Men of Site "F" A Protest at Project HEAT

By Robert Williams

             Have you often wondered what it was like to be able to win a battle with the country? A small story I am going to explain to you will kind of give you an idea of what it is like.

            On Thursday, July 22, 1993 a stack of papers came into Site F, stating that the site will be close as of Saturday which was brought in by Mrs. Barbara Williams. Myself and some of the other guys {such as} Jerry Watson, Sarge, Joseph Bryant, Carl Ellis, Sam Jackson all got together and started planning on the move we were going to make. At first everything was set up for Friday until we found out we were going to be here till Sat. night Sun. morning. So now Saturday night rows in and things are being made ready. Our last plans are made and we are just waiting until the morning comes. Sunday morning is here and everyone is awakened... First I talked to the people and explain the plans of the morning. Myself and Site F men decided to sit in and had no intentions of leave until someone came down and talked with us. It is now about 6:30am and things are just getting started. The worker of the night was inform of what we were doing and they explain to us what they had to do as far as calling their boss (Barbara Williams) and explain to her what was happening at Site F... Once again me and the men got together and wrote out a list of demands... The list

1. Demands in writing and which copies

2. Meeting immediately with

A. Barbara Williams (Project HEAT director)

B. Louise Simmons (County staff assigned to homelessness)

C. County Administrator/and city

D. Joe Mieser from Legal Aid

E. Ron Reinhart (staff) as negotiator for Site F.

3. Discuss a site or time to be able to find a permanent site effective as of July 25,1993

4. Food & Drinks...

So after this time has gone by. Enough time for Barbara Williams to arrive. Her first question to the Men of Site F was, what going on? So we explain it to her we are having a sit in as to where no one is leaving here until our demands are reached. She explain to us that we will be trespassing and that she would have to call the police. Well police finally arrive and were outside talking with Barbara, we then went in to let the men know the police were here. A few men got up and left out because of personal problems but the sit in was still on in the rest of the men’s.

With the men behind me, I had no fear of what was about to happen. So, the police are on their way in now. Asking to speak to me I simply say sure we can talk. One officer insisted that I step outside to speak, I then insisted on staying behind the desk the men set up for me behind the lines we had set up for ourselves. Once again the officer insisted and once again I refused explaining to him, he could come across the lines and speak with me in room which is our sleeping quarters, he refused. So now there is again a stand off. Giving Barbara a list of the demands she soon had departed and here we are left with police and the building security trying to figure out what to do. So we decided once again it was time to call the media down. Channels 3-5-8 and 43 just as well as the plain dealer as of which as came down. Police decided to make another move after standing outside and discussing what their next move was going to be. So they come back in putting on gloves saying we were going to vacate to property. Now it back to our demands, we are not leaving. Police talked among themselves and decided to call someone in with rank. They back off. By this time the news media cam. Explaining to the media what was going on and also giving them a list of demands things started to get heated.

Some of the demands started happening. Ron Reinhart finally arrives which made all of us fell a little better. Explaining to Ron Reinhart has happened so far as the police were concerned, he agreed to be our negotiator. Then Barbara came back just as well as the Lt. for the police. We were not able to hear the conversation going on out side the building between Barbara the Lt. and Ron so we just sit patiently and waited inside. It has to be about 9:00 or 10:00am I guess and the men are hungry. Ron makes a call out to St. Augustine and without delay something was provided for us to eat as always from St. Augustine. In any kind of crisis, I know they have always been there.

So we had something to eat and realized we are still at war. By this time everything outside was at ease and the Lt. is on his way in. Walking up to me the Lt. asked if he may have a word with me? I replied "sure come on over". He did. Taking him into our sleeping quarter he began. "Mr. Williams my name is Lt. __. I have an idea about was going and he understand what we were going." Anyway conversation went on between and he decided to wait things out until the Men of Site F, has seen al of the media we had set up.

So we shook hands and decided to wait. He said none of the officers would bother using anyway as long as everything was okay and it was. He said he would check with us later he left. Now the media is really starting to come in one behind the other. Setting up a good part of the night writing out copies of the demands I was kind of tired but every time I laid down another T.V. station popped up. Questions of what did I think was going to happen and many others. Well time went on and its going on 2:00pm. Lt. comes back to check once again on things making sure everything is going smooth and wished us luck. News media checking in again to see if there has been a change. So its time to eat again. Ron set up to go down to the Salvation Army's Christmas in July dinner explaining to them what we were doing and once again Salvation Army came through. Now we are really eating and drinking. In quoting one of my men Sarge, the stand off in little Waco in truly a stand off. But we are being taken care of by good-hearted people who always are with us in this fight. Time marches on. Nothing has happened. Well before all of this has happened a member of NEOCH and personal friend of mine and Jerry Watson, Mr. Brian came down to lend a hand in our quest. Arming himself with markers and poster paper in hand, the signs went up everywhere.

Thank God for good relationship amongst friends. Coming in just in time before the media came again, this time with a surprise. Mr. Danny Williams, County Administrator arrived with T.V. cameras behind him and asked if we could talk once again. I agreed.

Discussing and understanding our cause, Mr. Williams agreed to give the Men of Site F a week extension if we agreed to call off the sit-in, which would give Project: HEAT enough time to find a site and relocate Site F. It was now 3:00pm or 4:00pm and for the moment everyone was in agreement of things. Mr. Williams also stated that there would be a meeting in Cleveland City Hall on Monday concerning our problems finding a site.

Well, as you can see, sometimes it pays to fight for your rights. Even if everything is not settled as of yet, the war is not won, but the battle goes on.

Published in the Fall of 1993 by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine who maintain the copyright.