Editorial: We are Making Our List and Checking it Twice

        I am often asked how I can do this work with all the depressing stories that we see everyday. The only way to do work that features any contact with extremely low-income people is to remain hopeful that things will turn around. The down payment of this hope is that every week I meet people who make it off the streets and into stability. With this overly optimistic view of the world intoxicated on hope during the holidays, I give you my thoughts on the next year.

        In regards to homelessness, there are some big outstanding issues that need to be addressed early in the year. The most serious is the deplorable conditions at the women’s entry shelter that currently features mold from the moisture, mats on the floor, and a lack of bathrooms. If the facility were an apartment building, it would be shut down as not fit for human habitation. There is the on-going problem with the men’s shelter, and the uncertainty of which organization will oversee the project in the best interest of the community. Finally, there is a need to fill the 150-200 vacant units at Riverview Tower in Ohio City. Activists are looking to end the senior only policy at the building to bring disabled and homeless people to fill the vacant units.

        Councilmen Joe Cimperman, Merle Gordon and Council President Frank Jackson are planning a hearing to begin the process of addressing homelessness through a comprehensive affordable housing plan for Greater Cleveland. It is hoped that this will result in some coordination of the housing activities that are taking place in Cleveland and will involve input and assistance from suburban communities. The first hearing will take place January 9, 2003, with a plan developed in six months.

        Mayor Jane Campbell has set a goal of developing 1,000 units of housing every year for Cleveland. Housing activists will attempt to gain some commitment from the Campbell administration to develop a percentage of the units for those with a very low income.

        The Housing First initiative has developed a plan to build or renovate 1,000 units of supportive housing over the next five years. These would be units for people who have fought long term battles with homelessness. The units would feature support services to the tenants to assist individuals from being evicted. This effort is spearheaded by the Sisters of Charity, Enterprise Foundation and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

        The West Side Collaborative is looking at developing 500 units of affordable housing concentrating on the near West Side of Cleveland. They are working on developing the replacement units outside of the Central neighborhood. The Collaborative recently hired a staff person to provide supportive services to those applying for this housing, and expects to start placing people into housing in 2003.

        We hope to expand the Cleveland Tenants Organization’s homeless prevention/eviction diversion program. This has to be a part of the City Council planning process is a look at prevention efforts in the community and preventing evictions. Last year was the largest number of eviction in the last 15 years of records at Cleveland Housing Court, and we do not want to repeat that disastrous statistic.

        Finally, CTO will continue to monitor and work with other activists to preserve the affordable housing that exists in Cleveland. After all, developing housing at the same time we let properties slip away is just spinning our wheels. To remain vigilant, we attend the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meetings in order to keep up to date on troubled properties. We continue to work with Spencer Wells at the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio to assure tenant input when a building is going through mortgage restructuring. We also mobilize all community resources when a building is in danger of closing down or becoming unaffordable to its tenants. CTO was there mobilizing the tenants when Longwood was threatened with closing down. Our biggest current threat is Park Lane Villa in the Hough neighborhood, which is facing tremendous obstacles to continuing as an affordable place to live. We are also keeping our eyes on the proposed development on the West Side of Lakewood, which could reduce the number of moderately priced units available in our community

 Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Neighborhood Opposition to Services for Homeless People Runs Rampant

       by Brian Davis

  Three facilities benefiting populations in extreme need of housing are facing neighborhood opposition in Ohio City, Tremont, and the Detroit Shoreway neighborhoods. Each community has held public meetings to gather feedback about three programs being developed to serve homeless people including women coming out of a corrections situation.

        Neighbors in Tremont formed a small but vocal opposition to moving the women’s shelter currently operated by Catholic Charities into St. Augustine’s half empty school building. Representatives from the shelter, St. Augustine, and Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman were on hand to hear from residents about their concerns about the shelter on November 19, 2002 at OLA/St. Joseph Center.

