Temporary Worker’s Exploitation Documented

“The true cost of labor can only be ascertained by ascertaining the cost of all the means necessary to the comfortable feeding, clothing and housing of the laborer and his family with the addition of schooling for his children.  If the price paid for labor will not secure this to the laborer, than whoever gets that labor for such price is getting it at less than cost.”

--H.J. Walls, Commissioner of Ohio Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1878

by Dan Kerr

            Outside of his presumption that the laborer was a male, Walls’ quite nearly 125 years ago is just as appropriate today as it was then.  The plight of day laborers in Cleveland, which is documented in the report, “Challenging Exploitation and Abuse:  A study of the Day Labor Industry in Cleveland,” makes it clear that the day labor agencies in this city are not paying the true cost of labor.  As a result, they are producing unnecessary hardships for their employees and creating extensive costs for the larger community.  The agencies would not be able to reproduce their workforce if it was not for the extensive and largely publicly subsidized infrastructure in place that provides for the unmet needs of their workers: the shelters, meal sites, drop-in centers and health care services available to the working poor in the city of Cleveland.  From the day labor agencies’ perspective, these locations are warehouses of workers that supply a ready pool of desperate and dependent warm bodies.

            The impetus for the report emerged from the interviews that I conducted with the Cleveland Homeless Oral History Project.  To my surprise, I soon discovered that the large majority of men and women who live in the shelters in the City of Cleveland work.  Their principal employment is through temporary day labor agencies.  The project also identified that one of the primary causes of homelessness, identified by the homeless themselves, is the temporary day labor industry.  The on-month study that the current report is based on, has sought to identify the concerns and realities of workers within this industry.  Many of the findings in this study are supported by the recent coverage done by the Plain Dealer and the Free Times on the abuses and exploitation in the local day labor industry. 

            The interviews and focus groups conducted with close to a hundred day labors in the City of Cleveland, homeless and non-homeless alike has revealed several key grievances.  The most important of these grievances is that workers are not paid fairly for the labor that they do.  As a result, they are not unable to afford or maintain housing, nor are they able to break out of a cycle of poverty from the wages they receive.  Furthermore, workers find themselves trapped in the day labor cycle with the promise of permanent employment never fulfilled.  Workers find themselves in the industry for years without anything to show for it. Pensions and health benefits are out of the question.

            The industry is characterized by long days and low wages.  Typically workers wake up at 4:00 am, go to the agency office and start waiting to be sent out at 5:00 am.  They may not be sent out until 8:00am and will often travel to the outer ring suburbs to work in machine shops and plastics manufactures.  They may start working around 9:00 am and finish at 5:00 p., wait for a ride to pick them up (if it ever does) and not return home until 7:00 pm.  After fees for rides, safety equipment and check cashing, the worker will in most cases have between $28 and $30 in their pocket for approximately fourteen hours of working, traveling and waiting.

            Other problems that workers face is that they are not paid overtime by employers – the temporary day labor agencies.  They are charged excessive fees, treated with disrespect by the dispatches that send them out, and they are blacklisted or blackballed if they raise any concerns about company policies or safety procedures.  Typically, thee workers perform the most difficult, hot, dirty, heavy, and dangerous work in the region.  They are most frequently paid between $5.15 and $6.25 an hour without benefits.  While many perceive laborers to be unskilled, and reality is that their skills are not recognized and compensated accordingly.  Workers are not provided with appropriate safety gear and are sent out to work on unsafe equipment and in positions that have a high degree of risk for personal injury.

            The agencies make local companies sign contracts that forbid them from hiring a worker until they work ninety continuous days.  Often workers find their tickets disappear shortly before reaching their barrier – then both the client company and day worker have to start from day one.  The workers participating in the study have indicated that the day labor agencies actively participate in discrimination on the basis of race, gender, nationality and disability.  Also dispatchers at the agency engage in the practice of favoritism – sending out workers who they are friends with before other workers who they are friends with before other workers who are ready and willing to work.

            Workers interviewed have reported that it has become significantly more difficult finding jobs directly through a company.  Two factors have played a role in this new dynamic.  Many companies have left the city and relocated in industrial parts along the outer ring highways that circle the perimeter of the city.  This makes it extremely difficult for workers to apply for jobs at these shops.  Secondly, employers have sought to avoid paying workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and benefits by using temporary agencies for workers.  The downsizing, outsourcing and movement towards flexible production that has typified the industrial reorganization of this region in the past thirty years has meant that temporary employees who can be called on and let go at a moment’s notice, have become heavily utilized than they were in the 1920s.

            While this shift has in many ways benefited local industrial concerns, and it has very much benefited the temporary day labor agencies, it has displaced an inordinate amount of risk onto the workers.  These workers no longer have jobs with security or benefits and they have substandard wages.  While these workers have borne the risks, they have not shared in any of the benefits of the economic expansion of the 1990s.

            A series of structural changes within the labor market can be implemented that will allow these workers to get paid a living wage with benefits.  First and foremost, a non-profit community hiring hall can address many of the grievances of current day laborers and provide them with the material basis from which they can live with dignity and respect.  Secondly, we believe the city, county, organized labor, regional employers, and non-profits with an interest in employment can become full partners with this hiring hall.

            To supplement the establishment of this hall, the city, state and federal government need to regulate the employment leasing industry.  The leasing method was developed to bypass the regulations of the fee-charging placement agencies of old.  The staffing industry has argued that they are capable of policing their own, but as this report will document, they have abysmally failed in doing so.

Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Issue 50

Taft Proposes Closing Psychiatric Hospitals

 

Commentary

          It was reported that in order to balance the budget, Governor Robert Taft of Ohio proposes closing four more psychiatric hospitals including the one on South Point Drive next to Metro Health Hospital in Cleveland.  This proposal will cause greater strain on the already tenuous care to mentally ill people in our community.  We ask for some reconsideration of this policy to prevent deaths of our homeless disabled citizens.

An Open Letter to Governor Robert Taft

            The person within the Taft Administration who is proposing closing the psychiatric hospital, especially the services in Cleveland, needs serious mental health counseling.  One of the definitions of severe mental illness is that an individual poses a threat to themselves or others.  Any elected official who would consider closing more services for the mentally ill is a definite threat to others, and needs to seek psychiatric services.

