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