        There were over 100 angry constituents of the Ward 13 who hurled vicious attacks at Councilman Cimperman, questioning even his residency in the Ward. Tension was high for the three hour meeting. Questions were raised about the freedom of the shelter residents to move throughout Tremont. Concern was raised about the safety of Lincoln Park and the ability for children to play with a shelter in such close proximity. Some claimed that the shelter would attract prostitutes soliciting money to buy drugs while they stay at the shelter.

        Representatives from the current operator of the women’s shelter spoke of the bad conditions at the current shelter and the need for a new facility. They spoke of the mold from the leaking roof. They spoke of the overcrowded conditions and the fact that this was the 12th building being investigated. They talked about the renovation that was necessary, and the staffing and support that would be available at the shelter.

        Sister Corita Ambro and Father Joe McNulty of St. Augustine both asked for trust in their years of service to the community, and their ability to run a quality program. Sister Corita invited the participant to the St. Augustine to dispel some of the misconceptions about homelessness and homeless people. The representatives of Catholic Charities were peppered with questions about the demographics of the population, the security measures, and the size of the facility.

        There were a number of residents who spoke in favor of the shelter arguing that it transform the currently dark corner of Tremont into a bright and well maintained facility operating 24 hours a day. A resident of Tremont who became homeless due to a medical condition and slept in her car welcomed the program, and said that it was needed. Ron Reinhart, former director of 2100 Lakeside, said that he used to be a homeless drug dealer that many of the residents had talked about, and he wanted to assure them that he rarely dealt drugs to homeless people. He said homeless people do not have money and so it is a waste of time to target them. Many spoke of the well dressed bar patrons who cause trouble in the Tremont neighborhood.

        Sister Corita said that she often sees men in business suits exiting at the bus stop and relieving themselves in public. Religion and society’s moral commitment to serving the poor came up a great deal during the evening. Some stated their religious commitment, but felt that their own personal safety was more important. Others cited their moral duty to serve low income people and felt enriched by the experience so were pleased the shelter was coming to Tremont. Mary Ann Toth asked if Tremont residents who became homeless could get preference to use the facility since it was located in Tremont, and Catholic Charities agreed to pay special attention to serving Tremont residents in need.

        A staff person of Mental Health Services for Homeless People said that he was conflicted, because he works everyday with homeless people. He said in the end he opposed the shelter because he sees everyday at his offices people defecating outside and causing trouble near the Cosgrove Center, and he did not want the same experiences while walking his dog in Tremont if the shelter were located at St. Augustine.

        The evening ended with Cimperman saying that this would be the first in a series of discussions before approval was sought. Many spoke of the fact that Tremont was overtaxed in social services and should not have to accept a new shelter. They vowed to fight the proposal with a petition drive. Besides the St. Augustine Hunger Center there are no other daily services for homeless people in Tremont.

        Councilman Cimperman sent a letter to Catholic Charities expressing his concern that they had already applied for approval through the Board of Zoning before the community meeting process had ended. He gave Catholic Charities director Tom Mullen a series of questions to answer and a deadline. Cimperman then sent a letter out to the Tremont community saying that in a conversation with Mullen, he had indicated that Catholic Charities was not going to go forward with the proposal to move to St. Augustine.

        Cuyahoga County officials immediately switched to a plan to move the facility to the Metzenbaum Center at E. 34th and Community College Blvd., which touched off another fight in the Central neighborhood. Council President Frank Jackson of Ward 5 was angered that his impoverished neighborhood would be selected by the County without his and his constituent’s input. This battle was escalating as the Grapevine went to press.

Ohio City NIMBY

        A group of homeless social service providers from the large men’s shelter, the County Office of Homeless Services, and Near West Side neighborhood activists developed a plan to utilize the vacant apartments at Riverview Apartments for homeless people. The plan was that 80 of the 200 vacant units of the Riverview Public Housing project would be provided to transitional housing programs in the community. Every opening at the transitional housing program would allow men and women at the two entry point shelters to move into more stable housing.

