Youth Voice Their Opinions on Homelessness

Homeless People Are Not Different

by Victor Penro

Homeless people are treated like inferior beings by other people. It is not right for people to treat

the homeless like that. Homeless people die by being ignored. Actually, homeless people have greater spirits then most people with houses. The reason why they have a greater spirit is that they go through a lot in life other people cannot handle. The government is not doing much to help the homeless. I think they should make a new system to help homeless people get off the streets.

I do my best to help homeless people because I can understand the pain of having the feeling of not surviving because they do not have a place a live. There are ways to help the homeless people get a place to live. The Grapevine Newspaper is a good idea for making money for the homeless people. The police on the street do not treat the homeless people right when they are trying to stay warm. They force the homeless off benches, hassle the homeless, and pick on them. The police should bring blankets for the homeless to use and transport them to places the homeless need to go to. Eight out of ten homeless people do not live to get off the streets.

Homeless people are in danger on the streets. Sometimes homeless people get murdered for no reason while sleeping on benches and in alleys. Statistics show this happening with one out of six homeless people. The reason some homeless are killed is that some people are severely bothered by homeless people or for the reason of insanity. That’s terrible. They have been through enough already and they get killed. The bottom line is homeless people need special help from us and we are not providing it. That is the main reason homeless people need to get off the streets.


Alone With No Home

by Travis Lichtenfeld

Do you ever wonder who the homeless are, or get scared when they ask you for money? Well, I did and I was taught to ignore them. The stereotypes and the abuse the homeless get are rude and mean. People act as if they are so perfect, and that the homeless are absent minded and disgusting. There's more to homelessness than that, and you can't judge a homeless individual by their looks or way of living. We are brought up in a community that deals with schooling, job opportunities, food in every cupboard, and at least ten outfits in our closet. If you take everything in the last sentence and make it the opposite, you will get a little idea of how life is for homeless people.

I think people only worry about themselves and look past the struggling homeless population. You may think that it is their fault and they just don't care, but most always that is not true! I believe that the homeless have more wisdom and courage than most of us. They are not proud of the lifestyle they live, and they try to fit in with the general public.

Shelters are a great thing for those in need, but most of them are over-crowded and they have to turn down many people. I think the systems some of the shelters have are extremely helpful. The residents can learn job skills and they are encouraged to find a job. At some of the shelters, children can receive a free check-up at a clinic. In shelters or soup kitchens, they do not serve the kind of food that a very young child needs for healthy growth and development. Homelessness affects us all, we've seen it all, heard it all, and we all need to try to prevent it!


Situation Homelessness

by Jay Robbins

The unit that we learned was on the homeless and what kind of people they are. I have learned a lot about the homeless and how the homeless shelters work. I feel good when I give the unfortunate something because then I feel that I’ve helped someone in some way. I’m glad I learned more about the homeless because now I have a better understanding of what kind of people they are and what types of things they have to go through. I think that the government should help and give money to shelters so that they can expand more of their shelters, and so more homeless won’t be left on the street.

Before this unit on homelessness my view on them was a little different. I felt that all homeless were filthy, smelly, slept on the streets, and robbed people of their money. I thought that before I knew some of the facts about the homeless and what hard times they go through. My viewpoint after the unit are that most homeless people used to have jobs, families, and used to live in nice houses. I also know now that they are not treated very nicely. People think of them as a lower form of human life, and some percentage of them could be mentally ill or sick. Some of them have jobs but they don’t pay enough to put food on the table and they also don’t get paid enough to pay rent. I’m really glad that we had this unit on the homeless because now I have more knowledge on the subject.

When Angelo Anderson and Tom Hayes came to speak to us about homelessness, I got a lot of information, especially from Angelo because he used to be homeless and so he would know the most about the homeless. He told us how he was when he was homeless and how he is now. He said it was hard for him but now he's holding a part-time job and also gets a little profit from The Homeless Grapevine. He also said that it was hard to do it by himself because he was the oldest in the family and people always came to him for help. In the homeless population there are 45% unaccompanied men, 14% unaccompanied women, 40% families, 26% under the age of 18, 34% mentally ill, 11% physically disabled, and 21% domestic violence victims. The most common cause of homelessness in the U.S. is loss of income. A big reason is when factories close down and all those people become unemployed.

In conclusion, I think it was a good choice of units and I think you should do it next year so that more people will become sensitive about homelessness.


Homelessness

by Eugene Yakubov

From what I have learned over the last two months about homelessness, my feelings have somewhat changed. Before I began to study homelessness In my reading class, my prior knowledge was that homeless people got homeless by a lot of stuff they should not have done, like drinking too much, being too lazy to go to work, or too lazy to find a job. So I pretty much thought negatively about the homeless.

From what I learned over these past couple weeks was that not all homeless people are that way. My opinion on this was that these lessons are great because they teach us about life. Also, a lot of kids need to know what is really happening in our society. They need to look outside their homes.

Beachwood Schools have done a great job of teaching kids like me about homelessness and how to take charge in this world problem. I feel the homeless have a lot of choices if they want to get help. They could go to a lot of places to get themselves back on the right foot. First, they could stay at a shelter and get themselves settled in and get a little money to spend. And then they could try to find a job. If they really want help there are a lot of shelters that could help them get their life back.

I believe that most homeless people became homeless by messing up their lives by drinking, using drugs, and all that bad stuff. But not all homeless people became homeless like that. A lot of them became homeless when their job closed down and they had no money to support their family.

I learned a lot of lessons about homelessness that could help me in life, one of them being if you are in trouble and you have no confidence in yourself, you try to pull yourself up and do whatever it takes to pull yourself up.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

When Going to Work is a Disadvantage

by Matt Hayes

Imagine you have just gotten home from a hard day's work. What do you do? You have something to eat, have an opportunity to shower, rest, and prepare for the next day of work. Now, imagine you get off work, have no where to go, nothing to eat, no where to wash, and spend the night trying to stay warm. With which scenario do you think it would be harder to maintain a job? For thousands of working homeless people, it is the latter scenario with which they must deal.

The homeless and formerly homeless people interviewed for this article expressed a strong desire to work but described the lack of a consistent home as being the most difficult hurdle. Edward Ice, who is formerly homeless and now working at The Bishop Cosgrove Center described the difficulty of getting a "foothold" in the working world when you are homeless. Most of the working homeless have jobs through temp agencies and must work the second or third shift. Ice stated that, "Normally after work you have a place to go home, rest, wash, and eat. The working homeless will get locked out of shelter because they get back from work too late. They must wander around all night and the next day are tired, dirty, and hungry but must go back to work or they'll those their job." Ice also pointed out that the time it takes for a homeless person to go to and from work may equal 12 - 14 hours. "But they're paid for only eight minus money deducted for transportation provided by a temp agency, money deducted for taxes, and money deducted for cashing their check."

