Times are Tough: Turn to Potato Soup

         by Linda the Vendor

      Protocol calls for conventional wisdom, like potato soup, not the iron cast idiosyncrasies of the scientific notions along with the juxtapositions of prudence.

            In his poem “My Lost Youth,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:

 A boy’s will is the wind’s will, and thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.

 Control and cruelty go so far and enough is enough:

  • As when over $900 million of our tax money will be paying for the private enterprise, Medical Mart.
  • As when vegetables and fruits are now allowed to have radiation to keep them fresh (from a foreign country).
  • As when hospitals don’t give priority care to the aged, nor the physically and mentally infirm, nor to those on narcotics.
  • As when cars get better care than the homeless and indigent.  They have heated garages for the automobiles but not for the homeless. The bridges get fixed but the poor can’t afford books or laundry money. A pair of quality shoes cost more than one automobile tire.

            The white washing propaganda is so humongous. Most is done by proxy.


                                                To have a sense of humor-

Plato was Pluto the Dog

Sartre was a Fart

Freud was a Fraud

So Haggle with Hegel

        Franklin Roosevelt got us out of the Depression. He created the New Deal. He got people jobs and helped the South. He did things.

            However, I’d much rather see the homeless running the country now than some mud-slinging politicians. Now it’s the carpetbaggers peddling pills and supplies at Medical Mart-what about American Food- made in America? Are we to eat pills like Alice in Wonderland and resort to being the Stepford Wives or Robotics because we can’t afford or have access to nutritious, disease-preventive foods?

            It is a relief to work by the West Side Market where people value wholesome meals and treats and family and friends.

            And for those who have something material to lose-it’s possible to start a business from your garage or trade skills, such as in the Trading times paper or at least get roomers or bond more with family. Also, the city halls have solutions for housing and foreclosure help, tax-help, and attorneys.

                                                             Potato Soup

            Potatoes and onions- cook in water, then drain and ad can of evaporated milk, add water, and corn starch (a little to thicken). Add pepper to taste and add cooked cabbage if desired.

             Hope you will have had the Good Luck of the Irish for the summer! And don’t forget the Irish dogs, literally. Irish Setters, Hound Dogs, Irish Wolf hounds. Dogs can be homeless too.



Ten Years Ago on the Pages of the Grapevine

By Everett Brown

Wow! History has been made. Who would have thought 10 years ago, that we as Clevelanders would see our first minority president? So what was happening to the homeless 10 years ago? One thing for sure, we know homeless people existed. But what issues and concerns were addressed back then? Did the situation of homelessness get better or worse? Well, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Did you know that our mayor, Frank Jackson, was previously the councilman of ward 5? On November 21, 1998, he held a meeting at Pop’s Soul Food restaurant with those who stay on the streets. Unlike most of the old school joints here in Cleveland, Pop’s will always be remembered. Over a 120 people showed up at this gathering. Jackson stated that there was $400,000 available for an emergency shelter, but he was not supporting the Project Heat shelters moving into his ward. I guess he had his reasons. However, Jackson did appoint the North East Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) to work with smaller groups to refine and develop new ideas based on homeless needs.

What about welfare reform? Around this time in 1998, Ohio had marked its one-year anniversary in which 25 percent of the total population had stopped receiving benefits. Surveys showed that families who were sanctioned endured extreme hardship and stress.  It also indicated that 17 percent of these people were terminated due to caseworkers’ errors.

In their defense, their caseload was extremely high and they received very little support from the administrative staff.  It has been over 10 years now since this reform has been implemented.  This move was supposed to save the government money. All I want to know is WHERE’S THE MONEY?  The welfare policies have been reformed, and it seems that people are still struggling. Not only are low income families having major hardships now, but middle class families are being affected by the bad economy and are finding themselves in need of services even more.

One of the most disturbing news stories printed in the Grapevine reported the lack of judgment, medical assistance, and respect a homeless man had to endure. Ten years ago a young man showed up at a shelter door with burns over 75 percent of his body. A few days earlier “Ray” had tried to commit suicide by lighting himself on fire. He spent 24 hours in the psychiatric ward. He was given a few pills, and then was dumped off at Volunteers of America (VOA). Even though VOA was not equipped to provide the proper care that Ray needed, they did not close the door on the young man. Hats off to the VOA.

On a good note, back in 1999, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget was the best that it had been in 10 years. There were increases in the Section 8 program, the homeless assistance McKinney programs, and a public housing bill was created. Cleveland had received an additional 150-to-200 vouchers through the Section 8 program alone. The Clinton Administration really deserved some credit for maintaining such a healthy budget.

Looking back to the streets of 10 years ago gives me a new perspective on homelessness and what the Grapevine stands for. It’s real. The people are real, and the streets have so many stories. Even though we, as a society, haven’t eliminated homelessness, the message is still being printed 10 years later. There are many different cries of the streets. Some them are joyful, the rest are of misery and pain. All you have to do is listen closely.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 

Success stories at 2100 Lakeside Road Men’s Shelter

By Lydia Bailey

Editor’s note: Lydia Bailey is a Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry volunteer coordinator at the 2100 Lakeside Road Men’s Shelter.

