White Lauds Vendor During Inauguration Speech

Mayor Michael R. White’s Inauguration Speech 1/11/98 at the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church

(Relevant portion regarding The Homeless Grapevine)

"Let us give the Clevelanders of the third millennium greater economic opportunity. Just yesterday, JoAnn and I were out shopping by ourselves, and there was a young man in front of the store that we walked into. This young man was no doubt homeless, he was selling the Homeless Grapevine magazine. I noticed this young man when I went past him. I did not give him any money. I did not buy his magazine. But I noticed that he was standing in front of the store…upright; that he was clear in his articulation; that he was engaging of the people who walked by in a very respectful way. He caught my attention.

We walked into the store, and we walked around and bought a couple of things. And walked outside, and as soon as I got to the door before the vestibule, I still heard this young man engaging people as they walked by, Senator Johnson, talking with them, smiling and doing anything he could not to bother people. But to say to you, ‘I am trying. I know that I don’t work in Downtown Cleveland in a big nice office. I know that I don’t have a job in a factory somewhere. I know that I am homeless. I know I have these economic problems, but through these mannerisms, and through my communication, I want you to know that I am trying to make a way for myself in the best way that I know how.’

I was so struck by that young man, I walked to that young man and gave him a few dollars, and he offered me his paper. And I said, ‘No, I don’t want your paper. Sell it to someone else and make a little bit more money.’ And I started to turn away and turned back to him, and I said, ‘Have you ever worked? Have you worked recently in the last few years?’ He said, ‘No, I really haven’t.’ I said to him, ‘Would you like a job?’ He said, ‘I would like to work. I want to work.’ I said to him, ‘Do you know where City Hall is?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I want you to meet me at City Hall at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. And if you are on time, and if you are in my office at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. And if you want to work half as hard as you are selling these magazines, I have a job for you.’ (clapping).

Ladies and Gentleman, you read and know so much about what I do as the Mayor. You know about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. You know about the hotels and you know about the Save Our Browns Campaign. You know about all these things, and they are good things, and good for our city. But I want you to know that I felt so proud, and by the way Jan, he will be asking for you. (Laughing). I felt so proud, I felt so proud to be able to make a small potential difference in that young man’s life. Because, I must tell you, it is the big things that we do as Mayors, you pay us to do those big things. You pay us to sit in the rooms. You pay us to make the decisions. You pay us to move the city forward. But it is the little things that give me so much personal pleasure.

To be able to bring a new standard of economic opportunity to every man and woman, to every young man and young women in this city who says that I want to work. And I know that through my work, I will have dignity and I can take my family and I can look after my young. Just maybe like Audrey and Robert White in the spring of 1969, sitting in a kitchen table at 9219 Hempton Ave., and Robert says to Audrey, ‘I think Mike is going to be able to go to college.’ The first one in the entire White family to go to be able to go to college. Why? Because they were committed to me, but also for forty years because that man got in his car every single day six days a week and drove to Chase Brass Copper Company. (clapping).

I want, I want, I want that for every family in Cleveland. I don’t care whether you live on Hough or Lorain or Detroit or Superior or in Collinwood. I want that for every family, because I know that if they have that kind of economic where-with-all, if they can gain that kind of dignity, they will take care of 95% of the problems themselves. Let us give them that kind of economic opportunity. (Clapping).

[Later in the Speech:]

In the end, whether you are in the bush in Africa, whether you are on the top floor of Trump Tower in New York, or whether you are standing in front of a store selling the Homeless Grapevine, or whether you are the richest man or woman on earth, all of us are God’s children. All of us have been created by Him to be in this place to do good. So let us bring about a new acceptance and embracing of diversity."

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

When You Thought He Wasn’t There

Through your life you’ve faced some ups and downs, and even a few frowns, but God was always there for you, to carry you through when you thought he wasn’t there throughout your pain and despair though you shed many tears he was there to help you fight your fears reminding you that there’s not one who doesn’t sin in this troubled world that we live in.

God is always there through happiness and pain through the sun and the rain and just as your sister was there for you, God was too. Because there’s nothing that he won’t do for you. You are his child no matter what situations you may face. God continues to reach for you with his never-ending grace. When you thought he wasn’t there, he was the one that said “I care.” He said to me my grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made prefect in weakness.

by Beatrice Marshall

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

We Need Jobs Not Time Limits

Dear Editor:

What is happening to welfare recipients in Cuyahoga County and Ohio? A recent report by the Council of Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland found that from June 1996 to June 1997 Cuyahoga County created 11,760 jobs while 16,639 people were cut from the Food Stamp program. The report also found that in 23 of Ohio’s 88 counties, the number of families cut from the cash assistance to families program (now wishfully called Ohio Works First formerly Aid to Dependent Children) in the same time period was larger than the number of jobs created. The report emphatically states that the data from the report establishes, "that Ohio is not moving families from welfare to work. People are being cut from welfare regardless of whether they find a job, and many tens of thousands of Ohio families are not finding employment after being cut from cash welfare."

Cuyahoga County and Ohio are lagging behind the rest of the United States in job creation and yet we are rushing ahead in reducing the welfare rolls. As happened in the early 1990s when we cut General Assistance to single adults, we have no idea what is happening to those cut from the roles. Are they homeless? Did they move out of Ohio? Did they move back with family? Did they find a job? How can we craft a welfare system that moves people into more self-reliance if we don’t have any information about those leaving assistance programs?

The welfare cuts have a significant impact on a community. Consider that three areas, Glenville, Hough, and East Cleveland have each had over $10 million withdrawn from their community between 1994 to 1997 because of the reduction in food stamps and welfare cash assistance. If we do not begin to create public sector jobs or offer local direct assistance to families, we are going to see the City of Cleveland’s high poverty rate (hovering at 40 percent of the population) increase. There will be neighborhoods in Cleveland that will be absolutely desolate areas with no stores or shops and a massive exodus of people to suburbs or out of the state.

The City of Cleveland should take the lead in monitoring the impact of welfare reform on its citizens. A plan needs to be in place before many of our citizens reach their lifetime limit on receiving aid.

Sincerely,

Randy Cunningham Valerie Robinson

Cunningham and Robinson are members of the STOP Coalition (Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor).

