you, house

no warm wind flows
through this place—

empty space
parked in a paved lot.

lines lead dully
to an uneventful end
dully--
like a grounded rectangle
of crab-grass

rooted tightly,
the light soft memory of you,
house—
light blue in sunlight and
dressed in white trim

tightly-rooted
the light, soft memory of you
clutching the earth—
square space—
not wanting anyone to take it away.

--Mr. Sugar

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

How To Respond to a Professional Solicitor by Phone?


According to state law, the caller must disclose the following facts:

            * The name of the professional solicitor (as on file with the Attorney                                        General’s Office).

                * The name and address of the charity that will receive the donation.

                * The specific charitable purpose for which the donation will be used.


Warning signs to look for when deciding to make a donation:

            * The caller is hesitant to answer any of your questions.

                * High pressure tactics are used.

                * The name of the charity sounds similar to a well-known national charity.

                * Caller requests that your check be made payable to an individual rather than the charity.

                * You are “guaranteed to win a prize” if you make a donation.

                * The caller offers to have a courier immediately pick up the donation from                              you instead of waiting to receive it through the mail. 


Where can I get more information on charitable organizations and professional solicitors?

             * Call the charity directly and request brochures and financial reports.

             * Call your local Better Business Bureau. (Cleveland 216-241-7678;)

                 * Contact Attorney General  Charitable Foundations Section or file a complaint on their website (Search www.ohio.gov)

The hotline number is 1-800-282-0515 or write to: Ohio Attorney General
Charitable Foundations Section, 101 East Town Street, Columbus, Ohio,
43215-5148.

**Information provided by the Ohio Attorney General's Office

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

The Grapevine Is Business, Not Charity

The Homeless Grapevine newspaper was started in 1993 by a graduate student from Kent State University. Then, as now, the purpose of the Grapevine was to create opportunity for interested homeless persons to advance themselves.

In keeping with this intention, it is hoped, recommended, that persons who purchase the Grapevine view themselves as customers of a business person, customers of a legitimate vendor of a constitutionally protected newspaper.

The Grapevine staff strongly recommends you buy your issues from badged vendors or those vendors with temporary badges. Further, as a customer, you should expect an issue for the price you pay. Persons with Grapevine issues who are not distributing copies with payment are not legitimate vendors and should not be supported.

The Homeless Grapevine is not a charity. The vendors contribute to each issue and the ultimate goal is an entirely vendor-operated and controlled paper. Vendors of the Grapevine should not be pitied, pampered, or considered helpless--they are legitimate businesspersons with motivation, style, and a genuine interest in their own futures.

If you have any questions, comments, interests, or complaints please call the Homeless Grapevine at 216-241-1104.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Shelters Are an Oasis in a Vast Desert

Commentary by Joe Cimperman, Outreach Worker at West Side Catholic Center

“So much of the work we do here daily isn’t about feeding people or keeping someone warm for a few hours. Sure there’s that, but as a place that provides shelter, we’re actually saying, ‘come in for now, get a grip, think it through,' and do so in a place that says 'welcome'.”

--Tricia Conner, St. Leo’s Soup and Salad Kitchen, 1993

When I was asked to write my thoughts and opinions on the role of a shelter, I thought of this saying from a cook in a soup kitchen in the Bronx. The realities of our society today amply demonstrate that safe spaces are needed. With cutbacks in public funds, the burden of providing for the poor and homeless rests even more heavily on private agencies. At the West Side Catholic Center, our shelter serves women and children who need a place to stay for as little as a night or as long as two weeks.

Often the people we see are dealing with issues of abuse that run the gamut from financial tyranny to physical violence. Our shelter, staffed twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, provides more than a roof and a hot meal.

While these are the initial and most basic needs, the shelter staff give plenty of listening time, unquantified amounts of attention, and an overall sense of compassion and concern that communicates: “you are here now, you are safe now.”

While in our shelter here at the WSCC, women are able to lay the groundwork for pursuing a more permanent residence, educational goals, and employment possibilities.

These are the tangibles. More subtlety and getting to the core, life direction, personal growth and development, and fundamental self-esteem issues are discussed, revealed, discovered, and charted. Such work takes time, direction and love. Such work requires shelter from fear of eviction, threat of abuse, and possibility of relapse. It would be unwise--and completely unrealistic--to think that a person could end their homelessness within a two week stay at a shelter.

The problems that led to the person’s current situation are endemic, rooted in a myriad of complex problems like abuse, mental illness, self-induced chemical addictions, or just plain bad luck. The myth that people actually enjoy the homeless lifestyle, hopping from shelter to shelter, eating stale donuts every morning and standing in line for lunch and dinner is one propagated by both a lack of understanding and a frustration with the current convoluted system.

Yes, the desire to end one’s homelessness must come from within. Yes, the will to drastically change one’s daily routine from dependence to independence must be verbalized in the first person. But if this is to happen successfully and thoroughly and, most importantly, really stick, we as a society--must provide some stepping-stones.

For example: viable alcohol/drug treatment provided in 90 day in-patient beds, decent affordable SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY residences (a non-reality in the city), decent employment opportunities (complete with sound health benefits) made possible through public transportation.

A shelter provides someone the time and space and safety they need to change their situations, a shelter is essential for the breathing space needed to make a move. A shelter, in effect, is often the bottom line from which people in need bounce back. As far as the provision of such a shelter, we depend on the generosity of others to maintain the building, cook the nutritious meals, and employ the professional staff.

Often people ask, how can I help? What can I do to work to end homelessness in my city? Personal contributions--financial or volunteering time are always essential. But it is the opinion of this writer that, at the core, homelessness will end only when we as individuals see people who are struggling not as “the Other” but rather as my neighbor. And in such a way, we all have the awesome opportunity to provide some shelter.

Editor's Note: This is the first in what we hope will be a continuing series of commentaries by service providers. Please send submissions to 2012 West 25th St. #717, Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue

Security Roughs Up Homeless Man

Mr. Editor,

On Saturday morning, March 16, 1996, at 8:00 a.m., I was assaulted at Tower City, by one of the security “boys.” You know, the “boys” that wear the Derby Hats like the Highway Patrol. The Officer first gave me a karate kick on the face. Then he punched me twice on the face, knocking a tooth out by the roots. Then, while I was getting on the escalator, he hit me four times with something on my head. Of course, my head and such was bleeding big time. As the “officer” was assaulting me, he threatened to kill me if I ever came into Tower City again. He said, and I quote:

“If you ever come back in here again, I’ll kill you. I was born to kill your kind.”

