How I made it from the Streets to an Apartment:

By Michael Vorhees

I sell the Street Chronicle as a newspaper vendor, I was homeless for 14 years 6 mos. The reason I was homeless for so long because I did not apply myself to get off the streets. Today what I do to stay off the streets is pay my rent, so I will have a place to call my own.

While I was on the streets, I had nothing coming in-- no money. Today I have Social Security Income, to help me. I also sell The Cleveland Street Chronicle to help me make it through the month. I also help out at the church, and help with feeding homeless people.  It helps me, remember where I came from. I really like being able to help.

If it was not for someone helping me, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I have been inside for 3 years 6 mos. I moved from under a bridge, to a place on East 55th street, to a place on the lake.  It might be a studio apartment, but it’s a place inside that I can call home.

 I really love being inside, it makes me feel good to help others. I can never look down on a person, because I been there.  If someone needs help, I try to be there for them. God has granted me with so much, I’m very thankful to be alive. My life is so much better, now that I have a place to live, staying clean and sober has been so much easier, because I am off the streets.

 God bless everyone!

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved

Homelessness Is Not Always a Life Sentence

by Michael L. McCray

    People often look at the homeless and see only a reflection of the moment, not the person's history. Most homeless people are not born homeless, nor do they necessarily die homeless. Ron Reinhart is a 47-year-old man who understands this, having been homeless at various times during an 18 year span of his life.

    Ron's homeless life began in 1970, during the end of the hippie movement. He attributes much of his homeless experience to drugs and alcohol abuse. I think I was like everyone else at that time - we were trying to find ourselves, but in reality we were already there,” he says. “We were all looking for a change but there could not be any change because you brought the same person with you wherever you went.

    During those times Ron did a lot of things he was ashamed of - such as lying, cheating, and stealing - just to get through the day and support his drug and alcohol habits. Eventually, he was no longer able to care for himself.

   But Ron's life has changed, and today he is the Program Director at Bishop Cosgrove Center in Cleveland. The center offers meals and other support services to homeless drug users and alcoholics. Ron has been free of his addictions for eight years. He attributes his recovery to spirituality. “I get up every morning and give it to God and go about my business. When I do face a crisis in my life, God removes the obsession and I do not drink, I do not even think about it. I do make mistakes every day but so does everyone else. It's a part of life." Ron sees the main cause of homelessness a little differently than most people. He attributes the problems many homeless people face to broken personal relationships.

  “Today we seem to think that homelessness is caused by economic conditions. But if that were true, then during times of great prosperity we would have no homeless people," Ron says. “Economics is a partial answer, it is not a complete answer. Getting people back into housing, rehabilitation, is all a good thing, but if they do not learn how to nurture relationships with other people and a crisis enters their life again they will be right back on the streets again."

   Most people who are alcoholics or drug addicts break down those important human relationships. He feels that this behavior destroys the vital human safety net that we all need to survive.

  When asked if he thinks he will ever end up homeless again, Ron says no. He now has just too many friends who would prevent that from happening. His own safety net is firmly in place.

Originally published for NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine Copyrighted Oct. – Dec. 1995 Issue 12

From Homeless to Hopeful After a Year

 

By J Robinson

I am a 56-year-old homeless, unemployed, female veteran. I served in the United States Army for one year, after which I was honorably discharged. Over the next thirty years, as a single mother, I managed to successfully raise my daughter to adulthood, as well as earned a B.S. and M.Ed. What I was not so successful at was finding and keeping stable, gainful employment. After my daughter graduated from college, my life seemed to be an endless cycle of getting a job, getting a place; losing the job, losing the place.

During this time of financial insecurity, I contacted The Veterans Service Commission to see what assistance they could provide. I was informed that the number of months’ assistance I was eligible for is equal to the number of months I was actively in the military. After several years of unsuccessfully trying to hold my life together, on December 31, 2013 I entered a homeless shelter.

The past year has been long and hard, but very rewarding for me.  Thankful for the services provided at the shelter, which provided me with a very safe and wonderful place to “fall apart”, combined with some of the following services I’ve received from the Veterans Administration, I’ve been able to begin to put the scattered puzzle pieces of my life back together. At the end of 2013 I was homeless. At the end of 2014, I’m full of hope, gratitude and looking forward to moving into my own place in February 2015. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle and NEOCH January 2015

 

Working on Turning my Apartment into a Home

 

By Buzzy

 All you concerned people, I have now lived in my apartment for almost six-months.  It has truly been an rewarding experience. Since the first installment of this journey from homeless to living somewhere that I can call my own. I have gotten most of the essentials together such as cleaning, supplies, coffee pot, television, living room furniture, microwave, vacuum cleaner, and most of the things that it takes to sustain a comfortable living environment.

