Grapevine Vendor Linda Passes Away

We at the Street Chronicle lost another vendor who in the past sold the Homeless Grapevine for years, Linda Schoger.  She passed away due to cancer. She died on July 14, 2013 at the age of 69, and she spent many years homeless. She had a memorial service at the Carey Funeral Home by her friends at West Side Catholic. She used to feed the birds and she also had many cats.

Not enough flowers, not enough friends, but she still had a beautiful group of friends who gave their last respects to her. It was lovely.  A friend of hers even drove me home. She’s going to feed the birds downtown in memory of Linda even if she gets a ticket.  Even though these people were her true friends, her main friend’s name is Cathy.  She was also a former vendor, and is thinking of coming back to sell the paper.

Linda, before she passed away, had a mental illness and sometimes a drinking problem. Poor Linda went to Fairview Hospital months ago and could not get care because she had no insurance. She told her friend because she didn’t have excellent insurance was the reason she was sick. She was diagnosed with cancer and nothing could be done. She would have been on borrowed time.   So on July 14th, 2013, she was in a hospital and passed away. I will miss her and miss seeing her around the neighborhood.

I am writing on behalf of all the vendors and how we will miss her and hope to see her when the time comes. And we all in Heaven will not need the paper to survive. In Heaven, everything is plenty and beautiful. We will all live in paradise. Until we meet again, Linda, God Bless you. Say hi to my parents, grandparents, brother, and my friends.

I love you, Linda.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle published August 2013 Cleveland Ohio

The Sub Zero Mission Believes No One Should Freeze in America

Kathryn Harris

As warmth slowly comes to Northeast Ohio, many look forward to the promise of sunny days and outdoor activities. In the long months of winter, the once-exciting idea of leaving the office or school to go home at the end of the day was punctured by a wintry walk to the car. While it was a much milder winter than past years, the coming of spring and summer means longer days and the end of that bitter cold, something with which we as Ohioans are all too familiar. Despite the relatively temperate winter, the upcoming seasons also provide some respite for Cleveland’s homeless populations, many of whom faced a cyclical life-and-death battle in the freezing temperatures each night. That dreaded walk to the car pales in comparison to what some homeless individuals had to endure. It is here where organizations like the Sub Zero Mission are so clearly important.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Al Raddatz, the Founder and CEO of the Sub Zero Mission, a charity that “collects sleeping bags, coats, hats, and any warming item” and distributes them to the homeless during the winter. Run entirely by a group of dedicated volunteers, it is difficult to say which aspect of their young but invaluable organization is most noteworthy, but one is certainly the Survival Coats. These are “weather proof, sub zero sleeping bags that turn into coats” and were originally designed by the staff members at the Empowerment Plan, an agency in Detroit with which the Sub Zero Mission has partnered. (pictured here)  Raddatz and team give hundreds of coats and thousands of hats, gloves, and hand warmers to homeless men and women they see outside or meet in shelters. Made completely from donated items, the Survival Coats are sewn by formerly homeless persons, offering the workers an innovative experience of employment and philanthropy.

Agencies like the Sub Zero Mission demonstrate the potency of collective action and the power of dedication to one’s community. The organization, which was founded in 2009 on a particularly cold evening, started in possibly the most selfless way possible. Raddatz and friends thought of the men, women, and children whose only source of heat was perhaps no more than a sewer grate. The Sub Zero Mission has since given these warming items to a wide range of homeless people, but has a special focus on veterans largely because Raddatz and many of the agency’s volunteers and board members have served time in the military. Veterans make up 20-25 percent of the overall homeless population, a shockingly high percentage that Raddatz said was “the driving force of getting out there” and distributing these much-needed items. Like any demographic, homeless people are far from homogenous and Raddatz has found that homeless veterans face unique challenges. Many, Raddatz pointed out, may be unaware of having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other medical conditions. Others may also favor greater autonomy over living in a shelter, making Raddatz’s efforts all the more vital.

At its core, the Sub Zero Mission is really about people helping people, veterans helping veterans and its impact has been apparent in its only four  years of activity. Based in Northeast Ohio, the Sub Zero Mission has a chapter in Buffalo, New York and has collaborated with agencies in Detroit.  Raddatz looks forward to expanding his organization to cities along the Great Lakes.

            Instead of focusing primarily on the why and how we have so many people without housing, the Sub Zero Mission acknowledges the fact that poverty exists, and concentrates more so on giving the warming items to the homeless when they need it the most. Even though winter has come and gone, the Sub Zero Mission is already preparing for the cold months ahead. This early action is especially important knowing that the Sequestration may cause several shelters to close in 2014. With fundraisers and plenty of opportunities to get involved, the agency hopes to continue its impact and expand its scope in the coming years.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

Editor’s Note:  For more information on Sub Zero Mission you can go to their website at to ship a sleeping bag, donate, volunteer or for more information on upcoming events.

Homeless in Atlanta, Georgia Compared to Cleveland, Ohio

Commentary by Simona Lynch

The streets in Atlanta are beautiful and fun with so much life and entertainment.  There are many community events and a lot of celebrities that live in Atlanta.  It’s a city of fun.  Atlanta, Georgia a city where African Americans from all over the United States are relocating to.  Most of the people are famous and successful.  All of the African Americans help’s each other, so why aren’t they helping homeless people?

What if you are poor or maybe homeless? Why are the shelters  over- crowed, and why do they have to turn people away if there are no beds?  And I just can’t understand why some of the shelters charge $7-$10 a day to get a bed and at some shelters the   residents have to provide meals for themselves.

 Most shelters have other organizations that they have a partnership with and those organizations can pay for a resident’s fee for one week.  After that you are on your own.  While I was in Atlanta I learned of a non-profit agency, Traveler’s Aid ----an organization that provides funds for lodging, transportation assistance, employment assistance and first month and security deposit. However, this program is only for someone from another city or state. Travelers’ Aid gives the displaced individual or family a choice for the agency to pay for the person(s) to relocate back home or they will assist them in the city of Atlanta.

