Senior Only Policy

Interview by Pamela Vincent Part II of II

This is a second part of an interview conducted in late April 2001 with Dorothy Noga and Scott Pollack of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. CMHA was just granted permission to designate 14 of their buildings for senior only thus excluding most homeless and disabled people. For the first part of the interview see Grapevine #47 on the website www.neoch.org

Grapevine: Why would a senior move from a surrounding that they are familiar with to Cedar Extension, which does not have a grocery store or senior center anywhere close? This goes against the LISC study that was done about senior needs in housing?

CMHA: Actually Cedar Extension specifically is a building that had been closed for total modernization. It was the first senior public housing building that was built in Cuyahoga County, perhaps the first senior complex in the whole nation. We took it off-line because it was built in the 50's and it needed major infrastructure work.

Grapevine: That is slated to reopen soon?

CMHA: Yes, it's slated to reopen in June. In modernizing the building there are a number of units that are equipped for people with disabilities. There are also a number of the grab bars and all that sort of stuff for seniors. In that particular case, and it's a good opportunity to talk about it, we're working to prepare to reopen it and we're in conversation with lots of seniors service providers. The golden age centers are very interested, although they won't be on site, providing services and transportation so that seniors can get to their senior facilities. The other thing is the seniors who lived at Cedar Extension before it closed are very interested in coming back. There's a real tie there and if somebody's a senior and they don't want to live at Cedar Extension, they don't have to.

Grapevine: Is there shopping nearby for them?

CMHA: It's still pretty limited but, even before it was shut down for modernization the building was fully occupied and one of the things we intend to do is to work to make sure they are comfortable and see what provisions can be made for them. There's a lot of development in the central area and we will see more services go in that area and we see more options as far as groceries. I think it will only increase as the development increases and the rebuilding takes place. I know there's a central market that's open one day a week across the street from that building. We'll see more there in the next few years.

Grapevine: What research was done to support the contention that seniors would

move into buildings operated by the Public Housing Authority when there are

so many other choices for senior housing in the community? Were seniors complaining that there weren't senior only buildings?

CMHA: Oh yes, and nationally seniors have been asking for this. You can talk to senior service providers who aren't in housing and they will tell you that seniors want this too.

Grapevine: So was there a questionnaire or a survey that was given to support this finding?

CMHA: No, but it's just been a hew and cry for years in terms of mixed populations, the young and the old... mixed populations has been an issue, it's one of the first issues I heard since I first walked in the doors of CMHA and that was in 1992. (Dorothy)

Grapevine: But basically there wasn't any real research done to support this finding?

CMHA: Maybe not formal but, certainly it was based on information that we have to live with in managing these buildings. You mentioned LISC before and we talked with folks from LISC involved in some of their surveys and they certainly brought up the issue of the mixed population. Now does it show up in their research? That I can't tell you but, after talking with some of their folks we heard it.

Without beating a dead horse here... here again it goes back to there's always been a decent percentage of our households that have been seniors. We believe that it's essentially been with Cedar Extension that was our first low income public house complex in the country. It's always been our mission to serve the elderly. I guess sometimes it bothers me a little bit that somehow that doesn't have to be our business anymore and it is. It certainly a population group that we have every interest and intention to continue to serve.

Grapevine: That population will get bigger and bigger?

CMHA: I was just going to say with baby boomers...there's a lot more competition and partly what we're trying to do is keep our share of the market. We have to be more competitive with all the 202's that are out there. We have to do certain things to be more competitive. The aging population is growing and when you think about it and you take a look at the definition of baby boomers...what's the first year of baby boomers? Probably right after the war so about 1946...the oldest of the baby boomers are over 50.

Grapevine: Do you think that this plan is consistent with the City of Cleveland

Consolidated plan which recommends only new construction of senior only

designated housing?

CMHA: You know we don't know...we're going to be vague on this because we're kind of lost as to what you really mean, because we don't feel that what you're saying is necessarily right. The city of Cleveland is aware of our plan and does not feel that we're in conflict with the consolidated plan. So let's answer it that way.

Grapevine: Does their consolidated plan specifically say that?

CMHA: Not to our knowledge...no, is that fair? We and they feel that what we've done is not in conflict with their consolidated plan. It goes back to the point we've been trying to make. We have housed 2000 families and if we choose to try and concentrate them a little bit more what does that have to do with...? We don't understand it, that's why we think that statement doesn't reflect what the consolidated plan is. We still have a senior population we're trying to address.

Grapevine: I think it probably has to do with the needs of the seniors in the older facilities? While the Cedar Extension has been renovated and brought up to code perhaps the other older buildings have not and aren't safe for seniors?

CMHA: We certainly can't address other older properties other than our own.

Grapevine: So the 14 buildings are...?

CMHA: There're in good shape. Some of them have been modernized and some of them we've made some pretty sizable investments in, in the last 10 years and I think you'll find that most of our buildings are in good shape particularly in the neighborhoods where they are.

Grapevine: I understand that seniors want to live in a senior only buildings, but doesn't CMHA have to be concerned about the needs of the entire community? Shouldn't CMHA work with other housing providers in the community to make sure that there is a place for everyone to live?

CMHA: We're working with them and we do. We have the public housing program which obviously is what we've been talking about because that's what the designated program refers to. But we also now, through our section 8 program, have over 10,000 vouchers in the county. In fact recently we initiated a program called "Gateway" where we've designate 700 of those to be administered through "Eden" that's got about 10 different social service agencies that make referrals from special needs population. We've been trying to address their needs but, in a variety of ways.

Here again just because we've designated half our inventory of zero and one (bedroom units) to the elderly it still leaves another 25 buildings available for non seniors. I think that...I just don't want you to think we aren't doing anything or what we've done is going to cause a big problem. Several years ago there was another program for section 8 where we housed about 500 families. We've been making an effort to work with the community to address the needs of the homeless and disabled handicap. We work with the Salvation Army they have a block of units over at Wilson. We have 3 different programs for transitional housing where we've taken units off-line and allowed them to operate programs in our buildings. We've also been working with NEOCH in Bridging the Gap.

Grapevine: Last question and we may have touched on this already but, at what point will you at CMHA reverse this plan if you cannot fill buildings like Riverview or Cedar Extension? Will you reverse this plan in August when you put together next year's plan if you cannot fill the buildings or will you wait until next year's HUD audit?

CMHA: Well we've just started. We've just started implementing the plan and we've only done it with the folks who are already on the waiting list so we're not going to be ready to do anything this summer at all. We will continue to monitor the numbers and access whether it's working with the 14 buildings or whether we don't need 14 buildings to be designated but, when that will happen we can't say. We will be reviewing numbers.

Grapevine: August really isn't that far away.

CMHA: Right, you need to give any new program some time to really shake out. Another fact you might not be aware of is that when HUD gave us it's designation it's for 5 years.

Grapevine: You've locked into the seniors only buildings for 5 years?

CMHA: Yes, 5 years. It's not forever, so we need to monitor it. When HUD approves a designated housing plan they approve it for a 5 year period and at the end of the 5 years we have to reapply. It's locked in for 5 years and we're going to keep looking at the numbers

Grapevine: It probably won't take 5 years to see whether the plan effective or not?

CMHA: No, but it will take more than 4 or 5 months. We will definitely not be looking at making any changes this year.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #48 -2001

Criminal Justice System Out of Control

By Bridget Reilly

On some level, I have been aware for long time that this country was moving closer to becoming a police state. This process has actually been going on, slowly and subtlety, throughout the entire half-century of my life. But it was only recently that this reality crept close enough to my own life to make me take a closer look at it: certain facts about our, criminal justice, system kept presenting themselves to my awareness during wakeful hours of the night and invading my night dreams. Is it true that our prison population has skyrocketed from 200,000 to two million in a mere twenty years? How could this have been allowed to happen? As I pondered over the reason for this, I realized that a whole series of innovations have been introduced into the “correctional, in that space of time that have made it possible to widen the net and ensnare ever-larger number of people. These changes represent a gradual, insidious erosion of poor people’s rights and an encroachment on our private lives, all the while masquerading as improved methods of “fighting crime”. All the people who have not yet woken up to this truth are those who have not yet been snagged by the net and mislabeled “criminal” themselves. For a while I shrank from writing about these realizations, not wanting to give witness to the horror. But now it’s clear that I can no longer avoid it if I’m ever to have any peace. Here then, is my brainstorm list of those innovations. I’m not quite sure how many of them in no particular order:

1)      The Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines Grid.

2)      Measure 11, passed in 1994, which increased mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes in Oregon, including those of first-time youth offenders.

3)      The’ Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule.

4)      Electronic hand printing of suspects, which replaced the messy ink fingerprinting system.

5)      Urine analysis: a degrading and foolproof method of detecting alcohol and drug use in probation clients.

