Grapevine Vendor Nathaniel Hamm Finds Success

By Bernadette Janes

Nathaniel Hamm (Nate to his friends) is a long-time Homeless Grapevine vendor, whose dedication to the work surely accounts for his success in selling the paper. A Cleveland native, Nate had a good start in early life with his sister and three brothers. His father was a positive example, working at the ford Co, for many years and leaving Nate with values of steadfastness in work and respect for himself and others. Now, Nate especially loves the Homeless Grapevine for the great service it offers to people trying to establish a place for themselves and get a start in the working world.

Nate is a high school graduate who enjoys measuring up to a daily challenge. He also enjoys being out and meeting people, greeting them with his own special appeal, an appeal which emphasizes the importance of the Grapevine in informing readers of new legislative movement in the city, as well as its value in supporting people in Cleveland. Married and the father of a 15 year old boy, whom he visits as often as possible,

Nate sells the paper at three different sites: at CSU (of campus), at Public Square, and at the house of blues at 4th and Euclid. Always mindful of various territorial restrictions, Nate is very aware of rights and how to fight for them. He faced off against the house of blues when they wouldn’t allow him to sell the newspaper on the sidewalk. He succeeded in disputing their claim that it was “private property” and now the police don’t bother him here.

Nate has been working with NEOCH for more than ten years and will continue to do so even during periods working at other jobs. A skilled carpenter, he gets great pleasure out of building and seeing his finished handiwork become a useful structure. Playing the drum is another pastine he wishes he had more time for. However, his busy life doesn’t keep him from following news of the world, as well as the frequent disturbing reports of unequal treatment of African-American and Caucasians by our American justice system. In view of such disheartening realities, he does what he can for people newly released from prison by showing them that reading or selling the Homeless Grapevine could aid them in their quest for a new productive life.

At age 42, Nate has great ambitions for the future. He wants to get a place of his own, sharpen his selling and carpentry skills, and spend more time with his son. Yet, for now, Nate strives every day to make the general public aware of the Homeless Grapevine, and takes pride in its evidence of what homeless people are doing for themselves, because he knows that, in the long run, their progress will contribute and be of benefit to Cleveland society as a whole.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland, Ohio, Issue 83, November 2007

Lt. Governor Fisher Speaks at October Housing Meeting

By Kevin Cleary

On October 1, Lt. Governor of Ohio Lee Fisher was the keynote speaker at the monthly Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meeting. Social justice advocates, care providers, government and corporate officials and more gathered to hear his address on the ongoing foreclosure crisis.

Fisher began by issuing high praise foe those in attendance.

“Although I have spent many years dealing with a wide variety of human service issues as a state legislator, as Attorney General, and as the CEO for the Center for Families and Children, [there is] one thing I am very confident about today…. Every single person in the room knows more about this subject than I do,” said Fisher.

Fisher’s address focused on the state’s efforts to fight the foreclosure crisis, which he deemed the “elephant in the room.” He also spoke of the broad impact of the crisis in Ohio.

“ The crisis of home foreclosure has touched all corners of our state,” said Fisher.

Fisher told the audience that Governor Strickland had formed and emergency task force to combat the cries and described some of the task force’s recommendations.

He underscored the scope of the problem by stating the approximately $ 1 trillion in adjustable rate mortgages will reset over the next five years in the US.

According to Fischer, the task force issued 27 recommendations, primarily focused on homeowners. Fisher also stated that Ohio would enter into a compact with sub-prime lenders to enact many of the task force’s recommendations.

He spoke of several categories of actions within the recommendations. They included encouraging borrowers to get help, expanding counseling services for homeowners, working with lenders and services, providing options for loan restructuring, improving Ohio’s foreclosure process, strengthening protections for homeowners, and addressing vacant housing and revitalizing neighborhoods.

Many in the audience expressed frustration over the crisis’s impact in Cuyahoga county Steve Wertheim, director of United Way’s First Call for Help, stated that the 211 hotline had received 1500 calls about foreclosures in August, and that the calls were coming from all over the county.

A number of audience members discussed the need for helping individuals with security deposit, as well as reducing the waiting period for those who have filed for disability insurance and Medicaid. Several audience members bemoaned banks and lenders that foreclosed and then left buildings to sit vacant. According to Phil Star, there are over 10,00 back owned properties in the county, and more than 7,000 of those are vacant.

