I Think That We Need More Housing For the Homeless

By Mike Owens

I believe the homeless need a place to call their own. They need a chance to start over and not be on the streets, to be robbed, killed or freeze to death in the winter. Some don’t choose to be homeless; it’s not their fault.

Sometimes it’s by a fire, flood or other disaster; some have families but still nowhere to go. There are so many empty houses that could be given to homeless families and they could call it home. But some would love to have a place to call home that they could fix up and feel good about themselves.  

These newly housed could maybe, not worry about when they are going to eat again or take a shower.  They would have a safe place and would not be afraid to go to sleep at night.  If we could just figure out how to give over these houses to homeless people and help them rebuild these houses. God bless everyone.

Copy right Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved.

Memories of Holidays Past

By Micheal Boyd

As this holiday approaches, it makes me think about when I was a young child.

I was the sixth of eight children, and didn’t get many toys.

Now that I am a parent, I try to do what I can

To make sure that my children do not experience the sadness I felt back then.

Before I had children, I’d go to places like

Westside Catholic Center, St. Augustus, St. Pat’s and St. Malachi for the holidays.

If it were not for places like these, our family would not have had a holiday.

                               So, this year,                                

I ask that people remember to give a toys and other items to

St. Augustus, St. Pat’s and St. Malachi

so that people who are less fortunate can experience happy holidays.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Felicia (the Coffee Lady) and her husband,

Whose stall is across from the Flower Lady?

Thanks for helping me and my grandchild last winter.

I also want to thank Justin for helping through last winter as well.

Happy Holidays! Don’t forget to donate!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all rights reserved 

A Women I Know Had a Horrible Secret

By Sabrina

A story to tell that she always wanted published but wanted her and the people involved to remain anonymous because it happened so long ago, that it might help some child from being abused in the future. The lady had her younger brother baby sit for her two young girls. One child is an infant while the other is about five years old. The five year old would always say “No! No! , I don’t want Uncle to watch us.” Every time it was time for the lady to go to work, for a few weeks, the little girl’s would cry at night and say, “He’s in the closet or under the bed”, but when the mother would ask, “Who you are talking about?”, the child would not say. So, eventually, the mother got a new sitter. She believed her brother was just too mean, not realizing until years later that those were signs that the Uncle were sexually abusing the children. The mother found out one day when she and her daughter were watching a movie about abuse on television. During the movie, she noticed her older daughter’s face after the movie ended. She took her to the room alone and questioned her daughter until she found out the truth. The reason she didn’t tell was because he told her she would get in trouble.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

Standing Up For The Little Man

By Ronald Ferguson

In today’s society, everyone is stepping on the little man to get themselves to the top.  Personally, I believe that it is important to look out for the little man, especially homeless people.  My first experience with homelessness occurred back in 2000 when I housed my first homeless woman. She was a street walker with two children, her boyfriend had recently moved out of town with his mother and left the house open for her to live in. Since this was an abandoned house, they had no running water and very little money for food.  Being the neighborly man I am, I brought them McDonalds every once in a while and eventually offered for her to stay in my home for three weeks until she found her own housing. 

 Three weeks turned into four months.  She refused to take part in any programs or stay at the shelters because the curfew was too early for her lifestyle.  Meanwhile, I was stuck babysitting her children and lost my way of life.  I attempted to move her out several times after I discovered some of my stuff were missing and random people began showing up at my house, however, she always ended up back with me somehow.  One night I took her back in and she broke my answering machine and put a hole in my wall.  That was the last time she came into my home. 

It’s sad that in this world a good deed can land someone in such a poor position.  However, I have not given up hope.  There is still hope for the little person I have found that hope at the various charities that serve homeless people.  There are groups like HandsOn NEO doing the Homeless Stand Down.  There is Legal Aid helping people with lawyers.  NEOCH provides the Street Card information guide. Cosgrove gives out food and can help homeless people get mail.

After being set up and losing $12,000.00 in equipment from my studio I found myself homeless.  It took me a long time to find a job and then housing.  Before the blink of an eye it was four years.  I tried getting help, but it was hard to get back into housing after getting evicted.  No one will give you a chance, and there is this big H around your neck for “Homeless.”  It is a huge stigma that makes it difficult for landlords or employers to take a chance.  Life is hard in today’s unfair society, however I have not given up hope for the little man and neither should anyone else.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserve

Running Out Of Places To Sleep

By Greg Sherels

When I walk the streets of my home town, Cleveland, Ohio, I see many more people sleeping on the street in 2015 than when I was a younger man. (Editor’s Note: The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has regular statistics on the number of people sleeping Downtown on their website under Education.) In a number of countries and even some cities in the US, homelessness and street sleeping is actually illegal and punishable by imprisonment.  For example, In India, the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act is used to clear the street of homeless people when important events are going to take place. Editor’s Note:  The National Coalition for the Homeless under publications on their website has a report detailing all the laws directed at homeless people in the United States.  Many other countries report similar “cosmetic” clearing of the streets.  It is vital that, where they exist, these laws be challenged and overturned.

One of my own experiences with this street clearing was when I stayed in Painesville, Ohio.  I had gotten paroled to my brother’s house and stayed in Painesville for four years.  During that time I witnessed homeless people that were sleeping in the park or even just sitting amongst themselves being approached by police and asked for identification and asked to leave the park.  Some people have even been banned from the park forever.  There were no signs stating that they weren’t allowed to sleep in the park or the consequences for doing so.  I, myself, have been banned from this park in their Downtown Public Square mainly because an event was coming up or taking place at that time.  So many places in America have problems with homelessness and street sleeping, and as countries, states, and in my opinion the homeless population will get worse.