Other members of the homeless community agreed that the inability to get sufficient rest, food, and a shower makes it almost impossible to maintain employment. Calvin, who is 35, currently works at Atlas Tech through a temp agency. They will only give him the second shift and by the time he gets back to a shelter for single men at midnight they are already full. He's cold and tired but they tell him from behind a closed door that he cannot come in. "I have to sit in a bus station and pretend I'm going some where or find anywhere I can to stay warm." He may manage a few hours of sleep at night but not enough to keep from feeling exhausted. "All I want is a place to lay my head at night. They (the shelter) have another room where they could let workers sleep but they won't allow it." Someone working at the shelter told Calvin to quit his job so he can get in at 8:30 PM but he refuses. Calvin's goal is to save enough money so he can eventually move into a place of his own. Giving up his only source of income will not help him achieve his goal.

Other people interviewed include Jeff, Emory, and Cliff. Jeff is 19 and has worked at various temp agencies. He says he tries to "pick out the right shift so I can get into shelter and sleep." Emory is 21 and has worked for two years at AAA doing whatever labor work is available. Although it is easier for her to find shelter space at night because there is more space available for women, she says it is still hard to be guaranteed a shower and a change of clothes. Cliff, who is 30, has been working construction for the past four weeks and admits he doesn't get much sleep at night. "If I can't get into a shelter I'm usually exhausted but I keep going to work so I don't lose my job."

None of the people interviewed agreed with the stereotype that the homeless are lazy and don't want to work. Cliff disagreed saying, "That isn't true. Most people (who are homeless) work but some might have a problem with the management of money." Bob U. Banks, who is a Homeless Grapevine vendor, has worked many temp jobs and argues that it is mostly the homeless who work for temps. "Temps wouldn't exist without the homeless because no other fools would work for that money in those working conditions." Ice views the stereotype as a "two-sided coin." "There are those who are lazy but they are not the majority." Emory agrees with Ice that some people may be lazy but believes most are trying to pull themselves out of their situation.

When given the option between working the second or third shift and being out in the cold all night, or not working and getting into a shelter, it is understandable why some may chose not to work. People who stereotype the homeless as being lazy also do not consider that the homeless become acclimated to a certain way of life. A homeless person will, for instance, know what time they need to be at a certain shelter to sleep at night, where they need to go to get breakfast, lunch and dinner during the day, and will be left with only a few hours after dinner until they need to wait in line for shelter. They can quickly get used to a schedule of roaming from one shelter to the next as part of their daily routine of security and survival. Breaking this schedule of dependence by obtaining a job which requires missing dinner and sleeping outside in the cold can be very difficult to do. One way to address this problem is to guarantee a working homeless person a place to sleep every night. Ice and Bishop Cosgrove Center director Ron Reinhart want to start a program in which the working homeless are guaranteed a shower and a bed every night. Which, according to Ice is, "Something every working person deserves." It makes much more sense to encourage a homeless person to work and save their money by guaranteeing them a place to sleep than encouraging them to quit their job and thus stay dependent on the shelter system.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

Voters!!! Hear this

The election is almost here and there are still homeless voters that have to register.

It's hard to vote- voting is like putting your life in another 's hands. Not one of these candidates mention our homeless population. What I'm saying is that at one point in time we worked and had things and voted every time it was time to vote. But now some of us are homeless. It's hard to make a decision on who to vote for- the mayor is too busy with a new stadium; the president is too busy with wars; the Republicans are trying to destroy us.

How are we to vote? Tell me!

Margaretta Ogletree Woods

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

Troubled Voucher Program Re-evaluated

by Tom Hayes

During the first few weeks of February, three agencies began distributing Adult Emergency Assistance vouchers to Cuyahoga County adults with low incomes. But by the end of the initial distribution period, many recipients viewed the program as chaotic and haphazard at best, causing alienation, complaints, and protests that will be hanging gloomily over the city skyline until July, when the next disbursement comes along.

Bob Bonthius, of the Legal Aid Society, said that the system was set up to fail, that there were no serious fraud controls, and that the program lacked planning. He further accused the state of what he called an "experiment in de-volution," in which the state government was experimenting with what would happen to appropriated monies without federal structures in place. Bonthius then suggested that the confusion surrounding the AEA program was "an unfortunate example of how power devolves to the lowest possible level, resulting in little fiscal management and responsibility," and further, that "those who dole out the money can be as arbitrary as they choose to be."

A waft of this was insinuated by Gary Allen, a homeless client at the Cosgrove meal site, who suggested that money was more easily obtained by and given to people who were well-known or favored at the distribution sites. But a more serious concern is the arbitrary nature of decisions as to the "real" needs of prospective recipients. This complaint was backed by Mark Jefferson, a homeless man who felt he had been discriminated against by the distribution system: "who determines how much [money] you get?" Jefferson knew that individual grants were $500 and yet, some people he knew received less than that; he wanted to know why, and who decided. Jefferson explained that no one would tell him what the requirements for eligibility were: "you don’t know the criteria"—that was, until he showed up to apply: then, since he wasn’t prepared, his application was delayed. Further, that he was given the "run around" when he called to find sites and requirements; was transferred from person to person, and people even argued with him. "They deliberately withheld information," said Jefferson. Some agencies, he said, had run out of money.

Before 1991, GA gave $148 per month to 42,554 recipients in Cuyahoga County. By March of 1995, there were 13,654 recipients in Cuyahoga County, and the assistance amount had been cut to $100 per month for 6 months out of every 12 month period. Then, finally, on July 31, 1995, General Assistance was canceled entirely.

On August 16, 1995, just under one month later, the Governor signed Am Sub HB 167, the Welfare Reform Bill. Along with this bill, Rep. Joan Lawrence (R-Galena) added a stipulation that sought a "less structured, more direct" method of getting assistance to individuals. This "less structured, more direct" method became Adult Emergency Assistance (AEA). AEA is targeted at former General Assistance and current Disability Assistance recipients.

Through a formula created by the State Set-Aside Committee, Cuyahoga County received an allocation of $626,982—up to 3% of which could be used for administrative expenses by those distributing the money. Through this process, the three organizations chosen decided to divide the monies into thirds, less the 3 percent administrative funds—which all agencies used. Thus, of the $626,982 dollars, $18,809 were removed for administrative purposes: $1,600 for United Way services, and the full 3% for the other agencies. Of the funds to be distributed, each agency received approximately $202, 724 from United Way Services.

According to the Fact Sheet, "the monies are to be funneled through local Emergency Food and Shelter (EFS) Boards for county use." Guidelines for the use of AEA funds/eligibility were as follows: "By law, AEA funds are to be used for: payments to or on behalf of an individual; persons 18 years or older, single or married, who are not eligible for the Family Emergency Assistance (FEA is the emergency assistance program for families with children who are receiving ADC); persons with incomes of 25% of poverty or less ($156/month for a single individual or $209/month for a couple). It was the intention that the AEA funds be available to meet a wide variety of emergency needs. The program was intentionally created to be flexible, as the Fact Sheet indicates, "so that diverse populations and geographic areas are reached...the mandate is to keep it simple, and to use the full share of the county’s funds to assist eligible adults in need."

