Voting Increases Among Homeless

            Every shelter, in cooperation with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless worked to register and transport homeless people to vote on November 2, 2004. Brian Davis, director of NEOCH, said “I am confident that nearly every person who was homeless on Nov. 2 was asked if they had voted, if they wanted to vote, and if they needed help with transportation.”

            NEOCH had 70 volunteers on election day who provided transportation. NEOCH registered nearly 400 people. We transported over 300 people on election day. Along with our efforts, we know at least 1015 additional people voted from the shelters. There were also 9 shelters from which we could not get voting numbers. Bottom line is that homeless people did vote in Cleveland this last presidential election. Davis said, “ We hope to translate this political involvement into a recognized political constituency within the community.”

Homeless Voting Statistics From Area Shelters

November 2, 2004

Shelter       

Number of Voters

          Number of people

at shelter on 11/2/04

These shelters responded 

 

 

Lakeside Shelter

Angeline Christian Home

Continue Inn

City Mission  

East Side Catholic Shelter 

Family Transitional Housing Inc

Harbor Light Complex

Hitchcock Center for Women

Hospitality Network

Josephs Home

Mental Health Services

New Life Community

Salvation Army - Willson Housing

Salvation Army - Pass

St. Herman's House of Hospitality

Stella Maris

Transitional Housing, Inc.

Community Women's Shelter

Volunteer's of America

Y-Haven - East & West

West Side Catholic Center

VOA - Veteran Resource Center

319

5

6

25

28

28

3

41

4

7-8

26

9

39

42

30-32

31

8-9

About 63

25

105

10

50

535

9

9

35

35

28

6

56

5 families

11

50

10

65

70

30-40

42

11

105

50

123

16

50

Estimates based on 50% participation--Shelters that did not respond to repeated calls

Number of Voters

          Number of people

at shelter on 11/2/04

Zelma George Shelter

Willson Tower Transitional                 

                                                           Hitchcock Center

Domestic Violence Shelter

Laurels Home       

32

33

12

29

5

75
66

25

58

10

Total Documented Voters 1015

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Vigil Remembers Those Who Died After Being Homeless

by Ivan Sheehan

              Cleveland-area homeless people, concerned community members and service providers gathered together Tuesday, December 21, 2004, in the basement of St. Patrick’s Church to honor the memory of homeless individuals who passed away in 2004.

            The candlelight vigil, which was organized by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, has taken place every year on the first day of winter for the past 18 years. 2004 was the first year all the homeless coalitions in Ohio have participated in the event on the same day. Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati all held a candlelight vigil on December 21. The Columbus vigil was held on the State House grounds. There are 60 homeless coalitions across the United States that remember the deceased on the first day of winter.

            In previous years, the event was held at various locations throughout the city of Cleveland, including Public Square. This year, Brian Davis, director of NEOCH, felt St. Patrick’s would be better suited to the practical needs of the community.

            “We try to have it at a meal site to remember those who have passed away, and those that are still struggling,” Davis said addressing the crowd. The goal was to have the memorial service at a place homeless people can attend, and St. Patrick’s was an ideal choice because it has served a meal on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for years.

            Over 80 attendees, including two local news crews, listened as a gathering of religious leaders, representing a myriad of faiths, offered prayers as a memorial to those individuals who died in the past year.

            Deacon Joe Kovich of St. Mary’s On The Falls was the first to offer prayers of condolence. Speaking to the crowd, he offered words of hope for those who of have passed saying, “they celebrate with the Prince of Peace where their pain and suffering has now been taken away.”

            Janet Lyon of the Baha’i Faith followed Kovich and recited a traditional Baha’i poem. The Rev. June Begary from Old Stone Church then offered a brief prayer of remembrance.

            “We pay them [the homeless] dignity in this hour of sadness,” Rabbi John Caruso from Fairmount Temple prayed during his memorial reflection. After Caruso, Ivan Nassar of the Islamic Center recited a Muslim prayer typically offered before special gatherings. Doris Mathey of Urban Hope also delivered a poignant offering of sympathy.

            The Rev. George Hrbek of Lutheran Metro Ministry was the last individual to present to the ceremony’s attendees. His gave a spirited talk, moving back and forth and engaging the crowd. LMM takes over the largest shelter in Ohio at 2100 Lakeside in early January.

            “In God’s community the nobodies are somebodies, and the somebodies have to be nobodies to be somebody,” Hrbek said to the delight of the applauding crowd.

            More homeless individuals were remembered during the 2004 ceremony then ever before. The need for a drastic change in the current healthcare system was reinforced as Davis noted that homelessness is a healthcare issue, and it needs to be addressed accordingly as to avoid a nineteenth year for the somber ceremony.

            Mike Cook of NEOCH read the names of 40 individuals who died while experiencing homelessness (see below). Attendees were then invited to light candles, and publicly remember the names of anyone whom they had lost in the past year. In addition to the 40 names of the deceased, a special moment of silence was held in honor of the 10 homeless people the Cleveland coroner’s office was unable to identify.

After the candlelight ceremony had concluded, food prepared in St. Patrick’s social hall was served to attendees. The spirit of remembrance continued following the vigil. Faith leaders, including Rev. Hrbek and Rabbi Caruso, read the list of the homeless people who had died during religious ceremonies at their own places of worship.

