Yesterday, WCPN and the morning show, the Sound of Ideas, featured a discussion about homelessness or more specifically a look at Dan Kerr's book Derelict Paradise which traces the history of homelessness in Cleveland. We had a Street Voices speaker, Sheri West on who successfully transitioned from shelter back into housing in 2008 and 2009. An interview with Ms. West will be in the next Street Chronicle. I was also able to participate. Jeff Kaiser Executive Director of Haven of Rest in Akron participated by telephone. Haven of Rest is similar to the City Mission in Cleveland in that they do not take any government funding and have a strong relationship of involving religion in the solutions to homelessness.
Dan Kerr will have a book signing in Cleveland at Mac's Backs paperbacks in Coventry on April 12. Here is a link to more information on that event. Dan's book is excellent for documenting a long history of homelessness. It is amazing how things changed from the 1930s to the 1980s, and how the service sector exploded in the late 1980s when the number of people seeking help also exploded. Dan does a good job talking about public policy issues especially during the bad 1990s when the City of Cleveland really went to war against homeless people.
I really enjoyed hearing form Sheri who gave her personal perspective on how difficult it is to find affordable houisng for those without a disability and those who are not a senior. Dan Kerr interviewed over 100 people experiencing homelessness during his years serving food on Public Square in the 1990s and 2000s. It is no wonder that if you interview all these people who are facing the worst period of time in their lives that they are going to have only bad things to say about everything. In addition, the shelters in Cleveland during the 1990s and early 2000s were not healthy places, and there still is no government law regulating the shelters in most cities including Cleveland. I was surprised that Mr. Kaiser did not challenge Dan more about his opinions regarding shelters expressed in the book. It was also strange that Mike Sering who runs the largest shelter in Ohio did not refute some of Dan's conclusions. After the murder of one of the shelter directors in Cleveland it is unfortunate that most of the shelters have in fact become more institutional and prison-like with armed police in some and metal detectors in most. As always, the question of panhandling came up from a caller, even though that is a small minority of the population, but it is the thing that people most associate with homelessness.
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