“No Comment” Common Refrain

         The Grapevine attempted to contact several individuals named in the Plain Dealer story of Feb. 13, 2005, to follow up, but no one would comment on the record about the story or their involvement. Grapevine staff did try to talk to Bill Hahn about the article, which resulted in a two-hour long “no comment.” During his extended “no comment” Hahn talked about his opinion that homelessness and insanity are inexorably linked in approximately 1/3 of homeless people. He also spent two hours officially going into great detail about historical events and how they fit in the current situation including President Kennedy’s sister’s lobotomy and President Reagan’s emptying of mental institutions. He had less than kind words about the Plain Dealer article and did hint at considering legal action. He did not want to talk about the impact of the article on “For thy Bounty,” other service providers, or his benefactors during his two hours.

       Contacts with other principles were similarly met with “no comment,” though the length of those “no comments” were substantially shorter than Hahn’s. One elected official said that he quietly asked his name be removed from any association with For Thy Bounty. Bill Dennihan of the Cuyahoga Mental Health Board did not respond and neither did Duane Drotar of 2100 Lakeside Shelter.

       One individual, who has 20 years of experience working with homeless people, did not believe that the story would have much impact. The individual, who wished to remain anonymous, felt the benefactors and foundations would pull funding support from Hahn, but the story would not have larger implications within the community.

      A West Side religious leader, who was contacted by The Plain Dealer and supports Hahn, was angry that none of his comments in support of Hahn were mentioned. He said that the story was “unfair” and focused on the mundane and not the big picture of what Hahn is trying to do. He asked that his name not be used, but said that he continues to help, and in fact went out with Hahn to distribute food within two weeks after the story was published.

  Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.

 

Most Services Provide Best of Care to Homeless

Commentary by Brian Davis

      Clevelanders have a lot to be proud of with regard to the struggle to reduce homelessness, and a great deal to champion in the fight to reduce poverty. In February 2005 (see summary on page 7), the Cleveland Plain Dealer did an in-depth series of interviews with community leaders in an unflattering portrayal of Bill Hahn. Hahn traveled the city at night distributing food and clothing to those on the outside of modern society looking for a path back. Hahn is not the only person to bring supplies to those living in unstable housing or outside. In fact, the city has a long tradition of humanitarian assistance pulsing through the streets. In 2004, Cleveland lost Daniel Thompson, the bread poet, who first used his small green Chevy pickup to haul bread, water and pastries late at night to those lonely souls who wander the streets. Ralph Delaney, a housing activist, was killed in the line of duty, and Fr. Abbott John Henry of St. Herman’s Ministry all have provided nourishment on Public Square.

      Cleveland has featured a bountiful outpouring of help toward those struggling to find stability for years. Maybe it is a metaphor for the state of Greater Cleveland played out on the streets. All of us struggle with the weather, governance, our national image, the jokes, our role in the state of Ohio, and we turn that rejection and fight against adversity into a humanitarian response toward homelessness. We want to succeed and we want our fellow Clevelanders to succeed. As The Plain Dealer reported, Hahn’s efforts were compromised by his legal and financial mismanagement. In this issue of The Homeless Grapevine, we are going to examine the impact of the Plain Dealer article, the current efforts to alleviate homelessness, a look at outreach efforts in the City, the holes in the system, and the successes. We will talk to a few people who were mentioned in the article about their impression of the article and its repercussions, and we will talk about possible solutions.

         The bottom line is that there are many well-meaning and concerned individuals in this city who were taken in by this talented salesperson. They wanted to believe that they could change a few lives and were comforted that Bill Hahn was reinforcing what they had always believed: that anyone who sleeps outside is insane. This dangerous philosophy has led some cities to jail or confine any homeless person who chooses not to seek shelter into a mental institution against their will. Hahn used his sales background to get financial and other support from the most influential members of the Cleveland community. When Bill Hahn took corporate, government, social service, and media around in the Catholic Charities truck, he had a sale. They were on the team from that point on and were going to give money, influence, or resources to his effort.

            While some will walk away from helping homeless people and may lick their wounds feeling burnt, we have to remember that Bill Hahn’s effort along with the hundreds of other churches that come downtown have made a difference. Cleveland has not seen a death from hypothermia on the streets for four winters, which is a victory. There is no one, including homeless or low-income people, who is starving, and we are one of the few cities in the United States that offers a bed to anyone who requests one every single night of the year. We still have a long way to go, and one messianic salesman is not going to solve the problem, but if we all work together this is a solvable problem.

 Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.

