Vendor Sells Papers Despite Prostate Cancer

by Mark Hopkins

         Between the vendors’ stands and the rear parking lot of the West Side Market, Arthur Price is working a double shift on a cold March morning, selling The Homeless Grapevine.

         Some passersby purchase a copy, others nod “Hello,” but no one seems to ignore the man in the green fatigue jacket and red wool cap, stroking his gray beard as he welcomes all comments and observations.

         Who would guess that he is a survivor of the city’s streets and, more recently, of prostate cancer? Or that he thanks God every day for granting him the opportunity of urging others to purchase the Homeless Grapevine? “It keeps me alive,” he says. “Otherwise, I’d be home, getting sicker, just watching TV.”

         He has not had an easy or an ordinary life. Both his mother and daughter died of cancer, and he had spent the last four years caring for his dying brother.

         For Arthur, life is all about maintaining a sense of optimism in the face of adversity. Selling the Homeless Grapevine is a part of that maintenance program: “It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning,” he remarks.

And that is something he has dedicated his time and energy to for over two years now.

         “It’s really saved my life,” he repeats. “Without this to look forward to, and without my wife, I’d be dead.”

          Arthur was born in Franklin County, outside of Columbus, in 1927. Because of family problems, he entered the Children’s Home, where he resided from 1939 until the mid -1940s. Homeless at 17, following the death of his mother, he worked sporadically, including jobs as a roofer, and, later, for the Volunteers of America on Cleveland’s West Side. It was during this time that he met his friend, Tony, who introduced him to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine.

         As we spoke, I could sense the strength of his enthusiasm and the urgency he musters about informing others about the plight of the homeless. He is confident in his belief that it is possible to find deliverance from the many mean streets of an often-uncaring city.

         “This morning, people said to me that I help make them feel good, like I am an enchanter or something. I love talking to people; I work here not for me, but for others, especially for my wife. If it weren’t for her, I couldn’t do this. I share the Homeless Grapevine with people to help make them aware of the homeless, to remind them so they know we’re here. If you pass a Homeless Grapevine vendor, remember, don’t just pass by, buy a copy or listen to that person’s story.”

For Arthur Price, survival is all about optimism.

         “It’s all with the Lord,” he said, just as on this Saturday morning, by way of example, he said his wife was concerned that he may not hear the alarm at 5:00 a.m. because of an electrical problem. His response? “The Lord will wake me up.”

         It was uplifting to meet such an approachable and inspiring person as Arthur Price. He was forthcoming, demonstrative, and unapologetic about the hard and winding road. He’d taken to bring him home. He is glad to be alive and to be doing such purposeful work.                            The homeless are not anonymous, he says; they have their faces, their histories, and their stories. And Arthur’s story is one of many that confront the question of persistence and survival. He gives us hope. He helps us to realize that homeless people are not just the people we see sleeping under a bridge as we drive across on our way downtown or the anonymous people who huddle in the crevice of an overpass, all of their worldly belongings strewn about them.

         This morning at the West Side Market, amid the din of the cacophonous, foreign voices, Arthur’s voice is clear: These people, the homeless, those who may who have fallen beneath the radar of hope deserve a chance to find a home. And home, as has been so often said, is where the heart is.

         Arthur Price exudes the confidence of a survivor and is a man who wants to share the story of that survival. The city’s streets won’t present an argument for defeat: they’ll present a welcome challenge born of the confidence, of hope for a better future and the faith that deliverance may be forthcoming.

         The city may possess sadness and defeat, but it also holds the springs of hope flowing beneath its hard streets, which hope that is said to ever spring Eternal.

  Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60

Ohio Ranks Fourth Most Dangerous State for Homeless People


WASHINGTON, DC—The arrest of three men in July for the brutal and savage beating death of Gerald King, Jr. in West Virginia raised the issues of hate and homelessness locally and nationally.

         Despite the gruesome and seemingly singular nature of King’s death, it was only one of many angry and vicious attacks committed against people experiencing homelessness during 2002.

         In August, a bus driver in Los Angeles ran over a homeless man in a battle of “wills” after refusing to let the man board his bus. In October, an 18-year-old man in San Luis Obispo climbed a fence and jumped from it several times, landing on a homeless man’s head. In Springfield, Ohio another homeless man was sleeping on a porch when he was set on fire. In San Diego, three Navy men pelted homeless people with paintballs.

         The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) released a four-year study examining hate crimes and violence committed against homeless people from 1999 “Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2002.” released by the National Coalition for the Homeless.

         Over the last four years alone (1999-2002) there were 212 hate crimes or violent acts committed against people experiencing homelessness and reported to the National Coalition for the Homeless— all perpetrated by non-homeless individuals. Of these 212 attacks, 89 were non-lethal assaults, with 123 attacks resulting in death.

         Shelters have received increasing reports of men, women and even children being harassed, kicked, set on fire, beaten to death, and even decapitated. These incidents took place in 98 different cities from 34 states and Puerto Rico. The youngest victim was a four month-old child; the oldest was a 74-year-old man. The overwhelming majority of the perpetrators of such crimes were teenagers and young adults.

         The annual report for 2002 found that 37 hate crimes and violent acts were committed against people experiencing homelessness — all perpetrated by non-homeless individuals, with 16 resulting in death. These incidents took place in 29 cities in 16 states. The report also compiles news reports, such as the death of Gerald King, Jr., for the year and lays out recommendations to ensure that one of the most vulnerable groups in our society — people without permanent housing — are protected against hate crimes and violent acts.

         Nationally, many of the crimes against homeless people go uninvestigated and few result in the attacker going to jail. Locally, many homeless people report that they are afraid to report a hate crime to the police. There were reports of a homeless man being murdered last year on the near West Side, but police did not consider the incident a crime, and Chief from Camelot was killed on the East Side, but the coroner did not rule the crime a homicide. Neither crime was listed in the report, because of lack of a police determination of a crime.