 I am teaching myself to maintain a clean and healthy environment. One of the things you really don’t care too much about when living on the streets is keeping a clean space. Each and every day I am learning to replace those bad habits with good habits.  I guess the best experience that I have had thus far is my family has been to my place of residence and giving me a thumbs up. At times when I was living on the streets my family wouldn’t hear from me for months or even years, but that was the way of the streets. Your only concern is where is that next meal coming from and where you can rest for the night, out of harms way.  I didn’t want to bring my family into that lifestyle of homelessness.

 I was really rewarded in June when my youngest sister came up from Atlanta Georgia and wanted to stay with me while she was here. Of course, being my sister she immediately started rearranging my furniture and telling me the do’s and don’ts of maintaining a home.  I think anyone else would have been upset with someone coming in their home and telling you this and that, but I needed the help. I wanted help and she did just that. It made me feel so good inside to know that my younger sister was pleased with my place and she enjoyed staying with me when she was here.

 I am still not as neat and orderly as most of my brothers and sisters, but I am pleased to know that I am on the right path.  When I started this journey, I was just like a baby starting to crawl.   I am now pulling myself up and bracing myself as I learn how to walk. As a child, I know that I will fall sometimes, but I will pick myself up again and get back in the race. Because that’s life, as Frank Sinatra put it so bluntly.  So here I sit in my apartment writing these few lines to let everyone know that I am doing okay.

I am excited for sure. It will not be displaced in my demeanor when you ask me,” How’s life in your apartment?” I will still say it’s better than being homeless. Having a place to call my own and taking it step by step, day by day, and asking the creator to give me the strength to keep striving for the prize of one day calling this my home with all the comforts that a home entails will be a beautiful feeling. So when we pass each other at the West Side Market, at an Indians game Downtown Cleveland, or wherever I am selling the Street Chronicle remember that I truly grateful to all.

No matter what has transpired between us, I have been truly glad to make your acquaintance. I enjoy giving all the readers this update on my journey to turning a place into an apartment an apartment into a home.  It’s been exciting, rewarding, uplifting, crazy, fulfilling--just all those good feelings.  I do want to say as I bring this part of the journey to a close, I don’t call my family as much. I’m starting to feel comfortable and putting all my trust in the creator that he will see me through, So, until next time, I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thanks once again for your support and concern.

 Continue to keep the faith.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

 

Andre Made it Off Streets With Help from Labre and Others

Thanks to Andre for agreeing to talk to NEOCH about his tough history and the help he found in the young men from St. Ignatius Labre Project.  This is a touching video because those in housing take for granted the ability to take a bath which is impossible in a shelter.  Also, in the age of Facebook when everyone knows your birthday and sends you a happy birthday message, this is not the case in the homeless community.  Andre talks about how special it is to receive a call from a graduate of St. Ignatius now in college wishing him a "Happy Birthday." 

Jim Vitu Made it Off the Streets with Outreach Help

Jim Vitu passed away after getting into housing.  We were so lucky to have interviewed him a couple of weeks before he died. He was in his late 50s and had only recently gotten off the streets.  He spent so many years on the street, and finally found some peace and a place inside for his stuff.  He was such a nice gentleman to everyone who gave him a helping hand.  The college students over at John Carroll and Case Western Reserve were all fond of Alabama Jim and visited him every week.

Silk Makes it Off the Streets and Gives Back at the Homeless Congress

By Sarah Novak 

Robert “Silk” Robinson is a man who truly beat the odds by getting out of the cycle of homelessness. He found himself homeless after losing his manufacturing job. Robinson began staying at 2100 Lakeside Shelter and ended up staying there for over a year and a half. During his stay at 2100, Robinson became very frustrated with the fact that the shelter did not give him any information or help to get him out of the shelter and into a home. Robinson claimed that they only tried to help those who have been in jail or who are drug addicts and there was no help for people who are simply down on their luck. 

He also made the claim that another reason that he did not receive much help is because if you help everyone get out of the shelter then the people who run the shelter would lose their jobs. Also, Robinson felt that the staff was unprepared for the type of people that came into 2100. During his stay at 2100, Robinson began to go to the Homeless Congress meetings at the Bishop William Cosgrove Center. There he came into contact with Jim Schlecht of Care Alliance which is the local health care for the homeless. Even though Schlecht does not work with a specific shelter, according to Robinson, “He is a God send and a good dude.” 

