US Poverty Policies Have Beginnings in British History

 Commentary by Bridget Reilly

       Since at least Elizabethan times, governments have divided the needy indigent population into two basic categories: the “good” ones and the “bad” ones. The “good” poor people are the ones who do whatever the government tells them to; the “bad” poor people are the ones who think for themselves and have their own ideas of how they want to live their lives. Laws such as anti-camping ordinances not only punish homeless people for their poverty, they also punish them for making their own decisions, for choosing to shelter themselves in a way that gives them some privacy rather than going to public shelters where they would be herded around like so much livestock. They didn't have control over the conditions that landed them in poverty, and they have very limited options once they become homeless, but that should not mean they can't have their own minds and live self-determined lives.

  A historic milestone of the Elizabethan era, and also one way in which England distinguished itself from other European countries of that time, was the development of a system of taxation that provided a funding base for poor relief. This was a time of sharp economic upheavals in Europe that led to rising prices, lagging wages and increasing class disparity. The numbers of poor people spilling out onto the streets of the English towns had reached a critical mass and could no longer be ignored. They were an embarrassment, and possibly a threat to the government and to society. And so the Poor Laws were passed.

  It is also very interesting to note that 1601, the year in which this tax law was put into place, was the same year in which Queen Elizabeth chartered the first British corporation. Of course, these two measures complemented each other: it was all part of a scheme to make rich people richer while the poor remained in their “place.” The new system of poor relief, besides allowing the richer classes to “provide” for the poor in a way that assuaged their guilty consciences, and to pat themselves on the back for their “benevolence”, was also a way of controlling the poor because they were afraid of the crimes they might commit if they were not provided for and contained.

  When the taxes were collected, the money didn't go directly to the needy but into the government coffers. The government then matter-of-factly made the decisions as to how the money would be distributed. Those who were found to be disabled, elderly or sick were sent to asylums, almshouses or charity hospitals, and those deemed to be “able-bodied” were “set on work” in the workhouses. There was much applauding of this supposedly 'brilliant' system that “solved” the problem of increasing poverty and homelessness. The workhouses thus established were presumed to be a great improvement over the old punitive practice of whipping beggars out of town.

  But, I'm not so sure that the poor people themselves would have agreed that a workhouse was such a great place to live and work. Were they ever asked for their own viewpoints on the matter? I think probably not. The laws were made without any input from these people who were supposed to “benefit” from them, because they had no representation in Parliament since they'd lost their land!

  I will venture to guess that, in the case of many younger people who were considered to be deserving apprentices and were helped out by private benefactors who set them up in work, it may have been a good opportunity to make a fresh start in a new direction. But what about the older generations of small farmers who had lost their property through no fault of their own, and were now being expected to take up different occupations in dreary, crowded workhouses where they had to sleep in dormitories with no privacy?

  As far as I can tell, this arrangement was but a new form of serfdom, a new way of “keeping the peasants in their place.” Workhouses and “houses of correction” were so often mentioned in the same breath, it's easy to imagine that a workhouse was little better than a prison, if any better at all. And those who refused to go to such places could still be punished as vagrants.

  And unfortunately the kind of thinking that created that system really hasn't changed much in the four following centuries. It is still the “haves” who presume it's their right to frame the discussion regarding the “have-nots.” And even if the poor aren't really to blame for their own poverty, they still find themselves being punished in hundreds of different ways. Why?

  The English people of Elizabethan times had some democratic ideas, but they didn't really have the concept of self-determination applying to all citizens. This concept especially didn't apply to those of lower economic class, income level and housing status. And even in present-day America, where we allegedly have a representative democratic government and a “classless” society, the poor are still treated as if they lose the right to make their own decisions once they lose their homes, as if they aren't really citizens in a democracy any more.

  So the system of poor relief we have in America today, in which homeless people are expected to go to shelters and are punished if they refuse to do so, is a carry-over from a bygone era. It's not in alignment with the more advanced ideas of democracy and self-determination that are supposed to form the basis of our U.S. government. The idea is that all citizens have basic human rights that the government can't just take away, including the homeless and poor who are still, theoretically, enfranchised citizens with an equal vote.

  This is something to keep in mind, for all the politicians and bureaucrats who are still scratching their heads and asking the tired old question: “Just what should we do for the homeless? What solution is really going to work, instead of just endlessly throwing money at a problem that never goes away no matter what we do?”

  If you're thinking this way, you need to stop thinking of the “problem” being merely the fact that so many people are without homes. It's also that homeless people have been disenfranchised, systematically excluded from the public discussions and treated like non-citizens.

  And the solution should be obvious: to include them in the democratic process while the brainstorming and problem-solving sessions are taking place. They should always be invited to join in the powwow circle whenever there's a new shelter plan or other such program in the works, or to tell their own side of the story whenever a complaint is made about them, or to voice any grievance they might have about how they are being treated. There should be an ongoing forum available to them to air their views, where people in power are listening. And their input should always be considered in determining policies and directions for the government to follow.

This is all entirely doable. It's called grassroots democracy.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.


Strength Found in Struggles

In Issue 72, we published an article titled “Local Homeless Man Lives Outside of Shelter System” which introduced readers to a man named Joseph Smith who had been living in an abandoned building in the Flats rather than stay in shelter. The impending destruction of his home on Carter Road motivated Mr. Smith to attempt a move to Kentucky in search of warmer weather and new beginnings. He recently wrote to Grapevine staff and discussed his life since moving out of Cleveland.