6)      Change in state law: crime victims no longer need to press charges in order for the state to prosecute a case. The process also continues even if the victim

7)      “The Box”-a frightening new device for restraining (immobilizing) prisoners in transit.

8)      Spawning of private corporations that profit from prison labor.

9)      New laws that broaden the definitions of crime in general, making it easier to “arrest and fine people for more and more petty “offense”.

10)  Increase in probation fees from $10 to $35 a month.

11)  Ballot measures calling for money to increase jail space or build new prisons, or “improve operations” of existing ones.

12)  Closing of psychiatric hospitals, or increasing “security” in existing ones to make them more prison-like, or simply replacing hospital with prisons.

13) Discouraging mental defenders and jury trials for people whose crimes were the result of mental disorders, in favor of plea bargains for “reduced” sentences which are more expedient for the courts and more lucrative for the jails.

        I’m not sure when each of each of these” improvements” had their inception, but I believe most or all of them were developed only within the last decade or two. And they are all part of a master design to increase the repression of ever-larger segments of the population. This in turn increases the profits and power of few are pulling the strings and watching the rest of dance. It’s an insidious cancer that continues to spread with every new invention those sick minds can dream up. Part of the strategy of this plan is to keep throwing dust in the eyes of the gullible public, all the fools who still buy into the myths about criminals, never having themselves been processed through that legal machinery to find out what really happens to suspected offenders.”

Another part is the normalization of the whole business through sheer repetition of these tactics on as many different poor suckers as possible-all gleaned from the same target group and many of them friends to each other. These are the manufactured “repeat offenders” who have been, and are being, and will again be processed through the courts, who can never seem to get off probation or stay off it for long. These people are forever comparing notes with their friends who are also on probation. “Seen your P.O. Lately? Has he pulled a U.A. on you yet? And the rationalizations that they have to make while attempting to forgive the situation. Oh, well-thirty-five bucks a month ain’t that bad ; it’s only for three years, and he leaves me alone most of the time; the fines are affordable and I have three years to pay them off; it could have been a lot worse-they could’ve sent me upstate for a year, but I got a break instead. Only 20 days in the county jail-hell, I could do that stand in on my head. I’ve done more time than that before…etc, etc, etc.”

  Penitentiary talk is getting more and more incorporated into the everyday language of people in our baby boomer circles. Most of my friends are convicted felons” states my husband matter-of-fact. This has been so normalized in out generation that we’ve almost forgotten there was a time when it was otherwise. But certainly in our parents’ generation it wasn’t the norm. How many older white middle class people could say, Most of my friends are convicted felons? I have a fairly early childhood memory of my father speaking of his “criminal friend,” a guy he’d once known who was now in prison for murdering his wife. He spoke of this fellow as a rare novelty, one token friend who belonged to that glamorized “other “ class of people known as “criminals, people we mostly thought of as fictional characters in TV shows. But that was back in the innocent 1950’s. The following decade was when it all changed, when white middle-class hippies, baby-boomers in their teens and early twenties, were getting busted” right and left for possession of marijuana and other drugs, and for participation in anti-war protests. This was when these white baby-boomers started identifying themselves as a sort of underclass, a new category of people who were subject to systematic police harassment and legal persecution, which was rightly perceived as an attack on a new counterculture.

That was when we crossed the line and saw that people labeled ‘criminals” were not “other” people, and they certainly were not mere fictional characters. They were us! Then we began to feel the looming shadow of Big Brother, which we have continued to feel right up to the present day in one form or another. This set the stage for many of the abuses that are currently being practiced in our “criminal justice” system, and are continuing to be felt not only by us baby-boomers, but also by the succeeding generation (to whom it seems even more “normal”). And somewhere along the way, the bright idea entered someone’s mind that big bucks could be made from exploiting prison labor. And that the appetite for these big bucks could be fed through the propagation of false myths about “criminals” who were blindly swallowed by the average Joe Citizen. It was this type of mindset that spawned the innovative measures I’ve listed. So, here is the bone-chilling truth that must be recognized if we are to have any hope of checking the spread of this cancer: law enforcement is big business. And like all big business it thrives on propaganda to gain public acceptance of its methods. This is how the machinery can keep on rolling and the bucks keep coming in that are making some people extremely rich.

Once the public has been duped into believing that a certain individual is a threat to the public safely, and that the state is selflessly concerned with protecting it, they will stand idly by while this person is conscripted into the legalized slavery of prison labor, and not lift a finger to stop the court from doing its dirty deed. That is, until it happens to one of their own children-then the truth begins to dawn. But by that time it’s too late their loved one has already disappeared behind the prison walls, a helpless political pawn in the hands of a system that doesn’t care. And under the Bush administration, this pathetic state of affairs can only promise to continue getting worse. The irony of it, as we should be well aware, is that George W. Bush is himself a baby-boomer with a criminal record, a suspected cocaine user of times past and a convicted drunk driver. If he were caught doing those things today he would also be in prison. Yet somehow this conniving snake managed to get himself elected President, and is part of the propaganda machine that continues to spread lies and myths about “criminals” to the gullible public. Just how much farther will we allow this insanity to go? How many more vulnerable people will be sacrificed to that voracious prison machine before the public wakes up to the truth?

  Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH published in Cleveland Ohio in July of 2001.

 

Census Data on Homelessness Creates Dispute

by Barbara Duffield

There is a growing debate nationally to release the data collected by the United States Census on the number of homeless people counted in late March of 2000. Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has called for hearings on the Census count and has demanded release of the data. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has supported the release of data to show the vast undercount by the census and flaws in counting homeless people over only three days.

 The National Coalition for the homeless does not believe that it will be useful to release the data, and released this statement. NCH believes that people without housing should be counted by the census for same reasons that people with housing should be counted—in order to have more comprehensive demographic information about communities, including more accurate data on poverty. However, NCH opposes a separate “count” of people in homeless situations because such a number would be, by its very nature, both inaccurate and misleading, and therefore lead to uninformed decision making by policymakers. A separate “homeless count” would be inaccurate because:

   *Logistically, it is impossible to count all the people experiencing homelessness at any point in time. Many people in homeless situations stay in locations unknown or unreachable by enumerators, such as abandoned building, campgrounds, cars, or share an accommodation temporarily with other people due lack of alternative arrangements (commonly referred to as “doubled up”).One national study of people who had experienced homeless found that the most common places were makeshift housing, such as tents, boxes, caves, or boxcars.

    *Data gathered from shelters only reflect the capacity of shelters (i.e. available shelter beds). Yet many shelters are full, and regularly turn people away due to lack of capacity. Last year the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that 23 percent of requests for emergency shelter went unmet due to lack of available beds. In addition, many shelters have eligibility rules that prevent certain groups of people(two-parent families, families with boys over the age 12, people with addition disorders, disabled people, people with no incomes) from accessing shelter. People who are turned away from shelter are forced to live in other places, such as doubled-up with other people, in outside locations, in cars, campground etc. A separate homeless count, would be misleading because:

     *People experiencing homelessness are not a static population. In most cases, homelessness is not a permanent condition, but a state of extreme poverty marked by a temporary lack of housing. People move in and out of homelessness throughout time, such that more people will experience homeless over the course of time than at any one point in time. For example, a study of the public shelter system in New York City and Philadelphia found that in New York City, a single shelter bed accommodates four different people in the course of a year, while in Philadelphia, each bed accommodates six different persons per year. A one-day, or “snap-shot” estimation of homelessness therefore distorts the reality of homelessness for most people who experience it. A recent study by the Urban Institute estimates that at least 2.3 million people, and as many as 3.5 million people, will experience homelessness at least once over the course of a year.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH Cleveland Ohio published in July 2001

2001 Kids Count Statistics

From the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Children’s Defense Fund Ohio

                                                                                        1990                        1998

     Percent low birth weight babies                             OH      7.1%               7.7%

                                                                                    US       7.0%               7.6%

     Infant mortality rate                                               OH      9.8                   8.0%

    (deaths per 1,000 live births)                                  US       9.2                   7.2%

    

    Child death rate                                                         OH      29                    24%

    (deaths per 100,000 children ages 1-14)                 US       31                    24%

 

    Rate of teen deaths rate by accident,                     OH      55                    43%

    Homicide, and suicide                                              US       71                    54%

    (deaths per 100,000 teen ages 15-19)

 

   Teen birth rate                                                          OH      34                    27%

   (births per 1,000 females ages 15-17)                      US       37                    30%

 

  Percent of teens who are high school                        OH      7%                   8%

  Dropouts (ages 16-19)                                               US       10%                9%

 

Percent of teens not attending school and                  OH      9%                  8%

 not working (ages 16-19)                                           US       10%                9%

 

Continued                                                                       1990                1998

Percent of children living with parents who                    OH      29%       28%

do not have a full-time, year round                                US       30%    26%

employment.