There are many stories of hope to encourage those who have recently arrived at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry’s 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter. Many individuals at the shelter are facing challenges that seem too large to overcome.

The individuals below faced the same challenges, but are now living hopeful lives. The stories below are examples of the many hopeful stories that are heard daily at the 2100 Lakeside Road Men’s Shelter.

When you’re homeless there’s nothing. You can’t imagine how it feels; estranged from everything; nothing but you; no money; no family.

How do I get out of this? 

Where do I start?

Where do I go?

Where do I get a job?

     -Resume for a job?

     -Clothes for the job?

     -Transportation for job?

What do I do about legal issues, or substance abuse?

It is a hopeless situation but people have gotten out of it, again and again.


Robert was living in his car, while trying to go to school and hold down a job.  You can’t get services if you’re living in your car, so eventually he came into the men’s shelter and got connected with services.  He worked his way through the communities of 2100 and went into independent housing (Shelter + Care) in December 2007.  He’s still in housing and still in school.


Michael was “trouble,” for years at the shelter. “You used to see him under the influence, raising hell, and good at egging others on,” said a staff person. “All of a sudden, you didn’t see him with the trouble.  His whole group was drunk and dumb but he was sober and working; he stuck out from the rest.”

He began working at the front desk at 2100, got in work-study, completed Employment Readiness, and did very well.  Michael moved into his own home this year and is looking for work.


Gina works at 2100 and recounts: “My first husband died of heroin overdose, second of suicide; my loved ones and friends lost their lives due to addiction.  I was addicted to heroin, methadone, alcohol, and valium for 28 years and homeless from 1984-1987.”

In October 1994, Gina was hospitalized at the Metro Health Hospital with Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis of the liver.  She was told that she was going to die if she kept drinking.  At one point, she tried to leave the hospital in my hospital gown to get a drink.

“But I’ve been sober since May 1995, except for cigarettes. I had good sponsors and co-sponsors. Then Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) paid for me to go to Vocational Guidance Shelter & Service (VGS),” she said.  “I worked at the Cleveland Sight Center between classes, and got computer skills. I got a driver’s license and an old car.”

In 2002 she got married, bought a house, and a new car.  Later she received her Chemical Dependency Counselor License. Today she works at the shelter giving daily support for those taking their first steps toward self-sufficiency. 


Brian is a veteran who arrived at 2100 with severe mental health issues. He owed his landlord a lot of money in back rent.  The shelter and the Veteran’s Administration worked at getting his payments cut down.  He paid off his balance and now lives affordable senior housing in St. Clair Place. 


David arrived at the shelter after serving 11 years in prison.  He was looking for employment with no success, and then applied to Cuyahoga Community College. A staff person at 2100 began working closely with him. David eventually found employment, got an apartment, and recently made the Dean’s list for his outstanding academic record.


When Peter arrived at the shelter, he had two big strikes against him: chemical dependency and a criminal record for sexually oriented offenses. This made it extremely hard for him to find employment and housing.

He lived in the shelter for three years and suffered a relapse along the way. Peter completed the Employment Readiness class and Housing Readiness class at 2100. The staff never gave up on him. Peter has been sober for eight months and lives in independent housing. His goal is to go back to college to get his Bachelor of Arts degree. 

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 


Cold Weather Leads to Emergency Shelter

From StreetVibes, February

CINCINNATI – Whenever the temperature drops below 10 degrees in Cincinnati, the city’s homeless now thankfully have someplace to keep warm.

The Cold Shelter provides a solution for homeless individuals in need of emergency shelter on extremely cold nights. It is a collaboration between the mayor’s office, the Cincinnati Health Department, the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, the Cincinnati Police and the Greater Cincinnati Red Cross. The shelter serves to fill the gap between the number of available beds and the number of homeless individuals in the greater Cincinnati area.  An estimated 1,300 people are homeless each night in Cincinnati.

In January, The Cold Shelter provided beds, blankets and pillows for the city’s homeless for an entire week during one of the winter’s harshest cold spells. They housed about 100 people each night.

Serving Up Dignity and Hope

From StreetVibes, February

CINCINNATI – Mary Magdalene House is unlike most organizations that help the homeless.  There are no beds, pillows, blankets or meals.  But this Cincinnati organization offers something else that is just as important -- dignity and hope.

Mary Magdalene House gives Cincinnati’s homeless some of the comforts of home.  Run by Brother Giancarlo Bonutti, Mary Magdalene House welcomes those without a roof over their heads to stop in and pick up care packages filled with home’s little necessities, such as soap, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste and other personal care needs.  People can stop in and take a cost-free shower, make phone calls, and grab a few changes of clothes.  Visitors can even drop off laundry.  Volunteers at Mary Magdalene House wash between 20 and 25 loads of laundry every day.  Bonutti believes these services help the homeless develop pride and self-respect, two qualities that are essential to helping them reshape their lives. “We believe that dignity is the beginning of hope,” Bonutti said.