Yes, there are community events but the homeless are not allowed to participate.  The police will ask them to leave, people will physically bully them, calling them drunks, base heads, bums, crazies or saying “No bag ladies allowed.”  I can’t understand why there are so many homeless people sleeping on the streets in Atlanta.  The city with lots of money and with individuals earning an income $500,000 and more a year, how can they ignore homeless people? Every day I was in Atlanta I saw women with children and men lying on the ground, sitting in parks begging for food, or water or a fresh pair of clothes or shoes for themselves or their children.  I saw homeless people in parking lots of stores, lying on the bare ground with the odor of urine and feces on the sizzling hot ground, and tents set up with all the personal belongings in Downtown Atlanta or in the back of abandoned buildings.  Through out the day, individuals from the suburbs feed the homeless, pass out bottle water and bring blankets.

BUT, the streets are a jungle in Atlanta. I have seen a homeless teen get jumped by four other teen boys when leaving a homeless shelter.” You bum, you stink. I bet you hungry, I know yo momma must be po’, is she a crack head?” they said before beating the young person.  I have seen a young homeless woman ask a man for directions. She had a baby in the stroller with two bags one on each handle, 2 bags under the stroller and a book bag on her back and a boy walking with her that appeared to about 5 years old. The man she asked directions from was trying to give her a ride.  When she refused the ride, he got out the car and called her vulgar names, took her stroller and threw it on the ground with her baby still in the stroller.

One day I was volunteering at a local shelter and it was raining outside all morning and afternoon. There was a woman and her two  year old daughter and six year old son outside. This family had to stand outside because one of the rules of the shelter was that the residents must be diligently seeking employment beginning at 6 am every weekday.  This woman did not have any cash on hand and did not know any one in the local area; she was from New Orleans, LA.  I gave the woman $9 to get an all day bus pass to go to the day shelter, where she her and her family can eat a meal, get dry, and access resources for her current situation.

 I was in midtown Atlanta at Centennial Park, and there were three homeless men sitting on the bench talking to one another. One guy walked over to the water fountain and a black police officer hit him in his back and then his leg, telling him he could not drink from the fountain.  One night walking to the MARTA train station from Auburn Ave. towards downtown, I saw the many homeless sit up under the bridge with the birds and other stray animals; the homeless will use the bathroom and sleep under the same bridge. This saddens me because all the restaurants in the area will tell the homeless people in order for them to use the rest room they have to purchase something.

On a Friday evening a blue van pulled up with two adults and two youth with food in containers.  It appeared to be about 25 dinners and bottled water. I stopped and asked if I could help them serve the homeless because I enjoy serving people.  So, we all served the people under the bridge and gave them each a hug.  I stayed while the others left. Nearby were two local bars and people were leaving.  A few men and women came under the bridge and took peoples waters and poured them out and dumped the containers of food onto the ground. The  attackers was shouting, “y’all homeless people need to get the out of our hood-- laying around, go get a job, over to yo’ fam or friends house , we don’t want y’all bums out here kicking them.” If the police ask a homeless person to move from the area where they are standing, sitting or laying and the person does not move fast enough they will be arrested.

I have volunteered for the Metro Atlanta Task force for the homeless, and what I learned is that homeless people are required to obtain a referral to receive any assistance, even for a visit to the homeless health clinic. What concerns me the most is if a shelter does not have any beds available, where does a family in need turn to? Keep in mind there are no low –income housing programs in the city of Atlanta and there is not help with income base housing program, however there is assistance with furniture and first month rent and security deposit that Cleveland does not have.

While there is no enjoyment in being homeless, I have experience with homelessness in two cities, Atlanta and Cleveland.  If I had pick between the two, I would rather be in Cleveland, Ohio.

Finally, everyone in all communities should gain knowledge about homelessness and get involved in helping end homelessness in Cleveland, Ohio. Stay prayerful, encourage others and be motivated to work toward justice.

Editor’s Notes:  Simona lived in Atlanta and became homeless.  She moved back to Cleveland and is searching for housing locally.  Currently, she volunteers for the Homeless Coalition while looking for stability.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

Reflections While Reading the Last Issue of the Chronicle From Cover to Cover

Commentary by Kathryn Harris

Since the Great Recession, the necessity of having at least a college degree has taken an even greater role in daily discourse. While education is often regarded as the be-all end-all for obtaining a white picket fence life, one or even two degrees may not always be sufficient in thwarting homelessness or poverty. As we are all well aware, the unstable economy precipitated a shockingly high number of layoffs. Some of those employees, already teetering on the edge of poverty, were finally pushed over. But we also know that finding yourself in a destitute existence is far more complicated than this picture alone. As the economy recovers, we notice a number of Ohioans living well under the poverty line while either working or having graduated from college. It seems that poverty alleviation is not just a question of hard work or dedication, but about the opportunity for economic mobility – something so intrinsic to the American Dream. Perhaps the typical lens through which we define poverty needs to be updated.

            If all homeless people are anything, they are not monolithic. The homeless are a diverse demographic and this extends beyond the realms of just race or ethnicity. For something as conspicuous as homelessness, many of us wonder why. Laziness? A corollary of a flawed institution? Addiction? Legal barriers? It is a deeply nuanced question that has plagued homeless advocates and politicians alike. Well just as the homeless are heterogeneous, what got them there is varied as well.

According to a report by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, 1 in 12 impoverished Ohioans has at least a bachelor’s degree and 42.3% of impoverished Ohioans are in the workforce, yet the state’s poverty rate is still hovering around 15%. With higher education being nearly synonymous with financial stability, it seems paradoxical that a college-educated person could live in poverty. To be clear, there is no doubt that a university degree often allows for greater economic security than does a high school education alone. But why, especially when the poor are often deemed inherently uneducated or lazy, are such a high number of those living under the poverty line working either part or full time and/or have completed college?

