The Portrait of Formerly Homeless: James Jude Patton

by Jim Patton              

     My name is Jim. After more than 17 years of family abuse and neglect and a nervous breakdown I became homeless. I stayed homeless because I had no marketable job skills. Here is one story of my odyssey. It was March of 1985, I was in Savannah Georgia. After staying my first 2 nights in a winter emergency shelter, the winter emergency shelter closed because it was the first day of spring and technically winter was over even though it was still cold enough to see your breath. There were no Catholic shelters in the city at that time. The emergency shelter was well heated, newly renovated, but there was petty thievery and to solve that problem more supervision would be needed. The thievery was done by members of a homeless street gang. While in Savannah a policeman told me that street gangs were becoming a problem and that there were 3 gangs in the city. No food was ever served in the emergency shelter. As far as missions go it was a good mission. I realized that I needed help for my emotional illness, so I sought help from the local government. I was told by an intake worker that after a week I could be in an apartment. I found out that there was another mission in the city. It seemed that after more than two and a half years of homelessness I would get off the streets into permanent housing.

     But it was not to be. The rescue mission had a policy of waking up the clients 4 times during the night for one half hour of prayer. Bedtime was at eight-thirty. The staff then woke up the transients up at nine, twelve midnight, three a.m., and six. At seven a.m. the staff woke up the homeless clients to vacate the mission. There were no beds in the mission. The homeless slept on wooden church pews. There were no cushions or pillows, nor were there any blankets. The staff, who were not homeless had coffee and doughnuts for breakfast. The homeless ate no breakfast. The homeless also ate no dinner. There was a lunch at a local soup kitchen. The food was not hot. There were no seconds. After my second night in the religious rescue mission I suffered so badly from sleep deprivation that I did not know what day it was, and I did not know the day of the month. I remember saying to myself that I had to take what was left of my mind and get out of here. The local government employees tried their best to get me off the streets and get me help for my emotional illness. I saw a psychiatrist, courtesy of the local government of Savannah. I, like so many others, did not get out of the homeless trap because I was afraid I would be put in a psychiatric hospital. I was also in a great deal of denial. I finally got help in another city.

Copyright the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

Support Offered for Mentally Ill at Local "Gathering Place"

by Richard Kiefer

At The Gathering Place at 2219 Payne in Cleveland, Ohio, volunteers can learn about the life stories of street people. Adults with severe mental illness who are on the street can come in from the cold here for a free meal, free medical attention, and enjoy a clubhouse atmosphere (movies, card games, etc.). Volunteering as an intake worker, which means greeting people at the door and registering them for needed services, in January of 1996, I met two homeless men.

Jon Waters

Jon Waters is a homeless man of mixed descent, 6’2" and about 190 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. He is a nice-looking guy with a good sense of humor and has training as a computer technician.

Waters wound up as a street person because his stepfather kicked him out on Christmas Day 1995 after a fight. He has a long sad, story and startling views.

“I’m sorry my mother didn’t choose an abortion when she was raped back in 1975,” he said. He said he was molested in 1984 by his uncle; in 1990 Waters ended up in prison (for a reason he didn’t disclose).

On November 23, 1991, when Waters was 15, he was shot; he was the victim of a robbery and the bullet that hit him shattered inside his brain. Waters is 19 and seeking help for mental problems.   

Waters said he sleeps poorly in the local homeless shelter. “I only had an hour and a half of sleep because I’m a light sleeper and people snore,” he said. “I had a dream last night where I’m falling from a cliff and just before I hit bottom, I woke up.”

Waters said that he feels like fighting some days. “It ain’t fun being homeless,” he said. He showed off pictures of his step-kids, Tamara and Tonya, 3 and 2. He shared happy memories of his family and growing up. He said he misses them. He remembers being a thief stealing clothes, tools, and fishing tackle from a store and contemplating suicide at 9.

Waters suggested to know him better, someone could spend a day with him. His description of his day is: getting up then smoking a cigarette, and sitting in a garage with friends.

Bill Black

Bill Black, 52, has been homeless about six months. A black man, 6’3", 249 pounds— he completed only the ninth grade; a psychiatric attendant with first-aid training, he is also a professional hairdresser.

I asked him if he is afraid of being a forgotten person and he said he is getting back on his feet. Black characterized street life as, "People bumming me. People with loud conversations. I’m glad they spit on me instead of hit me."