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Thirty Years After King: How Close Are We to Achieving the Dream

by Donald Whitehead

It has been 30 years since we lost Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to an assassin’s bullet in Memphis Tennessee on April 4th, 1968. It was the assassin’s belief that, to kill the dreamer was to destroy the Dream. As we celebrate Martin Luther King day many wonder if the assassin may have been right. So I ask today, "How close are we to Dr. King’s dream becoming a reality?"

In order for us to answer that question, we must first examine "The Dream". As on many occasions historians and journalists have condensed Dr. King’s dream, in order to make it more socially acceptable. Children today learn parts of Dr. King’s dream, they are spared the more controversial parts. The immortal words, "I Have a Dream" will always be associated with substantial gains of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened doors that have seen many African-Americans achieve parts of the American Dream. King’s call for the end to the war in Vietnam and an equal distribution of wealth are less frequently mentioned in writings about Dr. King and his great accomplishments. Let us first address the most popular parts of "the dream." On many days in America, freedom does ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, freedom rings from the mighty hilltops of New York, freedom rings from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, freedom rings from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. And not only that, some days freedom rings from the Stone Mountain of Georgia, freedom rings from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee, freedom rings from every hill and molehill in Mississippi, from every mountainside, freedom does ring. America has come a very long way towards making those immortal words a reality. Yet on close inspection we still have a mighty long way to go.

While acts of institutionalized racism, like the infamous tapes from the board rooms of Texaco still occur in today’s America, they are now met with outrage and are not simply business as usual. While African-Americans are still the number one victim of hate crimes in America, these actions are usually conducted by individuals or a loose-knit group of hate-mongers. While organized hate groups still exist, their membership and effectiveness has fallen on hard times. Today, a more powerful form of racism is the more subtle variety. These bearers of hate hide behind loan denials, fair lending discrimination and red lining.

On many days little black girls and little black boys walk hand in hand with little white girls and little white boys. Dr. King would be pleased about a lot of what has transpired in America, but we still have a long way to go. It is still an uneasy feeling to be an African-American in today’s America

The other less publicized part of Dr. King’s Dream, the struggle to end poverty, continues to be far from reality. When Dr. King was assassinated he was planning the Poor People’s Campaign and a March on Washington. The battle to end poverty, a heroic effort indeed, has proven to be an even bigger challenge than racism. While African-American people were unified in their efforts to end racism, something that effects us all, unanimity ended when rumblings of economic equality were heard.

Dr. King would probably be astonished by recent trends in this country. As some of our people have moved up the economic and social ladder others have been left behind to "pull themselves up by the bootstraps". Poverty continues to disproportionately effect African-Americans. More and more African-Americans are finding themselves homeless in the richest country in the world.

Recent trends in legislation have placed the blame for poverty on those that are in poverty. In a sane, civil, intelligent, and moral society you don’t blame the poor people for being poor. "I predict that 25 years from now America will be just as embarrassed about homelessness as we are about racism", said Andrew Young, former member of Congress, United Nations Ambassador for Jimmy Carter, two term Mayor of Atlanta, and Dr. King’s right hand man. While we constantly hear about the economic boom that America is experiencing, the boom has somehow avoided most of inner-city America.

Shortly after Dr. King’s death we did see an end to the Vietnam War. War still plague much of the world. On the eve of Martin Luther King Day young men stand alert poised for yet another encounter with Saddam Hussein and the people of Iraq. This conflict pales in comparison to Vietnam, however people still die and King would not be pleased. This part of Dr. King’s dream has progressed. Vietnam has ended, but the need for bloody conflict has not. Hopefully, in our lifetime we will find a way to settling conflicts without the loss of lives.

To grade the progress of Dr. King’s Dream would be impossible on a normal grading scale; the scale must be expanded to include an I for incomplete. America still has a lot of unfinished business when it comes to the first part of Martin’s dream. The difference will come when there is proportional representation of a cross section of races sitting atop America’s corporations. When we will be able to stop documenting hate crimes. We look for a day when my walk across the street is not accompanied by the sound of automatic door locks. I truly believe that America will become a land of harmony between people of all colors.

The other part of the dream can receive a conventional grade. It is hard to believe that we have failed so terribly in making this country equal along economic lines. Not only have we failed, we continue to slip farther apart. As the gap between CEOs and workers continues to increase, housing becomes out of reach for more and more Americans. Affordable housing is becoming more and more scarce with each new housing reform law. Welfare reform will set this nation back farther than any single piece of legislation in the history of America!! An F is the only grade possible to give for the economic justice part of the dream.

In conclusion, the assassin was wrong, the dream did not die. Although it is incomplete in parts and failing in others, America still has a chance. Let us just pray that we don’t wait too long to seize the opportunity.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Twenty Years of the Peoples Move

by Bonnie Neumeier

Twenty years ago on a cold blizzardy Friday night a momentous event occurred which has gone down in our Over-the-Rhine history as THE PEOPLES MOVE. The ShelterHouse Volunteer Group, operators of the Drop Inn Center Shelterhouse, consciously planned and organized a secret, "illegal" midnight move from its second home at 1324 Main Street to our current location at 217 W. 12th Street, which had been owned and not too long vacated by the Teamsters Union. This group decision of conscience was made deliberately to get out of a dilemma we believed to be inhumane. Our story unfolded like this.

Drop Inn Center began in 1973 as a volunteer people’s program in a one room storefront at 1711 Vine Street, a much needed place in our neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine for men who were homeless and suffering from the disease of chronic alcoholism. As numbers grew and government money secured to build a program and hire paid staff, Drop Inn moved to a five room place at 1324 Main Street in 1974. In the following couple of years the program got into the hands of social professionals who were not based in our neighborhood and had different ideas about the direction of the program. The community was angered when a decision was made without community input to close the Drop Inn on weekends in Spring of l976. We were angered further by talk of eliminating the overnight shelter and running a daytime program only. The winter hawk would soon be upon us and we did not want to see our people freezing to death out on the streets or in abandoned buildings. People had to be alive first before any hopes of recovery from chemical addiction. This pushed us into organizing a grassroots effort to reclaim our Drop Inn Center, we named ourselves the ShelterHouse Volunteer Group. We were determined to keep the shelter open on weekends even if we had to do it ourselves. And we ended up doing it ourselves with food donations we hustled and use of only two of the five rooms.