Local News

Library Relents on Issuing Library Cards

A meeting of representatives of the 2100 Lakeside Resident Council (James Fields and Gordon Ice Mills) and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (Brian Davis and Mike Cook) met with four administrators of the Cleveland Public Library’s main branch in mid March 2005. The meeting specifically covered the issue of shelter residents being denied the opportunity to acquire a library card in order to take out books and other items. Each of the residents talked about their problems, their inability to get a library card. There was a discussion of the goals of the library and the injustice of denying access to the libraries for veterans or homeless people.

Library officials apologized, and agreed that it used the wrong information as their basis for denying library cards. At the conclusion of the meeting, library administration officials agreed to change their policy and allow 2100 Lakeside Ave. residents and homeless people who can receive mail to obtain a card and take out materials. The individuals must provide to library officials proof of residency and the ability to receive mail.

Homeless Murder Solved

Police made an arrest in the death of 2100 Lakeside Shelter resident, Gregory Armstrong, in early March. Armstrong was killed on February 24 just blocks from the shelter. He was in a work training program, and sang and played drums in the gospel choir at First United Methodist Church. Police said that his killer was a resident of public housing and killed Armstrong over a dispute regarding a woman.

There was concern in the community over the death being a hate crime or even a robbery, but it turned out to be a domestic dispute. First United Methodist held a memorial service for Armstrong (see story in this issue of the Grapevine).

Slain Man Was “On His Way” to Redemption

by Yvonne Bruce

Gregory Keith Armstrong, a 2100 Lakeside Avenue shelter resident and Dave’s Supermarket employee, died on the night of February 24, from injuries inflicted during a severe beating. He was “always a gentleman,” and though he had recently fallen away from his church, “was on his way back” to it, according to Geneava Benson, Armstrong’s friend and the Director of Church Office and Building Operations at the First United Methodist Church of Cleveland.

A memorial service was held for Armstrong at First United Methodist Sunday, March 6. Armstrong had begun playing drums and singing for the church choir about three years before his death, according to First United’s senior pastor Dr. Kenneth Chalker. Dr. Chalker called Armstrong “an outstanding musician” whose music “lifted people out of complacency and despair.” He was “a trusting, loving man,” a judgment shared by Benson and by Armstrong’s coworkers at Dave’s.

The Plain Dealer story of March 2nd about Armstrong’s murder reported on his troubled past, but Benson, who saw Armstrong nearly every day in the months before his death, was surprised by these revelations. He seemed to have been doing better for himself recently, Benson recalled, and he “looked so well” on the day of his death, “I thought he would be in church that Sunday.”

Federal Funding Forum

Responding to criticism of the lack of input by homeless people in the process of selecting the agencies that receive federal funding, Cuyahoga County hosted a series of meetings in the drop-in centers and one of the community centers to solicit input. While this was a good start, there was very little advertisement of the forums and the input that was solicited was a written survey.

There needed to be wider distribution of the notification of the meeting, and some lengthy discussion soliciting written and verbal comments about the projects in Cuyahoga County that receive public money. This was a unique opportunity where the county officials who make funding decisions were at the same location as homeless people, and could have heard about all the problems that homeless people have with the providers that most are not willing to put in writing, but would be willing to talk about if asked. Another missed opportunity for next year to correct.

Graduates Honored

On Friday, February 11th the most recent class of the Urban League’s Rising Tide Fatherhood Initiative participated in their Graduation Ceremony. This four-week intensive program consisting of participant assessment, classroom education, and workshops on life skills, parenting, and employment readiness was composed of 15 fathers ranging from 18-61 yrs of age. Collaborations with caseworkers of the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CESA) and interagency support for job training and placement rounded out the program. Families, friends and staff were in attendance at the graduation ceremony presided over by master of ceremony and lead facilitator Maurice Stevens. The program graduates were: Willie Ash, Robert Cunningham, Mandel Goldsborough, Gregory Haynes, William Hobbs, William House, Dervin Lucas, Brian May, Phillip Morris, Kim Rogers, John Shepard, William Thompson, Lorenzo Trotter, Alonzo West and Adrian Williams. Mr.Cunningham and Goldsborough served as class spokespersons of the group for the audience of family, friends, and staff supporters. Special thanks were given to the Y-Haven Center staff members for their strong support of the program and its participants.

Community Hiring Hall

After struggling to piece together an alternative to the exploitative job opportunities locally available downtown, the Community Hiring Hall is in business and has jobs available to homeless and those struggling to enter the workforce. Religious, charities, day laborers and labor came together three years ago in order to create a not-for-profit day labor service organization.