However, there was an additional stipulation which suggested that, "although the law sets few parameters on the distribution of funds, the local boards must decide if imposing certain limits/restrictions on the use of funds would allow for more equitable distribution to recipients, without rendering the program inflexible or unnecessarily complex." And it was further stated that local boards could, "establish their own limits for grant amounts, number of times assistance will be provided and the types of assistance to be covered." Thus reversing its own loose regulations and allowing the Local Fiscal Agent (the agency selected to re-distribute the AEA funds locally) to decide.

Without allowing any fundamental alterations of the eligibility requirements, the Local Fiscal Agent (United Way Services) allowed the Local Recipient Organizations (Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army, and the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland) to settle on their own specific regulations. A maximum of $500 in assistance per grant was the only documented item agreed on. In its conception on the state level, there was to have been no limit on the number of times an individual could request and receive assistance; no limit on the total value of assistance per individual for the funding period; and finally, that the application for assistance could include multiple need/service categories. An addition, as well, for some agencies, was that documentation was required: a photo I.D.; proof of income if applicable; and service specific documentation—such as utilities, car repairs.

At the Bishop Cosgrove meal site, distribution began in early February. The events of the first day were, reportedly, confusing. They were described by Bob U. Banks, a Grapevine vendor as "a mad house." The next day, in fact, the Cosgrove had to close its doors to the large population of persons who showed up. After that, a lottery system was put in place. On Friday, February 16, at St. Augustine’s meal site, the police had to respond to calm the angry mob of persons who had been turned away.

"It was a good concept," said Allen, "but it caught everyone by surprise." Allen reported participating in the lottery: for what, he didn’t know. "They asked me "what do you need?’" When he didn’t know what they meant, a Cosgrove staff person suggested items. He also added that he, "didn’t like the way people got greedy about it."

Grapevine vendors reported voucher recipients as photocopying vouchers for use, and that vouchers were being sold for cash—at half price. Dave’s Supermarket had problems of its own—with voucher recipients offering to purchase customer’s groceries, as long as they received the change. Dave’s Supermarket finally had to regulate the recipients’ purchases. For instance, a recipient was stopped for attempting to purchase twenty cases of soda pop.

Some homeless people were confused by rules which were stated one way, and, in practice, done another. For Bob U. Banks, a homeless person and Grapevine vendor who had a voucher taken away from him, the "no limit request" aspect of the program fit the above description perfectly. Catholic Charities took the voucher and explained that they were trying to help as many people as possible.

John, another homeless person, reported that The Salvation Army site on Lorain Avenue lost the photocopies of his I.D. and other information and that he was being punished for the mistake—as The Salvation Army would not fill his request without the information. John also reported that the Goldfish Army Outdoor Store wasn’t capable of meeting his needs: that there were only two pair of sneakers—one at $82.99 and the other too small for him; that the only coats available were leather jackets at $129.99—far from the "regular" clothes he needed and could afford with his $200 clothing voucher (if he wanted more than one item). Jeff Alpern, however, of the Goldfish Army Outdoor Store claimed "we are doing everything we can to process people." Alpern claimed that the store was given no notice of on what day the AEA recipients would arrive. While, by his own description, everyone was well-behaved and well taken care of, he asserted that nearly 1,000 people came to the store within the first day. That by the end of another day 350 pairs of jeans were reduced to 120 pairs. Alpern admitted to John’s complaint about shoes, but that there were plenty of jackets for less than twenty dollars and that, simply, stock in the store could not be maintained.

Chip Joseph, from Catholic Charities, said that some of these misunderstandings were not reflective of the more positive aspects of the program. One recipient, who had been laid off and needed money for both rent and car repairs, tore up his voucher when he unexpectedly received a check from the IRS—he wanted to support himself. Joseph pointed out Angelo Anderson, another vendor for the Grapevine, who used his voucher positively—for boots and a new coat. Joseph also suggested that the extremely loose guidelines may have contributed to some of the confusion and that he felt convinced all the agencies "did the best they could under the circumstances," that they "tried their hardest" to accomplish what "seemed like an impossible task."

Some of the criticisms, made by Cassandra McConnell of the Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland, in a letter to Harvey A. Freiman, Chairman of the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA)—which oversees the Cuyahoga County Emergency Food and Shelter Board—was that the "administrating organizations developed and implemented caps for assistance such as clothing, food, furniture, hygiene, utilities and glasses, "which by State regulation they weren’t supposed to do." McConnell also said that the "administrating agency also required rent assistance to be given to those clients that could verify that they had income"—eliminating those persons who could not provide that kind of evidence. Finally, McConnell wrote that recipients were "only allowed to purchase clothes from [a] K-Mart or Goldfish Army/Navy Store...food at [a] Dave’s Supermarket or Finast...or "to purchase used stoves and refrigerators...and furniture from thrift stores." In conclusion, McConnell wrote that she was "very concerned about the lack of public information shared about the AEA program." That "other community agencies that serve the eligible population as well as eligible clients were not advised on how to apply, where to apply or who was eligible. Unfortunately," she continues, "advertisement for this program was done through ‘word of mouth.’"

But for agencies such as CEOGC and Catholic Charities, such ideas as public advertisement caused problems; "how do you publicize ‘no rules’?" asked Evelyn Rice, the Community Services Director of CEOGC. She further commented that such publicity could "create dangerous situations for the public and the staff," as many more people would show up than there was money-backed vouchers to go around. A situation which occurred at St. Augustines.

Further, as Joseph pointed out, none of the agencies distributing the money could know "how bad it would be...how awesome a task." He conceded that it may have been better for one agency to distribute funds, but that this situation created problems all its own; that it would require a "huge staff."

Joseph said that Catholic Charities had spent its 3 percent of administrative monies "before the first voucher was given out." And he further pointed to the years it took for the Department of Human Services to create its delivery system: a system which the Local Recipient Organizations had two months to create; that, in the words of Joseph, "building a system from the ground up was a nightmare."

A further rebuttal to criticisms offered by the Empowerment Center was that the vouchers themselves were only going to be accepted by stores which agreed to participate. "We can’t force stores to accept vouchers...there are vendors that don’t want to deal with vouchers," said Rice, Director of CEOGC. This suggests another problem. Joseph was open for suggestions as to a better means of purchasing power. Agency checks were suggested, but if state-level legislators don’t want AEA money going to liquor or other "non-emergency items," then this option will not work.

Bonthius suggested that the state saw "an easy way out" on trying to meet some of the "need it had created by abolishing General Assistance" and its cuts to AFDC—both of which were run by the county welfare department.

But far from placing the entire blame at the state level, Bonthius suggested that the state expected the county to be "responsible enough to design a program" to address local needs. But where Bonthius’s greatest fear seemed to lie was that "finger pointing" would go "toward homeless individuals—not at the FEMA board, which was unprepared." Chip Joseph expressed a similar concern about "blaming the client," and Cassandra McConnell said flatly that there is "no correlation between income and fraudulent behavior"—that it happens at all income levels.