During that winter of l976-77 the ShelterHouse Volunteer Group raised more grievances and these conflicts resulted in the professional staff quitting. On March 31st, l977 the community, through the ShelterHouse Volunteer Group, took back control of the Drop Inn Center and have been running it seven days a week ever since. Those were hard times, for when we got control the funds were withdrawn and it took a long lobbying effort to get those state funds restored. From that day forward we would stand firm on the principle that neighborhood people had the right to staff and run their own shelter. And residents of the shelter had the right to participate and give their strong voice to the operations of their temporary home.

AND EVEN HARDER TIMES WERE TO COME

Within a very short time the Health Department threatened to close down the Drop Inn Center. They claimed our kitchen and building had 36 code violations even though this very same kitchen two months earlier was approved for a food license. We were given no reasonable time to comply. Many of the major building violations were the responsibility of the landlord, Leslie Fox, who for years neglected the building which was now in much need of repair. We were being blamed for the slumlord’s neglect. We marched to City Hall and pleaded with City Council to not carry through with the close down orders. We were willing to comply with the orders, but we needed more time. The inspectors came in like storm troopers. When we had complied with all orders, new violations were cited. Inspection after inspection, and we still could not pass the test. It was clear to us that we were selectively being harassed by the Health Department. We would never pass inspection because the powers that be did not support community people running a community program at Drop Inn Center — we were not professional enough in their eyes.

By this time we were feeling the crunch of being over-crowded. We were getting nowhere with the landlord. Nowhere with passing inspections. Rat holes, water leaks, sewage backup were everyday problems. Conditions in the building were unlivable for persons homeless sleeping there, many on the hard cold floors. We could not see surviving another winter in this rundown place where icicles dangled from the walls in the back storage room. The requirements demanded of our shelter by the Health and Building Departments could never be met by the 1324 Main Street facility. We started dreaming of a better and bigger facility. We wanted a place big enough to house men AND WOMEN. We wanted a warmer, safer, dryer place. We wanted out from under this landlord who refused to do needed repairs.

So we started scouting around the neighborhood for a building large enough to meet our needs. (We were not interested in going out to Lunken Airport where it was suggested we look. We were determined to find a place in our own neighborhood.) Of all the buildings we looked at, the former Teamster Union Hall at 217 W. 12th Street had the best possibility. We started negotiating with the Teamsters on a rental lease agreement. We kept the site quiet for we knew this location would be controversial, being one of the top spots for future profit-making development so close to Music Hall. But it was our top spot for a home for the homeless, and that was top priority.

We were not making headway fast enough with the Teamsters, and feeling the moral urgency to get out of the unsafe environment, we plotted THE PEOPLES MOVE for midnight on January 13th, 1978. We did not plan for the blizzard. Though the blizzard made the move more treacherous, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave us time to get somewhat settled in before the City discovered we were there. The City’s reaction to our move was to wage a vicious campaign to close us down. On January 20th we were forced into court. The Building Department ordered our immediate eviction and our leadership was threatened with criminal charges. That day with 14 inches of snow on the ground and zero temperatures, the 120 homeless residents of the shelter were waiting with intense anxiety their fate as buddy gray on the witness stand defended our decision to "illegally" move into our new home. The prosecutors grilled him unmercifully. The Spirit moved with us that day. Judge Outcalt ruled on behalf of the homeless. It was a victory for the people.

THE PEOPLES POWER RAN THROUGH OUR VEINS THAT DAY

As I reflect on our courageous action twenty years ago I can still feel the peoples power that ran through our veins that day. It was no small feat to do what we did. Many people, including the residents, staff, neighborhood and community-wide volunteers, participated in the midnight move. We were taking control of our lives and determining our own history. We were actors, not victims. We were powerful, not powerless. We were hopeful, not despairing. We were risk-takers and not afraid to stand our ground. We stood our ground despite obstacles and determinedly weathered many torrential rains that came pouring down on us as a result of the location we chose and the City feeling threatened by our peoples action. Inspired by the Spirit of our peoples just anger I wrote the song next to this article during that tumultuous time in our history.

There are many more chapters to our Drop Inn Center story. My hope is that we continue to remember the fighting spirit that was a part of our beginnings...and never lose sight of that. The story and the spirit needs to be passed on so those who join our effort along the way can feel and claim in their own veins the power of the people and carry this struggle forward...so that someday all our sisters and brothers will be afforded a safe and decent place to call home. I believe to remember and honor our peoples history reminds us that where we are today was made possible by those who labored and loved before us. Our participation in this important work is our ticket on the Freedom Train which has been going down the track for centuries. Once aboard we must continue to tell the stories of people seeking justice and freedom.

(This story is dedicated to all those who gave their hand and heart to The Peoples Move.)

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Twenty Years of the Peoples Move

by Bonnie Neumeier

Twenty years ago on a cold blizzardy Friday night a momentous event occurred which has gone down in our Over-the-Rhine history as THE PEOPLES MOVE. The ShelterHouse Volunteer Group, operators of the Drop Inn Center Shelterhouse, consciously planned and organized a secret, "illegal" midnight move from its second home at 1324 Main Street to our current location at 217 W. 12th Street, which had been owned and not too long vacated by the Teamsters Union. This group decision of conscience was made deliberately to get out of a dilemma we believed to be inhumane. Our story unfolded like this.

Drop Inn Center began in 1973 as a volunteer people’s program in a one room storefront at 1711 Vine Street, a much needed place in our neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine for men who were homeless and suffering from the disease of chronic alcoholism. As numbers grew and government money secured to build a program and hire paid staff, Drop Inn moved to a five room place at 1324 Main Street in 1974. In the following couple of years the program got into the hands of social professionals who were not based in our neighborhood and had different ideas about the direction of the program. The community was angered when a decision was made without community input to close the Drop Inn on weekends in Spring of l976. We were angered further by talk of eliminating the overnight shelter and running a daytime program only. The winter hawk would soon be upon us and we did not want to see our people freezing to death out on the streets or in abandoned buildings. People had to be alive first before any hopes of recovery from chemical addiction. This pushed us into organizing a grassroots effort to reclaim our Drop Inn Center, we named ourselves the ShelterHouse Volunteer Group. We were determined to keep the shelter open on weekends even if we had to do it ourselves. And we ended up doing it ourselves with food donations we hustled and use of only two of the five rooms.