He is black. I am white.

Tower City employees and two Cleveland Police Officers stood by watching, instead of stopping him from assaulting me. In fact, one officer “cheered” him on.

No one offered an ambulance or nothing. But God knows I needed one.

A social worker has tried every day since to get the name of the Security Company. Tower City will not return the social workers calls.

Legal Aide will not handle lawsuits.

I am “homeless,” unemployed, and “Handicapped.”

Is this a way for a “handicapped” person to be treated?

If you can be of any assistance, or any of your readers can assist me in any way, I would appreciate it very much.

Handicapped and Still-Hurting,

Donald Croyle

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Questions Raised About Project Homeless

by Irwin M. Fletcher

Since 1987, Life Direction, Inc., Project Homeless has claimed in mailers and solicitation phone calls to provide shelter, food, hot meals, referrals, counseling, medical treatment, clothing, transportation, and emergency assistance to the homeless of Cleveland. However, concerns have surfaced about the legitimacy of claims made in the fund raising efforts of Project Homeless.

Located at East 154th and St. Clair, Project Homeless’ mission statement is to, “assist alcoholics, drug addicts, and destitute people to retain sobriety, a drug free life, and ability to function as normal people.” In an informational report issued in 1992, Project Homeless sited a marketing survey that concluded that, “Project Homeless was near the top in credibility and recognition among the agencies providing direct services to the needy.”

Several persons within the realm of homeless services did not concur with this finding, however. Ruth Anne O’Leary, Grants Coordinator at the Cleveland / Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services stated, “I have had no formal contact with Project Homeless. I was not aware of them until late last year. They don’t participate in the network of providers that are involved with the Continuum of Care that the office is working with.”

Project Homeless is not listed in the database of the United Way’s First Call for Help either. Judy Miller of the United Way described the First Call for Help system as, “an information referral service designed to provide information and to direct people to services in Cuyahoga County.” When asked about Project Homeless, Miller responded, “in 1995 11,023 of 61,340 total calls were from local homeless persons. At present time, Project Homeless is not on our database.”

The pamphlets that Project Homeless mails out to Cuyahoga, Lake, Medina, and Lorain County residents, though promise possible donors that their monetary gifts will be used to support an organization that, “directly feeds, clothes, and shelters a substantial number of needy children and their families throughout the year. (Holiday Appeal Pamphlet, 1995)”

Questions about Project Homeless have also been raised by the Cleveland City Councilman from Ward 11, Michael Polensek. Polensek said, “I’ve heard statements that it’s a con; it would be a surprise to me if they had a shelter.”

Kenneth Moore, the executive director of Project Homeless, replied to Polensek’s statements by saying, “for many fucking years we’ve given away hundreds of thousands of pounds of fucking food. Now, do you think Mike Polensek would come here and say, `hey, you people are doing a good fucking job?` He don’t give a flying fuck. He has never come here, how in the fuck can he think that?”

“You think that he would come down here and say, `hey, thank you for feeding my ward.` Shame on him for not coming here. Many years ago I asked him to help us and he pushed us away. He don’t give a shit!”

When a phone call was made to Project Homeless to request an interview, Moore responded, “this is all fucking bullshit.” He stated that he believes that those who claim that his organization does not serve the homeless are liars. Also he would not respond to the question of where the alleged shelter is located.

“Our shelters are full, OK. We’re small. We have never said we didn’t have any shelter. That doesn’t make any sense. So, all I hear are blatant fucking lies, even from you people. Our shelters are filled up. I cannot put any more people in our shelters. OK, so if somebody comes here and we can’t help them . . . what am I supposed to do?”

Besides the service professionals that have their doubts about Project Homeless, members of the homeless community have complained that they did not receive the services that are advertised in the mailers. Jim, a formerly homeless man who visited Project Homeless in January said, “they don’t have any provisions for the homeless. I was prepared to spend the night but everyone there claimed ignorance about a shelter. The mailer is totally misleading.”

A homeless man named Richard, who visited Project Homeless in February was also told that there was no shelter. He received a large bag of food but complained that most of the food was useless to a homeless person who would not have access to a can opener or a stove. The only items that he found use for were three loaves of bread and two boxes of cereal.

The rest of the bag consisted of items that are useless to homeless persons like packages of uncooked macaroni, a bottle of barbecue sauce, and a can of chocolate syrup. The bag also included a frozen vegetable mix that was torn open and rotten. Richard was told he could come back once a month for food, but that he was looking at the wrong organization if he was in need of shelter, services, transportation, or referrals.

Two former colleagues at Project Homeless who did not wish to be identified also disagreed with Moore’s claims that shelter, hot meals, and emergency services are offered by the organization. A professional working with the homeless who has direct knowledge of Project Homeless commented, “they were evasive when I asked about the shelter. I never saw the shelters and never saw anyone helping people off the streets. They claim to serve hot meals, but I never saw any. I don’t understand how they call themselves a homeless organization, they’re not sheltering anybody.”

A one-time volunteer who worked for Project Homeless for several years also had doubts about the integrity of the program. This person claimed, “I asked a half dozen times to see the shelters but they said they were full every time. I never saw any direct assistance. They’re not serving any meals to the homeless.” When asked about Moore’s claim that social workers regularly worked with Project Homeless clients, this person responded, “I don’t know what social workers would do there.”

“They told me there were three shelters - I never saw any of them,” the former volunteer continued. “They did make big money from auctions and sports shows and volunteers made big bucks from telemarketing. I’ve never seen clothes passed out or medical or dental services.” This person’s overall impression of Project Homeless was, “they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Two days after the initial phone call was made to Moore, a homeless man, Bob Banks was sent to Project Homeless’ storefront to request services. When he asked to be admitted into the shelter program he was told that the shelter was full and that, in fact, there were already two people sleeping on the floor of the shelter and that there is a waiting list to get into the program.

Banks asked where the shelter is located, too. His question was met with another question, however: “why do you want to know that?” When Banks mentioned that he had no use for the bag of food because he is homeless, he was offered Cracker Jacks and cookies.

