Memorial Marks Death of Homeless

Comments by Brian Davis at the Homeless Memorial Day 2004.

December 21, 2004 at Trinity Cathedral. Cleveland Ohio.

            “We must come together another year because homelessness has not ended in the United States. We have witnessed 17 years of poverty and deaths relating to homelessness here locally. We could talk about the 6% increase reported by First Call for Help in calls requesting shelter or the 14% reported earlier in the year to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. We could discuss the 2,000 people every night who find shelter and the other 1,800 who cannot find a place to stay every night in Cleveland. But why talk about that when all we have to do is look around and see the tired, worn out faces of those who eat a meal on Sundays at Trinity Cathedral.

            We could talk about some of the statistics like the over $14 per hour that a family needs to make per hour in order to afford a two bedroom apartment. We could talk about the 9,000 households waiting for a public housing unit or the 35,000 who applied for a voucher the last time that the Section 8 voucher program was open. We saw increases in shelter, increase in children that are homeless and increases in poverty in Cleveland. A short discussion with the families present today would provide us the context for the housing crisis that exists in Cleveland.

            We can talk about the $13 million that Cuyahoga County received in December from the Federal government to address homelessness at the same time we are losing a great deal of affordable housing in our community. We have tremendous threats facing people with low incomes including a growing gap in healthcare, more decreases in housing, and over 60,000 jobs lost locally in the last three years. We also see an increase in hate crimes directed at homeless people in our own city and especially in Ohio.

            There is great news with the introduction of the legislation called Bringing America Home that would make great strides to reducing the number of homeless people. This has to be tempered with the reality that the guys who sleep on the street cannot wait for the Bring America Home Act to pass. They need help today.

            We are here today to mourn the loss of talented, brilliant, and wonderful citizens of the United States who died before their time. We remember those who could not find subsidized housing or residential treatment or those who self medicated themselves to death. We are saddened that veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who honorably served but came home and could not keep housing. We see a future with even more veterans who die homeless.

            We remember those with personal battles with their own health problems that make it difficult to make decisions or those terrified to be around others and die alone on the streets.

            The symbol of how little progress that we have made in this society is that a man froze to death in our nations capital just before this memorial day. In the heart of power, in the seat of power that with one stroke of the pen could end homelessness with one vote could allow its citizens to sleep on the street and die of one of the most painful deaths imaginable.

            The Coalition for the Homeless lost a good friend last year when a women who had just gotten off the streets and was putting her life together, Savetta Durrah died. She passed on the day that her portrait was unveiled at a local gallery, and just down the street from where she had found housing. Savetta Durrah passed away to early. The other names of people whose lives were cut short because of homelessness include:

            Jimmy the Preacher

            Angel

            Wesley Jones

            John Jones Jr.

            Ben Apalategui

            William Robinson

            Willie Newell

            Edwardo Lauriano

            Elliot Worthy

            Tyrone Jordan

            Keith Biebighauser

            Victor Foley

            Stanley Ford

            Paul Braski

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio 2004 Issue 64