            Our urban communities have been devastated by the bad decision s made by elected officials with regard to the mentally ill.  All of our social services are harmed, because there are not enough support services in the community to help the disabled.  All of our shelters are strained to the breaking point in an attempt to assist, with compassion, homeless people that are mentally ill.  Our jails are filled with individuals who did not find community support and ran astray of the law.  Landlords are drafted into becoming social workers for tenants who must deal with their mental illness in isolation.

            Ohio spend a criminally small amount of funds per capita on the mentally ill when compared to other states.  To close psychiatric hospitals in order to avoid a politically unpopular tax increase is another sign of Governor Robert Taft’s inability to provide leadership during tough times.  I hope that local mayors and the County Commissioners will vigorously oppose this proposal.  We will all regret the day that further cuts are made in funding the mentally ill.

            Sincerely

             GRAPEVINE STAFF

 Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Issue 50

Politics of Homelessness: Local News Updates

Scabies Outbreak:

            The largest men’s shelter in Ohio faced potential crisis that could have completely shut it down.  Scabies is a contagious skin disease caused by a very small mite that can cripple a shelter.  It is spread through direct contact by sharing clothing and bedding.  It is difficult to detect, and the treatment needs to be supervised by a doctor.  The Cleveland Health Department, Care Alliance, Metro Health Hospital, the Salvation Army and Cuyahoga County all responded to the potential crisis.  They came together and worked through the weekend cleaning the shelter from top to bottom, washing every scrap of clothing and bedding in a special solution, discarding all mattresses with incisions, and having every resident undergo a medical screening.  This does raise the concern about so many bodies sleeping in the same facility.

 Temporary Labor Companies:

            The Salvation Army agreed to prevent the downtown temporary labor companies from entering their facilities to recruit workers.  The Day Labor Organizing Committee requested that the Salvation Army stop “the mining of low wage workers in the shelters.”  After a few months of negotiations, the Army sent a letter to the Coalition for the Homeless confirming their new rules regarding access to the shelter for the temp. companies.  The DLOC is now asking the other shelters to follow suit.

 Largest Rent Strike in Ohio

            Eight hundred seniors are withholding their rent for a new landowner at the Columbia Park Mobile home park.  The new owner increased the lot lease fee by $20-$50, which was an extreme hardship for many of the senior citizens on a fixed income.  Township trustees condemned the rent increase, as did the Cuyahoga County Commissioners.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Olmstead Township Trustee Tim Hagan accepted the rent as part of the rent strike.  Cuyahoga County Commissioners are moving to take the property by eminent domain and turn it over to the residents as a cooperative.  Owners have struck back and threatened each resident with a counter lawsuit.

 Former Grapevine Vender Named as Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless

            Donald Whitehead, a former vendor of the Homeless Grapevine in Cincinnati, was named executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Whitehead became homeless after returning from the military and lived in the Drop Inn Center.  He became a vendor of the paper and did well.  He started writing and then volunteering with the Coalition in Cincinnati.  Eventually, he was named Executive of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless.  In August, he was named to head the Washington D.C. based advocacy organization.  The four areas of concentration over the next four years include civil rights, economic justice, housing justice and health care.

            In related story, Brian Davis, Executive Director of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Editor of the Homeless Grapevine was named to the Board of Trustees of the National Coalition for the Homeless.  He joins the 40 geographically diverse members from across the county to forward the goals of providing safe, decent, table residents to homeless people in the United States.

 CMHA Annual Plan

            The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority released its plans for 2002.  They maintained the Senior Only policy at 14 buildings despite the large vacancies at two of the senior only buildings, Riverview and Cedar Extensions.  The staff at CMHA are proposing to investigate home ownership plans so that those who gain a Section 8 voucher could use those for mortgage payments.  They will also ask residents to submit new documents for rent redetermination if they see an increase in their income instead of waiting for six-month redetermination period.  There were changes in the policy regarding guests, and CMHA staff has decided to pursue a HOPE VI project next year for Garden Valley estates.

 Care Alliance Must Repay Over One Half Million Dollars

     The Homeless Grapevine has tracked developments regarding Care Alliance and the closing of two buildings that had served homeless people.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development has finally made a determination to ask for $575,000 back from the agency.  Attorneys or HUD have asked Care Alliance to return all money given to the organization from HUD to renovate the two buildings.  This decision was made because the organization did not maintain the purpose of the building for the required 10-year period outlined in the original grant agreement.  Care Alliance officials are currently negotiating with the County to give up the two buildings to local non-profits in order to avoid the necessity of paying this sizable grant back to the Federal Government.

Death on the Streets

Two homeless men were found dead on the streets in the last week of September 2001.  On Sunday September 30, a 32-year-old man was found near the railroad tracks at E. 22nd St. and Davenport.  He had multiple stab wounds, and the coroner ruled it a homicide.  The name was being withheld until family could be noticed.  He was found by a resident of 2100 Lakeside Shelter.

On Monday October 1, 2001.  James Gratchen was found in the Family Dollar store across the street from Volunteers of American shelter.  Gratchen was a veteran, and died because of the hardships of living on the streets and attempts to overcome these hardships.  Gratchen had lived on the streets for years.  Neither man was using the shelter as their residence, but died outside of two men’s shelters.

 Copyright NEOCH Cleveland Ohio published 2001 Issue 50

Pierce and Campbell Square Off on the Issues Housing and Homelessness for Office of Mayor

 

            In August, the Cleveland Tenants Organization, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, and the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants asked all the candidates running for Mayor of Cleveland eight questions regarding homelessness and housing.  The Homeless Grapevine presents the responses from the two candidates who survived the primary. We present the two candidates answers in alphabetical order.

1.      Affordable housing.  The results of the 2000 U.S. Census indicate that over 51% of occupants in Cleveland are renters.  Other studies show that over half of Cleveland renters pay over 30% of their income on rent, with a quarter paying over 50% of their income on rent.  Additionally, approximately 33,000 families in July applied to get on a waiting list for the CMHA run tenant based Section program.  The need for more affordable housing is obvious for both tenants and homeless people.  If you are elected mayor, what will you do to alleviate the affordable housing shortage?  Related to that, do you support a universal living wage tied to the cost of housing in a community?

