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