Ruth also believes that certain step should be taken to improve the services of HUD-VASH. For one, Ruth pointed out the lack of education in CMHA staff workers. Better informed caseworkers lead to better communication between case manager and client. In another case, a landlord asked inappropriate questions to Ruth about her voucher eligibility. He violated fair housing rights by questioning the specifics of her health situation, leading Ruth to believe that landlords should be better informed as well. There are many misconceptions about homeless veterans. Many people assume anybody with a voucher is a drug user and that homelessness is synonymous with laziness. Ruth refutes these beliefs and argues that, in many cases, people have just fallen on hard times or simply ran out of luck. She wishes to change that and sees a bright future for HUD-VASH.  

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Street Chronicle,  October 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Silk Makes it Off the Streets and Gives Back at the Homeless Congress

By Sarah Novak 

Robert “Silk” Robinson is a man who truly beat the odds by getting out of the cycle of homelessness. He found himself homeless after losing his manufacturing job. Robinson began staying at 2100 Lakeside Shelter and ended up staying there for over a year and a half. During his stay at 2100, Robinson became very frustrated with the fact that the shelter did not give him any information or help to get him out of the shelter and into a home. Robinson claimed that they only tried to help those who have been in jail or who are drug addicts and there was no help for people who are simply down on their luck. 

He also made the claim that another reason that he did not receive much help is because if you help everyone get out of the shelter then the people who run the shelter would lose their jobs. Also, Robinson felt that the staff was unprepared for the type of people that came into 2100. During his stay at 2100, Robinson began to go to the Homeless Congress meetings at the Bishop William Cosgrove Center. There he came into contact with Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance which is the local health care for the homeless. Even though Schlecht does not work with a specific shelter, according to Robinson, “He is a God send and a good dude.” 

Schlecht was able to find Robinson housing and get him out of his situation. Robinson continues to attend the Homeless Congress meetings where he still advocates for homeless people and gets them in contact with Jim Schlecht. He offers advice to those who are experiencing homelessness, because Robinson believes that the shelters are not giving them information to get out of there situation. Robinson also advocates against many of the actions that the shelters are partaking in. He finds the rule that kicking people out of the shelter for causing disturbance is wrong. They do not give the residents of the shelter a way to work out their situation. They just kick them out. 

Robinson believes the best way to resolve conflict is to sit down and mediate the conflict with a staff member. Many of these conflicts could be resolved if someone took the time to sit down and talk with them. He also has a problem with how the shelters are all politics. As soon as you get out of the shelter, the shelter wants to take credit for getting you out. Robinson said “You didn’t get me out! I got me out! Jim Schlecht got me out.” He believes if you can get rid of the politics of the shelter it would help a lot. 

Also another problem he sees with the how the county is spending all this money on Playhouse Square renovations, but not on improving the lives of homeless people. Robinson claims you could have built three or four shelters with the amount of money you put into that chandelier for Playhouse Square. He believes if they would use this money in a more productive manner it would help homeless people tremendously. 

Robinson did learn two very important life lessons though during his stay at the shelter: compassion and patience. Robinson was never a patient guy growing up. He wanted everything right away. Being in the shelter taught him how to be patient and wait for the things he wanted. Also it taught him compassion towards people struggling with housing. It taught him to view homeless people in a new light. Robert “Silk” Robinson is truly an inspiration by showing us that people need to advocate for themselves as well as advocating for better conditions within the shelters. He always speaks up for what he believes is right, and he shows us that this can change lives.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle, October 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

A City Starts Down the Path of Decline Back in the Depression

Pt. 5 of a series by Cindy Miller

Both of my parents were born prior to and lived through the Great Depression, and saw the results of the stock market crash in October 1929.  My mother was nine years old at that time.  My father, who missed two years of school due to smallpox, had just graduated from high school at the age of 19. 

I remember the stories they told me about their childhoods, growing up and being adults during that era.  There were hardships. 

My mom, born in St. Clair Shores near Detroit, spent most of her childhood moving to other states.  My grandfather, a master glass blower, was easily bored so it was not uncommon for him to come home from work and tell Grandma that he quit his job and had another job waiting in another town.  According to my grandmother, they rented completely furnished homes and owned nothing but some clothes, family photos and my grandfather's guns and hunting dogs; all of which, along with three children, had to loaded in the family car with dogs in crates and remaining luggage strapped to the sideboards. 