Some further criticisms offered by Bonthius included: not considering the distribution mechanism already created at the welfare department (which does its distributions in a uniform way and has an appeals process for persons who feel they were unfairly treated); that money seemed to have been simply tossed to agencies for distribution.

What is certain is that most of the agencies interviewed agreed that the program needed reconsidering, and that the reconsidering needed input from all agencies concerned about how the monies are distributed—and for what reasons.

In his return letter to Cassandra McConnell, Harvey A. Freiman agreed with the idea of a "community based committee to evaluate the first implementation of AEA," but rebutted criticisms of the right of the Emergency Food and Shelter Board or the Local Recipient Organizations to create guidelines for the distribution of monies, saying that "the Adult Emergency Assistance program is not an entitlement program; it is a program to meet the emergency needs of persons" and that the "guidelines do not prohibit Local Recipient Organizations (LROs) from requiring documentation of specific needs." Nor did the Cuyahoga County FEMA board "prohibit the three [organizations] from getting together to establish guidelines." Freiman also goes on to defend the choices of clothing, food, and other stores—because of their locations in proximity to voucher distribution sites and the quality of merchandise. He writes that used stoves and refrigerators which are in "good working condition" are an "excellent use of limited AEA funds."

In the end, it would seem that agency cooperation would have eliminated many of the problems that did occur and that greater community input would have benefited the whole program.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

The Children's Pages

Introduction

The essays and poems included on these pages are the second installment of the Grapevine's Children's Pages. The students who submitted essays are members of the Beachwood Middle School Homeless Advocacy Council, directed by Mrs. Lopez, and have been studying a unit on homelessness. The unit included a field trip to The City Mission, the movie With Honors, and a lecture from Americorps*VISTA volunteer Tom Hayes along with formerly homeless and current Grapevine vendor Angelo Anderson. There are also poems included from Michael and David, who are students at Ridgebury Elementary School. Their poems were written after a presentation was given by Project Act Americorps*VISTA Jenny Lindquist at their school.

The essays by the Beachwood students reveal the strong stereotypes that the students had developed about the homeless. They honestly portray the stereotypes that we all learn and are reinforced through the media and ignorance that surrounds us. The students also relate their expanded knowledge, understanding, and a refusal to accept the ever-increasing problem of homelessness in this country. With their development of the Homeless Advocacy Council, the Beachwood students have shown a strong interest in addressing the issues of homelessness in Northeast Ohio.


Do You Care?

by Heather Holmes

When we dream wonderful dreams, do we act upon them? When we sit down and discuss about the past and think about the future, do we ever learn from our mistakes and think about changing them? When I sit and think to myself, what happens to the homeless after the holiday season? I feel bad and think of what I can do. What can I do?

Does anybody care? Is anybody there?

What happens if you are standing waiting for a bus, and then witness a homeless person dying. Do you touch him? Do you try to give him medical attention, or do you leave him there to die in the cold winter night.

Does anybody care? Is anybody there?

When you see a homeless child on the streets in the winter with no gloves or hat what do you do? You are sure he or she will be sleeping on a bench with no protection and soon will catch pneumonia. What do you do?

Does anybody care? Is anybody there?

Now when a beggar comes up to you and pressures you to give him money. Do you give him the money so he can spend it on drugs? Or do you save it for somebody who you know really needs it because of the lack of food?

Does anybody care? Is anybody there?


 

America, Home of the Homeless

by Jason Miller

Every one loves sleeping on their own bed and in their own room. Imagine your bed, a cardboard box with a thin sheet you picked off the street and your room is a dark alley. For many Americans this scenario holds true as they are a part of the two million homeless people in the United States today.

New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles have the most homeless people in America. They sleep in skid rows and old abandoned buildings. When it gets cold outside most homeless die because they breath in too much Carbon Monoxide. They don’t have enough money to go to the hospital. During the day you can not really pick out the homeless people because they look just like us. All day the homeless people work hard to try to find jobs, food, and clothing to survive. Some people make money by selling The Homeless Grapevine newspaper.

In my opinion homelessness is the biggest problem in the world today. I think no one deserves to be homeless. People who are homeless try to work really hard so they can build up a little at a time to get themselves through their great depression. Even though some homeless people are very educated, they just want to lie around and be a bum. For example, Simon from the movie With Honors was very educated but just did not want to get another job. If people don’t care anymore and they don’t watch out the homeless population will increase a great deal.

In conclusion, I think every one should get together to find a solution to this problem, so that one day millions of people can once again say "There’s no place like home."


A Struggle to Survive

by Jeremy Babin

Homelessness is a condition of people who lack regular legal access to adequate housing. Homelessness has been recognized as a significant social problem in the United States since the early 1980s, when a rapid increase in the number of homeless people was caused by a weak economy and cuts in federal aid for housing and income assistance. Other periods of increased homelessness also have occurred many times in history, including during the colonial era. Most other industrialized societies have also experienced increases in homeless populations in recent decades.

In a great deal of cases, homeless people are looked at as bad people. It is very unlikely that anyone ever thinks about their feelings and what they can do to help them. They are people who have no permanent address. They often live in abandoned buildings, areas under bridges, bus stations, cheap hotels, emergency shelters, subways, and the streets, just to name a few.

Some sociologists use the word homeless to describe anyone who leads an isolated life, without the usual social ties to family, work, and community life. The United States reports that there are over 100 million homeless people worldwide. In the United States homelessness has become a very serious problem.

Homeless people are just like regular people. Most people don’t realize that. I feel so bad for homeless people. I wish that there was something I could do to help. I also wish that people could think about

other people more. They have no place to call their home at all. They have no privacy and most importantly, "They don’t feel like they belong anywhere."


 

My Point of View

by Rachael Gralnick

A homeless person in my mind is a hunched back old bag lady/man. They like to drink a lot, and take drugs like crack and heroin. Most don’t care about anything, they live in alleys and old boxes. When they are hungry they eat out of garbage. Well that is what I thought before this unit. I have educated myself to know that that is not all true. My view on this topic has changed greatly since the beginning.

There are many different ways that someone can become homeless. One way is that a mother and her child are being beaten at home and they have no place to go, so that puts them out on the streets. The statistics of domestic violence victims is 21%. Another way is if one of the parents lost a job and can’t find another one. So that leaves them with paying bills with not enough money to buy food and clothes. The statistics of families on the streets is 40%. There are other people who just can’t support themselves. Then there are teens who do drugs, run away from home, and become homeless. Kids make up 26% of the homeless population.

There are also kids out there who don’t want to be on the streets. Here is a little part of a poem that a homeless girl named Maria wrote. "Your pity is not needed, but your understanding, yes. Being homeless is the saddest thing." I think that that is a very strong statement from a teen. Yes it is true that we should understand the homeless because if we did they would be treated differently. These teens are just like me and you. They do have dreams and hopes. I read in class a packet with kids hopes and dreams. Some of them are: I want to be a cop when I am older, have a house with 19 bathrooms, make money. Their dreams are just like ours and no one should ruin them.