Schlecht was able to find Robinson housing and get him out of his situation. Robinson continues to attend the Homeless Congress meetings where he still advocates for homeless people and gets them in contact with Jim Schlecht. He offers advice to those who are experiencing homelessness, because Robinson believes that the shelters are not giving them information to get out of there situation. Robinson also advocates against many of the actions that the shelters are partaking in. He finds the rule that kicking people out of the shelter for causing disturbance is wrong. They do not give the residents of the shelter a way to work out their situation. They just kick them out. 

Robinson believes the best way to resolve conflict is to sit down and mediate the conflict with a staff member. Many of these conflicts could be resolved if someone took the time to sit down and talk with them. He also has a problem with how the shelters are all politics. As soon as you get out of the shelter, the shelter wants to take credit for getting you out. Robinson said “You didn’t get me out! I got me out! Jim Schlecht got me out.” He believes if you can get rid of the politics of the shelter it would help a lot. 

Also another problem he sees with the how the county is spending all this money on Playhouse Square renovations, but not on improving the lives of homeless people. Robinson claims you could have built three or four shelters with the amount of money you put into that chandelier for Playhouse Square. He believes if they would use this money in a more productive manner it would help homeless people tremendously. 

Robinson did learn two very important life lessons though during his stay at the shelter: compassion and patience. Robinson was never a patient guy growing up. He wanted everything right away. Being in the shelter taught him how to be patient and wait for the things he wanted. Also it taught him compassion towards people struggling with housing. It taught him to view homeless people in a new light. Robert “Silk” Robinson is truly an inspiration by showing us that people need to advocate for themselves as well as advocating for better conditions within the shelters. He always speaks up for what he believes is right, and he shows us that this can change lives.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Street Chronicle, October 2014 Cleveland, Ohi

Simona’s Homeless Experience

by Simona Lynch

In 2012- 2013, I experienced homelessness in Atlanta, GA. I then relocated back to Cleveland and found myself living with family members and friends. After 6 months of unemployment, I finally found a position as an Adjunct Medical Assistant Instructor. Unfortunately, it was only temporary employment and the assignment ended in December 2013.

In February 2014, I considered moving into a shelter because I could not find work, and I was tired of living with friends and family members. However, my cousin told me there was no need for that. He was moving to Atlanta so we could go to the management office and see what would need to be done to take over the leases. The next day I met him at the apartment’s management office and spoke to the office manager. This property was a CMHA property on the Westside of Cleveland. The manager asked me a series of questions and told me a criminal background check and income verification were required. The managers then contacted me once my application was verified.  Everything went smoothly so my daughter and I moved in sometime in February 2014. Fortunately, this was during income tax return season, and therefore, I was able to buy furniture, household necessitates, and electronics.

I felt relieved that the heavy load had finally been lifted off of me. We now have our own bedrooms and personal space, and we don’t have to rely on others or use public transportation; we don’t have to worry about being locked out of anyone’s house, sleeping in cars, and waiting to bathe. It feels good that we can sleep comfortably in our own beds (with no mat on the floor) and not on someone else’s sofa. Also, I eventually gained employment in May 2014 as a health care worker. I am slowly gaining self –sufficiency and plan on keeping it.

Homelessness is not an experience that anyone wants to experience. I must say it is a dreadful, shameful, scary, uncomfortable and embarrassing feeling. However and on the other hand, I have learned how to humble myself and never take life for granted. I keep my financial account personal (no one can empty my accounts), refuse to date or marry addicts who steal from their family, and stay educated on social issues. My daughter is also aware of homelessness causes and preventions. Finally and most of all, I have learned my strengths, my motivations, and my drives in regaining self-sufficiency. Homelessness can happen to anyone at any time and by any cause.

I want to inform the community that not everyone who experiences homelessness is mentally ill, lives in poverty or has a drug or alcohol addiction. Before I became homeless I was a middle class individual. In both Atlanta and Cleveland I lived in suburban areas. The community must educate themselves about the stigma that is homelessness. Thus, I encourage the community to get involved with the fight to help end homelessness in Northeast Ohio.

Jack Quietly Becomes an Expert on Homelessness

by Christopher Butler

     The temperature on the day when I meet Jack Taylor is 17 degrees with wind chills gusting to single digits depending on where you stand. In the buildings and store porticos, where many people stand huddled together sharing a cigarette and small talk, you can avoid the wind. But on the sidewalks outside the Grapevine offices—as Jack and I make a quick walk to a nearby coffee shop—the wind blows right through you and you imagine the wind chill to be around zero.

     Jack admits that he’s been reluctant to speak with me since I tried to make contact nearly two weeks ago. He doesn’t know why, but he assures me that he gives only straight answers, even if his responses aren’t popular. And quickly he backs up his assertion. He tells me a story about confronting a police officer that had stopped to harass two homeless people sitting on a park bench. “These same guys drive by 15 drug dealers standing on Detroit Avenue and then they stop to pick on a couple homeless people who aren’t bothering anybody. I don’t get it.”