CAMPBELL:

            As Mayor, I will work with our neighborhood organizations to identify the affordable housing issues facing each neighborhood and develop a neighborhood housing issue facing each neighborhood and develop a neighborhood housing strategy that addresses each community’s need for new housing, both affordable and market rate.  I will work with the private and non - profit developers and CMHA to develop mixed income housing projects such as the proposed Hope VI Riverview redevelopment, which integrate income in new development.  I will set aside City funds to match federal funds available for the development of affordable housing and will aggressively seek those funds for Cleveland.  I will focus the community’s attention on our declining multi-family housing stock and work with our neighborhood organizations and our development community to identify and implement strategies to preserve, restore, and manage affordable multi-family housing.  I support the City’s living wage legislation, which provides for a cost of living increase tied to the Consumer Price Index.

PIERCE:

            As Mayor, I would work with other city county and state administrators, and secure additional funding to assist those paying a disproportionate share of their monies toward housing. This would include working to implement changes in TANF and P.R.C. programs to utilize funds to assist those moving from welfare to work with their housing needs.  I fully support a universal living wage that would reduce the earnings for our poorest citizens

2.      Homeless pain.  How would you as the Mayor of Cleveland bring homeless people, grant makers, government entities, business and social service providers together to develop a plan to end homelessness and expand the affordable housing available in Cleveland?  Since homeless people come from all over the region how would you involve the suburban communities in a plan to end homelessness?

CAMPBELL:

            As I indicated in the first question, I would begin by working with our neighborhood organizations to develop community-housing plans, which identify the housing needs and opportunities in each neighborhood.  I will expect these plans to address the housing needs of the current homeless population and strategies to preserve existing affordable housing and expand affordable housing options.  I will expect these plans to comprehensively address social services, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, and job training for homeless persons, whether or not they are in shelters.

            Issues of affordable housing and homelessness impact the suburbs as well as the city.  I would work with our County Planning Commission to identify affordable housing needs, opportunities, and strategies countywide and with our County Commissioners to develop the resources necessary to meet this challenge both in the City and in the suburbs.

PIERCE:

            As mayor, I would ensure that the Det. Of Public Health is capably staffed with the highest qualified individuals to administer to the health and well being of the citizens of Cleveland.  My staff would be proactive and responsive to in addressing the needs of our community members who are homeless.  I recognize that those needs are often complex, and require coordinated efforts of social work professionals, caseworkers, government agencies and department (e.g., housing, safety), mental health care professionals, and community volunteers.  I would enable my Department to work closely with county officials who distribute federal and state funds that go to care for our most needy citizens.  I would enlist teams from our department of health to collaborate with those on the front lines caring for our homeless.  Only if the circumstances warrant, my Department would work with others to locate the families of those who are homeless so to hopefully provide a stronger safety net.  I would continue our efforts to bring not only federal and state monies to Cleveland to address homelessness, but also seek out private resources.

3.      Temporary labor.  What would your administration do to end the exploitation and low-income people by the downtown temporary labor companies?

CAMPBELL:

            I would support efforts to organize the workers in those companies and would consider regulations that the city can enact to ensure fairer treatment of these workers.  I would also work to make sure that every Clevelander has basic primary health care coverage.

PIERCE: 

            My administration will not sanction any temporary labor companies who have demonstrated a track record of unfair wage and labor practices against the homeless, who do not offer a living wage to workers, or fail to ensure the health and safety of their workers.  I would diligently enforce any fair labor, health and safety laws whenever there is evidence of exploitation of our most vulnerable.

4.      Intra-Governmental affairs.  Welfare reform and the de-institutionalization of people with a mental illness have traditionally been under the direction of the County or State of Ohio, but the impact of the decisions made by these other government officials have had extremely negative consequences for the City of Cleveland.  Would you involve yourself as Mayor in the affairs of other governments if the decisions have a major impact on Cleveland?

CAMPBELL:

            Of course, I would.  I believe that a Mayor must assertively advocate the interests of the people of Cleveland to the other governments whose actions impact the city- the county, the state, and the federal government.  I have always advocated the interests of the people I have represented and would continue to do so as Mayor of Cleveland.  As former State Representative and a County Commissioner, I believe that I am uniquely qualified to undertake the mission of working with these other levels of government on behalf of Clevelanders.

PIERCE:

            I would most definitely involve myself in the affairs of government when the best interests of Cleveland are at stake.  My work in Washington, D.C. and as general counsel of LT V Steel (where I worked with City Council during the company’s bankruptcy proceeding in the 80’s) demonstrate that I am one who will, and has the capacity to work

in the best interests of those with whom I am charged to assist.  My first priority as Mayor will be to restore a spirit of professionalism, collaboration, and civility to City Hall.  I look forward to working with City Council, state and county officials (such as the Board of Mental Health and Mental Retardation), with members of Congress (as I have in the past), to address issues such as access to and affordability of health care, particularly mental health as it plagues our homeless population.  I would work with others who support a demand that the federal and state continue to do their fair share to ensure the care of treatment of those afflicted with mental illness.

5.      Development.  Over the past decade, Cleveland has undergone immense revitalization of the downtown area to attract and benefit middle and upper income residents and suburbanites.  Cleveland’s professional sports teams have received three new complexes through extensive benefits and incentives offered by the City.  Would you consider requiring that all development projects on city owned sites or developments requiring government assistance pay into an affordable housing fund to help maintain and/or develop affordable housing?

CAMPBELL:             

            Creation of an affordable housing fund linked to downtown development is one way some cities have chosen to address the need for affordable housing.  Given the current state of Downtown development in Cleveland, a linkage program will not work.  A more successful strategy, I believe, will be to support mixed income housing developments, to require that all multi-family housing developments – new and rehab – include affordable units, and to work with our neighborhood organizations and non-profit developers to preserve existing affordable housing and to create new affordable single family housing units that are knit into the fabric of our communities.

            As Mayor I would create a Neighborhood Endowment for the 21st Century dedicated to investments in housing, technology, neighborhood retail, industrial development, historic restoration, and cultural projects.  This fund would be capitalized by the proceeds of Chagrin Highlands development, repayments from outstanding economic development loans, and an annual contribution from CDBG matched by resources from the private and foundation communities.  I would leverage this fund to compete for federal and state development money available to support housing development, site remediation, and infrastructure.

PIERCE:

            My major concern is how the rise id Cleveland’s housing stock value has taken a toll on housing affordability for our citizens who are homeless, cannot work, or are working but paying up to 50% of their earnings for housing.  I too have been concerned about the seemingly reckless use of tax abatements downtown, and strongly feel we need to re-energize our commitment to residential and economic development in our neighborhoods.  Partnering with City Council, community development corporations, and other governmental entities, my administration would seek to take advantage of commercial and residential development tools such as tax credits under the 1997 Tax Relief Act, the Ohio Community Development Fund (both for rehabilitation projects, environmental study and remedy), HUD’s American Dream Down payment (and several other initiatives recently approved by Congress), and Housing trust funds – each of which can be used for public or private developers in the building and rehabilitation of our neighborhoods. Our City can be more aggressive in securing funding from these and other sources to assist in housing assistance.  I would work hard to implement conditions, which tie business location in Cleveland to housing assistance.