After 15 years of marriage, Grandma divorced my grandfather citing that she was “tired of his quitting jobs and moving [crap] and having nothing.”  She raised three daughters by taking in laundry, house cleaning, sewing; whatever honest means she could.  Mom told me she and her two sisters each had only one pair of shoes to wear for dress, school and play.  Each of the girls had one doll which Grandma gave to even less fortunate children each Christmas when her daughters received a new doll from Santa. 

While a high school student, Dad worked as a clerk at the small Kroger grocery in downtown Toronto; a job that, during the Great Depression, offered him a promotion to store manager and then transferred him to Cleveland.  

By 1932, half of Cleveland's factory workers were jobless.  Although I do not know where Dad's store was located in Cleveland, I do remember that he told me that many store customers could barely afford meat, often skimping on cheaper cuts and incorporating the meat into soups, stews and casserole dishes.  Getting to know store customers and taking note of  each of their personal home situations, Dad would stay past closing each Saturday, wrap up the cuts of meat that otherwise would have been thrown out, and deliver those packages to families in the neighborhood who were in need. 

Much to his dismay, after several years in Cleveland, Dad returned home to hang wallpaper and repair appliances for his father's business.  At the age of 33 and preparing to marry Mom, he was drafted and served as a Sea Bee during WWII.  Following discharge, he joined Mom back in Toronto and left his father's business for employment at the Toronto Ohio Edison power plant.  He retired under disability after 35 years of service. 

In 1971, three months shy of my sixteenth birthday, my dad died at the age of 62.  Should he had still been alive today at 105 years old, I am sure we would discuss my own homelessness in Cleveland, the present economic state of Toronto, the Ohio Valley and the world.

Growth and Losses

Incorporated in 1881, Toronto's early years of growth in population and industry saw plentiful jobs in retail and in the manufacturing of glassware, shoes, bricks, clay sewer pipes and the highly collectable fine china produced by the American China Company; once Toronto's largest employer in the early 1900s.

The town was once a port city for shipping and receiving of goods by riverboat.  Reportedly, the view of the lights, as seen from the Ohio River at night, sparkled through the mist and fog like gems, thus resulting in the town being referred to as “The Gem City”. 

Of course, factories closed and jobs were lost during the Great Depression.  New industries sprang up in the form of the many steel mills that lined the Ohio River valley putting thousands back to work.  The addition of several new electric power plants in the region were an added bonus. 

The town took a turn for the worse in the mid-1970s.  At that time, although cheap Japanese steel was slowly making its way to the “big three” U.S. automobile makers, the steel industry was still thriving in the tri-state area of Western Pennsylvania, the northern panhandle of West Virginia and eastern Ohio despite some layoffs.  A comeback in hiring was hopeful but things only got worse for the steel industry here. 

In the early seventies, many stores in once bustling downtown Steubenville were closing with some moving to the recently opened mall. When I left the area in 1978, Toronto still had a good variety of retail establishments stretching along six blocks of the main thoroughfare of Fourth Street, with a number of other businesses located on the four side streets that intersected Fourth Street.  In later years, the aging store owners eventually 'closed up shop' due to not having family members willing to continue running the business; some buildings caught fire and were demolished leaving gaping holes in the cityscape.

Construction of a new four-lane Rt. 7 highway, completed a few years prior, did not help.  Vehicle traffic, once passing through Toronto, eventually sped past the city on the highway.  This brought on hard economic times resulting in more small business closures due to the drop of sales. 

In the early 1980s, the mass exodus from this region began as a result of additional layoffs and closures of major employers; namely Weirton Steel, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and the Toronto Ohio Edison power plant.  Weirton Steel, which went bankrupt in the early 21st century just short of its 100th birthday eventually was auctioned off and in 2005 a merger was completed with Arcelor Mittal, reportedly now employing only 1,000 people.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle October 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Ohio Steps up to Better Serve Mentally Ill Individuals

By Summer Interns Lora and Sarah

Ohio previously used an involuntary treatment standard based primarily on a person’s likelihood of being dangerous instead of using a more progressive “need for treatment” standard as is happening in many other states.  According to Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, people with severe mental illness “shouldn’t have to commit a crime to get mental-health treatment”. She strongly endorsed court-ordered outpatient treatment as a means seeing that they get it.  Advocates in Ohio have also been pushing for a law that will lower civil commitment thresholds, and in June the State finally acted.  After multiple hearings and votes in the Ohio House and Senate, SB 43 passed with unanimous approval in both chambers, and on June 17, 2014, Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law.

