Surviving the CMHA Housing Application Process

By Dessa Finnerty

Bridging the Gap is a NEOCH- sponsored program that helps people from the homeless community with their CMHA public housing applications. Although our program only helps people from partner agencies, we’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do to make sure you get a public housing unit at one of CMHA’s estate.

Here are 10 tips to help prevent your application from getting lost in the system:

  1. CMHA does everything by the letter. Make sure the mailing address on your application is a good one. This is probably the single most important piece of information you put on the application. If that letter can’t find you, then neither can CMHA- and they’re not going to spend time looking for you.
  2. Another important piece of information on the application is the “Daytime Telephone” number. Occasionally CMHA calls you to schedule an appointment. Usually, it’s near the end of the process when they’re ready to “lease-up”. Make sure the number you put her is a number where you can be reached. Again, CMHA is not going to run after you. They’ll call, and if that’s not a good number, you can kiss your place on the waiting list good-bye.
  3. Don’t lie on the application. If you have evictions or a criminal history, then be honest and put it down. They’re going to find out anyway and if you lied on the application, it just gives them more reason to turn you down.
  4. If you have to change something on your application (like your mailing address, phone number, or the number of people in the household), make you check with CMHA a week or so later to verify that the information has been changed on their computer. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve checked on a mailing address change, only to find that CMHA didn’t do the data entry and it wasn’t in the computer.
  5. Do your homework. When CMHA tells you to bring in a copy of your birth certificate, social security card, driver license and income verification – then bring it. Don’t show up to the interview unprepared. The more times you have to go down to the office to complete your application, the longer it takes to process it.
  6. Don’t assume that no news is good news. If you don’t hear them for  a while, then call or stop by to check on your application and ranking (Once a month is good; daily will only make everyone in the office cranky.)
  7. Be polite . I don’t care how many times you’ve called or how many stories you get from the staff be nice. If something goes wrong, you want the staff on your side. It’s a frustrating process and calling the analyst names over the phone isn’t going to get her to move faster on your application- in fact, it’s more likely she’ll get mad at you and throw your application on the bottom of the pile.
  8. If you do get withdrawn, remember that you have the right to appeal the decision. But you only have that right for 14 days. Make sure your request is in writing and has your client number and social security number on it. You should also keep a copy of the request. That way when you have to check on the status of the request, you have all the information you need.
  9. Always get names and numbers when you call or stop by. Try to follow-up with the same person, so that they get to know you – this is really important when they’re working on your eligibility
  10. Don’t give up. The people that don’t give up get housed- eventually.

It’s a long wait sometimes, and you don’t want that wait to be longer than it should be. So take care of yourself and your application, and you’ll be housed in one of CMHA’s bee-yoo-tiful estates before Bush runs for re-election.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March -April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio

Successful Stand Down Staged at Public Square Landmark

By Alex Grabtree

For every two homeless people who attended there was one volunteer present to help at the 2002 Homeless Stand Down. This year there was a tremendous outpouring of volunteer support to serve the homeless on a cold winter Sunday on Public Square. The Stand Down is an all-day service fair for homeless people in which 20 service provider come together to provide comprehensive emergency services. The Stand Down is organized by InterAct Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and was hosted this year by Old Stone Church. There were 471 homeless people that attended the Stand Down the Stand Down.

A few of the hardest to find services on other days throughout the year are massage therapy, and specialized medical services. Free entertainment just for homeless people is a welcomed relief for many.

The Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program and Legal Aid Society provided legal advice the Free Clinic and the Cleveland Health Department provided a medical clinic and the InterAct Cleveland provided two meals and mounds of winter clothing. Nearly 300 volunteers prepared the facility and serve those who attended.

The Veteran Administration provided staff as did First Call for Help. The City of Cleveland’s MOMobile provided medical care to young and expectant mothers. There were glucose screenings and mental health counselors.

InterAct and the Salvation Army donated vans to scour the city in an effort to bring people from the West Side and those who sleep outside to the 2002 Stand Down. There was quiet day of respite available to the growing homeless population on this one day. NEOCH notified the 1,700 homeless and low income people with Cleveland Community Voice Mail to remind them of the event.

This broad community effort brings all those who work for homeless people together in one day. The goal is to provide a day off for Cleveland Homeless population away from worrying about food or finding help. The comments from the participants were generally favorable with many asking for more than one Stand Down per year.

Plans are underway for a Stand Down in 2003 to build on the success and link more volunteers with their brothers and sisters on the street.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March-April 2002 Cl;eveland, Ohio

Homeless Kids Benefit from Congressional Act

On Tuesday, January 8, President Bush signed into law the “No Child Left Behind Act”.  This Legislation reauthorizes the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program, along with most other federal elementary and secondary education programs.  The McKinney-Vento Act is the federal law that entitles children who are homeless to a free, appropriate public education, and requires schools to remove barriers to their enrollment, attendance, and success in school.  The new legislation incorporates many policies and practices that have proven successful at the local and state levels.  It draws on the insight and experience of front-line educators, service providers, and advocates, and has widespread grassroots support among educators who work with children and youth in homeless situations.

            The amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act’s EHCY program are an essential part of the overall mission of the “No Child Left Behind Act” to ensure that every child in the United States is successful in school, and to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their wealthier peers.  The new McKinney-Vento provisions reflect strategies that, when implemented, enhance students’ academic and social growth, while permitting schools to benefit from the increased scores and achievement shown to result from educational continuity.

