I can't believe that the RNC went so well for Cleveland and homeless people. It started out last week when there were people, strangers and out-of-towners, showing up looking for help at the Coordinated Intake for shelter and there was a contingent down in the Flats looking to pitch a tent. This was worrisome and there was concern that we were going to be flooded with additional homeless people looking for a place to sleep. The only other city to have guaranteed access to shelter and host a convention was New York City and there is not a lot we can learn from a city with 50,000 people sleeping in shelter every night (Cleveland has 1,800 in shelter every night).
We were ready and the social service providers really pulled together to make this work and not face disruption. We tried to find an alternative place for the daytime on the East Side of Cleveland in order to replace the Cosgrove Center. This did not work, but HandsOn NEO and the Foodbank really stepped up to provide bagged lunches everyday for those staying outside in Cleveland. Thanks to Catholic Charities for helping with the lunches. It was helpful to have the shelters open 24/7 so people did not get caught up in the demonstrations or had to interact with the 2,800 police from out of town.
The Coordinated Intake stepped up to screen people and find alternatives for those who were not really homeless and not from Cleveland. The outreach team stepped up to provide transportation to the West Side and they regularly talked to those staying outside to make sure they were safe. We also must thank all the services on the West Side who extended their hours including West Side Catholic, St. Herman's, St. Pauls and St Malachi. A special thanks to Metanoia for opening in the summer and serving 60 people per night. They really helped to keep people safe, and were critical to keeping down problems with overflow. Metanoia being open was critical to our successful management of the homeless situation in a caring and dignified manner during this major event.
We did not forcibly displace anyone in Cleveland. We started this last month with the City forgetting to include homeless people in the plans. NEOCH went to court with the help of the ACLU to correct this oversight. The Police and all the law enforcement were very helpful and treated homeless people as they treated other residents. They visited many of the encampments to warn them about "outside agitators." Once the convention started, I did not hear any complaints or concerns about interactions with law enforcement. I did not get any calls from shelter providers, outreach workers or homeless people.
It was all amazingly smooth. The demonstrations were peaceful and extremely hot. Organize Ohio did a great job with the March to End Poverty and we have two reflections on our blog about the walk from Ramona and Megan. Public Square was packed full of strange people and delegates who had very little in common with Clevelanders. There were older hippies, religious zealots, law enforcement, media and average Cleveland amazed by all the guests visiting our city. All of these diverse groups were interacting in peace and without the anger we saw on the convention floor. It was a good week for Cleveland, but we all have to admit we are glad it is over.
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