The Community Hiring Hall was awarded part of the City of Cleveland summer cleanup contract as well as the Lakewood cleanup contract. They will cut the ribbon on their office and to begin their journey to provide jobs leading to permanent employment to Clevelanders on April 28, 2005 at Noon at 2908 Euclid Avenue.

Cleaning up Downtown Cleveland

The plan to relocate all the feeding programs has fallen apart. The first preference was to utilize the Cosgrove Center at night and on the weekend, but that faced huge barriers within the Catholic Diocese bureaucracy. The second option was opening a building on Lakeside, but the City has said that that building is no longer under consideration. The goal remains to coordinate all these services and provide a place indoors and with bathroom facilities to the people in need of food at night or on the weekend.

While the coordination of food has hit a speed bump, the City is proceeding with the introducing an aggressive solicitation/anti-panhandling. City officials said at a recent meeting that Downtown Councilman Joe Cimperman wants to introduce the legislation in April 2005. The first draft of the legislation had time and place restrictions on panhandling along with the ban on “aggressive” solicitation. Lawyers met to discuss the proposed ordinance, and the reworked change in the law will go to the City Council as soon it is vetted within the administration.

 

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.

 

Homelessness Will End in the United States in Ten Years?

by Ivan Sheehan

        From Alaska to Maine homelessness will soon be a thing of the past in the United States if everything goes according to the plan.

      A formal 10-year plan was first introduced in 2000 by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a nonprofit organization “whose mission is to mobilize the nonprofit, public and private sectors of society in an alliance to end homelessness,” according to the NAEH’s Web site. Today the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, in accordance with the NAEH’s proposal, requires all communities to have a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

      The NAEH’s plan is a straightforward, and clearly outlined four-step process to end homelessness in the span of a decade. According to its directive, communities must, “plan for outcomes, close the front door, open the back door and build the infrastructure.”

     But support for this grand undertaking begins with the Administration and Congress.

     “Local 10-year plans are very effective at achieving the aims of the folks who put Bush in office,” says Chance Martin of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco. “They simply want Joe Panhandler displaced from his customary location on the sidewalk so he doesn’t discourage customers or negatively impact their property value.”

     Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers are crucial to providing shelter for homeless people. As such, the Administration’s fiscal year budget proposal for 2005 cut funding for the Section 8 vouchers by nearly $1.6 billion – thereby eliminating vouchers for approximately 250,000 individuals. In addition, for the 2006 FY proposal, HUD has suggested measures that would lower the effectiveness of the program. The vouchers are currently afforded to those whose income levels fall 30% below the area median income. HUD plans to eliminate this “profiling,” and distribute the funds to those homeless that really need it, according to a February 2005 NAEH news release.

   Also in the works for next year’s budget to help end homelessness is reduced funding for Housing for People With Disabilities and Housing for People With AIDS; the proposed elimination of the Community Services Block Grant, which received $637 million last year, and reduced funding for public housing in the form of a $252 million cut to the Public Housing Capital Fund.

      However, the Administration has introduced the Samaritan Initiative, which will provide local 10-year plans efforts with only a fraction of the funding Bush’s budgets continue to cut from HUD’s Section 8, according to Martin.

      “As with other communities, the present state of the economy continues to most severely affect low-income families and individuals,” says Tom Albanese, Director of the Columbus Community Shelter Board.

     Despite low wages, lack of employee benefits, a dearth of affordable housing and discharges from treatment and correctional institutions into homeless shelters, optimism abounds in regional proposals and progress reports throughout the country.

    “Without a serious and concerted effort to create more affordable housing, it likely doesn’t matter whether a city has a 10-year plan or a 10-decade plan,” says Martin.

     Minnesota will be one of the first states to end homelessness. A proposal submitted to the Minnesota Legislature in March 2004 by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Department of Corrections and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency notes the creation of a $540 million, “business plan to end long-term homelessness by 2010.” Further west, Clark County, Washington, also plans to end homelessness in its area the same year.

    In Ohio, the initial 10-year plan in Columbus was developed in 2002 to comply with HUD requirements. “The plan itself covers the period 2002-2011, however most action steps identified had timeframes that were short-term,” says Albanese. “We update the 10-year plan annually. However the plan is only a general framework that catalogues our efforts in a variety of areas.”

     Major metropolitan areas including Louisville and Indianapolis, which released its final 10-year plan with the support of Mayor Bart Peterson in April 2002, hope to complete plans near 2011. Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daly has endorsed plans to end all homelessness in the city by 2012, while the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s proposal explains that, “with full participation of all local, state and national stakeholders there are adequate resources to end homelessness in 10 years.”