6.      Vacant Structures.  The 2000 Census also indicates the number of vacant housing units in the city is approximately 11%.  What plans does your campaign have to reutilize these structures for the public good, or encourage private owners to appropriately use the structures?

CAMPBELL: 

            My administration will work with our neighborhood Development Corporation and non-profit developers to identify vacant units that can be restored to productive use.  We will move aggressively to demolish unsalvageable residential sites and redevelop those sites for new, mixed income housing.

PIERCE:

            As mayor, my administration would take a leading role to assist in the rehabilitation of vacant housing.  I would negotiate with private owners of vacant homes, to arrive at purchase agreements that are fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of all parties.  I would redouble our efforts to remedy our brown fields, and restore blighted areas in our neighborhoods.  Partnering with City Council, community development corporations, and other government entities, my administration will utilize the development tools identified in my response to question 5 so to convert such structures for public benefit.  Eminent domain, I feel, should only be used as a last resort, after extensive, good faith negotiations with vacant homeowners fail.  However, my administration will not be afraid to enforce its rights, and use existing laws to ensure that landowners who fail to take lawful responsibility for their properties are appropriately sanctioned.

7.      Housing Inspection Services: 

a.      Cleveland has many aging elevator systems in high-rise apartments.  Elderly residents especially are fearful of the constant malfunctioning elevators.  What will you do to ensure that owners maintain, renovate or replace aging systems?

b.      Lead based paint is a significant problem in Cleveland.  City housing inspectors frequently cite landlords and owners for peeling and chipping paint.  There is no coordination however, with the city inspection services that work on lead paint reduction.  What will your administration do to better coordinate inspection services relating to maintenance and environmental health issues?

c.       The city condemnation code is very broadly written, allowing great subjectivity in deciding when to notify tenants of the condemnation, leaving many tenants living in condemned apartments without their knowing about it.  Will you make any changes to the condemnation and tenant notification policies if you become mayor?

CAMPBELL:

            My administration will fully staff inspectional services, including elevator inspectors, and will prosecute aggressively those owners who do not maintain their elevator systems properly.

            Eliminating the source of pediatric lead poisoning will be a top propriety of my administration.  I will task my Director of Health to lead an interdepartmental team dedicated to eliminating lead paint on the systematic, worst/first basis.  We will reorganize the delivery of services to our neighborhoods to ensure that the inspectors from Health and Building and Housing work more closely together and we will use the power of the City’s GIS system to more accurately track progress in eliminating lead from our environment.

            It is essential that the City establishes and maintains a consistent policy of notification to tenants in condemned properties.  As Mayor, I will review the City’s public notification processes to insure that these important processes are implemented fairly and uniformly.

 PIERCE: 

A.     Elevators.  I would look into increasing periodic inspections of elevators.  I would also compel landlords who must comply with ADA, and other regulations to ensure that their elevators are in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws.  I would direct that our city’s housing department strictly, diligently, efficiently, yet fairly enforce these laws, and would urge our courts to issue per diem sanctions for landlords failing to remedy any problems.

B.      Lead Paint.  Our Health Department needs not only coordinate with residential inspectors, but we should also be using to the fullest extent county and state resources to assist us in identifying and enforcing the reduction of lead based hazards.

C.     Condemnation Code.  I believe we can do better in the tenant notification process.  I would direct my departments to examine how we could best assist tenants with relocation services and/or transitional housing.

8.      Tenant Rights.  Cleveland has just passed an ordinance that supplements the Ohio Landlord/Tenant law to provide more protections and remedies for tenants.  How will you assure residents that their rights under the new law will be protected and enforced, especially in relation to security?

CAMPBELL:

            As the city’s chief administrative officer, the Mayor takes an oath to enforce the City of Cleveland fairly and impartially.  If I have the privilege of being elected Mayor, I intend to adhere to the letter and the spirit of my oath and will enforce this, and all other ordinances to the best of my ability.

PIERCE:

            My administration will examine how to best endure that tenants are made aware of their rights as Cleveland residents, and I would work with our court systems to determine how we can best assist tenants in enforcing their rights under our new ordinance.

 Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Cleveland Ohio Issue 50

Nickel and Dimed to Homelessness

Book Review:

             With the events of September 11, 2001, we have to go back to the Barbara Ehrenreich book that was published earlier this year.  In Nickel and Dimed, we read of Ehrenreich’s attempt to survive on entry-level salaries at various service sector jobs.  While she did not focus on airport security, the jobs she undertook were low wage, high demand, stressful and left her unable to afford housing. “Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow,” said Ehrenreich.

             Erenreich worked for Wal Mart, a restaurant in Florida, and a hotel as a cleaning woman.  She was barely able to pay the rent on a poverty motel, and had very little cash left to eat or pay for transportation.  She attempted to work two jobs with very little success.  “The United States, for all its wealth, leaves its citizens to fend for themselves—facing market-based rents, for example, on their wage alone,” said Ehrenreich. 

             We learned after September 11th that workers at our airports are paid close to minimum wage and spend long hours looking at x-ray machines.  Because of deregulation and some degree of corporate greed, our airport security staff are untrained and underpaid.  News sources told us that Boston’s Logan Airport had a turnover rate of 200% over the last year.  It looks as though the airline industry has jeopardized public safety to reduce costs.

             Ehrenreich’s book describes the extremes of tedium and backbreaking labor that she had to endure.  Underlying the entire book was the struggle to maintain housing for a single adult.  She met families that were themselves struggling, but was willing to take her in order to prevent homelessness.  She describes the exploitation of female employees at a cleaning company, which were a throwback to women in the workforce of the 1950s.

One woman broke her ankle and felt that she had to continue to work through the pain.

             Nickel and Dimed is a wonderfully revealing indictment of the wholesale deflation of income over the last 20 years.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported last year that over the last two decade the average income of the lowest income families fell by 6% nationally while the highest income families grew by 30%.   The 1990’s saw an explosion in wealth with huge increases in revenue from the stock market and the obscene increases in the disparity of incomes.  Salary disparity between the CEOs yearly salary is now approaching 500 times the salary of the average line worker of a company.  A better example of these concepts is in Michael Moor’s book, Downsize This.

