Creating Positive Solutions Forums

In an effort to bring together Service Providers, homeless people, church congregations, and members of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless to address larger issues and attempt to move people into a fixed address.

On Saturday April 5 and May 10, interested parties will gather at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland to work on reducing the homeless population locally.

This is local initiative of the National Coalition for the Homeless to begin to address poverty issues. NEOCH will oversee six of these forums this year. Publicity of the event says, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Where Do We Go Now?

On March 12, 1997, sixty homeless and low-income individuals boarded two buses to Columbus. They gathered at the Statehouse to protest the Governor’s decision to not implement the waiver of Food Stamps and recent welfare decisions.

(The State of Ohio received permission to exclude areas with a labor surplus like Cleveland and Stark County from the cut-off of Food Stamps in March.) In Cuyahoga County 12,800 people are going to lose their Food Stamps this month if they are not volunteering or working.

The group presented the Governor’s staff with job applications for those that came down on the bus. Each application represented 2,000 people who were going to be cut off, and who cannot find a job. At this time, the governor has not found a job for any of the people that went down on the bus, and nor has he approved the waiver.

One question asked was, “Where do you see yourself in five years.” Thirty applications were delivered to the Governor, and 10% of them said that in five years they see themselves dead if they do not find a job or shelter.

Grapevine:     What are you gonna do when your FOOD STAMPS get cut?

Marcelina:      I’ll be out here like the rest of them. I gotta survive. My mind started thinking, I wasn’t raised to take things but if I’m really hungry I might take food!

GV:     What do you think of the current FOOD STAMPS program?

George:          Awful, Real bad. Jobs are really scarce. How can you just cut people off?

GV:     What do you think of the current FOOD STAMPS program?

Sheila: As the program stands now it’s not gonna work!

GV:     Do you receive FOOD STAMPS?

Sheila: Yes. $96.00 monthly.

GV:     What are you gonna do when your FOOD STAMPS are cut off?

Sheila: Now, I’ll just starve. But I take medication. What am I gonna do??

GV:     What will you do when your FOOD STAMPS get cut off?

Fred:   I’ll have to eat at churches and meal sites like I’ve been doing and starve the other times.

GV:     What do you think of the current FOOD STAMPS program?

Carl:   People need the FOOD STAMPS to survive. What will they do with out it? Just walk around and look for food I suppose...

GV:     What do you think of the current FOOD STAMPS program?

Coco:  I need it.

GV:     Do you volunteer?

Coco:  Yes. 20+ hours at Bishop Cosgrove. I’ve done everything the system wants me to and I’m still getting cut off.

GV:     What are you gonna do?

Coco:  I don’t know. Scrimp and scrounge, try something..I don’t want to go from good to bad I’ve come to far.

GV:     How do you feel about the cutbacks?

Gentleman:    I go off the 1st of next month. I don’t know, I just don’t know. I work a temp job now I can’t find anything steady.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20


Welfare Will Not Work Without Good Jobs

by Jean Taddie

One of the primary goals of the new federal welfare reform law is to get people off of the welfare rolls and into jobs. At the same time that cash, food stamp, and child day-care benefits are being reduced, recipients of welfare are being required to work as a condition of their benefits. According to a Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, “Under TANF, the required work hours generally will rise from an average of 20 hours weekly in 1997 to 25 hours in 1999 and ultimately increase to 30 in 2000.” If no jobs are available for welfare recipients, they will be put to work by the government doing community service work.

Since the new federal reform is dependent on jobs, it is very necessary that there be good jobs available. People on welfare often lack the skills that are in high demand. Without these skills, it is more difficult to find a job with benefits that pays enough to raise a family. Learning more marketable skills could help people, unfortunately, federal welfare reform does not protect the education of our nation’s low-income workforce.

Federal welfare reform repeals the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program. The JOBS program helped welfare recipients to get education and training so they could qualify for a better job. The federal law does not provide for a replacement program. In addition, Federal law provides no exception to the 30-hour work rules for people who are trying to get an education. This means that in addition to classes, studying, and raising their kids, parents will have to work at least 30 hours every week.

Welfare reform largely ignores any federal responsibility to educate the welfare recipients who are being sent into the workforce. The federal government may also be ignoring the future of its workforce.

Workforce 2000, a landmark employment study commissioned by the Department of Labor, received a lot of attention after it was released in 1987. The study uncovered demographic shifts in the population of workers: women and minorities are entering the workforce at higher rates, the average age of workers is getting older. The study also recognized that jobs requiring higher skills are growing faster than unskilled jobs.

            Shortly after the study was released, William E. Brock, the Secretary of Labor 1985-87, expressed his concern for the future. “The workers of the future will have to be better educated and better trained than our current labor force, or we will be unable to maintain a leadership position in the high technology industries and services that offer the greatest promise for America’s continued prosperity.”

There was much discussion and debate in the years after Workforce 2000 was published. But ten years later, as we stand on the brink of the 21st century, little has been done to ensure that the poorest of our nation’s workers will receive the education they need. Federal welfare reform penalizes people who are trying to get an education for a better life by imposing rigid work requirements and by eliminating the federal program that provided job training and education.

As we approach the new millennium, it is more important than ever to have a trained and educated workforce. Federal welfare reform should give more emphasis to the needs of the poorest for education and meaningful job training. Welfare reform should work with existing high school, college, and vocational education programs. Instead, these programs are threatened.

According to Brock, “Society must concentrate more employment and training resources, private as well as public, on young...welfare families because they can benefit most from such help.” In the end, the greatest promise for America’s continued prosperity is a workforce that is well trained, students who are well educated, and children who are well cared for.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Welfare Law Creates Race to the Bottom

by Jean Taddie

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that President Clinton signed into law on August 22, 1996, dramatically changed nearly all aspects of welfare. In their efforts to save money and put poor people to work, the federal government has made sweeping changes to programs that provide cash aid, food stamps, child care, and other social services.