Pampering the Homeless

From StreetVibes, February

ATLANTA – An Atlanta pastor and his wife are using one of the Bible’s most remembered passages as inspiration for a valuable service for the city’s homeless.

Reverend Bob Book and his wife, Holly, operate a weekly spa just for homeless people in the Atlanta area. Rev. Book drew inspiration from verses in John13, where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as a lesson in service and humility. The spa provides services including: a foot soak, pumice, nail trim, massage, and a free pair of socks to about three dozen homeless men and women in the city.  The services help prevent foot infections, which affect many homeless individuals. People with serious foot problems are encouraged to return to the spa to see a volunteer doctor.

Stimulus Dollars Target Homelessness

By Daniel Horner

From Street Sense, March 4

WASHINGTON D.C.– Among the $787 billion in federal spending on stimulus bill, $1.5 billion is reserved for homelessness prevention. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the funds will “provide financial assistance and services to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless and help those who are experiencing homelessness to be quickly re-housed and stabilized.” In addition to the stimulus money, HUD will give $1.4 billion “continuum of care” grants, along with another $160 million for emergency shelter grants. As part of the grant process, a new pilot program is created due to $24 million. The new program could help the rapid re-housing of families in 23 communities.

Washington Sets Aside Stimulus Dollars to Prevent Homelessness

From Street Sense, March 4

More than $1 billion in federal stimulus money has been set aside to address the nation’s homeless issue in an effort that homeless advocates are calling a “landmark provision.”

President Barack Obama, his administration and Congress have allocated the homelessness prevention money as one of several commitments intended to address both short-term and long-term issues triggered by the current economic crisis.  Under the president’s new economic stimulus bill, the $1.5 billion will be used for financial assistance aimed at individuals and families in danger of becoming homeless, and to quickly house and stabilize individuals currently experiencing homelessness.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the funds can be specifically used for a variety of purposes, including rental assistance, credit counseling, utility deposits and case management. 

Police Filmed Beating Homeless Man

From Street Sense, February 18

FRESNO, CA – An innocent bystander caught two Fresno police officers

beating a homeless man, and then turned the tape over to a television station in hopes of protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

The tape shows a 52-year-old homeless man lying on the ground while the officers brutally beat him, hitting the man at least six times in the face. When the footage was shown to Fresno’s police chief, he immediately launched an investigation, resulting in an explanation that was challenged by the eyewitness who filmed the incident. The police chief based his response on the police report written by the two officers involved.

Pictures to Go With The Words

By Elizabeth Schwartz

From Street Sense, February 6

PORTLAND, OR- Frank Cobb has been a familiar sight for several years walking around the southwest and northwest districts of Portland selling Street Roots. He likes to draw portraits of Bob Marley, Anita Ward, and Jimi Hendrix, among others. Frank has dyslexia and has some communication problems. When he expresses his words, many people think he is being rude, so he tries to keep his thoughts to himself when he interacts with the public. But things completely changed after he started selling Street Roots. He said he has begun learning how to interact with the public by following some of the newspaper’s basic vendor rules: no cussing, don’t get mad, no aggressive sales, and stay friendly. He also applied the rules into selling his artwork and he found that people began buying newspapers and asking about the prices of his artwork. He prefers to sell Street Roots rather than panhandling because he would like to give something in return.

Homeless People Look Like You’d Expect

By Dede Stoops

From Streetvibes, March

CINCINNATI- Most people don’t choose to be homeless, but life throws them a curve that lands them in shelters or on the streets or sleeping outside. There are many reasons that people become homeless: some youth are just kicked out by their family or running away from a violent situation; others are adults who loose their jobs and houses. Some people also become homeless because of natural disasters or war. The whole society should work together and show compassion and love to homeless people. Government can make available more housing certificates, building affordable housing in neighbors and create more programs to get people back to work, especially in the current economic crisis.

Report Suggests a Bias in Police Oversight Panel

From Street Roots, February 20

PORTLAND, OR- A committee in charge of reviewing complaints of police bias has found some cause for concern, although most cases were handled suitably. Workgroup looked at discrimination complaints that citizens filed themselves and found that 75 percent of discrimination allegations involved race or ethnicity. Many complainants said the officers’ behavior was not just biased, but rude or insensitive. They suggest that police who generate more complaints should be trained in cultural competency and customer service. Critics said that the process puts too much control in the hands of the police bureau’s Internal Affairs Department and should have more civilian oversight.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 

Maryland Becomes First State to Pass Homeless Hate-Crime Law

Maryland has refined what constitutes a hate crime after becoming the first state to include homeless people in its hate crimes law. This new law, signed on May 7, 2008 by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley , allows prosecutors to seek harsher penalties for those who specifically target a person because he or she is homeless. Maryland’s hate crimes law already covers those who are targeted because of their race, color, national origin, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, but homeless advocates thought it important that the homeless were included in the law because many homeless people are vulnerable to attacks simply because they are homeless.

