Local News: Cleveland #1 in Poverty Again

Homeless Evicted from Airport

   As of September 1, 2006, homeless people were told that they can no longer sleep at the airport.  The City of Cleveland Police and other officials met with social service providers in August to set a date at which time homeless people would have to leave.  The City officials cited security and the horrible mess being created by homeless people as the reason for the eviction from the airport.  Using graphic photos and testimony from a Continental Airline official, the police said that they would give warnings up until September 15, but after that date they would have to arrest those found sleeping at the airport.

   The Coalition received three complaints from homeless people questioning this policy, but they have each found other places to live.  Mental Health Service worked with the individuals to find them permanent housing or more appropriate shelter.  There were no reports of arrest to the Coalition. 

City Opens Discussion about Bird Flu

   The City of Cleveland Health Department held a conference on a possible flu pandemic and the level of preparedness for hospitals, emergency services, and businesses.  Coalition staff attended the forum, and raised the issue of what happens to the shelters in a Bird Flu outbreak?  There is no current plan in place for protection of the shelters from a highly infectious disease.  The Health officials painted a bleak picture based on the previous two flu outbreaks and the potential for rapid spread of the virus.  The models from Army barracks show that an enclosed environment with dormitory style sleeping pose a huge risk with 75% of the residents infected within 3 days.  This is especially troubling for Cleveland since we host 3 of the largest facilities for homeless people in the State of Ohio.

Furniture Banks Battle Brewing

   The Plain Dealer has heralded the development of a furniture bank operated by St. Vincent DePaul in a number of stories, but that is only half the story.  The PD did a Sunday feature decrying the lack of leadership in Cleveland for allowing the local furniture bank to disappear.  Currently, there are only small efforts to collect donated furniture and deliver household items and housing starter kits to those entering housing.  St. Vincent DePaul stepped up to the plate after a year of starting and stopping a furniture bank.   

   They introduced their new service called Cleveland Furniture Bank in July.  This was done in spite of a call by Cleveland Bridge Builders/Leadership Cleveland for the City to go in a different direction, and take time to prepare a solid plan for an agency that will survive over the long haul.  CBB/Leadership Cleveland are young executives who work for eight months on developing leadership skills and in the process adopt one project to oversee.  The problem of the furniture bank was selected for the group to focus on last year and a plan was issued with the support of the homeless service providers.  Unfortunately, St. Vincent DePaul rejected the plans and went on their own to start the project. 

   The big issue is the selling of the items collected, and keeping the fees low for homeless people and homeless service providers.  The concern was that the good items would be sold in the St. Vincent store, and the “crappy items” would be delivered to homeless people. At this time, the St. Vincent furniture bank is operational, and the other advocates are creating a board and fund raising for an alternate furniture bank.   Cleveland is divided by a river and divided in how they serve those living in poverty.

Cleveland Poorest City Again

   Only eleven more months until the new poverty standings are released.  The big question is whether our population will reduce below the 250,000 mark.  This is the minimum size for the American Cities Survey to get off the list before we move out of the top 10 through job growth and an improved economy.  How does a City that has dug itself into a huge hole and is ignored by its state and federal government increase personal wealth to get off the poorest city list? With huge population losses and 10 years of job losses, Cleveland faces huge obstacles to move off the poorest city list.

Homeless Coalition Back at the Community Women’s Shelter

   After two years of not being allowed to organize residents at the Community Women’s Shelter, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless have begun meeting again at the shelter.  NEOCH staff held one meeting at the shelter to talk about problems facing homeless women in the community and will host a Housing 101 meeting there as well.  NEOCH staff are also helping the women to complete the application for vouchers through the Housing Choice Voucher program.

Cuyahoga Elections Board Misinterprets Law

   In a public forum hosted by the Greater Cleveland Voting Coalition, Francis Lally of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections said in August that those who have identification not matching their address listed at the polling place will be given a provisional ballot to vote.  This is contrary to the advice provided by the Secretary of State and the interpretation of lawyers and professors who specialize in election law.  Tom Hayes, who was hired to consult with the Board on the upcoming election, was present and did not contradict Lally. 

   This will certainly disenfranchise many homeless people who do not bother to update their identification every time they relocate.  They do not have the utility bills and other forms of identification that are tied to an address. Most shelters in Cuyahoga County are advising their clients to vote by mail by completing an absentee ballot request.  NEOCH has asked the County Commissioners to correct the Board of Elections misinterpretation of the new ID law.  

Second Homeless Congress Convened

   Six shelters were represented at the second gathering of the Homeless Congress with 32 people attending.  They set two agenda items as their highest priority for advocacy locally and at the state level.  One includes the development of a local pool of money to create and preserve affordable housing.  The other of the highest priorities is to create public works jobs that pay a living wage and could help rebuild some of the abandoned housing.  The group wants to meet with County and State officials to solicit help in accomplishing their goals.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio Issue 78 October 2006