        The plan involved attaching a rider to each individual’s lease that would require them to participate in social services as part of their residency at Riverview. The plan was forwarded to the CMHA board who gave approval to pursue the pilot project. A community meeting was held at Franklin Circle Church on a snowy evening before Thanksgiving 2002.

        Again, the same safety concerns were raised by a small group of vocal opponents to the project. Some from the Tremont meeting the previous week traveled to Ohio City to voice their opposition to the Riverview plan. Helen Smith, former Ward 14 Councilperson, spoke in opposition to the plan saying that the neighborhood was saturated with social services and does not need any more. She also said that she worried about homeless people coming into the neighborhood for their own safety. She said crime was on the rise, and she was uncomfortable inviting homeless people into the neighborhood. Smith has long opposed homeless programs in Ohio City. She spoke against Transitional Housing Inc. and any shelter locating in her ward when she was a Council person.

        Mary Rose Oaker, former Congressional and State legislator, asked for a sub committee be formed of those in support and those opposed to the project to work this out. She suggested that the local development corporation which had convened the meeting form a committee to ease the concerns of those opposed.

        Councilman Cimperman who in the last census inherited Ohio City was again criticized for even entertaining the idea of bringing more homeless people to the neighborhood. Property owners and local developers spoke in opposition to the project claiming that it would increase panhandling and thus decrease their business. In a bizarre exchange, staff at the Jay Hotel, a low income motel which has faced huge neighborhood opposition, blamed the public housing authority tenants for all the problems of crime and drugs in the neighborhood.

        There were four or five men from 2100 Lakeside shelter who would benefit from the additional housing units available to homeless people spoke in support of the project. A few spoke eloquently about their background and their long attempts to get back on their feet. Duane Drotar, executive director of 2100 Lakeside, also spoke in support of the project saying that he has seen so much affordable housing disappear in Ohio City that any opportunity to expand that supply was critical.

        Tony Vento, a resident of Ohio City, said that there was a great deal of fear expressed, but that the fear was misguided. He said that people needed to become familiar with the concept of supportive housing and they might embrace the project.

        Robert Townsend, the President of the CMHA Board, spoke and confused the issue by saying that this was a project in its infancy. He claimed that CMHA had not agreed to anything to date, and they would not do anything to harm the neighborhood. This put the opposition at ease, but confused the homeless social service providers who had a board resolution in support of going forward with the concept.

 Detroit Shoreway

        The Women’s Re-Entry program has funding to place six women coming out of prison into housing, and are facing opposition in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. The Re-entry program would provide support services to the women, but neighbors object to the project in a residential area.

 Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland Ohio.

Housing Rally Draws Diverse Groups

by Lisa Etling

        In case residents don’t think Cleveland has its own housing crisis, consider the following information. According to the last census, 50% of the 101,000 rental households pay more than 30% of their monthly income on rent, and 25% pay more than half of their monthly income on rent. The City of Cleveland Housing Court processed 11,500 evictions so far in 2002, the majority of which are for non-payment of rent. The men’s shelters that accept overflow have had as much as 144% of capacity; the women’s overflow has operated on some nights at 172% of capacity. CMHA reports that the last time the voucher program was opened in 2000, 35,000 people applied for the 6,000 available vouchers.

        To draw attention to the issue of affordable housing, the Alliance of Cleveland HUD Tenants (ACHT), CMHA Progressive Action Council (PAC), Cleveland Tenants Organization (CTO), and Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) joined forces to organize a march, rally, and audience at the City Council meeting on November 18. Approximately 100 people gathered at 6PM at 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter to march ½ mile past the looming FBI headquarters carrying signs with quips such as “Housing Now,” “Homes Not Jails,” and “The Browns Have a Home, Why Not Us?” The march brought media from Channel 3 and the Plain Dealer, with Sun Press, and Channels 19 and 43 showing up to cover the rally and city council meeting.