     As we walk along, the wind seeps through my clothes and I cringe until the gust passes. I’m dressed like Jack—a long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt and a medium-thick jacket—but he doesn’t appear to mind the cold like I do. In fact, he doesn’t think it’s cold at all when I ask him. Its just part of the life he’s grown accustomed to. When we’re finally inside, he says he’s been outside in much colder weather, like the time when he and three other homeless friends built a camp in the woods near West 14th and the highway. Out there, having built shelter with stray wood and boxes, they survived nights with sub-zero temperatures and wind chills falling to depths that sound unreal, except for knowing that they did occur when you read about it in the newspaper, most likely while you were cozily nestled in a firm, reliable structure of your own.

     We sit down and Jack moves his chair back away from the table far enough to stretch out his left leg. He rubs his knee thoughtfully as we start to talk. Many of Jack’s troubles (although he’d never call them that) could be traced back to his left leg.

     Twenty-five years ago, Jack smashed the lower part of his left leg in a car accident—he was driving—when he hit a phone pole near the intersection of West 130th and State Route 82 in North Royalton. He crushed the ankle, 13 breaks and fractures that rendered the joint nearly unreadable through x-rays. When Jack visited a doctor three years ago, the doctor was incredulous. “How in the world do you walk on that thing?” he asked. Now 40 years old, the leg suffers from osteoporosis (due to inadequate diet) and arthritis, and the pain in the ankle has moved up Jack’s leg to his lower back. He says its just part of the life he’s grown accustomed to. Next month, Jack’s having a third operation on the ankle, a total fusion that will prevent any kind of flex in the joint.

     The life that Jack’s “grown accustomed to” has taken him to some unique locales, spending part of his youth on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles where his father operated the island’s only radio station, KBIG. In those days, residence on the island was exclusive and his family had neighbors such as the Wrigleys (of chewing gum fame) and the Lamases (Fernando and son Lorenzo). The island was tight-knit, and Jack remembers it fondly. Cruise ships would often stop for day tours and the passengers threw coins off the bow and watched as the children dived into the cool water looking for spending money. “We would come home with cans full of coins,” Jack explains.

     Through the years, living in Arizona and Ohio, he married and had three children (but is now divorced). Jack stayed busy and employed, brandishing skills in concrete, sewer construction, truck driving and heavy equipment operation. The money was good and he loved the hard work, but all the trappings of domestic life were difficult—the emphasis on things and the accumulation of more and more things—it was stressful, too stressful. So eight years ago he left home without notice.

     He went to a place beneath a bridge near Train Avenue where other homeless folk had built a small community, pooling resources to make ends meet. When Jack saw police, they would tell him there was a missing person’s report filed in his name. Jack ignored them. He was embarrassed about his situation and yet did know how to fix it. Or know if he wanted to fix it. He stayed near Train Avenue for nearly two years until an assault in a nearby neighborhood enraged residents there. They blamed homeless people and police flushed the area, pushing Jack and his friends out into the cold again.

     That’s when Jack and his friends formed a camp near West 14th and the interstate. In this area they were far away from homes. Jack made ends meet by walking the neighborhood looking for work, shoveling snow, raking leaves, all while standing on a deteriorating ankle. After five years, a neighbor started harassing Jack and his friends. He was trying to sell his house and claimed their camp was hurting his real estate value. “You couldn’t even see us from his house. No one would even know we were there,” Jack explained. The neighbor took matters into his own hands, throwing Molotov cocktails at their shelter and making false complaints to police. After a while, Jack and his friends gave up and moved away again.

     As the conversation moves along, I keep asking Jack about times and dates and he has trouble remembering. To me it’s confusing but to Jack it’s another symptom of homelessness—the lack of structure and calendar to guide your activity. “You lose all concept of time when you’re on the streets because you don’t have any days to look forward to. You don’t pay this bill on this day. Just another day goes by.”

     Jack values the services provided by agencies in Cleveland, but he thinks some of the work is misdirected or too often beset by poor supervision. He says affordable housing would be the best cure for homelessness, but any attempt to do this should also have adequate services nearby to insure that people get the treatment they need, whether its substance abuse or mental training. While Jack appreciates these agencies, he also carries a healthy sense of skepticism of the how these groups are run. “If we’re paying some guy 75-thousand to run a non-profit... well, that sounds like a lot of profit to me. I don’t think that’s right.” And it’s not just on the home front that we misuse money, according to Jack. “We spend a billion dollars to drop peanut butter half way around the world and we can’t even provide someone here with money for a bus ticket.” It’s tough to argue with Jack.

