Tenants Notified of Huge Rent Increases

By Brian Davis

             In early September, the residents of Vanguard Apartments on the East of Cleveland work to find that they were going to have to start paying market rent for their apartments.  This will have an impact on three hundred families and single adults, and presents a new problem for project based Section 8 for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

             As the Grapevine has reported over the last year, there are certain building in Cleveland (11,600 units) that are entirely subsidized by HUD.  In the 1970’s, the United States government gave these apartment buildings a subsidy to rent to low-income individuals with contracts from 10 – 20 years.  The landlords agreed to charge all the tenants one-third of their income, and the Federal government would pick up the difference.  By the year 2002, all the contracts will expire in the entire country.  The street papers in San Francisco and Chicago have done a good job of reporting this issue.

             At this time, there is not enough money in the HUD budget to cover the renewal of these contracts.  What they are currently doing is reviewing every contract to decide on the merits of renewal.  Even if a project is renewed it is only renewed for a maximum of one year.  Allegedly the projects that are not renewed the tenants are given certificates to go find there own apartment and still pay one third of their income.  According to the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority only 1% of the certificates are returned because the tenant cannot find a landlord that will accept the certificate.  Activists do not believe that this statistic is accurate.

             The certificates act the same as the project-based subsidy except they are not connected to a fixed structure.  The tenant again pays one third of their income, and the landlord gets a fix percentage of the market value of the apartment.  Besides the stigma attached to the certificate because it shows that a perspective tenant is poor, landlords are hesitant to accept Section 8 certificates because of the rules of the program and the recent changes in the law which have made it less attractive to landlords.

             During these last 20 years of project-based leases, many of the projects have become substandard, Organizations like the Cleveland Tenants Organization and the National Alliance of HUD tenants have consistently shouted abut the problem of a HUD landlords not maintaining the viability of the projects.

             Now the contracts are near expiration and many of the projects are substandard to the point of being uninhabitable.  HUD now, after all these years, is going into the projects and declaring the contracts in default because of massive disrepair.  The tenants in these units have been living with the disrepair for years, but now it seems that it is convenient for HUD to declare the projects in default to get out of the contracts.

             Vanguard is one of the substandard properties.  Staff from CTO characterize Vanguard as in “tremendous disrepair.”  HUD notified the property owner, Black Economic Union and Associated Estates Corp., that HUD will end the BEU/AEC subsidy because of the substandard conditions.

             HUD had, at the time, not decided what to do with all the tenants, and was trying to work out a smooth transition for the residents.  The property owner, against the advice and the rules of HUD, notified the tenants that in 30 days they would have to start paying market rate rents.  This would double and sometimes triple or quadruple the tenants’ rents. rents.

             At this time, HUD is offering all 300 families certificates to relocate.  They have called in the mortgage early on the Vanguard Estates, and have moved in a relocation company to assist with the tenants relocation.

             Officials of HUD could not be reached for comment.  Ward 14 City Council member Fannie Lewis, whose ward includes the Vanguard properties, said on WCPN FM radio, “We are not going to allow (our People) to be prostituted and then kicked to the curb.  This will empty the city of poor people.  It should be up to the landlords to rebuild.  Our plan is to put up single family units together.”

             Last year, a similar situation happened with the NOAH properties on the east Side of Cleveland.  Those people were given $500 in relocation assistance, and most tenants were given certificates.  According to Mary Schmidbauer, Tenant Organizer at CTO, two of the families at NOAH became homeless.  They lost tract of one family, and the other was not able to use their certificate because they could not find a landlord who would accept it.

             This new concern over substandard conditions in housing will continue at HUD with 450 properties listed as troubled throughout the United States.  Cincinnati has a large number of units on the troubled list.  Advocates in Cleveland are predicting that Longwood and Rainbow Terrace Apartments are the next properties to be targeted by HUD.  With HUD restructuring nationally, many HUD watchers feel that they want to get out of the business of subsidizing properties, which would mean that by the year 2002 all the project based Section 8 tenants will have to find other arrangement.  At this time, there is no room at the inn (shelters) I Cleveland, especially for families.

 Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine October1997-Nov. 1997 Issue 23

Street Newspapers Unite in Poor People's Movement

by Brian Davis

        Vendors, editors and volunteers of street newspapers from around the United States and Canada gathered in Seattle in mid September to officially form an organization called the North American Street Newspaper Association. While the new organization's stated goal is to foster the creation of new papers and support existing street newspapers, there was a great divide among the member papers over ideology. It is too soon to tell whether even a loose federation of street newspapers can survive or if it will follow the fractured and aborted paths of the labor movement, the anti-war movement, and environmental movement.

