Thousands in Cuyahoga County Losing their Jobs

     Newly released figures from the complete count of jobs in Ohio show that the state lost –204,858 jobs between the fourth quarter of 2000 and the fourth quarter of 2002. Statewide, Ohio’s job growth rate fell to –3.7%, as one out of every 27 jobs in the state disappeared during the last two years as a result of the recession.

     More than one-quarter of the jobs lost in Ohio during the last two years were lost in Cuyahoga County alone. The current two year job loss rate of –6.2% means that one out of every 16 jobs in Cuyahoga County has vanished.

     14.7% of Ohio’s jobs are in Cuyahoga County, but Cuyahoga suffered 24.6% of Ohio’s job losses during the past two years, clearly proving that the recession is hammering Cleveland more deeply than it is damaging the rest of Ohio.

     In the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain eight county metropolitan area, 67,764 jobs have disappeared during the last two years. Ohio’s largest metropolitan area had a job growth rate of –4.7% during this two year period.

     Even so-called "Recession-proof" Columbus remains mired in the recession. Franklin County lost –2.8% of its jobs during the last two years, a loss of –19,588 jobs. Indeed, 57 of Ohio’s 88 counties lost jobs between the fourth quarter of 2000 and newly available data for the fourth quarter of 2002.

     In the Cleveland area, job losses have extended well beyond Cuyahoga County. Normally growing suburban counties such as Geauga and Lake lost jobs during the last two years. Both Summit and Portage Counties lost jobs in Metropolitan Akron.

     Job statistics from the complete count of Ohio jobs are always delayed by at least six months, so more recent measures of local job losses will not be available until September 2003. In the mean time, it is known that the four week moving average of new claims for unemployment in Cuyahoga County is currently 1,401, a figure nearly twice as high as a comparable 770 figure for the spring of 1999.

     This means that more than 1,400 workers are currently being laid off every week in Cuyahoga County, even during a time of year when layoffs are normally at a relatively low level.

     The impact of the job losses on northern Ohio households is obvious. When over 6% of all Cuyahoga County jobs disappeared, incomes quickly fell in many tens of thousands of Cleveland area households as paychecks vanished. Cuyahoga County lost $141 million in real aggregate earnings payroll during just the fourth quarter of 2002.

     However, as Cuyahoga County lost jobs in very large numbers, wages continued to rise for other Cuyahoga County workers who remained employed. The average earnings of a Cuyahoga County job rose from $39,742 in the fourth quarter of 2001 to $39,937 in the fourth quarter of 2001. This one year 0.5% inflation adjusted gain in the average earnings of Cuyahoga County workers came during the same recession that caused earnings of about 50,000 local workers to plunge to zero as they lost their jobs.

     The recession has coincided with a dismantling of the "welfare" safety net that assisted job losers during prior recessions. Most Ohio counties are currently seeing a rise in their welfare caseloads, but Cuyahoga County cut its welfare caseload by –2,517 families during the same two year period of time when the county’s job total fell by –49,806. This was by far the largest mismatch between job losses in the labor market and welfare cuts of any Ohio county. Enforcement of Ohio’s three year time limit on cash welfare benefits is the main cause of this discrepancy.

     The local recession started earlier than the onset of the national United States recession. Cuyahoga County began to lose jobs during the fall of 2000, and has lost jobs continuously since then. Ohio’s statewide job losses from the recession began during the first quarter of 2001, and have continued during all quarters since then.

Editor’s Note: For additional details see the research section of the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland internet web site: http://www.ceogc.org

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

Savetta Durrah 1952-2003

by Brian Davis

            Sometimes life can be so unfair while other times justice prevails. Savetta Durrah is a model of both being true. She had just become stable and comfortable in her life when she died. She had continued to struggle with illness and a body that was giving out on her; setting the example for her extended family. We will never read her book, which was never completed. We did get to view of glimpse of Savetta with commentaries in the Homeless Grapevine, but never got the full picture.

            Savetta Durrah passed on the day that her portrait began to hang in the cig gallery right down the street from her apartment. She would have loved that. In fact, I am sure that she would have scheduled the couple of hundred neighbors to attend the event had she been well. Her sister, Rosalyn Durrah, said, “She got up every day despite the pain, and she inspired others to get up.”