These statistics symbolize that the ability for the working or college-educated poor to ameliorate their situation is unbelievably challenging. The old claim that the only solution to ending poverty is pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is wanting as that’s exactly what a significant percentage of Ohio’s impoverished demographic is trying to do. This problem isn’t exactly new but it demonstrates how complicated poverty alleviation is.

For one woman, having three degrees in a climate where few organizations were hiring proved to be more of a resume drawback than a resume booster, as many agencies deemed her too qualified. A matter of circumstance and chance can make the difference between stability and poverty.  Not only does this challenge the notion that all homeless people are to blame for their situation, but the myriad of factors that influence poverty should prompt us to reflect on why homelessness is not only such a visible but persistent force in Cleveland, especially in a time when suburban poverty is on the rise nationwide.

But what influences the cyclical nature of poverty is still more complex. Being encumbered by a mental or physical illness, for example, has demonstrated to be one of the most serious obstacles in alleviating homelessness, as it can too often provide a one-way ticket to a shelter’s doorstep. SAMSHAs National Mental Health Information Center estimates that roughly 40 percent of the homeless suffer from a mental health problem. Unexpected occurrences can exacerbate an already financially strapped family. If you lose a spouse or partner with whom you shared your income, not only are you losing a loved one, but an often debilitating cycle of depression follows. Let’s place this in the context of Ohio specifically. Figures from the last Census noted that the state’s median household income dropped from 2010 to 2011; supporting yourself after losing half of your household income is logistically onerous to say the least.

So does the age-old notion that people are homeless due to fault hold water? Well what’s clear is that homelessness is a multifaceted, almost intrinsic aspect of our society. But attributing error on the part of the homeless seems to be more of a misplaced excuse for justifying the social hierarchy than anything substantive. Even if someone did make a mistake that led them directly to homelessness then, well, okay. Making mistakes is an irritatingly intrinsic part of life. Many having already been on the brink of poverty can make fewer mistakes that much more impactful. Poverty influences everyone, at each level of the economic strata.

 Editor’s Note: These are reflections based on the last issue of the Street Chronicle Issue 20.2.  See for the Archive of old Street Chronicles, including the last issue.

Copyright Street Chronicle Cleveland Ohio August 2013                      

Cleveland Schools Student Overcomes Obstacles to Keep Family Together

By Jacob Gedetsis

Quinton Wiggins, a senior at John Adams, like other students his age, has concerns for the future. Like many of his classmates, he has worked hard academically throughout his high school career, earning honor roll and a 3.0 GPA. However, unlike his peers his journey to get there has been laced with bumps in the road.  In July of 2008, Quinton, his mother and his two sisters found themselves on the streets without a home. As victims of domestic violence, they left their then home in Maryland and came to Cleveland. They bounced around shelters, cities, counties, and even states as Quinton’s mother, Ms. Sameka Cammon, searched for the best opportunities for her children. 

Recently, Quinton went through training to become a public speaker with the help of the Northeast Ohio’s Coalition for the Homeless and Project ACT—a program that aids homeless children. Quinton volunteered for this to learn how to better recount his story and inspire others.  He considers himself, “shy and quiet” but took this opportunity in order to break out of his comfort zone and improve his skills. He plans to take the things he has learned and go to local church groups and schools and to speak to them about his life.  He plans on speaking about what it was like to be homeless, how to survive as a teenager and what you should and shouldn’t do. He shared some of his experience with the Chronicle.

            Quinton and his family were homeless for about three years. “When I first realized I was going to be homeless, I was very confused. I had no idea where we were going most of the time; I was just trying to stay strong for my mother, and my sisters, being the only male and oldest sibling.” Quinton said, “I tried to keep my head high and tried to stay positive and console my sisters and my mother. It was hard—it was really hard—sometimes we had no where to go and we had to sleep in the truck for a few nights.”

In those three years, Quinton saw peers who were going through similar situations get involved in troublesome activities, including gang activity. Despite this, Quinton stayed uninvolved in those activities. He stated, “I didn’t want my mom to have to worry about me because I knew that she was busy trying to keep us safe and trying to find us a good house and good schools.” Quinton’s mother explains, “Throughout it all I haven’t had any trouble out of Quinton, compared to others kids in the many shelters that we have lived in, or in the communities where we lived; “I watched these kids just fall apart.”

            Travel was common for the family as they moved from shelter to shelter. In three years, they stayed in four different counties and briefly stayed with family in Denver, Colorado, before returning to Cleveland. “We moved a lot. That wasn’t a big deal for me, but my one sister didn’t like it at all. I like moving around so I didn’t mind it, “ said Quinton “I try to do everything for my sisters because it seemed like they were going through more than I was.  Quinton explained.  He said, Being the oldest, I tried to be understanding and supportive. That’s how it was, but not anymore.”

Through programs, the state, and outreach from the community, the family was able to stay afloat. Ms. Cammon said,” My only means of income was welfare, and that was running out.  I didn’t get any support from their dad…just a lot of help within the communities we were living in.  A lot of people reached out to us, very sincere, very genuine-- took us in clothed us fed us.”

A shelter in Akron introduced the family to Project ACT. The program gave them access to various activities such as karate classes and doll-making classes and offered outside activities to distract kids from their situations. When they left Akron to come back to Cleveland, they kept in contact with the director of Project ACT. Ms. Cammon sent a thank you letter to the director expressing her sincerest gratitude for all they had done for her children. She states that since the family has met the director and their staff they have “been a huge family…I honor them to this day”

            While the family’s life was a lot of things, it was not stable. “I wanted to create a stability somehow,” said Ms. Cammon. “When he started at John Adams, I knew it wasn’t the best place, but I wanted to build that stability for Quinton.” His hard work in the classroom and his mother’s willingness to homeschool her kids when situations were tough, has given Quinton the opportunity to succeed. He said, “Being homeless, it’s hard to catch up on academics… I learned to get by, but now I’m not just getting by; I am succeeding.”