     Today, Jack has a small apartment which he funds through odd jobs and subsidy checks. He sells the Grapevine, but typically gives his profits to other vendors. Jack says he doesn’t need to money but he likes to be out there with his friends. He takes pride in being someone who can be relied on for help. He likes the fellowship it brings. He says Grapevine is a helpful project, but the way the vendors are treated makes him angry. Jack says you can tell when someone in the street doesn’t even regard you as a normal person. “You can just tell. They think were all drug addicts or lazy. The worst is when they act like they don’t even see you.” As upsetting as it might be, it doesn’t deter Jack. As we part ways, he goes in search of his friend Tony who’s getting ready to hit the streets with a stack of Grapevines in hand.

Copyright The Homeless Grapevine Issue 59, February-March 2003, Cleveland, Ohio

Cathy the Vendor Helped by Grapevine

Not Cathy because she wants to remain anonymous. Photo by Karen St. John Vincentby Tim Schwab

     Cathy Brown meets me in the Grapevine office. She’s dressed well in business casual with bright tawny hair and sufficient makeup, all of which give her a professional demeanor. Later I find out that her entire outfit is from the thrift store.

     Before the questions had started, Cathy had already begun telling her life story. She was chatting with another Grapevine vendor about their experiences living on the street, and the circumstances which pushed each of them to homelessness at an early age.

     As I talk with Cathy I’m impressed with her openness, and with her self-honesty. She speaks candidly about the mistakes she’s made in life—leaving her parents’ home at too early of an age and getting involved in difficult romantic relationships.

    But Cathy draws on her experiences on the streets to make suggestions about solving the problem of homelessness. Cathy believes that certain social experiences as a youth have contributed to her becoming homelessness. For this reason, she emphasizes preventative measures, such as counseling for junior high and high school students, teaching them the reality of living on the streets, and the reality of trying to make it on your own. "Kids given community service to do shouldn’t be picking up trash on the side of the road. They should be learning about homelessness and AIDS," Cathy said.

     Growing up in a small town outside of Seattle, Cathy first became homeless after she left home at 18 and lost the job she had. Unaccustomed to the bright lights of Seattle, Cathy made mistakes living on the streets. She’s experienced the benefits of communal living in the Seattle homeless camps in the 1980’s, but also has dealt with the seedier, more harrowing living situations that homelessness can force on you. She talks about the difficulties of being a woman on the street: "It’s harder for a woman. A woman has more needs…It’s not like being a man. He can lay his head down anywhere. A woman’s got to be more careful."

     Cathy’s been in and out of homeless shelters and camps throughout her adult life. Just three years ago she was staying in a shelter in Columbus. The last five months, however, Cathy has found some respite from life on the streets. She’s found an apartment in Cleveland and a steady, supplemental income to her disability check by selling the Grapevine.

     Cathy tells me she takes her job selling the Grapevine seriously. Four times a week she sells the paper, always attired in her blue-jeans and her Grapevine t-shirt. "It’s like a uniform for me, it’s what I always work in."

     Judging the homeless as being lazy or inferior is a frequent, fallacious perception among non-homelesss people, according to Cathy, and she hopes the Grapevine will help change the public’s beliefs on this matter.

     Cathy warns people who have never been homeless to try to understand the complexity of homelessness. "Don’t judge people out there on the streets. You don’t know why they’re homeless. It could be your brother, mother, sister, or aunt."

     Cathy enumerates the reasons why people are on the streets. Problems with drugs, alcohol, mental illness are very common causes that she’s seen. She herself has battled with alcohol problems and with depression. Another contributing factor to homelessness is budgeting an income. According to Cathy, "Everybody’s trying to keep up with the Jones’, and the Jones’ are in debt."

     Although no longer homeless, Cathy keeps in the touch with the homeless through her work with the Grapevine and her friends at the West Side Catholic Center. When asked about the resources available to the homeless here in Cleveland, she speaks highly of the Cleveland Street Card, a card available to homeless people and published by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, which lists free health and social services for the lowest income members of Cleveland.

     There are drawbacks in accessing the resources, however, because the locations of clinics and shelters are so spread out. "If you don’t have money for rent or food, how are you going to afford $1.25 for the bus every time you need to go somewhere?"

     Cathy would like to see a single resource center for homeless people, which would provide all services and a shelter in the same building. Another of her recommendations is to have a separate shelter for the working homeless. Many shelters enforce early evening curfews, which prevent many homeless people from employment that requires working nights.