Commentary by Joseph Smith

       Here is the next chapter, I don't know if you can use it or not, but I'd like to get it off my chest. I went to Frankfort to find work on a farm, but there was no work to be found. They say Mexicans have the market cornered. I stayed there for a couple weeks. There has been record heat in Kentucky, 95-100+ degrees most days. Shelter hours are from 7pm-8am, and there is a library nearby but I still have to spend most of the day in the heat.

      I started to take ill, my legs began to swell and I was finding it hard to sleep and impossible to lay down. I got in an argument with the shelter staff; they refused to let me sleep in chair, which was the only way I could sleep at this point. The staff told me that if I was sick to go to the hospital, otherwise I had to sleep in the bed. I expressed a plan to go up the chain of command to the board of directors, who alone had the authority to grant my request, and I am banned for 2 weeks. This is the only shelter in Frankfort, so I got a Greyhound bus to Louisville - bigger city, more shelters, same problems but worse. 

      At this point, it was impossible to lay down. The pain and pressure on my chest were intense and the only cold water available in shelter was plenty hot! I was admitted to hospital for dehydration and an undiagnosed condition. The doctor wanted to treat me for asthma! I refused treatment and medication; I know I don't have asthma. I walked out of the hospital only a little better than I walked in. Very shortly afterward I was put out of the Louisville shelter for the same reason as before -unable to lay down, must sleep in a chair. Upon my move to the next shelter, on the first night I was sent to the ER by staff because of nasal discharge. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days, at which time I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

      Upon release, I went back to shelter and was given blood pressure medication that acted more like poison than anything else. It must have doubled the pain I was already feeling. I couldn't sleep more than 2 or three hours but refused pain medication at two different hospitals and a clinic on the grounds that “I want to use your pain as a gauge to tell me how effective our treatment is.” Have you ever heard such nonsense? 

      Anyway, sometime in November, after about three months of suffering from pain and lack of sleep, I was prescribed sufficient pain pills so that I could finally sleep. Anyway, back at the shelter my symptoms worsen - legs swell till I can hardly walk 20 yards without stopping for air. It was partly my fault for refusing to take water pills for a while, but I take them religiously now; they make me pee like crazy. 

      It was also partly staff at fault, they served the worst food I have ever eaten. On the average day I have witnessed them systematically dry out food until it reaches the consistency of beef jerky, almost as bad as those dried skins you buy for dogs. Few meals were ever fresh and they accept leftovers from all over the city to feed us, no matter if it's good or not. They just heat and serve and often it is not even hot. I learned to anticipate and even enjoy vomiting because I was forced to eat this stuff. Because I had no income for the first six weeks, my stomach was constantly swollen with gas and painful to the touch.

      To make matters worse, the only source of cold water in the shelter was two large thermoses for around 100 people, and it was the policy of one of the security guards not to fill it up. He said it wasn't his job. Consequently, we would run out of water after about two hours. He blamed people like me for this. I had a one-liter container which I would fill up and drink from. He hounded me from time to time about the size of my container. I filed a written complaint against him and was told by the director that my thermos was fine. The director would have a talk with the guard who never changed his behavior... he would just wait a while before resuming it. Meanwhile the days are hot enough to cause sunstroke and people in the city are dying from the heat. I got the worst case of sun poisoning I had in my life, my legs are filled with water and feel as rough as sandpaper and so dark they look like they belong on someone else's body. 

      At one point, I am admitted into the hospital again, where they drain more than 20 pounds of water off my legs in 5 days with strong medication. The guard would let residents fill the water thermos if anyone volunteered (many residents had money and preferred cold pop). They do this at a small faucet against the wall about two feet from the urinal in the men's room. From time to time, somebody will come and put their hand in this water to get ice out. Many of the residents are mentally ill, and though they rave half the night or run around the facility naked they are still admitted the next day because there is no other place for them to go. Anyway, most people develop a cough and colds are everywhere, yet they let anyone, even the clinically insane fill up this water without supervision. I have observed and have heard about people putting snot on the spout and in the cups (how nice!)

      So finally, the guard who was responsible for blaming thirsty people for the lack of water was let go. It was a few days after my third written complaint to the director. The guard covered my thermos with his hand as I tried to get water in my director-approved container. I still have yet to see staff fill up this water and now one thermos broke and only one remains. They still have several in the kitchen (same policy in there, all nuts are welcome to cook), but for some reason they never use them to provide drinking water aside from meal time.

      Now for the good side with all of that said, whew! Despite the power-tripping security guard and other things, I've had a lot of fun. I have been a one man party more days than not, amusing myself always and even some others on a regular basis. I started out collecting cigarette butts off the ground to re-roll with papers I brought from Cleveland. It was November before they ran out.

      Eventually, I got food stamps, which brought me great relief. Since then I have eaten very little of the food here in the shelter. I also traded small food items for cigarettes and stopped picking up butts. I applied for and was eventually awarded SSI and am awaiting a disability hearing. I am now a man of means by homeless standards. I've bought myself a Sony CD player and the best headphones money can buy. I have a portable DVD player which I use to watch free movies from the library every other day, and a Sega Dreamcast which I salvaged from Cleveland. I also have a bank account, debit card and even a little money stashed away. I even have a small propane stove to fry an occasional steak. Eventually, I plan to buy and outfit a van and drive out west to look for gold, but that's another story I'll write you if you express any interest. So like I was telling you last time I saw you, there's something magical about new beginnings. Things were awful but within six months I got an income to last for years, maybe even a lifetime.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.



