Xchange Point Resumes Fight Against AIDS on the Streets

By Harold Dopman

May Day 1997: It’s a Cleveland kind of May Day with hard falling rain sometimes mixed with sleet and gusting winds intense enough to turn a person into a kite. The corner of East 105 and Morrison moves deliberately this morning.

Ken Vail, Executive Director of Xchange Point, Cleveland’s much maligned “roving harm reduction” needle exchange program happily ignores the weather, opens the trunk of his car and removes a special black box used for disposing of bio-hazardous materials. In this case, “points” or dirty needles and syringes that could have been used by a HIV infected junkie.

“Always make sure the bag sits up like this,” Vail instructs Chris, a college educated recovering heroin addict who has been clean for 137 days. A formally homeless white man in his late 30’s Chris adds credibility to the program from the junkie’s point of view.

Ken Vail had just proven that you CAN beat City Hall. If you have a good program, an indomitable spirit and are willing to work day and night for months, you can overcome official lack of vision and ignorance.

The City of Cleveland, reversing its position, was in the process of issuing a joint press release with Xchange Point, announcing an agreement of terms for the resumption of needle exchange. Armed with a copy of the first draft of the agreement he quickly serviced his first client, copying the client’s ID number from his Xchange Point ID onto a daily log sheet and adding—2 points in—2 points out.

“Now, Ken, as long as I got this card on me—the police can’t do nothing. Right?” asked the client.

“They shouldn’t as long as you’re clean “assured Vail.

“If they do, we’ll stand behind you. But, if you’ve got dope on you…”

“I know,” the man finished the sentence, “I’m on my own.”

The mayor’s press release states: “Currently in the Greater Cleveland area there are 1,015 individuals diagnosed with AIDS and an estimated five to eight thousand living with HIV. Since the start of the epidemic 2,274 individuals have been diagnosed with AIDS in Greater Cleveland.

In response, the City of Cleveland issued an emergency order two years ago to allow a needle exchange program to operate a stationary program at the Free Clinic. A “stationary” program allows user to exchange used needles for clean ones at a specific site.

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

“The problem is that when a heroin addict needs dope and doesn’t have a clean needle he’ll use a dirty one. Whether or not he can contract AIDS really isn’t an issue,” said Chris explaining the need for additional programs.

“In other cities,” Vail added, “up to ten different needle exchange programs exist.”

Vail formed a non-profit agency, Xchange Point, and started a “harm reduction” program.

“Practicing harm reduction is more than just exchanging needles to prevent the spread of AIDS,” explained Dr. Joy Marshall, medical director of Xchange Point and former director of the Free Clinic.

“We talk to the people about safe sex and other health problems. We tell them about drug treatment programs that are available.”

When Xchange Point complied with city regulations, the City revised the rules. Police surveillance and threats of prosecution followed and Vail was forces to cease exchanging needles.

Vail took his case to the media—anyone who would listen. He faxed press releases and made phone calls. Articles soon appeared in The Free Times, The Homeless Grapevine and other publications.

Originally, The Plain Dealer was against needle exchanges, but eventually reversed its position and ran a feature article about Vail and Xchange Point along with a cover photo of Vail in The Sunday Magazine.

“No one event changed my mind about the program,” said Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer editorial writer. “It was a gradual realization that needle exchange programs, including Xchange Points program were good and would help to slow the spread of HIV.”

At the end of the hour Vail took inventory of the days activities. Three people had exchanged four needles, one had requested a needle cleaning kit and one person came by for free condoms.

“It’s a start”, said Vail, wiping rain from his still happy face. “Nobody knew we were coming today. By the time we come back, the work will be out on the street and a lot more clients will be here.”

Coming to Cleveland during the summer of 1998 will be The Harm Reduction Coalition’s 2nd National Harm Reduction Conference. Over 1500 participants from all over the country will convene here to discuss the latest advancements in harm reduction philosophy.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

 

 