      2014 promises to be a big year for the homeless community – if there still is one, of course. Washington D.C., San Antonio (chronic homelessness only), Portland and Multnomah County, Oregon; Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Evansville and Vanderburgh County, Indiana, all have plans to rid each respective region of homelessness by 2014. In addition, the state of Utah, South Carolina, Hawaii, North Carolina, Vermont and Georgia all have similar statewide plans to eliminate homelessness around those years.

       Homeless Organizations Providing Empowerment for the Homeless, a collaborative in Northwest Louisiana promises, “by the year 2014, all individuals and families facing homelessness in Northwest Louisiana will have alternatives and access to safe, decent and affordable housing and resources and supports needed to sustain it.”

      Cities such as New York and San Francisco with significant homeless problems are adhering to the 10-year plan. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg organized the Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter movement in New York City in 2003, and it features a 41-member committee of public, private and nonprofit leaders to address the issue of homelessness. “It reflects my strong belief that every individual and family deserves safe, affordable housing,” writes Bloomberg in a letter posted on the Uniting for Solutions Beyond Shelter web site.

       City planners in San Francisco, faced with the title of “homeless capital of the United States,” opted to end the problem of its estimated 3,000 chronically homeless people in 10 years, before attempting to secure housing for the nearly 15,000 homeless in the city and county of San Francisco. “We (Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco) have participated in crafting our local 10-year plan in good faith,” says Martin. “As a result of our involvement, we are proud to report that San Francisco’s 10-year plan includes planning for the needs of chronically homeless families and immigrants, which I believe is still the only local 10-year plan to address such needs.”

       The plan in Columbus and Franklin County, Ohio, addresses the concerns of the entire homeless community.

     “Our planning focuses on both the needs of chronic homeless persons and other persons experiencing short-term episodes of homelessness,” says Albanese. “We have multiple efforts occurring in both areas to meet the various housing and service needs of persons experiencing homelessness.

     “Our planning doesn’t include assumptions that Columbus/Franklin County will be ‘free of homelessness,’” adds Albanese. “ Our planning assumptions do, however, recognize that chronic homelessness can be ended for persons who have experienced long-term homelessness and struggles with a disability and that homelessness in general can be minimized.”

 Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.

Editorial: Homeless Service Providers Need Report Cards

The Grapevine is often accused of being the most depressing publication in Cleveland, and we have certainly earned that title and wear it as a badge of honor. We caution people not read the Grapevine all in one sitting or in tall buildings with open windows. With this issue, we are trying something new—the glass is half full. We are focusing much of this issue on the positive aspects of the struggle to house everyone residing in Greater Cleveland.

   We came upon this issue after the Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine hammered the outreach crusader, Bill Hahn and his one-man show called “For Thy Bounty.” The story was accurate and well-reported with an in-depth look at Hahn’s work featuring comments from a broad cross-section of supporters and detractors. The Grapevine wanted to look at efforts in Cleveland and highlight some of the successes over the last 15 years, especially in light of the critical piece in the Plain Dealer. This does not portend a shift in our role as a watchdog, and we certainly will continue to feature the critical words of homeless people. It is depressing to be homeless and to live in a city that allows anyone to be without a home. We take our mission very seriously and would not feel it appropriate to water down constructive criticism.

   With that said, the editors of the paper and also the Board of the Coalition for the Homeless are concerned about the impression left by the Hahn article. Casual readers could come away feeling that homeless programs are not transparent, revolve around one individual, or mismanage the precious resources available to serve homeless people. Certainly, a few organizations hide behind their alleged church status so as to not release their financial information, but for the most part the shelters and services are quality organizations that are good stewards of public money.

   There are hundreds of amazing people who serve homeless people in Cleveland. Even Bill Hahn has his heart in the right place, but has other issues that were painfully and excruciatingly picked apart in the Plain Dealer. Organizations that receive public money are usually open to community input and oversight.

   One piece that we would recommend for the local community is a report card issued by a local advocacy or some impartial organization to rate each shelter and service for homeless people. This would allow donors and homeless people to check an annual or quarterly score card to see about an agency’s finances, staff training, empowerment opportunities, and additional services. This would allow volunteers, concerned citizens, government, and foundations to take a quick glance at the Report Card to obtain a snapshot of the state of each shelter or service.

   In 2004, Tenecia Stokes, a VISTA at the Coalition for the Homeless, met with homeless people and devised some good objective criteria to construct a rating system. It would cost approximately $15,000 to implement the project or $20,000 to have a system that ranks the shelters on a quarterly or more frequent basis. This may seem like a lot for such an endeavor, but the system is badly needed. There is no real rating system that compares outcomes, quality of offered services, and the quality of oversight for homeless people or possible financial backers to turn to for help.

