Walking with a Homeless Man

Commentary by Everett Brown -

Homeless Grapevine Vendor

Can a person be homeless and have a house? Is owning a house the same as not being homeless? Some people would say that if you have a house you are not homeless. Other people would say that wherever you lay your hat is your home. Well, I had the opportunity to walk with a homeless man. We shared coffee together, we ate together, and we even slept in the same places together. I wanted to get his perspective on homelessness so I asked him what he thought. He looked me square in the eyes and said, “my friend, a house is nothing but a shell. The person inside the house is what makes it a home.”

This homeless man once had everything most people would love to have. He had a beautiful house, a loving family and a wonderful career. He was very ambitious, educated and well liked by others in his community. But somewhere down the line his ambitions had consumed him. The more he got, the more he wanted. Not being grateful for what he was blessed with, he decided to find gratification outside of his home. Once again the street has stolen a wonderful man’s soul. His family pleaded and begged him to come back. His body returned but his soul was gone. Eventually his wife and kids left him.

There was nothing left but an empty house with wonderful memories. Not until his family was gone did he realize he had given up the most precious thing he ever had, the love of his wife and kids. On his eighth wedding anniversary he decided to walk away from his house. He grabbed something and took the little bit of hope he had left with him.

Today he says he has a new perspective on life. He prays a lot and asks God for forgiveness. His soul is returning little by little. He still misses his family but he put it all in God’s hands. After hearing his story, I felt real bad for him. He said “don’t feel sorry for me, I take full responsibility for my actions. I know today if I stay close to God, everything will work itself out.” I talk to that homeless man everyday when I look in the mirror. Hopefully that homeless man will find his way back home.

Editor’s Note: There are 13 definitions of homelessness by the federal government with the major funder of shelters, HUD, having a limited definition.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Tribute Concert for Cleveland’s Homeless

By Jason Williams Volunteer

The Woodchopper’s Ball (named after a Woody Herman tune) is an annual Folk/Acoustic Guitar concert benefiting the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. The concert date this year is Saturday, December 13th, at 7:00 pm; and the location is the Kent Stage, 175 East Main Street, Kent, Ohio (www.kentstage.org).

The founder of WCB is a genuinely nice fellow named Brian Henke. Mr. Henke’s been doing the benefit now for “ten years now or close to it”. The concert will have “nine of the very best acoustic guitarists in the Universe.” So far, though, the guitarists performing have yet to be announced.

When I talked to Mr. Henke a couple weeks back, I asked him how he decided which musicians to pick for this concert. He replied, “That’s the hardest part. But it all comes down the chemistry amongst the guitarists.” This concert will have “three sets of three sets of round robin performances,” so chemistry, indeed, will be very important.

I also asked Mr. Henke about his personal influences, musically and morally. (Morally because almost all of the proceeds from the concert go to the Coalition. The musicians aren’t paid to be there. Their expenses are paid for-plane tickets and lodging-but the rest, including Mr. Henke’s time in arranging this, is all volunteer. This is a terrific, creative endeavor to help one’s fellow humans). Mr. Henke told me his top influences were “Beethoven, Phil Keaggy, Pete Townsend, Michael Hedges and The Beatles.” As for Mr. Henke’s moral influences, he told me he “gets a lot of joy being involved with giving and sharing.” He doesn’t “believe in religion,” but “believes in God. We all need to look out for each other. We all need to love each other more.”

Our conversation side-winded beyond my questions and into many topics, and among these topics were the mixture of spirituality and creativity. “A creative movement is a spiritual movement, whether it be positive or negative. With information we can capture infinity, with love we can make infinity worth imagining.” With this positive attitude toward the concert and life, it’s bound to be an amazing event. Weather conditions permitting, Mr. Henke expects a large audience this year.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Speaker Spotlight: Don Rebuilds His Life

By: Bernadette James  NEOCH Volunteer

Editor’s Note: Street voices is a Speaker’s Bureau made up of homeless and formerly homeless individuals who speak about their experiences in order to inspire their audience whether they’re a classroom, a church congregation, or a charitable organization. If you wish to have a speaker from Street Voices talk for your group, please contact Community Organizer Joshua Kanary at (216) 432-0540 x106.