            The New Law recognizes that students in many different living situations are homeless; includes definition of Homelessness Children and Youth in homeless situations often do not fit society stereotypical images of homelessness.  A critical lack of shelter and affordable housing in the United States forces most children and youth experiencing homelessness to share housing with friends or relatives; stay in motels or other temporary facilities; or live on the streets, in abandoned cars, and in woods and campground.

            In fact, of the children and youth identified as homeless by State Department of Education in FY2000, only 35 percent lived in shelters; 34 percent lived doubled-up with family or friends; 23 percent lived in motels and other locations; 4 percent were unsheltered; and the rest were living in unknown circumstances (U.S. Department of Education FY2000Report to Congress).  Many people, including educators, may not realize the breadth of students who are considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act and as such qualify for its protections and services.  The reauthorized McKinney-Vento Act therefore contains a broad array of inadequate living situations, including students sharing the living accommodations of others due to economic hardship or lack of housing (“doubled-up”), students in motels, and many other homeless situations.  This definition of homelessness incorporates categories from current U.S. Department of Education guidance, and is applicable only to the education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act.

            The New Law Applies to All School Districts homelessness, while often invisible, is nonetheless widespread in the United States.  In recognition of the fact that families and youth may become homeless in any community in the nation, the basic educational protections of the reauthorized McKinney-Vento Act apply to all school districts in all 50 states.  The McKinney-Vento Act, as a federal law, supercedes state and local educational law and policy.  Under the New Law.

            All school districts must designate an appropriate staff person as a local educational agency liaison for students in homeless situations.  Liaisons are school district staff responsible for ensuring the identification, school enrollment, attendance, and opportunities for academic success of students in homeless situations.  By linking students and their families to school and community services, liaisons play a critical role in stabilizing students and promoting academic achievement at the individual, school, and district level.

            Liaisons are also required to ensure that public notice of the educational rights of students in homeless situations is disseminated where children and youth receive services.  In addition, liaisons must ensure that parents or guardians are informed of educational and related opportunities available to their children, are provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children, and are informed of, and assisted in accessing, all transportation services, including to the school of origin.

            Every state that receives McKinney-Vento Act funds must established an Office State Coordinator for the new law; this office must provide technical assistance to all school districts in the state to help them comply with all local school district requirements, including the integration of students into the mainstream school environment. 

The New Law Focuses on Increasing Academic Achievement through School Stability, Access, and Support New provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act fall into three main categories: stability, access, and support.

Increased School Stability

Changing schools greatly impedes students’ academic and social growth.   When students change schools, they often lose friends, teachers, and academic progress.  It is estimated that it takes a child four to six months to recover academically after changing schools.  Highly mobile students, including students who are homeless, have also been found to have lower test scores and overall academic performance than peers who do not change schools.  Therefore, under the new law:

School districts are required to keep students in their schools of origin, to the extent feasible, unless it is against the parents’ or guardian’s wishes.  The school of origin is either the school attended when permanently housed, or the school in which the student was last enrolled.  Students are permitted to remain in their schools of origin for the duration of their homelessness, and until the end of any academic year in which they become permanently housed.  School districts must provide transportation to the school of origin, at the request of the parent or guardian, or in the case of an unaccompanied youth, at the request of the school district’s homeless liaison.  If a student is sent to a school other than that requested by a parent or guardian, the school must provide a written explanation of its decision and the right to appeal. 

Liaisons must help unaccompanied youth choose and enroll in a school, after considering the youth’s wishes, and provide the youth with notice of his or her right to appeal the school district’s decision.  The educational stability resulting form these provisions will enhance students’ academic and social growth, while permitting schools to benefit from the increased test scores and achievement shown to result from student continuity. 

Increased School Access

Parents or guardians who are homeless may choose to enroll their children (or unaccompanied youth may choose to enroll) in the public school in the attendance area where they are living.  However, barriers to enrollment may prevent them from doing so in a timely manner. For example, children and youth experiencing homelessness often do not have the documents ordinarily required for school enrollment.  Enrolling students in homeless situations in school immediately provides stability and avoids separating children from school for days or weeks while documents are located.  Attendance in school may be     the only opportunity for children and youth to benefit from a stable environment, uninterrupted adult attention, peer relations, academic stimulation and reliable meals.  Under the new law:

Schools must immediately enroll students in homeless situations, even if they do not have required documents, such as school records, medical records, proof of residency, or other documents.  The term “enroll” is defined as attending classes and participating fully in school activities.  Enrolling schools must obtain school records from the previous school.  Students must be enrolled in school while records are obtained.  The school district’s homeless liaison must immediately assist in obtaining immunizations or records of immunization or other medical records for those students who do not have them.  Students must be enrolled in school in the interim.

Increased School Support

Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—also reauthorized in the No Child Left Behind Act—provides support for students who are most at risk of failing in school.  The Title I program is one of the largest federal education programs.  Congress appropriated over $10 billion in federal funding for the Title I program for FY2002.  Although McKinney – Vento Act funds reach only 12% of all school districts, over 90% of all school districts receive Title I funds.  Under the recently reauthorized Title I statute:

A child or youth who is homeless and is attending any school district is eligible for Title I services.  School districts must reserve (or set aside) funds as are necessary to serve homeless children who do not attend participating schools, including providing educationally related support services to children in shelters and other locations where children may live.  These services must be comparable to those provided to children in Title I funded schools.  Each local school district’s Title I plan must include a description of the services that will be provided to homeless children, including services provide with funds from the “Reservation of Funds” set aside.

