Homeless Targeted Around the USA

City Workers Hose Man Sleeping in Seattle

John Eze was in a sleeping bag under a pergola in Pioneer Square, Seattle on the morning of April 2, 2008 when three police cars pulled up on the stone pavers beside him. Although it was only 40 degrees that day, one of the officers had a nearby Parks Department employee turn a garden hose on Mr. Eze, spraying him and his sleeping bag. Next, an ambulance arrived, taking the soaking wet man away involuntarily for a mental health evaluation. Witnesses said he was not posing any imminent danger to himself or others. The Parks Department stated that the employee was merely removing feces and urine under the bench and that Mr. Eze was not mistreated in any way. The employee told a bystander who tried to stand up for Eze, “I’ve been dealing with him for five weeks and he won’t move, and I just need to do my job.”

From Real Change                                                                                  

April 9, 2008

Tighter Identification Requirements Pose More Obstacles

Tighter standards to receive identification are making the already difficult process harder for the homeless. One Oregon man Keith Butler, who has been homeless for 25 years said, “I couldn’t get a birth certificate without ID, and then I couldn’t get a Social Security Card without a birth certificate or the social security card. And I basically had nothing.” Keith’s problem is not unique and only growing. Start July 1, applicants for new, renewal, or replacement ID’s will need proof of a social security number, they will also need to prove their legal residence in the U.S. This can be done with a passport, birth certificate, or immigration papers. Drivers’ licenses, military ID’s, nor a letter from a corrections agency will be accepted. The standards have been tightening since September 11, 2001. The government wants to protect against identity theft and fraud. However, by making these changes it’s harder for the homeless to get an ID and therefore harder to get housing, legal employment, public assistance, or sometimes even a library card. Another problem is that there are fees to get birth certificates and ID’s. In Oregon the price for a birth certificate is $20 and the price for  a non-driver’s ID is $29 which will increase by $4.50 in July to accommodate for the new changes.

From Street Roots, Mara Grunbaum

May 6, 2008

Two Sought in Shooting at Homeless Camp

Robert Clipner, 47, returned home on July 2nd, there days after being shot in the chest by two teens. Clipner lives in the chest by two teens. Clipner lives in Franklinton Camp. A collection of homeless tents near train tracks in Columbus. The camp had been harassed during the last few weeks by teens who throw rocks and bottles at the camp from the train tracks in Columbus. The camp has been harassed during the last few weeks by teens who throw rocks and bottles at the camp from the train tracks. On June 29th, Clipner decided to confront the young men shouting, “This has got to stop!” The young men had a guns, but Clipner did not believe they were real. He shouted,” If that’s a real gun, then you better shoot me!” One attempted to shoot Clipner, but missed. The other shot and hit him in the chest. Clipner survived the shot, walking out of the hospital Wednesday night with the bullet remaining in his chest. The police have had a few leads on the culprits, but have not arrested anyone. Attacks like this against the homeless have been increasing. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, with 13 attacks, Ohio is considered the fourth most dangerous state for the homeless after Florida, California, and Nevada. The National Law center on Homelessness and Poverty reported that there were 160 unprovoked attacks, 28 being fatal, on the homeless which is up from 142 last year. Ken Andrews, an Outreach Coordinator with Open Shelter said their have been a lot of problems with outsiders and Franklinton camp since last year. He reported,” There have been situations where camps have been totally destroyed.” He also suspects such attacks have been under reported. Clipner and his girlfriend Becky said, “I’m scared to be out here, I’m scared to sleep at night.” 

From Columbus Dispatch, Theodore Becker

July 6, 2008

Activists Deliver 2,000 Signatures Protesting the City’s Abhorrent Laws

Advocates for People on the Streets filled Portland City Council Chambers with 2,000 signed postcard’s calling for the suspension of the city’s sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances. Currently, there is a ban on sitting or lying on the downtown street sidewalks between 7a.m. and 9a.m. People are not allowed to sleep on public property. These sit-lie laws have been in effect since August 2007. At the time they were created the city was supposed to create more shelters for the homeless to stay during the day they were also supposed to create more public bathrooms. However, none of this has happened, but the sit-lie laws are still in effect. The Council made no comments about the presentation.

From Street Roots Joann Zuhl

June 13, 2008

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio

Healthcare Industry Sometimes Fail Homeless Community

 By Meg Grady

 NEOCH Intern

In June, outreach nurse Donna Kelly attended to an elderly homeless woman near the Convention Center whose foot appeared to be injured, swollen, and infected. The woman, who showed signs of mental illness, resisted aid, which resulted in calls to the Cleveland Police Department and EMS. When the ambulance arrived, one Emergency Medical Technician told Kelly-who has been an outreach nurse for years-that there was nothing really wrong with the woman and the hospital was too busy to see her. “Lady, I’m talking from realities here, “he said. “She needs a primary care doctor.” Meanwhile, his partner had unwrapped the plastic bag from the homeless woman’s foot and discovered that the top of her foot had been amputated no more than a week before. The wound was infected and festering, and the woman needed immediate hospital attention.