The emergency task force’s recommendations are available online as an Adobe PDF at http://www.com.state.oh.is/admn/pub/FinalReport.pdf.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland, Ohio, Issue 83, November 2007

Local News: Homeless Families Face Greater Difficulties

New Public Square Curfew Enforced

The curfew on Public Square began to be enforced on October 2 2007. Two individuals received tickets the first night from the Cleveland police. Other moved to the sidewalk, behind buildings or at the soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Square to avoid a citation. This new law prohibits homeless and those who want to sit down while walking downtown from using Pubic Square between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. There are non – homeless groups who are weighing their options within the judicial or executive branch of government to counteract this law.

City Rats Plague Public Square Providers

On October 3, 2007, on the day after the curfew went into force, the City of Cleveland decided to clean up the Square – since no one will be sleeping there going forward. The city found a large number of rats burrows during the clean – up, and declared a health emergency. They worked to exterminate the rat problem, and in doing so decided that no more food could be served on the Square. City officials said that all the food, the lack of trash receptacles, and the construction has made it impossible to serve food to homeless people on Public Square. Police were sent out to stop any group from unloading food and those groups were threatened with arrest or large fines for providing food without a permit.

The City had met with the food providers once per month beginning in July 2007, and had assured the food providers on September 27 that they would not ban the distribution of food to homeless people while a compromise was worked out.

The City has a decades old law on the books that requires all groups to get a permit from the Health department before they can distribute food. For the last 20 years this law has not been enforced until October 3, 2007.

Food distributors including churches, Food Not Bombs, and temples were relocated to a parking lot near East 18th and Lakeside Ave. The new location had no security, no lighting, no trash bins, and no places to sit down. After three weeks, the City agreed to a site closer to Public Square as long as the food providers sign a “covenant” that they will clean up and eventually move inside. This has caused a great deal of suspicion and anger among the volunteers who provide food to homeless people outside.

Voting Lawsuit Continues

Before the 2006 election, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Service Employees and International Union sued Kenneth Blackwell, then Ohio Secretary of State, and the State of Ohio over a requirement for identification in order to vote. The plaintiffs were successful in negotiating a compromise for the 2006 election, but that was a temporary solution. The Coalition and SEIU are still attempting to negotiate a compromise to this problem. Individuals who earn low incomes and homeless people often do not have access to identification, and therefore would not be able to vote a regular ballot on Election Day. According to plaintiffs, it costs between $17 and $75 to get identification depending on availability of the birth certificate, and therefore the law amounts to an illegal poll tax as a fee for voting. The State wants to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on an Indiana voting identification law that is pending before the court.

NEOCH Not Dead Yet

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless nearly went out of business in the summer of 2007. With help from local foundations, the City of Cleveland, and concerned individuals the coalition was given some breathing room to figure out a plan for the future. After tow months of debate and strategic thinking, the coalition has made decisions about the future. The plan for the future of the Coalition is available on the NEOCH website under “About us/Strategic plan.”

NEOCH intends to keep publishing the grapevine in 2008, but will not have a staff person dedicated to this activity. The Board is planning to also maintain the Cleveland Homeless legal Assistance Program and dedicate staff to advocacy and public education. Cleveland Community Voice Mail and Bridging the Gap program will be transferred to another social service provider in the community in 2008.

Feds Extend Deadlines to Replace Aviation Shelter

The Federal Aviation Administration has relented in their demand to have the overflow shelter at Aviation High School close in 2007. The FAA considers the shelter a security concern because of its proximity to Burke Lakefront Airport, and had demanded that the City close the facility no later then Halloween 2007.

City and County officials have purchased North Point Inn on superior Ave. as the replacement for Aviation. North Point will have 160 shelter beds and will operate as a 6 to 8 month transitional facility for men who have the ability to earn income and move into housing. Unfortunately, North Point needs a new sprinkler system before it ca open, and that will take a number of months to put in place. The other issue is that the strip club bar is not strutting quietly into the dark, and they refuse to close.

Because of all these issues, the FAA has given the City extra time to close the overflow shelter at Aviation High School. The new deadline is January 2008.

Women’s Shelter Struggles Against Nature

The community Women’s shelter the entry shelter for women and families who become homeless, has struggled to recover from a fold after heavy rains this summer. They also have had to battle and infestation of bedbugs that has made life at the shelter difficult. CWS has two buildings next to each other. One is a two-story building where the women stay during the day, with a kitchen and staff offices as well as bedrooms. The other is a three-story building with a basement, beds on the second floor and the former health care clinic on the first floor.

