by Kenneth Gregory

        2100 Lakeside is to those looking in from the outside a Homeless Shelter for Men to be a warehoused.  A place where the disenfranchised citizens sit in wait on government funded programs, provided by well-earned tax dollars. Yet for those lucky souls able to have the experience of residing in such a place for whatever the case may be, it provides an alternate route of escape for those unfortunate enough that they have left to endure surviving day to day in the cruelest of elements.

          If we were to step deep inside the heart of most who enter these doors, empty their pockets as they pass through the metal detectors and take advantage of the emergency shelter away from the coldest of winter weather, it would reach out and wrench our emotions unbearably until it affects us on a personal level we rarely allow it to enter our thoughts, of the lived placed on wait, until further notice!

          Take a quick second to close your eyes and imagine if you would, yourself being one of the many homeless men or woman you pass on your daily journey to work.  Holding a cup asking for change, even at the worst point digging in a garbage can for something to satisfy your rumbling stomach, only to find a few morsels of chicken teriyaki or a half-eaten bagel to fill your need, and desire of hunger.  Now ask yourself would you prefer a life of rummaging through trash bins or 2100, and oasis of such to those broken down by circumstances is beyond our control, waiting to start life anew.  Instead of viewing this as a homeless shelter for men to be warehoused, how it would be a blessing for those disenfranchised, suffer-smeared souls, until further notice!

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Overview of the Homeless Stand Down 2011

The 20th annual Homeless Stand Down was organized by Interact Cleveland again this year.  Because of the closure of the Convention Center, it took place at the Masonic Temple in the Midtown section of Cleveland.  Here are the statistics from the Health and Services Stand Down on February 18, 2011:

  • Over 350 guests came through check in
  • Over 100 volunteers signed in
  • Over 280 breakfasts were served
  • Over 500 lunches were served
  • 54 flu shots were given by the Cleveland Dept. of Public Health
  • Over 90 haircuts were provided
  • 30 mini-health exams were given
  • Over 55 podiatry services were given, and over 100 bags of socks, powder and hand sanitizers were given away
  • Over 500 hygiene kits were distributed
  • Over 500 bus passes were distributed
  • Over 50 social service agencies were available for information
  • 14 Pap screenings were done by Cleveland Clinic and 15 Mammograms by Women's Diagnostic.

Overall with the two days of the Stand Down at the Masonic Temple

  • Over 1,200 guests served
  • Over 660 event volunteers from over 85 groups
  • Over 100 groups provided in-kind support
  • Over 30 different funders
  • 129 haircuts
  • 175 podiatry screenings
  • 77 mini-check ups
  • Over 1,800 hygiene kits, 2,000 diapers and pull ups, and 2,000 bagged lunches distributed over all 3 HSD events
  • Over 370 portraits by the Cleveland Photographic Society, and over 890 volunteer hours. Click on the you tube video from the day or the flier photographs.
  • 966 guests enjoyed a hot lunch of chili and chicken philly sandwiches
  • 623 guests (including 117 veterans) accessed winter clothing, socks and underwear
  • Live entertainment, including a participatory drum circle and open mic
  • 383 volunteer hours provided by residents from Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry’s 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter
  • 55 Health and Human Service agencies present
  • Mock interviews by Cleveland Transfer Connection
  • 14 pap smears (all negative) by Cleveland Clinic Foundation
  • Various legal groups
  • Youth Abilities and North Coast Academy led children’s activities, including puppy petting, and writing cards to military service members
  • Sanford Brown College provided 75 massages, 65 blood pressure checks, 100 blankets, as well as 20 hat/gloves/scarves sets
  • 15 mammograms were performed
  • 6 hearing screenings were performed by The Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center

Plans have already begun for a 2012. Thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who helped with this important event. And thanks to the Masonic Temple for being willing to host hundreds of homeless people.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Profile: Ray Jacobs

By Luke Drotar

Living in Ohio since the mid-80s, in one way or another, has muffled most of Raymond’s Bayou drawl.  He is gregarious and wary.  He will watch you laugh for a split second too long as if to make sure that your laugh is true, that you’ve gotten the joke.  He makes sure.  Raymond does everything he can to get his point across; his expression runs the gamut.  He’ll yell across the room to bother a friend until he or she comes over to confirm a fact—Raymond’s side of the story—for him.  He’ll look around the room to see if anyone’s watching while he whispers a detail through the corner of his mouth; a secret.  He is smart, tactful.