Upon the woman’s arrival, the two separate emergency rooms at the hospital-medical and psychiatric-argued over who should take care of her. She was refused admittance and was instead released onto the street that night. Outreach workers were unable to locate her for a week, and when they finally did, she was in the same condition that she had been when they first found her. She was again transported by ambulance to the hospital, which finally admitted her. It was expected that she would be transferred to a nursing home.

The incident is a perfect example of the many barriers that homeless people face when seeking health care. Many can’t find care until the situation has become dire, and a trip to the emergency room is often the only option. Hospitals will allow patients-amputees, even-to simply walk out of the facility with no idea how to properly care for themselves. What’s more, it is difficult to obtain health care without health insurance, which virtually doesn’t exist in the lives of homeless people. While some primary care physicians can be seen for free at community clinics, the centers are overloaded and lines are long.

Those people in the United States lucky enough to have homes, jobs, and health insurance know what it’s like to have security. Many of Cleveland’s homeless community have a hard time finding stability. And without it, good health is a hard thing to come by.

A May 7 story by investigative reporter Tom Meyer on WKYC-TV covered the large number of EMS runs to the 2100 Lakeside shelter. The story, which was titled “’2100 Club’ costing taxpayers a bundle,” said that Cleveland safety forces responded to over a thousand 9-1-1 calls from the shelter last year. It included quotes from two EMS workers and Cleveland’s public safety director, but didn’t approach the issue from the other side. What do homeless advocates and shelter workers think about the issue?

The vast majority of 9-1-1 calls from Lakeside are not unnecessary, says Kelly, who works for Care Alliance, Cleveland’s health care for the homeless. “Any place that you have a large group of poor, unhealthy, disenfranchised people, you’re going to have a lot of 9-1-1 calls,” she said. Some people believe that calls could be cut down if shelter staff included a nurse or doctor, but she disagrees. “Even if you were to put a doctor or nurse in the shelter 24/7, it wouldn’t reduce the number of calls-they would problems that need to be dealt with,” she said.

Kelly says that there is a serious need in the homeless community for education in health literacy and preventive medicine, and is working to fill some of that need. In October 2007, she started a book club at 2100 Lakeside that has allowed discussion of health-related topics among its participants. In addition, a children’s health literacy class is in the works at West Side Catholic Shelter. The class will be mandatory for all residents and will break health care-related topics down to a level that everyone can understand. Finally, efforts are being made to get a nutrition and preventive medicine class off the ground at 2100 Lakeside.

There is a great need for a formal assessment to evaluate the health care needs of the local homeless population and to document current barriers in accessing care and treatment. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is currently trying to secure funding for such a study, and if possible, wound use the results of the assessment to develop a health care advocacy agenda and an implementation plan with recommended action steps to fill the gaps in service delivery.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio

Care on the Where?

By Diane Morris

NEOCH Intern

Philanthropic organizations can no longer provide food on public squar e for the hungry because the city says they must first get a permit. City of ordinance 133.03 states that groups holding a ;special   event ; in an outside area must have a special permit to do so. According to this ordinance; a special event is a preplanned event of series of events of last weeks duration, sponsored by a public or private person or entity. However     ,groups distributing food claim that they are not considerd a special event.

An article in the plan dealer written by Micheal K. McIntyre in May  008 states that city officials were event were concerned because homeless people were leaving food on the ground and vermin was a problem. The citys goal was to Public Square more ;presentable ; and not to large groups congregating to pass out food there. The citys alternative for the groups was to move the food distribution  to a different location and make conditions more sanitary and manageable on May 5 2008 MHS s tarted a homeless meal distribution program at their headquarters 1744 Payne Ave s  o the groups have a venue to provide food .

The homeless meal distributions program has been in operations for two months and,accordin g to organizers, it is going well. Currently the program is in operation four days a week from 6-9pm with around50-60 homeless people coming for a hot meal.Approximately 5-6 volunteers show up each week to distribute food and passesout clothing donations.There is an extra securiety guard on duty while food is being distributed. Eric Mores, Director of Homeless Services of MHS,says ;Volunteers have been really good at maintaining cleanup,taking trash to dumpsters, and generally keeping the area tidy.; Morse also says that MHS offers clothing for homeless people as well. Many of the people who come to their meal site are from MHS shelters and have already had a hot meal. Some people just come looking out for donation of clothing. Previously, every night except one was claimed by a group distribute food. After the move, only three nights regulary feature groups ministering to homeless people.

Care on Square, a church organization that pass out food to the hungry in Cleveland is one  of the groups asked by city officials to move their feeding site.although not as nice as East18th parking lot, they are closer to the womens shelter and consequently have seen an increase in the number of women who receive their services Tom Wagner of care on the square says,; In a meeting with MHS and the city on april  23rd , we were told that we needed to move from Mall B [the previous location] to the new location [at MHS] We were told we do not need a permit to serve there since it is on private property. We were also told the city is paying MHS $57,000 per year. We serve between 75 and 200 people each Saturday. We have ,lost, some people as part of a move, but many faces are visiting  us at the new location.; an old Chiness proverbs says, ;A person who has food has many promblems. A person who has no food has only one problem.; A hot bowl of soup and a piece of bread to a hungry homeless person can mean so much to him/her. Wagners says, we watch God continually provide food,volunteers, clothing and are in awe as we watch Him work.

We have made friends and truly feel we blessed to be apart of this ministry.; Groups like Care on the Square are committed to filling the stomachs of people in need, even if the city officials do not always see the value of their services.  CUYAHOGA AFFORDABLE HOUSING ALLIANCE 1;30 PM FIRST MONDAY OF EVERY MONTH 1350 EUCLID AVE LOWER LEVEL JOIN US AT BRING AFFORDABLE HOUSING TO Cleveland CELEBRATING 10 YEARS 2008.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio

New Street Card Hits Streets

By Milo Valek

NEOCH’s Street Card, a valuable resource for homeless people containing extensive up-to-date information on resources, has been updated for the sixteenth year in a row. They have already distributed 5,000 of them to individuals, shelters, and other agencies. With the Street Card, people can get access to shelters, meal sites, job training agencies, health clinics, chemical dependency services and other assistance programs, and nearly all the services listed can be accessed by just walking in without setting up an appointment. Bus routes are listed on the back for easy access to these services regardless of where in Cleveland you may stay. Sarah Valek, AmeriCorps*VISTA with NEOCH, describes the card as “a map of accessible city and county services that every homeless person needs to know about.”

“Of course, we couldn’t do it alone,” said Valek, “The Coalition wants to thank University Hospitals for printing the Street Card this year.”

The newest edition of the Street Card can be downloaded for free at http://www. Neoch.org under About Us/programs. Alternatively, those who want a few copies can call NEOCH at (216)432-0540. People all over are encouraged to make as many copies of the Street Card as necessary.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio


By Verneva Ziga

NEOCH Volunteer

NEOCH’s second photography class, which began in 2007 and was started in order to help currently or formerly homeless individuals develop their artistic skills and ability through photography, graduated on 4. The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (ODDC) provided NEOCH with a grant that allowed the students to enjoy a number of benefits including a stipend for the length of the class, various camera equipment and photography supplies. At the end of the eight weeks they chose their ten favorite photos to start their growing.

The students, hand-picked out of 60 applicants, came from diverse backgrounds with different dreams for their futures. For Larry Whitted, to become a photographer had been a lifelong dream. He thought he would not be able to pursue photographer due to time constraints. However, this class gave him the opportunity to learn from an experienced photographer. Other reasons for taking the class included adding to one’s resume and gaining experience in career that one could set him/her own schedule. One student, Pleasure Simmons, wanted to live the “high-speed paparazzi-like lifestyle.”

Some students had experience when the class began this April. For others, this was a first introduction. The eight students were taught by Call & Post photographer Mychal Lilly. Lilly considered the class, “An opportunity to share his blessings through helping others express their own experiences with photography.” The students appreciated the amount of experience he brought to them as well as his professional attitude.

From flowers to skateboards, the students found many different subject to photograph. The lake was another favorite. One student, Toni Anderson, did not have a preference and loved to photograph.  “Everything”! The student have become so talented that some of their photos were marketing their new skill to find career. Whitted would like to be either a portrait or sport photographer. Ernest Harris is going to use his new skills as a house painter so he can take before and after shots of the homes he works on. Simmons, who wants to live like a paparazzi, hopes to do freelance photography. Three of the students wanted to use their new skills to give back to the community and NEOCH for providing this opportunity. For example, Emory wants to try and get photographer in the middle and high schools.

Sabrina who lived in a house for eleven months without heat, lights, or gas would like to write a book about homelessness, particularly about the ways it affects women and children. She feels there is not enough help available for them. She plans on photographing the places where she and her children were homeless. She also wants to photographer other women and children experiencing some of the same problem she did. Anderson and many of the other students wants use their photos to help NEOCH with pictures in the Homeless Grapevine.

Lilly wished the students had more time for field trips and thought the class needed access to more computers since editing is an important part of taking photos. In the end, everyone wished the experience could’ve lasted longer. Whitted suggested a 16 week minimum, which would double the class’s current length. NEOCH is addressing these and other concerns for the photography class of 2009.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio.