A homeless person is someone who drinks, takes drugs, lives in alleys, hunched over bag lady/man. That is not what they are. They are humans just like you and me. I hope that you have learned from what I have written to you today.

Homelessness Poem

Homelessness is a very bad thing.
Homeless people have to walk in the streets
They have to get a home.
It's a pretty bad experience
Because the rich do not want the homeless around.
And it's dreadful.
We need your support to save them.

By Michael Soltesz
Grade 4

Homeless

Homeless people are very unlucky not to have a home.
They might get very sick which makes me very sad.
They should get treated like us because they're humans also.

by David Soltesz
Grade 4

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

Some Places Better than Others when Homeless

by Mike McCray

I have found a good night’s sleep is without a doubt the hardest thing to acquire living on the streets in American cities.

It is funny because I have always been able to call a place that I am at my home when out in nature.

I remember once I lived out of a backpack to cut costs in Utah while attending college. Every night there was this rock that was my home. I would return to that rock almost every night and sleep like a baby. If I could not return at night to my rock, but was in the woods with my sleeping bag, I still slept good.

The rock, however, was my home--the place that made me feel secure. It was high enough to keep me from rattlesnakes and had an overhang to keep the weather off me.

Being in a war zone did not disturb my sleep either. Surrounded by armed men who did not speak a word of English in the countryside, yet sleeping like a baby.

Nothing frightened me or made me lose more sleep than being in an urban American environment without a place to call my own. Every time in my life that I have wanted to give up because of stress in life, it has been on the streets of an American city.

The first fear that I experienced was realizing that it is a crime to be on the street without a home.

In most American cities being homeless means you are a vagrant and subject to arrest. It is not legal to sleep under a bridge, in an alley, or in a park in most cities. Therefore, if you are poor and homeless you are a criminal.

Our whole society is geared toward winning and to most people you are a loser when you do not have a home. Winning has been drilled into you at every turn in America. You feel like a loser on display in a city without a home.

You try to sleep, yet worry about the police picking you up for the crime of being homeless in America. Maybe the policeman will have compassion, or maybe he will be a jerk. You sleep with your eyes open.

Besides, if they take you to jail you end up with criminals. Criminals make me nervous and are a good thing to avoid in my mind. Most criminals love the night. You do the crime in the day and you may get caught. The night embraces and hides criminals.

Three in the morning is a good time for these people, the bars are emptying and they need something to do. At three in the morning, there are not too many witnesses if you get beaten, robbed, or worse. The thought of anyone of these kind of creatures coming upon you while you sleep is enough to keep anyone awake.

Well ,at least on the street you can get away if you're awake. In jail it might be your angry cell mate who committed such a crime, and who decides he hates you.

Yes, there is something about being homeless in an American city that just robs you of your sleep.

Yet, if you're going to get out of that situation, sleep is the only thing that can provide rest for your tormented soul and provide hope for the next day.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

So, Who Are Homeless People?

by Mike McCray

The term "a homeless person" is a unique term that represents more the circumstances than the reason for the circumstance. It seldom asks why this person is homeless. More often than not it is implied that it is because of some flaw that made this person choose this life style, in other words it is all their fault.

Who are the homeless and why are they homeless needs to be understood if we truly want to correct this condition.

It is estimated that as many as one third of the homeless in America are mentally ill.

"If your leg is broken, the city will take you away. If your mind is broken, you lie there forever," stated AM Rosenthal of the New York Times. These are invisible homeless that we see in front of us everyday.

A large percentage of these individuals are not able to take care of themselves and we as a society are increasingly unwilling to spend the resources to care for them.

A federal study concluded, "Stigmatization, fear, mistrust regarding people with severe mental illness—especially those who are also homeless—are common place in our nation. Such reflections influence the development of local, state, and federal policy affecting them."

Legal rights that make inaction possible wins out over equal protections of the law in many instances.

An example is the New York judge who refused to probate a severely mentally ill homeless woman stating, "To the passerby seeing her lying on the street or defecating publicly, she may seem deranged...[but] she may indeed be a professional in her lifestyle."

Another group of homeless people are those who have simply fallen on economic hard times. Without an address, phone, or social supports it is very hard to find employment. Those who do not find a job often end up with a minimum wage job. In many parts of the United States a minimum wage job is not an adequate income to secure residence, food, and other necessities for life. In some instance these individuals hold down several minimum wage jobs while residing at shelters.

The working homeless are seldom seen on the streets during the day nor on the news in the evening. They are the invisible homeless population that we do not see when we cast judgments

The next large population of homeless is families that have collapsed. Most often the families consist of women and any number of children. They may lack the extended family support or, because of a violent spouse, contacting the extended family may not be a healthy option. In some instances for personal safety reasons these families must be relocated.

Given the complex nature of the differing family members needs, helping families is more complex and involves many levels of the social support system.

Runaway youths are also homeless but seldom defined as such. They tend to migrate to the larger metropolitan areas to avoid detection, quite often ending up victims of pedophiles and others who prey upon them for economic reasons. They are often unable to access the system at all because of the isolation in communities.

Those who are homeless because of an addiction come from a broad range of social conditions. They have destroyed their social support network by the time they end up homeless.

The only thing that we are sure of is the number of those people for whatever reason are homeless is increasing in all western nations. How we deal with the situation will be a prelude of how we deal with the poor, elderly, disabled and all others who have problems competing for resources in society. After all, the term homeless means "without a home"; it is does not define "why."

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

Propaganda Paints a False Picture of Cleveland

by Brian Davis

If you were enraptured by the Cleveland mail person that worked 500,000 days in a row for the last 60 years or the two dogs that were lost on Lake Erie, you might have missed Mayor Michael White’s State of the City address. Well, actually, you didn’t miss anything. He told us that we need to reform our schools (I guess having the state take control of your city's schools mean reform is necessary). The mayor said crime was bad, and city workers can expect lower pay or a loss of fringe benefits as part of his privatization plans. And of course, we must find a home for our beloved Browns.

Because your political leadership has sold you out for business interests and your local media has been co-opted into a public relations arm of the city, the Homeless Grapevine will attempt to piece together a state of the community from the people’s perspective. These are tough words and not for the faint at heart, and certainly not for children who will grow up and flee this city in a few years. This is a true picture of the city without the rose colored glasses and the bicentennial haze.

Cleveland ranks as one of the most racially divided cities in the nation at this time. It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of all young black males in the Cleveland area are either unemployed, have stopped looking for work, or are in jail. Our largely African-American inner city residents are kept as slaves of the temporary services.

The affordable housing stock is shrinking as fast as the dollars going to Benny Bonanno's 1997 mayoral election campaign. It is a good two year wait to get into a subsidized housing unit in Cleveland, and with federal reforms things are only looking worse. People are forced into substandard housing because fewer and fewer landlords are accepting Section 8 vouchers. A single individual must maintain a full-time job of $8.00 an hour to get an apartment, but inner city temp services are paying $4.25.

In the early 1970’s, Cleveland had a poverty rate of 17 percent, and now we see poverty at 42 percent. This is an astonishing figure that is overlooked. Despite the mayor calling Cleveland a comeback city, we still have a large number of people emigrating from the city of Cleveland. If things are so great, then why are people fleeing the city?