Around 2012, Quinton’s mother found employment, and they have been living in low-income housing since then. Quinton has been a part of a program called Upward Bound. He spends time at Baldwin Wallace, where he works and receives mentorship from college graduates in order to see what college life is like. In the fall, he plans on applying to out-of-state schools, specifically one of the historically black colleges and universities. Ms. Comman said, “I’m just happy that he has an idea of what he wants to do with his life. Quinton quipped in reply, “It’s no longer just an idea; it’s a plan.”

If you would like to have Quinton come and speak to your church, organization, or school please contact the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

Editor’s Note: Jacob is a senior at Benedictine High School and wants to be a journalist before that occupation disappears from the United States.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

The West Side Market is My Past, Present and Future

By Lucille Egan

Come one, come all, to the reopening of the West Side Market. Meet your friends and vendors and stroll down memory lane. I myself grew up down the street from the West Side Market. At age 12, I walked up to the West Side Market to get a job. To my surprise, I got a job stringing peas. As I got older I sold produce, flowers and ventured out into the world.

I worked as a professional waitress. I worked at the big hotels in downtown Cleveland. I worked at the Cleveland Hotel, Stouffer’s Hotel and the Marriott. I worked at the Gund Arena and at Jacob’s Field. I also worked at the racetrack at Northfield Park. As you can see, I’ve worked with the public all my life and here I am selling the Cleveland Street Chronicle after 74 years to make ends meet.

I am 86 and this is my past, present and future at the West Side Market. This is very gratifying that I am helping to spread information about homeless people and the shelters.  I still shop at the West Side Market and I still live down the street. I enjoy seeing all the beautiful children. They are so amusing. Until we meet again, God Bless all of you. Thank you for your concerns for the homeless and your support.

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio



High Functioning Autism Can Lead to the Streets

By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

1 in 88 children are born with some type of an autism spectrum disorder and 1 in 54 is boys. The children of today being born with autism spectrum disorders will be the future adults of tomorrow. So what will happen to these individuals?

Children with caring and supportive parents and family will get their proper diagnoses, get taken to their recommend therapies, follow through on all their treatment plans and grow up to become as productive as they can. Individuals with severe and moderate cases of autism will get the help they need whether they have a supportive set of family members or not, but those who have mild or high functioning autism many not always get all of their special needs met. If the person lacks supportive family members at some point in their lifetime they may end up on the street.

Many individuals with high functioning autism (commonly referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome) often look like their non-autistic peers which can cause them to get their special needs neglected. If the child is able to get passing grades, but lack friends the adults around them may not always notice that the child has a problem. The adults may assume that the child is shy or just enjoys being alone. Friendships are important because it helps a person build a relationship with another person and teaches a person that they are acceptable to someone outside of their bloodline. Having a friend teaches a person that they are not alone and that someone enjoys them for the unique person that they are.

Rejection can hurt at any age and may cause the person to depend on their parents and family for companionship and emotional support. If the person lacks a supportive family and close friends, the isolation and the pain of rejection can cause them to develop mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety problems. Once a person develops a mental illness they must enter a new set of treatment that they may not always follow through on. If a person has autism along with a mental illness this can cause them to be rejected even more because some people might view them as a burden or problem. If the person is unable to care for themselves properly they might end up on the street. In some cases a person may turn to various illegal and legal mood-altering substances for comfort. Alcohol and drug usage can lead to homelessness. 

In adulthood the person may not know how to verbally get past their job interviews or know how to communicate well enough with their co-workers or bosses to hold on to their jobs. The workforce is not always about what you know; many times it is a social experience. The person with autism is often direct and blunt with their words and they may interrupt a conversation between two people because they don’t understand non-verbal communication, which can cause others to view them as being rude or inconsiderate.

People with autism are emotionally sensitive and can take words literally or serious. They often express their emotions strongly. If an autistic person is feeling angry and explodes into a raging fit, they might find themselves in a court room or in jail or prison. If the person’s anger gets them a felonious assault charge, the person then has to live with a felony on their record. It is hard to find a job with a felony but if the person has autism too, that is two strikes against them. As we all know, if a person can’t get or keep a job chances are they will end up on the street.

If the autistic person is not diagnosed in childhood, chances are they won’t receive the help they need in order to function in the world properly. There are a lot of programs for children on the autism spectrum but not for adults, especially those over 25. There may become a point in a person’s life where their family gets tired of seeing them struggle and assumes that the struggling is their fault and put them out to fend for themselves. There may come a time in an autistic person’s life where their one close family member passes away and leaves them to fend for themselves. At some point in a person with high functioning autism’s life if they are left to deal with life alone, they might end up without a place to live.

If the homeless social service community was better educated on autism they might be able to better deal with the issues that individuals with autism face.  Are support groups such as AA and NA educated enough on autism to meet the needs of autistic individuals? Are family members and parents taking the time to get to know what is going on in their loved one’s life or are they unintentionally neglecting their loved one’s special needs? Will there be a safety net to catch those individuals on the autism spectrum if they fall or lack support in their life? This is something we all need to think about. Today’s children are our future leaders and many people on the autism spectrum have special talents and abilities, but may lack the social and communication skills or the support system that they need to thrive. 

To learn more about autism visit my autism awareness site:  

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio


Increase in Homeless Families Calls Faith Communities to Action

By Laura Dunson

NEOCH, Frontline Services (formerly MHS Inc.), and several religious organizations have teamed up to address the rising summer problem of family homelessness.   Family homelessness is a distinctly different problem that rises during the summer months when school ends and kids return to their homes or stay with extended families. During the summer, Moms or a parent with their children are more likely to leave where they had been staying before and soon find themselves without a place to sleep. 

