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.