             There is a widening gap in America between the rich and the poor.  The highest 20% of the workforce as 20 times the wages of the lowest 20%.  It now takes over $10 per hour at 40 hours a week to be able to afford a fair market apartment in most communities.  Ehrenreich’s book dramatically demonstrates the housing insecurity facing many people in our cities.  She stays in substandard apartments and poverty motels.   She tries working two full time jobs, and she attempts with little success to use the social services that exist.  In the end, she finds the incredible struggle facing workers at Wal-Mart or restaurant workers.  She found that there are no longer many unskilled jobs, and it is difficult to afford to live in one of the most prosperous countries in the history of the world

 Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Issue 50

New Mayor Raises Hope in Homeless Community

Editorial:

            The homeless citizens of Cleveland are anxiously waiting out the final months of the Michael R. White administration.  They have endured 12 rough years of winter from City Hall and are looking forward to the spring days of a new administration.  The White administration has swung from ignoring poverty to criminalizing homelessness.  We have seen an organized effort to restrict pedestrian access to the Homeless Grapevine, a concentrated effort to kidnap and dump homeless people to the outskirts of town, and most recently a clean sweep of homeless people downtown.

            We have seen huge estates grown in our neighborhoods, built on the rubble of affordable housing.  We have endured the construction of playgrounds for the rich suburbanites downtown while most drinking fountains were removed from our public areas.  Homeless people have very few places available to them for relieving their bodily functions, and routinely suffer confiscation of all their possessions.  Our friends who spend their nights on the streets have seen dramatic increases in hate crimes and never a peep from City Hall.  The coalition for the Homeless has had to spend a great deal of staff time and resources battling attacks on homeless people over the last 12 years instead of spending our time on working on solutions.

            However, some progress was made over the last 12 years because of the concern of lower level staff members within the administration.  We created and expanded the permanent housing program called Shelter Plus Care with much support from Cuyahoga County.  We have ended the deplorable Project Heat overflow shelters and are currently working on an entry point shelter for families to replace the mats on the floor that existed for the past 10 years.  We have tremendously expanded resources and services available in the community, but have yet to figure out how to get the most impact for the money we receive.

            The antagonism by the Mayor is not unique to Cleveland.  In many progressive cities, mayors that grew up in the city and were always viewed as friends of the poor turn around and sell homeless people to the business community.  We have seen mayors in Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, and the king of all sellouts, Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco turn against homeless people in order to pacify downtown corporations who fear a loss in tourism with visible poverty.

            Brown of San Francisco ran on a platform of ending the previous Mayor’s draconian policy of aggressively confronting homeless people.  Brown promised not only an ending of the criminalizing of homelessness but instituting a plan to significantly reduce the number of people who are forced to sleep on the streets.  San Francisco is now viewed as one the unfriendliest cities toward homeless people and population have skyrocketed.  This is the unfortunate paradox of the modern urban landscape.  The harsher the policies toward poor people, the more alienated and untrusting they become and the population grow.  Homeless people are not usually willing to move out of a community because they have family or a high degree a familiarity with a neighborhood or section of town.

            Now, we have the choice of a corporate attorney with a background in education policy or a friend of big business who is running on her commitment to increasing safety forces and assisting children.  Attending a number of candidate forums one thing is clear – either candidate will have a sizable learning curve to overcome in order to serve the needs of poor people especially in the area of housing.  The Cleveland Tenants Organization town hall forum centered on housing and homeless issues and highlighted the knowledge gap on these issues by all 10 candidates who ran for office.

            None of the candidates separated themselves from the field with broad promises or bold initiatives.  There was little understanding across the field of the differences between public housing and the landlord based subsidized housing.  Almost every candidate had spent little time on the problem of homelessness.  One candidate, William Denihan, put a great deal of time into answering the questions about housing and homelessness in the newspaper circulating by the cosponsors of the debate, but did not have the fire onstage to generate excitement for his candidacy.  Mary Rose Oakar talked about the Seattle plan for dealing with homeless people, which comprehensively addressed families that become homeless while leaving the rest of the population out in the cold.  Oakar also endorsed universal health care only in the city of Cleveland, which did not seem practical.

            The two candidates who will compete in November were short on details and did not actually make many promises.  Both candidates will probably be better than the current occupant of the Red Room at City Hall.  Both ail probably end up beholden to one interest group or another and will side with big business over poor people more often than not.  Peirce is an unknown and we do not know how he will react to downtown business groups who come to his office complaining of the panhandlers that are taking over the city.  Having spent eight years in Washington D.C., he may be able to say to our business community, “Go visit our nations capital if you want to see panhandling out of control and third world type homelessness.”

            Campbell has a good family history for working with people of low income, but she has disappointed us before.  She ran for state representative on a child friendly ticket, but voted for the most harmful piece of legislation toward children in our state’s history – welfare reform.  Only recently she spoke at a rally called by the Day Labor Organizing Committee, and the next day told labor groups that she could not commit money to an alternative community hiring hall as the DLOC is proposing.  We have no idea how she will respond when businesses knock on her door to tell her that homeless people are destroying the Flats.

            This is an unnerving time for homeless people.  We anticipate that we will not face the criminalization of the last 12 years, but we could again be ignored.  We also could see one of these candidates step forward on a plan to stop the flow of homeless

people into the system and move people out of the shelters.  We could forge a new partnership between homeless people and the City administration to begin to house the citizens of Cleveland.

            Other cities have put in place plans to better serve homeless people and are five to 10 years ahead of Cleveland.  This is largely because our current Mayor took a back seat to addressing the problem of homelessness.  We can only wait to see how the new Mayor of Cleveland will address his citizens who happen to become homeless.

 Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Cleveland Ohio Issue 50

National Campaign for Housing Equals Billions in Wage Increases

         Congress is learning this year what more than 170 towns, counties, and states already know: that we need more housing, and housing trust funds are one of the best ways to meet the need.  The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Cleveland Tenants Organization have received support in its advocacy of a National Housing Trust Fund from a new study that shows a $50 billion fund would generate 1.8 million jobs and nearly $50 billion in wages.  A good chunk of that impact may be felt in Ohio if Congress creates the fund.