Ohio Ranks as 4th Most Dangerous State for Homeless

Special Submission by the National Coalition for the Homeless

Widespread Epidemic of Hate Crimes

& Violence Against Homeless People

       “It doesn't matter, they're just bums,” spoke by the alleged murderers of a Florida homeless man. “Light him up,” chanted an Indianapolis crowd in response to a homeless man being dowsed in lighter fluid. “The Michigan State Police is committed to protecting the dignity and rights of all persons,” assured their director after two state troopers assaulted a homeless man with chemicals.

      The above information comes from Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness 2005, the National Coalition for the Homeless hate crime report was released on February 9th, 2006. This 70-page document details 86 separate incidents across America in which all manner of people lash out against those who have nowhere to go.

      Out of all US states and territories, Ohio is the FOURTH most dangerous place for homeless people in America. In addition to throwing bricks and bottles at its homeless, Ohio is listed as having citizens who beat homeless people while they sleep. Ohio does not entice homeless people into forced labor camps like Florida, nor does it pay its homeless to drink volatile fluids like in Georgia, but the report is clear that Ohio is still very dangerous for homeless people. 

      “The level of hatred towards homeless people has grown significantly over the years in the United States. Over the last six years, the National Coalition has documented a large increase in the number of hate crimes directed at homeless people,” said NCH Civil Rights Co-Chair Brian Davis.

      Only the homeless of Florida (where hate crime incidents against homeless people were eight times the numbers found in Ohio), California, and Mississippi find themselves in more danger than those living in Ohio. In Cleveland, there was a beating of a homeless individual on Public Square by two young men with a stick in December 2005. Don was put in the hospital with a broken jaw and many bruises, and the attackers were never found. 

      Another individual had a brick thrown at him while sleeping just north of Public Square in October of 2005. NCH's 2005 Hate Crime report can be found at their website which is located at  In addition to highlighting the seemingly violent nature of America's youth (the majority of the incidents were perpetrated by individuals aged 20 years or younger), the report also offers suggestions on tactics and legislation that could help to overcome the degrading stereotype of homeless people that leads to their dehumanization, marginalization, and hospitalization.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.


MHS Helps Evacuees Find New Homes in Cleveland

by Pamela Vincent

      According to Ann Poston, with Mental Health Services (MHS), when approximately 850 men, women and children from the Gulf Coast arrived in Cleveland after Hurricane Katrina struck in September of 2005, the County and City Officials turned to MHS for help. MHS, long known as a community leader in case management and crisis services. She and Rick Oliver, the Director of Crisis Services, had no idea what to expect and had to “write the book” as they went along. So, they rolled up their sleeves and began the huge task of helping the evacuees put their lives back together.

      The mission of Mental Health Services for Homeless Persons, Inc. is to “help people gain control of their lives by forging solutions that resolve mental health crises and end homelessness.” The programs offered by MHS were a good fit for the Katrina evacuees as they presented a variety of different needs once relocated to Cleveland.

Grapevine: Where did the funding come from to assist the evacuees and what is the approximately costs to date?

Rick Oliver: The money came from the Employment and Family Services division of the County. They signed a contract for MHS to provide assistance to any evacuees who wanted help. So far we've spent about $200,000 and are in negotiations for additional funds for phase two of the process. Parts of the initial contract ended on Dec. 31st, 2005

Grapevine: What did the first phase of services consist of?

RO: The first phase consisted of meeting their basic needs, finding housing, providing some household items, warm clothing, food stamps etc… The second phase will focus on permanent housing for the evacuees that have decided to make this area home, help with their finances, job training, employment assistance, and counseling to help with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress disorder.

Grapevine: How many evacuees are still in this area and what are their ages?

RO: We count them by households and right now about 350 people or 130 households have returned to the Gulf Coast area. That leaves 125 households or 250 people that remain. There's not a huge percent of elderly or children, since they couldn't travel that far from home. Eighty percent of the people had family or friends in this area and that's why they came here. Twenty percent stayed in hotels initially and eighty percent stayed with their family or friends.

Grapevine: Were most of them healthy?

RO: Most of them were healthy a small percentage of them were disabled.

Grapevine: How did the process start, did you verify that the people were actual evacuees from the Gulf Coast?

RO: The process was that originally 850 evacuees were referred through the Red Cross. Out of those only 700 contacted us for additional support. Both the Red Cross and the County had measures to prove the people were indeed evacuees. They had a good screening process.

Grapevine: How have they spent the money they were given?

RO: The households received some emergency funds. The financial piece was difficult to manage. FEMA put some guidelines in to place after the fact. The evacuees were given $2,300 to be used for certain needs which weren't originally defined. FEMA then asked that they provide a list and receipts of how the money was spent. Aside from rent and utilities…the evacuees thought they could spend the money on everyday needs.

Grapevine: Where did you find housing so quickly?