         As part of the study, NCH released the most dangerous states, and the most dangerous cities in the United States. The most dangerous states include California, Colorado, Washington, Ohio, and Nevada. For a complete list see page 2. Las Vegas Nevada and Toledo Ohio authorities both disputed the findings.

         In Ohio, Springfield, Ohio was cited in 2002 for the murder of a homeless man, Dennis Wade, who was set on fire in the summer of 2002. Toledo was listed as one of the most dangerous cities for a series of murders that took place between 1999 and 2000. The individuals who were killed had some affiliation with prostitution, and therefore the provider community, fearing the bad press, denied that the individuals were homeless. The police also denied that the individuals were homeless.

         “Our country is in its darkest hour. As more and more men, women and children are forced into poverty by worsening economic conditions and the widening and growing gap between the rich and the poor, their cries for help are not being greeted with kindness or benevolence, but are instead being greeted with apathy, violence and hate.” stated Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of NCH. “It is time that we expose these cowardice acts against people without homes. It is time we bring this darkness to light.”

         Discrimination against people experiencing homelessness is accepted in today’s society. Michael Savage, the popular host of the radio talk show “Savage Nation”, said on April 23, 2002 that, “In a sane society, they [bums] would be beaten up, thrown in a van, and thrown in a work camp.” Statements such as these reinforce negative and violent stereotypes against homeless individuals.

         NCH is seeking Congress to order a General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation into the nature, and the scope of hate crimes and violent acts that occur against people experiencing homelessness.

         “A GAO study is urgently needed to shed light on this frightening trend of hate crimes and violence,” said Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing for NCH. “These horrific acts of violence threaten the lives of the over 3.5 million women, men and children experiencing homelessness each year.” A Congressionally ordered study would examine perpetrators’ behavior, beliefs, prevention, education and law enforcement strategies. This request has been endorsed by over 400 local and national organizations.

         For a copy of the report including a listing of all the cities in the report, please go to

 Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003


Local and State Homeless News

         Cleveland Men’s Shelter: Cleveland now boasts a shelter that averages 600 men per night with a legal capacity of 400 people. The shelter has a very short time until the contract runs out with the County. Word is that negotiations are not going well, and the result could be a significant decline in the number of men served. There is no plan for what to do with the 150-200 men that show up who could be turned away by the shelters per night. Tensions at the shelter are starting to heat up again between staff and residents.

          Cincinnati panhandling assault: Cincinnati has posted signs in all the windows of local businesses discouraging panhandling, and is debating passing strong laws against panhandling. The assault on the street newspaper seems to have died down.

          Cleveland Women’s Shelter: Catholic Charities which runs the women’s overflow shelter was stung with a sex scandal at the women’s shelter, which caused them to withdraw from oversight of the shelter. The shelter grew from 75 women per night last year to 110 per night this year. After the priest sex scandal, and then a local nursing home scandal, the sex scandal was too much for the shelter. Catholic Charities will ask the shelter to move by September. Conditions at the facility are bad, but the County were able to find alternative housing for most of the families with children.

         Tom Mullen, Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Charities, said that the Cosgrove would return to a day shelter and meal site.

          NIMBY problems: Cleveland has had a rash of neighborhoods rise up against the shelters and homeless supportive housing programs as detailed in the last Grapevine. Recently, two supportive housing projects were killed. The city had set aside $1 million for these projects, but could not seal the deal before the state tax credit deadline in March. Experts cite the lack of a plan and the gross misperceptions with regard to homelessness, which caused the Mid Town Development Corporation and Channel 5 to object to an apartment building being developed on Euclid Ave to house formerly homeless people. City Hall backed down from their commitment of the project, and with a very short timeline for approval the projects died.

          Cleveland is planning a pilot non-profit hiring hall for this summer. The union, religious and non-profit collaboration will serve 25 people this summer and will feature salaries of $8-$10 per hour.

          The NEOCH proposal to assist homeless people into housing was the only program turned down in the last Continuum of Care federal funding application. As detailed in the last Grapevine the Bridging the Gap program and Community Voice Mail were turned down for funding by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Congressman Kucinich tried to appeal, but HUD denied the appeal. Local officials provided very little help in the effort to turn around the HUD decision. HUD did fund a project that has been closed for over one year. Kucinich is demanding a meeting with senior HUD staff.

         Terri Hamilton Brown recently resigned from the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, which has in the past resulted in program spinning into temporary chaos. There are 9,000 people on the waiting list for 9,000 units in the current inventory. Therefore if every single current tenant were evicted, CMHA still could not house all the people on the waiting list.

          Under the headline of paybacks are hell, Cleveland was specifically cited in the Bush budget for receiving too much Community Development Block Grant funding, because Mayor Campbell complained about the formula. CDBG funding pays for neighborhood improvement and some social services for low income people. The budget specifically mentioned three similarly sized cities that added together do not equal the amount of funds that Cleveland receives. There is some old formula that involves age of the housing stock and poverty.

          An update on the two planning efforts being conducted and reviewed in the last Grapevine to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness locally: Kucinich staff have convened two follow up meetings and have sent out a survey. Results will be discussed in the next issue. City Council—nothing.

          Ohio is facing a $4 billion deficit, and the budget passed by the House will mean over $10 million in cuts to housing and shelters. Legislators did not get a dedicated revenue source for the state trust fund. Local County recorder, Patrick O’Malley lobbied state officials against a recordation fee to pay for a housing trust fund. This is unusual for a man who claimed to grow up in public housing would not see the value of developing affordable housing.