   A rating card would also have provided a warning to donors that there was a problem with For Thy Bounty prior to a Plain Dealer investigation, but still would not have solved the issue of lone advocates disparaging other programs on the streets and those unwilling to collaborate. This is a major problem in Cleveland that needs to be addressed. There is very little incentive for collaboration, and a great deal of incentive for competition. Cleveland has only a limited amount of dollars, and each program struggles to keep their doors open in relative isolation. They struggle to make payroll, pay health care, remain competitive, provide training, and worry about the huge problems facing their clients.

   All of these issues need to be taken up by the new planning body that was recently formed. Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, businesses, foundations, advocates, social services and homeless people are all sitting at the same table in an effort to come up with a plan to address the affordable housing crisis. These issues and the growing gaps in services are a priority for this planning group. We need to figure out a way to get those economically poor with no disabilities into housing that is affordable. Most importantly, we need to start working together collaboratively instead of this competition that keeps all the groups separate.

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.

Glass Half Full in Struggle to End Homelessness

Commentary by Brian Davis

 One recurring complaint about Cleveland is the anger and hostility toward the agencies that serve homeless people. While there are many problems with many different organizations including access, eligibility requirements, paperwork, sensitivity, and establishing an empowering environment, it is probably not the best strategy to focus on the negatives while distributing items on the streets of Cleveland. There are actually many positives within the current system.

 The Homeless Grapevine and the Coalition for the Homeless are certainly loud critics of the social services and government responses to homelessness. While we understand that it is criminal that anyone is homeless in the richest country in the world, we thought that it was necessary to describe some local successes. We hope that this will show that Bill Hahn, Care Alliance, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Mental Health Services, and all the providers and government agencies have tried to make life better for those struggling with housing.

 Universal Shelter Access: We certainly could improve the conditions of the shelters, but Cleveland is one of the only cities in the United States that offers shelter to whoever comes to the door in the winter and summer. Many choose not to go into shelter for a variety of reasons, but shelters are available at great cost to the local community. All city of Cleveland and county residents contribute money to assure that we have an open door policy for those asking for help with a bed every night. This shelter philosophy is enlightening, we just need to make our shelters better.

 Hunger is Not an Issue for Homeless People: The hunger programs under the direction of the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and the Hunger Network have done an amazing job in distributing food to those in need. There is hot food as well as pantry food available to every homeless person in Cleveland. We certainly need to work on educating those with a lower income on the importance of nutrition and assure that healthy food is broadly available, but the basic system is in place. From the formal network and the informal network of churches and ministries that come downtown, food is bountiful in Cleveland.

 A Strong Coalition for the Homeless: Cleveland is one of the few cities with a strong Coalition for the Homeless that offers programming and a place for homeless people to organize themselves and raise their collective voices. There are many cities with homeless coalitions, but few have an organization that is dedicated strictly to raising the voices of homeless people. It is a small effort with only five staff, and only one dedicated to advocacy. The Coalition has some strong obstacles to representing families who become homeless within the system.

 Compassionate Leadership: At this time, we have elected leaders who are genuinely concerned about improving the conditions for homeless people. Some leaders in the past resorted to attempts to make it illegal to be poor or homeless. Most local elected officials care about homeless people, even though some are not willing to go very far out of their way to help. We need more leaders who will fight against the dominant position that anything related to homelessness needs to be isolated and far away. Most politicians have a desire to help, but few spend any political capital solving problems.

 Rich and Diverse Community Development: We have a solid group of non-profit developers and community development organizations that believes in creating opportunities for affordable housing. We have a long way to go, but this is certainly not unusual. Many CDCs reject affordable housing and put up barriers to their development or hide behind the excuse that their neighborhoods already have too many poor people—like poverty is a disease that needs to be quarantined. The models do exist to develop quality affordable housing even with the obstacles constructed by the suburban communities and some of the neighborhoods.

 An Improved Public Housing Authority: Though the Housing Authority was widely criticized in the 1990s, it has now made strides in filling up all of their units and has made sure that every housing voucher is utilized in the community. There are ominous signs that in this tight budget year the commitment to the lowest income residents of Cuyahoga County will be reduced or eliminated. The next four years are expected to be painful for the Housing Authority, and there will be a fight for the survival and soul of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority.

 The Community Hiring Hall: Cleveland just witnessed the opening of the Community Hiring Hall, which is a collaboration between non-profit, religious, and labor organizations. This unique program will put homeless people and those struggling to find work into quality jobs with no barriers to permanent employment. This project is an attempt to reduce the exploitation in the temporary labor industry and provide quality jobs to the thousands downtown who need solid income. This project could turn into a national model for employing low-income people in downtown cities.

 Health Care for Homeless People: After a period of five years in the late 1990s of trouble and wandering to find a mission, Cleveland’s program to serve the healthcare needs of homeless people, Care Alliance, is back on track. They provide clinics, a focal point for health care volunteers, and have taken the lead on advocacy around health care issues. The program could be five or six times as large and still not meet the need, but that is more of an indication of the need for universal free health care in the United States than anything else.

 Free Voice Mail for Homeless People: Cleveland is one of only 30 cities in the United States with free community voice mail available to homeless people so that those experiencing homelessness can connect with landlords and employers. It is a shame that the phone company and other technology companies do not support this project, but 4,500 people were linked with the rest of the world through such efforts.

 Outreach Efforts: People like Jim Schlecht, Mike Tribble, and Keith Moody have dedicated their lives to serving homeless people. There is an impressive schedule of outreach available in Cleveland (see page 4). There are outreach teams on the streets from early morning until the evening. They are dedicated individuals who try to win the confidence and trust of those who do not go into shelters or are alienated from society. Cleveland boasts an impressive outreach collaborative that assures that people do not die on the streets and that food, clothing, and a hand up is always available.

 Private Housing Vouchers: While there are still problems with access and long waits, we do have an impressive number of Shelter Plus Care vouchers available to disabled and homeless people. Greater Cleveland has done a good job going after federal funds to pay for housing vouchers for those with AIDS, a mental illness or a drug addiction. We do need to strengthen the follow up services once the person is placed in housing by some of these systems, but we’re off to a good start.

 Civil Rights Protections: Cleveland has one of the few Civil Rights for homeless people projects in the United States. The Coalition oversees a program to educate homeless people on their rights and provides assistance for those who have had their rights violated. The Coalition can assist with litigation or provide individual advocacy. A strong focus on civil rights has led to one of the only agreements in the United States between homeless people and the police and city officials. The City of Cleveland signed an agreement with homeless people in the late 1990s and signed a court-supervised document that prevents police from harassing homeless people on the sidewalk for purely innocent behavior.

 Eviction Prevention: The Cleveland Tenants Organization operates a program to assist people with preventing evictions, and we have a strong local and state landlord-tenant law. The local and state landlord tenant law attempts to balance the relationship between renters and property owners, and certainly reduces the number of evictions.

 Strong Grassroots Advocacy: Cleveland has a long tradition of strong advocacy organizations that represents the interests of poor people. Cleveland started one of the first welfare rights organizations, which is still in existence, and we have a number of neighborhood centers with a mission of social justice, and we have a new mental health advocacy organization. Over the years many of these advocacy organizations have figured out ways to collaborate under larger umbrellas like Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance, NEOCH, and the Center for Community Solutions.

 Legal Assistance: Without money it is often hard to find competent legal help in most of the United States. Cleveland has a 100 year old Legal Aid Society and a blossoming partnership between the Cleveland Bar Association and Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program. Each of these programs that provide assistance to the poorest in our community are working on ways to collaborate to better serve the large numbers of people in need. We certainly need to improve the public defender’s office, which is overwhelmed to point of nearly collapsing.

 Affordable Housing Website: First Call for Help and Bridging the Gap are currently creating a website of all the subsidized housing available in Cuyahoga County. It is hoped that this website will be available in the summer of 2005.

Referral Call Line: Speaking of First Call for Help, Cleveland is fortunate to have a 24 hour hotline available by telephone call to anyone in need. This telephone line is answered by actual humans with a simple call of 2-1-1. Callers can receive answers to questions about services and assistance available. The same service is also available on the World Wide Web.

 Homeless Veterans: In most of the United States, we do a good job of serving veterans who become homeless. We provide comprehensive care for all the contributing factors that lead to homelessness including mental health, drug counseling, job training, and housing assistance. In Cleveland, we have a beautiful campus for homeless veterans in Brecksville. We have outreach, comprehensive services, shelter beds, and health care available to those who served their country, all in a spacious, green and quiet environment. All services for homeless people should model themselves after the comprehensive services available at Brecksville Veterans Administration facility. There is some danger of losing that spirit with Brecksville closing the VA facility, but advocates will have to remain vigilant.

 Subsidized Housing Renovations: Cleveland has two beautiful and newly renovated properties in Arbor Park and Rainbow Terrace Apartments that are models for the rest of the country. These properties were slated for destruction through HUD foreclosure, but were saved after community leaders, residents, and City Council President Frank Jackson rallied to preserve affordable housing for Clevelanders.