"They’re homeless too!" Black said. "Everyone is homeless the minute they leave the house and get into that tin can! I guess I’m just sick and angry; life on the streets is breaking my back!"

Black told me he longs for a regular life again. "I dream about a beautiful apartment—three meals a day, a girlfriend, and a disability check," he said.

"You get hungry; you can’t get food unless you steal," Black said, "My worst critics say I’m a diamond in the rough but a fool."

At the end of the interview Black tearfully commented, "This world of ours is just totally crazy to me." After our meeting, Black went back to his life. At night he sleeps on the street, and during the day he sits in the local coffee houses of Cleveland.

Editor's note: The names have been changed for this article to protect their identity.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

Street Doc Helps Those in Need : Dr. Clarence Taylor

by Michael L. McCray

There is no group of people more aware of the effects of the changing political climate in America than those physicians who treat the homeless in America, and Dr. Clarence Taylor is one of those doctors.

Dr. Taylor is well aware of the plight of the less advantaged, being the son of an activist minister from Washington D.C. “My father was very active in the civil rights movement and helped instill a deep compassion for the less fortunate members of society and respect for the dignity of all people. I was marching in the movement from a very early age and our home was a center for people of all races concerned about civil rights," stated Dr. Taylor.

His father and mother managed to raise eight children all of whom attended college and postgraduate work. One of Dr. Taylor's sisters became one of the youngest federal judges ever appointed to the bench by President Carter.

Dr. Taylor became a physician because he wanted to make a difference and help those less fortunate than himself, but stays active with his first love-- music. He is the founder of Doc City Production and has produced his first CD with a local Oberlin band called JA-HFU. He is presently working on a second CD.

This work is in addition to being on the staff & faculty of Cleveland Neighborhood Health Services, Case Western University Hospitals, Cleveland Metro Health, and working for Health Care for the Homeless.

A lot of the homeless men look up to Dr. Taylor. Because he dresses so stylishly, many are shocked when they discover he is their physician. He is respectful to all he treats and goes out of his way to help many homeless as he combats many of societies public health concerns. Tuberculosis, AIDS, STDs, infections, Influenzas, Hepatitis, are all part of the battle being waged on the streets of Cleveland by Dr. Taylor for Health Care for the Homeless.

Health Care for the Homeless was begun in large cities to keep the emergency room free from homeless people with no other access to the health care system. Many non-emergency cases were being handled by emergency rooms and clogging the emergency health care system.

Serious public health problems contracted by homeless individuals were arriving into the health care system in a far more serious state. "Problems that may have been minor were arriving as major problems and needless deaths were occurring," states Dr. Taylor. “The cost of letting these problems get out of hand is staggering. A case of hepatitis “A” not caught can infect many people. It can lead to hospitalization at an average cost of $1,000 a day. Tuberculosis that is on the rise in the homeless community here and across the nation is a terribly expensive disease. It is also highly contagious and extremely difficult to battle. Many of the wonder drugs for all infections are not working as well as they once did.”

“There are many personal medical conditions that have much greater social cost if they are allowed to go unchecked. Private health struggles like cancer, glaucoma, diabetes, mental illness, drug addictions, cuts, colds and other health problems that plague the homeless can often cost society much more if allowed to progress. You have many people with health problems that have to be managed. It will increase the cost of health care in this country significantly if these people’s needs are not met. These people will end up in emergency rooms with advanced illness.” according to Dr. Taylor.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

Serving the Poor with Dignity and Respect: Jean Andolsen

by Beth Prebel

Jean Andolsen is the Associate Director, Initial Assistance for the Cuyahoga County Department of Human Services. Andolsen and her staff determine eligibility for welfare benefits, or as Jean prefers to call it, human services. And, keeping the focus on human is what stands out about Jean.

Andolsen is a veteran of the Department of Human Services. She has been in her current position for 6 years, but has been with the department for 27. With an undergraduate degree in political science and a masters degree in social work, Andolsen is well qualified for her role.

Matching up people with the available resources is what Andolsen enjoys about her work. However, this is no easy task. Andolsen’s staff of 240 handles approximately 3,000 applications each month. When a person contacts Human Services, an interview is scheduled for them to meet with a staff member. In order to determine eligibility, it is necessary to obtain specific information from each applicant. Recently, an inter-active application was created on computer, making the process more efficient.