     Today, Cathy rents out an apartment, which she shares with her cats. The Public Housing Authority previously turned down Cathy because of her pets. According to Cathy, resources for the homeless are unsympathetic to folks with pets. Cathy believes that pets provide people with important social benefits and security. She’d like to see medicare available to homeless people and their pets.

     Cathy’s final suggestions on helping homelessness are preventative. She believes in helping families and children with food resources and counseling before they become homeless. Provided with good models and adequate homes, Cathy believes, young people today can break the cycle of homelessness and succeed in life.

Copyright NEOCH published in March 2002 Issue 53

Rich, the Veteran, Tries to Turn His Life Around

by San Seviera Marshall

     Many of us believe the homeless epidemic that plagues the nation is spearheaded by the homeless themselves. Individuals who are believed to be derelicts of society, with little to no work ethic, who have contributed very little to society at large. In short, they are considered opportunists looking for a hand out. But as Rich would say the Homeless Grapevine vendors "aren’t looking for a hand out they are looking for a hand up." This is the very premise that this country was built upon.

     Rich is a 46-year old Polish immigrant who came to the United States in 1964 at the age of 8. And virtually since his arrival to this country he has demonstrated high self-motivation, a very good work ethic and contributed to society at various stages of his life prior to becoming homeless and even during the past 20 months that he has been homeless.

     Rich began life here in the U.S. in Chicago, IL and as the oldest boy and the second oldest of 10 children he felt compelled to be a role model for his siblings and to help alleviate the financial pressures his parents were under. As such, Rich was an honor roll student and a child athlete who excelled in football and baseball, all while maintaining a part time job after school and on the weekends. Rich gave most of the money he earned to his parents to contribute to the household and help his family financially.

     When Rich advanced to high school he added the ROTC to his already busy schedule and managed to maintain his honor roll status and continued to excel at sports. Rich believes that the discipline and focus he learned in ROTC prepared him for his tour of duty in the Airforce. When Rich was drafted, as an alien with permanent green card status, he was glad to serve his "country." Rich used his time in the military wisely, earning an associate’s degree in child psychology and a bachelor’s degree in business.

     When his tour of duty was up, Rich found himself in Texas and decided to make Houston his home, where he put his business degree to work and established a very successful floor laying business for single family homes. Rich is a very savvy businessman, he very eloquently explained how he subcontracted his workers and leased his equipment, and was able to generate a gross profit of $80K, and bought a home for approximately $65,000, all at he age of 24. The structure of his business also enabled him to unwind his operation rather quickly when the ‘80s Oil Crisis hit Texas and the housing market dried up.

     When this happened, Rich went back to Chicago for several years to regroup. After several different managerial and sales jobs, Rich landed a position as a retail manager for new and used Lexus vehicles. It was here that he was approached with a business opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. Rich became an independent franchisee selling upscale men’s clothing. For all practical purposes, Rich became a traveling salesman on the road for months at a time selling imported Italian suits, silk ties and dress shirts to lawyers, car salesmen, insurance agents and time share reps in states east of the Mississippi. Again, Rich became very successful at this business and netted over $100K annually. Rich ran this business from ’92 up until the time he became homeless in June of 2000.

     Rich became very ill and was admitted to a local hospital here in Cleveland, where he had been living at the time, on June 15, 2000 for about 10 days. Despite having paid his rent through the end of June, Rich returned to his apartment only to find that his landlord had discarded his belongings and leased his apartment to someone else. And like most Americans who live outside of their means and are one paycheck away from being homeless (keeping up with the Jones’); with no income for the second half of June, Rich found himself homeless inside of 30 days.

     Being homeless to Rich has been both a curse and a blessing. The loss of his material possessions and social status coupled with the hardship of trying to make it on his own living on the streets has been a very humbling experience. Rich has slept in almost every local shelter at one time or another, lived in various camps in the forest and has been robbed and/or beaten at least six times since he became homeless. We often times take for granted having food and shelter, but being able to get a hot meal, a shower and a place to sleep are always at the forefront of Rich’s mind. As a Grapevine vendor in Ohio City, Rich has come face to face with the true character of a man and often times it has been unpleasant. Most people understand that "you can’t judge people on your [own] circumstance, because [most] people aren’t homeless by their own choice but by life circumstances."

     Despite the negative people Rich has encountered and the bad experiences, Rich has been blessed to feel the loving and supportive side of mankind through the people at the Grapevine and the philanthropy of the local shop owners in Ohio City (like Talkies and the Great Brewery). The local shop owners are very kind to Rich, sometimes offering him food and coffee and allowing him to come into their establishments to sit down and watch TV, even if he doesn’t buy anything. Rich is very pleased that through very engaging conversations, these individuals have taken time to really get to know him as a person and not just the homeless guy on the corner selling newspapers. Rich recounted a very special moment last June 1st on his birthday when he had fallen asleep near a shop entrance and awoke to find a warm Whopper sitting in his lap with a $5 bill inside. He treasures this memory, because it is moments like that one that renews his faith in the goodness of human kind.

