If Greater Cleveland had $10 million to help end homelessness, how would you recommend the money be spent?"

The Grapevine has asked a relatively diverse cross section of Clevelanders, who were not themselves homeless, the following questions: 1) If Greater Cleveland had $10 million to help end homelessness, how would you recommend the money be spent? And, 2) If a person has no money to offer, what can s/he do to help end homelessness? Although most responses illicited were anonymous, many were from customers of the Food Co-op on Euclid; we would like to thank them along with everyone else who submitted their opinions! If someone left their name, the Grapevine listed the person's name next to their comment.

                “Since there are numerous programs in Greater Cleveland that have been serving the homeless for several years now, they should be evaluated in terms of how effective they have been and how cost effective they are in removing families from their state of homelessness and helping them locate, move into, and stay in permanent affordable housing. The most successful projects should be expanded (if they want to be) or replicated by other service providers, using the staff and administrators of the 'best' projects to train the others in their successful methodologies.

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“Greater Cleveland does not possess a sufficient number of SRO [single room occupancy] units with a full complement of necessary supportive services. A developer of SROs should be identified, and support should be given to allow the developer sufficient funds to be used as local match to develop a workable financial package. In addition, minimal salary costs of the developer and a one-half time assistant should be carried for two years so that the project can be completed without interruptions caused by having to seek constant funding renewal sources to maintain the 1.5 staff persons required to bring this project to fruition.”

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           “Subsidized housing with mandatory case management” --Jay Gardner, Outreach Coordinator

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           Here is an excerpt from suggestions written by a student from Ashland University:

“With $10 million not being a lot of money to make any big changes, I would start by changing things that won’t cost much to implement. First of all, police can be instructed to treat the homeless in a non-hassling manner. Instead of just running them out of parks or out of alleys, provide the police with a list of social service agencies where the homeless can be taken to. You can’t force the homeless person to accept help, but it’s an alternative to arresting the person for vagrancy—at no cost to taxpayers."

          “Provide with this policy a refurbishing of existing shelters. Inspect the existing shelters to assess their condition and make improvements where they can be made and add new shelters in existing buildings not being used. Buildings already owned by the city can be utilized and funds set up to support its operation.

       “Services and agencies could employ college students, with agreements with the universities and colleges throughout and around Cleveland as part of a student’s college credit for sociology and social work requirements. The students can be reimbursed for transportation costs to the work site or can be given a discount on their tuition.

            The students could work with social workers, case workers, and social administrators to expedite a program to go out to the homeless rather than wait for them to come in on their own or to be directed to them from another source. Sort of a social work apprentice.

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            “I think it should be used to either build more shelters for the homeless or to remodel older buildings into shelters. It should also be used to purchase food to feed the homeless, and should also be used to employ counselors and people that could help someone get a job and start earning some money in order to get them off the street or out of the shelter and help them start their lives again.

       I also believe that it should be used for medical purposes to help the homeless that have illnesses. I also think that this money should be used to hold seminars all across the country to get other people aware of the homeless situation, and get them involved in trying to solve this problem. I believe that more and more people would get involved if they only knew more about the problem and could see it for themselves.”

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       “Build a shelter/halfway house and pay for trained staff to manage it. Institute a training program to re-train the homeless people for new skills to get jobs—a step toward becoming self-sufficient. Feed and clothe homeless people and Institute a program that would reach homeless people that might not know of shelters or training programs.”

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            “Three words: Jobs, jobs, jobs; okay, five more words: A decent place to live.”

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            “Get homeless people off the streets. Housing, medical care, mental health facilities, job training, government jobs, and foster homes.” This same person replied that s/he had “no sympathy” for homeless persons when asked what else could be done besides giving money!

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“Fund the ‘Continuum of Care’ proposal."

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“To renovate old closed down apartment buildings to be used to shelter the homeless.”

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            Here’s an ambitious project to say the least: “Set up a self contained community where the homeless have to run it as a small city. There would be a budget to be kept and products to be made. Education would be provided to learn new skills which would contribute to the community and used in the real world. By running a city, all skills from accounting to mechanics could be learned.

Also, extensive drug and alcohol treatment programs should be put in place.”

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            “Job training with some kind of support behind it while people are being trained!”

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       There are a wide variety of projects designed to serve the multi-faceted needs of the homeless.  Also, nearly all of these programs receive some type of government funding that requires either match money of “in kind” match, which is frequently counted as volunteer hours.  These hours are valued by the government at $10/hour volunteered.  Therefore, persons who don’t have money but do have time, could volunteer their time to an existing homeless program and help them deliver their services while helping them make their match requirements at the same time.  “Another thing that we all can do is to re-evaluate our “assumptions” about the phenomenon called homelessness.  If our opinions – good or bad – are simply gut reactions, then we should do a little research and re-form our “opinions” so that they are based on facts.  Once we know the facts, then we can begin to share these facts with others in our sphere of influence – not in a dictorial way, but in a way that is designed to help others learn.  In particular, we should be careful to reach our children the truth about the homeless, the various reasons why some become homeless, and – equally important what they and we in our society are doing and can do in the future to relieve this problem.

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          “Participate, and don’t look away”

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            “Get to know homelessness, then talk about it to friends, family, strangers on the rapid, etc.” –Jay Gardner.

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            Here’s a hands on, proactive approach, this person would, “go through my clothes and other belongings and give the things that are not necessities to me to the homeless.  Go door to door and ask people to donate canned foods or clothing, along with other everyday items.  Advise others to donate [un-needed items] to a group that will give them to the homeless instead of a group that sells them second hand for a profit.  Spare some time, and ask others to spare a little time as well; volunteer at a shelter by helping out with meals and other chores that might be needed.

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       Donate clothing; give your time to a shelter; donate food to soup kitchens,  Try to raise awareness concerning homelessness among friends and family members.  And, prayer always helps!”

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       “Try to contribute some time as well as understanding”

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       This person takes a political approach:  I would, “write to elected officials (congressman/senator) at national and local levels.  The problem is too large for me to solve and I’d be more willing to help out if the right people were in charge.  Positive programs get positive press.”

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      “Set up volunteer helpers to counsel the homeless in an effort to raise their self esteem.  Show people who do not have any money how they can make money” (job training.

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       “Put up large tents in an open area and provide ‘portapots’ and cots. Pay for food to be brought in from a local restaurant. Bus the homeless from the area to an unused building with shower facilities. [Editor's note: For $10 million, those tents better have showers in them already!] Then bus them to areas that need cleaned up. Incorporate Cleveland Works and CMHA to work on permanent employment and permanent housing.”

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     “Set up food and housing quarters, but only to be used for those with the ambition to earn their keep. Perhaps homeless persons could help in nonprofit organizations that also need funding but cannot get enough money.”

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     “Job training programs that would lead directly to existing jobs; drug treatment programs, and transitional housing.”

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     “Re-education, or initial education and literacy programs” --Jim Cutrone.

     Here’s a back to basics approach: “Tear down every abandoned city block, fill the holes with fertile soil and grow food and trees.”

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       “The money would best be spent by undoing the legislation that disallows mental patients from being forced to take their medicine. This certainly wouldn’t eliminate homelessness, but a sizable minority of homeless people have mental problems and cannot function in society without their medication. Also I believe the money should be spent on temporary housing because many homeless people cannot get jobs without an address.”

Copyright NEOCH for the Homeless Grapevine Sept – Dec. 1994  Issue 7