Moore defended his organization’s choice of food items by claiming that homeless persons received, “other provisions and stuff.” Another food pantry in the East Cleveland / Collinwood area claimed that they encountered very few homeless clients. Those that they serve, however, are provided with can openers and food with nutritional value, not snacks.

A visit by Grapevine reporters to the storefront office of Project Homeless was Kenneth Moore’s opportunity to directly answer the complaints registered against his organization. When asked to give his side of the story, Moore responded, “I don’t give a shit, I don’t care. I have nothing to say.”

He went on to add, “I rightly don’t care what people have to say. The people who would say I’m a con artist - it doesn’t make any sense. The first four years I started this I had no paycheck at all. For some fucking creep, some asshole to say something like that is not normal, it’s not nice, it’s crass, it’s pompous. It doesn’t make any sense, it pisses me off. So, why do I sit here and have to fucking defend myself?”

“We actually give out tons of food here. Now that, on any measure of any measuring device is phenomenal, that’s heavy duty, I mean that’s delightful. We’re probably the biggest independent agency for giving out food, not sheltering people, but food.”

His response to the validity of the mailers that claim to offer homeless people emergency shelter, hot meals, transportation, and referrals was, “we never said off the fucking street now, though, did we? So you’re reading into things that you really don’t understand what’s going on.” One local homeless activist questioned where a homeless person would be from but off the street.

The mailers which are, according to a former volunteer, “targeted at households with incomes over $50,000 a year,” fail to specify which homeless people are eligible for services. According to a mailer dated September 1, 1995, Project Homeless claims to have provided 3,565 days of stay in their shelter program between January 1 and August 31 of 1995 (an average of almost 15 people per night).

This mailer also claims that Project Homeless prepared and served 12,251 meals in the shelter program while assisting 8,816 individuals in the pantry program.

Moore also refused the Grapevine’s request to tour the shelter and speak with a shelter resident. His reply was, “all they have left is their privacy,” which is printed on a piece of paper hanging on a bulletin board in the Project Homeless office. Moore went on to add, “we don’t have too many people staying at the shelters because it’s against the fucking law. Everybody wants to build on something that’s not there.”

Moore, did however, introduce the Grapevine reporters to a man that he claims is formerly homeless and currently employed by Project Homeless as a result of the services he received as a client from the organization. A former Project Homeless volunteer, though told the Grapevine that he believes the man in question is simply Moore’s roommate and receives little or no compensation for his work in the pantry program. 

Explaining his program’s services, Moore said, “what we do is when we shelter people we get into their psyche. We have a doctor on the board of directors, we have a dentist that does free stuff for them. You said that you had people come here and that they said that we didn’t have any places - my people said that - and that’s bullshit. That’s a lie. I don’t believe that.”

“We have referrals up the ying yang, we got social workers, we got hospital workers. You don’t know, you’re misinformed. I don’t have to prove anything to you.”

“Somebody came in for two fucking hours. I was showing him the shelters - he was from the Plain Dealer. I was showing him the shelters, and the pantry. Two hours I wasted and guess what the person said, . . . `we don’t write nice stories.`”

Jim Lawless, the Plain Dealer reporter who had visited Project Homeless refuted Moore’s statements. “I didn’t say that and I did not see a shelter,” said Lawless.

Not only has Project Homeless avoided questions about the alleged shelter, but they have also been unwilling to show their tax returns to the Homeless Grapevine. When the Grapevine asked to see them during it’s original visit to Project Homeless, Moore responded, “I don’t have them here.” The 990 tax form, which is filed by all non-profit agencies is, according to the form itself, “open to public inspection.”

Scott Merriman, President of the Project Homeless Board of Trustees rejected this statement claiming in a letter that, “I am unsure exactly what your rights are. But, I can assure you that our organization has rights and I am very familiar with those rights.” Merriman claimed that Project Homeless was not obligated to show the 990’s to the Grapevine and refused to comment on the allegations made against his organization.

The Grapevine did, however obtain Project Homeless’ 990 tax forms from the Attorney General’s office for the years 1991, 1992, and 1993 and financial statements for 1994 and 1995. Discrepancies between the IRS 990 tax forms and Project Homeless internal financial statements were found in the areas of revenue, expense, and money left over at the end of the year.

On the 1993 IRS tax forms, Project Homeless claimed to have brought in $209,788 in revenue and support. However, in their internal financial statement, they list their 1993 total revenue as $290,711. The expenses on the 990 form for 1993 are listed as $129,617, while Project Homeless claims to have spent $227,024 on the internal financial statement. Also, according to the IRS form, $80,171 was carried over from 1993 to 1994. The Project Homeless statement, however, claims that $111,546 was in excess at the end of 1993.

Other items of interest on the 990 tax forms were the amounts of money spent on salaries and insurance. Moore’s salary is listed as $16,110 a year for 75 hours of work per week ($4.13 per hour) and a secretary’s salary is listed as $3,332 a year for 50 hours of work per week ($1.28 per hour). In 1993, Project Homeless claimed to spend $1,949 on insurance, while a shelter in Cleveland that is of similar size to the one that Project Homeless claims to operate spent $3,505 on insurance.

With the Project Homeless financial statement claiming that $407,519 was raised in 1994, the question surfaces of how much it actually costs to run a food pantry. Project Homeless can purchase food and household goods from the Cleveland Food Bank for 14 cents per pound. According to the September mailer, Project Homeless gave away 28,032 pounds of household goods and 320,511 pounds of food in fiscal 1994.

Assuming that all food and household goods were bought from the food bank and not received as donations, Project Homeless spent $48,796 on food and supplies for the pantry program. This would leave Project Homeless almost $360,000 per year to operate the alleged shelter and pay for any other costs associated with providing meals, transportation, shelter, and medical services to the indigent.

Project Homeless claims that some of this money is placed into a building fund. In a letter dated May 12, 1992, Project Homeless thanks a donor and informs him that their goal is to, “purchase a facility that can house a minimum of 24 clients . . . we desire to purchase an existing, functioning motel.” The letter goes on to reassure donors to the building fund that, “if we could not find a facility for our intended purpose by January 31, 1993, then all funds would be returned to you.” The Homeless Grapevine has been unable to locate a building owned by Project Homeless that is large enough to shelter two dozen people and finds no evidence in the 990’s of money being returned to donors.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which conducted an investigation of Project Homeless in 1991, has resumed an inquiry into this organization. However, because of policy, the Attorney General cannot comment on any continuing investigation and has no knowledge of the outcome of the last investigation.

