Local News: Homeless People Need a Voice in Community

Marcia Bufford Now Healing at Home

                Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board Vice President, Marcia Bufford moved back to her house after two months of care by Metro Health. She made what doctors has described as “a remarkable recovery” and in July was discharged to complete her recovery at home. Bufford is in the care of seven of her friends who takes turns staying with her while she relearns to talk and move after being shot in the face. The Plain Dealer, WEWS TV, and the Call and Post have all featured stories and interviews with Bufford.

Shelter Funding Process Still Excludes Homeless

                The Men’s Resident Council at 2100 Lakeside shelter invited representative of the County and City to their monthly meeting to explain the funding decisions made for the shelters. They were especially concerned about the small amount of money given to 2100 Lakeside in the federal Continuum of Care and the repeated issues with a lack of funds to purchase food at the shelter. Ruth Gillett, of the County office of Homeless Services, and Bill Resseger of the City of Cleveland Community Development Department attended the Resident Council. They did provide an overview of where all the money to run the shelters came from, and why the emergency shelter was not eligible for certain funding streams. The men at the shelter were still puzzled at the end of the meeting about why currently homeless people did not have any input into the distribution of resources in the community.

Care Alliance Opens News Clinic

                The Care Alliance (healthcare for the homeless program) opened their new clinic at 1530 St. Clair Ave. in downtown Cleveland. This is a huge improvement with a facility built specifically for exam rooms and doubled the number of dental exam rooms. They have consolidated all their staff and administrative functions into one building, and provided a beautiful waiting room to those experiencing homelessness. This facility has a nice façade and a number of warm offices for counselling. The ribbon cutting was early in July 2006.

CWS Forges new Relationship with NEOCH

                The Community Women’s Shelter announced the hiring of David Titus as the new Director of the entry shelter for women and children in Cuyahoga County. Titus has a background in serving those with a mental illness, and has overseen the administration of the Hill House Shelter. Relations with the Coalition for the homeless has improved over the last years, and staff are planning to meet with the residents for the first time in nearly two years during the summer of 2006.

Local Organization Work to Re-Enfranchise Ohio’s Homeless Voters

                With the sizable obstacle to registration and voting approved by the state of Ohio in 2006, social service providers are still planning to help homeless people to participate in democracy. The Coalition on Homeless and housing in Ohio has started a group called Ohio Votes to assist in registering very low income individuals. Joselyn Travis, formerly of the NAACP and Cleveland Project Vote, is running the statewide project. The Office of Homeless Services in Cuyahoga has made voter registration apart of every shelter’s application for federal funding. The shelters are asked to put in place a plan to get all of their clients registered.

                The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless continues to work to register people, and will partner with a few of the drop-in centers to demonstrate the new electronic voting booths. It is hoped that homeless people will practice and become comfortable with the new system for casting a ballot. All the providers are struggling with the new identification requirements. There are alternatives to the state ID, but those all pertain to the housed. West Side catholic has provided staff to resurrect the local identification project that provides funds for individuals to get a state ID or birth certificate.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH Issue 77 July 2006 Cleveland Ohio

Funding Shortage Closes Community Legal Services

By Robert M. Crane

      The attractive red-orange brick building just off of West 25th which once housed the Community Legal Services of Cleveland, today stands has a vacant office with the decision to suspend the program this summer. Due to a lack of funding necessary to maintain regular operations, the Lutheran Metro Ministries board decided suspension of its services was the only option.

        Community Legal Services of Cleveland (CLSC) began in 1998 as the Christian Legal Services under the auspices of LMM. According to a brief from LMM, CLSC helped more than 2000 individuals in 2005. CLSC was developed to “defend the rights of the poor” through free civil legal assistance, primarily in the areas of “consumer, employment, health, welfare, immigration, expungement and housing.” They were backed by a staff of nearly 100 volunteer attorneys.

        Attorney John B. Robertson said of the service that, “In more than six years, [CLSC]… has assisted thousands of people who would have otherwise fallen through the gaps in civil legal services.”

        Director of Communication and Public Relations with Lutheran Metro Ministries, Lorraine Schuchart, describes the service as not merely a free civil legal service, but “a unique holistic program that offered clients the opportunity to address other non-legal personal needs,”

        In a statement, Robertson reports that “[a]fter careful consideration, the Board of Community Legal Services by summer’s end due to a lack of sufficient ongoing funding sources.”

       For the moment, cases are being referred to the Cleveland Legal Aid Society, Cleveland bar and the Cuyahoga Bar according to a pre-recorded message at CLSC’s offices. While unconfirmed by LMM, active cases will be assumed by the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. LMM has declared “nothing definitive” regarding the future of their civil legal services. While no reserve exists on their part, everything hangs on the ability to secure substantial funds to provide day-to-day operating expenses.

       Similar agencies throughout Cleveland such as the Legal Aid Society have begun “strategic planning processes” in order to deal with the loss of the CLSC. The Legal Aid Society, for example, retains a staff of 44 full time attorneys and handles over 8,500 cases out of over 30,000 inquiries a year.  In order to handle the ever-expanding need, a large number of volunteer attorneys are needed. This is the deadly cycle many non-profits also discover as the more volunteers, the more funding is needed to handle expenses incurred.

        The closing CLSC will be felt with all throughout the area as their crucial service to the community will not be easily replaced. The only two remaining programs which service this clientele are Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH Issue 77 published July 2006 Cleveland Ohio.

Homelessness By the Numbers

  • Number of Panhandling tickets given out in the first year of the law in Cleveland: 71**
  • Number of different individuals receiving a panhandling ticket in the first year of the law: 65**
  • Number given out in first six months of the new Cleveland panhandling law (July-December 2005):9**
  • Number of panhandling tickets given out in first six months of 2006 (January-July 2006):62****from Cleveland Division of Police Crime Analysis Unit
  • June 2006, marked the 124th consecutive month when Ohio’s job growth was below the USA national average. According to the Center for Community Solutions, this is the longest streak of sub-par Ohio job growth in the history of job statistics in the United States. This mark over 10 years of sub-par job growth.
  • Between January 1990 and January 2000, Ohio gained 782,600 jobs. From 2001, the start of the recession, until June 2006, Ohio lost 146,000 jobs or 2.6% of the total jobs or 19.1% of the manufacturing jobs.
  • In 2005, according to a Job Watch Reported by Policy Matters Ohio, state legislators reformed the tax structure in Ohio in order to create new jobs. In the last year, Ohio gained 0.6% while the United States gained 1.4%.
  • According to a study released by Policy Matters Ohio, the Economic Policy Institute found that 22.3% of Ohio families with between one and three children fail to make enough money to meet the typical family budget that allows for a safe and decent yet modest standard of living.
  • State spending on higher education fell by 25% over the last 20 years form 15.3% of expenditures in 1985 to 11.6% of expenditures in 2005.
  • Ohio ranks 45th out of 50 states in state appropriations per college student according to Policy Matters Ohio report called “Below the Curve”.
  • According to the below the curve report, Ohio’s four-year public universities rank in 49th place out of the 50 states in affordability.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH Issue 77 published July 2006 Cleveland Ohio

First Homeless Congress Meets at Cosgrove Center

By Michelle Lasky

On a hot day in July, the Northeast Coalition for the Homeless attempted a new form of advocacy meeting--- representative democracy. Every shelter in the county, along with the drop-in centers and the outreach teams were invited to send two members two members to a meeting at the Bishop Cosgrove Center to recommend an agenda for the Coalition to follow. There were 10 facilities presented, each represented by two members, including two people who call the streets of Cleveland their home. Seven additional providers attended, but were not able to bring homeless clients.