            Savetta had come to the Homeless Grapevine in 1996 with her tornado personality after sinking into a state of homelessness. After successfully starting a re-entry program in Washington D.C. and developing a support network of advocates. She always wanted to be a writer, and was attracted to the freedom we allow our volunteers. We had a young staff that Savetta bonded with, and had a rough time seeing them end their year of service and move on.

            Savetta left for a period of time, and came back setting her mind to stability. After staying in the basement of an abusive landlord, she pushed her way into the Bridging the Gap program, and fought to have the Housing Authority hear her appeal. Savetta was originally denied housing, and she successfully negotiated the cumbersome appeals process. In fact, by the end of the appeal hearing at least two of the CMHA employees had signed up for a subscription to the Grapevine.

            She also found a job at the Downtown Starbucks where she became the matriarch to the youthful staff. Mark Pannitto, Starbuck’s supervisor, very much enjoyed working with Savetta. He said, “She was fantastic with the customers, fun loving, and she liked to have a good time. She had a good sense of humor.” Savetta worked 4 days a week and kept the lines moving and the dining area clean. “We really loved her, and she will be missed,” Pannitto said.

            Durrah had fought for housing, found a job, and was writing on a regular basis before fate took her. She died of natural causes, with her body giving out on her. Her sister remembers going to all the family picnics, and they always had a good time. Savetta had two children: Rashaad who is 23 and a daughter Andrea who had previously died. Savetta was the third oldest of eight children. Both her parents died while she was young, and she was raised by her grandmother.

            Savetta left eight grandchildren. She had a lust for life that was expressed in her full powerful laugh, which Rosalyn, her sister, also seems to have inherited. Rosalyn said, “She would not let anything hold her down. She always got up. She won in a lot of ways. She was a winner.” Rosalyn said that Savetta was an inspiration with her beautiful pen. She loved to debate and will always remember the “Me and You” that became Savetta’s signature saying.

            Rosalyn characterized Savetta’s problem as “depression and downturns in her life,” which led her to the streets. Along with writing for the Grapevine, she was writing a book. She had contributed stories to the Call and Post. Savetta was nearly paralyzed from back pain, and was sick for a long time. Some called her Sam or Samantha. She was very creative, fun person to be around, and always left an impression on people according to her sister.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

Recommended Solutions to the Rising Problems of NIMBY

Commentary by Calley Marotta

            Most people see the value of shelters and low income housing, just not in our neighborhood. We live in wholesome communities and the thought of a homeless shelter next door makes us suddenly uneasy. These feelings or fear and resistance are expressed in the acronym NIMBY (not in my backyard). The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless defines a NIMBY as a small vocal minority who, because of fear, often opposes services that assist homeless people, especially in their neighborhood. NIMBYism does not create “wholesome” communities, but an isolated and homogeneous population. The call for an inclusive community keeps shelters and low income housing out of neighborhoods and concentrated in other areas. Due to stereotypes in the media and society, NIMBYites relate shelter construction to the demise of a neighborhood: a decrease in property value, while drug trafficking, crime, and prostitution increase.

            The first step to erase NIMBYism is to admit that there is a problem. Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless stated that “ in 2003 it is virtually impossible to either relocate or build a shelter anywhere in America without encountering stiff opposition. This is true even if the shelter served only babies.” Unfortunately, opposition to services generally forms the strongest movement while advocates do not become involved. Randy Shaw, the Director of Housing America agrees that there is generally “an over-reliance on non profit and homeless advocacy groups to make the case” against NIMBYism. Advocates must show just as much passion as those that suffer from NIMBYism. We must admit that our unease does not stem from natural evil but the inherited corruption of society’s homeless stereotype. We can change by attacking the root of our fears and those of others.

            Since fear and misinformation are two of the main contributors to the problem, we must speak out to friends and family members about the issues. Inform them of the needs in our community and ask them to discuss their specific fears. We may want to focus our efforts on those that do not already have a strong opinion on the matter, but have yet to fight for one side or the other. Their opinion will be more easily swayed. Sometimes a success may be changing one person’s outlook so that they can continue to spread the word.

