Temporary Agencies Exploit Homeless

Commentary Homeless Grapevine #31 December 1998

by George

            I would like to see something done about the temporary agencies. I suggest running an news article in the Grapevine. I think that the temp agencies are really hard on people, and work them too hard for minimal pay. Most of the jobs pay around $5.00. Some pay $7.50 an hour, but they are way too low.

            I go to the temp agency and wait to be selected. Sometimes if the agency knows you and if you have had a problem, they will pass you over and give the higher paying work to someone who “just walked in” and hasn’t waited at all. If you don’t have a car, the agency will take you to the job site in their van. Usually you wait an hour and the transport time can be another half hour to an hour depending on where the work is located.

            I usually work 7.5 hours. When I get finished they make you wait another hour for the van back to the agency. Sometimes the agency charges $3.00 for the van ride, which is deducted from your pay. They may also deduct money for advances for lunch money. So, you might spend 11-12 hours in total (transportation time and work time) and only get paid $27 (after taxes, deductions, etc.).

            I think that it is demeaning and not too motivational to be working as a temp and getting paid $5.00 an hour when you might be standing next to someone (who is a permanent worker) making $15 or $16 an hour. Sometimes those workers will “stand around” and tell the temp workers what to do.

            At the beginning of the month (when welfare checks are issued) the temp agencies will be “really nice” to people because they need workers. At that time you can get better pay and better jobs. But most of the time the agencies are rough. I have specifically worked with Minute Man and Area Temps, but I have heard Ameritemps is the same way.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2003 Issue 63 December 2003.

Stun Gun Attack Demonstrates Shift in Attitude

Commentary by Sam Y. Brown

            Not that “we” all even felt it, it was no joke to stun or tease a person no matter their race or because of the fact that they were sleeping on the streets. Being homeless, helpless or just plain down and out is no reason to torment.

            Where is our compassion in this day and age? Where is the love for humanity? Where is the individual that had cared about life, and let people live without having to “stun” a person as they slept on the streets?

            So we are sleeping out there out of necessarily because we have no other options. We have to buy food and keep ourselves alive at our own expense. It is a mistake to judge the down trodden, the outcast, the keepers of the park benches at night, the night dwellers, and the simple “no place to go” individuals. We must not dare to judge these people, for we may just find ourselves with “no place to go” and living on a park bench.

            Just when a person says, “Not me!” or they think, “It would never happen to me, well in the blink of an eye, BAM! POW! Hey! What’s going on?, and Oh, my God! Eviction.”

            Rent is due. Light bill is due. Gas is due. Food is running short. Kids crying. The car won’t start, nor run. The landlord is knocking on the door. You’re under the weather—nothing is as it was before…things change.

            So we must say a prayer and believe in the power of our most merciful Creator. Therefore, it may get hectic, but never totally “out of the ball park.” We all need to hang in there no matter what, how or where you find yourself. Remember and God’s speed!

            Editor’s Note: Sam Brown is a Homeless Grapevine vendor and has experience with homelessness.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.

Salvation Army: Charity, but No Agent of Social Change

Commentary by Brian Davis

            The Grapevine and the local Coalition for the Homeless have dumped gallons of ink into detailing the problems with the Salvation Army to the extent that over the last two years other cities that are having problems with their local Salvation Army call asking for advice. Still nothing changes. Government still turns to this 100 year old institution. The major media handles this elderly organization with reverence, and the public blindly drops millions into the red kettles every Christmas.

            It is not that the Salvation Army does not do a great deal of good in the community. Their relationship with minority populations especially the Hispanic community is critical. They do a good job at giving out food especially the Disaster truck that drives around and gives out food every night. And during a national crisis, there is no other organization that we would trust to respond to a terrorist attack or tornado or building fire. All of these activities are non-judgmental and offer the individual something that most would agree they deserve in a respectful manner. As soon as this mammoth organization ventures into areas not traditionally considered an entitlement things break down.

            They treat individuals asking for help more like children who need to be disciplined. The Salvation Army has no real commitment to social justice and focus their energy on charity. In the rest of society, if a government entity or business works for over 100 years on addressing a problem and sees those problems expanding should we look somewhere else for solutions. The Salvation Army has struggled with hunger and homelessness for over one hundred years and the problem still exists. Army officials are the men at the end of the river pulling bodies out trying to save those individuals from drowning. For one hundred years, no one in those fancy uniforms ventured up the river to see why people keep ending up in the river.