It’s obvious that Raymond understands Ohioans, the way we are, our Midwestern expectation of politeness.  His panhandling line, which he relates to me in two rapid-fire seconds, used to be: “Spare any change to help feed the homeless? God bless you.  Have a good day. [And] Thank you [if you gave me a quarter].”  He is a survivor, and he learned quickly that to both survive on the streets and stay out of prison he had to be honest and unaggressive in his panhandling because Clevelanders would ignore him to death if he acted otherwise.

“I think that most people look at you as you are. If you’ve got a good heart and you do the right thing, then they’re right there with you…I wasn’t running people down the street saying gimme gimme gimme…I did the right thing. I stood in one spot. I never left that spot.  Reliable.  Honest. If you dropped something…I found wallets with money in it. I took ‘em to the bank, turned them in. I found cell phones, turned them in. I found a $500 money order, turned it in. The guy came and claimed it and got his receipt. He gave me a reward. I didn’t say I didn’t get rewards. They didn’t have to give me anything though.”

His ethic of reliability and honesty put him in touch with the manager of a bank near East 9th & Euclid Ave. who Raymond noticed was watching him one day. “[The bank manager] said, ‘The way you do it, I wish they all did it. You’re not aggressive. Anything I can do for you I will do.’ He came out and gave me $10 dollars and said, ‘Will you be back tomorrow?’ If you let me here, I’ll be here. And then I was there for ten years at that spot. We grew old together…Bank security, everybody protected me there. I had three purse snatchers arrested before then. Think about it: I’m like extra eyes, extra ears out front.”

“How do you earn people’s trust? You do the right thing. He’d give me $10 and send me over to CVS. Get me this, get me that. He probably didn’t really need whatever it was. And I’d bring him his change. He’d give me a $20 one day to give to his son. I did it…It shows honesty, see. He gave me an envelope to take over to Huntington and I came back with what he told me to come back with. He never even looked to see if it was all there. One lady came out with a $100 bill, must’ve been a bank president or something. ‘I need you to go get a rain umbrella’ and I went over and got it and brought it back with her change and everything. She looked at me and said, ‘You are honest; he was right.’…All little tests.”

But as our conversation begins to drift from his experience first as panhandler and now as a street newspaper vendor to talk of the past and how he came to be in Ohio, the name of his hometown, New Orleans (“NuOwlin”), rolls off his tongue in a way that tells me that I’ve already forgotten that he hasn’t always lived here.  Instead, he adopted Cleveland as a home (or vice versa) after being dropped off by a prison van at a gas station on Lorain Road in North Olmsted after twenty-six years behind bars, first in Angola (LSE) and then in the Ohio prison system.  His comments on the experience are informed, no-nonsense: “I’m not saying that extradition shouldn’t be. But I think wherever they picked you up at they should be able to send you back to…If you’re not from Ohio, you shouldn’t be dumped in Ohio after your time’s up and left on the mean streets of Cleveland…It’s not made for you to make it. If you’re gonna make it, you’re gonna make it on your own.”

Raymond didn’t stay in shelters for very long during the mid-90s: “Too noisy.  If I wanted to smell another man’s butt again I would’ve stayed in the penitentiary.” He instead slept under bridges and highway on-ramps, in sleeping bags and on cardboard.

Imagine, if only for a second, having nothing to your name except the clothes on your back and your state pay of twenty-four dollars.  Raymond: “How far is 24 dollars gonna get you? A couple meals and a cup of coffee and guess what, you’re hitting the streets.”