     Prior to becoming homeless, Rich was on top of the world. He thought he was "invincible" and immune to such hardship, disappointment and failure. Although Rich is not embarrassed by his situation, he is very disappointed in himself and feels like he failed himself. As a Roman Catholic, Rich believes that his homelessness is a test from God, a test of his faith, his strength, his resolve and his resilience. Rich believes that everyone at some point in their lives should experience homelessness for a few months for their own personal growth. Rich has experienced minor set backs prior to be becoming homeless, but has always managed to regroup and use his intellect and his instinct to redirect his efforts and become successful at a new project in a very short period of time.

     Being a Grapevine vendor allows Rich to do what he does best and what comes natural to him, be an entrepreneur and interact with people. Selling the Grapevine is a stepping-stone for Rich to re-establish himself and rebuild his men’s clothing business which he hopes to have reopened by the summer. I don’t doubt for one second that this very intelligent, insightful, articulate, hardworking man will again one day soon, pursue the American Dream, reopen his business and prosper and prosper and flourish once again. If Rich has learned nothing else from this experience, he now knows that life can change in an instant. Rich’s life has been forever changed.

Copyright NEOCH published in May 2002 in Cleveland Ohio Issue 54

Bob Boclear Looking for a Job

by Bob Boclear

I was born in Granada, Mississippi, in 1951. I moved to Cleveland in 1960. I completed the twelfth grade through GED. My occupation is a tractor-trailer driver. I was married, had children and now have grandchildren. I was divorced after 20 years of marriage.

 I lived what’s considered to be a normal, decent life. You know: job, family, community involvement. For many years, things were good. Then, things began to change.

 My marriage started going bad, and my job moved out of state. I began drinking more and started doing drugs. Divorce occurred, and my children left. I really began not to care. I lost my respect, self-esteem and whatever else you can lose when you’re failing. Anyway, I became homeless and for a good while I wallowed in my sorrow and pity. There were times when I asked for food, and what was said to me was, “Get a job you damn bum!” More often than not, we are treated as the worst.

 Further down the road, I met people who cared and were concerned. I gave me hope and a desire to help myself. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not easy coming up and I’m not out of this yet. But at least now I’m giving myself the chance.

 Before I end my article, I would like to thank NEOCH and its staff for what I call CURE: caring, understanding, respect and encouragement. Thank you NEOCH, and may God bless you.

 This was originally published in the Homeless Grapevine and NEOCH, Issue 5, Cleveland Ohio February 1994

Edward Loriano Faces Tough Times

By A. Forbes

 Edwardo Loriano was born in New York, raised in Chicago and came to Cleveland in 1986 with his mother and two sisters. Throughout his life he has been in 11 foster homes, 3 group homes, and 4 penitentiaries. The foster homes were all right but he didn’t like being away from his family. He lived in foster home in Toledo, Bowling green, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

The Phoenix Society of Cleveland was instrumental in helping him secure his housing by referring him to the Shelter Plus Care program. The Phoenix Society helped him compose a letter to reinforce his situation and the fact that he was a recovering addict, who was in receipt of Social Security benefits by not had secured housing. They saw that the potential for success was there, and the obstacles that were keeping him out of housing. He was being turned down continually because of policies from different housing agencies and landlords regarding felony convictions. This policy is very different since many individuals who are homeless, or who have mental health issue, or are living with AIDS have criminal records and therefore are automatically ineligible to apply for housing.

He sent Agency Staff and Shelter Plus another letter verifying that he was living in the area shelters, and proof on his Social Security award letter. He then sent all documents into the program on the 21st of December and was accepted on the 5th of February. He pays 30 percent of his income toward his rent and Shelter Plus pays an additional 70 percent.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine July 1999 Issue 36 Cleveland Ohio.

Arthur Price Vends Street Paper After Cancer

Arthur passed away in 2010by Mark Hopkins

         Between the vendors’ stands and the rear parking lot of the West Side Market, Arthur Price is working a double shift on a cold March morning, selling The Homeless Grapevine.

         Some passersby purchase a copy, others nod “Hello,” but no one seems to ignore the man in the green fatigue jacket and red wool cap, stroking his gray beard as he welcomes all comments and observations.

         Who would guess that he is a survivor of the city’s streets and, more recently, of prostate cancer? Or that he thanks God every day for granting him the opportunity of urging others to purchase the Homeless Grapevine? “It keeps me alive,” he says. “Otherwise, I’d be home, getting sicker, just watching TV.”