This new legislation will change the laws concerning civil commitment by broadening the definition of “mentally ill person subject to court order”. The new definition will include people who satisfy all of the following conditions: 

There are many specific changes to the law that help the mentally ill. Some of these changes are:

The legislation also increases the ability of courts to commit those they think meet these conditions to not just hospitals but also to out-patient treatment centers as well. According to the Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association (OPPA), even though court-ordered treatment (including outpatient services) has long been a legal option in Ohio, only Summit and Butler counties have managed to issue assisted outpatient treatment effectively. In other places, the ambiguity of the wording of the law and uncertainty about its application has led to its under-use – all too often leading to a vicious cycle of hospitalization, incarceration, homeless, and, in the worst cases, suicide. The language of the new law encourages greater implementation of outpatient treatment by improving the state’s commitment standard and by allowing private individuals (including family members) to petition the courts for involuntary commitment of a person in need of treatment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio issued a statement applauding this step forward in mental healthcare legislation, but foresees a few challenges ahead. The new civil commitment law expands the power to commit individuals to court-ordered mental health treatments beyond situations in which an individual is a substantial risk to themselves or others, potentially opening the door to arbitrary civil commitment. While protecting public safety is important, ACLU Ohio believes that the most serious impact on rights is when government authorizes the incarceration of people. Accordingly, ACLU Ohio argues that standards such as those included in the law deserve the highest degree of scrutiny to ensure the right balance is struck. 

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle October, 2014 Cleveland, Ohio. 

Eighty Years Brings New Appreciation for the Beauty of Cleveland

Commentary by Lucille Egan

Even though I was born and raised in Cleveland, it took many years for me to realize how fortunate I am to have lived in Cleveland my whole life. Even though it is a big city, it does not have the hustle and bustle of New York City with crowded streets and sidewalks and the sky high prices. 

Cleveland also does not have the natural disasters like earthquakes of the West or the hurricanes that happen in Florida. I could not imagine not having the change of seasons like we have here in Cleveland. I appreciate the spring that we have; the summers I get to spend by Lake Erie; the winters that make Christmas look so beautiful or my personal favorite the fall when all the leaves change into a variety of colors. Even the people from the suburbs come downtown to see how beautiful it is. 

There are so many interesting places and people in Cleveland. It is an incredible place with so much to offer. I believe the people who have lived in Cleveland their whole lives do not appreciate the beauty of Cleveland until they are older and realize how interesting and vibrant of a city this is compared to other cities.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle October, 2014

Davis Learned How to Provide a Firm Hand Up for Others

By Nicole Ann Gorny

Larry Davis understands what it’s like to need a hand up. That’s part of the reason he keeps his own hand so firmly out. 

And through his role as president of the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants, Davis, who sits on NEOCH’s board of directors, feels particularly poised to offer this hand. The alliance acts a liaison between low-income housing tenants and their landlords, Davis said, explaining that his work involves both educating tenants about their rights and responsibilities before problems arise as well as smoothing out conflicts when they do. 

“Nine times out of 10, people do not know their rights as tenants,” Davis said of the renters he’s worked with in his more than 10 years advocating for their rights. 

That’s not to say that Davis himself has always been versed in landlord-tenant law. The once homeless veteran said his interest was piqued when he moved off the streets and into Cleveland’s University Towers in 2003. “I saw middle-aged and elderly tenants who didn’t have anybody to carry a voice for them,” he said of his neighbors. “They didn’t know their rights. They didn’t know what a tenant council was. They didn’t know how to deal with tenant councils.” 

Davis credited his neighbor and tenants’ right advocate, Cleo Busby, as particularly influential in his path toward tenant advocacy. Alongside Busby, Davis educated himself on the nuances of landlord-tenant law and became involved in the tenant council at University Towers. 

And for the apartment complex on East Boulevard, Davis said, the effect of the council was apparent. Tenants and management became closer with an effective tenant council in place, he said, noting a picnic he helped to organize between tenants and management as an example. 

In addition to laying the groundwork for Davis’ growing expertise in tenant law, Davis’ involvement at University Towers led him to the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants. The alliance operates with a greater scope in Cleveland than the apartment-specific tenant councils found in most low-income residences, he explained. So although he moved out of University Towers in 2007, he said, he’s continued advocating for tenants’ rights through the alliance as well as through the Cleveland Tenant Organization, which is a separate organization with a similarly broader scope. 