As much as a part of our culture may relish the idea of no possessions, its reality is bothersome and rare. Raymond, however, despite being a thousand miles from his beloved New Orleans, with no way of getting home (no money) or of getting a job (criminal history), faced this stark reality unfazed. “I was free.  That’s what it was.  I could celebrate freedom.  For 26 years I was incarcerated.  I had no one telling me what time to go to bed, what time to get up, where I can go…the simple pleasure of being free.”

Raymond knows that his experience has been unique: “Not every one is Mr. Nice Guy out here…you come out, you have no job. And this is why you have a big return rate. They have nowhere to go. After a minute, they get tired of panhandling and the next thing you know it, you’re robbin’ someone on the streets.”

Raymond views the lack of services available for folks re-entering from prison as something more nefarious than the community just being short on funds: “It’s a trap…You and me want to see them stay out of the system, but the prison system wants them to come back in the system.  It’s all about the money. The more people that keep a number or get a number, the more money goes into the system. Once the system starts losing money because they can’t get new offenders, then they’re in trouble.”

            Raymond shared a story from his days as a panhandler about how we are always tested; about the merits of staying good even in the face of dangerous adversity:

            “Back when the Flats was boomin’, a guy comes by. It was raining. I said, ‘Sir could you spare any change to help feed the homeless, I’d really appreciate it.’ He looked at me and started cussing like crazy and I said, ‘God bless ya, have a wonderful day.’ You know, my mind, aaah. [Ray gestures as if repulsed by the cussing] He came back; and he trapped me. He trapped me! I thought, Oh my God this guy is gonna kill me cuz he doesn’t like me. He said, ‘Did you just say God bless you?’ I said, ‘Yessir, I sure did.’ You know I can’t lie, right? He reached into his wallet and gave me a $100 bill. I said, ‘Thank you sir very much, God bless ya.’ He said, ‘Sheeeeeeya said it again buddy’ and gave me a $50, and I said it again and it just kept comin’, like it was natural. And he gave me another $100. So then I went up to what used to be the North Point Inn and got myself a room for the night. $250 dollars, I’m out of the rain, I’ve got a place to stay. Guess who’s checking in when I am? He said, ‘Give him a week’s rent on my credit card.’ Next morning he came to my room and said, ‘Ya ate breakfast yet?’ I said no. He said, ‘Well let’s go get it.’ So we went and got breakfast together. At breakfast he gave me an envelope with $750 in it. Plus the week’s rent. So see? Kindness, goodness, they pay. It was a good day.”

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

NEOCH Veterans Index

by Luke Drotar

Minimum estimate of the up-to-date cost plus the future cost (veteran health care, price of rebuilding the military, etc.) of the Iraq War alone, according to Linda J. Bilmes & Joseph E. Stiglitz : $3 trillion

Cost of the nine Gulfstream luxury jets that U.S. military aid has financed the purchase & upkeep of for Egypt’s for-profit military : $333,000,000

Cost savings achieved by the Republicans’ budget proposal to eliminate rental assistance to veterans (HUD-VASH) : $75,000,000

Year the VA has planned to have ended veterans’ & chronic homelessness by : 2015

Chance that an Iraq/Afghanistan war vet was unemployed in 2010, according to Dept. of Labor : 1 in 5

Minimum number of vets who were homeless on a given night in 2009 : 107,000

Minimum number of vets who spent at least one night in shelter during 2009, according to the VA : 136,000

Minimum number of vets who were sleeping in a place unfit for human habitation (unsheltered) on one night in January 2009 : 32,512

Estimated number of new vets who request services for homelessness each year, according to the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans : 27,000

Number of vets who have characteristics that put them at-risk of homelessness, according to a 2007 National Alliance to End Homelessness report : 500,000

Percent more likely than the general population that veterans are of becoming homeless : 50

