From Homeless to Hopeful After a Year

By J Robinson

I am a 56-year-old homeless, unemployed, female veteran. I served in the United States Army for one year, after which I was honorably discharged. Over the next thirty years, as a single mother, I managed to successfully raise my daughter to adulthood, as well as earned a B.S. and M.Ed. What I was not so successful at was finding and keeping stable, gainful employment. After my daughter graduated from college, my life seemed to be an endless cycle of getting a job, getting a place; losing the job, losing the place.

During this time of financial insecurity, I contacted The Veterans Service Commission to see what assistance they could provide. I was informed that the number of months’ assistance I was eligible for is equal to the number of months I was actively in the military. After several years of unsuccessfully trying to hold my life together, on December 31, 2013 I entered a homeless shelter.

The past year has been long and hard, but very rewarding for me.  Thankful for the services provided at the shelter, which provided me with a very safe and wonderful place to “fall apart”, combined with some of the following services I’ve received from the Veterans Administration, I’ve been able to begin to put the scattered puzzle pieces of my life back together. At the end of 2013 I was homeless. At the end of 2014, I’m full of hope, gratitude and looking forward to moving into my own place in February 2015. 

These are the Programs I have learned can help Veterans locally:

Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission (CCVSC) provides temporary financial aid to veterans those who are in need.  Financial Assistance is provided for many things, among them are:  mortgage/ rent/ security deposit, food, clothing/shoes; personal hygiene; utilities; dental; medical transportation. 

*Veterans Administration provides the following services:

Employment:

VA’s Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) is comprised of three unique programs which assist homeless Veterans in returning to competitive employment: Sheltered Workshop, Transitional Work, and Supported Employment. Veterans in CWT are paid at least the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher.

The Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Program (HVSEP) provides vocational assistance, job development and placement, and ongoing supports to improve employment outcomes among homeless Veterans and Veterans at-risk of homelessness. Formerly homeless Veterans who have been trained as Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists (VRSs) provide these services.

Housing:

Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) Program was established in 2011 to rapidly re-house homeless Veteran families and prevent homelessness for those at imminent risk due to a housing crisis. Services include outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits, and help in accessing and coordinating other public benefits. SSVF grantees can also make time-limited temporary payments on behalf of Veterans to cover rent, utilities, security deposits and moving costs.

Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) - This program combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that include health care, mental health treatment, vocational assistance, and job development.

Community Resource/Referral Center (CRRC) Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC) is a place where Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can get connected to stable housing and supportive services.  CRRCs provide access to housing, health care, job development programs, and other VA and non-VA benefits.

Health Care:

VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program offers outreach, exams, treatment, referrals, and case management to Veterans who are homeless and dealing with mental health issues, including substance use.

VA’s Homeless Veterans Dental Program provides dental treatment for eligible Veterans in a number of programs: Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment, VA Grant and Per Diem, Compensated Work Therapy/Transitional Residence, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, and Community Residential Care.                      

Mental Health Services:

Veteran Justice Outreach provides eligible, justice-involved Veterans with timely access to VA’s mental health and substance use services when clinically indicated, and other VA services and benefits as appropriate.

The Health Care for Re-Entry Veterans Program helps incarcerated Veterans successfully rejoin the community through supports including those addressing mental health and substance use problems.

The Readjustment Counseling Service’s Vet Center Programs feature community-based locations and outreach activities that help to identify homeless Veterans and match homeless Veterans with necessary services.

For more information:

Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission (CCVSC): 1849 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115.  Phone 216-698-2600.

Community Resource/Referral Center (CRRC): 7000 Euclid Avenue, Suite 202, Cleveland, Ohio 44103. Phone 216-391-0264.

Louis Stokes Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC): 10701 East Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. Phone 216-791-3800.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Hunger and Homelessness Faced By Thousands Everyday

By Tammy Hobbs

There are two major issues in the world today: Hunger and Homelessness. Thousands of people every day go hungry. I know personally what it is like to go hungry. Every day people lose their jobs and are forced to choose between shelter, food, clothing and other life essentials. Even though people are going hungry, we have a lot of resources in Cleveland where people can get a meal. Just a few examples are The West Side Catholic Center, St. Patrick’s , St. Augustine’s, The Cosgrove Center, St. Malachi’s and St. Herman’s. Everyday these organizations feed thousands of people. Even though a lot of people do experience hunger, many people do not. Some people become selfish with their food and very wasteful of the food they do not eat. It upsets me that large fast food chains just throw away their food with no concern for all the people that do go hungry every day. This food should be given to people who are going hungry. If I were to ever become wealthy, I would feed the world because no one should have to go hungry.

Homelessness is another major issue in today’s society. People for a long time have painted an image of a homeless person as an older man, who is dirty and their clothes are worn away. Even though this stereotype can be true, what people fail to realize is that anyone can be homeless. Homelessness is not a race, a gender or an age. It can affect anyone. I know plenty of people who are educated and I would have never guessed that they were homeless.  One should never look down on a homeless person. They will not understand why they are experiencing homelessness. Just think the next time you look down on a homeless person, remember this could be you.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

The Homeless Stand Down 2015 by the Numbers

January 24, 2015 at Cleveland Public Hall

Served in total over 1,500 guests, including 300 Veterans and 50 families.