The new Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) block grant replaces the old AFDC system that required states to maintain a basic level of human services. Federal reform pushes the responsibility for welfare to the states. “It’s an unfunded mandate to the states,” explained Brian Davis, Director of NEOCH. “States are going to have to pay for a lot more.”

In order to apply for federal block grant money, each state will have to create its own welfare policy and submit it to the federal government for approval before July, 1997. Last September, Ohio was one of the first three states to submit a plan. The Ohio Department of Human Services submitted Sub HB 167, a welfare reform law that was approved in 1995.

Under the newly “reformed” welfare system, states no longer have a responsibility to operate a program of cash assistance for needy families for any period of time. States can choose to eliminate benefits to legal aliens and other non-citizens. States are no longer required to provide access to education, training, job placement assistance, work programs, or child day care assistance, according to the Center for Law and Social policy. In addition, states are prohibited from using federal TANF money to pay benefits to a family when any member of that family has received benefits for more than 60 months from the date the law went into affect.

According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), welfare reform should save the federal government about $3 billion in fiscal year 1997. Of these savings, 44% will be from restrictions on benefits to non-citizens. Another 43% will be saved through cuts to Food Stamps.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Vendor Seeks a Way Out of the Street Life

by Darian Henderson

“At the beginning of life when I was safe and secure within my mother’s womb, I really didn’t know that the majority of my life would be without a house or home. A human being walking through life not living, but just existing. Born in Savannah, Georgia on August 17th, 1947 and moving to Cleveland at a very early age, I was really not aware this would be my plight. At a very early age in life I got fascinated with being out in the streets. As I went back and forth to the corner store for my mother, I saw what was known as the Street Life and was drawn to the women and men who participated in the street night life.” (Melvin Bryant, Grapevine 19)

Melvin Bryant or “Buzzy” (street name) has lived his fifty odd years flirting with the Street Life as he coined it. The Street Life has been both the grantor of good will and the tempter of man’s greed and obsession. Most outside onlookers might say the Street Life has gotten the best of Melvin Bryant. The people who know him, could say Melvin Bryant is Melvin Bryant because of the streets, a wise, no-nonsense, good-natured man who has a knack with numbers and can count pennies faster than any man west of 25th street.

I have known Buzzy for approximately six months now. He is my elder and like most people I meet on the streets, he tells me little of the world he lives in. He is 5’6" with dark brown skin, a unique Abraham Lincolnesque beard and short graying hair. He is well spoken with a high-pitched, deceivingly youthful voice. Buzzy possesses a distinct laugh which explodes in quick bursts, surprising strangers and welcoming friends.

Buzzy has told me many a time that he was reared in a God fearing, respectful to your elder’s family. You can be sure that Buzzy will address each person he meets with a yes sir or a yes maam. I’m not sure if this is left over debris from his mother or a social grace learned from his days of selling magazines or newspapers. At any rate, Buzzy has a polite, but playful nature about him. He seems to have very few enemies and I never see him interacting with any one with malice or anger. He has been a friend to me in the time that I have known him, speaking about the life of a homeless person, educating me with his wisdom and knowledge about the streets and life in general.

Two weeks ago, Buzzy walked into the office and told me to call his parole officer, he was turning himself in. He went on to explain that he was in jail from 1969 to 1995 where he was paroled for one year’s time. It was his responsibility to report to his parole officer for one year where he would then be totally free of our penal system. For some reason, he did not continue to report to his parole officer. Therefore he was violating his parole, which can be grounds for his return to prison to finish his sentence. Two weeks from now, his case will be heard at a parole hearing in Lorain county.

As we prepare to testify on his behalf to the board I am asking myself, Why did Buzzy decide to make this decision to turn himself in? Why did he voluntarily decide to go to two police stations in order for him to be taken back into custody so he finally will be able to be totally “FREE” of the system. Why, after two years of being homeless did he decide to take the chance of being put into prison for 5-10 more years where he will go back to a place in which he will be unable to think for himself, do for himself and act for himself. Recently, he wrote a letter to me in which he said he was tired of being a fraud. He wanted to be free so that he could dedicate his life to helping others. I guess the Street Life finally got the best of Melvin. Being institutionalized for almost half his life has taken its toll.

It seems he has finally hit bottom, he is ready to move and the only direction he can go is up. I hope you all pray for him in his attempt to finally deal with the “Street Life” and master its trials and tribulations. In this age of self-empowerment and personal responsibility Buzzy, through his many hills and valleys is a shining example to be heralded thoughout the community and beyond. We wish him luck and hope he may have the persistence to withstand the many battles that lay ahead.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20


Vendors Lose Appeal : Appeals Court Reverses Licensing Case

by Brian Davis with research by Harold Dopman

On Monday February 3, the United States Federal Appeals Court reversed a lower court’s decision regarding the licensing of street newspapers. The suit was brought against the City of Cleveland on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (publisher of the Homeless Grapevine) and the Nation of Islam (publisher of the Final Call) by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop a policy involving the ticketing of the vendors of the two papers.

The City initiated a policy to license vendors of street newspapers in much the same way as hot dog vendors are licensed. The license costs $50 for a stationary license or $100 if the vendor wants to be mobile. This would effectively regulate the paper out of existence according to Harold Dopman, Managing Editor of the Grapevine.

The decision reversed a District Court decision, which found a need to protect the distribution of a political discussion on the streets of Cleveland. The District Court decision was based on the freedom of speech and the press. In the Appeal’s Court decision, the three judges did not mention the economic impact the fee will place on the homeless and low-income vendors of the Grapevine. Cleveland Law Director, Sharon Sobol Jordan, said that they were pleased with the victory, and was especially happy with the language that the judges used in the decision.

