Whatever happened to local control of Federal money?

by Max Johnson

     Let me tell you a little secret about a con game played by the Federal Government. It is called Block Granting or turning control and decision making over to the locality. It is a big lie, because in the end the Feds don’t think a bunch of Yahoos from Iowa can decide where millions of Federal dollars go.

     We have played this con for the last two years and have been stung. We were told that there was a new sheriff in Washington and money for homeless services would be distributed to the country based on local decisions in what was touted as a "Community Gaps Analysts" process to determine which projects were funded. What it turned out to be was a summer of folly to distract us from the real work that needed to be done—getting American citizens into housing. While the homeless and the local providers were busy filling out surveys and evaluating programs, the Congress was taking the Housing out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and removing the word entitlement from our dictionaries.

     First, they told us that money would be set aside for communities based on their need. Since we do not accurately keep track of the need, how would this be possible? Also, some of our local communities deny they even have homeless people, so how would that need be reflected. The formula for the amount of money was secret so that we would not get our hopes up.

     Next, we are told that we can use this money for new or expanding programs and those programs that are requesting a renewal of funds. The only problem is that we were not allowed to see the audit of the existing programs. We did not know what impact the existing programs were having on reducing the homeless population. Our only information was from the programs that were asking for renewal funds. "Did you serve your community over the last year, Homeless Shelter X?" They answer, "Yes we did and we did a damn fine job. Can we have some more money?"

     Then we go through the time of identifying the largest gaps in service. We ask for submissions of grants in areas that we see as those of the greatest need. We (the homeless of Cleveland) rank the programs in order of importance, and submit that to Washington. When the results comes back we see that the rankings did not mean anything. Not all projects were funded and many projects, including some of our highest priority projects, were skipped and lower projects were chosen.

     We say, "A pox on your house, you faux block granters." We will never again fall for your "local control" tricks. We will ask for the check first and then we will give you the details later about how we spent the funds. Pass the money on to those on the streets and we will make it work. Don’t tempt us with community oversight, and then go back to business as usual. If you want homeless input then you better damn well use our decisions. We get enough of government lying to us from local politicians and case workers. We have better things to do than evaluate programs—like standing in long lines for food, checking on affordable housing opportunities, and looking for work in a job that pays the same as our parents made when they graduated from high school.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

What exactly does the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless do?

NEOCH does whatever you want. We are your organization. We are responsive to needs of the poor.

Organize:

We try to organize homeless people to speak for themselves and be involved in decisions that are made locally regarding poverty.

Empower:

We attempt to build hope and inspire self confidence in the homeless population. We believe that there is talent and expertise in the homeless community that is being wasted.

Educate:

NEOCH tries to educate the public about the realities of homelessness. We also are attempting to educate those are closest to the issues about decisions and policies that will have an impact on the homeless community.

Publish:

We publish a street newspaper that includes stories from homeless people and is distributed on the streets. The paper is an alternative to pan handling, but can be used to raise extra money for homeless people.

Advocacy:

We study and research an issue, and allow the public to know how the issue will impact the poor. The Coalition has staged events to call attention to the growing homeless population, and we work with homeless people to bring awareness to issues that they feel are important.

We are your organization, and if you are willing to help we will follow your lead. If there is a concern or project that you need assistance with, feel free to call.

NEOCH 241-1104

Brian Davis

Your community organization.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Westhaven Offers A Safe Place for Teen Runaways

By Beth Prebel

Often overlooked and forgotten in our community are teens in crisis. Whether it’s due to abuse, neglect, or other harmful situations at home, there are numerous youth at risk, many of whom are homeless. One place where these youth can find a safe environment is at Westhaven.

            Westhaven offers youth between 13 to 17 years of age shelter. It is one of only two emergency shelters in the area offering a 24-hour shelter and crisis hotline.

            Westhaven is administered by the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry and was founded in 1992. The mission of Westhaven, according to its director Debra Teitelbaum, is as follows. To serve youth who are oppressed, forgotten and hurting; to promote peace and well being within families; and to work toward right relationships among youth, families and communities.

            In addition to walk-ins, youth at Westhaven also come from referrals from county or state agencies. A teen in crisis finds safe shelter at Westhaven, but also much more. Westhaven can also provide counseling and family advocacy.

            Westhaven can shelter a youth for up to 14 days, and can house twelve teens. Westhaven also serves as a 3-day respite for “unruly” youths. Although a teen’s stay at Westhaven is voluntary, he or she will maintain a daily routine. This includes attending school, participating in structured recreational activities, and assisting with chores.

            Westhaven also offers a follow-up program. Issues such as chemical dependency or abuse take time to overcome. The After-Care Program gives teens and their family continued support and continues to link them to positive services. However, After-Care must be agreed upon by the teen.

            Westhaven is staffed with approximately 15 full-time community support providers and house managers. Volunteers play an important role also, often serving as house manager during meetings.

            Chemical dependency, abuse, neglect and behavior problems from homelessness are all issues facing teens in crisis. While there is no quick cure, Westhaven is a positive step that offers hope to this often overlooked part of our community.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Welfare Cut Percentage of Total Annual Aggregate Income

 From Various Neighborhoods 3/94-6/97

Neighborhood  Food stamp cut Welfare Cut as a
% of Income     % of Income

1. Kinsman       6.20%             14.48%

2. Central         5.23%             12.01%

3. Hough          4.04%             8.62%

4. Fairfax          4.09%             8.33%

5. Ohio City     2.63%             5.77%

6. Woodland Hills 2.49%                     5.47%

7. Glenville       2.53%             5.45%

8. Industrial Prwy 2.41%                      5.24%

9. St. Clair/Supr. 2.46%                       5.17%

10. Downtown 2.15%             5.00%

Compiled by CEOGC and Dept. of Human Services

Welfare Cut as a Percentage of Total Annual Aggregate Earnings from Various Neighborhoods 3/94-6/97

