CAMELOT IS TAKEN

Editorial by Brian Davis

            Couples and malcontents built a community known as Camelot, which was a safe place of peace in the heart of Cleveland. Out of the remains of an architecturally significant bakery long since forgotten by the city, a diverse group with no place in society created a sanctuary.  As in the legend, outside forces destroyed Camelot, leaving a large crumbling, asbestos-filled memorial to an idealized society.

             There are a few things to understand with regarding to the homelessness in Cleveland in order to understand the reason Camelot was created.  First, shelter is not always appropriate for every person.  While in America we try to homogenize everyone into majority trends, the reality is that not everyone watched “Survivor” or wears corporate logos as fashion.  This is similar in the homeless community.  It would be a lot easier if everyone would follow the protocol for getting off the streets outlined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but this will never happen.  Group quarters in Cleveland are not always appropriate for couples and people with disabilities. 

        The other reality is that every shelter is full every night.  The state housing coalition estimates that there are 3,080 people on the streets on any given night.  1,100 shelter beds exist in Cleveland, and so there are obviously people who have to “sleep rough,” because there just is not enough space.

             Finally, we have a huge housing crisis in Cleveland, as we do in most urban cities in America.  We have seen the withdraw of affordable housing units over the last five years all over the United States.  A quick trip down Chester Avenue in Cleveland reveals the 700 abandoned and now destroyed Vanguard properties, which were drawn from the inventory four years ago.  These unites were not replaced, and are the most glaring example of the large number of affordable housing units lost in our city.

            With all of this, people have a remarkable ability to survive and seek out places to stay alive.  In Cleveland, we have neglected our chronically homeless for so many years that we have a large number of people in abandoned buildings and under bridges.  We saw in December 1999, the Mayor’s attempt to deal with this burgeoning population by instructing police to arrest those who were visibly homeless.  This was stopped by the Coalition for the Homeless and a small group courageous homeless people, but the problem was never addressed.

            These are not items to casually gloss over.  They all have dramatic policy implications for community.  The federal government has developed this “Continuum of Care” approached to dealing with homeless people, which is a deliberately slow process to move people from the streets to emergency shelter to transitional shelter and finally what is called permanent” housing.  While this has focused attention and raised resources it has left many people on the outside looking in.  There are those who were scorned or even victimized by the system who needs a great deal of work to coax them back into the mainstream.  There are those who sought assistance in a shelter and instead had a child endangerment file opened on them.  There are men who served in Vietnam who are having difficulty negotiating the bureaucracy.

            The reality is that there are a sizable number of people who are absolutely cut off from the social service system.  There are many people who work or get some form of disability who never venture into any help centers.  These are independent minded people who have embraced all the rhetoric about the American Protestant work ethics.  They bought the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.  It is a question of pride and self-respect.  For their mental stability, they do not want or need shelters, food stamps, welfare, or any charity.  These are the ghosts of our community who recycle abandoned buildings.  They are uncounted by the Census, forgotten by local government and ignored by the social service agencies.

             In July of 2000, the Mayor instructed his Community Development department to clear the homeless people from the old Ward Bakery on Chester Avenue because it was going to be destroyed.  City officials enlisted the help of the many outreach workers to run interference and move the squatters.  On July 14, members of the Mental Health Services and Volunteers of America outreach team descended on Camelot bringing with them the declaration of war from the City.

          Even though landlord tenant law specifically addressed squatters and the remedy for removing squatters (housing court), the City of Cleveland sent outreach workers to remove the residents of Camelot.  The outreach workers realized that those independent men and women were not going to go to shelter so they told the members of Camelot that if they did not evacuate by August, the city was going to glow the building up around them.

          The outreach workers continued to engage the residents with bribes to leave, and offers of assistance.  Some of the couples left, but a small group resolved to go down with the building.  They enlisted the help of Food Not Bombs, which offers a meal and comfort to homeless people on Sunday afternoons.  Food Not bombs’ volunteers, who consider themselves caterers to the revolution, were willing to help save the building.  They planned a rally for July 31 to get community attention.  The knights of Camelot also sought reinforcements with legal assistance to prevent the destruction of their beloved castle.