        Marchers gathered at the Free Stamp outside of City Hall, where three residents of 2100 Lakeside spoke, along with Cleo Busby of the ACHT, Lillian Davis of PAC, Brian Davis of NEOCH, Mike Foley of CTO, and Commissioner Tim McCormick. Billy Caldwell, a Christian drug/alcohol outreach worker traveling here from the South, said an introduction and prayer, stressing the irony of knowledgeable tradesmen who find themselves homeless. “There are craftsmen all over the U.S. who have built up this country and are living in cardboard boxes today.” While many speakers stated the need for state and national dollars, McCormick went as far as to claim that Cleveland should have its own Housing Trust Fund, like the other major cities in Ohio.

        Most overwhelming were the individual stories from men who found themselves homeless for various reasons: Don works but doesn’t make enough per hour to afford housing; Greg, a U.S. veteran, is disgusted that 6800 veterans in Cleveland find themselves homeless every year; “It’s a national embarrassment that people who served our country don’t have a home.” Willis has four debilitating diseases and noted the absurdity and danger (because of the risk of fire) of having 13 out of the14 designated public housing projects for seniors and disabled, in high rises. Curtis has been on the CHMA list for three years now and stressed the need for housing for single people under 50. John is a veteran of the foster care system, was released from prison, dropped off at the greyhound station, and has been at 2100 Lakeside ever since.

        After the rally, the marchers were joined by members of CTO and ACHT and they milled up the steps to council chambers, filling the lower level, standing along the walls and even entering the balcony, reaching almost 400 in number. Council members from the 21 wards could look out at a sea of constituents wearing red ACHT hats stating “United We Stand, Divided We’re Homeless.” Almost 25 residents of the endangered subsidized housing structure Park Lane Villa showed from Councilwoman Pat Britt’s ward to express concern for the possible loss of their building. The energy of the gathering waned while Council Clerk read the agenda- a long list of ordinances and tax abatements.

        Thirty minutes, many yawns, and some shuteye later, council got to the two housing resolutions that had been authored and shepherded through by Councilwoman Merle Gordon: Resolution 2261 and Resolution 2272. Resolution 2261 recommends that CDBG and HOME Funds should be increased, or at least not cut, in the next federal budget. These funds provide housing and services for Cleveland neighborhoods.

        Resolution 2272 endorses the National Trust Fund Act of 2001, the Preservation Matching Grant Program, and the establishment of a secure and permanent source of revenue for the Ohio Housing Trust Fund. The matching program would “provide a federal match for dollars spent in Ohio on preserving federally subsidized housing projects.” The Ohio Housing Trust Fund was established in 1991 in response to Issue 1, which stated housing was a public purpose. The plan was to set aside 50 million dollars a year from the state budget of 35 billion dollars for providing housing and related services to low-income households. Over ten years later, the state has provided 160 million dollars, instead of the planned 500 billion dollars; currently the Trust Fund receives 23 million dollars, but faces constant threats due to budget cuts.

        Councilman Joe Cimperman gave a rousing speech to the crowd, commiserating over the lack of affordable housing and how long people have been waiting for housing to be a priority, stating “we have a greater need for affordable housing in this city today than ever in the history of Cleveland.” He also stressed the need for local businesses to join the already existing coalitions to find solutions to housing. He urged the audience to come back on January 9th, 2003 for a joint committee working on a ten year plan to provide affordable housing and eliminate homelessness.

        Councilman Joe Jones also worked the crowd, stressing the need for people to utilize “creative protesting” and “get out here on a level like no other before and organize politically on a grassroots level.” He reiterated the link between “politics and money,” a phrase that stuck with and was repeated by audience members long after his speech. He admitted that the resolutions will “probably sit on someone’s desk” and it was therefore, even more imperative for people to remain vigilant.

        Mayor Campbell spoke last, declaring that this was an unprecedented act, to debate and sign on a resolution in the same meeting. She also pointed out the need for more money at the federal level and more disbursement for housing at the state level. She lamented the sad fact that housing has never been a priority for government, commenting that “Affordable housing is what gets added when there is extra money. And if you’ve been paying attention, there is never extra money.”