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimated that there were at least four hate crimes committed against homeless people in 2007 in Maryland alone, and 774 attacks nationwide between 1999 and 2007, 217 of which were fatal. Supporters of the legislation hope the bill, which goes into effect October 1, will promote increased awareness for homeless people. Similar legislation will be reintroduced in Ohio this year.


Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 

Cleveland City Councilmen Meet With Homeless Congress

By Rosie Palfy

Two Cleveland City Councilmen recently met with the Homeless Congress to discuss problems with local homeless shelters.

Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman and Ward 17 Councilman Matt Zone attended the March 12 meeting held at the Bishop Cosgrove Center in Cleveland. The city of Cleveland was represented by Bill Resseger, executive assistant to the director of community development.

The Homeless Congress is a representative group of homeless people who meet to discuss issues regarding homelessness. The monthly meetings are organized by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

As the meeting began, the City Councilmen and Resseger told the group that Ohio has basic standards for homeless shelters and asked what issues were not covered by the standards.

The city officials were informed that the state guidelines are only verified once a year, and there is no system in place for regular daily monitoring. There are no existing city or state laws governing the guidelines, so there are no penalties for shelters not complying with the basic standards. There is also no government agency to receive grievances from shelter residents.

All three men listened attentively as representatives from 10 different shelters spoke about critical issues involving many of the city’s shelters.

“We’re here because we care and I don’t want that to get lost in the conversation. Our job is to be your advocate and advocate on your behalf,” said Zone. “This is not going to be changed overnight. The three of us don’t have all the answers.”

The majority of complaints were made by current and former residents of the Community Women’s Shelter. Several women from the shelter complained about being served expired food. To illustrate this point, a woman brought several unopened bags of potato chips which expired in 2007 and 2008.

One woman reported that she was arrested and sent to jail because she raised her voice when a staff person put her hands on the resident. There were also allegations of sexual harassment, theft by staff members as well as staff coming to work drunk.

During the meeting, NEOCH executive director Brian Davis, told the group that the women’s shelter had recently received a new executive director, Cathleen Alexander, who is committed to making positive reforms in the shelter. At the time of the meeting, Alexander had only been in her new position for two weeks.

Many men and women complained about an overall lack of respect among some of the staff at the various shelters. Some residents said they did not receive hygiene kits upon arriving at a shelter. A former resident of North Point complained about the shelter’s lack of follow-up services.

Shelter representatives called for better staff training in areas such as CPR, first aid and other basic health issues. They also suggested that staff should receive mediation training for conflict management.

Not all of the comments were negative, however. A former West Side Catholic Shelter resident said she had a positive experience there and reported that the shelter already follows many of the shelter representatives’ recommendations.

Cimperman noted that many of the area homeless shelters are in his ward, telling Homeless Congress representatives that he “fights for the little guy.” He said he looks forward to working with them to resolve the problems. Cimperman suggested convening a meeting with shelter executive directors, adding that he will take a “Fix it or we’ll fix it for you approach.”

“We heard very clearly from the Congress. There’s a lot of work to do,” said Cimperman. “We have a responsibility to the city to make sure this money is being used to keep people from dying on the streets.”

Some shelter representatives said their complaints illustrate the need to pass a law, which sets a minimum standard of care for shelters receiving public funding. Between 2006 and 2007, the Homeless Congress drafted a Shelter Standards Bill. Cleveland City Council has failed to act on the proposal, despite repeated efforts from the Homeless Congress to get the bill passed into law.

“Every single year in the city of Cleveland, we give out grants. Our job is to be your advocate and advocate on your behalf,” said Zone.

Resseger told the residents from the Community Women’s Shelter that he would work with NEOCH to address the problems. Less than two weeks after the Homeless Congress meeting, more than a dozen women from the Community Women’s Shelter met with several shelter staff members as well as City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials.

Two women who spoke at the March meeting returned to the April Homeless Congress meeting and said that positive changes were underway at the shelter. The residents said they were pleased with the progress being made thus far, while adding there have already been some staff changes and policy reforms at the shelter.

Alexander attended the May Homeless Congress meeting and said she was working to improve the shelter, however, it would take time to make changes. During a recent interview, Alexander reiterated that she is deeply committed to rectifying the shelter’s problems.

“My role is to turn it around. My goal is to make the women’s shelter into a place that empowers its residents and not a place that oppressing them,” said Alexander.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 

Big Changes Expected in the Homeless Community and Other Local News

Changes Coming to the Shelters

With the passage of the HEARTH law or the reauthorization of Department of Housing and Urban Development McKinney Vento law, there are huge changes expected for the local shelters.  The McKinney Vento law funds nearly every shelter in Northeast Ohio, and this updated law will change how these shelters operate.  The definition of homelessness will change, and it is much more complicated to actually figure out if a person meets the HUD definition of homelessness.  There should be additional housing and resources available to families, and the process for distributing funding may change. 