A conversation with Street Voices Speaker Don is so open, honest and compelling that it is an experience to remember. Don holds nothing back. He tells of his failures and his triumphs in the same low key. The quality of frankness in his speeches at High Schools, churches and community centers is certain to be highly inspirational, especially to people mired in lost hopes, loneliness, or tough addictions.

Don started life fifty-five years ago as the youngest of seven children in a Cleveland Irish Catholic family. Large families often treat the youngest member with advice, special care and gifts, all of which Don enjoyed. Yet, one unfortunate trait passed down to him was the family’s love of alcohol, and their lavish access to it. Don saw family members become alcoholics, almost as a matter of course.

In High School, Don’s superior intelligence was discovered. His teachers skipped him a full grade ahead of his original class. As a result, Don graduated from High School at age sixteen. However, the early graduation, coupled with separation from friends in his previous class, did not serve him well. He found himself in a complicated world, a world expecting him to be a completed, self-possessed adult. He worked at whatever jobs he could get, but began finding solace in whiskey, just as his brothers and sisters had done.

At age seventeen, Don became seriously ill. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, he spent the next several years enduring multiple surgeries and long painful periods of recovery. By that time, though, he had added marijuana and other drugs to his intake of liquor, and sometimes his medications mixed with the remains of drugs and alcohol in his system.

Finally well enough to work, Don held jobs as a salesman, carpenter and library aide, but now he was a confirmed drug addict and alcoholic. At age twenty, he married a girl who was also dependent on drugs. The marriage lasted nine years (with no children), but eventually they broke up and went their separate ways. Now, looking back, Don realizes that they were both too young and naive to make a success of it.

Throughout the next decade, Don’s addictions deepened. His fine mind still worked, and his natural empathy to the needy still drove him to respond, but the drugs and liquor were paramount. He became homeless, unwilling to use his paltry earnings for food, rent, or clothing, but only to feed his addictions. Yet, a day came when he realized, with a jolt, that he had hit “bottom”.

It happened when a man, a stranger visiting the shelter, saw Don walking down the hall. The man’s voice was loud, and something about Don’s presence in the shelter prompted him to ask pointedly, “Why is he here?” When Don heard that question he stopped walking for a moment, as if it had been a block of wood thrown his way. “Why is he here?” The question echoed in Don’s consciousness and took on a special meaning he could not ignore. He knew why it stayed in his mind and he knew what it meant, but at first he couldn’t look at it. It was too big, too powerful. The question stayed with him. It would not go away. Only later did he find the courage to admit to himself that he would have to change the ways he was living. He’d have to break the addictions, the alcoholism, the dependence. But how to do it?  That was the question. He tried cutting down, but the nights went by, the miserable nights without the comforts he’d become accustomed to. Then NEOCH’s partner organization Bridging the Gap gave Don the chance to participate in a special program designed for shelter residents over fifty years of age.

Through the program, Don met Danny Kerr, a law student at Case Western Reserve University. Danny recognized Don’s sharp intellect at once, as well as the value of his experience as a client of temporary labor agencies. At the time, temp jobs were taking over the labor market, companies offering jobs listed as “temporary”, a locution obscuring the extra profits to employers from cheaper labor, with no commitment to better, long-term careers. Danny interviewed Don in connection with research for his thesis on the rise of temporary labor agencies.

Discussions with Danny made don’s difficult days and nights without drugs pass more easily. He also took great pride in the knowledge that he has been able to help Danny with important information. As Don’s general health improved, his association with Bridging the Gap also expanded, and he soon learned all the particulars of effective speech-making. He had always had a fine vocabulary, so before long, he became a spokesman for Bridging the Gap.

With the spirit of his new activities, Don felt a desire to leave the shelter and find a quieter place to live. Bridging the Gap helped him obtain a subsidized apartment in the heart of a community that satisfied his needs. Now in his spare time, Don goes on errands for house-bound neighbors, or walks to the Farmers Market nearby. An accomplished cook, he often makes meals and takes them to those in his building who are crippled or shut-in. Comfortable in his new home environs and free now of his cruel addictions, Don revels in his work as a Street Voices public speaker. He’s been a Speaker now for almost six years. It fulfills his desire to contribute positively to society.

In one of his most significant talks, Don gives his audience a rare glimpse of human nature’s ability to see and not to see at the same time. He does it by asking the audience to close their eyes and picture in their minds a homeless person. It is an apt suggestion, since few people have a chance to enter a shelter and see homeless people as they are. After a minute or two, he asks them to open their eyes and describe the person they saw when their eyes were closed. He then explains that in the past, he had pictured homeless people exactly as the audience reports: dirty all over, in raggy clothes, and carrying lots of bags. Most important, it was not anyone they knew, or had ever known. It was someone apart. Then he tells them of his amazement to discover, when he himself became homeless, that everyone in the shelter looked very much like him.

In this way, Don achieves something seldom achieved by highly-paid government or corporate speakers. He puts a universal face on homelessness, a face silently attesting to the relatedness of all, whether homeless or mansion-housed, clean or dirty, rich or poor, all connected by the undeniable bond of humanness that can never be undone. That is clearly Don’s message, and the reason people walk out of his sessions with a lighter step and a brighter look in their eyes. And (at the risk of sounding trite), all looking very much like one another after all.

 

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Rider Rallies for RTA to Assist Poor People

Commentary By V the Volunteer

The R.T.A. said changes would be made in October and allowed us to speak at meetings. Then a newspaper article in the Plain Dealer said they put the changes on hold. I read one month, others read put on hold for one year. They seemingly lied to us. They posted on their advertising spots above our seats in a longer white ad with block print saying changes were already being made by August 24th. So they upped the date on us and seemingly lied and are showing no concern over our pleading and protest not to change the schedules.

It looks like we, the people of the Greater Cleveland area, will have to do more than a verbal protest. We will have to act on our own behalf to start getting the word out, a boycott or sit down (sit on buses and not pay-which if the bus drivers call R.T.A. police it will be a $250.00 fine per person). Tell everyone to begin a poor man’s march, tell the churches in the whole greater Cleveland area to discuss it with their people/congregation, etc. As to those who ride the bus, who can carpool people within their church, etc. We need to discuss time of exact boycott weeks. This is a plea to be diligent and firm at following through with serious city wide protest and boycott. More consideration and cooperation on the matter is deeply needed or else we are going to lose all those buses and have fares increased and it’s going to offend a lot of us that depend on the buses for our lives and our jobs etc. Please, the churches say church and state, but if the churches refuse to help, then this economical cleansing is and will be on their hands and hearts for not getting involved.

It’s bad enough from city to city across the U.S. since 2000. They are making it against the law to be homeless and while at the same time massively condemning buildings and making many people homeless without city grants or deposit monies put in place to stop the domino effect of forcing people out into the streets and not caring about it. Individual people can be heavily fined and threatened to be arrested if they help the homeless in certain areas.

The homeless have asked for many years to give us more buildings and let us learn the same trades. Learn as we go programs like Habitat for Humanity, are only lending to rehab houses to save them and give the poor a chance to own these houses. When Habitat for Humanity built a house on the West Side there were five to ten youth group programs doing just that. I don’t remember the names of each organization but they were similar to Youth Build Organizations that were included in building the house.

So I am pleading to the church that many of the churches quit having blinders on and quit acting like the three monkeys displaying the I don’t see anything, I don’t hear anything, and I don’t speak anything. I am sorry for the harshness of my words but I don’t know what it is going to take to get the churches to care about their cities and towns and their own people and quit being a castle with a moat around it and get concerned on major ills of the city and play fast and get involved and start speaking up and doing some action. Please care. They did it down south with organized bus boycotts and we can do it here if we put effort into it and prepare it do it right. In Jesus Christ name, Father, GOD, Jesus Heal us and Heal Our Cities. Please do your part to help each one of these issues. John 13:34. That we love one another in a Godly fashion as much as possible. Please start pulling together as one body of Christ as a whole and take on each issue and stop avoiding it any longer and involve ourselves.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

PSH Point-Counter Point

Permanent Supportive Housing is a controversial issue that has strong arguments both for and against this type of programming. Presented below are two different sides of the argument. We would like to hear from the readers how they feel about the topic, so please write to us at PO Box 93061, Cleveland, OH 44101 or e-mail us at homelessgrapevine@neoch.org

Commentary by Brian Davis

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless absolutely supports the idea of serving people with housing before offering shelter. NEOCH was founded on the principle of housing over shelters. We started the Legal Assistance Program and the Housing Cleveland website to help keep people out of the shelters and prevent homelessness. The problem with the local housing first initiative is in the details.

NEOCH helps to coordinate the outreach teams who interact with those hundred of people who are resistant to shelters. Most of these individuals do not feel that they fit anywhere in the system, but are always looking for a place to live. We agree that it is a good concept that we place people into housing before forcing them into treatment or shelter or employment training.

Our issue is that the current rules of the housing first initiative to this point is extremely limited in scope. The Cleveland housing first program along with many other programs already in existence is limited to single adults with a disability. Other communities such as Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota have rejected those guidelines and have actually made progress. The most successful aspect of Hennepin County is providing an attorney to everyone facing eviction to prevent homelessness. Cuyahoga County has never done much with preventing homelessness especially by providing attorneys at housing court.

With all due respect, the statistics used in housing first presentations are bogus. There is a lot of anger by providers in Columbus about this claim of a 42% decrease when so many families are struggling. I travel a great deal to Columbus and can say that the population resistant to shelter living outside is similar if not greater than Cleveland’s. So, while they have championed their success nationally the reality on the ground does not match the rhetoric.

We find that cities diverting people from shelters and then never counting those individuals in order to “reduce” homelessness. Cleveland is one of the last cities to provide a place for everyone who shows up at the door every night. We do not want to move away from this long established policy, and so we are weary of this housing first effort if it does not guarantee a bed for everyone.

We do not agree to the segmenting of the population with labels because it pits one group against another. Right now disabled homeless who have been homeless a long time are favored, while families who are recently homeless are left behind. Those who sleep in a motel, on a couch or who just got out of jail and live on the streets do not even count as homeless people.

The problem with the statistics about a reduction in public resources is that those funds will never go into housing. There is no savings the homeless shelters by these long term homeless. All the possible savings are with institutions that are overwhelmed and will redirect funds to other poor people. Would MetroHealth or the county jail see any savings because we diverted 500 long-term homeless into housing? No way.

Finally our last issue with housing first is that the community that is supposed to benefit is never consulted about these plans. No homeless person was ever asked is these millions of dollars spent on these properties are worth it or would thousands of housing vouchers be a better deal for the community. If know that homelessness is a solvable problem, but with two generations who do not know of a time without large homeless populations, it is a tough case to make. A few cities have made progress, but until Cleveland starts listening to the experts who wait in these long housing lines every day to find stability we are doomed to massive taxpayer funds on shelter.

Commentary by Gerald Skoch Executive Director West Side Catholic Center

The West Side Catholic Center is proud to serve homeless individuals and families. We recently served a young couple living under a bridge. Faced with a lack of employment, a landlord who defaulted on his mortgage, and a criminal history, this couple became homeless. With no home their chances of employment are slim.

There are ways, however, for couples like this to restore their lives and become self-sufficient. The public should be aware of the tremendous, progressive, and successful efforts to get families out from under bridges, off the streets and out of shelters into homes of their own. These efforts need to be highlighted and supported.

How many of us are aware of the Housing First initiative? The solution to homelessness is so painfully obvious that it has been overlooked for years. The first step out of homelessness is housing; not treatment, not employment, not rehabilitation, but housing. All the other steps to self-sufficiency rest on the platform called “home”. Housing First recognizes this essential truth and works to place homeless persons in a home of their own as a first step in addressing other barriers to self-sufficiency they face.

These programs are successful and have been so for years. Housing First initiatives and similar models programs helped to reduce family homelessness in Columbus by 40% from 1995 to 2004. In four years, Hennepin County, Minnesota reduced the family homeless population by 43%. In New York, family homelessness dropped 19% over three years.

Fortunately, Cleveland is not far behind. There has been, for years, wide spread efforts to end homelessness in our own County. Our own Housing First initiative has provided over 225 permanent supportive housing units for chronically homeless persons in the last several years and hundreds more are in the process. These housing solutions provide a way out for long-term residents of shelters and the streets.

This housing is modest, attractive, safe, humane, and dignified. There is another benefit to such human treatment of our fellow human beings; this housing is less expensive than the alternatives. A study of a similar program in Portland, Oregon demonstrated that the costs of shelter, outpatient health care, emergency rooms, jails, and police services averaged $42,000 of public resources each year. Once housed the total public resource burden, including the housing provided, dropped to $26,000 per year. They were able to provide a humane dignified housing solution, reduce the population living on the streets and save $16,000 per year, per person, in the process.

