Local News:

Cleveland Begs For Improved Shelters and Budgets

Heading Home Underway

     The Community Planning Process called Heading Home Cleveland has begun with two subcommittees working on Affordable Housing and Preventing Homelessness and a goal of a complete report by September 1, 2005. The Plan is in the capable hands of Sisters of Charity Foundation Director, Julie Rittenhouse, and has a diverse leadership group steering the process. By August 2005, a draft plan is expected to be published and available for comment. The process to date has been very open and inclusive. Former Gund Foundation Program staff member Judy Simpson is the consultant and coordinator of Heading Home. The Homeless Grapevine will continue to monitor the progress of this plan.

Community Women’s Shelter Under Fire

     Rittenhouse is also the Board President of Mental Health Services. Staff of MHS have to date not attended any of the Heading Home Cleveland planning meetings. MHS is the fiscal administer of the troubled Community Women’s Shelter, which continues to receive complaints.

     At a community meeting in early June 2005, Community Women’s Shelter staff vehemently denied that they evict women in the evening in violation of Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Service rules. No homeless women or advocates were present to refute or show documentation of 7, 8, or 9 p.m. evictions of women for non-illegal activities.

     The press release (that appeared in Grapevine Issue 70 and is available at www.neoch.org) about evictions from family shelters to the streets was picked up by the Call and Post, yet the County still refuses to address this issue of fear within the family shelters. Many homeless women report problems and fear retaliation for speaking out, and written complaints filed with the Coalition for the Homeless go unanswered by the Community Women’s Shelter.

Panhandling Ordinance Begs to Be Forgotten

     Tabloid News station Channel 19 followed Councilman Zach Reed all over town and to his mother’s house to pressure him to bring the panhandling bill to a committee hearing. However, that did not happen before summer recess of City Council. Reed is the chair of Public Safety Committee, and even though panhandling has very little to do with public safety, the legislation is assigned to that committee. The City Council had no part in drafting the legislation and it was thrust on the Council by the Mayor’s office. The businesses downtown and the “Give Me Scandal or Give Me Dead Air” television news are pushing this legislation as the answer to all the problems downtown.

State Budget Passes

     The good news is that housing did well in the upcoming budget with an increase in the dedicated Housing Trust Fund going to affordable housing. The bad news is that everything else that sustains life faired poorly. When the process started, there was talk of billions of dollars in possible debt so programs that only got small cuts or no increase are grateful. Healthcare took a huge hit, so 25,000 parents will no longer have access to health care. The Disability Medical program was cut in half, and the funding for dental assistance program was also cut in half.

Other State News

     The proposal to force individuals to show a state IDor Driver’s license before voting died in committee. This would have put a huge burden on homeless people who have a hard time keeping identification. Local efforts to get homeless people birth certificates have already run into huge obstacles with a handful of states that make receiving public documents nearly impossible. These obstacles are not financial in nature, but have arisen to protect against identity theft and sensitivity to terrorism.

Homelessness Recorded

     Yvonne Bruce, instructor of English at the University of Akron and John Carroll University, has generously started a seminar on homelessness, titled “Recording Homelessness.” The seminar takes place in the NEOCH office after Homeless Grapevine vendor meetings and encourages homeless and formerly homeless people to take part in academic discussions about homelessness, as well as to record their experiences in writing. The seminar began June 2, and is set to take place after every vendor meeting (every other Thursday) throughout the summer. The class is currently reading Lars Eighner’s moving tale of being homeless with his dog, Travels with Lizbeth.

Copyright NEOCH, The Homeless Grapevine #71, July 2005. All Rights Reserved