Domestic Violence Victims Need Help with Parking

An Open Letter to Cuyahoga County Asking for Help

Mr. Armond Budish
Cuyahoga County Executive
Cuyahoga County Administrative Headquarters
2079 East Ninth Street 
Cleveland, OH 44115

Dear Mr. Budish:

A woman experiencing homelessness has informed us of a problem facing women who are going through domestic violence.  The Northeast Ohio Coalition believes that the County could help.  I have recently been made aware of a women who is a victim of domestic abuse that lost her income and housing after a “partner/victimizer” was arrested and charged with domestic violence and additional charges.   Not only did he abuse her, but he is responsible for the deaths of three women in East Cleveland, and is sitting in jail awaiting trial.  This women has been subpoenaed repeatedly to testify against her abuser in one of the cases.  We currently have a letter from her seeking help to pay for the fees she has to pay for parking as she appears in court.  She is complaining about the fact that she has lost her income and is financially strapped, but has to continue to show up in court for the proceedings against her abuser.  She does not have the fees that she needs to pay to park her vehicle either at the public parking meters or the county parking garage while she attends court appearance after court appearance as the victim of abuse. 

I am asking if there is any way that victims of domestic violence who have to appear in court be given free parking passes to the County garage for the days that they have to appear due to the cases associated with the domestic violence that was perpetrated against them. Unfortunately, these women typically have their finances tied up in legal proceedings as they try to separate from their abuser.  Others flee their abuser with only their clothing and some pocket change.  The woman who contacted us for help has two autistic children to complicate the matter.  She had to pay for parking on July 20, July 30 and August 11 to visit the defendants Parole Officer and then to the Domestic Violence Unit at the Justice Center.  She even missed a hearing because she did not have money for the parking garage and drove around for over 20 minutes until she could find a meter.  She has contacted several agencies who were not able to help her. 

Is it possible that these women who are victims of domestic violence who have to be at the Justice Center be issued a special pass which allows them to park for free while they are across the street at the Justice Center taking care of the business necessary to bring their abuser to justice?  They have already suffered greatly at the hands of someone who claimed to love them and many of them feel victimized again by the system that is in place to help them.  Even putting together a fund through Domestic Violence Child Advocacy Center would be helpful.

I would ask that you consider this request.  If you need to speak to me to discuss this, I can be reached at (216) 432-0540, ext 102.

Sincerely,

Denise Toth

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PS:  The DVC folks called saying that there are funds available to the woman through the Cuyahoga County Witness/Victim of Crime Center.  This is wonderful news but it is not clear to advocates, outreach teams or us that this is available on their list of services here.  It is no wonder that this woman who wrote a two paged impassioned letter asking for help was not clear where to get help.  No where on the page do they say that they help with parking or can help with her austic children while she goes to court.  There is counseling and supportive services, but it is not clear they can offer financial help with transportation.  They should do a better job advertising their services and even being clear on their own website that this is available. Here is the description of the agency from the 2-1-1 database:

Provides victims/witnesses of misdemeanor and felony crimes with information, counseling, support, and advocacy to address the emotional, psychological, and financial hardships caused by crime. Seeks to ensure that victims will be treated with dignity, and receive quality, comprehensive services to assist in meeting their full range of needs.

It does not spell out the assistance available for parking, so how is a victim supposed to know to ask for this help from them?  Good to know, but maybe they need some additional funds to be more clear to victims that their service is available and can help them get to court to testify against their abusers. 

Brian Davis, just my opinion.

Panhandling Upheld by U.S. Appeals Court

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Ohio and Michigan) upheld a lower court decision that found the Grand Rapids Police gave a ticket to two homeless people for asking for money.  The court ruled the statute that made it a crime to beg for money illegal.  The court found that this was an infringement on the free speech protections of the First Amendment.  The court found that the Supreme Court has never specifically ruled that an individual asking for money is engaged in expression, they did find that organizations were protected for soliciting charitable funds. 

The court found that Michigan had the right to regulate soliciting funds.  It could not prohibit begging for money by criminal law.  The Detroit News has a nice summary of the ruling here.  The two individuals, James Speet and Ernest Sims, sued in federal court to dismiss the ticket.  Speet was holding a sign that said, "Cold and Hungry, God Bless." He pled guilty when the police issued his ticket, and was unable to pay the $198 fine.  Speet spent four days in jail because he could come up with the cash and was not allowed to beg for the cash to pay the fine issued by the court. 

The other man was arrested on the anniversary of the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, July 4, 2011 and Sims asked on the street, "Can you spare a little change?" so that he could ride the bus.  The Grand Rapids police officer heard the conversation and arrested Sims on the spot.    Sims was a veteran of the US military and asked the officer not to send him to jail since it was a holiday.  He was given a ticket and had to pay the fine.  According to the Detroit News, three other appeals courts have upheld a person's right to beg for money.  

The State has to decide if they will appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court or ask the full sixth circuit to review the case.  Grand Rapids had given out 409 tickets for begging between 2008 and 2011, and 211 served jail time for asking for money.  The court is recommending focusing legislation on fraud and not the mere act of asking for money. 

Brian Davis

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