There may be one possibility to alleviate some homeless situations at least for some of our younger homeless people – Adverse Possession.  “When a trespasser has occupied property for 21 years in Ohio, he may be able to acquire legal ownership through adverse possession.”  Legally, this means occupying or taking possession of property that does not belong to the squatter and doing so without the rightful owner’s permission.  Ohio state laws require that this occupancy keep the place up for 21 years continuously without interruption before the squatter can claim ownership.  In addition, the possession must be without the owner’s consent, with occupancy out in the open indicating to observers that the squatter appears to actually belong on the property.  I think that this should be reduced to a more reasonable time of 7 years especially property that is falling apart.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all rights reserved

Will A New Mayor Bring A New Response To Homelessness?

Commentary by Brian Davis

Akron is far behind other cities in public services to those who lose their housing.  They do not have a publicly funded men’s shelter and have almost no outreach assistance. They do not provide guaranteed access to shelter, and those who do not fit into the religiously based men’s shelter are forced to stay outside.  Their drop in centers do not offer food and they have one of the toughest laws in the United States on panhandling.   Now the City stands accused of stealing the valuables of homeless people and throwing them in the garbage with a lawsuit filed by a number of men who sleep outside. With 78,000 people living in poverty in 2013 according to the US Census in Summit County, we estimate that 6,600 people find themselves homeless in the County and many find their way to Akron looking for help.  With so few resources for homeless people and the limited infrastructure of shelter and services within the city, there are many people who sleep outside in the City.  Most will stay in basements or stay with families but others will spend time outside.

Homelessness is typically a short term proposition, but without a shelter network and a diversity of options to assist with housing, the length of time a person spends without housing only increases.  Time spent outside is expensive with greater involvement with the criminal justice system and hospital emergency room stays.  For years under the previous administration, Akron has responded with law enforcement instead of social services.  Akron does not seem to be attempting to decrease the number of people who have been homeless for long periods of time as part of the federal strategic plan to reduce homelessness.  They also are years behind in attempting to eliminate homelessness among veterans.  In looking on the Infoline website of available shelter resources which is regularly updated, there are very few shelter beds available for single men. It is not surprising that that there are a large number of men sleeping outside in Akron.

The policies of arresting people for purely innocent behavior were found to be expensive and ineffective, but Akron seems to be stuck in the 1990s over their homeless policies.  In visiting Akron, they have a bad problem with people begging for money at almost every freeway off ramp.  They have many people sleeping outside and very few outreach workers.  It is no wonder that community leaders are frustrated with the large number of homeless people.  But handling the problem with law enforcement instead of social services has the opposite impact on the community increasing the number of homeless people.

I testified in 2009 against the proposed panhandling legislation in Akron, which was approved and is the harshest panhandling legislation in the State of Ohio.  It is emblematic of the disregard for homeless people by elected officials in Akron.  All panhandlers are not homeless and all homeless are not panhandlers, but there is some overlap.  I have been working with people who are resistant to shelter for 22 years, and so have some better ideas for serving the population which would result in a decrease in people sleeping outside and would eliminate the need to send Public Safety or Sanitation workers to throw away items. 

I would suggest that the new Mayor:

  • Provide guaranteed access to shelter. If there is not a place to refer a person then there will be people sleeping outside.  It is also inhumane to push people around the downtown when there is not a bed inside available, and the Justice Department has made this point in recent court filings.
  • Coordinated outreach services is also needed to provide the best possible services to those living outside.  This can help connect a veteran to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and those struggling with PTSD with mental health services.  It is important to build trusting relationships with those who resist going to shelter.  If there are not people on the streets interacting with people on the streets, they get forgotten. 
  • Construct alternatives to panhandling.  Akron has the most severe legislation in the State of Ohio and it has not eliminated panhandling.  In fact, there are now a class of low income people who have a license to panhandle.  They now have a City sanctioned "job" called begging for money.   Sweeps and dumping of a homeless person's stuff does not work.  It only exacerbates the problem because people get tickets and get arrested, which makes it less likely they will find a job.  Start a street newspaper and ask the social service providers to do more to assist with finding income for those struggling on the streets. 
  • Police are not social workers and don’t ask them to push homeless people around.  They should not be drafted into forcing people into shelter or arresting people for purely innocent behavior of being outside.  Social workers and outreach staff should be asked to engage people living outside and provide help before anyone threatens the individuals who are resistant to going into shelter.  Society allowed these individuals to establish a home outside and forgot about them for months if not years, it is unfair to then attack these campsites and destroy their homes.
  • You must build more affordable housing and preserve the existing housing or plan on more and more money going to emergency services.  We still have people who have behavioral health issues, and so there are these huge holes in the social safety net. 
  • Akron should move to a central point of access for all homeless services.  The system is so confusing, and we need one place to go to get help.  Cash assistance is almost non-existence in the community.  Why can’t these County workers take on solving the problems associated with homelessness?  They could help with providing rental assistance, identification and birth certificates, referrals to behavioral health beds, and assigning all the shelter beds in the community.  Akron needs better legal assistance including protections to avoid evictions.
  • Expand health care for the homeless in the community especially for those on the streets.  There should be a broader effort to sign lower income people up for Medicaid, and getting health screenings to everyone living on the edge of homelessness.

It is a new day in Akron.  We hope that the new Mayor will work to end homelessness in Akron and put an end to making it illegal to be homeless. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

My Son Was Shot Due to Gun Violence: How do We Keep Them Safe?

By Tammy Hobbs

I remember I wrote an article sometime back about gun violence. I never knew that it would have happened to me with my son. It’s been so hard and stressful going through the ordeal and aftermath of my son, my blood, my baby was shot due to gun violence. God, I could think of that moment when I got the call from my daughter telling me that my son had been shot. It was one of the scary, heart dropping experiences, ever had to deal with.

God spared my son life. And I have been thanking him ever since the day. I thought my son was gone to call home. Why that’s all I kept saying. I still don’t believe my son had been shot due to gun violence. Life is so short and precious, I always say this. And to know that is very important.

So many people have lost their lives to gun violence including babies! Is this ever going to end? Tomorrow is never promised. So parents, guardians, please hold your kids, your family; hold them close to your heart. And let them know you love them every day. My two kids are my life, my everything[KP1] .  The feeling of almost losing them has really changed my outlook on life.  It’s scary. I could never imagine living life without my two kids. My son and daughter are my everything. They are the reason I breathe every day.  Please everyone, keep your kids close to your heart and your family close also. But some don’t get to have another chance in life. A lot of babies and children and adults have lost their lives due gun violence.                              

So keep the Prayers and the Faith!  

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved


 [KP1]

How I Made It From The Streets To An Apartment:

By Michael Vorhees

I sell the Street Chronicle as a newspaper vendor, I was homeless for 14 years 6 mos. The reason I was homeless for so long because I did not apply myself to get off the streets. Today what I do to stay off the streets is pay my rent, so I will have a place to call my own.

While I was on the streets, I had nothing coming in-- no money. Today I have Social Security Income, to help me. I also sell The Cleveland Street Chronicle to help me make it through the month. I also help out at the church, and help with feeding homeless people.  It helps me, remember where I came from. I really like being able to help.

If it was not for someone helping me, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I have been inside for 3 years 6 mos. I moved from under a bridge, to a place on East 55th street, to a place on the lake.  It might be a studio apartment, but it’s a place inside that I can call home.

 I really love being inside, it makes me feel good to help others. I can never look down on a person, because I been there.  If someone needs help, I try to be there for them. God has granted me with so much, I’m very thankful to be alive. My life is so much better, now that I have a place to live, staying clean and sober has been so much easier, because I am off the streets.

 God bless everyone!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

Metanoia Project Opens for Winter on Nov. 20

by Mike McGraw

When asked at the end of October how preparations are going for the Metanoia Project's offerings of overnight winter hospitality to Cleveland's shelter-resistant population for the fast-approaching winter of 2015-16, Carl Cook's immediate answer is simply "blessed". That helps set the tone for the interview with Metanoia's enthusiastic program manager, who then adds "good busy" to his description of their autumn activities. Metanoia will operate at St. Malachi Parish/Social Hall at 2459 Washington Ave. from November 20 through April 15, and during that period will offer shelter on all Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am, and will also offer emergency nights of shelter for those same hours on any Monday-Thursday nights when the temperature falls below 20 degrees.

They are equipped to shelter persons 18 and over, and they are the area's only coed winter shelter; couples of men and women who arrive together will be accommodated in the separate mens' and womens' sleeping areas, while children under 18 or families arriving with children under 18 will be networked out to facilities that are equipped to help them by the Metanoia staff.

Cook goes on to explain that the name "Metanoia" translates from the Greek as "reversal of thinking". That's why all those accessing the Project are offered the opportunity to participate in the Project's crucial Courage to Change program, and most of them accept the chance. During that 6-week course, Friday nights' classes are about traumas people have been assailed by; Saturdays' sessions are about life skills that can help the person succeed in future work and life experiences; and Sunday nights focus on spirit, which Cook emphasizes is not based on any one religious or denominational background.

Courage to Change orientation was November 27. Donations to help this critically important endeavor can be mailed as checks made out to the Metanoia Project at P.O. Box 93453, Cleveland, Ohio 44101. Information about donating online is also available at http://metanoiaproject.org/donate/

They had a huge Thanksgiving dinner for the guests, and the Homeless Memorial will be in the same location on December 21.  Metanoia will be open for both Christmas and New Years for those who decide not to go to shelter in Cleveland.

  Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all rights reserved

You’re Not Too Old For Anything:

 

   Age is nothing but a number!  You’re only as old as you feel!  Trust me, I’ve heard them all.  And, they’re mostly true, thanks to medical science. 

   The fortitude of the boomer generation, older Americans really are disrupting the limits of aging in ever more astonishing ways.

   Nothing is going to stop you from aging physically.  You can change the way you look by doing certain things, if you want, but you cannot stop getting older.

   So at 88 years old, it’s not something that’s on my mind every day.  I don’t get up in the morning saying, “Oh my dear, I’m old.”  I get up, and I say, “I hope it will be a good day.  I hope it will be things to smile about.”

   So I sell, the Street Chronicle, because I’m young at heart and I enjoy working with people.  It does not cost anything to be nice or pleasant.  The hardest part of selling the paper is the winter months.

   I like the early shift at the market, because it is very peaceful.

   Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

Understanding Life From Different Perspectives

By Kim Supermutt Goodman

When we are born we only know the life around us and it becomes normal. If our parents are kind and caring we grow up to believe that all people are kind and caring. Once we learn that there are people in the world that are not kind and caring we are surprised, upset or hurt or all of those. We often wonder why this person is so unkind or why they are unable to care. If we were abused as a child, we believe that abuse and neglect is a normal part of life. We assume that everyone is treated the way that we are. When we see that others are not treated the same way, we feel cheated, betrayed, jealous, upset or angry.  

The mind is a delicate part of your body. It operates our entire body. If there is a malfunction, our mind, physical health, mental health, and emotional health can suffer. We can control our mind and so can other people. When there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, the person is diagnosed with a mental disability. When someone struggles emotionally, they are considered to have an emotional disorder. Some people are more sensitive than others so they need more emotional support. Other people are more independent needing freedom. Extroverted people need more social interaction where introverted people need less social interaction. Special needs person’s need extra help and support in life. Others may have hidden disabilities. They will look like a regular person but could be dealing with a disability needing understanding.