During that winter of l976-77 the ShelterHouse Volunteer Group raised more grievances and these conflicts resulted in the professional staff quitting. On March 31st, l977 the community, through the ShelterHouse Volunteer Group, took back control of the Drop Inn Center and have been running it seven days a week ever since. Those were hard times, for when we got control the funds were withdrawn and it took a long lobbying effort to get those state funds restored. From that day forward we would stand firm on the principle that neighborhood people had the right to staff and run their own shelter. And residents of the shelter had the right to participate and give their strong voice to the operations of their temporary home.

AND EVEN HARDER TIMES WERE TO COME

Within a very short time the Health Department threatened to close down the Drop Inn Center. They claimed our kitchen and building had 36 code violations even though this very same kitchen two months earlier was approved for a food license. We were given no reasonable time to comply. Many of the major building violations were the responsibility of the landlord, Leslie Fox, who for years neglected the building which was now in much need of repair. We were being blamed for the slumlord’s neglect. We marched to City Hall and pleaded with City Council to not carry through with the close down orders. We were willing to comply with the orders, but we needed more time. The inspectors came in like storm troopers. When we had complied with all orders, new violations were cited. Inspection after inspection, and we still could not pass the test. It was clear to us that we were selectively being harassed by the Health Department. We would never pass inspection because the powers that be did not support community people running a community program at Drop Inn Center — we were not professional enough in their eyes.

By this time we were feeling the crunch of being over-crowded. We were getting nowhere with the landlord. Nowhere with passing inspections. Rat holes, water leaks, sewage backup were everyday problems. Conditions in the building were unlivable for persons homeless sleeping there, many on the hard cold floors. We could not see surviving another winter in this rundown place where icicles dangled from the walls in the back storage room. The requirements demanded of our shelter by the Health and Building Departments could never be met by the 1324 Main Street facility. We started dreaming of a better and bigger facility. We wanted a place big enough to house men AND WOMEN. We wanted a warmer, safer, dryer place. We wanted out from under this landlord who refused to do needed repairs.

So we started scouting around the neighborhood for a building large enough to meet our needs. (We were not interested in going out to Lunken Airport where it was suggested we look. We were determined to find a place in our own neighborhood.) Of all the buildings we looked at, the former Teamster Union Hall at 217 W. 12th Street had the best possibility. We started negotiating with the Teamsters on a rental lease agreement. We kept the site quiet for we knew this location would be controversial, being one of the top spots for future profit-making development so close to Music Hall. But it was our top spot for a home for the homeless, and that was top priority.

We were not making headway fast enough with the Teamsters, and feeling the moral urgency to get out of the unsafe environment, we plotted THE PEOPLES MOVE for midnight on January 13th, 1978. We did not plan for the blizzard. Though the blizzard made the move more treacherous, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave us time to get somewhat settled in before the City discovered we were there. The City’s reaction to our move was to wage a vicious campaign to close us down. On January 20th we were forced into court. The Building Department ordered our immediate eviction and our leadership was threatened with criminal charges. That day with 14 inches of snow on the ground and zero temperatures, the 120 homeless residents of the shelter were waiting with intense anxiety their fate as buddy gray on the witness stand defended our decision to "illegally" move into our new home. The prosecutors grilled him unmercifully. The Spirit moved with us that day. Judge Outcalt ruled on behalf of the homeless. It was a victory for the people.

THE PEOPLES POWER RAN THROUGH OUR VEINS THAT DAY

As I reflect on our courageous action twenty years ago I can still feel the peoples power that ran through our veins that day. It was no small feat to do what we did. Many people, including the residents, staff, neighborhood and community-wide volunteers, participated in the midnight move. We were taking control of our lives and determining our own history. We were actors, not victims. We were powerful, not powerless. We were hopeful, not despairing. We were risk-takers and not afraid to stand our ground. We stood our ground despite obstacles and determinedly weathered many torrential rains that came pouring down on us as a result of the location we chose and the City feeling threatened by our peoples action. Inspired by the Spirit of our peoples just anger I wrote the song next to this article during that tumultuous time in our history.

There are many more chapters to our Drop Inn Center story. My hope is that we continue to remember the fighting spirit that was a part of our beginnings...and never lose sight of that. The story and the spirit needs to be passed on so those who join our effort along the way can feel and claim in their own veins the power of the people and carry this struggle forward...so that someday all our sisters and brothers will be afforded a safe and decent place to call home. I believe to remember and honor our peoples history reminds us that where we are today was made possible by those who labored and loved before us. Our participation in this important work is our ticket on the Freedom Train which has been going down the track for centuries. Once aboard we must continue to tell the stories of people seeking justice and freedom.

(This story is dedicated to all those who gave their hand and heart to The Peoples Move.)

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

The Medical Homeless Population Grows

by Eileen

     I became homeless due to medical reasons. Last August, I went blind from cataracts. I had them removed and now I can see OK. I just haven’t had much luck finding a steady job since then. I go to those Temp agencies, but that only gets you work for a short time. I can’t find anything steady. I have cancer, too. Sometimes I just feel too tired to go to the agency to get work. A couple of times, I fell asleep in the office. If they call your number and you don’t respond because you’re asleep, you lose your turn. A lot of people don’t want to hire anyone my age, they all want someone young. I haven’t seen any of my family in ten years, they’re all over Ohio, nobody lives in Cleveland. I tried to find out where they are but they aren’t listed in the phone book. Sometimes I think they’ll find me frozen to death. I try to stay elevated off of the ground. I usually sleep at a bus stop on the bench. I look at the schedules and try to sleep where the busses don’t run too late. I used to sleep at any stop, I got tired of that fast. The bus drivers would sometimes wake me up to see if I was OK. You don’t get any real sleep that way, then you’re tired the next day.

     I really want to see my brother again before I die. I want to see my sisters again, too. I have a lot of nieces and nephews I’d probably never even recognize. It’s been a long time. My husband died years ago. After he died, I had to get a job. I never had a good job. I always made just a little money, enough to pay my rent and buy food. After I went blind I lost my apartment. Everything changed. I don’t cook anymore. I lost everything, even pictures of my family. Oh well, you can’t go back and change things. I just have to try to survive. I have to take things one day at a time.

