Local Homeless Issues Raised In 2002

2100 Lakeside Update:

        Rising numbers are again plaguing the men’s shelter. The City of Cleveland and the Salvation Army have worked out a comprise to bring additional bathroom facilities to the shelter to accommodate more than the 365 people a night at 2100 Lakeside Men’s shelter. The Salvation Army did fire Ron Reinhart, who has worked with homeless people in Cleveland for over 15 years. The shelter has returned to a divided facility with like minded individuals occupying six different communities similar to the first director’s strategy.

        The County Request for Proposals was competitive with at least three social service providers seeking to take over operation of the shelter. Even if the existing provider gets the grant there should be dramatic improvement in the services to homeless people. The minimum requirements for submission to the County were very progressive and demanded a great deal of involvement by homeless people.

Lawson Jones Sleeps at Shelter:

        County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones did in fact keep his promise to sleep at 2100 Lakeside men’s shelter. The Grapevine has dogged Commissioner Jones into keeping his promise which he first made at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Annual meeting in April. Jones did not announce his presence, and was able to get an idea of the conditions at the facility. At the next Commissioner meeting, Jones talked about his stay and the intelligent men he met. He specifically was disturbed that the facility ran out of blankets early in the evening and the fact that nearly 90% of the men were African American. The Grapevine will carry an interview with Commissioner Jones in the next issue conducted by an alum of the shelter and a community volunteer.

Riverview Moves to Fill Vacancies:

        Over the last year Riverview Towers in Ohio City has seen between 150 to 220 vacancies. This public housing project was designated for seniors (50 years and older) only three years ago. During the last annual planning process the maintaining of this facility for seniors came under scrutiny by housing and homeless activists. Seniors are not moving into the Towers despite extensive renovations and a marketing campaign. In October, the public housing authority announced the passing of 80 units at Riverview specifically targeting the single men who currently reside at 2100 Lakeside shelter. This plan was approved by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Board, which will contract with the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation to assist with the application and placement of the individuals. Further details on the plan are to be worked out.

CMHA Annual Plan:

        The CMHA annual plan was passed by the Board of Trustees in October. This is an annual update of policies and procedures for agency staff to follow. One notable improvement for homeless people is the reinstatement of actual preferences that will benefit homeless people. In the past there were seven preferences including for veterans, those coming out of treatment, and those enrolled in work training program. The individual received equal status if they qualified for any one of the preferences, which translated to the fact that 80% of the population that applied for housing received a preference.

        The new plan will allow the agency to establish real priorities for housing with those coming out of a residential treatment program as the highest priority, those involuntarily displaced by natural disaster the second highest priority, and homeless people as the third highest priority. An individual will apply for the priority that provides them the highest priority. This shows the importance CMHA places on housing homeless people.

        Housing activists were not able to overturn the senior only policy or the minimum rent which requires people without income to apply for a hardship exemption or have to pay $25 minimum rent. The Legal Aid Society had proposed an innovative idea of putting in the plan language to protect innocent tenants from eviction as part of the “One Strike and Your Out” policy. This would protect a grandmother from eviction if her disabled grandson were caught on the CMHA property breaking the law. CMHA said that they would continue to investigate these evictions on a case by case basis. For more information on the CMHA annual plan, see the public housing website at: www.cmha.net.

Care Alliance Looking for New Leader:

        The often embattled organization, Care Alliance, saw the resignation of controversial executive director, John McKinney. Care Alliance was originally constituted as Cleveland Health Care for the Homeless, and had a mission to provide basic health care for the medically indigent who found themselves homeless. The agency began to broaden their mission to include public housing residents, people with AIDS, mentally ill people and women. Many claimed that the agency was adrift following funding streams while neglecting its core mission of providing health care to homeless people.

        Care Alliance was fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Ohio. Cuyahoga County was engaged in negotiations that have dragged on for over a year to settle outstanding debts and usage of property owned by the agency. Those knowledgeable with the agency have said that there was a split among the Board of Trustees over the culpability of the executive director for the lack of confidence in the organization and the precarious funding picture for the agency.

Free Times Ends After Ten Years

        Over the past 10 years, the Cleveland Free Times has featured stories about homelessness including a cover story on staying in the Jay Hotel, Camelot, and temporary labor agencies. Cleveland readers benefited from some diversity in journalism with the Free Times often covering stories never appearing in the Plain Dealer. The Free Times did a cover story on the dumping of homeless people on the outskirts of town and a profile of Robert Igoe, who was soon after provided a home, education and stipend by an anonymous donor.

        The Free Times closed as a result of a trade by the Village Voice and New Times company at a national level. Village Voice agreed to close the Free Times, and in exchange New Times agreed to close the Los Angeles alternative paper. This allows Scene Magazine in Cleveland owned by New Times to publish without competition.

        Congressman Dennis Kucinich, House District 10, has asked the Justice Department to investigate the closing of the Free Times as a violation of anti-trust laws by conspiring to form an alternative media monopoly in the two markets.

United Labor Agency Takes Greater Role in Hiring Hall

        The union created social service and training organization, United Labor Agency, has contributed $30,000 to hire a project development director to bring the Community Hiring Hall to reality. The ULA will assume fiscal responsibility for developing the project, and are currently looking for a staff person to move the project forward to the point of opening the door. The hiring hall brings together religious, non-profit and union to open a facility for day laborers to find work that pays a fair wage and does not subject them to the exploitation of the for-profit temporary labor companies.

Women’s Center Meet with Administrator

        The women who stay at Catholic Charities Women’s Shelter on East 18th St. have formed a resident committee and constructed a priority list of problems. They met with the director of the shelter to discuss issues ranging from staff treatment, curfew and wake up hours, and problems with the current facility. They plan to have continued discussion with the shelter directors, but have made progress just in the first meeting.

        The shelter got new carpeting and the entire facility was painted. The staff was instructed to allow the women in immediately after dinner and allow women to leave the facility at night to get a breath of fresh air. They also successfully argued for a later wake up time on the weekends. The residents will continue to press their issues.

Selling Cleveland

Initiative Stumbles

        The Homeless Grapevine staff proposed in the last issue to sell Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the surrounding counties in order to close the expected $4 billion dollar deficit. Thus far, there is no response from Governor Engler of Michigan. Staff will take up the issue after the election as a new Governor takes office. There is also talk of sweetening the pot by lowering the price because of the depressed economy.

        One bright spot was that WCPN announcer, April Baer asked Ohio Governor Taft about the initiative. He quickly offered that neither Cleveland nor Toledo was up for sale. This brought a question as to whether there are similar efforts taking place in Toledo that have not been publicized. If both Cleveland and Toledo are competing to leave the state, we need to take a page from Salt Lake City Olympic Committee and offer certain “perks” to Michigan legislators. Peterson Nuts for life?

                    Published in the November 2002 Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 57