Temporary Labor Agencies Exploit Homeless

By George

            I would like to see something done about the temporary agencies. I suggest running a news article in the Grapevine. I think that the temp agencies are really hard on people, and work them too hard for minimal pay. Most of the jobs pay around $5. Some pay 7.50 an hour, but they are way too low.

            I go to the temp agency and wait to be selected. Sometimes if the agency knows you and if you have had a problem, they will pass you over and give the higher paying work to someone who “just walked in” and hasn’t waited at all. If you don’t have a car, the agency will take you to the job site in their van. Usually you wait an hour and the transport time can be another half an hour depending on where the work is located.

            I usually work 7.5 hours. When I get finished they make you wait another hour for the van back to the agency. Sometimes the agency charges $3.00 for the van ride, which is deducted from your pay. They may also deduct money for advances for lunch money. SO, you might spend 11-12 hours in total (transportation time and work time) and only get paid $27 (after taxes, deductions, etc.)

            I think that it is demeaning and not too motivational to be working as a temp and getting paid $5.00 and hour when you might be standing next to someone (who is a permanent worker) making $15 or $16 an hour. Sometimes those workers will “stand around” and tell the temp workers what to do.

            At the beginning of the month (when welfare checks are issued) the temp agencies will be “really nice” to people because they need workers. At that time you can get better pay and better jobs. But most of the agencies are rough. I have specifically worked with Minute Man and Area Temps, but I have heard Ameritemps is the same way.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH December 1998 – January 1999

Staff at the Youngstown Mission Lack Compassion

By Grapevine Bob

Editor’s Note: Bob Eubanks went to Youngstown and stayed in the Rescue Mission to investigate whether the stories that had been previously reported were true. He stayed in the shelter for a series of nights and then traveled around Youngstown. Part 1 of a series.

            I met a man who previously owned his own home, became homeless, came to Youngstown because he had heard about a place called the Rescue Mission. He had a medical condition called Diabetes Mellitus. One concern of a diabetic is the very slow rate at which they can recover from a cut or injury. Some diabetics have been known to have a foot or leg amputated because of gangrene setting in. Mike, while staying at the Rescue Mission one morning noticed his foot was very sore and swollen so he asked for some assistance in getting medical attention. Mike was told the address to the nearest hospital. It was raining heavily, and so Mike asked if someone could take him to the hospital.

            Mike said he had heard this Rescue Mission took in over a million and a half dollars in donations. Surely he thought that he could be transported to the hospital. He was wrong. Mike was told, “No transportation is available.” He heard one supervisor say, “We are not insured. Sorry, Pal.” “Well maybe since it’s raining so hard some one could give me a lift in a personal car”…”Sorry pal,” was given again in response.

            So Mike walked to the hospital. The next day at the hospital, the doctor ordered bed rest or elevation of the left foot. The doctor was attempting to keep pressure off of his left foot. Once he was back at the Rescue Mission, Mike showed his papers from the doctor to the bosses. “Oh yes, but after you are at the Rescue Mission five days you must join the staff as a worker unless you are employed.” Mike was told bed rest was out of the question and that he would be required to [do his] regular work assignment regardless of what the doctor said. So that he could stay in the shelter, Mike did his regular work over the next three days. He noticed the selling of his foot. Mike asked the Rescue Mission staff to call a nurse or doctor about his foot.

            The nurse who came regularly noticed the swelling and told Mike he should go to the hospital. Once again, the Mission could not provide transportation. The nurse on a return visit noted Mike had done nothing about his left foot and had not gone to the hospital. Mike was afraid that he would lose his spot in the shelter and so asked the nurse to be discreet.

            Somehow the nurse made some telephone calls, and cut through red tape. She called the hospital and talked to the doctor. She explained the situation, and the lack of transportation. A friend of the doctor provided the transportation to the hospital.

            Once at the hospital the doctor stated to Mike that he was within 2-3 days of losing the foot! Mike was admitted to the hospital. Upon his release he was able to work with a few people in Youngstown who helped him find a lovely new brick home that he could afford.