Vendor Spotlight: Raymond Jacobs

By Bernadette Janes

NEOCH Volunteer

Before Raymond Jacobs became a vendor for the Homeless Grapevine, his varied careers were packed into one lifetime like pieces of an old southern parlor game.  It all started in 1947 in New Orleans, Louisiana, with an Ethiopian mother and a white German-Jewish father.  Growing up in the South Half-black and half white was not easy.  Within the multiple hues of that population, Raymond was categorized as Creole.

After finishing high school, Raymond and six buddies, all of them seventeen years of age celebrated their freedom b going on a fateful lark. Swilling down quarts of cheap wine, they ran, screaming, through startled neighborhoods, and suddenly found themselves in front of a Marine Corps recruiting office.  Deeply inebriated, they decided it might be fun to drop in and visit a while.  With the Vietnam War going on at the time, the group of robust seventeen-year-olds looked like fresh meat to the Recruiting Officer on duty.

He welcomed them in and immediately began pouring Jack Daniels whisky into them, regaling them with promises of fantastic benefits if they would enlist.  By the time the started for home, they understood nothing of the import of papers the recruiting officer thrust into their hands for their parents to sign.  All the parents signed the papers readily and sent them in.  Days later, stone sober and realizing the depth of the hole they had fallen into, the boys tried to get the papers back, with no success.

They were now United Sates Marines!  As soon as Raymond reached age, he was sent to Camp Pendleton for Boot Camp.  In Vietnam through 1965 and early 1966, he participated in heavy combat.  Fighting on Ho Chi Min Trail, he caught a barrage of sniper fire.  It bored a deep hole in his right shoulder, which remains open and will forever remind him of Vietnam.

Back in the U.S., Raymond tried hard to find a job, but jobs were scarce everywhere.  However, his younger brother was making money-pulling robberies and invited Raymond to join him.  Raymond became a lookout for his brother’s gang.  Eventually, he found a partner and became a robber himself.  His victims didn’t know the gun he displayed was empty, because he never wanted to hurt anyone.  All he wanted was money to live on.  For a few years, things went well, and he collected thousands of dollars, but in 1968 he was caught, convicted and spend the next 26 years in prison.  Fate again dealt him a bit of irony in the fact that his booking officer turned to be his own father.

Released in 1994, Raymond’s life took a radical turn.  Again faced with the need for money, he started panhandling on the streets.  Then, to his surprise, a new aptitude developed with him.  Always an alert and observant person, he began to catch purse-snatchers in the act.  Returning purses to their frightened owners, he felt warmth emanating for grateful people, warmth he had rarely experienced in his earlier life.  In time, he also became adept at finding lost wallets, cashiers checks, money orders, and whatever other valuables people unknowingly dropped on the streets.  Raymond became known in the community for his skill and concern for others.  He thus earned tremendous gratitude and appreciation from the many people whose lost or stolen items would never have been returned to them, but for his quick intelligent actions.

Never married, Raymond has lived the past twelve years with a companion whose stolen purse he recovered and returned to her.  He rues the circumstances, which led him into the robberies, but realizes it was only for survival, not because of a desire to frighten anyone.  He’s glad to be where he is at this time, known and welcomed in the community, and keeping a steady schedule as a vendor of the Grapevine.  Like his father, he embraces the Jewish religion, keeps the Sabbath on Saturday, and stays in tough with his Rabbi.  He now looks forward to the future a feeling that is new to him, for he knows nothing will ever be a heart stopping as all he experienced in the past.  Ready to take on whatever comes, he knows he’s made it through the bad, the good, and the in between, and after all the detours he took, and all the mishaps he stumbled into, he has finally arrived, and his whole self intact, at his true and natural way of life.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Transitional Experiment Struggling for Jobs

By Meg Grady

NEOCH intern

Six months have passed since the opening of North Point Transitional Housing Center.  For the men at North Point, six months make a point where they are expected to have found jobs and housing.  For others, it is a time to take a critical look at how effective the center’s methods have been so far.  The facility’s director asserts that the program has been successful; one former resident thinks that significant changes need to be made.

North Point was created in January in response to the closing of Aviation High School, an overflow shelter for homeless men-.  Interestingly, it serves a somewhat different purpose; the center features 160 beds for single men directly referred from the 2100 Lakeside shelter.  These men may stay anywhere from one to six months, and extensive case management aids them to developing good mental health, domestic skills, recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and emotional stability, as well as obtaining permanent housing.  Therefore, instead of replacing the overflow shelter it aims to eliminate the need for overflow beds by providing services that will permanently end the homelessness of the men participating in the program.

Participants are exclusively referred from 2100 Lakeside.  A case manager conducts a short, simple screening every Wednesday night to find men who fit the criteria for eligibility:  committed and able to work full-time, committed to moving into permanent housing, and committed to saving 4o percent of his income for housing.