 

Percent of children in poverty                                       OH      18%    16%

(data reflect poverty in previous year)                          US       20%    20%

 

Percent of families with children headed                      OH      23%    27%

by a single parent                                                        US       24%    27%

 

Female headed families receiving child support or alimony   OH      39%

                         (1998 figure only)                                          US       34%

 

Children in working-poor families without a telephone         OH      7%

               At home(1999 figure)                                              US       9%

 

 Children in extreme poverty                                                       OH      8%

(income below 50% of poverty level)                                         US       8%

 

Children without health insurance                                               OH      9%

                                                                                                     US       15%   

Children in working-poor families who lack health insurance            OH      14%

                                                                                                            US       23%

 

2-year old children who were immunized                                          OH      79%

                                                                                                            US       80%

 

Juvenile violent crime arrest rate                                                         OH      271

(arrest per 100,000 youths age 10-17)                                    US       394

 

Juvenile property crime arrest rate                                                      OH      1,679

(arrest per 100,000 youths ages 10-17)                                               US       2,130

 

 Percent of children under age 18 in working-poor families                OH      18%

                                                                                                           US       23%

 


 Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH published in Cleveland Ohio in July of 2001.

                                           

National Coalition Answers Questions About Census

This is written exchange between the editors of the Homeless Grapevine and Barbara Duffield of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Barbara Duffield, NCH education specialist, prepared this position paper on behalf of the National Coalition for Homeless.

      Question: A Census Bureau report noted that 280,527 people were counted in homeless shelters, at soup kitchens, on the streets and at other places in 2000. What does this number mean?

      Answer:  This  number was taken from a report released in February as part of the documentation for its decision not to adjust Census numbers for various statistical factors. In the case of people counted at emergency and transitional shelters, soup kitchens, and identified outdoor locations, the Census attempted to adjust the numbers to account for people who were not present on the day of the count, but who normally would be present at those locations. However, due to problems in data collection, the Census Bureau was unable to make those adjustments. The Census Bureau has concerns about the quality of this data, and will not release the without accompanying discussion and documentation of quality issues. The Census Bureau is also investigating the discrepancies between this data and other information. A recent report by the Urban Institute estimates that at least 800,000 people are in homeless situations on any given night, with between 2.3 million people experiencing homelessness at least once over the course of year.

       Q: What are NCH’s thoughts about this data?

      A:   The release of this estimate confirms NCH’s concerns about the inaccuracy and  distortion of a separate count, as well as the inappropriateness of such a count as a measure of the magnitude of homelessness. A conservative estimate of known emergency shelter and transitional beds is higher than the total number of people in homeless situations estimated in the Census report. Many communities reported that the census missed homeless service locations, and/or that enumerators were unable to obtain information because of language differences. These facts, in addition to the problems with counts described above, mean that the estimate released by the Census cannot be used as a measure of homelessness.

        Q: Some argue that a separate Census homeless count is needed in order to justify funding for shelters and other service programs. Does the lack of a separate homeless count endanger funding for these programs?

       A: No. While “snap-shot,” or  point-in-time estimates of homelessness are part of the documentation required for some federal homeless assistance funds, local service providers, people experiencing homelessness, and local units of government are clearly more qualified than the Census Bureau and their enumerators to conduct such a count. Local communities are more likely to have the cultural and language competencies to obtain a service count of all the service providers in the communities (not just shelters and kitchens).In addition, local communities are better able to identify more of the places where people live outside---beyond the very limited targeted locations, that the Census utilized, which did not include abandoned buildings, campgrounds, temporary outdoor locations, etc.

    Q: The Census Bureau spent a lot of money and time attempting to enumerate people in homeless situations. If the Bureau is not going to release these numbers, what was the point of this effort?

     A: It is important to make attempts to count people in homeless situations for the same reasons that all people should be counted: to gain more comprehensive demographic information about communities. People experiencing homelessness have extremely low incomes, so the Census effort was especially important in order to gain accurate information about poverty.  This is imperative in order for communities to be able to obtain the Federal resources needed to address the needs of people living in poverty, including the resources needed to prevent and end homelessness.

     Q: What should Congress do?

     A: The discussion about the 2000 Census should center on the fact that ten years after the 1990 Census, people in the United States are still experiencing homelessness. There are numerous research studies that indicate the significant growth in the number of people without homes and at risk of experiencing homelessness. Yet, despite existing research, we have not invested our resources to end homelessness even after years of incredible economic growth. Congress should not waste time arguing about how many people are experiencing homelessness, but rather focus on efforts to end homelessness through affordable housing, livable incomes, accessible and comprehensive health care, and the protection of civil rights.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH published in Cleveland Ohio in July of 2001.

Local Homeless News Briefs

Low Wages Worker Union Update

The Low Wages Worker Union (see Grapevine47 on the web www.neoch.org.) has asked both the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, the largest administrators of homeless social services, to take action against the temporary labor organizations. LWWU has documented abuse and exploitation by temporary labor organizations and are asking that homeless service providers demand these corporations sign a code of conduct before they can recruit within the shelters, meal sites, and drop in centers. The LWWU are attempting to get public hearing locally to document to the general public the exploitation of homeless people that takes place on a daily basis.

Homeless People Under Attack by the Housed of Tremont

 For years, homeless people have sought shelter under the bridges and in abandoned fields on the near West Side of Cleveland near the industrial flats. These group of homeless people have yet to develop a trusting relationship with the social service community to come in doors and seek shelter. One vigilante has taken it upon himself to eliminate homelessness in his neighborhood. According to the homeless campers, the man has harassed the individuals who sleep in the field verbally and by turning on bright headlights at night. He has assaulted one of the individual s and has left booby traps of broken glass and barbed wire for the homeless. Recently, he has given the campers two weeks to leave or he said that he would bring a group of his friends to “get rid of you.” The police and Cleveland City Council were made aware of this situation.

Shelter Growing Out of Control

 Salvation Army 2100 Lakeside Shelter, which houses 400 homeless men every night, was the site of vicious attack by one of the clients of an employee monitor of the shelter. The shelter worker was taken to the hospital and had to undergo 74 stitches including reattachment of part of his ear. The client was suspected having a mental illness. The worker had worked 15 straight hours and seemed irritable according to witnesses. Other staff had tried to separate the two who were arguing, but could not convince the worker to “cool down.” The Salvation Army is initiating a training program of staff to prevent  future problems. The Coalition for the Homeless is urging an immediate doubling of staff, a reevaluation of the operations of the shelter, and the construction of an arbitration board.

 Don’t Buy the Street Card

 Two former vendors of the Homeless Grapevine have been spotted in various parking lots throughout the region offering pedestrians copies of the Homeless Street Card in exchange for a monetary donation to help “homeless people.” Reports have come to the Grapevine that these women have collected fraudulent donations from East Cleveland to Willoughby Hills from Richmond Hts. To Rocky River, The street card is a free publication intended for homeless people to give them an idea of the services available in the community. The only organization that raises money on the streets is the Salvation Army and they are easily identified by identification and the famous red kettle. One of the fraudulent solicitors was recently arrested in University Circle.

Homeless People Release a Report on Homeless Services

 The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless published a report of comments on various shelters and social service programs in the community. It includes comments from over 120 homeless people interviewed over a three weeks period. Many shelters faired very poorly including: Volunteers of aAmerica,2100 Lakeside, and Catholic Charities Women’s Shelter. One facility received only praise—West Side Catholic meal site and drop in center. Other shelters that had a majority of complimentary comments included Y- Haven and Salvation Army PASS. The complete report can be found on the NEOCH website at www.neoch.org under Resources/Shelters and Services.

Aids Housing Conference Held in Cleveland

 The AIDS Task Force, Cuyahoga County, Universal Health Care Action Network Cleveland and the St. Luke’s Foundation convened a conference to convince activists, community development organizations, health organizations to relate housing as one of the primary needs of people with AIDS and HIV. The conference attempted to get neighborhoods of Cleveland to make a commitment of one housing unit for people with AIDS.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH published in Cleveland Ohio in July of 2001.

Behind Every Face is a Story

Photo and story by Emily Garr

  Jim is homeless and a vendor of the Homeless Grapevine. He grew up in Ashtabula. He moved to Florida, then California, then Colorado. He went through two marriages. He got sick and lost his job. He returned to Ohio. And he has ended up on the streets of Cleveland. Jim is a restless man with a great deal of energy, and yet a calm and quiet demeanor when talking face to face. To the average Joe, Jim is just another guy on the streets. But for those who choose to look closer, there is a wonderful story of survival. I sat with Jim on a spring afternoon in Market Square.