            Stoops suggests seeking support from a “broad and diverse base” specifically businesses, religious institutions, labor unions, and neighborhood activists. Ban together because larger groups will make a greater impact in the community. Sign petitions and take them to your city council meetings. Stoops also urges communities to compromise with their shelter. Make sure the shelter is “responsive to complaints” and keeps its area in an orderly condition. A neighborhood advisory board could improve the communication between the shelter and the community. Whatever we do, the most important step is to take action. Take a stand so that a voice of NIMBYism is not the only voice heard.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

 

Real Patriotism Is A Country That Respects Veterans By Not Allowing Them to Ever Be Homeless

Editorial

            Currently, there is a debate in Cleveland about the future of the two Veterans Administration facilities in Cleveland. There is the Louis Stokes Wade Park hospital in University Circle, and the Brecksville campus with a domiciliary for homeless veterans. There is talk of expanding the Wade Park hospital and closing the expansive Brecksville facility. While we support reducing government waste, we do not agree that there is any surplus property in the Veterans Affair’s inventory. In the alcohol and drug system, switching from inpatient to outpatient has had a devastating impact on people in need of help without the proper insurance. In Cleveland, we now only have a handful of inpatient beds available to homeless people who are not attached to the Corrections system.

            At this time, over 30% of the male homeless population are veterans. With the recent use of armed forces, we can only assume that a portion of those coming back from the Middle East will become homeless. We at the Grapevine would argue that that “empty, decaying real estate,” as they were characterized by the Plain Dealer, could be put to good use housing homeless veterans and getting them back on their feet. Imagine a country in which respect the work of defending our country to the point that we guarantee no veteran will ever become homeless. No matter if they are addicted, mentally ill, or unemployed, our country should guarantee a veteran housing.

            Before we rush headlong into the closing of a veterans facility, shouldn’t the community figure out anticipated need, and assure that the existing veterans who are experiencing homelessness are taken care of? Brecksville is a beautiful complex that could be used as a healing environment as an alternative to the overcrowded shelters in Cleveland for veterans.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

 

Minnesota Constructs Alternatives to Shelter

by Tammy Antonille

            The goal of Catholic Charities pay-to-stay program in Minneapolis St. Paul was not only to provide housing for the homeless but also to instill them with a sense of self worth and accountability. The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” program began July 1st 2002. So far, the results have been positive.

            A task force in the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County conceived the program. The task force was looking at the way shelter services were administered to single homeless adults. They made recommendations for improvement and changes to the system. One of the recommendations was to convert one floor of the two-story shelter known as the “Secure Waiting Facility” from a simple shelter to an administered, sober, pay-to-stay facility. Previously the facility housed 250 single adult men, 125 on each floor. The expectations for movement of the men were almost non-existent. The facility was used by many as a “home” instead of a stopping point to self-sufficiency. In fact, some men had been taking up residency in the shelter since 1987.

            The new goal oriented program is being implemented by Catholic Charities under a contract with Hennepin County. A grant was received from Minneapolis Community Development Agency to renovate the second floor. They added restroom facilities as well as new beds and lockers. In a Catholic Charities Newsletter printed in 2001, their hopes were stated for the second floor of the Curie Avenue facility as it became a place where the men would take part in their own recovery process. They anticipated that the new found responsibility would aid the men in finding permanent housing.

            Homeless men make up about 60 to 70 percent of the residents at the Curie Avenue facility. Other transient people such as drug addicts or the mentally ill individuals make up the balance. The first floor of the facility is still available to those homeless persons who have circumstances that exclude them from participating in the pay-to-stay concept.

            The men pay $3 per night, $18 dollars per week for a pay-to-stay bunk. They must submit to a brief intake interview with the program coordinator for admittance. Upon entering the program they receive all they need for personal hygiene and are given access to the showers and a locker. Free meals are available at the Salvation Army next door. Another benefit of the program is the ACCESS outreach workers and the County Chemical Health staff that are available to the men for counseling. The men can also see a Healthcare for the Homeless nurse. They can stay for up to 90 days. This time limit was established so the pay-to-stay facility would not turn into “permanent affordable housing”. Another difference in this program is that the beds are not available 24 hours a day. The men must be gone by 7 A.M. and cannot return until 5 P.M.