Provided rides to nearly 400 guests.

Over 200 congregations and social service providers assisted

Over 1,800 hygiene kits were prepared. 

Thousands received clothing including new boots

100 received new socks and new hoodies at theMetanoia Project

Hundreds received portraits from the Cleveland Photographic Society

And hundreds received wellness checkups.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

“RUSH- RUSH- RUSH” Slow Down to Enjoy Life

By Raymond Jacobs

“Slow down and enjoy life.  It’s not only the scenery

 you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense

 of where you are going and why.” 

                                               -Eddie Cantor.

Rush hour!  I was at Kamm’s Corner standing in line at the grocery store and a lady was in such a hurry that she left her purse and cell phone and only took the bag of groceries that she purchased.  I hollered to her to come back and get her belongings but, she kept on going.  Had I been a thief, I could have easily stole her stuff.  The grocery clerk even yelled, “you forgot your purse and phone.”  I heard the lady shouting across the parking lot, “ I ain’t got time- gotta go!”  I really can’t say whether she retrieved her items or not. 

I had to slow down when I lost my walking cane.  Being in such a hurry I left my best blue walking cane; where I left it – I will never know!  So, there are several beneficial reasons to “take it down a notch.”

I boarded the RTA bus the other month and to my surprise someone left two bags full of groceries in the seat I was about to set down in.  I waited until everyone was seated and the bus took off, and then decided to take a look in the bags;  Boy O Boy!  The person that left

the groceries definitely had excellent taste! Now let’s see: a beef tenderloin! The cut of beef that you make filet mignon with.  Fresh broccoli, Kraft Velveeta cheese (you already know broccoli and cheese), and  all the makings for a terrific  salad.  I was very thankful that I was “gifted” with these vittels because the ‘ole fridge was definitely on the slim side, (if you know what I mean). 

Just one more thing:  I was in my neighborhood corner store buying lottery tickets and was in such a hurry I left my tickets on the store counter.  The store clerk, Ahmed (such an honest man), held my tickets for me until I again came into the store.  So that was my “red flag” that meant I must slow down!

“Laissez les bon temps roulez” (let the good times roll).

 Guess ya’ no mee’ sa creole!

 Hey!  I’m outa’ here!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Unconditional Love on the Streets of Cleveland on Friday nights

By Sarah Novak

Every Friday night since I was a sophomore in college, I have taken on the streets of Downtown Cleveland. Not to go out to the clubs at the Warehouse district with my friends, go eat dinner with my Mom on East 4th or go to the bars on West 25th. I go downtown to bring friendship to my friends who sleep on the streets through a project at my school called the Labre Project.  Every Friday night twenty volunteers cook a hot meal and take two vans down to the east and west side of Cleveland. We not only bring food, but also friendship to our friends on the street. We listen to their stories, share a few laughs, cry a few tears and just enjoy each other’s company.

Even though all of my friends hold a special place in my heart, my homeless friends hold a deeper meaning. I have brought them food and friendship but they have given me so much more in return. They have given me laugher, joy, life-lessons and most importantly the most unconditional love one could ever experience from a human being.

Even though my homeless friends do not have a lot, I have received a few trinkets during my time working with them. One of the trinkets I have received was a stuffed dog I got from one of my closest homeless friends. We have become very close over the summer and I have taken her out for lunch a couple of times. We have always had so much fun every time that we hang out. One time when I went to visit her on a Friday I happened to look into her van and saw a really cute stuffed dog. I happened to mention to her how cute I thought the dog was. She opened the door and handed me the dog. She said  she planned on giving it to me because I have done so much for her the least that she could do for me was give this to me.

That was one of the most selfless acts of love I have ever experienced in my life. She has so little and what she did have she gave to me. She is someone that will forever hold a very important place in my heart. Another example of a little trinket I received was a pocket watch that another one of my homeless friends gave me. Even though I did not want to take it from him because I know it meant a lot to him, he insisted that I take the pocket watch though because I have done so much for him.  These are just two examples of the unconditional love I have experienced from my homeless friends. My homeless friends have filled my life and heart with so much joy, happiness and love. I know that I have given them a lot but they have given back everything I have given them ten-fold. I hope they will come to know how much they have impacted me and have changed my life.

The love, laughter and joy that they have given me is the biggest reason I keep continuing to do Labre every Friday. Sometimes it is stressful to have my phone constantly ringing on Fridays with never ending problems, issues and a variety of people needing a hundred things all at the same time but I would not trade it for the world. The way my heart feels when I am finished on a Friday night is something words can never describe. It is worth all the stress, emails, text messages and multiple phone calls to see the smile on my friends faces when they see me on Friday night. I have loved and still love the people I have served every Friday night as well as the people who have helped me lead Labre.  

Even though I am now moving out of the “Mom” status of Labre, as my friends who help me lead Labre refer to me; I am moving into the “grandma” status. This is a status I am looking forward to as a mentor to the younger volunteers. I get to now sit back, enjoy “retirement” and watch the new core team take over and watch them begin to change lives. I have seen how much they are already changing lives and they fill me with so much pride and joy.