Every resident is required to participate in an employment support program through either Towards Employment or Employment Connections.  This is the most positive aspect of North Point, said former resident Greg McPherson.

“Everyone is expected to look for a job,” said center director Ed Gemerchak.  “Over half are 25 to 30 applications a week.  If people refuse to do that, they can’t stay.”

In addition, every resident is required to open a savings account through Huntington Bank, which has agreed to provide a safe place to save money for any resident no matter what his credit history.  To assist in finding permanent housing, EDEN, Inc. provides tenant-based rental assistance to subsidized the first six months rent plus the cost of a security deposit.  Finally, the Child Support Enforcement Agency has agreed not to secure funds from a client’s bank account for one year and to work with the client to modify the terms of his support payments.

So far, says Gemerchak, North Point has been “very, very good.” 

As with all new projects, there have been growing pains,” he said, “We’ve had to learn as we go.  There have been successes and setbacks, but we’ve learned an incredible amount.  We’re very happy with the successes we’ve had.”

He attributes the successes to a great staff, as well as an atmosphere focused on working and/or looking for work.  As of June 27, 130 men had secured new jobs at an average wage of $8.63 per hour.  What’s more, he said, the center’s programs have been set up to ‘meet men where they’re at.”  With four different employment programs, “it’s not ‘one size fits all.”

According to a survey conducted by staff, men seem to like it at North Point.  The only repeated complaint was that there are no hot meals due to trouble with the kitchen.

However, for some people “six months isn’t enough time to get yourself together,” said McPherson.  “People come with no birth certificate, no ID, no drier’s license, and it’s a process to obtain those things.”

McPherson, who was discharged from the program before the six-month point, was dissatisfied with other aspects of the center as well.

“If a guy makes progress there, he won’t be able to stay there the whole six months,” he said.  “If you you’re making progress and you have some initiative to get yourself together, they think you’re taking advantage of them.  They didn’t give me a fair opportunity.  But I didn’t take personally.”

He says his extensive criminal record prevented him from successfully securing a job, and that mandatory resident meetings were scheduled when “they knew I wouldn’t be there.”  According to McPherson, once staff saw him using his girlfriend’s car, they began to think that he didn’t really belong at North Point.

Of the first group of residents, a total of 28 were discharged from the program, for offenses ranging from drug and alcohol violations to fighting to refusing to comply with program requirements.  The next batch of residents will likely be better screened, leading to better end results, said Gemerchk. 

We brought in some men who weren’t really willing and able to work, “ he said. “Now we can be more careful.”

Though the men are not tested for drugs and alcohol, use inside the facility is prohibited.  About two-thirds of residents are battling drug and alcohol addiction, and ‘if we tested at the front door, we’d have about 50 in the building instead of 160,” said Gemerchak.  “It isn’t a Pollyanna’ approach – we just believe that it’s better to recover in one’s own home than in a shelter.”

McPherson asserts, however, that there are ‘a lot of guys getting high,” using drugs and alcohol inside the facility.

There’s no curfew – guys take advantage of than,” he said.  He says that if he were in charge, he’d make a number of significant changes, among them a curfew (so that the men can ‘go to bed and get up early the next day to work”), stricter security guards, more enforced drug and alcohol policies, hand-picked residents who are willing to change their lived, and a year-long stay instead of just six months.

Over the next month or so, about 100 men will be moving out of North Point.  Extensions will be granted to those who qualify, though this process will be ‘somewhat strict,” said Gemerchak.  He looks forward to seeing what happens with residents after they leave.

“In the long term,” he said, “I think it (the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Financial investment) will pay off tremendously.”

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

In Memory of Anthony Waters

Commentary by Brian Davis

We often look past the guys sitting at the bus stops or we fail to see the humanity in those tying to stay out of the heat downtown because they have become part of the landscape.  These are men and women with families and children and moms and nieces and nephews.  It is not obvious that those individual’s walking down the street carrying their bags containing all their belongings have hidden talents and skills.  We have ignored the Neil Youngs, or Langston Hughes or Check Closes, Flannery O’Conners or Albert Aylers walking around the streets of Cleveland, and their talents are being wasted while they wait for stable housing.  Even for those who work in the homeless community, it is difficult to see the families, artists, or skilled craftspeople in the shelter.  Case workers see the faces as more work and feel more exhaustion with every new face they see.  Even those working with homeless people every day do not see the wealth of their talents until attending their memorial services.

I attended Anthony Water’s memorial service in the first week of July 2008 to learn more about the talents lost with his beating death.  No one brought up the circumstances of his death at the service so we will not dwell.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Downtown Alliance Alters Message

John Caputo

NEOCH Intern

The Downtown Alliance’s (DCA campaign to direct handouts to where they can be most useful is receiving a major facelift in its first full summer.  The campaign began almost a year ago in August 2007 in an attempt to drive non-homeless, overly aggressive panhandlers from the streets and redirect funds normally given to panhandlers to organizations and shelters that provide services for the homeless.  The DCA, a non-profit organization that is committed to economic growth n downtown Cleveland and, according to its website, is “dedicated to building a dynamic downtown, started the campaign with the belief that many people want to help, but that their funds should be going to those non-homeless panhandlers.  A large number of people pose as homeless people in order to receive the gifts of passerby.  It is these people whom the DCA is trying to oust.  They can be overly aggressive, is representing homeless people, feeding stereotypes and turning donors off to giving in the future.  Once all panhandlers, homeless and non-homeless, realize that they can make no money from their occupation, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance feel those that need help will seek out public services while those who don’t will simply leave the streets.

The idea sounds great.  People will give to the Downtown Homeless Fund, the fund where the Downtown Cleveland Alliance places all money raised from its campaign.  The Fund will give to organizations that help the homeless.  Shelters and kitchens will receive a boost in revenues.  They will be able to expand their services to feed the homeless and give them a roof to sleep under.  Perfect.  Great.  Problem solved. Not really.

Mark Lammon of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance says panhandling has decreased 40% since the campaign’s inception last august.  However, the fund has raised only $3,000 in that time.  That’s a clip of about $10 dollars a day, an amount that one panhandler could make fairly easily in one hour.  This program is supposed to help provide services for all homeless people in the entire city, not just enough for one.  So what’s the issue? How come the money is not coming in?  Are homeless people receiving the services promised by the campaign?

One obstacle t donation is the fact that right now it is difficult to donate.  The only option a donor has is to send a check or cash in the mail to the Downtown Homeless Fund (the address is c/o Downtown Cleveland Alliance, 50 Public Square, Suite 285, Cleveland, Ohio 44113 in case you feel inclined to donate now.)  A commuter who works in the city may see a homeless person on Public Square on his or her lunch hour and think to himself or herself, “I should send some money to the Downtown Cleveland Alliance.”  But b y the time most prospective donors get home, often miles away from the city, they have forgotten about going to the extra trouble to donate to a homeless program.  Donors need a constant reminder of the pain and difficulty of homelessness, to realize that the problem continues to exist past the time that it is right in front of their faces.

The issue of indirect donation also turns some donors off.  Many feel that the “Don Give Where it Can’t Help” campaign is just another sight of homelessness out of the public’s eyes.  They strongly oppose the absolute ignoring of homeless people who ask for help as a direct affront to the homeless person’s humanity.  This base of people has great potential giving power, but they feel their gifts are better utilized in efforts that directly affect homeless people, not those that they feel encourage ignoring them.

To further the revenues and thereby the positive effect the campaign can have on homeless people, it will be undergoing drastic changes and improvements in the coming weeks.  The name will be changed from negative “Don’t Give Where it Can’t Help” to something along the lines of “Give Where it Counts” or Give Where it is Needed.”  The campaign will have a different, more positive feel along with new graphics that the DCCA hopes will attract those who think that the DCA is giving people permission to ignore the homeless.

Several more convenient donations venues will spring up by the end of the summer to encourage people to donate.  Instead of the extra effort needed to mail in a check, donors can simply drop their give in one of twelve donation boxes that will be installed in key pedestrian traffic areas such as Tower City and West 6th Street.  The first of these will be installed around the end of the summer with no certain timetable for when all twelve will be in place.  A website, fully equipped with Pay Pal, where donors can give online with a credit or debit card is also in the works and should be operational by the end of the summer.  Lammon expects that the Downtown Homeless Fund’s dollars will double in the next year as a result of these new measurers.

Currently, with the small amount of money in their pot, the only services that DCA has been able to provide are assistance with getting identification such as Social Security Cards or birth certificates and buying bus passes.  These are necessary services but they hardly provide the large-scale relief that the program seems to promise.  Lammon hopes that with the expected increased revenues the program will be able to expand and fund more programs that directly homeless.

The greatest danger of indirect donations is that people will not know where to go to receive or how to use the services that the Downtown Cleveland Alliance is funding.  The programs may exist but if the people who need them do not know how to access them, then they are useless.  The Downtown Cleveland Alliance should publish a list of services that it is funding so that the people they are trying to help will know where they can go to receive that help.  RTA has recently donated a bus to the DCA that will be used to make services more accessible by providing a means of transportation to those reluctant to otherwise take advantage of them.

The only way the new measures in this campaign will be successful is if DCA makes it known that it is not giving people permission to ignore homelessness.  The campaign is titled “Don’t Give Where it Can’t Help” but many people perceive it to mean “Don’t Give At Al.”  This is the key reason why the campaign’s name is changing.  With the change of the campaign’s name, along with all the other additions, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance hopes to encourage people to give more freely and often.  Only with a clearly stated, demonstrative, and aggressive campaign will people be aware of the existence of homelessness and the necessary steps to eradicate it.  “Don’t Give Where it Can’t Help is not trying to keep homelessness out of sight.  It is trying to show the city that through a conscious common effort we can help those who need it.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Dietary Diversity Problems Within the Shelter

By Sarah Valek

AmeriCorps *VISTA

Living in an emergency shelter is hard enough – just look at the food.  Homeless shelters have an extremely limited budget for meals.  Quality of food is a worry in itself for residents, but imagine if you are a resident with a special diet, whether you are vegan/vegetarian, diabetic or allergic.

Suddenly your worries about food expand beyond the usual, “Will dinner be decent tonight?” to “can I actually eat what they’re serving for dinner tonight?”

Valerie Hill knows what it’s like.

For many months Hill was homeless and living in a women’s emergency shelter – all while struggling to maintain her began diet. (A began is someone who doesn’t eat meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs or any animal products whatsoever.)

She tells of her experiences overcoming a menu full of pepper steak and white rice.

Homeless Grapevine:  Tell us a bit about your diet and why you choose to be vegan.

Valerie Hill:  [I became began] mainly because of health reasons.  Before I became vegan I was having different types of health issues, so as I began to do my own research [into] holistic health and how different foods affect the body and how they process in the body.  I made a decision to try, at least try, something to see what would happen.  So basically [veganism] really started out as an experiment.  I was eating a lot of white sugar, I was drinking a lot of coffer, I was eating a lot of salt, I was doing a lot of dairy and it just wasn’t helping me – it was really hurting me.  So I decided I would just take a few things out of my diet and see what would happen.

I stopped eating dairy first and I cut out beef and sugar (I cut down on sugar a lot).  Then I noticed that the problems I was having began to ease up.  I began to drink more water and I upped my exercise regimen, which really, really helped and once I saw the change I was really excited.

Then I found out about a cleansing program called Master Cleanse (some people call it the Elimination Diet).  Well, let me tell you – I went on that cleanse and I felt good!  I felt so energetic and I was so pleased with the results that I was seeing [and I was happy] just knowing that my body was being cleansed from poisons and toxins I had been putting I over the years.  And not that I was wanting to lose any weight but, you know, I dropped a couple pounds and I was like, OK, I was cool with that!

Once I saw what the cleanse was doing for me, I completely, completely lost track.  I think I just got super, super zealous about the plan and before I knew anything, I realize I had been on the cleanse for a whole month! Some of my close friends and family were wondering. ‘Whoa, is she on drugs? What’s wrong with her?’ because I had so much energy.  I mean the energy that I had when I was on the cleanse was really unbelievable I was pretty much almost 100 percent vegan by the time I got on the cleanse, so after the cleanse was over I said, ‘Ok that’s it.’ I cleaned out my refrigerator.  ‘I am done.  I’ done.’

There’s this one thing I forgo to mention:  Before the cleanse I was actually on a medication called Coumadin, which is a blood thinner, because I also had problems with blood clots in my left leg. [During the cleanse] I had maybe three or four pills left in my bottle and I just woke up one day and said, ‘This is it. I’m tired.  No more,’ I opened up the bottle and flushed the pills down the toilet.  Certainly that’s not something I would recommend to everybody because everyone’s situation is their [own] situation, but that’s what I did for me and it worked for me.

Although I’ve had had some problems with my legs, at this time I’ve been able to pretty much keep that under control with diet and exercise and rest.

HG:  How long did you stay at an emergency shelter?

VH:  I was at the shelter and this is really insane because I just so happened to see the papers from when I originally came there and I had no idea that I had come [to the shelter on] December 10th [of 2007].  I was like ‘whoa!” because I didn’t know.  I didn’t think about it and honestly I didn’t want to think about it.  When I saw that, it just affected me.  It just kind of put a whole new face on things.  So, yeah,. From December 10th of {2007] to May 5th [of 2008].

HG:  Describe your typical diet when staying at the shelter.  What were you served?

VH:  Well, you know, whatever they made available was what I was served.  The real question is whether or not I actually ate it!  What I was served was what everybody else was served, which was whatever they made available.  It could be pepper steak over rice.  It could be whatever comes from the Food bank.  The other part of that is certainly I had the option of going and buying my own food which is what I did a lot of times because I really didn’t have a choice over the matter.  But even with that, it wasn’t like I could actually go shopping and buy a bag of things for the week because they [the shelter staff] don’t allow us to keep our food there.  So if I did buy something, it was just something that day or something for that particular meal.  Whether I got it from Dave’s or Reserve Square or what-have-you. I would buy whatever vegan options they would have available in the store or I’d go to the salad bar and make myself a nice salad.  But sometimes when I wasn’t able to do that because of the weather or because of how I was feeling physically in my body or because of limited funds – I was forced to make due with whatever was there [in the shelter].  You know, picking out chicken or just eating plain rice with butter or whatever.  Breakfast was usually pretty easy because they would have instant oatmeal most of the time or instant grits most of the time and on weekends different churches would come in and bring things, so breakfast was pretty east.