 Title I can provide a broad variety of services to students who are homeless, including transportation, school supplies, supplemental instruction, and counseling.  It can also help to fund the positions of liaisons or coordinators.  By clarifying that students who are homeless must be served by the Title I program, the new law greatly enhances the resources that are available to help students who are homeless succeed in school. 

New Law Requires Integration into Mainstream School Environment Separating children who are homeless from their housed peers increases the stigma associated with homelessness, causes unnecessary educational and social disruption, and deprives children of the full-range of educational opportunities to which they are entitled.  In order to ensure that children and youth ion homeless situations benefit form the stability, diversity, opportunities, and resources of mainstream schools, under the new law:

Separate schools, separate programs within schools, or separate settings within schools are prohibited.  If McKinney-Vento-funded services are provide on school grounds, schools must not provide services in settings within a school that segregate homeless children and youth from other children and youth, except as is necessary for short periods of time for health and safety emergencies, to provide temporary, special, and supplementary services.  States that have separate schools that operate in FY2000 in a “covered county” are excluded from this prohibition, and are eligible to receive McKinney funds.  States and local school districts must adopt policies and practices to ensure that homeless children and youth are not segregated or stigmatized on the basis of their status as homeless. 

New Law More than Doubles Authorized Funding Level for McKinney-Vento Program Homelessness among families and youth has increased significantly since the 1994 reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Act.  Tragically, our nation’s failure to address the lack of affordable housing and deep poverty that cause homelessness   has resulted in its continued growth.  A survey of 27 U.S. cities found that requests for emergency shelter increased by an average of 13 percent in 2001; requests for shelter by homeless families alone increased by 22 percent. 

Thus, demand has far outstripped the resources available to help students enroll, attend, and succeed in school.  In FY2000, states were able to provide direct services to only 28% of the identified homeless children and youth.  The new law more than doubles the authorized funding level from $30 million to $70 million.  The authorized funding level is the ceiling, or maximum amount that Congress sets for a program.  The amount of funding that is actually provided is determined annually by the Congressional appropriations process.  For FY2002, Congress appropriated $50 million dollars for the EHCY program.  This represents a $15 million increase above the current level, and will enable schools to help thousands more children and youth experiencing homelessness.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chroncile March-April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio

Group Oppose Chronic Designation

NCH Announces Opposition to” Chronic Homeless” Initiative

NCH Calls on Congress and the White House to Abandon Harmful Rhetoric and Policy Initiatives, Change Focus to Ending Homelessness for Everyone.

Washington, DC – The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) today announced its opposition to the “chronic homelessness” initiatives undertaken by the Administration and embodies in numerous Congressional mandates.

U. S Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez has stated that “ending chronic homelessness” is a primary goal of the Department’s homeless assistance programs. In addition, a variety of federal legislation now directs federal agencies to prioritize their efforts and target their resources toward the so-called “chronically homeless.”

Although the term “chronic homelessness” is rarely defined with any degree of specificity, it is generally used to characterize people who are homeless and who also have mental health or addiction disorders, and who are therefore more likely to experience homelessness for longer period of time. In a detailed paper released today, Poverty Vs. Pathology: What’s “Chronic” About Homelessness, NCH charged that the terminology distorts the history, causes, and nature of homelessness; that the policies that accompany the initiative pit vulnerable population against each other in competition for scarce federal resources; and that the “chronic homeless” initiative as a whole-terminology and policy – is short-sight and likely to exacerbate, rather than end, homelessness.

The paper notes that the “chronic homeless’ initiative is especially misguided at a time when the affordable housing gap is at a record high and the economic recession is forcing many people out of work and into homelessness. “People who are homeless and who have disabilities do not need yet another stigmatizing, pathologizing label. Homelessness is primarily an economic condition, not a medical condition,” said NCH Executive Director Donald Whitehead. Whitehead also criticized the policies that have accompanied the terminology: “the ‘chronic homeless’ initiative does nothing to prevent people with or without disabilities from becoming homelessness. It is fundamentally flawed as a strategy for ending homelessness.”

NCH called on Congress and the White House to abandon the terminology and its attendant misguided policies, ant to focus their efforts on the underlying causes of homelessness: lack of affordable housing, insufficient incomes, and inadequate health care. In particular, NCH urged Congress to work to enact the National Housing Trust Fund, legislation that would create 1.5 million units of housing for people with the lowest incomes.

Founded in 1982, NCH is a national advocacy network committed to ending homelessness.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March-April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio

Grapevine Writers Misunderstood Hope for the Hopeless Signs

By Randall Laraway

Thank God, we live in a country wherein by authority vested in our constitution we have freedom of speech as well as freedom to worship the Almighty …. If, when, and where we so choose.

In response to the letter from Yvonne M. Lossow and fro the editorial, criticizing the City Mission’s billboard phrase, “Hope for the Hopeless,” I perceive somewhat of a misconstruing of that simple phrase. First of all, does anyone know (other than the City Mission staff) exactly what they meant by this phrase? Well ok, grant it that we’ve all an opinion about it, especially if one has ever been in a homeless situation.