Percent of homeless veterans who experience mental illness, according to the VA : 45

Rank of Ohio among states with the highest number of veterans living below the poverty level, according to the 2009 American Community Survey : 4

Percent change in vets served by the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center over the last decade : +140

Number of troops that have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with a diagnosis of PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injury, or some combination of these : 300,000

Ratio of U.S. deaths in Iraq & Afghanistan to troop diagnoses of the above illnesses, as of March 2011 : 1:51

Percent of Iraq/Afghanistan vets & non-Iraq/Afghanistan vets, respectively, who report combat participation : 73, 16

Chance that a vet with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) also had a psychiatric diagnosis, according to a study in the February 2010 issue of Journal of Traumatic Stress : 4 in 5

Rate that vets with a TBI develop PTSD rather than vets without a TBI : 3

Rate that vets with a TBI develop a substance abuse problem rather than vets without a TBI : 2

According to a 2010 Army report on suicide, portion of the Army that is on at least one prescription medication : 1/3

Percent change of illegal use of prescription drugs in the military from 2005 to 2008, according to a 2010 Defense Department survey : +300

Rate at which troops claim to abuse prescription drugs rather than illegal drugs (marijuana, cocaine, etc.) : 5

Percent of al l veterans who suffer from drug and/or alcohol abuse, according to the VA : 70

Percent of callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2010 who were vets : 61

Percent of vets who make up the 30,000 suicides in the United States each year, according to the VA : 20

Number of minutes, on average, that separate one veteran’s suicide from another’s : 88

Estimated percent change since 2000 in the U.S. defense budget, not including the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan : +80

Number of American civilians who died worldwide in terrorist attacks last year : 8

Minimum number who died after being struck by lightning : 29

Percent of all female vets who have undergone sexual assault, according to a 2004 Journal of Women’s Health study : 29

Rate that those with Military Sexual Trauma (MST) developed a mental health diagnosis rather than those without MST, according to the October 2007 issue of American Journal of Public Health : 3

Number of soldiers who underwent amputation at Landstuhl Medical Center, where virtually every evacuated soldier stops en route to the U.S., in 2009 & 2010, respectively : 75, 171

Number of U.S. soldiers who suffered injury to their genitals in 2009 & 2010, respectively : 52, 142

Percent of veterans from Vietnam who lost a lower limb, but now use prostheses & take part in low- or high-impact activities (sports, farming, etc.) : 20

Percent of veterans from Iraq/Afghanistan who do, according to the July VA Research Currents : 52

Average range of years elapsed between a Vietnam vet’s discharge and their first homeless episode, according to the Swords to Ploughshares Project : 9-12

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Pay it Forward--A Simple Concept

By: John Correll

 I sit back sometimes just to observe and listen. I wonder if people observe the things I do or do they just close their eyes and ignore what’s going on around them. Most people just don’t want to get involved.

 Take the man standing on the corner, sign out, stating “will work for food” or the old lady pushing the shopping cart because she has no place to go. That child standing there crying for something to eat because Mom has no money or Dad comes home every day wondering where the money is going to come from, because there is no work to be found.

 Life ain’t easy, right? Why do we argue over petty things? Why do we walk by when someone is in need? What is wrong with helping one another? It sounds so easy doesn’t it? But it’s so hard to apply ain’t it? Think about it…

Let’s take simple concepts.

What if all people grew gardens—would there be enough food to eat?

If we took our old stuff and gave it to someone in need—would we be without?

If we took old buildings and fixed them up; gave people a place to sleep—would people be homeless?

 If we were to listen to someone instead of listening to ourselves talk—would it really cost us anything?

 Would simple concepts like these change our lives? Think about it…

 What if we applied the concept of Pay It Forward from the movie starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt?

[Synopsis written by Jim Bequer (jumblejim@prodigy.net): Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother’s alcoholism and fears of his abusive and absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment is thinking of a way to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward—repaying good deeds not with payback, but with good deeds done to three new people. Trevor’s efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him.]