The basement was flooded and all the furniture, offices, family area, and sitting room were destroyed by the flood. The shelter has not had the resources to renovate the former clinic for use as a shelter, and now is contending with the water damage to the basement. On top of all of this, the shelter has had to replace every wooden bed in the facility with metal beds in order to fight a bedbug outbreak. Bedbugs are making resurgence across the United States, and they burrow into furniture with direct contact by a pesticide as the only method for elimination. All of these challenges are making the stay of homeless families especially difficult in Cleveland.

East Side Catholic’s Iwosan Program Closed

Cleveland lost three shelters for those experiencing domestic violence in the last five years, and this summer Cuyahoga County saw the closing of an alcohol and drug treatment facility for homeless women. East Side Catholic shelter, struggling to stay open over the past two years, this featured 36 in – patient treatment beds, but any loss in the community is a huge step backwards. Cleveland has so few opportunities for treatment beds that are not assigned by the judicial system, and programs for women are even more scarce. These closures make it difficult for women to find a path back into housing, and can be trace to federal policies away from families and toward long-term homelessness.

OCHA Conference on Re-Entry a Big Hit

The AmeriCorps VISTA members under the statewide initiative of the Ohio Coalition of Homeless Advocates hosted a conference in Columbus to focus attention on the re-entry of homeless people for corrections facility. The conference at YMCA in Columbus on October 12 had 160 participants, including presenters from around the state of Ohio. Five Coalitions from around Ohio co-sponsored the conference, and local VISTA Joshua Kanary and Sarah Valek helped to lead the effort in organizing this conference. Edwin Paris, a speaker on the problems homeless people when the exit jail and try to reintegrate into the community. The Community Housing Network staff in Columbus gave an overview of their program, and Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Re Entry administrator, Angi Lee gave a presentation on the State efforts. Evaluations of the conference were mostly positive, and plans are underway for a gathering in 2008.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland, Ohio, Issue 83, November 2007

Lawsuit filed to Protect Homeless People’s Rights

By Paula Lomazzi

from Sacramento’s Homeward Street Journal

A lawsuit was filed August 2, 2007 in the federal court challenging Sacramento’s anti-camping ordinance and confiscation of property without prior notice or proper storage.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 individual plaintiffs who have had their property taken by City and County works crews and/or have been cited for camping on public property.  Loaves & Fishes, Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC), and Francis House have joined the suit as plaintiffs.  The lawsuit charges that the City and County practices are an ongoing violation f rights guaranteed by the 8th,4th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution Class action certification is being sought.

“City and County governments in Sacramento have a long history of taking basic survival equipment from homeless people without proper notice,” said Mark Merin, the principal attorney for the group, “Tents, sleeping bags and blankets are tossed into County dumpsters by Sheriff’s work crews and homeless people are left to shiver in the night.  Deputies then write them tickets for sleeping.  It is our goal to get these practices stopped before the onset of winter.

“People think that homeless people can just go to shelters,” Merin continued.  “but these are not enough shelters available at any tie of the year in Sacramento.  People have to sleep and if they have no housing and no shelter is available, then they have to sleep out in the open.  The solution to homelessness is housing.  It is not in harassing homeless people until they go away.”

The lawsuit asks that the city and county provide notice to homeless people of an intended clean-up of camping sites in a reasonable period of time before a sweep and that the property taken be stored at a location reasonably proximate to the place from which it was taken to give homeless people an opportunity to reclaim their property.  The city is being asked to quit citing homeless people during the night or early morning hours.  Other requests are for clean, maintained portable toilets, sinks and garbage dumpsters located near where homeless people sleep.  Also, storage spaces for their possessions would be requested.  These measures would allow homeless people to help alleviate many burdens placed on the general community.  Further real solutions to homelessness will be asked for, such as funding for additional shelters, homeless services and permanent housing.  Individual’s plaintiffs should also be compensated for lost property and a small amount per incident.

The criminalization of homelessness has been the policy of Sacramento for many years in response to a growing homeless population.  City and County policy makers have been educated from more recent national studies and practices that prove that the criminal justice system not only is not a solution to homelessness, criminalization can put further obstructions in a homeless person’s ability to better their residential situation.  It has been found that providing housing and services to homeless people is less expensive to a community than if the person is left homeless.  This is because a person that is homeless makes more emergency hospital visits, uses more mental health services, shelter stays, jail and booking fees, court cost, etc.  When a person is stable in housing these costs to the community are minimized and a formerly homeless person will be more likely to seek help and take steps towards their independence.