Not all recipients have direct contact with Human Services. Many applications are handled from nursing homes for those on Medicaid. The department also handles benefit payments for those on medical care.

One of the challenges Andolsen faces is a reduction in benefits. Over the years, there has been a significant decrease in available services. For example, the only assistance a single adult can now receive is food stamps. Worth noting is that about 30-40% of the persons receiving assistance are single adults. Yet Andolsen will try to utilize whatever options are available. If the person is disabled, he or she might be eligible for Social Security income. And, if the person is employable, he or she will be directed to the jobs department.

Providing human services is not the popular and “hot” issue it once was. One reason is that the needs of those requiring assistance are complex and not easily resolved. In a society that demands immediate results, resolving human issues falls short. There may be a multitude of concerns involved ranging from alcohol and drug abuse, to mental illness and social problems. Because the interviewer is not a social worker, he or she must direct the applicant to the appropriate agency. It is a process that may take time. However, the Department of Human Services is audited by various people and agencies to ensure that they are following all procedures and in compliance with regulations. Failure to do so could result in a reduction of benefits.

There is an inclination for society to view recipients as lazy or looking for a handout. Andolsen believes that not everyone starts out on the same footing. Unlike the stereotype, there is no specific “type” of recipient. The majority of recipients are not “lifers." Most individuals need assistance on an on again/off again basis. Much of the public is not aware of the various situations affecting people that result in their need for assistance. These include refugees (many from Bosnia), AIDS patients, and displaced older women who cannot find work. During Desert Storm, Andolsen saw many military wives whose husbands were away.

Lately there has been a tendency to zero in on young women, particularly on unmarried women with children. But the fact is, and what most people are not aware of, is that more assistance is sent to nursing home patients for Medicare than is spent on ADC.

It is the philosophy of Andolsen and her staff to show a respectful manner so as not to demean people. They assist those who have needs, with the goal being a permanent job with benefits. In response to the public’s recent demand for employment, a special unit was created to help those with social problems that prevent them from being employable.

There is progress, particularly in dealing with the issues of the homeless.

A unit for the homeless was established by Andolsen several years ago. The most important and successful aspect of this unit is the 24-hour turn around time from when a homeless individual contacts Human Services to when the applications taken.

Through the efforts of the unit, a homeless person can now use the address of the office of Human Services or the shelter as a mailing address to receive benefits.

Andolsen is pleased with the administration’s knowledge and education regarding the issues confronting the homeless. An example is illustrated with homeless women. In some counties, homelessness constitutes child abuse. However, she is proud to report that this is not the case in Cuyahoga County.

Economic uncertainty may contribute to the hostile climate toward the homeless and disadvantaged. Some people see their own fears manifested in the misfortune of others, causing them to react with anger or hatred instead of compassion.

Still, Andolsen is hopeful for the future. She believes it starts with the efforts of one individual at a time. She strongly encourages letter writing to public officials. Whatever can be done, each level of involvement is important.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

Ron Reinhart Obtains a Doctorate of Life on the Street: Ron Reinhart

by Mike McCray

People often look at the homeless and see only a reflection of the moment, not the person’s history. Most homeless people are not born homeless, nor do they necessarily die homeless. Ron Reinhart is a 47-year-old man who understands this, having been homeless at various times during an 18-year span of his life.

Ron’s homeless life began in 1970, during the end of the hippie movement. He attributes much of his homeless experience to drugs and alcohol abuse. “I think I was like everyone else at that time - we were trying to find ourselves, but in reality we were already” there, he says.                           

“We were all looking for a change but there could not be any change because you brought the same person with you wherever you went.”

During those times Ron did a lot of things he was ashamed of - such as lying, cheating, and stealing - just to get through the day and support his drug and alcohol habits. Eventually, he was no longer able to care for himself.

But Ron’s life has changed, and he was able to move into the position of Program Coordinator at Bishop Cosgrove Center in Cleveland. The center offers meals and other support services to homeless drug users and alcoholics. Ron has been free of his addictions for eight years. He attributes his recovery to spirituality. “I get up every morning and give it to God and go about my business. When I do face a crisis in my life, God removes the obsession and I do not drink, I do not even think about it. I do make mistakes every day but so does everyone else. It’s a part of life.” Ron sees the main cause of homelessness a little differently than most people. He attributes the problems many homeless people face to broken personal relationships.