Despite all the questions about the organization’s legitimacy, the leadership of Project Homeless stands firm to their claims that they offer shelter, meals, and emergency services to the homeless of Cleveland. They shun coordination of their services with other organizations and disregard public education about homelessness as a failed effort. Kenneth Moore, instead emphasizes fund raising, “do you have funds for us? We need money.”

Irwin M. Fletcher is a contributing writer from time to time; Fletcher is exceptionally talented as an investigative reporter. Fletcher is currently on assignment in Katmandu, Nepal covering a story on off-track betting in the Himalayas.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Only Compassion Can Thread the Needle

Commentary by George Williams

Get ready for the second coming. For it has been written: the first will be last and the last will be first.

Those of us who are in a situation financially or in any form or fashion that are able to make a difference should do so. The reason the Bible states that it is difficult for a rich man to enter is because they do not do more with their good fortune to help the less fortunate. If more people would at least acknowledge the homeless instead of pretending they are invisible or that they all are that way simply because they have accepted poverty as a way of life, it would make a difference.

I, myself was a homeless person long enough to see what it feels like to be in a situation that Christ and his Disciples found themselves in when they were on earth. The first time I found it funny and strange how some people with their temporary trappings of material success and happiness treat such people like they are aliens from another planet just because they have found themselves victims of a society which cares more about greed than about human suffering.

As a distributor of the Grapevine, I continue to see how some people react when they even see the homeless. They act without realizing what goes around comes around. So the next time they think about snubbing their noses or in any manner or form disrespecting such a person remember it could happen to you or someone close to you. If we are going to survive much longer as a human race we are going to have to come out of the “Me, I, and Self Syndrome,” and start caring more for the homeless, the sick, the lonely, and the unwanted. We need to dust off our Bibles and take a look at how it records all the things taking place today.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

“One Strike” Policy Adopted by CMHA

Commentary by Brian Davis

In 1994-1995, the Department of Housing and Urban Development began a process to re-invent the agency, which was an attempt to stave off targeted elimination by the Republican majority. HUD attempted to Block Grant many of their grants and streamlined the agency to bundle programs into larger initiatives. Block Grants are large allocations of funds to communities, with fewer strings attached, designed to replace the large number of smaller allocations that were earmarked for specific programs.

The Department survived a cut in funding of around 27 percent. Many programs were restructured or eliminated, and staff was cut. Locally, dollars from the McKinney programs were reduced and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority received a $13 million cut, and was forced to trim some of its security and administrative staff.

While all of these dire projections of HUD ending were still being debated, in March, President Clinton stepped in to eliminate criminal and drug pushers from public housing on a national level. At the same time that HUD is attempting to return funding priorities and decisions to a local level, Clinton wants a national "One Strike and You’re Out" policy.

This policy attempts to create a safer environment for tenants, and keep criminals and criminal activity out of the Public Housing units on a national level. Clinton championed the Toledo Housing Authority and the Macon, Georgia programs, which were touted as demonstrating "dramatic results" by adopting the "One Strike and You’re Out" policy.

One resident of the Lakeview Terrace Projects looked over the policy and felt that public housing was an entitlement, and should be more inclusive and not as restrictive. Tony Walker, a tenant of CMHA and formerly homeless person, said, "They should give people a second chance, and give a probation period of a year to let people get back into a house setting."

Neal Manly, of Legal Aid in Cleveland, felt there was little change in the new policy. "They still have to prove criminal activity to evict, and tenants have some protection from the courts." The standard property leases usually state that criminal behavior is grounds for termination of the lease.

HUD is providing incentives to public housing authorities (PHA) to implement the "One Strike" policy, and a PHA that does not participate will be given a lower rating in the tight competition for dollars. In 1996, legislation was passed that gave new authority to CMHA to deny prospective tenants units on the basis of illegal drug related activity and alcohol abuse. CMHA was encouraged to screen individuals for criminal background. Local law enforcement agencies are mandated to make criminal conviction records available for use by CMHA.

Walker said, "They are not giving everyone a fair shot. Anyone growing up on the streets of Cleveland is found to have two to three felonies by the age of 35. Everyone should be given a fair shot at food clothing, and shelter. Those are necessities. Everyone is entitled to these three things, so everyone should have an equal shot at CMHA housing."

Scott Pollock, Executive Assistant at CMHA, said that applicants with a criminal background are not put on the bottom of the pile in selection for a CMHA units. "[A criminal background] does not necessarily preclude a person from getting a unit...There is an evaluation process," Pollock said. He went on to say that an ex-offender’s concern about paying their debt to society and then not being able to find housing was well-founded. Pollock said, "Personally, I feel we are an unforgiving society."

Charles See, Director of Community Re-Entry, a program which re-integrates offenders into society acknowledged that it will be more difficult for his clients to obtain housing at CMHA. He said that they would be forced into the private sector, and be faced with either high rent or sub-standard housing.

See agreed that the "One Strike" might be viewed by the ex-offender population as punitive, but felt CMHA needed to provide a safe atmosphere for tenants. "It does have the appearance of selective discrimination. They are addressing what they believe to be a problem population. [The policy] has some punitive repercussions, and it may exacerbate the frustrations of the ex-offender, but it is not the intention of CMHA to alienate.

The "One Strike and You’re Out" Guidelines that HUD developed state, "[Public Housing Authorities] must adopt written policies governing admissions that describe the criteria and standard to be applied" to protect an applicants due process rights. It goes on to state that these policies must be posted and available to applicants upon request.

When a Homeless Grapevine reporter went to the CMHA application department on Church Street on the near west side there was no posted policy on the admission procedure. When the Grapevine reporter asked for a copy of the procedure, and the process for reviewing applications, the CMHA staff person became very adversarial and demanded to know the reason for the request and who the reporter was representing.

The Grapevine reporter did not reveal his identity, but said that the information was public record. The staff member left and returned with a supervisor who gave a copy of the CMHA preferences for housing, but did not have written information on the review process. They directed the Grapevine reporter to the CMHA law offices.

Pollock responded to the lack of written notification of the "One Strike" policy at the admission office by saying, "Not to make excuses, remember, that this is just a new initiative by the President. It is not law, so to speak, yet." He did agree that an explanation of the application process was needed.