 He told me about how he wanted to contact the children from his first marriage, and how he did not have the means or the resources. I heard about his long –haired hippie days in Florida, and t he green Colorado mountains that he hopes to soon return to. I heard about a guy who faces an incurable illness called Celiac, brought on by depression, and a lost man who got off the bus in Cleveland on a whim less than one year ago-finding himself homeless for the first time. I asked Jim if there was anything he’d like the general public to know about the homeless. And after assuring me that he was not on a campaign of any sort, he responded, “I would like to have the `general public to be more cognoscente about the charities and the institutions…not the fact that they are supporting them where they are –but rather that they’re in. And I would like the general population to be aware of that fact and be appreciative if some of these institutions.”

 I later went home, and I looked up the word cognoscente: “having the power to know.” Many are aware, and yet are still ignorant, not only of the organizations that assist homelessness, but the faces that endure it. Many will believe that Jim’s story represents the typical hardships and circumstances of someone on the streets. Others think his story is the one exception. Both inferences are wrong.

There is a story behind each face and each voice. Each person is different, with different struggles, together, or we cannot truly know what it means to live. We do not need to be linked by a quarter dropped into a cup, but a smile or a glance of recognition-a thought taken home and not left on the streets. Jim said to me,” You gotta get down before you get up. What I’m going through now- it’s a bad fall. I gotta get up, keep on going…”Jim’s voice is one that lends itself, but for a community that has not yet surrendered itself to recognizing one another.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH published in Cleveland Ohio in July of 2001.

Shelter is Not the Answer!

Editorial

     I meet with different homeless people every month in a formal advisory capacity, and I can tell you that building shelters is not one of their priorities. There are shelters in every one of our big cities and most of our small towns, but they serve only a small minority of the population. Whenever we talk about solutions to homelessness, we start with shelter. We need to start talking about solutions and begin with affordable housing. Housing seems so expensive and such an overwhelming undertaking that we concentrate on easy to open shelters and we never get around to solving the problem of homelessness. To the people walking the streets waiting to get into shelter they see all these abandoned buildings and vacant property taunting them. They wander the city thinking that it would be so easy just to give these buildings over to the residents of the shelter and their homelessness would be solved.

     When the housed drive down Superior Ave, we think why aren't these guys in a shelter. But most of us would find any alternative to spending a night in shelter, and the guys on Superior are part of that majority. We are wasting resources and energy when we create more shelter. We staff those shelters and we audit those shelters and eventually we forget why we put those shelters up in the first place. The staff forgets that they were constructed to move people from a temporary emergency to stability. They give up on advocating and demanding affordable housing instead toiling all day on keeping people alive and in effect homeless. Shelter staff should all spend a portion of their day stopping the flow of people into the system and demanding alternatives to shelter from their government.

     We have a long history of homelessness in Cleveland and have decades of trying to throw shelters at the problem without much success. Shelter is not the answer because:

1. Emergency and overflow shelter are in place only to keep people alive. Any illusion that they do anything further is propaganda by the service industry. Shelters are needed in a community because some will use them as a stepping stone, but there has to be a limit. The only way additional shelters should be built is if you have people who die on the streets because they were turned away from shelter. I think that in Cleveland if we keep the safe haven open that we have enough shelter space available year round to assure that those who want out from the bridges have a place to go. We should spend our energy on clearing out the shelters and convincing those guys under the bridges to come inside on their terms not based on our rules.

2. Group quarters are not appropriate for everyone. There are many people who do not want to go to shelter. My experience is that one-half to two-thirds of the population do not believe that shelter is right for them. They have mental health paranoia problems or they feel group quarters are a severe come down and too great of a blow to their self-esteem. Also, the common rules set up by most shelters for the safety of the whole community make them inappropriate for many if not most of the homeless people. If you are a drug or alcohol addict and they do not let you in because you have fallen off the wagon, what is the use of the shelter system? Shelter is not the answer for even the majority of the homeless population. We are not representing the interests of the entire community of homeless people by advocating for shelter.

3. The problem with adding shelter beds is that the leadership in the community will feel that they have accomplished something and walk away from the problem. I hear all the time from elected officials, "Isn't that new shelter great, why are there still people sleeping on the streets?" I always tell them that it is great until you have sleep there. I am sure local elected officials have a warm feeling in their heart when they drive by the shelter they helped to create, but warm feelings do not get people off the streets and into housing. The shelter is a down payment on keeping people alive, but the real transaction needs to take place with putting them in housing.

4. We are institutionalizing the problems with shelters. We have transformed the problem from an emergency situation that has a short-term impact on families and those economically homeless to a long-term life changing state. Why not put money into preventing eviction so people could get vouchers to avoid shelter or direct housing programs? Direct housing allows you to provide support services to singles and families in housing so you don't have to build these expensive physical structures. Studies have shown that direct housing of the mentally ill and families is way more successful than shelters and you don't have the expensive overhead.

5. If you build it people will come. The dirty secret that we never talk about it publicly is that the people who need shelter most are afraid or have too much pride to go into these large facilities. Shelters are often used by people who have alternatives, but take the easiest way out. For the mental health of the staff, shelters skim off the easiest to serve and let the rest of our friends fend for themselves. Shelters refuse to allow people who are drunk into their facility. There are very few places for a person to go to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. Every place requires the homeless individual in need of help to cure themselves, and then they will treat them for drugs or alcohol. They usually do not even take people with a slight mental illness like a personality disorder. Again, meet people on their terms and give them independence with vouchers and support services instead of trying to change them to fit the system. We force people to change to suit the needs of these group quarter facilities instead of serving their needs on an individual basis.

6. Building shelters allows the government an easy way to stop providing services. The parole officers will no longer have to assist people with housing because they can use the modified jails that we call shelters. The psychiatric nurses and hospital social workers can drop people at the shelters instead of placing them in long term care facilities. It takes the pressure off of the government to find solutions to poverty.

7. We have found that a better use of resources is to improve the conditions and thinking of the existing social service industry. Construct arbitration boards with more involvement by homeless people in the administration of these facilities. Homeless people know what they need and they know what works. They are the best experts on the merits of shelters. They do not need some agency coming in and telling them what they have to conform to in order to get services. Unless shelters are run with a high degree of involvement by homeless people they create a great deal of resentment. Again, this extends the length of time people spend without housing.

     Government will always take the path of least resistance. Shelters give them the easy way out. I believe that we should strive to get homeless people off the streets as fast as possible, and shelters do not do that. Remember that we are Americans imbued with that independence that we see on television almost every night. Afterall, Charles Ingalls, the Barkleys from Big Valley, Rambo, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, and the cops from NYPD Blue would never be caught dead sleeping in a homeless shelter and neither would most homeless people.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #48 -2001

Homeless People Brace for Senior Only Policy

Interview by Pamela Vincent Part II of II

   This is a second part of an interview conducted in late April 2001 with Dorothy Noga and Scott Pollack of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. CMHA was just granted permission to designate 14 of their buildings for senior only thus excluding most homeless and disabled people. For the first part of the interview see Grapevine #47 on the website www.neoch.org

   Grapevine: Why would a senior move from a surrounding that they are familiar with to Cedar Extension, which does not have a grocery store or senior center anywhere close? This goes against the LISC study that was done about senior needs in housing?

   CMHA: Actually Cedar Extension specifically is a building that had been closed for total modernization. It was the first senior public housing building that was built in Cuyahoga County, perhaps the first senior complex in the whole nation. We took it off-line because it was built in the 50's and it needed major infrastructure work.

   Grapevine: That is slated to reopen soon?

   CMHA: Yes, it's slated to reopen in June. In modernizing the building there are a number of units that are equipped for people with disabilities. There are also a number of the grab bars and all that sort of stuff for seniors. In that particular case, and it's a good opportunity to talk about it, we're working to prepare to reopen it and we're in conversation with lots of seniors service providers. The golden age centers are very interested, although they won't be on site, providing services and transportation so that seniors can get to their senior facilities. The other thing is the seniors who lived at Cedar Extension before it closed are very interested in coming back. There's a real tie there and if somebody's a senior and they don't want to live at Cedar Extension, they don't have to.

   Grapevine: Is there shopping nearby for them?

   CMHA: It's still pretty limited but, even before it was shut down for modernization the building was fully occupied and one of the things we intend to do is to work to make sure they are comfortable and see what provisions can be made for them. There's a lot of development in the central area and we will see more services go in that area and we see more options as far as groceries. I think it will only increase as the development increases and the rebuilding takes place. I know there's a central market that's open one day a week across the street from that building. We'll see more there in the next few years.

   Grapevine: What research was done to support the contention that seniors would

move into buildings operated by the Public Housing Authority when there are

so many other choices for senior housing in the community? Were seniors complaining that there weren't senior only buildings?