         NEOCH, the Cleveland Tenants Organization and the Alliance of Cleveland HUD tenants brought two busloads of homeless people and tenants down to the state house to lobby. They met with all the legislators from Northeast Ohio. Despite the lobby attempt, both Michael Debose and Lance Mason of Cleveland and Shaker Hts. voted for the budget which will devastate housing and homeless programs. Still no word from Michigan with regard to the Grapevine request to buy Cleveland from Ohio. Editors and vendors are talking about asking Pennsylvania now to buy Cleveland for a sale price of $4.5 billion.

  Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60


Homeless Get Smiles Back

By Lindsay Friedrich

         Care Alliance celebrated “Smile Cleveland” on Tuesday, February 4, 2003 at the King-Kennedy Health Center at the Stokes Social Service Mall. This was to officially announce the opening of the two dental clinics that will serve the homeless and low-income community of Cleveland. The King-Kennedy Health Center dental clinic will be utilized by the low-income community. The other dental clinic is located at the Care Alliance Clinic on 2227 Payne Avenue, with the purpose of serving the homeless community of Cleveland.

         Though the grand opening was taking place, the Payne Avenue clinic actually started seeing patients in July 2002, and the King-Kennedy clinic opened in October 2002. The event called “Smile Cleveland” was for the purpose of spreading the word that the services are available and the staff is ready to serve. The opening of these dental clinics follows the mission of Care Alliance, which is to serve the health care needs of the low income and homeless communities of Cleveland.

         The opening of these two clinics mark the end of the absolute lack of dental care for the homeless that has existed in Cleveland for over ten years. With no way to receive dental care, many homeless people were left with no choice but to have infected teeth extracted. Hopefully the horror stories of people left unable to eat due to missing teeth will become a thing of the past.

         “It really is state of the art,” said Linda Somers, the new director of Care Alliance, about the dental facility.          The two dental clinics each have two dental chairs, along with the newest dental technology and equipment. Along with being technologically advanced, the dental clinic has the ability to work hand-in-hand with the medical facility at Care Alliance, offering a very comprehensive level of care to patients. This has proven successful already when treating patients with diabetes since these patients often lose teeth due to complications of their disease. With the two services literally working together, prevention has been quite successful.

         Since the opening of the Payne clinic, the dental director Dr. Leonard Galicki, said over 60 people have received dentures or partials. Dr. Galicki said “I could name five patients off the top of my head who have received jobs due to this service,” citing that many employers will discriminate against people without teeth when hiring. “The majority of patients are so grateful,” Dr. Galicki said. Up to 98 % of the patients seen at both clinics have had cases of Periodontal or gum disease. Before the ability to access dental care, people with these problems would have lost their teeth. However, since they are able to get treatment, they are able to avoid significant tooth loss. Another change the new dental services have brought about is the services available to children. “There are 11 and 12 year old kids who have never been seen by a dentist before,” Dr. Galicki stated, “These children are now able to receive preventative services.”

         Fred Gordon, a formerly homeless man who has received dental care at the clinic attested to the difference these services can make. He spoke about his experience with the Care Alliance dental clinic. He said he would like everyone in America to know just what the program means to people like him, who had no where else to go. “Thank God for the Care Alliance,” Mr. Gordon said tearfully. He said he was proud to have been served there, and grateful for the service he had received.

         The staff of the dental clinic include the dental director Dr. Galicki, the dentist Dr. Nicole Harris, and two dental nurses (as Dr. Galicki does not approve of the title dental assistant since these two women do much more) Monique Goodwyn and Evenlyn Maurer. They all work out of both the King-Kennedy and the Payne clinics.

         Matthew Carroll from the City of Cleveland Health Department presented a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Jane Campbell. The Mayoral Proclamation stated “the grand opening of the center signals a change in the way Cleveland’s inner-city will be serviced when it comes to health care.” It expressed the Mayor’s appreciation of this expansion of services by Care Alliance to the citizens of Cleveland.

         Commissioner Tim McCormack was also present to represent the Board of County Commissioners of Cuyahoga County. The resolution Commissioner McCormack presented was to congratulate and thank Care Alliance for having the courage and dedication to undertake the task of helping the homeless and low-income of Cleveland receive comprehensive health care. He said, “For us to pretend everyone doesn’t have the same needs is intolerable.”

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60


First Step Alliance Strays from Founding Mission

by Pam Vincent


         First Step Alliance began as many new agencies with one person having an idea and a dream to make a difference and working diligently to keep it alive. Libby Ellis began First Step Alliance in 1992 with a basic idea to help domestic violence victims obtain furniture, appliances and other essential household items when they were ready to leave the shelter and move out on their own. For most women, leaving the shelter and acquiring housing was only half the battle. Ellis was appalled that these women (often with several children) would have housing and absolutely nothing else. The feeling of isolation leading to depression was high among women or families staying in a near empty house or apartment. She’d walk into their homes and there’d be nothing there…not even a chair to sit on.

         So Ellis, armed with her own vehicle and using her basement as a warehouse, began canvassing the neighborhoods looking for usable discarded items and also getting donations from family, friends and even total strangers via word of mouth. The director at the women’s shelter gave her free rein to run the program and soon many women from the shelter, whom she had helped, were gratefully volunteering their time and effort too.

         The group of women started small with referrals and then the concept caught on; there was huge a need for this service! A writer at the Plain Dealer caught wind of Ellis and FSA and wrote an article about it. Soon Ellis was inundated with offers of furniture and goods. She quickly outgrew her basement and for obvious privacy issues, she couldn’t store any items at the shelter, so she found a warehouse big enough for her growing venture.

         Ellis was fortunate in that she had the support of family, friends and workers from the carpenter’s union as volunteers. This helped meet the huge demand for services to the needy. They also branched out and starting helping the formerly homeless and low-income housing clients obtain household items. FSA had the good fortune of getting funding from a couple of local foundations, and businesses such as Levin furniture who donated new items. This worked for a few years but foundations will only offer funding for 2-3 years and after that they expect the organization to find other sources of funding.