NEOCH Homeless Grapevine November-December 2007 Issue 83

Homeless Still Endangered Across America

Man Not Guilty in Homeless Feeding Case

Orlando, FL – A man arrested for feeding homeless people in Orlando was found not guilty of a misdemeanor charge against him, according to an article posted on WKMG’S website.

Eric Montanez was arrested several months ago on suspicion of serving more than 25 homeless people, which Orlando police said violates a city ordinance states that a charity can feed up to 25 people at a time.

Montanez faced a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine if he would have been convicted.

City Shuts Water To Keehi Homeless Camp 

Honolulu, HI – Just a day after KITV featured a community of homeless people living on the edge of a city park at Keehi Lagoon, the city shut down their water supply, according to an article on The HawaiiChannel.com. More than 50 people were sharing an illegal water valve that city crews shut off the day after the report.

The city’s move to cut off the water line will make life more difficult for dozens of homeless people at Keehi Lagoon Park, some of whom have lived there for more than a year. However they said they would stay.

At least 40 people live in about 30 makeshift homes on a drainage canal along Keehi Lagoon. They used hoses to distribute water from one faucet to different families who live in house made of scrap wood and metal, some of which have bedrooms, dining rooms and kitchens.

A spokesman for the mayor was quoted in the article saying that there are no plans to close the park at night or evict the homeless community. However, he said the city needed to shut down the water valve because it was an illegal hookup, and the constantly – running water was costing city taxpayers a lot of money. 

Transit Officer Fired for Beating Homeless couple 

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – A city transit officer accused of beating up homeless couple at a transit stop has been fired, according to an article on KOB.com Eyewitness News

Brian Mazur was charged with assault and battery for the incident in which several people called 911 to report the officer was punching and kicking a homeless couple. The couple included a woman in a wheelchair.

Mazur will reportedly appeal his firing, claiming the case was blown out of proportion.

Las Vegas Pursues Alternative to Panhandling 

Las Vegas, NV – Las Vegas plans to join Denver, Chattanooga and Minneapolis in enacting a program that would put money from certain parking meters into a trust fund to get homeless people off the streets.

According to an article on KVBC.com News Channel 3, the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Commission is promoting the program as an alternative to giving to panhandlers.

The program is still in its planning stage. It would have to pass a vote from city council to be enacted.

Teen Charged in Murder of Homeless Man 

ABILENE, TX – A 15 year – old boy has been charged with murder in the beating death of a 48-year – old homeless man – and police are seeking a second suspect.

According to an article from the AP Texas News, victim Eric Raphael McMahon was found badly beaten in an alley behind a homeless ministry center. Doctors removed McMahon from life support the next day.

Witnesses told police that two men in their late teens assaulted the victim.

McMahon was unemployed and had been in the Abilene area several years. Police said McMahon was retired from the Texas National Guard. No information about a possible motive has been released.

 

National Housing trust Moves Forward

The National Housing Trust was introduced this summer, and passed the U.S, House of Representatives. Activists are championing this as a major step forward to rebuilding affordable housing in the United States. The President has threatened to veto the bill should it reach his desk. The senate must introduce and pass this bill before it can go to the president. If this legislation were passed most of the funds in the first year would go to help with gulf coast relief to reconstruct some of the housing lost in 2005 after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland, Ohio, Issue 83, November 2007

 

Compassion for Homeless People Only Lasts 20 Years

Editorial

Two decades are about the outside limits of people’s patience for compassion and service to the downtrodden.  Cleveland has now reached the 20th year of the homeless crisis, and we are seeing a new series of measurers to make it illegal to be poor and an effort to remove homeless people from the public eye.  It no longer matters that the face of homelessness is a young person or that families are breaking up when they become homeless because we are not responding appropriately to the unstable housing market.

It no longer matters that homeless people are attacked just for being homeless in public.  Some even view it as entertaining.  It no longer matters that people are discharged from the hospitals to the shelters or that men and women who bravely serve their country during Vietnam, Iraq I Iraq II are now living in the shelters.

Cleveland was one of the last cities to reach this point.  Our strong history with religion and the labor movement has always had a major influence on politics, and often made Cleveland a center for progressive thinking.  For instance, we were one of the last cities in America to pass a panhandling ordinance.  Unfortunately, this opened the flood gates for a serious of measures that attempt to make homeless people invisible.

We hear only a whimper now when the government makes law directed at homeless people.  Cleveland’s own Harry Potter, Joe Cimperman, used his magic wand to make homeless people disappear from Public Square with a curfew.  As the curfew went into effect, a ban of the distribution of food was also instituted at all of the downtown parks.  The City suddenly began enforcing an archaic requirement for a license that had not been enforced for over 20 years.