          As the supporters gathered on July 31, about 10 people started their vigil to preserve Camelot.  Every media outlet showed up for the event.  They did live remotes and toured the building.  They saw the makeshift shower and the beds.  They saw the recreation room and the garden room.  They listened to the elaborate plans for the building and the hopes and dreams of the residents.  The story as it appeared on the evening news was not the typical “anarchists take on the system” story, but for the most part was, “What if the City showed up to demolish your home?” slant.  This was better than anyone could have planned.

            City officials showed up at 8 a.m. on August 1 first with police and then with troupes from City Hall.  The bombastic Barry Withers and the “good cop” Linda Hudecek surveyed the residence and toured the building.  They conveniently missed the 50,000 square feet of asbestos that their inspector had bound in s 1997 survey.  They declared the building unsafe and told the inhabitants to vacate.  The Food Not Bombs negotiators tried to come to some resolution but the City refused to deal.  Finally, the Knights of the Roundtable agreed to leave when an attorney from Legal Aid showed to deliver a strategy for a lawsuit.

           Incidentally in July, two the inhabitants of Camelot were present when a brown bread truck pulled up to the building and two black men went into the building to remove some of the asbestos.  They did not wear protective suits, and put asbestos in regular green garbage sacks, the declared the building free of the cancer causing agent.

              The knights of Camelot held a victorious press conference as they exited the building, telling all the members of the media and City officials that they trespassing on the knights’ property.  The residents were aware that homeless people had occupied the building for decades, and they wanted a judge to decide if they had legal grounds to claim the building based on the adverse possession laws in Ohio.  They also felt that they were not evicted properly.  Their other claims were that the building was architecturally significant and that there had not been the proper debate within the city to take down the building.  All this was very shaky with no legal precedent, but deserving of a judge to hear the arguments.

             The residents of Camelot approached the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and our attorney, Doug Lawrence, to assist with their case.  NEOCH’S interest in the case was just to get the city to address the needs of those who were staying at Camelot, and try to get precedence that squatters have to be evicted through housing court.  The court hearing was a media circus, which took lawyers all day and night on August 1 and 2 to prepare.  By the time attorneys could get to court, the building destruction was underway.  The ghosts of King Arthur had provided a reprieve when the crane broke an O-ring, and did not work.  This was short-lived, as another crane was brought in almost immediately.  The temporary restraining order was moot, but in an extraordinary move, the judge ordered the city to appear the next day to address the needs of those who had stayed in the building.

           Every victory by the city turned into a defeat.  The stand off had ended without bloodshed, and the media painted a picture of Goliath crushing defenseless David.  In court, the restraining order was tossed out, but the story was how the judge scolded the City for their lack of concern for the inhabitants.  In the final embarrassment to the city, it was discovered that in their haste to take down the building they did not do the proper abatement of the asbestos.  Thanks to the diligent work of the reporters at the Plain Dealer this discovery halted the destruction of the building.

             Police were guarding the building around the clock as asbestos flew into the air while the construction company pulled the building apart.  Asbestos left undisturbed is harmless.  The dust from the asbestos is what is dangerous.  In their haste to kill Camelot, the City put at risk neighbors, police officers, and the construction workers.

            In the end, the judge accepted the word of Cornell Carter, legal director of the City of Cleveland, when he appeared in court and said that they would address the needs of those displaced by the destruction of Camelot.  With all the historical assaults on homeless people by the White administration, this was at best a hollow promise, but more likely a blatant lie.

            Of the nine people who regularly stayed in the building, a few made it off the streets without the assistance of the City of Cleveland.  Three are living in a tent; one has moved to another abandoned building; one is staying with a friend; two moved to Columbus (where they do not take your children if you become homeless); and two receive a substantial anonymous donation and moved into housing.  To date the city has not addressed the housing needs of any of the former residents of Camelot, “Camelot the lordly castle of Arthur, with its vast halls and beautiful grounds, was all raised by Merlin’s magic power without the aid of human hands, and was lost in Cleveland because of the arrogance of power

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #44 September 2000

Edmonton Hosts Street paper Conference and Poverty Protest

By Brian Davis

             Editors, vendors, and staff members from street papers throughout North America descended on Edmonton Canada for the fifth conference of street newspapers.  Edmonton is nestled between the Rocky Mountains and north of Calgary.  The conference began with a poetry meeting and ended with a uplifting speech from a winner of the North American vend off.

