A few Halloween stories to scare you. These are true stories that happen every day in Cleveland to homeless people.
A Nightmare on Payne Ave...
One, two, Freddy's coming for you. / Three, four, better lock your door. / Five, six, grab your crucifix. / Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. / Nine, ten, never sleep again...because you stayed a couple of weeks at the Women's Shelter. A woman is raped by an intruder in her apartment in the suburbs of Cleveland and no longer feels safe in the apartment. She struggles with nightmares and loses her job while constantly reliving the pain and horror. She can't keep the apartment and does not get help for her PTSD. This woman is your mom or your sister or your daughter or a total stranger, but she is real. She suffers in quiet and ends up at the Women's Shelter in downtown Cleveland, because there is no where else for her to go or she may be too proud to ask her family to take her in. She may not want her family to see her pacing every night because she cannot sleep or she may feel ashamed. She had heard rumors of how scary the shelter on Payne Ave is, but the rumors do not do it justice.
She gets a mat on the floor because she is new and there are no beds available. She quickly realizes that there are 60 women ahead of her to get a bed. They run out of food and the bathrooms have no privacy. She weeps all night because of the rubble that is her current life unable to sleep because of the nightmares and the lights on in the dining room all night. There are women bickering and fighting some because of their own demons and others because they were just released from jail or the conflicts that naturally happens betweent these two groups. It is one of the circles of hell that she has to overcome while dealing with her own memories of the rape.
The staff are nasty, burnt out and no better than guards in a prison without locks. They work for an organization that started out treating mentally ill folks, but none of them seem to recognize the signs of depression, PTSD, or manic behaviour that is all around them. They do not ease the pain or provide a loving hand when these women are most in need. They cannot offer suggestions for where to go for help or how to quickly move back into housing. They see 200 women per night suffering and punch out and go home to a warm shower to wash away the grief that permeates their job.
This is nightmare on Payne Ave that we all bare responsibility for allowing to exist. We have a created a holding station for women we want to forget or we don't care about. We support a place that further damages women when they most need our comfort. We have no idea how this will change them or scar them for rest of their lives. Will they be harmed by the extreme conditions or the coldness to human suffering that exists on Payne Ave? Will their relationships with family be permanently damaged? Will they ever be able to get a normal night of sleep?
A Tell Tale Family Saga...
"TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?"
What am I going to do? It is rainy cold Saturday, and my kids have a slight fever. I am supposed to be the bread winner for the family, and I am letting my family down...I am scared that someone will find out that my family is living in an abandoned house without heat.--Help--We are at the end our rope with food since it is the end of the month. The teacher in my kid's school suspects that they are homeless...she is asking lots of questions. What if she finds out? Will she tell on us? Will the kids give too much information?--Fear--Afraid that someone will call the child abuse hotline...Regret...How did this all go so wrong?
I call Central Intake and they are closed...How do I get in shelter? I don't want to go to shelter...they are possibly going to break up the family?...Dread...At our time of most need are we going to be separated? Providence House for the kids? Mom to the women's shelter and I would be in the shelter with 400 other men...Rough...Violence?...Anger...How would we ever repair the family if we get broken up?
There is no one working to place families on Saturday in Cleveland, so we have to wait to talk to a supervisors who is on salary and can be drafted into listening to our problems...Exploitation...They have to take time away from their family to try to help my family. Do we trust them? Should I tell them that we are staying in a place that is awful for our kids? How honest should we be?...Will she hear the fear in my voice? Will she allow us to get into a shelter together? What do I do...?
It did not go well...I decided not to risk being found out so I did not tell her where we were living currently...I did not realize that it would reduce the emergency in her eyes...Stupid...Insanity...Who made these rules? Did I just harm my own family? Can my family make it until Monday when a bed may open up in this unsafe location? I wish I could do the call all over again--My heart is heavy here and I don't see much help for my family in this city...
Hansel and Gretel May Have been Disabled
Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children. The boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel. He had little to bite and to break, and once, when great dearth fell on the land, he could no longer procure even daily bread.
Who would be so gullible to go into a house made of candy? Who would trust an elderly woman who looked like a witch? In the end they figured out a plan to defeat the witch, but what if Hansel or Gretel or both were disabled and that was the cause of the wood cutters issues? They could not afford the cost of care, tutors, health care, and housing associated with the disabilities of the children.
Gretel and her son Hansel who was severely disabled showed up seeking shelter. Since he was by law an adult he could not stay with his Mom in the family shelters. They were taking up the space for two families and so the shelter needed to move them along. Gretel had to figure out what she was going to do with her disabled son. If she threw him to the wolves at the men's shelter, she knew that he would not make it out of the fine looking building with the candy exterior. Or would she risk living in a car or an abandoned building? Gretel may be able to afford staying in a motel for a week, but after that she would have to make some tough decisions. There was no one in our community throwing down bread crumbs for a severely disabled 21 year old and her Mom to return to housing.
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