The City had argued that in much the same way that organizations pay for parade licenses this was a legitimate form of government intrusion. The City claimed that this was not a restriction on selling the paper, but an attempt for the City to regulate or at least have knowledge of those people who are selling items on the streets to identify those that are defrauding people. Jordan said that the City was concerned with fraud by unlicensed vendors

The ACLU has asked for a rehearing by all the judges in the Sixth Circuit arguing that this decision violates Murdock v. Pennsylvania a Supreme Court decision regarding the distribution of religious material by the Jehovah Witnesses. If the court does not grant the rehearing, the ACLU will be forced to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Grapevine managing editor, Dopman contends that this is just a continuing form of harassment by the City of Cleveland of homeless people. “This is a clear violation of our free speech, and another effort to get rid of this blight on the city known as homeless people.”

The City contends that they realize the impact a fee has on vendors, and are not as much concerned with the fee as they are over “protecting” the public. Jordan emphatically stated that the law department supports the civil rights and the first amendment, and she said, “I am pretty sure that the Mayor does too.”

City attorneys claim that lawsuit and the appeal did not cost the City much money, and they will defend the lawsuit in the Supreme Court if necessary.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Ohio State News

**The Governor’s budget was released in February. The governor requested small increases in money for Transitional Housing and no increase for the Emergency Shelter fund. The governor proposed eliminating housing for migrant workers. Overall funding for homeless services went from $8.7 million in 1996 to $7.6 million in 1997 with requests for $8.3 million in 1998.

The Governor did propose an increase in the fee paid at the time a house transfers from one owner to another to be used to build housing. The fund should generate $56 million over the next two years. In early March, Republican legislators were weary of supporting the increase for fear of being viewed as raising taxes.           

Requests for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Services to fund housing issues related to homelessness and supportive housing for those in substance abuse treatment. The governor’s budget did not fund any of these type of activities.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

St. Malachi’s Monday Meal Friendly

by Robert Harris

St Malachi serves meals to those in need between 8:30 PM and 3:00 PM. Hot coffee with a sandwich and usually 2 or 3 doughnuts. On cold days they have a small sitting area available to sit and eat the meal.

On Monday evenings at 6 PM, a large dinner is served consisting of meat, potatoes and vegetables. Selections from the four basic food groups are available with plenty of milk and juices. On Monday evenings, there are usually 50 to 100 people served. This dinner is served every week.

Turkey with all the trimmings was served on Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving meal Monday the 25th of November was a success. Turkey with dressing, green beans and corn served with rolls, grape juice orange, juice and cranberry juice with plenty for adults and children alike. For desert pumpkin pie, blackberry pie and sweet potato pie with whipped cream.

Also wrapping was provided for those wishing take home dinners. The Thanksgiving meal is a good example of the typical Monday night meal.

The people who serve the food are usually very friendly and cheerful. You see them patrolling between the long tables of people offering refills of hot coffee, milk and fruit juices.

At the end of the meal, volunteers are requested from people attending the meal. Seven or eight raised their hands to help clean the hall. Tables and chairs are put up, etc.

An announcement is made asking if anyone needs to see a Doctor or a Nurse. Medical care is provided by a group of Medical professionals every Monday night.

Overall, I would give the Monday night St. Malachi meal Three Golden Soup Ladles.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Pssst! Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a 29 Gauge with Water?

by Harold Dopman

It’s nine o’clock in the morning. We’re on the corner of East 105 and Morrison. Chris, a 38-year-old recovering heroin addict and recently homeless white man asks passing neighborhood people if they need free condoms. Most answer yes and pocket a few. Some ask for “water” and receive a ziplock baggie containing small bottles of bleach, pure water and instructions for cleaning syringes; along with condoms, information about AIDS, TB, and hepatitis; and an Xchange Point business card promising emergency food and shelter, one-on-one AIDS education, literature, referrals, support and advocacy. A few wanted to know if they could exchange needles.

“When a Heroin addict needs dope and doesn’t have a clean needle he’ll use a dirty one. Whether or not he can catch AIDS is not really an issue. It’s as simple as that;” said Chris, a recovering addict who’s been clean now for 94 days.

“I started using drugs when I was a teenager, and after a personal crisis four years ago I started shooting Heroin. I wanted to die and thought this was a good way to commit suicide. All Heroin addicts are suicidal. The problem was that I didn’t die—I lived and my habit quickly grew from 1 bag a day to 10 bags a day at a cost of $150 to $200 a day.”

Even though it’s not illegal for a drug store to sell syringes without a prescription (the law is vague) he found it nearly impossible to buy them.

“Revco insisted on seeing an insulin prescription and Medic wanted to see my Drivers License, a scary thing for an addict,” he added.

Cleveland issued an emergency order over two years ago to allow a needle exchange program run by the Free Clinic to operate in the city. They opted for a Stationary program, where users travel to a specific site to exchange dirty needles for clean ones.

Kenneth Vail, who holds a Master degree in public health plus a degree in Anthropology was the director of the program and wanted to expand it to include a “roving program,” which would travel to various locations in the neighborhoods; but ran into conflict with the Free Clinic, and was asked to resign. He refused and was fired.

“One program isn’t enough” explained Vail in his melodious Arkansas accent. “Not every one has the same schedule or lifestyle. Some cities have as many as ten different programs.”

A recovering addict himself. and clean for over ten years Kenneth Vail and his Xchange Point “Harm Reduction” Program to reduce the incidence of HIV among intervenes drug users has battled City Hall and Mayor Whites Law and Health Departments for months. Every thing possible was done to undermine Xchange Points program to distribute clean needles, condoms, health and drug abuse information to Cleveland’s street people. When Xchange Point complied with the current rules-the City revised the rules. Police surveillance and threats of prosecution followed. He was forced to stop exchanging needles.

Vail found funds, formed a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and started his own program.

Even the morning of this interview, Vail was stopped by Cleveland police who asked if he is distributing needles.

“No,” he replies politely.