        While city council finished up their meeting, audience members returned to their homes and shelters, discussing the events of the evening. Everyone was riled up by the power of people organizing in mass numbers to support such a pressing issue. However, many questioned what exactly had been accomplished. So the City Council agreed that housing was a major issue and would put pressure on politicians at the state and national level. But what then? What if people think that things are taken care of if no one shows up to protest or write letters to their representatives? What if these small housing coalitions of force dispersed throughout the country, can never make noise at the national level? What then? Walking down the steps from the council chambers watching the crowd mill about, the man next to me saw my camera, smiled, and said “the reporters left early- this is where the real news begins.”

Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

Book Review: Hooked Details Addiction Epidemic

By Alex Grabtree

        The alcohol and drug service system has absolutely failed most homeless people in the United States. Dr. Lonny Shevelson, an emergency room doctor in San Francisco set out on a tour of the treatment and rehabilitation programs in an effort to gauge the impact that these programs are having. San Francisco passed a treatment on demand initiative, and Dr. Shavelson wanted to see first hand how this had improved life on the city by the Bay.

        In his 2001 book on his tour called Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge our Misguided Drug Rehab System, which was intended to follow people in the system to find out which program was most successful. His conclusion was that all the systems fail miserably in serving people with addictions. This book should be required reading at every local alcohol and drug addiction services board, which continue to base treatment on the person curing themselves and the agency helps the person remain drug free.

        Shavelson followed five homeless people struggling with addictions to drugs or alcohol or both in a city that has recognized the need to provide treatment. Most cities have a waiting list and an inability to place addicted people into residential treatment without insurance. In Cleveland, there are only a couple of beds reserved for homeless people or very low income people. There is always open enrollment in the day treatment program which asks individuals to stay sober while returning to drug and alcohol saturated environments. Providers routinely report 15 or more attempts at rehabilitation are typical for people with addictions to endure.

        In California two initiatives passed, which to the general public decriminalized drugs and provided treatment on demand to the citizens of San Francisco. It was expected that these two efforts would start the process of cleaning up the streets. The reality was that a new bureaucracy was constructed, but the appropriate level of funds never materialized.

        Shavelson met Darlene, Mike, Darrell, Crystal and Glenda during his journeys. While this is a non-fiction exploration of a societal problem, the reader gets caught up in the lives of the drug addicts. All are amazing people with a talent for survival despite the punishment that their bodies endure. Darlene is severely mentally ill and an addict. Her self medication allows her to function moving from tents to bushes and underpasses to stay warm and dry. She stays with an abusive partner and rides around on a bicycle.

        Mike is separated from his family and is in and out of treatment. He wants desperately to have a good relationship with his wife and child. He puts up the most valiant effort to live by the rules of the residential treatment facilities, but still is lured by his addiction.

        Darrell is the one who makes it off the streets. He pushes forward and patiently waits for housing, which in the end he finds. He is overjoyed, but succeeded despite the system. He had the ability to adapt and give up his individuality to survive the system.

        Glenda was part native American and spent most of her life on the streets drinking. She finally was taken into custody by the Death Prevention Team and put in Detox. This program was working until they forced her to graduate into independent living which last only a couple of days.

        Shavelson met Crystal in the Drug Court after a severe tongue lashing by the courts. After a great deal of backsliding, she did make it to graduation from Drug Court.

        It would be wrong to reveal the ending of this book because it does read like a novel, but the simple profile of five people ends with one dying of their addiction, and one ends up in prison for an extended sentence. The most difficult part of writing this book was seeing people destroy their lives as a journalist and not interfering.

        The interesting thing that many of the patients share is their disturbed, child abuse and specifically child sexual abuse. The untreated mental health needs of addicts was staggering. National experts report 7 in 10 people with substance abuse problems were caused or exacerbated by child abuse or neglect. Children of parents who abuse drugs are three times more likely to become addicts.

