By Alex Grabtree
Two newsworthy items occurred at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Annual Meeting in April. Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, the evening’s keynote speaker, announced his commitment to sleep at one of the County supported shelters for the nights and to match the $1 million for supportive housing made by the City of Cleveland (see page 1 Supportive Housing).
NEOCH stages a meeting once a year for advocates, members, and homeless people to meet to discuss the accomplishments and plans for the upcoming year. There were speeches by the NEOCH Board president, the NEOCH director of operations, and the Executive Director.
This year the Coalition also gave out here awards for outstanding advocates that assisted the homeless community. Toni Johnson was recognized as Advocate of the Year, for the years of dedicated work in service to homeless people. She was a board member of the NEOCH for six years and has made her life’s work assisting individuals into stable housing as well as working on system changes to stop homelessness.
Lisa Chamberlain was awarded the Media Person of the Year award for her work as editor of the Cleveland Free Times. She regularly published progressive editorials and commentaries about poverty and homelessness. Under her direction, the Free Times featured stories about temporary workers, plasma centers, welfare, flop house residents, and the struggles within social service organizations. She distinguished herself as a leader in forwarding the progressive ideas for public debate and always remained committed to her principals.
Commissioner Jones spoke about the many years of contact with housing and homeless advocacy organizations while in the state legislature. He talked about his goals while he serves as County Commissioner including the abolition of homelessness in Cleveland. He spoke of his desire to visit all the County offices that serve homeless people. He also said that he wanted to sleep in one of the County funded shelters. The men who sleep at 2100 Lakeside shelter attending the annual meeting and diner said in unison, “No you don’t (want to sleep at the shelter),” reflecting the dissatisfaction with the conditions at the shelters. One member of the 2100 shelter community spoke to the crowd about the demoralizing conditions at the shelter.
With the City of Cleveland Council recently passing a community development budget, that included $1 million to develop a supportive housing project in Cleveland. Commissioner Jones said that he did not want to be outdone by the City of Cleveland, and promised to find away to match the city’s $1 million dollars.
Volunteers from the Founder’s Path provided a meal for the 60 people who attend. Currently and former homeless people attended the meeting and assisted with the preparations.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chroncile May-June 2002 Cleveland, Ohio