It’s easy for a person to look at others and judge them. Judging others comes from a biased place. The person judging does not take into consideration how the other person may view the world. It is more beneficial to show compassion.  Having compassion opens your mind in an attempt to see someone or a situation differently. This helps you see outside of what you believed to be normal. The next time you ask yourself why someone is doing or not doing what you think they should, stop and think about life through their eyes. Take into consideration everyone is not like you. If you are a strong person, someone else might not be as strong.

It’s easy to look at a young man with his pants sagging, hat turned backwards and call him a thug. He might be a nice young man who desires to fit in with his peer group. You may wonder, “Why would a teenage boy sell drugs instead of getting a job after school?  He may be trying to help his single mother who works two jobs and there is no other job in the depressed neighborhood. His father is not involved in their life or helps take care of his siblings. His mother has an addiction problem, neglecting her responsibilities as a mother. You may wonder why a person would rob or kill someone without feeling any remorse. They may act this way because they grew up in a household lacking love or much contact with others. If a person was never shown love and ignored as a kid, how can you expect them to understand how to live in society?

It is easy to look at an addict and see them as hopeless with no future. They are hurting inside. Those who abuse drugs and alcohol to comfort themselves, they are emotionally sensitive, emotionally needy and unable to deal with life. It is not the right choice but the only choice they know. It’s easy to look at a felon and say he messed his or her life up while ignoring the reason why. It is easy to look at a homeless person assuming they are homeless because they lack motivation or are lazy, but not thinking about their history.

In society, we have too many labels and personal standards. If we put more effort in trying to understand people and their situations without labeling and judging them, the world would be a better place. If a person is able to see things from the other person’s perspective they will learn to understand each other. When we understand others, we learn to accept and help to help them better. If family notice a parent not doing their job, they should step in to assist where is needed. If they turn a blind eye to the child being neglected, they are leaving the child to deal with problems on their own. The child grows up taking matter into their own hands. How can we expect a child or a persons who lacks maturity to make responsible decisions? Being an adult does not make you responsible.

Next time you feel the urge to judge, remember everyone is different. Everyone has a different background. You learn that you have different beliefs. Differences makes the world what it is. If everyone were the same, the world would be a boring place.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

To Reduce Violence It’s All About The Way We Live

By Ken Payton

HELLO WORLD! IT IS TIME TO WAKE UP!

All of the gun violence that’s happening in our city is wrong.  Recent gun violence, including little children being killed, makes you question the safety of ourselves, and children as well.  We need to wake up and recognize that we as people are doing wrong in our lives.

It’s no fun being in jail, or somewhere hurt. It’s hard to hear that one of your loved ones has been hurt, incarcerated, or dead.   “What goes around, comes around!” that’s the way the world works.  If you are doing something that’s not right, stop! There will be a price to pay.  If there is someone that you know who isn’t doing the right thing, whether a friend or family member, tell them that it’s time to stop.

There are things we can do to better ourselves as people.  This is all about the way things are.  The Lord allows you to wake up, realizing there is a reason for that. Let’s do something that our families can be proud of; not things they will be ashamed of.   Know the opportunity you have waking up in the morning.  It’s a beautiful thing.   Do something positive with the opportunity you are so blessed to have!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

Intensive Outreach, Minimal Communication Leaves Homeless Encampment In The Dark.

By Eric Falquero and Olivia Street Newspaper in DC)Aldridge (

Provided by Street Sense

On the morning of Friday, November 20 an ultimatum loomed over residents of the Foggy Bottom tent encampment just down Rock Creek Parkway from the Watergate complex at 27th Street N.W.

            Two days earlier, waterproof notices had been posted around Camp Watergate, which included several satellite tent-clusters. The notices were attached to many tents individually, as well as tacked on top of the metal “general clean-up” signs that had been installed at the beginning of the month by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

    Homeless people have been sleeping under the freeway overpass for years. But only in the past several months has there been a ready supply of tent donations from a local charity to keep them safe and make them visible. Two to three tents could be seen on-site via Google Street view’s capture of the area in July. More than twenty tents now made-up the robust community.

       The Department of Public Works (DPW) would be disposing of personal belongings still in public space at 2 p.m. that afternoon, tents and all. Only ID’s, photographs and other items of obvious value would be stored temporarily for pickup.

    If this warning proved true, campers would have to find a new place to sleep. That uncertainty had been part of the problem all week. After cleanup notices were posted at the end of October, campers believed only trash and debris would be cleaned up after the notice period: a semi-regular occurrence. They were informed otherwise recently. But after much confusion on Monday November 16, the announced eviction never came to pass. Rumors flew through the camp Watergate community all week: everyone was getting apartments before anyone was evicted; this was federal land and D.C. didn’t have jurisdiction; if anyone’s tent was touched against their will, they could file assault charges. All three those statements are false.

    But there was no timeline, memo or speech given to residents regarding the camp’s fate. And city workers were expressly forbidden from speaking to the press, including the supervisor on site. The rumor mill was the only consistent source of information.

  It’s like trying to sleep next to a wrecking ball, and you don’t know when it’s going to drop,” described john, a camp resident.

Final 2-day eviction notices appeared Wednesday November 18. And no visible progress on anyone’s housing placement was seen until the next morning, with the exception of a couple that had left with promise of transport van to leave their tents unaccompanied and go look at potential housing placements.

   When Deputy Mayor for Health and Hudman Services Brenda Donald arrived shortly after 2 p.m. Friday, she held a brief private discussion with DPW staff before addressing the media. The cleanup and eviction would proceed as planned. She also announced that construction on a fence surrounding the area would begin by the day’s end, this was the day’s end, and this was the first step in a larger construction project. 

     DPW staff began posting white eviction notices on camper’s tents and belonging’s. Some defiantly tore the notices into pieces and refused to move.