Eileen is an elderly homeless women with health problems who the Grapevine talked to at West Side Catholic.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

The Big Issue Invades America

Commentary Opposing Big Issue

by Staff at Street Sheet, San Francisco

     Yet another aspect of homelessness has gone corporate: street newspapers. The Big Issue, a glossy paper started in England and sold by homeless people, has landed on the shores of Los Angeles. Having already spread throughout Europe, South Africa, and Australia they have turned their greedy little eyes to us.

     The paper calls itself The Big Issue leaving people (especially advertisers) with the impression that the big issue is homelessness. Yet, homeless issues, by their own admission, are only about 20% of the paper’s content and homeless people are an even smaller percentage of the paper’s multi-national staff.

     The vendors, who are charged per issue to sell this product, don’t reap any of the economic benefits of the millions that are brought in annually through the vendor charges, advertising sales, and foundation support. Instead, The Big Issue has established its own foundation so as to dole out grants and gifts in communities (countries) where they plan to set up shop. If they have this kind of money, why can’t they pay the salespeople (vendors) a living wage with benefits? You can bet their advertising staff are paid and paid well.

     The Big Issue is about big bucks, pure and simple. Dishing out a few nickels and dimes to some homeless people doesn’t change the situation. It also doesn’t lessen their reputation for being of a "Poverty Pimps". They are exploiting homelessness to sell their advertising and homeless people as a cheap (charged) labor source to sell their product.

     For The Big Issue to claim, as they do, that they lift people out of poverty through the sales of their paper is nothing short of bullshit. No street newspaper can claim that it’s vendors leave poverty with the money they get from selling the paper. That kind of mentality is right up there with "the wealthy panhandler" and "the Cadillac-driving AFDC recipient."

     The inevitable consequence of this corporate move is the licensing of homeless people to sell street papers and thus less opportunity for homeless people to vend them.

     Street papers in their simplicity benefit everyone involved. The organization that publishes them gets to present to the general public homeless and poverty issues from a perspective that will never be in the mainstream press or even the alternative press. Homeless and poor people have an opportunity to positively express themselves through writing, artwork and poetry and to see their works and ideas out in the community, while at the same time others are able to panhandle with their dignity intact.

     The general public gets the best benefit of all: they learn about an issue that many will agree is tearing this country apart. And they get to learn about it without the barrage of commercialism and sensationalizing so common in the mainstream media today.

     The Big Issue corporate approach to this important social contract severely threatens to kill it. Please don’t buy a copy and please write them at: The Big Issue, Fleet House, 57-61 Clarkenwell Road, Farringdon, London EC1 M5NP or e-mail them at London@bigissue.co.uk and tell them that their exploitation of poor people will never sell here.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

State of the Union

by Angelo Anderson

Like many Americans, I watched the President’s State of the Union Address. I felt it was necessary to see what, if any changes, might be coming from the federal level that might have a large effect on the homeless population of our nation. I listened to the entire speech and here is what the President had to say.

The President delivered what amounted to political bullshit. He proposed billions of dollars in new spending on social programs that have proved popular with the public, to be paid for through closing unspecified loopholes, and billions of dollars in tobacco taxes that may never be enacted.

If the economy soars and generates surplus revenue beyond what is needed to balance the budget and pay for the president’s spending priorities, Mr. Clinton hopes to use the excess money to begin to ensure the future of Social Security.

Two years after he declared the end of the era of big government, Mr. Clinton painted a picture of federal activism, from subsidies for the care of babies to expansion of the health care program for the elderly. He presented a democratic plan to distribute the spoils of a strong economy to school teachers, working parents, laid-off workers and Medicare recipients. Here’s what he proposed:

• Submit a balanced budget for 1999 (three years earlier than his agreement with Congress requires).

• A White House conference to devise ways to put Social Security on a sound footing.

• Spending $7.3 billion to hire 100,000 more teachers.

• Raise the minimum wage (now $5.15) but he did not say by how much.

• $21.7 billion for child care initiative, doubling the number of kids eligible for subsidies.

• Tax credits to pay interest on nearly $22 billion in bonds to build and renovate public schools.

• Let Americans as young as 55 buy into the Medicare system.

• Prevent Iraq from using weapons of mass destruction.

• $18 billion to the International Monetary Fund to aide Asian economics.

• $1 billion to pay United States’ debts to the United Nations.

• Congressional support for his decision to keep American troops in Bosnia.

• Urged the Senate to ratify a treaty expanding NATO.

All this without smoke, mirrors, hidden wires, or a crystal ball. One hell of a magic act if you ask me. Someone forgot to mention the millions of people who will become homeless because of the sweeping welfare changes. Someone forgot to talk about the thousands who will be put on the streets as government subsidized housing comes under the knife. Someone forgot to mention the thousands who will be laid off as big companies reduce their work forces in an effort to get larger profits. And someone forgot to mention that unless jobs that pay more than minimum wage become available, more and more Americans will find themselves living in poverty.

I need not tell you how the politics are of our President, -- of all Presidents for that matter, and his part-time policy makers. The strength and security of this country can not depend on the ebb and flow of public opinion, pollsters, and populists. No, it ain’t about that. No, the moving forward of a nation must take priority over this and we must not forget that the backbone of our country was built on the marrow and fortitude of those left out.

Unfortunately, we seem to have fallen prey to the crusader of good feelings, to the illusion of safety so readily and naively embraced by the insipid believers in the so-called family of man. We are becoming a population of followers. (As Voltaire once said, "This mania of maintaining that everything is well when we are wretched.")

But we, of all people, who work on the front line to stem the rise of homelessness know differently. We know all is not well.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

SOLUTIONS

Create a job club for single homeless adults and a non-profit temporary service.

This is a second in a series of articles on the proposals of homeless people and other members of the community to substantially reduce homelessness in Cleveland.

The big news is welfare reform, and the community is meeting on a regular basis to address the needs of adults who may be expelled from the welfare roles. They have created a giant bureaucracy to move people into the workforce. This was not done when all those single adults were cut from General Assistance in the early 1990s. There was no community initiatives or attempts to move single men into livable wage jobs.

There are many homeless people working 20 to 40 hours a week in horrible low wage jobs who may work 20 years and never make enough to get a place. It is amazing that a person can work full time for minimum wage and not be able to afford a place to stay.

What needs to happen is that the City of Cleveland, where most homeless people reside, and Cuyahoga County need to create a job club for single adults who are not eligible for public assistance. This means a place to talk about possible job opportunities and work on getting jobs together. This would mean approaching employers about hiring people on the streets after the complete a training program. This would also mean constructing links with educational opportunities for single homeless adults.

