NEOCH Holds 7th Annual Homeless Stand Down

by Alex Grabtree

            For seven years, homeless people have gathered at one location to receive a wide spectrum of services.

The Stand Down, an all-day service fair for the homeless people of Cleveland, has traditionally been held at Cuyahoga Community College Metro campus. This year, the August 20 Stand Down was held at the Bishop Cosgrove Center, and over 400 homeless people attended the event.

Over 40 social service organizations offered services during the day, from pro bono legal assistance to medical care. The most difficult service for homeless people to obtain on the streets is haircuts. Thus, the haircuts offered by the Lake Erie Barber College students were very popular. For many, the Stand Down is the one opportunity to get a haircut for the whole year. Thonne Devison, who attended the Stand Down, said, “The Stand Down is a good thing to have. [It is] nice to have a shower and a haircut. The agencies were very helpful.”

The Cleveland Bar Association provided legal advice, Care Alliance provided a medical clinic, and Prevent Blindness offered eye screenings and glasses. There were over 35 volunteers who assisted with “compassionate and prompt services” to those who attended the Stand Down, according to event organizer Angelo Anderson.

The Veterans Administration provided staff as well as a large amount of donated clothing and supplies. MetroHealth hospital provided much needed dental care with their dental van, while the Social Security Administration was able to provide information to homeless people about the status of their disability application or eligibility. The Healthy Family/City of Cleveland MOMobile screened young mothers.

The staff at the Bishop Cosgrove Center provided three meals and hygiene kits for the shower. “I’m glad to see people reaching out to people who are homeless,” commented Gary Wallace, a customer at the Cosgrove Center. Jeff Marshall said, “The Stand Down was informational. It should happen more often.” Actually, the comment that there should be a regular or quarterly Stand Down was echoed by many of the people attending the Stand Down.

Some customers of the Stand Down were dissatisfied with a number of aspects of the event. Tony Porty, who attended the event, was critical that more housing information was not provided. “How much housing is being provided for the homeless? There’s nowhere to stay; we need housing,” said Porty. Stacey, who did not give her last name, said she preferred the Stand Down at CCC Metro campus.

Cornell McCray confirmed that after seven years the Stand Down is getting better. He said, “It was better organized than last year.” The Coalition for the Homeless is planning another Stand Down in March of 2000 to raise awareness of the importance of signing up with the U.S. Census.

The only thing to mar this year’s event was the unfortunate towing of a couple of the cars of volunteers who parked in the wrong lot.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #38, October-November 1999