RO: We worked with the Cleveland Housing Network (CHN) and their staff. This part of the assistance went really well. In fact, Cleveland was the only area of the country to place their evacuees into housing 100% [of the time]... none of the evacuees went homeless. CHN had a bank of landlords that they called and each family was placed in an apartment or a house. For example, some of the people were placed in Reserve Square, the West Tech lofts or Arbor Park. Originally, the lessees paid the rent. Now the rent gets paid directly to the landlords and it's a better set up.

Grapevine: Do they pay market rate rents?

RO: In some cases it is, and in others the landlords were offered the top rate for apartments or houses in that area. It was an incentive to the landlords and they liked the idea of the steady income for previously un-rented housing.

GrapevineWhat is the background of some of the evacuees?

RO: Initially, we had some doctors, teachers, university professors, and restaurant owners. Some of the restaurant owners lost everything they had. But, they do qualify for small business loans, so they can start over if they want. A lot of the professionals have already left the area, gone back home to the Gulf Coast or on to other positions.

Grapevine: What's going on with FEMA? Is there a cut off date for assistance?

RO: The cutoff hasn't been decided yet and the financial piece from FEMA is uncertain… they have given a few extensions. We're all trying to prevent the evacuees from going on welfare but, some of them are in CMHA housing already. They know that the rent assistance won't go on indefinitely, but the longer FEMA pays them, the better their chances of [maintaining] stability. Getting people stabilized is the key.

Grapevine: Of the people remaining, are they looking for work or planning on staying in this area?

RO: Some of them are working and the people who find jobs and develop roots will most likely stay. For a lot of them the weather is a big factor in their decision to stay. The winter is a challenge for them and they aren't use to it. When they arrived last September, they didn't have any winter clothes. Some of the evacuees arrived wearing shorts, which is OK for September but, our weather changes quickly. Once FEMA cuts off funding people will have to make decisions on whether they find work here and make this area their home or return home to the Gulf Coast.

Grapevine: Tell me about the people who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). How are they being helped?

RO: Our agency has a program that provides counseling for children who witness violence. When the evacuees showed symptoms of trauma, (approximately 40 people) they were referred to the same agency to see a Therapist. The prognosis is very good for these individuals and the counseling is usually short term.

Grapevine: What have you learned from this experience?

RO: This has helped us to prepare if there is ever a disaster in this area. We now have the framework for assistance and feel it was a very positive experience. We sent out a follow up survey to our clients and 95% of them were very satisfied with the level of assistance they've received from MHS, the County and the Red Cross.

      The staff at MHS put in a lot of extra hours working on the cases of the evacuees. This was on top of their regular work load. No one complained though because they felt they were making a real contribution to the Katrina relief effort and according to Ann Poston at MHS, “it was personally gratifying and it was also a chance for all the different program directors and staff to work together.” Overall it was a rewarding experience for those involved.

      The Interfaith Hospitality Network also assisted the effort to provide mentoring relationships with those who evacuated. IHN was able to bring 140 religious congregations to serve the evacuees.

      Editor's Note: If you'd like further information about MHS programs or would like to volunteer please call their office at 216-623-6555.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.


Local News: For Every Step Forward, Three Steps Back

Homeless Art Show at Pilgrim Church

The residents of the Community Women's Shelter worked with art therapists and other volunteers to put an art exhibit together that is currently featured at Pilgrim Church in Tremont. The show received extensive coverage in the Plain Dealer, including a slide show on the website.

Stand Down Successful

      For the first time in the 15-year history of this one day service fair for homeless people, the Stand Down was staged on the West Side of Cleveland. InterAct Cleveland was the lead organization and held the Stand Down over four days; two days on the East Side and two days on the West Side. The Grapevine will feature more in depth information as soon as all the statistics are compiled. There was a large service fair on the East Side at the Cosgrove Center, and then thousands of new coats and winter gear were given away on the second day at Pilgrim Church. There were thousands of meals served over the four days and the event was extremely successful.

Community Hiring Hall Moves   The Community Hiring Hall, Cleveland's non-profit temporary labor company moved from Euclid Ave to 3135 Perkins Ave. in the back of the Mid City Building across from Old School Boxing. The Hiring Hall has bid on the City of Cleveland summer clean up program, and are awaiting news. 

  Shelters Off County Oversight

      In a previous edition of The Homeless Grapevine, it was reported that three shelters, East Side Catholic, Salvation Army Zelma George, and Hitchcock Center were all under six-month probations from Cuyahoga County. As part of the yearly review for federal funds, Cuyahoga County sends a team out to look at the facilities, interview clients, and review files. Both Salvation Army and Hitchcock Center corrected their issues, but as late as January 2006 the Review team was reporting dire warnings about the project going out of business or dissolving. In an amazing turn-around somehow accomplished in two months, the Review Team has released East Side Catholic from probationary oversight. The Coalition for the Homeless has asked for a written report from the Review Team on the corrective actions taken. Grows

The new website available to homeless people and those in need of housing is up and growing. There are more than 2,000 property units available and over 1,000 searches a day. The website has added a mapping feature so that individuals can search based on housing close to a certain point on a map.

Reed “Covers” Homelessness 

      Former naked art participant/reporter for Channel 19 “Action News” dressed up as a homeless person and stayed in the shelters. The first activity while pretending to be “homeless” was panhandling. To many homeless people, panhandling is certainly not representative of the homeless population since studies have shown that less than 50% of panhandlers are in fact homeless. 