Both Pollock and Manly agreed that the policy would stand up in court and was carefully written not to violate the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law. When asked about what this policy does for CMHA’s already damaged image in the community, Pollock said that all depended on the media. He went on to explain, "CMHA residents, like people anywhere, are concerned about having good neighbors, and CMHA has instituted tougher screening and eviction procedures to ensure that this happens. "

Walker, a resident at CMHA, did wonder how many innocent people will be touched by the One Strike policy. He wondered how many innocent residents or relatives of criminals will be quickly dismissed from CMHA before the policy is given some objective oversight. He also said that policies do not deter crime.

Why would HUD, on the one hand claim to turn decisions back to the localities, then implement a national policy in the PHA’s on an issue usually reserved for local jurisdiction oversight—crime deterrence? One obvious explanation is the 1996 is a presidential election year which usually propels every issue into the political arena.

CMHA spokesman Pollock did acknowledge that the upcoming election may have had some impact on the release of the "One Strike" policy. "I am not going to say that there isn’t a little bit of election year politics, but the sense is to take back public housing so they have a safe environment," Pollock said.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

MYTH Vs. FACT

±   Myth: Families stay on welfare for a long time and don’t make any effort to get off.

±   Fact: Less than half of the families that receive AFDC receive it for more than 36 months overall and most families receive aid for no more than two years at a time.

±   Myth: Welfare benefits for families provide them with enough to meet all their basic needs.

±   Fact: AFDC and Food Stamp benefits combined provide less than a poverty level income in all states and their value has been going steadily downward for many years.

±   Myth: Women receiving AFDC have lots of kids and go on having kids after they begin receiving aid.

±   Fact: The most typical family size is a mother and one child and the birthrate among women receiving AFDC is lower than that in the rest of the population.

±   Myth: Families wouldn’t need assistance if they would just go to work.

±   Fact: Many families who are in the work-place cannot make it on their earnings alone and need assistance in order to have any decent standard of living.

±   Myth: Spending on Welfare programs to aid needy families is a major part of the federal budget.

±   Fact: Spending for poor families with children under all public assistance programs that provide for basic needs including medical care amounts to about 6% of the budget.

Information taken from Welfare Myths: Fact or Fiction? Exploring the Truth About Welfare, a publication of the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law: 275 Seventh Avenue, 12th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001-6708. (212) 633-6967.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Long Awaited "Welfare Reform" Implemented

By Jean Taddie

On March 13, 1996, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services granted the State of Ohio a waiver that was needed to fully implement welfare reform in Ohio. House Bill 167 was signed by Governor Voinovich in August of 1995. Parts of this welfare reform bill were already implemented beginning January 1, 1996. However, since several changes to Ohio’s welfare system departed from current federal regulations, a waiver from federal standards was sought and then obtained.

House Bill 167 has brought sweeping changes to Ohio’s welfare system. New time limits are in effect that limit an eligible person from collecting Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) to three years out of any five-year period. After three years within any five-year period, a caretaker would lose benefits for her children unless the child was under age five or unless the parent is on a waiting list for any component of the JOBS program.

In order to be eligible to receive any ADC benefits, the caretaker, and various members of her family, are required to sign a contract in which they agree to comply with all ADC requirements, including the JOBS program. JOBS is basically a series of programs set up to get ADC recipients to work at least 20 hours per week. Under this program, county workers assess the employability of each caretaker and then assign them to one of the JOBS programs. If a caretaker does not comply with all of the JOBS requirements, or if she quits a job without “just cause,” then she will be sanctioned which includes the termination of benefits.

Job Club is a program that trains caretakers in strategies and skills of the job search. In Job Club, caretakers practice looking for a job for six weeks or until they find one, whichever comes first. Under the Subsidized Employment Program (SEP), employers who hire SEP participants receive subsidy payments for a portion of those employees’ wages and benefits. The Work Experience Program (WEP) requires ADC recipients to do volunteer work at public or private organizations in return for their monthly ADC payments. The JOBS Education Program requires that ADC recipients who do not have a high school diploma or GED must get one. The program allows two years for the caretaker to obtain a high school equivalency. If the caretaker cannot pass high school after that, ADC benefits would be terminated. The Linking Employers and Recipients to Needs (LEARN) Program requires ADC recipients to work an unpaid internship with a public or private employer for six months, or until she is hired.

According to Virginia Allen, coordinator and student advisor of Cuyahoga Community College’s western campus Student Technical and Academic Re-training (STAR) program, the JOBS program emphasizes work. First priority goes to getting the parent a good job that can support a family. If no steady, well-paying jobs are available, or if the caretaker lacks valuable job skills, then they will be required to accept un-skilled work. “I’m concerned because education is given fifth priority. Many of these parents need more education and training before they can be hired for an occupation that will provide enough income and medical benefits to sustain a family. Moving people into un-skilled, low-paying, dead-end jobs will not help them to end the cycle of poverty,” Allen stated.

Another criticism of Ohio’s new welfare law is that there are not enough jobs, training programs, or day care spaces available. The entrance of new workers into the job market will increase competition for jobs that provide a sustainable income. Caretakers compete with other job seekers who often have more training and education. In addition, lest we forget the children, ADC recipients all have one thing in common — they are responsible for the well being of a child. If the children who live in our state are to be raised without their parent’s supervision, then — at a bare minimum — more day care institutions will be needed to look after them.

Some of the reforms to the welfare system may benefit the ADC recipient. Joe Garcia, Former Director of Entitlement Services for Cuyahoga County explained, “The increase in the disregard could benefit moms who are trying to work their way off of welfare.” A disregard refers to the amount of earned income or automobile value that is allowed before the caretaker’s ADC payments are reduced. The new standard allows county workers to disregard an automobile worth $4,600 or less when calculating benefits. The new law also allows an earned income disregard for the first $250 plus one-half the remaining income that a caretaker earns.

Supporters of the new welfare law also point to tougher child support enforcement as a benefit to ADC recipients. Under it, parents who are late on their child-support payments could have their Ohio Driver’s and Professional Licenses revoked until they pay up. Although this is hailed by supporters as a great benefit for ADC recipients, critics fear that the caretakers and the children will suffer. First, caretakers must help officials track down the delinquent parent and must attend any number of administrative hearings. The child may be forced to submit to genetic paternity testing. Finally, even if the delinquent parent is identified and found, there is no guarantee that they have any income.