Respectfully, Ms, Lossow was blessed, quote, “although since I have seen the billboard I have found a home.” One must pause and notice that she received this blessing after she’d seen the posted phrase. Second, Ms. Lossow , you said, “ I worked toward that goal.” Hey great! Reminds me of a still valid clich’… “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” Like the woman who lost a coin then found it again, I rejoice with you. Thirdly, Yvonne, did you personally thank our mutual Creator for the reward of your efforts? Fourth, will you please pray that I will likewise be blessed? I’d really appreciate it.

As for the editor’s graphic description ot the City Mission being s sterile, corrections type facility etc,. what else is new? Who is to say that a random act of violence could not occur there, the same as a bank or at a quick-stop food/gas mart? Men of God or no. Perhaps one must ask, what is the City Mission’s success rate of those individuals and families gladly receiving assistance over the years? Next, I would ask, why the attitude the attitude of condemnation, Mr. Editor? Quote, “offensive, paternalistic, total disregard for,” ect. Man, the City Mission really pushed your button. You know, every member of the City Mission staff will stand before the judgment seat of Christ someday. So will I and everyone else too. Anyway, a wise man once said that our attitude in life is 10% if what happens and 90% of how one reacts to what happens. Oh by the way , I hope that I’ve not come across a “brow beater” because, I like Ms.Lossow, I prefer not to be preached at.”

And before I get too long-winded, while you and others are daydreaming about ridding the city environs of “Hope for the Hopeless”, only to replace it with alcohol ads, try attending a “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers” meeting and listen to their input about such. Finally , I wonder does anyone suppose that when the City Mission posted the phrase, they actually meant offering all people the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ, The Hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)? After all, He is the only Lord I know Who ever arose from the dead.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March-April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio

“Giulianizing” Homelessness Sweeping Country

On the 73rd anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin      Luther King Jr’s birth, January 15, homeless people found their civil rights threatened in an increasing number of communities, according to a anew report released today by homeless advocacy groups.  The report found that more jurisdictions are enacting laws that effectively criminalize homelessness by prohibiting activities such sleeping or camping in public, even when no shelter beds are available.

The report found that the use of these ordinances is increasing.  Almost 80 percent of the cities surveyed in the 2002 report have laws that prohibit sleeping/camping in public areas.  Meanwhile 100 percent of communities surveyed lacked enough shelter beds to meet demand.

 The report distinguished California as the “meanest” state in the country for people who are poor and homeless, with New York City vying with Atlanta, Georgia and San Francisco, CA – the three meanest cities nationally – for top notoriety.   Special mention went to Palm Beach County, Fla. For their chillingly Orwellian methods of tracking people who are homeless.

 The three cities in Ohio that made the list of the 52 municipalities that attempt to criminalize homelessness included Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo.  Cleveland was cited for the settlement of a lawsuit over sweeping homeless people off the streets for the innocent behavior of sitting and sleeping. There was citation of the preservation efforts of homeless people with regard to Camelot, and the increases in hate crimes directed at homeless people.

 The National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project (NHCROP) – a project of the National Coalition for the Homeless-has partnered this year with the National Law Center on Homelessness * Poverty to compile data samplings from 80 communities, both urban and rural, in 37 states, the District of Columbia an Puerto Rico.  The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has published five similar reports in the past decade.  This is the most comprehensive examination of its type on this issue to date.  “Homelessness will not disappear simply by putting people behind bars.  We need to address the systemic causes and look at the real solutions.  The burden of poverty is far too great to be exacerbated by the incarceration of the impoverished.  Affordable housing, health care and livable wages are what we need to truly bring an end to homelessness,” stated Donald Whitehead, formerly homeless and now the Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. 

“Punishing homeless Americans for living in public when thousands literally have no alternative-is-inhumane, immoral, and it just won’t work.  What will work is affordable housing, health care, and living-wage jobs,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

 In the report Angelo Anderson, a vendor of the Cleveland Homeless Grapevine newspaper and a local activist said, “The sweeps seem to be directly connected with the holiday season in the city’s central business district.”  It seem a that there was under the previous administration an attempt to enforce a policy of “out of sight, out of mind” toward homeless people.

In conjunction with the release of the Illegal to be Homeless Report, homeless people threw a party in Cleveland to celebrate the end of twelve years of the Michael R. White administration 65 people attended the party to call for better treatment of homeless people under new Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell.  Outgoing Mayor Michael White did not attend event.  He was out of the city vacationing after 12 hard years of chief operating officer of Cleveland.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March-April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio

Don’t Enable the Drug Addict

Commentary by Vickie L. Smith

I am writing in response to the Grapevine regarding the editorial, “Stop the Homeless Death Penalty. “ I am writing this as a recovering addict and a person who dealt personally with homelessness. The article states “We hear from alcohol and drug addiction experts that alcoholics and addicts will slip on their path to recovery. “Relapse is not requirement to recovery: all individuals working or living in the world of addiction know this. Many addict recover without ever having to relapse.

The other truth about addiction is that the cruelty of this disease makes it imperative that the addict faces the consequences of their disease. If the diabetic chooses to not take their medication, they will hav a consequence and it can be as severe as death. Addiction is no different. If a person chooses to pick up after experiencing recovery, they to must face consequences, If they do not face the consequences they will eventually end up in jails, institutions or die as a result.

