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.