   CMHA: Oh yes, and nationally seniors have been asking for this. You can talk to senior service providers who aren't in housing and they will tell you that seniors want this too.

   Grapevine: So was there a questionnaire or a survey that was given to support this finding?

   CMHA: No, but it's just been a hew and cry for years in terms of mixed populations, the young and the old... mixed populations has been an issue, it's one of the first issues I heard since I first walked in the doors of CMHA and that was in 1992. (Dorothy)

   Grapevine: But basically there wasn't any real research done to support this finding?

   CMHA: Maybe not formal but, certainly it was based on information that we have to live with in managing these buildings. You mentioned LISC before and we talked with folks from LISC involved in some of their surveys and they certainly brought up the issue of the mixed population. Now does it show up in their research? That I can't tell you but, after talking with some of their folks we heard it.

   Without beating a dead horse here... here again it goes back to there's always been a decent percentage of our households that have been seniors. We believe that it's essentially been with Cedar Extension that was our first low income public house complex in the country. It's always been our mission to serve the elderly. I guess sometimes it bothers me a little bit that somehow that doesn't have to be our business anymore and it is. It certainly a population group that we have every interest and intention to continue to serve.

   Grapevine: That population will get bigger and bigger?

   CMHA: I was just going to say with baby boomers...there's a lot more competition and partly what we're trying to do is keep our share of the market. We have to be more competitive with all the 202's that are out there. We have to do certain things to be more competitive. The aging population is growing and when you think about it and you take a look at the definition of baby boomers...what's the first year of baby boomers? Probably right after the war so about 1946...the oldest of the baby boomers are over 50.

   Grapevine: Do you think that this plan is consistent with the City of Cleveland

Consolidated plan which recommends only new construction of senior only

designated housing?

   CMHA: You know we don't know...we're going to be vague on this because we're kind of lost as to what you really mean, because we don't feel that what you're saying is necessarily right. The city of Cleveland is aware of our plan and does not feel that we're in conflict with the consolidated plan. So let's answer it that way.

   Grapevine: Does their consolidated plan specifically say that?

   CMHA: Not to our knowledge...no, is that fair? We and they feel that what we've done is not in conflict with their consolidated plan. It goes back to the point we've been trying to make. We have housed 2000 families and if we choose to try and concentrate them a little bit more what does that have to do with...? We don't understand it, that's why we think that statement doesn't reflect what the consolidated plan is. We still have a senior population we're trying to address.

   Grapevine: I think it probably has to do with the needs of the seniors in the older facilities? While the Cedar Extension has been renovated and brought up to code perhaps the other older buildings have not and aren't safe for seniors?

   CMHA: We certainly can't address other older properties other than our own.

   Grapevine: So the 14 buildings are...?

   CMHA: There're in good shape. Some of them have been modernized and some of them we've made some pretty sizable investments in, in the last 10 years and I think you'll find that most of our buildings are in good shape particularly in the neighborhoods where they are.

   Grapevine: I understand that seniors want to live in a senior only buildings, but doesn't CMHA have to be concerned about the needs of the entire community? Shouldn't CMHA work with other housing providers in the community to make sure that there is a place for everyone to live?

   CMHA: We're working with them and we do. We have the public housing program which obviously is what we've been talking about because that's what the designated program refers to. But we also now, through our section 8 program, have over 10,000 vouchers in the county. In fact recently we initiated a program called "Gateway" where we've designate 700 of those to be administered through "Eden" that's got about 10 different social service agencies that make referrals from special needs population. We've been trying to address their needs but, in a variety of ways.

   Here again just because we've designated half our inventory of zero and one (bedroom units) to the elderly it still leaves another 25 buildings available for non seniors. I think that...I just don't want you to think we aren't doing anything or what we've done is going to cause a big problem. Several years ago there was another program for section 8 where we housed about 500 families. We've been making an effort to work with the community to address the needs of the homeless and disabled handicap. We work with the Salvation Army they have a block of units over at Wilson. We have 3 different programs for transitional housing where we've taken units off-line and allowed them to operate programs in our buildings. We've also been working with NEOCH in Bridging the Gap.

   Grapevine: Last question and we may have touched on this already but, at what point will you at CMHA reverse this plan if you cannot fill buildings like Riverview or Cedar Extension? Will you reverse this plan in August when you put together next year's plan if you cannot fill the buildings or will you wait until next year's HUD audit?

   CMHA: Well we've just started. We've just started implementing the plan and we've only done it with the folks who are already on the waiting list so we're not going to be ready to do anything this summer at all. We will continue to monitor the numbers and access whether it's working with the 14 buildings or whether we don't need 14 buildings to be designated but, when that will happen we can't say. We will be reviewing numbers.

   Grapevine: August really isn't that far away.

   CMHA: Right, you need to give any new program some time to really shake out. Another fact you might not be aware of is that when HUD gave us it's designation it's for 5 years.

   Grapevine: You've locked into the seniors only buildings for 5 years?

   CMHA: Yes, 5 years. It's not forever, so we need to monitor it. When HUD approves a designated housing plan they approve it for a 5 year period and at the end of the 5 years we have to reapply. It's locked in for 5 years and we're going to keep looking at the numbers.

   Grapevine: It probably won't take 5 years to see whether the plan is effective or not?

   CMHA: No, but it will take more than 4 or 5 months. We will definitely not be looking at making any changes this year.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #48 -2001

Secret in the News: The US Now Has A Permanent Poor

By Ben H. Bagdikian

     It can be the best of times or the worst of times, but whether in prosperity or recession, there is one constant in the United States economy-the richest country in the world has maintained a permanent class of Americans who are poor. That is not an accident. It is maintained by official action as deliberate as Alan Greenspan's protection of the prosperity of banks and stock markets. In this case it is the scandalous maintenance by new laws and regulations, new tax codes, and special multi-billion tax waivers for favored giant corporations. Those in this permanent class are not the momentarily unemployed. Most of them shift jobs. Or alcoholics, addicts and the handicapped. Most of them work. Neither are they inevitable as temporarily unlucky in a world of global economic change. Long before the "new economy" and after it, none of our Western European peers of affluent nations has sustained a permanent class of the poor like one in the U.S. Those other countries have social policies that prevent it.

     When confronted with persistent poverty in the world's richest country, the American mainstream print and electronic media seem to take as their mandate the biblical words from Matthew, "The poor ye will have always." They do this with little concern that poverty in the midst of plenty in the world's richest country is an American exception among all advanced societies. (The U.S. is the richest in Gross Domestic Product and in per capita income is second only to Luxembourg.)

     The news media may protest that they do cover the poor. And in one sense, they do. But these are typically isolated stories about a hard-luck family in a disaster area, or profile of the plucky Midwest downsized manager flipping burgers at McDonald's -sympathetic features but depicted as isolated cases. Reported only rarely and obscurely is why the United States, among all its affluent peer countries, retains a poor class year in and year out.

     Given the symbiotic relationship between our national politicians and the main news media, that media failure has consequences. What the main media ignore, political leaders know they can safely ignore. The needy appear only at election time in stereotyped rhetoric and campaign photo ops. The empty rhetoric without subsequent media follow-up has deepened the comfortable assumption that in America poverty is an unavoidable act of God. When a government report documents one element in permanent poverty, like the 1997 HUD document on the unrelenting rental housing crisis, it passes out of print in one day, not followed up with emphatic subsequent stories, which is the process that produces political pressures for action. Or the mainstream news relates it to the "millionaire-market" housing scene in San Francisco Bay or midtown Manhattan, not the same crisis for average families in suburbs of Chicago and rural Kansas and thousands of other cities and towns. Permanent poverty may have been inexorable in biblical times, when there really was inadequate food, inefficient use of arable land, rigid class systems, slavery and serfdom. But today's world has enough food for everyone, and affluent countries like the United States have enough rich resources to guarantee their populations enough decent food, housing, universal health care, jobs and pensions. Most of our peer countries do exactly that. Only the United States has chosen not to rid itself of a permanent poor.

     The United States is unique among the world's advanced industrial societies-France, Germany, the United Kingdom, for example. It has retained this dubious exception s for so long - almost half century -- that a poverty class in this country is now seen as normal, inevitable, and, with parallel media unconcern, consequently invisible.

     Who are "the American poor" and are they really poor? Government statistics periodically adjust the poverty level in the country to reflect changes in the cost of living. In 1999, for example, a family of three with a household income of $13,880 or less was classified as living in poverty. Of the 32 million Americans in poverty, 72 percent were in families. These include one of every five American children. These are not poor because they lack Cuisinarts and BMWs. They are poor because they lack enough food, shelter, and access to other elementary living conditions in any modern society.