      Then she went to the shelter and interrogated homeless women. The final piece criticized these women for having the nerve to speak in a negative light when they are living in a shelter “rent free.” The piece was highly critical of women who have used the shelter for an extended period of time. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless is currently boycotting Channel 19, and do not send press releases and will not talk to any of their reporters for frequent on-air abuse of poor and low income populations in Cleveland.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.


Jackson Takes Unannounced Tour of Cleveland Shelters

Special Submission by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

      In the last fifteen years, no Mayor of Cleveland has taken three hours out of his or her schedule to visit the homeless shelters and certainly not without announcing it to the media in advance. As part of the State of the City Address Mayor Frank Jackson said that all the rhetoric that is part of the State of the City speeches is business as usual for politicians, but he wants to be measured on what he can accomplish. He went on to say that the measure of success is how the City treats those with the least. In a move to back his rhetoric with action, Mayor Jackson and a few staff members toured four shelters in the community and met with the residents' elected leadership at the shelters.

      The tour began at 10 a.m. on March 9 at 2100 Lakeside Shelter with a meeting of the men who are the elected leaders of the shelter. The Mayor talked about his vision and his agenda concerning housing and homelessness. He listened to the men and heard some of their concerns in a 45-minute meeting. The Mayor's staff included Jason Woods, Governmental Affairs, Martin Flask, Public Safety Director, and Michael House, Press Secretary, who came along to answer questions and listen to the concerns of shelter residents. The issues that the Mayor discussed at his meeting were:

· The men at the shelter can make a difference in their own lives and the life of the City.

· The Mayor of the City of Cleveland is not the enemy, and he will help whenever possible.              

· In response to a question about restoring abandoned properties in Cleveland, Mayor Jackson mentioned a lack of money for such programs, and a need to attack misconceptions of the general public about homelessness to ease the concerns of neighbors.

· He wanted to assure that the City does not re-concentrate poverty as had been done in the past with other gentrification programs.

· Jackson said that he would require that neighbors and neighborhood groups be involved in the development of any programs or any affordable housing in the community.

· Another recurring theme was the need to strengthen partnerships between the City and County.

· Jackson said that he is directing his staff to improve outcomes for the $23 or $24 million in federal dollars that comes to Cleveland every year for homelessness.

· Jackson stated that there must be a plan for how to serve the population, and that business leaders can be effective in assisting with implementation of a plan to help homeless people.

· Everyone needs to work to transform the shelter into a place that creates jobs. Jackson talked about making the shelters into “economic engines” that can help people find employment or can foster the development of micro-enterprise projects. A goal was stated to have the shelters pursue contracts for goods and services in the community in order provide more employment opportunities.

· He asked the shelter residents for input on how to transition out of homelessness. What steps need to be taken?

· Jackson discussed the Summer Clean up program and the process for awarding that contract. (196 of the men had signed a letter asking the City to award the contract to the Community Hiring Hall.)

· In response to a question about people with a prison background getting into housing, he said that many are unfortunately very judgmental in the community. The only way to change this negative stereotype is for the shelter residents to start doing high-profile volunteer tasks in the community. Jackson suggested working with various departments (Aging and Safety). Jackson said that the City will help in this effort, but the men will also have to work on this themselves.

· The Mayor stressed the need for the homeless population to define themselves and not let panhandlers or the people who do wrong within the community define them in the minds of the community.

·One man at the shelter asked about a negative incident with the police, and the Safety Director agreed to follow up on it.

·One person asked about government regulations and the policy of felons getting into housing. Jackson said that he would work with the Coalition on changing any policy that had any local flexibility. Mayor Jackson stressed that he will work on these and other problems.

(Editor's Note: Every year, 6000 people return to Cuyahoga County from prison. A recent interview with Lutheran Metro Ministries' Mike Serring in Issue # 74 revealed that approximately 25 returning ex-offenders are sent to 2100 Lakeside directly from prison every month. These individuals who have “paid their debt to society” are subsequently unable to obtain public housing, subsidized housing, and most privately-owned housing, to say nothing of employment.)

      Jackson has visited the facility before and mentioned that he is always impressed by the huge laundry facility of the shelter.

      After the meeting and tour of the men's shelter, which is the largest shelter in the state of Ohio he went over the Community Women's Shelter (100 women and a few children sleep there every night). It took a long time to get through the shelters, because the men and women all wanted to talk to the Mayor, and he delayed the tour to listen to their concerns. In addition, LMM and Mental Health Services had both recently assumed management the two shelters in the last year and half and wanted to talk to the Mayor about some issues.

      The Mental Health Services staff at the Women's Shelter did a good overview of the program and had a few of the residents lead the tour. Then it was lunch with the Catholic Charities staff at the Bishop Cosgrove Center and a few individuals who use the facility. The Cosgrove staff and volunteers served chicken, rice, and vegetables with grape juice and a dessert on the side. They did a presentation on the program, and Jackson learned about the funding constraints of the drop-in center, as well as the large number of people provided a meal and warm place every day. At this point, the group was running very late and so they did not get to see the Volunteers of America Shelter.

      The Mayor finished up over at West Side Catholic. He was able to see the renovated facility and the volunteering efforts of St. Ignatius high school students. The older Clevelanders who help to prepare the meal were in the kitchen and they also spoke with the Mayor. Jackson next visited the expanded clothing room in the back of West Side Catholic. The day was capped with a visit to the Cadillac of shelters, the West Side Catholic family shelter. West Side Catholic is by far the cleanest of the shelters and features a newly renovated facility that women claim feels like a real home, not an institution.