Today we seem to think that homelessness is caused by economic conditions. But if that were true, then during times of great prosperity we would have no homeless people,” Ron says. “Economics is a partial answer, it is not a complete answer. Getting people back into housing, rehabilitation, is all a good thing, but if they do not learn how to nurture relationships with other people and a crisis enters their life again they will be right back on the streets again.”

Most people who are alcoholics or drug addicts break down those important human relationships. He feels that this behavior destroys the vital human safety net that we all need to survive.

When asked if he thinks he will ever end up homeless again, Ron says “no”. He now has too many friends who would prevent that from happening. His own safety net is firmly in place.

This article originally appeared in Issue12. Reinhart is no longer with the Cosgrove, but is currently working with the Salvation Army's PASS Program.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

More Than Ever, Local Agencies Offer Solutions: Cleveland Works

by Pat Cichowicz

Hey, Washington! You wanna get people off welfare? Catch this!

First of all, think - why can’t people on Welfare get a job? A person who has to use welfare as a means of support can’t afford good clothes for working in; is probably in poor health; may have legal problems; probably has children to take care of; and does not have basic job skills.

These are no small obstacles to overcome but Cleveland Works takes on all of them. Founded in 1986 under the direction of David Roth, Cleveland Works has implemented an all inclusive, very ambitious program to deal with all the aspects that would keep a person from being gainfully employed. Located in downtown Cleveland in the Caxton Building at 812 Huron, Cleveland works provides candidates with 400 hours of classroom instruction and job retention skills. While enrolled in the program, personal aspects of a candidate’s life are dealt with as well.

For the children of candidates there is a child care center that features head-start training 260 days a year for 10 hours a day. Child centered education extends to the whole family. There are parenting courses offered to candidates on child development issues. Topics relating to working parents are covered. One course centers around the ways that family life management may affect job performance.

Cleveland Works has a wellness program that is linked to the Metro Health Downtown Center. It provides physical examinations, drug tests, and primary and preventative care for all sorts of illnesses. In its goal to encourage good health, the medical staff also offers workshops and classes regarding health and nutrition.

Cleveland Works did not originally plan to offer legal services. However, it became evident that one of the major obstacles to employment for candidates was related to severe legal problems. So in 1989 a legal department was started. It averages 4 new cases a day or almost 1000 cases a year. These cases deal with a variety of problems. Spousal abuse, child support enforcement, landlord disputes, and personal brushes with the law are some of the most common cases that are handled. There are two full-time attorneys and three part-time lawyers. Cleveland Works also offers courses to help students understand aspects of the law that may affect their lives.

All these programs are a support system for the actual job training part of Cleveland Works. When a person comes to Cleveland Works for the first time, he/she is interviewed to find out if it will fit their needs. Once accepted, the candidate spends mornings in an extensive 4-week job readiness workshop. Roberta Shears the Executive Assistant, calls it a kind of “Boot Camp.” She says, “All candidates are required to treat this training as they would a real job. In other words, they have to dress as if they were going to work and most importantly, be on time.” The workshop gives students training in how to market themselves. They fill out applications and practice job interviewing. They even learn how to budget money and time. Education in the afternoon sessions includes academic skills such as Business Math and English as well as technical office skills like typing reports, proofreading and editing. Role-playing is used to practice telephone etiquette and proper workplace communication.

Do prospective job candidates have to have a diploma? Patti Campbell, the head of the Marketing Department says, “ We try to instill in our candidates the reality of the workplace. And let’s face it, all employers want a diploma so we offer GED classes.”

Finally, after extensive training, the candidate is ready. So now what happens? There are two recruiters who actively seek out jobs from 600 area employers. They look specifically for jobs above $6.00/hour with benefits. The average starting salary for candidates is around $7.00/hour.

The candidate receives assistance in producing a resume and practices his or her interview techniques. Patti Campbell stresses, “Employers want good skills, but also good spelling! No slang. Being on time! Dressing appropriately! These are the realities of the workplace.”

The candidate is then invited to choose beautiful dry cleaned clothes with matching shoes and handbags. Jewelry, nylons, and toiletries like deodorant and toothpaste and lotion are provided. All of these are donated by the Ketura Group, a professional women’s division of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of Hadassah. They call this program “ Suited for Success.”

After the candidate is hired, he/she is not left alone. For a period of one year, there is a liaison that settles any problems between the employer and employee. Employers like this service and also the fact that the recruiting service saves them time. Cleveland Works is known for its honesty in the job placement field. All references are checked before the candidate comes to a job.