A lot of this is our own fault.  It is the fault of the service providers who have squandered the heaps of money thrown at the problem for 30 years.  We have not policed ourselves very well, and we spend $30,000 or $40,000 or even $55,000 to place one into housing in this community.  Taxpayers see this and think, “what a waste.”

We have concentrated so much time and so many resources on pulling out bodies that we forgot to solve the problems associated with homelessness.  We have let the federal government off the hook by allowing them to steal resource from housing, job training, re-entry programs, and health care to pay off ridiculous debts, wars, and health insurance costs.  We have let the state of Ohio off the hook by taking money from welfare, healthcare, and social support service and giving us tax breaks instead of giving homeless people a break.

We have trusted government too much.  We actually believed what elected officials told us when they said that they would close the asylums and give us more money in “community care.”  We believed them when they told us they would take down ghettos and spread affordable housing throughout the community.  And we were suckered into believing that welfare reform would end reliance on government in favor of jobs that could actually support a family.

We were foolish not to understand that the “war on drugs” was actually code for a “war on people who aren’t white,” just as many understand that No Section 8” is often

Code for “no black tenants.”

The bottom line is that 20 years is apparently the outside limit for compassion here in America.  In order to avid donor fatigue, crises must be solved in less than 20 years or they will never get solved.

Do you hear me, New Orleans?  Your city has 17 years left before America turns its back on you. Or maybe there is a New Orleans exception to this rule, and we turn our backs in 20 weeks, since we’re still failing that fair city.

Here in Cleveland, we’re turning our back on our own citizens in need.  Rather than combat poverty, we combat panhandlers by putting up big posters that say most people who ask for money are scammers.  Our leading churches are now telling us not to give directly to the needy but to them instead.  Isn’t this in direct contrast to the message given by the founders of their religion, Jesus Christ?

“The young man said to him, ‘All these things have I have observed: what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come and follow me.’”

 By contrast, the faces of homeless kids on posters helped raise money, but not for those kids.  Many of those kids are not the older men we see struggling to get food in advertisements in the sports section.  We may still give money during the holidays or volunteer, or watch a sitcom about volunteering, in a soup kitchen, but we have resolved ourselves to forever stepping over homeless people in our city. 

Collectively, we don’t care about homeless people as much as we did in the 1980s, a decade famed for glorifying greed.  We just don’t have time anymore for people without homes.  It is sad to realize that compassion has an expiration date, but once we accept this reality, we can begin to plan for a future based on a  shortage of kindness.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine in 2007.

City of Cleveland Wants to Move “Square” Meals Elsewhere

Analysis by Joshua Kanary

   For several decades now, a number of faith based and charitable groups have used Public Square as a convenient location to serve meals to homeless and impoverished individuals in Cleveland. Groups such as Food Not Bombs, care on the Square, Willoughby Hills Church, Bethel Temple, and John Carroll University are just a small sampling of the names behind the food.

   The City of Cleveland has sought for several years a relocation of these meals to an indoor location in order to get them off of Public Square. Efforts from the previous Campbell administration met with resistance, but there was a renewed effort from the Jackson administration and city council to help the groups relocate.

    The City partnered with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless earlier this year in and effort to negotiate with the groups and find a suitable location for relocation. However, negotiations soured as the City of Cleveland turned to harsher methods to force providers off the Square. Citing health concerns, law enforcement at the request of City officials suddenly began enforcing a seemingly forgotten licensing requirement, the city effectively banning the Public Square meals beginning October 3rd.

     All sides now seem to be gearing up for battle; thought efforts to negotiate are still underway. The following is a timeline of events leading up to the ban, and a summary of the viewpoints represented.

July 10

 

   The City of Cleveland begins meeting with meal providers and NEOCH on a monthly basis in order to discuss better coordination of services and the possible opening of an indoor location. The original pair of groups that attended were Food Not Bombs and Care of the Square. But over the coming months, many of the other groups joined the discussions. Although several topics came up during the meetings, the main focus was the City’s proposal to move to an indoor location.

    The city stated that an indoor location would benefit all parties, as the indoor meals would be more sanitary, the outdoor meals were becoming a bigger burden to passersby because of the construction on Public Square, and because people had begun to complain about trash build – up on the Square. The City also sated that Public Square is the “gateway to the city” and needed to be attractive.