The men and women met in the Cosgrove Center gymnasium around large dining room tables. The providers and other observers sat around the walls of the gym watching homeless people deliberate. Brian Davis, executive director of NEOCH, explained the function and role of the Coalition and discussed the critical areas of the organization. Davis described how the men at 2100 Lakeside had requested this meeting, and the purpose for meeting. There were some concerns that many of those present did not have a very good knowledge of the Coalition. There was some discussion about how this Congress should be structured and the agenda was approved.                

Most of the meeting was spent discussing NEOCH’s strategic plan and the areas of advocacy on which the Coalition decided to focus its energy from 2005-2010. A few additional items were added over the past year and at this meeting. Almost all have developed as a result of local and national events. For example, the Coalition added the need for a disaster plan to relocate homeless people during an evacuation of downtown in response to the Katrina disaster. The threat of closing shelters due to budget cuts or local development needs has prompted the Coalition to add the issue of overcrowding in shelters to its strategic plan.

Some of the discussion of the meeting revolved around a standard grievance procedure in the shelters and the need for a place outside the shelters to air grievances. There were also concern that there was not enough information available in the community about available services, and especially about housing options. Additionally, a few women were worried about the environment at the Women’s Shelter. A few of the individuals who sleep on the street wanted to talk about conducting police training for interaction with the City for police to not harass those who live on the streets.

There was a concern expressed by a few representative about the number of people denied for Medicare or Medicaid. Davis explained that since there were three or four organizations working on this issue in the community it probably would not be the Coalition’s role to step into their territory; but to train those agencies to better serve homeless people.

Another topic was the most facilities do not focus on helping those individuals with very specific problems like mental illness or those with a physical disability. One issue that rarely is raised within the shelters is coordination of services by churches on the streets to provide food or clothing. The members who live on the street were concerned about getting the churches to collaborate to reduce duplication and the nights when no church comes downtown. There also was interest in helping Bill Hahn maintain his service of using Catholic Charities‘s truck to deliver supplies and food to those who stay outside. With all the controversy last year over this program, Davis said that this would be difficult.

Transportation was an issue that Homeless Congress representative agreed was often overlooked. It is very difficult for homeless people to find a way to get a job or look at housing. This inability to find transportation makes it very difficult for homeless people to keep appointments in order to move out of the shelters.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH Issue 77 July 2006 Cleveland Ohio

Akron Freaks Out Over Seven Panhandlers

An Editorial

In 2005, the Grapevine editors split with the vendors over the Cleveland panhandling ordinance.  The vendors and Vendor Representative to the Editorial Board supported the legislation, while the editors opposed it.  While no one likes to see the realities of poverty in America, both our vendors and editors are united in our opposition to the Akron ordinance restricting panhandling.  It’s troubling to see a person in need begging you for money, but we believe in the freedom to ask for money and the freedom to refuse to give money.

This new law is the most restrictive law in the United States.  Coming from a traditionally progressive city, it is amazing that city leaders would restrict speech so significantly.  They have implemented a finger-printing and registration requirement for everyone who wants to say the words, “Can you spare a dollar” on the streets.  They have also placed an outright ban on the requests for help around all tourist attractions and even CHURCHES and schools.

Not only have they shredded free speech, but they have prevented the free exercise of religion.  The editor’s stand together to oppose this legislation.  We raise the same issues that we raised with regard to the Cleveland ordinance, but there are both practical and economic reasons to oppose the strict Akron law.  First, Akron already has a poor panhandling law that does not work.  The existing law does not work, as evidenced by the large number of complaints brought up at the hearing.  Almost all were actually covered by the previous panhandling law.  The previous law regulated deceptive fund raising practices, aggressive behavior, and restrictions on where a person can ask for money.  The law did not work and so legislators brought out the big guns with registration requirements.

Our second objection to this new law is that certain public streets were closed off to panhandlers because a popular landmark sat on these spots.  This attempts to choke off the panhandler, by placing the best “markets” off-limits.  The flaw is that either a police officer will have to witness the request for money or a pedestrian will have to file a police report and show up for a court hearing.  It is certainly easier for the pedestrian to give some spare change so the panhandler will go away than to follow the legal process.

Finally, the reason that both vendors and management of the Grapevine are unified in our opposition to this law is the requirement of a publicly issued license to panhandlers.  We do not believe that it is good public policy to professionalize those who beg for money.  Used car salesmen, mortgage lenders, mechanics, security guards, and shelter workers are not licensed by the city, but the person who asks for money on the street needs a license?  There are very skilled workers who are not regulated by government, and other jobs that, with abuse, can easily force citizens into bankruptcy and these professions do not require a license to practice.  It would be very difficult for a street newspaper to start up in Akron using a privately issued license when panhandlers will have a government-issued license.

We believe that like the previous Akron law and like nearly every law directed at panhandlers in the country, this new attempt will fail. The police testified in Akron that there were 5 to 7 panhandlers in downtown Akron during the day.  Lawmakers passed a law to curtail the menace of 5 to 7 people.  We are confident that panhandlers will figure out a way around this new law and the city will have to look at a new way to harass beggars.  

Copyright Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH Cleveland Ohio July 2006

Truth Commission Shines A Light on Poverty

By Kevin E. Cleary

   On July 15th, a massive gathering of people assembled in Lincoln Park in Tremont to kick off three days of the National Truth Commission in Cleveland.  Modeled on Winnie Mandela’s commission in South Africa, the Truth Commission called impoverished individuals from across the country to testify about violations of their economic human rights.

   One of the goals of the  event was to “put aside the statistics” and put a human face to the trials and tribulations impoverished people suffer each day, according to Cheri Honkala, national spokesperson for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, and one of the event’s chief organizers.

   “There’s going to be a lot of crying in this room,” said Honkala.

   Given the length of the event, and the number of people giving testimony, speakers were asked to adhere strictly to their submitted testimonies.  Some speakers chose to ignore this request and spoke more extemporaneously; urging the audience to participate in hymns or to express themselves through clapping or dancing.

   The earliest speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and regions.  One individual, Mailon Ellison, spoke about his upbringing as an African American male on the streets of Philadelphia.  He shared stories of his personal tragedies and how these had made his recovery from addiction more difficult.       

“Addiction is caused by poverty,” said Ellison.

   Ellison went on to discuss his difficulties in getting medical treatment for his addiction and for some of his other ailments, including narcolepsy, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and more.  Indeed, disrespect from medical practitioners was a recurring theme in many of the testimonies. 

   A woman who called herself “Amanda” discussed in written testimony how her doctor had ignored her complications after giving birth and she had nearly bled to death.  Adding to her troubles, the Department of Human Services had taken away her children because of her medical emergency.  According to Amanda’s written testimony, DHS in Portland, Maine placed her children in foster care while she was being rushed to the hospital to receive an emergency blood transfusion. 

   Now missing a leg and in a wheelchair, she has since had her Disability benefits revoked, was kicked out of public housing after her children were removed, and has become homeless.  She described her new situation in a written statement as, “the ultimate catch-22: [Public] Housing says I must have custody of my children before I’m eligible for a large enough apartment, and DHS says I must have a large enough apartment before I’m eligible to have custody of my children.”

   One speaker, Muliaga Togo, talked about coming to New York after having served in the military.  He had never been to the continental US before, and said “I was shocked to find out there were homeless people in America.”