Neighborhood  Food stamp cut Welfare Cut as a

                                     % of Income    % of Income

1. Kinsman       11.28%                       26.34%

2. Central         8.78%             20.14%

3. Hough          6.62%             14.12%

4. Fairfax          6.44%             13.10%

5. Glenville       3.72%             8.02%

6. Ohio City      3.50%             7.67%

7. St. Clair/Supr. 3.43%                       7.22%

8. Woodland Hills 3.19%                     7.01%

9. Industrial Valley 3.15%                     6.84%

10.Detroit/Shrway 3.04%                     6.42%

***Welfare is defined as Food Stamps, AFDC, and the cuts to General Assistance.

Compiled by CEOGC and Dept. of Human Services

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

The Bread Man

Night is the future
I drive in the middle of
Under the weather of moonlight
Under the charity of darkness
With Godspeed I drive
Through the scarred wilderness
The ruder loneliness
As if I were Heaven’s messenger
And had the divine right of way
Across avenues of bad news
To these streets of greed
Night is the future
For the fugitives of day
Who lay their heads down?
Where their feet have trod
And hold in rough hands
This day-old daily bread
In a prison without walls
Under stars they seldom see
Night is the future
A dream of a blind date
Our faith arranges
Between justice and love
Under the weather of moonlight
Under the charity of darkness

by Daniel Thompson


Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

 

Thanks, I’m Back on My Feet

Commentary by Svetta

     As this year comes to a close, and as I reflect over the year a few memories stand out. After being homeless for a year, I finally secured Section 8 housing in October. Thanks to Transitional Housing, Inc. While this is the most significant happening for me this year, yesterday was the greatest. I work for Alarm Pro ADT home security company. I’ve been with the company for three months now.

     Never did I think I’d be working for a celebrity owned company. Of course you have no idea as to whom I’m referring to. I’m talking about Walter Johnson the former Cleveland Browns (# 71) football player. I do telemarketing for the company, selling home alarm systems. It’s a part-time job. But it’s full-time security for me. Needless to say I do well.

     I volunteered to help out this Thanksgiving with the homeless, because I’m so very grateful to have Thanksgiving in my own home. I wanted to give something back. Apparently the Johnsons are in the same business. When I asked for a donation for the Homeless Dinner, the company presented a $100.00 check as their contribution. "I feel close to the plight of the homeless, it could happen to any of us." Said Mrs. Johnson. It made me feel very warm and emotional. Like so many others who donate their time and money to help the homeless, the Johnsons do their share. God bless them. There have been many hardships over the year. Many remember with a generous heart. To the readers of the Grapevine Street Newspaper, thank you. May God Bless you!

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Licensing Case

Grapevine Vendors Will Soon Face City of Cleveland Oversight

by Tom Hayes

            On October 20th, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (publisher of the Homeless Grapevine) and the Nation of Islam (publisher of the Final Call) in their case against the City of Cleveland. The three-year-old suit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was intended to stop the implementation of a city ordinance requiring the licensure of newspaper vendors.

            “This is an effort to sweep the streets of Homeless Grapevine and Nation of Islam vendors,” said Kevin O’Neill, lead counsel for the ACLU, “The City has taken a regulatory scheme that has been around since the 1920s, clearly designed to deal with hot dog vendors, vendors of peanuts, and other wares, rather than passing specific legislation. It’s like trying to jam a square peg into a triangular hole—it doesn’t quite fit.”

            The City Law Director, Sharon Sobol Jordan, would make no comment; however, in an article in Issue 20 of the Homeless Grapevine, Sobol Jordan suggested that the City was concerned about fraud by unlicensed vendors. Sobol Jordan did not feel that commenting at this time would be beneficial since the Grapevine was in negotiations with the city on the specifics of licenses.

            In 1994, the City of Cleveland’s police force began routinely ticketing vendors of the Homeless Grapevine and the Final Call newspapers for the unlicensed sale of merchandise on the City’s streets and sidewalks. The question as to whether or not a newspaper constitutes a piece of merchandise to be regulated in the manner of other street commodities is still very much open to debate, even with the recent Court decision.

            “You cannot regulate the sale of a newspaper like you regulate the sale of a hot dog,” said O’Neill. He went on to point out that there is a distinction between merchandise for sale on a street and a newspaper, which is a vehicle for speech—that the Bill of Rights guarantees a superior level of consideration for speech items than for other commodities. Further, O’Neill was quick to address the question of fraud, “any judgment that relies on fraudulence has no application to newspapers…it is opening up a relaxed standard of review. There is a level of intellectual dishonesty underpinning the Sixth Circuit’s decision.”

            In its brief presented to the Supreme Court, the City claimed that its “registration process enables the local authorities to have some ability to account for the many individuals who conduct their commerce on city streets and sidewalks,” that “Cleveland has a legitimate and indeed unchallenged interest in regulating the business of peddling.”

            Section 675.01(a)(2) of the Cleveland ordinance defines “peddling” to “include ‘selling, bartering, or offering or exposing for sale or barter any goods, wares, merchandise, menial tasks, such as painting numbers on curbs, food or beverages from, in, upon, along, or through the highways, streets, or sidewalks of the City, or in the open air or from a temporary

shelter or vending device upon private property in the City.’”

            On July 24, 1992, the peddler license fee was set at $50.00 by ordinance. The component controls associated with the license costs include the “application process, supervisory costs, license issuance, miscellaneous paper costs, and annual field maintenance.” However, specific instances of what each of these component areas includes could not be verified. For instance, does field maintenance include officers already on the street, or will new officers be hired specifically to regulate street vending? In addition a vendor would need to purchase a $100 “peddlers mobile permit” for each downtown zone.

            Brian Davis, Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, wondered why a fee should be charged of vendors to cover the expense of something officers were already doing.

            After meeting with initial success in challenging the enforcement of the ordinance, winning a ruling by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the newspapers lost on an appeal by the City to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit—a court known to be more conservative in its rulings.

            “The City is playing a shell game with legal precedent,” said O’Neill. The City paid little attention to the free speech element of previous cases, choosing instead to focus on cases for their consideration of the right of regulation. “The City invoked other lines of precedent: parade cases, which charge a preliminary fee” due to the redirection of police, the number of people gathered, clean-up costs, and the upheaval of traffic patterns; and “cases involving regulation of fund-raising and charitable solicitation,” like the Salvation Army’s bell-ringers at Christmas. None of these apply themselves directly to the sale of newspapers, according to O’Neill.

            O’Neill said that the right to express an idea, which is offensive or distasteful to the general public must be guaranteed. Then it can be debated, argued or disregarded, but the city cannot oversee the dissemination of this information. He said that the City has “no legitimate right to function as a gatekeeper” to the expression of ideas on the sidewalks.

            In Issue 20 of the Homeless Grapevine, Law Director Jordan reportedly stated that the law department supports civil rights and the First Amendment, and that “I am pretty sure the Mayor does too.” But, as O’Neill pointed out, the City “drafted a lengthy and well-written brief urging the Supreme Court not to take the case…” and that Mayor White has “shown a lack of sympathy for street newspapers…that the whole impulse to license street newspapers is indicative of this hostility.”

            “This is absolutely a retreat from years of case law that protected the sidewalks as a forum for public speech,” says Davis, “if we no longer have access to the sidewalks to speak to the public, then what is left? The sidewalk was the last place that government had not put its dirty, filthy, censoring hands.”

            Rodney A. Smolla, a Constitutional lawyer, asserts, in his book Free Speech in an Open Society, “We may start with the rationale that humankind’s search for truth is best advanced by a free trade in ideas. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, ‘the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.’” Smolla, however, is quick to point out some of the flaws with the marketplace theory of speech: “The marketplace of ideas, no less than the marketplace of commerce, will inevitably be biased in favor of those with the resources.” Herein lies one of the greatest problems with the case under consideration: what effect does a $50-$150 license fee have on a homeless vendor of a street newspaper?

            The City has claimed in its brief that the “petitioners (the two newspapers) alleged inability to pay the $50 peddler registration fee was not legally material to determining whether Cleveland’s ordinance violated the First Amendment…” However, the ACLU insisted that this case is “about the power of municipalities to erect steep cost barriers to the sidewalk distribution of political and religious ‘street’ newspapers.” In order to sell their speech, vendors of the newspapers must pay; and the inability to pay results in a necessary and inhibiting silence.

            In an era of welfare reform, with a demand for jobs and an admitted lack of entry-level jobs, Davis wondered where the Grapevine fits. Davis asked, “How will the Mayor’s policy stand up with Governor Voinovich’s plan to ‘shift Ohio’s welfare system from entitlement to employment’—especially when those few homeless people who exercise their entrepreneurial spirit, earning a living by the sale of a newspaper, are now banned from Cleveland?

            “It’s going to be awful,” says Bob U. Banks, a Homeless Grapevine vendor, “They’re putting us in the back roads of the city…they want us to be in areas where you can’t make money.” Banks was further troubled by the ordinance’s effect on his ability to get to “regular” customers who look forward to getting a new Grapevine. “How are you going to bring it to them when they’re in areas you’re not allowed to be?”

            But the implications are far greater than economic. “In my opinion,” says Davis, “[the City is] attempting to assert some control over the sidewalks…we saw that this was behind the mayor’s kidnapping and dumping policy, and now we see a subtle way to implement an out-of-sight, out-of-mind policy toward the homeless.” The City settled a lawsuit with a group of homeless people who were picked up against their will and transported to remote locations by giving $9,000 and issuing public statement guaranteeing the rights of homeless people.

            Any rumination of the facets of this problem make more dubious the City’s assertion in its brief to the Supreme Court that “the petitioners’ misguided attempt to portray themselves as ‘targets’ does not make an otherwise unremarkable case any more significant.”

            Or does it? O’Neill advised caution when considering an administration that “cloaks it actions in the impenetrable prose of legalese to rid the streets of two newspapers the mayor is not happy with.”

            Ultimately, it is difficult to tell what kind of an effect the ordinance will have on the lives of the vendors of the Homeless Grapevine and Final Call, or on the newspapers themselves.

            Davis does not think the ruling will have any effect on the ideal or mission of the Grapevine, which is to “get the words of homeless people on the streets.” However, he admits that the effect on its physical distribution will be difficult to overcome. “Sending a homeless person down to City Hall to get a city-issued license is going to make recruiting new vendors very difficult. Many homeless people are distrusting of the ‘system,’ because most have been betrayed by government.”

            Until any resolution is achieved, the words of the Homeless Grapevine’s Training Director, Stanley Williams, sum up the general feeling of everyone who has a stake in the newspaper, “we’ll bide our time…we’re just waiting to see what happens.”

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Solutions

     In our on going communication with our readers, we have heard the criticism that we only complain about the problems and do not offer any solutions. So in an effort to address the concerns of our readers in 1998 we are featuring a series called Homeless Solutions in cooperation with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. The staff of the Coalition will take on this issue with the assistance of homeless people to put forth ideas that if implemented would show a reduction in the homeless population.

ISSUE 1 Stability First--Services Second.

     This seems such a simple concept, but it is rarely followed in the current landscape of social services. No matter how many services are thrown at an individual they rarely stick if a person does not have a stable place to live. All local services need to establish a person in a long term stable place to live first and then treat them for their disability or health concern. As an American citizen, we should expect or demand a minimum level support. No matter if a person is lazy, rude, a criminal, smelly, ugly or dumb, they still have a right to life and other liberties outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If a person lives on the street they are being denied a right to life.

     Therefore all services need to establish housing or long term shelter as their primary focus, and build support services around the housing. The housing must be a healthy environment that allows an individual to grow to independence. The housing cannot be contingent on the services. Stability should be the primary focus for the County, and services revolve around the housing.

Specifically, areas such as the Alcohol and Drug System need place people in stable housing then treat their addiction. Currently, the treatment is offered for a period of time, and then the person is released back into the world. If Alcoholism and Drug Addiction are truly a disease, then why don’t we treat it as a health issue. A policy of releasing an individual back onto the streets after treatment is a waste of resources, and bad public policy.

     The same thing is applicable with the current health industry. It used to be that if a homeless person needed surgery they could stay in the hospital until they were fully recovered. In the new frontier of HMOs, there are a certain number of days that a person can stay in the hospital, and then they are released. If they still need bed rest and they are homeless, recovery will be nearly impossible. Our society wasted all that money on the surgery because that individual will soon be back in the hospital or will die because they did not have time to recover. Hospitals need to be involved in supporting long term care facilities for poor people.

     Establishing stability first is important in the mental health community (even for those who are not certifiable but have a personality disorder), the AIDS community, the young, the elderly, and the poorly educated. There is no way to continue down the current path of such a fractured social service safety net.

     We will bankrupt our society if we use the scattershot approach to distributing service assistance. I view this as offering triage on the battlefield with a cannon. Those of us in the social service system sit in our safe foxhole offices and fire treatment, medicine and services to wounded soldiers some of whom are constantly moving on the battlefield from a cannon. We hope that one of our efforts get through, but in reality we are wasting our time.

    All of us need to demand from our government and from our society that stability and safe environments must be the first concern for treating our fallen soldiers.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Social Security Claims High Customer Satisfaction

Dear Editor:

First of all, I’d like to compliment you on your commitment to serving the homeless population of Northeastern Ohio. In working with the Northeastern Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), I have recognized the dedication and compassion of NEOCH staff and partners in their efforts to meet the needs of the people they serve. Like you the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes seriously its goal of providing world class service to people from all walks of life. Recent surveys show that we are doing a good job in that area.

USA Today recently quoted a public survey showing that SSA has a very high customer satisfaction rating. In fact, the public rated SSA as the top federal government agency for courtesy and efficiency. I hope that by sharing some general information about disability and other programs that SSA administers, readers may understand more about what sometimes seems to be a complicated process. The Social Security Administration operates two major programs: Social security insurance (retirement, disability and survivors benefits) and supplemental security income (SSI). Although beneficiaries apply for Medicare health insurance through SSA, the health care financing Administration Department of Health and Human Services administers Medicare.

Social Security pays benefits to workers and their families based on the social security taxes a person pays during his or her working years. SSI payments are made to aged, blind and disabled individuals who have little or no income and few resources. While social security benefits are paid from the Social Security trust funds, SSI payments come from the general revenues of the U.S. government.

Medicare is a Federal Health Insurance program for people 65 years and older. In addition Medicare covers certain disabled persons under age 65 and persons of any age with end stage kidney disease. Medicaid is the largest source of funds for medical care to our Nation’s poorest people. It is a cooperative endeavor between each state and the Federal Government,

In Ohio, Medicaid is administered by the state (though the county Departments of Human Services.) Most people who are entitled to SSI are also entitled to Medicaid. If a person also has Medicare coverage, the state may pay the monthly insurance premium (which would otherwise be deducted from the social security check). A pamphlet called Medicare Savings for Qualified Beneficiaries is available by calling social security’s toll free number 1-800-772-1213. It explains that the state sometimes will pay for Medicare costs for certain elderly and disabled persons with low incomes and very limited assets. In Ohio eligibility and application rules are determined through the County Department of Human Services.

When a disabled person applies for social security or supplemental security income (SSI), a claims representative asks many questions about the applicant’s life (i.e. work history, information about illnesses and medical records). The medical portion of the claim is then sent to the disability determination service. In Ohio that office is located in Columbus. Teams of claims examiners gather the evidence from doctors, clinics and hospitals. Physicians then review the evidence to determine if the illness is totally disabling.

In Ohio the average waiting time for a disability decision is about 120 days. SSA is currently working on redesigning the disability process. When this new system is in place, it will dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes for a disability decision resulting in better customer service and a smoother process. When homeless people contact us to file a claim its important that we know how to reach them in the future. We ask for phone number of shelters, case workers friends or relatives where they might obtain messages or be reached directly. In turn the applicant is given the phone number of the representative handling his or her claim and asked to report any changes that occur (i.e. change of address, treatment by a new doctor.).

Each year, 60 million people phone our toll free number and 24 million people visit one of our 1,300 field offices across the nation. Employees are trained to respond compassionately to each customer. Written information, video training, and open dialog in staff meetings stress the importance of respect, effective communication, and assessing needs. Information sharing with other agencies help employees stay attuned to other available social services (i.e. First Call for Help, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, County Human Services Department and crisis hotlines).

Annually Social Security shares public information in the community through such avenues as the Homeless Stand Down the Black Expo, and town hall meetings. In October, a team of 25 SSA employees raised over $3,000 and walked in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. Earlier this year, SSA employees gave the highest percentage of contribution to the Harvest for Hunger campaign. I look forward to a continued partnership with NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine. If there are other fund raising or volunteer events for the homeless SSA wants to be a part of them. Best wishes for continued success in the new year.

Sincerely.

Linda L. Barrett, Public Affairs Specialist, (SSA )

Editor’s Note: This letter was written in response to a series of critical stories that the Homeless Grapevine has written in regards to homeless people receiving Social Security. In Issue 22, Brian Johnson, a homeless epileptic, talked about his difficulty in getting Social Security. The Grapevine staff wrote to Social Security officials asking a series of questions about why the bureaucracy was so immense for people attempting to get SSI. We asked why it seems that it takes a lawyer to get a person on disability, and we asked if the money spent on screening people for eligibility and detecting fraud saves more money than it costs. This is the letter we received back. It seems that it is going to be just as difficult getting an answer as it is to get on disability. We shall continue to try.


Social Security Administration
Numbers of SSA Beneficiaries and SSI Recipients in Cuyahoga County:

Type of Payment Number of Recipients Total dollars paid

Social Security 264,441 $187,123,000

(Retirement Disability & Survivors)

SSI 40,644 $15,502,000 (Blind, Aged & Disabled)

*** Statistics as of December 1996


Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Shelter Begins Fingerprinting to Stay Open

by Alex Grabtree

The First Southern Baptist Church in Orange County, California reached an agreement with the city of Buena Park to keep their shelter open in exchange for fingerprinting all people seeking shelter. The FSBC is organized by the Rev. Wiley S. Drake, who, as previously reported, was convicted of misdemeanor violations of Buena Park’s law against sheltering the homeless on church grounds. On December 22, he began busing his overnight residents to the Buena Park Police Department to be fingerprinted.

            In the Los Angeles Times city officials described the agreement between the church and the city to keep the shelter open. Greg Beaubien, the Buena Park Director of Finance, was reported to say in the Los Angeles Times, “Both parties sat down and negotiated a set of guidelines for the Here’s Hope Ministry, the church’s ministry to the homeless. To fully operate a homeless shelter, the church needs a conditional-use permit from the city.”

            Rev. Drake said that the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the National Religious Freedom Restoration Act would have protected the church’s ability to shelter people. RiFRA, as it was known, protected churches from local ordinances which restricted the church from carrying out their mission. Congress may attempt to pass an amendment to the constitution to protect churches from local regulations.

            The fingerprinting was done voluntarily by the church as a way to keep the shelter doors open. Rev. Drake said, “They turned down our conditional use permit until we adopted the manual of operations that the other shelters use and that they would approve of. We sat down and worked out the details of the manual. One of the details of the manual was the fingerprinting.

            “People don’t want to be dragged down to the police station and have to go through being fingerprinted.” He described the fingerprinting as “early German Gestapo tactics”

            After the first two weeks, the fingerprinting is not working. Drake said, “When we went (to the police station) we had agreed to do the fingerprinting, and they asked the residents to sign two other waivers.” Half of the people refused to sign the waivers, and so the police refused to do the fingerprinting. The first waiver said that they were not entitled to the information retrieved by the fingerprint check. The second waiver said that the police could do anything that they wanted with the fingerprint check.

            Drake characterized the waivers as “an invasion of privacy and unconstitutional.” He said, “So far we haven’t heard from the city. Basically we left it at ‘my attorney will talk to your attorney.’”

            Rev. Drake described the people using the shelter as residents of Buena Park, some members of the church, and some are street people.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Percentage Decrease in AFDC/TANF Benefits from March 1994 to September 1997

County Dollar Amount Decreased Percentage

1. Holmes                     $99,439                       20.92%

2. Cuyahoga                 $67,499,999    32.67%

3. Summit                     $17,424,569    32.87%

4. Mahoning                 $13,153,742    37.18%

5. Sandusky                 $1,414,151      37.27%

6. Lawrence                 $4,172,968      38.38%

7. Lucas                       $25,335,213    38.41%

13. Lorain                    $10,362,334    41.69%

15. Medina                   $1,571,045      42.62%

18. Stark                      $13,936,260    43.28%

19. Montgomery           $25,356,075    43.48%           

25. Franklin                  $50,451,609    45.93%

32. Hamilton                 $45,138,756    47.79%

43. Lake                      $4,208,992      52.92%

88. Paulding                 $874,985         76.56%

Source Ohio Dept. of Human Services and CEOGC. 

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Panhandlers, Squatters, and Campers Attacked by Local Governments

Compiled from news stories from around the country, the American Homeless on-line service, and other street newspapers.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The 2 year old ordinance banning scavengers from searching through trash for food and recyclables was approved as a permanent part of the Milwaukee law. In late 1997, the City Council reaffirmed its position banning scavenging. The previous ordinance had a two year sunset provision, and thus needed the Council to assess the law and re-approve the ban or let it fade away.

Boston, MA (from Spare Change)

In late December the Boston City Council voted to pass an ordinance cracking down on aggressive panhandling on the city’s streets. The ordinance — which bans aggressive solicitation within 15 feet of banks or ATMs, blocking the way, and following or accosting someone for money — was first proposed in May.

Though begging is a protected right, city officials want to assure that one should not be intimidated physically, verbally, or otherwise for declining to drop some change in a cup. Banks and ATMs — sensitive areas where money is exchanged — ought to be free of solicitors.

As Spare Change points out these laws usually only mask attempts to regulate homeless people out of existence. This type of legislative remedy to homelessness has been tried since before the Roman Empire, and has yet to work.

San Jose, California

San Jose officials are attempting to restrict a homeless shelter from the operating within their backyard. The Alliance Ministry operators of the 40 bed First Christian Church have said that they will defy the order, and keep their doors open. They face a $2,500 fine per day for defying the city’s order to close the shelter.

The Bronx, New York

Over the last decade, Casa Del Sol has provided affordable housing for over 50 low-income individuals and families. Then Republican Rudolph Guiliani was elected Mayor of New York City, and he drastically changed the policies and personnel of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. "Squatters" are no longer to be tolerated by the City. Fresh from his illegal demolition of the Fifth Street Homestead in Manhattan on February 12, 1997, and emboldened by his re-election by a wide margin in the November 1997 election (during which the Fifth Street Homesteaders’ suit against the City did not come up once) Guiliani has recently turned his sights on Casa Del Sol.

At the end of November, Guiliani’s HPD served it with an order to vacate on the grounds that certain devices used by some of the residents were deemed to be a fire hazard. Approximately ten days later, HPD arrived to carry out the order to vacate. They brought with them a veritable army of policemen, clad in riot gear, with helicopter support. In addition to forcibly evicting the residents (not without some difficulty and a couple of arrests), the police are preventing anyone from returning to their home. In the meantime, the NYPD has been removing some of the residents’ possessions.

San Diego CA

An eight-day fast by homeless people and their advocates outside San Diego’s City Hall and in a number of cities around the country ended around Christmas when San Diego agreed to keep a public restroom open 24 hours a day. "The people of San Diego got the bathrooms open," said homeless advocate Larry Milligan, who had been fasting with at least two other people on the sidewalk. The city was concerned about the cost and the mistreatment of the facility by malcontents when an attendant was not on duty. The City promised more 24 hour public restrooms if this program is successful.

Santa Cruz, CA from Robert Norse

The City Parks and Recreation Commission of Santa Cruz has attempted to restrict 500-1500 homeless people from the local parks. Parks and Recreation moved to close the parks at sunset in the mid-80s. The City passed a no-camping ordinance. In 1997, Santa Cruz Parks & Rec. regularly harasses and seeks out homeless sleepers in the large green Pogonip area—one of the few places where homeless people can hide from the City’s anti-homeless sleeping ban. Recently, Parks and Recreation unanimously voted to ask the Santa Cruz City Council to further reduce public space and expand police power by making the entire area adjacent to the San Lorenzo River, which runs through the heart of Santa Cruz a forbidden zone at night.

San Francisco, CA from Street Sheet

The City of San Francisco under the leadership of "Liberal" Mayor Willie Brown has begun sweeping Golden Gate park of homeless people. Golden Gate has long been a campsite for homeless people since the flop houses closed as a result of "urban renewal." City officials have swept the park with Sanitation officials dumping all homeless people’s possessions or sweeping the area when homeless people are attending the meal sites. Food Not Bombs (also harassed by the police) and the SF Coalition for the Homeless have attempted to stop the City raids on homeless encampments.

San Francisco shelters are so full they have a nightly lottery for space. Those who win the lottery for the evening have a place inside for the night. Those who do not win find other accommodations.

Santa Monica, CA

The Flamingo Squat, in Santa Monica, was raided by Police at dawn in December. Activists had taken over a former flop house owned by a major Foundation/Think Tank that was slated for demolition. Reportedly 40 people had taken refuge in the Flamingo who would leave every time the police came around. 30-40 cops from the Santa Monica Police Dept. raided the Flamingo squat, and arrested three homeless activists —Jennifer Waggoner, David Bush (both homeless), and Michael Reinsborough (member of Food Not Bombs). Waggoner and Bush had chained themselves to the building. When the police arrived, Michael Reinsborough said, he stepped off the Flamingo property with a video camera to document the arrest. Police grabbed him, smashed his video camera and arrested him. He said when they took him away, Waggoner and Bush were yelling. Pain compliance holds were used during her arrest. The three were charged with "interfering with an officer" and "trespassing.

Denver, Colorado

Demand for emergency shelter by homeless families in Denver has jumped by at least 20 percent in the past year, with projection for a bleak and bitter winter for many in Denver. Despite a vibrant economy and a low unemployment rate, requests for shelter and food continue to increase. Estimates are that as many as 40 percent of Denver’s homeless are families. Denver’s total of about 1,755 beds for the homeless including approximately 455 for families is inadequate, according to a report released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Estimates from Denver providers are that there are about 3,300 homeless in Denver on a given night.

Nationally

Nationally, 86 percent of cities surveyed recently by the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported an increase in demand for emergency food assistance. On average, requests for food at soup kitchens and food pantries have risen by 16 percent. And 38 percent of those seeking emergency food aid are employed, up from 23 percent in 1994.

Other Cities

  • ·         Los Angeles: Nearly a fifth of those seeking food aid and 27% of those seeking
    shelter were turned away because of a lack of resources.
  • ·         Charleston, SC: A 23% reduction in request for shelter was reported.
  • ·         Columbus, OH food requests up 11% in 1997 despite an exceptional local economy.
  • Cleveland’s results show an increase, but not as much as those seen by other cities. Since there is no census or research about the homeless population, the statistics listed are highly speculative.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless vs. City of Cleveland Timeline

February-March 1993

A great deal of street vending legislation was passed in anticipation of the new baseball stadium to limit vending products downtown.

November 1993:

A Grapevine vendor was arrested and jailed for disorderly conduct and vending without a license.

Early 1995:

City of Cleveland officials offered to exempt the vendors from the fee, but require Grapevine vendors to get a city issued license. Legislation was even drawn up to support this concept. NEOCH and ACLU reject settlement for fear that it would restrict the distribution and set a bad precedent.

October 1994:

Three homeless people, as well as NEOCH, file a lawsuit against the City for illegally picking up and dumping homeless people on the outskirts of town.

Early 1994:

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of NEOCH/Homeless Grapevine filed a lawsuit to protect the distribution of the paper. The District court imposed an injunction on further ticketing while the case was before the court.

May 3, 1995:

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aldrich ruled the vendor license fee violated our vendor’s first amendment rights.

Late 1995:

Mayor Michael White decides to appeal the District Court ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Late 1996 The case is argued in U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati before a three-judge panel.

February 3, 1997:

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court decision. The three-judge panel said the city had a right to restrict commerce on the streets and protect the public from “fraud.”

April 1997:

The court rejected an appeal to the entire Sixth Circuit Appeals Court to re-hear the case.

July 1997:

ACLU files an Appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

October 20, 1997:

The U.S. Supreme Court refuses without comment to hear the case. The case made the first cut, but in the end four out of the nine justices could not agree to hear the case. This ended the injunction on ticketing our vendors, and exhausted the Grapevine’s efforts in the judicial system to seek relief from the licensing.

November 1, 1997:

Despite no public change in policy by the White administration, a police officer #2151 took it upon himself to ticket Stanley Williams for vending without a license.

November 7, 1997:

One of the Grapevine vendors attempted to get a license for vending the paper from the city and was denied because the city had not set up a policy for Grapevine vendors.

November 10, 1997:

Grapevine editors and supporters met with Cleveland City officials about the licensing issue, and presented a proposal to have the vending licensing privatized and done by the Grapevine staff.

November 25, 1997:

The case against Stanley Williams was thrown out because of confusion between the Police and the Licensing Department.

First and Second Week of December 1997:

Another vendor was ticketed three times by the same police officer #1068. These tickets were dismissed before the trial by the City Prosecutor.

December 12, 1997:

Met with Mayor White. He said unequivocally that our vendors would be licensed by the city or they would not sell in Cleveland. He was willing to exempt the fee, but we had to “work with his staff” or the deal was off. Basically, White said, “we won; you lost, and so you live by our rules."

Late December, 1997:

We had three series of meetings with the City to work out the details of how our vendors would be obligated to get a license and how that would work.

January 4, 1998:

Mayor White cited his contact with a Grapevine vendor in his inaugural speech, claiming that the vendor was articulate and courteous so he offered him a job.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Matthew 25:35

by Serena

Would God really say, “You must pray to Me for four hours every day or you cannot eat”?

Would He wake you up at 6 a.m. and put you on the street?

Yet every day these things are done, and these are the least of the atrocities.

Do you not think He is crying for what is done in His name?

“For I was hungry and you gave me food” saving the best for yourself to take home or sell.

“I was thirsty and you gave me drink” only between the hours of 7 and 3, and not on weekends.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” if you look like me and sound like me.

“I was naked and you clothed me” with clothes 2 sizes too small, filthy and torn. But you had already taken the best clothes home for yourself.

“I was sick and you visited me” sorry…too much trouble.

“I was in prison and you came to me” out of the question!!!

Don’t put God’s name on your own licentiousness and greed.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Losing the American Dream

by Richard Kiefer

Mindy Menton is trying to survive a divorce. When she developed psychological problems, her husband asked for a divorce. Since she was in treatment, he told her to trust him and he handled everything legally. She lost her home and her money in the divorce proceedings. She has been homeless for six months now because she followed her former husband when he moved north from Florida with their children.

Menton is 37 years old , 5’7 tall and has blond hair and blue eyes. She likes children. She used to own and operate a successful day care center down in Florida called "Mindy’s Munchkins."

Because of her psychological problems she is no longer able to run a day care business. She had the American Dream. Her husband worked in sales for General Motors. She was a suburban wife and mother and she was a self-employed business woman.

Her worst nightmare has come true. She lives life in hell. But things don’t always necessarily get better.

She remarried recently. Menton thought she was moving to greener pastures. Her new husband woke up one day and decided to rob a bank. Now he is in jail.

Menton said, "This is a riches to rags story. This is a woman who should be paid $1,000 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 be visiting the mental hospital and he used it (my psychological problems) to his advantage."

Copyright NEOC and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

It Could Never Happen To Me

Commentary by Elizabeth Shockley

            You couldn’t have told me five years ago that I would have ended up at the door of the Drop Inn Center for any help. Not me.

            You see, I was out partying with some so-called dear friends. However, when the money, the alcohol, and the drugs were gone, they had no use for Liz, so they put me in the street in the middle of the night.

            I was a complete mess. I was only going to stay overnight at the shelter; it was around the Christmas holidays in 1995. And, you know - I ended up staying for five to six months.

            Buddy (Gray), Gail (Holley), and Kathy (Nolan, more recently working at a shelter in Kentucky) talked to me as if they had known me all my life, and I give a lot of gratitude to them for helping me find myself and getting in touch with my Higher Power and AA and NA programs once again.

            After staying for almost six months, I worked and went to AA and NA meetings; and I saved my money through the 50-50 plan at the Drop Inn Center while I was staying there.

            I was able to accept responsibilities and get on with my life. I got an apartment through ReSTOC, a low-income housing corporation connected with the Drop Inn Center (which helps with the homeless.) You see, I was not only homeless, per se, but also “lost.”

            So, I want to thank my so-called friends for that night and for my new life - for throwing me out in the middle of the night.

            There is more in me to be forgiven than in any of you. I think I must be rather like the woman who loved much because she was forgiven much. And, as my grandma always says, “God loves you and so do I.”

            I’m going on two years of recovery today, “one day at a time.” And, by the grace of God, I truly want to thank God, whom I choose as my Higher Power, the Drop Inn Center, ReStoc, AA and NA, and the prayers and love from my mother and grandmother for my new life today.

Happy New Year. Thank you.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Health Care System Often Fails Homeless and Low Income People

by Staff of the National Coalition for the Homeless

            On Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, when we recognize that death on the streets is all too frequently the result of homelessness, it is appropriate to consider the many ways that sickness and death intersect with homelessness.

            Poor health is always associated with homelessness. For families struggling to pay the rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness, beginning with a lost job, depletion of savings today for needed health care, and eventual eviction. Thirteen percent of homeless patients surveyed in a national study said that poor physical health was a factor in their becoming homeless. Of those patients, half said health was a “major factor” and 15% stated that it was the “single most important” factor.

            The experience of homelessness poses very real hazards to one’s health. With the exception of obesity, strokes, and cancer, homeless people are more likely to suffer from every category of chronic health problems. Homeless people frequently lack access to the most basic health care services. The vast majority of homeless people are among the 42 million people in the United States who lack health insurance of any kind-- public or private.

            Establishing health care as a right will correct a fundamental social problem that contributes to increasing homelessness. Three important principles of health care reform still must be satisfied: universal health insurance coverage, guaranteed access to health care services, and comprehensive benefits. Universal coverage - for all people - establishes the basic human right to health care, but does not go far enough. The health care delivery system must be accessible for homeless people, with clinics conveniently located and no barriers of cost or provider attitudes. Comprehensive services-including substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and dental and vision care-must be readily available for people, including those in particular need because of their homelessness.

            Bringing homeless people and poor people at risk of homelessness into the health care system will ease the pain of life on the streets, reduce the impact and cost of communicable diseases and other illnesses, and help to avoid unnecessary deaths on the streets. For homeless people, health care is literally a matter of life and death.

            Until the health care system includes all poor and homeless people, targeted programs that respond to some of the health needs of the homeless-such as Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) and Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH)- require our support.

            HCH is a McKinney Act program designed to help provide health care for homeless people who do not have access to health services. HCH projects are successful (in some cities) because they are designed and controlled by local communities to fill significant gaps in existing health care delivery systems by providing comprehensive care in accessible clinics. HCH services close to 450,000 homeless men, women and children each year. However, the crumbling indigent care network, the development of managed care, stagnant federal funding, and the increase in homelessness have made it impossible for HCH programs to reach the majority of homeless people in America. As a result, waiting lists and turn-away rates have increased.

                        The PATH Program targets mental health block grant funds to the needs of homeless persons with mental illnesses. Approximately 20-25% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness. Homeless people with severe mental illness tend to remain homeless longer, encounter more barriers to employment and housing, and live in poorer physical health. These individuals require ongoing access to a full range of treatment and rehabilitation services in order to stabilize both their illness and their lives. To ensure this needed care, community-based services, such as PATH, must be expanded and increased in number.

            No federal funding stream targets the treatment needs of homeless people with substance abuse disorders. Perhaps more than any other health condition, chemical dependencies put homeless people at risk of death on the streets. Yet waiting lists for treatment slots are impossibly long for poor and homeless people. On January 1, 1997, over 140,000 adults disabled by substance abuse disorders lost the SSI benefits that many had used to pay for housing and which made them eligible for Medicaid, and are now appearing on the streets, made homeless by unenlightened government policy.

            HIV/AIDS has had a devastating impact on homeless people. At least 3 % of homeless people test positive for HIV, and 16% of single adult homeless men in New York are HIV positive. People with HIV/AIDS often face discrimination in searching employment and housing: 36% of people with AIDS have been homeless since learning they had HIV or AIDS. Adequate treatment of this complex illness requires stable housing, yet persons with AIDS die on the streets of our country.

            Tuberculosis, still the number one infectious disease killer of adults worldwide, is a disease of poverty to which homeless people are vulnerable because of the congregate settings in which they live and their lack of accessible health care. Fourteen percent of those affected by TB in the United States are connected to homelessness in some form. Much more must be done to identify and treat homeless persons infected with TB, without violating their rights or threatening their precarious sheltered arrangements.

            Through the collaborative work of service providers, community groups, and local, state, and national organizations, these issues can be brought to the forefront, and effective models for resolution and positive change can be created and shared. On this sad Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, we remain committed to positive changes and to less death and suffering on the streets of our nation.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Freedom’s Changing Definition

With the decision by the United States Supreme Court not to hear our appeal of the Grapevine licensing case we asked Homeless Grapevine vendors their opinions about freedom. This decision comes at a time when despite not having a directive from the city regarding vending and licenses, the police took it upon themselves to issue four tickets to our vendors. This did not stop until the City Prosecutor asked the police to stop ticketing while city officials had time to develop a policy for issuing licenses to Homeless Grapevine vendors.

            We wanted to know if this changes the vendor’s impression of this country or the concept of free speech. We asked: In light of the recent Supreme Court decision about the newspaper, what is the state of freedom in this country or what does freedom mean to you?

Stanley:

            You could have opportunities to exercise your ideas. This is supposed to be a land of opportunities to go after your goals. Hell, no, I am not free, when the police can do anything they want. If I were really free, then before they went into my check (for taxes) they would ask me. They tell us to shut up just because they have a badge or are an elected official. If you refuse they can make your life miserable.

Beatrice:

            No (this is not a free country.) You should be able to write or speak your mind and do what you want to do. In this country someone is always going to have something to say about what you say. I can go anywhere that I want to. As a homeless woman, I have a lot more freedom than the homeless man.

Kim:

            No (this is not a free country,) because you cannot do anything you please. If it was a free country then you wouldn’t work full time for such a low wage. Just like with this paper the Mayor doesn’t want us to sell it and so he wins.

Mirko:

            Yes, I feel that I do live in a free country. It’s the fascists that don’t want a free country. They take away our free speech and freedom of the press. They take away our streets and our free enterprise. They are taking away our freedom of speech that our fathers and grandfathers and relatives fought for. All because of NIMBYISM. They are trying to stifle our freedom of speech if we let them. There are a lot of renegade police that are trying to take away our rights.

Angelo:

            I think that we are going to see free speech come under question more and more. Especially as more and more newspapers come under corporate control. I think that our first amendment rights are unclear in the mind of our legislature.

Buzzy:

            We are supposed to have freedom of speech and press so we should be able to sell our wares without going through all the courts and all that other stuff especially since vendors in other cities don’t have to get a license or anything to sell their papers. I think this is a biased move on the part of Mayor White.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Food Stamps Under Attack

Commentary by members of the Staff of the Ohio Empowerment Coalition

     Cincinnati members of the Ohio Empowerment Coalition left early in the morning of December 16th, in a last effort to stop the JCARR (Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review) from voting through acceptance of an Ohio Department Of Human Services policy to cut off the adult portion of food stamps when sanctioned.

     We went knowing that the JCARR was heavily in favor of this sanction. H.B 408, The Ohio welfare policy for families that was signed into law in July, made no mention of cutting off food stamps to children or adults if under sanction, only that food stamps would not increase.

     We already had a partial victory. JCARR had voted to not cut food stamps for an assistance group under sanction. Arnold Tompkins, Director of the Ohio Department Human Services (ODHS), unhappy about the JCARR members not supporting him in cutting off food stamps for children designed a compromise.

     Even though we lost this issue, it was very close. The final vote was a tie: 4-4. It required another vote to overturn the ODHS policy of sanctioning adults with the loss of food stamps. What was very encouraging for us was the fact that the legislators who sided with us stated they did so after hearing testimony from our side. Senator Greg DiDonato made the motion to overturn the ODHS policy, saying he has changed his mind after listening to our testimony!

     We had enough influence to sway four legislators to vote against the ODHS policy!!

The vote was 4-2 with 4 for us when the JCARR hearing ended at 12:30. The four legislators who voted for us were Senator Greg DiDinato, Representative J. Donald Mottley, Senator Leigh Herington, and representative Michael Verich. When a reporter questioned Rep. Joan Lawrence about how the last two-committee members would vote, she retorted, “They aren’t here, but I know they will vote on my side.” (That is, with ODHS policy). The final two deciding votes were from non-present legislators who had until 5:00 PM to vote.

     Right before the vote, the JCARR chair asked the representative of ODHS if she had any final comments on our testimony. She had the final say and refuted nearly all the truths we had spoken out about. Even though 374 assistance cases of single-parent households and 14 2-parent households (after a massive termination of two-parent families) occurred in Hamilton County in October alone of this year, she testified that no loss of food stamps had occurred in Ohio during October or November due to sanctions.

     She also refuted our testimony that many recipients do not know they can win a hearing if they appealed. She did not understand our testimony. We had stated that many times recipients do not know when caseworkers make mistakes on policy rules. Cassandra Barham had testified, “People are coming to us who have been sanctioned by mistake, but how many people are out there who don’t know their caseworker made a mistake? They don’t think they could win an appeal against the authorities. So they don’t bother to try.”

     One of the legislators questioned the ODHS Legal Advisor who testified. Why, if ODHS knew the federal government did not require children to lose their food stamps under a sanction, did ODHS adopt such a harsh policy? If the Federal Government did not require it, did ODHS initially want to cut off children from food stamps? The ODHS official was at a loss for words. Welfare Rights Coalition members believe ODHS officials knew full well what the government requirements were, but ODHS wanted to use as large a stick as possible to punish recipients into compliance (or submission).

     Other members of our statewide welfare rights coalition, the Ohio Empowerment Coalition, testified at this hearing, including Logan Martinez of the Miami Full Employment Council (Dayton) and Mark Stansberry of Columbus. They spoke out on the effects that food stamp cuts (and all the sanctions) would have on Ohio’s poorest citizens. Gregory Payton of the Ohio Empowerment Coalition and staff at Cincinnati’s largest shelter, spoke fervently against the cutting of food stamps and the other sanctions, as well.

     “At the Drop Inn Center, I see mothers and children coming in who are on the streets with no place to go. What do we do about them? The family shelters are full and have waiting lists.” The Drop Inn Center is a shelter for single men and women without children. Margaret Hulbert of the United Way and Lisa Hamler-Podoloski of the Ohio Food Policy & Anti-Poverty Action Group testified strongly against the food stamp cuts.

     The Ohio Empowerment Coalition held a successful Press Conference before the Hearing in the Statehouse Atrium. At least three TV stations, the Associated Press, and two major newspapers did interviews with members of OEC. The TV stations filmed our skit, “The Christmas Carol” with Cassandra Barham starring as Scrooge (Mr. Tompkins). “The Columbus Dispatch” reported on our play depicting Arnold Tomkins as Scrooge.

     Even though we didn’t “win” a complete victory on the food stamp sanctions, the Welfare Rights Coalition and Ohio Empowerment Coalition made a powerful impact. Recipient voices were heard, and swayed the vote to a tie. Because of our united testimony on this issue, and the many calls and letters from our supporters to JCARR, sanctions have been softened. Families will not lose all of their food stamps. We will continue to monitor these sanctions and work for policy changes that are a hand up, not a big stick to beat down.


Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24

Earn Extra Money with the Grapevine

*Set your own hours

*Keep all the profits from the sale for the newspaper

*This is not a front for Pan Handling

*Each paper is $.15 and is sold for up to $1.00

*Training and Educational/career assistance is provided.

*Establish a work record, and oversee and an independent business.

*The Grapevine is the Street newspaper voice of the poor.

*We accept articles or commentaries from homeless/low income people.

*With a little work our vendors do make a great deal of spare change.

*Our vendors certainly make more than those working at the temporary services.


For more information contact:

Stanley Williams
216-241-1104

Training available weekly

The Northeast Ohio Coalition
for the Homeless, (NEOCH)
2012 West 25th Street #717
Cleveland, OH 44113
Located across from the West Side Market

"It’s not pan handling, it is a business!"


Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24