Cuyahoga County still has not recovered the jobs lost during the last recession. We lag behind communities such as Youngstown and Toledo in getting the jobs back. The 28,000 jobs that voters of the first sin tax were promised have not materialized--as a result of the Gateway complex. We did get under 2,000 jobs of a temporary and part time nature. We spent $500 million for these two facilities at the expense of the future of our city. One economist has looked at cities across the United States and has reported that the Cleveland economy has reached a state of "no return" statistically.

Homelessness is growing, and is predicted to increase its rate of growth over the next few years. With welfare reform, a federal cut back on housing, and a lack of concern for anyone that receives assistance, the number of people traveling the streets at night will increase. When citizens are unable to find assistance from the government, and private sources are completely stretched to the limit, the survival instinct will engage. Crime will increase, and the suburbs will attempt to restrict access to the invading onslaught of poor. At this time the largest increase in expenditure for the state of Ohio has been incarceration and "rehabilitation" in the budget.

With no end in sight to the increasing prison population, we seem to be entering a higher-class form of genocide. Instead of killing large, troublesome classes of people as previous empires have done, we put our citizens in jail--and at this time that population is largely minority. Three strikes and you are in for life is the slogan. Rehabilitation is no longer an option. Only a country with such a tremendous Gross National Product could sustain such a drain on our finances as incarceration provides.

There is no model in history of a society maintaining such a huge population in jail. Eventually the captive population will rebel or society will be bankrupt. From 1990 to 1997, the State of Ohio increased its expenditure on alleged "rehabilitation" and corrections by 135 percent from over $400 million to just over $1 billion. While money allocated to the mentally ill increased 28 percent over the same period and money spent on assisting those with a drug addiction decreased two percent.

Some of the problems, including the increase in homelessness, the lack of a real minimum wage, and the growing prison population, are not exclusive to Cleveland, but our leaders locally are not providing any alternatives or ideas to solve these crises. Our alleged "leaders" are leading us down a rode to perpetual poverty or a permanent underclass in Cleveland.

Our elected officials are not preparing our region for the future. Bonds are sold for constructing a stadium, not housing. Parking rates are increased to construct a sports facility, and at the same time there is no stable fund for the Housing Trust Fund in Ohio. Taxes are forgiven to businesses and banks at the expense of our children.

There is no good news in the real state of the city, but we get enough good news from the media and politicians. It is difficult to see a positive side of spending public money on the Rock’n’Roll hall of fame when people can’t find access to basic health care. It is hard to cheer for a "state of the Art" football stadium in our future, when people are living in such extreme poverty.

There are opportunities for citizens to make a change, but they all start with electing true leaders that are not captured by one interest. In making your decisions in the voting booth in March and November, it is imperative to pick candidates that will work for the good of the community. Choose a candidate that speaks for the people and not for businesses or civic organizations or media interests.

A real comeback city would not boast a trip to the World Series as its greatest accomplishment, but a 100 percent graduation rate from high school. The introduction of an entertainment museum is a source of pride for the city, but the introduction of a minimum standard past which no citizen can fall below is a real accomplishment. These false proclamations of Cleveland on the rebound only lead to alienation and resentment by those that were rolled over by this city’s comeback.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

McLaughlin Responds to Federal Cut-Backs

by Richard Keifer

Recently, the president and CEO of the Cleveland YMCA, Ken McLaughlin, responded to the Grapevine on the subject of the upcoming cut-backs in federal funding.

When contacted at the central branch of the YMCA he said," Depending on which bill you look at, they will put a stress on the local organization. There are three scenarios: a 25%, a 40%, or a 27% cut- these three feared proposed spending cuts will make us suffer... we’re not sure how we’re going to deal with it. The final version of these pending bills will look different hopefully."

"The premise that private money from local organizations is going to pick up the funding shortage is fundamentally flawed. Deep pockets aren’t out there. It’s getting more difficult to raise. Everybody’s having a difficult time. The fourteen branches of the YMCA in total may lose a half million dollars which is significant. The Y-Haven could lose $180,000. I’ve got a lot of nervous clients. If worst case scenario hits, we can’t continue to operate."

Working on the problem of homelessness, Bob Spencer is director of the Y-Haven program at 3200 Franklin on the Near West Side. It provides an inexpensive place to live, jobs, and workshops for the down-on-their-luck people of Cleveland and they have many success stories. It is for graduates of Step One and Daywood- these are substance abuse programs. Dual-diagnosed individuals (chemical depedency/ mental illness) are also in the Y-Haven program. Y-Haven supplies individualized transitional housing for homeless men. If these programs are cut, their clients will be back on the street.

The YMCA already has a problem with limited space to operate. The central branch of the YMCA will re-open in 1997; it is being renovated now. This important downtown- neighborhood linkage will provide more space for them to operate.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

Government Without A Heart


We want a Country without violence
But our government leaders
Who say they decry violence and hate
Are reeking violence against
the poor, elderly and disabled
of this land
By a stroke of their social service
and health care cut-off plans.
If our leaders have no comparison
If their hearts are shriveled dry
in their chest,
How can they lead the way to bring
Forth our citizens' best?
Cutting off help for the poor
and our old folks
Is Violence and hate
Throwing people out, like garbage,
To die on the streets
as their fate.
You Scapegoat the Poor
By slandering our names
Calling us criminal and insane
Building prisons and jail cells
To house us without bail
Is violence and hate-
You don't seem to care
We have no homes to begin with
that we're
living in a homeless hell;
You are blind in your ruling class
prejudiced myths.
Leaders,
Death to the Poor
Is Violence and Hate
And we will not tolerate the Poor
Suffering this fate.

Written by LYNN WILLIAMS

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

Don't Blame Deficit on Welfare Moms

by Mrs. Williams

Welfare is only 3 percent of the federal budget, yet to hear how welfare mothers are portrayed in the media, you would think they consumed 99.9 percent of the federal budget (and did so by criminal means).

"Blame it on the welfare mom," for the deficit is constantly the theme. Why not blame the Defense Department and corporate giants for their "welfare" payments: their subsidies and tax write-offs. We now have enough firepower to fight two Persian Gulf Wars simultaneously - and yet we blame our government spending on mothers and children.

I applauded President Clinton for recently vetoing the GOP-initiated welfare bill. However, when I heard his State of the Union speech in support of time limits for welfare recipients. I was disheartened.

I envision an America of even larger numbers of homeless, poverty-stricken families. As a former shelter worker, I know how hard it is to come face to face with homeless and hungry children.

Do President Clinton and Newt Gingrich speak first-hand with homeless people and hear their life stories or are they insulted from this human pain?

It is wrong for our government leaders to abandon its poorest citizens. Before time limits are initiated, a guaranteed decent job and/or paid job training should be available for each citizen. If a government does not care about the well-being and survival of its people, what good is government at all? To ensure that the fat cats get fatter? Let's cut politicians' salaries to balance the deficit.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

Computer, Van Stolen from New Day Women's Center

by Margaretta Ogletree Woods

Homeless robbed. What makes a person rob a person? Last week someone broke into New Day, the women's drop-in center.