        Hooked looks at the San Francisco drug courts as well as the harm reduction outreach teams. Drug Courts provide a carrot and stick approach in order to move people into treatment. The men and women in drug courts are punished if they do not complete a treatment program and they do not maintain sobriety. Without effective referrals to treatment it is hard to measure the success of the Drug Court.

        Throughout the book, we read of the overbearing rules at both out patient and residential treatment facilities. The author questions whether the rules are ways to screen out difficult to serve individuals. The result is often early death.

        Shavelson talks about the insanity of turning people away after they relapse. If cancer patients were turned away when they relapse, we would see cancer patients walking the street being eaten alive by their own bodies. Yet, we allow the health condition known as addiction to go untreated until the person is “ready” for treatment. Shavelson ends the book by detailing his suggestions for how to improve the current system. He says:

 •        When an addict in rehab gets worse and heads back to drugs, the program must increase treatment, not withdraw it.

•        Each and every rehab program must be required to have a formal structured association with a drug detox center where it can send relapsed clients.

•        Abuses and humiliation in the name of therapy must cease. Cities must establish an ombudsman to monitor the rehab programs, and addicts must be allowed to access the ombudsman without repercussions.

•        All rehab counselors must be trained to recognize and treat the multitude of addicts who also have psychological disorders, and refer them to appropriately intensive additional care when needed.

•        Cities must establish a comprehensive case management system to guide addicts through the maze of programs and services. The case managers should not work for any particular rehab program, but rather represent and advocate for the addicts in the overall system.

•        Government agencies that provide funds to the programs must assure that addicts are receiving comprehensive and effective treatment.

•        Federal funds and efforts must be shifted from drug interdiction aboard to drug rehab at home.

        Shavelson believes that rehab can work, but needs careful monitoring and oversight. This is a great Christmas gift for the trees of the Alcohol and Drug Board members, and our community would do well to take to heart the advice in Hooked.

 Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland, Ohio

High School Students Get A Glimpse of Homelessness

         This year NEOCH VISTAs participated in the national day of service, Make a Difference Day, on Friday, October 25. The activities of the day centered around the concept “Get a glimpse”. This was accomplished by trying to show local high school students what life is like for a day as a homeless person.

        The three schools involved were Shaker Heights High School, St. Joseph’s Academy, and St. Edward’s High School. The students knowledge about homelessness was assessed prior to Make a Difference Day with a questionnaire. There were several stereotypes evident among the answers, along with a few very knowledgeable responses.

        The students met at St. Coleman’s church at 8:30am, and began their day. The students were broken into two groups. One group moved through the ‘housing maze’ first, and the other group left to tour the Bishop Cosgrove drop-in center, and 2100 Lakeside men’s emergency shelter.

        Each student about to enter the maze was given an identity card. These included representatives from all different groups of people who are homeless. An example is a student being given the identity of a single mother with two children and no resources. The purpose of giving the students specific identities was to guide them in the types of services they would have to visit. The idea of the maze was to show the students the different agencies, and red tape, homeless people have to go through in order to try to get their needs met, with the ultimate goal being to attain permanent housing. These services included a representation of discount medical treatment, drop-in shelters, transitional housing, job training, legal services, and government assistance programs. The students were required to follow the same procedures that actual patrons would have to follow at these various agencies, such as being rerouted, filling out countless applications, and being told they are at the wrong place.

        A drop in center style lunch (of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, courtesy of donations from St. Coleman’s church) was served to the students as the groups switched. Then, the same process of maze and shelter visits was carried out with the different groups.

        After the two groups had both gone through the activities, they were broken into smaller groups in order to discuss their experiences. After the small group discussions, the whole group was reunited in order to listen to the main speakers, homeless and formerly homeless people. The group was then challenged to come up with ways they could continue to make a difference in their schools. Their ideas centered on fundraising events and donation drives.        

        The day did make a difference for most of the high school students. Several of the students mentioned that their idea of what a homeless person is has changed. A few of them mentioned that they now know that homeless people aren’t lazy, unmotivated people. They realized the true hardships faced by the homeless community on a regular basis.

  Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland Ohio.