Welfare Reform Will Change the Safety Net

  • Debate is still taking place on two bills (House Bill 408 and 215) in the Ohio House regarding changes in the welfare system. A number of themes have emerged, which will probably become law in the near future.
  • Spread over seven years, A recipient will be allowed 3 years of benefits, followed by a 2 year wait before receiving the final two years of benefits.
  • There will be a severe shortage in the number of slots available for child care, especially for low-wage or so called working poor families. Childcare slots will be guaranteed for those participating in the TANF program (formerly ADC) commonly known as welfare.
  • The local county commissioners will have direct responsibility for oversight of the program. There will be local goals that the commissioners will be expected to meet. If the goals are not met the county could be sanctioned with repeated offenses. There are rewards for counties that reduce the number of people using the welfare system of cash, which can be used for any purpose.
  • Families who do not engage in work related activities (30 hours a week) will be sanctioned, which would involve reduction in the food stamp program. 10 hours of this requirement can involve education activities. There is debate around sanctioning a family by removing them from welfare for 6 months if the parent fails to not engage in work activities.
  • Counties may exempt 20% of the TANF population from the 30 hour work requirement.
  • It is expected that Medicaid eligibility will expand to include all children of families earning less than 150% of poverty.
  • At this time there is no assistance to get individuals to the work that they are expected to find. Transportation to jobs has not been an issue in the current plan.
  • The plan will most likely be phased in over the state over a 2 year period, with counties starting the process at different phases.
  • Those who were excluded from Social Security Disability because of new federal rules excluding the drug and alcohol abuse related ailments may qualify for state Disability Assistance.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

 

 

Man Left In Back Alley to Die

By Pat Clifford

The Cincinnati Police Internal Investigation Section released a report on April 21 regarding the death of Ottaway Washington. Mr. Washington was a homeless man who died in an alley next to Tender Mercies, on the night of November 30, 1996. The report sustained charges against Officer Stephen Fromhold for not summoning appropriate services for Mr., Washington. The following is a summary of the events of that night from the interview conducted by an internal investigation.

On November 30, 1996, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Victor Taylor was making his rounds as a security worker for Tender Mercies, an agency which provided housing for those with mental illness. He encountered a homeless man who was unresponsive and blocking a fire exit. Officer Fromhold was working the streets of District One that night. He was flagged down by Taylor as he traveled east on twelfth Street. Taylor was concerned about the person who was lying in a doorway off of Doerr Alley.

Officer Fromhold and Mr. Taylor responded to the doorway where Washington was lying. He was not wearing any shoes. The officer believed, from the condition of Washington’s socks, that he had been walking without shoes for a period of time. His personal papers were lying next to him. The officer noticed a “small nick” on his forehead. “My first indication was that there was an odor of alcohol about his person, and that he was intoxicated.” He would not respond to any of Officer Fromhold’s verbal requests. He used his flashlight to tap the bottoms of Mr. Washington’s feet. He “Didn’t come around.” The officer put his hand by Washington’s mouth and felt for any breath.

He was breathing. The officer returned to his vehicle to retrieve a pair of latex gloves. Officer Fromhold returned a pair of latex gloves. Officer Fromhold returned to Mr. Washington, took hold of the lapels of his coat and sat him up against the wall under a small overhang which would keep his upper torso from the rain. The officer began to shake Washington in an attempt to rouse him. “He opened his eyes momentarily and looked at me an moaned something to the effect of ‘get’ and raised his hand.” Washington did not say anything else but “his eyes remained open a brief period of time and he just stated at me.

“I interpreted that as he didn’t want any help so I rested him against the wall. He looked at me for three to five seconds then started nodding back out.” Washington closed his eyes and went to sleep. The officer believed that Mr. Washington knew that he was a police officer and that he didn’t want any help. Taylor, the security guard, claims that the officer then said that the “truck” would be by later and “get” Washington. Officer Fromhold denies any reference to a “truck”

The officer left the scene believing he had resolved the situation. Later, Fromhold heard the radio dispatch from another officer requesting a supervisor for a DOA. He went to the scene and assisted in placing Washington’s body in the scout car. He went to the Drop-Inn Center to determine if they were familiar with Washington and, if so, to locate the next of kin.

The worker at the desk told the officer that Washington should have been in bed #19. There was no one there. The investigation goes on to say that the temperature that night was 53 degrees and that there was a light rain with overcast skies. The Death Record from the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office lists the cause of death as acute bronchitis and peribronchitis.

The laboratory report indicates that Washington’s blood alcohol content was 38. In a letter to the Homeless Coalition, Safety Director Kent Ryan assured the staff that the Cincinnati Police Division strives to provide the highest level of consistent service and holds its officers accountable for their actions. Lt.. Demosi of Internal Investigation reported that Fromhold received an Administrative Insight which will go into his personnel file. The Report concludes, “It has always been the Police Division’s policy to ‘err on the side of mercy” “Officer Fromhold realized that he did not possess the skills necessary for a medical evaluation. He had the duty to summon appropriate services.”

In the wake of this tragedy and the investigation, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless is convening a meeting with representatives of the Police Division, Fire Division, Hospital Emergency Room Staff and homeless agencies to ensure that an incident of this kind never happens again.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

 

 

Let Them Eat Snacks

Commentary By Katy Heins and Lynn Williams

According to federal legislation, single adults between the ages of 18 and 50 (without children) can only receive food stamps for 3 months out of 36 months unless they are:

  1. employed 20 hours a week
  2. placed in a work program requiring them to work 20 hours per week or
  3. by volunteering the appropriate number of hours and by dividing their food stamp benefit by the federal minimum wage. This means food stamp recipients should only be working 20-21 hours per month.