        Staff and vendors came from Victoria, British Columbia; San Antonio, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Boston, Massachusetts. There were representatives from large papers such as Chicago's huge StreetWise and the bigger Big Issue in London to small papers like Urbana's Homeless Whispers, and the one women show from Eugene, Oregon, the Houseless Journal. Indio, the Editor of North America's first street newspaper, Street News, was able to attend this year, and was presented with a special award recognizing the importance of Street News. Four members of the Homeless Grapevine in Cleveland were able to attend thanks to the generosity of the National Coalition for the Homeless, The Coalition for Housing and Homelessness in Ohio, the Robert Kohn Family and Stanley Meisel Family Fund.

        The conference featured one day of workshops to provide technical assistance to the journalists and staffs of the street newspapers. Then those gathered painstakingly gave birth to this new federation known as NASNA. At the 1996 conference in Chicago, those in attendance had agreed to the concept of a Street Newspaper Association. At this year's conference the group actually sat down to hammer out a Mission Statement and some goals and objectives (see insert)

        Michael Stoops, Outreach Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless and organizer of the conference, said, "I think it's working well. People are getting to know each other and trust each other better. Out of this weekend in Seattle will come a stronger, not a perfect, but a stronger street newspaper movement." He saw a promising future for the organization.

        "I see some power struggles here," commented Bridget Reilly of Houseless Journal, who went on, "It is important that women speak up because I see some male/female type of power struggles potentially." She did say, "I feel good about it over all. There is a lot of good energy, good contacts.I hope we are headed in the right direction."

        Harold Chapman, vendor of the Denver Voice, said, "We have to figure out how to utillize what we learned and what will work in Denver."

        Linda Larson, Editor of Spare Change in Boston, said that what struck her were the horror stories about assaults on the rights of homeless people from around the U.S. and Canada. "In Cambridge and Boston we are sheltered from this kind of abuse. When I hear these lists of abuses and new policies and crimilization of homelessness, I am galvanized," she said. She added that we are all subject to this abuse, and vowed to devote more attention to covering these issues.

        One semi-impartial observer, Norma Green, an alternative press Professor at Columbia College in Chicago and volunteer at SteetWise, said, "I always think birth is a painful but rewarding process. So I was glad to see that despite what seemed to be all the distance.and even though there seemed to be a lot of acrimony, I think that ultimately people see that they have common goals and they're coming to some understanding."

        The distance and acrimony comes from the two separate visions of the purpose for a street paper. One is the business orientated, job creation type newspaper and the other is the grass roots organizing project that brings homeless people together to give them a voice in the media.

        Stoopes said, "The majority of the street newspapers here are similar to the Homeless Grapevine in Cleveland. They are grass roots, they involve homeless people. There are a few papers that have more of a corporate, non-profit, charity outlook. These are in the minority. I think they need to be part of this movement.There is attention. There has been debate, and there have been a few people who walked out in anger."

        Tim Harris, Director of Real Change in Seattle and host of this year's conference, said, "The central conflict in the street paper movement is whether they should be more entrepreneurial and business orientated and focus on job creation. Different people feel strongly about that and that comes out in the debates. I think that is all very helpful and the movement is going to grow as a result of this conference." Harris was voted to be President of NASNA over the next year.

        From the grass roots side, Paul Bowden, of San Francisco's Street Sheet, felt that this all could be expected. Bowden, who has been a part of organizing poor people for years, is the Director of the San Francisco Coalition for the Homeless and publisher of Street Sheet. The paper is distributed free to vendors, accepts no ads, and is written and controlled by homeless and formerly homeless. Bowden characterizes Street Sheet as a "political rag."

        Bowden said, "I think the steering committee (should have) put out more of the decisions that were made in advance and why (they made them.) so we didn't repeat the base over again.instead we are going back to people's assumptions about power and who's making decisions and getting really freaked out over that shit. It is natural, its human nature especially at the beginning."

        From the business orientated side, Brandon Stiller, Editor of StreetWise in Chicago, said that this conflict occurs within NASNA as well as within each of the newspapers. StreetWise has almost 400 vendors and sells 140,000 papers a month.