New Voting Strategy

The Ohio Secretary of State has proposed new voting procedures that she would like the Ohio legislature to pass.  These will have a negative impact on the participation of homeless people.  Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is proposing to eliminate the “golden week” that was so popular among poor people in the last election.  Golden week was the week 36 days before the election in which a citizen in Ohio could register to vote or change their address and then ask for a ballot and vote at the same time at the main election offices in each County.  Over 500 very low income or homeless people took advantage of golden week to vote in Cleveland.  The other change is to require two forms of identification when voting in person.  One would need to be a government issued card, and the other could be any identification.  Homeless people have a difficult time maintaining government issued identification, and challenged the state over identification in 2006.  That case has yet to be resolved.

Stand Down Held in February

Over 2,000 individuals attended the Stand Down this year in February.  This three day affair was held at the Cleveland Convention Center, Trinity Cathedral, and Pilgrim Church.  Nearly 700 volunteers assisted in staging this event, and groups from all over the City helped to make this event a success.  InterAct Cleveland was the main sponsor along with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, and nearly 60 charitable organizations, 140 religious congregations, and many government institutions helped.  There were hot meals, bagged lunches, medical professionals, clothing, personal care kits, and entertainment.  The Cleveland Photograph Society was on hand to take portraits of homeless people who could then pick them up at the end of the event.  These professional portraits returned something of beauty back to the participants who must face the dreary misery of homelessness every morning.

Stimulus Will Pump Funds into Struggle to Prevent Homelessness

The February passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide $14 million in funds for Cuyahoga County to prevent homelessness.  This is the first large scale effort by the federal government to try to prevent households from having to move into a shelter.  This three year effort must be in place by September 30, and it is hoped will fundamentally change the way shelters and social service providers respond to a person in need of housing.  There will be additional dollars available for rental assistance and additional funds for attempts to move people back into housing quickly.  As of July, the County has not announced how they intend to use these funds. 

Homeless Congress Working on Shelter Standards

At least two representatives from each shelter meet every month to talk about issues that have an impact on homelessness, and to take action.  The big issue that the Congress has worked on for two years now is a request to Cleveland City Council to adopt a set of shelter standards that would regulate the publicly funded emergency shelters.  Right now there are a set of guidelines from the State of Ohio, but there is nothing that requires fair and equitable treatment for the individuals who sleep in the shelters.  The big issue is that at this time there is no government office that can accept complaints regarding shelter.  Even if a person is evicted from the shelter at 2 a.m. there is no place to go to complain about this issue outside of the agency that did the eviction.  The Congress is asking City Council members up for election this year to pledge support for a shelter standards bill.  The other issue that has come up recently is the new co-payment requirements at MetroHealth hospital, and the inability to pay by some members of the homeless community.  The Congress wrote a letter to the president of MetroHealth asking for a waiver of the fee at least until the danger of the flu pandemic is behind us. 

Cleveland Tenants Organization Wins Anisfield Wolf Award

Because of their work on protecting tenants in foreclosed buildings, the Cleveland Tenants Organization was awarded the Anisfield Wolf Award by the Center for Community Solutions and the Cleveland Foundation.  CTO has begun notifying tenants as soon as a landlord falls behind in their mortgage or utilities, so that a tenant may prepare for a possible default.  Before CTO began their work approximately 35% of all the foreclosures involved tenants, and they were usually caught off guard when the Sheriff showed up to serve an eviction.  This project gives extra time to the tenant to figure out where they can relocate or find other housing.  CTO received $20,000 for this annual award for outstanding work in the non-profit sector in Cuyahoga County. 

Shelters Are Still Full

The two entry shelters stay full every night, but the women’s shelter has experienced severe overcrowding in the summer.  The Men’s Shelter at 2100 Lakeside has seen a drop in the population.  Every bed is full, but there is not the need for as many mats on the floor and problems with overflow.  The Women’s shelter has seen the population explode in the last two months with as many as 152 women or women with children sleeping in the shelter.  The building can only accommodate 160 people, and averages around 120.  Women typically leave bad living arrangements during the summer, while men are shown the door more frequently in the winter. 

Friend of the Grapevine Passes Away

David Westcott was a seven year member of the NEOCH Board of Trustees, and passed away in March 2009.  Westcott was a big supporter of the Homeless Grapevine newspaper.  He was an advocate for the end of the death penalty in Cleveland, universal health care, and advocated for additional help from the local religious community on homelessness.  Westcott became involved with NEOCH when the Coalition was suing the City of Cleveland over the rights of homeless people to sell the newspaper.  Westcott was a long time supporter of the ACLU, International Partners in Mission, and West Side Ecumenical Ministry.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 

Family Transitional Housing Gets Overhaul Under New Agency

By Johnny Caputo

Zacchaeus Housing Solutions is a new transitional housing program being initiated by the West Side Catholic Center, located at 3135 Lorain Avenue, at the corner of W. 32nd and Lorain Avenue. The name Zacchaeus derives from a biblical story of a corrupt tax collector who, upon the sight of Jesus, reformed his ways and promised to pay back double all that he had stolen. The West Side Catholic Center hopes to tap into this spirit of self-initiated improvement by incorporating their program into their already extensive services for homeless families.