“Then what are doing walking up and down the street,” they asked.

“Handing out condoms” he answers and they move on.

An elderly black man turns and offers, “We put up with that kind of shit all the time.”

“Practicing Harm Reduction is more than just needle exchange,” said Dr. Joy Marshall, medical director of the program and former director of The Free Clinic.

“We talk to the people and say ‘ Lets work together to make this a better world.’

Let’s talk about safe sex! Let’s talk about other health problems!”

“Anyone who says needle exchange programs are inappropriate should go to Rainbow Babies and Children Hospital and look at children and little babies suffering with HIV through no fault of their own,” added Marshall with a missionary fervor.

Following a barrage of media exposure and threats of a Federal lawsuit (which might bring a barrage of national media attention) the City of Cleveland seems ready to UN-revise their revisions of the statute which has prevented Xchange Point from fulfilling their mission.

Chris, the formally homeless, recovering addict with the college degree from CSU sums up the situation this way:

“From a purely economic perspective would you rather spend fifteen cents for a clean needle now, or a hundred thousand dollars to take care of an AIDS patient while he dies, later?

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

PASS Shelter Serves Chronically Homeless

by Beth Prebel

Last October, a new program for chronically homeless men got underway. The program, called PASS (pick-up, assessment, services and shelter) is overseen by the Salvation Army and operates in their shelter on E. 22nd Street (formerly a woman’s shelter). PASS applications are accepted on and off-site by staff members and outreach teams.

PASS offers any homeless man the opportunity to establish income, participate in an alcohol and drug-free environment, develop independent living skills and establish permanent housing. According to Ron Reinhart, who along with Sue Dinardo co-directs the PASS staff, the focus is on change. Reinhart says, “the atmosphere is one of comfort and responsibility.” PASS offers a family-like approach with rules and regulations that need to be followed. The average stay is from 90-120 days, although it could be longer. The program is individualistic and structured, which according to Reinhart, is the necessary approach.

PASS receives support from such organizations as the VOA (Volunteers of America) and Health Care for the Homeless. Mark Budzar, Outreach Counselor at VOA, says that he has referred approximately 10-12 men to the PASS program.

The PASS Program was filled right away. It currently provides shelter and services to 45 homeless men. With 10 spaces provided for men in the Step One to Recovery program. In light of the number of homeless men in the area, one of the criticisms of PASS is its limited accommodations and the difficulty to get in.

Both Reinhart and Budzar state that substance abuse is prevalent in the homeless community. There are multiple problems that plague chronically homeless men and therefore it is important to place each person with the appropriate service or agency. Says Reinhart, “not every man is ready for PASS; they can engage in other services.”

Random drug testing is conducted, and if a resident is found to be a user they are immediately dismissed. They can, however, re-apply in 30 days. A resident does have the opportunity to “confess,” in which case he would not be put out, but would have more restrictions put on. In addition, one of the services at PASS is that Cocaine and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are conducted every night.

Since the Salvation Army is planning on taking over the men’s overflow shelter system called ProjectHeat, they are trying to find a facility large enough to accommodate both projects. The facility would consist of a Base Shelter, PASS-interested (upgraded shelter with treatment available), Pre-PASS Program, and PASS. The benefits of such a facility would mean that there would be an opportunity for a man to downgrade in the system without being put out on the street and progress wouldn’t be destroyed if a fall back occurs.

Interviews are conducted on-site by Reinhart Mondays and Fridays from 4:30 to 6:00. At that time approximately 10 men are interviewed. There is no waiting list, another criticism of the program, but Reinhart stresses that it is difficult to track down a homeless person because they cannot always be located.

There are 15 PASS staff members who bring a vast amount of experience with homelessness. More than half have experienced homelessness firsthand, and most are in recovery of some sort. Eventually, Reinhart would like to see former PASS residents become staff.

The most important aspect of PASS says Reinhart is that it is “an opportunity to change.”

As of mid-January there were 7 graduates of PASS who were established with jobs and housing. Approximately 35% of those initially enrolled were still in the program.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Notes from Around the Country

From COHHIO’s NOTES The U.S. conference of Mayors 1996 survey of 29 major cities found that during the past year requests for shelter by homeless families alone increased by 7 %, with 63% of the cities reporting an increase. At the same time, the number of emergency shelter beds decreased overall by an average of 2.5%.

It was estimated that 20% of the requests for emergency services by homeless people and 24% of the requests by homeless families go unmet. Requests for assisted housing by low-income households and individuals increased in 81% of the cities. City officials estimate that low-income households spend an average of 49% of their income on housing.

The average wait nationwide is 31-32 months for Section 8 vouchers/certificates. City officials believe that the elimination of Section 8 incremental certificates will lengthen both the waiting lists and the wait for assisted housing. This will make it more difficult for low-income families to obtain affordable, permanent housing and increasing homelessness.

From the National Coalition for the Homeless: Representative John Lewis has introduced legislation to establish National rights for homeless people to vote. The Homeless Voting Rights bill is H.R. 74 and co-sponsored by 15 Democratic representatives. Rep. Lewis said of the Voting Rights Bill, “The purpose of this legislation is to enable the homeless, who are citizens of this country, to vote. The bill would remove the legal and administrative barriers that inhibit them from exercising this right. No one should be excluded from registering to vote simply because they do not have a home. But in many States, the homeless are left out and left behind. That is not a right, it is not fair. It is not the way of the country. “

The budget request from President Clinton proposes no increases in any of the homeless assistance programs. This request is $295 million less than last year’s request. The National Coalition for the Homeless characterizes this as a full-scale retreat by President Clinton in their plans to reduce the homeless populations.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Music Rushes Forth From Me

by Richard Johnson

I used to work a 9 to 5 job. Getting up and going to work in the morning. In contrast to the mentality of unemployment presenting on a musical level alone, the experience is fantastic.

Let me explain.