In his more than 10 years of experience in the area, Davis said he’s come to see tenant-management issues as a two-way street. While tenants have the right to a clean, safe and secure dwelling, he said, they’re also obligated to hold up their end of the lease. Drug activity or allowing a visitor who isn’t named on the lease to stay for more than two weeks are both common ways tenants might unintentionally overstep their lease—and find themselves sitting in a management office. 

“I try to step in and tell that tenant what they’re going to be facing,” Davis said of his role in bridging tenant-management communication. “Then what I try to do is explain what the landlord-tenant law says.” 

“The management already knows the law, “ he added, emphasizing his responsibility to the tenant. “That’s why they have that tenant there in the office." 

Davis also addresses tenant-management relationships from another angle, aiming to prevent conflicts before they happen rather than sort through them after they do. He said he tries to spend about an hour each month visiting various tenant councils around the city for seminars that brief renters on landlord-tenant law or educate them on actions that could be grounds for eviction.

He said, “I always tell people, ‘Don't get mad, get educated.”

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle October 2014 Cleveland Ohio

Beware! Sometimes People Take Advantage of Your Good Will

By Jennifer Black

While my daughter was in the Cuyahoga County Jail, she became friends with an inmate that was about to be released. This inmate had four kids and she had nowhere to go once she was released from jail. My daughter asked me if I would take this friend we will call “Michelle” in while she got back on her feet again. With my kind heart, I said yes. 

My daughter, “Michelle” and I all met at the IX center so I could get a chance to get to know her. She seemed like a very nice lady that was just down on her luck. I invited Michelle and her children to come live with me even though I did not have the room. I only have a one bedroom apartment but we made it work. What I would come to find out though is that she was a thief.

Michelle stole my jewelry, makeup and cleaning supplies. Her family also destroyed my apartment leaving stains on the carpet. But the most important thing that she stole was my medicine that I need to control my emphysema. I had to go through withdrawals without it for almost a week. Because of their stealing I have a very hard time trusting people now.

I felt very betrayed and hurt because of this. My daughter and I have gone through a lot trying to repair our relationship when her friend stole my things. I do not even like people in my house anymore because of this unfortunate event. Even though this unfortunate experience happened to me, I am now more aware of my surroundings and the signs that people are about to steal. It has helped me to become a more aware of possible criminal activities, and not to jump into things I am not so sure about so fast. I always make sure to watch who choose to associate with!

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle: October 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Fixing Our Failed Society by Attacking Greed

Commentary by Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

In the world today there is a lot of stress and a lack of love and compassion for one another. The problem that we face is greed. People care more about money than about people. Corporate greed is what caused Americans to lose a lot of jobs in 2007 and 2008. In my opinion, fear of not making a profit is what caused a lot of youth to have too much free time on their hands. The lack of love is what causes a lot of people to abuse and neglect each other. Not feeling loved is what makes a lot of people make a lot of negative mistakes in their lives not feeling a part makes a lot of youths turn to gangs.

The most important thing we must do in order to fix our society is to accept that our community is in trouble. Accepting allows us to open our mind up so that we can better understand the problems around us and why they exist. We must stop blaming each other, the government, the cities we live in, the rich, the poor, the mentally ill, the chemically dependent, homeless people, and anything else we can find to blame. Before you make a negative statement about our society or about people in it you have to ask yourself, “What am I doing to make the world a better place?”

In order for our society to thrive new jobs must be created without boundaries. Many people were taught to fear becoming their own boss because they are constantly reminded that they might fail. Well, if a person works at a job it is no guarantee that they will keep their job until retirement. A lot of factory workers found that out when their component shut down, a lot of security guards learned that when they are replaced by a camera system and cashiers found that out when self-check lines were installed at their job. Society taught us that we are supposed to get a job work 20+ yards and retire. For 20 or more years we are supposed to work hard for a limited amount of money and result of our work is making a small group of people who barely do any work rich. Many times our employers may us the minimum and expect us to give them our all.

Society taught us to depend on the government. People who work many times do it because they feel they need the government to take money out of their check so they can have income when they retire. Anyone who wants to start their own business, anyone who can afford to start their own business, anyone who is eligible for a grant to start a business should. The person should not fear being their own boss. The best way to ensure success in a business is to read the employees’ with respect and hire those who are often overlooked. Hire people with disabilities because they usually put their heart into their work and all you have to do for them is compliment their work from time to time. They usually require a lot of praise and acknowledgement but they are eager to please. Hire people who with criminal records; having a job will keep many of them from returning back to prison or jail. Hire people who are homeless. Many times they are happy to work and help them with their housing.  Hire teenagers and teach them money management skills. Giving an employee something more than a paycheck will make them more loyal to your business. Don’t forget to save money for your retirement.

In order for our communities to be a better and safer place the people in it must be willing to invest their time and money. There needs to be activities for everyone. Most communities have planned activities for their senior citizens, but not enough for their youth and their residents with disabilities. If they had activities for youth, it would be something positive for the community and keep young people from terrorizing our streets.  Keep in mind that every woman who had a child is not a mother and every man who created a child is not a father. A lot parents have kids and expect schools and society to raise them.  Take a few empty lots and turn them into playgrounds and basketball courts. Make more community centers with structured activities. Teach skills that people need to know for their future. Create a place for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and autism so they can connect with people.

If we want the next generation of kids to grow up strong we need to create a safety net for them. Offer parenting classes for mothers and fathers. Any mother who applies for public assistance or food stamps, any mother who has a case with child services and a teenage girl who gets pregnant should all have to take parenting classes. There should be a special housing programs for children in foster care. Teach the young adults how to have a more productive life such as money management skills or how to relate to people.  Keep in mind that juvenile homes are big institutional facilities that do not create loving home environments.  We need to create more mentoring programs for boys whose do not have fathers in their lives.  Pair them with a positive male role model, so that they can learn to be strong men. Create a support group for people who lack family support, so that people without families can lookout for one another.

The last thing that everyone needs to understand is that there is more to life than just money. God created us in His image to love and care about each other. He wants us to use money and objects to benefit so that we can be content and happy. A lot of people love money and material things and only use people for their own benefit. We all need to understand that no matter what race we are, or religious believe we follow or other differences we have, we all have the same needs and feelings. We all have a need to feel loved, give love and be accepted for who we are. If a person doesn’t feel loved they often spend a lot of valuable time looking for it.  They often feel empty or they often get hurt in the end. If a person does not feel acceptance they often develop a negative self-image. If a person does not feel a part of a family or part of any type of group or community, they often waste a lot of time seeking a sense of belonging.

People are so quick to judge and criticize each other. Instead of using all that energy to tear a person down what about trying to lift a person up? If we took the time to meet the needs others in return our needs will get met. It takes more effort to hate and hurt them that it does to love. Hate leads to anger and misery and love leads to happiness. It is also more rewarding to help others.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle October 2014 Cleveland Ohio

Voting Fight Continues in Ohio

Commentary by Brian Davis

The US Supreme Court blocked Golden Week in Ohio by a 5-4 decision along conservative and liberal lines.  This will also limit the hours that Ohio citizens can vote.  Homeless people often do not have any identification and certainly not ID to match their current residence.  This also provides confusion at the polling place.  Many advocates in the community were all set to provide vans to every shelter and begin to transport people to the Board of Elections.  We will have mostly daytime hours to vote early or the option of voting by mail. 

State officials claim that we have more opportunity to vote than any of the surrounding states and better than 41 other states.  But homeless people do not have the opportunity to vote in one of the nine states that have same day registration. We have to vote in Ohio and hundreds of thousands voted during Golden Week in the 2008 and 2012 elections or on the weekend before the November Election Day.  We have for the past 8 years had Golden Week in Ohio and there were no issues or allegations of fraud.  Our ability to vote has decreased in Ohio with the Supreme Court intervening and reducing homeless people’s access to voting at the last minute.  This is horrible for democracy in Ohio to restrict access to the voting booth, and horrible that the ability to vote when you want to vote has become so political.

It follows the great decision earlier in the summer by Federal Judge Peter Economus to open up early voting including the preservation of Golden Week.  The Federal Appeals Court refused to intervene and left it to the Supreme Court.   The NAACP and League of Women Voters' lawyers successfully made the case that this is just an extension of the 2012 early voting case to get Judge Economus to decide on the case.   There was the potential for another fight at the local level over hours with the Secretary of State breaking the tie.  The Supreme Court completely strips the local boards ability to act independently on serving their voters.  They will have to figure out how to stuff hundreds of thousands of voters into the small space of their offices for the same hours that small rural counties have to allow their voters to cast a ballot.