     Why do we permit this when our peer nations do not? The answers are not mysterious: official housing policies, deliberate shifting of national wealth to the top through destruction of the national progressive income tax, mammoth special favors for corporations, and cynical treatment of the national minimum wage. Why do the mainstream news media share the blame?

     A dramatic demonstration of media's guilty involvement occurred thirty years ago. When, suddenly, as though from nowhere, we had homeless families living in the streets. For national civic life it was the dead canary in the coal mine. We know why the canaries die in the mines: it is a warning of methane gas kills sensitive canaries before it kills human beings. The dead canary of structural American poverty was the sudden appearance of the homeless in the early 1980s.

     In the 1980s, the number of poor Americans began climbing noticeably. By 1998-1999, the average poor child was further below the poverty line than he or she was in 1979.

     The 1979-1980s change tells something crucial. By the mid-1980s, seemingly out of nowhere, for the first time since the Great Depression, large numbers of individuals and families were living in the streets. "The homeless," is a social phenomenon usually associated with countries like Bangladesh, but has now survived as a visible urban fixture in this richest of countries.

     Emblematic is the failure of the big newspapers and broadcasters to search out the source of the new homeless when they first appeared in the 1980s. Most often, the media refer to the homeless who are alcoholics, drug addicted, or mentally ill. But we always had alcoholics, addicts and the mentally ill before without large numbers of families living in the streets.

Something radical had changed.

     A hint of what's changed is that the homeless-a minority of the total poor -are homeless even though, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 64 percent of them have jobs, some of them two jobs, but they are still poor by government standards.

     No affluent democracy has been able to house its low-wage families by depending on the private real estate industry. Government-subsidized low-cost housing has been found indispensable if all are to be housed in minimally decent homes and apartments. Before 1979, the United States subsidized 200,000 such low-income units a year. In the early 1980s, in the new fervor for shifting everything possible to the free market, subsidized low-cost housing subsidies were cut by 92 percent. That is the central reason we suddenly had a permanent beggar class and families living in the streets. Few readers or TV news watchers were ever told the basic reasons why our homeless happened "out of nowhere."

     Why the media's strange lack of curiosity? It was part of the main media's gingerly treatment of basic causes of social ills whose remedies might involve an increase in taxes. On the contrary, the media generally celebrate the opposite-whatever reduces taxes. Explaining the "dead canary" of the suddenly homeless might have stimulated renewed appropriations for subsidized low-cost housing-taxes for the benefit of the most politically powerless group in the electorate.

     There are other contributing forces to persistent homelessness. Earlier it had been found that most of the institutionalized mentally ill were improved if they were released to local treatment centers in their home cities and received counseling at local treatment centers. So mental hospitals were effectively emptied, saving millions of tax dollars. But even more taxes were saved by reneging on the promise to shift the saved money to local treatment centers.

     The majority of the poor are not mentally ill. They are mentally sound, non-addicted individuals and families. But they remain poor. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD), from 1985 to 1993 the private market for affordable housing dropped another 20 percent, and, according to the Journal of Housing and Community Development, only 33 percent of Americans eligible by law for federal housing actually can find such housing.

     The Journal's December, 1997 issue reported, "With affordable housing out of reach for growing numbers of low-income Americans, the housing crisis can only be expected to worsen...the recent actions by Congress have further disenfranchised an already disadvantaged segment of the American family." In 1995, there were 1.3 million low-cost housing units available for 2.6 million low-income renters, as shown by a survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yet, in that same time period, according to the National Association of Realtors, the median price for a single family house rose 45 percent. With low-cost rental apartments unattractive to the real estate industry and failure of the needed government subsidies for what the private market prefers to reject, the "mystery" of both the homeless and the impoverished 32,000,000 Americans is not very mysterious.

     In addition, the poor have been paying steadily higher percentages of their income on rent-more than 50 percent of their disposable income. In a Catch-22, from the remaining half or less must come other indispensable human needs, like food, clothing and payment of their unfair burden of the most regressive taxes.

     Underlying the issue is the shameful phenomenon of a radical shift of national personal wealth from the bottom 80 percent of the population to the top 20 percent, with the lion's share of that going to the top 1 percent. The fact that such a gap exists gets into American news occasionally, but as a routine statistic, like the corn crop in Kansas.

     The United States has the widest gap in the world between its very rich and its unrich. The gap has grown year after year, neither by accident nor by talent and hard work by the super-rich. American workers are unique in their low share of their employers' revenues compared to our counterpart countries. The typical American CEO receives 34 times the typical American factory worker who now earns less (in absolute dollar terms) than hourly workers in Japan, Germany, or Switzerland. The multi-million- and billion-dollar executive compensations show no relationship to the performance of those corporate executives, according to our most prominent authority on executive compensation, Graef Crystal, formerly of the University of California at Berkeley and now with Bloomberg News. He has said, "It gets worse and worse...It's absolutely sick."

     Ben H. Bagdikian is the author of In the Midst of Plenty: The Poor in America (Beacon Press, 1963), The Media Monopoly (6th Ed., 2000), and other books. He also played a key role in obtaining and publishing portions of The Pentagon Papers. He is the former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.) Part 2 in the next issue.

     The massive shift of American wealth to the top has been reported in the media, but without the sense of outrage and alarm that would puzzle a Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, Franklin Roosevelt, or any number of political and media leaders of past eras. Though the main media attitude toward the poor seems to take comfort from the Book of Matthew's resignation to their plight, the media seem less interested in another biblical reference, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.."

     Other affluent countries lack the size and causes of the permanent American poor. The answer is simple. The other rich countries have housing, employment, pension, and tax policies that prevent it. The overall answer is an inexcusable fantasy aided and abetted by our major media, newspapers that, for example, have "Correction Columns" for errors like printing the wrong middle initial of a politicians. The media fantasy, aided and abetted by politicians, have convinced the people of the United States of a falsehood, namely, that we are a brutally over-taxed country. The truth is that of all the affluent democracies, Americans are the lowest taxed in the world, including the sum of all local, state, and national taxes. Consequently, when this fantasy is shrill in every political campaign - promising lower taxes as a dire necessity- it is accepted as an urgently needed rescue of that beleaguered population, the very rich. Though the main media love to find culprits in social problems, on this they practice selective amnesia. For more than half a century, the share of federal taxes paid by corporations has been dropping radically and shifted onto families and individuals. In 1940, corporations paid 40 percent of federal revenues. By 2000 it had dropped to 12 percent. Guess who pays for that shift.

     Even though money supply and national wealth have grown, in 1955 corporate taxes paid for 6 percent of our Gross Domestic Product but now pay only 2.5 percent. Except for Japan, U.S. income taxes as 34 percent of GDP are lowest among industrialized nations. The rate in Canada is 36 percent, Germany 39 percent, Switzerland 50 percent. It is not coincidental that most of those other countries have universal health care, guaranteed housing and more generous social benefits than United States.

     The top federal income tax rate for the richest Americans was once 70 percent, though people that rich hired the best accountants and tax shelters, so few paid anything like the top bracket. The top rate in 2000 had dropped to 39 percent, and in practice it is closer to 33 percent, and few in that theoretical bracket pay that much for the same reasons. Now the Bush Administration wishes to drop it to 25. The country's progressive income tax is now close to dead.

     However, some taxes do go up. The loss of our federal progressive income tax has year-by-year shifted basic American taxes to the most regressive kind in which the poor pay more of their income than do the rich. In the resulting shift of taxes from Washington income tax responsibilities to states, counties and cities, these jurisdictions have resorted to sales taxes, the most regressive kind. Here, of course, the poor pay the most in terms of disposable income. In 1995, according to Citizens for Tax Justice and The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the lowest 20 percent of family incomes paid 12.5 percent of all state and local taxes (property, sales, and fees) while the top 20 percent of families paid 8.5 percent of their family incomes. A 7.5 percent sales tax on a minimum wage worker represents a significant percentage of that person's income. The same percentage sales tax on a millionaire is a negligible percentage of total income, which is why, in the need for revenues, corporations and the rich insist on sales taxes instead of higher federal income taxes. The final insult to the poor is the minimum wage. Corporations and the rich fight every move for an increase, the way they fought against creation of the minimum wage in the first place. In 1970 the minimum wage was worth 29 percent more in real terms than it was in 2000. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 1970 minimum wage workers were living above the poverty level. In 1998, only 19 percent were.

     A standard objection that it will reduce the number of jobs available, or force small businesses into failure has no basis in reality. The Institute says a raised minimum wage has never resulted in significant reductions in jobs or closed businesses.

    Objectors to Minimum Wage have always raised the image of denying the after-school teen-ager learning how to be productive. But in 1999, 71 percent of people earning the minimum wage were adults.