Ohio’s new welfare reform laws are a matter of record. However, the enforcement and execution of these laws is just now being tried. It will be months, perhaps years, before we will learn the results that these experimental reforms have on the low-income families and children in Ohio.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Like Cows to the Slaughter

Commentary by Margaretta Ogletree

Several weeks ago in one of our male shelters, I saw the men lined up to go in for the night, but it looked more like a corral. They were herded like livestock waiting to be slaughtered. There is barely enough room for 25 to 30 people to sleep at night.

The T.V. news and entertainment shows rarely face this sort of issue and it should have come up. The Grapevine is a wonderful organization and I personally am 100% for them but we need to discuss more shelters for men who can’t seem to find a good night's sleep.

There are so many vacant properties out here just rotting away while Mayor White and the rest of the world spend money on new stadiums. My God people! I didn’t hear of any offer to take applications from homeless people to get a job to help build this project.

We write and sell these stories but still no one hears us. All over Cleveland and the state of Ohio there are jobs because you people want to build new things, but no offer to the homeless to work on these projects. Also, there is money being spent on a new football team!

Wake up, America! The sooner you give us an opportunity to work the sooner we will be on our way to being citizens of a city and state, tax payers, and off the streets--at least at night. Then we can get a room for a month, pays bills, move on and up out of these shelters. Shifting men in sites is more cause for disaster, if only you knew! I believe you should turn your sights toward a different type of helping hand and open more doors.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

How Does Education Effect Homelessness?

Is there a relationship between a lack of education and homelessness? The Homeless Grapevine recently interviewed a dozen homeless men and women in Cleveland and asked the following questions: Did you graduate from high school? How old are you? How did you feel about your education and your homelessness? Do you think your education had anything to do with your homelessness?

In spite of statistics which show the direct relation of poverty to a lack of education, no one we interviewed felt the quality of their education effected their present condition: Homelessness, helplessness, hopelessness--what we call "the tree H’s" of poverty.

Bob, over the age of thirty, graduated from John Adams, and told us, "They taught me how to add and subtract." As he revealed his perspective, he stated he did not feel it was the school’s responsibility to prepare him for life after school. "How can they do that? I think they put you on the right track and show you the routes, but you have to take them." Bob felt the depletion of jobs, "Everything’s going overseas," as he put it, was the principle reason for the theory that "the only road out is a job at McDonalds."

Angelo, forty, graduated from East High and told us, "The school is responsible to make sure there are opportunities for education. If you take advantage of it and absorb it, you will prepare yourself for life." He further asserted, "Poor education has nothing to do with homelessness. That’s only a myth."

Using a macro-economic model to characterize the role of prisons in a society, the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (October 1993) demonstrated that a country’s capability to control the costs of an underclass depends on its providing sufficient quality educational facilities for its youth—stating that a country’s educational policy has a substantial effect on its ability manage poverty, "to find a job which pays more than minimum wage."

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

How Do They Endure the Midwestern Winters?

by Matt Hayes

Webster’s dictionary defines the word survive as “to remain alive or in existence after; to continue living or existing.” For the homeless, surviving means to continue living or existing after they no longer have a place to call home.

Every year, thousands of people go homeless on the streets of Cleveland. Never knowing where their next meal is going to come from or where they might be sleeping that night, they live their lives on a day-to-day basis. Exposed to drugs, violence, harsh weather, and an unsympathetic society, their lives are driven by survival. Joe, Rosland, Mike, and Lou are four people who have experienced surviving on the streets.

Joe, who is 34 and has been homeless for over four years, lives under bridges and in Project Heat sites. A crack cocaine addiction pushed him onto the streets and now no longer addicted to crack, he is struggling to control an alcohol problem. “Crack is a five to ten minute high and then you want more,” he said.

According to Joe, the harsh winter weather is one of the most difficult challenges the homeless face. You also must be aware of “fiends” because you “never know who is going to walk up and slit your throat.” For Joe, violence is a part of life on the streets but you can’t be afraid to fight he said, or “people will take everything you have.”

Rosland became homeless just over a year ago when someone broke into her apartment and did $600 worth of damage which she couldn’t repay. The biggest initial shock for her was being on the street and all alone. “I had to depend on myself. Everything I did was all on me.” Getting something to eat has never been a problem for her as much as getting to something to eat. “If the food shelter is on the other end of town and you have no money you have to walk.” Because she has a crippled left leg, finding transportation is crucial for Rosland.

She has also been exposed to her share of violence while living on the streets. “I’ve been raped and robbed several times.” During the winter when she was out all night she would wear three to four layers of clothing and keep moving to stay warm. “Sometimes I would go to a hospital or a laundry mat if I were outside and the police were harassing me.”

For the past several months, Mike and Lou have made their residence behind an abandoned building near the Flats. They built a small home, which they refer to as “The Homestead,” out of scraps from construction sites. Just in front of the Homestead and to the right is a small garden they planted which is already sprouting signs of success. Shelves lining the front of their home are filled with cans of soup, peanut butter, and other staple items. “We’ve got a homeless castle,” exclaimed Lou.

Lou, 37, became homeless after he lost his job as a foreman in a polymer plant and became a crack addict. “I met a guy who was taking a break from a gang and the next thing I knew I was a gang member.” Lou spent a year and a half in the gang and subsequently became addicted to crack. “I worked through a temp agency for 8-9 hours a day for about $27. I’d cash the check, spend it on crack and get high, and then would realize I didn’t have money to eat. Then I would do the same thing the next day.”

Money became hard to come by and Lou began robbing drug dealers. “I smoked half of what I stole and sold the other half.” Lou has had his share of violent encounters as a result of his drug activity on the streets. “I’ve seen many people cut up bad. I’ve seen people shot at. I’ve been shot at and chased by police helicopters, everything.”

Mike is 38 and became homeless after he was released from prison. Now on the streets, he spent most of last winter, one of the coldest and snowiest in Cleveland history, at the Homestead. Lou was fortunate enough to live with a friend in Akron. So how did Mike make it through the winter? “When it was -15 degrees below zero, I stayed out here and Mark came down.” Mark Budzar is the VOA’s Outreach Counselor who looks in on Mike and Lou from time to time. “Mark asked me if I wanted any blankets. I said no. I’ve got five blankets and three quilts which satisfied me and kept me warm.”