The program that became known as Zacchaeus Housing Solutions was formerly known as Family Transitional Housing. Due to financial instabilities, FTS had to close its doors last year. In taking over this program, the West Side Catholic Center is providing those within its Women and Children’s shelter the opportunity to leave the shelter and establish a home of their own.

Departing from the operations of Family Transitional Housing, which maintained five centralized, agency-owned transitional housing units, Zacchaeus does not own any of the housing that its clients live in. Clients choose housing in neighborhoods they would like to live in. Then Zacchaeus works with the landlords of these properties to establish a mutually beneficial relationship, so the clients can become self-sustaining.

In order to be admitted into the program, clients must go through an interview process. According to the West Side Catholic Center’s website, “Priority for acceptance is given to those individuals who can sustain employment or financial resources necessary to be self-sufficient within 12 to 24 months.” However, what is unprecedented about this program is that there are very few hoops that clients must jump through in order to be accepted. The only true requirement, according to Gerry Skotch, director of the West Side Catholic Center, is that clients must be willing to take the initiative to better their lives. The program is centered around providing clients with the tools necessary to escape homelessness by allowing clients to change their lives for the better.

Once accepted, clients work with the Zacchaeus staff which includes: two case managers, a life skills manager, a youth case manager, and an intake/leasing/landlord specialist to find property where they would like to live. Clients pay 30 percent of their income towards their rent and the rest is subsidized by Zacchaeus. If the client has no income, Zacchaeus will pay their rent.

Instead of taking on the double duty of property maintenance and case management, Zacchaeus focuses on the case management side of transitional housing. This allows case workers to be advocates for their clients. The responsibility for housing maintenance falls on the landlords, which gives Zacchaeus case workers the opportunity to fight for the best interests of their clients.

Previously, in the centralized Family Transitional Housing unit, clients left the centralized location and were provided with services to find permanent housing. Zacchaeus completely skips that step by allowing its successful clients to remain in their homes permanently, without any switch.

So far, Zacchaeus Housing Solutions has provided 32 families with subsidized housing. These families include more than 130 people who would otherwise be living in shelters. Mr. Skotch hopes that by year’s end that number will have increased to forty families and over 150 people. One hundred and fifty people who are now empowered by hope; one hundred and fifty people who took the initiative to make their world a better place, just like Zacchaeus.

For more information on this and other programs of the West Side Catholic Center, visit their website at www.wsccenter.org

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 Cleveland Ohio

Congress Passes Bill to ReAuthorize Funds for the Struggle to End Homelessness inside a Foreclosure Assistance Bill

President Barack Obama signed into law the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH Act). The legislation, which reauthorizes the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, was included within the larger Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 (S. 896, P.L. 111-022) legislation on May 20, 2009.

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) commends Congress for taking action to reauthorize the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.  This action represents the first formal reauthorization of HUD’s homeless assistance programs since 1992 – a reauthorization long overdue.  Moreover, the wide margin of support for the addition of the HEARTH Act to the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 is indicative of the bipartisan interest among Members of Congress in responding to homelessness.

From NCH’s perspective, the enacted version of the HEARTH Act is a mix of favorable and disappointing provisions. Among the provisions of the HEARTH Amendment that enjoy NCH support:

  • Adds additional homelessness prevention activities and populations at risk of homelessness into the current Emergency Shelter Grants program, which is renamed Emergency Solutions Grants.
  • Allows Congress to finance the renewal costs of permanent housing projects initiated with HUD McKinney-Vento funds from the Housing Choice Voucher account.
  • Increases the administrative expense limit for project sponsors.
  • Prohibits shelter and housing projects receiving HUD McKinney-Vento funds from requiring a family to separate any child or youth member of the family from the whole unit as a condition for the family’s admission into the shelter or housing.
  • Improves collaboration between Continuum of Care jurisdictions and HUD-funded homeless assistance providers and local educational agencies with regard to homeless child and youth access to elementary and secondary education.
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on rural homeless assistance, including offering recommendations on the appropriate federal agency or agencies to administer a rural homeless assistance program.

In other areas, the legislation falls short of NCH’s aspirations. Among them:

  • The authorization level for HUD McKinney-Vento programs is set at $2.2 billion in FY 2010, far below the minimum $3 billion level of annual funding need identified by NCH and other homeless advocacy organizations, particularly as homelessness prevention activities are introduced as eligible activities into HUD McKinney-Vento programs.
  • The bill relegates homeless people and service providers to consultative roles in the Continuum of Care application process, rather than assuring them decision-making roles.
  • The new definition of homeless individual for HUD programs (and by extension other federal, state and local programs that use the HUD definition of homelessness) continues to exclude several subpopulations recognized in other federal law to be homeless, including homeless families living in shared housing for more than two week duration and single adults and childless couples living in shared housing due to loss of housing and economic hardship. Furthermore, the new definition is overly complex and likely to prove unwieldy for people to understand whether or not they are eligible for homeless assistance, or why they may be eligible for some homeless programs, but not others.
  • The bill permits jurisdictions with low rates of homelessness to use Continuum of Care funds for people who are not homeless under the HUD definition but are homeless under other federal definitions, but limits this flexibility for jurisdictions with higher rates of homelessness, thus creating inequity in access to HUD-funded homeless assistance services across jurisdictions.
  • The legislation limits flexibility of jurisdictions receiving Continuum of Care funds to spend resources on the full range of eligible activities by establishing priorities, incentives, and bonuses for some activities over others.
  • The legislation limits flexibility of jurisdictions receiving Emergency Solutions Grant (formerly Emergency Shelter Grant) funds to spend the full amount of ESG resources on emergency shelter, outreach, and essential services.
  • The bill codifies into law the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) without assuring privacy protections for homeless people or controlling use of HMIS data for decision-making.
  • The bill misses the opportunity to elevate the Executive Director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness to a Senate-confirmed position, or to have the ICH Director report directly to the White House rather than to an annual rotation of Cabinet secretaries.
  • The bill’s definition of “rural area” for purposes of a new rural homeless assistance set-aside program permits metropolitan cities within some western states to remove themselves from the main Continuum of Care program and instead secure funds through the rural account.

“NCH regrets that the above-mentioned weaknesses in the legislation were not adequately addressed in the HEARTH Act prior to passage,” according to NCH Executive Director Michael Stoops.   However, they have pledged to work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other stakeholders to assure implementation of the HEARTH Act in a manner as inclusive and protective as possible as the law affords for people experiencing homelessness and for homeless assistance service providers. The brief two-year authorization period for HUD McKinney-Vento programs provides a quick opportunity to ask Congress to redress weaknesses with the new law.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 


Martin Says “Enough”

By Tatiana Bivens-Jones

Age: 12 Grade: 6

Martin says “enough” to all the poor people out here.

Martin says “enough” to all the people living out on the street.

“Get up my children let me show you a better life.”

“Do not be afraid of what you believe in my child.”

Martin says “enough” to all the children with no Christmas.

Martin says “enough” to all the poor children with empty stomachs.

“Get up my children let me feed you with knowledge.”

“There is a better way in life,

You do not have to be dependant on other people.”

“I know you can do it, I know you can!”

Put Your Sole to the Streets

By Armani Brown

Age: 16 Grade: 12

When you’re failing

And you think that your only way is up

See now you’re stuck

No more charms so you guess you

are out of luck

Got your guitar and pick

Cause you’re ready to play the blues

When you’re ready to give up

Take a walk in my shoes

Feel the pain and the hurt

When where you lay is the dirt

With a collage of skin and rags that

make up your shirt

So you’ve got work to do

Or school to pass

But my fate has been decided by the way of the class

In this game called life

I’ve been set up to lose

So when you wanna trade hands

Take a walk in my shoes

For you and your own it takes boxes to move

Kick this box and I move

Now which life would you choose?

It’s a strive to survive

I would die for some food

I’d go blind just to see what life is like for you

You’ve got choices to make

Deciding your next move

When life gets too picky

Take a walk in my shoes

While you sit with your pens and write letters for change

I’m a beggar for change

But I’m begging to change

So when you’re ready to sing

And lose the game

To run out of options

And live life in shame

When you’re sick of walking in tennis shoes, dress shoes, even cleats

Put your sole to these streets

And take a walk in my shoes

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 

Are We Prepared for Flu Pandemic Within Shelters?

Commentary by Josh Kanary

Currently, the Cleveland Department of Public Health and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health provide information on their websites for the H1N1 flu outbreak geared towards specific populations, including elderly, children and the disabled. However, no information is provided that specifically addresses unique problems that arise in Cleveland’s homeless community.

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries’ 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter houses nearly 400 people every night in close quarters. These 400 people share the same showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, and meal area. They sleep in bunk beds that leave little personal space between one bed and the next. Should one resident become infected, the virus would easily jump from one person to the next, and then in the morning, the shelter closes down and sends these 300 of the 400 people out into the public. Some sort of plan or set guidelines must be made available in order to assure this potential disaster can be handled as efficiently as possible.

Los Angeles, Seattle, Indiana and Vancouver have made guides available for addressing the handling of a pandemic in their local homeless communities. Seattle, in particular, released a 32-page plan that details what the city, the county, and the service providers are responsible for. It offers not only an explanation of how to care for sick individuals and prevent its spread, but it also provides guidelines for continuation of service, instructions for what to train staff for, local resources for stockpiling emergency supplies, how best to keep sick and healthy people separate in a close quarters environment, how to handle confidentiality/HIPAA issues, what the city/county is taking care of, and the importance of collaboration and communication between service providers.

Although the above resources are readily available on the internet, something needs to be put in place locally to keep all government and non-profit agencies on the same page. It is difficult to struggle to survive without a home, but at this time we do not have a plan to meet the health emergency during an epidemic. Confining people in a shelter environment in the midst of a pandemic is a death sentence.

