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.
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.