Individuals Who Died During the Past Year

Because of Homelessness

Henry Bridges                                                           Lee Woods

Mark Moore                                                               Sammy Ford

Charles Wilson                                                         Charles Porter

Leonard Green                                                         Charles Wilson

Charles Pugh                                                            Bob Evans

Latara Walters                                                         Edward Buselon

John Robinson                                                          Tim Buzwell

Oliver James Jr. © 4/10/04                                       Charles Parker

Layton Terry McCulley © 6/30/2004                         Mark Moore

Darlene Schwan Lambert © 8/11/2004                   Theartis Miller

George C. Mahoney Jr.©                                          Al Young

Robert A. Cemes © 2/22/04                                    Gary Mianko

Tracey Dencign Patillo © 1/5/04                              Willie Smith

Dontae Kaiser © 1/22/04                                         Frank Stelarski

Phillip Lewis Johnson © 6/25/04                              William

Willie Smith Jr. © 3/31/04                                         Evelyn

Robert Cox 5/2/2004                                                Julio Medina

Bobby Alexander 7/2004                                          Lalya Medina

Joyce Mullins                                                            Mike from St. Patrick’s

Bruce of St. Patrick's

There were 10 individuals who died and were not identified by the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office

There were also two friends of homeless people

Frank Zuick, who coordinated the meal at St. Patrick’s

Daniel Thompson, who delivered bread to homeless people on the streets

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All rights reserved.

Vigil Remembers Those Who Died of Homelessness

            by Ivan Sheehan

              Cleveland-area homeless people, concerned community members and service providers gathered together Tuesday, December 21, 2004, in the basement of St. Patrick’s Church to honor the memory of homeless individuals who passed away in 2004.

            The candlelight vigil, which was organized by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, has taken place every year on the first day of winter for the past 18 years. 2004 was the first year all the homeless coalitions in Ohio have participated in the event on the same day. Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati all held a candlelight vigil on December 21. The Columbus vigil was held on the State House grounds. There are 60 homeless coalitions across the United States that remember the deceased on the first day of winter.

            In previous years, the event was held at various locations throughout the city of Cleveland, including Public Square. This year, Brian Davis, director of NEOCH, felt St. Patrick’s would be better suited to the practical needs of the community.

            “We try to have it at a meal site to remember those who have passed away, and those that are still struggling,” Davis said addressing the crowd. The goal was to have the memorial service at a place homeless people can attend, and St. Patrick’s was an ideal choice because it has served a meal on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for years.

            Over 80 attendees, including two local news crews, listened as a gathering of religious leaders, representing a myriad of faiths, offered prayers as a memorial to those individuals who died in the past year.

            Deacon Joe Kovich of St. Mary’s On The Falls was the first to offer prayers of condolence. Speaking to the crowd, he offered words of hope for those who of have passed saying, “they celebrate with the Prince of Peace where their pain and suffering has now been taken away.”

            Janet Lyon of the Baha’i Faith followed Kovich and recited a traditional Baha’i poem. The Rev. June Begary from Old Stone Church then offered a brief prayer of remembrance.

            “We pay them [the homeless] dignity in this hour of sadness,” Rabbi John Caruso from Fairmount Temple prayed during his memorial reflection. After Caruso, Ivan Nassar of the Islamic Center recited a Muslim prayer typically offered before special gatherings. Doris Mathey of Urban Hope also delivered a poignant offering of sympathy.

            The Rev. George Hrbek of Lutheran Metro Ministry was the last individual to present to the ceremony’s attendees. His gave a spirited talk, moving back and forth and engaging the crowd. LMM takes over the largest shelter in Ohio at 2100 Lakeside in early January.

            “In God’s community the nobodies are somebodies, and the somebodies have to be nobodies to be somebody,” Hrbek said to the delight of the applauding crowd.

            More homeless individuals were remembered during the 2004 ceremony then ever before. The need for a drastic change in the current healthcare system was reinforced as Davis noted that homelessness is a healthcare issue, and it needs to be addressed accordingly as to avoid a nineteenth year for the somber ceremony.

            Mike Cook of NEOCH read the names of 40 individuals who died while experiencing homelessness (see below). Attendees were then invited to light candles, and publicly remember the names of anyone whom they had lost in the past year. In addition to the 40 names of the deceased, a special moment of silence was held in honor of the 10 homeless people the Cleveland coroner’s office was unable to identify.

After the candlelight ceremony had concluded, food prepared in St. Patrick’s social hall was served to attendees. The spirit of remembrance continued following the vigil. Faith leaders, including Rev. Hrbek and Rabbi Caruso, read the list of the homeless people who had died during religious ceremonies at their own places of worship.

Individuals Who Died During the Past Year

Because of Homelessness

Henry Bridges                                                           Lee Woods

Mark Moore                                                               Sammy Ford

Charles Wilson                                                         Charles Porter

Leonard Green                                                         Charles Wilson

Charles Pugh                                                            Bob Evans

Latara Walters                                                         Edward Buselon

John Robinson                                                          Tim Buzwell

Oliver James Jr. © 4/10/04                                       Charles Parker

Layton Terry McCulley © 6/30/2004                         Mark Moore

Darlene Schwan Lambert © 8/11/2004                   Theartis Miller

George C. Mahoney Jr.©                                          Al Young

Robert A. Cemes © 2/22/04                                    Gary Mianko

Tracey Dencign Patillo © 1/5/04                              Willie Smith

Dontae Kaiser © 1/22/04                                         Frank Stelarski

Phillip Lewis Johnson © 6/25/04                              William

Willie Smith Jr. © 3/31/04                                         Evelyn

Robert Cox 5/2/2004                                                Julio Medina

Bobby Alexander 7/2004                                          Lalya Medina

Joyce Mullins                                                            Mike from St. Patrick’s

Bruce of St. Patrick's

There were 10 individuals who died and were not identified by the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office

There were also two friends of homeless people

Frank Zuick, who coordinated the meal at St. Patrick’s

Daniel Thompson, who delivered bread to homeless people on the streets

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All rights reserved.

 

 

Street Sheet’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

by Niki Nohejl

            Chance Martin, the editor of Street Sheet, the San Francisco Newspaper for the Homeless said it is still in circulation despite a financial rough-patch. He said every one on staff took layoffs and collected unemployment, but the paper stayed in production as a volunteer effort.

            “We really take a lot of pride in being the oldest street paper in regular, monthly production in the U.S. . . . over fifteen years of continuous publication, over 400 regularly active vendors, and something upwards of $6 million in survival income painlessly transferred from the public to our vendors, legally and with dignity,” Martin said.