         About this time according to Ellis, she saw some Cuyahoga County reports and found that they were spending a great deal of money on household items for clients being placed into housing.

         To help maintain cash flow she struck a deal with the county and began providing them with the items at a discount. That funding helped keep the lights on, pay the bills, purchase additional delivery trucks and hire additional staff to meet their growing needs. They were still buying items and giving them away but, with the County now involved, it also turned the enterprise into a goods-for-money venture and what ultimately drove the organization to change the way the board chose to do business.

         When asked about the people or goals that made all the work worthwhile, Ellis said, “It would be really difficult for me to single out a person or experience at First Step that stands out – hundreds of incredible people came through First Step trying to make a new life. I could easily talk for hours about the people who touched me deeply. But I guess the most unforgettable experience for me at First Step was the kids. We saw children all the time that had nothing but the clothes they were wearing. For some, Christmas was like any other day of the year. So each time we delivered furniture to a family, we included a special package of toys and gifts for each child. The look in the eyes of those kids just tore me up every time,” said Ellis.

         FSA started working with 28 different county agencies, had 3 full time delivery trucks with drivers, a new 13,000 square foot warehouse and was making money. Up until that point Ellis had a board that consisted of her volunteer family and friends and she knew it was time to hire professionals to keep the business afloat. Initially, the new merged board worked well together but soon they wanted to make changes that Ellis was leery of. They wanted to charge for the items they were currently giving away and they wanted to charge delivery fees. Ellis and the board clashed over these changes and other changes eventually Ellis found herself outvoted. Torn over staying in an environment that was contrary to her original ideals and goals or leaving the organization she created, she chose to leave. FSA had become her life’s work, and she was devastated in having to leave in May of 2000.

         Libby Ellis stepped down and the FSA Board chose former staff employee Alan McDonald. Founding boards and staff for a new non-profit rarely survive into the second or the third stages of the organization. It is however rare for an organization to change so dramatically according to research on non-profit organizations.

The New First Step Alliance:

         Alan McDonald became involved with FSA while searching for furniture for clients that he was working at Belfair Jewish Children’s Bureau and the Independent Living Program. FSA contracted with the two organizations to act as a support agencies to get donations through her. McDonald began volunteering to make deliveries for his own clients and using FSA’s truck. When Ellis expanded her operations in1999 she offered him a job as operations manager.

         McDonald emphasized that FSA is strictly a non-profit organization. Evidently, a few former staff members question whether the agency has even lost touch with its original mission and has become a business. He says they are a furniture bank that receives donations from the community, businesses, or outlets. The number one agency and referral service in Cuyahoga County that utilizes FSA is First Call for Help.

         They are also a non-profit agency for people to call in to get tips on how they can get their needs met. FSA gets some used items donated and purchases new items for agencies that require them like The Department of Children’s and Family Services. The contract agencies buy items from FSA or FSA goes out and buys items wholesale to offer to their partner agencies at a large cost saving. FSA supplies agencies with furniture which is one way that the FSA generates revenue.
         McDonald says for the most part the items they have in their warehouse are donated to them so they try and liquidate them either: to that same source, to other agencies that don’t have funding or to the general community assistance programs. Some of the County agencies also buy items through FSA (the way it was initially set up when Ellis was director) because it can be cheaper for them to buy through FSA and the County receives better quality items and better service. This is another way they are able to generate income.
         At one point 3 years ago Interlink Early Start, which is the main supplier of services for young moms and babies under 3, starting tapping into FSA for cribs during the last days of the Ellis administration. Interlink were asking for 30-40 cribs per week. It was a huge effort to keep the supply up to the demand. They found ways to tap into the surplus resources that they were generating. They have had some success according to McDonald, but they struggle to stay true to the mission which is to bring things in to the warehouse and give them to families in transition for little or no money. In other words, one program funds the other.

McDonald claims First Step Alliance is grossly understaffed with 4 full time drivers, that they send out into the community for pick ups or deliveries and 3 office staff including McDonald. He says they have far too little staff to do what they do and they’re trying to plug some people in to cover that. They service agencies in Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain and Lake Counties and have serviced areas as far away as Youngstown and Toledo and Lodi to the south. In 2001, they served approximately 3,000 families and they haven’t calculated the 2002 figures yet, but expect higher numbers. McDonald says that they do the best they can to reach out to as many agencies as possible and recently they contracted with Harbor Light and the Salvation Army of Lorain County. They’ll have a warehouse and both agencies have already raised funding for both the warehouse and cribs to get started. They have 2 full time volunteer staff members and are looking for more staff and board members to help with the new location.

 How to determine who gets help first?

         FSA prioritizes the requests for assistance in the following ways:

1. Children with multiple disabilities,

2. Children with one disability,

3. Next are adults with disabilities,

4. Senior or older adults and

5. Recently homeless going into permanent housing.

         The time frame for responding to a request for help can be anywhere from a day, week, or month and in some cases never. It all depends on their inventory stock and how quickly they can get items in. When asked if some clients get bumped off the list altogether because they’re farther down in rank and the demand for items are greater than the supply, McDonald admitted that sometimes that does happen.

         A few people that have directed clients to FSA is Sister Donna Hawks from Transitional Housing for Women and Toni Johnson from the Office of Homeless Service Advisory committee. Hawks only deals with FSA occasionally and uses the credit system where donations are made to FSA in Transitional Housing’s name and when her clients need items they use their credits to purchase them. She says they haven’t had any problems getting products within a reasonable time frame.

         Johnson has had a different experience with FSA. She said the clients she refers rarely get help and that FSA is inconsistent in their ability to provide service to her clients. Originally, when dealing with FSA, her clients would fill out a form telling FSA what they needed and they’d get the items for free. Now her clients have to pay and these are people going into permanent housing through the Public Housing Authority. They are starting out with nothing, have very little money and are at the bottom of FSA’s list for service.

         What really puzzles Johnson is that at a recent Public Housing Authority meeting in March, McDonald was there and told a large group of seniors moving into the Riverview facility that he could get them whatever furniture they needed. What prompted that change? Johnson thinks this is because new residents at Riverview received grant money and vouchers that can only be used at FSA and it’s a sure thing for FSA to receive payment from the County.

         FSA is not “giving” them anything…the clients in essence are buying the furniture and the only place they can get it from is FSA. McDonald claims his prices are still less expensive than any retail outlet, but Johnson says that the furniture is expensive through FSA, especially for her poverty level clients. A look at their current product list contains some bargains on couches, chairs, lamps and cutlery but appliances; both new and used are comparable to a retail store or the classified section in the newspaper.

A look at some current Prices off their Product list

1. Twin size bed sells for $150. (new only)

2.  Full size bed sells for $170. (new only)

3. Cribs are $110; Crib mattresses are $40;

4. Toddler Beds are $120.

5  New dressers are $75-$90; Used dressers are $45- $75

6. New Dryers are $340; used dryers are $175;

7. New Washers are $390; Used are $200.

8. Stoves (New) are $310; Used are $200;

9. Refrigerators (New) are $415; used refrigerators are $200.

10.Infant Car seats are $60;

11.Strollers are $60;

12. Couches are $100;

13. Chairs are $50; Lamps are $20; Cutlery is $5; Emergency delivery fee is $50; set up fee for bunk beds or cribs are $40.

         Johnson says she still reluctantly refers her clients to FSA because there’s nowhere else to send them.

Things that don’t add up

         When asked how the staff gets paid, since the agency is a non-profit, McDonald said that they do not generate enough money to meet their expenses. In 2001, FSA received $27,337 in contributions and $320,372 in sales. The organization spent $210,551 on sales and $120,779 in administration. McDonald said that the staff is paid from the income generated by delivery charges. Evidently, the delivery charges bring in enough income to pay 7 full time staff members.

         The other troubling fact from discussions with McDonald was the disconnect between receiving donated items and then selling those items. The question arises is First Step Alliance a not for profit charitable organization or are they a for profit enterprise collecting discarded items and reselling those items. Ellis asked, “How can they be considered tax exempt?” This is one of the things that bothered Ellis when the board made changes to the program and she worries that FSA has strayed far from their original mission following funding. Ellis, not an attorney, wondered if the agency had ventured into the world of commerce possibly in violation of the IRS laws governing charities.

         McDonald is the first to admit, “There is no exact science to running this business.” He stated this point many times. He also states that he is a young director who is willing to take suggestions on how to do things better or improve on what they are doing. The agency has tried to recruit professional board members even seeking the advice of Libby Ellis recently.

         A couple of the agencies cited the growth in the organization and the modification of the original focus. The agency has expanded to four counties, and never did stabilize local funding. Brian Davis, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless was a part of the original visioning for the organization, and laments the direction that the organization has taken. “I think that First Step Alliance should embrace the original mission of providing homeless people furniture. There is nothing worse for a homeless person then to go into an empty apartment everyday, and the feeling of disconnect causes recidivism,” according to Davis. According to NEOCH homelessness and requests for shelter have increased for 18 straight years and in 2002 family homelessness increased by just over 10%.

         McDonald has a very personable demeanor with a natural gift as a salesman and an extensive back ground in working with the different agencies. He has a firm belief that FSA is helping the low income and disabled clients they serve and maybe they are…to a small extent. But, not to the extent of Ellis’s original operation. Still, he speaks highly of Libby Ellis and mentions that they would not be here without her and that she is missed at the agency. He says that Ellis had her own ideas and wanted to go in a certain direction and she was not as concerned about generating income.

         McDonald claimed that the current agency mission has a commitment to Ellis’s original mission, while Ellis claims the agency has dramatically distorted the original purpose. Former employees still keep in touch with
Ellis though few remain at FSA. Most became disenchanted with the working conditions and the long hours and left. One former driver who asked to remain anonymous complained of working 12-hour days going to and from Akron on a daily basis. It took its toll on him and he quit. McDonald admitted he’s not always easy to work for and that he can be demanding on his staff.

         Ellis has former employees asking her to start up a new program but she doesn’t want to be carrying such a huge burden any more. She has talked about advising others in constructing an organization that would provide donated items to recently housed individuals or families where furniture and household items were given away for free. She feels it’s tragic that FSA has changed into a donated goods for sale organization just like a retail store.

         The name First Step Alliance started because actual alliances were formed between groups of local agencies that serve the needy in the area. Many of the agencies which formed the original alliance are no longer served by FSA, because they cannot afford the high cost of the furniture. In a time of huge budget shortfalls and agencies struggling to keep their doors open, many in the homeless community are calling for a re-examination of the role of FSA in providing services to homeless people.

         In the end, a homeless family struggles to put first month’s rent and a deposit together, and they usually do not have the funds to pay for delivery and the cost of furniture. Many homeless people turn to retail outlets like Rental stores with high interest rates. This starts the family back on the path toward becoming homeless. FSA was begun to try and eliminate the recidivism, but now seems to cater to organizations that can pay for the delivery and furniture. This means that a homeless person or family that makes the decisions to seek assistance from a program without the money to afford the FSA prices is penalized.

 Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60


Districts Possibly in Violation of Federal Law

by Chrissy Clements

         When one hears the word homeless, most people think of older men sleeping on the streets. This is the most visible homeless population, and has become the icon for homelessness. Children and youth are probably not the first think most people think of when they think of homelessness, though national, state and local statistics indicate that children and youth are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

Homeless children do not wear an identification bracelet or a sign indicating that they are, indeed, homeless. On the contrary, most of them do everything they can to not be identified at all. This is due in large part to the stigmatization of homeless people and fear of being ostracized not only by their peers but also by other members of our community.

         Last year, Congress passed and President George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Law, which dramatically expands the rights of homeless children to education. Members of the Youth Empowerment Project in Cleveland contacted the school districts of Cuyahoga County and asked them to identify their homeless liaison as required by the No Child Left Behind Law.

         It was not a surprise to hear many districts claim that they did not have a “homeless problem”. Not only is there a federal law, the McKinney-Vento Federal Assistance Act, but also a state law requiring every school district in Ohio to appoint a homeless liaison to advocate for the educational rights of children and youth in transition. The McKinney-Vento Act, as a federal law, overrules any state, local, or district law or policy that contradicts the new expanded federal law.

         From preliminary research of Cuyahoga County’s districts, many may be in violation with the recently reauthorized law. A review of different districts’ enrollment procedures was an indicator that there may be a problem. Enrollment and transportation are two key issues under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. School districts must immediately enroll students who are homeless, even if they do not have the required documents, such as school records, medical records, proof of residency, or other necessary documents. The education attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Patricia Julianelle, says it is up to school district administrators to know and understand what a homeless student’s rights under the law are.

         The educational laws, unlike the HUD definition, broadly define homelessness. A child or youth staying with friends or relatives due to a loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason is protected by McKinney-Vento in order to stay in their school of origin. If that friend or relative resides in a district outside of the school of origin’s district, different provisions of the law may be applied to uphold the student’s educational rights.

         Section 725 of McKinney-Vento defines the term “homeless child and youth” to include: children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and includes children and youth who are sharing housing with other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to a lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement.

         Children or youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a private or public place not designated for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodations for human beings are also in McKinney’s definition. Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, and migratory children are also considered homeless by the McKinney –Vento definition.

         Some schools are confused by the law’s definitions and fear illegal resident movement into their district. During a school meeting with homeless and formerly homeless youth this past January, one young man commented, “There are so many kids trying their best to get out of school, you wouldn’t think they would have so many problems trying to get in.” The young man went on to ask, “What sense does it make to keep a student from enrolling and getting an education?” He described education as a hand up instead of getting kicked down and out.

         Problems within Cuyahoga County’s districts have been documented along with other districts in the state of Ohio. Most revolve around enrollment and the student’s right to stay in school of origin. Ignorance of the law may be to blame. Some school officials have said the difficulty is identifying and determining who is homeless. “You can’t help if you don’t know.”

         Training and assistance is available at the state level through the Ohio Department of Education. Thomas Dannis is the homeless coordinator for the state who also must ensure the districts complies with the law.

         The National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, National Center for Homeless Education, and the National Coalition for the Homeless have tips, tool kits, and other very useful information for educators, parents, and other interested community members for understanding the rights, needs, and issues children and youth in transition face.

         The accompanying graph includes the name and contact information of the districts that responded to repeated calls and letters requesting information. The chart above the contact information on the previous page list the six districts that have not answered their mail or responded to many telephone calls asking for the name of the homeless liaison for the district. A couple of districts claimed that they did not have homeless people and so therefore did not need a liaison. All districts that have not responded are currently in violation of federal law.

         There is a wealth of information available for free on the internet. The Youth Empowerment Project is also working with districts throughout Ohio to increase awareness and sensitivity of homeless children and youth issues.

         In the state of Ohio there are only twelve homeless children and youth programs. These twelve programs serve children and youth within central school districts such as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland Municipal. Though homelessness may be highly concentrated in these geographic regions, homelessness does not know geographic boundaries. It stretches across this state regardless of district, county, and region, urban or rural.

         There are children and youth who reside outside of these districts and need advocates and assistance in ensuring their educational rights are safeguarded. Such advocacy and assistance cannot rest on districts or their appointed liaisons only; it requires a community effort.

         If you would like to learn more about this issue, or the other challenges homeless children and youth face log onto If you are aware of a problem within your district or a neighboring district, please contact Cleveland’s Youth Empowerment Project office at 216/432-0540 ext. 403.

Cuyahoga County School Districts In Violation of Federal Law

(Homeless Children McKinney-Vento Law) These districts have failed to identify even the name of a liaison for the schools:



Cuyahoga Hts.


North Olmsted

North Royalton

Olmsted Falls

Richmond Hts.

Rocky River




Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60


Editorial: Community Notification Laws Puts Strain on Ohio Shelters

         The state of Ohio jumped into the frenzy over passing a community notification law with regard to felons of a sexually based crime. These so-called “Megan’s Laws” swept the country in the face of a few high profile abductions of young children. These fashionable laws were exactly what communities wanted at that moment: their elected officials reacting to a perceived problem with sweeping tough legislation. The problem was that very few people thought about the consequences of these laws.

         The immediate consequences are that neighborhoods object to sexually based criminals from coming into their neighborhood. Neighbors call their city council, the police and generally harass offenders and predators so that they are forced to move. Landlords also refuse to rent to sexually based criminals. So the individuals who paid their debt to society and are released from prison have no where to turn to live except the shelters or flop houses. Now, with the absence of state policy with regard to sexual predators, shelters are also balking at housing predators.

         Community notification is critical to providing a neighborhood piece of mind, but the notification creates as many problem as it solves. The State of Ohio has done a horrible job implementing this law, and the Department of Corrections does not intend to publish guidelines about Megan’s Law until at least 2005.

