We did our regular count of homeless people on Black Friday again this year. We started this back in 1999 in response to a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland. This was the traditional weekend during the White Administration when homeless people were swept off the sidewalk. Police were dispatched to go out and harass homeless people out of sight by saying, "Get up and get out or you will be arrested." NEOCH sued and won a settlement which is still in force. Since that time we go out and check on the population and count how many are outside. In 1999, there were as many as 60 people sleeping outside. This year, there were three. Before you cheer there are a few caveats. One, the overnight drop in center at Metanoia is now open and draws about 60 people inside. Second, this is the lowest number for the entire year. It is a holiday weekend and many people go visit family and are welcomed back in the house even for a short time. Third, we have reduced the overall number of long term homeless through coordinated outreach, Permanent Supportive housing and guaranteed access to shelter. Last year, there were eight in the downtown, so this is also down from last year.
This is only a small geographic area of the 20 blocks downtown. We drive and walk every street downtown looking for people who choose to sleep outside. It is not a count of anything that can be used for any academic analysis of homelessness. One thing that we have to say is how nice Cleveland's downtown is compared to other cities. Look at these pics below. We should be proud of the Downtown. It is pretty special. There are not homeless people sleeping on benches, in the bushes, in bus shelters like there are in other cities. The homeless service providers should be richly rewarded for keeping down the population by doing everything they can to keep the shelter doors open. Thanks to Frontline Services, Lutheran Ministry, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, Metanoia, West Side Catholic, EDEN and all the other groups that feed, cloth, and shelter homeless people.
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