            The paper has received huge support from the public. According to Martin, 200 new individual donors were added to the donor base, and the paper gained new foundation supporters along with additional people who underwrite the Street Sheet for $50 per month. He said, “The outpouring of public support following a couple of articles about our financial woes was overwhelming. Meaning, I guess there are still people out there who think the work we do here is as important as we believe it is.”

            The Street Sheet is also in the process of reconstructing the Coalition on Homelessness, Martin said. He said they have consolidated some essential functions and eliminated a few staff positions. Seventy-five percent of the remaining staff are formerly homeless, and all of the staff started as volunteers. According to Martin, these financial hindrances gave the paper the ability to start fresh and improve it at the same time.

            Martin said, “The value of financial setbacks like we just experienced is that we were compelled to undertake some hard-eyed evaluations of what we do and how we do it—where do we get the best bang for our buck, and where we are just spinning our wheels? We’re heading into the new year as a leaner, more responsive and effective organization.”

            The Street Sheet is similar to The Homeless Grapevine because it is written and sold by homeless people, along with volunteer writers. Volunteers for the Coalition on Homelessness started the paper in 1989, but it wasn’t successful until Phil Collins invited them to sell their paper at a table during one of his concerts. Unfortunately, the paper didn’t sell well at the concert, but a group of homeless people offered to sell the remaining ones. The group found success selling the papers, and since then, circulation has increased heavily and provided a voice that speaks out against injustice

            According to Martin, the Street Sheet is one of six projects at COH. Others include Civil Rights, Family Rights and Dignity, Housing Not Borders, Shelter Outreach, and Substance Abuse Mental Health Work Group (SAMH). Martin said, “All these issues come together.”

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All Rights Reserved

 

Rural Areas Struggle with Poverty

            by Ivan Sheehan

          The streets and sidewalks of the modern metropolis are settings traditionally associated with homeless people. However, beyond the boundaries of the urban sprawl, there is an increasingly large homeless community that has seemingly eluded the public’s social consciousness.

            “The biggest difference between the homelessness in rural parts of the state compared to urban areas,” says Rick Taylor, managing director of the Coalition On Homelessness And Housing In Ohio, “is the simple fact that people don’t see it.”

            Individuals experiencing rural homelessness are subject to living situations far removed from their urban counterparts. Familiar images of homeless individuals living in the shadows of towering buildings, underneath bustling bridges, in crowded shelters or on the unforgiving concrete are replaced with decidedly less visible indicators of homelessness in the heartland of Ohio.

            The majority of rural homeless people find shelter in their automobiles, or seek refuge with friends or family. Many escape to public campsites or other remote areas to set up “camp.” The varied displacement, and relatively hidden whereabouts of rurally homeless people makes the task of identifying cases exceedingly difficult, and contributes to the public’s misconceptions.

            In the rural areas, “there is a perception that homelessness is not a problem – out of site out of mind,” notes Taylor.

            A community that does not recognize or acknowledge the existence of a problem is seldom inclined to address or remedy it. Subsequently, community resources in rural areas are not often utilized to aid the local homeless community. The result is a set of problems unique to rural homeless individuals. Limited access to basic needs services including financial assistance, shelter, food, public transportation and a smaller number of permanent supportive housing opportunities creates distinct challenges for many homeless in rural communities, according to Tom Albanese, program director for the Columbus Community Shelter Board. In addition to Columbus, Albanese has worked in Kent and Portage County.

            Similarly, the federal definition of homeless has proven a hindrance to accounting for and providing for the number of rural homeless people. Restricting the definition of homeless to literally refer to individuals living on the streets or in shelters severely distorts rural homeless population figures.

            “If someone is “doubled-up” [living with family or friends], they do not meet the federal definition of homeless,” says Taylor. “In rural parts of the state, the majority of persons experiencing homelessness fall into this category.”

            Research conducted comparing the number of reported rural homeless people versus the urban homeless population is frequently flawed. Population statistics are gathered primarily from homeless shelters and service providers, which are very limited or non-existent in rural areas. The failure to account for those rural homeless people living outside shelters, and those who do not report to service providers leads to inaccurate population figures.

            Funding issues in rural areas are further complicated due to recent decreases in funding to support housing programs that serve the lowest income populations, according to Leslie Strauss, communications director for the Housing Assistance Council in Washington D.C.

            “For example, USDA’s Section 515 program, which supports the development of affordable rental housing, has been cut so severely that few new units are being constructed [nationally],” says Strauss.

            In addition, the continuation of the USDA’s rural Rental Assistance program and HUD’s Section 8 program, which both assist low-income individuals make annual rent payments, is being questioned as costs related to the programs continue to increase with the steady rise in housing costs.

            The demographic makeup of the rural homeless population, and the economic factors that affect the rural communities also frequently differ from that of those in urban environments.

            “Rural communities tend to experience greater rates of homelessness amongst families,” says Alabanese, who often assists with outreach efforts in Portage County. “Also, in my experience many single adults who were experiencing homelessness often gravitated towards Akron where there were more housing and employment opportunities, as well as emergency shelter options.”

            The 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients, which was conducted by the Federal Interagency Council on Homelessness, uncovered several key difference between urban and rural homeless populations. It found that those experiencing rural homelessness have lower educational levels (more than twice as likely to be high school drop outs), more likely to be employed (usually at temporary jobs with no benefits), experience shorter and fewer periods of homelessness in their lifetimes and are two to four times as likely to live temporarily with family or friends in private homes.

            The survey also found families, women and children comprise a greater percentage of those utilizing services then those in urban areas, and rural homeless tend to be older than those in urban areas. In addition, respondents were six times more likely to have an alcohol-only related problem yet less likely to report having a mental health or drug problem. However, significant differences relate to the typical rural-based economy.