Josh Kanary is the former Outreach Coordinator for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland, Ohio.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio. 

Men’s Shelter Overcrowded Due to Financial Downturn

By Angelo Anderson

I believe that we are seeing an increase in the number of men staying in the shelter system due to a number of reasons.  Lack of affordable housing may be the greatest contributor: the unavailability of single-room occupancy accommodations, due to the lack of flop housing, boarding houses and similar cost effective temporary housing.  When we had these options men who worked in entry-level positions, held seasonal jobs or made minimum wage still had places that they could afford to rent on a daily, weekly or monthly-basis.

Re-gentrification of the downtown areas in most major cities played a major role in the loss of most of these rooms.  New rules regarding who is eligible for release into three-quarter and half-way housing also resulted in a loss of rooms.  Legal issues and restrictions regarding sexual offender housing will continue to be a barrier that will keep some men in a shelter setting much longer then normal.

The rising cost of housing and the inability to obtain government subsidized housing will make moving into independent housing almost impossible for a large number of these men.

While a huge percentage of homeless men work every day, many factors play a part in them remaining homeless.  The corporate and manufacturing transition to temporary staffing, means that most of the men working through a temp agency won’t be given an opportunity to earn seniority in a position giving them benefits and a chance to advance and increase their potential earnings. 

Higher skill and elevated educational level requirements for entry-level jobs have helped to decrease job availability.  Many who had been able to find employment on cleaning crews, as laborers at construction sites and stockers at stores no longer have that option.  

The closing of a large number of mental health facilities has dramatically increased the number of men who now call homeless shelters home.  While outpatient clinics may address the medication of these individuals, they put an added burden on a system already overwhelmed with the need to change how it tackles the problem of chronic homelessness.  Rehabilitation programs that use a shelter as an address for men leaving prison help add to the burden of how we place our residents in the community at large.

Career aspirations and homelessness are at times like two reverse poles of magnetic energy--a lot of moving around with no coming together.  The longer a person remains in homelessness the easier that lifestyle becomes acceptable.  Drug and alcohol dependency often play a part in this.  Any mental health issues that a person may have may also become more active with new ones manifesting themselves. 

Education, or the lack of education and or training, has always been a barrier for many homeless men.  Many have not obtained a high school diploma or GED.  Those who take the steps necessary to overcome this barrier and take up some additional training often go on to work their way out of homelessness.  The logistics of getting to a school or training facility can be insurmountable for them.  Add to that the struggle of going to work each day and many just give up.  The legislative body of government needs to look at changing laws that deal with child support, delinquent taxes, and sex offender classifications.

Homeless shelters are generally set-up to provide emergency shelter.  Career aspirations of their residents are not a part of most current intake processes.  Many are strictly directed to shelter occupancy related issues.  Our shelter system, like many others across the country, is ill equipped to address career development issues. GED courses as well as job readiness and life-skill classes often place an added burden on resources already stretched thin.  While we are making strides to combat these gaps in services, more needs to be done.

Massive layoffs, decreasing job availability, changes in welfare programs, decrease in funding for social and educational programs, increase in housing rates/rents and unprecedented foreclosures in the housing market, are just some of the ways the economy plays a part in homelessness.  As the country battles to turn around and weather this recession we may only be seeing the beginning of another spike in homelessness.  We all have our work cut out for us especially the government.           

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio.    




By Ronald Norman

What is a sunset that seemingly begins and ends in darkness?

The light is my friend, despite the challenges I face with clouds blocking my light…

Poverty and struggle share DNA, and today is not yesterday, but tomorrow is promising with hope…

The shelter is filled with demons, yet the angels are present and revered…

Homelessness is not the end of the world…

What is a sunrise to a man overwrought with regret concerning a lifetime of unhealthy decisions…

The inner voices arrogantly profess that losing is the only thing that I am successful at, especially since I am homeless…

I listen, yet I don’t respond…

Healthy, Confident, and always open to change remains my mindset despite the fact that it is oftentimes strange being in a place in time that you could never imagine as a child full of dreams…

Things happen…

Things just happen to happen…Life happens!

I reside in a place where darkness continues to fall, yet the sun will not cease to shine on my small corner of the world…

God has mercy and grace that favors the just as well as the unjust, and living in poverty is not a reason not to trust in the only one who gives life to all things living…

Death is life is death…All I have left is hope and faith…

So what is a sunset to every days that seemingly begin and end in darkness?



How Can This Be?

By Mae Thompson

How can this be

O’, how can this be

Why is there

No place for me

Friends are all gone

Where?  I do not know

They promised to meet me

But they did not show

Family too

Where are they

No one told me

There were going away

I knocked and I knocked

Till my knuckles pained so

But all my knocking brought

No answer from the door

With friends all gone

And family disappeared

I trotted to the nearest shelter

Drenched in tears

How can this be

O’, how can this be

Out of all the places

There is not one for me

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #87 in July 2009 in Cleveland Ohio.