Flats Incident Exaggerated

by Dawn Stary

In September, a patron was fatally wounded while leaving a bar in the Flats. Prior to the event all seemed peaceful in the area, but since then many questions have been raised. Many patrons are asking, "Are the Flats safe to travel? And, are the panhandlers potentially dangerous?"

Was this an isolated incident or is it truly dangerous down there?

News reports sensationalized the incident by blaming all panhandlers and blurring the lines between the homeless and panhandlers. Businesses posted signs of warning, which created concern among the partygoers that frequented the bars in the Flats.

The amount of media attention to the story exaggerated the problem. When asked, one manager of a bar in the Flats, said that in the last two years she has heard only two complaints about a panhandler.

She went on to say that they were "regulars" in the Flats who came around looking for food, but were turned down. The panhandlers did not become violent or try to start a fight. They quietly left the bar. She said that they may have come back, but they did not hassle anyone.

The homeless and panhandlers are feeling the brunt of the issue. Once it was peaceful to exist in the Flats, but now people are frightened. The homeless are not being harassed by customers except the occasionally the younger people flinging off color comments.

Some of the homeless have decided to leave the area and have moved to other places.

One Grapevine vendor summarized why bars and officials were so eager to push the homeless out of the Flats. He said that people are frightened by strangers, and the homeless and panhandlers do not fit the image of the area.

The homeless make people uncomfortable in a place where they come to have a good time. That is why they don't want the homeless in the Flats according to one vendor of the Grapevine who wanted to remain anonymous.

 

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13

DAMN, I WISH I HAD VOTED

This is a commemorative chart to hang in your office or home to glorify the victories that your elected officials have won after a long fought battle with the budget. In addition, there is an easy to read look at what this all means. These were compiled from the report, "The Unbalanced Budget: The Impact of the Congressional Budget on Homelessness"

Changes Ahead

1. Repeal of AFDC
2 Welfare Cut by $80 Billion over 7 years
3 Work required to receive welfare
4 Repeal of JOBS program
5 Five year time limit on welfare
6. Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid Benefits denied to those with chemical addiction
**7.$30 Billion cut from Earned Income Tax Credit over 7 years.
8 No increase in minimum wage
9. The cancellation of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit in 1997
10. No increase in issuance of Section 8 certificates
11. Elimination of federal preference for public and assisted housing
12. Impose a minimum rent to Section 8 and public housing residents
13. Reduction of the Fair Market Rent to 40th Percentile
**14. $163 billion cut from Medicaid over 7 years
**15. Welfare recipients no longer guaranteed Medicaid
**16. Adult Children of nursing home residents with above average incomes will not be protected from nursing homes seeking payments for care or medical treatment on parents
**17. States may impose premiums or deductibles upon Medicaid beneficiaries (except pregnant women)
18. As a group the McKinney funds will be cut by 27 %
19. A 27% decrease from 1995 funding for Emergency Shelter Grants
20. A 27% decrease in Supportive Housing
21. A 27 % decrease in funds to rehabilitate Single Room Occupancy Units
22. A 27 % decrease in Shelter Plus Care funds.
23. Health care programs for the Homeless unchanged from Fiscal Year 1995
24. Elimination of the ACCESS program
25. A 20% decrease from 1995 funding level for Education for Homeless Children and Youth.
26. Adult Education for the Homeless eliminated.


** President Bill Clinton has stated publicly that he is opposed to these changes, and therefore they may have to be compromised out of the budget reconciliation bill.