       Tent’s mattresses, camp chairs and bags, the sanitation swallowed most everything whole.

         “At one point the guys from DPW took two grocery carts that…well I guess they didn’t belong to at least one of the Latino guys.  They took them and put them in the back of the truck and crushed them,” described Marina Strenznewski, Foggy Bottom Association President. “First of all, those things start at $250 a piece-what a waste. … There’s a mechanism to keep them and give them back. But also, grocery carts are for some of these people so vitally important. I never thought that I would grieve for grocery carts.”

        While the carts were being crushed, Streznewski watched one of the guys yell “you are devils, you are devils you are devils!” to the DPW workers.

           “Maybe one of the most heartbreaking things about today was all the government workers who told me they didn’t want to do it, they were under orders,” tweeted activist Diana Pillsbury.

      DPW loaded the belongings of those who did not resist into blue storage bins, promising they could retrieve them when ready. These campers were left staring at yellow grass where their tents had been, wondering where they would go that night.

        A fence was constructed the next day in the field where the camp had stood. Several tents and campers still held out under the freeway.

          The fenced –off area will be used to facilitate cleanup and inspection for a portion of the upper Potomac Interception Relief Sewer adjacent to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This maintenance has been needed since February and must occur before March 31,2016, according to John Lisle, a spokesperson man for DC Water. Permitting for the project began before initial cleanup notices were posted in October. It is linked to a backup in May 2014 that caused sewage overflow on the National Crescent Trail. No construction or digging will occur at the Camp Watergate site. It will be used as a staging area for physical work and equipment storage in relation to the Kennedy Center maintenance.

      “I did ask the Deputy Mayor to not do a blanket closure of these encampments across the city. As Miriam’s Kitchen explained to me: why is she spending all these resource’s doing that when she could be spending the same time and money and effort into giving people the services they need to get on their feet again?’ Councilmember David Grosso told Street Sense. Grosso was the only council member to stop by Camp Watergate during the week of the eviction. “They say that it’s pretty well proven that if you want to help someone when hypothermia season’s coming-don’t kick em’ out of those encampments. Those encampments are actually a safer place for them than wandering the streets and being unable to find them. “At least with the encampment you know where to target every single day with the vans and the better clothing and blankets that they need. You can actually care for them. If you kick em” out of the encampment, they’re scattered.” Outreach work with camp residents continues. According to Department of human Services spokeswoman Dora Taylor, there are 25 individuals targeted for homeless services. As of Tuesday December 1, 9 have selected and been placed into permanent housing already.

     For confidentiality reasons, DHS could not comment on specific camp residents.

      All media inquiries regarding the camp are being coordinate through Deputy Mayor Brenda Donald’s Office. Aside from housing placement data, questions regarding shelter conditions, whether or not tents should be confiscated during hypothermia season, if/when other city encampments would be handled similarly went unanswered.

        “He’s telling us about the continental breakfast and how you can take food up to your room from there. And ya know, I’m glad for him, I’m glad he has a place to stay,” former camp resident Stefanie Abbott said when she learned about several campers that were being housed in motel rooms while they awaited inspection. “But (DHS) knows our situation. We’re still out here and my husband is having problems walking.

         Part of the city’s 5-year plan to end homelessness and FY2016 funds include revamping the city’s emergency shelter system and expanding permanent supportive housing

          “They’ve got to be able to transform the system while you’re providing services,” Grosso said.

            As Street Sense went to press, it was discovered notices had been posted declaring that another cleanup would occur at the Watergate encampment site at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, December 2. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all rights reserved

Housing After Homelessness – Taking It One Day At A Time

   by Joyce Robinson

Ecclesiastes 8:6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery (KJV)

I’m a recently housed, formerly homeless female veteran. I moved into my current, new apartment March 2015. My recent struggle with homelessness has ended, only to be replaced by the challenge of becoming self-sufficient again.

Eccleisiastes 3:1  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2013 was a very rough year for me: my mother lost her fight with lung and stomach cancer in January; I became homeless in December. I was unemployed and had been struggling with unemployment for three years. I applied for positions that I was qualified for, as well as those for which I was told I was overqualified.

Selling my furniture, jewelry, books and CDs, enabled me to keep a roof over my head for a while, but in spite of my efforts to keep my apartment, the bottom fell out and I ended up in a women’s homeless shelter. On December 31, 2013. Happy New Year!?!

Eccleisiastes 3:2  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted: Out with the old year, in with the new. It’s been said that military veterans are teachable and adaptable, which is good considering the fact that while in the shelter, there were a lot of rules that I had to follow, and personal adjustments I had to make. My life as I’d known it, and the freedom I’d had, were no more.

The most difficult adjustment I had to make was having a 6 p.m. curfew. I was 55 years old, and had to be in, for the night, at 6 o’clock? Other rules included making sure that my room was inspection-ready on a daily basis; attending the mandatory weekly Employment Clinic meetings; completing my assigned chore every night; signing in and out of the building - listing the time out, where I was going and the time I’d return to the shelter. It was difficult, but I adjusted. Another major adjustment was being housed with about 14 other homeless women, their children and the noise that goes with all that!

Eccleisiastes 3:3  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up:  I came to think of Westside Catholic as a great place to fall apart and begin to put the scattered puzzle pieces of my life back together. Having access to psychiatrists and counselors, talking with other female veterans who could understand and empathize with my traumatic military experiences, and developing friendships with these women helped me a lot in my healing process.

Participating in the Escort program at Stokes Veterans Administration Medical Center, and working at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, have helped me to re-acclimate to being employed, learn new skills that I can transfer to another agency, should I choose to leave NEOCH, and regain my self-confidence.

Eccleisiastes 3:4  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance:  After 14 months of tears, counseling sessions, employment workshops and employment interviews, I moved into a 1-bedroom apartment with a balcony! Because I’m a military veteran, I’d gotten rental assistance, furniture and a $475 voucher for necessities for my new home.