      Channel 3's Tom Beres had discovered the unannounced tour on the Mayor's schedule and surprised the participants by showing up to cover it. At the end of the tour, Mayor Jackson told him that this tour is not the end of the story, and that he intends to further develop some of the ideas that came up during the tour. He told the Coalition that his staff would follow up soon on some of the ideas. The men at 2100 Lakeside set aside the next week to de-brief and make plans for activities they could perform in the community.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.



Homeless Advocates Protest Violence Against Homeless in New Comedy Film

 Kevin E. Cleary  

      In light of the recent violent murders and beatings of homeless people in Florida, Boston, and other cities, homeless advocates were appalled by a controversial scene in the 20th Century Fox comedy “Date Movie.”

      According to, the scene plays out as follows:

      “Yelling 'Bum fight!' Julia (Alyson Hannigan) rushes over to a bum on the street, punches and then repeatedly kicks and hits him (all played as a spoof of lighthearted romantic comedy montages). Grant (Adam Campbell) then joins her, kicking the guy in the crotch before the two rob him.”

      Advocates like Brian Davis, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, have called for a boycott of the film, saying, “Please do not spend money on this movie. It is disgusting and inappropriate at this time.”

      Advocates in other cities have staged protests of the film, like Sean Cononie of Florida's Homeless Voice. Cononie also expressed strong reservations about the scene and called for a number of possible remedies.

      “It is very sad that, after the beatings and murder right here in Fort Lauderdale just last January, a movie with the same inhumane thoughts would come out on the screen. We are hoping to get the theaters to put in a PSA to be played before the movie, reminding people not to commit these type of crimes against any person of any class... We feel that the motion picture industry should pull that part of the movie where it shows a homeless person being beaten for fun or at least offer a PSA warning teens not to participate in this type of behavior,” said Cononie.

      The National Coalition for the Homeless has called for a boycott of the film, and many homeless coalitions and homeless advocacy groups nationwide have protested the film or called for a boycott.

      According to an article from the Associated Press, advocates in South Portland, Maine from Portland's Preble Street Consumer Advocacy Project carried signs and chanted, “It's a hate movie, not a date movie,” while they called for a boycott of the film. The protesters in Maine were unable to meet with the theater manager to express their concerns.

      Additionally, inquiries from other media outlets and protesters have all seen their phone calls unreturned from 20th Century Fox and others. The film has been panned by most film critics, and in spite of (or because of) the controversy, the film has currently grossed $44.3M at the Box Office according to rotten

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.


High Praise From Vendor for Shelter

Grapevine, and NEOCH

Commentary by Marguerite Perdue

      I would like to start this article off by giving a very special thanks to the staff members that keep The Homeless Grapevine alive and going out to us and our customers. I would especially like to thank Brian Davis, the most outstanding director of the Coalition for the Homeless. If it wasn't for him speaking out for the homeless, a whole lot of things that go on in the homeless community and happen to homeless people would never be heard about by the larger public. Now, let's get to the real issues of this article:

      Due to the fact that I was diagnosed with glaucoma, I am now legally blind. That has not, and will not stop me from writing articles for The Homeless Grapevine. I've been a vendor for several years, and it has helped me in more ways than I could ever explain or express. I've done several articles that have reached a whole lot of individuals who may never have even thought about what it's like to be homeless. 

      The saying is true that you can have everything one day, and nothing the next. So don't think that it can't happen to you... just never say never. I trust totally in God and He has made a way out of “no way” for me on several occasions. The Homeless Grapevine has been there for me throughout my different living situations while homeless and managing my disability. I thank God all day, every day for the breath that He allows me to breathe and helping me succeed in doing what I need to do.

      Always remember that knowledge is wisdom. That's why it's necessary to look, listen, and observe, so you don't miss the miracle that God has in store for you. I'm currently residing in a shelter, for which I am truly blessed and grateful. It's the closest I've felt to having a home since I relocated back to Cleveland from Atlanta. 

      The skilled, professional staff of this facility are by far the most caring and passionate individuals. They are honestly and wholeheartedly dedicated to what they do, and how they do it, and I greatly appreciate that, and their help. I want to thank the staff of this shelter for providing me with whatever I've needed. God bless you all. This past year, I've experienced some trials and tribulations that I thought I couldn't endure; but the things that have happened to me have just made me wiser and stronger. It has also brought me and my two sons closer than we've ever been, and I just want to say, I love you Mark Anthony Perdue, and Carlos Antonio Perdue.

      Last, but not least, I'd like to thank the rest of the NEOCH staff for their help and support, which would include my housing advocate, Mr. Gregory Reaves. God bless all of you. You all provide great services at NEOCH, keep up the good work!

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.




Don't Criticize Poor People for Needing Help

Commentary by Delores Manley  

      I am writing this story because people on welfare and/or Medicaid cards and collecting food stamps are tired of being called “lazy.”

      I have to work 80 hours a month or do volunteer work for 20 hours a month and that's just for a single person. I don't get a Medicaid card because I am “single.” So if I get sick I would have to stay home and risk losing my job at a temporary service that only pays $5.15 an hour (with no benefits). I think Temp services should be put out of business and the factories and businesses that use them should just give the employees $12.00 an hour instead of giving it to the temp service.