            The Salvation Army does not step into policy debates for fear of offending their gravy train. They rarely comment on the root causes of poverty focusing their energy on serving the casualties of poverty. There is some mix of fundamentalist religion that seems to be at the root of the paternalistic attitude toward the down and out. They seem to have this philosophy, “Why should we listen to your opinions, if you were so smart you would not be asking us for help.” Then they always throw in that, “We have been around for one hundred years so we know best,” line.

            I would never champion the fact that the problems that I was working on for 100 years have yet to be solved. I see that as a mark of failure not something to use as a slogan. Resources are so tight for both food and shelter in our community, we must fight over the table scraps. Yet, we continue to turn to the Army for solutions to homelessness. No matter how mentally unstable some of their senior staff we continue to work with them. No matter how much disrespect clients receive in their facilities we extend government subsidies to them. No matter how much they distort the truth about their operations and the resources taken from our community and sent to the National headquarters, we drop our change in the red kettle.

I have had a problem figuring this out for years, but I think that I have come to the conclusion that they are the social service bank that government goes to for lines of credit. They operate these huge programs in most communities that receive massive public subsidies. Government is notorious for not paying their bills. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County had owed nearly $1 million to both the men’s shelter and the women’s shelter over this past year. What other organization could stay open when they are owed $1 million from the public sector? They continue to operate these cornerstone organizations in our community because no one else can afford to do it. Most organizations would have to shut down if they were owed such huge sums of money.

            Shelters are public institutions, and are operated by private charities out of convenience. We should not give up quality, respect, dignity, and innovative ideas to a tired, slow bureaucracy just because the public sector does not pay its bills. I can see no other reason that city officials would stand being publicly castigated like a child by a Salvation Army staff. I can see no other reason, City Council would not pull the contract immediately when they learned that white staff were calling their mostly black clients “monkeys” and the staff was not terminated. The County should have removed the contract when the Salvation Army went back on its commitment to take care of anyone that comes to the door at the men’s shelter as the Request for Proposal that they answered had demanded.

            The Salvation Army is a horrible partner in the homeless community. They are a bully that feel that they know better. They have no grasp on they dynamics of homelessness or the solutions. They do not understand that the drug treatment regimen of 12 step program cannot be the only way to serve homeless people. They have latched their horse to the 12 step model and are not letting go. They regularly “do not have that answer with me,” or flat out lie when asked about financial accountability. They will personalize the argument and say that I or the Coalition Board has an axe to grind. I have heard the same thing in our struggles at Care Alliance and with Project Heat, and I certainly think that I was vindicated in my advocacy. I had a good relationship with the former community or non-uniformed individuals running the Salvation Army in Cleveland, but over the last three years things have sunk to a purely hostile relationship.

            There are serious problems at the Harbor Light complex, which is a mental health, boarding house, detox, corrections pre-lease, and homeless shelter facility. This forces homeless people to be treated more like criminals then a welcoming and compassionate place to move back to stability. They conduct body searches of young children as they enter the women’s shelter at the facility. It is absolutely an inappropriate facility for homeless people to be housed. While it is difficult to get information because of their church status, it is clear from their public filings that the Salvation Army brings very little of its own resources to the shelters. They expect those programs to suck up enough public money to sustain themselves, and when the Federal government demand a local match they begin to charge homeless people rent in order to make the match. Very little if any of those millions that they collect from those red kettles goes to sheltering people in Cleveland. That is why they keep coming back to the public trough looking for help with regard to the huge numbers showing up at the men’s shelter. They offer no solutions using their money just a hand out asking for money.

            If they come to the table with their hand out maybe we should start treating them as they treat the homeless people who seek help at Harbor Light. We will search them before they enter for meetings to see if they are hiding money. We will make them wait on the back dock until a chair opens up. We will tell the Salvation Army executives, “If you don’t like it then bring your own checkbook like the City Mission does.” [Homeless people are repeatedly told by many shelter staff, “if you do not like it then get your own key.] Finally, we will put so many rules on their use of public money that they will give up. After stripping the Sal Army executives of their dignity we will keep them dependent on the public check book for the foreseeable future similar to the shelters that they run.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.

Nursing Homes Scary to Some People

Commentary by Marsha Rizzo Swanson

            Homeless people have a hard time trusting nurses or doctors. I know myself that I had shocking experience with one nursing home. My husband nearly died, it was terribly frightening to me. I did not think that a nursing home could be so horrible or that there could be such a difference in care between one nursing home and another. Now I know why a homeless woman or man would say, “I would rather stay on the streets then go to a nursing home.”

