Thanks to Lakewood State Representative Nickie Antonio who attended the Homeless Congress in April 2012. For those who do not know Nickie is a progressive legislator from the West Side of Cleveland. She was a former director at the Women's Center and has done a great deal of work with homeless services locally. She is an expert on HIV/AIDS as the former chair of the regional planning group. She taught at CSU and began her statewide career in the state house in January 2011. Antonio is or was a member of the Cleveland Tenants Organization board and was a former Lakewood City Council Member.
She warned everyone that as a Cleveland area democrat she has very little power down in Columbus. Antonio told those gathered that many of the elected officials from Cleveland care about foreclosures, homeless people, affordable housing, and health care, but those are not priority issues by the conservative members of the state legislature. Rep. Antonio was gracious with her time, and was willing to listen to the concerns of women and those living in shelter. She was honest that the state of Ohio provides very few dollars to shelters, and does not have a big stake in the operation of the shelters. There was still a great deal of concern expressed that women do not have a separate drop in space during the day anymore. Last year, the women's shelter was forced to close during the day because of an overflowing population while the re-deployed staff for the evening.
Antonio talked about her foreclosure bill that might have a chance for passage. She talked about the hunger needs of many in her community and the funding of those projects that might have a chance for passage. Antonio had introduced an anti-bullying bill. We asked her to look at re-introducing a homeless hate crimes bill that never got a hearing in 2009. The closing of Bridgeway Mental Health Center was brought up as a sign of future problems. There was a desire to see the Cleveland area affordable housing site run by Socialserve.com to become a statewide website, and stop wasting money on the Ohio Housing Locator. Some of the members of the Congress were concerned that they needed more information in the community about social services and programs. There was a discussion about how lucky we are locally with some communities not even having access to shelters. There were many who mentioned how fortunate they were to have found a bed in a shelter, and while there were improvements needed they were thankful for most of the people working to help. Women's shelter staff were present, and they mentioned that they do not have the funds to do what is necessary to serve everyone who comes to the door with resources and wrap around services. They do their best with the limited amount of funds that are not growing with inflation. Many of the residents of the shelter wanted Rep. Antonio to know that despite the stereotype they are finding motivation within the shelters to take classes, doing job searches, and looking on HousingCleveland to find housing.
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