However, we are hearing reports (including a report by a JOBS worker) that in Hamilton County, all recipients who are between 18 and 50 and are “able bodied” are being required to work in community experience sites for 20 hours per week! This is the equivalent of working for approximately $1.40 an hour!! Food stamp only recipients receive only $120 total for the month in stamps. The Welfare Rights Coalition believes that no one should have to work for $1.40 an hour to receive food stamps. This is returning to the days of slavery! We want to hear from you, if you are being harassed like this. If this is happening to you or someone you know, please call us immediately. Call 513.381-4242 in Cincinnati and speak to Katy, Lynn or Stacey.

MORE OUTRAGE !

$28 BILLION are being cut from the Food Stamp Program between 1997 and 2002. The cuts affect everyone on food stamps, including the elderly and children living in poverty. This is part of the 1996 Federal Welfare Law that President Clinton notoriously signed. Recently The Cincinnati Post ran an article featuring the amount of taxpayer money that our U.S. House Representatives spend on junk food and drink. Newt Gingrich was reported to spend $908 on soft drinks every three months! He also spends $580 for coffee and $4,151 for snacks. We are amazed that Gingrich can slash food stamps for the poor, almost all of whom are the working poor, and at the same time drink and eat up to $22,034.00 each year in pop and other junk food!

In response to this news, one of our WRC members felt moved to write a poem:

“When I looked in the morning newspaper,

O, my, what did I see

An article about Newt Gingrich

And what he’s doing for you and me.

I had to read it again

How it seemed like it was laughing at me.

Struggling to make ends meet

‘Cause the House of Representatives is so thirsty.

When they turn up their noses about us

(you know those on AFDC)

Having to depend on TANF to feed our families.

As for me, a parent struggling to stay off welfare

But not even knowing if I will have child care

Where are our values.

I hope someone will see that we need money for families

And not to give to the Coca Cola Company.

I’m not trying to say that they shouldn’t drink pop

But have a heart

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

 

 

Faces of the Streets

Is the American Dream a Lie?

Commentary by Richard Kiefer

Do homeless women and children feel it’s a man’s world on the streets?

Astelle Fields is escaping a bitter divorce. She lost money, her children, and the home because of her psychological history. She has been homeless for six months while she follows her former husband around the country because he keeps moving with their three children. Fields is 37 years old, 5’7” tall and has blond hair and blue eyes. She likes children. She used to operate a day care center in Florida. She has had a personal dream crushed, but she is trying to rekindle the hope in her heart. Her marriage to a major auto company finance manager is over. Because of psychological problems she can no longer run her day care business. She has moved on from the American dream.

Her new husband recently robbed a bank so she’s been forced to think about leading the life of a desperado but she doesn’t want to be a lawbreaker. She is seeking help to deal with her new husband’s decision to go on a crime spree. Now she is in counseling and he is in jail. Fields said, “This is a riches to rags story. This is a woman who should be being paid a $1000 dollars a month in alimony wandering around sleeping in front of churches.”

“My husband wanted the woman in the long evening gown with the long glass of champagne on his arm at the business functions. He didn’t want to have to visit the mental hospital and he used it (my psychological problems) to his advantage. I lost my rights in the courtroom when the judge gave everything to my husband. You just don’t give everything in a nine year marriage, all the marital assets, to the husband. I have shared parental responsibility of the children but I don’t get any alimony.”

“I haven’t lost hope. I’ve never been down this low in my life. I’ve had the best of the best and now I’ve got the worst of the worst. All I really want is a balance in my life. To me the American dream, as a homeless American, is a place to go, a job and a place to go to call my own. I’ll be OK. I’ve found out I can be spiritually happy in a gutter as well as a mansion. My message to women is to be more aware of what’s going on in their marriage. Women who make good money themselves, which I was doing, need to be more independent. I think women need to have their own bank accounts. Women need to open their eyes and not rely on men so much. I didn’t (open my eyes).

####

Interviews with homeless individuals on the American Dream

Does a homeless American believe in the American dream? Interviews with homeless people show many still have hope in their dreams but some feel jaded by the system.

An immigrant from Bolivia was interviewed in a soup kitchen about the American Dream. He came to America because he thought it was the land of opportunity and he was searching for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

He said, “The American Dream is a lie. It is a corrupt political machine in control in America. Power is not shared. America is keeping the people powerless.” Americans feel by the system too.