The judge forcefully said that the Secretary of State should not block local expansions of voting hours, but he has a vote. Judge Economus really went after the State of Ohio for limiting voting.  Economus's decision says, “The Court likewise concludes that SB 238’s elimination of Golden Week itself similarly burdens the voting rights of lower income and homeless individuals. The record reflects that in 2008, 12,842 voters utilized Golden Week to register or update their registration and vote; in 2010, 1,651 voters did so; and, in 2012, 5,844 voters did so. While these figures may be small in comparison to the millions of votes usually cast in Ohio elections, thousands of voters have utilized Golden Week during each of the last several elections.”

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle, October 2014 Cleveland, Ohio

Cosgrove Center Marks 20 Years of Providing Nourishment and Feeding the Souls of Clevelanders

Commentary Sarah Novak

The Bishop William Cosgrove Center is celebrating its 20th anniversary of serving Cleveland’s most needy in 2014.  The agency is led by Nicole Evans the program director at the Bishop Cosgrove Center and Sharon Drexel the head chef at the Cosgrove Center. Evans described the center as “The Bishop Cosgrove Center serves as a safe-haven for those in the community who are homeless or otherwise disenfranchised a place out of the elements of the environment.” She described the days in which Cosgrove Center saves lives in Cleveland. “So when it is extremely hot we are here or when it is extremely cold we are here. We not only provide meals but rental assistance, utility assistance, ways to find someone’s birth certificate and get ID’s,” according to Evans.   She referred to Cosgrove Center as a “one-stop center”. 

The Bishop Cosgrove Center began because there was a significant need for a drop-in day center on the East side of Cleveland. There were three programs before the Cosgrove Center came into existance. These where St. John Cathedral where they did Cathedral Meals, The Father Gatsby Program on Quincy Ave and St. Peter’s church had a small program. Because the need was so great, each one of the facilities outgrew there own facilities. In 1994, the Erieview Catholic School had closed and it was decided to use the former school for programming. In 1994, Catholic Charities began their renovations and the Bishop Cosgrove Center opened its doors. The Bishop Cosgrove Center was named after Bishop William Cosgrove who was an auxillary bishop with a strong focus on social justice issues. He actually was the founder of the Social Action Committee within the Diocese of Cleveland.  

Chip Joseph also had a huge part in the direction of the Bishop Cosgrove Center.  He took over for the founding director Sister Pat.  When the option came up to renovate Erieview School he took a look at the space, and gave it his approval.  They rented out the upstairs half of the building to Mental Health Services for their money and mailboxes program and administration staff. Joseph said that the task of running the Center was a difficult task but extremely rewarding. When the Cosgrove Center first opened they had a lot of issues with figuring out the right balance of security and welcoming a fragile population especially with the large number of mentally ill using the facility daily. Staff of St. Peter’s Church that is next door to the Center complained all the time. They were also losing $100,000 dollars a year with creating and building a new program in a older building. Besides these facts, Joseph found the job to be very rewarding. His favorite part of the job was to see people who had been on the streets not only get a nice meal but move into independent housing.  He was always proud when a client came in to show off a key to their own apartment. 

When the Cosgrove opened they were surrounded on all sides by shelters, and there were as many as 60 people sleeping on the steam grates on Superior Avenue. Staff at the Cosgrove were on site during the day, and received the complaints from the problems that had occurred the night before with the large number of homeless people in the neighborhood and the awful conditions in which they were living.   There was a shelter for the mentally ill in the basement of the Welfare Building and the garage on the other side of East 18th was converted into a Project Heat site.  Both these locations were the bare minimum and only offering a place out of the cold.  There were no beds but just these old green mats that were pulled out everynight.  In 2000, the Homeless Coalition began protesting for the closure of these deplorable shelters that surrounded the Cosgrove Center.  

In their twenty years of operation, the Cosgrove Center have served over two million meals. It is estimated that they have served 100,000 meals every year. This is a pretty remarkable number considering the size of their staff. The Bishop Cosgrove Center currently have five fulltime staff and three part time, but would not exist without the thousands of volunteers. Much of their operation has a strong volunteer component. It is estimated that six hundred volunteers give 13,000 hours of their time each year.  The clothing program, serving the meals, cleaning up after the meals, and helping distribute the pantry bags are all critical volunteer functions. Nearly every day of the week, there is corporate, local business or religious group volunteering in the kitchen of the Cosgrove Center. 