            How did he get this house? Mike says with a wink, “An ‘angel’ found this house for me!” And he is up walking on two feet now.

            I met another man, Skinny; with whom I struck up a conversation because he was from the same hometown. I left him at the Rescue Mission. He works days and cannot understand why the rules of the Rescue Mission cannot be change to help the situation of the homeless. Skinny works days, getting back at 4 or 5 p.m., but sometimes as late as 6 or 7 p.m. When he gets back to the Rescue Mission, he has to sit in the TV room because the call for beds does not come until 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. He takes a shower every night. Skinny does not get into bed until 10 p.m. At 5:30 a.m. in the morning, the staff wakes everyone up.

            Skinny said he saw a guy at the Rescue Mission on the next bunk doing black magic chanting. This guy was worshipping Satan. Skinny asked him why or how did he get into Satan worship? The guy, who at age 20 was homeless, says, “My mom spoon fed me religion. I rebelled. Now I worship Satan. I’ve got the right to religious freedom, don’t I?” It was ironic that a religious shelter would have a man who worships Satan staying in their bunks.

            Skinny said that the Rescue Mission has a forced religion program, regardless of your denomination, that he objects to. Skinny says, “I’m homeless, but not godless.” He just does not think that a person should have to practice a certain religion to stay in a shelter.

            Skinny was a resident at the Rescue Mission. He said that they have audio and video recorders which can be used to monitor the homeless men’s conversations. Skinny talks in whisper. The police came to the Rescue Mission three times that night to look for a suspect. “They always come here look at the homeless men and women who are unable to work and tell them to leave the Rescue Mission,” Skinny said. No matter what the weather conditions are like, and it does not matter that the individual does not have a place to go.

            I was told I could get some decent clothes from the Rescue Mission mail on the Wednesday that I was there. I was forced to just get on the Rescue Mission bus until 10 a.m. When I was about to take the bus, the day supervisor said, “You can not get clothes. Those clothes are for people in the program.” I asked, “Well how about if I go into the recreation room?” The staff member said that no, you’ve go to be in the program or on the staff to go to the rec room. I had to wonder whether the rules were made for homeless people or if homeless people were consulted about the rules?

            The story could not be done with out the help of two concerned professionals of the Youngstown community who must remain anonymous but provided me with a lot of help and insight.

            Perhaps due to the dismantling of welfare programs that were intended to protect the less fortunate and a shortage of affordable housing and the decline of jobs available in Youngstown there is a growing need for shelter. In Youngstown that is only one real emergency shelter and that is the Rescue Mission. One likes to think that the Mission is for the people and not that the people are there for the Mission to do fund raising around.

            When any group of people cohabitate there must be rules. But many of the rules at he Mission do not serve the people who stay there. And many of the people who I talked felt that the rules needed to be changed.

            Some people who contribute to the financial stability of the Mission would be quite surprised at how their dollar was cut. How much of donation dollar goes for the Rescue Mission programs which are centered around serving the homeless? And how much goes for overhead and fundraising?

            Well, the Rescue Mission has a Mission Mall, only men at Rescue Million are not eligible unless they’re in the program. After 5 days, you must go in the program, which is religion based housing program, and you must work at tasks to keep the shelter running. This seems like a good thing, but as I saw with Mike, what about the people who cannot work due to physical disability? If you are not in the religious based housing program you cannot go to the Rescue Mission Mall. I thought you should be able to get clothing right at the Mission and not have to travel all the way to the Mission Mall (across town).

            On Thursday, a man with his daughter came in with a donation of winter appeal – sweaters, hats, gloves and warm clothing. The staff directed him to a door where meals are served. This door cannot be opened without a key. The staff of Rescue Mission have to open the door. [A word about the staff: Many are rehabilitated formerly homeless people who do not have any training, have poor communication skills, and are not licensed social workers. They seem “insensitive” to the needs of the homeless. Any verbal exchange with a staff member of the Rescue Mission could result in immediate expulsion.]

            The donation was then given to a staff member in the staff only room. The rest of the Mission staff gathered around the staff member as he pulled clothing from bags, which started a commotion of snatch and grab among the staff. The staff circled around the donation bag and the homeless watched from the outside.

            The staff took first pick of the clothes, leaving the leftovers for the homeless. The Mission staff are also eligible to get clothes from Rescue Mission Mall and the 5 day shelter residents cannot.

            To the credit of the Rescue Mission, a supervisor took items of clothing from a staff member who had two or three items and said, “these are suppose to go to those in need.” The supervisor did not notice the other staff member who saw the supervisor coming and hid the clothing in order to keep his bounty.

            If this happens when donated clothing comes in, what happens with larger donation? I saw a great many things that disturbed me with the Rescue Mission. With an increasing need in the community, I saw a lack of concern by the staff of the Rescue Mission for those on the streets. I saw donations being used by the staff and the leftovers passed onto the homeless. I also saw people forced to work who were violating doctor’s orders.

Editor’s note: Grapevine Bob plans to continue his story in the next Grapevine about his week in the Rescue Mission shelter in Youngstown.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH December 1998 – January 1999

 

Mini-Stand Down Attracts Over 400

By Beth Prebel

           The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Bishop Cosgrove Center sponsored a “min” Stand Down on October 30. The event was held to follow up with clients that had been treated at the larger event in August. Many agencies participated including Xchange Point, CEOGC, Prevent Blindness Ohio, and a number of Cuyahoga County organizations.

            George, a 53 year old man, felt that the Stand Down was a good idea, and very helpful. He said that it was really rough out there and that there are a lot of people out there on the streets. “You see a lot of smiles and happy faces in here, but it is really hard out there.” He said that the items that were handed out were good, and the she’s, blankets, thermal underwear, socks, and gloves will really help, especially wit the cold months approaching. George also commented that the Cosgrove Center does a good job.

            Cosgrove fed the crowd of 400 with donations from the Cleveland Food Bank while NEOCH distributed donations. The VA Medical Center generously donated a number of cold weather blankets, gloves and sleeping bags, while NEOCH distributed women’s shoes donated by Timberland Company and the Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network in collaboration with Rob Landau’s Shoesonthenet.com program.

             Another man who did not give his name enjoyed the Stand Down, but thought it didn’t do what it was advertised enough. He felt that there some people were treated better than others. He said that some people were given more than one pair of shoes. Event organizer Angelo Anderson said all the shoes were given out in a fair and equitable manner.

            A young woman, Andrea, said the Stand Down was good, but she wished it had been better advertised. Items that were handed out were important. She has been homeless for about six months and said, “Weekends are the toughest.” She said jobs are really needed for people.

             Ken Vail, Executive Directory of the Xchange Point, was pleased to be at the second Stand Down since he missed the first one. He said he would like to see more of them. He thought that more public figures and politicians should attend. Commissioner Tim McCormack did attend the Stand Down.

            Vail also added that it was important for clients to see all levels of personnel from the service agencies present at the Stand Down from director on down. It would give the homeless a sense of self-respect if the were “treated with respect and dignity” from big-name agencies, larger organizations, or public figures – because the clients are the “experts.”

            “I thought the Stand Down was needed,” Said Cedric of the Alcohol and Drug Addictions Services Board. “Because of welfare reform, there is a lot of misinformation out there. People need to get good information. A safety net is needed,” Cedric said.

             Anderson said, “The event was a great success. In the future these smaller Stand Downs might become the norm, with each focusing on a particular problem that homeless people confront.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH December 1998 – January 1999

Councilman Jackson Holds Forum to Address Homelessness

On November 21, 1998 Councilman Frank Jackson of Ward 5 convened a meeting with those who stay on the street to discuss priorities and solutions. Over 120 people showed up at Pop’s Soul Food on E. 55th and Woodland, and the discussion lasted for one hour before a meal was served. Jackson began the meeting by talking about why he convened the meeting and he touched on the Salvation Army proposal to operate an expanded shelter in Ward 5. He said that there was $400,000 available in the Emergency Shelter allocation which would be used to address some to the concerns raised at the meeting. Jackson said NEOCH would work with a smaller group to refine and develop the suggestions raised at this meeting over the next month, and present a document to City Council. He explained whey he was not supporting the move of the Project Heat shelters to his ward, and then opened the floor to suggestions.

  1. Problem: There is a need for a seven-day-a-week drop in center for men, like the women’s drop in center, so that men do not have to wander the streets in the afternoon and evening. There is not place to go twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, especially weekends. Another person asked, “Why do shelters close at an hour to 2 hours before drop in shelter open in the morning?” There are not enough accommodations in shelters for people who work 3rd and 2nd shift. Many times if you work third shift there is no place to sleep during the day. There is not enough space for homeless men.
  2. Problem: There is a need for some storage facilities or lockers for men and women. Now, homeless people have to carry all their belongings all the time, which makes it difficult to get a job and leads to a lot of theft. There is a sever lack of access to the telephone. There is not place to get telephone messages and no place to receive mail.

Solution: There should be better access to the drop in centers.

  1. Problem: There is a need for more food sights on off times and days (when others are not open) and better oversight or coordination of food distribution.

Solution: There needs to be better coordination and expansion of food sites to assure that there are always available places to get food.

  1. Problem: There are not any places for washer/dryers for men and showers do not exist in the overflow shelters. Also there are not always personal hygiene items available.
  2. Problem: There is a lack of treatment options for those with a drug or alcohol problem.
  3. Problem: There is a need for more information on what agencies now offer to the community especially jobs information or where to get job training. The temporary agencies exploit homeless people. There are not enough housing or job opportunities for homeless people, especially for ex-felons. There is a lack of information on the shelter and services available locally. It is difficult to find assistance at a shelter for jobs.

Solution: There should be counselors at the agencies who can assist with jobs.

  1. Problem: There is a lack of coordination and oversight of all social service at the shelters or sites.
    1. There is a need for a better management of shelter cards. Why are people kicked out if they lose the card? There also needs to be some attention paid to those who are denied food/shelter for minor infractions of the rules. Many rules in the sites are extreme.
    2. Those who work in the shelters do not understand the problems of the homeless and are often cold and mean.
    3. It is very difficult to get into some shelters, including PASS.
    4. The rules with regard to staying at the shelters are too severe and the shelters do not provide much privacy. There is lack of flexibility in some programs and too much dependence on rules.
    5. The staff at the shelters are not trained, and disrespect those who stay in the shelters. The shelter staff are not trained in CPR & emergency protocol, and in the sites they sleep all night. Shelters ban people over losing a piece of paper or other minor infractions. Shelter workers often have little respect for homeless people.
    6. It is humiliating to sleep on mats on the floor and not on cots or beds.

Solution: There is a need for retraining for the workers including sensitivity training of social service workers. There is a need for some oversight body that looks at the qualifications for getting into the shelters and they need to put some fairness into the entrance policy. Employ homeless people at the shelters.

  1. Problem: There is a need for a way out or a clear path off of the streets. There are too many programs that provide only sustenance and not a viable way to live long term. We have a very disjointed and divided population with no hope or vision for the future. The PASS program is too small to serve the demand for long term solutions to homelessness. People do not always have the will to get off the streets. People are not ready willing and able to get off the streets.

Solution: Expand the PASS program for homeless people. PASS can help people who really have the desire to get off the streets. We need to build communities with permanent housing availability and hope for the future. The speaker suggested the PASS program as a good model for getting off the streets.

  1. Problem: There is no oversight of the payee system. There are many examples of theft of other people’s money. Who is responsible for protection the payee?
  2. Problem: There is a lack of affordable housing for the people getting checks. There are many people who receive some kind of check every month from the government or other agency. They should be able to get a place if they have a steady source of income. There is a lack of subsidized housing for homeless people in the community. There are not enough programs that can help with rent deposit assistance.

Solution: A loan program for rent security deposits at no interest for homeless people. There should be a housing set aside for those who are receiving some kind of check. If you are receiving some kind of check then you should be guaranteed housing.

  1. Problem: These meetings do not lead to any lasting solutions.

Solution: We need to work on permanent solutions by continuing these meetings.

  1. Problem: There is all this money for stadiums and playgrounds for the rich and not enough money for services.
  2. Problem: We have a severe lack of medical facilities that serve those without insurance, and they are concentrated in only a few areas of town.
  1. Problem: There are too many abandoned building including school building and wasted spaces in Cleveland. There are many abandoned buildings in Cleveland and many homeless people who need a place out of the elements.

Solution: Acquire by eminent domain some of those buildings and make them into transitional housing for homeless people. Transform the abandoned schools into learning facilities for homeless people. Squatting should be an option that is investigated and there should be some organizing around squatting.

  1. Problem: It is very difficult for homeless people to get identification, especially if they are from out of town. Identification is way too difficult to get and very expensive.
  2. Problems: There are limited opportunities for handicapped people to find shelter. All the shelters are not handicapped accessible, which makes it even more difficult.
  3. Problem: Agency staff take donations and goods first and leave the bad stuff for homeless people.

A homeless leadership union that is meeting every two weeks to continue with the recommendations. They will try to develop solutions to some of the problems brought up the November 21 forum. Then they hope to present the results to City Council for assistance in implementing some of the recommendations.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH December 1998 – January 1999

 

Homeless Must be on Local Boards

The Cleveland City Council has passed out of the Community Development committee passing $1.25 million on to 14 social service agencies as part of the Emergency Shelter Grant allocation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There was an additional $400,000 increase that was reserved for additional programming in 1999.

            Two council members attached amendments that would require homeless people on every board of trustees that receive public money and staff training around the recognition and protocol for clients with AIDS. The legislation unanimously passed out of the committee and is expected to pass the full council in December.

            Councilman Frank Jackson held a meeting with 125 homeless people on November 21 to discuss priorities and needs of those on the streets. He intends to use the suggestions raised at the community forum as the basis for spending the remaining Emergency Shelter grant.

            Councilman Joe Cimperman of the Downtown ward attached an amendment which requires all agencies that receive money to have at least two homeless people on their board of directors and at least two social workers from collaborating agencies. The rules would take effect six months after the legislations passed. Cimperman is a former outreach worker for West Side Catholic shelter.

            Councilwoman Merle Gordon attached an amendment that all shelter workers be trained in AIDS protocol and practices.

            All the agencies were funded at 1998 levels. The $400,000 additional funds will be distributed in early 1999.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH December 1998 – January 1999

 

1998 Marks Another Tough Year for Homeless People

Editorial

By Brian Davis

On a local and national level, we have seen another tough year for those without homes. From an alarming number of communities, we have seen legislation making it illegal to be homeless. A local church set up barriers for homeless people to keep them away from the door. For every step forward (an increase in the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget) we have taken two steps backward (increased welfare sanctions, and continued losses in housing).

            Three years ago, before welfare reform and before we started seeing large scale reductions in housing, I had hope that with better coordination of services we could begin to reunite large numbers of people with a stable lifestyle. Now we are the point where it will take a large scale community effort just to maintain the status quo.

Nationally:

            In late 1997, the City of Cleveland won the right to license our vendors when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the Grapevine vendors. The City of Cleveland has as yet chosen not to enforce their licensing privileges. However, in other cities we have seen Pandora’s Box thrown wide open. The city of Miami has a new paper, Street Smart, which is facing litigation by the City of Miami to force their vendors to get a license. We have heard rumbling of Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, a Chicago suburb, and Cincinnati debating the issue. We do not know how many cities without street paper will not see a new paper spring to life because of the threat of licensing.

            On the positive side, we did see an increase in the HUD budget, which is no where near the need, but one has to accept the victories no matter how small. What we have seen across the country is a continuing decline in affordable housing. In many communities huge public housing projects are being destroyed. On its face this is an attempt to de-concentrate poverty in the inner city, which is a worthy goal. But the underlying result is a destruction of existing communities and a reduction in affordable housing. There will not be a one to one replacement of the properties that are being taken down. HUD has reported a huge gap in the amount of affordable housing and yet we are reducing the opportunities for stable living arrangements for poor people at the same time.

Ohio:

            In Ohio, we have sadly marked the one year anniversary of welfare reform with one-forth of the total population no longer receiving benefits. Again, not a bad thing if these families were living in a more stable lifestyle, but we actually have no idea. Studies have shown that only 25-50 percent of those moving off the welfare roles move to employment and even fewer move to meaningful employment. It will take a crisis before our elected “leaders” realize that we need to mobilize every resource to make the first three years of our children’s lives the most nurturing and free of stress of their life. That is the opposite message we deliver when we sanction a Mom under welfare reform.

            We have seen a growing gap in service to homeless people as a result of changes in the medical service delivery system. With managed care the homeless do not fit in the health organization’s bottom line, and the state has done nothing to protect the health of those who stay on the streets. It is increasingly difficult for a single homeless person to gain access to health care through Medicaid and even more difficult to gain access to care that treats an individual back to good health. We have managed care rules based on saving money which are set in stone. They make no special protocol or rules for those who cannot recuperate in a stable environment.

            A surprising level of anger came out of this State and manifested itself in the November election. The governor of Ohio refused to accept money from the federal government to put people in jobs. He refused to allow people who cannot fine a job a waiver from the Food Stamps rules as is allowed by the Federal Government. Then in the November election, Governor Voinovich boasted of the number of people who are no longer receiving welfare assistance. He did not mention the number of people working who were on welfare last year, because no one knows how many people are working. As has been said many times in these pages there is an increasing level of anger toward poor people. From championing the death penalty to support of the end of the social safety net in political campaign was alarming.

Cleveland:

            In Cleveland, we have seen a larger number of people who are having a difficult time finding access to health care. We have featured detailed stories in the Homeless Grapevine which show how people on the streets have a difficult time accessing health care with the new Health Maintenance Organization’s rules which are directed at people with homes. Recently, we saw the organization that was entrusted with assisting those who are medically indigent expand their focus at a time when we need a health care for the homeless people most.

            We have seen a net decrease in affordable housing but because of the vigilance of a number of organizations like the Cleveland Tenants Organization and the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants who have drawn a line in the sand we have seen a temporary stay in future reductions. With the appointment of former Community Development Director Terri Hamilton to the position of Executive Director of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority we look for a brighter future and closer communication with the homeless community. We see some of the problems with the Section 8 voucher program beginning to be addressed, and we look for continued improvement for 1999.

            On a political front, the citizens of Downtown Cleveland voted in a former outreach worker in the homeless community, Joe Cimperman, to Cleveland City Council. He in turn sponsored legislation that would require homeless service providers to be appointed to local homeless service provider’s Boards. We have gone another year and still have not been able to close Project Heat, the overflow shelter system. The Heat shelters are mats on the floor in the evening and are beneath the dignity of a human being. They are worse than the conditions at the jail, and yet people enter them voluntarily every night. It is no wonder that there is a lot of anger and distrust of the system.

            Then we have the unfortunate situation of a Catholic church putting up barriers to prevent homeless people from sleeping outside the church’s door without the permission of the city. The City of Cleveland has as December taken no action on this act of hatred.

            Two other positive developments in 1998 were the forum with City Council member Frank Jackson which allowed over 100 people who stay on the streets to express themselves and have their thoughts recorded and acted upon by an elected official. And we held a unifying event called the Homeless Stand Down which featured services and workshops for homeless people, but most importantly two days of respite for over 1,000 people on the streets.

            The National Coalition is looking for another increase in the HUD budget and the Health and Human Services budget. Advocates at the state level are looking to find a stable source of funding for the Housing Trust Fund, a program to build affordable housing and services to place people in housing. Locally, advocates are working on three initiatives to strengthen oversight locally, improve homeless people’s access to affordable housing, and build stronger links with the health care community. The most important work will be to continue to amplify the voice of the homeless.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine NEOCH December 1998 – January 1999