        StreetWise is currently buying a building to support vendor development, and have a week long training for vendors. They attempt to appeal to the masses by reserving space for movie reviews, an entertainment section, and an advice and sports column. They attempt to appeal to a broad constituency, which they hope translates into a well paying job for the thousands of homeless people in Chicago. Stiller characterized his paper by saying, "Our position has always been that in order to serve the largest number of vendors possible, in order to create the best possible product, we need grants, donations, and advertising."

        Stiller said, "In the end, the debates remain, not only nationally, but within StreetWise itself. What is comforting, however, is that in this case all the debaters have the same goal in mind-it is just how to get there that is controversial. And, with so much discussion and debate, the right road will eventually become clear."

         Nancy Parker of Victoria, British Columbia's Red Zone said, "I don't know that it isn't healthy that we have different points of view. It hasn't come to blows so I don't think it's anything unusual." Parker was voted Vice President of NASNA. She also noted that she was so full of information that it was going to take a few weeks to process it all.

         Spare Change office manager, Fred Ellis, struck a neutral stance on the controversy claiming that the differing missions was a myth. "The base direction, which is applicable to all papers, is exactly the same. The means by which each of us gets there varies like night or day." He said the conference reinforces his faith in what he was doing.

         Street News Editor, Indio, had similar thoughts. "The struggle goes on. We are here because we are all going in the same direction, and I am proud to be a part of it."

         With all the controversy and debate a great deal of information was exchanged, and Parker of Red Zone said, "I love it. (Our street newspaper) is not an isolated thing. It does seem that anybody in the anti-poverty movement is the odd one out, but now I realize this a movement across Canada and across the United States."

         Harris of Real Change also noted that this is a larger movement. "I think the street newspaper movement is just simply a part of a poor people's movement. Bringing in new people, and involving new people, and giving poor folks a voice. I think street newspapers are just tools for that sort of thing to come around in the last decade. So I want to see it grow and I hope this conference is a step towards that."

        The poor people's movement as well as the street newspaper movement most likely will grow, but as Walt Crowley, the keynote speaker for the conference, explained, it must avoid the philosophical impasses that caused the "underground" or anti-war newspapers to fizzle in the early 1970s.

        It was decided to hold the 1998 annual meeting of NASNA in Montreal, Canada and the 1999 conference in Cleveland. Also resolved was the construction of an 11 person executive committee of which Angelo Anderson of the Grapevine was voted to be a part.

 

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 23 October 1997

 

The SSI Disability Blues

 

by Jean E. Taddie

        Ken B. nervously opened the letter from his lawyer. Ken had been anxiously awaiting a decision on his third appeal for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. He hoped that the letter would bring news of a positive judgment from the administrative law judge who heard his case.

        Ken suffered a serious brain injury in June, 1976, that destroyed one-third of his brain, including half of his temporal lobe. Ken is blind in his left eye and deaf in his left ear. He experiences grand-mal and petite-mal seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy in 1977. He also experiences pressure in his eyes that was diagnosed as glaucoma in 1988.

        Ken first tried to obtain SSI benefits in 1977. He was denied SSI benefits and was told that he was able to work. So for the next eight years, Ken tried a number of maintenance, groundskeeping, and other jobs to try to support himself. "It was hard to keep a job. If employers found out I had epilepsy, or saw me have a seizure, I got fired.

        I had one incident where I went into a seizure at work that spun me around. I slammed right into a steel support beam and was knocked out." Ken explained that after a grand-mal it takes him at least three days to recover from its effects. This recovery time has also caused him to miss a lot of work.

        While driving four years ago, Ken experienced a grand-mal seizure that made him pass out behind the wheel. "When I came to, there was blood everywhere and my car was wrecked. I realized that I had just hit five vehicles parked along the road. Thank God no one was hurt but me. That's the day I gave up my driver's license."

        For the last two years, Ken has been scraping by on Medicaid, food stamps, rent assistance and a $118 monthly Disability Assistance (DA) check to cover utilities and living expenses. Ken's lawyer advised him that the best he could hope for would be about $450 a month from SSI. He is not optimistic about the outcome of his third appeal since his original denial in 1977.

Ken explained, "I got so mad sitting in this latest hearing. The federal work specialist said I would be qualified to work as a janitor or receptionist. They forget that I have 2-dimensional vision and can't even climb stairs, let alone clean them. Or how would a company like it if their receptionist had convulsive seizures in front of their clients?"

        Ken's letter from his lawyer was just more depressing news. "The judge told me that I would have a yes or no decision to my appeal within 60 days. Well it's been 45 days and now this letter says that I have to go for more complete evaluations. I'm just tired of this runaround."

 

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 23 October 1997

Spending Nights Under a Bridge: “Homeless Like Me"

Profile By Darian Henderson

             It was a warm summer night, about 10 p.m. and I had just picked up Stanley from Jacob’s Field, made a quick stop and we were on our way to find our shelter from the night.  This night, we were going to crash at Stanley’s place.  Stanley’s unique apartment does not have four walls or a bathroom, but instead features a open air and a concrete slab to sleep on.    Yet, the moment I stepped into Stanley’s world, I felt comfortable.  He was a wonderful hoar, always concerned about my safety.  He wanted to make my stay as comfortable as it could be, considering that we were sleeping under a bridge in Cleveland.

             Stanley’s full name is Stanley Williams.  He is a twenty seven year old native of Chicago who has been in Cleveland for three years.  In the last three years, he has endured Cleveland’s four distinct seasons outdoors in a spot that I was fortunate enough to be invited to stay.

             He is a graduate of Job Corps and has many skills of which he utilizes in his many endeavors.  In addition to his job as a Grapevine vendor, he is a part time crane operator.  [Editor’s note:  Stanley works for a temporary service as a crane operator for an extremely low income wage for such a semi-skilled position].  Stanley has a demeanor about himself which affords him the opportunity to be a very successful vendor, and what I feel potentially to be a very successful man.

            I had planned to stay a night on the streets for quite some time, but was unsure of who I would go with and what I would do.  Stanley has become a friend, someone of whom I have come to respect.  He seems to be a kind person, as many of the homeless men and women that I have met are.  If he has five dollars in his pocket and you are in need of food, he is the first to offer.  The evening I spent with him we talked for hours about life, family, the future, his hopes and the reality of the world.

           My desire is to stay a night on the streets was for my own benefit.  I wanted to catch a glimpse of what it was to live on the streets.  I had volunteered the last year of my life for a homeless advocacy organization and felt this would be a good end to my service.  I felt that the experience solidified no endings’, rather, it provided the beginning of a life dedicated to accountability and responsibility.  Somehow, I hope that Stanley gained something as well.  I know he gained a friend.  One thing I did learn is that I will be seeing Stanley and some of the other transient compadres down the road of life when they get back on their feet.

           Stanley asked a couple of questions, “Why did you want to stay on the streets and sleep under a bridge in Cleveland?  What are you trying to prove by staying out on the streets for a day?  Do you really feel as if you will obtain any substantive understanding of what it is to be homeless in the City of Cleveland.?”

           I respond by discussing a book that was written over thirty years ago called Black Like Me.  He book was an account of a white southern journalist and his efforts to obtain personal knowledge of what it was like to be black I the South during the early to mid 1960’s.  The journalist, in an effort to assimilate into Southern black culture, obtained a pigment which he used to darken his skin color and hair dye to change his hair color.  He boarded a bus and traveled the Deep South, documenting al that he had seen and done, remembering the people, the comments, the smells, and the environment.

           When the tour was complete, and the book was written the journalist realized, although he was viewed as a Blackman in the Deep South and he experienced the harsh reality of the racist environment of the country, he would never truly know what it was to be black in America.  He knew when his experiment was complete and the dye had washed out, he would go home to sleep in his bed to wake up in the morning as a white journalist with a family and a job.  Yet he came to realize his life would never be the same.

           When the journalist woke up the next morning, he viewed his body in the mirror and saw white skin.  When I woke up in the morning, I went back to my bed and took a shower.  As I looked out my window, I felt warmth from the heater and the knowledge that at least somewhere I have a place to call my kingdom.  Like the journalist, I have now realized my life will never be the same…..

  Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine October1997-Nov. 1997 Issue 23

 

Johnson Struggles to Regain Control in his Life

 

Editor’s Note:  This is the second of a series of articles in which the Grapevine will follow an individual as he makes his way through the “system’ and attempts to put his life together.  We met up with Brian Johnson during his first week on the streets.  In Issue 22, we talk to Johnson about his epilepsy and his homelessness. Now after seven months on the streets, we catch up with Johnson who is staying at the Salvation Army PASS program shelter.

                Johnson was staying at Project Heat, and trying to get his medicine.  He was looking for a part time job, and trying to help others out of their situation.

             Brian Johnson hooked up with a friend who said that he would set him up in an apartment.  He gave the money for the deposit to the friend, and went to look at the place only to find that the placed did not exist.  He lost his money, and learned that even among people in similar circumstances there is no loyalty.

             “A friend of mine set me up with an apartment and that didn’t work out.  I guess he needed me for the money, and he sent me to the wrong place.  I got ripped off.  It made me feel, well, I couldn’t believe he would do that.  I was drinking at the time.  I didn’t want to set up no grounds for myself, until the members of the church that I do attend, they see the problems that I do have and try to help me with my problems,” Johnson said.

             “Now, I am at the PASS program.  They have helped me overcome my weakness for alcohol.  Plus it has helped me to find an apartment where I can go in,” Johnson explained. “At the moment, I am trying to get into Famicos (supportive housing on 18th and Superior) but all I need is my birth certificate.  PASS is helping me get my birth certificate.”

             “The way I got into the PASS program was the church that I do attend…they knew someone at the PASS program, Johnson said.  The question of alcohol did not come up in the previous interview.”  Johnson said that at first he denied his alcohol problem.  “After attending the meetings and hearing the other client talk about their problems, well, some of their problems, I identified with them because I have been through it.  So I just realize that I did have a problem.  I do have a problem with alcohol.”

             Brian Johnson has epilepsy, and related his problems with having trouble getting medication.  With the help of the Epilepsy Foundation, Johnson was able to stabilize his medication.  He has only been able to afford the off brand version of medicine.  He said the generic medicine makes him feel different in the morning.  He feels a lot better using the name brand medicine.

             “I did have one problem.  One time that I was ill, and I couldn’t make it out to my doctor (at the Clements Center).”  He was in St. Vincent Hospital, and was not able to see his regular doctor.  They were going to make him pay full price for the medicine because the prescription was written by a different doctor.

             Johnson said that the Epilepsy Foundation helps a person, “overcome the problems of their disability and stuff.  They can help find a job.  They do not provide medicine.  They can help with finding a place to get medicine.  They can help build skills.  Help with filling out and application for a job, and overcoming the condition of epilepsy.”

             The PASS program is radically different from Project Heat.  According to Johnson, “You have a bed and not a place on the floor.  You have clean sheets and blankets that they provide you with, they have personal hygiene items and showers.  You can take as many showers as you like.  You must attend the AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings whenever they are scheduled.  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is a good transition into a permanent place especially if you are trying to ovecome your problems and you want to get back in the world.”

             “PASS can provide help getting to a job.  They try to get people to turn their life around.  There are steps that the guys have to take if they want help.  Conquering their alcohol addiction and with help finding a job [are examples of areas PASS can help.]”

             He said that some guys come back for counseling services.  He also said that he likes the program.  “When I do my volunteer work at Cornerstone Connection (20 hours a month for food stamps), I tell the guys out there that if you don’t want to be staying on the street, you know …and if you have a drug and alcohol problem, you should come (to PASS).”

             Johnson, reflecting on the future, said, “The next step is getting in a Famicos apartment.  I also want to get a part time job.  I have to go to CMHA to let them know that I am moving in. and they want me to have a birth certificate…I didn’t have it.  My first step is to conquer the alcohol problem.”

             Finally, Johnson said, “There are guys out there that need help…And there are places that you can go to get this help…I know there are people (in the shelters) that are homeless [who] want to get out of the situation they are in.. There are places that can help them.

 Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine October1997-Nov. 1997 Issue 23

Homeless No longer a High Priority

 Commentary from the NEOCH Board

     The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless opposes the proposed changes at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, which would reduce the priority for homeless people to get into public housing.  CMHA recently proposed the idea of changing the local performances so that the homelessness was not the highest priority.  This is a story that the Grapevine will follow on the next issue.

             In the past, an applicant was given an additional 95 points if they were homeless, thus placing the person or family at the top standard so that the top priority will be the “under housed,” with the second highest priority being homeless families who have gone through treatment.  This means that the largest homeless population, single men, will lose the last place that they could turn for housing.  The long wait for housing for single men will increase, and the county will be asked to finance the huge costs associated with a growing homeless population.

             The thrust nationally with Public Housing Authorities is to market to the working poor.  This will bring in more revenue, and will hopefully bring the PHA’s budget closer to balance.  The problem is that there is no other entity marketing to low-income individuals.  Angelo Anderson, Project coordinator at NEOCH asked, “Who is going to provide housing for single men ?”  It is admirable to diversify the CMHA population, and try to get the tenants to pay more of the rent, but where, for example, will single men with disability live?  What is the purpose of having a Public Housing Authority if their top priority is not attempting to house the most difficult populations?

             Unless a suitable alternative is found to provide long term housing for single men then NEOCH will oppose the changes in the preferences.

 Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine October1997-Nov. 1997 Issue 23

Federal Children and Youth Programs Cut

       

Despite increasing homelessness among families with children, federal funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program was cut by 20% in FY96. The simultaneous increase in homelessness among families with children and reduction in federal funding for the EHCY program now threatens the progress that states and local communities have made in helping the nation's most vulnerable children enroll, attend, and succeed in school.

        A new report, published by the National Coalition of the Homeless (NCH), reveals that budget cuts have reduced educational opportunities for homeless children and youth and have restricted the ability of states to meet the increasing demand for services. The report, America's Homeless Children: Will Their Future Be Different?, presents the findings of a survey of state administrators of homeless children's education programs. All State Coordinators for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth were polled; forty states (80%) responded.

        The survey found that at least 15,690 fewer homeless children received educational services as a result of the FY96 budget cut and that 41 local education programs have been or will be eliminated. Other findings include:

Reduced funding prevented many states from expanding services to meet needs.

        At the current funding level, schools and other service providers are able to serve only a small proportion of the children estimated to be homeless in their state. On average, the states responding to the survey provide direct educational services to 24% of their estimated population of homeless children.

        Loss of funding forced 63% of states responding to the survey to reduce tutorial hours, transportation, school supplies, and coordination of services. For example, in Colorado, there was a decrease in staff hours for tutoring and outreach in all funded programs, and almost all support services and materials were cut, such as eye glasses, school supplies, and books at home. In Washington state, the distribution of school supplies to homeless children and youth was reduced in both quality and quantity, and summer programs were eliminated.

        Many states report that changes in welfare programs have increased, or are expected to increase, the number of homeless children in their schools. In early findings, 25% of states responding to the survey believe welfare reform has already impacted their homeless education programs.

        Lack of funding has restricted the efforts of several states to provide services to homeless preschoolers. Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington all cited examples of loss of services, or inability to expand services, to homeless

preschoolers. In Wisconsin, all preschool programs were eliminated. West Virginia's plans to offer programs for preschool children were canceled.

        The NCH report presents state profiles for each of the 40 states that responded, including the amount of the Education for Homeless Children and Youth grant, the number of children served in both 1995-96 and 1996-97, the estimated number of homeless children in the state, and the accomplishments education program.

        The report also profiles the impact of funding cuts on local homeless education programs. For example, in Minneapolis, McKinney funding was cut by more than 33% for the 1996-97 school year. In Ohio, funding for the education of homeless children and youth received a 25% cut, which left many organizations scrambling to maintain services.

 

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 23 October 1997

 

Conference Allows Me to Learn About Poverty

 

By Stanley Williams

             First of all, I want to thank Brian Davis for inviting me on the trip to Seattle.  Also, I would like to thank everyone involved in making it possible for the street newspaper to come together for exchanging ideas.

            We all wanted to receive important information that we could use to improve the newspaper.  I am sure that for the people that have been working with the homeless and the Coalition learned a great deal and were able to carry a wealth of information home.  For me it was my first real chance to see and hear all the different things that people are doing all around the world for the homeless.  I was also my first time meeting with people of people from all over the world with at least 29 different street newspaper represented.

 

            There were four of us from Cleveland who went to Seattle.  We took TWA airline and the trip and the trip there was just great.  When we arrived in Seattle, we took a cab from the airport to our first destination, which was where the welcoming and orientation was being held.  They had a nice lunch and a few poems were read.  We got a chance to see some of the things and people that were in the area of the Real Change newspaper office.

             After the orientation, we went to the University of Washington where we would be staying.

             The whole purpose of going to Seattle was to attend workshops that would educate us in the areas that we thought were most important or most helpful in improving our approach when dealing with the newspaper and public.  I went to the “Growing a Budget” workshop instead of “Vendor Services” hoping to learn how to grow a budget.  I also went to the “Working with the Youth” workshop instead of “Starting from Scratch,” hoping to learn some tips on involving the youth because I do believe that the youth is the future.

 

            I went to the “First Amendment Issues” workshop instead of “Involving Homeless People”. To hear more about the problem that Cleveland was having with the vendors selling the Grapevine, and what kind of future would we have.  I went to “Covering Urban Issues” just to become more educated on what was happening on that subject, instead of going to “Making Homeless a Political Issue.”

             Finally, I went to the “Homeless Papers and the Internet”, instead of going to the “Homeless Papers and the internet”, instead of going to the writing Workshop”, to learn the importance of the Internet, and I am looking forward to my first lesson from Brian on the Internet.  I would like to say that the classes that I went to were so totally new to me and I really didn’t learn much from them, but I did hear a lot of interesting things about what was happening around the world.  I hope that things get better for everyone.  I would like to say good luck to all of the people who have dedicated their time and efforts in helping the hopeless population.

 Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine October1997-Nov. 1997 Issue 23

America Reads Enriches Kids

 

by Marni Sholiton

        This summer, six other college students and I took on a job responsibility in Cleveland unlike any we have ever had. As AmeriCorps*VISTA members, we accepted President Clinton's America Reads challenge to help children read at the third grade level by the end of the third grade. As tutors in Cleveland homeless shelters, our aim was to provide homeless and at-risk school-age youth with enrichment activities and individual attention that they might not otherwise receive.

        Our students were children who likely do not get the attention in school that they require simply because they lack structure and regularity in their lives. They relocate often, and, consequently, switch schools throughout the year. These children were referred to us by the Cleveland Public Schools' Project ACT's (Action for Children and Youth in Transition) homeless youth and teens program.

        My experience working with children who live in homeless shelters was definitely different from my expectations. I was surprised by how easy it was to get through to kids and how receptive they were. They were hungry for our attention. As Rachel Goldberg, a Cleveland Heights native and student at Case Western Reserve University, summed up, "These kids are no different from others I have worked with, except that most of them lack the encouragement and continuity necessary to nurture a belief in their own achievement."

        This job has taught me the true meaning of the word "flexibility." There is no such thing as a typical day. We had to adjust our lesson plan to accommodate the number of students that we would be working with, and for the activity for the students.

        Some mornings, students with whom we had been working for a few weeks were unexpectedly not there to greet us: their family had moved to a new location. While a sudden departure for us was shocking and disrupted our lesson plan, my thoughts were always on the child and his or her reaction to the change.

In an unstable world, a reading friend for these children is something they learn to look forward to. After seeing their faces light up every day and being bombarded with hugs when we arrived at work, it was no surprise that we quickly we became attached to them. Debbie Ensler, a CWRU senior from Atlanta, agreed, "I loved being greeted each day as if it were a surprise that I would be there." Even though they asked us every day before we left if we would be there the next day, there was still an element of doubt. Leaving the shelter was often hard, too, because the children did not want us to go.

As the pilot season of the America Reads program comes to a close, we ask ourselves if we feel like we have reached our program goals. While we may not have worked many literacy miracles in two months, I feel that our legacy is rich. We have helped to create a sense of competence in these children in their literacy abilities, an area in which many of our students had previously lacked self-confidence. We also have encouraged their families to become more involved with the education of their children. Most importantly, I feel we have shown these kids that people genuinely care about them.

        At our Pre-Service Orientation in Columbus, we were told that the lessons and experiences that we would take with us from our job would outweigh what we put into it. It did not take long to realize the wisdom behind these words. I am leaving this job with new perspectives and many rewarding experiences. The most important lesson I have learned, however, is that all it takes is a little effort to really make a difference in the life of a child.

        I have seen the immediate results of my work, both in the expressions on the faces of the children with whom we work and in their sense of accomplishment when they successfully complete a challenge that we have set for them. My only hope for them is that they continue to receive the special attention and encouragement that we have given them this summer. As the new school year begins, I sincerely hope that Project ACT finds individuals who will help to continue our efforts during the school year. This is a unique experience from which everyone benefits: the children learned from us, and we learned a lot from them as well.

M. Sholiton is a senior at Cornell University, Ithaca NY and participated in the Summer America Reads Program.

 

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 23 October 1997

Activists Call for an Expansion of McKinney

       

        Washington, D.C. The nation's leading advocates for homeless people marked the 10th anniversary of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act with a call for a White House Commission on Homelessness.

The executive directors of five national groups that address homelessness were joined by homeless and formerly homeless people and the widow of Stewart B. McKinney in a calling for a renewed federal commitment to address the structural causes of homelessness.

        "The McKinney Act provides critical services which are literally saved the lives of many Americans and enabled them to escape homelessness and its underlying problems," said John Lozier, Executive Director of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

        The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was the first and is still the only comprehensive federal response to the emergence of mass homelessness in the early 1980s. The Act created new federal programs and modified existing programs to address the emergency needs of homeless people. The McKinney Act was signed into law by President Reagan on July 22, 1987. The legislation was named after the late U.S. Representative Stewart B. McKinney, R-CT.

In her statement, Lucy McKinney said, "Only weeks before he died, my husband spent the night on a subway grate to demonstrate the plight of the homeless. Until the promise of the McKinney Act is redeemed, he sleeps there still."

        During the 1992 Presidential campaign, candidate Clinton pledged to hold a White House Conference on Homelessness as part of his plan to address homelessness. "Five years later, there has been no White House Conference and homelessness has increased," said Maria Foscarinis of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. "The President should establish a White House Commission to examine the policies which reproduce homelessness and should develop a strategic plan to ensure that adequate housing, incomes, health care and social services are available in other significant barriers to employment.

        The government should implement a set of policies and programs utilizing direct subsidies and the tax code to ensure that all low income Americans have access to housing which does not cost them more than 30% of their income.

        The McKinney Act program that converts vacant federal property to homeless assistance should be expanded.

        Federal programs to provide emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing to homeless persons should be reauthorized, with funding set at $1.6 billion annually.

        Employment and income-Poor persons should have income sufficient to afford housing.

        To eliminate homelessness, the federal disability payments should be at least enough to bring recipients' incomes up to the poverty line. The federal minimum wage should lift the average family out of poverty. Elderly and disabled poor people should be eligible for federal welfare benefits adequate to their basic needs.

A couple of interim measures should be that no one who is unable to find work should lose food stamps. The federal government, including the Social Security Administration and The Department of Veterans' Affairs should conduct outreach to help homeless persons obtain those benefits, such as food stamps, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) disability and veterans benefits, for which they may qualify.

The IRS should conduct outreach to working homeless persons to inform them about the Earned Income Tax Credit- a refundable tax credit for working homeless persons. Services- Adequate services should be available to help poor persons achieve long term stability.

Education: To eliminate homelessness:

        Federally funded adult education programs should be available and accessible to those in need. Adequate Federal funding, including transportation dollars, should be provided to eliminate barriers for children to participate in Head Start, primary, and secondary schools programs.

Interim measure:

The government should ensure that all pubic schools provide access to a free, appropriate public education for homeless children, including pre-school age children. Health Care: Comprehensive health care services must be available to all poor persons, without regard to age, employment status, ability to pay or nature of disability. Substance abuse and mental health disorders must be treated on the same basis as other diseases. Treatment must always include provision for housing.

Disability benefits should not be withheld on account of the nature of the disability. Interim measure: The entitlement to Medicaid must be preserved and expanded. Medicaid managed care arrangements to accommodate the difficult circumstances of homeless persons and health care providers must be paid the reasonable costs of providing appropriate care for populations with special needs. The McKinney Act's Projects in Assistance for Transition from Homeless (PATH) mental health program must be increased from $20 million to $40 million in FY 98.

A federal substance abuse treatment program for homeless people must be created and funded. Federally funded institutions must include housing in their residents' discharge plans. The VA should not deny health care to homeless veterans who are not enrolled in the A VA styled managed care system. Non-Discrimination - Discrimination against homeless persons must be eliminated.

McKinney Act: Joint Policy Proposals. To eliminate homelessness: The federal government should encourage local governments to adopt measures t o address the causes of homelessness. E.g. raise local monies to fund housing, job programs and health care, support the housing and services for low-income persons. Interim measures: The government should prohibit discrimination against homeless persons such as anti sleeping ordinances and other laws that punish homeless persons for being in public that provide housing or services to homeless persons.

Barriers to voting and registration of homeless persons should be moved. These federal policy proposals are supported by: The National Alliance to End Homelessness; the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans; the National Coalition for the Homeless; the National Health Care for the Homeless Council; the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty; and the Stewart B. McKinney Foundation.

 

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 23 October 1997