You find three people in need and help them—but you ask them not to pay you, but to pay it forward to three others and ask them to do the same.

Now, if we took this concept and put it into action, can we as individuals come together to bring a change in the harsh world of today?

It’s simple to extend our hand to help others. Why don’t we always do so? Remember your voice and actions have meaning—why not use them for a more positive objective?

Make a change and Pay It Forward.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio


Homeless Local Updates

By Brian Davis

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless publishes a blog and updates it regularly called Cleveland Homeless.  Here are a few items that we are tracking on the blog. 

Voting Update

The State of Ohio is trying to reform access to in-person voting, which will make it more difficult for homeless people to cast a ballot on election day.  House Bill 159 was proposed to require a state identification in order to vote.  This overturns a 2005 law and damages the settlement that NEOCH reached with the State of Ohio in 2010.  This will make it more difficult for homeless, the elderly, students, and poor people to vote in person on election day.  The state is proposing paying for a state identification, but not the cost of birth certificates.  There is also the difficulty over proving residency for a homeless person in order to get identification.  NEOCH and other advocates oppose this legislation.

Disabled Shelter to Close

Cuyahoga County officials are going to close the one shelter reserved for fragile men in Cleveland and moving those men into 2100 Lakeside shelter in order to save money.  Many men who currently use the disabled men floor at North Point are concerned about this move.  At the Homeless Congress many of the men fear that they will be exploited in the much larger shelter at 2100 Lakeside.  The men at Lakeside have expressed concern that the intensive case management needed to serve the men will not be provided, and there will be problems at the much larger shelter.  The Coalition is concerned that homeless men and other social service providers were not involved in the discussion, and the loss of a shelter that can serve the specific needs of disabled men is harmful to the homeless community.  In fact, the Coalition has always supported a smaller facility for people with a disability for both men and women. 

Cleveland Hts. Stimulus Funding

In 2009, the city of Cleveland Heights received $715,000 to help prevent homelessness as part of the federal stimulus program. The city pooled their resources with Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland - $13 million to serve any low-income residents in the county facing eviction.  Last year, there were approximately 500 people who faced eviction at the Cleveland Hts. Municipal Court.  As of January 2011, Cleveland Hts. had only used 12.2% of their available funding ($87,000).  The federal government says that the City must have 60% of their dollars expended by July 2011 or it will be redistributed to other communities, and all money must be spent by July 2012. 

As an example of a community that received and utilized similar funding, Lakewood received over $900,000 from the federal stimulus and partnered with Lakewood Christian Services to spend the funds.  As of January 2011, Lakewood had allocated 67% of their funds to help prevent evictions.

WEWS TV contacted Cleveland Hts. officials who reported that they were going to keep a portion of the funding for their citizens, but were going to give over the funds to Cuyahoga County to use for others facing an eviction.  County officials have opened up the process to make it easier for Cleveland Hts. residents to obtain eviction help, but there is some recognition that they will not be able to use the funds earmarked for residents of this east side suburb. 

Homeless Prevention Funds

In late 2010, the federal stimulus dollars provided to Cuyahoga County to prevent evictions and homelessness was earmarked for only those individuals in a subsidized apartment.  This change in policy caused a great deal of confusion among those seeking help.  The County is well ahead of the pace to distribute all the funds on time, and will not return any of the assistance to the federal government.  The federal stimulus dollars have helped to reduce the time people spend within shelters in Cleveland. 

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Second Year for Fugitive Safe Surrender Gives Second Chances

by Kimberly Sandoval, AmeriCorps VISTA

From the time Russ Huff, a 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter volunteer and former resident, was issued a warrant in 2008, he could not find a job to support himself or his family and ended up losing his home that same year. Huff was one of 20,000 fugitives at large in Cuyahoga County running from the law.