But what causes the increase in family homelessness during the summer? Each situation is different, but some causes are universal. Having kids home full-time can cause additional emotional or financial stress on the household. Landlords unwilling to force out families during the cold months may be more willing in the summer for non payment of rent. Parents may have waited until the school year was over to make the transition as a family.  In addition, the new central intake system means that instead of families staying at a friend’s until a bed at a specific shelter opens up, families wait in line for a bed at central intake and must take the first bed available.

Currently, NEOCH, MHS Inc., Cuyahoga County, and many faith communities are working together to raise the supplies necessary to equip the family shelters, which are overflowing. They have found overflow housing for families in a local area church and are now working on collecting donations of healthy snacks and breakfast foods for overflow housing and central intake.  Thank you to all of the faith communities supporting our work so far, and we invite any interested community to contact us and learn how to help. 

Editor’s Note: Volunteers or those interested in donating can contact the Homeless Coalition at 216/432-0540.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland Ohio

Free Clinic Sees Huge Benefits to Medicaid Expansion in Ohio

By Nicki Gorny

 Staff at the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland are used to seeing patients with serious health concerns who do not have insurance.  A lack of insurance often dissuades people from seeking medical help as early as they should, said Donna Korn, director of external relations at the Free Clinic. But it’s a problem she said Medicaid expansion in Ohio could lessen.

“If everyone had health insurance, they might allow themselves to have an annual physical,” she said. “Maybe they wouldn’t wait until they’re in so much pain they can’t stand it anymore.”

 This became a possibility through Governor John Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid to cover Ohioans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, with federal funding through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act covering 100 percent of the expansion for the first three years beginning in 2014. State legislators adjourned for the summer without signing on to the plan, but Medicaid expansion remains a possibility through ongoing discussions.

“This is too important an issue to just die,” Korn said.   Advocates continue to push for an expansion and in a July rally at the Statehouse the Governor said that the issue is not dead yet.

The Free Clinic, which Korn said strongly supports Medicaid expansion, has been active in sending representatives to meet with legislators to promote Medicaid expansion. And as debate continues among state lawmakers, she said, the Free Clinic will continue to lobby for Medicaid expansion.

A sizable portion of the Free Clinic’s patients, totaling 5,904 last year alone, would benefit from Medicaid expansion, she said. Typically, she said, patients come to the Free Clinic when they feel as if they have nowhere else to turn. Sometimes they’ve lost they’re jobs, she said, or have low-paying jobs without healthcare benefits. Other times patients may work two or three jobs and earn just enough money to disqualify them from the federal healthcare programs.

“[Medicaid expansion] would eliminate a barrier for a lot of people,” she said, offering the example of uninsured Ohioans who might ignore pain or symptoms because they don’t have enough money to pay for health care in addition to the week’s groceries.

 “People who have insurance - and our lawmakers are among them - they just…take for granted that healthcare is always there for them when they need it,” she continued. “And that’s the type of security we’d like everyone to have.”

 In addition to benefitting patients, Korn said, expanding Medicaid to cover the working poor would benefit the Free Clinic by providing a source of funding.

Last June, Korn said, the Free Clinic became a federally qualified health center, which means the clinic can accept federal funds from programs such as Medicaid. For the 43 previous years, the clinic ran entirely on donations, she said.

A financial counselor hired this year now works with patients and helps them apply for the Medicaid. While most are deemed too young and able-bodied to qualify for the program, Korn said, many could be reevaluated if Medicaid expansion is signed into law.  And in turn, she said, having more patients qualify for Medicaid would financially benefit the Free Clinic.

 “We would get reimbursed for the healthcare that we’re already providing them,” she said.

 In addition to medical, dental and behavioral health services, the Free Clinic offers substance abuse programs, including a program that allows addicts to exchange used needles for clean needles. On Fridays the clinic also offers naxolone kits containing a nasal spray that reverses an opiate overdose in 2-8 minutes, which Korn said is a good precaution for those with addicted friends or family members.

Editor’s Note: The Free Clinic is located at 12201 Euclid Avenue, and for detailed information go to

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

Domestic Violence Can Lead to Homelessness And the Loss of Custody

by Jennifer Black

In my early 20s I was a mother of two small children, a two year old daughter and a six year old son. I shared a home with my boyfriend and the children. 

My boyfriend began physically abusing me shortly after we started dating; even going so far as to beating me while I was pregnant with our daughter. I repeatedly asked my boyfriend to leave the home, but he refused to do so.  For fear of my own safety and that of my kids, I left the home.  I could not support us on my own, and my ex-boyfriend refused to financially assist me. 

With no place to go, my grandmother opened her home to me and my children.  I was working on getting my life together. It was at this time my sister began to pursue custody of my children.  I felt her motive was to take in the kids was to receive the state funding she would get for caring for them, not because she cared for their well being.

Unfortunately, I lost custody of my children.  My sister was not awarded custody, resulting in my two children being removed from my care and all the relatives that they ever knew.

Although I remained in contact with my children while they were in foster care, they were traumatized and confused as to why they had to leave me.  Often asking why they had to leave their home. 

I now am housed and work as a newspaper vendor.  My children are both adults now.  We still maintain a relationship, but it is a constant pain for me and my children as we cope with the separation we endured due to becoming homeless.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio 

Going Blind While Living in a Homeless Shelter

By Diana Robinson

 I am 56 years old.  I have five children, three girls and two boys.  I am legally blind, and attending the Cleveland Sight Center two days a week, where I am learning how to walk around, cook and use the computer and many other things.  I can learn to help myself stay independent.  I live on the west side of Cleveland in a senior citizen building, where they have different activities such as bingo and many other games.  I also have seven grandchildren, who I love spending most of Sundays with.  I love spending time with my family.  I am a very outgoing person.

Twenty-seven years ago my family and I experienced with homelessness for the first time. My husband had a fall out with the landlord about repairing items in our apartment.  One thing led to another and the landlord evicted us from the apartment.  I was pregnant at the time and we had no place to go but the shelter. 

Staying in the shelter was a bad experience for my family.  Before they changed the law, my son was twelve at the time and he was not allowed to stay at the women’s shelter with us.  So he was taken to another shelter for boys, which he ran away from because he wanted to be with his sisters and baby brother.  When my son ran away, he ran to his aunt’s house and while there he got jumped on and his arm got broken.  The kids started school.  Getting out of the shelter earlier each day, and having to move to a different shelter because you can only stay at the shelter for a certain length of time became difficult for the whole family.   This lasted for at least 2-3 months before the shelter and CMHA helped us to find a place so that my family could be together again.

I started losing my sight from my left eye at 30 years old and gradually became totally blind over time.  I started to have serious eye issues right at the time I became homeless.    Learning how to get around on my own within the neighborhood has been my goal for the past five years since I became legally blind.  I take classes at the Cleveland Sight Center Tuesdays and Thursdays each week to help me find a job.  This is to help me function as others do.  The staff at the Sight Center do excellent work and are so helpful to me.  They help me with everything I need to do to get the job done.  The biggest issue I face each day is being alone.  I don’t want to be alone at all.  My family visits me often, but somehow, I still feel alone. 

The Cleveland Sight Center is helping me to address my issues by helping me to be more outgoing with the different classes they offer, like camping, bike riding, bowling, computers, and knitting to just to name a few.  As we live each day we all learn to take on each day as it comes, to roll with the punches and to be able to stand and be counted as one.

Thank you for your support and concerns.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

Veterans Now Have a Central Resource Center to Start Their Journey Back to Stability

By Laura Dunson

For the past six months, the Cleveland Community Resource and Referral Center for veterans has been operational in the Cleveland and Akron areas, serving over 3,088 individuals in those six months.  The ribbon cutting for this new service was in March of 2013.

In 2009, Obama signed an initiative to end homelessness—hoping to make major advances within the next 5 years. As a result, there was an opportunity for different organizations to apply for funding to create a Veteran’s Center. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs applied to receive money for two locations—Cleveland and Akron—hoping to address both the two very different populations and the distance between them. They were the only organization in the country to be awarded the money for two centers.

“The goal for these centers is to bridge the gap between veterans and service providers,” says Supervisor Barb Karam. “On one hand, its engaging veterans who weren’t involved before, maybe because they had a bad experience before or had no interest in getting help. Then it means connecting with community partners and saying ‘You do a lot of important work for these veterans’ and bringing them into the center as a partner.”

The Cleveland CRRC has been functioning as a drop-in center for veterans who are homeless or at the risk of being homeless. The drop-in center has a “one-stop-shop” feel, where veterans can stop at one location and find a range of services—anything from disability services to community provider locations. 

Recently, more social service providers have come into the picture as well. Veterans now can have food stamps processed weekly at the center, while they can also attend weekly informational sessions with Legal Aid and work with law students to work through legal issues. Working with Frontline Services or Mental Health Services, Inc., veterans can now apply for rapid re-housing funds which will help veterans enter housing. There are shower and laundry facilities available for use. Even now, the center is working on developing soft skills programs to help veterans learn skills to help them find employment or housing.

The staff of the CRRC is made up of social workers, counselors, employment counselors, and a supportive employment team—all of whom can help link veterans to help in the community and who advocate for employment for veterans. 

Karam explains that the goals of the center are to keep inviting partners to use the space. Despite the wide amount of services already offered, there is still space for many more programs, and Karam invites community partners and social service agencies to join the center. By bringing more community partners in, more veterans can be served in a greater variety of ways.

To contact the Cleveland Community Resource and Referral Center, you can call (216) 391-0264 or the National Homeless Hotline at 1-877-4AID-VET.  Anyone is welcome to stop by the drop-in center without appointment, which is located at 7000 Euclid Avenue, Suite 202, in the Midtown section of Cleveland. The hours of operation are Monday-Friday 8:00AM-8:00PM. Any veteran is welcome to stop by to see what benefits might be available.  

  Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

MY FRONT PORCH VIEW A look at an impoverished rust-belt town

by Cindy Miller

It was 2008, when I returned to my hometown after nearly thirty years of living in a multitude of other small towns and cities across Northeast Ohio and Western Michigan.  My vocation was in production of print media, in various forms, as a commercial artist, photographer, writer, and later in commercial printing.

In 1978, my chance of finding a well-paying job in the upper Ohio Valley, for someone with my degree and education, was bleak.  Pittsburgh, where I went to art school, was saturated with artists and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh instructor suggested I head for any city in the Western Reserve where jobs in my field were plentiful. That was good advice I followed.

 I grew up in Toronto, Ohio just 8 miles north of the county seat of Steubenville in Jefferson County. Although the steel industry locally was on the decline due to the influx of Japanese steel flooding the American market, quality of life was still fairly good in the valley, despite the exodus of unemployed steel workers and their families leaving. Some manufacturing companies, eventually, closed their doors for good.  Some are hanging on with minimal workforce.  

 Many people have exhausted their unemployment benefits, despite multiple extensions.  They no longer could afford to own a vehicle and are now stranded without transportation to get to a job. Although Steubenville still has minimal public transportation, Toronto, Ohio does not.  Life is hard in this small town.

 Donations are down at local food pantries while the number of those in need of help has soared.  

 His Hands Extended Food Pantry, operated by Abundant Life First Assembly of God Church, faces closing after serving the residents in need for nearly 20 years.  This church took over operation from one of the town's Methodist churches many years ago.

 Toronto's food pantry serves 150-plus families who live within the city limits of Toronto-- a town with the population of 5,091 according to 2010 census figures.  The monthly costs of operation range between $1,900 to $2,400 which includes rent and utilities, plus purchase of food and transportation costs for delivery from Mid-Ohio Food Bank near Columbus. 

 According to Pastor Lloyd Hill, administrator of His Hands Extended Food Pantry, his church does not have the room in its small basement to accommodate storage of food and the people the pantry serves, and the basement is not handicapped accessible.  A majority of Toronto's churches aren't, other than chair lifts added to stairways leading down to their basements.  Many of the churches in town were built in the late 19th century. Thus became the need to rent a storefront that was accommodating to those utilizing wheelchairs and scooters.

 Inflation has played a major role in the economics of running this particular food pantry.  The stark comparison lies with the costs of acquiring 2,000 pounds of canned and dry non-perishables; $393 in 2000 and $900 for this month's order which consists of canned corn, green beans, peaches, boxed 1% milk, cereal, macaroni and cheese and frozen blueberries.  Meat is donated monthly by Riesbeck’s Market; a locally owned grocery chain.

 Many smaller local area food pantries were presented with the opportunity to consolidate with the food pantry run by the Urban Mission in Steubenville, but unfortunately this opportunity would prove challenging for Toronto residents, as well as for people who live in the villages of Empire and Stratton; a few miles north of Toronto.  

 According Pastor Hill's wife Cindy, "Toronto needs its own food pantry because many of the people who come here (to the pantry) lack transportation to get to Steubenville."

 At the beginning of July, it was questionable whether there would be enough food for those who would show up in the first hour of the July 20th distribution.  Thanks to media attention from two Ohio Valley television stations and the daily newspaper published in Steubenville, monetary donations of close to $1,000 have come in to aid in the purchase of this month's order.  Local residents also made contributions of food.

 Volunteers are plentiful on distribution day; funding is not.  It is still questionable if there will be an August food distribution.

 As Cindy Hill said, "We can only foresee one month at a time." 

 The pantry, at 217 N. Fourth St., which has been operating in the Gem City for more than 20 years, may close its doors due to a downturn in private donations, according to the Rev. Lloyd Hill, pastor of the Abundant Life First Assembly of God Church, which is the administrator for the pantry.

 Hill also blamed the general economic climate in the Ohio Valley, adding that "it might look good on paper, but not in reality.

 "Our operating budget has been $1,800 to $2,500 per month in the past," Hill continued. "That's enough to give people the food they really need. We supply about 14 to 18 meals per [food pantry] family here in Toronto. We give away a lot of food."

 The pantry also distributes meat and pastries from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays and Wednesdays, said Hill.

 He noted there are plenty of volunteers willing to help, and the pantry receives donations of meats and pastries from the Toronto Riesbeck's grocery store, which he was said was "instrumental" in keeping the pantry stocked. The pantry also receives monetary assistance from the Toronto Service Committee, the city's recycling program and other city churches. The pantry also has to pay rent for its space on Fourth Street.

 "But we need to give away more than just pastries and meat," said Hill, adding the pantry has to pay for canned and packaged goods purchased from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank in Grove City.

"The prices (for food) have been going up," said Hill. "We currently have no funds to purchase more food for this month. We don't know what we're going to do. We need regular donations to keep moving forward."

 "We've lost some income since (former pantry director) Tom Devlin left and moved closer to be with his family," said Hill, adding private donations have since dried up. "People really liked and trusted Tom. I think that's had an impact on the decline in personal gifts."

 Hill also had bad news about the Toronto Youth Center, which has been operating next to the pantry for the past two years.

 "The youth center is closing this month, also," Hill said, adding a lack of steady funding is forcing the closure.

 "July 20 is the next scheduled food distribution," Hill continued, adding that in the previous two months the pantry has given food to more than 150 families. "If there aren't funds by then we'll have to close the building and discontinue the pantry. This is the first time the food pantry has been in this situation."

Hill said those interested in donating can make checks payable to the His Hands Extended food pantry, 1009 N. Fourth St., Toronto, OH 43964. Donations may be delivered in person by entering the back entrance of the pantry from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

Change the way we address homelessness

Commentary By John Williams

Maybe it is time to change the way that the shelter systems are run to something that gives the men and women who stay there some responsibility for their own care. Shelters should focus on encouraging independence, which will make them more efficient facilities, promote job creation, and reduce reliance on governmental programs. 

One way this could happen is by making a pay-to-stay program. This would essentially require employed residents above a certain income percentage to pay while staying in the shelter. A pay-to-stay system would teach and reinforce an independent lifestyle for shelter residents and motivate them to seek their own residence. Further, it will make them more financially aware since they will have to budget and be responsible for making payments. Similarly, shelters should implement a work-to-stay program for unemployed, able-bodied residents. These individuals should work a certain amount of time in the shelter, a time equivalent to the average income percentage paid by the employed residents. Although not paying with currency, they are using sweat equity to gain self-sufficiency. The pay-to-stay and work-to-stay programs would both promote independence for the residents and give them transferable work skills and experience.

                To compliment the work-to-stay program, shelters should implement a school and job training program. A main issue for homeless persons is that they did not have the opportunity to graduate from high school or college, or prepare for a career. Shelters should shore up partnerships and build relationships with skilled traders’ organizations, GED programs, and institutions for higher education. This will make the shelter an advocacy group, emphasizing the importance of obtaining skills and experience in order to reduce homelessness, create autonomy, contribute to the tax base, and reduce dependence on social service programs.

                Lack of affordable housing options is one of the main reasons homelessness continues. Shelters can address this problem by purchasing housing stock (soliciting grants for rehabilitation and repair) to place shelter residents in housing. This would include individual and multi-unit structures along with complexes/apartments. So instead of shelters simply being a short-term option, they can help encourage a meaningful housing search. Similar to the work-to-stay program, shelter residents could work at these houses doing maintenance, HVAC work, landscaping, snow removal, painting, and administrative support. Shelters would have a store of available housing options, have knowledge of the location of these properties, and be able to properly place the potential renters in locations suitable to their needs. For mentally ill residents living in these homes, the shelter should establish and maintain a routine visitation, provided access and transportation to medical care, ensure that savings accounts are established, and help the individual to pick-up or receive medications.

                Shelters should also focus increasingly on preparing the residents for productive life outside of the shelter. This can be encouraged by coaching shelter residents to deal with issues that arise without staff assistance. This would teach the residents how to diffuse difficult situations so that when they are interacting with others at work or in their personal relationships, they are prepared and can self-regulate.

The current system is not working.  We need to change the way we serve people in need of housing to encourage independence.  The bottom line reason for all these programs should be to make sure that residents do not slip through the cracks because of reliance on over-burdened agencies and encourage independence.

Editor’s Note:  Williams has worked in the shelters in Cleveland for the past 13 years and was homeless in the early 1990s. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland Ohio

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

For the Minority It all Starts With Dad

Commentary by Alexander Hamilton

 It all starts with Dad. You may not realize the level of support. I know a lot of people in the community are hurting and don’t have family that will step up to the plate and help them get out of less than desirable situations. Now it is time to take responsibility for your own life. It is time to live above the line, above the line of shifting the blame on the “man,” shifting the blame on our circumstances and even shifting the blame to society. Don’t get me wrong there are contributing factors from each of these situations that will influence outcomes that happen in our lives. However, a wise young woman once told me that even though it is not our fault, it is our responsibility to change our lives and our destiny.

 Part of not shifting the blame is to know where your resources lie. You see, even though you have a family by blood, they may not be actively involved in your life. Not having family in your life can be detrimental to your future. Yet, I want you to entertain the thought that the family that you need is right in your own back yard.

 You see, your key to your future all starts with dad. There are “dads” in the community who- though they are not related by blood- still have the potential to be your family. Not a replacement but they are can be a fill in.  I will use myself as an example. There is a reason that people call me “DAD.” I support people by being that voice of reason in their life.  I can help with looking options logically and practically. I will also be their biggest cheerleader. You see, their success is my success- when they win I win. Why? Because I treat these people looking for help as my child – not by blood but by the fact that I want to be in their life and help them succeed.

You see, I need people to change their thinking on some things. In order for them to succeed in life, they will need to look at the possibility of having more than one parent. I want to give them practical advice that they can take with them throughout life. There are also other “dads” in the community that people can turn to for help and support. The journey of a thousands miles begins with one small step.

 For instance, Jim Schlecht is a grassroots community services “DAD” who helps people get into housing or helps with identification or access to health care. So you would call on him when you are in need of those types of services or when I can’t help you with short or long term housing solutions.

 Art McCoy is another “DAD.” He is your community advocate to help when someone you love or care about is killed. He works with families to help them remember loved ones and help families find ways to stop the senseless violence that happens in our community.

 Lastly, there are community leaders who have taken the initiative to reach out to fathers who need help maintaining relationships with their children. Absent Fatherhood is at an all time high in our community. Yet, few men know that there are people in the community who have taken the first step towards making sure that fathers are able to have that role that they have been given. So, if you don’t have a father who was active in your life, it is okay. There are organizations that will help you acquire the skills you need to become successful as a father and ultimately as a man.  Celebrate your fatherhood or the men in your life that are available to you to mentor and help you grow.

 You do have the resources you need.  You just need to be able to do the foot work to get to the people who can you take the next step. You can contact me through the Street Chronicle.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio

Social Security Administration Complicates the Ability for People to Get Identification

By Laura Dunson

 For individuals trying to get a social security card or number print out, they may run into the Social Security Catch-22. The Social Security webpage states that if you want a card, you need to have original documents proving your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship—documents such as birth certificates, photo IDs, or Drivers Licenses or passports. The catch comes with the fact that you need your social security number to initially get the documents that will allow you to get a social security card.

 This confusing and frustrating cycle means that many people are completely unable to get the document that our government says is required for so many things—a problem that has even the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness looking for an answer. They and many others are trying to find acceptable ways for people to get out of this catch and into secure documentation.

 Eileen Kelly of St. Colman’s Church and founder of the Cleveland ID Crisis Collaborative explains that there are other documents that can help you at the BMV or while getting a social security card (a complete list can be found at She says, “Now, I know it is not likely that they will have a Pilot’s license, but they may have a DD214 Veteran’s discharge or might be able to get a copy of their Marriage License for $2 at Probate Court (” However, these are tangible steps that many can take to find ways out of this unjust cycle.

 In other situations, additional documentation has worked as well. A local shelter group signed a letter in their letterhead verifying a person’s identity, which allowed them to go through with the documentation process—however, we are not sure if this will be a regularly acceptable.

 Kelly continues in her e-mail to the other social service providers,  “And we know that these stricter policies will continue to be thrown at us until some brilliant person comes up with a way for people to prove their own identities without documents that cost money or require access and resources that people who are poor do not have.”  Until then, the social service providers will try to find ways to help anyone struggling to find documentation and challenge the system that enforces this catch 22 in which one federal agency is requiring state agencies to blink first.  Which agency will allow an individual to swear a statement that they are who they say they are (as had been done in the past) and give them the document that they are requesting to get the other forms of identification?

Without identification a person cannot work, get into housing, receive non-emergency healthcare, or even vote.  According to homeless advocates in Cleveland, this decision will only lengthen the time a person spends without housing and in need a charity care.   

 Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle August 2013 Cleveland, Ohio