The Bishop Cosgrove Center does not only provide meals, they also provide clothing and a bag of food for lower income neighbors. The most significant programs they provide though are ways of supporting homeless people to give them the shoulder to cry on and the skills needed to get off the streets. The Cosgrove Center provides space for other social service providers to help people struggling with housing. For example Care Alliance, the Veterans Administration, Homeless Legal Assistance all send program staff to provide help to those in need.

One of the most significant programs they run though is their Food Service Training Program. Sharon Drexel the head cook at Cosgrove runs this program. The volunteers of this program come from ResCare which is a program from the Jobs and Family Services of Cuyahoga County. These people are reaching their limit of 36 months on cash assistance, and need to improve their work experience. This program provides them skills and training on how to operate a kitchen and gives them the edge on an application because they already know all the basics on how to operate a kitchen. Sharon said “the whole reason I come here is to pass my knowledge to others.” Sharon gives of her time to help improve the lives of those who show up at the door and get them into a job and into a better life.

In order to help celebrate the Bishop Cosgrove Center’s incredible accomplishments over the past twenty years, they are hosting two events to celebrate. The first was on August 22nd with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard Lennon. This event had a reception and was focused on the donors and volunteers of the Cosgrove Center. Then there is the event that they will be having to focus more on the homeless guests called the Hand up Gala in October. At this event, the Cosgrove Center will be serving a four star meal in a fine dining environment which is not often experienced by the homeless. Local celebrities and government officials will be serving homeless people for this fifth Gala.  Evans described the significance of Hand up Gala very well, “The kindness of others by purchasing a ticket at fifty dollars and donating it to a person that is experiencing homelessness is more than just providing a meal for that day. It is giving them a sense of pride that lingers for days to come.” According to Nicole Evans, the Hand up Gala gives Cosgrove an opportunity to put on our best face with our shoulders high and our head back and open our dining room for a wonderful meal in a nice environment.

From what I have seen, the Bishop Cosgrove Center is truly a remarkable place. It is not just a place for homeless people to sit down and have a hot meal, it is a place for them to truly feel human. They are not just treated as another homeless person, they are treated with the dignity and respect that everyone deserves. The Bishop Cosgrove Center also gives them tools to get them out of this cycle of homelessness and poverty. The work that they have done in the past twenty years is life changing for many and I am sure they will have many more successes to come in the future.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chonicle; October 2014 Cleveland Ohio.

It is Difficult to Get Bed Rest at the Women’s Shelter

Commentary by Denise Grant

In a perfect world the Norma Herr Woman’s shelter would be sympathetic to the healthcare needs of the women who live there. With that being said, there are a number of residents at the shelter who are elderly, or have a chronic illnesses, and many women get injured on the street.  We are blessed to have a nurse and a physician’s assistant who come once a week to assist us with our health care needs.  Our physician’s assistant is able to write prescriptions, order blood work. The nurse can draw the bloodwork and assists us in scheduling appointments at Metro Hospital.  I have yet to hear a complaint regarding this important health care service.

So the question is this:   if our physician assistant is a capable, thorough medical professional why doesn’t the women’s shelter accept orders from her stating a resident should be on bed rest?

When the physician assistant is working at Care Alliance on St. Claire Ave, she works alongside other medical personnel. And when she writes orders the medical personnel she works with are obligated to follow those orders unless they voice a legitimate concern.  So why doesn’t the staff at Norma Herr have the same obligation?  It sounds like a no brainer.  If a resident is physically unable to get to their primary care physician then the the logical answer is for the resident to see the physician assistant when she is at the shelter.   If it is not a life threatening illness and EMS is called this is a huge waste of resources and the shelter resident will be billed for the cost.

I thought the staff at Norma Herr was there to help us to become independent.  It seems they say one thing and they do something different.   So if someone is injured, falls or needs bed rest that has been ordered by a physician assistant, I don’t understand why the shelter staff would say “no.”  If the shelter denies bed rest and the resident doesn’t heal then the resident becomes stuck at the shelter for a longer period of time possibly due to getting sicker and not being able to recover.  So how is that an example of the shelter staff helping us to become independent?

Editor’s Note: Nearly every woman at the shelter has to leave at 8 a.m., but there are disabled and elderly women and those on bed rest who are allowed to stay at the shelter during the day.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle October 2014 Cleveland, Ohio.