The homeless social service providers had a really good meeting with the Cleveland Police Department in early May to talk about the upcoming Republican National Convention. There is a lot of concern that homeless people especially those who do not use the shelters will be targeted by angry demonstrators. There is concern from homeless social service providers that this fragile population will be swept up in the anger of the current political environment in America. Police also have a concern that demonstrators who are only in Cleveland for disorder and chaos will attempt to blend into the homeless community.
Thanks to Commander Stephens and Officer Petkac for hosting the meeting at their brand new Station on Chester. We also need to thank new Council member Kerry McCormack and all the homeless service providers who attended.
Some of the things we need to work on include:
- Security planners are trying for the smallest footprint to minimize disruptions to as close as possible to the Quicken Loan Arena as possible. Key working strategy is "minimally invasive."
- We need to solidify plans for the near West Side of Cleveland including an overnight drop in center. We need to have a safe place two weeks before and during the convention for homeless people. We hope Metanoia will be open for one or two weeks.
- We need to make sure that the shelters keep people during the day so that they do not have to be out during the day.
- We also need a day time drop in center on the East Side of Cleveland. This came into question because a number of facilities are having issues with not having security available. Cleveland Police cannot be deployed to private facilities during the Convention. They have to be ready to work all of the hours of the convention if necessary.
- We are going to offer training advice with police from out of town with a "Dos and Don'ts in working with homeless people in Cleveland flyer. These flyers can be distributed and will be a part of the orientation.
- NEOCH staff will be the liaison between the police and the outreach teams. Any issues contact Brian at NEOCH and he will get with our contacts at the Police Department.
- Jim Schlecht talked about securing rental assistance for a group of homeless people during the convention. He mentioned how New York City had helped 85 people get into housing when they hosted the convention in the past.
- There was also discussion of some tickets to special events or creating a "Stand Down" type event so there are alternatives to homeless people to being downtown during the convention.
- We did learn that there should not be major road closures despite the rumors to the contrary. At this point the Lorain Carnegie Bridge will not be closed, but it could be packed full of travel buses so may want to be avoided.
- It looks like East 9th St. will be dedicated to transporting media and delegates with a lane for these buses and livery vehicles. This means that cross traffic will only be allowed at Lakeside, Superior, Euclid and Carnegie. Best to walk Downtown and avoid using a vehicle during the convention.
- Payne Ave. will have a parking lane for police cars, but should be available for auto traffic.
- We will have one final discussion with the Cleveland Police in late June to get all of our ducks in a row.
On a personal note, the homeless community is going to miss Commander Stephens who will retire after the convention. He was very forthcoming and transparent in his dealings with homeless people over the last five or six years. He came to the Homeless Congress after the shooting death of two homeless people in 2012 and asked for calm. He guaranteed that there would be an investigation and admitted the police had made extreme errors in judgement that contributed to the death of these unarmed citizens. He was committed to a fair process for investigating and seeking justice in the death of Williams and Russell. He agreed to return to explain the results after the judicial system had completed their work. This was before the trials, the justice department intervention and all that has transpired since that fateful night in the East Cleveland school yard. Commander Stephens has tried to foster a level of respect for those without housing living in the Third District in Cleveland and continue the work of Commander Gonzalez.
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