The Shelter Resistant called to complain about the Cleveland Plain Dealer article earlier this week about the campsites that have grown on the near West Side. There are a number of people who would never live in a shelter even if we opened up the Renaissance Hotel as a shelter. I was stuck in DC during hurricane Sandy, so I was not in town when the article appeared. A few of the guys called the office to complain about this invasion of privacy by reporter Mark Naymik. This is always a tricky situation since publicity usually results in more people offering help, but this is also their home and no one likes a reporter trampling around your home describing your castle no matter if it is brick or blue plastic sheets. This "new" neighborhood is on the side of the hill that is slipping into the Cuyahoga River, and long since abandoned by pedestrian and commuters after the street was closed.
Evidently, there was only one guy around, a veteran with some mental issues judging by the conspiracy theories he was relating to the reporter. The other residents of Riverbed Road were not happy that the reporter looked in their tents. They did not like that the veteran was representative of the residents, and the characterization of their beer choices as "poverty beer." They wanted me to pass along a message to the reporter to "stay out of their s@#t." I have done that here.
This population is one of the reasons that it is going to be impossible to meet the November 2014 deadline to end veteran's homelessness. The veteran interviewed in the story has been in housing before and most of the current VA staff are aware of him. He has multiple barriers to housing, and he has a deep mistrust for institutions such as government, the Veterans Administration, and the media. It would take multiple agencies with health care, housing, mental health and legal help all sitting around the same table working together to stabilize these type of gentlemen. Many have addictions or they self medicate to work through their issues. They need care that just does not currently exist in our community. They need a "no barrier" shelter in which everyone is welcomed. Then they need help clearing up issues and building a trusting relationship with someone. Then they need a level of care and understanding while in housing that really does not exist at this time. We have a number of square pegs trying to access the VA system that need to fit into all the round holes we have built.
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