            I understand that people don’t need to live in fear, but our society will not set up any protections. So our society doesn’t understand homelessness, but people are very quick to judge homeless people mostly out of fear. And most people can’t face the facts because they are not familiar with the problems facing homeless people. “What do they know?”

            My husband was a Grapevine Vendor. He got very ill, and often times he was out of it. I was very devastated to see my husband in this condition. In fact, he almost died. So, when a homeless man or woman has a hard time, the fear that was in me, you would not want to know. I was devastated and alone. I hated to have to put my husband in a nursing home, and I am sure that many homeless people face this horrible decision. He was mistreated in the first home that he went to. They ignored him, and he almost died.

            Many homeless people don’t want to put themselves in a nursing home, but we all know that they need affordable housing, free health care, plus mental health care. We have a big problem with homeless people not being able to find help for the their mental health or for other health problems. We need more people to stand and say, “We are supposed to be Americans, and we need to help each other, not condemn each other.” People need to start thinking about what they will do when their brother, or sister, Mother, or Dad, say to them, “I am homeless!!” Many just don’t care? That is the bottom line to what many people respond. I am directing this to you, me, all of us, to step back and remember that we are supposed to be one nation under GOD .

            Let’s not be ignorant and stigmatize our homeless friends, relatives or fellow citizens. They are human beings, they need LOVE. I know I would want someone to treat me with love, because who wants to be treated with hate?

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.

Homeless People Have Increasing Trouble Obtaining Identification

by Joe Perrelli

            These days, it has become really important to possess an adequate form of identification. Nearly everything an individual does these days calls for proof of identity. Since national security has become more of a major issue in our nation, it seems that the need for IDs is only going to become more imperative. Then again, that’s not to mention the 10 million Americans in the last year who were hit by identity theft. The amount of time and money that it takes to correct this threat against personal security is incredible.

            Because of the trouble that these issues cause, it has now become difficult, and sometimes impossible, to get a copy of your birth certificate, if you are trying to have it sent through the mail. The birth certificate is often seen as the major starting point for obtaining identification. In states all across the country, prices have continued to soar. For someone, who was born in Ohio, they can end up paying $12-$17 to obtain a certified birth certificate. Others might be expected to pay over three times that amount to receive their birth certificates from out-of-state. Unfortunately, is a huge barrier for many Americans.

            In one instance, there are teenagers who are finally old enough to work and bring money to the family, but are limited by the lack of a birth certificate. Somewhere along the line, it was simply misplaced. It does happen quite frequently. That young person now needs to pay $17 just to get his birth certificate to get his work permit to go to work. And if this family was in a particular situation where the parents were out of work, there would be even more of a need for that birth certificate, and it would be even more difficult to get the money to pay for it. For those who are just trying to cash their checks and find a job, they will get nowhere without ID. If they are able to find work without ID, they will be in for a surprise when they are unable to do anything with their checks on payday.

            Identification is arguably the most basic necessity to life in our modern day civil society. Whenever you try to do anything with city, state, or federal departments, you will run into enough of a hassle as it is. That is the reality of bureaucracies. Now, try getting through the system without having proper identification. It will be impossible to make any progress.

            In the homeless community, many individuals lack a safe place to properly store their IDs. Oftentimes, the IDs (usually birth certificates or social security cards) are destroyed because they are carried around in a wallet or someone’s pocket. This is also the best way to lose your ID. It is then that one would find themselves having to deal with replacing it. Those, who are born in the state of Ohio, need only request their birth certificate at their city or state Health Department, and the document is made available to them. Getting the documents from out-of-state by mail can take a longer period of time and cost even more money. The major problems, then, that a homeless individual will encounter when requesting a birth certificate are the cost of the document and the wait that they may be subjected to. Whatever the case may be, the person will be very inconvenienced.

            There are still some organizations that will assist homeless individuals in getting their identification documents, but the rising cost of identification is putting too much burden on them. It does not seem that possessing an ID document should be a privilege for anyone. It should be considered a right, since it has been made a basic necessity. Lowering the cost of these documents will not pose a threat to security. It will only mean that identification will be more accessible to everyone, especially those who badly need it.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.