             Home Sweet Home:  Why America Needs a National Housing Trust Fund by Washington, D.C.- based non-profit Center for Community Change builds the case of 1,000 grassroots groups and others who advocate creating a federal version of a more than 0-year-old affordable housing funding vehicle that has a 99.8 percent success rate and leverages on average $9 for every $1 of direct investment.  More than 170 cities and towns, counties, and states have used housing trust funds to build more than 2000,000 units of affordable housing.

             2% of the renters in Cleveland pay 50% or more of their income toward rent, and every year 24,000 people become homeless in Cleveland.  “Housing Trust Funds are the flexible funding source that communities need to develop affordable housing, says Andy Mott, executive director of Center for Community Change, CCC, a 32 year-old- policy and action resource for community organizations.  “A national fund is the best response to the disappearing federal dollars and increasing nationwide need for affordable housing.”  CCC has helped create more than 50 such funds across the county since 1986.

             A $5 billion National Housing Trust Fund will directly generate 184,300 construction jobs with approximately $4.9 billion in wages and will leverage an additional 1.6 million jobs paying an additional $44.6 billion in new wages, according to the Home Sweet Home analysis, which used a Department of Commerce-sanctioned statistical analysis method, RIMS II.  The analysis assumes 25 percent of a $5 billion investment will help construct single-family homes, 65 percent will help construct multi-family homes, and 10 percent will fund maintenance and repairs.

             Cleveland has seen a significant loss in subsidized buildings for families over the last five years.  Bills now in Congress, S. 1248 and H.R. 2349, would draw on surplus finds in two housing-related federal programs, the Ginnie Mae Fund and the Federal Housing Administration’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance. MMI, Fund.  Surplus is defined as the amount over what government financial managers deem necessary to insure the safety and soundness of funds.

             An accounting firm hired by the FHA to monitor the MMI fund pegged its value at $17 billion at the end of fiscal year 2000.  This represents about 3.51 percent of the Fund’s insurance-in-force – well above the Congressionally required minimum of 2 percent.  Both Ginnie Mae and the MMI funds insure the government can pay obligations related to foreclosures on guaranteed loans.  Currently surpluses in these funds go to subsidize other operations of the federal government.

             The bills, sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the U.S. Rep Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.), were introduced this summer to fanfare from a national campaign that counts nearly 1,000 local, state and national organizations, elected officials, and others who have officially expressed support for the idea of a National Housing Trust Fund.    

“The need is there, the solution is there, and the funding is there, as well,” says Andy Mott of CCC.

             Home Sweet Home bolsters the case for a national fund in other ways besides the economic impact argument.

             Housing trust funds have three characteristics:  dedicated sources of ongoing funding, a commitment to production and preservation of affordable housing, and the fact that they represent money not otherwise used to address housing needs, such as federal HOME or CDBG dollars.  Trust Funds exist in towns from Alexandria, VA. To West Hollywood, Calif. and everywhere in between, in more than 34 states and 100 other governmental bodies.

             Typically, states fund them with real estate transfer taxes, developers’ fees, contributions, and other sources. Advocates of the idea note that governmental bodies often earmark funds for certain projects, such as using gas taxes for road and highway projects.  Other factors supporting the call for a National Housing Trust including the following:

             Certain households are shut out of the housing market:  Low-income households seeking stable housing have not benefited from the growing U.S. economy.  Inadequate wages, high living costs and housing shortages make it difficult for low-income and working families to purchase or rent a home.

             Despite an overall increase, home ownership rates fall for those less well off.  Today, 44 percent of American families cannot afford to purchase a home, an increase from 40 percent in 1988.  The number of subsidized housing units in decreasing, as well.  Another factor is the amount of poor-quality housing, which ranges from 10 to 13 percent of the housing stock in much of the country.

             Children make up a third of those in substandard housing, and are more likely to suffer ill effects from that housing, such as asthma and lead poisoning.  New research also points to the benefits a stable home brings to young people’s education.  One report found that the more times child moves, the more likely her reading scores are to suffer.

               The report finds that substandard housing, overcrowded conditions or paying over 30% of a family’s income toward housing affects one out of every four Ohio residents.  Similar housing needs afflict one out every three-minority residents in Ohio.

 Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Issue 50

Laborers Ask Council to Stop Exploitation

By Sarah Kandiko

             Solidarity was the common theme Tuesday, September 4th as one-hundred plus people rallied to support the Day Labor Organizing Committee (formerly the Low Wage Workers Union).  The hearings attracted labor and social service activist to the City Council main chambers on the abuses faced by homeless people of temporary labor companies in Cleveland.

            Congressman Dennis Kucinich gave a rousing speech, which boosted the crowd moral and echoed the sentiments of the room before twenty-three people spoke of their experiences.  The workers each spoke to their own experiences and a variety of people testified.  Chuck Daley, a 56-year-old African-American gentleman, spoke of his sadness of not being able to give his grandchildren gifts at Christmas.  He has 15 cumulative years of experience at the temporary labor company’s agencies, while a young man spoke of his inability to get a permanent position.

            Brian Hazel was a social worker that then became homeless and was forced to find employment at the temporary labor companies.  John Davidson spoke of the unsafe working conditions such as the absence of back braces for heavy lifting, the lack of air conditioning or drink breaks on extremely hot days.  Davidson mentioned the lack of breaks including only a fifteen-minute lunch break.

            Elizabeth Darden also spoke about unsafe work conditions in reference to the lack of first-aid resources available at many of the job sites.  She also discussed the lack of time she was able to spend with her family as a result of working long hour’s everyday.  Many women spoke of gender discrimination that they are subjected to in historically male dominated labor jobs.  A young homeless man testified that he simply refuses to work at the agencies because of their negative effect on the community.

            Hakeem Ali spoke of the continuation of the cycle of poverty and how the agencies keep workers on for 60-89 days, but never 90, thereby side-stepping a contractual agreement that requires temporary workers to be hired after 90 days.

            These common themes of discrimination, racism, and the inability to get a permanent position, are only some of the complaints against the temporary labor companies.  Unsafe conditions at work was another one that ran deep, as well as favoritism, sexism and a host of other problems.                                                                                                                                                                                                   The most common complain, however, was the less than minimum wage pay that workers receive, which often amounts to a $25-30 dollars for what turns out to be a 14 hour work day including waiting.  One man, who has been working for the temporary labor companies for 22 years, compared being homeless 20 years ago with being homeless today when he said he would get a room, a meal and a beer for $25 whereas now he ass to decide between a room and a meal for the night.