What it all Means

1. Creation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program which is not a federal entitlement but a state program
The State Block Grant will not expand with economic downturns. When the money runs out there is no more.
2. States must decide who to cut from the program
3 Families will be cut from the programs or be forced into extremely low wage jobs.
4 Less job training and education. With the cut, the child care aspect of the JOBS program is eliminated.
5 Families dropped from the public dole will have only food stamps.
6. Limited treatment options will be harder to find
7 Effectively raising taxes on the poor
8. The minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation and keeps families in poverty
9. 100,000 Affordable housing units a year may not be built as anticipated.
10. Longer waiting lists for Section 8 housing, and more people on the waiting list. The wait is over one year in Cleveland.
11. Shelters will be turning more people away with a longer waiting list for assisted housing.
12. The poorest families will choose to pay rent or eat.
13. Fewer units available to Section 8 tenants and fewer landlords will find it attractive to rent to Section 8 assisted households.
14. Ohio will have to make up the difference or restrict those in the program. Cuts to services or cutting out whole classes of people.
15. Each state will decide.
16. Middle class families could face financial hardship with medical bills of their parents
17. Even a minor illnesses could be a drain on those that must rely on Medicaid.
18. The programs to assist the homeless will decrease or shelter space will be harder to find
19. 27% decrease in shelter beds or renovation or conversion of buildings for shelters
20. 27 % decrease in transitional housing and supportive services
21. 27% decrease in SRO rehab of buildings, rental assistance, and financing. Cleveland has very few SRO units left for single men to rent.
22. 27% decrease in rental assistance and services to the homeless with disabilities including mental illness, AIDS, chemical addiction.
23. Demand for health care will increase because of the Medicaid changes
24. Reduction in services available to severely mentally ill homeless people
25. Programs to ensure that all homeless children and youth have equal access to free and appropriate education jeopardized
26. Adult literacy programs that improve basic and life skills, GED programs, and employment training will fall on state and localities to fund.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13

Cleveland Among the Top Five of NIMBY List

by Max Johnson
     In December of 1995, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty released a report "No Room for the Inn" detailing local opposition to housing and social service facilities for homeless people in 36 cities in the United States. Cleveland was ranked in the top five of cities with exclusionary policies.
     On a national level, the report shows that "local opponents and cities have tried to preclude or limit those who provide housing and services to homeless people even though demand for those receiving services is high."
     The report draws some conclusions from the examples of NIMBYism or the "Not in My Backyard" syndrome, which is defined as organized attempts to exclude services in neighborhoods and cities. The successful opposition to services, "ensures that many people will not get the housing and services they need to escape from or remain off the streets," according to the report.
     The National Law Center points out that the congressional welfare reform will push aid to the poor to state and local governments as well as private non-profit providers. This is dangerous since, as the report states, local government is "often the catalyst for excluding homeless services. The prevalence of NIMBY reaction to housing and services for homeless people indicates that many localities might be more interested in moving homeless people than eradicating homelessness."
     May Boyle, Cuyahoga County Commissioner, said, "Although I cannot speak for Cleveland city officials, I find it disturbing that this city is listed in the top five of "most exclusionary cities" toward the homeless. Economic development is important for Cleveland to continue to flourish, but we must not forget to help the citizens who live here."
     City of Cleveland officials could not be reached for comment due to vacations and Mayor Michael White was in Atlanta with National Football League officials.
The report concludes that attempts to shut-down or shut-out homeless services are "short sighted, counter-productive and inhumane."
     Cleveland was singled out because various neighborhoods opposition to ProjectHEAT sites operating overflow space for homeless people to sleep in their community. Also, the closing of the Downtown YMCA Single Room Occupancy flop house and the inability to find a new place for the facility was sited. In addition, the Cleveland police policy of moving homeless people out of the downtown business district contributed to Cleveland being named one of the top five NIMBY communities.
     "No Room for the Inn" attempts to dispel the major concerns that proliferators of the NIMBY philosophy espouse. The report finds that the NIMBY opposition to homeless service centers is grounded in people's fears about attracting homeless people and about declining property values, quality of life, and neighborhood character. The report shows that all of these concerns are not reasonable, and the creation of a shelter or other service usually has very little impact on the neighborhood.
     Finally, the report makes recommendations on the local and federal level to curb NIMBY activity including amending the Fair Housing Act to prohibit the exclusion of people simply because they are homeless. They recommend that states should require municipalities to draft plans regarding how they intend to meet demands for services--and hold localities accountable to the plans. Incentives should be set for localities to permit the construction of services within their jurisdiction.

A copy of the report can be obtained from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty at 202-638-2535 or send $5 to NEOCH with your return address.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13

Beyond The Clouds

There's not one joyous person that could say life is all bad.
Not one friendly post-man that could say spring, summer, winter,
or fall, is all he ever had.
But, Beyond the Clouds there's beauty I cannot reach.
Such as that beautiful woman I call "Georgia Peach."
Last night, night before.
Just plain life I adore, and beyond the clouds contentment and
existence we cannot ignore.

By Tony Walker

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13

All Homeless People Are Aliens From Space

Editorial #13
     On this eventful thirteenth anniversary issue it is time to put down on paper the knowledge that we have gained over the nearly three years of operation.
A Homeless Newspaper.
     Surprise, Surprise the Homeless are Entrepreneurial... The Grapevine was intended as  an alternative to panhandling and a forum to build partnerships to put together businesses.         The homeless, like every red blooded American, took the competitive road and initially set up territories and tried to outsell the competition. The territory issue was resolved, but selling the Grapevine certainly did not build partnerships. The vendor's each became independent business men and women developing sales techniques and even economical hours of operation.
     There are always bad apples...The Grapevine is not immune to unscrupulous activity and thieves. In every system there are those that abuse the benevolence of others. Even though NEOCH makes no money in the publication of the Grapevine, and is basically controlled by the independent vendors, there are those few that try to rip people off.
     The Grapevine vendors had to start wearing badges to try and show the community that this is the legitimate enterprise. People were using the Grapevine name to raise money for shelters, homeless children, and other charities. Grapevine vendors only sell the paper, and all but $.10 goes to the vendor.
     Cultivating leaders...The regular Grapevine vendors are the more recognized homeless in Cleveland. The regular vendors have had to stand up to a great deal of adversity, and have developed confidence and leadership skills. Four of our vendors or former vendors are now members of the NEOCH Board of Directors. They work to motivate other homeless individuals to stand up and be counted, and to move back into the system.
Homelessness
     The Homeless are From Another Planet...There is this myth that has grown since the early 1980s that the homeless are illegal aliens, or slackers who have no cares in the world, or criminals or aliens from outer space. Everyone carries one stereotype that fits all homeless people.
     Activist in the 1980s were able to bring homelessness to the national spotlight by separating themselves from the anti-poverty groups that grew out of the 1960s. Homelessness was not seen as the extreme form of poverty, but almost a disease or a unique social phenomenon.
     We lost touch with the idea that the homeless were our brothers, our neighbor, our mentally ill family members, or our high school infatuation. When the homeless were no longer our friends, we dehumanized them. It became easy for the police to push them around. It became policy to warehouse a group of people in shelters (not houses). It was only a small step to criminalize homelessness. In other words, those that could not find housing were presumed to be criminals.
     Shelter is not the answer to our woes...Some believe if we had more shelters all our problems would be solved. This is similar to saying that if we produce more tires our transportation problems will end. Shelters are necessary for those experiencing temporary emergency shelter needs, but they are vastly inadequate for addressing homelessness.     Moving people around in 30 or 60 day cycles sustains the duffel bag industry but does nothing for getting people into housing.
     The goal of every shelter should be to close as soon as possible. And the goal of every shelter worker should be to move each person they have contact with into a permanent facility. The problem is that there first has to be a stock of housing units to move to, but supply is not meeting demand. The national Coalition estimates that there is a shortage of 4.7 million units of affordable housing on a national level.
     Most Politicians lie about the problem...Those that consider themselves liberal portray the homeless as these saints that are entirely innocent, and victims to be marched out when it is time to sink a few more dollars into the coffers of their friends back home.
Those politicians that call themselves conservative go to the opposite extreme and yell and scream that no one takes any responsibility anymore for their lives. They claim that the homeless are lazy, criminals that are illegally entering the middle class without any effort. Or they are mentally ill that need to find a way to stay with their family or reside in some charity hospital. The answer is to end all the government financed programs and deal out some tough love.
     When the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There are criminals that abuse the system (Not a majority). There are the lazy homeless (Not a majority). There are people who have made the wrong decision. There are helpless victims (Not a majority). They all make up the community known as the homeless. They are as varied as the population in general. There are a couple of my uncles that I would not trust with wallet, but this is certainly not representative of my family.
     The Cadillac driving, second home in Palm Springs welfare cheat homeless woman...Two facts that you can take to the bank. No one is getting rich off of welfare except those that administer the program (Ross Perot). And there is no such thing as a homeless person receiving too many benefits. In a county of surplus, abundance and decadence, those that are forced to spend a night on the streets or in a shelter will never be compensated enough by this country. The measly $300 food stamps received and the small amount of welfare each month would never equal what our society owes those that we cannot provide proper shelter to.
     Our country was founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and yet we provide none of the tools to achieve any of those goals. Our health is managed by an insurance agent, and distributed to the deserving--those with money. We provide a sub poverty minimum wage with no stability and no incentive for working. Housing, like health care, is a commodity that must conform to the whims of capitalism. Each day it seems that the direction for our life falls in the hands of others.
Welfare Reform
     The system is not working so end it...The most ill-conceived federal plan since the Gulf of Tonkin resolution is welfare reform. Turn welfare over to the states? Dennis Miller reminds us to never forget that the states are the ones responsible for our roads. They can't even maintain or build a highway system. How can we trust them with the care of those in poverty. The welfare system sucks, and welfare reform is making bad legislation worse.
     Women on welfare, who on average have a lower birthrate than the population, are going to be penalized for not getting off the public dole. There are no jobs available that pay a livable wage. Child care is expensive, and men in the inner city have no background or incentive for maintaining the family structure.
      Mothers are booted from the public dole after two years. Where do they turn? It seems the message is to put what money they can scrape together in life insurance, and "accidentally" find their way to the morgue. After welfare, homelessness, and finally being stripped of their children, there is only one place left to go that is free.
There is no one that would argue that the welfare system is working, but amputation is not the answer. Real welfare reform would build communities charged with nurturing and educating children. Real welfare reform would move the population out of poverty, and provide universal healthcare, universal housing, and universal work. Real welfare reform is a pipe dream as long as we live in a society in which building stadiums is more important than educating our children.
Government
     Let's Make a Deal...Why is it that the bad decisions of our government officials cost them little, if anything, while they take a large toll on our poor neighbors? Frank Gaul is convicted of dereliction of duty and fined $700. His dereliction of duty cost the county millions of dollars, which translated to a hiring freeze, a cut back in services, and my brothers and sisters waiting in a long line at the department of entitlement services. My friends could not get in a shelter for the night, or could not find a shower because of Frank Gaul's bad decisions. My neighbors found the Inn had no vacancies or was closed because of Gaul operating out of his league.
There is no accountability for the decisions of law makers. The General Assistance program was cut, and that did not mean squat to Gary, Dick, Patrick, JoAnn, and all the boys and girls that dress up in their suits and play government down in Columbus. To Mr. Banks, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Lorenzo, and Ms. Ogletree that meant the difference between looking for a job or waiting for the noon meal. It meant a night away from the street or the floor. It was a new coat that actually fit or a pair of waterproof boots.
     Gary, Dick, Patrick and JoAnn threw some table scraps off of their table called the Adult Emergency Assistance Program to ease their conscience. That fraternity down in Columbus actually expects Messrs. Jefferson, Lorenzo, Banks and Ms. Ogletree to jump threw a few more hoops then say thank you to get these table scraps. Maybe the French were not so far off in dealing with Marie Antoinette's dereliction of duty.
The Media
     Hello, do you have any pathetic looking people we can exploit...The media has fallen so far from the Morrows', Huntlys' and Cronkites. They were the keepers of the Fourth Estate, the government watchdogs and have become the keepers of OJ's Brentwood Estate, the government lapdogs. They pander comic book journalism and dress it up as trend watching or responding to the desires of the populace.
     Every other week we get a call asking the most bizarre questions from the media. For example, a homeless person killed another homeless person, and the media called NEOCH. They asked, "Do you have any idea why a homeless person would kill another homeless person?" WHAT? This is true. Then they asked, "Well, is crime in the homeless community a big problem?" I could only ask are cat fights a big problem at the anchor desk?
     Then we get a call from a TV station. The reporter said, "I saw a piece on a Los Angeles TV station about runaways, and we wanted to do a story about that in Cleveland. Are there runaways in Cleveland that sleep in abandoned buildings?" This begs the question do reporters cover the news or make the news?

     At the Vigil, a homeless memorial day, a reporter said, "Excuse me, we wanted to put a human face on the event. Could we interview a homeless person, maybe a woman?" I took her to a well spoken formerly homeless vendor that could deliver a good message. She said, "No, I need to talk to someone who is currently homeless." The story as it appeared on the air glossed over the event, and concentrated on the human interest side of the story. The message of the day was lost.
     There was another reporter searching the crowd asking every woman with a child in the crowd, "Excuse me are you homeless? No, oh, I'm sorry we heard that there was a homeless woman with a child here today." They are leeches that cannot be trusted with a complicated thought. But in the words of Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedy's don't get angry about the media, become the media, and that is what we have done.

     Well, Mr. McFeely, it is not a beautiful day in this neighborhood, and it is by no means a neighborly day in this beauty wood. We will continue to deliver the news from the streets of Cleveland and Cincinnati, and all our vendors and volunteers hope that you will support our efforts.

Copyright  NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13