Homeless Hurt by Overcrowded Shelters & Cuts

Local News Updates:

The Politics of Convenience

            Cleveland Women’s Shelter: The County, over City Council member Joe Cimperman’s objection, is moving the women currently staying at the Cosgrove Center’s gymnasium to two buildings on Payne Ave. The Payne Avenue site is reported to be able to house 100 people, while on many nights the Catholic Charities site at the Cosgrove houses 125 women. The day 2100 Lakeside men’s shelter opened there were 25 more than the night the former shelter closed.

            The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless voiced opposition to the plan on two counts—the new facility is too small and the operator of the shelter will be a deterrent for some women to seek assistance. NEOCH, in discussions with the women, has voiced concern about the shelter provider being a mental health institution, and there are some women who will bypass the shelter because they are afraid of the stigma (See Grapevine #62). The Coalition staff spoke out against the shelter moving into such a small facility, and having to crowd into such a limited space. Both arguments were rejected by the County, who voted to go forward with a plan that they hoped would receive little opposition.

            The two buildings that the County has selected were already renovated with homeless dollars and so must be used for homeless programming for the next 15 years. The Coalition fought to preserve these buildings for homeless programs, but not to stuff hundreds of women into a small space. The Coalition also pushed for a mentally ill shelter for women, but not the entire entry-level shelter for women being run by a mental health agency. The facility needs renovations, including the installation of a sprinkler system into the two buildings.

Men Sleeping on the Back Docks

            The men’s shelter is suffering from large numbers of men showing up to sleep at the shelter. This is not a change, and the Grapevine has reported this overcrowded condition for the past two years. What has changed is that the Salvation Army has a strict 400-person limit. Men are sleeping outside the facility. They are sleeping everywhere. The local advisory board has decided that they will impose a 400-person limit or will walk away from the shelter.

            There were many plans floated by the City and County, but none came to fruition. Without a holiday miracle, this will be the first winter in over a decade that there is not shelter available to those that sought help. This along with the loss of the men’s drop in center on the East Side of Cleveland when the women moved into Cosgrove makes this the roughest winters in memory for homeless people.

Health Care Forum is First Step

            The Federation for Community Planning and the Center for Health Affairs hosted a series on healthcare issues for homeless people. The first forum demonstrated the potential for better services to homeless people with Dr. Mathias Vega from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Jennifer Williams from Pittsburgh, PA. Linda Somers of the local Health Care for the homeless, Care Alliance, also talked about the current environment for homeless people in Cleveland. The second forum was a goal setting session. Providers including the Free Clinic, Metro Health Hospital, and the AIDS Task Force talked about opportunities for collaboration and areas that could provide complete follow up care to low income or homeless individuals.

            This is the beginning of a community planning process to provide better medical services. The attempt is to get agencies to focus on key medical areas, and assure that there is proper follow up and convenient non-emergency room access to health care. Care Alliance is going to lead this process and has begun the discussions with community leaders.

Local police progress lost

            The City of Cleveland assigned one officer to the Downtown area to interact with homeless people and the local businesses after the attacks on Public Square. Officer Doug Nichols was beginning to win the confidence of people who choose not to go into shelter. He had identified a lack of restroom facilities downtown as a serious problem for homeless people. He had worked with local businesses to identify a place for a port-o-john as a temporary solution to the problem. The City had rejected the idea, but activists were working on other strategies to push the proposal.

            He was working with local businesses to assure that there was peace between the two populations who utilize downtown. Because of the budget cuts at the City, Officer Nichols was reassigned and the program was disbanded. The experiment lasted three months.

Human Rights Observers

            Every year the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless sends volunteers into the cold to walk the downtown and visit with people who refuse to go into shelter over the Thanksgiving weekend. This started during the White Administration, because the sweeps usually started during the Thanksgiving weekend to make shoppers feel safe. NEOCH staff and volunteers have gone to the streets of Cleveland to count and talk to the individuals and couples living outside.

            The theory is that Thanksgiving weekend is the lowest number of homeless people sleeping out for the year. Many families will take their relatives in during the holidays or individuals will go to the shelter, which usually has space available. So Thanksgiving weekend, the hardest of the hard core are on the streets. In 1999, NEOCH volunteers talked to 60 individuals. In 2000, there were 24. In 2001 there were only 6 people, and last year there were 10 people on the streets over the Thanksgiving holiday.

            In 2003, we saw another increase with 16 people sleeping outside between East 18th and West 6th St. downtown. The volunteers braved the constant rain and then blowing snow the next day and talked to as many as were awake. There were no reports of police or pedestrian harassment of homeless people, and most people just wanted to be left alone. The volunteers left hygiene kits and a copy of the local resource guide.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.