Bob White, a homeless Black man, 52 years old, 6 ft.3in. and weighing 249 lbs. Was a psychiatric attendant and a hairstylist. Now he sleeps on the street and spends his days in coffeehouses. Black said “I dream about a beautiful apartment, three meals a day, a girlfriend and a disability check. “This world of ours is just totally crazy to me.”

Alexa Cintron, a 5ft.3in. brunette with an upbeat personality, was interviewed at a local drop-in center for mentally ill homeless, the gathering place on the subject of her unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Betthouse said, “We want a chance to survive. We want the right to succeed. Just give us the chance.”

Two anonymous homeless veterans were interviewed in park. They said, “”Stop spending on war toys. The homeless are being held hostage by the Defense Department in America. We are bitten by the system.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

 

 

Housing Study Finds Shortages

A consortium of housing advocates and non-profit development companies released a study about housing on the West Side of Cleveland in late March. The study found that 12.5% of the total surveyed units were vacant, and only 1.1% of the total rental market was actually vacant and available on the open market for rent. 15.4% of the landlords reported that the units were vacant because they were unwilling to risk hassle or damage.

They found that 27% of the units surveyed had 3 bedrooms or more, while 17% of the vacant units had 3 bedrooms or more. 90% of the units actually available for rent were one and two bedroom units. The group found that 41% of those looking for housing reported that funding both decent and affordable housing was the most difficult challenge. Finally, a person has to earn 150% of the federal minimum wage to afford a two bedroom unit on the West side at $350 per month.

The group recommends:

  • Effective new short-term initiatives need to be identified and implemented to increase the number of family-sized low-income rental units that are actually on the market throughout the West Side.
  • Major attention needs to be given to further empirical investigation of the issues raised by the results of the study.
  • Policy and planning issues needs to be identified and addressed as a result of these findings by governmental, community-wide, and neighborhood based organizations.
  • Short term recommendations included:
  • Developing a campaign with both the public and private sectors to increase the availability of low-income tax credits to urban areas.
  • Conducting in-depth surveys of owners of vacant units to determine what would assist them in putting units on the rental market.
  • Cultivating new partners, i.e., management firms, hotel and motel industries, architects, etc. to bring new ideas to the table.
  • Developing different, cost efficient housing and ownership models for West Side low-income people, i.e., manufactured housing, condos, co-ops, row houses, housing parks
  • Developing programs which improve the capabilities of landlords and tenants.
  • The groups involved in the study were May Dugan Center, the Cleveland Tenants Organization, and Merrick House along with seven Community Development Corporations.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

 

 

Homeless Still: A Second View of the Streets

By Harold Dopman

“Homeless still: Second view of the Streets ”is the second annual juried multi-media art exhibit presented by The Northeast Ohio Coalition of the Homeless and Americorps*VISTA. The exhibit features the works of both professional and student artists from the area and homeless persons.

Two hundred art works by over 100 artists were juried by Tom Hinson, curator of contemporary Art and Photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art; Janus Small, former executive director of New Organization for Visual Arts(NOVA); and Susan Channing, director of SPACES, Cleveland’s non-profit alternative gallery. Approximately 75 were chosen for exhibition in the seven art galleries involved in the project. In addition, 75 art pieces by homeless people, which were produced at three art workshops presented by NEOCH, were shown.

Damon Taylor, Americorps*VISTA volunteer assigned to NEOCH, started organizing the project in September 1996.

“The show was organized as a means to bring about social change under the guise of an educational art exhibition,” explained Taylor. “This brought together professional, student, and homeless artists together to visually speak to the ills of extreme poverty.”

Staci Santa, NEOCH’s other Americorps*VISTA volunteer, explained the purpose of the art workshops. “We wanted to give the homeless an opportunity to express themselves. There’s no roomin a shelter for a person to create art and the cost of materials is prohibitive. Also, the exhibit gave the homeless and formally homeless a chance to show their view of the streets.”

As this edition of the Homeless Grapevine goes to press openings have already been held at and exhibits are still on view at The Lightkeepers Gallery in Lakewood, a photographic exhibit space; the art gallery at The Beck Center in Lakewood; The Black Box, on East 74th St. (also the site of the art workshops); The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University; and the Florence O’Donnell Wasmer Gallery at Ursuline College, which highlights Pat Fallon’s sabbatical work on poverty.

An exhibit opens at The Cleveland Play House Friday, June 6, with a reception from 6pm to 8pm and at Cuyahoga Community College- Metro Campus Friday June 13 with a reception from 6pm to9pm Exhibits remain on view at the various galleries until the end of June or the end of July. Call NEOCH(241-2204) for further details.