      If I was lucky enough to still have my child, I could have a Medicaid card and more benefits, but I would have to work even more and be away from my child. If my child got sick and had to see the doctor, the doctor would pad the fees because the taxpayers are footing the bill.

      I know years ago people on food stamps did get them for free, but unless people are sick or just had a baby, you have to work for your stamps, even if you're six months pregnant. In areas where a lot of people are on food stamps, stores increase their prices from the 1st to the 15th of the month. The food also seems to be fresher after the 15th

      So, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, if you have a complaint go to the main source: the pediatricians, the store owners, etc. because we poor work for our food and shelter. Also, Section 8 pays landlords $900.00 a month in poor neighborhoods, but someone could almost live in Pepper Pike for that amount of money.

      Personally, I would just like to have a decent job, like years ago when the teamsters and other unions were still strong. My mom and dad had good-paying jobs. They worked for more than thirty years and retired with their pensions. But there aren't jobs like that anymore. Presidents like Bush and Reagan screwed this country up. I do agree that people who are in good health should pay their own way, but it would be nice if business owners and the government didn't take advantage of people in desperate situations, and criticize them for it at the same time. 

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.


Editorial: Cleveland Needs Your Ideas to Improve City

      The Homeless Grapevine has proudly borne the self-proclaimed title of “Ohio's Most Depressing Publication” for over 12 years. The competition has gotten a little crowded since the sunny coverage of the Clinton years has waned in most of the “liberal media,” but our laser-like focus on homelessness and poverty and the fact that our home-base is in Cleveland have helped us keep our title from these upstart challengers.

      In addition to this tradition, we have also been one of the premier outlets for homeless people to get their voices into the media. In a media market that typically only mentions homeless people during the holidays or for scare-mongering and/or the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes (see our Local News on page 7 for Channel 19's most recent egregious example), we have tried and succeeded at being a diamond in the rough.

      Often, the concerns of our writers and commentators have been geared toward improving specific programs, or airing grievances about the conditions in certain shelters, or the condescending and harmful attitudes of certain “care providers,” etc. While all of these have been important to serving our mission, we feel that we can provide a platform on wider issues in the community as well.

      Too often in Cleveland's history, our leaders have sought silver-bullet fixes to Cleveland's myriad woes. Each initiative, from Gateway to building a Convention Center, is billed as being the unique solution that will magically solve Cleveland's problems in one fell-swoop. Ideas are proposed behind closed doors, and decisions are frequently made with little community input, and usually even less input from homeless people.

      As Mayor Jackson's interest in taking an unannounced tour of homeless shelters would suggest, we may finally have an administration in this City that is not openly hostile toward us or homeless people, nor do we have an administration eager to ignore the issues and concerns expressed in our paper. Thus, the time is ripe to widen our forum and give those who struggle to survive in this city a chance to propose more ideas to make Cleveland a healthy and stable community.

      We want to hear everything: ranging from ideas about new community projects to tearing up all the parking meters or easing vending license fees. We want to hear any idea that could improve Cleveland in any way whatsoever, for specific people, or Cleveland in general.

      For instance, Cleveland's nationwide reputation is still marred by our river that caught on fire more than a generation ago. Why don't we turn that around by pushing for innovations to make Cleveland simultaneously environmentally and economically friendly? Our large number of fast-food restaurants could easily be tapped to make Cleveland a leading bio-diesel capital. We might even be able to get Willie Nelson to move here.

      Our universities could pioneer tele-commuting programs for commuter students that could easily be retrofitted for downtown companies. Parking and traffic congestion would be greatly reduced, and many of our citizens would be freed from the necessity of car-ownership or filing onboard the RTA.

      We could open up homes that were closed from drug-busts during the White administration to rehabilitation by homeless people. The sweat equity they would put into their homes could be assigned a financial value, and homeless people in Cleveland could move from shelters into the beginning stages of home-ownership. The possibilities are endless, and there is no telling from whom great ideas and subsequent accomplishments will come.

      It would seem that everyone except those who actually live in Cleveland recognize our City's potential. A large part of that has to stem from the disenfranchisement of our citizens, especially our homeless citizens, from participating in Cleveland's planning processes. Homeless people have a huge stake in seeing Cleveland succeed because it will mean more jobs, better-paying jobs, will become available for everyone.

      Back in June of 2005, The Homeless Grapevine started a weblog, Thus far, it has been a forum in which we have discussed the media's coverage of homeless issues, but we would like it to be more than that. We would like to open up this weblog as a means to collect and publicize the ideas of those who seek to improve Cleveland. The best entries will make their way into our humble pages, which get sent to intelligent movers and shakers in Cleveland, as well as people in high office in state, local, and federal government. 

Working together and sharing ideas, we can all make Cleveland a better place for everyone. We can actually take advantage of all of our potential and astound the naysayers in other cities. We can't change the weather, but we can change almost everything else if we work together.

To submit your ideas for improving Cleveland, send email to Please write “Improving Cleveland” in the subject line. 

Or, send a letter to:

 “Improving Cleveland”

Homeless Grapevine

3631 Perkins Ave. #3A-3

Cleveland, OH 44114

 All submissions will be published on our blog, and the best will be reprinted in future issues of the Grapevine.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.