   Every effort was made to accommodate the diversity of the attendants.  Interpreters from Deaf and Deaf Blind Committee on Human Rights were on hand to assist those with hearing or visual disabilities, and translators were asked to help those for whom English was not their primary language.    Green Party members attended the event, as well as several residents of Tremont who were attracted to the Truth Commission’s political and artistic aspects, said Stewart Robinson, one of the event’s local organizers.

   Another organizer, Arnold Shurn, described the Truth Commission as “a time to take into consideration the plight of how the other side lives.”

   All who attended the event were invited to share their stories with the Truth Commission.  Individuals wearing “Human Rights Monitor” shirts were present to record personal stories and help “put poverty on trial.”

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006

Truth Commission Puts Poverty on Trial

Commentary by Cindy Miller

   On July 15th, 16th and 17th, the Northeast Ohio Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign hosted this country’s first National Truth Commission to “put poverty on trial!” 

   For those not familiar, Truth Commissions provide a platform for poor and working people to tell their personal stories of the economic human rights violations they are experiencing.  

   Over the past year, member organizations of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign have held local Truth Commissions across this nation. Two were simultaneously held January 14, 2006 in Cincinnati and Cleveland.

   Unfortunately, due to health reasons, I was unable to testify before the National Truth Commission panel here in July.  I was so looking forward to participating as I did on the local level this past January at Trinity Cathedral.  

   After dealing with a medical community that is disinterested, inexperienced, poorly trained, unbelieving, and grossly uneducated about my medical condition, state and federal agencies with their fair share of poorly trained caseworkers, adjudicators and the like, and employers who resisted giving me reasonable accommodation under The Americans With Disabilities Act; I took advantage of the opportunity to vent my frustrations at the January platform.

   I gave my testimony primarily under Article 25-Section 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

   I spoke about how the symptoms and insufficient treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, subsequent loss of my well-paying job as a lithographer and denial of Social Security Disability Income lead to my homelessness.

   I spent six months at Community Women’s Shelter on Payne Avenue and was still a resident there at the time I gave my testimony.  I described my own personal experiences and observations both at the shelter and on the streets of Cleveland, noting that those with mental illnesses or those who are homeless are often treated like criminals.  I mentioned that those who voiced complaints at the women’s shelter may find themselves being taken to jail in handcuffs. I also said that homeless people living in shelters had difficulty getting jobs using the shelter address as home because of the overall perception that homeless people are not willing to work.

   On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (Resolution 217 A-III). Following this historic act, the U.N. Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”

   Despite the adoption of the above proclamation, The Federal Medical Leave Act, The Americans With Disabilities Act and other so-called federally and state mandated “safety nets” designed to keep both those with disabilities and the caregivers of the disabled in the workforce by providing the right to work, the ability to obtain sustainable employment, or provide essential medical and financial support; the numbers of disabled who become homeless will continue to escalate as long as these mandates and laws continuously receive ‘a nose-thumbing’ from Corporate America and government.  (Editor’s Note: The UN Declaration of Human Rights was never ratified in the United States.)  The tax-dollars we paid to “insure” us against these possibilities were premiums on a failed policy.

   Daily, I participate in an online message board for those who suffer from the same medical conditions as myself.  I read posts from other group members from around the world, fearful of losing their homes and livelihood as a result of illness and inability to work.  Many face economic disaster waiting for their disability determinations from the Social Security Administration.  Local agencies also are not providing adequate assistance.

   This message board, like the Truth Commission, offers all of us the opportunity to vent our frustrations within the system as well as seeking support from others who are “veterans” in “the war” fighting to obtain adequate medical treatment, respect from doctors and the respect and benefits we are entitled to on state and local levels.

   I am still fighting for many of my benefits and I consider myself a survivor.

   Whether or not my testimony or the testimony of the thousands of others across the nation will result in change is yet to be seen, but the opportunity and empowerment I felt during my testimony before The Truth Commission in January, plus my association with The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless definitely made me feel whole again despite the obstacles I face daily.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006

Transform Abandoned Schools into Housing for Homeless People

Commentary by Linda

   This is my opinion of the recent meeting I attended, which was held by Bryan Flannery.  Flannery was running for Governor of Ohio in the Democratic primary at the time.

   The meeting was held at Arabica Coffee Shop (W.116th and Detroit Ave.), which was convenient and accessible for senior citizens.  There are many senior-apartments along Detroit Ave. and the surrounding area in Lakewood and Cleveland.  Most of the people who attended the meeting were senior citizens.

   My impressions of Mr. Flannery are that he is a good gentleman, businessman, and politician.  He gets down to brass tacks and his presentation spurred me on to write this article; for this I wish to thank him.

   One of the highlights of this meeting was when Mr. Flannery stressed the point that his goal was to lower house taxes statewide.  Now this has a big impact on seniors who are, by and large, on minimal fixed incomes.  Many lose their homes because they cannot afford the expensive taxes.  Then, many seniors end up in subsidized efficiency apartments and/or become homeless.  What a route to go...

   I was introduced as a vendor of The Homeless Grapevine newspaper and invited to speak.  I said, “We are a paper of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and there are over 6,000 homeless people in northeast Ohio, and it’s a shame that all those state-run, abandoned schools can’t be made into living accommodations for the homeless.”

   Mr. Flannery said, with all sincerity, “Good idea, but how?”  My reply was “Renovate.”

   For example, in Cleveland’s cousin city, Lakewood, a middle school on Detroit Ave. is being rebuilt for businesses.  As for our abandoned schools, the renovations could also be funded by businesses, or a government block grant.  Then these schools could be self-supporting businesses that provide living accommodations for homeless people (who are by and large educated and skilled, but lack the capital or material means).

   One school could house a housekeeping business, another seamstresses, another one could be general offices, a food co-op, floor refinishing, wallpapering, maintenance, ad infinitum.

   Proposals could be written, staff hired, buildings refurbished.  Then homeless people currently on the street could receive food stamps and possibly health care benefits because they have an address.  The ones who do these grant proposals could be volunteer teachers themselves– seems appropriate.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006

National News: Rise in Violence Against Homeless in America

Baton Rouge Horse Patrols Chasing Homeless

Baton Rouge, LA   Due to Hurricane Katrina, the homeless population has grown.  Reinstated police on horseback will soon be dealing with the growing problem of panhandling by the homeless near downtown Baton Rouge.  The mounted patrols also could be used at festivals and the college football games. The horses will be specifically trained for police duty, and will provide police with access to areas that neither police cruisers or bicycles can reach. One of the duties of the police includes helping to control panhandling and other activities associated with the homeless.

Katrina Evacuees Face Eviction

   Hundreds of hurricane evacuees around the country could be evicted in the coming weeks because FEMA has stopped helping them pay rent.  FEMA paid the rent for about 58,000 households as part of a special emergency program in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More than 12,600 households nationwide found out in April that they were going to lose their rent subsidies. Most were cut off May 31 and must make a payment on their own or get out. The cutoff affects 3,900 evacuees’ households in Houston and 1,100 in Dallas. In the Memphis area 300 to 500 evacuees are facing eviction.

Handicapped Homeless Man Set on Fire, Critically Hurt

Spokane, WA    A homeless, wheelchair-bound man in Spokane, Washington was set on fire in downtown Spokane and suffered extensive burns. He was flown to Seattle’s Harbor view Medical Center, the region’s trauma and burn center.  Police are not releasing the name, of the man, citing privacy laws. The victim, who has only one leg, was well known to police officers who patrolled downtown. Two men were later questioned by crime detectives and their statements led detectives to believe the pair was involved in the crime. The two were subsequently arrested and booked for investigation in the robbery.