         He has not had an easy or an ordinary life. Both his mother and daughter died of cancer, and he had spent the last four years caring for his dying brother.

         For Arthur, life is all about maintaining a sense of optimism in the face of adversity. Selling the Homeless Grapevine is a part of that maintenance program: “It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning,” he remarks.

And that is something he has dedicated his time and energy to for over two years now.

         “It’s really saved my life,” he repeats. “Without this to look forward to, and without my wife, I’d be dead.”

          Arthur was born in Franklin County, outside of Columbus, in 1927. Because of family problems, he entered the Children’s Home, where he resided from 1939 until the mid -1940s. Homeless at 17, following the death of his mother, he worked sporadically, including jobs as a roofer, and, later, for the Volunteers of America on Cleveland’s West Side. It was during this time that he met his friend, Tony, who introduced him to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine.

         As we spoke, I could sense the strength of his enthusiasm and the urgency he musters about informing others about the plight of the homeless. He is confident in his belief that it is possible to find deliverance from the many mean streets of an often-uncaring city.

         “This morning, people said to me that I help make them feel good, like I am an enchanter or something. I love talking to people; I work here not for me, but for others, especially for my wife. If it weren’t for her, I couldn’t do this. I share the Homeless Grapevine with people to help make them aware of the homeless, to remind them so they know we’re here. If you pass a Homeless Grapevine vendor, remember, don’t just pass by, buy a copy or listen to that person’s story.”

For Arthur Price, survival is all about optimism.

         “It’s all with the Lord,” he said, just as on this Saturday morning, by way of example, he said his wife was concerned that he may not hear the alarm at 5:00 a.m. because of an electrical problem. His response? “The Lord will wake me up.”

         It was uplifting to meet such an approachable and inspiring person as Arthur Price. He was forthcoming, demonstrative, and unapologetic about the hard and winding road. He’d taken to bring him home. He is glad to be alive and to be doing such purposeful work.                            The homeless are not anonymous, he says; they have their faces, their histories, and their stories. And Arthur’s story is one of many that confront the question of persistence and survival. He gives us hope. He helps us to realize that homeless people are not just the people we see sleeping under a bridge as we drive across on our way downtown or the anonymous people who huddle in the crevice of an overpass, all of their worldly belongings strewn about them.

         This morning at the West Side Market, amid the din of the cacophonous, foreign voices, Arthur’s voice is clear: These people, the homeless, those who may who have fallen beneath the radar of hope deserve a chance to find a home. And home, as has been so often said, is where the heart is.

         Arthur Price exudes the confidence of a survivor and is a man who wants to share the story of that survival. The city’s streets won’t present an argument for defeat: they’ll present a welcome challenge born of the confidence, of hope for a better future and the faith that deliverance may be forthcoming.

         The city may possess sadness and defeat, but it also holds the springs of hope flowing beneath its hard streets, which hope that is said to ever spring Eternal.

  Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60

Cincinnati Woman Partying Led to Homelessness

Commentary by Elizabeth Shockley

            You couldn’t have told me five years ago that I would have ended up at the door of the Drop Inn Center (Cincinnati's main shelter) for any help. Not me.

            You see, I was out partying with some so-called dear friends. However, when the money, the alcohol, and the drugs were gone, they had no use for Liz, so they put me in the street in the middle of the night.

            I was a complete mess. I was only going to stay overnight at the shelter; it was around the Christmas holidays in 1995. And, you know - I ended up staying for five to six months.

            Buddy (Gray), Gail (Holley), and Kathy (Nolan, more recently working at a shelter in Kentucky) talked to me as if they had known me all my life, and I give a lot of gratitude to them for helping me find myself and getting in touch with my Higher Power and AA and NA programs once again.

            After staying for almost six months, I worked and went to AA and NA meetings; and I saved my money through the 50-50 plan at the Drop Inn Center while I was staying there.

            I was able to accept responsibilities and get on with my life. I got an apartment through ReSTOC, a low-income housing corporation connected with the Drop Inn Center (which helps with the homeless.) You see, I was not only homeless, per se, but also “lost.”

            So, I want to thank my so-called friends for that night and for my new life - for throwing me out in the middle of the night.

            There is more in me to be forgiven than in any of you. I think I must be rather like the woman who loved much because she was forgiven much. And, as my grandma always says, “God loves you and so do I.”

            I’m going on two years of recovery today, “one day at a time.” And, by the grace of God, I truly want to thank God, whom I choose as my Higher Power, the Drop Inn Center, ReStoc, AA and NA, and the prayers and love from my mother and grandmother for my new life today.

Happy New Year. Thank you.