            The most significant contribution this program makes in the lives of these men is the refund policy. If they should find permanent housing; Catholic Charities will make a contribution towards the rent or damage deposit in the amount that the men paid for their bunk during their stay. If the men do not find permanent housing, they never see their money again. The money, if not used by the program participants, is reinvested in the program to buy towels, hygiene supplies and other items that are not covered by the Hennepin County contract.

The men who do not find permanent housing have access to program staff and advocates from the state, federal, local and private sectors that do outreach at the facility. They will assist the men is searching for other housing accommodations. The option also remains to return to the lower level of the facility, which is a simple shelter, or they may re-enter the program after nine months.

            According to John Petroskas, Shelter & Housing Specialist of the Metrowide Engagement on Shelter and Housing, nearly 100 men have received funds towards their rent from Catholic Charities upon moving on to permanent housing. However, the money is not given directly to the men; instead it is given to the landlord once paperwork has been presented.

            Issues still exist according to local reports. For example there is a shortage, as in most cities, of affordable housing options. More Single Room Occupancy style housing is needed for people with low incomes, bad rental history, criminal backgrounds, mental health issues and chemical dependency problems. But overall this program and concept, which specifically targets adult males, seems to be working according to Catholic Charities officials. The goals is to instill self-worth and responsibility for ones own well-being which it is hoped will lead these men to a more dignified life. Helping them to find housing stability with a small contribution at the end of their stay is what makes this program unique. Advocates in Cleveland and other cities and counties are looking at the results of these types of programs and investigating whether these strategies can address the huge problem of overflowing shelters.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

 

Housing Authority Under Threat

by Brian Davis

            For the past five years the public housing authority has endured three or four months of drama as politicians test various strategies to cut funding for housing low income individuals in order to balance the federal budget. Usually, there are cuts in some areas and increases in others and the agency struggles to pay increasing costs with level funding. This year with control of Congress and the Executive Branch in the hands of either deficit hawks or small government advocates, there is a heightened sense of insecurity.

            Scott Pollack, Executive Assistant at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, said, “At this point, we are getting funding at 90% of last year, but that is still not a final number. We have a $4.5 million shortfall, but we have not made any big decisions,” about how to balance the books in the long term according to Pollack. CMHA has cut back on purchasing and slowed down the hiring process while the budget is debated. The last resort will be layoffs and reductions in housing.

            CMHA had set goals to reduce the number of vacant units in their public housing portfolio, and is still committed to those goals. Over the past five years they have increased their occupancy rate by nearly 10%. Complicating matters is just in the last eight months the waiting list has exploded. The number of people waiting for public housing held steady at 6,000 people for three years, but has climbed to 9,000 people since October 2002. If the entire population currently housed moved out, CMHA would still not be able to house the entire waiting list at this point.

            Pollack said the growing waiting list was an example of the growing need for affordable housing. He also said that CMHA was “doing a better job, and does not have the stigma that there used to be.”

            There are proposals to eliminate the Hope VI redevelopment program operated by the local housing authorities. This is a pool of resources that assists in tearing down old public housing units and then replacing those in smaller complexes in areas of lower poverty. The proposal does not have broad support among tenants because in many cities the program eliminates hundreds of units with only a small number built as replacements. Pollack believes that there is enough Congressional support that would prevent the elimination of the Hope VI proposal.

            Besides the threat to the budget, CMHA is facing a serious threat to the voucher program called Section 8. This program, administered by CMHA, allows a household to pay 30% of their income with a voucher that they can use with any landlord who will accept the voucher. There are serious threats to turning the program into a block grant to the states. This would change the oversight of the program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to each of the 50 states. The states, currently facing the largest budget crisis in history, would be expected to administer and supplement the program if necessary. It is anticipated that states could divert resources to other housing programs, could establish time limits for housing, or could demand more than 30% of the family’s income.

