Commentary by Pete Domanovic
What goes on at the places designated for the handicapped especially the mentally handicapped in Cleveland area? The one person that stands out the most would be a staff member we will call Beth. This woman it seems does just about everything that needs to be done at the shelters. I guess you could say that she is surrogate mom to between 50 to 65 homeless men, mostly handicapped in one way or another. She does just about all the paper work that’s required, gives as much helpful advise, mitigates conflicts, and lets not forget the kitchen work.
Then there is a person we will call Bradley who is a security guard. He has always been a helpful and friendly face in the midst of misery. I also remember two other security guards that were what I would consider to be very good people. They always speak to you in a way that would let you keep your dignity, whether you were right or wrong. These are people that could be counted on to do what needed to be done, when they need to be done.
Now then, what about the other 30 or so people that draw paychecks from shelter for the mentally Ill? All I can really say about them is, I don’t know. There is one older woman there that is the head of something or another. She is probably on e of the rudest people that I’ve ever come across in my entire life, which I have been homeless, more than housed. It is probably best for her that she doesn’t come in contact with too many people there, for her own safety. There is also a councilor for veterans there that comes out and says things once in a while, but does not seem to help much. The man in charge is a psychiatrist that in my opinion does very little for the population. I do not understand about these staff that seem to do nothing about housing or anything that might move people into stability. I’m talking about nothing. When you think about it, these staff comes in constant contact with homeless people.
I am concerned about the number of staff behind the scenes who do not seem to be doing anything. It seems only a small number of people do any work to help the mentally ill with housing. I think that anyone could go over to the shelter to talk to people utilizing the shelter and find residents dissatisfied with staff. I submit that they will say that there are some very good things about the people who are out front everyday. In asking the shelter residents about the other shelters, the response will probably be, “what others?”
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May-June 2002 Cleveland, Ohio