Y-Haven Shelter Remains Open

by Jeremy Sidhu

      Not much has changed at Y-Haven, a West Side shelter that, since the closing of the YMCA at 3200 Franklin Boulevard, offers assistance to rehabilitate homeless men. At one time, both facilities occupied the same building in Ohio City.

    The YMCA has received much criticism for the closing of the facility, but the shelter remains and has a federal contract through 2006. The YMCA is fiscal agent to the Y-Haven shelter. The counselors at Y-Haven were advised not to answer any questions regarding the current status of the operation. Chip Joseph, Executive Director of Y-Haven, was frank in addressing all queries. He simply noted that with the extension granted to the facility there is little about which to worry.

According to Joseph, Y-Haven will remain open through 2006.

   It seems that the closing of the Ohio City YMCA has had a minimal impact on the day-to-day affairs of the men living at Y-Haven. One requirement for the men is to fulfill five or more hours of community service per week. Many of the men at Y-Haven would perform their community service at the YMCA and also had access to its recreational facilities. Prior to the closing of the YMCA, the men living there could conveniently descend two flights of stairs to volunteer or workout. Now, however, they must find places that will accept them, as well as their status, and give them to build a trusting relationship.

    This poses a problem for the men in that they must depart with the security they find at Y-Haven. As one Y-Haven resident pointed out, “The real challenge begins when you leave the building…sometimes it’s not easy to walk by a liquor store or the same people you used to get high with.”

    In addition, many of the men enjoyed exercising at the YMCA. The road to recovery is paved with frustration. Most of the men that were interviewed agreed that lifting weights and exercising were a positive outlet for their affliction—a privilege they no longer have.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

 

Commentary: The Divide is Huge and the Next Four Years will be Rough

 by Brian Davis

    Of course we are divided…Elections have become so vitriolic that it is difficult for the losing side to accept that the winner is capable of governing. According to George Bush supporters, John Kerry was unsure of his positions, lied about his war record, and was unpatriotic in opposing the Vietnam War. According to John Kerry supporters, George Bush was unsure of his positions, lied about his war record, and was an idiot. How are the blue states supposed to be governed by an idiot who lies and led us to war while dodging his own military service? How are the red states supposed to be magnanimous in victory when the opposition supports a weak, morally bankrupt charlatan? Each candidate and their 527 friends spent over a billion telling us that the other person was not fit to govern. That kind of money sinks in, and permeates all future debate. It polarizes the electorate and seems to be leading to a permanent divide.

   If the country cannot unite in the face of a terrorist attack that struck at the heart of blue states as well as red states, what hope do we have? There is no way to spend so much money on political advertising for 30 years in order to get elected without having a lasting impact. Supporters will believe that the opposition is an idiot or a flip flopper or a war criminal or a heretic. How does the minority population accept the decisions of an individual who is a liar or from a person that they believed stole the election or from a person that they feel is making decisions to benefit friends and not for the good of the country.

   So, what do the brilliant minds within the homeless movement see for the next four years? I have no idea, because most are in shock and have not figured out what to do. Here are my thoughts for what will happen over the next four years.

Homeless budget cuts or redirection to other programs

   The deficit is going to play a huge role in the near future. Normally, Republicans are viewed as the least concerned about social welfare programs, which is an oversimplification of the situation. Republican control in Ohio has not lead to a destruction of the safety net just a torpedoing of it so that it is more like a safety sponge with huge holes that swallows people never to be heard again. Republicans do care about social welfare, but it is just way down on the list. They will have an incredible balancing act to perform by attempting to govern, please their religious fundamentalist base, stop all attempts to raise taxes while not looking like they are mean to poor people.

   Homeless programs receive nearly $1 billion $200 million for the entire country. Wholesale cutting of this pool is unlikely, but they will pear it down to take care of other needs so some will go to Health and Human Services for a Samaritan Initiative. Some funds will go to other programs that homeless people depend on, but the result will be less money for basic homeless programs like shelter and targeted housing.

Housing programs face greatest risk

   It is incredibly expensive to house people who do not have any money coming into a household. So, it is unlikely that there will be major cuts in any one year so as not to be perceived as being vengeful toward low income individuals, but there will be major changes in the program with small cuts every year. There will be an attempt to privatize the entire Department. I believe that Congress will either authorize a block grant to states to distribute housing dollars or some welfare reform type hybrid. I am not sure that the Democrats will go along like they did with welfare so it probably will be a dramatic change. HUD employees may want to get their resumes updated.

   Vouchers for housing will also be on the decline. This program is an ever escalating cost burden on the Federal treasury. By transferring the cost to the states and putting a time limit on the use of vouchers the dominant party can control costs. This will lend cover to Federal Republicans who can claim immunity from the fallout of Moms with children loosing their housing because of time limits. Who knows if the media will actually do the necessary research on the impact of budget changes, because they certainly were asleep at the wheel in illuminating the problems that resulted because of the welfare changes.

Cuts to homeless people impact everyone

   It is ever more difficult to even renew all the programs that are supported by the federal government. As it stands today almost every shelter has to go through the process of struggling to get federal funding every year. There are no longer many multiple year grants given. I believe that by 2006, the entire allocation will go to renewing the existing programs in Cleveland and other urban communities. In 2007, the programs will then need to compete with each other and only the best grant writers will win.

   This all sounds cold, but the Republicans have this beautiful system already in place to justify their cuts. They have already informed the communities that they needed to start counting homeless people by 2004 or their funding would be jeopardized. For those who do not know, counting homeless people is like counting grains of sand as it passes through a very big strainer. Many homeless people refuse to be counted, other agencies do not want their clients counted, and many homeless people never show up to be counted. So in my opinion only 40-60% of the population is ever counted with these systems. These statistics submitted by the cities will be the facts used by the federal government to determine funding and will result in huge budget cuts. How ironic that the cities will submit to data collecting that will then result in a loss of funding.