Just as I’d had to learn to share living space with a whole slew of other women and their children, in my own apartment, I had to readjust to being by myself. Just as I’d had to adjust to a 6 p.m. curfew, once I moved, it took a few weeks and several friends to remind me, that I no longer had the 6 o’clock curfew! Ironically, the quiet was unsettling, as well, after having spent over a year living in ‘chaos.’

At the shelter, I had my own room, which provided a small refuge from the chaos of the house. However, I now have so much room, I wonder how I’d be able to deal with or fill it. I look at decorating magazines, visit stores and online sites to get an idea of how I’d like my living space to be.  Just as I did at the shelter, I take it one day at a time.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

Homelessness And Cared For Is All You Need

By: Demetrius Barnes

There was a time when I was walking and saw people laying on the street. I walked by them when they were sleeping.  I wanted them to know I was an angel. I had come by and I loved God’s creation. So, I had money in my pocket and I wanted them to know that somebody cared.

I placed some money in the hands of a few people on the street. I thought it was good that the people on the street knew about the Lord. I placed a $10 bill under the head of someone, I hoped that it didn’t blow away with the wind. I felt that it was very good for them to know that somebody cared like a tooth fairy. I would like to do this as often as possible because these people are sleeping in doorways downtown.

This man looked like he needed help.  I thought I would help him. He had little cover to lay under, not a lot. His shoes were on and he had a pillowcase with clothes in it. His clothes were dirty and colorful. He was sound asleep and looked like he was resting real well. As I continued on the streets, I saw them on manholes and they were sleeping with a clothing used as a blanket.   There was a stream on the manhole coming out covering him.

There are people that say these people have had some success in life and they had fallen through the cracks of life. They seem to have a little education. Some people cannot help the things that happen to them. When you walk down the street, you find more than one person sitting on the street and as you see them.  They all have the same thing in common, they are homeless.

I have not seen that man on the street again because I have looked for him. I pray that he is taken care of as he goes on in his life.  They are certainly going to need help, and I pray for their lives. I was told that most of them are men and women struggling. They are struggling thinking that no one cares.  It feels good when someone cares about you when you are having tough time. Most people just take it one day at a time and others just don’t know where they are going to take a shower.

I noticed when they go to the soup kitchen the people are feeling down a bit. The only thing that keeps them up is the food, which they always need. All we have to do on the other side is have a smiling face to show them that every kind deed is love. These people, some of them, can pull through, they just need a loving hand on the other side of homelessness, and tell them that it’s all right and that God loves them very much. Each and every one deserves care in a very special way.  They are individuals that are having hard times. They are misunderstood. Most homeless people know where they can get hot meals and showers without any one having to tell them. Most people just go on in life being caught in the system and they fall victim to circumstance.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

Good Works Motivate Vendor To Do More

By Darryl Dawkins

This has been a year of fantastic outcomes for the men I work with at one of the local shelters for fragile and disabled men.  We have consistently been able to house those individuals deemed hard to work with and impossible to reach by many in the rest of the homeless shelter system.

In this shelter we work on establishing relationships with the men, time is not as important as breaking through any barriers that may exist at the time of the introduction the shelter.  We don’t pressure them to leave as soon as possible like the other shelters.   We help to get the resident and their case manager worker together on a regular basis, this helps with the steady administration of meds, contact with Social Security so that any benefits they are entitled to can start and housing can be obtained.

This may seem easy, but it all comes back to the relationship. We take our residents out into the shelter for haircuts, plays, shopping, movies, fishing, picnics and toys and gifts for loved ones at Christmas. Many things we do normally and take for granted, homeless people often feel excluded from being able to do.  By reintroducing them to these activities we help them to open up and talk about life outside the shelter.

If landlords are willing to work with and accept the vouchers that assist with rent, there are case managers who keep their doors open to help, even when a client is being difficult to work with.  The doctors and nurses that glove up and dive in when we have a situation that may others would run away from and  the individuals and organizations that provide us with blankets, coats socks, boots and hygiene products throughout the year enable us to concentrate on all the other things needed to make a broken life whole again.  All of the volunteers and people who donate to the homeless programs  make it possible for all of this to work.

THANK YOU CLEVELAND for all you do! The agencies in the city are only able to make the strides we do because of the people in the city that care.

They helped motivate me into believing that I could change my life into something better.  They encouraged me to become a leader in the struggle to end homelessness in Cleveland.

I now find myself trying to encourage and motivate some of the men at the local disabled men’s shelter into believing in themselves.  Over the years I think I’ve reached a few at least if you count the thank you’s  I get whenever I run into somebody that was at the shelter and we helped get housing.

Sometimes we make a difference even when we aren’t looking to. Thank you all for giving me a chance to do so.    

Dawkins out--still on this side of the grass.                 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all rights reserved

Do You Want Her Back?

We were just faced with a dilemma recently at the Street Chronicle. One of our vendors was suspended for a year. Let me explain the root of her suspension and the fine points she has as a vendor. Before I tell you who it is let me explain the particulars. First, she has a nasty personality toward most of the vendors she works with. Second, she is disrespectful in the meetings that we have to determine who will work at the West Side Market. Third, she disregards the rules and regulations when she is suspended. Plus, a few other minor rules and infractions. The bright side of this conflict is that she is one of the leading vendors when it comes to selling the Street Chronicle. In most of the contest that we have, she is the Top seller hands down. You may see her anywhere Downtown, Rock n Roll of the Hall of Fame, Walmart, and other various locations. So even though she has some bad qualities, she does possess a few Good ones. Now, we have given her several chances since she came back to the Street Chronicle. Over the years she has been suspended numerous times for different rule infractions. Each time we have voted her back in to sell the Street Chronicle. Each time she has promised not to violate the rules again and each time she does. The rule she finally broke that got her an indefinite suspension was that she got caught selling the Street Chronicle while under suspension. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” She has begged and pleaded to come back, but I think most of the vendors are tired of giving her chance after chance, after chance. And are at their wits end. Finally, at this time we were aligned with the Downtown Alliance well during suspension, she was disrespectful to one of their representatives and was suspended once again. I, myself want to know how many chances shall we give this individual. Is enough ’nough? Or does she deserve one more ‘Bite of the Apple?’ This brings me to the crucial question that I propose to the general public and our customers. Do you want her back? The vendor that I am writing about is Delores, a middle-aged woman who has been selling the Street Chronicle for quite some time, as well as when previously known as the Homeless Grapevine. I write this article because the Vendors are conflicted over all of this. So I come to the public to see if putting her on a year or better suspension is too harsh? If, you remember who she is we would like your feedback after you read this article. Unfortunately, as I was writing this article I was informed that Delores was suspended indefinitely for disobeying yet another rule. I guess some people don’t know how good they have something until it is taken away. I, myself feel sorry for her because with all her faults she was still a member of the Street Chronicle vendor family. I was taught that the two most important things is God and Family, and now I don’t even believe she has Family. “What a waste of her potential. In closing I would like to say these words to Delores if she happens to read this article. Everyone was not against you sometimes you have to give a little to get a lot. I wish you the best in your endeavors; and learn it’s not, nice to fool Mother Nature. “Smile”

Editor’s Note: Buzzy represented the vendor’s position in the appeal before a three person committee at the Coalition. Delores had an advocate represent her. There is a possibility of her getting a reduction in her suspension if she can demonstrate that she has addressed her issues.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all right reserved

Homeless Coalition And Homeless Congress Want Dramatic Changes At The Women’s Shelter

The residents of the local shelters met at their regular Homeless Congress meeting in September and unanimously approved a resolution asking that the County include the following 12 items in any future contract with Frontline Services to administer the Community Women’s Shelter at 2227 Payne Ave.  The Homeless Coalition endorsed the position of the Homeless Congress in November 2015.  The women have filed formal written complaints and held meetings with the CEO of Frontline Services, but have not seen many changes.  The women who stay at the shelter still have out of control staff, little help in moving into housing and a broken grievance process.  The staff consistently under order food for the dinners with 165 meals ordered while 180 to 210 women sleep at the shelter.  The bedrest problem still exists every night with many disabled and elderly individuals sleeping on the floor.   There are far too many people sleeping in this County funded building and the staff do not foster an environment to move people into healthier and more appropriate housing. 

The County Council held a hearing without inviting any women who sleep at the shelter and we have seen women fighting at the overcrowded shelter and staff refusing to intervene.  The women met the ADAMHS Board CEO and have not seen many changes with many severely mentally ill women sleeping at the shelter.  The Community Women’s shelter is extremely overcrowded with WEWS News covering the story of overcrowded conditions.   These are taxpayer dollars that are funding this shelter with very little oversight and many pregnant women sleeping at the shelter including on the floor.  The taxpayers who fall on hard times are not served when they show up at the Community Women’s Shelter. We have already seen women so distraught at the shelter that they attempted suicide in the middle of the night.  If Council does not step in here there is going to be a horrible tragedy that explode in the media. 

Here are our approved list of demands that we ask you include in any further contract with Frontline Services:

All Frontline Staff who currently work at the shelter would be laid off over the next three months (one third at a time), and would have to reapply for their jobs or accept a transfer to another position within Frontline that never would involve contact with the Community Women’s Shelter at Norma Herr.  An elected group of current or recent residents of the shelter would interview the potential employees and would have a meaningful input regarding potential staff. 

An independent resident council would be started to comment on staffing, maintenance, facility issues, food, grievances, and the daily operation of the agency.  These notes would be collected by a third party (not an existing subcontractor of Frontline) and presented to senior staff at Frontline.  The staff would respond in writing and those notes would be available to other residents by being displayed.  Frontline could hire an independent third party group for the exclusive purpose of overseeing a resident council.

There are a number of residents who are creating a hostile living environment and are not being sanctioned or punished for all the problems they create. The resident council would be allowed to recommend for transfer or discharge residents who are regularly violating the rules or fighting and not being disciplined by the staff.  Frontline staff/client rights officer would have the final say on the population living in the shelter, but at least would have to respond in writing to the concerns. 

The shelter must re-write their grievance procedure with the input and approval of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  Grievances must be done in a more timely manner and must have a written response.  At the end of the process there must be an independent third party (non-Frontline staff) who can make the final decision.  This could be a volunteer attorney who has no relationship with the shelter, staff or the agency.  This cannot be a subcontractor of the agency such as Cleveland Mediation Center, to make final decisions on grievances submitted to the agency. The main topics of the grievances need to be displayed on a weekly basis with some non-identifying information released about the results.  This is to assure that people trust the grievance process and will be willing to complete a grievance. There also must be some consequence for the staff if they are regularly the subject of complaints or are found to be violating the rights of residents.

The shelter has to do a better job of accepting help from the outside to improve the conditions.  They need to have one staff dedicated to accepting church groups who want to donate items or volunteer or serve a dinner.  Residents should be encouraged to assist and volunteer to help at the shelter in order to improve the conditions. 

The Shelter Rules and Regulations will be rewritten with the input of an independent resident committee by January 2016.  The shelter needs to offer more incentives to those who live at the shelter to participate in programming and quickly move on to housing.  They need to divide up the shelter into smaller communities with staff who specialize in assisting special populations and offer specialized care with programs for people in need of help such as addiction, mental health, students, job seekers, or those seeking housing.  This does not mean dividing up the shelter by different populations in different bedrooms, but building the concept of community among like-minded individuals within the shelter.  They need to offer more medical assistance to those who are on bedrest or movement to more appropriate facilities. 