 Funding Social Justice: Greater Cleveland does place some value on advocacy and social justice. An expression of that commitment is the federated giving program Community Shares, which provides funding to 30 social justice organizations and is one of the largest such programs in the country. It is regrettable that the local philanthropic community does not fund advocacy and lobbying in the same way they value funds for social services.

Healthy Foundations: Speaking of the philanthropic community, Cleveland is blessed with a large and engaged group of foundations that support human services and a few are even willing to support public policy and advocacy. Certainly, the philanthropic community is anchored by the Cleveland, Gund, and Jewish Community Foundations, but Cuyahoga County features a diverse and generous community of giving. We certainly would like to see more support for pure advocacy, actually solving problems, and sustaining worthy projects over funding more and more “new” projects, but beggars cannot be choosers.

 Street Newspaper: The very paper that you are reading is unique in the United States with only 30 papers in the North America. There are a growing number of papers in Europe, South America, and Africa similar to the Homeless Grapevine. Cleveland’s paper is the fifth oldest in the United States, and is one of the only papers that fills its pages with news of poverty and homelessness. No happy stories, no sports section, but 15 pages in our community in which homeless people can communicate with the world.

 Warming Centers: Cleveland has a place on the East and West Sides of town for homeless people to go inside to get out of the cold or the heat. Most of these drop-in centers have meals and other services associated with them, and are staffed by some of the kindest and best that Cleveland has to offer. In addition, most libraries also are accommodating and receptive to homeless people during the day. The Superior West Branch off Bridge and Lorain Aves should be commended for being genuinely concerned about those without housing. We certainly need a 24 hour place for people to go inside without having to go to a shelter, but what we have now is better than most cities.

Developing Identification Collaborative: The final area of success in addressing homelessness has to be the growing cooperation on getting state identification and birth certificates for homeless people. St. Coleman’s Catholic Church and the Community Women’s Shelter are leading an effort to provide funding and resources to speed up the time it takes for an individual to get a birth certificate. There were small efforts conducted by agencies and specifically energetic staff at agencies, and there is a growing collaboration among the homeless service providers to improve the distribution and better utilize manpower in order to streamline the process.

There are most likely areas that were missed including the collaborations between arts organizations and the transitional housing providers or the Face to Face exhibit of the Coalition, but the nearly two dozen highlights listed are unique to Cleveland. The projects listed above are model programs or programs that are excelling in the areas in which they have some expertise. We certainly will get mail saying that we missed this project or did not capture the success of this project, but the programs listed have shown results for homeless people and have broader impact on the community. We certainly will print your submissions for additions to this list, but will reserve the right to have homeless people or advocates comment on those submissions.

     We have a lot to be proud of in Cleveland, and we have a long way to go. There are huge gaps in the system, and federal and state policy are poking more and more holes in the system every day. There is a need for some local leadership to stop other elected officials from shredding the social safety net. For every gap that we fill in Cleveland, some other governmental agency seems to add two or three holes.

 Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.

For Thy Bounty Criticized by Plain Dealer

   On February 13, 2005, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published a story entitled “Fall from Grace” in its Sunday Magazine that chronicled the work of Bill Hahn. The article detailed a new organization called For thy Bounty Inc., which distributes food and supplies to those who sleep on the streets and in abandoned sections of Cleveland. The article, written by Christopher Evans and Sarah Crump, traced Hahn’s background and his efforts to distribute donations on the downtown and West Side streets.

   The story was an intimate portrayal of Hahn’s background, his family issues, and his recent run in with the law. The Plain Dealer reporters and many experts in the community had serious issues with Hahn’s statistics and theories about the extent of mental illness on the streets. According to the article, For Thy Bounty began when Hahn had an epiphany after his son was diagnosed with a mental illness. Through contacts at his church and working with the local social service providers, Hahn started borrowing a van and taking supplies to mentally ill people on the streets.

   Eventually, he was able to convince Catholic Charities to purchase a truck for him to use, and St. Paul’s Shrine allowed him to park in their lot and prepare food in their kitchen. He began traveling around Cleveland with a big Catholic Charities logo on the side of his truck giving food and clothing to those who stay outside or in abandoned buildings. The reporters went with Hahn on his tour and met many of those served by For Thy Bounty. The big issues in the story were Bill Hahn’s harsh criticism of other social service providers and his “problems” with the system serving homeless people. He also often championed that he was the person keeping many of the people who live on the streets alive, which is patently not true with an extensive outreach network available in Cleveland.

