Commentary The Homeless Situation of Cleveland

Commentary By Raymond Jacobs

    We, the true homeless people of Cleveland, are bringing the issues before the people of Cleveland.

     How do you become homeless?  The State of Ohio extradited me to Ohio with shackles and leg irons and brought me to serve a 5 to 10 year sentence.  In that time length that I was brought to Ohio, my time expired.  I left the prison system with $24.00 in my pocket.

      Cleveland is one of the two dumping grounds (the other is Cincinnati) that the state of Ohio uses for extradited prisoners being released.  They did not give me enough bus fare to get home to New Orleans.  I’m not saying I never committed a crime, because I did.  But I was treated more like a criminal when I got out of prison than when I was in prison.

      I stood on street corners, I begged, and police harassed me several times, but I was never arrested.  I am one of the few people that can say that I am a success.

      Although I am still selling Street Chronicles, the police officers and security guards took me under their wings.  They talked to me and helped me stay straight. 

      Between 65% - 75% of people who are homeless have come out of the system and cannot get back to where they are from.  The real homeless people are not the ones standing on the street corners and chasing people down demanding that they give them money.  If you ask them from where they come, they will probably tell you another state.

       Why is it that only two major cities in Ohio, Cleveland and Cincinnati, are your dumping grounds for inmates getting out of prison?  Why is it that Columbus is not selected to release prisoners on their streets?

      My name is Raymond Jacobs and I sell the Grapevine to make my ends meet.  So I thank everyone for everything that they have done for me, but I still have not been able to get back to New Orleans.  I am happy to now live in Cleveland.  Thank you for reading this article and buying Grapevines from us.

  Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

 

From Caretaker to Taken Care of, a Tale of Homelessness and the Unsuspecting Victim

By Sam Benson

      Turn the calendar back just a decade and Sheri West can recall a time in her life when it seemed like everything was within her control; when she had her own home and her own business.  Then, all of a sudden, came the beginnings of the housing crisis, and with it, a wave of foreclosures that swallowed up countless Americans who fell behind on their mortgage payments or couldn’t produce the funds to keep their house.  Among the unfortunate victims was Sheri, who owned a group home for mentally ill men at the time, which was also where she lived.

      Reminiscing on her former housemates, she recalls, “I provided shelter, and I also provided supervision as far as their medications; I cooked for them, I washed their clothes, I basically did everything for them.  They were homeless and they needed some place to stay.”  Caring for these men, becoming a de facto mother to them, brought Sheri face-to-face with the daunting reality of homelessness.  But, like most Americans, she says, “I never thought in a million years that I was going to be homeless.”

       But that’s just how it happens for most people.  Most people, especially those in West’s position, never consider the possibility of homelessness, thinking about it as being as distant as the moon.  This means that when, like a powerful and frightening jack-in-the-box, homelessness thrusts its ugly head upon those of us most unfortunate, we don’t know how to react.  In West’s case, even a career caring for men squarely in the throes of homelessness couldn’t prepare her for what she was about to experience. 

        For West, this time in her life was marked by crushing disappointment after disappointment.  She never truly saw the foreclosure of her group home coming.  “I had a very successful business at that time,” she tells anyone who will listen.  But when it was clear that she was going to need to make arrangements to find somewhere else to live, she called on her family, people she thought she could trust.  She was surprised to find that she could not find help from her family after spending years helping others.   In the face of a terrifying new challenge, she knew what she had to do.  “Before [my house] went into foreclosure I had asked a family member if I could stay with them and they had said ‘yes,’ and so I’m thinking I’m getting myself prepared for when the day comes.”

       “But then,” her brow starts to furrow, “when the day came for me to get put out the family member told me no, I couldn’t stay with them.’”  Think about that for a moment.  Her own family turned away from her at her time of greatest need.  What must she have been going through?  “I was really hurt by that because, you know, you think a family member would help you out in your time of need and they didn’t.”  More than just being disappointed, it is clear that this signaled a loss of hope of sorts for West, a cracking of a window to her mind through which started to seep the decreasingly notion that maybe everything wouldn’t be alright.

       “Whenever something drastic changes in your life,” West postulated, “it can put you in the situation of being depressed.  Like a shock.  I just drifted into depression.”  It was obvious that West felt that she had built a solid foundation only to find her stable life had been built on sand.  She indicated that she thought, time and again, that she had everything figured out, only to have her world turned upside down, repeatedly.  West had already been through so many drastic changes, each time ready with a response to tough times.  There was her decision to turn to her family to find a place to stay, even before she had been foreclosed upon.  And before that, she had to deal with a cheating husband, who she left to open a group home.  But perhaps for her, having her family turn her away was a huge disappointment.

            Reeling from her latest obstacle, and with nowhere to go, West packed up her most prized possessions into her car, which she now decided to call ‘home.’  As for everything else, “I had a yard sale; I sold what I could and I put what I could on the street.”  From that point on, it was a tough period of living in the car and bouncing around from friend to friend, never staying too long in one spot.  Something that was really important to West, was that she didn’t want to wear out her welcome with any of her friends.  But she also was weary of going to a shelter.

        “I never even thought of going to a homeless shelter,” she says, “because I had a stigma, just like everybody else had a stigma, about homeless people.  I said ‘there’s no way I’m going to a homeless shelter.’”  West’s aversion to shelters, however, coupled with her unwillingness to test the hospitality of any of her friends, let alone her family, meant that soon she was faced once again with the prospect of having nowhere to go.  Luckily for West, this is when she caught what may have been her biggest break.

         “I met this lady…” she recalls, her voice trailing off as her eyes start to light up ever so slightly.  “We became good friends.  I just asked her one day, I said, ‘can I stay with you until I get myself up on my feet?’ and she was nice enough to say ‘yes.’”  What was so special about this lady I wondered (her name has been withheld at West’s request)?  “She kept me encouraged and motivated more than the other people I was with,” West replies simply.  For whatever reason, be it divine intervention or just dumb luck, this woman was placed in Sheri’s path specifically for the purpose of helping her get back on her feet, get her life together once again and escape a lengthy nomadic existence.  With her help, Sheri mapped out a long-term plan, got a job, and signed up for food stamps.  She also decided, finally, to seek out a homeless shelter.

        It is hard for Sheri West to put into words the full impact that this woman had on her life.  But what is clearly evident to me, is that, rather than being merely a rest stop on West’s harrowing ride through homelessness, this woman provided something that Sheri herself had tried to impart on those she served at the group home.  West said that the one thing she had a hard time finding when the tables were turned: emotional support.  The encouragement and motivation that West talks about really boil down to emotional support, and it is this support that was perhaps the last remaining ingredient in the recipe that led to her find stability.

        With this support West was able to take an important, if reluctant, step towards independence.  She looked around at local shelters, but not content to simply sleep on the floor, didn’t find what she was looking for until she discovered West Side Catholic Center.  Even though they didn’t have any beds available when she first called, West says, “I don’t know why, but [West Side Catholic] stuck with me.”  So much so, that West called back, dutifully, every day for four months.  That’s how long it took for them to take her, and I asked West if it was worth the wait.  “It was the best decision I made,” she replied.

        West is passionate about West Side Catholic and how it changed her perception of homeless shelters.  “It was very organized,” she says.  “The people were nice.  I just liked the structure of the place.”  But perhaps the most important way that West Side Catholic was able to help West out was through their Zacchaeus program, which assists homeless individuals and families with things like rent and utilities payments once they find a place of their own.  “That’s how I got here,” West explains, motioning excitedly to the walls and the ceiling around her, the first shelter of her own that she has been able to call home in quite some time.  When I ask her about it, West is the first to admit that it is ironic that as someone who used to take care of homeless individuals with nowhere to go, she found herself in their exact same situation.  But just as the mentally ill men who used to show up at West’s Visions of Hope were lucky to place their care in Sheri West’s hands, West too, got by with a bit of luck when she needed it most, a perfect compliment to her own dose of perseverance.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

San Francisco Sets the Standard for Shelters, Cleveland Looks to Follow

By Sam Benson

    In 2008, San Francisco passed a minimum standard of care legislation for city shelters, a groundbreaking act that placed shelter residents under the same regulatory system that has provided prisoners, nursing home residents, and other communal living residents with basic rights and dignities for decades.  Homeless people have been an oft-forgotten segment of this population, but according to Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, there was a dire need for such standards in San Francisco. 

     In addition to health and hygiene issues such as beds being way too close together and residents not having access to clean drinking water, Friedenbach mentions that, “we found that over half of [homeless people] had experienced some kind of abuse inside shelters, whether it was verbal, physical, or sexual abuse,” a finding that led to the publication of the aptly titled “Shelter Shock” report that catalogued in excruciating detail all of the mistreatment that was going on at the city’s shelters.

       The “Shelter Shock” report, Friedenbach explains, was the main catalyst in getting the shelter standards legislation passed.  As far as the specific standards that would make their way to the mayor’s office, Friedenbach says, “we got a lot of ideas from homeless people themselves on exactly what they would like to see.”  These ideas included things like mandatory provision of hygiene kits, free access to laundry and a minimum eight hours allotted for sleeping each night, “all things that are very huge changes that have really made a difference,” Friedenbach confirms.

         Another way in which conditions at the shelters have improved is through the implementation of a standard grievance procedure, a kind of complaint process for the residents.  With the passage of the legislation, residents can now submit any legitimate complaints they may have to a third-party Shelter Monitoring Committee, who can then initiate investigations into possible contract violations, with the possibility of a fine of up to $1,250 if serious violations are uncovered.  In the past most shelters have had grievance procedures but they have never been held accountable either to a written law or to a third party, Friedenbach explains.  In addition, she says, “It’s a good process [for the residents] because they are standing up for their rights.”

       Cleveland has followed the San Francisco lead by spending the last four years on crafting this legislation.  “Being able to hold shelters accountable to their residents is a big reason why NEOCH, along with the Homeless Congress, feels there is a strong need for similar shelter standards here in Cleveland,” said Director of Community Organizing staff at NEOCH, Brian Davis.   San Francisco has paved the way for advocates in Cleveland, and the standards that the Homeless Congress have proposed look in many ways very similar to San Francisco’s.  San Francisco’s Jennifer Friedenbach described even the process of creating the standards  as “empowering” for the residents of shelters.  The Homeless Congress is pushing Cuyahoga County to adopt some form shelter standard passed this fall.

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

...with Liberty and Justice for All* *who can afford it

. . . with Liberty and Justice for All*

*who can afford it

 By Traci Ext

Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists...it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.  ~Lewis Powell, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice

     In April, Congress made the decision to cut funding to Legal Services Corporation by 4%.  $104 million more in cuts, or another 26% of LSC’s budget, have been proposed for next year.  LSC has been in existence since 1974 and is an independent nonprofit corporation created by Congress to promote equal access to justice and fund legal assistance for civil cases to low-income individuals and families.  The latest cuts will mean loss of attorney staff and services at LSC-funded legal aid programs across the country, which were already facing hard economic times.  Legal aid programs are also being rocked by cuts in state funding, which is generated through the interest earned on bank accounts lawyers are required to use for their client funds.  With interest rates at all-time lows, legal services programs and their clients lose. 

     Meanwhile, the need for legal services for low-income persons continues to grow.  LSC reports that just last year the programs it funds worked on almost 1 million cases, affecting 2.3 million people.  The programs helped another 1.4 million people through referrals to private lawyers, self-help workshops, and other programs.  Foreclosure, unemployment compensation, landlord-tenant, bankruptcy/debt relief/consumer, and domestic violence cases have all significantly increased for low-income families in recent years.

     Imagine a man, John, who has a full-time, well-paying job, a house, a family.  He loses his job and now has no income.  He’s no longer able to make the house payments.  The house goes into foreclosure.  The stress leads his wife to file for divorce.  He ends up homeless.  Because of his age and lack of permanent address, he’s unable to find work.  Or a woman, Mary, who is a single mother of two, living in an apartment and working for a temp agency.  She gets cancer and has no health insurance to pay for treatment.  Because of her absences due to her illness, the temp agency lets her go.  Within two months, with no way to pay the rent, having used all her savings for her medical care, she and her children are evicted and end up with no place to go.  There are so many points where access to legal services could have kept bad luck from spiraling into life-ruining catastrophe.  Having a lawyer represent you before the unemployment hearing officer can make the difference and win the case for benefits, especially when you can bet the employer had an attorney putting together their defense. A lawyer could have helped John through the foreclosure process to prevent the foreclosure or at least assist in negotiating with the bank for lower payments or a short sale, or delaying the proceedings long enough for him to have a chance to get another job or source of income and a place to live.  Maybe with an attorney’s advice, Mary could have learned about Medicaid and received help to apply and obtain benefits she could have used for health services.

     Even the parts of the justice system that are supposed to be navigable by a person without an attorney are not.  If small claims court was really designed for people to go without an attorney, then you probably wouldn’t run into so many lawyers there.  And those are cases where the stakes were low.  Trying to represent yourself with your house or your federally subsidized housing or the custody of your children or your basic freedom at risk is bad enough.  But when the other side doesn’t have as much to lose, yet has the balance of power, money, and experience as well as an attorney to fight their case, what chance do you have? 

     And lack of income isn’t the only barrier to justice.  Add in other factors like a disability, limited English proficiency, or illiteracy and you are likely to find the doors to the halls of justice simply aren’t open to you.  After all, it took until 2004, and a trip all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Lane, for our society to figure out that forcing a paraplegic criminal defendant to crawl up two flights of stairs at an inaccessible courthouse with no elevator was justice denied.   (p.s. For just that one case it took six years and a whole lot of lawyers to get there).

      If justice is really to be blind, don’t we have to make sure her scales aren’t tipped to the side of those with power and money before the case is even heard?  There is some bright news – pro bono volunteering is up – in Ohio, attorneys put in 45% more pro bono hours in 2010 than they did in 2009.  And in our area, we have very dedicated, experienced, skilled legal services programs to assist low-income individuals.  But in our society as a whole, we have a long way to go.  In the rush to make debt-ceiling deals and decrease the deficit, legal assistance for those who need it the most should be the last thing to go.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

 If you need legal assistance:

  •  Legal Aid Society of Cleveland: 888-817-3777 or 216-687-1900.  Intake hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. M,W, F, and 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on T, Th.  Or attend a brief advice clinic, scheduled in varying locations in the area several times each month.  For upcoming clinics, visit: http://lasclev.org/category/events/upcoming/month
  •  2-1-1 First Call for Help
  •  Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program: Call 216-432-0543 or attend an intake session or the monthly self-help divorce clinic

Homeless Veterans Volunteers to Assist Others With Literacy

By Holly Lyon

    I begin the interview with “other than knowing you are a veteran and where you live, I don’t know anything else about you.”  Norman chuckles slightly.  He is sitting adjacent to me wearing a U.S Navy hat, a button down shirt and black pants.  He is a dignified looking gentleman, whose age is ambiguous; he could pass for a graceful 45 or a distinguished 65. His voice is that of a radio personality - articulate - clear with purposeful pauses. 

    He is the middle child of three children - with a slight smile he adds in it is true what they say about the middle child.  His mother was a stay at home mom and later in life did security work - his father worked in refrigeration.  It is evident he had a close bond with his parents who have both passed away.  He is still in close communication with his siblings.  He describes his childhood fondly - relating to me the importance his parents put on education and social activism.  Norman’s father participated in the civil rights movement- traveling to the south to march for equality.  He credits his parents as being the influence for his current and past advocacy work.

    After graduating high school he attended LA Tech College - he did not graduate but enlisted in the Navy and served from 1968 to 1971.  He worked on submarines; he was stationed in Scotland, and had the opportunity to visit Ireland on several occasions.  Although 40 years have passed since he lived and traveled abroad his face still beams when he speaks of the experience.   Several hours after the interview was completed and I ruminated on the conversation, I become annoyed with myself for not asking more about what life is like in a submarine. 

    After his time in the military he settled in Los Angeles and worked as a manager at an alarm/ security company until 1988. In 1987 Norman suffered the loss of his son.  I ask if he has any other children, in a timid almost whisper he replies “no.”  I can tell he is getting emotional and I cannot bring myself to ask if his sons name, so I ask if he has any contact with the mother of his son, which he does not.  Although I want to learn more about his son, I drop the subject.  It occurs to me that it has been 25 years since his son died and he still cannot speak freely of the incident.  I suppose this is typical, but I feel the profound sense of loss he experiences.  Not only did he lose his son but he also lost the joy of bragging about him or telling a funny story from his childhood.  Norman openly admits that the death of his son was the reason for relocating to Cleveland in 1988; he has not returned to LA since.

     An opportunity for employment arose the company he worked for in California opened an office in Ohio, and so he moved to Cleveland and continued working in the security/ alarm system business.  In the early 1990s Norman switched careers and began working in the IT field, he also earned associates degree in accounting.  The last fifteen years Norman has dedicated a great deal of his time to tutoring adults who are working towards earning a GED.  He discusses the shock of realizing the prevalence of illiteracy among adults.

    Although there have been bright spots in Norman’s life in Ohio, there has also been tremendous struggle.  Norman’s current struggle is reestablishing his life after residing in a shelter for a year, but he is optimistic.  Just before he established residence in a shelter he passed the giant free stamp sculpture in downtown Cleveland.  Norman, who has a strong interest in art, felt the sculpture was symbolic of his situation, a time to reinvent his life. 

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

The Facts on Homelessness and Poverty in the USA

Average life expectancy of a resident of Lyndhurst : 88

Of Hough : 64

Distance, in miles, between the two (CommonHealth ACTION) : 8.5

Percent of people nationally with incomes above the federal poverty level who struggle with hunger (Feeding America Foundation) : 45

Percent more likely that a food insecure adult is obese than a food secure adult (Martin & Ferris) : 100

Percent of Ohioans who are either overweight or obese (TFAH) : 65.3

Percent of American adults who say that they themselves are overweight : 39

Percent of American adults who say that most Americans are overweight (Pew Research Center) : 90

Annual medical cost of obesity-related problems in children (Food Research & Action Center) : $14,000,000,000

Number of Ohio counties with at least 25% of children living in poverty in 2008 : 15

In 2009 : 31

Percent change in the overall poverty rate for Ohio children from 2009 to 2010 : +16.8

Percent change from 2001 to 2010 (Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio) : +45.9

Ratio of CEO compensation to average U.S. worker pay in 2009 : 263-to-1

In 2010 (Institute for Policy Studies) : 325-to-1

Percent income tax paid by Warren Buffett for 2010: 17.7

By his secretary (Warren Buffett) : 30

Federal income tax rate for the top 1% of Americans in 1986 & 2008, respectively : 33.1%, 23.3%

Amount lower the federal debt would be today if the top 1% had kept paying 33.1% (Bruce Barlett) : $1.7 trillion

Ratio of that to the cost so far of the Iraq & Afghanistan wars & related expenses (NYT 9/11: The Reckoning) : 1-to-1

Cost to al-Qaeda of executing the 9/11 attacks (9/11 Commission Report) : $500,000

Annual cost that NYC spends on one-way air, bus, & train tickets to send homeless people out of town (Dept. of Homeless Services-NYC) : $500,000

Number of the 25 wealthiest U.S. counties by median household income that were affected by Hurricane Irene (American Community Survey) : 17

Number of volumes the Suffolk County, NY (the Hamptons) hurricane plan runs : 6

Number of provisions in the 2005 New Orleans evacuation plan for the 27,000 residents without cars (Greg Palast) : 0

Percent of people who most trust Fox News for news who believe that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as it is for African-Americans & other minorities (PRRI) : 68

Number of times that Obama made any explicit reference to people of color in his 9/8/11 ‘American Jobs Act’ speech to Congress (Drotar) : 0

August unemployment rate for African-Americans : 16.7%

Last year that the African-American unemployment rate was that high (B. of Labor Statistics) : 1984

Percent change in women staying at the Community Women’s Shelter in August (MHS) : +33

Number of people who called 2-1-1 First Call for Help in August asking for shelter : 1,000

Percent who called from the suburbs : 28

Change between July & August in unique users of the affordable housing listing website HousingCleveland.org : +2,000

Percent change in FY ’12 Congressional appropriation to the national Emergency Food & Shelter Program (United Way) : -40

Amount of public money (kept secret until recently) lent to banks & other companies from 2007 to 2010 to keep them afloat during the financial crisis (U.S. Treasury) : $1.2 trillion

Ratio of said amount to the unpaid principal on all American mortgages currently delinquent &/or in foreclosure (Lender Processing Services Inc.) : 1-to-1

Number of times that $1.2 trillion in $1 bills laid end-to-end would stretch from the earth to the sun (NSFA) : 1.25

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

The Aftermath of Emotional Abuse

Commentary By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

    When most people think of abuse, they think of physical or sexual abuse.  Many people can picture a stressed-out or irritated parent beating their child, or a father or mother’s boyfriend having sex with or fondling a young girl, but a lot of people have a problem picturing emotional abuse.         

     Emotional abuse happens in many homes each day and is usually done by a parent or the child’s primary caregiver.  It can be done along with other types of abuse and it can also be done alone.  The people who are most likely to do this type of abuse are parents who have addiction problems, mental illness, those who are stressed out, those who were abused or neglected as children and those who are not ready to be parents.

      When a parent emotionally abuses a child, they may fail to nurture the child’s emotional or mental needs.  They may not be affectionate enough with their child; they may call their child names, make fun of the child’s abilities or interests, and use excessive amounts of negative criticism.  These parents fail to make their child feel valued or loved.

      Some parents may try to control their child by hovering over them and trying to think for their child.  Many of these parents have an idea of how they want their child to be and try to force them to be who they think they should be instead allowing them to be their own individual person.  These parents only praise or encourage their child when they are doing a task that they approve of.  If the child chooses a task that the parents don’t approve of, the parents may find fault in it or make the child feel as if the task is wrong.  This type of parent teaches their child to feel helpless and become dependent on them and discourages them from seeking independence.

        The child with mild developmental disabilities is often more of a target for emotional abuse because many parents don’t notice that their child is slightly behind their peers.  So they set goals that are too high for their child and when the child fails to meet their goals the parents criticize or lash out at them for not doing things that they feel are age appropriate.

        A child who suffers from emotional abuse often grows up feeling unloved, unvalued, and inferior, as if it is wrong for them to be themselves.  He or she is also unable to hold their head up high, feel proud of themselves, or have the courage to try new things; they often blame themselves for their failures.  By their teen years emotionally abused children look outside of their homes for someone to meet their emotional needs.  Many children with developmental disabilities are also picked on or bullied in school in addition to dealing with abuse at home.

       Children who were emotionally abused were taught the worst lesson of all, how to abuse and neglect themselves.   If the child has a developmental disability, they may believe that their mistreatment is connected to their disability. They may feel that things would be different if they were “normal.”  Children who were emotionally abused as children grow up to be adults who have difficulties building relationships with others, have low self-esteem, lack confidence, or may find it hard to know their value.  They may also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety Disorders, Depression or other psychological disorders and/or unexplained physical illnesses such as stomach, head or muscle aches.

       Children with mild developmental disabilities often grow up to be adults with moderate developmental disabilities because their parents failed to nurture their minds and help them grow.  Many times the abuse and neglect slows down the person’s mental and emotional development and causes them not to develop properly.  These people often find it difficult to survive in society because even though they are adult biologically, they may still think like a child.  To those who were abused as a child, the world may be a highly stressful, irritating and confusing place because the expectations for them are too high for their emotional and mental ability as adults. 

       Many people with developmental disabilities don’t live up to their full potential.  Most are very talented or creative in some way but not mentally or emotionally mature enough to use their talents to go far in the world.  They may still think like children or teenagers and are still looking for that patient person to provide them with encouragement, support, help and guidance that they missed.

       A lot of people take the wrong path in life.  Life becomes too difficult for them to deal with so they may turn to alcohol or drugs to comfort themselves because they don’t know any other way to deal with their never-ending pain.  They may not know how to control their emotions or impulsive behaviors properly and may have aggression problems.  The person that may not know how to take care of themselves properly, or they may end up with regular run-ins with the law or even in prison.  Some find jail to be a safe and comforting place because they have sought a stable place that has structured activities and strict rules.  Many make the street their home because they don’t know how to take care of themselves and lack the social skills, confidence and self-esteem to get and keep a job.

      Some people who were emotionally abused as children could be successful with therapy if they could afford it.  Others continue the cycle of abuse by continuing to abuse themselves, their mates and children.  So until there is a therapy or support group that serves the needs of adults who lack the mental and emotional maturity, many people will continue to travel down the wrong paths in life and not living up to their full potential.

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Ohioans Struggle To Put Food On The Table, New Study Shows

By Sam Benson

      More than one in four families with children in Ohio have faced food hardships within the last year, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).  The report defines facing “food hardships” as answering “yes” to the question “have there been times in the last twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”  This question was asked to roughly one million families nationwide over the last three years.  The national percentage of families facing food hardships was 14.9%, with the percentage rising to 23.4% for families with children, leading the report to conclude that inadequate ability to put food on the table is a serious problem facing America.

       While the report stresses that no corner of the country is safe from this problem, the findings are especially grim for Ohio.  With 16.6% of families without children and 26.3% of families with children facing food hardships, Ohio ranks as the 20th most food insecure state.  In addition, Ohio’s 11th district, which comprises East Cleveland, ranks 22nd out of all Congressional districts in food insecurity with 34.4% of families with children experiencing food hardships, a staggering and depressing figure.  Indeed, Ohio has four major metropolitan areas in the top 50 most food insecure metropolitan areas, showing that Ohio’s big cities have especially concentrated populations of people struggling to put food on the table.

       With Congress struggling to reduce the deficit, food assistance programs such as food stamps are in a precarious position.  But before they put pen to paper, our representatives in Washington should heed this report, for as disheartening as these figures are, they stand to become much worse if significant cuts to assistance programs are made.  As the report makes clear, “this is a national problem demanding aggressive steps toward a solution.”

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

How Are the Local Meal Programs in Cleveland?

Commentary By Delores

      I was assigned to check out the free meal sites West Side Catholic Center, St. Malachi and St. Paul.  But first I like to tell about our friend Luke who is a Vista employee. Sometime in July, Luke was in Tremont and was shot in a drive by shooting.  Thank God Luke is still with us and thank God he is okay.  In fact, I saw him recently and, I bought some papers from him.  The police found the car and the gun; don’t know about the suspect though.  May you keep up recovering Luke, we all like you.  I hope I am speaking for all the vendors that we are glad to see you recovering very fine.  Now back writing about the meal sites.

      I went to West Side Catholic Center on July 25th.  I had a chicken patty, salad, and corn.  I was the 98th person served at 12:10 pm.   I was waited on at 12:15.  The food was okay on that day but they also have better food on some days.  I gave the West Side Catholic Center a B+.  They have name brand condiments some days such as ketchup, mustard, juice.

     I went to St. Malachi on August 1.  I had sausage, green beans, salad, mashed potatoes, (real mashed potatoes), no butter, no salt and pepper, and no condiments.  I saw two different lines with two different foods being served. Servers come around giving out drinks.  The food was good.  B+.

      I went to St. Paul on August 2.  From Public Square, I got on a 22 bus, got off at 36th and Lorain Avenue and walked to Bridge Ave.  Then I had to go to the back of the church to enter, and go down the stairs.   A lot of tables and chairs were set up, and you had to put down your own chair.  The staff served the meal in throwaway containers.  The meal consisted of watermelon, hero sandwich, and potato salad.  It was a very good meal I will come again.  I wish I lived on the West Side; the East Side doesn’t have as good of food.

      If a vendor wants to pay for a nice lunch, I suggest the Ontario Lounge/Café.  For under $7.00, they have a nice sandwich, potato salad, drink as well as sports on television and it is a quiet place to enjoy lunch.  I suggest this place.  The corned beef sandwich is very good. The sandwich may not be as big as the other shops, but the Ontario is not as salty as the other places.

     It is kind of a romantic atmosphere if you are a couple.  I recommend it to lower income people.

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Discussion With County Councilman Dan Brady

By Mike McGraw

     As chairman of the Cuyahoga County Council Health and Human Services Committee, Dan Brady has spent a great deal of his time in recent months listening to the testimony of homeless individuals and advocacy organizations about the current state of shelters in the county and the need for minimum shelter standards legislation. Our staff writer sat down recently to talk to Mr. Brady about how the issue of homelessness fits into the newly restructured county government, how the recent debt-ceiling deal will impact homeless services, and what ordinary county citizens can do to make their voice heard when it comes to the issue of homelessness.

Street Chronicle:  Dan Brady, thank you for joining us. It’s my understanding that the Office of Homeless Service [OHS] that exists in the County structure was created by both the City [Cleveland] and the County but placed within the County. I am wondering with the recent change in the County government, how will the Offic be integrated into the new government?

Dan Brady: Right, I think it’s a significant change. I’m the Chairman of the Human Services Committee [on County Council] and we are and have been in the process of defining our role in County government. It’s clear to me that there is a significant role for Council and this Committee in this area. I, years ago, was on the Health Committee of the Cleveland City Council, and that was an entirely different focus most of the time. This is a broader, much broader focus. And there is the City Hall administration is very much involved in these issues within the City of Cleveland. I think that this is an opportunity for local government in a large metropolitan area to be able to take a closer look at these issues. And in the County Council we have the opportunity to provide a forum for discussion and dialogue about this issue.

SC: Who besides you, among the Council members, is on the Human Services Committee?

DB: Yvonne Conwell is on the Committee, and quite active, Pernel Jones is on the committee and quite active, Sunny Simon is on committee and has been active on these issues, Councilman Gallagher from Strongsville, so far his focus has been on how the Committee relates to justice affairs, i.e. the County jail, healthcare at the County jail, and Metro – so there are five of us. Certainly there are other people on the Council who are more than aware of this issue. The focus of the Council tends to be urban-centric, several of us are from the City, and I think that makes it very different from the County Commissioner form of government.

SC:  I believe that it’s within this Human Services Committee that recently you heard some testimony from some individuals who were experiencing homelessness?

DB: That’s right, we’ve had series, almost weekly series of presentations since last winter on the vast array of agencies that serve the County. We’ve had a presentation from some people on the issue of homelessness and homeless shelters.

SC: What did you learn from the homeless individuals that you might be able to pass on to the public?

DB: No question, I think this was one of the first opportunities, but we plan to keep the door wide open for people who want to advocate their cause to come before the Committee, whether it’s on the scheduled presentation or not, to make public comments. We learn from these comments and these presentations that we wouldn’t learn from other people.

SC: If my understanding is right, part of the role of County human services is to administer Federal money?

DB: Yes, it generally the way I see County government is as an arm of the State, and under State law counties are structures of State government. We have a new structure now; that creates opportunities for big metropolitan areas like Greater Cleveland. And Federal funds are big part of it; some Federal funds come through the State, some come directly to the City, and a lot of it comes through the Health and Human Services levy, which leverages more money from the Federal government – it’s a mix.

SC: So, have you had a chance to examine recently the severity of the impact of what was just agreed to in the debt ceiling debate, on the homeless funding that the County would be involved in?

DB: Well, I haven’t drilled down that on the debt ceiling agreement, except to understand in the broader sense that this agreement will give us fewer resources than we would have otherwise.

SC: As a creature of County government, the Regional Transit Authority is something that provides a link between who are poor and homeless, and employment. Do you have any thoughts on how RTA could better serve the transit-dependent and homeless?

DB: I understand the issue and I’ve heard it raised. I’ve been to meetings where this issue has been discussed in the different forums. I’ve heard concepts promoted. There is a connection that County makes appointments to the RTA Board along with many other Boards, I guess that could be taken up with the RTA Board. I don’t want to dismiss that as not appropriate to the homeless, but it’s not just for the homeless, for low-income people generally. I’ve been to parts of the world where transit is available and at very low cost and sometimes at no cost.

SC: Finally, you did say you were going to hear from homeless individuals at the Council. What could anyone else from the general public do to support the efforts of anyone on Council that wanted to help people with homelessness?

DB: I think that while the districts are pretty big with over 100,000 people in them, and while the responsibility stretches across the whole metropolitan area, you are more likely to be able to have a County Council representative attend a meeting or speak to you directly than you would have been able to with the three Commissioners in such a large community, 1.3 million or so depending on the Census. Lobbying the Council members is possible. The Council chambers down at the Justice Center are open to the public. There are eleven different Committees that meet, there are lots of different forums. At the regular Council meetings, anyone who wants to speak to the entire Council on any issue, broad or narrow, regional concern, they can do that. All of that is now online, and streamed live, so I think there’s an opportunity here created a public forum for public discussion of these issues.

SC: I want to thank you for taking the time to talk today.

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Building Right Relationship Through Art

By: Luke Drotar

     From an origami tutorial one day to art reclamation by people experiencing homelessness the next, you’d be hard-pressed to find a gallery or studio that allows for more variety in its art & artists than the Transformational Art Center.  The group uses wood & other items from nature, as well as recycled materials from places like ZeroLandfill Cleveland, to explore how they can transform discarded art media into works of beauty.

      Based in the old St. Peter’s Room of the Bishop Cosgrove Center (1736 Superior Ave), the Transformational Art Center is a “community which reflects the movement of the Spirit in the building of relationship through artistic expression,” write Program Coordinators Pam Meyers & Mike Waters.  “Our primary purpose is the transformation of our relationship with God, ourselves & each other as we share our spiritual journey.”

     Visiting makes it clear that the Center is indeed out to build a fellowship in art.  What’s more poignant is that they are succeeding, & without using any wine.  Their membership has grown from a core membership of the few into a free-flowing vibrancy that can include dozens of participants during the days they work alongside the Cosgrove lunch crowd.

     Artists and non-artists of all levels and types of talent, interest, and style work side-by-side in light-hearted conversation.  A Rhythm & Blues CD croons smoothly from a boombox across the room and applies to their working environment a light coating of groove.  The large conference size-room in which they work is decorated throughout with collages and designs both colorful and symbolic, with canvas paintings that appear curiously Jackson Pollock, with mixed-media installations that bend and stretch your mind as you perambulate.

     The program’s aim is high-reward: the total transformation of oneself.  I’ve been lucky to know a couple members for a few years, during the breadth of their participation.  I can testify that some transformations of the mind can be seen with one’s eyes.

      The Transformational Art Center elaborates their values as such: “Unconditional Love (loving each other just as we are), Compassion (‘suffering with’ – being present with each other in our suffering), Divine Friendship (seeing the Presence of God in all persons & all of creation), Companionship (a mutual relationship which holds its grounding in Christ), & Forgiveness (accepting each other in our brokenness & understanding the pain & woundedness behind every offense).”

    The Transformational Art Center’s work is the kind that you can feel not only good about supporting.  Besides it not being done for profit, the program is an unpretentious one that won’t cost you a lot of time or money to be a hero for.  If you purchase a piece from their wide-ranging & affordable collection, all proceeds from its sale will go toward the purchase of more art supplies.  Support can be as simple as that.

     Although, as Program Coordinator Pam Meyers says, “It’s not about art, it’s about relationship.”  If the efforts of the Transformational Center resonate in your heart & mind, then join them; they love to see their community grow.  You may call Program Coordinators Pam Meyers & Mike Waters at (216) 407-3185 & (216) 376-3942 to find a way to get connected.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Bellefaire JCB: Connecting Runaway & Homeless Teens With Stability

By: Luke Drotar

     Did you know that if a teen boards a RTA bus & tells the driver that he or she needs help that the driver would call a teen outreach agency?  One of the two that the driver would call, based on the bus’s location, is Bellefaire JCB’s Homeless Youth Program.  Their 24-hour hotline (216-570-8010) receives an average of one to four calls every day.  Anyone is welcome to call: teens, parents, police officers, etc.  The Homeless Youth Program also has Facebook & MySpace accounts set up for ease of contact.

     When a teen contacts the Homeless Youth Program, workers determine his or her immediate needs.  Each teen receives a survival kit that includes a calling card, a hygiene kit, a fleece blanket (donated by another teen organization), and a letter of support written by a teen to let them know that other teens care.  Runaway or homeless teens face unique challenges and dangers posed by their circumstance.  The most dangerous time for a youth who runs away is within 72 hours of leaving home; by that point, a teen is likely to have been solicited for sex.

     “Part of the training we do is helping teens get out of tough situations,” said Karen McHenry, LISW-S, LCDC, the program’s director.  “Teenage homelessness is a real problem—a complicated issue that is not fully understood by the general public.  Teens aren’t noticed unless they create problems; and unfortunately homeless or runaway youth are often invisible.”

     Another way that Bellefaire JCB is making its presence known to youth is through their Street Outreach Program.  On Thursdays & Fridays, Bellefaire JCB staff is available from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at libraries, coffee shops & teen friendly spots on the near west side of Cleveland.  Then (on Thursdays & Fridays) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. they offer a drop-in center at St. Paul’s Church at 4427 Franklin Blvd.  And then after that (on Thursdays & Fridays) they’re back at the teen-friendly spots on the near west side from 9 p.m. until 10 p.m.

      The Bellefaire JCB’s Youth & Street Outreach Programs provide assessment, linkage and referral to a safe place for homeless youth.  “We see teens who have been living outside or couch surfing for months,” said McHenry.  “We do get a lot of calls from teens who have aged out of the system [ages 18-24], and we have a wealth of resources that we provide for that population.”

     “If the youth is under age eighteen, he/she can receive housing in a host home.  With their legal guardian’s consent, the child is placed in one of many families in our foster family network who are trained to take these youth.  We try to find a family that might geographically fit with where the child is going to school or near his or her identified support systems.”

      As reported in the last issue of the Cleveland Street Chronicle in the article “Cleveland Youth Testify to Human Rights Violations”, schools aren’t remembered enough as being in some cases a teenager’s only regular source of meals, among other things.  Karen adds, “School is a very important place for these teens because it’s safe and consistent.  They also aspire to have a profession and go to college, something most of them are able to achieve.”

     “We engage teens and help them focus on their strengths and achieve their goals.  All of our teens are resilient and talented.  For example, one of our teens is a puppeteer, and one plays the viola.  These are little outlets they’ve built to survive.”

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to learn more about the work of Bellefaire JCB’s Homeless Youth & Street Outreach Programs please visit their website <http://www.bellefairejcb.org/homeless-youth-program>.

 Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio

Basic Necessities, Food Banks

By Kiara Morgan

When you think about food banks, what do you think about? If you’re from the wealthy class you may think that it’s a place where all the poor people go. If you have currently lost a job or suffer from homelessness, you know how valuable food pantries, food banks and hot meal programs can be.  The Food Bank is the place that provides the food for your hot meal programs and makes the food available for the bags distributed in hundreds of thousands of bags per year.

Food banks receive surplus, government supplies, and donations from around the region, and then store that food in large warehouses. The Cleveland Foodbank then has an extensive transportation network to get prepared meals and bags of food out to the many food pantries and hot meal programs and shelters. The Cleveland Foodbank is the provider for many places in Northeast Ohio including Cuyahoga, Richland, Ashland, Geagua, and Lake Counties.

Food donations can come from individuals, but mostly come from wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers. These are usually canned or non-perishable items, but the FoodBank distributes millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables every year. A combination of food and money comes from governmental agencies, non-profits, municipalities, and city food drives and funds. Most pantries and hot meal programs pay a standard amount per pound for supplies and food, but there are thousands of pounds of free food available every day to eligible programs.

 With the economy still struggling and jobs becoming scarce throughout Cleveland, our basic necessities are becoming harder to obtain, according to a March 2011 press release from the FoodBank.  “Hunger is a serious and urgent problem right in our own community and it continues to get worse. The Foodbank’s distribution is up by 50% over the last two years,” according to Anne Goodman CEO of the Cleveland FoodBank.  Places such as shelters rely heavily on food from the Cleveland Foodbank. The Community Women’s Shelter Continue Life Inc., and Volunteers of America receive food and support from the Cleveland Foodbank.

 Other organizations working in conjunction with the Foodbank include Stella Maris, West Haven Youth Center and the Salvation Army shelters. Some programs such as the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter receives prepared meals from the Cleveland FoodBank, while places such as 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter receive truckloads of ingredients in which they prepare 1,000 meals a day. These are just some of the hundreds of organizations who are working with the Cleveland Foodbank.

 We don’t realize how important this basic necessity is to so many people in Greater Cleveland. Last year, the FoodBank distributed enough food for 12 million meals.  Those who see a homeless person on the street cannot possibly understand how hunger impacts the decisions and changes their lives. So many use the term “I’m starving,” but forget how many people are actually starving in the United States and throughout the world. About 1 billion people go to bed hungry worldwide. In 2011, a food shortage epidemic has been reported around the world because of high fuel costs and the expense of getting food to areas of need.

 Child hunger has become a major problem in the United States too. About 22 million children are on food stamps, about half of all food stamp recipients. In a time when food stamps are facing federal cuts, food banks are having trouble accommodating the large amount of people in need. Children make up 34% of recipients of food from the Cleveland Foodbank. So many children in America go to bed hungry and receive meals only from school lunch. Some who receive this food don’t even have their own bed since 5% of those who receive food from the Cleveland Foodbank are homeless.

Although, many foodbanks report a lack of food, the Cleveland Foodbank is holding strong. The Community West Foundation has currently agreed to match dollar for dollar every donation to the Cleveland Foodbank, up to $100,000. This has influenced other donors to increase the total matching to $200,000. The Cleveland Foodbank is hoping to raise a total of $400,000 from through September.  The goal is to increase donations and support to distribute 13 million meals in 2011. 

 The Cleveland Foodbank website www.clevelandfoodbank.org has a number of opportunities listed to help stamp out hunger locally. Charity is the best way to get things done and the FoodBank could use food, groups can volunteer their time, and they are always looking for financial support. This can be as simple as extending your shopping list to include some canned goods and boxed foods and taking it to your nearest food pantry or donating online to the FoodBank. A good way to increase your donation without digging into your own pocket is to check with your Human Resources department of your employer to find out if your company matches employee donations. You may have to fill out a matching gift request form; most corporate programs allow an employee up to one year to request a match for their donation.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio