Homeless Shelter Life

City Fails to Care for Poor

Commentary by Barb Hess

“Cleveland is a punitive city in its efforts to aid and assist the homeless population in this city.”

Those are the words from Charlene, a woman residing in the overflow women’s shelter. Charlene became homeless when she lost her job. She is a native of California with a degree in social work.

She explained to me that the city does nothing and the homeless population do not advocate themselves. She said in California the homeless picket agencies to gain attention and voice their needs for shelter, food and other necessities. Charlene is going back to California thanks to a bus ticket provided to her by a local church. She plans to write an article for the homeless paper in her city about the conditions in Cleveland.

Ginny (not her real name) told me that this particular shelter offered no counseling services and did nothing to help her find her family residing in another state. She was also offended that the shelter bused residents to a church dining hall and made them stand outside in the cold before the shelter opened. The Salvation Army truck would come by to give out a dinner of pasta and coffee. There were also men waiting outside to eat who harassed the women. She felt her dignity and respect were under attack.

Marsha (not her real name), a new resident of the shelter arrived last night with her young children. Her caseworker told her that if she could not get her kids to school each day, social services would take them from her. Where is the compassionate side of this social service agency? Why are these women left to deal with the fact that the shelter and minimal care is the only assistance we can offer?

Please note that only one side of the story is heard here and there may be more to any situation. But why should anyone be living in a temporary shelter without some direction and help to offer them better living conditions and alternatives? Is Cleveland doing enough to address the growing homeless population of women?

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 35, June 1999, Cleveland, Ohio