They are still going to be looking to me for guidance, but I am excited to see what new ideas this core team has. I am saying a lot of goodbyes this next semester but the hardest goodbye is going to be Labre. It is going to be hard to say goodbye to something that has been such a passion of mine for the past 3 years and has helped me find my calling in life.  I know this is the beginning of something new. It is the beginning of me starting a career advocating for the people who have touched my life in a way that no one else could. I am beyond blessed to have had Labre in my life and I am so excited to see what new adventure lies for me around the corner.  

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

 

Homeless People Provide Resolutions and Top Priority for Mayor

At the January 24, 2015 Homeless Stand Down, NEOCH Board and staff members collected surveys from those who attending asking two simple questions.  The first question (A) was “What is your New Year’s Resolution for 2015?  The second question (B) was, “If you had a chance to sit down with the Mayor of Cleveland and he asked you,  ‘What is the most important priority for him to reduce the number of homeless people locally,’ what would you tell him?”   Overall for New Year’s Resolutions we had 25% wanted to find housing, 19% wanted to find a job or income, 12% wanted to improve themselves or their condition, 7% wanted to quit smoking, 6% wanted to complete school, and 6% wanted to get or remain sober, and there rest were other resolutions.  On the question from the Mayor, 33% wanted more housing, lower rents or converting abandoned houses to usable homes.  7% wanted the Mayor to build more shelters and 19% wanted more jobs created.  Here are some of the best responses

1A My personal resolution is to make some of the shelters a better place to live.

1B   Build more communities for homeless people.

(No name)

2A   Get a job, take care of my kids better, and get my backyard straight

2B    Have more jobs that help people with a messed up background, pay more on jobs, and get more funding for the people.

(No name)

3A   To take the steps that I need to take, to get where I need to be. (keep “God”    

        1st.)

 3B   Housing for the homeless people.  No one man or woman should be     

         homeless.

(Speak Truth)     

4A    Find employment, get housing and help others like me.  Become a vendor of    

        the Chronicle.

4B    Help those who fall through the cracks, alcoholics, drug-users, and those   

         unable to work but can’t get disability.

(Big Bob)

5A    To complete school and get my degree.

5B    To open more shelters.

(Denise)

6A    My personal resolution for 2015 is to finish school, have my own house for                   

         me and my family.

6B    I would say help homeless find housing, clothing, food and etc.

(No name)

7A   To try to move with people who need it as I do. We all need help.

7B   Take all abandon houses and rehab thin and donate them so our homeless  

(Storer).

8A To open my own dress shop and get my Master’s in Global Management.

8B   I think that he could provide more jobs.

(Lady Faith)

9A   Get out of the homeless shelter. 

9B   Lower the rent in apartments.  Put more jobs out there.

(Amanda)

10A   Find stable employment & housing.

10B   Create better and more jobs.

(Shameeka H)

11A   Getting my own home and being with my family.

11B   Lower the rent in houses and apartments.  Job interviews for anybody.

(Tee Tee)

12A   Find housing.

12B   Expand mental health services for the homeless.

(Brad)

13A   Find me my own apartment and find me a job.  Stay clean and sober.

13B   More jobs, get the drugs off the streets.

(J.T. Money)

14A   Get a Job, and some counseling

14B   Helping those with felonies get jobs.

(Arnold M)

15A Try to happier

15B More localized community work programs like clean-up crews and general maintenance of parts by the local citizens for a fair wage that don’t and can’t find work Including the mentally ill.

(Catman)

16A Find a job and a place to live as well as remaining sober.

16B Speak to the homeless and allocate more funds to their care.

(A.L)

17A Open my own business.

17B Open up closed building to those who wants help.

(Antwon M.)

18A Quit smoking, housing and employments.

18B More housing options and less criteria to be approved.

(GUEISHA)

19A To get control of diabetics.

19B more jobs for the disabled.

(LEE)

20A Be more thoughtful, giving, quit smoking.

20B Open some of the boarded up, abandon buildings, get government funding, make rooming houses.

(C.J)

21A Get my disability and housing. If I’m lucky enough to get disability, I’m going to Kentucky.

21B Spend one night at 2100 Lakeside shelter and you will know.

(EDWARD)

22A Is to become a better person than I was last year.

22B Create more housing, job opportunities and social connections. Also have support groups or services for those whose wants to help people stay focused, encouraged and motivated.

(Super mutt)

23A Remain drug free and find employment.

23B Provide incentives to employers who hire felons and perhaps some type of bond on the employers for 1st year of employment.

(KEITH)

24A Go to school.

24B Give homes for free.

(Alisha)

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Turning Sadness into joy!

By Michael Boyd

Wow!  Here I am at Christmas with no money, no gifts for my kids, and no way to get the funds that I need.  I’m still going to stand right here and sell my Street Chronicles, although I well know  I’m not going to make enough to get the things the kid’s want and also have a nice Christmas dinner.

I’m not going to let these problems dampen my spirit or keep me from keeping a positive attitude.  “Oh my Heavenly Father please show me a way to get the gifts for my children.”  I’m praying every few minutes for a miracle.

