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