    If the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped steadily for twenty years it would be front page and leading broadcast news day after day until government took action. That 32 million of our population have their housing, food, and clothing "index" drop steadily for more than 30 years is worth only an occasional feature story about an individual or statistical fragments in back pages of our most influential news organizations. An unnecessary poverty class is shameful in "the leader of the free world" and the richest one at that. A fraction of the media's daily attention to the Dow, the media' role in creating the myth of overtaxed Americans and the notion of an inexorable American poor class, make our mainstream papers and broadcasters a party to a cruel and unnecessary flaw in our society. Corporations and Washington legislators may point with helpless resignation to the biblical assertion that the poor will always be with us, but the experience of other rich countries like Germany, France, Canada, and Britain suggests that the answer lies less in Book of Matthew, and more in The Congressional Record.

 Editor's Note: Ben H. Bagdikian is the author of In the Midst of Plenty: The Poor in America (Beacon Press, 1963), The Media Monopoly (6th Ed., 2000), and other books. He also played a key role in obtaining and publishing portions of The Pentagon Papers. He is the former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.) STREET SHEET

Copyright maintained by Street Sheet in San Francisco California in 2001.  Written publication in Cleveland Ohio and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #48  in July 2001

Payday Lenders Prey on Low Income Workers

By Susan Cihla and Angels Jones

             Payday lenders are partnering with traditional banks to circumvent usury laws and exploit consumers, argued Dr. Creola Johnson, in a presentation to the Metropolitan Strategy Group Forum on June 8.  Johnson a professor at the Ohio State University College of Law gave a detailed description of these so-called alternative financial service agencies, their business practices, and their detrimental effects on consumers.      

            Payday lenders, also known as check cashing agencies, extend loans in an amount up to eighty percent of an individual’s bi-weekly paycheck.  For example, a person earning one thousand dollars over a bi-weekly period could borrow eight hundred dollars.  One turns over the information from one’s most recent pay stub and bank statement an ID card, as well as a postdated check for the amount of the loan plus a fee.  This fee amount may vary widely, as in most states the maximum fee is not regulated by any federal or state governing body.  The term of the loan is usually 2 weeks.  The lender holds a worker’s check until the next pay day, then attempts to collect the amount due plus the fee, unless the customer can pay the amount due in full.  Most payday lenders do not allow partial payment.  In Ohio, this can mean an additional fee charged of 10 or 15 percent.  Elsewhere, figures of 30 percent and higher are not uncommon.

            Additionally, if the borrower has agreed to such terms, the borrowed amount and fees may be automatically taken on the due date directly from the borrower’s bank account.  Often, this results in a bounced check, an overdraft, and associated fees.

            If one is able to pay off the loan in the initial two weeks, all is well.  However, those borrowing from payday lenders offer their clients the option of writing a new loan for the same amount to be paid on the next paycheck, if the customer will only pay a fee.  Johnson reported that according to statistics obtained by regulating agencies in the state of North Carolina, it took payday loan customers an average of seven transactions to pay off their loans.  This means that the average person taking out that loan, paid the variable fee as many as six times.  If the original loan was for the amount of one thousand dollars, the person receiving the loan would have paid between six hundred and nine hundred dollars for that thousand-dollar loan without having touched the principal due.  That situation applies only if the loan recipient was living in a state where the fee cap was between 10 and 15 per cent of the amount borrowed.

            Even in the state of Oho, which has established a fee cap, payday lenders have found a loophole, allowing them to exceed the state cap. Partnering with financial institutions based in states having no fee cap, the payday lender creates situation, which increases the revenues for both payday lender and financial institution, but which exploits the borrower.  Once the payday lender partners with a credible financial institution in another state, the payday lender becomes subject to the usury laws or lack of them in the financial institution’s home state.  This is how payday lenders, even in a regulated state, are legally permitted to charge exorbitant fees for their services.

            Take the example of Patricia Ortega, the Franklin County resident who fell victim to those questionable practices.  Ortega took out a three hundred dollar loan from a payday lender.  Because she could not pay the amount owed in a timely manner, she found herself charged $1,800 dollars in fees in addition to the 300 dollars she had originally borrowed.  While few studies have yet been conducted in this area, her type of case does not seem uncommon according to anecdotal information.

            Payday lenders tend to prey upon those living in lower-middle class to below poverty-level neighborhoods.  These are people with the greatest opportunity to have to resort to paying extra fees, because they have less disposable income to start with.  If one gets behind on payments, and cannot afford even to pay the new loan fee, fees still compound, and frightful collection tactics are used to get the defaulted borrower to pay up.  Any person listed as a reference on the loan application may be called, and harassed – asked why so-an-so won’t pay up.  This includes employers, family, and friends.

            Professor Johnson detailed cases in Columbus in which certain payday lenders register complaints against the defaulted borrower with the county.  Instead of receiving a standard collection letter, these borrowers receive a letter on Franklin County Prosecutor’s office letterhead stating that they must appear at a hearing regarding their debt.  As the slew of collections callers has already been telling each defaulted customer that he or she will be going to jail for non-payment of the loan, the person, upon receiving a summons to a hearing, is convinced that this is indeed the case.  Such tactics do not cause the magical materialization of moneys to the debtor; they simply serve to terrorize him or her.  Of course, if the debtor appears at the hearing, s/he need only express a desire to pay in order to be given a slight reprieve.  Many are unaware this is the case, and decide against appearing in court.  This is the case for those with a prior arrest record or outstanding warrant.  This in turn accelerates the increase in fees owed and adds legal difficulty to the financial one. 

            Extricating oneself from such a situation is not easy.  Typically legal services are involved.  However, viable options are being explored.  Changes in state and federal legislation as well as the reformation of private sector practices are under review.  In the meantime, those companies continue to exploit the needy without remorse. “I’m afraid to think what life needs are not being met because of the financial demands placed upon these debtors,” stated Johnson.

 

Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine Issue 48 July-August 2001

Care Alliance Closes Buildings In Effort to Find Stable Funding

by Brian Davis

     This is a first person account of the struggle to keep two buildings that serve homeless people from closing. We usually have a reporter write these news type stories, but since the editor of the Grapevine was so intimately involved in attempting to keep these buildings open, it was decided to print a first person account of the situation. We extend the same offer to Care Alliance to put in an unedited account from their perspective of the situation with the two buildings on Payne Ave. in the next issue of the Homeless Grapevine. We will make that offer in writing to them.

Background on Care Alliance:

     Care Alliance was created by the Federation for Community Planning to coordinate services to homeless people without access to medical care. It was originally called Cleveland Health Care for the Homeless, and originally sent a health team to all the shelters on a regular basis to provide screenings and link individuals to needed health care services. Over the last four years the agency has broadened its mission to now include people living in public housing and people afflicted with virus that causes AIDS. They have expanded their budget significantly, but many social services providers in the community worry about their commitment to serving the medical needs of homeless people.

     In the mid 1990s, when millions of dollars began pouring into Cuyahoga County to battle homelessness from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Care Alliance began expanding its mission in order to gain access to these funds. They constructed programs to serve women, women with children, and homeless people with a mental illness. A homeless person with a diagnosed severe mental illness actually does have access to health care because they are covered by Medicaid.

Care Alliance ventures into mental health services:

     Care Alliance constructed a safe haven concept in which homeless people (both men and women) with a mental illness could enter during the day and also have shelter available at night. This drop in service at first was actually only available by van, and there were never enough beds to accommodate the number of homeless people that used the facility as a drop in center. Many in the community were weary of the large number of mentally ill people in the same facility and the fact that women and men were under the same roof. The biggest problem with the safe haven was that Care Alliance was not a certified mental health agency, which would mean that they would have come under the scrutiny of the Mental Health Board locally. NEOCH raised this issue every year as problematic. The clients who used this facility seemed disconnected from the rest of the County mental health services. There was not the political will locally to exert any pressure on Care Alliance to make the needed changes to better serve homeless people.

Care Alliance also expands to serve women:

     Care Alliance also constructed a Women's Center to serve the medical and social service needs of homeless women and their children. They purchased and renovated a building locally at 2219 Payne Ave. to serve these women and put together a patchwork of social service providers to extend services to the 60 women who came to the facility every day. Care Alliance was determined to be in violation of their contract with HUD over the purchase of the 2219 Payne Ave. building. HUD found that the Federation for Community Planning used the donation of the building to Care Alliance as a local dollar match for a federal grant, and then later Care Alliance turned around and paid the Federation for Community Planning for the same building. Care Alliance was forced to pay HUD back for the cost of the building.

     Care Alliance also had a dispute with the other service providers who used the building, and for a period of time they parted company. This dispute led to the drop in services for women only being open for half of the day and then the women walking a few blocks down the street to another drop in center for the rest of the day. Officials of Cuyahoga County stepped in and negotiated a deal where the women would not have to leave the building and three different agencies would collaborate on providing drop in services-Care Alliance, Cornerstone Connections, and the YWCA. All received separate federal contracts to provide the services at 2219 Payne Ave.

     There was another small program called The Upstairs located on the second floor of the Women's Center, which featured dormitory style apartments for severely mentally ill women. This was permanent housing for these women and there was a social worker on site to provide support to the women. This program actually always had received very good reviews by the County Review team that looked at the program. The Upstairs program had actually received three years of funding in 2000, and thus was expected to continue in operation through 2004. It served 16 women who had become very stable and were found to be doing well in the review conducted by the County.

Care Alliance Buys a Second Building for the Mentally Ill:

     The safe haven program for the mentally ill was forced to move in 1999, and Care Alliance purchased and renovated an old union building at 2227 Payne Ave. to serve as the new home of the safe haven. Care Alliance began a giant capital fund development campaign to "create a social service campus on Payne Avenue." They received foundation support, government help including a $250,000 grant from HUD and a $94,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as funds from a number of corporations to purchase and renovate the building at 2227 Payne Ave. The new building at 2227 Payne Ave., next door to the Women's Center, was purchased and renovated with a mix of public and private donations for nearly $1.5 million. Care Alliance did save on some costs with the buildings next door to each other. They no longer had to transport by van the food from the Women's Center, which has a kitchen, to the safe haven. They could walk the food next door. They also did not have to provide a van service for the men and women who used the facility anymore since it was in the downtown area.

     The safe haven costs the federal government $554,089 every year to operate, and during the 1999 review the County found many problems with the program. These problems included client grievances and the fact that very few people were actually moving into something more stable. There was also administrative problems cited by the Review Team. This safe haven was very expensive to operate, but was not having much of an impact on moving people out of homelessness. There was acknowledgement by the Review Team that serving the severely mentally ill was difficult and posed a hardship for the agency. The County Review Team asked for changes in the program and extended one year of funding to the group.

The Programs Were Taken Away from Care Alliance:

     During the year 2000 review, The County Review Team consisting of members of government, foundation, business, homeless people, social service, and advocates again found problems with the operation of this program. The Coalition had received many complaints about the safe haven program from clients including terminations without cause and allegations of improper sexual contact between a client and staff. The grant was submitted to HUD for another year of funding despite the concern and after much debate. It was decided that Cuyahoga County would work with Care Alliance to find another social service provider (preferably one from the mental health community) to administer the safe haven. Care Alliance claimed that they informed the county in April 2000 that they would not be able to come up with the matching funds for this grant. There are no records to indicate that Care Alliance formally stated their desire to end this program in April of 2000.

     The Women's Center had the same problems, but the County Review Team felt that there was a higher degree or urgency for a new provider to supervise the program. The County team expressed concern in 1999, and recommended changes. In 2000, they heard a large number of complaints from clients including one that had a significant impact on the group. The Review Team was told of women who leave to go to the hospital and the Care Alliance staff throws all their stuff away. They told the other women that if any of them attempted to retrieve the woman who went to the hospital's items from the dumpster would be permanently banned from the program. There were many other problems including the reality that very few women were getting into permanent housing, which is the basis for the federal funding. Again, the County Review Team recommended submitting the grant to HUD, but finding a new provider to supervise the program.

     The other partners in the Women's Center were not interested in taking over the project, and so Catholic Charities decided to expand their existing services to homeless women by taking over operation of the drop in center. They also took over operation of the overnight shelter for women, and made plans for one facility that would offer both drop in and shelter services for women or women with children. To complicate matters, it was announced at the end of 2000 that HUD was not going to renew the Care Alliance grant for the Women's Center. The County has successfully appealed social service rejections by HUD in the past, but county officials have said that Care Alliance was not very helpful in filing an appeal. Because the program was going to go under the direction of another service provider, they had no interest in appealing their denial from HUD.

     Cuyahoga County officials worked out a deal that would allow Catholic Charities to take over the program on April 1, 2001 using the existing 2219 Payne Ave building. The Office of Homeless Services, the Cuyahoga County agency responsible for oversight of shelters, staff reported that "initially, Care Alliance indicated a willingness to do whatever would be helpful to follow through on a transition." On March 25 2001, OHS received notice from Care Alliance that on July 1, 2001 the safe haven had to vacate 2227 Payne Ave. and the women's program operated by Catholic Charities had to move out of 2219 Payne Ave. The memo sent by Ruth Gillett of OHS said, "Care Alliance has not indicated its plans for the use of this (2227 Payne Ave.) building."

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!:

     Care Alliance applied to HUD for a change in purpose for the two buildings from serving homeless women and the other building serving homeless people with a mental illness to both buildings being used to serve homeless people with AIDS. This change in purpose was not discussed with County officials, the Coalition for the Homeless or the other big homeless service providers in the community. As of June 14, 2001, HUD had not decided if this change was acceptable, but Care Alliance went forward with evicting these two programs. It came to light in May that Care Alliance was also evicting the women in the Upstairs program. This came as a great surprise since that program had received three more years of funding and was under no threat by the County. Before anyone could mobilize opposition to kicking these women out of their apartments they were all gone. Care Alliance did offer one concession to Cuyahoga County after they raised concern over the closings. They would allow another entity to come into the building and provide services until June 30, 2002 but only at the safe haven at 2227 Payne Ave. They did not provide a lease to Mental Health Services to provide services in the building until the week of June 18, 2001 only two weeks before the program was slated to close.

     Mental Health Services claimed that they needed three months to transition into these buildings. They informed Care Alliance and Cuyahoga County of their time table in March, but never received word to go forward. This three months was to secure the funding, hire and train staff and find a new site for half of the residents. In order to assure quality of service, Mental Health Board rules prohibit more than 13 mentally ill people in one shelter facility. So MHS had to find space for the other 13 individuals who were sheltered at the safe haven to comply with the HUD contract.

All the Powerful Entities in Cleveland Could Not Stop the Closings

     Upon hearing of the closing of the buildings, NEOCH contacted all of Care Alliance's funders to enlist their support in keeping the building open. The Cleveland Foundation, Thomas White Foundation, Eaton Corporation, 1525 Foundation, HUD, HHS, Gund Foundation, United Way. A few of these organizations met with the Care Alliance board, but could not stop the buildings from closing. NEOCH contacted every local and federally elected official from Northeast Ohio to get them to intervene. From County Commissioners to U. S. Representatives to the Mayor and City Council and none were able to stop these buildings from closing. NEOCH contacted the media in order to get attention in the general public about this unacceptable situation. As of the last week in June, the two buildings were still scheduled to close, and no one had stepped in to stop this waste of a resource.

     HUD did send a letter to Care Alliance dated June 14 by Lana Vacha, the director of community planning, which said that their request to change the purpose of the buildings was under investigation, but they needed further information. Vacha's letter did say, "we also remain concerned about the potential displacement of current tenants, as well as your continued obligation under the Term of Commitment requirements." Vacha later in the letter said, "We recommend that Care Alliance cease any activity that is not yet approved by the grantor agency (HUD or Cuyahoga County) with regard to the current tenants or services provided at these sites." Since Care Alliance did not take their recommendation, we will have to wait to see what HUD does when they find that Care Alliance did not take their advice.

The NEOCH response to Care Alliance:

     NEOCH's Board felt that this was a tremendous waste of money to renovate buildings and then have them sit empty. NEOCH's Board also felt that this change in purpose for the buildings would not be in the best interest of homeless people. The thinking was that if homeless people with a mental illness and women had not received good services why would homeless people with AIDS receive any better services from Care Alliance. Based on previous experience, the NEOCH Board realized that it was very difficult to get neighborhoods to accept services and would take more than three months to find replacement facilities.

     NEOCH staff had worked with the AIDS community on a conference on AIDS and housing, and had seen that Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland had made a huge monetary commitments to fighting AIDS. We felt this change in purpose by Care Alliance was an attempt to go after this new pool of money that was made available locally. The NEOCH Board was so concerned about the clients at this building they offered to provide staff at these two buildings in the short term to keep them open while a transition was worked out. Cuyahoga County officials did not feel that this was a good idea. So as the building was scheduled to close, the plan was for the safe haven for the mentally ill to sit empty for the summer. The women at the women center would stay in their overnight shelter until 11 a.m. and then go to a drop in center for women and men called the Bishop Cosgrove Center. The Care Alliance Women's Center would sit empty until HUD decides if they could use it for the AIDS population.

     We did ask Care Alliance to comment for this article, and they refused. They sent this note: "Given our experiences with the Homeless Grapevine, we do not believe that the publication provides unbiased or fair coverage to homeless service providers in general, and to Care Alliance in particular, and therefore we chose not to participate in the Grapevine's article at this time.

Geri Chesler assisted with this report.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #48 -2001