   Hahn started making contacts with the movers and shakers in Cleveland including Bishop Pilla, Jack Kahl of Manco Duct Tape Company, Sam Miller of Forest City, and Anthony Rego, the grocery store owner. Most of these individuals went on the Hahn tour to view the impact of untreated mental illness on society. After the tour to view the depths of human suffering with extended commentary from Hahn, people were sold on For thy Bounty. The article said, “The truck became Hahn’s greatest recruitment tool.” The individuals who took the tour provided money or influence to Hahn and his attempts to assist those with a mental illness.

   Hahn gathered Anne Goodman of the Cleveland Foodbank, Linda Somers of Care Alliance, Reverend Marvin McMickle of Antioch Baptist Church, Alex Machaskee of The Plain Dealer, a few elected officials, and most surprisingly Steve Friedman of Mental Health Services and William Dennihan of the Mental Health Board despite Hahn’s bad mouthing of the Mental Health Agencies in Cleveland. There was a large fundraiser held for the agency that raised in excess of $100,000 according to The Plain Dealer.

   The Plain Dealer also included a one-page advertisement that ran in the paper on Christmas 2003. There was a controversy over the advertisement’s content with the Mental Health community who were upset over the inaccurate stereotypes. For full disclosure, Hahn wrote a two-page commentary for the Homeless Grapevine in 2002, and he asked Grapevine Editor and Coalition Director Brian Davis to be on the For Thy Bounty “Advisory Board.” Davis declined the invitation because he felt that it may have compromised the advocacy of the Coalition, and the “Board’s” sole purpose appeared to be raising money.

   The Plain Dealer detailed a splintering of the “Advisory Board” with concerns over the finances of the organization. Hahn had a private printing business, and donations began to co-mingle with his business and housing. Many quoted in the story claimed Hahn did not operate as a transparent organization while waiting for his non-profit charitable status. According to the Plain Dealer reporters, he rejected attempts for “advisory board” members to see his finances. Many distanced themselves from the organization, and Hahn bad-mouthed some of the former allies. All this occurred while he railed against nearly every non-profit organization in the community that served homeless people.

   The “Fall from Grace” article mentioned a great deal of personal trauma that Hahn went through with his child and his failing marriage. The authors of the story talked to Hahn’s ex-wife who complained about the sporadic care for their disabled son who Hahn claimed to be the inspiration for his work with homeless people. Finally, the biggest threat to his credibility was the discovery that he was in possession of the Helen Keller sculpture stolen from the Rockefeller Greenhouse.

   In the last three months, according to The Plain Dealer nearly the entire “advisory board” resigned with only a few members remaining loyal. Many homeless people appreciate the gifts offered by Hahn and his group of volunteers, as they appreciate the hundreds of churches that also deliver food and clothing. There are many mentally ill people out on the streets, but not everyone is “insane,” as characterized by Hahn. There are many people who choose not to go into shelter because they make the rational decision that they cannot take all the rules or do not like to live with scores or even of hundreds of other people or they do not like being treated as a child with a curfew, etc. Sometimes it is a very sane decision not to go into the shelters.

 Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.

Commentary: Day Labor Industry Allows Rich to Get Richer

by Jeffrey Zappitelli

    Temporary Services? Give me a break!!!! Who do these people think they are? The whole concept is performed professionally by only one company that I know of, and that’s NOT Minute Man, nor is it Ameri-Temps. I’ve worked for both of these so-called services and I can tell you it’s destroying most men’s integrity who have no choice but to work for them. They make this temping experience seem like a PRISON STINT on a daily basis. I’d love to be a little birdy in the window during one of their private meetings; they must have lengthy discussions on how to keep a man down as part of their operation in order to seamlessly maintain their EFFORTLESS shuffling of men to the slaughter factories.

    Furthermore, when factories give them an order for skilled work to be done they get the wrong skilled or un-skilled workers to the job site. On top of that, they compensate the men with a measly $5.15 an hour rather than placing more skilled employees in higher paying jobs. All they would have to do is ask a few questions about the interest or background of the workers so that: 1.) The Temp Service EARNS their money per individual. 2.)The temp worker isn’t so grossly underpaid, and might actually be able to put something useful on his or her resume’, which in turn would give them a little self-esteem. 3.) The factory would actually get what they’re paying for, “without resentment” and this would eliminate a lot of anxiety for everyone involved.

     Instead, the rich get richer and the temp worker keeps drinking because there isn’t even enough money to pay a bill at the end of the day. If these temporary services don’t start treating people better these companies days are numbered, trust me.

 Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #69, March 2005. All rights reserved.