Michael Moguel, Operations Manager at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry’s 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter, encouraged Huff to attend Fugitive Safe Surrender (FSS) and address his outstanding warrant. The program allows individuals who are wanted for non-violent felony or misdemeanor crimes and have no history of violence to voluntarily surrender to the law. This is the second time FSS has occurred in Cleveland and it ran from September 22-25.

 “FSS is a program that has created an avenue for people, like Huff, with warrants to be encouraged to safely take a big step toward personal responsibility, making amends, and becoming productive citizens,” said Moguel.

While only a small percentage of men at 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter have an outstanding warrant, for those that do, it is an insurmountable barrier to self-sufficiency. “The warrant largely restricts them from getting legitimate work, housing, or linkage to many social services and therefore increases their length of stay at the shelter,” said Moguel.

Those who turned themselves in had an opportunity to meet with sheriff staff, attorneys, court clerks, and judges and often received favorable consideration for surrendering. “FSS served the best interest of individuals involved without compromising the integrity of the legal process,” said Charles See, Executive Director of LMM’s Community Re-Entry.

 Community Re-Entry staff worked very closely with U.S. Marshall Peter Elliot during the development of the first FSS and were cosponsors of the second FSS where 7,431 fugitives turned themselves in.  Many individuals who participated in FSS will be eligible to participate in programs Community Re-Entry offers.

“Regardless of status, all participants were treated with dignity and compassion,” said See. Participants often received reduced fines and sentences, reinstated driver’s licenses, and better employment prospects for most of the low-level offenders who had been hiding from law enforcement for months or years.

 “With my warrant gone, I feel a great burden has been lifted and now, I have a chance to move one step forward in the right direction,” said Huff.

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio


A Path Out….A Fantasy?

By Angelo Anderson

Suppose there was a shelter in the heart of the city that provided an opportunity for on- the-job training, career development, housing, permanent employment and education.  Would you support it? 

If there was skilled and trained labor supported by city and county government that provided for the care of basic needs such as cleaning and janitorial services for all of their office buildings and maintenance of public grounds, including tree services, snow removal and landscaping.  Would you support it? 

If there was an auto cleaning service that washed, waxed, and detailed city and county vehicles, worked with the business sector to provide food and merchandise vendors for all sporting events and cleaning staff that provided cleaning of the facilities before and after each event.  Would you support it?  

Suppose there were built in components to provide full laundry service to other shelter agency venues housing families, men, women and children.  Would you support it? 

Suppose part of the mission was to feed the hungry by providing cafeteria style meals prepared by the residents themselves.  And suppose those services also included take out and delivery to all city and county building employees.  Would you support it? 

These services are not far from our reach.  They just need to be executed.  Providing education and vocational training opportunities to individuals is just one way to boost the economy while enhancing individual skills.  Our leadership must begin to take an active role in supporting the kinds of relative development opportunities that will not only provide goods and services that can fuel our economy, but will also provide those basics skill foundations that all citizens are able to use to be self sufficient.

It starts by speaking up and putting structures in place that will create a process to assist and not enable.  It starts with providing employment for those individuals who have felonies that exclude them from working conventional jobs but place them in settings that will bring them into in-direct contact with the public.  The employment opportunities would offer them an avenue to provide services to the community in a non-traditional setting.  They would become a contributing part of society; gain an increase in self esteem and self worth.

The alternative may well be a building full of society’s misfits, vagrants, social outcasts who are undereducated, underemployed and misunderstood.  This drain on the economy of any city, without a pathway out….would never end.  Would you support it?

It starts by looking for “out of the box” options rather than the same “in the box” solutions.  It starts with community activism as an outcry to enhance social standards that support “true” self-sufficiency which includes food, clothing and shelter.

It starts with education… of individuals, communities, and government.  The adage that if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime is real….it is not a fantasy.   A commitment to create “self development” pathways to self sufficient is the only path out.  Would you support it?

If you support it….drop me a note at the Chronicle office

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Street Chronicle published April 2011 Cleveland, Ohio