Forum Measures Impact of Welfare Reform

by Alex Grabtree

            A good friend of the Homeless Grapevine, Jim Patton, said recently that the ultimate symbolism of problems faced by low-income mothers in this community is that the headquarters for receiving help is located on Payne (Pain) Ave. (The welfare Department of Human Services is located at 1641 Payne Ave.) A group of brave women took over the microphone at Cleveland State University to tell the community of the problems that they have faced with the changes in the welfare laws over the last six years.

            There were statistical experts and community activists who could show the results of the changes in the welfare system with raw numbers and trends in the community. The real experts who had direct experience with the welfare system were the heart of the forum. They put a human face on the decline in jobs, and the huge rise in children in the custody of the County. They told those gathered sometimes in tears about the difficulty in finding help anymore in our community. They made the event real, and all gathered were disappointed that most major media, and all but Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s staff were present to hear the testimony about welfare reform.

            The Community Forum was held on Saturday November 15 at Cleveland State University with the support of Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor, May Dugan Center, The Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland, Merrick House, Father’s House Ministry, Women for Racial and Economic Equality, Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice and L.E. Brun House. They came together to discuss the impact of welfare reform on the lives of Clevelanders in order to deliver the message that the changes had caused great harm in the community.

            One participant said, “It is criminal of the media not to have covered the speak out. Aren’t the hardships of the poor newsworthy?” All of the agencies that organized the event agreed to write to Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones’s office to ask why she did not send staff to this important event.

            Mother Sabrina Otis talked about her problems with the childcare system, which makes it impossible for low-income mothers to find jobs. Mothers Christian Turner and Ikel Maxwell both talked about having their children taken inappropriately by the county for poverty reasons. Veronica Sims had a powerful message about her inability to be able to find a job. Ms. Sims said that her little 5 year old was her rock and would tell her every morning that Sims would find a job that day. After 8 hours of no luck, she returned to pick up the youngster who would say, “Don’t worry Mom, we will make it.”

            Carolyn Singleton and her attorney Maria Smith of the Legal Aid Society talked about their successful challenge of the welfare system in the Courts. George Zeller of the Council of Economic Opportunities gave a bleak outlook on the job prospects and the major recession being felt by the mothers on welfare. Professor Marey Joyce Green of Cleveland State and the American Association of University Women talked about the horrible rules against women gaining a college education as a legitimate work experience. Ruth Gray of the Empowerment Center talked about her agencies work with low-income mothers and their problems in finding housing, jobs, childcare, justice within the system, and healthcare.

            In the end the group passed a series of recommendations to be forwarded to elected officials and community leaders. They will take the first part of the year to begin to meet with organizations and individuals to begin to build support for the platform passed at the forum.

 

Cuyahoga County

Anti-Poverty Human Rights Platform—2003

Passed November 15, 2003

 

Restore federal protections and uniform guidelines for families.

            The preservation of the family is the single highest principle for all those interacting with the family. Loss of cash assistance should never be used as justification for the removal of the children from the family. There should never be a complete removal of resources from a family.

            Medicaid should be extended to all family members for those making under 200% of the Federal poverty threshold.

            Households that earn less than 200% of poverty should be entitled to a state earned income tax credit. Households that earn less than poverty level wages should receive the maximum tax credit allowable in an attempt to lift their yearly income above poverty.

            There should be a hardship exemption for those experiencing the following barriers to stability, but all those facing a hardship should be entitled to the benefits and support services that are provided those on cash assistance:

  • Domestic violence victims.
  • Those struggling with an addiction, mental illness or other physical or behavioral health barrier.
  • Families with children under 3 years old
  • Households that cannot find employment that pays a family friendly wage.
  • Families that cannot find safe, decent, affordable housing.
  • Unemployed working families.
  • Families with children that have a disability.
  • Kinship caregivers.
  • Standards should be set and maintained for how workers and staff interact with welfare clients. Federal law should provide equal assistance for immigrants with adequate translation services should be provided at all welfare centers and programs.

Work activity should meet the individual needs of the family

            The definition of work activity should be expanded to include:

  • Full time care to a child.
  • Vocational training without any time limit.
  • Education, including elementary and secondary education, literacy, ESL, GED, and higher education.
  • Counseling or other activities to address domestic or sexual violence, mental illness, English proficiency, substance abuse for the adult or children of the family. Every hour of class time of adult or secondary education as well as higher education equals two hours of work.
  • Public jobs programs should be established to ensure that work and training are available to parents with limited work experience. The federal requirement for participation in work related activities should correspond to the family’s situation including family size, access to childcare, and barriers to full time employment.
  • Transportation should be included as a work support.