HG:  Were you satisfied with the shelter’s meal service?  If not, what practical changes would you suggest to make the shelter more accommodating? 

VH:  I’m going to tell you something.  You have people in there who are diabetic and you have people in there who have high blood pressure and you have people in there who have high or low cholesterol.  Personally, in my opinion, I think they need a dietician over there to help manage and to prepare meals better because (even though) I know it’s hard because mot of their food is given by the Food bank. But even with that I don’t think there’s an excuse.

HG:  Did you receive any attitude or antagonism from staff or other residents over your diet?

VH:  I will have to say yes, absolutely.  There were staff members who were trying to be accommodating as they could with the resources that they had.  So it was balanced when it came to that.  But especially when I first came there some of the staff members were like, ‘Who does she think she is?’ (They had that) kind of attitude and when there were some residents who looked at me strange when they saw me eating food that they had never seen.  They’d be like, ‘Whoa, what are you eating?’ or whatever like that.  That is to be expected because people don’t know.  They didn’t know me and they don’t know [about my diet] so that didn’t bother me too much.  But, at the same time, some of those same people who would be looking at me trying to figure out what I was eating would have this attitude that I thought I was better than everybody else.  But that was their problem and their opinion.

HG:  Is there any piece of advice you’d give to other people with special diets in a similar situation?

VH:  My advice would be, number one:  Not to be afraid and not to even hesitate to make suggestions about things they would like to have or type of things they would like to eat.  Become a part of the shelter where you definitely won’t be afraid to make suggestions.  Also, another piece of advice would be:  With their diet or their current way of eating, it is important for them not to sacrifice that.  Just because they’re in a shelter they don’t have to sacrifice having a special or a different diet.  They’re going to need it more being in a shelter because they don’t really serve nutritious meals there, first of all.  If they were to change their diet and say, ‘Oh well, I’ll just eat this for now and I’ll go back to my regular diet later.’ Now, that’s not going to work.  It’s going to end up [being] a big mistake in the long run.  They need to make sure they drink plenty of water and make sure they eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible and as [much as] they can by.  Try to keep a clear head about it because it was very hard for me.  It was very, very hard for me being there and a lot of times it was very frustrating.  There were times when I felt like I’m just gong to lose my cook and let somebody have it.  It’s hard.  It’s really hard.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Assistance Hardly Assisting

Commentary By Dolores Manly

Grapevine Vendor

I am on SSI and SSDI.  I get $610.00 a month.  I also have worked for the Grapevine as a vendor for 5 years now.  My $610.00 per month budget includes $160.00 a month for food.  People like me have to pay more money for garbage food like Save-a-Lot and Aldi’s and pay just as much as we would at regular supermarkets like Giant Eagle, Heinen’s, etc.  These supermarkets are way out of my reach.  Also, the better chain supermarkets give people bags and have a bakery department.  We poor pay this because we don’t have cars to get around and if we did the gas would limit travel to the grocery store.  Thank God I have a friend who is also on a fixed income.  He takes me to Giant Eagle.  The nearest one is in Garfield Heights.  My friend is complaining to me he can’t take me to the Giant Eagle because his insurance man wants to catch this poor man having any other passenger.

Also when cable came out in the late 70s or early 80s my mother always told us kids eventually we will pay for T.V. in the future.  George Bush made it into a law about 3 yrs ago. 

The rich can have good food because the better supermarkets are in their reach and they don’t have to go far.  Also, if we poor people need medical assistance, we have to go to St. Vincent Charity Hospital or Marymount in Garfield Heights now.  The nearest hospital around me used to have been 5 minutes away.  The United States is getting to be like Russia.  You are limited by your income as to what neighborhood you live in, what kind of food you eat, how much travel you can take.  If you make a little more money and have a little ambition SSI and SSDI will cut you off, and believe me I can’t get cut off right now.  When you are on SSDI or SSI you can only make $60.00 a month before they cut money out of your check.  Who can live on $60.00 a month, especially when you apply for the money and it takes them 3 years to determine you are eligible for the money.  They always deny you, and when you get denied you have to hire an attorney to get your money.  I am tired of being told where I can live at or what I can eat or the medical treatments I can have because of my income.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #85 in July-August 2008 Cleveland Ohio.