by Colleen Bittner
Congressman Dennis Kucinich knows first-hand the plight of homeless people. That’s because he and his family lived in 21 places, including a couple of cars, by the time he was 17 years old. Now he’s committed to seeing that issues of public concern are addressed, and homelessness is a top priority - by all facts we have, unemployment is going up and homelessness is following suit, according to Steve Inchak, a Kucinich congressional staff member.
To address homelessness, Kucinich initiated a Homeless Summit for Ohio’s 10th Congressional District, which includes (among others) Cleveland, Lakewood, Rocky River, Parma and Middleburg Heights. More than 200 homeless advocacy group and governmental agency representatives, elected officials and currently or formerly homeless people attended sessions held in February, March and November 2003.
Kucinich organized this summit in response to homelessness trends and constituent requests. In the Cleveland area, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless estimates that nearly 26,000 people are homeless within each year and 4,000 people are homeless on any given night. It’s no surprise, then, that there has been a steady increase in the number of constituents contacting Kucinich’s Cleveland-area congressional offices with requests for homeless services.
The group produced a comprehensive report that highlights existing homelessness prevention/assistance programs in the 10th District, underscores important gaps in funding and services, and makes legislative recommendations.
Congressman Kucinich spokesman Doug Gordon says, “This is an issue the congressman cares greatly about because at one point in his life he was homeless. Often, these people are left behind and forgotten about. The Congressman believes that in a society that as has as much wealth as we do, we should leave no one behind and care for all. A shining example of this are the homeless who are often times in the most need.” The Summit group also identified The Bringing Home America Act, (H.R. 2897), introduced into the 108th Congress in 2003, as its top legislative priority. Kucinich will be pushing this act as part of his legislative agenda, notes Inchak. The act is founded on the idea that all people deserve affordable housing, livable incomes, health care, education and protection of their civil rights. According to Inchak, this is the most far-reaching initiative to date to address modern homelessness and is based on research, data and the experience of front line providers and advocates.
The act is currently in review with the House Subcommittee on Health, and as of July 27, 2004, had 55 congressional co-sponsors.
To help get this act passed, write your legislators, says Inchak. For more information, visit www.bringingamericahome.org.
Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #66 September –October 2004 Cleveland, Ohio