Effective parenting should be encouraged and supported.

            The County should place a monetary value on raising children that would enable payment of dollars currently used for Foster care to go directly to parents in danger of losing their children.

            Children in a family should never lose any of the above because of sanctions, and sanctioning should end as soon as the family complies with welfare rules.

            There must be a commitment to providing affordable, accessible childcare and creating more quality day care, after school programs, and youth centers.

            Care giving should be recognized as a viable work activity. This should include those who choose to care for their own children.

A complete study of the impact of welfare reform needs to be devised and put into place.

            The State of Ohio requires an annual report be delivered to the state legislature detailing the impact of the changes in the welfare system on the counties in Ohio. This has yet to be done.

Replace process-oriented measures of state performance with outcome measures, such as poverty reduction and family and child-well being.

            Require States to and make publicly available data on their performance. Require States to demonstrate that their programs are meeting the needs of low-income families and contributing to the goal of reducing poverty.

            Since welfare reform disproportionably impacts women and communities of color, communities need to report on the economic devastation among women and minority populations with recommendation for correcting the imbalance.

            Provide an inflation adjustment to the TANF block grant, and greater funding to states when the economy weakens within those states.

A Moratorium on Further Application of Ohio Works First Rules.

            The 1997 Ohio Works First rules (“ welfare reform”) should be suspended until the above recommendations are in place.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.

Economic Recovery Leaves Ohio with More Poor

           November 16-22 marks the national observance of Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week (November 16-22), and Ohio’s homeless organizations are focusing on the huge unmet demand for shelter in our state. “We want people to know that Ohio experienced an average increase of approximately 30% in demand for shelter from 2002 to 2003,” said Rick Taylor, Managing Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. This data was compiled from a survey of three fourths of the shelter programs that receive funding from the State of Ohio. To respond to this growing demand, shelters and services throughout Ohio are calling on community leaders to put in place resources and policies to address the growing flood of families and individuals who are finding themselves homeless.

            First Call for Help in Cleveland reports a 20.5% increase in requests for shelter in 2003. The men’s shelter regularly has more than 100 people over their legal capacity asking for shelter and they serve 25,000 meals per month. “Because of the slumping economy, we have seen huge increases in shelter requests locally, and we are seeing more and more people having to sleep outside because they cannot find shelter,” said Brian Davis, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

            While the economic picture for the country points to some economic recovery, Ohio is not one of the states seeing improvement. Ohio continues to see unprecedented increases in families and individuals in need of shelter. Ohio rated second to last among states in job growth from the end of 1997 through last year. Ohio Policy Matters reported Ohio lost 118,500 or one out of seven manufacturing jobs from March 2001 to March 2003. The impact of these losses continue in September 2003 with 6,500 Ohioans running out of unemployment benefits. With loss of manufacturing jobs for 38 consecutive months, Ohio has seen huge increases in foreclosures and evictions followed by double digit increases in request for shelter.

            NEOCH is asking community groups, church organizations and individuals to help the men’s shelter at 2100 Lakeside Ave to cope with this huge demand. We are asking that people help with donations of blankets, bed sheets, and towels or monetary donations so that the shelter staff can spend their time and resources on moving the men to stable employment or housing. “2100 Lakeside desperately needs blankets, bed sheets and towels at this time and they need groups to adopt a meal at the shelter,” said Davis of NEOCH.             “As part of National Homeless and Hunger Awareness week, churches and civic organizations could adopt one meal a month at the shelter to provide a meal for up to 500 men who use the shelter or bring blankets, towels, and bed sheets to the shelter. This would get the public more aware of homelessness and then it is our hope that they will want to start working on the solutions to homelessness,” said Davis.

            “Given that Ohio lags behind all other states except Michigan in job growth and the inability for many to find jobs, it is no wonder we are seeing many Ohioans losing their homes,” said Taylor of COHHIO. Local and state advocates are asking for a community discussion involving those experiencing homelessness to construct both statewide and local plans to address homelessness. Advocates are seeking help from the community, media, religious organizations and the collective talent that exists in Ohio to finally address the problem of our citizens living for years in shelters, on the streets and in abandoned housing.

            Editor’s Note: To support the men’s shelter or schedule a meal to adopt at 2100 Lakeside call Duane Drotar at 216/566-0047.

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.