When asked why she does not use her skills as a “head hunter” for big business, Ms. Campbell openly said, “ It’s the satisfaction I get when I know I’ve helped someone. Some students come back and tell us of their successes - some have even bought their first house.”

Cleveland Works has helped hundreds of people secure jobs resulting in a total of 7,500 individuals being dropped from the welfare roles. So why doesn’t everyone who enters the program finish? The answer may be fairly complex. The average student is a 30-year-old woman on welfare with 2 children. When a Cleveland Works dropout who fits that description was asked why she left the program she said that her life was in such turmoil that she did not have the courage to go out on her own. “ I had a great amount of fear. I didn’t think I could make it,” she said. Her life has since settled down and she is working at Dillard’s Department store. Was her education at Cleveland Works lost? “ I used a lot of what I learned about interviewing and such to get my job,” she said.

So one of the things Cleveland Works is fighting is the candidate’s fear of change. Another may be related to an article written in the March issues of the Free Times by Mark Naymik. It alleged that funding cuts had hampered Cleveland Works which is primarily funded by the Cuyahoga County Department of Employment Services and private donations.

Are these allegations true? Possibly. But when cuts came in the fall of 1994, the staff worked for free until a donation of $100,000 was found. It would be a difficult task to find any business in this current economic climate that does not have some financial problems. Should the Cleveland Works management policies be reviewed? Probably. Should teachers and curriculum be reviewed? Constantly. But again, all effective schools revamp constantly to meet the needs of the students. Is the Cleveland Works program structure a good one? Absolutely. Whenever a program strives to change a person’s lifestyle, it confronts a myriad of problems. The overall structure has been copied by 5 other major cities including Los Angeles. Cleveland Works has a 10-year record that says it works!

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

Dedicated to Service, Housing: East Side Catholic Shelter

Since it was founded eleven years ago, the East Side Catholic Shelter has housed almost 4,500 homeless people and served them 170,000 meals.

But funding is always a struggle, according to Director Juanita McPherson.

The shelter is dependent for eighty percent of its funds on government agencies.

A staff of fifteen operates the trim 32-bed shelter, located in a house on Cleveland’s southeast side. The residents do housekeeping, helping “to give something back,” McPherson explains. “People won’t make good decisions about their lives,” she adds, “unless they are in a clean pleasant place.”

Services provided at the shelter include referrals, counseling, tutoring, childcare and even bus tickets.

Since the shelter opened, drugs have become an increasing problem. Addiction itself causes homelessness and the breakup of families, McPherson says.

This crisis has prompted the plans for IWO SAN (Nigerian for “house of healing”), a treatment facility for chemically dependent women and a drug prevention program for their children.

Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese has made available the former Holy Family Convent on Chapelside Rd. Until necessary permits are obtained, the state certified IWO SAN program will continue to be housed in a separate building near the shelter, where it is run by a staff of nine.

This article originally appeared in Issue #3. Juanita McPherson recently retired from East Side Catholic

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

County Ombudsman Strives to Empower Homeless Community

by Matt Hayes and Delmarshae Sledge

In 1994 the Citizens of Cuyahoga County Ombudsman Office appointed Roy C. Love as its director of the Homeless/Hunger Center Outreach Ombudsman Project. The project will aid the homeless in communicating with local officials, and is beginning to make some strong contacts within the city according to Love.

The County Ombudsman Office was established in 1981 to help individuals resolve problems with county government and agencies. Ombudsman Office literature contains words like responds, helps, empowers, insures, provides, assists, and to that end they have identified the homeless as a population that would need a governmental advocate.

Undoubtedly the homeless population of the county has been in desperate need of such an ally. Unfortunately, this potential advocate functioned for thirteen years before the needs of the homeless were addressed by current Executive Ombudsman Steve Wertheim. The Homeless/Hunger Center Outreach Ombudsman Project began in 1994 in order to address problems that dealt with members of the homeless community.

Roy C. Love, a 1985 graduate of John Hay High school makes the rounds of Hunger Centers and shelters interviewing and talking to the community. Love also holds a BA from Baldwin Wallace College where he studied political science, criminal justice, and business management.

For the past eighteen months, as Outreach Ombudsman, Love says he has faced a difficult challenge in fighting bureaucratic regulations in order to help the homeless. He has become a regular at the Bishop Cosgrove Center where staff member Ron Reinhart speaks highly of him. Reinhart states that “Roy really takes people’s problems to heart” and is diligent about finding people to deliver important messages. Love admits that seeing former classmates using free meal sites and hunger centers has a profound affect upon him. He understands that correcting problems of housing, healthcare, and employment are difficult for one man but still strives to make a difference one person at a time.

This article originally appeared in Issue 11.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

City Official Seeks Incentives to End the Cycle

by Tom Hayes

Despite a rather tempting offer to be idealistic and unwind, Bill Resseger, who works with the Department of Community Development, when asked what he would do if it were within his power to end homelessness entirely, took a more pragmatic approach and spoke about how he would affect policy in Cleveland.

“The highest priority would be assuring the homeless of both the opportunity and the incentive to move beyond homelessness.” Resseger added that the homeless should be helped to find housing and helped to become self-sufficient.

It was important to Resseger, a nineteen-year employee with the City of Cleveland, to point out that Mayor White and the County Commissioners—and other local agencies—took an important step toward a solution to the homeless crisis when they came together and formed the Office of Homeless Services for Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland. The OHS, he felt, was an important means by which the County and City could work together toward the same goals. A prospect that is important if Cuyahoga County and Greater Cleveland want to solve the homelessness problem, which by all indications seems to be growing.

But again, despite an open invitation to comment on the causes of homelessness and the reason for the situation not getting any better, Roesseger was slow to comment and rather reflective.

On the budget, Resseger conceded that cuts coming from the federal level will have a considerable effect on the ability of the County and City to effectively create and implement programs to end homelessness. That these cuts mean a lot of initiatives will never get off the ground at all.

Further, he felt that Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland have yet to feel the impact of cuts at the federal level; and that the effects of cuts will be a while in coming. But still, Resseger maintains that it is one of the duties of the Office of Homeless Services to ensure that the community works together with the money it does receive: that one of the jobs of the City and County are to “coordinate and focus efforts and money toward solutions.” This is done by grant competitions.

Competitive grants are a part of the process for receiving Federal funds; especially now, when there are an increasing number of agencies seeking funds to serve a growing population of disenfranchised citizens. Funds are now more in demand, and yet, to receive them, agencies have to show they are working together to solve the problems of the community. Recently, a federal grant was given to five local agencies. The proposal was filed jointly by the five agencies—all with the assistance of Ruth Ann O’Leary, the only staff person right now at the OHS. This working together, when it is effected entirely, will be called the Continuum of Care: a meshwork of local agencies that provide services from the street up to independence.

When it comes to the homeless population increasing, Roesseger thinks that while it may be so, we should also consider the number of people taken out of the shelter system at the same time. He points to the Shelter Plus Care system—that, he says, will assist 500 substance abusers, mentally ill homeless, and AIDS patients; Roesseger also points to the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority and its work with OHS to provide 450 women and children in transitional facilities with permanent housing at King Kennedy; and finally, he points to Y-Haven, which has designed a program that is to help men with substance abuse problems.

But Resseger’s final comments on the homeless problem are more thoughtful than immediate programmatic solutions. He thinks that not until the “factors that cause homelessness” are eliminated will the problem be solved. That, now, there is no living wage, no entry-level jobs, and no end to substance abuse problems.

Resseger believes that the homeless issues needs to be addressed at both ends: a homeless person’s immediate needs and the issues that cause homelessness as well as the regional economy and job creation.

“Where do people with the least job skills fit in?” he asks. He ended by questioning why people enter the job field with such low skills.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

Budzar Moves People in the Right Direction

by Matt Hayes

As the Volunteers of America’s Outreach Counselor, it is Mark Budzar’s job to help those homeless, mostly men, who do not use the shelter system. He works with the homeless who are on the streets due to drug addiction, mental illness, or who just do not want do deal with rules or other people at the shelters. He drives the VOA van throughout the city in search of those who may need help. “I try to provide those guys with whatever services are available.”

Budzar started the job about six months ago and in that time has made contact with almost 500 people on the streets. If he sees traces of people living somewhere on the streets, he will leave a box containing blankets, shirts, a letter about VOA and other necessary items. He later returns to see if the box has been taken and will eventually try to make contact with the person. Budzar also offers rides to work or other appointments for those in need of transportation.

Budzar, who took a degree in Criminal Justice from Cincinnati, found out about the job through a friend. One of the things that drew him to the job was the opportunity to offer direct help to people. “A lot of the job is just talking to people. They just want someone to talk to. You have to build a rapport with them, earn their respect.” Another aspect of the job Budzar enjoys is the diversity every day can bring. “Every single day is different. I’m always running into new people.”

The outreach job is most rewarding for Budzar when he sees people move on to a life of independence. “We had a guy who just bought a house.” Another man who has been homeless for six years has decided to move into VOA after five months of contact with Budzar. It may not be the end of his problems but it is a step in the right direction.   On the other hand, the job can be frustrating to Budzar when he makes a lot of effort or goes out of his way to help someone but they refuse to accept it. “It’s time wasted. It could have been spent on someone else. But you’ve got to try.”

He is also perplexed by the lack of shelter space available for women with children. He recently had a call from a woman who had four children and was seven months pregnant but could not get them into a shelter. “It’s like being on a sinking ship and we’re throwing out the women and children.” The ever-increasing number of homeless people on the streets also can be frustrating. “Last night we (VOA) took care of 50 people. But that’s only 50 and they say there are thousands out there.”

One of the biggest problems that Budzar has encountered on the streets is the use of crack cocaine. “Crack’s a killer. It’s unbelievable.” He estimates that a large majority of the men he encounters on the streets have smoked it at one point in their lives. Many have mental illness and some are ex-cons who never learned how to re-enter into society. Others tell him they’d like to get off the streets but don’t like the rules in the shelters and some just prefer to be on their own.

Budzar admits that he has to be cautious about where he goes by himself on the streets but also respects that some people want to be left alone. “If I see where someone is staying I’m not going to go into their zone unless I get to know them. I don’t feel like I have a right to go down there. That’s their space. They’re down there for a reason and want to be left alone. I wasn’t taught that, I learned that.”

Most of the men Budzar encounters on the streets tell him that better paying jobs and cheaper housing would give them an opportunity to get off the streets. But Mark also stresses that many need to stay sober and stop using drugs in order to make the transition back into society. Another thing that people take for granted that the homeless do not have is regular access to a phone. “It’s 1996, they need a way to keep in touch with prospective employers.” The ever-increasing number of homeless on our streets can at times make Budzar’s job seem hopeless but as he stated earlier, “You’ve got to try.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine published Spring 1996 – Issue 15

Assisting People with Housing: Famicos Foundation

by Pat Cichowicz

For years the American dream has been defined by owning your own home. Most Americans sometime aspire to, or at least admire, the goal of owning a house. To the nation’s poor this is usually totally out of reach. A small group of dedicated professionals are organized to make home ownership a reality for low-income families.

Famicos Foundation began as a housing organization 25 years ago. It is probably the oldest community development housing operation in Cleveland, boasts Sister Joan Gallagher, CSA, the associate director of Famicos.

With a crew of only 10 people, Famicos, under the direction of James Williams, sets out to find houses that not only provide a good home for a family but can feasibly be rehabilitated to the strict City of Cleveland codes.

Once the home is located, Famicos purchases it for $6,000 to $10,000 by buying fire damaged houses or those taken in drug raids or by the city for code violations. It is then up to Ken Tench to write up specifications and estimates for its rehabilitation.

As a member of a larger group, The Cleveland Housing Network, they then bid for funds from the city, state or Federal grant and loan programs. Cleveland Housing Network is a corporation of 12 neighborhood groups that pool their resources to more efficiently deal with neighborhood housing problems. Cleveland Housing Network inspects the intended property, approves the funds, and asks for bids from minority contractors to do the work.

During the period of renovation, the property manager seeks a family with needs that fit this particular house. The prospective homeowner’s income and background are checked in the same way a bank screens a prospective borrower. Once the family is “fitted” to a home, a sliding scale is used to determine the monthly payment and length of the mortgage. The family is encouraged to make choices in the renovation process like choosing the colors of paint and carpeting.

The property managers keep in touch with the homeowners after the property is sold, and can help with future maintenance needs. Famicos follows the Cleveland Housing Network’s code for rent-to-own leases.

Are they nice homes? “Well I love mine,” says Diane Wilson, who is not only a Famicos homeowner, but is also a property manager for Famicos. She said that Famicos provides safe, affordable, quality housing for low-income families. Last year Famicos put 35 families into their own homes, and in total they have renovated somewhere near 300 homes.