            Pollack characterized the atmosphere in Washington as “a little more extreme than we have seen in the past.” He said, “There is no real checks or balances,” which he indicated made the situation with CMHA very unsure. Public housing has long had very few champions, and were the subject of community and political opposition, but in Cleveland 13,000 people receive a housing voucher through CMHA, and nearly 9,000 people are housed in the units. Changes in the solvency of the local public housing authority would have a dramatic impact on the landscape of the city.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

Homelessness: Starting Over from the Bottom

Commentary by Alex Grabtree

            There are a few things that we depend on in order to keep the illusion that we live in a modern civilized society. Things like: television news will always sensationalize the news, old people will work the polling places, and landlords will always increase the rent. These are facts of life that we grow to depend on as the part of living in modern day America.

            Then there are things that we rarely experience, but trust will be in place when needed. For example, we trust that an ambulance will show up to help those with a health emergency, or the store will still have batteries available in a natural disaster because we did not put together an emergency pack. We trust that at 65 someone or some agency will help us because we are not saving enough, and we are confident that if we lose our job someone will help.

            There are a large number of people in the suburbs who are secure in the knowledge that if they get in financial or health difficulties that there will be a family, friend, government agency, or social service provider to step in to help. After all, we pay taxes and there is some expectation that someone else is watching to assure that all of these emergency services are in place. As an individual charged with coordinating advocacy, I can say that emergency services are not as readily available as they were in the past.

            The biggest surprise that newly homeless families and individuals find is that when their family or friends cannot continue to help, the individual falls all the way to the bottom and must start over. It is a rude awakening for most to show up for the cattle call at the men’s or family shelter the day after leaving the comfortable life of the suburbs. It is like entering another age, and the individuals waiting in that shelter or food line have that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder look on their face. They are shocked that they fell all the way to this point that they are asking for a pillow, food, help with a job, and time to take a shower.

            We do not have emergency housing; we lost our emergency rental assistance, and those who previously helped with resumes are now looking for jobs. We do not have easy access to cash assistance for families through welfare or the disabled. There is not assistance with finding a job for those with entry level skills. A divorce, a major health problem or operation, or the loss of a job, can send a family into a tailspin and they quickly must enter the shelters. From the perspective of the individual, it is hard to not equate their situation to some form of societal punishment for becoming destitute.

            The worst aspect of all this is that more and more people working in the social services are not qualified and very underpaid. We used to have a situation in which religious and highly motivated people worked in the shelters and social services. After four or five years of seeing the worst aspects of American society, long hours, no pay; many became burned out. We lost some of the best people who were mission driven. Low skilled, low paid workers, working far above their abilities replaced them. The shelters need to pay a lot better or adopt a strategy to retain motivated people and reducing burn out. Imagine seeing a client who was beat up for being homeless by teenagers, a women dying of AIDS, a mentally ill elderly man who cannot take care of himself, and a young child with a chronic health problem living on the streets with an amazing singing voice all in the same day, and not being able to help any of them.

            It wears the directors, case workers, and shelter monitors down. The mountain of paperwork, the grant deadlines, the government red tape, the pain in the side advocate harping on client rights, the client falling backwards are all depressing and overwhelming daily struggles. There is a never ending flow of people in need of help with every possible problem from post traumatic stress from childhood abuse to bladder control problems. We have lost many of the most qualified, mentally and physically, to do these jobs and more and more we have people just collecting a pay check.

            So, the suburban-deer-in-the-headlights homeless individual or family shows up at the shelter shocked at their fall from a life of comfort to the shelters. Now, they must try to get help from an unqualified, testy, underpaid staff person who is watching the clock. Tempers flair. Compounding the tragedy of homelessness the individual must find the rose among so many thorns. It always seems like there is this on-going gold rush in the homeless community with nearly 4,000 people sifting the social service rivers looking for that special case worker who will help. All 4,000 people are sifting everyday and throwing out the rocks and fools gold looking for that one nugget.

            Do not rest easy tonight. The safety net is gone. If most of us are a couple of pay checks away from homelessness, be prepared for a long fall. Then after arriving at bottom, the nightmare gets worse upon the realization that most of the “staff” have no idea and are barely making it themselves. Many of the life preservers are attached to anchors. The final insult is that after surviving all these trials, society does not reward the family for its resilience, but condemns the family. Some homeowner in Ohio City or Tremont puts up every obstacle possible to restrict access to all homeless people and states at a public meeting that “most homeless people are crack whore criminals who will destroy the neighborhood and are a threat to the children.” And Regina Brett or Dick Feagler get angry over the lazy bums sitting in the park having given up on the world, and drinking themselves to death.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

Former Nurse Turns To Decades Long Crusade

by Lindsay Friedrich

                        Pat Tomcho is a woman who gets things done for the homeless veterans of Cleveland. She has been working with them for over 20 years. Tomcho understands their troubles but most importantly, she cares. Tomcho, an RN and MSN, didn’t begin her career in the field of public service. She has been a Registered Nurse since the 1960s. Though she began by working with an Ob/Gyn and in pediatric medicine, her children were young at the time and she began looking for something that would allow her to spend time at home.

                        Tomcho began volunteering at the West Side Catholic center, and eventually a position opened up. “I loved working there with the women at the shelter and the men at the drop-in center. I fell in love with the work. The position was too perfect to pass up,” she said. This was during the early 1980s and she began to get involved with the advocacy movement, which stemmed from significant cuts in service. People began looking at all the issues behind homelessness. In order to learn more about the population she was working with, Tomcho went back to school and earned her Masters degree in psychiatric nursing. She then moved on to a position with the Veterans Administration and has been there ever since.

            Tomcho during this time assisted with the formation of the Coalition for the Homeless. At first it was a loose collective of homeless programs, and then became a non-profit organization and she assisted in finding a director and moving the goals of the organization as a board member.

            Tomcho truly enjoys what she does at the Veterans Administration as the Coordinator of Outreach Services. Her only complaint is that she misses the large amount of direct service she had been involved in prior to her current position. She said her boss, staff, and outreach team are wonderful. She is grateful for her autonomy, which allows hers to work with other agencies and try new ways to increase services for the homeless veterans. “The downside to this work is that we still have the problem, we are still having this conversation twenty years later,” Tomcho said. She stated that there is not enough stable, affordable housing, nor are there enough mental health services, substance abuse services, or employment. She said it is our fault, as a society, that homelessness still exists.

            The work Tomcho does is difficult most of the time. She learned a valuable lesson about boundaries several years ago when a program she attempted to create just did not work. Instead of taking this upon herself, she realized that it is her job to facilitate growth in her clients; it is their job to grow. She learned not to personalize the outcomes of her efforts.

            Even though it is hard work, success stories keep her hopeful and determined to make a difference. One such success was found in a gentleman who was dealing with long term homelessness, serious mental illness and addiction. Today, he is sober, permanently housed, working full time, and seeing a psychiatrist on a regular basis. These accomplishments are largely due to the relationship that Tomcho was able to form with him through her work. He began to trust her, and the other service providers trying to help him. He still has follow-up once a month, but he is a fully functioning, content individual now. These are the success stories, which cause Tomcho to come alive as she speaks of her work. Knowing she was able to have some positive impact in the lives of those she works with provides momentum to keep her constantly striving to provide the key to those she is able to reach.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

 

Dramatic Decrease in Ohio Incomes in One Year

            An analysis by the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland of newly released figures from Ohio state income tax returns shows that the average income of an Ohio taxpayer fell by over $1,900 during the first year of the current recession. Statewide, the average income of an Ohio taxpayer fell by –4.3% between 2000 and 2001.

            Inflation-adjusted incomes fell during the first year of the current recession in 86 of Ohio’s 88 counties, so falling incomes have literally been a statewide problem for Ohio’s taxpayers

            But, a disproportion ally large portion of the income erosion took place in the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain metropolitan area. The largest one year income drop among Ohio counties took place in Geauga County, where incomes fell by –7.8%, with a plunge from $65,469 in 2000 to $60,341 in 2001.

            Among Ohio’s 88 counties, Cuyahoga County’s –6.4% drop was the fourth fastest income decline. The income of an average Cuyahoga County taxpayer fell from $48,135 in 2000 to $45,046 in 2001.