Food for the exhibit openings, consisting of black bean soup and bread was provided by members of Food Not Bombs, a Cleveland organization which feeds the homeless, and poetry was read to percussion accompaniment by Cuyaoga County Poet Laureate Daniel Thompson. Keynote speakers at various openings included Sherrie Swearington, from Westhaven; Leskie Presnell, Lakewood Christian Service Center; Harold Dopman, Homeless Grapevine managing editor; Joe Cimperman, West Side Catholic; and Brother Gary Morton from the Antioch Baptist Church. Spontaneous performance art will be presented at various galleries by Art Acts.

“People are tired of information being shoved down their throats—being bombarded by brochures and leaflets” Brian Davis, Director of NEOCH added. “The Homeless Still Art Exhibit gives us an opportunity to reach an audience who we do not normally have access to.”

Gallery Listings

Lightkeepers Gallery in Lakewood Exhibit remains until June 30th

Case Western Reserve Mandel School- Exhibit remains until July 12th

Beck Center Lakewood- Exhibit remains until June 30th

The Cleveland Playhouse on Carnegie- Gallery opens June 6th and remains until July 26th

Cuyahoga Community College – Metropolitan Campus Gallery Opens June 13th and remains open until July 27th

Photos by Karen St. John Vincent

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

Do Homeless Have Access to Comprehensive Health Care?

Commentary By Brian Davis

Cleveland Health Care for the Homeless has seen an expansion of the services that it offers, but is it fulfilling its purpose of providing health care to homeless people?

One service provider who has worked with the medical outreach team said that the program was in constant turmoil with staff turnovers and a lack of a medical doctor. The provider claimed that the problem goes back to a lack of strong leadership at the helm of CHCH.

John McKinney, director of CHCH said, “We are working to fill the medical director position. Our interim medical director is the head of the primary care for the Cleveland Clinic.” He said that the medical director’s position has never been a full-time position, and exists largely to satisfy state and local certification oversight. McKinney said that Maria Obias oversees the day to day operation of the medical clinics, and she is a full-time staff member.

Regarding the lack of leadership, McKinney said, “We are the agency for health care for homeless folks.” We are the magnet that brings all the services together including pediatrics, nurses, hospitals, and podiatrists.” They operate clinics at 11 different sites in Cleveland including local shelters and meal sites. The clinics are staffed by nurses and sometimes by a doctor.

Homeless people seem to be generally pleased with the services offered by CHCH. The opening of a clinic at the Bishop Cosgrove Center, the area’s largest meal site, has helped many homeless people. In previous years, the Coalition has developed lists of priorities of homeless people, and health care was always among the top five in importance. This year’s survey shows that basic health needs has for the first time slipped out of the list of high priorities. Access to specialized doctors and dentists as well as access to medication has remained on the list of the community’s top priorities.

Ralph Williams, a customer of CHCH, had a typical response when asked to describe CHCH’s services. He said, “It is a tremendous program. I stopped in at 21st and Payne, and this doctor gave me a thorough going overall examination, and that reassured me that I was not going to drop dead tomorrow.”

There were many complaints about the lack of specialized care. A man who wanted to be identified only as Bill said, “Why don’t they have dental care?” He said that he had a cavity, and went to MetroHealth hospital, and they removed his tooth. He complained that it makes it harder to get a job if you show up for an interview minus your teeth.

One area that John McKinney said that he wanted to address was the agency’s ability to provide homeless people a voice in the direction that CHCH takes. “I began what I hope will be a process to review how much input we are receiving (from homeless people),” he said.

Billy, another homeless person, said, “I have medicine that I gotta take… When I go to get it they say that I gotta see their doctor. You see their doctor, and they still don’t give you the damn medicine. Simple as that.” Sam had a similar complaint about his medication for his stomach problems. “The doctor was low down as a dog to me. He could not wait on me. I told him what I needed, and he told me what he was going to give me,” Sam said.

McKinney said, “We do what we can with the very limited funding that we have for health care. Funding is at one half of what I would like to see it to provide the basics.” Cleveland Health Care for the Homeless has most recently applied for expansion of services to fragile populations rather than expanding access to doctors, especially specialists and medicine.

CHCH has recently acquired a facility for its Gathering Place, a safe haven for mentally ill homeless people. After almost two years of searching for a site and many problems with neighborhood groups as well as city regulations, it has located a building, and quietly opened for business. They are not widely advertising the facility. CHCH does does not wish to draw attention to the program, and thus draw the scrutiny of city officials.