         So now we have men who served their time for the most horrendous crimes released and labeled as predators and thus shunned by nearly every neighborhood in the region. Neighbors call police, elected officials, the media, and even harass the individual with the sexually based offense directly. So the mostly men turn to the shelters to stay alive and live in peace. Now, we find shelters throughout Ohio are beginning to turn predators away at the door. In Columbus, the publicly funded shelters have turned their backs on their role in the community. Even the shelters that serve only men will turn people with a sexually based crime in their background away even though they pose no threat to the population of the shelter. Because of a foolish “Good Neighbor” policy signed by the shelters, they do not want to be bad neighbors and therefore turn the men away to fend for themselves on the streets. How this could be considered a good neighbor to force guys labeled predators to walk the streets is a mystery?

         The result is that in Columbus all the sexual predators in the City of Columbus go to the one privately funded shelter or wander the streets. The authorities studied the issue for months and came to the conclusion that shelters do not have the staff or facility to handle sexual predators. This is all just spin for the real reason which is that shelters have enough problems with misconceptions of neighbors about homeless people let alone complicating the matter by adding predators. Using the shelter logic from Columbus, shelters should turn away people with AIDS, mental illness, alcohol or drug addiction, and all felons, because truth be told they do not have the staff or facility to handle the broad cross section of the problems facing people with disabilities. Or to take it to the next step we should close down the hunger centers because of poor funding these agencies and churches have no possibility of serving the number of people in need of food.

         In Cincinnati, Dayton, and Cleveland shelters are struggling with what to do about predators. Answers range from denying the problem, attempting to work out a compromise to balance community and shelter needs, to the don’t ask—don’t tell policy followed in most of Cleveland. This problem will continue to plague the shelters until a policy is developed.

         What happened to the shelters opening their arms to those in need as a respite from life on the streets? What happened to the concept that shelters serve those that society has turned their back on? When did working in shelters become some gatekeeper role in serving only the easiest with the greatest chance for success. Shelters were put in place so that even if our society does not recognize a right to housing at least we do not want people dying on the streets in the cold or heat. Now, if we are losing that concept that what purpose do they actually serve?

         The Grapevine editors call for an end to public funding of the shelters. If they want to pick and choose who enters then we should take all the public money away from the shelters. If the shelters want to turn away predators so that neighbors to the shelter feel safe while the neighbors down the street where the predator takes up residence in the bushes feels terrified then they should find private funding. If this is a private undertaking then the shelter will have a right to pick and choose which people with a brain disorder they will serve. If their religious or spiritual beliefs makes it impossible to serve predators then they should find funding from the religious sector.

         Our state leaders foolishly passed a law without thinking of the consequences, and now our shelters are making a bad situation worse. There are consequences for these decisions made by the shelters. When a predator dies on the streets in Columbus will the shelters take responsibility? Will the shelters feel the least guilt if a homeless man living on the streets abducts a child? Of course not. Shelters in our state are usually above criticism and insolated from responsibility.

         The worst part of this sad saga is that the state homeless coalition refused to even take a position on this issue. Despite the fact that this is a state law, and there are struggles going on everywhere in the state the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio refused to even vote on a position statement. The provider dominated state homeless coalition refused to even debate a position statement out of some fear for the image of the Coalition. While the state officials have run away from the predator problem with extreme speed, it is amazing that the state’s only homeless advocacy organization would weigh in with an opinion. The institutionalization of shelters from a temporary band aid to a permanent solution in response to a lack of affordable housing has skewered the thinking of the shelter providers. Instead of thinking of their facilities as a short term movement of people facing an emergency to now a long term housing option for a segment of the population unable to sign a lease or convince a landlord to provide housing.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60

Burda Joins Legal Program to Serve Homeless

By Amanda Brooks

          On February 1, 2003 the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless was lucky enough to add a new member to our staff list. Joan M. Burda, a native of Garfield Heights, Ohio joined NEOCH as the Program Director of the Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program. Burda graduated from Bowling Green State University and later went on to pursue a law degree at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, Ca.

         She was admitted to the bar on May 10, 1982. She began working at the Lorain County Legal Aid office and then moved to UAW Legal Services, which she explains as a prepaid legal services plan. Burda stayed with UAW Legal Services for nine years and then moved on to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Cleveland. While she was working at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service office she held the position of a supervisor in the Garnishment Division. In February of 2001, Burda went her own way and went into private practice.

         In 1998, the American Bar Association published a book she wrote entitled, “An Overview of Federal Consumer Law.” She also remarked that the American Bar Association “will also publish a book I am currently working on dealing with estate planning issues affecting gay and lesbian clients”. Along with her books, Burda has written several articles on law-related topics for the magazine, “GPSOLO.”

         Burda had a relationship with NEOCH, and was interested in attempting to stabilize the legal assistance program after the previous staff had left. Burda remarked, “I wanted the position with CHLAP/NEOCH to use my legal and management skills to provide legal assistance to an overlooked client base. I knew I had the skills, talents and interests to succeed in the position and build on what Doug Lawrence started.”

         Burda has many goals she wants to achieve while working at NEOCH. She is currently working on further developing the program to provide legal assistance to the homeless community. She intends to initiate monthly seminars dealing with different legal issues, so individuals will be better informed about their rights and how to exercise them. Burda believes that just because a person is homeless does not mean one loses his/her rights under the law.

         Burda feels that teaching people about their rights and available legal services will empower them to stand up for themselves. She later outlined the needs in the homeless community, “If anything, people in desperate circumstances need even greater protection.” Burda believes that even though resources are limited educating individuals about their rights will benefit everyone.