Fresno Homeless Attacked and Insulted by City Workers

Fresno, CA     An article posted on indybay.org opens with a Fresno police officer joking that Fresno’s homeless people have their own maid service. A letter handed out by the Fresno Police Department gave notice of an impending “clean up” starting at 8:00am. At 7:50 am the destruction of property was underway. One homeless woman lost everything she owned because she was a few minutes late, including irreplaceable paper work.

   Once the crew had made its way through the Caltrans property on E street, they swung around and headed down the opposite side of the street.  This caught many homeless people completely off-guard.  Previously, homeless people had been able to save their possessions by moving them to the other side of the street while the city drove through with a bulldozer.  They would wait until the “clean up crew” was gone, and rebuild their encampment afterward.  The police did not forcefully remove people to destroy their possessions, but anything unguarded was destroyed. 

   One homeless man was hit by an officer when he tried to untie his tent from a fence to save it.  According to the article, the officer was not in uniform at the time, but forced the man to watch as a bulldozer put his tent into a garbage truck.  The man, a diabetic, reportedly lost everything he owned, including his medicine.

   After their unusual run on E street, the crew headed for Santa Clara street.  Many homeless people use the services at Poverello House, which is on Santa Clara street.  Homeless people often move their possessions to Santa Clara during the sweeps, and were not guarding them at the time the crew swept up everything in front of Poverello House.   As word of the destruction spread, the owners came running out of the House and tried to stop the workers.  Those who made it out in time were able to save their possessions.

Kalamazoo Homeless Often Target of Summer Beatings

Kalamazoo, MI   According to a report from Kalamazoo’s News 3, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety plans to continue posing undercover officers in an attempt to catch those who have been assaulting homeless people in downtown Kalamazoo.

   Plainclothes officers are just one tool in fighting the violence, according to the report.  Also planned are single officer patrols and group patrols.

   Police have noted that attacks on homeless people increase during the summer months when children are out of school. 

Homeless Woman Found Beaten in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa, CA     A homeless woman remains in the intensive care unit of a local hospital after she was found beaten in the face and head with a chunk of concrete near a Santa Rosa homeless encampment.

   According to the wire report, 28-year-old Christina Ann Phifer was found by her boyfriend near the Dutton Avenue Bridge.  The boyfriend is not currently a suspect.

   The woman claimed she fell and has not been cooperative.  The police took the concrete into evidence, and are investigating whether the woman was assaulted. 

Brandenton Police Officer Fired for Ignoring Attack on Homeless Man

Brandenton, FL  A homeless man, cut up and soaking wet, trudged into a convenience store looking for help.  He told the clerk that a group of teenagers had pelted him with rocks and shoved him into a creek.

   The Brandenton police officer who responded, Joshua Betts, didn’t take the man’s account seriously, and it has now cost him his job.  According to the article in the Herald Tribune, Betts didn’t immediately write up a report, and utterly failed to investigate the crime scene. 

   Betts claimed he looked for the teens after he left the store, but he signed out for his dinner break 1 minute into his search, according to the article.

   The attack on the homeless man happened just weeks after two teenagers in Broward County were arrested on murder charges in the beating death of another homeless man.

   In this incident, Betts drove to the 7Eleven shortly after midnight to investigate the man’s claims that the man had been attacked.

   The victim reportedly walked into the store with his left hand wrapped in his shirt and was soaking wet, said police quoted in the article who had watched the store’s surveillance tape.  The clerk called 911 immediately, and the victim explained his situation over the phone.

   The kids had thrown rocks at the man after tauning him from atop a parking garage.  They later followed him and threatened him, before pushing him into a creek.  Within 10 minutes of the incident, Officer Betts arrived on the scene. 

   According to the article, Betts responded sarcastically to the man’s claims and asked him how much he had been drinking.  The 7-Eleven clerk filed a complaint against Betts the next day. 

   Betts claimed that he doubted the man had been attacked, and eventually drafted a report of the incident, reportedly labelling it a “suspicious circumstance.”  Police said in the article that they do not doubt the man’s claims that he was attacked.

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton Draws Fire for Homeless Curfew

Jackson, MS.  Mayor Frank Melton was elected last July with 88% of the vote based on a tough-on-crime platform.  But his tactics have been drawing fire of late, according to AP wire reports.

   Melton had declared a month long state of emergency in Jackson and tightened an earlier curfew on teenagers, but then expanded the curfew to include homeless people.  During this state of emergency, at least 19 homeless people were forcibly taken to a city-run gymnasium after 10pm.

   Critics have expressed concerns that Melton’s gung-ho style has gone a bit too far, perhaps even into illegality, and the National Coalition for the Homeless compared Melton’s forced curfew to Japanese internment camps during World War II.

   The Mayor has created considerable controversy of late, as he has refused to stop carrying his gun, even on airplanes, taken crime-witnesses and at-risk individuals into his home, donned police gear to combat crime at night, and overridden his police chief’s decision to fire officers involved in beating a handcuffed suspect.             

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006

Mayor Frank Jackson Talks to the Grapevine

An Interview by Kevin E. Cleary

   In the thirteen years that The Homeless Grapevine has been published by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, we have never interviewed a Cleveland mayor.  In fact, Mayor White’s administration actively tried to shut the paper down. 

   In May, Mayor Frank Jackson sat down with Grapevine staff to discuss Cleveland’s economic future, his ideas for helping homeless people transition into stable housing and employment, and his plan to put Cleveland “back on the map” nationally and internationally. 

Grapevine: It seems like your administration intends to place a greater focus on developing neighborhoods rather than just focusing on downtown the way previous administrations have done.  How do you plan to balance these gentrification efforts to ensure that Cleveland-area neighborhoods don’t end up squeezing out those with lower incomes?

Mayor Jackson: Well, I actually view Downtown as a neighborhood too.  So, there’s going to be some major developments still happening Downtown, but as you know with East Bank projects and then Mr. Stark’s project, and Avenue project, all these are housing developments.  It’s upper end stuff, but it’s still housing.

   What I can tell you is, my track record when I was Councilman of Ward 5, is that we did significant development in Ward 5 with no gentrification.  We also, when there was an attempt by HUD to gentrify the people out of public housing and subsidized housing, we stopped that.  We rebuilt Longwood without gentrifying.  Now, those people who got evicted, they got evicted, but there was the new housing development over there, which was $111 million in housing development at Longwood.  It’s for the same people, and the same income bracket and all that stuff.  And then [it’s the] same with public housing, where there was an attempt to destroy public housing, we ensured that we protected public housing.  So, it’s the same approach that I’m gonna take as Mayor.  There’s a way to do development, and to incorporate the people who currently live in those neighborhoods with that development in a way that it doesn’t gentrify.

Grapevine: Are there any plans for Longwood-style rehabilitation efforts in other neighborhoods, since it was so successful?

Jackson: I don’t know.  I imagine that there could be.  The advantage of that project was that it was already a Longwood, so it was just a tearing down and rebuilding.  To put that kind of development, and it also exists on about 35 acres, so you know, you’d need a large tract of land.  But, I would imagine there are smaller types of projects like that, where you have low-income, low and moderate-income housing development like that, yeah, I’d imagine that’d happen. 

   The trend however, is to substitute low and moderate-income for upscale housing, more expensive housing.  That’s the trend.  You see it happening  more with Lakeview over on W. 25th, in the Tremont area,  where they have actually, at Valleyview, have torn down the public housing.  It’s now going to make some mixed-use, so you’ll have some public, some subsidized housing, some low and moderate.  But you’ll [also] have some more expensive housing.  So, the trend is to move more towards economic integration. 