Cleveland Shelters Need Retooling

Commentary by Pete Domanovic

        For whatever reason, money, self-glory, or just not giving a damn about what is right or wrong, the shelters ignore the reasons for people’s downfall. I believe it is mostly the money part. Rather than designing programs that help the individual person, they make negative groups of people, and then just cash in on people’s sympathy. Especially shelters looking constantly for donations. When homeless people are told that all this money is needed to operate these functions, what we are not told is how much over the needed amount has been collected. (Any shelter wishing to challenge what I say can indisputably shut me up by opening your books for public inspection. All the books.)

         My experience as one of the recipients of their kindness, I have done a lot of volunteer work here and there to try to pay back some of that kindness. Working around the offices, mopping and cleaning, nobody thought I was intelligent enough to read a balance sheet. Imagine that.

         One place in particular, about the dead center of this country, the actual cost of operating this mission was less than ten percent of what came in, including salaries. (One annual bonus check was over $290,000).

Where does the money go? According to the missions and Salvation Army, out of the country. I know a lot of clothing goes to Mexico, but that pays for itself as they sell the clothing in bulk. If they sell, the cost is covered. I really hope that the same help we get isn’t what they get in the other countries.

        The real problem homeless people have to deal with is economics. No one has a program to teach people to live with too little money. Your first time at the shelter, in order to get services you have to be an alcoholic or drug addict. This has been the norm that I am familiar withfor over 35 years.

        They have no help for you, if you do not fit these categories. In order to get help, you must fit into their programs. They have no answer for people making $6.00 and $7.00 per hour, other than it is because they drink and use drugs, even if they don’t.

        Why doesn’t the shelter investigate other reasons for people being in the position they are in? I think it is because there is no money in it. A rough plan for a self supporting shelter has been brought to the attention of city council, the Mayor, and several organizations that would give the necessary help to the needy. It would also be no cost to taxpayers, and no solicitation to business, industry, or individual contribution from any source.

        An investor looking for about thirty percent annual return would be in hog heaven. The only thing that has developed from this proposal was that the Salvation Army has begun charging working people a fee to stay at Harbor Light. Knowing their track record, they will need more money from the government because they have to pay someone to keep up the turmoil within, as they do not want to lose their client’s. The revolving door continues. They will not kill the cash cow. It is your money.

Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Candlelight Vigil Remembers Homeless that Died

 

        The number of homeless people who died on the streets this last year decreased was the message from the Northeast Ohio Coalitions for the Homeless at their annual candlelight vigil to remember those who died over the previous year. For the past 16 years NEOCH has joined the National Coalition for the Homeless in observing National Homeless Memorial Day. NEOCH hosted the candlelight vigil on December 15th at Trinity Cathedral located at East 22nd and Euclid at 12:30 p.m.. Nationally, 60 cities have ceremonies to remember all homeless people that have lost their life out of neglect, being targeted, victimized or killed as a result of homelessness. According to Savetta Durrah who helped to organize the vigil, “These are the silent victims of society’s indifference to social justice for all.”

       This year State Senator Eric Fingerhut provided appropriate remarks to the homeless individuals and advocates who gathered for this solemn ceremony. Savetta Durrah from the Homeless Grapevine said a few words and presented the list of people that she found had died over the last year. Gregory Jacobs, a deacon at Trinity Cathedral, provided a prayer for the homeless people who had died.

        It is very difficult to determine how many homeless people die in Cleveland each year. The Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office defines individuals as homeless only if their remains are not claimed. If the deceased was homeless at the time of their death and a relative claimed their remains then by the Coroner’s office that person was not classified as homeless. These are not reliable statistics. The Cuyahoga County Coroner reported this year that there were no bodies that went unclaimed. This is the first time in 10 years that there were no bodies that went unclaimed. From the anecdotal information from outreach workers, NEOCH has determined there were fewer people who died on the streets of Cleveland this past year. There were only two reports of people killed for being homeless and two other people dying while homeless.

        Savetta reported Mr. Jenkins, Slim, Rodney, and Al Young as having died this year. She said in her remarks, “Poverty is cruel and without warning. Anyone ever living without basic human rights especially in this land of such prosperity knows just how cruel life can be.”

        Care Alliance, the local health care for the homeless, reported five of their clients who died over the past year. They reported Cassandra Hatcher, Vereta Smith, David McClendon, Bobby Gill, and Willie Jareta as having passed away over the last year.

        The vigil takes place after the weekly hot meal is served. Many homeless people stayed after the meal to remember their friends who had died.

 Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland Ohio

A Former Resident of Men’s Shelter Talks

Commentary by C. Gavlak Zawadzki

         It takes a lot of commitment for a middle-aged Harvard grad with a big home in Shaker Heights to spend an entire night away from his family in a cold cot at the overcrowded, urine stenched Lakeside Shelter. So why wouldn’t this man want to talk to the Grapevine about the adventure.

        The Lakeside Shelter is the city’s main men’s shelter and currently houses about 410 homeless men on a nightly bases, it only has 200 cots though. In 2001, The City of Cleveland received $12.5 million Continuum of Care Award for Homeless Assistance, the largest such grant in the state of Ohio. County Commissioner Peter Lawson-Jones is one of the people who decides the allocation of that money and before his reelection told the members of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless that he would spend the night in the shelter to “learn first-hand how some of society’s less fortunate live.”

        The Grapevine wanted to get more information and insight from Commissioner Lawson-Jones, but could not set up a meeting with Jones. Instead we talked to a former resident of facility who we will call Kevin. Homeless people are more than willing to talk about the conditions at 2100 Lakeside Shelter. One of their chief concerns is the system’s lack of compassion. They believe Lakeside is a holding pen with its support services so difficult to use that they will never help anyone off of the streets.

        According to Kevin, staff counselors do not have any incentive to do the difficult work to support the residents in transition. They receive their paycheck whether they listen to the residents’ concerns or turn them away. One former resident complained that he went to visit a counselor when he was in transition out of the shelter and needed support; he claims the counselor harassed him out of the office and when he asked for his free bus ticket (a service provided by the city) she said, “no, pay for it yourself”. Kevin suggested that the Counselor was giving the bus tickets to her friends and family instead of the residents they were intended for. A bus ticket may seem small to someone who has never been homeless but to a shelter resident it may mean work or no work, money or no money, food or no food.

        Allegations of staff members stealing goods and services intended for the homeless residents run rampant. A favorite story among residents is of a downtown business office that annually donates party platters of fresh ham and sandwich meats. The residents watch the platters arrive only to have them devoured by the staff members and their friends before they ever make it to the homeless residents. Other stories include donated clothes being rummaged through and the best lots being taken by the employees of the shelter.

        According to Kevin, abuse in the form of neglect is another allegation laid down by many residents; the complaints of unsanitary conditions are frequent among the residents. The various levels of mental and physical health of the residents combined with overcrowding make the facility an unhealthy environment. It is a vicious circle. A healthy environment should be an easy to obtain goal, but again noone is watching the watchers and the neglect continues.

        The residents of Lakeside Shelter share the same concerns as the City of Cleveland, where is the money going? How can the employees be motivated to be more responsive and compassionate to the community the City pays them to serve? How can donations by concerned citizens and organizations be guaranteed to go to the residents who need them so greatly and not to parasitic employees? How can Cleveland more effectively operate the city’s largest shelter? These are difficult questions that the City and County need to answer.

        Currently, the County and City are looking for a new contract to govern the relationship with the social service provider that will run the shelter at 2100 Lakeside beginning early in 2003. Sources who work at the County report that the Salvation Army has sent a letter over to the Cuyahoga County officials demanding more than double the 2001 per month budget for the shelter to extend their contract while the county makes a decision about the shelter. They are also only willing to commit to extending their contract for one month of 2003. County officials expect to make a decision on which organization will manage the shelter by the end of the year.

 Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland Ohio.