McKinney said, “Nobody wants folks who are homeless to have any services where they are. These folks are citizens of Cleveland and should have the right to be somewhere.” He went on to describe the origins of the The Gathering Place which came about as a result of the perceived need for a safe place that this fragile population could call their own. The Gathering Place is a clubhouse style drop in center during the day for the mentally ill, and has some space for residential use.

One customer of the facility was not happy that there was not a person on staff who could certify an individual as eligible for the service. At this time, the Gathering Place relies on Mental Health Services to certify an individual as “officially” mentally ill. Dr. Steve Friedman of Mental Health Services is satisfied with the relationship with CHCH. He sees the certification process to be a level of staffing that the Gathering Place was not prepared to oversee. “I think that it was not the intent to have that level of professional service,” Friedman explained.

Another customer said that he was not happy that there were no grievance procedures. He said, “Sooner or later if you disagree with them, you are no longer welcome to attend.” He pulled out a memo on Gathering Place stationary that said, “Re: Discharge from GP (Gathering Place). You have been discharged from the Gathering Place for inappropriate (sic) behavior toward another GP member.”

McKinney said, “They have to be appropriate for the program. We cannot tolerate or enable people to violate the rules. Our rate of barring does not exceed those of non-homeless programs for the mentally ill.” McKinney deferred to the Mental Health Board to come up with a program to assist those that have been banned from the Gathering Place. He admitted that this would take additional funding, and had no other ideas for a safe place during the day for the mentally ill banned from the Gathering Place.

Another fragile population that Health Care for the Homeless decided needed additional services was women. This year they are completing renovations on a women’s drop in center and residential facility. There is overnight space for 17 mentally ill women and 8 chemically-addicted women. The drop in center features laundry, lockers, and a lounge. The program began in collaboration with the YWCA’s New Day program, and featured transportation in the morning from the women’s overflow shelter.

The Women’s Center is scheduled to be opened until late afternoon, as well as on the weekend once renovation of the facility is complete. Most homeless women interviewed were satisfied with the facility, and were looking forward to its expansion. Some of the women interviewed wanted to see better services to assist them in moving into more stable housing.

McKinney characterized the Women’s center as, “a place that they could call their own. A place that they would feel comfortable. A place that they could feel safe and engaged and empowered.”

Barbara Danforth, Director of the YWCA, described the Women’s Center as an excellent model for a comprehensive service plan in one location to serve women. The Women’s Center is secure and has all the services to move homeless women to housing. She characterized it as a program that the YWCA developed in cooperation with CHCH. She said, ”We were not invited to participate in the program (at the time of the 1996 grant from HUD). We were not involved in the planning process.” She characterized the relationship with CHCH as one with “significant challenges” because of different philosophies.

McKinney said that the YWCA, “unilaterally chose not to be part of the Women’s Center.” He speculated that they had had a wonderful relationship at the beginning and that there had been a change at the YWCA which led to some confusion about the relationship. McKinney refused to elaborate, saying, “I don’t want to argue this in the Grapevine.”

A number of service providers mentioned in interviews that a big problem with CHCH was that they do not always stand by promises made in collaborative efforts. McKinney countered that he has a wonderful relationship with over 40 social service organizations (including the Coalition for the Homeless). He cited as an example his collaboration with the new PASS program of the Salvation Army. PASS is a shelter for chronically homeless men which attempts to move them into a stable setting.

CHCH does provide a clinic staffed by a nurse to PASS on a weekly basis, but originally had a number of beds reserved for CHCH’s chemically dependent patients. This relationship no longer exists. According to both McKinney and Salvation Army spokesperson Phil Mason, CHCH was originally suppose to receive funds for their collaborative efforts. Because CHCH receives funds from another HUD grant for the service, they cannot be paid twice for the same service from the federal government.

McKinney said, “I am fairly proud of our collaborative effort. We collaborate in (PASS) even though we were expecting funding and it ended up that we did not get one penny.”

In the past, CHCH has had some difficulty with HUD and questions regarding matching grants. McKinney said that issue is still ongoing, but was confident that the issue would not hinder the organizations continued viability. “If we were in trouble with HUD there is no way in hell that they would have given us another NOFA,” he said. No one from HUD could comment on Health Care for the Homeless.

Last year, CHCH conducted a comprehensive survey of their services in conjunction with the Federation for Community Planning. The Board of Trustees of CHCH decided to keep the survey confidential. Both the Coalition for the Homeless and the Office of Homeless Services wrote to CHCH requesting a copy of the survey to no avail. Ruth O’Leary, Director of the Office of Homeless Services, said in her letter, “While not specifically stating that the survey results would be shared formally with the community, the introduction and format implied that there would be feedback.”

McKinney said, “The decision was that (the survey) was an internal document to give us information as to where we could improve the agency… It was not something that was geared toward…the broader homeless community… I don’t have much more to say about it.”

The community survey might have provided a clearer glimpse into the services that Health Care for the Homeless offers and its position in the community. Based on a limited survey of homeless people, most are satisfied with the basic level of services which are offered, but are hopeful for an expansion of services.

Providers are split about CHCH, and there is a fair amount of concern over the administration of this nearly $1.2 million agency. This is only based on a brief survey of providers that have had contact with CHCH. The varied opinion of two similar homeless social service agencies demonstrates the difficulty in summarizing the services offered by CHCH. One provider who wished to remain anonymous said , “We love the service, and I have no complaints.” Another provider said, “The only complaint that I have is that we never know what we are going to get…There is no consistency.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

City Holds Hearings on the Future of Affordable Housing

Compiled from notes and a transcript from the Hearing by the Cleveland Tenants Organization.

Cleveland Ward 5 Council member Frank Jackson staged a second hearing on affordable housing. While the last hearing was reserved for testimony by officials from Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, the local Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the City of Cleveland, the hearing on May 6 featured testimony from community groups and local citizens about the changes in the federal housing policy.

Jackson outlined the current situation, painting a bleak picture of the future of affordable housing both locally and nationally. He said that there would be massive budget cuts at HUD to balance the federal budget, including a 25% reduction in staff. “One of the areas that they are going to take money from is housing, especially housing for poor people.”

“In Cleveland, they are talking about tearing down, demolishing 1,000 units,” Jackson explained. He continued, “Now mind you, that tearing down 1,000 units in Cleveland of public housing when they have 10,000 people on the waiting list.” At the first hearing, CMHA officials testified that they are going to have to start renting to those that can pay $200 or more to balance their budget.

Jackson noted that there are $10 billion of federal contracts due in the next two years, and the federal government has no way of paying this bill. After laying out the situation in which Cleveland residents find themselves today, he opened the floor up for comment from people affected by the cuts.

Kathleen Norwood testified that she was moved out of a subsidized unit and given a voucher. She was moved from a place with appliances and that included utilities to an apartment without any appliances, where she had to pay for the utilities. She had no increase in her income, and now cannot afford to buy any appliances and cannot afford to pay for the utilities.

One woman who lived on Quimby for seven years said, “I am being displaced. They are giving me a certain amount of time to be out. I haven’t found a suitable place to live.” Jackson said he has heard many similar stories of HUD foreclosing on projects that they feel are substandard, and giving people 60 days to leave.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Fannie Lewis complained “This property didn’t just get unsafe. HUD is one of the worst property managers there is anywhere. We need to call a moratorium on everything until we decide where these people can go.

The director of For Hope project in Hough said, “If you don’t do things the way the system says do them, which is not necessarily good for you—you are out. The housing changes that the federal government is doing are not only dropping poor people in the cracks (but also) throwing sick people on the streets.”

Terri Hamilton, Director of Community Development for the city of Cleveland, said, “We have had conversations with officials from the local HUD office and they have assured us that they are not going to kick people out of their homes.” She did note that this seems to be different from the information that they are telling residents.

One Blainewood resident was told that she no longer qualifies for a four bedroom apartment, and the CMHA relocation program has not been very helpful. She claimed that they were showing her substandard housing with no bathtubs and chipping paint.

A Lupica Towers resident, Cleo Busby, talked about the $25 minimum rents that many of the disabled residents cannot afford. He explained that many disabled people are no longer eligible for cash assistance, but receive medical assistance. Now that food stamps are being restricted, these people can’t even sell their food stamps for the $25 rent. He said, “It is criminal that ADC (the management company for Lupica Towers) can charge a minimum rent for those (who) have no income.”

One resident of Ward 7 said that her Section 8 voucher was paying her landlord $729 for a three bedroom place in Cleveland. A number of City Council members were surprised by the $700 rent, and one claimed that a person could buy a $45,000 house for that amount of money.

Councilwoman Lewis said that each one of these complexes had to put money aside for repair and maintenance. “We need to have them explain what they did with this money. HUD is responsible for this,” Lewis said.

Carlos Vernon, a worker with Catholic Charities was concerned about the bureaucracies and paperwork that people have to go through to get in a place. He said, “They are working. They meet all the profiles, but they are still sleeping in the shelters.”

A study released about the West Side Rental Housing completed earlier this year was presented. Anita Brindza of the West Side Housing Study team presented the results of the survey. She said that of the 2,500 units surveyed there were 311 vacant, and 27 of those are actually on the market.

Brindza showed that at $7 per hour an individual needs to find a place for $375 per month to be able to confidently remain in the unit. The study showed the scarcity of these units especially those for larger families.