That's a place where we go. After the wake-up call at 6:30 a.m. at the shelter, we go to the drop-in center for a shower, breakfast, phone calls, and safety from abuse. But that has been taken from us. We have a problem with robberies too. It does happen to people who don't have money, great homes, and bank cards. They stole the computer and the van- the only transportation we have to pick us up in the morning at the shelter.

Please, if you have a heart, understand what we are going through please donate a computer and a van to help us keep our records and to give us transportation. Help our drop-in center. (Please contact Mrs. Ruth Gray or Mrs. Coretta Parker at 781-3414).

 

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

CMHA: Six Decades of Affordable Housing

by Dawn Starry

During a time when children had to drop out of school to sell apples on the street in order to support their families and when the future only showed bleak predictions of economic collapse, there were a few strong advocates that set out to help the indigent populations. Advocates such as Franklin Roosevelt, with his "New Deal" in the White House, and Ernest Bohn, with the idea of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority here in Cleveland. In 1933, four years prior to the U.S. Housing Act, and four years after the market crash came "Public Housing." Public Housing was a way to deal with the "slums" as Robert Navin put it in his 1934 book, An Analysis of a Slum Area in Cleveland.

In 1922, twenty-one percent of all murders in Cleveland where committed in what was called the "slum" area, between Central and Woodland avenues from E.22nd to E.55th streets. Also, seven percent of all boys that went to juvenile court resided in this area. Not to mention the twelve and a half cases of tuberculosis reported here prior to the housing project years. The people of these areas were in serious need of assistance and public housing seemed to be the answer.

Ernest Bohn, born in Germany in 1901, was the major influence in housing reform. At age eleven he came to the United States with his father. He served in the Ohio House of Representatives for one term and later was elected to city council. While in the council he became very involved with the idea of public housing and in 1933 he wrote the first state housing legislative act to be passed by the Ohio State legislature.

He served as director of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority, now known as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, from its establishment in 1933 until 1968. He passed away the fifteenth of December 1975. CMHA was a well accepted idea and became a model for housing reform programs set up in other states.

"To help the [slum] problem, four housing projects have been completed in Cleveland and three others are under construction. Each is literally a bright spot in the blighted area, said F. Leslie Speir, in Cleveland: Our Community and Its Government. The project was sponsored by the government and no private builders were involved.

CMHA had all powers of a municipality excluding that of taxation and had complete control over subsidized housing in Cuyahoga County, excluding the city of Chagrin Falls. The first three projects were Cedar-Central Apartments between Cedar and Central avenues housing 654 families. Outhwaite Homes located between Woodland and Scovill avenues housing 579 families. Finally, Lakeview Terrace at the end of West 29th street. The cost of the three buildings in 1933 was 10 million dollars.

In 1968, Earnest Bohn retired from the CMHA projects. Terrible times followed the retirement of the founder. CMHA did not run out of money, because the Federal government was supplying the housing project with plenty of money. However, corruption and mismanagement of funds surrounded the CMHA projects in the 1970s. For more than 15 years CMHA became increasingly corrupt with allegations of payoffs to political friends and some connections to organized crime.

During the 1980's the corruption was made public. Headlines revealed a misuse of money. CMHA was chosen for a U.S. study/investigation in 1983. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ordered CMHA to fix up their estates and tenants feared eviction after the HUD review was completed. Money was not going toward fixing up the units. "The projects were not seen as a safe areas to even travel in," according to tenants. It was not until the 1990's that things with CMHA actually began to get better. Money was beginning to be handled correctly once again and CMHA attempted to clean up its image.

Who exactly is CMHA for? From the beginning of the project the units were intended for low-income families and later in the mid 1950's came the Golden Age Centers for the elderly. However, for a long time single people could not get into a CMHA unit. Today, CMHA is still not centered around housing the homeless. A public housing project is generally seen as most likely a project intended to house all economically disadvantaged. The homeless population is one of the impoverished populations that CMHA attempts to serve.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

CMHA Faces Federal Cuts

by Jason Grunspan

Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority has made great strides to improve their reputation which was tarnished by mismanagement and scandal during the 1970's and 80's, yet there remains conflicting opinions as to what the CMHA is and what it should be. One question raised by a number of homeless individuals and advocates is the CMHA's role in the housing of homeless persons. In the past, the government has given a 90 percent preference to homeless persons and those residing in transitional housing facilities but several homeless and formerly homeless people expressed frustration with the CMHA application process and didn't believe that the homeless were getting preference.

One formerly homeless woman currently living in a CMHA unit said that when she first applied the waiting list was six months long but that it took her five years to get housed. "If CMHA has a preference how come I waited five years?" she asked. Another man who had stopped into the Bishop Cosgrove meal site said that he had filled out an application and had more than enough money from his job to pay rent but hadn't been able to get a unit.

Much of the confusion is over what the preference which is now 50% entails. Karen Coats -Wilson, Chairwoman of the CMHA Board of Commissioners said "the preference is not a guarantee that nine out of ten people who have been homeless will be housed." She said a 90% preference does not guarantee a homeless applicant a place to live but bumps them up to the top of the list when applications are being considered.

The applications are rated on a point scheme and a homeless applicant would be given a certain amount of points for being homeless or in a transitional facility. "But all these points do is to establish a list within that population." Coats Wilson said. This would bring into question what is meant by preference. The waiting list which has been closed for over two years will be opened anew in March.

Contrary to the prevailing opinion, CMHA is not the housing of last resort. Federal rules for admission are meant to prevent housing authority units from becoming emergency housing. CMHA's Chief Operating Officer Ronnie Davis commented that "[Department of Housing and Urban Development] policies are forcing us to treat those who are not the poorest." This will include a 13 million dollar cut and a minimum twenty five dollar monthly charge which will be instituted May 1st. HUD is the primary funder of CMHA.

Executive Assistant Scott Pollack said there are about 700 residents listed as having no income and that he didn't know what impact the new provision would have on these residents. Under the new policy, working CMHA residents who currently pay 30 percent of their income for rent would pay the higher of the two amounts. Pollack said "The twenty five dollar fee is not something we make out on."

He pointed out that the main effect it will have is that the federal government won't have to spend as much money on HUD. He said HUD will compensate for the amount of money that the CMHA collects in rent by reducing the CMHA's budget by that same amount. "The benefit goes to HUD. We don't have much of a choice other than the negative one of having to impose it." He said that the 13 million dollar cut will reduce CMHA's total funds in both operating and capital by 15 to 20 percent. " It will mean less money available to renovate units and we'll probably have some layoffs or a cut back in employee hours."

The CMHA had no available records of the former status of applicants currently living in CMHA units but noted that almost half of their high-rises were built for seniors who occupy about 30% of all units. Coats-Wilson said it's a principal concern of the CMHA "to try to adopt a policy that's responsive to the needs of the community".