Mike explained that because the Homestead is built up solidly behind an old concrete building that, “When the wind blows this house doesn’t even shift. I mean it doesn’t even creak.” On cold days Mike stresses that he can make it. “I build up the fire for cooking and staying warm. I can stay warm if I want to. I just don’t want you to think that I’m some kind of superhuman.”

For Mike and Lou, survival has meant working together. They first met at St. Augustine’s and Lou introduced Mike to the site behind the building where he was staying. Together, using their experience in construction and maintenance work, they built the Homestead. “When we laid down the 2 x 6’s for flooring, we did it all by eye and feel, we didn’t use levels or nothing,” said Lou. “We work good together,” added Mike.

The two plan out each day what they’re going to try to do to make money. That usually involves collecting tin and aluminum cans, copper, or donating plasma. If one or the other happens to come across temporary employment, they share the money while the other stays and looks after the place. “We do the best we can,” says Lou, “and we’re not going into the shelters.”

Lou describes the shelters as 40 - 50 guys in the same room talking about the women they were with and what they made them do for free crack. “It’s sick. A lot of the guys have no ambition and feel they’re owed. But the two of us are productive people.”

Mike added, “A majority of homeless people sit in shelters. I’m out here working hard and walking at least 40 miles a day.” To prove his fitness, Mike took off his sweatshirt to reveal a trim, muscular build. “I’m in shape,” exclaimed Mike. “I have to stay fit.”

Mike and Lou rank firewood as one of the most important commodities for surviving. “We need it to cook and stay warm,” says Mike. Extra clothing, especially socks, is also important for the two. When it comes to eating, Mike and Lou often get help from the West Side market. “We usually collect scraps of vegetables or people who work there ask us what we want and we take it,” says Lou.

Sometimes they go to St. Augustine’s or St. Pat’s to get bread. “Bread means a lot.” One of their favorite meals they cook is a vegetable stew. They recently challenged a visitor to have a bite and he “wolfed it down without even looking up!” exclaimed Lou. They have even thought of someday marketing their concoction. “Homestead Stew we’re going to call it,” says Lou.

Mike and Lou acknowledge the aid of a few close individuals who help them make it on the streets. “We ask Mark for things,” states Mike. Mark Budzar, the VOA Outreach Counselor who looks in on them occasionally, drops off firewood or anything else they may need. “We love this guy Mark for helping us out,” added Lou.

As for prospects for the future and rumors that the area they live in is being surveyed by developers who want to build condos, Mike and Lou are not concerned. “It won’t be until the year 2000 before that happens,” claimed Lou. But they don’t plan on being around if and when that happens. It has always been a dream for Lou to ride a bike across country to California. He has money coming to him and Mike has agreed to go along.

Until that day comes it will be life as usual for the two as they are currently adding another room onto the Homestead. “We may not have three or four thousand dollars in our pockets but in reality are living better and are happier than a lot of people,” said Lou.

Lou also said that they have a bond, thinking alike and having fun while drinking a few beers around their campfire. “Most people think that the homeless are winos living under a bridge and aren’t worth a shit. But those people don’t know what it takes to survive and a lot are only one paycheck away from being homeless,” claimed Lou. According to Mike, his experience at the Homestead has been like a camping experience. “It’s about surviving. Most people couldn’t do this. I got to do what I got to do to survive.”

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Homeless Determine Funding Priorities in Service Sectors

by Brian Davis and Matt Hayes

At the past two forums, held in local meal sites and homeless shelters, the homeless persons in attendance set their own priorities for services in Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland. These priorities will be forwarded to local officials and federal agencies to influence the areas into which funding is directed.

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has, in the past year, started what is known as the Homeless Forum. These Homeless Forums, held once per month, offer an arena in which homeless men and women can express their dissatisfaction with local policies or propose possible solutions to problems they have. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless facilitates these forums and assists the homeless population in implementing any ideas or solutions they offer.

At each Homeless Forum a brief introduction is given and a problem proposed for discussion or comment. This is the initial thrust of the forum, from there it grows like a tree grows or branches like a river branches. Any area of concern is relevant.

The following is a record of questions proposed for discussion and comment and the responses made by those in attendance.


If you were the County Commissioner, what would you do to change the lives of impoverished people?

Answers ranked as most important

  • I would take one percent out of all the entertainment money that goes on inside the county limits and contribute it to the impoverished! We as Americans spend a lot of money on entertainment of all kinds yet we have gotten away from giving to others because of the bad publicity that the “Homeless” have gotten.
  • Help more people get to the hospital and help people to find homes and jobs.
  • Renovate abandoned buildings for low income housing and make job training and jobs available for the homeless.
  • Find out why they are in their condition and address that problem.
  • Create jobs so we can work and create programs to help the poor.
  • Open a TB. clinic for the homeless.
  • Free housing and job training.
  • I would make sure everyone had a place to live.
  • Housing.
  • Refurbish abandoned buildings and homes that drug dealers used and make them livable for the homeless.
  • First, educate people. Make it a must like eating and sleeping. If it can possibly be done and I know it can with hard work and time I know it will be beautiful to see people of urban Cleveland with a spark in their eyes instead of bloodshot eyes.
  • More shelter space for women with children for more than two weeks.
  • A place for the homeless to live; food, laundry facilities, personal hygiene products, further education and job sights.
  • Programs for mothers raising children, infants to twelve years of age.
  • I would make more jobs available to the poor.
  • We need to raise minimum wages so people can live decent.
  • I would like to invest in the Cleveland Public School systems.
  • Make more money available for housing for the homeless people.
  • Jobs for welfare.

Answers ranked as second most important

  • It is a shame that we live in one of the richest countries in the world and can afford to give ATHLETES, ENTERTAINERS, POLITICIANS, etc. an extraordinary amount of money to entertain us, but can’t find it in our hearts to help the less fortunate.
  • Get homeless people and kids on ADC better help.
  • Get people rehabilitation.
  • Raise the tax some so the poor can have a place to stay.
  • More free clinics for the homeless with help for prescriptions for those without medical.
  • Create more jobs.
  • Improve income (increase minimum wage) and employment benefits.
  • Everyone who wanted to work could have a job.
  • Jobs.
  • Find jobs for all the homeless men and women.
  • Get into the conversation of what weakens the black community . . . which is drugs.
  • A day care in all the shelters so people can go and look for a place to live or nice jobs so we can pay our rent every single month.
  • Medicare, childcare, eye examinations complete with decent frames.
  • More shelter care plus.
  • I would help the poor get homes that are in good shape, but not all that expensive.
  • Affordable housing is very important. People on welfare just can’t afford the housing. Say its $400 rent and your receiving $493. What in the hell do you do? Plus you have 4 children. How do you manage?
  • I would donate some money to health care, i.e. dental and eye.
  • Give some money for Cleveland Schools for our children.
  • Shelter plus program.