            Summit County’s –5.9% income drop was the sixth most rapid plunge among the 88 Ohio counties. The income of an average Summit County taxpayer fell from $47,855 in 2000 to $45,011 in 2001.

            All eight counties in Cleveland-Akron-Lorain metropolitan area saw substantial declines in the income of an average taxpayer. Even rapidly growing Medina County suffered significant income erosion during the first year of the current recession, with a 3% drop in average taxpayer incomes from $50,365 in 2000 to $48,832 in 2001. Suburban Lake County taxpayers also saw their incomes fall, with a –5.1% income drop from $45,754 in 2000 to $43,407 in 2001.

            Very large job losses from the current recession contributed to these substantial income declines. Cuyahoga County alone, which accounts for 14.7% of Ohio’s jobs, suffered 24.6% of Ohio’s statewide job losses. Nearly 50,000 Cuyahoga County jobs have disappeared during the current recession. But, income losses as a result of the recession also are evident in counties like Medina, where modest job growth has continued during the recession.

            Thus, it is clear that lost job earnings are not the only contributor to income declines in metropolitan Cleveland-Akron-Lorain. Falling equity values, declining interest payments on savings and money market deposits, as well as large cuts in public assistance transfer payments all contributed to the widespread local income erosion.

            None of the income declines during the current recession in any part of Ohio were measured by the 2000 census, which was conducted before the recession started.

            The figures for counties will eventually be supplemented with breakdowns within counties by school district, but the figures for smaller jurisdictions are not yet available.

Editor’s Note: Additional details are available on the research section of the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland internet web site: http://www.ceogc.org

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

 

Communities Mobilize Nationwide to End Homelessness

            On June 16, 2003, members of Lakewood city council passed a resolution urging Congress to pass the Bring America Home Act, which would go a long way to ending homelessness. This is part of a national day of housing action to Bring America Home. 38 cities held similar actions across the nation to bring national attention to the issues of affordable housing, health care, and homelessness in their communities. Local homeless activists are also asking voters to urge Congresswomen Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Sherrod Brown to endorse this legislation. Congressman Dennis Kucinich had already signed on as a co-sponsor.

            In the United States, 3.5 million people – almost 40 percent of them children – experience homelessness each year. There are 25,000 people homeless every year in Cleveland and 3,800 people on the streets every night. Many of these individuals work, but due to high rents, tight rental markets, and low paying jobs, they have found themselves living on the streets, in cars, in shelters, in abandoned buildings, in motels, or in over-crowded, temporary accommodations with others.

            Councilman Dennis Dunn of Lakewood introduced the legislation at the June 16, 2003 Lakewood City Council meeting. Activists were on hand to speak in support of the legislation including residents of Lakewood. This inner ring suburb became only the second city in the nation to endorse the Bring America Home campaign and the first in Ohio.

            The current economic downturn puts even more Americans one paycheck, one illness, or one rent hike away from homelessness. Today, a worker making minimum wage cannot afford housing at a fair market rate anywhere in the United States. In fact, in Cuyahoga County, a worker must make $11.29 per hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment at a fair market rate.

            The Bring Home America Campaign is national, broad-based initiative dedicated to the goal of ending homelessness. The Campaign is founded on the principles that people need affordable housing, livable incomes, health care, education, and protection of their civil rights. It is composed of a variety of efforts that address these causes of homelessness, including the Bringing America Home Act.

            “This Campaign is crucial to assisting people who are homeless or near homelessness,” said Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “It would end the disgrace of the worst form of poverty in the richest nation in the world. It’s time for Americans to take a stand to help our most vulnerable citizens. It’s time to Bring American Home.” Editor’s Note: For more information on the Bringing American Home Campaign, see the website: www.bringingamericahome.org.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.

All I Wanted Was A Shower, And He Wouldn’t Give It to Me

Commentary by Bridget Reilly

            All he’d wanted was a shower. But in jail—that was not where he had expected to have it! He was trying to piece together the events of the prior 30-35 hours or so. It was mostly a blur of anger, memories, and feeling lost. He had had the money to get a motel room for the night. He had already bought and paid for, and delivered the metal, to have a rear bumper made for his Toyota. Why had the motel clerk refused to rent him a room? The clerk had said, “No credit card, no room.” He felt that he was being discriminated against because he was homeless (living in his Toyota). He had tried to explain that he had not had a shower for two months. It was a hot August day. He really needed to get off the street, just for a mere 24 hours, and get clean. He had the cash money to rent a $26 room, but the clerk said no.