Certain populations will do better than others

   Moms who dare to have a child out of wedlock will not fair so well over the next four years. Children who were taken from their parents will do fine. Homeless people with some blatant disability will see some improvement in the services available, but it will be very difficult to get any public assistance. There will be a strict guideline for keeping people off of the disability “gravy train,” because there are so many who want to be doomed to living in poverty for the rest of their life and have a disability label taint the rest of their life.

Real Health Care Rationing

   Twelve years ago, there was a groundswell of anger over Hillary care, which was feared to lead to the rationing of health care. No one talked to the poor who have felt for years that health care was rationed. How is it in Cleveland that the King of Jordan travels thousands of miles to get help from the Cleveland Clinic, but the people who live across the street from the back of the building are encouraged or diverted to the west side to go to Metro Health? Why do homeless and low-income wait 9, 12, 15 or 24 hours for help at the hospital emergency room? The situation has gotten even worse over twelve years where we have seen intake nurses ask “Do you have insurance?” as the first question even before “What brought you to the hospital?”

   Over the next four years, health care will become more bureaucratic and even more difficult to access. The promises of Welfare Reform was that families would have access to health care while they toil in do nothing low paying jobs. We learned that America does not have the money to honor that promise. States will have no choice but to stop covering some poor people or bankrupt their own treasury. We are left to wonder if those Life Flight helicopters could make it all the way across Lake Erie.

Civil Rights for minority and homeless people gone.

   “Fergetta ‘bout it.” Civil Rights will be ruled an obscenity by the Federal Communications Commission. If a federal employee utters these two dangerous words over the next four years, they will incur huge fines and possible jail time.

 Jobs and Economic Justice.

   The one bright spot in the next four years for Ohio. As a “battleground state” rural Ohio will most likely get tax breaks, funding and corporate welfare in order to create jobs as a thank you for the support. My experience of the previous four years is that the administration is big on retaliation. (The National Coalition for the Homeless was bankrupted because they would not support the Bush Administration’s homeless policy.) It would seem that if past practice holds communities like Cleveland and Columbus that voted for the opposition will continue to be starved of federal resources. In the last six years, agencies have cropped up to carry homeless people two hours daily to Twinsburg and Solon to fill jobs. Homeless people already wake up at 4 a.m. to get on these vans. Prepare for 2 a.m. wake up calls for 8 a.m. jobs in Ashland and Mansfield.

   This all seems so bleak and pessimistic. There is no way that it can be this bad. Maybe I am exaggerating, but look at the last decade. Homelessness vanished from the front pages under the Clinton administration, and became the target of budget cuts in the last four years. Things have gotten less stable in all our communities. Rents continue to rise despite a soft rental market, and jobs pay less. In fact, every cost except those at WalMart have gone up and it is hard to find jobs that pay a decent wage. Homeless people in almost every city are harassed, tormented and in most cities are shunned or forced out of sight. All this anger is often focused on the most fragile with kids attacking homeless people with stun guns in Cleveland and murdering homeless people in Denver. The Reds will continue to fight the Blues, and the impoverished, unemployed, disabled, and homeless are the casualties of that war.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

Stigma of Public Housing: Far Reaching Impact

Commentary

By Clara E. Bell

    American taxpayers are funding a Social Stigma (disease) and allowing it to fester and thrive. I choose to use the medical definition for Stigma to describe this issue: “Any characteristic of a specific disease or any harmful/destructive condition” as it relates to being a (P.H.) public-housing tenant. The federal housing program causes every man, woman and child, whose name appears on a lease, to become immediately infected with this Social Stigma.

   At the physical level, there is no branding iron used to publicly identify P.H. tenants; however the psychological effect of this Stigma classification creates a fear, similar to being told that you’ll have to be quarantined, thus containing this social disease to P. H. tenants only. Members of the private or unsubsidized housing communities must try to understand that by allowing a Social Stigma to exist, the side effects will always spill over into every sector of the community at large. Survival becomes the rule of thumb. Any person when faced with destitution or degradation, either by the loss of a job, death, divorce or loss of health, will be at risk of becoming a part of the “low-and-no-income” population. Many will be forced into homeless shelters, relatives’ homes, rooming /flop houses, or if they are lucky enough, they might get a P. H. apartment.

   The list of losses gets bigger for those who move into public housing, such as alienation from your friends and family members who are afraid to visit a P.H property for fear of being robbed or hurt. It seems that even if you still have the same clothes, car, furniture or jewelry that you moved in with, some value is lost due to the new environment of P. H. After reading hundreds of articles and attending hundreds of meetings as a P. H. tenant leader, I have yet to find the “value scale” or “typical model” of who will or won’t be a “winner.” My best guess is there never will be tools of this nature, mainly because humans are too complex. What I did come to understand is that unless you have a deed to a property, then you are a tenant, no matter who you pay rent to—be it a bank, mortgage company, estate manager, a friend or a relative.

    Like all Social Stigmas, other titles are added to describe the person or thing. For an example the word “projects” should be dropped after an estate is built. When the proposal for funding to build a P.H. Complex, a project number or title is assigned; however in the all-too-often used system of lumping all things together, it has been an easy way to identify low-income/public housing, and now some HUD housing programs are classified as “projects.”

   For large P.H. complexes, the term “brick city” is often used. Another problem with using a “lump” system to look at a person, place or thing is that of limiting the reason for the condition or state of being that is now under scrutiny. Finally, the most outrageous feature of this Social Stigma that is closer to a myth in its ideology, is that all homeless and low-income persons are lazy, on welfare, dirty, and addicted to some drug or are criminals. Our answer, or vaccine for those who feel this way, can be found in a simple equation: “Those who feel that a person’s income equals their mentality add-up to being stupid or apathetic individuals, because intellect and income are not synonymous.”

   The tragedy of tragedies related to public housing and the Social Stigma associated with it is that with the loss of jobs and decrease in funding for quality education nationally, the split between the “haves & have knots” has intensified over the past years. Of all the other federally funded social programs, schools and hospitals, housing is at the top of the needs list, but is constantly under attack at the funding levels. Where are the advocates and awareness campaign promoters who will fight for a cure? Perhaps a super dose of tolerance and empathy can be injected into those whose minds keep Social Stigmas alive, thus preventing the spread of this foolish disease to forthcoming generations. Please remember the famous last words of, “Be it ever so humble: there is no place like home.” Whether that home is a shelter or public housing, in the richest nation in the world, everyone should have a roof over their head.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

Stable Housing Often Elusive

By Charlotte Davis

    I was evicted from her apartment in 2003 because I could not afford her rent due to being laid off from my job at St. Vincent Hospital. I was able to escape the terrible shelter life because Nicole Evans from the Bishop Cosgrove shelter found me a new place to stay.

    I went to the shelter on April 23, 2004 because I didn’t have any place else to go. I tried to stay with some relatives, but that didn’t seem to work out. I first moved in with my sister and her husband, but my sister’s husband didn’t like me staying with them. So I left and tried to live with my mother, but I could only tolerate living with her for a day. The shelter seemed to be the only place for me to go, but it was also the worst place for me to go.

    Before this, I had never of heard of a shelter, let alone been in one, so I couldn’t even imagine how terrible it was to live in. The wake up call was 6:30 in the morning, with everyone fighting to change and take showers at the same time. This was strange for me because I was used to working from 3 pm-11pm, and sleeping later in the day. I had nothing to do and nowhere to go all day long because money was needed to ride the bus. When I wanted to look for housing, the shelter didn’t provide any bus passes.

    I said the food from the food bank was terrible. Milk, cold cereal, and donuts were served for breakfast. At 7 p.m., the people at the shelter were allowed to go to their rooms. But 28 people shared a room with me, and there were only 14 beds whose linen was only changed once a week. The lights were to be off at 10 p.m. for bedtime.

    Evans was able to place me in the an apartment on the East Side of Cleveland, which is subsidized housing. All that I had to do was apply to the apartments and wait for a month until an apartment was available. The person who lived in the apartment before me was evicted because he could not afford to pay the minimal rent for 3 months. Evans had to go through court procedures along with hiring a new maintenance worker to clean up my room because the original worker had a stroke. I was able to move in on September 10, 2004.

   I am on total disability so she can’t work. My apartment rent is $522 a month, but because it’s subsidized housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) I only pay 1/3 of my income. So I pays $284 and HUD pays $238. I am happy with the apartment, because the only time she has to leave is when I go grocery shops. The apartment has everything else, such as washer/dryer, incinerator, outside dumpster, lounge where breakfast is served, mail facility, and parking for visitors and tenants.

   I think that it’s very hard to find housing if you don’t have anyone helping you. I was able to find housing through Cosgrove with Evans’ help. I think being homeless is like having nowhere to go and is very bad. I have seen people look down at you. They have a place and don’t care whether you get a place to live. I think that the shelter is the worse place you can live. To many people, the new housing is fine but the problem is really getting into the housing. You need income and you need someone helping you get into housing.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

Planning for Affordable Housing in Greater Cleveland

by Niki Nohejl

    Michael Foley, the Executive Director of the Ohio Tenant’s Organization (CTO) is working with City, County, Social Service, Business and Activists to create a plan to provide affordable housing for homeless people in northeast Ohio.

    The deadline for the submission of the proposals is October 1st 2004, and for a year Foley has been trying to piece together a collaboration that could work on a strategic plan to preserve and create housing those with the lowest income in order to prevent homelessness.

    “It’s the poorest of the poor in our community,” he said. Foley went on to say they will come up with a process that will result in an effective way for the poor to have homes in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. An example is Cleveland State gathering data of the city’s strong and weak points. He said this would show where housing is needed and how to get resources to that area for developing new units.

    “It’s a strategic plan of here’s where we need help and what are the steps we need to get there,” he said.

    Foley said CTO is an organization that has protected renter’s rights for 29 years with a mission to preserve and expand safe and affordable housing in northeast Ohio.

    “We operate programs to explain local, state, and national landlord tenant laws, we assist tenants facing eviction with legal and other referrals and information, and work with tenants in multi-family buildings to join collectively to address common concerns they have,” he said.

   The strategic planning team will be using the Chicago Rehab Network (CRN) as an outside research consultant, once funding has been provided. CRN is a citywide coalition founded in 1977 by community groups seeking to pool expertise and share information. It contains over 40 housing organizations representing over 60 city neighborhoods.

    CRN’s website says, “Over the years CRN’s members have created tens of thousands of affordable housing units and made a visible impact on some of Chicago’s most disinvested communities, while preserving affordable housing in some of its most rapidly gentrifying ones.”

    Judith G. Simpson, the founder of TRANS.FORM will also be working with the team overseeing the planning process on this project once it receives funding because she knows the local community.

    TRANS.FORM consists of program evaluation, contract research, planning and organizational development services to philanthropy in the government and non-profit sector.

   Simpson was formerly the Director of Program Performance and Government Relations, United Way Services of Cleveland, and Senior Program officer for Human Services at the George Gund Foundation. She said, “I really don’t have a role yet in the planning process related to affordable housing, since the proposals that have been submitted by the group who is guiding this process have not yet been funded. Right now everyone is just waiting to see if this will get off the ground.”

    Thus far two of the three foundations have provided support to this project.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

New Home, Fresh Start for Women’s Shelter

by Pamela Vincent

   Since its doors opened in February of this year the new women’s shelter in Cleveland has had approximately 1000 individuals pass through it. Of those 1,000 people 30% were under the age of 17. Mental Health Services, the new manager of the shelter, had not expected the large number of families utilizing their services, but nevertheless, they are given top priority for permanent housing and the average length of stay for families is between 4-8 days maximum. Not bad, considering that homeless families previously spent months waiting for housing only two or three years ago.

   Dr. Steve Friedman is the new director of the women’s shelter and he is assisted by Cindy Chaytor, Angel Jacob, and full time nurse Rosemary Ethert. They all work for Mental Health Services out of the Bishop Cosgrove Center. They take their jobs very seriously and are making a real difference with their healthful and helpful approach to the shelter. They have brought many necessary protocols and services with them. The fact that there’s now a nurse on staff 24 hours a day is a huge step for the women.

   Every new client is entered into a database and has a health history and service report. The staff has seen many health issues among clients, from hypertension and diabetes to asthma and addiction. In fact about 70% of the shelter residents have some kind of illness or addiction. The staff has helped clients straighten out pharmacy medication errors and taught many how to monitor their medicines and prevent overdoses. They’ve helped place some of the clients into treatment for severe mental illness (with the PATH and SAFE Haven programs) and once in regular treatment those same clients can begin functioning and caring for themselves. Other clients have been referred to the Free Clinic, Care Alliance Health facility or even Metro Hospital with successful treatment.

   The staff is also trying to make the shelter a safe haven for all the women and children. One of the ways they’re doing this is by having a “round the clock” security guard in place. They’ve had to confiscate many knifes and street weapons but, because there are almost always children in the shelter they have a zero tolerance policy for weapons. The security guard has also made it difficult for organizers who are men to meet with the women without an appointment.

   The clients may complain about being frisked or having their belongings checked, but according to staff this is for their own safety and no one is exempt from the policy. MHS staff claim that the guards help keep the peace between the vast number of clients and prevent an escalation of tension when women are put in the same room for an extended portion of the day.

   The new shelter has space for 135 beds and the number of filled beds has remained above 100 since day one with the August headcount at 131. The new management has big plans for the shelter. Their goals are to tie in with other resources for their homeless clients and create new services to assist them while strengthening current relationship with other services for housing.

Future goals include developing a women’s health campus between the two buildings, with an outdoor recreation area and a community center in the lower level of building 2 (after Care Alliance moves out of the building). Right now the main entrance serves as a combination day room and new client entry area, which can make for a noisy and hectic area for everyone using the space. After Care Alliance moves and the community room opens up away from the offices, it will free up the congestion and give the clients room to spread out, read, watch TV or spend time with their children.

   At least in the first year, the one thing the staff doesn’t need to worry about is funding for the shelter with a combination of County, City, Federal and private dollars. One of their major achievements this year is that they are now an agency of the United Way of Cleveland. This alone will help provide many new areas of support for the homeless women and children clients. They are signed on for one year with United Way and each year will be reviewed and hopefully renewed.

   One of the other accomplishments under Mental Health Services direction is the forming of a Residents Committee supervised by staff. The meetings are open to all residents and staff try to work with the residents to improve the shelter and have an open door policy for all clients. Mental Health Services realizes it’s impossible to make all the residents happy. Understandably, it’s often a trying situation due to the vast mix of people at the facility, but according to every staff person they have been putting resident committee recommendations in place. They know there are always a few residents that will complain no matter what, but they remain positive in their efforts for continuous improvement at the shelter.

   The agency has come under fire from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, because of repeated complaints by residents over the “Army-base” management style. According to residents who had stayed at the shelter during the transition, this was a huge shock to the system for many women who were upset over the huge numbers, the lack of privacy, and the inability to find a quiet space.

   NEOCH staff do not believe that it is appropriate for the landlord to convene tenant council meetings because of the inherent unequal relationship between landlord and resident. A separate resident committee met off site after NEOCH was asked to leave the facility. They presented a five page list of concerns that were largely unanswered by the agency.

   The top concerns of the women were that they had no choice but to spend the entire day in one room with all of the women no matter their mental illness, health problem or addiction all together. The staff did not respect the women’s right to organize independent of staff involvement. The staff never responded to the pages of concerns. Finally, there was a concern that the staff acted as if they knew better that the women and were extended no trust.

   Dr. Friedman had this to say about the shelter: “We feel it’s especially valuable that an agency that has the expertise in managing the psychiatric problems of homelessness are running the shelter because of the large percentage of the residents utilizing the shelter that have mental health issues. Usually staff running the shelters do not have the expertise to address these issues. We also have mental health staff coming in all the time that can address these issues and teach the rest of the staff what to do.”

   In reality 30% of the residents are children; that had not been anticipated. Dr. Friedman states that “the management of this issue is very serious, very difficult, very demanding on everyone. And we think that as a public health issue, no child should be in a general emergency shelter for a minute because of all the other things that go on…we talked about the mentally ill…we haven’t talked about the drug abusing women or the alcohol abusing women, or just the day-to-day life of living in a shelter where you have shared showers and shared bedrooms.”

   “Homelessness is horrible enough and then if you compound it with being homeless at an emergency shelter is to make a miserable situation potentially traumatic and of all the things that we have to learn how to manage as a community… around homelessness, we think that the management of the homeless families and children needs to go to the top of the list.” “The resident committee has also placed that as their number one priority.” Ms. Jacob says, “when families come in we try to link them right away with other providers that can better serve their family needs and provide housing for them.”

   There have been many challenges since the shelter opened its doors in February. Ms. Chaytor, who has several decades of nursing experience behind her, spoke of one day in particular when they had a woman show up with 11 children and at the same time one of the area hospitals dropped off an elderly paraplegic woman that had a colostomy and incontinence. They found space for the mother and children but did not have the necessary equipment to adequately care for the severely ill woman. They called another hospital the next day and she was re-admitted to receive the proper care. Another time a man walked into the shelter and created a disturbance by yelling and knocking things off the tables and the security guard was able to quickly seize him and get him out of the building. These are just a few of the daily and weekly challenges the staff faces.

   However, it hasn’t been all bad…there have been many success stories too. Take the woman from another state who, when arriving at the shelter was withdrawn, unapproachable and carrying knives for protection. She was evaluated by the health care staff, who placed her on medication, counseled her, and soon located the rest of her family. They discovered the entire family had been living in shelters for 11 years, since the death of the father. They were able to reunite the family and find permanent housing for them. They also helped a mentally challenged runaway teen from another state find her parents and reunite her with her family. There have also been a few clients who, after having found permanent housing, came back to say “thank you” and cheerlead for the other women to not give up.

   NEOCH director, Brian Davis, expressed concern that the rules, layout, and staffing pattern were never discussed with the women. “Most of the individuals staying at the shelter are adults, but the management of the shelter treat them like children and not equals. Just because a women is poor does not mean that she should be punished daily with an attitude of ‘if you don’t like it go find your own place,’” said Davis.

   Staff members, Cindy and Angel both voiced satisfaction at seeing clients make it out of the homeless shelter and back on their feet. They believe they’re making a difference. The staff from Mental Health Services hope to form a positive alliance with NEOCH. Dr. Friedman stated, “we’re both on the same side…we all care about what happens to these homeless women.” The staff members are organized, they regularly talk about their commitment, and that they want to make a difference.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

Local and State Updates on Homelessness

      The Cleveland Free Times published its “Look on the Bright Side! 75 Good Things about Another Bush Administration!” The tongue and cheek look at the next four years with such prophetic digs as “After four years of Bush, Cleveland is already the poorest city in the USA. With four more years, we’ve got a real shot at number one in the industrialized world!! Woo hoo! In your FACE, Detroit!” Our favorite had to be number 58. “The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless will become an incredibly potent entity when it represents more than half of Cleveland’s population.” Staff of NEOCH could only say, “Woo hoo! In your FACE, Quiet Crisis!”

Grapevine Hires Staff

     Over the last six years, the Homeless Grapevine has declined to the point that the Board of the Publisher of the paper was on the verge of closing the newspaper. We received support from a number of religious organizations to move forward in stabilizing the paper. To that end, we are hiring a staff person to work full time on finding new vendors, new volunteers, and construct an advertising program for long term sustainability. With the help of the AmeriCorps National Service program, the Homeless Grapevine has hired an individual to work on rejuvenating the program, and breathing new life into the street newspaper. It is hoped that the paper will publish on a monthly basis beginning in 2005.

2100 Lakeside Shelter

     The County and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry is in the last days of negotiating a contract to begin January 1, 2005. The relatively quick transition seems ambitious, but the Salvation Army has casually gone about withdrawing their logos and other property in preparation for the change. The County did purchase the building recently, and is expected split the cost with the City in 2005 when they have money. Staff and residents are anxious to make the transition. County officials have declared that they intend to “do no harm,” and make the shelter better next year. City and County officials reportedly meet weekly to discuss the shelter situation, and County officials are proposing no cuts to the shelter in the face of a 4.3% cut in every other county department.

Homeless Memorial Day

     Homeless activists across the state have formed a new group called the Ohio Coalition of Homeless Advocates have begun meeting to discuss sustainability, civil rights issues, and collaboration within the State of Ohio. The first joint activity is the 2004 Homeless Memorial Day to remember those who have passed away. Coalitions in Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati and Cleveland will all participate on December 21, 2004 with a candlelight vigil and the reading of the names of people who died over the last year struggling with homelessness. In Columbus, Coalition members will gather out the Statehouse at dusk, and then will join with members of the homeless community for a light meal.

Cleveland will have a traditional candlelight vigil, a group of interfaith ministers and clergy and a short talk at St. Patrick’s church on Bridge Avenue on the near West Side of Cleveland. Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless members will read the list of names of those who have passed away during the past year.

Panhandling Legislation Coming

     City officials informed the Office of Homeless Services that they will most likely be introducing legislation making it illegal to “aggressively” solicit money in Downtown. There is currently no legislation addressing panhandling in Cleveland, unfortunately there are also no people downtown to support the craft of panhandling. The few businessmen and women that venture Downtown feel put upon because those in need are beginning to outnumber those with good paying jobs. The Grapevine will track this legislation.

Freakishly Green Shelter Site

     Cleveland activists went down to Columbus to learn about the problems faced by homeless people in the State Capitol. The big issue in Columbus is the closing of the entry shelter or overflow shelter called the Open Shelter which ran into gentrification problems. The City and business leaders wanted the shelter to move and offered a sweet deal, but the shelter refused and in July the building was taken by the City. The Columbus Shelter Board tried to relocate the 100 men who utilized the shelter, but this was impossible because of the rules and requirements of the rest of the shelter system.

     The City of Columbus took down the building in July in an abandoned section of the City across the Sciota river next to the Center of Science and Industry complex. The former lot of the Open Shelter was turned into a freakishly green grassy lot. Amidst old fields, surface lots and an old railroad overpass there is one lot of incredibly deep green well maintained grass with a small fence that is all that is left of the Open Shelter. The former residents huddle under the overpass, out of sight mocked by the deep green where a shelter once stood.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 December 2004 Cleveland Ohio

Homelessness is a Crime!

   On November 5, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) released Illegal to be Homeless: The Criminalization of Homelessness in the United States, the most comprehensive study to date of homeless civil rights violations. This study is also the most up-to-date survey of current laws that criminalize homeless people, and it ranks the top “meanest” cities and states in the country. This report examines legislated ordinances and statutes, as well as law enforcement and community practices since August of 2003.

   The National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project (NHCROP) — an effort of NCH, comprised of local advocates in communities across the country — has compiled quantitative and qualitative data samplings from 179 communities in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. These cities and towns represent rural, urban and suburban areas of all geographic and demographic varieties across the United States.

This 2004 report finds Little Rock (AR), Atlanta (GA), Cincinnati (OH), Las Vegas (NV), and Gainesville (FL) to be the top five “meanest” cities in the United States for poor and homeless people. California is the “meanest” state, followed by Florida, Hawaii and Texas. Many of these communities have significant histories of violating the civil rights of homeless people and can be considered “repeat offenders.” Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, said, “There needs to be an end to the patterns of discrimination we have seen repeated in many of these cities, year after year.”

   In May 2004, Little Rock police implemented a 3-day notice warning in advance of clearing a homeless camp. Police had targeted at least 27 homeless areas to force campers to clear out, and yet, only two months later, in July of 2004, police raided a homeless camp during the day without notice, postings, or warrants and arbitrarily threw homeless people’s property into the nearby river. Conducting sweeps of areas where homeless people are living not only extensively opens the city up to potential lawsuits, but also actually does nothing to solve the underlying problems of homelessness. More recently, Little Rock public officials created some controversy with their plan to make a massive sweep to remove homeless people before the Clinton Presidential Library opened on November 18.

   The city of Fresno, California, authorized the construction of a barbed wire topped public “drunk tank,” where people can be put on public display. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a homeless person was arrested for “dancing in the street.” Tampa, Florida, arrested individuals for serving food to homeless people. Atlanta’s Ambassador Force, assisted by police, operates a “Wake Up Atlanta” team to roust homeless people from any public or private space and arrest them if there is a delay. And in the past year, the state of Hawaii passed a law that bans homeless individuals from living on all public property.

   This report documents laws specifically enacted to target homeless people, including anti-camping, anti-panhandling, and loitering laws, but also looks at police abuse of existing laws in their attempt to move society’s problems into jails or at least out of sight. In the summer of 2004, CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace was arrested by the New York City Transit Police for arguing and charged with “disorderly conduct,” an abused criminal charge that ensnares thousands of homeless people throughout the country. Mike Wallace was caught in a “abuse of power” faced every day by homeless people who are arrested for disorderly conduct for sleeping, speaking, or using public facilities.

   According to this report, fifty-one of the cities studied have legislated new ordinances targeting homeless people since August of 2003. Fifty-seven of the cities surveyed conducted large sweeps or destroyed the campsites of homeless individuals. In addition, homeless people face the continual enforcement of existing laws, as well as the selective scrutiny of violating other statutes. This pattern and practice of legislating, targeting and enforcing laws against homeless people constitutes an infrastructure of criminalization. There has been no documentation of any voluntary repeal of an anti-homeless law in the past fifteen months, although several cities have been forced to change their laws as a result of lawsuits, and some have actually had to make large payments to individuals who have been discriminated against.

   With unemployment rates still at peak levels, more people have become homeless, and as the economy has tightened, shelters and service-providing agencies face budget cuts and even closures. Though nearly all cities still lack sufficient shelter beds and social services, many continue to pass laws prohibiting homeless people from sleeping outside. Cities are attempting to make it illegal to perform life-sustaining activities in public, while at the same time refusing to allocate sufficient funds for housing, to legislate living wages, or to provide necessary health care, thus hindering these individuals’ basic civil liberties.

   This country is building jails instead of creating affordable housing. By enacting the Bringing America Home Act (H.R. 2897—108th Congress) Congress can begin the process of preventing and ending homelessness. Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who is formerly homeless himself, said, “The criminal justice system is not an answer to the problems that homeless people face. We need solutions that go to the root causes of the issue – affordable housing, livable income, treatment and health care, and civil rights protection.”

20 Meanest Cities

1. Little Rock, Arkansas

2. Atlanta, Georgia

3. Cincinnati, Ohio

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

5. Gainesville, Florida

6. New York City, New York

7. Los Angeles, California

8. San Francisco, California

9. Honolulu, Hawaii

10. Austin, Texas

11. Sarasota, Florida

12. Key West, Florida

13. Nashville, Tennessee

14. Berkeley, California

15. Dallas, Texas

16. Fresno, California

17. San Antonio, Texas

18. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

19. St. Paul, Minnesota

20. Manchester, New Hampshire

Meanest States

1. California

2. Florida

3. Hawaii

4. Texas

Percentage (%) of Cities Banning Activities

Obstruction of Sidewalks/Public Places 88

Begging in Particular Public Places 65

Closure of Particular Public Places 57

Loitering in Particular Public Places 57

Urination/Defecation in Public 54

Sleeping in Particular Public Places 53

“Aggressive” Panhandling 51

Bathing in Public Waters 51

Camping in Particular Public Places 49

Sitting/Lying in Public Places 45

Begging City-wide 29

Camping City-wide 22

Loitering City-wide 16

Sleeping City-wide 15

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

Homeless Survey Yields Surprising Results

     This September, NEOCH volunteers went to twelve shelters in Cleveland to interview homeless people about their housing needs and their ability to pay for housing. NEOCH surveyed 416 individuals; the information they provided paints an often surprising and certainly a disturbing portrait of homelessness in the City of Cleveland.

     Perhaps the most disturbing statistic to emerge is the length of time these individuals have been homeless or on the verge of homelessness. Of the 329 individuals who answered the question, “How long have you been without a stable place to live?,” more than 300 answered “months” or “years.” Nearly as disturbing are the reasons these individuals gave for being unable to find housing: simple economic hardship heads the list, while problems often associated with temporary homelessness—domestic violence, illness or handicap, racial discrimination—come in at the bottom. Given Cleveland’s current economic woes, this list suggests that the ranks of those suffering or facing long-term homelessness won’t be thinning in the near future.

     The survey results also pointed to a dearth of affordable housing in northeast Ohio. About two-thirds of those surveyed responded to a question asking how much rent they could afford to pay each month. While 165 answered “$0-$50 per month,” the remaining respondents showed a surprising range of abilities to pay: 68 could afford to pay $51-$125 per month for rent, 53 could afford $126-$350 per month, 24 could afford $351-$500 per month, and 7 individuals surveyed could afford to pay over $500 per month in rent.

     Unfortunately, as the survey results showed, many of the individuals who might afford rent are unable in  addition to afford security deposits, utilities, or apartments in safe neighborhoods.

     Families are clearly suffering from the long-term homelessness NEOCH found to be typical. While the great majority of those interviewed about family size were homeless individuals, 38 were members of 2-person families, 19 were of 3-person families, 14 were of 4-person families, and 25 were members of more than 5-person families.

     At least the homeless persons NEOCH interviewed were keeping a sense of humor about their plight. When asked if they would accept housing on Mars should affordable units become available there before they become available on Earth, the majority surveyed (42%) said yes.

Survey Results

     On one day in September 2004, volunteers from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless went to 12 shelters in Cleveland to interview homeless people. The volunteers surveyed 416 people on their housing needs and their ability to pay for housing. Below is the summary from the one day action. We will deliver copies of all of these “housing applications” to our local elected officials in October to demonstrate the great need in our community for housing.

Demographic information:

327___Male

83____Female

6_____Did not answer

Race (optional)

274___ African American

83____Caucasian

20_____Hispanic

21_____Other

17_____Did not answer

Family Size

280 ____1- person family

38_____2 -person family

19_____3-person family

14_____4-person family

25_____Over 5 person family

46_____Did not answer

Income level

235___$0-$250 per month

62____$250-$500 per month

14____$500-$1,200 per month

15____$1,200-$2,000

2_____Over $2,000 per month

88____ Did not answer

I can afford an apartment for

165___$0-$50 per month

68____ $51-$125

53____ $126-$350

24____$351-$500

7_____Over $500

9 ____Did not answer

I have been without a stable place to live for

3____Days

18___Weeks

157____Months

151____Years

87____Did not answer

The biggest reason(s) that an individual cannot find housing:

__259__Rents are too high

__223__Can’t afford security deposit

__170__Need help with other problems in life

__167__Cannot turn on utilities or afford utilities

__151__Bad credit history

__139__Criminal background

__136__Need some help finding an apartment

__121__Only affordable places are bad apartments

__118__Can’t find a place in the right part of town

___91__Transportation issues

___60__Other (please describe below

___48__Need a roommate/help

___41__Racial discrimination

___34__I have given up trying

___32__Too many evictions

___30__School issues

___20__Need apartment for physically handicapped

___14__Domestic violence issues

The final question on the survey was: “Since America has prioritized space exploration with budget increases while the housing budget keeps being slashed, I am willing to accept a place on Mars or the Moon should housing open up there before an affordable housing unit opens up on Earth.”

175 or 42% Would choose housing on Mars/Moon

167 or 40% Would be willing to wait for housing on Earth and will not be going to the Mars/Moon

74 or 18% Did not answer this question.

     Coalition staff delivered the surveys to all federal elected officials with the message, “With 9,000 people waiting for public housing in Cleveland, 6,000 people waiting for a Housing Choice vouchers and every other program in Cleveland facing unprecedented waiting lists, it is insane to cut the federal housing budget. Homeless people realize the insanity of the situation and are willing to relocated from the safe comfortable confines of the local shelters to zero gravity uncharted territory of the moon in order to find housing.”

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 67 November-December 2004 Cleveland, Ohio.

Commentary: Hold Open Opportunity for All

By Angelo Anderson

    Damn this place is super funky does anybody bath in here? Maybe not since there are only two sinks and one toilet, with one sink stopped up…. it’s 9:30 at night and for the fourth time in my life I’m sleeping in a homeless shelter for men. I don’t sleep here every night but some nights I have to and I hate it, there has to be a way to get off this floor and off these streets.

   Ten years ago I had these thoughts and others running around in my head and I wasn’t alone, sleeping on mats next to me were three men who felt the same way and we began to talk. Those conversations lead to the birth of a street newspaper here in Cleveland, that paper The Homeless Grapevine became my way out of homelessness. It started me working as an advocate on homeless issues and awakened in me a desire to help other people in a position that I was once in.

   Living in the richest nation on earth, I find it appalling that so many men, women, and children are homeless. Our nation finds billions of dollars each year to fund major business, support space exploration, fight wars, and rebuild foreign governments. Meanwhile, back on the farm, laws are being passed that criminalize homelessness. Local, state and federal programs have made it a crime to be homeless by enacting laws that effectively prohibit activities such as sleeping or camping in public, even when there are no shelter beds available.

Enabling, now a catchword used by many social service and government agencies, is bandied about like a new wonder drug providing an easy way to withdraw services under the guise of not coddling the individual. Often, the decisions, that regard enabling a person has nothing to do with a case plan as much as they do a funding decision.

   Is it enabling to provide a warm, safe, and clean environment in which to sleep and eat to our own citizens in need? If this nation can help emerging and re-emerging countries find ways to join the 21st century, surely it can find the monies need to create programs that will help Americans do the same.

   With massive layoffs across the nation, thousands now face homelessness in the coming months. How much more does the gap between the have and the have-not’s have to grow before this nation experiences riots in the streets? At what point does America’s poor and downtrodden stand up demanding affordable housing for all, with a livable wage that will enable al of its citizens to have a chance to achieve the American dream. If this nation continues to allow programs to serve only the easiest, excluding more people than they serve, then the line between social service and social responsibility become blurred.

   America has taken on the role of world leader, offering aid and support to many of the third world countries throughout the globe. But if this is truly to be a great nation then charity needs to start at home. If I am my brother’s keeper, then the doors of opportunity need to be held opened for all.

   With opportunity must come responsibility on the part of the recipient as well as the service provider? No free hand outs on an unlimited time basis; people who work, people who have an income, and utilize the shelter system must carry some of the financial burden. Changing the way we address homelessness may have many benefits for both sides. The cost to the service providers would decrease and may free up funds that can be used for other support services. The self esteem level of many will rise just knowing that you taking responsibility for how you live can spark a change in one’s thinking. If I’m paying x amount of money to sleep in a shelter then maybe I can afford to live in a place of my own.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

Commentary: Fresh Start for Sober Single Homeless Woman

by Marguerite Perdue

     My name is Marguerite Perdue and after being homeless for over three long years, I was more than overjoyed, excited, and anxious that I moved into transitional housing at the Hitchcock Center for Women. It’s a fresh new start for a totally different life and living for me, which I must say that God’s path has lead me to. I have a lot of information to share that will help single females if their willing to go through any lengths to obtain and keep a sober living environment.

   There are several very intelligent women whom I look up to, and can speak very, very highly of that. They helped me get where I am today, and I honestly had gave up all hope on all of my situation, that’s when I finally surrendered myself to let go, and let God. With all due respect, I’d like to thank Rhonda Fletcher for giving me my fresh start at my new life, which would begin October 8, 2004.

     I honestly envy this woman with all my heart, mind, and soul, because as much as I’ve been through and dealt with and just wanted to seriously give up, Rhonda gave me hope once again, and I’ll never, ever let her or myself down. She let me see that I could actually live a clean and sober life and be happy. Even though I’m also losing my sight due to glaucoma I have never been happier in all my life. I have my own key once again and people that are not phony, but actually do care. Rhonda is the most outstanding, totally remarkable woman that I’ve ever come to know. She’s the only woman besides my mother that I trusted once again in my life and she didn’t let me down, out of a thousand different people and programs and promises that were made to me. Rhonda’s the only individual that did exactly what came out of her mouth.

     So it’s very true that you can trust in someone even when that’s very hard to do. I’ve always been totally independent, and always worked. Four months ago I was diagnosed with glaucoma, which causes blindness. I’m not legally blind, but the little sight that I’ve got left I’ll use to the very best of my ability to do whatever’s needed for me too learn how to live a life without my sight. Everything happens for a reason and I totally trust in God that I’ll never be alone during this period in my life. When you accept the reality of any situation in your life, and trust in God you can’t and won’t lose. The spiritual awakening that has come upon my life had truly taught me a valuable lesson. When certain consequences occur in people’s lives and change is needed, it can be a definitely good thing and I include myself in this perception.

     The concept of knowing and understanding that God knows what’s best in an individual’s life is the most important lesson, and in all reality, many people don’t realize they will see a new light in life. Just remember in all reality, it’s God’s way, not our way, and the sooner people come to know that, the better off they’ll be. In turn this would make a much better world and it would be much easier to deal with what society had to offer if everyone followed this lesson. Living life on life’s terms when you trust totally in God isn’t that complicated. I’m so very glad to know that experience is the best teacher, and that knowledge is wisdom and the wise are supposed to get wiser. That’s why I listen and observe at all costs, and it’s truly paid off. To each and every homeless individual I say, just don’t give up, because you’ll never know what God has in store for you.

     I’ve been truly blessed, even through my times of loneliness and despair, which occur often since I’m not able to do for myself like I used to because of my glaucoma. I pray constantly that God will allow me to see my brother Otis Perdue Jr., who moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and my son Mark Anthony Perdue, and also Carlos Antonio Perdue before I go completely blind. I haven’t seen my boys since my brother moved, and after my mother passed away. We all separated, which was something that we promised my mother we wouldn’t do, but things happen that we don’t understand. We just have to do our best in dealing with certain situations, which isn’t easy at times.

     It hurts that I have to deal with my situation of going blind, along with being lonely, but this has to be the way God wants it, and I definitely can’t question him. But to be perfectly honest with you, I’ve never been happier, and there’s always someone who’s worse off than I. There are plenty of times that I feel totally out of place with other people because they don’t know that I’m going blind, but I just pray to my Jesus that he keeps me sane.

     My higher power is so very awesome, and I will continue to follow the path that God had chosen for me. I’ve learned that it can’t be my way anymore, only His way, and that’s a wonderful thing. I’ve only been at Hitchcock Center for Women six days. But what I’ve experienced in that amount of time had already shown me what my life can be like as long as I stay clean and sober. Patience is truly a virtue, and I never had an ounce of patience until I met and spoke with Rhonda. If you’re interested in living a clean and sober life style, all you need to have to do is trust in God, clean house, help others, and contact Rhonda Fletcher and the Hitchcock Center for Women at 421-0662. This is where the healing begins. Its more than a great honor to me that Rhonda gave me this great opportunity to reside at Hitchcock Center for Women, and it gives me great pleasure to know that I am some body once again. As long as I continue to put all my trust in God, everything else will fall into perspective.

     There’re a lot of organization and opportunities for single homeless females; you just have to take the time and look into them. I’d like to thank each and every individual who reads this article with the hope that it’ll reach someone in need of help. A very special thanks to Rhonda Fletcher for believing in me enough to give me a start on a new way of living life. Now I can live in the proper perspective that I was once used to. Last but not least, I’d like to give a very special thanks to my peers for helping me through my times of despair. There’s one very, very unique and special person that I’d like to thank and want her to know that I truly with all my heart appreciate her for assisting me with this article with reading and spelling. She’s a beautiful person who’s young, intelligent, and has a lot of courage, just as I did when I was her age. Thank you Andrea Dent and Wynter Smith.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 Cleveland, Ohio December 2004

Federal Budget Approved with Cuts to Housing

 NASA is funded at $16.2 billion, $822 million above last year and $44 million below the request. The agreement gives NASA almost total funding flexibility, but requires NASA to report to the Congress within 60 days on how they will adjust program values to cover increased costs associated with the Hubble servicing/repair mission and shuttle return-to-flight activities. This flexibility is unprecedented and gives the Administrator broad latitude to implement the President’s vision for Space within the funds provided in the bill.

     The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is funded at $37.3 billion, $618 million below last year’s level and $521 million above the President’s Request. Includes a provision to synchronize funding for public housing operations to a calendar year resulting in saving of $994 million.

     Funding for Section 8 programs is split into two accounts to provide better accountability and oversight.

     Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (Section 8 vouchers) is funded at $14.9 billion, $697 million over last year and $1.77 billion over the request. This includes $13.46 billion for Section 8 voucher renewals, $742 million, or 6% over last year, and $1.67 billion over the request. This is in addition to the 15% increase the program received last year. Section 8 is treated as a budget or dollar based system like all other discretionary programs. Does not include Administration’s proposed authorization legislation to alter income targeting and tenant rent contributions.

     Project-Based Rental Assistance (project-based contracts) is funded at $5.34 billion, $270 million over last year and $10 million below the request.

     Public and Indian Housing programs are funded at $5.8 billion, which reflects a one-time $994 million reduction in Operating Subsidies due to synchronization of the program to a calendar year funding cycle. Includes $2.6 for the Capital Fund, $144 million for HOPE VI, and $627 million for the Native American Housing Block Grant, a 3 percent reduction from last year.

    HOME Investments Partnership is funded at $1.9 billion.

    Includes $1.3 billion for Homeless programs, $284 million for Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), $747 million for Elderly Housing, and $240 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities.

Other Items of Interest:

    The Corporation for National and Community Service is funded at $578 million, $3 million below last year and $64 million below the President’s request. This supports a volunteer level of 70,000.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #67 December 2004 Cleveland Ohio.