            Brian Davis, Executive Director of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) spoke about the need for jobs that pay a living wage and do not perpetuate the cycle of homelessness and poverty.  He also emphasized the bravery and courage of each individual who testified, as doing so put their jobs on the line.  Dan Kerr, who has been instrumental in organizing the DLOC, gave a brief summary of the project.

            Councilman Joe Cimperman convened the hearings and John Ryan, president of the Cleveland chapter of the AFL-CIO, also spoke and expressed solidarity with the cause.  City Councilmen Coats, Jackson, Polenscek and Westrook dropped by as well, some speaking to express their concern and desire to learn more about the situation, while others simply listened.  There were representatives from temporary labor companies present, but they declined to speak when given the chance.

            Councilman Joe Cimperman brought the hearings to a close by appointing Dan Kerr to head working groups on the issue, and suggested reviewing existing legislation, and moving ahead with the idea of a community hiring hall.  The day ended outside with an impromptu meeting of the DLOC, who agreed with Cimperman’s ideas and debated over the issue of whether or not to meet with the temporary agencies (at their request).  In addition Brian Davis encouraged people to report any blacklisting or harassment that occurs as a result of testifying to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) who will keep them on record.  Thus far, at least four members have been blacklisted by the downtown temporary labor agencies.

 Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Cleveland Ohio Issue 50

Homeless Assist Disaster Victims

Honored at a special dinner in Cleveland

            Homeless people do not have money to donate, they cannot perform on a television telethon, and they cannot travel to New York to help with the rescue, but those living in shelters in Cleveland were appalled at the events of September 11 and decided to help.  Over 50 homeless people spent 18 hours loading donations and transporting those goods to Pittsburgh for distribution to the victims and rescuers in New York, Washington and Somerset County.  They spent the afternoon of September 16 unloading cars then they rode in the caravan of 40 semi-tricks and 110 vans that carried the donations to Pittsburgh for separation and distribution.

            The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Salvation Army and Founder’s Pah thanked these men who gave their time to help the victims of the 9/11/01 acts of terrorism.  All the homeless men who assisted the City of Cleveland with donations were honored at a dinner at St. Augustine Church on October 5, 2001.  Founder’s Path will provide a meal and a special t-shirt to make the community joining together to help Americans in need.  The Salvation Army will offer a special thank you to the men who helped.

            Ron Reinhart of Founder’s Path said, “We went looking for volunteers to help with this mammoth effort to move thousands of donations closer to the areas of need.  The outpouring of help from homeless people overwhelmed us.  These guys spent hours loading and unloading without complaining and without asking for anything in return. We had to show our appreciation.”

 Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Cleveland Ohio Issue 50

Hate Crimes Directed at Homeless people on the Rise

By John Halpin

            The criminalization of the homeless is an attempt by cities across the country to rid their streets of homeless people.  Often, cities cite safety concerns as a reason to remove homeless people.  Recent reports, however, show that rather than being perpetrators of violent crimes, homeless people are often the victims of such acts.

            During the 1990s, reports of homeless people being brutally beaten and killed surfaced across the country.  The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) decided in 1999 to document these varied reports of violence in a white paper.  That year, they reported 29 homeless people were killed and 6 suffered non-lethal attacks.  A more extensive effort in 2000 reported 43 homeless people killed and 23 victims of non-lethal violence.  While these numbers might appear small considering they are national figures, they do not represent the total number of crimes that occur.  Many of thee crimes go unreported to the police, service providers, or newspapers, and hence did not find their way to NCH’s reports.  And what these reports may lack in numbers, they make up in the gruesome nature of some of the attacks.

            In one Las Vegas case, a seventy-six year –old homeless man was beaten to death by group of ten teenagers.  Ron Travis, another homeless man camped in the area witnessed the attacks and scared the teens off approaching them with a large rock.  “He didn’t say anything to them,” Travis said of the victim.  “He had his blankets over his head. That’s the way he sleeps.  I didn’t hear them saying anything before they started.  I just heard Arthur grunting when he was being kicked.

            A series of attacks in Colorado Springs, Colorado, left homeless people in the city fearing for their safety.  John Michael Jones of Lexington, Kentucky, was found dead in his sleeping back, apparently of a blow to the head.  He was found under a bridge, in the same area where two other homeless men were badly beaten.  These two men could not identify their assailants because they were attacked at night, but police believe that a band of teens were responsible for both attacks.

            The 2000 Hate Crimes Report cites the U.S. Department of Justice report that most hate crimes are not committed by organized hate groups but rather by individuals who harbor strong resentments against certain groups of people.  The report divides hate crime perpetrators into three groups.  “Mission offenders” act in an attempt to cleanse society of a group they consider evil. “Scapegoat offenders” attack as a way to express their resentment toward the growing economic power of a minority group.  The third group, which are the most likely to attack homeless people, are “Thrill seekers.”  Thrill seekers target vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to satisfy their thrills.

            One can scarcely imagine a target as vulnerable as a woman or a man who must live their entire lived in public.  The National Coalition for the Homeless intends to continue documenting hate crimes against the homeless.  It intends to use the reports it produces to educate lawmakers about this phenomenon and to recommend that proactive measures be taken.

            The National Coalition for the Homeless made five specific recommendation s for action in their 2000 report:

  • That the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledge hate crimes and/or violence against the homeless as a serious national trend,
  • That the Justice Department tract hate crimes and violence against the homeless,
  • That any new federal hate crimes legislation include homelessness,
  • That police departments across the country include training on how to effectively and humanely work with the homeless people in their communities, and
  • That the Department of Justice sponsor or fund a research study to interview perpetrators of hate crimes against the homeless in order to determine the motivation behind such attacks.

For more information on hate crimes against the homeless, visit the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website: www.nationalhomeless.org.

Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Issue 50

Disparity Between Rents and Minimum Wage keeps Growing

           For millions of low wage working Americans, even working two full-time jobs won’t pay the rent, because wages are falling farther behind as housing prices skyrocket.

          The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report on income and rental housing costs, Out of Reach, reveals that in no single jurisdiction in the United States can a minimum wage worker afford the Fair Market Rent for homes in their communities.

            To afford the U.S. Median Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom rental house or apartment, a worker would have to earn a Wage of $13.87 per hour, 269 percent of the federal minimum wage, according to the 2001 edition of the report released today.

            In 33 states including Ohio and 1,237 cities and counties including Cuyahoga County, the Fair Market Rent is more than twice the prevailing minimum wage, the Coalition reported.  The federal minimum wage has remained at $5.15 since 1997.  During the same four years, rents have increased significantly nationwide.  Today, a Median Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom rental unit, or a household must have the equivalent of two and a half minimum wage workers.

            In more expensive areas of the country, housing is even less affordable to low-wage workers.  The Housing Wage needed to afford a two-bedroom unit in San Francisco is $33.60 for a San Francisco family with two minimum wage workers; they would be unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment even if each worked two full-time jobs.

            In Boston, the Housing Wage is $20.21 a minimum wage worker would have to work 157 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.  Although Massachusetts and California have enacted high minimum wage laws that the Federal standard, minimum wages still fall far short of making housing affordable for low wage workers.

            And in most areas of the country the gap is growing.  Of the 3,779 local jurisdictions examined – every county in the 50 states (in New England states, data analyzed at the town level), plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – the Housing Wage increased in all but one of them, by an average of about 4.6 percent from 2000 to 2001.  Five hundred local jurisdictions experienced increases of $1 per or more, and 99 of those saw increases of $2 or more.

            The one jurisdiction where the Housing Wage declined was Madison County, Missouri, where dropped from $7.37 last year to $7.13 this year.  Those amounts are substantially greater than the $5.15 minimum wage.

            Far worse in the gap between income and housing cost for elderly and disabled people who depend on Supplement Security (SSI) as their main source of income.  In Florida, for example, an SSI recipient, receiving $512 monthly, can afford monthly rent of no more than $154, while the Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom home in Florida is $566.

            Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chair of the Housing and transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee, said of the report: “Today’s affordable housing crisis is the result of both market failure and government disinvestment in housing assistance for low income families.  I commend the national Low Income Housing Coalition for publishing Out of Reach and working to keep our nation’s shortage of affordable housing problem in the public eye.  I intend to continue working to develop sound solutions to our affordable housing crisis and to address the serious shortcomings in current federal housing policy.”

            “Our annual Out of Reach reports have drawn a stark picture of housing affordability in America today,” said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  “Sound and affordable housing is the key to improving the lives of millions of people.”

            The study estimates the affordability of the “fair market rents” (FMRs) established annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for HUD’s Section 8 rental housing programs.  They are HUD’s best estimates, based on telephone surveys and other data, of gross rents (including utilities) of “privately owned, decent, safe, and sanitary rental housing of a modest (non-luxury) nature with suitable amenities” of units for rent in American communities. FRMs are only the estimate of housing costs that are consistent across the nation

            The calculations also assure the generally accepted standard of spending not more than 30% of income on housing costs.

            The entire report, Out of Reach:  America’s Growing Wage-Rent Disparity, is available from NLHC at 202-662-1530 and on the organization’s website at http://www.nlihc.org.

 

Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Issue 50

Candidate’ Debate

By Alex Grabtree

             Cleveland tenants and homeless people held the fourth annual tenant Town Hall Forum and invited all ten candidates running for Mayor of Cleveland to talk about their plans for improving access to affordable housing.  The forum took lace only four days after the terrorist attack in New York and Washing D.C.  Despite the close proximity to the September national tragedy 150 people showed up to listen to the next Mayor of Cleveland. 

            After a moment of silent reflection and introductions by the host for the evening, Councilman Frank Jackson thanked all of those who came out to embrace democracy in this time of national mourning.  The event was co-sponsored by the northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Cleveland Tenants organization, the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Councilpersons, Jackson, Joe Cimperman, Pat Britt, Merle Gordon, and Michael Polensek.

            Candidates were given an opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about their plans around the issue of affordable housing if elected Mayor then a panel of tenants and advocates were given the opportunity to ask one question of two of the ten candidates.  Finally, the floor opened to the audience to ask questions for a little over one hour.

            Fiery activists Irv Chudner electrified the crown with a brand of blasting the establishment and preaching a revolution of the citizens to overthrow big business backed candidates.  A number of the candidates talked about their experience with tying to find affordable housing.  William Denihan talked about growing up in public housing complex.  Tim Mc Cormack promised his first act would be to address the housing problems in the city of Cleveland.

          Raymond Pierce cited his experience studying landlord tenant and poverty law as part of his to pass the bar exam. Jane Campbell was aware of the losses in affordable housing in our community and promised a neighborhood endowment fund to build affordable housing, but she was sketchy on the funding authority to create such a fund. Kent Whitley who insisted on standing when answering questions rejecting the table microphone for the podium instead highlighted his background in architecture, as the reason tenants should vote for him. The huge underdog Rickey Pittman also grew up in public housing and has a great deal of volunteering experience. The centerpiece of the Pittman campaign was a contract that he filed stating that he live by his promises or quit the job of Mayor. A nice touch, according to the panel asking the questions, unfortunately, Pittman was short on promise.

         John Barnes concentrated his mark on educational opportunities for young people and promised to stay overnight in a subsidized apartment when asked by a tenant. Mary Rose Oakar wanted to help people in public housing especially the senior citizen.

             In an auditorium full of tenants, the candidates did not venture far out on any limbs by criticizing absentee landlords or a crack down on drug dealer. The phrase “greedy landlords” was used three or four times in the afternoon. There were some interesting proposals set forth that really have nothing to with the Mayor of Cleveland. She did not mention how to pay for such an expense or how to dissuade businesses from dropping health care coverage for they’re for their City of Cleveland employees.

             Oakar also called for laws to prevent landlords from discriminating against voucher holders. There was discussion about improving the City health department and working

            With housing court to reduce eviction rates. A number of candidates voiced their support of the Day Labor Organizing Committee, and their efforts to fight for decent wages. Pierce had seen many good people in housing court, and wanted to develop ways to prevent people from having to move to the streets.

            There was one disturbance in the crowd of an audience member attempting to hijack the show, but otherwise the candidates endured the two hours of questions with little complaint. Some of the tenants expressed frustration that the candidates did not seem to know the difference between public housing and other forms in the community. Cleo Busby, President of the alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants, found that most of the candidates were either not listening to the question or were avoiding answering many of the questions asked.

           The elderly, disabled, homeless, wheelchair bound, and the lower income tenants were treated to quite a show. In talking to a number of those who sat through the entire event, the overriding opinion was that the tenants felt honored that all ten candidates saw the importance of this gathering of concerned citizens.     

  Copyright NEOCH published 2001 Issue 50