Grapevine: There’s been a lot of talk about regionalism in the past few years.  In what way does your administration plan to work together and build regional partnerships?

Jackson: Well, I’m not a supporter of regional government, but I am a supporter of regional economy.  I believe that for us to compete on a national, international basis, we can no longer do that as the City of Cleveland, or as the suburban communities.  We have to operate as a region.  And that could go as large as, depending on who you talk to, it could go as large as 8, 9 counties.

Grapevine: Operating almost like the Twin Cities?

Jackson: Yeah.  Operating as a regional economy so that we don’t compete internally in the region by offering higher tax abatements or larger grants, or lower-interest loans; that we compete as a region against everybody else.  And try to keep what we have here.  And then to have incentives to get other people to move to the region, with their companies, and also people move to live.  So that’s a reasonable approach in economics.

    We also, for government, since I am not a fan of regional government, we have to find a way to reduce our costs.  So that means there should be some regional cooperation in, how do we buy things?  Should we buy things as a region, and in bulk to reduce our costs, and share that cost-saving?  Then, we need to take a regional approach to revenue sharing.  Meaning that, if a company does decide to move from Cleveland to another community within the region, then we should be willing to share in the income tax. 

   Similar to what we did with the Cavaliers.  They’re moving their practice facility out in Independence.  So rather than us fighting with Independence over, going to court over, ‘Where do they pay the income tax?’ We’re gonna split it; fifty-fifty.  That way we can allow companies to move within the region, based on their economic interest, but not at the expense of a municipality by losing all the income tax.  So, three things:  A regional economy, not competing internally, but allowing companies to move around without competition, but then, in turn, competing with the rest of the world.  Sharing revenue [so,] if a company moves from one place to another, that the city it moves from doesn’t lose.

Grapevine: Would that be done through the Regional Income Tax Authority?

Jackson: No, it would be done through agreements between the various municipalities.  And then, whoever’s the collection agency, whether it’s RITA or the Central Collection Agency, that they would know how to disperse the revenue.  And the same thing with costs.  To share the costs by buying as a region as opposed to buying individually.

Grapevine: Could you see that model, I know you just said you were against it for government, but could you see it working with say, education, for instance?

Jackson: You’re exactly right.  The same approach.  I happen to believe that we should do a regional funding of public education, and regional costs, procurement, that kind of stuff. 

Grapevine: It would certainly even out some of the disparities.

Jackson: It would, but that would mean we’d have to work together on a common mission, and shift dollars around based on where it’s needed.  And, as you know, that would create great anxiety among a lot of communities, particularly those wealthier communities who would believe they’re subsidizing a poorer district.  It would be problematic to try to form a regional school district because of the vast diversity and differences, not only in the population, but in the different levels of education.  And how do you figure out where you assign students or if you keep the districts the same but we work on cost-savings through sharing.  For example, if we’re buying gasoline for vehicles, why not buy ‘em as a regional school?  [With] all the districts combined, [we could] probably save money?  If we buy it individually, it costs more.  The same if you’re buying textbooks, or if you’re buying computers, or if you’re buying health insurance; same thing.  And in terms of the revenue sharing, again, that’s not as problematic as a regional district.  But still, people would have some anxiety over that, but I do believe having a common funding of public education within the region would go a long way as long as we have a common mission.

Grapevine: You’ve spoken before about making Cleveland a 24 hour city.  What types of businesses would you like to see open in Cleveland to make that happen, and how do you see that impacting employment in the Cleveland area?

Jackson: That’s the point I was making about, there’ll still be significant investments Downtown, particularly in the residential area.  Once we create a critical mass, and say, for instance, we’re able to increase the population, the people who live Downtown to 20,000, 25,000 people, then that creates a demand for goods and services.  So that would create a demand for... groceries, clothing, [etc.].  Whatever people do, when you have 25,000 people living somewhere who need goods and services.  And that will translate into entertainment, and restaurants, those kinds of things.  So, when you do that, the demand really drives what kind of businesses would be [opening.]

Grapevine: So, market forces would sort of make it happen?

Jackson: Right, if you have a younger crowd, a younger group of people living downtown, then there’s a certain kind of demand.  If you have an older crowd, there’s another kind of demand.  They intersect and overlap.  If you have largely working people, professional people, that’s another.  So, who and what that population is, and the demand that they have for goods and services would go a long way. 

   The second thing is to have additional people working downtown. Because having people live here means in the evening time, after hours you’ll have a demand.  But during the working hours, if we increase the number of people working downtown, then they also have a demand.  And whatever it is that they demand... some would to go to eat, some would want to go shopping for clothes, or...

Grapevine: Park?

Jackson: Whatever it might be.  And then the third leg to that stool for creating the 24 hour city is to have people visit the City of Cleveland.  [We want] 100,000 more people a year, or 200,000 a year visiting the City of Cleveland.  That’s also a demand for goods and services.  That’s a different crowd. You know, some of this stuff is overlapping, some of it’s not.  So, when you do that, that helps to create a 24 hour city.  Where the city is alive 24 hours a day, and you have to start Downtown. 

   You have to start Downtown, and the same thing and the same principle works in neighborhoods.  You go over to Tremont, where over the last decade or so, they’ve greatly improved conditions of the area.  There’s a lot of small stores and restaurants and bars and things.  You go over to Ohio City, it’s the same way.  So, if you have people there who are demanding 24 hours, it’ll be open 24 hours.  So, it’s the same principle.  And if people are visiting, then they may want to go to the Art Museum, the Orchestra, the baseball [stadium], the health museum, the Rock and Roll, Science.  Then, they may want to visit the neighborhoods and things like that. 

Grapevine: I noticed you spoke of increasing tourism, and I recently read that we’re pursuing the Republican National Convention.  Do you think that if we put similar efforts into getting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies here it would bring in a similar amount of tourism dollars?

Jackson: The purpose for me wanting to drive ahead and driving this thing about the Republican...I’m a Democrat, but [the purpose] driving this Republican Convention is twofold.  One is that, if we’re successful, it puts Cleveland on the map.  Not only nationally, [but] internationally.  It will be a great boost to the economy.  But it will also force us to work together to get things done.  Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican; if you’re a businessperson, labor.  All the segments of this society would have to work together.  And it would also mean that the City would have to work with suburban and regional neighbors to promote this.  Because you’ve got to raise a lot of private money, and things like that.  So, those two things help greatly.

   Now, to get back to your question about Rock and Roll.  Even if we fail, we would have created the relationships and set in place the infrastructure to work together.  So that, those relationships and that infrastructure could be used for anything.  It could be used for the induction at Rock and Roll, similar to what happened a few years ago with the International Children’s Games.  That was a collaboration working together to pull that off.  So, once you develop the infrastructure and you develop the relationships, you can direct it in any area you want to take it in.

   It could even address, since you’re with the Grapevine, that kind of energy and resources and personnel could be applied to addressing the issue of homelessness, addressing the issue of people coming back from prison and not being able to have jobs.  So it’s a matter of setting up the infrastructure and creating the relationships.  That’s the important part, as well as the recognition you would get from the Convention. 

Grapevine: There was a recent interview we did with Mike Sering, who was the Director of Shelter and Housing at Lutheran Metro Ministries.  He said that roughly 6,000 ex-offenders return to Cuyahoga Country every year, and approximately 25 people per month are ending up at 2100 Lakeside, which is the area’s largest homeless men’s shelter, which you recently visited (see Homeless Grapevine 75).  A lot of these individuals face discrimination in housing and employment when they get out of prison.  What can Cleveland do to ease their re-entry into society, in terms of securing employment or housing?

Jackson: Well, again.  That’s my point.  Cleveland, meaning government, in and of itself,  cannot [solve those issues].   Even Cleveland and the County can’t do it.  So you have to bring in the non-profit, the private [sector], and the non-profit agencies.  You have to bring in the corporate community.  Now, corporate people are not going to see that as their mission.  So, that’s why you have to show corporate people and employers how this is a benefit to them.  And it just can’t be because it’s the right thing to do, or a social service project.

Grapevine: It has to be in their self interest?

Jackson: Well...and it has to be the self-interest of the non-profits too, because these non-profits who are promoting certain types of facilities in the City of Cleveland are promoting it because the dollars are there.  You know, they’re not taking them into their homes.  You know, they’re promoting it because the dollars are there.  So, it has to be in all of our self-interests to do this, and I believe that it is.  But each party or component of that overall drive has to see specifically how it benefits them.

   That’s why, if we can...  The two issues will be housing and employment.  As you know, as part of some people’s paroles, they can’t go into certain areas, can’t go into public housing.  Now HUD is allowing housing authorities and Section 8 properties to put restrictions on admitting ex-felons if it’s not 5 or 10 years removed from the application.  So, it’s set up against [ex-offenders].  When you go into the public sector, the public sector will hire ex-felons.  When you go into the private sector, you cannot impose upon them, by government, rules, regulations, or laws to hire an ex-felon.  So they do it, and if they have a broad range of choices... they’ll make choices other than [hiring ex-offenders].  So what we have to do is, again, is to let them see it’s in their self-interest. 

   Now, what are we trying to do?  We’re working on, how do we create, through our Workforce Development Division that the County and the City has; how we do deal with people coming back from prison to provide them a marketable skill?  Then, how do we work, meaning the Mayor’s Office, government, work with employers to relieve some of their fears and anxieties?  To ask them to give the people a chance?  And what you’ll find is, to get one, you may have to deal with ten.  And then, when you’re in a very competitive sector of our society, they may not have the time or inclination or will to do that.  Because they [companies] don’t see themselves as social service agencies, and they’re not. 

   So, we have to, on one end, provide high-quality people, meaning people who [are] ready for employment, who are prepared to be employed, who will go to work, who have a skill, that won’t create issues.  Because, if we create success, a successful experience with that business, then they’re more likely to want to hire another ex-felon than if we don’t.

   With housing, it’s problematic also.  Because, as I said, HUD has allowed for certain rules to be implemented, regulations, and even the parole boards are restricting where people can and cannot go.  So, there’s a need to take people who are in the homeless shelters... and an ex-felon is not necessarily someone...they’re homeless because they don’t have a job.  They may not be drug-addicted, alcohol-addicted, or have mental issues.  They just don’t have a job, so they’ve got to go there [homeless shelters].  But if we can do transitional housing, and get people who are in a homeless situation into a transitional housing [program] and focus our energy and money on providing them with the next step, which is employment, then we’ll have a higher rate of success.

Grapevine: Would you see something like The Homeless Grapevine, where we essentially train people to run their own businesses selling the newspaper, would you see that as a model that could be used for both ex-offenders, and for helping people out of shelters?

Jackson: I believe the ultimate solution for homelessness, and ex-felons who are associated with homelessness... it’s going to have to come from that community.  I’ve always been a proponent of 2100 Lakeside being an entrepreneur.  Not that it charges people to be there, but they can develop businesses.  They have a laundry there.  What is it to get contracts to provide, to wash, to do laundry?  Say, for instance, you’ve got a place like Cleveland Clinic, or University Hospital, they do sheets and pillowcases.  What if we were able to get a portion of that business to them?

Grapevine: Or, say, the Community Hiring Hall?

Jackson: Well, not necessarily. [It would be] whoever it is who will be in the business of hiring ex-felons and homeless people.  And transitional housing... the people will be more successful.  That employment opportunity can be generated out of that community.  The same is if you’re doing catering service.  So there is, in my mind, opportunity for the homeless community and those agencies to set up business opportunity and to get contracts to supply goods and services to businesses and to people.  And that’s where you’re going to get your employment.  You’re not going to get it just shopping around out here, because people have choices.  And if, all things being equal, they’re going to choose somebody else.

   And then, if you had a janitorial service.  If you had a commercial janitorial service... One of these office buildings who contract out for people to come in and clean their office.  I mean, there’s a way to create employment there too.  So there are many ways to do employment.  There’s the need for government and non-profits to work on it.  And then there’s a way that community itself can work on it.  And the real solution is not going to come from government or the non-profits, believe me.  The real solution is going to have to come from the community.

Grapevine: One question we hear a lot from homeless people is: Is there any way that Cleveland could offer some of the housing that was boarded up during Mayor White’s administration to homeless people?  And if not, why not?

Jackson: Well, first of all, the City doesn’t own the property.  So, we can’t offer what we don’t have.  Secondly, what would they do with it?  Because if, in order to allow someone to live in a house, you’d have to give them an occupancy permit, which means it’d have to be up to code.  The vast majority of those homes are condemned, or condemnable.  So that means there’d have to be a significant investment in the rehab of that house to get it up to code, in order for someone to occupy it.  So, who would invest that money to give it to someone who doesn’t have a job?  Or to give it to someone who may have a drug or alcohol problem.

   I would imagine that scenario would work if there’s a non-profit who then gets receivership of the property, renovates it, and a homeless person is living there as [some form of] transitional housing.  Because the person has become stable and things like that.  It works in that fashion.  But just to say, even if the City of Cleveland did own them, who would make the investment to bring them up to code?  You can’t just turn stuff over just to anybody.

Grapevine: A lot of homeless people in Cleveland actually do have skills in terms of day labor, or carpentry, etc.  Would there be some way for them to work on the homes in exchange for them?

Jackson: Well, that’s an approach.  But I think it has to be part of an overall program.  I’ve actually heard the same thing from homeless people.  You know, “let us go in, and we’ll fix it up.”  Well, if they can do that, that’s fine.  But, you still can’t have 10, 15 people living in a house.  So there has to be some structure to this, some organization.  And, I believe that’s another way to get employment for people.   If, in fact, you have a non-profit, or the homeless community, would be the ones who sponsor, to have the money to acquire and then do all this kind of stuff.  And as part of, if they had construction crews, hiring homeless men and women as crews to work; it’s another way to do employment.  So, it could work, but it would take some management.

Grapevine: You would see it coming primarily from the non-profit sector?  You don’t see it as something that would result from the private sector?

Jackson: No, I can’t see the private sector doing it.  The private sector wouldn’t do it; because, why would they do it?  Unless...  Now they would, the private sector, if there was a contractor, a construction company that hired homeless men and women to do the work, and they did quality work.  The private sector would hire them to build homes for them, or to do the renovations; they would do that.  But, just to purchase a home, put money into it, renovate it, and then manage it, or in some way, turn it over to someone, I couldn’t see them [companies in the private sector] doing that.  It would have to be done through a non-profit.

   Another example of that is Habitat for Humanity, where you have volunteers and the Habitat community going out and building homes.  But even then, whoever it is, through their system, winds up in that home, they have to pay for it.  And then, finally, I’ve actually heard people in the community say that [if] it is a vacant house next to them... and then if you told them... Well, if a non-profit did that and rehabbed it and said, “we’re going to put 10 homeless men in here,” they would have a problem with that.  So even though people are saying that and it sounds [good], there’s different levels of hindrances. 

   Although, even with all that said, it could work if you had a non-profit go in, acquire the home, renovate it, and then [through] some kind of way do transitional housing.  Because, even they would have to have some revenue to offset their costs and be able to invest in some future things. 

Grapevine: Would the biggest financial hurdle be that in the foreclosure by the bank, the bank still needs to be paid, or does it have to do with backed property taxes?

Jackson: Well, it depends.  The cost of acquiring the house is the number 1 priority because, if you could acquire it for $5,000, and it costs you $30,000 to fix it up, then that’s $35,000.  If it costs you $30,000 to fix it up, but it cost you $30,000, there goes your $60,000, and so on.  And so, the cost of acquiring is very important. 

   Like I said, the City of Cleveland doesn’t own these properties.  They are in the hands of property owners, or mortgage companies, or somebody.  And until you are able to get it into your hands... there’s a cost to that.  There’s a cost to it, and the greater that cost, the less sense it makes for even a non-profit to do it.  Because they have to, in some way... somebody has to give them the money, or they have to recover the cost.  But it could work.  It working on a massive scale is problematic, and having it done without some management of the house as transitional housing; if it’s not done that way, it gets to be a problem too.

Grapevine: One of the major other hurdles for homeless people in Cleveland is transportation costs.  Is there any way that the Regional Transit Authority could offer reduced rates for bus passes for people in our shelters, similar to what they’ve done for Cleveland State students?

Jackson: Well, the quick answer is yes.  I mean, they could just do it.  Whether it makes financial sense for them to do it or not, I don’t know.  One approach you could take, as part of the funding of shelters, is to have a portion of money set aside just for that, just like the Cleveland Municipal School District.  They work out an agreement that gives them a large sum, a block of passes, and they pay a reduced amount for that.  You have student rates, you have elderly rates.  I don’t know if you could get away with having a homeless rate.  But if you followed the model of the Cleveland Municipal School District, where you bought a block of passes, and at a reduced rate, then maybe the shelter  could be the provider of those passes to people that they know are going on interviews, or back and forth to work, and things like that.

Grapevine: So that would be something that would be worked out individually between shelters and RTA, or should they, for instance, band together?

Jackson: I think they should combine.  2100 Lakeside would be the driving one, but you have other, transitional housing situations where their people, their clients would be the ones who would get the most out of it.  As opposed to giving it to someone who, rather than walking from 2100 to a food program or something, you’d give them a ticket to catch the bus and go there.  You know, that’s not as productive.  But, if you’re talking about helping in terms of employment, then whoever’s employed or on interview, then I think it would be a benefit.  I don’t think RTA will offer a homeless rate, though.  But I do believe, if talked to, they would be willing to provide a block of passes and tickets at some reduced amount.  And somebody would have to come up with the money to do it.

Grapevine: The state of Ohio recently passed a law forbidding residency requirements for workers in Ohio municipalities, and I understand you’re challenging that law.  If unsuccessful, how do you think that would impact Cleveland’s economy?

Jackson: Well, it could go either way.  I mean, of course, if you’ve got 5,000 people moving out of the City of Cleveland, you’ve got whatever that means in terms of... [economic impact].

Grapevine: Do you anticipate that many people would move out of the City?

Jackson: No, I don’t.  I think the City of Cleveland has about 8,700 employees.  The ones who are pushing it the most are in Safety.  I think that would probably be about 3,000 at the most, and probably less than 3,000.  I don’t think all of them would want to move out of the City of Cleveland.  And then you have to balance the other 5,000 you’ve got.  You know, there’d be a good portion of them who would make that choice, because they would choose to go somewhere else.  So, it would have some impact, but what that is, I don’t know.

Grapevine: Mayor Jackson, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today about poverty and homelessness, and Cleveland’s future.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006

Local News: Homeless People Need a Voice in Community

Marcia Bufford Now Healing at Home

   Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board Vice President, Marcia Bufford, moved back to her house after two months of care by Metro Health. She made what doctors have described as “a remarkable recovery” and in July was discharged to complete her recovery at home.  Bufford is in the care of seven of her friends who take turns staying with her while she relearns to talk and move after being shot in the face.  The Plain Dealer, WEWS TV, and the Call and Post have all featured stories and interviews with Bufford. 

Shelter Funding Process Still Excludes Homeless

   The Men’s Resident Council at 2100 Lakeside shelter invited representatives of the County and City to their monthly meeting to explain the funding decisions made for the shelters.  They were especially concerned about the small amount of money given to 2100 Lakeside in the federal Continuum of Care and the repeated issues with a lack of funds to purchase food at the shelter.  Ruth Gillett, of the County Office of Homeless Services, and Bill Resseger of the City of Cleveland Community Development Department attended the Resident Council.  They did provide an overview of where all the money to run the shelters came from, and why the emergency shelter was not eligible for certain funding streams.  The men at the shelter were still puzzled at the end of the meeting about why currently homeless people did not have any input into the distribution of resources in the community.

Care Alliance Opens News Clinic

 The Care Alliance (healthcare for the homeless program) opened their new

clinic at 1530 St. Clair Ave. in downtown Cleveland.  This is a huge improvement with a facility built specifically for exam rooms and medical needs of the population.  They have running water in all the exam rooms and doubled the number of dental exam rooms.  They have consolidated all their staff and administrative functions into one building, and provided a beautiful waiting room to those experiencing homelessness.  This facility has a nice facade and a number of warm offices for counseling.  The ribbon cutting was early in July 2006.

CWS Forges New Relationship with NEOCH       

   The Community Women’s Shelter announced the hiring of David Titus as the new Director of the entry shelter for women and children in Cuyahoga County.  Titus has a background in serving those with a mental illness, and has overseen the administration of the Hill House shelter.  Relations with the Coalition for the Homeless have improved over the last year, and staff are planning to meet with the residents for the first time in nearly two years during the summer of 2006.

Local Organizations Work to Re-Enfranchise Ohio’s Homeless Voters

   With the sizable obstacles to registration and voting approved by the state of Ohio in 2006, social service providers are still planning to help homeless people to participate in democracy.  The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio has started a group called Ohio Votes to assist in registering very low income individuals.  Joselyn Travis, formerly of the NAACP and Cleveland Project Vote, is running the statewide project.  The Office of Homeless Services in Cuyahoga has made voter registration a part of every shelter’s application for federal funding.  The shelters are asked to put in place a plan to get all of their clients registered.

   The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless continues to work to register people, and will partner with a few of the drop-in centers to demonstrate the new electronic voting booths.  It is hoped that homeless people will practice and become comfortable with the new system for casting a ballot.  All the providers are struggling with the new identification requirements.  There are alternatives to the state ID, but those all pertain to the housed.  West Side Catholic has provided staff to resurrect the local identification project that provides funds for individuals to get a State ID or birth certificate.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006

First Homeless Congress Meets at Cosgrove

by Michelle Lasky

    On a hot summer day in July, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless attempted a new form of advocacy meeting — representative democracy.  Every shelter in the county, along with the drop-in centers and the outreach teams were invited to send two members to a meeting at the Bishop Cosgrove Center to recommend an agenda for the Coalition to follow. There were 10 facilities present, each represented by two members, including two people who call the streets of Cleveland their home.  Seven additional providers attended, but were not able to bring homeless clients.

   The men and women met in the Cosgrove Center gymnasium around large dining room tables.  The providers and other observers sat around the walls of the gym watching homeless people deliberate.  Brian Davis, executive director of NEOCH, explained the function and role of the Coalition and discussed the critical areas of the organization. Davis described how the men at 2100 Lakeside had requested this meeting, and the purpose for meeting.  There was some concern that many of those present did not have a very good knowledge of the Coalition.  There was some discussion about how this Congress should be structured and the agenda was approved. 

   Most of the meeting was spent discussing NEOCH’s strategic plan and the areas of advocacy on which the Coalition decided to focus its energy from 2005-2010.  A few additional items were added over the past year and at this meeting.  Almost all have developed as a result of local and national events.  For example, the Coalition added the need for a disaster plan to relocate homeless people during an evacuation of downtown in response to the Katrina disaster.  The threat of closing shelters due to budget cuts or local development needs has prompted the Coalition to add the issue of overcrowding in shelters to its strategic plan. 

   Some of the discussion at the meeting revolved around a standard grievance procedure in the shelters and the need for a place outside the shelters to air grievances.  There was also concern that there was not enough information available in the community about available services, and especially about housing options.  Additionally, a few women were worried about the environment at the Women’s Shelter.  A few of the individuals who sleep on the street wanted to talk about conducting police training for interaction with homeless people and reiterate the agreement NEOCH has with the City for police to not harass those who live on the streets.

   There was a concern expressed by a few representatives about the number of people denied for Medicare or Medicaid.  Davis explained that since there were three or four organizations working on this issue in the community it probably would not be the Coalition’s role to step into their territory; but to train those agencies to better serve homeless people. 

   Another topic was that most facilities do not focus on helping those individuals with very specific problems like mental illness or those with a physical disability.  One issue that rarely is raised within the shelters is coordination of services by churches on the streets to provide food or clothing. The members who live on the street were concerned about getting the churches to collaborate to reduce duplication and the nights when no church comes downtown.  There also was interest in helping Bill Hahn maintain his service of using Catholic Charity’s truck to deliver supplies and food to those who stay outside.  With all the controversy last year over this program, Davis said that this would be difficult.

   Transportation was an issue that Homeless Congress representatives agreed was often overlooked. It is very difficult for homeless people to find a way to get to a job or to look at housing.  This inability to find transportation makes it very difficult for homeless people to keep appointments in order move out of the shelters.

The final draft agenda that was approved by the Congress:

General Principles:

1. NEOCH should confine its advocacy efforts to local positions

2. NEOCH should not get involved in advocacy around reductions in funding. 

3. NEOCH will concentrate on four areas and will attempt to maintain and where possible improve local services in the area of housing, health care, economic justice and civil rights.

Housing:

4. NEOCH will assist with monthly housing preservation of affordable housing meetings.

5. NEOCH will work on a local strategy for those leaving the corrections system and enter shelter and especially those with sexually based offence.

6. NEOCH will continue to monitor the three large subsidized housing programs.

7. NEOCH will work with other groups in the community to develop alternatives to shelter in the community with housing emergencies.

Civil Rights:

8. NEOCH will continue to monitor and document civil rights violations or violence against homeless people.

9. NEOCH will develop a set of standards for local shelters.

10.NEOCH will work to protect the privacy rights of homeless people.

11.NEOCH will pass legislation that would make attacks on homeless people a hate crime.

12.NEOCH will work to assure that all homeless people are registered to vote, and reduce barriers to registering and homeless people actually voting.

Health Care:

13.NEOCH will work with all local public entities to assure access by homeless people to alcohol/drug services, mental health and emergency medical care. 

14.NEOCH will work to develop a better approach to homeless people with a substance abuse problem.

15.NEOCH will work with the Center for Community Solutions to apply for a comprehensive health care grant.

16.NEOCH will work with other local advocates to develop a better strategy for assistance to homeless people with a mental illness including the expansion of the disabled drop in center.

Economic Justice Issues:

17.NEOCH will work with other local advocates to pass legislation to protect the rights of those who work at temporary labor companies.

18.NEOCH will work toward reform of Social Security Disability hearing procedure so that those with a physical and mental illness do not have to wait years for a hearing on their cases.

Other issues added over this year and at this meeting:

1. Cuyahoga County needs a plan for evacuating homeless people in the event of a natural or man made disaster within the downtown area of Cleveland.

2. NEOCH needs to develop a representative body of homeless people to divide up local resources and set policy for the social services. 

3. NEOCH should work to assure that the overflow shelters are not closed without a suitable replacement.

4. NEOCH should work to expand the marketing of the website www.housingcleveland.org to assure that all subsidized landlords are participating, and that the homeless community is aware of the website.

5. Cuyahoga County needs better coordination of outreach efforts including the churches that distribute food downtown.

6. The Coalition should investigate ways to make transportation of homeless people a higher priority within the community.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006

Akron Freaks Out Over Seven Panhandlers

   In 2005, the Grapevine editors split with the vendors over the Cleveland panhandling ordinance. The vendors and Vendor Representative to the Editorial Board supported the legislation, while the editors opposed it.  While no one likes to see the realities of poverty in America, both our vendors and editors are united in our opposition to the Akron ordinance restricting panhandling.  It’s troubling to see a person in need begging you for money, but we believe in the freedom to ask for money and the freedom to refuse to give money.

   This new law is the most restrictive law in the United States.  Coming from a traditionally progressive city, it is amazing that city leaders would restrict speech so significantly. They have implemented a fingerprinting and registration requirement for everyone who wants to say the words, “Can you spare a dollar?” on the streets.  They have also placed an outright ban on requests for help around all the tourist attractions and even CHURCHES and schools. 

   Not only have they shredded free speech, but they have prevented the free exercise of religion.  The editors stand together to oppose this legislation.  We raise the same issues that we raised with regard to the Cleveland ordinance, but there are both practical and economic reasons to oppose the strict Akron law.  First, Akron already has a poor panhandling law that does not work.  The existing law does not work, as evidenced by the large number of complaints brought up at the hearing. Almost all were actually covered by the previous panhandling law.  The previous law regulated deceptive fund raising practices, aggressive behavior, and restrictions on where a person can ask for money.  The law did not work and so legislators brought out the big guns with registration requirements. 

   Our second objection to this new law is that certain public streets were closed off to panhandlers because a popular landmark sat on those spots.  This attempts to choke off the panhandler, by placing the best “markets” off-limits.  The flaw is that either a police officer will have to witness the request for money or a pedestrian will have to file a police report and show up for a court hearing.  It is certainly easier for the pedestrian to give some spare change so the panhandler will go away than to follow the legal process.

   Finally, the reason that both vendors and management of the Grapevine are unified in our opposition to this law is the requirement of a publicly issued license to panhandlers.  We do not believe that it is good public policy to professionalize those who beg for money.  Used car salesmen, mortgage lenders, mechanics, security guards, and shelter workers are not licensed by the city, but the person who asks for money on the street needs a license?  There are very skilled workers who are not regulated by government, and other jobs that, with abuse, can easily force citizens into bankruptcy and these professions do not require a license to practice.  It would be very difficult for a street newspaper to start up in Akron using a privately issued license when panhandlers will have a government-issued license. 

       We believe that like the previous Akron law and like nearly every law directed at panhandlers in the country, this new attempt will fail.  The police testified in Akron that there were 5 to 7 panhandlers in downtown Akron during the day.  Lawmakers passed a law to curtail the menace of 5 to 7 people.  We are confident that panhandlers will figure out a way around this new law and the City will have to look at a new way to harass beggars.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 77 August 2006