The City has come along way with the redesigned Job Training Partnership Act program, but there are still major hurdles for getting homeless people into the program.

Many of the homeless who work are forced to work at what homeless people characterize as "the plantation." The temporary services downtown pay less than minimum wage and send their worker out to the most dangerous and difficult jobs in the city. From working with heavy machinery to working with heavy metals to cleaning up at the stadium, the temporary services are really the only thing in town for homeless people. The temps have a large population to choose from, and there is no stability. Some days the homeless sit and wait all day to be sent out with no pay.

Our community needs a not-for-profit temporary service to allow homeless people and those hard to place. The homeless would make a better income, and would not be exploited by the downtown temporary services.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Reflections of New VISTA Volunteer

     A letter to my new homeless acquaintances selling The Grapevine & my past and present Cleveland friends buying The Grapevine:

     
I began my work with the Northeast Coalition for the Homeless on January 26, 1998. It is another of what the government refers to as a "paid volunteer" job. I recently completed such a two year position with Peace Corps in the country of Armenia and now have the privilege of a one year assignment with AmeriCorps Vista in Cleveland, Ohio.

     Since I am so new to this job, working with Grapevine and its sellers is going to afford me the opportunity to see the "other side of the coin" as the phrase goes. I have been a buyer of Chicago’s Streetwise for a long time and have my regular vendors. They have been on "my corners" or outside of "my coffee houses" and our conversations have been along the lines of the weather, how sales were going, the Bulls, the Bears, or the Blackhawks. The most personal I have ever gotten was to talk about Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago; one of those Chicago institutions that I think does a great job. Now I have the opportunity of getting to know first hand, the background stories of the sellers (as much as they want me to know), the problems that are faced every single day, the events that create extra havoc in their lives, the lack of respect for their existence by some of those of us in "authority" positions, and the limited future that plagues their lives.

     I will be with NEOCH for 12 months and my view points and preconceived notions will change on both sides of the spectrum. Reporting those changes in Grapevine will give me the opportunity to tell my non homeless friends that my homeless friends who want to sell you this paper, are great men and women. Don’t be afraid (yes, I know you are sometimes), buy the paper and get a feel of what their life is all about. Write letters to the editor if you have a strong statement you want to make, advertise your business to help the Grapevine vendors and yourselves (the circulation is 10,000 every six weeks) and keep an open mind to what the problems are. You might even ask yourself, what your life would be like if you were handed the breaks some of these people were. Would you be a survivor? Stop in at the NEOCH office and see what it is all about, maybe volunteer your time for an upcoming project.

     To the vendors, thanks for letting me work with you for this year. Let me know what I can do to help. Be patient with me, I will need time to learn the ropes.

Loretta Land
AmeriCorps*VISTA

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Poverty Overwhelms a Family

by Eric and Carol

The reason we are homeless is because my husband was using drugs and alcohol. He didn’t lose his job, he quit it. He got tired of working for nothing. He didn’t make much, but we had the basics. We have two small children, but the county took them away. The apartment we were living in was being rehabed and it really wasn’t safe. There were electrical wires hanging out of the outlets and there weren’t any screens in the windows. I told a social worker I felt overwhelmed. I was talking about always running to see what the kids were doing because I was afraid they would touch one of the wires or climb out of a window.

The social worker misunderstood and thought I meant I was overwhelmed and possible taking things out on my kids. We already talked to the Judge. He said we could get our kids back when we find a new place to live, and that we’ll be monitored by social workers. I really don’t care about the monitoring, there isn’t anything for them to find. My husband goes to A.A. and N.A. meetings. He hasn’t been using anything for the last few months. We just need to find work and get a place to live now.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Police Officer Brags of Harassing Homeless

Dear Editor,

     I spent this weekend at my nephew’s second birthday party. In my company, among others, was my cousin, a Cleveland police officer. The way that he told the following story, however, with his proud smile and expectations that the room full of family would be impressed with his actions, shocked me more than I thought possible. He shared his accomplishments of waking all the homeless men who sleep near the corner of East 17th Street and Euclid Avenue (if I remember correctly) by blaring his sirens and honking his horn at 4:00 A.M. just for the sake of waking them for his personal amusement.

     Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the mission of the Cleveland Police Force was to "Protect and Serve." I never knew that either this did not include the homeless citizens of Cleveland or that in addition, it meant disturbing those who have nowhere to go at 4:00 A.M. Possibly, this is something of which we, the concerned citizens of Cuyahoga County, should be aware.

     Despite the pompous and yet cowardly attitudes of the ‘important people’ of Cleveland who we teach our children to respect and trust, I encourage the staff, volunteers and supporters of The Homeless Grapevine to continue their efforts to protect and serve the homeless and severely low income; and to personally question their friends, family and peers about their views and what they are doing to make Cleveland a better place to live in and visit.

Staci Santa

Santa was an AmeriCorps*VISTA for NEOCH from 1996-7.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

National News from the Streets

From Boston, Spare Change...

The demise of rent control in Massachusetts has had a dramatic effect on homelessness in that state. Many landlords are now choosing to evict current residents when their leases expire and rent to new tenants at exorbitant rental rates. This move has affected residents of all ages as well as families. Many residents report being forced to move after 25 years of occupancy in the same place. Despite Chapter 239 (a just cause to evict law) a record 7,158 evictions were filed in Suffolk County Housing Court last year alone. Viable, permanent solutions include an increase in the minimum wage or bringing back rent control.

From Chicago, StreetWise...

Federal Judge Wayne Anderson will hear closing arguments a motion for a temporary injunction on Wednesday designed to stop the City of Chicago from discarding on the personal property of homeless Lower Wacker Drive residents. Judge Anderson is likely to rule in the case following closing arguments in January.

The homeless people filed the motion after the city allegedly violated court-supported, temporary procedures for off-street cleaning of Lower Wacker Drive on December 1, 1997. On that date, police and sanitation workers conducted a "sweep" of the homeless, told them to leave without their belongings, and used racial slurs and threats of arrest to intimidate them. In violation of the agreement, homeless people were not allowed to move their belongings. When people tried to leave the scene with their property, it was taken out of their hands. City workers allegedly discarded blankets, important documents including a marriage certificate, asthma and diabetes medicines, and personal remembrances including family photos.

In January, 1996, homeless residents of Lower Wacker Drive filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Chicago alleging that the city’s "sweeps" violated their rights by seizing and/or destroying their personal property. In March 1996, lawyers for the homeless and the City of Chicago developed court-supported temporary guidelines for carrying out cleanings of Lower Wacker Drive. Pursuant to the guidelines, the city must:

• Provide 12-hour advanced warning of the sweeps by posting signs and making verbal announcements under Lower Wacker Drive.

• Give homeless people the opportunity to move their belongings fifty feet from the area to be cleaned. Possessions not moved will be discarded.

• Prohibit Streets and Sanitation cleaning personnel from disposing any possessions moved by the homeless individuals

The homeless have been organized by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). CCH believes that housing is a basic right in a just society. With the current critical shortage of affordable housing in Chicago, CCH supports the right of homeless people to live on Lower Wacker Drive. Through systematic research and intensive organizing of homeless people, CCH is working to end homelessness in metropolitan Chicago. CCH focuses on the root causes of the problem, including a serious shortage of affordable housing, the increasing scarcity of living wage jobs, and a lack of health and supportive services for poor people.

Also...

The Coalition to Protect Public Housing is currently battling the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) over the displacement of families in sub-standard housing. CHA has been criticized for failing to reinvest money into their properties over the last 60 years. As a result, many of CHA’s properties fail to "meet the minimum standards of quality, safety and security" ( StreetWise Vol. 6 No. 8, January 6, 1998). CHA has chosen to evict many of their tenants instead of bringing their units up to code like other landlords are required to do.

Current federal legislation no longer provides for one-for-one replacement of public housing units that are demolished. However, congress is now considering legislation that would nullify the one-for-one replacement rule. "According to the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, ‘CHA plans to demolish 18,000 units of CHA’s low-income family housing stock. That’s 34,000 - 50,000 men, women and children who could end up homeless because there would be no requirement for replacement of units to be destroyed.’ (StreetWise Vol. 6 No. 8, January 6, 1998)"

From San Francisco, Street Sheet...

One and a half years after Mayor Willie Brown’s ex-Matrix platform, the assault on homeless people still continues. Although Brown originally stated that "the Matrix program is a cynical publicity stunt that redirects scarce police resources away from violent crime and street corner drug sales to herding homeless people from neighborhood to neighborhood. This dangerous charade called Matrix will end when I take office." (Street Sheet, Dec., 1997, Smoke and Mirrors: Brown’s Non-Policy on Homeless) Brown has continued the harassment of homeless people started by his predecessors, Mayors Agnos and Jordan.

Despite Mayor Brown’s original promise to end the police harassment of homeless individuals, he has recently tried to step up the assault. He asked the city of Oakland to loan him heat-seeking helicopters to locate homeless people sleeping in Golden Gate Park (Oakland refused). He has ordered intensive sweeps of Golden Gate Park taking those "scarce police resources" away from serious crime in order to remove sleeping people from the Park. It is noteworthy that 1,500 people are turned away from area shelters each month. As homeless people look on, their possessions are seized and discarded by the Recreation and Parks Department. Brown has also worked to make homelessness a misdemeanor punishable by six months of jail time.

From Seattle, Real Change..

Inquiries into Washington State’s Workfirst plan have revealed many problems with the state’s welfare reform plan. Many of their DSHS social workers were poorly trained in the new program and find themselves unable to address clients’ needs. In addition, clients have found industry unwilling to provide jobs with livable wages. "By flooding the workforce with people who can be hired without fair wage or benefits, and simultaneously removing the safety net of welfare and Medicare, welfare "reformers" and employers will be able to offer less to workers everywhere. Put in classic supply and demand terms, there aren’t enough jobs for all those who must be moved from welfare to work. This makes workers less valuable and they will be treated as such." Real Change Jan. 1998, " Hearing Faults Workfare")

Nationally..

Late last month, President Clinton announced that he would request an increase in federal aid to help homeless Americans find homes and become self-supporting. The new budget proposes an increase of $133 million more to HUD than last year’s budget of $823 million. The new plan is also expected to add 34,000 new Section 8 vouchers for homeless, mentally ill individuals. Despite the increase in Federal spending, it is expected that the programs aimed at providing housing will still fail to meet the needs of the growing homeless population according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. (See page 9 for details.)

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Joe Mama Mohammed

Joe Mama Mohammed just so happened to fall in the category of royalty. 

Well, in so few words, Joe Mama was the King of Ohio City. 

Like every loser Joe Mama came from a long line of Homeless Kings and Queens, and found himself one day King of Dirt Road Ohio City.

The life and times of Joe Mama was filled with adventures and excitement.
Such as sleeping in abandoned buildings and eating out of public trash cans.
As the King of Ohio City he was known for his brilliant mind which was powered by the drug Thorazine.
Trying to stay alive was no hard task for the Dirt Road King. He loved a challenge.

One day Joe Mama decided to leave Ohio City and set a course for life in the Marine Corps.
And so he was leaving his brilliant ways of survival to followers and losers on the Dirt Road.
And they will always remember the horrible smell that Joe Mama referred to as his body fragrance.
The entrance exam was no match for this Thorazine powered brain and he passed with an A.

The Sergeant and Colonel were very pleased with the test results. We must make this our mission Joe Mama .
And so time went on Joe Mama found himself on a no return mission around the world.
With all the survival techniques he has learned back on the Dirt Road he was sure to be King of the World, but Joe Mama met a Dead End street.
It was the end of the line.

Dark was the night and the stars were shining bright.
There stood in the moonlight a man six-foot-six and badder than Hell.
But he suffered with anxiety from some wicked woman’s spell.
He raced about the world chasing every female he knew, but when this became expensive this made the strong man blue.

So many women and so little money, a complex situation for a bee and its honey.

Perhaps one day I’ll solve this puzzle or maybe break the spell that’s got me wound up in chasing this tale.
His fate was bad and he got AIDS. Now slowly but surely Joe Mama’s life fades.
The wicked woman surfaced and said to this man. That life’s but a Bitch, conquer if you can.

by Tony Walker

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

 

IT’S TIME YOU REALIZE THAT WE ARE ORGANIZED

CHORUS:

It’s time you realize
That we are organized
And our spirits can’t be killed
By your lies and underhanded deals

We’ve worked too long and hard
To have our program busted
By your cold encrusted...bureaucrats.

You claim you understand
But still it’s NO to our demand
As you debated, studied more
Flooding waters drenched our floors.

Just look at where your money goes
To fix up stained glass windows
And you pay your Manager
More than double what we asked for.

Does this say that one man’s pay
Can mean more to you today
Than a YES vote for a place
For hundreds of people to stay.

Now that Donaldson has staged
To care for animals in a cage
Our Peoples Move was bold and wise
Ha-Ha...we caught you by surprise.

You tried so many dirty tricks
To trap us by your code-stick
Your midnight raids and fire drills
Failed at the Board of Appeals.

Every move that you did make
Helped our cause, was YOUR mistake
Every plot that you designed
Brought more people to our side.

Your underhanded Master Plan
To force us folks from our land
It will never go your way

We know that monkeys in a zoo mean
More to him than homeless people do.

On a cold and blizzard night
We moved into an old union site
Cause we will fight you day after day

This is the song written by Ms. Neimeier written for the People’s Movement

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

I Want to Find A Way Off the Streets in 1998

by Kevin

     I guess what led to my being homeless is bad family structure. My parents are divorced and both live out of town. I was staying with one of me step sisters but I just couldn’t tolerate it anymore. My step sisters all have their own problems. Most of them have kids and just don’t have any room. One of them uses drugs, the others like to gamble. I don’t want to live with them. There are shelters, so I really don’t have to go that route. I’ve done a lot of different work before, I washed cars, worked as a landscaper, a press operator, and I did silk screening. That’s a business I’d really like to open myself. I’d like to get up some money and open a silk screen printing shop kinda like Daffy Dan’s, but in Georgia. I want to go and live near my father.

     I’ve been having a hard time finding a job that pays a decent wage. I might call my father and go back to Georgia to look for work till I can open my own place.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Highlights of the 1999 Proposed HUD Budget

Community Empowerment Fund: The budget proposes $400 million in grants for a HUD Community Empowerment Fund to help economic distressed communities create and retain an estimated 280,000 jobs.

Community Development Block Grants: The budget proposes a $50 million increase for an improved Community Development Block Grant Program...bringing the total funding to $4.7 billion.

Brownfields: The budget seeks $25 million in increased funding to redevelop contaminated industrial sites called brownfields - doubling this year’s funding.

New Housing Vouchers: The budget seeks $585 million in new funds for more than 100,000 new rental housing vouchers — compared with no funding for new vouchers this year. HUD has not received funding for new vouchers since 1994. Of the 100,000 new vouchers, 50,000 would be provided through a new $283 million welfare-to-work initiative announced earlier by the President to provide stable housing to families struggling to move off welfare rolls and join the workforce. A second initiative would provide $192 million for 34,000 additional Section 8 rental assistance vouchers for homeless people moving from shelter care into permanent homes. The 1999 budget also asks for $60 million to provide an additional 10,600 Section 8 vouchers and $50 million for 8,800 new vouchers targeted to elderly and disabled Americans.

Homelessness: The budget calls for $135 million in increased funding for homeless grants—combined with $192 million for 34,000 rental assistance vouchers for homeless people (included in above paragraph) - for a total of $1.15 billion to help more homeless Americans get housing and become self-sufficient. This represents a nearly 40 percent increase over this year’s enacted funding of $823 million.

Housing Discrimination: The budget requests 422 million in increased funding to fight housing discrimination, for a total of $52 million - a 73 percent increase over this year.

HOME Grants: The budget proposes &50 million of additional HOME grants for a total of $1.55 billion in resources to provide permanent housing to low-and moderate-income families.

Public Housing: The budget calls for $50 million in increased funding to finance capital improvements in public housing, boosting total capital improvements in public housing, boosting total capital improvement funding to $2.55 billion. Capital funds may be used to upgrade viable housing units, demolish obsolete units, provide continued assistance to displaced families, or build replacement units. In addition, funding for the HOPE VI program, which demolishes and replaces severely deteriorated public housing, would remain at $550 million. The budget also fully funds public housing operating subsidies.

Homeownership Zones: The budget proposes $25 million in new funds for Homeownership Zones - large-scale revitalization efforts to create neighborhoods of family homes and promote inner city homeownership.

Lead Hazard Reduction: The budget seeks $25 million in increases funding to control lead hazards in and around housing, for a total of $85 million - a 40 percent increase over this year.

Housing For People With AIDS: The budget seeks $21 million in additional funds for the housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS program, for a total of $225 million - a 10 percent increase.

Enhancing Tenant Choice in Section 8: The budget requests $20 million in new funds to help0 13,000 low -income families receive Section 8 vouchers find homes outside low-income neighborhoods through the Regional Opportunity Counseling program.

Housing Counseling: The budget requests $5 million in increased funds for housing counseling to boost homeownership, for a total of $25 million - a 25 percent increase.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25

Get Involved With Your City!

by Richard Kiefer

     Volunteer opportunities are available in the homeless community. If you feel like experiencing community service first-hand, don’t be scared. A homeless shelter can, in truth, be one of the most boring places on earth. A few hours spent volunteering at a soup kitchen can really make a difference.

     Don’t worry, you can feel like you are acting out your faith. Homeless people are shunned in public and often brighten considerably when someone finds time for them and treats them with decency. No one can solve the problem of homelessness, but if people get involved in their neighborhood they can change a little corner of the world.

     Remember not to have any preconceived assumptions about homeless people. Don’t push your faith. Don’t throw money at the problem. Do take time to hear a story and try to be a patient listener. Do dress in less expensive clothes.

     Some homeless shelters attract street criminals who will waste your time. They are not really looking for help just a hand-out. Nevertheless volunteering is still all right for youngsters if they are accompanied by an adult. The world is an imperfect world.

     Expect to do volunteer work which is practical. If you have skills such as dishwasher, truck driver, cook - you can make a difference. (Medical skills and art teachers are also needed). A homeless shelter is a business and volunteer labor is needed to run it.

     If you are interested in volunteer opportunities in the homeless community, please call NEOCH at 241 - 1104. Get involved!

Editor’s Note: Kiefer is a long time volunteer for the Coalition for the Homeless, and wrote this to advise potential volunteers in shelters or meal sites.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25