The same efforts are under way here in Cleveland; the same cost savings are possible and the agencies involved are a model of collaboration. Our Housing First initiative is collaboration among: The Enterprise Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation, Mental Health Services, Emerald Development & Economic Network, Famicos Foundation, Cleveland Housing Network, the Office of Homeless Services, and others.

Here at West side Catholic Center we have served the materially poor in our community for over 30 years and have always recognized the need for housing. Our recently launched “Zacchaeus Housing Solutions” project, begun in partnership with the Community West Foundation is today providing homes for 118 previously homeless men, women and children. We witnessed what our comrades were able to accomplish with the Housing First initiative and joined in the battle. We urge others to do so as well.

It is a biblical truth that the poor will be with us always, but homelessness is a solvable problem. Other cities have made remarkable progress in doing just that and Cleveland needs to broaden its efforts so no one needs to live under a bridge again.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Homeless Overwhelmingly Support Democratic President

By Joshua Kanary Community Organizer

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless with help from Vote Today Ohio and the NAACP transported nearly 250 homeless people to the Board of Elections during the first week of early voting. In addition to the large number of people they transported to the polls, other shelters and homeless people to the polls, and by Election Day nearly half of all the people in the shelter system voted. Even before November 4, staff at the Homeless Grapevine could see there would be a huge turn out and naturally wondered who homeless people were voting for. Thus, they held an unscientific straw poll of the homeless population at several drop-ins, meal sites and shelters around Cleveland.

Support for Obama was high with 84% of those voting saying they would vote for the Illinois Senator. Not only was support for Obama high, but support for McCain was extremely low. The 9% that said they were undecided nearly doubled the number that said they voted for McCain. 

The issues that were of most concern to homeless voters include creating jobs and housing followed closely by health care. These three issues were the biggest problems that Cleveland’s homeless voters would like to see the new President take on beginning in 2009. Nearly 30% of the voters had been homeless for one year or more. Loss of job was the reason most cited as the cause of their homelessness at 39%. More than half of those surveyed were over 50 years old and 80% were male. Sixty-four percent were African American. An additional 20 people said that they were not going to vote.

The Homeless Grapevine and the publishers of the Homeless Grapevine do not take a stance on either of the candidates. Also, the demographic data collected does not represent the whole of the homeless community. The surveys were conducted at various locations on both the east and west side of Cleveland during the month leading up to the 2008 election and was just a small sampling of a much larger and more diverse whole.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

Free From Oppression Day

Commentary By Linda

Homeless Grapevine Vendor

Reminiscing warm times for the cold weather:

            The stars were bright

            The sky was light

            And heaven’s glitter

            Came shining thru

            All from thoughts of you!

            Do you see what I see

            Do you hear what I hear

            Said the homeless person

            To the gentle police

10 pm W. 25-Detorit Ave government parking lot surrounded by black metal fence standing in the grass protected by the fence’s thoughts…

The fireworks display in the Flats lasted 20 minutes and was impressive: the lights, the designs, the noise, the surroundings, and lastly, but most importantly, the people.

Police and the homeless have much in common-neither can be bought and both have hardships and all love freedom. The police motorcycle was parked in the middle of the road blocking the entrance to the Memorial Shoreway West- the W. 25th entrance. How brave to put themselves at such risk to prevent such accidents. The motorcycle lights were flashing red, white, and blue-across the street, St. Malachi Catholic Church’s illuminated green cross was even as colorful, while the noisy flashes were going on in the sky. The flashes appeared like rain, like lightning, like comets, and if one closed his ears to the noise, it could be imaginable that bits of metal were falling from the sky; after all consider the last of the fireworks, those at the end with the most display, is a sham battle. A homeless man walked by and when asked if he was going to watch the fireworks, he replied: “I can’t do it. I’m a Vietnam Veteran. I have to leave.”

Now Chinese used to-probably still do-make the best fireworks. And there is something to be said about Chinese culture: They respect people who are up in age, other than like our news media says. That they pay attention to detail so they get our jobs and we sometimes resent them. For overpopulation they use voluntary rewards, giving the people money each year who have just one child. That sounds kinder to me than artificial birth controls and abortions. And Confucius says many things but I like how Buddha rubs his tummy. Buddha is hungry.