It’s 7:00 in the morning. I’m just waking up by the alarm clock. The harmonics as the scene unfolds are fascinating. They actually get a little better if one or two folks can’t carry a tune so good and the note hunts a little.

I’m trying to make my way to the bathroom hitting doors and walls. It sounds like the 4th of July in here. I make it. I wash a couple of pints of blood out of my hair...but wait: what’s this I’m hearing? Not the radio, TV or the telephone.

The telephone!!

I’m hearing the telephone. The telephone in slang stands for mental telepathy. The communication between people without words. Thought transference, whose stigma in the mind registers instant non-communication or communicational politics such as, “Do you hear voices in your head?”

I’m in the hallway approaching the door when suddenly I hear music, voices, noise. My head was spinning with a dozen musicians...coming from my brain.

There were three guitars I knew and two I was glad to meet, Skipper Beckman’s stand-up bass, Norman’s flute, Slick Rick on sax, Billy on electric piano, Eugene with his bongos, Jarnis making a fiddle talk in three languages, and a lady I didn’t know with a handmade lute, all of us jamming around a figure in 4/4 that was alternately folk, country, R&B, and tree different flavors of jazz.

Slick Rick finished a solo, and somebody else yelled, “Let’s go home,” and we all jumped in on the final chorus, licks flying like fireworks, harmonies meshing like the gears in the wheel that winds the world. We finished with a bar room walkout, held it, held it, held it, grinning like thieves...then let it kick and resolve and beat the final chord to death with a stick.

On a musical level alone, the experience is edifying, the harmonics are devastating.

Those of us who were not musicians...the majority of course, held onto tonic or dominant to keep us all centered, of course. You know the ones. And those with musical talent jammed around the basic drone, sometimes adding harmonies to make chords, then spontaneously mutating them in weird shifting ways, such as outrageously funny, unbelievably, incomprehensible morning stories. You know the ones sometimes throwing in deliberate and subtle dissonances, the resolving them creatively; sometimes doing raga scales, or Ray Charles gospel riffs, or whatever came out of our head and hearts and mutual interaction. The results were always interesting and frequently breathtaking.

But of late the gang, mob, crowd, what have you, have typically gotten a little too spiritually conservative and had decided that having people chant all over the place offered too much encouragement to our ego.

So the current agreement was to limit the telephone (mental telepathy) to the tonic and dominant notes. That was more democratic. More pure. More basic. Simple.

Now presently we all looked to me and at my signal the gang banked sharply and cut in the afterburners, riding that magic carpet of drone like the blue angels, heading for the clouds in perfect wordless communication. The gang didn’t know our custom about hamming up politic.

I then picked up my briefcase fully dressed walked out the door and started my car up and pulled out the driveway in freeform improve, an unrestricted outpouring of the heart with dough to go.

Good morning all. Smile.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Many Faces of Homelessness

Children walk the street at night,
put out of their home cause their parents had a fight.
A smile on their face, turn to a frown,
a while ago their lives were up, now down.
A mother trying to do the best she can,
gets beat up at night by her husband.
A house she called home has vanished away,
she must find a shelter and hope she can stay.
A family who lost their home to fire,
Now must sleep somewhere the rats only desire.
Will the Red Cross save them and find them a place to lay their heads, or will grass and ground under a bridge be their only beds.
A single man, a single woman working everyday
fighting addictions, struggling to keep their pay.
Going from this place to that place just to get fed.
Knowing you are just existing, better known as the walking dead.
Oh, there is the advocates doing all they can,
Trying this and that wanting to understand.
Was it they want money, food clothes or a home,
Or, really none of the above simply to be left alone.
Tears, smiles, frowns, laughter, crying,
sighing, whining, work, violence, dying
Struggle, hope, joy, happiness, love,
pain, agony, hurt, sorrow, blessing from above.
These are the many faces of homelessness,
some are sad, glad and some are "filled" with loneliness.
But as time goes by and things start to change,
When people start looking hopeful, a home is in range.
When politicians look at the homeless as they do the rich,
When they give tax abatements to someone who lives in a ditch.
When they stop taking advantage of mentally ill,
When they start helping people who really want a skill.
When the face of homelessness is not determined by race, but helping a person to start over and find them a place.
When hatefulness is replaced by kindness,
To replace the many faces of homelessness.
Wake up America, lets give each other a home,
Our people don't have to be like deer and antelope where buffalo roam.
Let's give every American life, liberty and happiness, affordable housing, decent jobs and training will end the many faces of homelessness.

Respectfully submitted by:
Mr. Melvin J Bryant (B.K.A.) BUZZY

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Homeless people are artists too

by Staci

NEOCH VISTA Members Damon Taylor and Staci Santa have joined together with Americorps Member Melanie Garrett, Black Box Gallery, and many other organizations, businesses, and individuals to provide art workshops for the homeless throughout the Winter season. Workshops were held at the Black Box Saturdays, January 25, February 22, and March 22, 1997 from 10AM to 2:00 PM each month. Boxed lunches compliments of West Side Catholic Shelter, transportation, childcare, and were provided for each participant.

With an average of 40 homeless or severely low-income participants at every workshop and about half that many volunteers including art students to assist with technical issues, it was easy to see how closely the community pulled together and worked persistently to make these events happen. With this local effort to collaborate, the workshop days ran incredibly well. Each workshop member received personal attention from graduate students studying art and/or art therapy. Other volunteers were on hand to provide day care, serve lunch, offer advice, help with supplies, set up and clean up the gallery space, and fulfill any various tasks required of the day.

Homeless participants were encouraged but not limited to expressing their depiction of life on the streets, their goals, their motivations, or other aspects of the streets that others might not think of exploring. Other participants chose to test their art skills, examine the various donated art supplies, or make artwork for a friend or family member.

Charcoal, acrylic paints, clay, molds, storybooks, and other donated supplies were available for use. If so inclined, participants are welcome to submit their work to the second annual homeless multi-media art show, Homeless Still: A Second View of the Streets, this summer.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

High School Students Confront Stereotypes

The following are before and after statements from high school students at the “It’s Your Move” Conference which took place on March 12 at Case Western Reserve University. Every student filled out a sheet before the presentation about what they thought homelessness was, and then again after the presentation by members of the Coalition for the Homeless. Here are a sampling of their responses.

I think homelessness is when a person has no home - no place to live. They have no warm, safe place to go at night and no place to keep their belongings. What I’ve seen (on T.V.), homeless people sleep on streets, in cars and anywhere they can.

Homelessness is not something people choose. It happens and it can happen to anyone at anytime. I still see it as I did before, as someone without a home, but now I have a better understanding of it.

--AGE 16

Homeless is being without someplace that you can stay permanantly.

It’s something you have no control of.

--AGE 16

Homelessness is a problem. In some cases people have been removed from their homes for various reasons, where women and children may be escaping domestic violence, or where the elderly are not supported anymore. Where people have become down on their luck.

I think the same as did before, but now I know that that I have to do anything in my power to help.

--AGE 15

Homeless means a person without a suitable or reliable place to live or just no place at all.

Homelessness is a person that has had problems in their life that affected them and caused them to be homeless.                                     --AGE 17


A homeless person is someone that is forced to live on the street because they have no money, job or family support. People like me, but don’t have enough people caring about them.

A problem that isn’t going away and that we all need to help with.

--AGE 17

Homeless to me is a hole in which one feels they can’t climb out of.

Homelessness could be a chance to start over.

--AGE 15

Homelessness is the situation of people living on the streets for various reasons - runaways, war veterans, people who have lost their job and had housing taken away from them or who have lost their home through fire or other destruction.

Homelessness is people faced with situations that they can’t handle alone and the result is living on the street.

--AGE 17

Homeless is when you do not have an income, or home. You may stay in shelters or work odd jobs to get a meal and/or money. You may live on the streets too.

Homeless is when you may not have a job, or someplace to stay. They are the same as you and I. It’s a bad situation.

--AGE 16

I think homelessness is when someone for some reason has no home to stay in, and is trying to survive in the streets.

I think homelessness is when someone has no permanant place to stay because of a problem they may have.

--AGE 14

Homeless - someone less fortunate who does not have the bare necessities, e.g. a home, a family or a place to go.

--AGE 16

Homelessness - A serious problem in our nation, faced by most major cities. The homeless are often unemployed, and often undereducated, although that is not always the case. The homeless are forced to live on the streets and often need to beg for sustenance.

Homelessness is a problem which can affect anyone but some can prepare for it better that others.

--AGE 15

Homelessness to me is when a person has nowhere they feel welcome, where they can get a hot meal, a place to stay, love and companionship.

Homelessness to me is basically the same thing. Someone that is unable to make positive choices about how they want to live their life.

            --AGE 15 ½

Homelessness - When a person has no home, shelter or place to live.

Homelessness - Not having a job or not being financially stable so therefore you have no home.

--AGE 15

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Hate in Corporate Over-The - Rhine: "No Way buddy gray"

Commentary by Berta Lambert

Marge Hammelrath and Jim Tarbell have for nearly 20 years represented the under-the-rock persona of the anti-poor and anti-buddy gray attitudes of the art-bar corporation speculators of Main Street.

For several years, the old guard conservatives have been supplanted by the overt guerrilla activities of Chris Frutkin, Jennifer Sizer, and Peter Calloway. For nearly two years these folks along with their greed-ideology friends have disrupted the meetings of the 30-year-old Over-the-Rhine Community Council (ORCC). It has been necessary in recent months to: move its meeting place, appoint a sergeant-at-arm, tighten its still very open meeting process, video tape its meetings, and on several occasions request additional police presence at its meetings.

Chris Frutkin is the nephew of the wealthy Ed Burger. He is in his 30’s and an owner of several properties in the neighborhood. As a yuppie-entrepreneur he is a board member of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce and its clean-up subsidiary Impact.

Jennifer Sizer’s mother is a recent president of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber. She is the public relations person for the infamous Damon Lynch III’s so-called ULI coalition and she is the P.R person for both the O.T.R Chamber and Jim Verdins Pendelton Art Center (Verdin is responsible for the 13th St. phallic Corporate Bell Tower vis-a-vis his Verdin Bell Co.).

None of the rascals named above is a O.T.R resident. Peter Calloway, however, is a resident. His personality seems driven by this current fashion of right-wing entrepreneurial spirit beliefs. At ORCC’s October meeting he was video taped thanking buddy gray’s friends taking down the hate No Way buddy gray stickers and announcing the existence of a No Way buddy gray organization.

The reader will find it useful to know the sticker with a telephone number, remains on post throughout the city, is a third generation effort. It was preceded by nine months: 1st by a gray and black silver dollar sized Stop buddy gray sticker, and then by a fluorescent green or sometimes reddish hand sized circular stick-on.

If you called the number on the most recent sticker, which was disconnected by 10a.m. the day buddy was shot, you were invited to push 3 or 1 for separate hate messages. The recordings consisted largely of lies, misinformation and inferences of impropriety concerning papers in the possession of City Hall.

Frutkin, Sinzer and Calloway bear the moral responsibility for the hate campaign and the climate of fear for buddy gray’s personal safety.

Post script: Within twenty-four hours of buddy’s death, stickers appeared in O.T.R which read; ‘Where there is a Wilbur there is a way’. Wilbur was the name of the man that killed buddy.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Guillotined in 1997


Yes, most every progressive journal in the country is currently pushing the message that welfare reform was a fraud perpetrated on the people of the United States. We feel obligated to reach beyond the rhetoric, and talk about the impact on the homeless population that we interact with everyday.

How did we get to this situation:

Much of the current legislation is based on myths and misconceptions that exist about welfare and the cycle of dependence. Very little hard research has been done on the welfare system, and the impact of changes. It is a shame that welfare is not considered a national security issue so that we could tap into that funding stream. The media has done its best to root out corruption, and trumpet stories about abuse and fraud. With a lack of research and a constant stream of negative welfare stories, the impression in the eyes of middle America was that people, mostly men, were getting rich off welfare.

The fact is that in no state did welfare benefits lift a person out of a poverty level of income, and in many states welfare was confined to women with children. The able bodied single adults were forced into the workforce or community service. We began going down the wrong path when we left the idea that women should have the option to stay home and take care of their own children for the good of the neighborhood and a better future. And we have arrived at a point in which there is no federal guarantee to a minimum standard in which a child cannot fall below. There is a federal standard for air quality, radio indecency, civil rights, law enforcement, and even care of livestock. But there is no longer a federal standard for a safety net for the poor.

State Control of the System:

Throughout history states have a mixed record on the care of individuals. Some have excelled, but many have not. In Ohio, we fought an obviously flawed educational funding system to the Ohio Supreme Court. How can we be expected to take care of poor children, when we can’t even give them equal access to quality education? States can use the Federal Block Grant to give incentives to employers to hire people off the rolls, build rehabilitation facilities (read: forced labor camps) or put it all in one area like healthcare or childcare. In thinking of some of the characters that have served in the state legislature, one has to conclude that State representatives are not qualified to make these decisions.

What are we really talking about?

We are looking at the establishment of a permanent underclass that will no longer be able to turn to the state for assistance. We are looking at the abject poverty on a scale that we see in the Third World. We are looking at a raid on the resources that were in formerly part of the welfare system by many states for higher priorities such as recreation, prisons, and “community development.” We are entering a period in which we drive down labor costs, and break many of the service unions. We are entering a period in which we see more families attempting to enter the homeless service sector. The big winners will be corrections, homeless services, and temporary labor because of welfare reform.

Driving down labor costs:

Labor unions should be on the front lines in battling welfare reform. If unemployment rates need to stay at the level that they are currently at for Alan Greenspan to be at ease and not raise interest rates, and the states are going to be moving a substantial number of workers from welfare to work, how can these both work together? It is simple drive down labor costs. If a company can hire a welfare recipient for $5 an hour as well as get a tax credit, does the $10 an hour worker stand a chance? There are provisions to protect current workers, but there are provisions for companies not to exploit workers, pollute, and rip off the government, and these are routinely ignored. Ronald Reagan was able to injure the unions, but Clinton/Gore may be able to finally “End-Unions-as-We-Know-It.”

“Give me your tired, your poor, (They can harvest our food, and be viewed as the scourge of our existence and the reason for all of our problems.)"

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, (So that we can beat this out of them and then pacify them with an endless stream of sitcoms and sporting events.)

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, (Who will live off our refuse in soup lines and will not have access to benefits or assistance.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me; (On second thought, keep them.)

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (to those who are worthy or don’t complain too much and who bring wealth to our country.)

            — Emma Lazarus and George Voinovich

Haven’t I heard all this before, and nothing really happened?

Didn’t activists say that if we cut General Assistance the sky would fall. There are many things to remember about these debates. First, the most insidiousness aspect of these proposals are that they creep up on us. If on August 22 there were 5,000 people living on the streets and the next day we woke up and there were 10,000 people, we would view this as an emergency and all of our energy would be exerted to reverse the situation. The homeless population increases over years, and we develop a comfort level of immunity to this suffering (until it happens to me). It gets easier to ignore the situation if it slowly increases.

There has also been an explosion in a population of those undocumented people who are staying with family or friends. There is no attempt to measure the number of people living in basements or attics or stuffed into small apartments. The charity of one individual that allows another to stay in their place is not counted and not recognized by the decision makers. Rest assured that these individuals are homeless, and they go to sleep with the smell of the steam grate lingering all about them.

We have a vendor who is again homeless because he has too many people staying in his place. He went through the system, and finally received his disability for a work related injury and was able to get a subsidized small apartment. His former wife and daughter became homeless and moved in with him. This was too many people for a one-bedroom apartment, so he did what any caring father would do. He moved back to the familiar life on the streets so his family could stay in his place until they were able to find housing.

The cold reality is that if someone does not step up to show what the worst case will be if welfare reform continues, people are left with the conservative assertions of politicians that voted for the legislation. Reform was passed to forward a political agenda, and it flew in the face of facts and trends. At least the rhetoric being forwarded by activists is based on real experiences and trends within the community.

Where is this path going?

It is a crime to build stadiums and prisons when we cannot even provide a minimum standard for our children. We are terribly misguided if the three large cities in Ohio are each spending public money on stadiums that are playgrounds for the rich and we cannot provide for our poor citizens. A government that cannot care for the least fortunate, those without a voice and without power, does not deserve to exist, and will fall.

“Society is under obligation to provide for the support of all its members either by procuring work for them or by assuring the means of existence to those who are not in condition to work.”--Maximileien Marie Isidore De Robespierre Guillotined in 1794.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Empowerment is Key to Reversing Homelessness

by Angelo Anderson

The mission of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) entails empowering the homeless. Empowerment is a useful word when explaining what NEOCH hopes to accomplish, for it is only through forming a solid base, only by standing up, only by registering to vote and coming out in mass that the homeless and poor ever stand a chance of making a difference in their own lives.

How? How? How do we get across to those most affected by cuts in social programs the importance of being counted? The following statistics, prepared by the National Coalition for the Homeless and NEOCH, are based on 11,000 clients registered in homeless shelters during the 1994 Census. Consider the fact that there are nearly twice that number of people who don’t come in or stay in shelters, it has been estimated that the number of homeless has doubled since 1990. By using the shelter registration system as a base for determining the number of homeless people, NEOCH estimates that there are 22,000 homeless people in Cuyahoga County each year. In Ohio alone, there is an estimated 140,000 homeless population and this figure can be placed on the rolls of the national estimate of 13.5 million people living in shelters or on the streets in their lifetime.