Brian Davis, Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, testified that if housing is not addressed on the local level, the number of homeless will dramatically increase. He said, “(We need) to view this as a regional crisis that needs to be addressed in much the same way that we addressed the Cleveland Browns leaving the city. The construction or rehabilitation of affordable houses and apartments has to be a top priority for greater Cleveland.”

Mary Schmidbauer, Outreach worker at the Cleveland Tenants Organization, put the day in focus by suggesting that a task force be established to confront the problem of destroying affordable housing

Units. She said, “We have bought affordable housing on a credit card, and now that bill is due.” She cautioned those in attendance not to view affordable housing as slum properties. She said that across the country only 25% of the low income housing is in disrepair, and only 10% of federal subsidized housing is substandard.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996

A Pebble In A Pond

Commentary by Jean Taddie

Politicians and other decision-makers have treated welfare reform like a light switch, when in reality reform is more like a pebble in a pond. State and federal lawmakers developed a reform bill in hopes they could “turn off” the problem with welfare as if it were a dangerous beacon needing to be extinguished. What they failed to consider in their attempts to “end welfare as we know it” were the far reaching repercussions their decisions would create.

Welfare reform has not turned off the poverty problem. Instead, cuts to cash payments, food stamps, and day care coverage are setting off ripples of reactions, like a pebble thrown into a pond. Now that welfare reform has been in effect for nearly a year, many families, businesses, churches, and day care providers feel the effects of reform.

Welfare reform makes cuts that do not discriminate. This year, for example, the food stamp program dealt across-the-board reductions. Anyone who received food stamps had their amount cut from 102% to 100% of the Thrifty Savings Plan budget. This cut affects all of the families, children, elderly, and disabled recipients.

For example, Dan, a disabled person who receives social security disability payments, had his food stamps cut from $11 to $10 per month. At the same time his Medicaid deductible climbed for $100 to $108 per month. Mark, a single male looking for work, had his food stamps cut altogether due to welfare reform. Single people without dependents whom the state deems able to work no longer qualify for any food stamps.

Welfare reform puts more of the burden for raising children onto the extended family. Cuts to food stamps, day care, and other benefits can strain family relationships. Sheryl, a single mom with a 16-month old daughter, lives with her working mother. She explained, “My mother was upset when I told her they stopped my food stamps. She was still angry that I had gotten pregnant. Now that I’m not getting the $218 in food stamps each month, she keeps arguing and complaining, ‘I can’t afford to feed both of you.’” Sheryl’s food stamps were cut because she is under age 22 and lives with a parent. She could receive food stamps if she were to move out on her own, however her $279 monthly welfare check would not cover rent.

Businesses are also being asked to assume more responsibility for the poverty problem. Since welfare reform is heavily dependent on putting people to work, companies must belly up to the bar and hire these new workers. Now that the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program has been eliminated, employers must assume more responsibility for training low-skilled, low-pay workers. In addition, workers must find a job with good enough pay to support their family. Lisa, a single mother of two girls, is enrolled at Tri-C and is struggling to stay there. “It’s very stressful – trying to go to school full-time, work part-time, and take care of my girls. But I have to get an education. I don’t get any child support and the $5 per hour full-time job I had before I went on welfare didn’t even pay my rent.”

Churches and other charitable organizations are asked to fill in the gaps where services are cut. Food banks try to keep food on their shelves. Churches are asked to consider sponsoring a homeless shelter. Across the country, millions of volunteers are being recruited to help staff the increased demand for services.

Perhaps the biggest crisis in welfare reform is the demand for day care. Federal day care funding is being cut at the same time parents are being required to work as a condition of their benefits. This decrease in funding supply and concurrent increase in demand for day care presents a dilemma. In order to save money, working mothers who were on the brink of needing welfare had their day care subsidies eliminated, putting them even closer to the edge. In addition, the day care industry cannot keep up with the demand. Mothers with infants under 18 months old and parents who work second or third shifts have special difficulty finding affordable day care. Leah, a single mother of a 3 year old boy, said, “I knew right away when I had him that I wanted to get an education so that I could take care of him. I couldn’t start school then because I couldn’t find a day care center in my area that would take a child under 18 months.

Politicians and decision-makers did not account for all the consequences of their policy changes. Welfare reform was mandated from above. Little, if any, consideration was given to the voices of those most affected – the welfare recipients. The poverty problem does not occur in isolation. Meaningful reform occurs from the ground up, with input from low-income families, social workers, day care providers, social agencies, and employers. Only when all of these perspectives are considered will our country ever truly deal with the poverty problem.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 21, Cleveland Ohio June 1996