Meanwhile, a very nice elderly woman with the most gorgeous unusual coat walked up to me and asked if she could buy a paper.  “Of course” I said.   She bought her paper; we exchanged, “Merry Christmas greetings, and she went her way. 

Okay, okay, I’m not going to panic!  Today is December 23rd, just one more day to try to get the kids some gifts and with the help of my Heavenly Father I will accomplish this.  Well, my two hour work shift is almost over and I don’t have near enough money for what I have to do.

As I gathered my belongings and cleared up my area at the West Side Market, I heard someone say, “Hello again.”   As I turned to acknowledge the person, the first thing I saw was the same fabulous coat and the same sweet lady that bought a Street Chronicle an hour earlier. I couldn’t help but notice the extremely large plastic jar she was carrying.  THE JAR WAS FULL OF MONEY!!! 

Cash bills, silver dollars, I could see the corners of dollar bills, gold coins, quarters, dimes, and more!  The lady said, “I just hope this will help you have a Merry Christmas.”  I was speechless!   When she handed me the jar, my knees gave way and buckled from the weight of all this money and my eyes also gave way to the tears that overwhelmed me.  It was a very surreal moment for me.  Without another moment’s notice, she was gone.

I just could not believe what had just happened!  As I was rushing to clear my area, I still could not get over how a small elderly lady could handle such a heavy jar of money!  It must have weighed at least 75 lbs.   All during that day I prayed so passionately and reverently that I know my Heavenly Father has heard my plea, and everything will be all right.

Now let me ask you, do you think perhaps the sweet elderly woman was an Angel?  Hmmmmm, something to consider.   There was enough money to get the two bicycles that was greatly desired, several dolls, new winter coats, toy trucks, a telescope, and the most wonderful dinner that we could have ever had.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Cleveland is on the Rise And I am Happy to See It

By Lucille Egan                                       

Buildings going down and new buildings going up. The County Administration building was torn down for the new Convention Center hotel.  Orange barrels on the right and only one lane on each side where it was originally two on each side.  When you are driving please be cautious and slow down; you will get where you are going instead of ending up in the hospital.

When you approach an intersection give plenty of space for the person walking across the street and for the car in front of you. How would you feel if you ran over your neighbor? Now we have LeBron for the Cavs and the Browns are doing okay.  Hopefully Cleveland will get better. I hope the Indians do well this year.

My grandson David entered the Air Force. He will be fueling airplanes that fly in the air. I’m so proud of my grandson. I also have 3 other grandsons who entered the Air Force at age 18.  All of them said it was the best decision that they ever made.

Soon the snow will be turning brown and it will soon be spring.  I got higher heating bills to keep warm. One more complaint with food, toiletries the prices are too high. The big name company’s products are not worthwhile. The ounces are down and the prices are up. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

What is Like Living in Public Housing in Cleveland?

By Ken

I lived out of town for years.  The company that I worked for closed, so I came back to Cleveland. Unfortunately, I struggled with finding housing when I returned. Even though I struggled to find housing, I am a person of faith and I never lost hope that I would find housing.

By the grace of God, it only took me but a few months to find housing. A friend of the family informed me of the application process for public housing. I moved into a senior citizen only building. The building that I live in is wonderful. It is quiet and we have really great security to help us feel safe.

We have had two managers since I have been there and they both have been very good at keeping the building in great condition. Also, the maintenance has been superb and top-of-the-line. Maintenance works hard to not only maintain the interior of the building but also the exterior of the building.

My favorite part of my building though is my neighbors. They are really the best neighbors someone can have because they are so loving, caring and supportive of one another. The greatest example of love and care that they have for one another is when a new tenant moves into the building with no furniture the other people in the building step up to help find furniture for the new tenant.

Sometimes we may have a little problem, but we find ways to handle those problems.  There are a lot of programs in my building. My favorite program that is offered though is the Bible study every other Thursday. We even have a nice meal after the study. I feel a true sense of community among my neighbors during this Bible study and dinner.  Public housing was there when I needed a place to stay. I am truly thankful for not only the shelter that public housing has provided me, but the sense of community and programs they offered me to help me get back on my feet. I am blessed beyond words for public housing and I do not know where I would be without it.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

After Many Failed Attempts I Will Try Again

By Kim Supermutt Goodman 

When I was born I was born a unique individual but I didn’t know it. When I was born I was born with a social communication disorder and developmental delays. I was a visual and hands- on learner who was forced to learn from written word. I was very creative but I did not fit the description of what society believed was “normal” or “typical.” I guess that is why I failed so much at trying to do things in traditional ways. In school I struggled with getting along with my peers because I never knew what to do or say around them. In high school I struggled and barely passed but by the grace of God, I graduated. As a young adult I went to Tri-C because it was the only college that would let me in. First, I took graphic art but I had to drop out because I couldn’t afford to buy the required art supplies. Then I took business classes but I didn’t get my degree because I couldn’t pass college level Math and English. When I dropped out of college, I entered the work force. I had a hard time getting a job because I didn’t have good social skills and I didn’t have self-esteem due to years of abuse.