Resident input should be sought as part of employee performance evaluations and those comments should be taken into account when deciding on promotion or salary increases.  If the employee does not get at least ten resident comments either positive or negative, the senior staff need to gather additional input.

The director of Frontline needs to meet with the residents at least quarterly to hear concerns and ways to improve the shelter.  No staff working at the shelter are allowed to attend this meeting.

Since the shelter has had repeated violations of fair housing rules by not offering bed rest ordered by doctors and not respecting the rights of the disabled or the LGBT HUD rules, the shelter must display the fair housing rules that they are following. 

The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center or Rape Crisis Center will have a female staff person on site everyday who can respond independently to sexual harassment and related issues by the women.

Frontline will accept that there is a need for a separate shelter for severely mentally ill women and will begin to work on finding and funding a separate facility.

If changes are not implemented by September 2016, the Homeless Congress and NEOCH will revisit the idea of changing the service provider who oversees the Community Women’s Shelter.   

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all rights reserved 

Cleveland Needs More Family Shelters as the Pope Has Directed

An Open Letter to Bishop Richard Lennon of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese:

As you are aware the Pope has constructed a new shelter in Vatican City.  Here is how the Huffington Post described the shelter “Pope Francis will open a homeless shelter on the edge of Vatican City, the latest move by the pontiff to help poor people in Rome.  The shelter is under construction on Via Penitenzieri, just a few steps away from the Vatican walls, a Holy See spokeswoman said.” 

During the Pope’s visit to the United States he brought a message that we all need to serve the poorest among us. This is from the New York Times: “The pope is saying with this visit, you need to get involved with the poor,” said Msgr. John J. Enzler, the chief executive of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, while he waited for the pope to arrive. He’s saying to all people, ‘Get out in the streets, get dirty, and be a church on the street.’ ”

The Huffington Post described the Pope’s visit this way: “I want to be very clear. We can’t find any social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever for lack of housing,” he continued. “We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help and his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He tells us this clearly, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’"

In Cleveland, we are having a huge issue with an increase in family homelessness and single women overflowing the entry shelter.  We are seeing hundreds of families being “diverted” from shelter every year because the shelters are so full and we continue to close shelters.  We have nearly every night 190 women sleeping in the Community Women’s Shelter while we only have 130 beds.  The County continues to stuff more and more women into this same building creating a toxic and dysfunctional facility in which very few can get help.  We need the resources and authority of the Diocese to begin to address the issue of homelessness

The County will not approve additional shelter beds using public money because it shows a retreat in their current strategy and that the current plan for “ending homelessness” is not working.  We need the religious community to step forward to care for these families or these women who are trying to put their lives together.  Outreach workers are finding pregnant women living on the streets more and more often.  We should not emulate the Roman Empire and allow women to give birth to their children in mangers in our community.

We appreciate all the work that the Catholic Charities does to meet the hunger needs of those struggling in our community, but we urge you to follow the lead of the Pope with introduction of a shelter for families or women in Cleveland or better in the suburbs to serve the quarter of the population from outside the City.  We urge you to use Catholic resources to help us to protect women and children in this community, get dirty and be a church for the streets of Cleveland.

Sincerely,

Brian Davis 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

From My Experience, This is How Some People Become Homeless

By Bobbette Robinson

I know a number of people in my family who became homeless.  Some people lost their jobs, or lost their SSI checks and income then they lost their houses.  Others lost custody of their kids, while some have had to hit rock bottom and had to start over from scratch.  They have nowhere to go and are sleeping in doorways with their children, they live in empty houses and abandoned buildings.  They are sleeping in cars, trucks and in local shelters which offer them help.  Everywhere you look there are homeless people.  They don’t have a place to shower or cook and eat food received at a pantry. They can’t wash their clothes, they don’t have a bed or pillow to lay their head on. They have nowhere to store their personal belongings. 

Some of them are bad and resort to hopping in and out of cars jacking money from people because they have nowhere to live.  People see them and try to help.  They pull up and offer them food, money and shelter.  Some of the people accept the help and some don’t because they are alcoholics and drug addicts.  They abuse the help because they need a fix.

Some of them get help from church outreach people who drive around and offer them food and clothing, and some don’t want the help.  Some of them have income while others can’t get income because they do not qualify for help.  Some get disability income while others can’t get it and they are not willing to go to work to earn a living.  Some of the ones that are getting disability are still homeless because on top of the check they need counseling too.  Some need a security deposit and first month’s rent to be able to get an apartment and it’s more than they bring home for one month, so the security deposit is sometimes impossible to come up with.

Some people become homeless because they get kicked out of their family’s house.  Some do not keep up the property and they get put out of their homes.  I met some in the Women’s Shelter who had turned 18 and were put out of their foster homes when the money ran out for the foster parents.  Some people become homeless when they are living with a parent who dies and now they don’t have anyone to take care of them and they have a hard time keeping a house.

My mom got sick with cancer, I was living with her with my children and she got sick and died.   I had nowhere to go and I became homeless.  I ended up living with my sister or my boyfriend back and forth.  My children were staying with my sister.  My daughter got her own place when I was staying with my boyfriend while I was looking for housing for my son and me.

Homelessness can happen to anyone.  Most people are just a paycheck away from homelessness.  There are many reasons why people become homeless.

 I want to thank the shelters, thank the government for my check, and I want to thank the different churches and organizations who go around on the streets helping homeless people.  I want to also thank the Westside Market for being such a big help to me and my kids by allowing me to sell the papers there and I want to thank all the people who buy the papers and donate food, shoes and clothes to those in need. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved