Suicidal Homeless Man Dumped from Hospital onto Shelter Floor

By Brian Davis

             On September 24, a young man, 21 years old, showed up at the shelter doors with burns over three fourths of his body. He was dripped off at the men’s shelter by the only public hospital left in Cleveland.  The hospital social worker did not check with the shelter ahead of time, but just dripped “Ray” off.  There was no room at the shelter, as is the case every night of the year in Cleveland.  Ray had to spend the night on the floor.

             Only a few days earlier Ray had tried to commit suicide by lighting himself on fire.  He had second and third degree burns.  He spent 24 hours in the Psychiatric Ward, and was given four paper prescriptions for pain and anti-depressants and dumped at the Volunteers of American shelter.  The staff at the VOA was outraged, but said that it was not the first time that this ha happened.  Officials from MetroHealth hospital could not be reached for comment.

             The shelter workers secured a place at a shelter that provided mental health services, but before Ray could be transferred he left the shelter.  In the past, Ray had returned to his mother, but he left no word as to where he was going.

 Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 30 October – November 1998

Street Papers Mark World Poverty Day

            October 17, 1998 was the United Nations “Overcoming Human Poverty” commemoration day, and street newspapers from around the world remembered the day by placing the same image on the front page of their papers. The Grapevine joined other street papers from across North America and the world by printing the accompanying “Stop Misery” image.

            From a report published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) it is estimated that 1.5 billion people earn less than one dollar a day. Only 30 percent of the countries that have formulated plans for reducing poverty have set time-bound goals to overcome it. The report calls for more determined and focused efforts, backed by adequate local resources.

            Overcoming Human Poverty report shows that overseas development assistance is at an all time low. One of the main messages of the report is that the rich cannot assume that they know what is best for poor people. It notes that the poor “have the strongest motivation and the greatest stake,” in the outcome of national and international efforts to improve their situation. The report goes on to say, “Systems of government need to be sufficiently decentralized, open and transparent so that they can respond to their priorities.”

            The UN Development program has goals to halve the percentage of the population who are income poor by 2015; reduce by three-fourths the percentage of children who are malnourished; and reduce by three-quarters the percentage of young adults who are illiterate. The UNDP affirms that “freedom from poverty is an inalienable human right.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH October-November 1998

Major Changes for First Year of Welfare Reform

by Brian Davis

          After one year of reform of welfare in the state of Ohio, there have been dramatic changes, but activists wonder if at the end of the day the community is better served. The Department of Human Services has split into two separate fields. One is known as Health and Nutrition, which coordinates Medicaid, childcare, and the food stamps program. The other is the Work and Training Department, which administers the cash program and works with the participants to assist in self-sufficiency skills, including finding a job.         

          The Department has decentralized its services by setting up seven satellite offices in the community with four more in the works. They have reassigned almost every case manager and provided training to almost every worker in the department. The caseworkers are in the community in an attempt to be more convenient to their clients. In the past two months, the department has started to convert individuals from paper food stamps to electronic stamps that work in much the same way as a bankcard.

            In Cuyahoga County, the welfare caseloads receiving cash assistance have dropped to 16,000 families down from 27,000. Cuyahoga County is actually behind other counties in reducing the welfare caseload with some counties cutting as much as 80% of those who were previously receiving assistance.   

          Case Western Reserve University Center for Urban Poverty studied those who left the welfare rolls between 1996 and 1997. They found that 46% were not making any money one year after leaving welfare, and another 11% were making less than $4,000 per year. They found that only about one third of the population was making $12,000 or more a year after they had left the welfare rolls.

            With the number of workers in training, the new phone systems, and the confusion over the changes, both the Welfare Department and the County Ombudsman, an independent mediator and arbiter, report dramatic increases in complaints from recipients. Joe Gauntner, Director of Health and Nutrition, feels that those problems are in the past. He said, “We feel we are on the downward curve [of complaints].”

            Rosalinda Denore, Special Projects Coordinator of the Empowerment Center of Cleveland, is not so sure that the worst of the problems are in the past. “There certainly is a lot of confusion,” Denore said. “They have set it up to make it easier, but they have still not put the pieces in place. They need training about being respectful and empathetic to the clients.”

            One local activist described the changes as similar to the reorganization of a hospital with the doctors now sweeping the floors, the nurses now acting as administrators and the orderlies appointed as the surgeons. Denore said, “There are some who are really trying hard. Overall there is a lot of confusion and missing information and they cannot take time to help their clients.”

            Steve Wertheim, the County Ombudsman, said that the time it takes to resolve cases is taking a lot longer than in the past. “This was a manageable problem in the past. We used to be able to get in touch with the supervisor and get the problem solved,” said Wertheim. He went on the say that the problem has not improved over the last two months.

            The local homeless women’s shelters report that they are finding it difficult to refer women to the department to sign up for assistance. They have to send a social worker with the client to be able to ask the right questions and know the direction a woman must take to get the correct benefits. This is creating an additional hardship on the shelters that have to expend staff time to get women with children the benefits that they are entitled to receive.

            Gauntner defended the program changes, saying that it is natural to expect some confusion when a new system is introduced. Gauntner said that the training was almost complete. “I think that things are starting to settle down. I would say that we try to be responsive to our customers.”

            Wertheim said, “I don’t have a problem with having patience with the system. Basically, the people who are paying are those in the programs. They tell us to ‘have patience.’ We need to hold them to the same standard that they are holding the community and their customers to.” The people receiving cash assistance are being sanctioned and dropped from the program at an alarming pace while their time clocks continue to tick. The County will not accept “have patience” when clients show up having voluntarily quit their jobs because they have to care for a sick child. They are given a three-month sanction.

            A number of different activists raised the concern that at the same time the County is making huge cuts in the number of people being served it is expanding its overhead by opening neighborhood centers. Denore raised the question that if the rolls keep decreasing will the neighborhood centers be open and the staff trained, and there will not be anyone left receiving assistance? And is the money that was going to families being used to pay rent, additional staff, and security for the new centers?

            Gauntner said the Department still has not reached the estimated number of staff budgeted in January of 1998. He said that in comparison to years such as 1990 when there was a large welfare caseload, the department has hundreds of fewer employees. Gauntner said this was a legitimate concern but cautioned that the task of the Work and Training office is to support people who have left cash assistance and support them so that they don’t have to come back to cash assistance.

            The change that will have the impact on the largest number of people is the conversion of food stamps from paper to an electronic benefit card. In the next 6 months, 40,000 people will need to begin to use the benefit card in Cuyahoga County. Gauntner said that most of the stores have converted to the electronic benefits, and 5, 000 people have started using the system. The problem with the new system noted by both the Ombudsman’s Office and the Empowerment Center is the delay in getting the benefits when a problem arises. It takes sometimes as long as 48 hours to correct a problem when a card does not work. This is 48 hours the family goes without food or must make other arrangements.

            Denore raised the concern that with the confusion in the welfare department with a new phone system, new case workers, and all the rest, why also convert the food stamps program? Gauntner agreed that it would have been easier to wait a year to convert the system, but said that he really has not heard many complaints from the customers. He said that besides a few “start up problems” the system is working well.

            Denore said, “I don’t think that [Electronic Benefits] will reduce the fraud. People find ways to cheat. I don’t think it will make it better for the people on food stamps.”

            The chaotic system that has existed in the welfare department over the summer and early fall would never have been tolerated in a system directed at a middle-class consumer. When the E-Check system faced long lines and poorly trained staff, drivers were exempted from the requirements until the system was fixed. Despite confusion in the welfare system the time clock continues to tick. Denore said this is representative of the “continued victimization of poor people. They don’t get the respect or proper treatment because they are poor.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH October-November 1998

 

Legal Places to Sleep are Growing Scarce

by Bridget Reilly

On September 6, 1997, I received a “Prohibited Camping” citation from a Eugene police officer. This citation was thrown out of court the following February—or to put it more accurately, it never even went in front of a judge. The city prosecutor dropped the case like a hot potato, because my pro-bono attorney had done some meticulous research that convinced him we were dead serious about challenging the camping ban. So that was a personal victory for me, but it also means that Eugene’s anti-camping ordinance remains stubbornly intact.

In the intervening time I have learned a good deal more about the law, and I want to share some of my observations with other homeless advocates who with to challenge anti-camping laws in the legal arena. The following information has been gleaned from the brief my lawyer wrote for my case, a document from Danielle Smith’s case in which she fought several camping citations, and the chapter on vagrancy laws in American Jurisprudence 2d.

A number of Constitutional arguments have been raised to challenge camping bans in different U.S. cities. What I have found from studying information on several cases is that there are three major issues most commonly raised:

1) The laws are too broad.

2) Punishment of homelessness as a status or class, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

3) Restriction on the freedom of travel, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The logic behind all of these arguments is borrowed from that of past court challenges of the post-Civil War vagrancy laws, in recognition of the fact that today’s anti-camping ordinances are but a modern-day version of those older laws. The vagrancy laws were eventually struck down because they were declared to be “unconstitutionally vague or overbroad.” This means that they targeted a particular status or class of people for engaging in innocent activities such as standing on the sidewalk, which are otherwise considered lawful.

The reasoning of such laws held that this class of people called “vagrants” were not gainfully employed because they chose to be idle, and were therefore prone to committing crimes. Please note that this exact same assumption is made about homeless campers of the present day, and is the root idea behind all of the current anti-camping laws.

The courts and lawmakers nowadays try to obscure this fact by substituting different terminology. Since the vagrancy laws were overturned because it was found that they discriminated against a certain class or status, it is no longer acceptable to use such terms as “vagrant” in the wording of a law. Instead the verb “to camp” is used, to emphasize the act of setting up camp in a public space (which is presumed to be “voluntary conduct”), as opposed to the use of nouns such as “vagrant” which telegraph statements about the presumed character of the person committing the act. In this way the laws attempt to distinguish between the “status” or “condition” of homelessness, and the “conduct” of camping engaged in by homeless people which is a natural consequence of said status or condition.

In other words it is not illegal to be a homeless person; it is only illegal to engage in many of the life-sustaining activities that homeless people must engage in.

The City of Portland v. Johnson case of 1982 was one of the early attempted challenges to a modern-day camping ban. In this case the argument was used that the anti-camping laws, like the vagrancy laws, are “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.” But unfortunately the challenge failed.

This same argument was again raised in City of Eugene v. Smith, 1997, and again it failed. Judge Eveleen Henry’s reasoning went as follows: “. . . The ordinance prohibits certain conduct on public property, without respect to any identifiable group of persons or economic situation. . . . This court concludes . . . that the Eugene ordinance represents a rational exercise of power in furtherance of a legitimate city interest. . . .”

The Pottinger v. Miami case of 1992 was somewhat more successful in at least preserving the right of homeless people to sleep in public places. This was a case in which homelessness was determined to equate with status, and that an ordinance against sleeping in public was overbroad when applied against homeless people, because it punishes them for innocent life-sustaining activities which they have no choice but to perform in public. Invoked were the Eighth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Now, a distinction should be made here between sleeping bans and camping bans; the mere act of sleeping on the ground, after which a homeless person will presumably get up and go somewhere else, can more easily be argued to be a constitutionally protected right. Camping, however, is a somewhat stickier matter. It involves the presence of camping gear and other objects placed so as to “maintain a temporary place to live.” It can also include a vehicle or motorhome in which a person lives, and is parked on a public street for a prolonged period of time, and might have objects adjacent to it that one would normally find in a campsite. (That is my situation.)

It may have been for this reason that the Tobe v. City of Santa Ana case of 1995 was unsuccessful in challenging that city’s camping ban. In this case the concept of homelessness as a status was brought into question and answered in the negative. It was found that laws against camping and “storage of personal property in public areas” do not violate Eighth Amendment protections against punishment for status, are not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad, and do not restrict freedom of travel as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. So this finding represented a step backward in the fight for homeless people’s rights, after the encouraging Miami decision.

From this we can see that the courts spend a good deal of time quibbling over whether homelessness is a “status” or a “condition,” whether the homeless should be officially recognized as a “protected class,” and whether the “conduct” of camping can be treated separately from the economic situation of the “offending” parties. And all this preoccupation with legal jargon serves to obscure the fundamental thinking behind the anti-poor and anti-homeless laws: the assumption that poverty, like “vagrancy,” is a voluntary condition that can be corrected through punishment or enforced servitude, and the even more basic notion that the rich have the right to control the lives of the poor.

It should be further illuminating to discover the actual hidden purpose behind the old vagrancy laws, which was to criminalize former slaves. And these laws in turn were descended from a more ancient set of feudal laws whose purpose was to chase down runaway serfs! Starting to see a pattern here? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these types of laws are designed by the rich entirely for their own benefit, and are invariable enforced against the poor. And therein lies the real explanation for all the anti-camping laws.

It is daunting to realize that it took an entire century to get the vagrancy laws overturned, and that we now face a similar uphill battle in challenging the anti-camping laws. It should also be sobering to realize that these modern-day laws are of the exact same nature as their Medieval antecedents, that today’s homeless are classed in the same category as yesteryear’s “vagrants,” who were nothing more than runaway slaves or serfs.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH October-November 1998

 

Homeless of Cleveland Offer Positive Solutions

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) has been conducting a program called “Creative Solutions” for the past two years. The initiative is designed to push communities to begin to discuss poverty and offer solutions.

            The program began by assembling groups of homeless people at various locations throughout the city. The first step was to determine what the current status of social services and economic opportunities were in greater Cleveland. Those gathered addressed the question of where the greatest needs in the community exist and how those needs are being met. This evolved into the second step of identifying gaps in the current framework. Those gaps included insufficient transportation, housing, and unresponsive shelters. Finally, procedures and steps toward implementing these recommendations were created.

            Homeless involvement in all three of these steps is the key to the “Creating Solutions” program. Those who live on the streets are well acquainted with the current state of homelessness in Cleveland. Each day they confront the obstacles to finding housing, a job, transportation, or a nutritious meal. Therefore, the best way to tackle these problems is to involve homeless in the identification, solution, and implementation of these solutions. The attached document is the end result of this process. The next step is to bring together the political, business, and social service leaders of Cleveland with the homeless of Cleveland in an effort to begin the implementation process. Together they will review the gaps in current systems, proposed solutions, and best ways to implement the recommendations.

            Only through an all-inclusive collaboration between community leaders and customers of social service organizations can we effectively reduce poverty and end the cycle of homelessness in Cleveland

Background

            One of the highest priorities of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOC) is to amplify the voices of homeless people. In 1993, NEOCH agreed to sponsor publication of The Homeless Grapevine, today a statewide voice for homeless people. In 1996, NEOCH initiated a series of bimonthly “Creative Solutions” meetings with homeless people in downtown Cleveland that have continued into 1998. An important outcome of these meeting is the following list of priorities identified by homeless participants and adopted by NEOCH for advocacy in 1998 and 1999.

THE PRIORITIES OF CLEVELAND’S HOMELESS POPULATION INCLUDE: DECENT, SAFE, AND STABLE HOUSING—

The highest priority

            Without decent and safe housing that provides privacy and security, homeless persons are always at risk. Without extended stable housing, services provision is virtually impossible.

Recommendations:

  1. Local Public Housing Authorities should grant priority eligibility to homeless persons both “on the street” and “in shelters.”
  2. Emphasis should be placed on the provision of transitional and permanent housing to permit adults to focus their time and energy on nonhousing needs, including training and employment opportunities leading to self-sufficiency. Many homeless persons suffer from long-term disabilities, both physical and mental. Permanent, assisted living is the only solution that will assure decent, safe, and stable housing for them.

EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

            The surest path to homelessness for those with work experience is a job loss and/or living in poverty. The best prevention for homelessness is full-time jobs that pay “living wages” that place households above the poverty line.

  1. Create and expand job clubs for homeless persons, including persons recently released from prisons. Currently, only 24 slots are allotted for homeless persons. A more realistic number would be in the range of 150 to 200 slots in downtown Cleveland alone.
  2. Establish a temporary services agency on a non-profit basis, with government support, to provide homeless persons with counseling, “living wage” temporary jobs, and links to both training and permanent employment.
  3. Make the provision of Adult Education to homeless and near-homeless people in poverty a priority for Cleveland Public Schools and area community colleges. This includes outreach programs—providing GED and vocational educational classes—in central places where homeless persons can come together in downtown Cleveland and in Cleveland’s low-income neighborhoods.
  4. Create a mentoring program for homeless persons consisting of formerly homeless persons.

PROVISION OF SERVICES

Homeless people have multiple needs for services including but not limited to shelter and meals, medical and emergency treatment, alcohol and drug treatment, employment and training, transportation, and legal representation. The near homeless need preventive services including but not limited to domestic violence and crisis intervention, counseling on eviction and foreclosure rights, and interim financial assistance to pay for rent and/or mortgage payments until household incomes are stabilized.

  1. Homeless persons, the “customers” of service providers, want a greater voice in the management of service provision. Current provision is a one-way street with few providers listening. For both homeless and near-homeless people, participation in activities central to their survival and self-sufficiency is a form of empowerment and a win-win solution for provider and beneficiary.
  2. Homeless and near-homeless people need timely, accurate, and correct information about service availability across the board. Such information should be readily available at shelter and meal sites, service providers, and from public sources including the police, court system, and public libraries.

Shelter and service providers also need better information on their “customers” and their particular needs in order to effectively serve and refer them to other service providers. The federally sponsored ANCHOR program in Cleveland is a start in the right direction. Further, NEOCH believes that local standards should be developed to ensure better quality of provision. Participants in setting local standards should include, at a minimum, shelter and service providers, homeless “customers,” and the City of Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services. In this process, standards developed in other U.S. cities should be reviewed for their applicability and appropriateness to the Cleveland area and Northeast Ohio.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH October-November 1998

 

Harsh Rules of SSI Cause Client Hardship

By Luke Matthews

              I get a little over $400 a month because I am on Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  That has to go for rent, food, and all my living expenses.  I pay 30 percent of my income for my apartment.  Most people on SSI get about$500 per month.  If I were to start work and I made over $60 per month for a few months in a row, then I am convinced that they would cut me off.  If you are able to work at all then you are not eligible for SSI, and I wouldn’t have got on in the first place.

             I was making $10 every two weeks from a sheltered workshop that was trying to teach me maintenance and janitorial skills, and that counted against me as far as getting on SSI.  I first got SSI when I came down with pneumonia and nearly died.  I had tried to commit suicide on more than one occasion before that.  I refused to admit that I had a mental illness.  Also, I could not stand the medicine because of the nasty side effects.  It made me feel groggy all day long then I could not fall asleep at night.  I thought SSI was a scam but I got onto County assistance anyway in the late 1980s.

             They called me a “system abuser” because I was not taking my medicine, and receiving county funds in Kentucky.  They kicked me off, and my landlord realized that he was not going to get any money because I was no longer on SSI and told me to leave.  I hitchhiked to St. Louis where I developed pneumonia and was delirious and was sweaty and smelled real bad.  I was able o get on SSI.

             I went off SSI after a relative gave me an inheritance.  Fortunately, I was approved for SSI again early in 1993 in Cleveland, and then I was able to get in HUD housing.  The thing that was my saving grace was that I was living in an n apartment with no heat for a while and I was doing really bad emotionally.  When they called me to interview me about my mental illness, I did not know what day, or the month or the year.  I knew the street I lived on.  I just couldn’t pull it together.  I was so mentally ill even though I was taking my medication.  They had me diagnosed schizophrenic when I was really schizoeffective, which made my medication not as effective.  The main difference is that with schizoeffective you may become depressed along with paranoia.  It is the most complicated mental illness.

             As it goes, the system penalizes you for trying to work – no matter what kind of work it is.  Some people just shut themselves off from everyone else and just watch T.V. all day             

            In the past, I have had to give money back that my blood relatives have given me.  My parents who are senior citizens have money from working for he state.  They both have health problems, but they would send me money for holidays.  Social Security has a $20 allowance that you can keep in addition to your SSI.  Anything over $20 comes out of your check.  I got two U.S. Savings Bonds and made me pay that back, and they made me pay back more than the bonds were worth.  So they started taking 10 percent out of my check and that will go on for over 10 years.

             They called me “illegal,” even though I came in and volunteered this.  They said, “You have committed a crime.”  I said, “No, you would have never know this.  I did not commit a crime.” I am extremely scrupulous and honest.  If I find a dime at the store, I take it to the manager of the store.  I am extremely law abiding.  I believe that this made me stop recovering from my mental illness, and I got real bad because I had never been a criminal.  It destroyed me.  I started getting black outs from this time on.  It was making my life very difficult to be accused a criminal.

             This also caused me to lose my food stamps.  They said I got this income, and so I had to pay back the $00 in food stamps that I got for two months.  I went off of food stamps for good, because I didn’t want the hassle.  I tried to get help from the Ombudsman, but they couldn’t help, and my caseworker couldn’t help.  The worst thing was the contempt of the County workers in the Food Stamp office.

             Then I gave money to a political candidate, and one week later three different agencies called me up and wanted to audit me.  All three letters from the county, state, and federal governments sent me letters requesting an audit, and the letters all arrived on the same day.  It was such a frustrating thing.  I had to go to all these different financial audits alone.  And I haven’t been recovering as well since.

             Recently, my parents sent me a check for $400.  They usually send over $100 for Christmas, Easter, and my birthday.  I reported all this income because my nervous conditions its called scrupulosity.  It comes from being raised by a person who sees evil in almost everything.  The child then thinks that everything that they do as not good enough or evil.  Not the current month, but three months down the line during the winter.

             I have a lot of fear about this. I said, “I am not doing well emotionally about this.”  So they said I could go upstairs and complain to the U.S. Senator Mike Dewine.  I went in a room that was 9 foot by 4 foot with bulletproof glass and a heavy steel door and a couch.  The receptionist was behind the glass.  I stood for a while waiting for her.  She said, “You can write a letter to the Congressman,” and she gave me an address.  I told her, “I am in a lot of emotional pain.  I have done nothing wrong.”  She said, “You have already done something.”  I did get an appeal form in the mail, but I didn’t want to make waves.  I take what I can get. I don’t want to make enemies of the people who are giving me money.

            So, I saved up the money that I got from my parents so that I could pay the rent.  I have an extra $60 for that month, but I will have to pay the phone and long distance bill.  Basically, I have no money for the month, and my parents are giving gifts to the federal government.  I won’t have any money for food.  I do have $100 in the bank, which I am saving in case my father dies I can go back to his funeral.

            I believe that the Social Security workers are very patriotic and try to save the government money.  I believe that they are rewarded with promotions by how much money they can save the government by cracking down on people.  I think there is an incentive for saving money.  The workers think that the people on SSI are criminals or are ripping off the government.

 I think that their policies destroy the families.  When a blood relative gives you money, and have to say don’t give me money because the government takes it.  I am paying more in taxes then many suburban upper income families.  I am not ungrateful, but the workers make life very difficult.  They make it very difficult to stay on SSI.

  Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 30 October – November 1998

 

Editorial: Children’s Needs Fall on Deaf Ears

           As the year winds down, I reflect back on the state of children in our community with the changes in the welfare system, and I see a series of broken promises.  Our county’s children and their caretakers, both implicitly and overtly, were promised a safety net.  The children were promised that if their mothers got off the welfare roles and went out to get a job, the mothers would be able to support their family.  The children were promised that poor people would have access to health care, quality housing, and a quality education to pull themselves out of poverty.

            As a representative of those who live on the streets, I see that the covenant that we had with our next generation has been broken.  I am very concerned about the outlook for poor children in this time of broken promises.  As is documented so effectively in the past with statistics about how bad childhood poverty is in this community, shelters have seen large increases in the number of children needing services.  The fastest growing population in the shelters is women and children.  The level of children living in poverty in Cleveland is unnecessarily high.  The problem is that there are new federal and state initiatives that can only exacerbate that problem.

             What we seen recently is a dramatic increase in the need for food with pantries and meal sites seeing record usage.  We have seen dramatic increases in the number of homeless women with children and longer stays in the shelters.  We have seen more women with children with AIDS.  Because of the federal government no longer building housing, we have seen a large reduction in affordable housing locally.  There are plans on the table to reduce housing by 1,800 units in Cleveland over the next year.  We see a chaotic welfare system locally with electronic food stamps that do not work, case workers who are unable to be reached, and huge increases in sanctions and case dismissals.  All of these changes in the welfare system mean that children of welfare parents suffer without food or stable living arrangements.

             The state has refused to adopt policies which are available that would ease some of the suffering associated with welfare reform.  State officials have refused to exempt areas of labor surplus like Cleveland from some of the rules regarding food stamps.  They have refused to accept children at 200% poverty into the Medicaid program as the Federal government allows.  They have refused to exempt certain populations from the rules of welfare reform who may need more time in finding a job including domestic violence victims.  And in the most egregious example of executive malpractice, they have turned back money to create welfare to work jobs in the state of Ohio.

             In the past, when the welfare of children was raised, politicians of both parties listened.  We have cast that our, and broken our promises to our children.  In the past two years of a thriving economy, we have seen the shelters remain full every night, and our social service network is showing signs of strain under the pressure of increased demand.  We need to make a new covenant with our future generations and promise universal health care, available jobs with a health care, available jobs with a living wage, available affordable housing that is not administered by the Sate Corrections Department, and quality education that will teach all of our children to be good citizens no matter what community that they live in.

             With signs of an economy that is slowing, we could be in for rougher times ahead.  If we see even a mild economic recession, those families that are staying with other families would become homeless.  Jobs in the areas of high unemployment would be harder to find, and there would be no vacancies in the dry spaces under the bridges.

             Finally, I want to say that it is raining in Cleveland.  In fact, raid does not begin to describe the level of poverty in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, and it is criminal to keep nearly $1 billion dollars in a State Rainy Day Fund.  This money, along with the surplus in the Human Services fund, should be used to create jobs and housing in the neighborhood of Cleveland.

 

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 30 October – November 1998