You can hear this reverberat4ed at any AA, NA , or CA meeting in the Cleveland area. In these meetings you hear about bottoms and what it took for that individual to hit their bottom. Social Service Agencies coming in and raising that bottom to somehow exclude homelessness as a consequence are not doing the suffering addict any justice. Although many of these rules may seem heartless, this disease alienates fathers from their children it turns mothers into prostitutes and kills at random.

Part of addiction can be homelessness and I have heard many stories in the 12 Step Meetings that homelessness is what turned the addict’s head to begin the road to recovery. Enabling the addict is the worst thing anyone can do. Recovery from addiction begins with being accountable for ones actions, not blaming it on someone else.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March-April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio

Vendor Lands on Her Feet with Support of Grapevine

by Tim Schwab

     Cathy Brown meets me in the Grapevine office. She’s dressed well in business casual with bright tawny hair and sufficient makeup, all of which give her a professional demeanor. Later I find out that her entire outfit is from the thrift store.

     Before the questions had started, Cathy had already begun telling her life story. She was chatting with another Grapevine vendor about their experiences living on the street, and the circumstances which pushed each of them to homelessness at an early age.

     As I talk with Cathy I’m impressed with her openness, and with her self-honesty. She speaks candidly about the mistakes she’s made in life—leaving her parents’ home at too early of an age and getting involved in difficult romantic relationships.

    But Cathy draws on her experiences on the streets to make suggestions about solving the problem of homelessness. Cathy believes that certain social experiences as a youth have contributed to her becoming homelessness. For this reason, she emphasizes preventative measures, such as counseling for junior high and high school students, teaching them the reality of living on the streets, and the reality of trying to make it on your own. "Kids given community service to do shouldn’t be picking up trash on the side of the road. They should be learning about homelessness and AIDS," Cathy said.

     Growing up in a small town outside of Seattle, Cathy first became homeless after she left home at 18 and lost the job she had. Unaccustomed to the bright lights of Seattle, Cathy made mistakes living on the streets. She’s experienced the benefits of communal living in the Seattle homeless camps in the 1980’s, but also has dealt with the seedier, more harrowing living situations that homelessness can force on you. She talks about the difficulties of being a woman on the street: "It’s harder for a woman. A woman has more needs…It’s not like being a man. He can lay his head down anywhere. A woman’s got to be more careful."

     Cathy’s been in and out of homeless shelters and camps throughout her adult life. Just three years ago she was staying in a shelter in Columbus. The last five months, however, Cathy has found some respite from life on the streets. She’s found an apartment in Cleveland and a steady, supplemental income to her disability check by selling the Grapevine.

     Cathy tells me she takes her job selling the Grapevine seriously. Four times a week she sells the paper, always attired in her blue-jeans and her Grapevine t-shirt. "It’s like a uniform for me, it’s what I always work in."

     Judging the homeless as being lazy or inferior is a frequent, fallacious perception among non-homelesss people, according to Cathy, and she hopes the Grapevine will help change the public’s beliefs on this matter.

     Cathy warns people who have never been homeless to try to understand the complexity of homelessness. "Don’t judge people out there on the streets. You don’t know why they’re homeless. It could be your brother, mother, sister, or aunt."

     Cathy enumerates the reasons why people are on the streets. Problems with drugs, alcohol, mental illness are very common causes that she’s seen. She herself has battled with alcohol problems and with depression. Another contributing factor to homelessness is budgeting an income. According to Cathy, "Everybody’s trying to keep up with the Jones’, and the Jones’ are in debt."

     Although no longer homeless, Cathy keeps in the touch with the homeless through her work with the Grapevine and her friends at the West Side Catholic Center. When asked about the resources available to the homeless here in Cleveland, she speaks highly of the Cleveland Street Card, a card available to homeless people and published by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, which lists free health and social services for the lowest income members of Cleveland.

     There are drawbacks in accessing the resources, however, because the locations of clinics and shelters are so spread out. "If you don’t have money for rent or food, how are you going to afford $1.25 for the bus every time you need to go somewhere?"

     Cathy would like to see a single resource center for homeless people, which would provide all services and a shelter in the same building. Another of her recommendations is to have a separate shelter for the working homeless. Many shelters enforce early evening curfews, which prevent many homeless people from employment that requires working nights.

     Today, Cathy rents out an apartment, which she shares with her cats. The Public Housing Authority previously turned down Cathy because of her pets. According to Cathy, resources for the homeless are unsympathetic to folks with pets. Cathy believes that pets provide people with important social benefits and security. She’d like to see medicare available to homeless people and their pets.

     Cathy’s final suggestions on helping homelessness are preventative. She believes in helping families and children with food resources and counseling before they become homeless. Provided with good models and adequate homes, Cathy believes, young people today can break the cycle of homelessness and succeed in life.

Copyright NEOCH published 2002 Issue 53

Recession Causes Suffering

More than One Fifth of Ohio’s Preschool Children Poor

     The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) released in January a new statistical analysis documenting that the recession is causing widespread human suffering in the state of Ohio. In its fourth annual State of Poverty report, OACAA reported that over one-fifth of Ohio’s preschool children are poor, with this fraction rising because of continuing job losses. It can only be deduced that the total number of poor children exceeds 20%, since all Ohio counties have poor families who receive no public assistance.

