The Homeless Stand Down, 1998

On August 21, more than 700 of Cleveland’s homeless and at-risk men, women, and children convened at the metropolitan campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) for NEOCH’s 5th annual “Homeless Stand Down.” The day of meals, respite, and access to services that may assist in breaking the cycle of homelessness was orchestrated by NEOCH staff and volunteers. Project Director Angelo Anderson reports that “Stand Down” is a military term that refers to soldiers taking care of other soldiers in a safe, secure place. According to Anderson, that is what the event is all about: “each of us taking care of one another in an effort to encourage hope, vision, and health.”

The day started early, with breakfast provided by the Salvation Army. NEOCH’s guests were able to take showers and get a change of clothing before participating in the rest of the day’s activities. Students from Lake Erie Barber College gave haircuts, while representatives from several Cleveland area service providers offered workshops on job training, education, housing, healthcare, welfare reform, and related concerns. Direct medical services by doctors and nurses from the Cleveland Clinic, St. Vincent Charity Hospital, and the Greater Cleveland Volunteer Nurses, and vision screening by Prevent Blindness Ohio were set up in the campus Student Center, while some participants received dental screening at the MetroHealth Dental Van, and pregnant women and children under one year of age obtained healthcare at Healthy Family/Healthy Start’s MomMobile parked on East 30th St.

The Tri-C courtyard was the stage for more festive activity. While some participants collected information from representatives of service-providing agencies, others rested or chatted under the trees or danced to the music played by disc jockey Jack from Loony Tunes, children played games or made craft projects, and everyone enjoyed the copious hot lunch produced by St. Augustine’s Center.

As the day wound to a close, participants collected donated clothing and toiletries to take away with them. The Bishop Cosgrove Center provided light suppers for the departing guests, as well.

The “Homeless Stand Down,” could not have occurred without the generosity of the people of Cleveland who donated clothing, toiletries, and services for the event. Anderson also stressed the important contribution made by the volunteers, concerned individuals as well as groups from area churches, colleges, businesses, and agencies that helped with the distribution of goods and services, and he extends NEOCH’s heartfelt thanks to all of them.

As informal survey of this year’s participants rated the Stand Down on the whole as “good” or “great,” though several people wished that Mayor White had been present. NEOCH’s Executive Director, Brian Davis, stated that while he wished that the workshops had been better attended, he considered the day to he a huge success.

The Coalition intends to stage a smaller Stand Down in October to help with winter clothing and health preparation for the winter.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue 29, September-October 1998