            The next thing the man could remember was eating lunch at Rick’s Pub, trying to calm himself down. Next, the sun was coming up and he had a gun in his hands. He knew something really bad had happened. So he drove to his father’s house—that’s where the gun had come from. When he got to the house it was obvious that something was wrong. His father was hiding, with a pistol, in the shed. What had happened? After calling the sheriff and turning himself in, he was left even more afraid. But it was only about a 45-minute ride to the jail. He would know the charges in a while. For now, he’d just enjoy the shower.

            The above narrative, written by my husband John, is a true story about his own experience. The incident took place on August 3rd, 2000. The underlying cause for the disaster stemmed from the outrageously unjust treatment that we had both received when trying to buy a home in Oakridge, Oregon a month earlier. At that time I had been homeless for nine years and John for fifteen years. After the home-buying fiasco, we were left homeless for yet another month. John tried to rent a motel room for a night after receiving his August SSD check, and was refused purely because he was a homeless local. It was the last straw. It drove him over the edge, resulting in a conflict with his father. I truly believe that he only partially remembers the incident, that he was disconnected at the time. I saw his condition just prior to the event. The two beers he had had at lunch would not have been enough to send him into an alcohol blackout; the dissociation was clearly a function of his mental illness.

            By the time we managed to buy another house in Oakridge, a criminal prosecution was underway which cast a dark cloud over our first two months of home ownership and marriage. For the last two weeks of October my newlywed husband was conspicuously absent from the other half of the bed. John received a reduced punitive sentence (two weeks in jail and three years; probation, as opposed to the mandatory minimum of 13 months in prison) only because he “agreed” to a plea bargain. If he had tried using a mental defense and insisted on a jury trial, he could have gotten the maximum sentence of six years—at least according to what his public “defender” said. He never even got to tell his own side of the story.

            The police report contained a few statements that pointed very clearly to the real source of the problem—if anyone had cared to see what the facts said about John’s mental state:”...J. McCulloch told me that he had been mentally assaulted by his parents for 40 years.........J. McCulloch added that he went in and took the gun and walked down the hallway, sat next to his dad, got mad at him so he shot the rifle into the wall to get his dad’s attention for all the turmoil his parents gave him...”

             But in lieu of a mental health court (no such animal yet exists in Oregon), this evidence could not even be considered relevant! The case instead, went to a standard criminal court that took his actions out of context and applied the usual punishments for them. He was convicted without a trial for a crime in which the victim did not intend to press charges. The state was not required to press charges either. This incident was a private matter and should have remained so, to be resolved among the family members as they saw fit. The head District Attorney chose to make it a matter for the court because it was such a juicy case. All John’s father could do during the trial was drive downtown and beg the D.A. to be lenient with his son. John’s plea bargain was the price he had to pay to remain in the homeowner class. A felony conviction was added to his record just so we could keep our home!

            This case, which occurred at such a critical juncture of our lives, made me realize the corruption that exists within our “criminal justice” system. I was appalled at the inhumane ways we were both treated while in the midst of trying to buy a home and planning our wedding. His case was clearly being used by others for purposes that had nothing to do with the public safety and everything to do with money and the promoting of careers. It also pointed to the need for a more appropriate way of handling crimes that stem from mental illness rather than conscious acts of malice.

            Besides writing a series of articles on this subject, I also wrote to State Senator Tony Corcoran saying we need to establish a mental health court in Oregon. (I had a story about this in Boston’s Spare Change News in May of 2001.) Tony responded, saying he was interested, but wouldn’t be able to introduce a bill into the legislature until the 2003 session, as they only meet every other year. Well, now 2003 has arrived. This past November Tony was in Oakridge for a town meeting and I took the opportunity to remind him of his promise. He said that he still thought it was a good idea, so we’ll see what shapes up.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003.