         After a couple of months, Burda is excited about the program. She said, “After a month, the most rewarding experience is knowing there are many lawyers who want to provide legal assistance to those who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.” Her future plans include wanting to expand the number of sites we (the lawyers) serve. She is working on increasing the number of volunteer intake attorneys as well as the number of attorneys willing to accept cases for direct representation. She also hopes to expand the law student participation. By having law students take part in the Legal Assistance Program, she believes that this will give the students a chance to practice real law with real people, along with experience they will never receive in the classroom. The future benefit of having law students take part in the program is it also sets a pattern of performing pro bono work that will carry over into their practices. These are some of Burda’s goals to make the Legal Assistances Program a successful one as well as her goals for the CHLAP program.

         The question most frequently asked of everyone working in the homeless community is what is the solution. Burda looks for leadership from elected officials and civic leaders to push solutions. She said, “I think we need to reassess our priorities.” The powers that be in the City and County seem more concerned with high visibility knick knacks like the convention center than addressing the needs of the people according to Burda.

         Homeless people are a problem most people want to ignore 11 months out of the year. This past year, the avoidance crossed over into the Christmas season. We have the money to fund wars, military equipment and foreign aid, but refuse to provide for people in this country. We are the richest country in the world yet we have people who go hungry every day and have no place to live. This is criminal. Food, housing, clothing, health care are not luxuries; they are necessities for life. So far, the courts and politicians seem to think otherwise. We need to reassess our values and live up to the Judeo-Christian teachings we profess to follow. “He who says he loves God whom he does not see and does not love his neighbor whom he does see, that man is a liar.” We do not talk the talk or walk the walk.”

         Further on in the interview I began to ask Burda some more personal questions about what she likes to do in her free time and here are some of her responses. Burda most admires Katharine Hepburn because she feels Hepburn did thing her way according to her conscience and made on excuses for her life and learned from her mistakes. Burda quoted, “Cold sober, I find myself absolutely fascinating.”

         Burda’s favorite book is 84 Charing Cross Road, because she first read this book when it came out in 1970. She states that this book is comprised of letters between people who have never met and the letters reflect their lives and the relationship that develop between them. Burda tries to read this book once a year because it is her favorite novel.

         Burda later discussed her favorite movies she said that “ A Majority of One” starring Rosalind Russell and Alec Guiness was her all time favorite. A close second is “Lady for a Day” by Frank Capra, the story about Apple Annie.

         When asked what her favorite place to shop was Burda responded by saying “she doesn’t care to shop.” She prefers to do her shopping in catalogs or on the Internet. But, if she had to pick a store she liked best she likes REI. Unfortunately, for her they do not have any REI’s in Ohio so she tries to visit one when she can.

         Burda’s most prize possession is a handwritten letter she received from Katherine Hepburn, it is a thank you note she sent to Burda following a fundraiser performance of the play, “A Matter of Gravity,” Burda’s name and address was the only one she had so she received that thank you letter while everyone else got a copy.

         Burda’s favorite outdoor activity is to cycle, she has a Terry Classic bicycle and she says that it is wonderful because Georgena Terry built it, especially for women.

         Burda attended private Catholic grade schools, which provided a great deal of motivation. Burda remembered her favorite teacher as Sister Louise Anne from Holy Name High School. Sister Louise Anne taught English. She said that Sister Anne, “scared the daylights out of us, but was a wonderful teacher.” If you were doing your best she’d do anything for you. But, God help you if you were slacking off. She showed no mercy. I learned how to write from her and shall always be grateful. She’s gone now, but I told her many times how much I appreciated her as a teacher. She believed in her students and believed we were all capable of great things. Everyone needs someone like that in his or her lives.”

         Burda keeps a positive attitude in the face of so many negative stories from people experiencing homelessness. “You win some, you lose some, but you always dress for the game,” Burda said. She is committed to providing superior services to people often forgotten by the judicial system.

         If you are interested in receiving further information about the Legal Assistance Program, please call CHLAP at 216/XXX-XXXX

Copyright by the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60

Action Sought on Uninsured

By Lindsay Friedrich

         One of three non-elderly Americans were without health insurance for part or all of 2001-2002 41 million Americans do not have health coverage and 8 of 10 of the uninsured are in working families. These are just a few of the staggering statistics from a report released March 5, 2003 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This release occurred during the beginning of Cover the Uninsured Week, a week dedicated to raising the awareness about the state of the nation’s uninsured and the difficulties these people face when trying to access health care. The campaign is co-chaired by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and includes co-sponsors from influential organizations across the country.

         To kick-off their participation in Cover the Uninsured Week Cleveland leaders gathered at the Free Clinic on Monday, March 10, 2003. Many officials present signed a Proclamation in support of the week, including Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, County Commissioners Jimmy Dimora, Tim McCormack and Peter Lawson Jones. Also signing the proclamation were Mayors and officials from cities throughout Cuyahoga County. State Representative Jim Trakas and State Senator Eric Fingerhut arrived in order to take the Proclamation to Columbus to receive more signatures.

         A slow economy and rising health costs lead to more Americans unable to obtain health care insurance. This is not only detrimental to these citizens, but society in general. Mayor Jane Campbell stated that asking the corporate world to shoulder the health care costs of employees is detrimental to their competitive edge in the world marketplace.

         This first days’ event at the Free Clinic also included a representative of the uninsured working population, Dewyatt Stanfield. Mr. Stanfield told his story, explaining how lack of insurance has impacted his family. Other speakers discussed the lack of fairness in coverage, and the impact this has on the society and economy as a whole.

         David Abbott, Executive Director of The George Gund Foundation said “For too long, the number of uninsured Americans has continued to rise by the millions, while the issue has remained low on the list of national priorities….We cannot let millions of Americans continue to live without health insurance.” The George Gund Foundation is one of the National sponsors of Cover the Uninsured Week. The conclusion of the day was that coverage is a right, not a privilege.

         Many other events were scheduled for the week of March 10-16, all focusing on bringing attention to the lack of health care coverage faced by so many Clevelanders.

  Copyright by the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio published April 2003 Issue 60