            The industries in a rural region are an integral part of the area’s economy. Rural regions whose economy relies on the success of agriculture or other industries in decline such as timber, mining or fishing are particularly susceptible to rural homelessness, according to the Coalition On Homelessness And Housing In Ohio. Reliance on such industries may be particularly devastating to a region if the largest employer in the area closes. It will affect the entire economic dynamic of the community, thus creating mass unemployment and a heightened potential for homelessness.

            Common public opinion holds that rural residents face lower housing costs, and therefore should have fewer difficulties affording adequate housing. According to the Housing Assistance Council, this is not true, and approximately 25 percent of all rural households are considered cost burdened – they pay more than the 30 percent of their income on housing. As the cost of housing continues to increase faster then personal incomes, and the unemployment rate continues to remain steady (the national rate was 5.4 percent in November 2004), the number of rural homeless is expected to increase.

            “The number of persons experiencing homelessness in rural parts of the state seem to be increasing by all accounts,” says Taylor. “Unfortunately, this is likely to continue.”

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All rights reserved.

 

 

Local News: Money Talking, Not Yet Walking in New Year

Men’s Shelter

            Lutheran Metro Ministry officially took over fiscal control of the men’s shelter at 2100 Lakeside on January 1, 2005. The staff of LMM met with the existing staff of the shelter to welcome them into their organization, and held a community meeting at the end of December to make their partners aware of the services that they want to continue. The meeting right before Christmas was intended to inform everyone that they want to continue to partner with agencies throughout the community and expand those partnerships.

            The shelter is looking at beefing up the staff and figuring out a way to provide food to the 550 people who utilize the shelter every night. LMM officials attended a meeting of all the East Side groups providing services to homeless people, and seem genuinely interested in becoming a leader in solving the problem of the growing numbers. We shall see, and maybe they should think about changing the name from the address to something that inspires hope.

East Side Catholic changes

            In previous issues of the Grapevine, there was mention of the sad state of the family shelters in Cuyahoga County. East Side Catholic officials must have read that issue, because they have seen many staff depart including the director. Michelle Keys, who did a great deal of work assisting homeless families to vote in the 2004 fall election, is the new acting director. There were reports from residents of the shelter that there was an unhappy split between the director and the Board of Trustees, but Grapevine staff will continue to live with the delusion that it had to do with the article in Grapevine #66. It is hoped that they become more engaged in the struggle to reduce the number of families entering shelters in Cleveland.

Making Connections Introduced

            The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless was awarded a state grant to support eight AmeriCorps National Service members to work with homeless people in Cleveland. These eight members will work on housing, Voice mail, Grapevine, Disaster planning, and most of all constructing a volunteer program to attract more volunteers to the struggle. Those working under the auspices of AmeriCorps perform one year of service to the United States in exchange for an educational award and a small stipend. It is often viewed as the domestic Peace Corps, and is marketed to young people to join before they begin their career.

            The AmeriCorps members are working on Martin Luther King activities (see poetry in this issue.). They have huge goals to house over 100 people, expand the Grapevine and the Voice Mail program, and put in place an orientation program for volunteers. Readers will continue to hear about the Making Connections program and will probably see the fruits of these eight member’s work.

Emerald Commons Announced

            The Housing First initiative celebrated the funding of its first supportive housing building for 52 individuals on the near West Side of Cleveland. The Mayor of Cleveland and one of the local County Commissioners attended the event to celebrate the funding and groundbreaking of the building. Councilman Matthew Zone was instrumental in supporting this project. Housing First organizers look to expand this effort in Cleveland with up to 900 additional units to be developed. This is an awesome undertaking considering the first two projects took over $6 million to create Emerald Commons and another renovated project on Superior Ave. These two projects will only produce approximately 90 units.

Copyright NEOCH, Homeless Grapevine Issue #68 Cleveland Ohio February 2005. All Rights Reserved.

LaMarche Tours American Homeless Shelters

by Kevin E. Cleary

          Green Party VP Candidate Pat LaMarche On Her Tour of Homeless America         

            The presidential election of 2004 brought with it the usual rhetoric and mudslinging from the two major parties. While America’s voters were almost split down the middle, Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate Patricia LaMarche took the time to explore the lives of those who were caught in the middle, but were largely off the political radar this election.

            LaMarche undertook a two-week tour of Homeless America that started September 21st in Portland, ME and ended in Cleveland on October 4th to raise awareness of the needs of people who are homeless, jobless, and without health care. She stayed in local shelters or on the streets in fourteen different cities, including staying outside the home of Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington, DC. During her tour, she led donation drives for blankets, children’s books, towels, toiletries, and other non-perishable items while encouraging others to participate in the National Homeless and Low Income Voting Registration week.

            She based the idea for this venture upon something she had done previously when running for Governor of Maine in 1998. During that election, she toured and worked in 20 different small businesses in 20 days. According to LaMarche, “I think that most often, the people who have problems also have their own solutions; they’re just not listened to.” Thus, when she was asked to be the Vice-Presidential candidate of the Green Party in 2004, she stipulated that she wanted to deal with and raise awareness of issues that matter to her, such as poverty and homelessness. This was her way of doing so.

            “Because of what I was doing, I didn’t want to lie to get into any shelters. The only place I lied to get into was the shelter in New York,” LaMarche said.

            She believes that New York City has the worst facilities for homeless people. She said she was forced to lie to get into a shelter in New York City because they do not want the press or government officials to broadcast the realities of New York City shelters. Also, a lot of people in New York have had their children taken away as a result of being homeless. These laws vary from state to state, but it is all too common that those who must deal with the trials of being homeless must also endure the trauma of separation from family. She mentioned further that most of the individuals she encountered on her tour were employed; they just don’t make enough to adequately support themselves. For instance, “Manhattan has 111 McDonald’s, but most of the people who are working there aren’t living in Manhattan.”

            Of the cities in which she stayed, Pat LaMarche spoke most highly of how homeless people are treated in Detroit because there is the political will and it is building the proper infrastructure to deal with the myriad concerns of homeless people. According to LaMarche, Detroit is also more successful because in general, it makes dealing with homelessness a priority, something many cities fail to do. In particular she mentioned Detroit’s COTS (Coalition on Temporary Shelter). “I think if the COTS programs were adopted nationwide, and properly funded, we could virtually eliminate homelessness,” LaMarche said.

            She believes COTS is so successful because of its four-step process to assist those who are homeless. She likens the COTS approach to “a triage in an emergency room.” Its first step is to get homeless people off the streets and placed in a shelter. From the shelter, individuals and families are given an assessment detailing the obstacles to their finding permanent housing, such as debt management, addiction counseling, etc. They are then placed in intermediate housing until permanent housing can be found. All cases are followed-up for two years after placement in permanent housing as the final step.

            Along the way, LaMarche found that most people were eager to donate canned goods and other non-perishables, but that particular solution is only temporary and won’t address the endemic problem. She felt it was especially important to raise awareness of the issues of homelessness during the election because it is a growing problem that is largely ignored except during the holidays. “I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Bangor, Maine, and I was always sent home at Thanksgiving and Christmas because there were so many volunteers,” she said.

            She had planned to stay in the Community Women’s Shelter in Cleveland the night before the Vice-Presidential debate, but was unable to stay there because of their policy of excluding independent observers (see commentary by Tenecia Stokes). Instead, she slept on the couch of an individual in Cleveland who she later found was formerly homeless. According to LaMarche, “One thing about homelessness is that any one you meet could be or could have been homeless.”

            Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Ice Melts Crowd with Poems

by Kevin E. Cleary

            On December 10, 2004, people gathered at the Bishop Cosgrove Center for Christmas festivities. The celebration was led by Pastor Reginald Bailey of the Anointed Gates Church and began with prayer and singing. The crowd’s response was initially lukewarm, as its attention seemed divided between conversations and eating their meals. The greatest responses came from calls to prayer and when the crowd began to sing along. The singing unified a diverse group of people as they slowly merged into one voice.

             Mike Jackson played the keyboard while Hezekiah McClendon, John Harvey, and Denise Smith provided vocals. They began their performances with a rendition of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” and followed with a down-tempo presentation of “Silent Night.” They continued by singing “Joy the World,” which seemed to inject more enthusiasm into the crowd. It appeared the performers noticed this, as they performed an encore of the piece that found the vast majority of the room singing along.

            The festivities continued as Charles Glover performed two original works of poetry, each of which was met with applause. He was followed by a man named “Ice,” who impressed the crowd with his considerable vocal range. The crowd continued to join in and became even more engaged as more members of the crowd participated in the performances. All of the presenters received rounds of applause and the festivities seemed to brighten everyone’s day.

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All Rights Reserved

 

Homeless Endangered Across America

Homeless Men Turned Away From Reno Shelter

     The Reno Assistance Center can shelter up to 140 men a night, but on cold nights up to 184 typically stay there. When the temperatures dip below freezing this time of year, homeless people who are forced to sleep outside can wake up covered with several inches of snow on them and also run the risk of getting frostbite. The United Way is working with the center to place men in motels when the shelter is full. Nevada Human Resources will investigate reshuffling some of the state’s discretionary federal funds for emergency shelter.

Salvation Army Fees

     Some needy residents in southern Mississippi are complaining that a $55.00 weekly fee at the Gulfport shelter run by the Salvation Army is too much. They claim that those who aren’t able to pay are being thrown out of their rooms. Most Salvation Army shelters do charge a fee for extended stay programs. It is free to stay at the Salvation Army Shelter for the first seven days. There is a service fee for stays longer than one full week.

Murder In Modesto, Calif.

     Modesto police are investigating the death of a homeless man whose body was found outside of a vacant building. The unidentified man, believed to be in his mid-50s, suffered blunt trauma to the head. An owner of a nearby donut shop recognized the deceased as a man who came into her shop almost everyday and bought coffee with the change he would find in the parking lot. Police classified the death as suspicious. The result of an autopsy is pending.

 Homeless Children Population Growing

     More than 680 children in Volusia County, Florida, and another 30 in Flager County, Florida, cannot count on sleeping in the same bed every night. These children were found by school officials to be regularly on the move. They suspect the numbers are much larger. Family Renew Community of Volusia County can provide temporary housing for 33 families. The executive director states they are full all the time, and they unfortunately have to turn families away at times. Volusia County counted 440 homeless children a year ago, and 330 the previous year.

Homeless Man Escapes Injury In Trash Dumpster

     A homeless man in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who fell asleep in a commercial trash bin was dumped into a garbage truck and compacted. There is a dull steel blade that pushes the waste against the wall of the truck to maximize space but a person can be protected from the blade by trash. Firefighters got on top of the garbage truck and were able to get the man out without serious injury.

San Francisco Cops Want Homeless Dumped Elsewhere

     San Francisco police officers suggested the city offer homeless people who were unhappy living within the city a one-way bus ticket out of town, suggesting the policy would help unite them with loved ones. The police came up with the idea after responding to complaints of homeless people loitering outside the public library. A spokesman for the Mayor’s office responded to local media inquiries by saying it was not under consideration.

Church Member Irate Over Homeless Encampment

     Members of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church on Seattle’s east side have expressed anger at the possibility of providing grounds for the homeless encampment, Tent City 4. The encampment provides a spot for area homeless people to come and set up “camp.” The site is currently located at St. John Mary Vianney Catholic Church. Organizers of the current site applied to extend the date of the permit to Feb. 20. The organizers have yet to establish a definite site for a new encampment, but have been in discussion with other churches besides Holy Cross. Certain members of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church have said they would leave the parish if it goes forth with plans to host Tent City 4.

Massachusetts NPOs and Community Organizations Awarded Grants

     Approximately 40 non-profit and community-based organizations in Massachusetts were given $750,000 in competitive grants and technical assistance for programs that seek to develop the skills of homeless individuals and at-risk youth. The program was organized by Connections for Tomorrow, which is a three-year collaboration led by the Community Technology Centers’ Network (CTCNet) in partnership with the Alliance for Technology Access and the TechMission. Funding was provided through the Compassion Capital Fund, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Faith-Based and Community Initiative.

Copyright NEOCH, Homeless Grapevine Issue #68 Cleveland Ohio February 2005. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

“Grinching and Penny Pinching” Overwhelm Shelter Residents

            by Kevin E. Cleary

          As a cruel winter night buried Cleveland in mounds of snow on December 23, 2004, Michelle Wilkerson-Guerry was trying to make it back from her temp job in Macedonia to the Community Women’s Shelter. It was very late, and she was cold and tired from a long day of catering. The bus lines weren’t heading toward the shelter, and the snow, the distance, and her fatigue made walking virtually impossible. She wasn’t able to call the shelter and inform them of her absence because her friend’s phone lines were down due to the excessive snowfall.

            Guerry decided to stay with her friend that night because her friend had fallen in her driveway. She stayed through Thursday to make sure her friend was recuperating and to spend some time with her friend’s children. Guerry was unable to return to the Community Women’s Shelter until Friday at 12:30 in the afternoon. The staff Xeroxed a copy of her work receipt from Wednesday upon her arrival. A Christmas party was underway and Guerry couldn’t understand why everyone seemed to be watching her. It was then she was informed, by another client, that her possessions had been discarded at 2AM Thursday morning by the night staff. Angered, and obviously upset, she found that the day staff had no knowledge of what had transpired because a proper inventory was initially lacking.

            Guerry lost eleven $100 bills which she had been saving to buy Christmas presents for her family, and to pay her first month’s rent and gas deposit on a new apartment for which she had already paid a deposit of $450.00. The Community Women’s Shelter had previously allowed residents to store valuables in a safe by having two staff members and the client sign a “deposit of valuables” slip. The same procedure was used for removal of valuables. Because of allegations of employee theft by a client, the use of the safe was discontinued.

            Wilkerson-Guerry also lost her bartending/server tuxedo shirts, pants, vests, bow ties, shoes, and professional suits that she used for her employment and job searching. All of her personal papers such as her birth certificates and current resumes were discarded. Her briefcases, underwear, socks, and personal hygiene products, all were thrown away. The meager possessions they had saved for her were a carton of books, a bag of pennies in a small purse, and some personal jewelry which had still been in the safe.

            Some of the other residents reportedly attempted to stop the night staff from removing Guerry’s things by moving them into their own rooms, but they were threatened with arrest if they interfered. Guerry believes she was targeted as a leader because she has a tendency to speak her mind, and others often listen. She believes the removal of her things was intentional because it didn’t follow CWS’s policy.

            According to CWS policy, if someone does not return within twenty-four hours, her personal items are supposed to be logged and held in storage. This was not done in her case, and women once had more time before such drastic measures were taken. As recently as April of 2004, the women had three days to be absent before their possessions were discarded. At some point, Mental Health Services changed the allotted time to 24 hours, claiming “staff shortage.”

            Guerry believes this incident reflects a larger pattern of disrespect for the residents of the shelter by Mental Health Services staff. A uniformed security officer is on premises, and many women are intimidated into mock complacency while some members of the staff have been said to be verbally abusive. There appear to be instances of favoritism; it seems individuals who can be more easily pigeonholed into mental health categories are treated more fairly. According to Guerry, “There’s an attitude of, well, you’re not a drug addict or an alcoholic, and you’re educated, why are you here? Because of the economy!”

            There are other issues as well. The staff seems to have little respect for client confidentiality, and seems to have no idea that many women staying in the shelter are forced to be there by circumstance. Women who don’t make it to the shelter by 9:30 PM are forced to sleep upright in a chair until 6:30 AM, and are not permitted to go to their rooms. According to Guerry, Mental Health Services seems hindered by not knowing how to properly run the shelter, and frequently changes policies without consulting the residents. The administration often cites budget shortfalls and staff shortages as to why the policies change or why they can’t provide certain forms of assistance to various residents. Yet, when situations like Michelle Wilkerson-Guerry’s occur, these obstacles seem to temporarily disappear.

            Guerry was not fully recompensed for the loss of her possessions, but Mental Health Services did attempt to rectify the situation. She was given rental assistance so she could move into her new apartment, a paycheck was replaced, and deposits were put down for her stove and refrigerator. She is happy in her new apartment, and speaks highly of her landlord. But she feels that Mental Health Services needs to re-examine how it is running the Community Women’s Shelter at 2219 Payne Avenue.

            “They need to start realizing that a lot of these women have absolutely nothing except what they’ve brought to the shelter. It’s inhumane to take that away from them. . . They need to treat us like human beings, not like cattle or statistics,” Guerry said.  

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005 All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Dads Dead Broke, Not Dead Beat

by M. Chef

A Father’s Commentary

          According to the latest edition of Men’s Health Magazine, Cleveland now ranks ninth in their listing of the 25 fattest major cities. That’s an improvement from its sixth place ranking in 2003. Something to cheer about I guess, but with the city’s ranking as first in poverty last year, some might speculate that our health improvement may be more attributable to smaller household budgets rather than smarter exercise and nutrition choices.

            With regards to optimal community health, a stable family situation is perhaps the best preventive measure from one finding him/herself surviving under the federal poverty index. Unfortunately nearly half of all first marriages end in divorce, and 60% of divorcing couples have children. The National Fatherhood Institute reports that almost 18 million children live in single-parent homes and nearly 75% of American children living in single-parent families will experience poverty before they turn 11. In comparison, only 20% in two-parent families will experience poverty. (http://www.fatherhood.hhs.gov)

            In the recent national elections, marriage was added to the public agenda, with pro-marriage funding proposals, tax breaks for married couples and congressional hearings on the subject. Even same-sex marriages were the topic of more debate than ever before.

            With the numbers of families living below the poverty index rising, many family experts are “talking up” the effects of non-traditional homes where the fathers are more likely to not be present.

            They assert that many of the causes behind the lack of parental input from fathers are not just due to the decline in traditional institutions like marriage and religion but rather are systemic in nature. Society often puts a spotlight on “dead-beat dads” as the perpetrator of this abnormality. In reality, living in a city such as Cleveland with an economy in decline “dead-broke dads” is more often the norm than not.

            Marriage aside, the loss or change of a non-custodial father’s employment is devastating. Currently, the system’s modification of his support order takes a long time to catch up with his predicament. God forbid Daddy finds trying to support his family and makes some bad decisions and winds up incarcerated for a long period of time. While in prison or while he is not paying child support, his support order never stops.

            Often this individual is faced with a substantial amount of backed payments he may never be able to catch up with now that he has a criminal record. His driving privileges are suspended, his children’s mother often begins to play the “yes you can, now you can’t” game of visitation privileges, his tax refunds (whenever he does find legitimate work) are taken, his take-home pay is so low that in many cases, he will be forced to live in substandard housing or become homeless. Many returning fathers are forced to enter the underground economy just to survive. Faced with these prospects, many men just give up and walk away, their soul being slowly eaten away by their inability to do the “right thing” in the current environment.

            As far as the children left behind are concerned, society says it’s the fault of the parents that their kids are dysfunctional. Instead of funding methods to re-unite families and promote marriage, our country for the past two decades has spent its time and money providing jobs to those building more prisons and thus the cycle repeats itself.

            So while the county leaders touts its “Fatherhood Initiative” as a method to loosen the grips of poverty in this region, I would ask those power brokers to pay heed to this father’s comment: This “Initiative” of getting fatherhood to assist families and future generations from falling beneath the poverty line will only work if the County, the State of Ohio, the Child Enforcement Support Agency and the members of the Fatherhood Collaborative of Cleveland work together, in order to penetrate those systemic barriers preventing fathers from participating and being more supportive of their children.

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All Rights Reserved

Commentary: Cruel Treatment Discourages Homeless Women

Commentary by Tenecia Stokes

           The Community Women’s Shelter at 2219 Payne Avenue was opened in February 2004. Previously, women stayed in the gymnasium at the Bishop Cosgrove Center and slept on floor mats. The women were looking forward to a new start, but they came to feel the cost of trading Cosgrove with the problems they faced at the new facility was not worth the change.

            There was a need for the women residing in the shelter to have a “voice” regarding both the treatment they received at the shelter and the conditions of the shelter. Initially we had a good response from the women, even excitement. During the first three meetings we created a four-page list reflecting residents’ concerns.

            The resident committee’s procedure was to hear the concerns, discuss the possible response from the administration, and how to deal with whatever response they received. This worked for a few months until women began expressing that they were feeling as though they were being punished for participating with the NEOCH-organized resident committee. Women spoke of getting thrown out of the shelter for swearing and getting their articles of clothing and personal items thrown away with no explanation other than, “it is a new policy” after the fact.

Meeting the Administration:

            Finally, the women’s resident committee held a meeting face-to-face with the shelter’s administration: “the big dogs.” During this meeting the women discussed the concerns that comprised the four-page list. Residents chose a few major topics to be addressed from the list: a licensed social worker, the need for a television, day of rest and bed rest policy. In the end, the staff decided to form their own resident committee sponsored by staff and add a comment box for anonymous grievances.

            During one meeting, the program director listened, seemingly without interest to the concerns, and commented that she “deals with concerns every day.” I really do understand that there must be a great deal of stress being responsible for an entire operation. But in my opinion, there is a problem when you “deal with concerns everyday,” and your staff is “doing every thing they can,” but your residents still have a four-page list of concerns.

            When dealing with an administration in any corporation, company, or organization of this nature, I would expect there to be a level of faith in and respect for clients, compassion, or at least a high degree of understanding of the problems of homeless women. I am not employed by Mental Health Services, so maybe these things are there. As for what I hear from the residents of the shelter, I get the feeling that the fountain of compassion is running dry.

Ill Prepared for the Population

            I would also expect there to be a screening process for those individuals brought on as new hires. How are they trained for this position at an emergency women’s shelter that is mixed with mental health consumers as well as clients who are not chemically addicted? The director informs me that her staff has had “sensitivity training.” However, sensitivity is not the same as compassion, and I don’t believe compassion can be taught.

            Residents of the Women’s Shelter fear that by talking about the conditions of the shelter they may be penalized or picked on as a result. This fear may be exaggerated, but it is real. I don’t see a reason why a person has reason to fear something that has never happened. There was an air of negativity I detected when sharing the concerns of the residents with the administration.

            For instance, when the women brought forward the desire to have a television as the men do at 2100 Lakeside, the administration suggested that these concerns didn’t matter because the women wouldn’t be staying at the shelter for any length of time. Now, the need for television wasn’t connected to the women’s desire to lounge around and catch up on their stories or their favorite TV show; they wanted to watch the news, see the weather report, and have a connection to the world outside the shelter. The administration responded by supplying the shelter with one newspaper for 135 women. Then there were other simple issues that seem minor to housed individuals but were just ignored by the administration.

The Women at the Shelter

            I have met with quite a few women during my interaction with the Community Women’s Shelter. It is wonderful to report that most of them have moved out of the shelter and into an apartment. When I first came to the shelter I was asked, “What can you do to help us?” Knowing that I could not directly help any one, my stomach dropped and I felt out of place and in the way. But I felt it was important to let the women know that it was not necessary to accept conditions with which they were unhappy, and that they should not be afraid to discuss these issues with the administration or anyone else who might be able to help. The most important thing was for them to speak up about things that they felt were disrespectful or inappropriate.

            These women have been faced with too many hard choices already. There are many families living in poverty and struggling to pay the bills and balance the demands of the light company, medical bills, and the landlord. They pay the bills and sacrifice trash bags, soap, toilet paper, Pampers, lotion, etc. That’s the reality of poverty — sometimes the family chooses between lights at home or food for the family. Some are finally forced to give up and turn to shelters for help.

            Is there help at the shelter? Maybe it depends on which shelter: better hope they have space. Don’t get me wrong, the shelters do not exist to fix all of life’s problems, but they do exist to help people, don’t they? For those individuals who may not like their living situation, please recognize that it could always be worse.

            Shelter staff must offer words of peace and understanding, not judgment and blame. There are some amazing men and women at the shelters. Far too often, they are misjudged, overlooked, and under-appreciated. It may be easier to put down these men and women, treat them with disrespect, ignore them, and disregard them as human beings. I know there is a great deal of frustration and tension expressed by homeless people toward workers, but the workers should expect that and be trained to de-escalate tensions.

            Residents have complained that they have slept straight up all night in a chair, or been told to sweep the “staff only” parking lot and cigarette butts off of the ground. I have heard that women who do not return one night have all of their belongings, identification, and clothing thrown away! The shelter has also been known to suspend people out of the “emergency” shelter for profanity. Women have been cast out on the streets, and not referred to another shelter as the county policy mandates. There are also other unsubstantiated rumors, which we have been unable to investigate because the Community Women’s Shelter has since constructed barriers to disallow independent observers from entering the shelter.

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Editorial - 2004: One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

            When reviewing the past year in homelessness there are only shades of black. Figuring out from the litany of bad things that happened which is the best of the worst is much like judging a beauty contest among dung beetles in their natural habitat. In 2004, we are back to the one step forward with two steps back routine. There were a few victories, but in the larger picture we lost ground in Cleveland. We lost more affordable housing to landlords opting out or buying out their subsidized contracts and marketing their property at higher rents. We did not bleed jobs as we have in the last few years, but we certainly did not see many gains. There were small steps on the health care front but in fact we saw more people without healthcare in Cleveland. Civil Rights protections for homeless people did not advance and more people tried to fit into the shelters than the previous year.

            Of course the big news was that Cleveland was the poorest city in the United States. For the guy sleeping in bunk 348 at 2100 Lakeside this was not a big revelation; and those who stand in line at Minute Man hoping to be sent out at 4:30 a.m. do not have time to complain about the ranking. We saw many meetings about poverty last year, but none involved homeless people or talked about the problem of homelessness except incidentally.

            While the big news in Cleveland was the poverty numbers, in the homeless community the big news was the changes in the entry shelters. Salvation Army could not agree on a contract for the shelter, which brought a new provider forward. Because of the Salvation Army’s inability to understand the nature of the problem with homelessness, the change was welcomed by activists and many homeless people who had requested a new provider two years ago. The women’s shelter also changed hands in 2004 with a mental health agency taking over despite the objections of the Coalition for the Homeless (see articles in this issue.)

            The Grapevine nearly went out of business in 2004 because of financial constraints. With the help of poet, Daniel Thompson, and the religious community who both stepped forward to help save the paper. By the end of 2004, the Grapevine had hired an individual who is assigned to build the paper and stabilize its operations. Kevin Cleary was added in December 2004 to build an advertising program, increase readership, increase the number of vendors and expand the paper.

            Some of the best stories covered in the 2004 Homeless Grapevine included the review of the family shelters in Cuyahoga County and the problems faced by homeless women with children, an analysis of the temporary labor advocacy movement and the staff hired by the Day Labors Organizing Committee, as well as a feature on the 14 hours of radio on homelessness that was broadcast nationally on college and community stations and took place in Cleveland. The Grapevine featured an expose on the federal funding of the shelters that revealed that nearly every program received high marks and there was little if any input from homeless people into how to spend the $12 million. We consistently featured commentaries by homeless and low-income people who wrote about life in the shelters, the presidential election, the high cost of housing, and the need for better health care to elderly homeless. A popular feature was our short highlights of what is going on in Cleveland, Ohio, and around the country with regard to homelessness.

            Other stories covered in the Homeless Grapevine include an overview of the federal budget proposals throughout the year, and then a compilation of the devastating implications on housing and human services that the budget and the election portends for our community. The Grapevine published an entire issue prepared by and featuring the work of Daniel Thompson. Then, sadly, in the next issue we published a memorial to our good friend, tireless advocate, humanitarian, and artist—Daniel.

             In a story that Daniel would have enjoyed, we did a review of the housing needs of homeless people, which revealed that 40% of the population living in shelters were willing to relocate to Mars or the Moon if housing were to open up there before housing here on Earth.

Cleveland saw a rise in the number of people showing up at the shelter doors, but this is not news since this is a 20 year unbroken streak. We do not see the open hostility between providers, homeless people, advocates and the municipal government that we saw in the 1990s. In nearly every other U.S. and Ohio city they struggle with fights over pan-handling, shelter locations, feeding on the streets, and those who choose not to use the shelters but instead opt for public spaces.

            We do not have time to list all the battles going on around the country concerning homelessness. The Grapevine archives at www.neoch.org/homelessgrapevine have a good overview of the problems. We will recognize the most absurd city in Ohio: Dayton.             City leaders have closed the cold weather shelter in the beginning of the coldest part of the season and have adopted a policy of humiliating pan handlers in their city. Dayton passed a law that pan handlers have to register, become licensed, and wear a huge sign indicating that they are panhandlers around their neck.

            This scarlet letter humiliation tactic has not solved the housing crisis, the lack of jobs, the health care crisis, and in fact the legislation is largely ignored. The effort made politicians happy that they could say they are doing something, businesses were happy and in the end the law has very little impact on the problem.

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #68, February 2005. All rights reserved.