Cities Falling Victim to Administration’s War

Commentary by Brian Davis

   The Bush Administration’s six-year-old war on American Cities continues with the release of the 2007 Federal Budget.  The current administration has done everything in its power to weaken cities politically and starve them by cutting finances.  They have made the yearly budget a nightmare scenario by attacking different programs each year.  So far, the Administration has succeeded in destroying one American city in New Orleans, but they are slowly eroding the stability of all American cities through the power of the budget.

   The Bush Administration has attempted to pay for the War and various tax breaks on the backs of largely Democratic, minority residents of American Cities.  They have proposed dramatic cuts to the housing voucher program, they have not built a single non-elderly unit of affordable housing, and have continuously starved public housing.  They have taken money from the community policing initiative to transfer to “Homeland Security.”  The Bush Administration has set goals for schools, but never provided funding to achieve these goals, which just leaves parents and teachers with unreasonable expectations and no resources.  Food Stamps are harder to obtain, and money for emergency food has stagnated or gone down in the past five years despite increasing need.

   This current administration has let environmental regulations go under-enforced.  They have gutted the Civil Rights arm of the U.S. Justice Department, and they can’t even provide the level of help in finding our missing children as they did in the past.  This administration has reduced the ability for poor people to have access to health care, and has not provided enough funding to improve our ability to vote in this democracy.  Other health issues including AIDS, Mental Health, Disability assistance, and Drug treatment have also suffered over the last five years. So in every measure of involvement with the residents of our American cities including security, health care, civil rights, education, housing, and even food, the current administration has failed.

   The Community Development Block Grant program is the latest skirmish in the war on the cities.  The Bush Administration has proposed a 25% cut to this program that cities use for sidewalks, housing, streetlights, community centers, police mini-stations, and shelters.  There is no possible way that this will make it through the Congress in an election year, but it is still a slap in the face for Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Chicago. 

   What would we do if there was an accident at a chemical plant in the Flats and we had to evacuate?  How many residents of American cities will have to die in an avian flu outbreak because we are not prepared?  How many more homeless memorial days will each of our cities have to observe because of the lack of political will to help our cities end homelessness?  How many cities are closing recreation centers or youth programs or schools and wondering why delinquency is on the rise?  How many more children will be unable to learn because in many cities our only test for lead poisoning is the brains of 5-year-old children? 

   Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report expresses this in a much better way than we ever could:

    “To all of you…Keep up the good work. Okay, yes.  You always keep up the good work despite the hardships facing the American work force.  You know yesterday, the Labor Department announced that last year (2005) wages and benefits paid to civilian employees rose by the smallest amount in nine years, which brings us to tonight’s Word—‘You’re Welcome.’ 

   You American workers haven’t seen an increase in real wages since the 1970s [Happy Days are Here Again].  You are working longer hours for the same pay.  Sometimes two jobs with no benefits.  But are you rioting? [Dilbert is a Riot]. No, you are voting for Republican candidates who give people like me tax cuts.  And you know what?  I think that’s your way of saying, ‘Thank you.’ [You Shouldn’t Have] Now, in reality, we should be thanking you [But We Aren’t]

   You know that this is the Super Bowl weekend…Super Bowl Sunday [Nacho Madness].  You know, you the working man are our country’s offensive line. You get pushed down there into the mud [Mud=s#!t]. While their star player, corporations like Exxon, are racking up the points—posting the highest quarterly profits in U.S. history [Touchdown!].  And you, you the mighty cogs hear about it on the radio driving to a job that doesn’t pay for the gasoline Exxon sells you [But Free Cookie Bouquets].  Or give you medical coverage for the health complications you get breathing the gas and those gas fumes [Super Premium Lung].

   In every other Western Country mobs have demanded national health care.  Jibber jabbering about how my child should be able to go to a doctor [Good News, Kids, No Needles!].  But, you, you know money is needed to fix the country [of Iraq].   That’s right!  That’s right bullet.  Thanks to a trillion dollars of your money, Iraqis will have the same privileges that you enjoy [An Elected Theocracy].  And when you hear all that falderal about disappearing pensions and 401-k debacles, you stay focused on the things that affect you most…Gay Marriage [It’s Coming Scotts Bluff, Nebraska].  You know what?  I have written a poem to celebrate your sacrifice.  Called

 ‘Poem for the American Worker.’

Arise [Get Up]

Ye, sinewy titan sof rivet-strewn factory floor [Workers]

Arise, and accept your present circumstances.

Ye whose bulking backs bear the ballast of the American Dream. [You Work Hard]

Unite, unite until it is no longer convenient.

Raise thy fists to the sky and then lower it. 

Then raise it again in a smooth continuous motion [You Guess is as Good as Mine].

And shake loose thy chains [Free Yourself]

But only if they workest in a chain factory, which you probably don’t [Chain Making Now Mostly in China].

For ye brothers, only together can we maintain or increase productivity...

     And it goes on from there for twelve more quatrains.  Don’t applaud me.  It’s for the workers. 

   The point is that I am here to tell you that your sacrifice will be rewarded [With more Sacrifice]. Because if you keep sacrificing your benefits long enough and your wages get low enough, we will get those jobs back from China.  And let me be the first to say, ‘You’re welcome.’ [You’re Welcome].  And that is ‘The Word.’

 “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.