Answers ranked as third most important

  • Use abandoned sites for drop-in centers and shelters.
  • A place to live like St. Herman’s (while looking for a new place).
  • More funds for housing, education, and medical services for the elderly.
  • Free medical care for the homeless.
  • Voice (voting).
  • I would provide daycare for children so people can work.
  • I would like to see more jobs for the homeless.
  • Programs for third and fourth degree felons before and after incarcerations.
  • I would help the poor kids get an education by building good schools throughout the city.
  • I would start programs to keep all the youths off the streets at night so they wouldn’t be interested in gangs, drugs, and violence.
  • Make more and better treatment centers for people trying to get off of drugs. Hunger centers for people who have no food.
  • Medicare program.

Answers ranked as fourth most important

  • Shoes and help getting clothing, rehabilitation, ongoing counseling, etc.
  • Improve education.
  • I would have an outreach program for the homeless.
  • Help people get jobs so they could take care of themselves and have more money for college funds and utilities.
  • More health care for the homeless (Dentist for crowns and braces; complete physicals).
  • More good jobs for people with no income. Medicaid for people with no income.
  • Drug treatment program.

Answers ranked as fifth most important

  • Cleveland Schools, school playgrounds.
  • I would build special places for homeless people to go to be encouraged to find housing and jobs.
  • More inpatient drug and alcohol programs.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Help, I’m Falling Apart

Commentary by Margaretta Ogletree

When we were born our bodies were so well put together, but once we’re older we start losing body parts. Some of us can afford to pay for face-lifts, bigger chest parts, etc., but most of us can’t do either one. There are a lot of homeless people who need dental work, partials, and work on their feet--some are blind and need glasses or walking sticks. Now I know when you have some equipment that halfway doesn’t work you throw them away; instead of doing that, donate these things to agencies that work for the homeless--we are in need of so much help in the health department that we would be grateful to have help from our city. I know there are some of you who do understand and believe this plan will work.

Sooner or later it’s going to be too late and we’ve come too far just to have our health put on hold.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16

Health Care Net Catches Anything But Health

by Michael L. McCray

The State of Ohio last year cut the financial assistance to single adults, some of these homeless. While the state tried to leave a public health safety net in place the net is in poor condition and a public health threat to all.

If you call up the Cuyahoga County Ombudsman for Shelters & Hunger Centers Roy Love and are feeling well, he will direct you to Metrohealth System or the City of Cleveland Clinics for treatment.

If you are homeless Health Care for Homeless runs clinics at 12 locations, and has a “county wide mandate to provide services” according to its Director John McKinney.

There are also free clinics in Cuyahoga, Summit, and Lorain Counties.

While Cincinnati has a successful mobile clinic and several small clinics run by the Cincinnati Health Network.

The point is that around the state the access to a physician is still a reality. If you are suffering from a cold, flu, headache, cuts, and other minor ailments you are still in pretty good shape around the State of Ohio.

We did not need general assistance, many may argue. Everyone is fine and dandy and the state has saved a bundle.

However accessing the system does not mean that you will obtain the treatment for a medical condition.

After you have seen the doctor at the Metrohealth System you are out luck if you do not have the money for the prescription. The doctor is free, the remedies are not. When asked if an indigent person can receive medications from the City of Cleveland Health Clinic, the answer of a clinic worker was “you better have money.”

Health Care for the Homeless is very selective of whom they send to Metrohealth because they must pay for the service. Everyone is looking for sample medications, terribly expensive, a lot of people cannot afford them. “The fee they pay will cover testing and medication but not other needs” according Dr. Clarence Taylor, a ten year veteran with Health Care for Homeless. I sent one man who was homeless who needed colon oscapthy and a month’s worth of medical supplies.

“We are referring a lot of people to the Free Clinic so they can get medications,” stated one Health Care for the Homeless employee.

Flats Killer Sentenced to 15 Years to Life

by Michael L. McCray

Whether it was racism, alcohol, meanness, stupidity, pride, or some other reason of the moment, Armando Farago is dead, his bride a widow, two are stabbed, and Anthony Mitchell is serving 15 years to life in prison.

There is a point in the story where Anthony Mitchell and his accusers agree: he was panhandling in the establishment and was asked to leave. He refused to leave.

Prosecutors claim a conflict arose, and he fled. He was chased by a group who were beating him, arrested, and then arrived at the hospital with a broken leg. The murder weapon, a knife, was found the next day without Mitchell’s fingerprints on it.

A witness testified that Mitchell was making a stabbing motion. Mitchell claimed he was trying to ward his attackers off with a screwdriver and had no knife.

Mitchell's lawyer stated the judge would not allow him to file a charge of self-defense.

The prosecutors had 19 witnesses to testify against him, while Mitchell was his only witness.

Assistant County Prosecutor Edward Walsh stated the whole thing could have been avoided if Mitchell had just left. He said some panhandlers can be “very aggressive.” Walsh also speculated that the jury panel might have believed Mitchell’s claim that one of the men, Marcello Cetra, “was somewhat aggressive.”

Hunger and alcohol can make men aggressive and make them do stupid things. Many complain about the panhandling in the flats, however, they sanction the larger alcohol problem because it makes money.

Most violent crimes have some involvement with drug or alcohol abuse.

It is doubtful that justice cares much for people like Anthony Mitchell. The poor make easy targets in situations like this regardless of their guilt or innocence. They are handicapped from the beginning. Those who can afford the flats have much more freedom to be obnoxious than any panhandler can expect.

No one should be permitted to take another human life, nor injure another because of racism, alcohol, meanness, stupidity, pride, or any other reason of the moment. But what's more, economics should never play a role when making decisions of justice.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published June 1996-July 1996 Issue 16