    NEOCH was also advocating for an indoor location to serve the meals, stating that homeless people shouldn’t have to face the potential embarrassment of receiving their meals in public, and that an indoor location could provide running water, protection from the elements, and a public restroom. NEOCH also felt such a location would make it easier for outreach workers to coordinate services and stay in touch with clients who might otherwise be hard to reach. NEOCH staff were concerned that eating outside was undignified and difficult with the harsh Cleveland weather.

   However, many of the groups were resistant to the move because they felt the City was actually just trying to hide homeless people. Additionally, they stated that the City had moved homeless people around on previous occasions and the groups and their clients were tried of moving. Another concern cited by the groups was that security could become an issue if the feeding was moved out of the public eye to a more remote indoor location.

   Despite their differences, the groups continued to meet with City, and independently, hoping to reach a reasonable compromise.

September 27

   After several meetings and much discussion, a plan to find an indoor location suitable to all involved was put into motion:

   With help from the City, outreach workers, and NEOCH, the groups planned to open a communal dining hall by winter. The groups agreed to scout possible “dream locations” for the communal dining hall and relay those to NEOCH. NEOCH agreed to compile the list of locations for the City to approve before the City would help to fund the relocation.

    Additionally, the organizations stated that they would go to their own members and search for further funding among them. In exchange, the City offered to look into putting money towards and overnight drop – in center.

    An alternate list of outdoor locations, such as Chester Commons, was put together in case Public Square became too crowded because of the construction of the Euclid Corridor.

October 3

   While setting up to serve their usual lunch on Public Square, Care on the Square was approached by police officers and was told they would be ticketed if they unloaded their food. The group offered to move Chester Commons, since that was a previously suggested alternate location, but they were informed by the officers that they would be ticketed there or at any other location if they attempted to provide meals. This happened several hours after the City began enforcing the new Public Square curfew by ticketing two homeless individuals sleeping on the Square. After this date, no one was allowed back on the Square to provide meals.

   The City explains they would not allow the meal providers to serve on the Square because public health officials found several rat nests on the Square. The City claimed that nests were a result of the waste produced from the public meals.

   The City then offered an alternate location for the meals at East 18th and Davenport (one block north of Lakeside). However, the meal providers found the site unacceptable because the location was far from the public eye and made it seem like they really were trying to hide homeless people. Additionally, the groups felt that the location was not safe for providers or recipients, and the Davenport locations was too far away for many disabled people to travel.

   Groups stated that the number of people they usually served dropped in half because many were either unable to travel to the new location or did not feel safe there. With no other choice, the meal providers continued their service at the new location while NEOCH continued to negotiate a compromise with the City and groups.

October 22

   The City gets back to the organizations with an alternate location next the Mall B, at which they can provide meals. The groups were asked to sign a Covenant prepared by the city.

    The covenant required that the groups follow established health codes, clean up after themselves, monitor recipients to prevent public urination and defecation, stay until the last client is served, and interact with social service providers.

   The groups were also required to acknowledge that the site is only temporary, and were told to  “ respect the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and clean – up crews.”

October 25

  The City meets with NEOCH and the meal providers in order to discuss the terms of the Covenant. Many of the meal providers were angry and upset about the City’s actions and attitudes ticketing began.

   One particular portion of the proposed Covenant greatly irritated the groups: the provision requiring them to function as “ bathroom monitors.” Recipients of the meals do not have access to public restrooms at the current location, as they once did not Public Square. Recipients of the meals, and volunteers were able to avail themselves of the nearby bathrooms in Tower City when the meals were still served on the Square.

   The groups requested a portable toilet from the City, but the City denied them due to budget constraints. However, the City also denied the groups permission to provide their own portable bathroom for meal recipients.

   Groups involved with the discussions feel that the City is no longer willing to work with them. They believe this was shown especially when one group requested to distribute blankets and clothing at Public Square instead of the meals, and was promptly denied.

   Groups felt the October 25th meeting was a sharp contrast to the September 27th meeting in which the organization left feeling empowered and ready to work with the City. The night of October 25th left them feeling anything but empowered.

   The direction the groups will take now is uncertain, but they are talking and working amongst solution. One of the groups, Food Not Bombs, has experience fighting feeding bans in other cities (most notably Orlando and Las Vegas). It is hoped that the City and the groups can come back together and forge an agreement, but a climate of suspicion and intimidation has hampered the discussions. If things go badly, the City of Cleveland may find itself facing lawsuits similar to those in other cities, and no one will be happy about that.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland, Ohio, Issue 83, November 2007