             Our Voice, the street paper of Edmonton, is a colorful, professional, eye catching paper, which the city has embraced.  Our Voice supports a large number of venders, and has become a fixture in this progressive and colorful city.  The University of Alberta was the site of the conference, which attracted 100 participants.

             The keynote address was by Pat Capponi, a self described crazy person, who wrote Upstairs at the Crazy House, about empowering those with mental health difficulties to get involved in their community.  She challenged everyone at the conference to rethink their interaction with people with a mental disability.  Capponi asked participants to look at the power structures that were put in place between clients and staff of agencies.  She said that some of those traditional power structures could be broken for better mental heath and better communities.

             Angelo Anderson and Dinah Black from the Homeless Grapevine both attended the conference.  Anderson resigned from his leadership in the North American Street Newspaper Association, but did complete in the vend off.

             Vendors from all over North America gathered one of the busiest streets in Edmonton during the conference to sell their own papers in the first annual North American Vend Off.  Greg from Boston, who appeared in Good Will Hunting, charmed pedestrians on Whyte Avenue as the Streetwise vendor ran through his routine about the Chicago paper.  In the end, Terry from Calgary Street Talk took home the title of best salesperson.  He is a quiet older man with a baseball hat who only recently began selling the paper in Calgary, Canada.  On the last day of the conference, he accepted the award the last day of the conference; he accepted the award giving a speech that brought the crown to their feet.  Beaming with pride, Terry said, “Only three weeks ago I started as a vendor, and now I am champion of North America.” 

             Terry was featured on the front of the Calgary paper, and won a trip to next year’s conference in San Francisco to compete in next year’s vend off.  The other award presented was for the new paper in Austin, Texas for their outstanding first year of publication.

             Michael Walters, editor of Our Voice and organizer of the NASNA conference, said, “It was a pretty good conference.”  He was especially impressed by the professionalism and lack of conflict at this conference over the previous years.  Walters led the participants in a rally against poverty, taking over one corner of Whyte Avenue with signs and slogans to draw attention to the extreme disparity between the rich and poor in North America.

             Aside from the fellowship among member papers and the workshops given to improve the production and distribution of the street newspapers, the conference was chance to set goals for the organization over the next year.  The one unifying goal was to hire a staff individual to be enable the organization to grow and do more than just a conference every year.  Other priorities set for NASNA over the next year include:

  1.  Exchange of Information and Text among member papers.
  2.  Host an annual meeting of the member papers to lay out the path for NASNA for the next year.
  3.  Creation and nurturing of member papers in cities without a street paper.
  4.  Develop a library of articles and stories from member papers.
  5.  Coordinate activities with international street newspapers.
  6.  Provide professional support for member papers to improve their operation.
  7.  Publicize the achievements of member papers
  8. Construct a continent wide training program to teach journalism to homeless people
  9. Coordinate co-operative activities for member papers to allow papers to work together.

      The street newspaper movement is alive with papers forming in St. Louis, Washington D.C. and varies cities in Florida.  There are assaults on the movement with cities attempting to restrict distribution, but all over North America homeless people are writing about life on the streets and selling their words to others.  NASNA attempts to link these geographically diverse interests into a force for social change.

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #44 September 2000

High School Students Get Hands On Experience at 2100 Lakeside

 By Angela K. Joyce

            For Inward Bound Students of Avon Lake, Cleveland Heights, Hudson, Troy and other local High Schools, July marked the beginning of a weeklong adventure in learning about homelessness.  Inward Bound is a program that aims to make high school students aware of issued of poverty in Cleveland and encourages them to become actively involved in solving those issues.  For one week, the students work during the day with Habitat for humanity building houses and in the evenings they participate in activities that help them better understand what it is like to be homeless.  Part of their experience of understanding homelessness is spending the week sleeping in the basement of a church.  In addition to shelter-like sleeping accommodations, students visit shelters and meal sites.  This year, Inward Bound asked NEOCH to assist them in setting up an activity that would allow students to interact with the homeless.  NEOCH then arranged for Inward Bound participants to eat dinner with residents at 2100 Lakeside (The Salvation Army’s emergency shelter for men).