Because of stigmas attached to the homeless community some residents might be skeptical about living next to formerly homeless persons. James Beverly, a tenant and president of CMHA's county wide tenant body, said that he had no problem with homeless people. Despite a largely successful effort to improve its image there is still a negative stigma attached to the CMHA as well. The high crime rate induced the implementation of a fully credited police force in the late 1980's. One formerly homeless man said he wouldn't consider living in the CMHA for fear of gangs. A current CMHA resident said, "The crime is bad but we've worked on cleaning it up and gotten results."

Another question is whether the CMHA sees itself as a place of permanent residency or as a stepping stone to privately owned housing. In HUD's latest blue print of revised public housing provisions they state that their highest priority is to "convert public housing into a platform from which residents can lift themselves and push off to a life of self- sufficiency."

This will include a tougher screening process, the revising of admissions policies to meet locally designed preferences and the new rent rule to reward those who work. This attitude would designate the CMHA as more of a stepping stone. CMHA responded that, "although the perception is that public housing has become more permanent, the average stay of a CMHA resident is six years." Beverly, who is 61, said that at his age job prospects don't look good and that he's planning on staying at his CMHA home.

The CMHA has recently taken a step to bridge a gap between themselves and area service providers by cooperating with the Office of Homeless Services in a program called "Horizons for the Homeless", which will set aside 450 Section 8 vouchers for families coming out of transitional and rehabilitation facilities in Cuyahoga County. The CMHA accepts and processes referrals made by the twelve providers that offer transitional shelter and support to families. Social workers will continue working with families coming out of transitional housing for six months to give support and prevent relapses.

Another program, operated by the Y-Haven, will house 38 men a year on one floor of the King Kennedy high rise. The men will come from Y-Haven's substance abuse program. Y-Haven would not respond to inquiries, but CMHA Project Administrator Eddie Robinson said the program, which is scheduled to begin sometime in March, was well designed. "A program like this is needed in Cleveland." HUD has provided the CMHA with a grant to fund the south high rise at King Kennedy. The first three floors of the building will be used as a social service mall: a conglomeration of social service offices. This will make it easier for those who need to be in continual contact with social services. This cooperation with area service providers will help the CMHA to fulfill their quota of occupied units while at the same time helping people make the transition from dependency to self sufficiency. "It's a mutually beneficial effort," said Ruth Anne O'Leary of the Office of Homeless Services. Davis said that for now there are no additional programs in the planning stage.

Of the 11,780 units currently under CMHA management as of December 31, 1995, CMHA listed 8,406 as occupied, 3,021 under modernization, and 353 were vacant or being prepared for occupancy. Some of the homeless, having no where else to go, use these unoccupied units as shelter during the cold winter months.

One homeless man said that he and a friend stay in a boarded up CMHA unit. He said they'll stay their several days out of the week. The electricity works and they've installed a smoke detector, heater and television. They have befriended some of the maintenance men who won't bother them unless someone complains and there is only one tenant who will occasionally complain. For the most part he and his friend are left alone. When asked if he knew of other homeless using abandoned units he said, "There's lots of them." He said you have to be careful because they've seen others who were not get picked up by security for trespassing.

Though the homeless population continues to grow, HUD and its Housing Authorities are moving in another direction. Pollack believes the changes are the result of a national attitude change as well as Congresses perception of the welfare state which is that federal subsidies are being abused and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This will place the burden on the surrounding communities and private sector. "Funds are not always going to be there, we have to come together closely as a community," Coats Wilson said.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14

A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person

by James Jude Patton

This is what a homeless would expect to go through if he depended on a charity for shelter. He would wake up between 5-6:30 a.m. In some rescue missions they serve coffee and/or a doughnut but most do not. Many times the mission staff would be homeless volunteers and they would steal any money made by selling blood plasma.

You would get dressed. In many missions the staff would keep your clothing and you would sleep in your underwear. This would prevent somebody from killing another person at night because the killer could not make a getaway because his clothes were locked up. The homeless people would usually be woken up by the lights being turned on. Sometimes the lights would remain on all night. In the morning one of the staff would shout for the homeless men to wake up. The homeless people had to wait in line for long periods of time to get their clothes and almost everything else.

Upon leaving the shelter you could go to a temporary labor place if there was one. But more likely to a library. Most libraries open- at the earliest at 8:00 a.m. Waiting for libraries or blood plasma places to open takes up a lot time for the homeless.

If you slept in the mission for three nights and there was no other place for transients to sleep then you would probably be on the interstate hitchhiking by 8:00 a.m.- Most missions across the country only give you three nights lodging every 30 days, and in most cities there is usually just a single mission. If there was a bridge over the interstate at the off ramp where you were let off last. You could sleep under the bridge- the bridge being your shelter.

A homeless man could expect to sleep under a bridge alongside an interstate highway about half the time. Sometimes the bridge would leak and you would be wet as you slept under the bridge. It could be too cold to sleep for some and you would wake up fitfully during the night. If you stayed in a city instead of hitchhiking to a different city then you have to find a place to hide so that you would not be a victim of a crime. Usually a homeless man could have no more than 6 meals over 6 days. (Not 6 a day but one a day). Many times there were churches that fed the homeless, and you might be able to get a sandwich.

After being homeless for six months, the homeless person is used to not eating for two to three days in a row. Also many homeless go some place warm for the winter in much the same way the birds migrate south.

The people who ran the missions let you know that they didn’t give you more what was the set allowance for any one night. They usually let you know that if you didn’t like it you could always go to another city. The map of the interstate highway system of the U.S. would help you get to another city through hitchhiking. If the homeless person could still get a bed he would probably wait in the library until check-in time which would be different at different missions. But many times it would be at 5:00 p.m. and check-in would usually include filling out forms on who you were and where you headed.

There would be a religious preacher for at least an hour; many times for an hour and half. The religion of most missions is two things if anything—loud and simple. Because you have to go to service to get a bed for the night it is not only demeaning it has a brainwashing effect. I was always worried about losing my religion, because the missions were usually funded by a different religion than mine.

The transients had not yet showered for the evening and if you were clean and it was crowded , and it usually was, the stench would be overwhelming. Showers are mandatory, but washing your clothes in sinks are always prohibited. So you still smell bad, because your clothes smell bad. After service you could expect a second helping especially if there was no place in the city to eat breakfast or lunch then there would be showers and you get a towel to dry off with- to get a towel you would have to check your clothing in a basket for the night as mentioned earlier.

There were people who went to the missions who were not the denomination of the preacher. There is a simple rule: "To get a bed you have to sign in and go to service". The homeless shelters are a lot like prisons in that they institutionalize people. They tell you when to get up, when to shower, when to go to sleep and when to shave if they let you.

On some days, you may get to see a social worker if you are homeless for a long period of time. Waiting in line is the routine of the day. You wait in line to get in the mission, for the library to open, you wait for lunch, and you wait for a ride.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and I was surprised that I was rested. When I went to sleep, I worried...

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March – April 1996 – Issue 14