By Raymond Jacob

In 1994, when I first came to Cleveland, I had $24 in my pocket, so I started panhandling. I was called the ”Mayor of 9th Street” after I stopped a man from raping a woman near the Huntington Building.  Everyone knew me in the area and I had coffee everyday with bankers, business men and women or police officers. 

I was a panhandler for fifteen years in front of the Huntington Building on 9th and Euclid. I talked to everyone working in the area including the security at the bank, the police…everybody loved me. I helped three purse snatchers and one bank robber get arrested. “Spare any change to help feed the homeless? Bless you. Have a Blessed Day!” was my slogan.

The police made a deal with me and another panhandler that if we testified in support of a panhandling bill that restricted bad behavior, we’d never be bothered by the police again. Helena, a social worker, helped me to not be harassed by the police on 9th and Chester, so I started panhandling on 9th and St. Clair, during the construction of the HealthLine.

When the Downtown Cleveland Alliance came, they got rid of everybody; the other guy and I were the first to go. Downtown Cleveland Alliance clean up crews got rid of all the panhandlers, including myself, in downtown Cleveland. Now the Chronicle sellers are in danger of being removed from the market area in Ohio City by the Ohio City Alliance a.k.a. the Red Coats.  They are affiliated with the clean up crews (ambassadors) over in the Downtown. 

Ohio City Alliance has fewer personnel than Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and their purpose is on a smaller scale of safety patrol and a little clean up around business areas. 

One Ohio City Alliance person in particular, is determined to get rid of the Chronicle vendors in Ohio City, because he thinks the vendors are in the same category as panhandlers. We’re not, because we, the vendors, are offering a product, whereas panhandlers do not.

Christmas Eve, 2014, a bank employee left the doors to US Bank on West 25th and Market St. unlocked. People were walking into the bank, but there were no employees there. I called the police. Then I called one of the Alliance guys to help secure the bank. The Alliance guy told people to be sure to not give me the reward because all “he’s doing is the same thing as a panhandler.” Now, he’s at the West Side Market telling customers the same thing. But that’s his opinion only. However, I did get a $25 reward from the bank, much to the chagrin of the “Red Coat” guy!

It’s time that the OCA leave the area, not us, the vendors. If anybody should leave, it should be the red coats. We, the vendors, were there first, and we need the money we make from our sales of the paper. We live for this. We depend on the sales from our paper to keep us off the streets.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH June 2015