            Shelter workers were anxious to see how the high school students would react to eating at the shelter and mingling with the residents, but after the first week the workers were pleasantly surprised to find that the experiences at 2100 Lakeside were indeed successful.  Students and residents at the shelter communicated with one another, and evaluations filled out by the students showed that the experience was valuable and changed the opinions the students held of homelessness.  Four different groups of students (about 20 students to a group) have participated in the weeklong program, and two or more groups are scheduled in August.

            After reviewing approximately 8- evaluations, some main themes that summed up the experience at 2100 Lakeside were compiled.  These themes do not encompass every student opinion, but do reflect the majority of statements that were expressed on the evaluations.  At first, most students were nervous as they were waiting in line for their food but once they sat down they realized that they were welcome and the residents wanted to talk with them, they were more relaxed.  Nearly all of the students stated that they did not feel threatened or uncomfortable, in fact, many students felt more uncomfortable about not eating all of the food they were served rather than feeling uncomfortable about being at the facility (unfortunately the food did not receive as high rating as the program!). Students were surprised that both groups were able to quickly accept each other and converse over dinner.  Students also expressed surprise at the fact that many of the men they spoke with originally came from middle class backgrounds. Many students wrote that previously they had stereotypes that homeless people were unemployed, but that most of them held jobs, but did not earn enough money to secure

Housing.  Perhaps the greatest measure of the success of this program was that students expressed they wanted to learn more about homelessness – several said that next year they would like to visit a women’s facility or speak with families who are homeless.  Many final comments expressed that students were glad they were forced to leave their comfort zones because it allowed them to meet a population of people they may never have gotten to know otherwise.

            Here are some examples of actual answers that students wrote on their evaluations:

            Question: If you were to do Inward Bound again next year, would you want to eat at the shelter with the homeless men again? Why or why not?

            Answers: “ I would like to see this activity again, I was scary at first because it was such an unknown.  Bu getting to interact with a few men while in like helped break the ice before we stepped into the room.”

            “Yes, because I enjoyed listening to many different experience of life and it turned around what I thought of homeless people, it was a great experience.

            Question:  Did this activity change any preconceived notions or thoughts about homeless people and/or living in the city? How?

            Answers: “Yes it made me realize that ANYONE can be homeless.”

            “Yes I thought that most homeless people didn’t have jobs, but some of the people tat were they talked about their jobs.  They were very intelligent people and I wasn’t expecting that.”

            “Yes, It made me realize how lucky I am and also I have more respect for them because they are the same as us.”

            Question:  Do you think you would be able to survive if you were a homeless person?

            Answers:  “Probably, but it would be VERY hard!  I would feel different and just think back to what I did wrong.  I hope I don’t have to deal with that situation though.”

            I don’t think anyone can really be ready to face everything that comes along with being homeless, so no, I don’t.”

            “It depends, I would like to think that I could, but realistically I doubt I could.”

Copyright The Homeless Grapevine – Issue 44 Cleveland, Ohio  September – October 2000

Poem: Homeless

As I walk these lonely streets

Staring down at blistered feet

You pass me and avert your eyes

Pretending that I'm not alive

Maybe if you said hello

Perhaps I wouldn't feel so low

For I was once a person too

Maybe someone much like you

A kind word would have made my day

Helped me to feel better along the way

I feel what you see when you look at me

It fills my soul with misery

Its difficult living a life of shame

But there's no redemptions in placing blame

Its not that I am unaware

Don't think that I don't really care

Maybe there wouldn't be such scorn

If I had clothes that were not so worn

If I could wash and do my hair

Maybe then someone would care

What do you see when you look at me

Something that you could never be

Be thankful for what you have today

It may not always be that way

For just as I was once like you

You never know what life will do

If things go wrong in life you'll see

that you could end up being me

But if you ever fall from grace

And end up in this lonely place

I'll welcome you and your friend

Be kind to you and take you in

I'll show you how to stay alive

teach you things so you'll survive

Life on the streets is hard its true

But with God's help well make it through

So when you say your prayer tonight

Thank God that things are still alright

While God is busy blessing you

Please share with me I need some too

---Bernadine

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #44 Septe

Joseph's Home Offers Shelter to Medically Indigent

-by Staci Santa

On June 30, 2000, Joseph’s Home opened its doors at 2412 Community College Avenue in Cleveland for its first resident, a homeless cancer victim suffering through chemotherapy treatments. Sr. Joan Gallagher, CSA and Program Manager of Joseph’s Home has worked for that day to come for several years. She and a committee of community members including social workers and nurses realized a need in the community for a place where homeless people coming out of the health care system had a place to get well. The committee surveyed the existing shelters and determined that, because of their close quarters, none of them were filling such a niche. After a few revisions, a proposal to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was approved and renovations began.

The mission of Joseph’s Home is to provide a transitional facility for the recuperating homeless individual who has no other appropriate place to go for shelter and home health care and is looking for a place to be healed. The facility is staffed 24 hours each day and residents have in and out access until 10:00 pm. Rooms are private, but do not have radios or televisions. A community television is in the common area, as well as a library and soon, an exercise room.

Joseph’s Home has nine beds available for residents who will require this facility. To date, its potential clients have been referred mostly from MetroHealth Hospital and 2100 Lakeside Place. From those referrals, one client has been placed. Among other restrictions, Joseph’s Home does not accept people with IVs or who are being tube-fed. In addition, Joseph’s Home only accepts people who are willing to change their lifestyle so that they are ready to move into permanent housing upon completion of their stay at Joseph’s Home. Although it will eventually accept women, the staff has agreed to work with only men first.

Sr. Joan Gallagher describes Joseph’s Home’s environment as, "healing in a home environment," and she is very excited about getting started. Joseph’s Home depends on volunteers and donations, particularly men’s clothing. If you would like more information, contact Sr. Regina at 216/685-1551.

 

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #44 September 2000

NEOCH and the Cleveland Bar Association Bring Legal Help to Homeless Community

            The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) and the Cleveland Bar Association has teamed to bring legal services to Cleveland’s homeless citizens.  NEOCH has hired a “street lawyer” to manage the new Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program (CHLAP), which will provide quality legal assistance to those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Until now, Cleveland has been the only major city in Ohio without a legal outreach program that targets its homeless community.  Staffed by one full time attorney and volunteers from the legal community, the program will hold weekly legal clinics in local homeless facilities beginning in August.

             Every night, Cleveland’s 1,100 shelter beds are filled to capacity by homeless families and individuals.  The City of Cleveland reported a 20% increase in requests from families for shelters in 1998, and a 5% increase in 1999 Common legal issued that can drastically impact one’s housing situation include domestic violence, landlord – tenant disputes, child support and criminal records.  Victims of domestic violence may become homeless due to a lack of information regarding protective orders and prosecution of abusers.  Single parents unable to collect child support payments often suffer financial hardship, which may cause their family to struggle with the possibility of homelessness.  Illegal eviction by a former landlord is a common scenario, forcing indigent tenants to take up residence on the streets.  Without an advocate to help expunge an old criminal record, many people seeking employment have no opportunity to maintain an income or procure stable housing.

             The experiences of other communities have shown that solving legal problems of homeless people can shorten or even prevent a person’s stay on the streets.  “As a former homeless person I found that I needed to clear the past in order to enter the future,” says Ron Reinhart, Director of the Salvation Army P.A.S.S. Program and Vice President of the Board at NEOCH.  “This is difficult when funds are already stretched thin.  Legal services will provide homeless people with the opportunity to clear another hurdle to responsibility.” 

             The vision for CHLAP arose through discussion in both the homeless and legal communities.  NEOCH staff meets with homeless people on a monthly basis to gather information and opinions about the gaps in existing service.  In a 1999 survey of local social service providers who serve the homeless, NEOCH found that 65% of responding providers indicated both the need for legal assistance to their clients and willingness to host legal clinics.  Among them is Jim Schlecht, a member of the Outreach Team for Care Alliance and the Volunteers of America.  “Those who are homeless and at risk of being homeless have very few options for legal assistance and advocacy at the present time,”  Schlecht says.  “I am excited about the beginning of the Homeless Legal Assistance Program.  It will provide legal representation to those who presently are not being served.”

             Before the creation of CHLAP, the Cleveland Bar Association’s Committee to Aid the Homeless struggled to bring attorneys to homeless people in the Cleveland area.  According to its Chairperson Rob Anderle, the Committee found that the successful coordination and expansion of such a project would require a full-time focus:  “We discovered that while our services truly impacted the lived of the individuals we met, our impact on the community as a whole was lacking,” says Anderle.  “CHLAP will serve a broader population and should provide a wider array of services through the additional coordination and the corresponding increase in volunteers that we expect.”

             This month a full –time attorney, Doug Lawrence was hired as CHLAP Coordinator to recruit and train pro bono attorneys, coordinate the program and oversee its expansion.  Lawrence previously worked with Mental Health for the Homeless, Inc., and brings to the program both legal skills and social service provision experience.

          CHLAP legal clinics will become available in August at specified times at the Salvation Army Shelter on 2100 Lakeside Avenue, and St. Patrick’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Avenue.

 Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #44 Cleveland, Ohio September 2000

Run From Urban Renewal!

Commentary by Food Not Bombs Collective

DESTROYING HOMES/CREATING CHEAP LABOR, THE UNDERBELY OF URBAN RENEWAL

            Food Not Bombs Cleveland is enraged by the city’s recent announcement that Camelot, or the former Tip Top Bread factory on E. 5th St. and Chester, will be demolished on August 1, 2000.  For nearly 30 years it has provided a haven for homeless people and represented one of the few spaces in the city where homeless people have been able to address some of their own problems without being institutionalized in the controlling and dehumanizing system of homeless shelters.  This is yet another example of the city’s complicity with private interests at the cost of citizens of the city.  For all of the city’s rhetoric about attempting to create a livable city, it has again become apparent that their image of a livable city, it has again become apparent that their image of a livable city is a city that is livable for and by the wealthy.

 URBAN RENEWAL

            What does it mean to live in a “renewed,” “revived,” or otherwise “reinvented” city?  If you are wealthy, it is the “right” to walk the streets without fear of being accosted by panhandlers, let alone forced to see what they are only a few paychecks away from.  But for the majority of us, it means working several jobs just to be able to ay the rent.

            Cleveland is no longer a city for the unemployed and working poor.

            Through the onslaught of city planning policy, the city has become “up and coming, “meaning the cost of living is sky rocketing while wages are stagnating. Is this an accident?

            And why would the city be spending $500.000 to destroy a dilapidated building in a dilapidated area? 

            Simply, it is but an aspect of the larger “urban renewal” plans of the city of Cleveland to re-invent the city.  More accurately, it is an act of reinventing the city for the corporate interests of downtown Cleveland, at the expense of a burgeoning population of unemployed and working poor.

 HOW TO CREATE VAST SUPPLIES OF CHEAP LABOR?

            For those of who live and observe the underbelly of the renewed urban economy of Cleveland, the city’s decision to demolish what is known, as Camelot is not surprising.  To build a new city, one must attract capital.  How does one attract capital, how does one guarantee obscene profits margins for corporations?

            The first step, as the city so blatantly and recklessly doles out, is through massive tax abatements that virtually give land and space to corporations, generating no revenue for local schools, infrastructures, art programs, and the like.  Let alone an even modest attempt at addressing the rapidly and unevenly expanding divisions between the rich and poor.  Not only do those abatements not provide any revenue for the neighborhoods they exist within, they quickly drive up rent, thus forcing those who have homes to either move to poorer, yet “renewed” neighborhoods, or go into the streets.

            The Midtown corridor, where the former Tip Top Bread factory is located, has been specifically targeted for redevelopment.  What does that mean?  Does it mean that the residents are being assisted in reclaiming their neighborhoods and building working structures of community and social support?  Does it mean that schools are being renovated, teacher’s salaries being increased, streets cleaned, etc.? No, It means that businesses are being given corporate welfare to set up shop there, to no real assistance to those living there.  The only attempts at “reinventing” those communities have been the construction of outrageously expensive housing typically well over $100.00, again subsidized through abatements.

            Meanwhile, the city builds large homeless shelters to house the Staggering number of people being forced out of their homes, despite working full-time jobs.  And even those are not enough.  The newly christened homeless shelter with 200-250 beds is already at nearly double its capacity.

            The obvious way to get off the streets or out of the shelter system is to work.  This is where we see the “beauty” of current city planning policy.

            In a city so rapidly de-housing, one of the most profitable businesses to open is a temporary labor agency.  These agencies, a significant number conveniently located near homeless shelters, prey on the homeless as a flexible and cheap source of labor.  And they both win:  the temp agencies and the business they cater to. Not only are these businesses provided with cheap labor that they can hire and fires at will they have threat of labor organizing and no responsibility to provide even the most basic of “benefits” to their workers.  If they don’t like someone, they don’t come back.

            The typical salary for a temporary worker is $5.15/hour, the federally mandated minimum wage.  If one does her or his math, working full time at this rate will give you approximately $825/month.  This is before taxes and social security is deducted, along with the daily $2 fee for transporting the worker to the site.  Now, according to HUD, one’s monthly rent should be no more than 30% of one’s monthly income.  This, however, is an extremely high percentage according to many agencies and researchers.

            Most put the ratio of rent to monthly income closer to 10%.  For the sake of argument, we’ll say 25%.  At this rate, working full-time at minimum wage, one’s rent should not exceed $206.25.  Have you seen housing for $200/month lately?

            One may say the city has been laudable in relegating some of the newly redeveloped luxurious high rise and loft apartments built downtown to low income families.  The city, however, defines a yearly income of approximately $22,000 - $25,000 as low income.  Doing the math again puts the monthly rent at $521/month.  Is this really low-income rent?  Again, working full-time at the federal minimum wage (assuming you have no unpaid vacations and missed not a day of work) gives you an annual income of $10,712, or roughly $825/month.  Living in such low-income housing will therefore eat up 60% of your income.

            For those living check-to-check, like many people of this city, an unfortunate turn of events will leave you on the streets.  Once there, one is funneled into the shelter system and maintained through various temporary agencies that provide a radically flexible labor force for a few dollars from free.  And as rents go up, more people enter the streets, the cheap labor force grows, and manufacturing profits.  Is the pattern apparent yet?

            If not, no need only look at the nature of the global economy and how “underdeveloped” countries are force-fed “redevelopment” plans.  The city’s strategy is in no way new.  In countless examples, the answer for “underdeveloped” countries is to do all they can to attract trans-national corporations, something done through similar tax abatements and the suppression of labor rights.  Their goal is to build their economics on corporate capital through the promises of cheap, unthreatening labor.

            The oppression of people for the sake of a lousy buck, all in the name of economic renewal.

            The workings of the Cleveland urban renewal policy thus becomes apparent.  Provide welfare for the corporations, take it away from the poor, force them onto the streets, swell the pool of cheap labor, and make a great city.

 URBAN RENEWAL FOR PEOPLE, NOT CAPITAL

            Why should someone fully employed be living under a bridge?  They shouldn’t.  And people have started to address this problem by creating their own housing in old, unused buildings in the city.  They have taken it upon themselves to renovate and create livable spaces in a city within which they cannot afford to pay for housing, despite working.

The city’s reply: Destroy.

            We demand that the city stop their destruction of Camelot.  Furthermore, we demand that the city halt its endless stream of corporate welfare and its love affair with the capital it relentlessly attempts to attract.  We demand that the city address the real problems, and work with us to develop policy not for the corporations that set up shop only as long as the welfare flows, but for those that suffer at their foot – the people.

            If they continue their currently destructive policies, action will be taken.

 Copyright The Homeless Grapevine – Issue 44 September – October