     The analysis was conducted by George Zeller, senior researcher for the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland (CEOGC), the community action agency serving Cuyahoga County. Zeller points out that income inequality is still rising in Ohio. Incomes rapidly soared during the last 14 years among every one of Ohio’s 15 richest communities where average incomes range between $85,000 and $208,0000. Conversely, incomes fell at the same time in 14 of the state’s 15 poorest communities, where average incomes range between $21, 000 and $27,0000.

     Despite the good 1990’s economy prior to the current recession, the average taxpayer’s income fell during the last 14 years in almost all of Ohio’s urban centers, including Lima, Toledo, Cleveland, Dayton, Mansfield, Youngstown, Warren, Springfield, Akron, Zanesville, Lorain, Canton, Elyria, Middlefield, and Hamilton. Income increases of 8.6% in Cincinnati and 1.0% in Columbus were the only positive exceptions. Incomes stood still in Steubenville.

     In addition to growing inequality, for the first time in history Ohio’s economy suffered from job growth below the national average for six consecutive years between 1991 and 2001. Ohio’s slow job growth rate is now worsening as the economy rapidly shrinks. New claims for unemployment insurance soared in Ohio counties during 2001 by 44%, the fastest rate of worker layoffs the state has experienced since 1980.

Ohio’s economy was in a recession and the state lost jobs throughout 2001. Several sections of Ohio entered the recession during the latter months of 2000, with six counties losing jobs throughout 2000 and 2001. Virtually the entire state is suffering from economic decline.

Cash welfare caseloads declined sharply during all months of the recession in Ohio. Poor families on public assistance lost their cash benefits even as their communities lost jobs. Statewide in Ohio, 72% of all poor children on public assistance no longer receive even a penny of cash assistance.

According to Phil Cole, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA), "The best way out of poverty for a family is a good job that pays a living wage. It clearly is alarming that instead of employment growth we are now seeing huge jumps in unemployment claims, job losses, and recession. This means that poverty is growing as incomes fall in our state. It is time for us to assist the victims of the recession, who are suffering today."

Other key findings include:

  ¨ For the first time since World War II, Ohio’s poor face a dramatically negative economy without a safety net. Ohio’s three-year time limits for cash welfare expired in October for most recipients, just as the economic recession gathered steam.

  ¨ Ohio’s official monthly measures of employment completely missed the impact of the recession, and will be downwardly revised early this year to reflect an additional unmeasured loss of 100,000 Ohio jobs. Ohio’s official unemployment figures, which changed little during most of 2001 despite zooming unemployment claims, also failed to detect the recession in a timely manner.

   ¨ The report notes that public policy should begin assisting low-income victims of the current recession. Steps normally taken to assist the jobless during recessions have not been implemented. The state has been in recession for over a year without such policy responses.

Copyright NEOCH published 2002 Issue 53

Get With the Program or Get Out!

Commentary by Pete Domanovic

     Now that LTV, TRW, the County, Regional Transit Authority and the City of Cleveland have laid off thousands of workers, we need to welcome some of them to our part of the world—homelessness. The first thing you need to know is how to make the program. Many of the new homeless will probably leave the city out of embarrassment, or they think there will be better job opportunities elsewhere. No matter where you are, you will have to know the program. The very first thing you will have to deal with would be your alcoholism or drug addiction. What’s that you say, you’re not addicted to anything. Well sorry; come back when you are. The programming is centered around alcohol and drugs.

     Being poor and homeless is not enough to get you into a shelter. In a lot of emergency shelters, you can get in for a few days, even up to thirty sometimes. The shelters say that you don’t need to be addicted, there are very few that don’t have to claim it. The shelters make their money by working with alcoholics and addicts. If you don’t make that category, then just come back some other time. The Salvation Army shelter at 2100 Lakeside would be happy to take you for as long as you want to stay, but how long can you sleep with your shoes on. If you want a locker you got to have an addiction. Keeping both hands in your pockets wouldn’t be a bad idea either, even for a little bit of change.

     Please don’t mind the mentally handicapped, as they make up about 60 % of the population. No one seems to be doing anything for them, so when you need something yourself, know what the answer is ahead of time. Counselors are there for the same reason as anyone else who has a job. They need pay checks. Usually the newer ones come in with some gusto, but lose that after dealing with the true addicts, or mentally handicapped. The games that they play are very petty, but can suck up any resources that should rightfully go to someone trying to find work.

     When dealing with the shelter staff, you will quickly realize that they are generally not nice people, except when they are talking to their employer. If you feel like you have been wronged in any type of way, the best thing to do would be just smile and walk away. You have the right to file a grievance that most shelters offer, but definitely watch your back from there. People are sometimes awakened in the middle of the night and told they have to leave with no recourse whatsoever. The first thing to mind would be violence or the threat of violence. That will give them more reason to make you leave.

     Remember, even though the shelters go through hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and the money is meant for them to help you. They will be very swift in telling you that your staying there for free, so you need to get with the program.

Copyright NEOCH published 2002 Issue 53

Conflicts Over Crowded Shelter

by Pamela Vincent

     When the shelter at 2100 Lakeside was being planned it was supposed to be the solution for the overflow of men utilizing project "HEAT". Now 2100 Lakeside, the over flow shelter solution, needs a solution of its’ own to ease the consistently "over capacity" number of men seeking shelter and a meal at the facility.

     The original plan for 2100 Lakeside, according to Phil Mason, Social Service Administrator at the Salvation Army headquarters, called for shelter "for approximately 120-150 beds, and that number was upped at the opening to 200 beds."

     However, Bette Meyer, Deputy County Administrator, said that they had a contract with The Salvation Army that specified a 350-person capacity plus 25 personnel. "From early on though, Mason stated, the shelter was operating at over capacity numbers and because of their compassion for the homeless. The Salvation Army allowed the over crowdedness to endure."

      On an average night the number of men using the facility was at 424, but on some nights up to 510 men would utilize the shelter. Early this January however, they made some changes and imposed a strict 410-person limit to the number of men seeking shelter there. Once the beds were taken the rest of the men would lie on mats on the hard floor or sit in chairs all night. Most were happy to be out of the cold weather.

    A staff person who wished not to be identified at the Lakeside shelter told us they were given a couple weeks notice prior to the implementation of the 410 imposed limit. The staff tried to verbally inform as many clients as possible before hand that they might need to find other arrangements, yet written notice was not posted. All of a sudden long lines formed in early January outside the shelter hours before their doors opened and people were being turned away. This had never happened before and many of the clients were at a loss given either little or no notice to find other sleeping or meal arrangements.

     This also made it difficult for some of the regular clients who worked second shift and were usually guaranteed a bed. In January things changed and by the time they got off work, later in the evening, the shelter was already at the 410-person limit. Some of the men who were turned away complained that they had to sleep in hospital waiting rooms or the lobbies of apartment buildings to keep warm and dry. Others said that they used RTA shelters or took up residence in dangerous abandoned buildings. Some of the men who use the facility less frequently did not know about the new policy and were left out in the cold.

     Mason explained that the decision was not meant to hurt the homeless men or put them at risk but said, "the Salvation Army is being made to comply with legal counsel and risk management that forbids us from operating at over capacity levels from now on." He said they were worried about fire and safety risks for the men. One of the men responded by saying that if given the choice of their safety inside the shelter or outside in freezing temperatures, they’d take their chances inside the shelter.

     In response to the Salvation Army’s new policy some of the men, Brian Davis of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staged a sit-in on January 17th at the Salvation Army headquarters. The sit-in resulted in all the city and county agencies taking notice of the seriousness of the situation. During this time, Davis and the resident committee at 2100 Lakeside also tried to have other issues addressed that they had put into a 4-page document. This early December document detailed the complaints by residents and recommended solutions for the shelter. One of the issues dealt with the over crowdedness. As of January 9th though, the committee had yet to see any corrective changes put into practice.

     Davis also met with Larry Goodman and John Ansbro from the Salvation Army. Goodman is the new director for 2100 Lakeside. In the meeting they discussed a temporary reprieve or short-term solution to the over crowdedness so that men wouldn’t be turned away during the cold weather and face possible death due to exposure on the streets at night. It was thought the problem was solved with this meeting, but men continued to be turned away the following week.

     As a result of the sit in demonstration, NEOCH, the resident committee, the County and the Salvation Army struck a deal to prevent the men from being turned away.

     As it stands at least until April, when 2100 Lakeside reaches its’ legal limit instead of turning people away they will be transported to other facilities. The Salvation Army shelter took most of the overflow from 2100 Lakeside shelter in a deal in which the County would pay a set amount for each person over the legal capacity. A staff person at Lakeside said that approximately 50 men were being moved into other programs.

     A meeting with many agencies was held at 2100 Lakeside on January 24th that involved Commissioner Tim McCormack, approximately 20 City and County agencies, social service providers, NEOCH and the Resident Committee at Lakeside. The meeting, which was organized by County Administrator David Reines, addressed the following:

· Rapid assessment of current client needs

· Reduction of the population at 2100 Lakeside

· Placement of current residents into more appropriate housing or shelter

· Engaging long term homeless into services and permanent housing in the community

     The critical question that the group attempted to answer was: "How can your system/agency help?"

     For the time being the Salvation Army was permitted, in a letter by the City of Cleveland’s Board of Building Standards, to lift the limit at Lakeside during inclement weather conditions until other solutions could be put into place. On January 30th, representatives of The Salvation Army appeared before the Board of Building Standards seeking clarification of the letter. The Board passed a resolution indicating that during the next six months, The Salvation Army could exceed the legal occupancy limit when conditions required it to do so, subject to approval of a safety plan by the Fire Department. The reference to inclement weather was deleted. A new letter will be sent after The Salvation Army and the Fire Department have discussed the additional steps to implement a safety plan.

     The City of Cleveland believes that the best way to reduce the current overcrowded conditions at 2100 Lakeside is to reduce the number of persons living there on a long-term basis. Bill Resseger of the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development stated that "the shelters were never intended as permanent housing for the chronically homeless. The optimal use of limited public resources is to assist the community-based partners in developing additional supportive housing resources rather than creating an ever expanding shelter system that warehouses people on a permanent basis." "To that end, the City of Cleveland is proposing to allocate $1 million from the 2002-2003 Consolidated Plan budget to use specifically for the development of supportive housing.

     They do believe also that the inadequate physical condition of the Downtown Women’s shelter requires immediate attention and are proposing an additional $500,000 allocation toward an improved facility."

     In addition, the City is strongly in support of efforts to involve the full spectrum of housing and service providers in both the following goals:

1)Helping those currently residing at 2100 Lakeside to find suitable permanent housing along with the services they need and

2) Assuring that agencies with responsibilities for the housing needs of their clients do not view 2100 Lakeside as an acceptable permanent housing alternative.

     The City recognizes the working group convened by Reines on January 24th and hopes that all of the relevant parties will together achieve the two goals as soon as possible.

     At the County level Deputy Administrator Bette Meyer had even more positive changes in store for 2100 Lakeside. Steps are going to be put into place to contract with Mental Health services Inc. and the Alcohol and Drug Services board to put services on site. They are also looking into benefits such as food stamps and other assistance that can be put on site.

   A follow up committee was formed to handle the necessary action items, which were:

1) Profile of current population to better understand their needs

2) Provisions for alcohol and drug assistance at the shelter

3) Intake or assessment of all incoming clients

     Meyers also said, "We hope that the shelter is a first step for the men to get them to wherever they need to be. There needs to be resources plugged in for the men to do whatever they need to do to get them into permanent housing." Her observation is, "that in the last year not as much attention was being paid to that as closely as it should have been and that’s probably why there’s so many men there. The way they see in controlling the numbers is to help the men to move on to permanent options and we think that that’s a good outcome."

     The Salvation Army hopes to operate the shelter at not more than 250 men on any given night by April 1st. This is a fast approaching deadline. It is hoped that once they get the numbers down the facility will most likely be more manageable. They’ll be able to open the kitchen and perhaps keep the shelter in better operating condition and cleaner than in the past. It’s apparent that the services and agencies responsible for making the necessary changes have their work cut out for them and county officials want everyone to contribute to meeting the deadline of April 1st.

     If the numbers haven’t been reduced by then, the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County will need to develop an emergency plan to head off the potential emergency.

Copyright NEOCH published 2002 Issue 53

Banish Enabling from the Social Service Lexicon


by Brian Davis

     I hate the use of the term "enabling" with social services. It is often an easy way to withdraw services under the guise of not coddling the individual. I do not believe that social service providers, even licensed social workers, have the ability to draw the line between providing life sustaining help and enabling a person. Often decisions around enabling a person have nothing to do with a case plan as much as a funding decision.

     The alcohol and drug system is so overwhelmed with men and women in need of help that they have constructed these artificial barriers to service and labeled them tools to prevent enabling. Is it enabling to provide a person a bed away from the drug culture that permeates all of our neighborhoods and give the person some time to work through their problems with drugs? Since we woefully under fund mental health counseling, it is rare that a person addicted to drugs or alcohol will ever get to talk to a mental health professional. There are so many environmental impacts on a person that lead him to attempt to work out his issues with drugs. The childhood sexual abuse, the beatings by a parent, the torture the child endured in school, and the horror she witnessed in her neighborhood fester for years.

     So I self medicate myself. There is no one to talk to, so I turn to a quick and easy fix. Are the case workers enabling me because I have found a logical way to escape these painful memories? Then I face the corrupt and broken health care system in which profit is put above people. I cannot afford medication for my non-life threatening personality disorder so I self medicate. I then have to face the reality that all the residential treatment beds in the community were bought by the corrections department. I have to commit a crime, do some time in order to get a room. Then I see that my hard work as a laborer will not even get me half the rent for an apartment.

     The final insult is that some young college graduate snot nose kid comes along and asks me to leave the shelter because he does not want to enable me with the thought that abusing alcohol is permissible behavior. I just want to drive this kid to the desert and leave him with this note: "I am sorry that I took the map, the water, and all your supplies. I did not want to enable you with these crutches. There are people who have made it back to civilization in your same situation. When you get back you will have the satisfaction of knowing that no one enabled you on your journey. Good luck."

     All of us are inundated with images in advertising, television, and billboards that tell us how cool it is to drink. This legal behavior of consuming alcohol that is encouraged and rewarded in pop culture is condemned within the homeless community. The cheapest, most readily available mind altering drug in the community is a capital offense in the shelters. The alternatives (mental health counseling, prescription drugs, stable housing, and family) are too expensive or not available. Is there no justice?

     Social workers are fooling themselves if they think that allowing a person the dignity of sleeping inside a shelter when they are drunk is enabling. Those born into poverty or forced to endure poverty in the richest country in the history of the world are too accepting of archaic rules and phony academic theories about enabling. Homeless people too often accept termination from programs that are supposed to serve them. Homeless people do not want to rock the boat out of fear that things will only get worse. In my experience, it cannot get much worse. It is time to rise up and turn the tables on these career social workers. For too long homeless people have enabled social workers by allowing them to keep their jobs in spite of their condescending approach to serving their clients.

     Homeless and low income individuals have allowed programs to exclude more people then they serve. They have allowed shelters to only serve the easiest to serve alcoholics, and they have allowed the blurring of the line between corrections and social service. The only way to correct this misguided notion is through civil disobedience at the first hint of the word "enabling." After the social service industry solves the mental health crisis, affordable housing crisis, health care crisis, and long term care crisis they can use the word enabling again. Until that time I accept that viewing the world through the rather blurry haze of a Rolling Rock is a sane way of dealing with this crazy world.

Copyright NEOCH published 2002 Issue 53