 I have never had a lot of luck with jobs.  I’ve had a lot of jobs and most of them were short-lived.  When I did get a job there was always a problem that got me fired.  I have worked fast food and couldn’t keep up with the food assembly.  Then I went janitorial and the chemicals that I had to use caused severe breathing problems.  So, I got a job working on a factory assembly line, but the parts were coming down the line much too fast for me.

            Sometimes I couldn’t comprehend the training manual.  Other times, I did my work well but my co-workers would tell lies about me. After so many failed attempts, I gave up. I was a college dropout who couldn’t get or keep a job and I was homeless. I thought the street was going to be my forever home.  I felt that I was being punished for being different from what society believed was normal.

When I was seventeen years old I started selling a homeless newspaper called The Homeless   Grapevine. Off and on in my life I have depended on street newspapers to help me out financially. Being a vendor allowed me to put the business skills I learned in college to good use. Interacting with people helped me learn social skills and build self-esteem and self-confidence. After a while I decided to try entrepreneurship. I made and sold beaded jewelry, I sold hand painted t-shirts, body oils, perfumes/colognes and made and sold hand lotions. I struggled with each business because I lacked the financial resources and the needed man- power.  I got frustrated doing things alone because there is only so much that one person can do. In 2003, I decided to write, and I created 3 manuscripts. I submitted them to many publishing companies but was turned down because they wanted me to change my story and add sexual content. I wanted to do self-publishing but I found out that I couldn’t afford it so I gave up.

In 2015, I am going to start back writing again and try to self-publish my books. I don’t want to change my story to fit typical society. I want to write a series of books for people with unique needs.  I want to write about subjects that many authors neglect. Since I’m a unique person I want to go after my dream in a non-traditional way. I had no luck doing things traditionally so I’m going to use my ability to think outside of the box to see if I can succeed in following ``this dream” but I’m going to try. Until then I will sell the Cleveland Street Chronicle. Follow me on Twitter: supermutt101. Take care.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

I Love Being a Vendor, But it is Hectic During the Holidays

By Jennifer Black 

I’m a cancer survivor, but have other health issues for which I receive treatment three times a day. I have no idea how long I have left, but am very concerned about my grandson. I love my grandson, but my health issues make it difficult for me to take care of him.

Working as a vendor at The Market gives me a great deal of joy. I love when it’s time for my shift so that I can interact with people, especially my regular customers. When my daughter was in jail, we’d take our grandson with us, but that’s difficult on him. 

I’ve been a vendor for the Cleveland Street Chronicle for about two years. My husband was a vendor first. When he’d come home, he was always so full of joy. Once in a while I’d go with him to work and watch him interact with the public.

Before I became a vendor, I’d go to work with my husband and I’d see how excited he was to get to the Market. I’d sit back and see how many interesting people he’d talk to, I’d wonder what I had to do to become a vendor. I asked him how I could become a vendor, and he told me to take the training. I did, and I’ve been a vendor ever since. Now I’m glad to be a part of it! I wouldn’t want to miss out on being a part of it!

Being a vendor gets me out in the public, where I can meet and talk to people. It also helps me to take my mind off my pain. I’d like to continue to do this work for as long as I can.  It’s fun, it gets me out of the house, and helps me get a little exercise. The people love to see and talk to us, as much as we love to talk and see them.

I like it better when it isn’t holiday time, because the holidays are so very busy. You have more time to talk and interact with people before or after the holidays because people have more time.  Some of our regulars will bring us things, and I get a chance to talk to them about homelessness. I love my job!

I pray that 2015 is a better year for the all of us. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

The Soloist Was a Terrific Movie About Homelessness

By Diane Robinson

Editor’s Note:  This article contains spoilers if you have not seen the movie and do not want to know the ending stop reading.

In 2005, Steve Lopez, played by Robert Downey, Jr., was a journalist working for the L.A Times.  He is divorced, and now works for his ex-wife Mary who was played by Catherine Keener, the L.A Times editor.  A bicycle accident lands Lopez in a hospital.

One day, he hears the sound of a junky violin being played beautifully.  Investigating, he encounters Nathaniel Ayers played by Jamie Foxx, a homeless schizophrenic, who is playing classical music in a park, and Lopez introduces himself.  During the conversation, Lopez learns that Ayers once attended the Julliard School of Music in New York. 

Curious as to how a former student of such a prestigious school ended up on the streets, Lopez contacts Julliard and learns that there is no record of Ayers graduating from Julliard.  At first, Lopez figured a schizophrenic who’s talented with a violin isn’t really worth his time. Lopez soon realizes that he has no better story to write about.  Luckily, he soon learns that Ayers did attend Julliard, but dropped out after two years.

Finding Ayers the next day, Lopez tells him that he wants to write about him.  Ayers doesn’t appear to be paying attention.  Getting nowhere, Lopez finds and contacts Ayers’ sister played by Lisa Gay Hamilton, who gives the columnist the information he needs: Ayers was once a child prodigy with the cello until he began displaying symptoms of schizophrenia while at Julliard.  Unable to handle the voices, Ayers dropped out of school and ended up on the streets.”   Without a cello, he resorted to playing a two-string violin.

Lopez writes his article.  One reader was so touched that she sends him a cello for Ayers.  Lopez takes it to him and Ayers is shown to be just as proficient as with a violin.  Unfortunately, his tendency to wander puts both Ayers and the cello in danger, so Lopez talked him into leaving it at a shelter that is located in a neighborhood of homeless people.  Ayers is later seen playing for the homeless.

A concerned Lopez tries to get a doctor that he knows played by Nelson Ellis to help.  He also tried to talk Ayers into getting an apartment but, Ayers refused.  After seeing the reaction to the music played at an opera house, Lopez persuades another friend, Graham played by Tom Hollander also a cellist, to rehabilitate Ayers through music.  The lessons go well, although Ayers is getting a little too attached to Lopez, much to the latter’s annoyance.  Lopez eventually talks Ayers into moving into an apartment by threatening to abandon him.

Lopez’ article on Ayers gains so much fame that Ayres is given the chance to perform a recital.  Sadly, he loses his temper, attacks Graham and leaves.  This convinces Lopez’ doctor friend to get Ayers some help.  But, when Ayers learns what Lopez is up to, he throws Lopez out of his apartment, and threatens to kill him.

While speaking with ex-wife Mary, Lopez realized that not only has he changed Ayers’ life, Ayers has changed him.  Determined to make amends, Lopez brings Ayers’ sister to Los Angeles for a visit.  Ayers and Lopez make up.  Later, while all watch an orchestra playing, Lopez ponders just how beneficial their friendship has been.  Ayers still hears voices, but at least he no longer lives on the streets. In addition, Ayers has helped Lopez have a better relationship with his family.

It is revealed in the end, that Ayers is still a member of the LAMP (Language Acquisition Through Motor Planning) Community (a homeless service network in LA) and Lopez is learning how to play the guitar.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Delores Loves Giving During Christmas Season

By Delores Manley                                

“Bear one another’s burden and thereby fulfill the law of Christ”

The holidays have come and gone!  I hope that while you were out shopping for your family and friends for the holidays that you were thinking about what Christmas is all about.  We mark the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day! Thirty two years later he died on the cross for us and our sins.  “Greater love hath no man than this;  that a man lay down his life for his friends”.

When you are giving to your favorite charity, why not make it a “must do”, to buy the Cleveland Street Chronicle Homeless Newspaper.    I am a news vendor and the paper keeps myself and others busy and gives us a little extra money that is much needed.  

By all means give to your favorite charity, but please buy the Street Chronicle so that we can try to “get on our feet” by selling the paper.

We have an 80 year old woman selling the paper and she loves the job.  Also, we have a blind woman who sells the paper to “make ends meet”, and this helps her out a whole lot.  Selling the paper really helps all of us out.

My dream is, not only will you buy the Street Chronicle, but will be an active donor to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  The Coalition provides many services to the homeless plus the ever popular ‘Street Card’ that is a necessary information venue, especially for people on the street.  So, enjoy the new year, and make my dream come true by donating goods, cash and or checks around the major holidays. 

Donations can be made to:  NEOCH, 3631 Perkins Ave., 3A-3, Cleveland, Ohio, 44114

Thank You, and Have a wonderful New Year!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Coordinated Intake is moving 2/24/2015

If you want shelter in Cleveland you must go

to Coordinated Intake to access the publicly

funded shelters.  Beginning on February 24,

go to 1736 Superior Ave. (enter in the front)

from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday. After hours call

2-1-1 for shelter placement.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Volunteers Are Critical to the Paper and the Coalition

By Buzzy

l have been part of NEOCH for fifteen years or better.  I have notice a lot of changes in the people who have been volunteers.  When l first became involved with NEOCH, I was selling then the Homeless Grapevine street newspaper. Most of the volunteers were young college students who over time you become acquainted with and some actually become friends.

As time passed by, those days are long gone, most of the volunteers now are much older and the vendors seems more stand-offish than before toward the volunteers. I, myself, try to at least say hello to all the volunteers and have at least a casual conversation with all that come in contact with NEOCH.

I guess the most notable volunteer at NEOCH is a guy name Kenny. He has been there for quite some time now and does various jobs around the office besides the usual. I believe most of the vendors get along with him and he with us. I guess like everything else things must “change.”  I would like to see a little more interaction between the volunteers and the vendors.  I’m hoping that when 2015 comes in that will be the case, and there will be more volunteers.

Editor’s Note:  If you would like to volunteer to help the paper or the Coalition go to www.neoch.org and click on “Volunteer Registration Form” on the right hand side of the page.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Meeting a friend Who Became Homeless

By Bobbette Robinson

A few years ago I was homeless, I met this person that became a friend of mind.  He was homeless also, but he showed me where I could go and get a meal. I was not homeless for long; thank God.

My friend stayed in abandoned buildings, bus stops, anywhere he could find to keep warm. He was homeless for about nine years, then he ended up with his own place (thank God). He lived on the streets about nine years, the reason we became close friend was the things that he would do.   Even though he didn’t have much he was always trying to help someone. He was so into doing things the same way every day.  Even when he got his place to live, he still acted like he was still on the streets.  He would still stand out asking people for change to buy food.  After doing that for a while, it seemed that things had to change because money was not coming in, so he began to go back to other old ways.  He was going through the trash everyday looking for food.  

By him living like that for so long he felt very comfortable out there ask people for money. The good thing about this story is that you can be down, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay down.  My friend ended up getting the help he needed.  Now, he is doing just fine.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

All the Right Reasons for Going to Church

by Arthur Price 

There are several reasons that I would like to write about the Dolloff Church of God at 5005 Dolloff Rd. in Cleveland.  The first reason is because Dolloff Church of God helps homeless people.   The second reason is, starting in December 2014, they have a food pantry that will help homeless people and other citizens.   I might add, that there will be clothing for the entire family available.  The third reason is the fact that they are helping people with paying their gas and electric bills.

The fourth very special reason:  Dolloff Church of God is buying old abandoned houses, rehabbing the houses and letting low income people have the option to buy the home of their dreams!  The houses are located in various places in Slavic Village.  The fifth reason:  the Church raises money to send the youth of the church out of town for various church events, as well as camping in the summer.

The Very Reverend Hestel C. Stout ‘s worship schedule is Sunday Morning Service at 10:00 am, some evening services at 6:00 pm, Monday prayer service at 7 and Wednesday evening Bible class at 7 p.m.  The sixth most gratifying and spiritual reason:  when the Sunday church is in session, and the band is playing along with the choir singing, it seems as if somehow the Holy Spirit enters the Chapel and touches the hearts of the believers.  They began to do the holy dance, start shouting, and speaking in tongues. This lifts the mood of everyone in Church.  It does my heart good and makes me very happy.  As the music is played faster and faster, louder and louder, the brothers and sisters are dancing and shouting frantically, and the congregation is jumping up and down joyously clapping with smiles and laughter.

I am so overcome with gratitude and praise for the Lord that I find myself joyously crying and trying to clap as loud as everyone else. “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” Praise God!  Amen!” I call out.  With a final prayer, we end the service calm and I can look forward to the week.

You can visit Dollop Church and have a good and wholesome time in the name of the Lord.  May God Bless and Keep You.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Commentary: Which Path Will Cleveland Take to Serve Homeless People When the Convention is in Town?

Commentary by Angelo

It’s 2015 a New Year with new hope and aspirations in charging an old and growing problem, homelessness in America.  Over the last 12 months, I’ve read many stories on cities changing laws to in some ways criminalize homelessness.  Some changes will help provide safety to individuals with mental health issues by encouraging them to work with outreach workers to connect with services the help with income and housing.

The long term homeless may also benefit from some of the new laws.  Although the hardest to reach population (those that surfer from heavy drug abuse), mistrust of the system and those with a serve mental illness always seem to end up back on the streets.   As cities continue to try and improve their images the questions about what to do with the homeless will only grow?

Cleveland is hosting the Republican National Convention in 2016.  Will we start to see new laws that impact the homeless population here? Or will Cleveland take a different approach and finds ways to accommodate all its citizens as we shine a light on our great city?  Only time will tell.           

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

A Room For Change

By Alexander “Dad” Hamilton

Making a decision to change can often be difficult for many people. A lot of people who desire change may find it hard to start or don’t know when or how to start. The commercial tagline of “Just Do It” is one of the hardest concepts for most people to follow, especially when they have had a hard or difficult life. My life purpose has been to help people figure it all out by being that fatherly voice of reason that also listens to a person express their frustration over their problems. Most people don’t realize that all it takes to really ”Just Do It” is the willingness to pick up the phone and call a trusted individual who can offer them suggestions and help on what to do next. For many people l have been that fatherly voice when they have had no one else to turn to for honest but loving advice.

Please be assured l make no claims to being or acting as a professional. I am simply a property manager who cares. I want people to know that I care about their well-being and their future and I want to help in as feasible a way that I can.  For instance. I have encountered many women who I have become a “surrogate father” too. One such young lady called me when the police were taking her kids from her home. I asked her to allow me to speck with the officers on the scene.  They informed me that they were removing the young lady’s children due to child endangerment. If there is violence in the home, weapons that are not safely kept or even drug use, are all considered child endangerment.      

Once I had spoken with the police, I told the young lady what was said to me about the reason they were taking her children. She stated to me that she did not know what the term child endangerment meant. I then proceeded to ask her a series of question about what things might be in her home that would present a danger to her children.  She said “no” to most of my questions except for one and that was that she was a drug addict. I told her that because she was using drugs that the police needed to take her children to keep them safe. I then asked her was she in contact with her mother. She stated yes and would she mind having her mother care for her children.

Well the young woman went before the judge and approved the children residing with the kid’s grandmother. Once this took place, the young woman asked me what she do next. My suggestion to her was that she needed to enroll herself in a treatment program and parenting classes so that she could prove she responsibly was dealing with her problems. I am happy to say that the young woman did what I suggested and eventually was able to regain custody of her children. Today this young woman is now a property manager herself and has a nice young gentleman and her children as she looks forward to a brighter future.

This situation I just explained could have happened to anyone. In fact had the young lady not known me or had anyone to call she could have gone further into her addiction and decided to give up on life. She could have lost her home and ended up in a spiral of homelessness that she may not have had the strength to recover from.  Instead the young lady made a room for change with friends and family.

For those people who find themselves struggling to make the right choices, l want them to know that I am here. If nothing else l can give tenants fatherly advice and show them options that they may not have thought were available.  The properties l manage are based on providing safe environment that provides basic amenities such as utilities and clean and furnished room a homelike atmosphere. While it may not be like a five star hotel, or even a regular apartment, there are advantages that are not afforded other traditional avenues of gaining shelter. Also with other forms of shelter a person often has to come up with first and last month’s rent. Not so with the rooming houses for the most part. One month is all you need to take that first step of making a room for change.

Another thing to keep in mind is being able to recognize that becoming homeless was a process and there is a similar process to come out of homelessness. The great thing about making a room for change is that when you take the first step you are changing your life for the better. Be patient and learn to love the process. I will be glad to listen to anyone’s issues and offer suggestions.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015

Anyslysis: Patrick Moe Swept Aside by City of Akron

New Analysis by Brian Davis

I am not an impartial observer when municipal governments target homeless people.  I am the chair of the National Civil Rights Organizing Project in partnership with the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.  I led the Coalition with a couple of lawsuits against the City of Cleveland in the 1990s regarding police interactions with homeless people.  We monitor a settlement from 2000 over the arrests or threated arrests of homeless people for purely innocent behavior.  As director of the Coalition, we coordinate all outreach activities in Cleveland and regularly check folks on the streets. 

Cleveland leaders battled with homeless people for nearly a decade with regular sweeps and five lawsuits over public policy.  Finally in 2000, the City of Cleveland settled with the Homeless Coalition (Key vs. City of Cleveland) that police would not threaten arrest for purely innocent behavior of sitting, sleeping, eating or standing on the sidewalks.  The City of Akron has entered into a policy of sweeping homeless people and their valuables away for the “crime” of living without a home.

The National Coalition for the Homeless issues regular reports on local government attempts to make it illegal to be homeless.  They are always innovating in how they use law enforcement to “solve” homelessness with anti-panhandling, anti camping, anti-sitting, anti feeding laws sweeping the country.  It seems as though many Mayors have lost confidence in the social service community and turn to law enforcement to hide homeless people.  In the end, no matter how many citations or summons or rides out of the downtown, those involved in the criminal justice system will be back.  Right now, there is no death penalty for loitering. 

The men who are ticketed or swept off the land will be back and will be harder to house because of their criminal background.  Another interesting thing we found in the NCH reports was the correlation between a rise in hate crimes when cities began passing anti-homeless laws.  It seemed as though when the city began targeting homeless people for tickets and “quality of life” violations there was a spike in attacks by young people on this vulnerable population.  We have seen this in Cincinnati, where there are many laws restricting homeless people and they have the highest number of hate crimes against homeless people in Ohio. 

In October, a group of law students at CWRU helped a group of homeless people file suit against the City of Akron over the policy of picking up and throwing away their valuables. A group of 11 homeless men and women approached the students about City vehicles coming out to remote locations and picking up all their belongings including tents and throwing them in the garbage.  This issue received a great deal of media attention, and the City of Akron officials told WEWS NewsNet 5 that they had given warning to the individuals and claimed drug paraphernalia was found.  I was able to speak to Patrick Moe who denied that he received any warning and that there was food, clothing and identification thrown away at his site. 

Moe claimed he was living “off the beaten path,” in the woods.  He was alone and then a couple of other guys moved into the neighborhood.  He stayed outside and no one bothered him and no one came to offer him help.  There were church groups, but no one from the City or any government offered help.  Then on Veterans Day in 2013 a City truck came out and threw away all his belongings including his tent, clothing and food and took it to the City dump.   Moe claimed that there was no warning and no discussions about alternatives.  No one did an inventory of the items, they just threw it all away.  

Moe’s wife died in 2012 and he spiraled out of control eventually becoming homeless in August of 2012.  Akron does not have guaranteed access to shelter like Cleveland so there are very few resources available especially for men.   Moe said he was not a fan of all the rules, and the fact that they hold your money and the religious requirements to maintain a bed.  Moe was working through an appeal process with Social Security in order to find housing. 

Moe had stayed in the shelter, but then moved into a tent.  Moe had his military identification taken along with his wife’s death certificate as the two most valuable items he lost.  He had family memories and pictures with his wife that he lost and a bunch of other valuables.  He received another tent and that was thrown away also.  Moe was angry that he was not bothering anyone and all his stuff was thrown out while homeowners would come down near his site and drink and litter and were loud and no one bothered them 

Moe said, “This is no different than them coming into your home and throwing away your stuff.”  He was not a drinker and this was not a drug camp.  He was just trying to find a way back into housing.   Moe was thankful to have found a transitional housing program after he started volunteering with a group.  Moe said that they heard about his situation and were kind enough to let him in to see if it would work out.  If he had not found this housing, he would have moved back deeper into the woods.  He was very disappointed in the City of Akron for violating his rights and he said he did nothing to provoke this theft of his personal property. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH January 2015