This article was supposed to be on a favorite charitable meal site. The Catholic Center wins my favoritism because they are holistic with many facets to raise the indigent or anyone to more beneficial loving beings, and giving and receiving makes the world go around. Like they say, what goes around comes around.

There is the Good Samaritan parable and then the parable of God curing the leper. All major religions have helpful ways in them-why can’t we see that money isn’t everything. Instead of teaching so much history that causes strife, why not teach things we need to know, for example how to grow a garden or can foods or how to cook safely.

It’s not odd that Cleveland has the most poor in it when you consider that we used to be called the city of churches; that is, before we became the city of bars. It’s natural that people gravitate to the most cordial surroundings within their means and an ethical home is priceless be it a mansion or a tent. 

Those signs that went up on Public Square and other major business districts in Cleveland that say: “Give Where it helps” and “It’s Okay to Say No” (to a person). That was a misnomer, was not the position of this paper for the homeless. Public Square should be public and freedom of speech, or person, or appearance. Why, the poor little children used to get a good education in the flats warehouse district by the river. Now the low income and homeless are shuttled everywhere and anywhere where they are out of sight-how crude-how maddening.

That sign-are we to give to charities that pay their employees thirty thousand plus a year or give a dollar or change to a homeless person who wants to remain independent, even if it’s in a tent. The YMCA costs dollars a night-then the person could be clean and rested and go to work.

I want to thank Congressman and Mrs. Kucinich, Sister Ellen, and Dick Feagler for inspiration and all the people at the West side Market for true grit hospitality.

Maybe next time the fireworks will appear as colored specks of pollen falling to the ground or blowing in the air-Thanks to Judy for that one and for being my muse.

Letters to the editor related to homelessness would be appreciated.

Have a happy and warm holiday season.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio. 

ACORN, the “Voting Fraud” Fallout, and Semantics

Commentary by Joshua Kanary Community Organizer

For the 2008 election, ACORN did an admirable thing in trying to register as many people as possible. They way they accomplished their task I do not agree with, and I feel the end result of their efforts qualifies my statement enough. They paid people to go out and register as many voters as they could, but if these people did not return with a minimum number of registrants, they would not get paid. The result of this was people registering phony names in order to ensure a paycheck. Since then, people having been screaming “voter fraud” at any attempt to get people to participate in democracy. This irks me on two levels: not only was I erroneously accused of voter fraud for driving homeless people from the shelters to the Board of Elections, but also, the grammar buff in me must declare that on a true semantic level, technically no voter fraud occurred at all.

Trite as it may be, there is a big difference between voter fraud and voter registration fraud. Voter registration is set up specifically to stop voter fraud. I do not in any way condone the acts of ACORN, but what they did is a far cry from what some have labeled as “the unraveling of our democratic system.” Voter fraud occurs when someone actually casts more than one vote or casts a vote in the name of someone else. If people were actually casting fraudulent votes, then I could agree with the unraveling. However, the voter registration system we set up stopped the fraudulent registrations at the door.

In order to completely unravel the system, ACORN workers would have to do more than just make up fake news on a registration form. First, they would have to create a fake identity so Mickey Mouse was already in the system with a legitimate address, social security number, and birth date. Once in the system, the numerous checks against various government databases to make sure that the registrant is a real person would not throw up any red flags. After that happened, then you could successfully register Mickey Mouse and cast a mail-in ballot. That is legitimate voter fraud, not falsifying a registration form.

Once again, I am not defending ACORN’s actions. I am merely questioning the level of rhetoric used to describe their actions. The fact that such a large number of false registrations were caught and thrown out is a testament to the strength of our system, not a symbol of its weaknesses. Seriously, if someone is going to mastermind the voter fraud on a grand scale, they would make up an obviously fake name like Mickey Mouse, they’ll look up names in the phone book and forge utility bills in Microsoft Word. Oh, were you not aware of the gaping loophole in the Voter ID Requirements law? Were you not aware that in place of a picture ID you can provide a utility bill-a document a 10 year old with access to a library could forge? Who put that in there? Certainly not the Republicans that wrote it in order to protect our fragile democratic system.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio.