Local News: Aviation Still Closing, Still No Plan

Aviation Plans Crashing

    At the May 4 Homeless Congress meeting, City and County officials detailed the plan to replace the overflow shelter at Aviation High School, which is set to close.  Right now that plan can best be summarized as a hope and a prayer that homelessness will decrease before Halloween.  Congress members voted later in the month to urge the City and County to stop working on freeing up space within the Continuum and put firm plans in place for the day Aviation High School closes.  Congress members commented that it is going to be a frightening Halloween this year.

    Ruth Gillett of the County Office of Homeless Service, Rick Werner, Deputy County Administrator, and Natoya Walker of the City of Cleveland, along with City Council member Phyllis Cleveland attended the Homeless Congress meeting.  Walker, Werner and Gillett have worked with the men’s shelter providers over the last six months on a plan to free up space in the Continuum of Care system in order to eliminate the need for overflow.  They intend to then use the North Point Inn site as a permanent supportive housing facility and have 2100 Lakeside act as the entry and overflow shelter.  The residents who stay at Aviation and who attended the Congress meeting have seen no reduction in the number of homeless people seeking shelter at the overflow.  At the time of the meeting there were no firm timelines or backup plans in place for November 1, 2007 when Aviation is closed.

Parking Meters Will Soon Beg for Change

    The Downtown Alliance is planning on stepped-up enforcement of Cleveland’s panhandling law, and they have tentative plans to put in place “Charity Parking meters.”  These meters will allow pedestrians to give money to homeless service organizations in order to discourage the giving of money to an individual purporting to be in need of assistance.  The group has held initial meetings with religious and social service providers to discuss panhandling.  A few glaring issues came up during initial meetings about panhandling: first, there is no consensus on who the panhandlers are in our community; second, no one seems to know why people resort to panhandling or even what the extent of the problem is in our community.

City Breaking Up Homeless Camps

    With little fanfare and very little assistance from the representatives of the social service providers, a large encampment has developed near Brown’s Stadium.  Because of increased scrutiny from the Downtown clean-up crews and the recent attacks on the West Side, many homeless camps have moved off of Public Square.  A tent city has developed under the Shore way, which Downtown workers have dubbed “The Freeway Hilton.”  At least 14 tents are concentrated in a very small area in what turns out to be media parking for any event at Brown’s Stadium.  The Browns lease the space and they are asking the City to move the individuals before mid-June or those living at the camps will be arrested.  Denver, Seattle, and Portland have all struggled with the development of “tent cities.”

Community Circle I Closing

    Another subsidized building is in danger of being lost by the community.  Community Circle I high-rises and townhouses are in the Hough neighborhood and offer 160 units of affordable housing for low-income families and disabled individuals.  The property is in disrepair, as the federal government has allowed it to slowly deteriorate.  Now, after becoming a huge eyesore, the federal government is trying to foreclose on the building.  Once there is a foreclosure the building would lose its subsidy and all the tenants would have to leave.  The building would sit vacant and the property would have to be demolished, because it has very little value on the open market.  This would mean a net loss in affordable housing.  All the local politicians want the property saved and turned over to the City of Cleveland.  The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that watched this building slip into disrepair wants the building to lose its subsidy and they want to scatter all the tenants to the wind with a voucher.  We will see over the next 90 days what happens to the building.

Henry Casey Killed

During the recent attention of hate crimes directed at homeless people on the West Side, there was a murder on the east side of town of a long-time homeless person, Henry Casey.  While certainly not a hate crime, this act of violence received very little attention in the media.  Casey was killed on May 18 in the middle of the night near the Bishop Cosgrove Center where he regularly slept.  Friends held a memorial on Friday June 1 at the Cosgrove Center with reflections and a balloon launch.  The homeless community is very aware of the murderer, but no arrests have been made.

Voice Mail Day Proclaimed

    April 26, 2007 was Voice Mail Day in Cleveland. Falling on the same day as National Administrative Professionals Day, Cleveland City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland proclaimed April 26 as a day to sign up clients on the Cleveland Community Voice Mail program.  Over 1,000 people currently receive messages from potential landlords and employers by using CCVM. Shelters in Cleveland and Lorain County use the service so that they can reach their clients and shelters do not have to take messages for a transient population.  Cleveland Community Voice Mail signed up 80 people on April 26 and gave awards to the caseworkers who distributed the largest number of voice mailboxes to homeless people in the region.

Emerald Commons Has Grand Opening

    The newest affordable housing project funded in Cleveland opened last fall, and had their Grand Opening on May 31, 2007.  The $8.6 million dollar property serves 52 individuals who are long-term homeless (Editor’s Note: this is commonly referred to as “chronically homeless,” but Grapevine staff view this as an offensive phrase) and also have a disability.  Lt. Governor Lee Fischer and Mayor Frank Jackson were on hand to christen the new building on the cities West Side.  The owner and property manager is Eden Inc. with service provided by Mental Health Services, the AIDS Taskforce, and Recovery Resources.

Homeless Congress Has High Standards

    Aside from the discussion regarding the future of overflow shelters in Cleveland, the Homeless Congress finally finished the Shelter Standards bill.  They have presented it to social service providers, City and County officials, and Cleveland City Council member Phyllis Cleveland.  The shelter directors present asked for one month to look at the document and recommend possible changes.  The Congress will take up the recommendations at the end of June to forward a final bill to Councilperson Cleveland.  She has agreed to get it drafted into legal language and introduce the shelter standards bill in the fall.  (For more on this story, please see our front-page story, “Homeless Congress Seeks Shelter Standards.”)

Continuum of Care Update

    The Office of Homeless Services approved a request of $12.4 million in funds for housing, transitional shelter and supportive services for homeless people as part of the 2007 Continuum of Care request.  There is an additional $9.3 million in federal renewal funds to support existing Shelter Plus Care vouchers in the community.  East Side Catholic Shelter was left off the list because of financial and management issues.  Family Transitional Shelter has had to shutter 10-13 of their transitional housing units due to financial problems, and they have had a series of staff turnovers that is making it difficult for the organization to move forward.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio Issue 81 June-July 2007