If these numbers seem amazing, one should take a look at the next set of cuts to take place this year and add to the equation the number of potential clients that will be added to the rolls. This is the new federal and state welfare reform law. NEOCH sees the number of homeless increasing dramatically. The following breakdown of statistics uses numbers from the Department of Human Services:

Food stamp cuts will hit some 12,800 people in Cuyahoga County. These are able-bodied men and women between the ages of 18 and 49. But the largest number of people affected will be the children who receive Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC). A program called Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) will take its place. Individuals who meet existing eligibility criteria for AFDC will no longer automatically be entitled to cash benefits. While the federal government has attached some requirements, states will have broad discretion for determining eligibility and spending of their TANF grant. Adults who receive aid under TANF will be required to participate in work activities after receiving aid for 24 months (with some exceptions). However, the state definition of work is more liberal than federal guidelines. This includes activities such as college education. By fiscal year 2002, the government will require that 50% of the families participate in work.

Time limits for receiving aid will now be in place. 30,000 vouchers have been allocated by the appropriations committee to assist these families. Clearly, 40,000 families face displacement and/or homelessness. Just some of the properties at risk here in Cleveland ore Rainbow place I and II, Koimonia Village and the Four Hopes.

Locally, CMHA has had $13 million cut in funding for this year, and there is expected to be similar decreases in the future to help meet a balanced budget by 2002.

The extremely poor and homeless will no longer be given a preference, as CMHA moves to fill 60% of its population up to a level in which they contribute around $200.00 per month rent. This is in a move to meet budget constraints over the next five years.

Affordable housing as we know it will no longer exist. Activists find this to be a very frightening and bleak future for poor people. Will the homeless roles rise? Definitely yes!

But you can help to stop the way our elected officials always try to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. You can come out and join NEOCH with marches in protest of staged rallies.

On March 1, 1997 at Cleveland State University, NEOCH and other agencies assembled to march t the county welfare building. One hundred ten people came to the rally, only five of these people were people who would be affected by the cuts. The others were advocates and concerned citizens. Out of 55 people that walked to the Virgil Brown Building, only two customers of the system remained. Why?

On March 12, 1997, NEOCH and other agencies chartered two buses to go to Columbus for a rally protesting the cut to the welfare program. There was room for 90 people. One hundred twenty people agreed to show up, but only 61 actually took the trip.

This will not do. We must take a stand. We must know that we can make a difference, but only by standing up and being counted. Each year in November, we have a chance to locally be heard and every four years we have a chance to vote and be counted nationally. Only by coming together at the polls can the poor and the homeless stand to make a difference in the way poor people are treated in this country. Remember the numbers of homeless in the county are estimated at around 20,000. We must remember that number adds up to 20,000 votes. You will be heard. 13.5 million across the country have been homeless at some time in their life. That adds up to a lot of votes. You will be heard.

Take a good look at what is being done. It is time to stand up. It is time to make some noise. It is time, before it is too late.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

Collaboration Efforts Raise Awareness

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) co-sponsored its Fourth Annual Training Conference, Homelessness in the New World Order at the University Club, 3813 Euclid Ave in Cleveland from 8:30 to 5:00 PM Friday, March 21, 1997. Together with the Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services and VA Domiciliary, NEOCH hosted workshops that focused on welfare reform, housing issues and advocacy efforts.

In addition to housing and homelessness and welfare advocacy efforts, experts from a broad spectrum of organizations conducted workshops on legal assistance, media, rights of homeless children, current homeless services, NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard), homeless accounts of life on the streets, and other related topics.

The American Red Cross, the City of Cleveland, Legal Aid, Merrick House, County Department of Human Services, Cleveland Tenants Organization, the Free Times, the Metropolitan Strategy Group, Cleveland Health Care for the Homeless, and other service providers facilitated discussions that worked toward finding solutions to the many issues that face Cleveland’s homeless population.

Keynote speaker, Councilman Frank Jackson of the City of Cleveland Ward 5, spoke honestly and frankly about the growing housing crisis and opportunities for advocacy around housing. All of the panelists and workshop presenters were well informed, open to new suggestions from participating service providers, and realistic about the situations facing Cleveland’s homeless community.

NEOCH program director, Brian Davis said, “this conference was one of our best so far. We at NEOCH look forward to building stronger partnerships with the presenters and participants in the future.”

Other participants commented that thoroughly enjoyed and learned a great deal from the conference. One participant said, “Everything was helpful.”

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20

COHHIO Stages Lobby Day

The State Coalition on Housing and Homelessness presented a very successful conference on Homelessness and Housing issues February 4th and 5th. The conference, entitled Building Support For More State Funding, was a very informative and educational conference. Presenters included representatives from HUD and ODOD, along with representatives from the state house.

Topics covered included Welfare Reform: How the State and Local Communities are Responding; Organizing Around the State Budget Process; Expiring Assisted Housing Contracts: What to do Next; the 1997 Super NOFA; Homeless Assistance Grants; Ensuring the Civil Rights of Homeless People; Property Management; New Insights Assisting Homeless People; and Supportive Housing for Special Populations.

One of the most interesting parts of the conference was the lobby sessions with state legislators. There was a huge turnout from the Cincinnati area. Representatives from the Cincinnati area were able to speak with every legislator that has Cincinnati in their jurisdiction. Most of the legislators were contacted personally. There were a couple that were unable to meet because of schedule conflicts. They did, however, provide their aides’ presence.

The focus of the conference was to lobby for a permanent funding source for the housing trust fund. Despite some opposition, the housing trust fund as a line item in the state budget seemed to be well received according to legislators who were contacted.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20