Oldest Vendor Debates Retiring or Continuing to Sell the Paper

by Lucille Egan

Now that I am 90, I may or may not retire. I have yet to decide if or when I will retire. If I retire, then I will miss all my loyal customers who treat me with dignity and respect. They will spend a few minutes to talk to me. I will also miss all the beautiful children that I see when I am selling at the West Side Market.

When a customer gives me $1.25 for the Street Chronicle, and there is a child with them, I always ask the name of the child. “Thank you Jimmy, “or “Thank you, Mary,” I’ll say to them.  A smile goes a long way. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice. I will also miss my co-workers and the director at NEOCH. If I stay, and continue to sell The Street Chronicle, I will be the OLDEST vendor in Street Chronicle history and proud of it!

The show must go on for the homeless – it’s nationwide.  I like that this paper brings awareness about the homeless problem, and how homeless people are coping with their situation. I share this information, and the paper with my customers so that they can better understand what the homeless go through every day. I want to thank each and every one of you for your kindness and generosity!  Till we meet again, in the sun, the rain, the wind, and maybe the snow, I will be waiting for you with the Street Chronicle newspaper.

I’ll sign off for now…Be Careful instead of  Dareful!

Editor’s Note:  For those who have missed Lucille at the West Side Market, she has been out sick for the last month.  She pledges to be back so don’t worry.

Some Issues That Make Me Angry

Commentary by Dolores Manley

 

I’m writing about how pissed I am about the county allocating money for the Cavs. The County has no money, but they backed a loan for $140 million to the Cavs, for improving the look of Quicken Loans Arena.  I can’t believe that the tax payer will have to pick up the tab for these renovations.

The money that the county gave the Cavs could be better used elsewhere. For example, the County could use those debt to:

Preserve our Veteran’s bridges and the rest of the money should be in a trust for our children’s future when they need the building’s fixed.

Improve local transportation: Buses need to be more family-friendly for moms with babies and for our elderly people that our wheelchair bound passengers.

Add additional social services like meals on vehicles or senior citizen centers.  Our seniors fought for everything and the country has no money and is going to give it to the improve the playgrounds of the rich. You tax payers need to rise up.

We need more police cars that are new, or in good working order, not old run-down vehicles. We need the money to keep up our government buildings when they need repairs.

Jails need to be expanded so judges will not let people out because of over-crowding. Let the inmates do their time.

The county should give the money to help out the RTA so that the local bus services can reduce fares, increase circulator service for the seniors, or order new buses. 

The County could improve child care for working mothers especially in the evening or for disabled children.

Other issues that make me angry include:

How our homeless people are out begging to get food in there stomachs, and more panhandlers are out and about. There are more panhandlers out here. Why can’t these guys go to shelters?

The rise in gun violence in our city and the fact that children are being murdered.  A little girl was kidnapped and murdered walking to school not too far from a police station.  A sixteen year old boy was murdered in an abandoned house on East 53rd near Fleet Ave.

I also wanted to let people know that I was forced to play the tambourine to make money for a period of time instead of selling the Street Chronicle.  I worked with my family while I was on vacation from the paper.  Using my tambourine to make money was noisy; selling the paper is more dignified. I got more money using the tambourine, but I think that selling the paper provides more advantages.

The paper gives you information, there are customers who are familiar with me, and sometimes give me a little extra change.  I once sold 4 papers and made $50.00. Another time, I sold 40 papers and made $300.00.  Selling the paper, in my opinion, is better.

One bright spot: I am glad I am going back to the paper! Thank you, Brian Davis, for bringing me back to the paper! Brian, I have worked for you, on West 25th Street, for over 20 years. When the new paper comes out you might be gone. Brian I will miss you. Good luck with your plans!

Michael Stoops Loved the Street Newspapers in America

Commentary by Brian Davis

Michael Stoops loved street newspapers.  He was the community organizer for the National Coalition for the Homeless, founder of the North American Street Newspaper Association, and helped to foster the development of many papers, including the Street Chronicle.  For a guy who organized homeless people for a living, the street newspaper is the ultimate expression of success for those struggling with poverty.  Just as the pamphleteers did at the founding of our country, the better street papers amplify the voice of those who have a hard time finding housing and it also puts some money in their pockets.  Michael believed there is no better tool than one that can provide income, and a venue for progressive causes. 

The first thing I did when I became the Director of NEOCH in 1995 was call Michael Stoops at the National Coalition for the Homeless and talked to him about civil rights for those who did not use the shelters.  We were engaged in a series of lawsuits that began before I was a member of the Coalition, so I needed a tutorial.  Michael was a quiet man who was a peacemaker.  He never asked for the spotlight but accepted it to save the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Sitting down and looking for a solution with a group of persecuted homeless people was the way he wanted to spend his afternoons.  Michael Stoops passed away on May Day 2017 after a two year struggle following a stroke.

I helped Michael with starting NASNA back in the 1990s in an attempt to spread this wonderful concept throughout the US and Canada.  Cleveland advocates had begun publishing a street newspaper in 1993 as one of the few papers in America behind San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Chicago.  Michael was always willing to comment on stories that we were writing to give our volunteer writers a national spin in order to make the stories sound important.

 

We held summer conferences that I helped organize to bring together editors and vendors from around the country in order to exchange information and learn from each other.  We met in Chicago, Boston, Edmonton, Montreal, Seattle, San Francisco, and Cleveland hosted the third conference in 1999.  Michael had to deal with the headaches at the Canadian border for the conferences, when our vendors with criminal backgrounds were held until they paid an extra $350 to receive a stamp that they were not welcome in Canada and had to leave within five days.  He had to put up with our vendor, Marcia, who dressed up as a cow on the plane to San Francisco in order to win the vending competition that we always had as part of the conference.  Michael Stoops always made sure that homeless people were a part of the street newspaper movement and the conferences.   He paid for their airfare and made sure that they were represented on the executive committee of NASNA. 

At our conference in Cleveland, Michael taught advocates about civil rights struggles across the country including the lawsuit we fought against the City of Cleveland to allow our vendors to be able to sell on the streets of Cleveland without getting a city issued license ($200) before they could start selling the paper.  Stoops was always working to give a hand up to homeless people.  He wanted the people who were drafting laws to hide homeless people to hear from those who have to live with these laws.  Stoops wanted those living in poverty to be at the forefront in deciding how to govern themselves.  This is why he loved NCH, which has always had current or formerly homeless people on the board, they hired at least three executive directors with previous experience of homelessness.  He liked partnering with self-governing groups like CCNV shelter, the vendors at Street Sense and Food Not Bombs. 

Michael voraciously read everything he could about homelessness including every street newspaper he could find.  Once he got the internet, he spent hours reading papers from around the country for news about homeless people.   The street newspaper movement that Stoops fostered had the added benefit of being able to end someone’s homelessness.  There are thousands of newspaper vendors who were able to make the rent or pay for dental work because of Michael.  He loved to empower individuals willing to try to sell free speech on the cold, rainy, harsh mean streets of America.  A vendor can earn money to pay rent or pay off a utility bill depending on the amount of time they spend, and they also could educate the public about eliminating poverty. 

Michael will be missed and the loss of his voice on the national stage will leave a huge hole to fill. 

I am Guided by “What Would Brian Do?”

Commentary by Staci Santa

Brian became my supervisor in 1996 when I moved to Cleveland to serve my second year as a national service volunteer. Only one year out of college, I had little work experience and frankly was scared to death of homeless people. That is, I had a lot to learn. Though perhaps the least comfortable service placement I could have been assigned to, it became the most valuable year in my career. 

If it is possible to be taught how to be a leader, Brian is the person to study under. If passion can be studied, Brian is the one to observe. If one can learn discipline, let Brian teach the course. Brian is honest when the truth is not popular, vocal when it is easier to be silent, and just even when justice does not suit his personal gain.

For Brian’s 10th anniversary at NEOCH, friends of the organization were asked to share whatever they wanted to about him in that year’s annual report. Here is what I had to say then, and still stand by today.

“WWBD? Even now, years after I’ve left Cleveland, I find myself in difficult management situations thinking, ‘what would Brian do?’ Here’s what I learned from Brian Davis:

v  standing up for social justice is not only admirable, but also my responsibility;

v  sometimes it really is everyone else who is wrong;

v  Brian’s funny;

v  any document always has room for at least one more edit;

v  what a privilege it is to do everyday what I feel passionately about.

Thank you for all you’ve given me and the myriad AmeriCorps* members who landed the best service job in the nation.”

Editor’s Note: Staci did not mention that I brought her to tears in our telephone interview for the job, but yet she still took the job. 

I’m Sorry that Brian is Resigning from the Paper

By Bobbette

Brian has always looked out for me.  If I wasn’t at the vendor’s meeting he would always make sure that I had a shift.  He’s a nice guy to be friends with and a cool person.  When I was homeless, he helped me out with toiletries and other needed items.  When I couldn’t come and pick up the papers at NEOCH, he would ask me to meet him somewhere and he would bring them to me.

I wish he wasn’t resigning.  I have been working as a vendor since the paper was called the Grapevine.  I also like the way he runs the meetings.  I’m angry that he is leaving.  I really don’t want anyone else to take his place.

Dedication and Loyalty for Social Justice

by Roy Love

I met Brian Davis twenty three years ago, we were both volunteering at NEOCH when it was under Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry. He was quiet at first but that changed quickly. As Executive Director, he became the powerful voice of concerns for those being ignored without housing. He was never afraid to express these concerns locally or statewide even if they were controversial. His dedication and loyalty to NEOCH during difficult was outstanding.  As the era of Brian Davis is ending at NEOCH, his phenomenal legacy for social justice will never be forgotten. I would like to thank you, Brian, for being you!

Editor’s Note: Roy C. Love is the Board President of NEOCH

From Panhandling Disagreement to Vendor Friendship

By Raymond Jacobs

      In 2005, I went to City Hall against Brian Davis and NEOCH about the aggressive panhandling law. I sided with the police and Brian told me I was going to be sorry. I was a panhandler on East 9th and Euclid for many years. I sided with the police because they promised to leave me alone if I testified in support of this anti-panhandling law. [Editor’s Note:  NEOCH opposed the panhandling law in 2005 because it violated free speech rights and there were other laws such as menacing that could be used to curtail “aggressive solicitation.”  Raymond was recruited to testify as one of the “good panhandlers” to support the law.  He declared that he obeyed the rules but other panhandlers do not, and so Cleveland needs a law to get rid of some of the “bad panhandlers.”]

      The aggressive panhandling law went into effect. I left Cleveland for 6 months and when I came back they had the ambassadors riding around on bikes. They rode up on me and asked me if I knew who they were. I said, "Yes, you're here to get the aggressive panhandlers, but I'm not aggressive." Then a police officer came by and told them to leave me alone. The ambassadors left and never bothered me.

      In 2007, a supervisor from the ambassador’s program named Conway told me I either sell the paper or I wouldn't make any kind of money. I had an agreement with the police that they would leave me alone and he went against it. He said he didn't care what the agreement and I got moved out. I went down and talked to Helena, the social worker employed by Downtown Cleveland Alliance. She gave me $5 to buy papers from NEOCH. From that point on I started selling the Homeless Grapevine and then it shutdown. Then I went back to panhandling for a while and then I quit. I needed money so I begged Brian to bring back the paper.

      It started back up in December 2010 as the Cleveland Street Chronicle. I was the first vendor and then came Angelo. Two weeks later Buzzy came. Then Mike Vorhees and more vendors joined us. After I started selling the paper I understood some of the things Brian was trying to tell me. We worked out our differences and became friends. We have been friends ever since.

I Have Seen All That NEOCH Can Do For Homeless People

Commentary by Ramona Turnbull

I first met Brian Davis at the Bishop Cosgrove Center when he helped with my grievance.  I participated in turning in a grievance for some of the problems I was having at the Women’s Shelter.  He took my grievance, along with some of the other women that wanted to file a grievance, and returned a response to me the following week.  I thanked him and then didn’t see him for a while.  I wasn’t sure who he was or why he took on the responsibility of taking our grievances, but I was thankful. 

The next time I saw Brian, I was being harassed by the police and was still residing at the women’s shelter.  I had to do community service and when I reported for community service I was asked what type of services I could do and the worker there had a list.  When he asked me about the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, I asked what type of organization that is and when he told me I agreed to do the service there.  He called NEOCH and I was permitted to do the hours there.  That is when I found out that Brian Davis is the Executive Director at NEOCH. 

He and the staff were very friendly and I immediately relaxed.  I learned a lot during the time I did community service there.  This experience helped me to remember I have skills and also taught me how to use them more effectively.  Once I completed various community service hours, which I informed Mr. Davis was due to two officers harassing and following me around, I received a nice going away present with much needed hygiene products and a rain coat.  I informed him and the staff there that I will miss being around and he suggested that I become a volunteer.  I completed the necessary paperwork, read the volunteer training manual, and became a volunteer.  He also helped me to file a complaint against the two officers that were harassing me.  I later found out that my complaint was one of many against these two officers. 

Once I became a volunteer, I was introduced to a lot of projects that were exciting to me.  I felt blessed to be a part of it.  Although I have worked with the homeless population prior to my becoming homeless myself, I found that I didn’t know things I thought I knew.  This was a blessing in itself.  I felt empowered and each assignment helped me to heal and better understand homelessness.  I was taught how to update election information, to make sure the information in the system was correct and updated so the information could be used in a lawsuit.  The lawsuit was to protect the homeless population’s right to vote and have it counted.  This information also helped to find out how many homeless people were registered to vote and to make sure anyone who wasn’t registered was able to do so. 

I also updated information about the different street papers in different areas of the country and Canada.  I was able to be interviewed to tell my story about how I came to be homeless, wrote and proofread stories for the street paper, and wrote stories for the website.

After volunteering for a number of months, Brian came to me and informed me that he would be willing to take on one more employee to work in the office.  I was blown away by this and immediately asked what I needed to do.  I met the requirements and was hired as a Public Outreach Worker.

I was very excited about being employed through Mature Services and being able to continue writing articles for the blog, editing material before it is put into the computer, note taking for the Homeless Congress and the Resident Council.   I was even permitted to go to Pittsburgh for the People’s Convention to march in a demonstration, and helped to orchestrate the March to End Poverty on the day of the Republican National Convention.  Other services I had the unique opportunity to participate in were the Homeless Stand Down, the Homeless Candlelight Vigil, and advocacy for the women residing at the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter.  I have learned a lot through Brian allowing me to work as a Public Outreach worker and I am very grateful for having the opportunity to work under him to provide a voice for the homeless population and bring awareness to homelessness.  Brian Davis will be missed by the homeless population and the people that had the unique opportunity to work with to make a difference.

Open Doors CLE Displays Doors Decorated by Homeless People

by Kelly McKay

A project called Open Doors CLE was organized by students from the Cleveland Institute of Art. This project has been created by students from the CIA students, Melinda Zitnick and Ross Brunetti.  Anastasia Soboleva led the project as faculty from CIA as part of the projectFIND Team. Soboleva helped last year with the mural and art exhibit last year with the women sleeping at the Community Women’s Shelter. 

They worked in collaboration with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Cleveland Street Chronicle along with the residents of the two big sheltersThe students from CIA worked closely with the artists who go to the Bishop Cosgrove Center for social service help and now participate in the new art project on the third floor. These two groups of artists joined to put these doors together. The overall aim of this project is to bring attention to homelessness in Cleveland.  “As socially engaged artists, we identified an opportunity to create these connections by exposing the stable housing community to the reality of homelessness through a series of collaborative and interactive installations. These installations are free-standing doors, specifically placed in public locations of importance to the homeless community,” according to Melinda Zitnick of the projectFIND team.

Other goals of this project according to the CIA team included creating relationships and dialogue between those in stable housing and those in the homeless community, while actively giving the homeless a voice. The design was to place old doors, donated by those living in stable housing, into public areas. The symbolism of these doors is varied, yet accurate to those facing homelessness. They represented both estrangement and relation between those without housing and those with housing. The doors served as symbols of the security, possession, and warmth of a home. The projectFIND Team artists and residents of Cleveland’s homeless shelters worked together to develop ideas and portray them. Diverse forms of art were incorporated when renovating the doors, including photographs, handwritten material, and newspaper clippings from the Cleveland Street Chronicle.

By shedding light on those in the homeless community and local advocacy groups, the project accurately conveyed information to the public. “I am very excited about this project and feel it will be very effectual in communicating how important it is to properly address homelessness,” said Ramona Turnbull of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless who helped to gather material from the Street Chronicle vendors to appear on the door. “A lot of people know nothing about homelessness and would like to know. Also, I believe everyone should know about this growing epidemic,” she explained.  The doors were displayed at Willard Park in Downtown Cleveland at the end of May. 

Along with this display, there was a local memorial for Michael Stoops from the National Coalition for the Homeless who had passed away in early May at Willard Park on May 27th.

My Thoughts on Violence in the City that I Live

By Mike Owens

What is wrong with people going around shooting innocent people and putting it on FaceBook?

I pray for those who were shot by idiots who lose their minds, then run to another city and kill themselves…that’s the coward’s way out.

Why can’t we all get along?  Violence doesn’t solve anything. Violence either gets you hurt or dead.  If you have a problem, talk about it or just walk away.  I hate guns and violence!

I hope and pray that people will grow up and try to get along.

Brian Helped Me Go From Panhandling to Vendor

By Michael Boyd

Twenty years ago, when I first met Brian Davis at the Bishop Cosgrove Center, I was living in a shelter.

At Site A, the men staying there slept on the floor of a garage on mats. It was cold, there were mice and only one bathroom for 60 men.  I was kicked out because I assaulted a man who kept threatening to rob me.

At Site D, most of the men staying there at night had to clean the toilets. Brian organized a protest for the men who stayed there, holding toilet brushes, protesting having to clean the toilets.

At the Cosgrove Center, Brian was passing out coats and socks to homeless people. He talked about how if we’d stick together our living situations would get better, and they did. At that time we were sleeping on concrete floors no more than two inches from each other. We went from sleeping on the floor to sleeping in beds; we didn’t have to clean the toilets unless we wanted to.

He was introducing the homeless street newspaper to us because at that time because the police were taking homeless people who were panhandling, or just people laying around downtown Cleveland, to Lorain or Canton or other places not served by public transportation. The paper, The Homeless Grapevine, gave me an opportunity to make money for my daughter and myself. I didn’t have to panhandle anymore. West Side Catholic Center helped us by providing milk and diapers.

My daughter was three years old at that time. Thanks to Brian Davis encouraging me to sell the Homeless Grapevine, which is now the Street Chronicle, I was able to help support my daughter and myself. At twenty-four years old she is a graduate of Remington College, and a licensed Cosmetologist.  My daughter is now able to support herself.

The hardest part of being a vendor at NEOCH, selling the Street Chronicle at the West Side Market, is missing people when they leave. I would just like to say that for the past 20 years, Brian has more than a boss to me. I regard him more as a friend or a skinny Uncle.

Mr. Davis, you will be missed!

NEOCH and the Paper Changed My Life for the Better

by Kim “Supermutt” Goodman

     It was the late 90’s and I had made the decision to sell the Homeless Grapevine out of desperation, because I needed money. Going to the NEOCH office was hard for me to do. I was only 20 years old and I had experienced two decades of abuse. After experiencing every form of abuse, meeting new people was not something that made me feel comfortable. I wasn't sure if I would be capable of selling the paper because at that point in my life I felt like a failure. I struggled through high school and had gone to college but dropped out because I found out I had a learning disability and attention problems that caused me to struggle academically. I had tried many temp jobs and had received some DNR’s (do not return) notes because I couldn't work fast enough or because I made mistakes. I struggled with getting and keeping jobs because it was hard for me to hold my head up high and sell myself to a potential employer. When I did have short lived jobs I didn't get along well with my coworkers because they thought I was weird. When I tried to interact with my coworkers they usually rejected me or said I was annoying or harassing them.

 I went to the NEOCH office which was on West 25th at the time. I walked down the hallway but as I got to the NEOCH office my body became paralyzed with fear. All I could do was stand there. As I stood there the criticizing words of the woman who gave birth to me played over and over in my head. Then I had flashbacks of my previous failures and of people treating me bad and I asked myself if I was ready for this. I was worried that the NEOCH staff wouldn't like me. I was worried that I wouldn't get hired as a vendor. I worried that I would mess up during my training. I worried that the other vendors wouldn’t like me if they got to know me. Even though I wanted to turn around and run out the building, I didn't. I told myself I would try as hard as I could and sell papers until I was fired.

I walked into the NEOCH office and met Brian Davis and the NEOCH staff. They all seemed nice enough so I no longer felt anxiety. I filled out my vendor's contract, took my training and received my 10 free papers. To my surprise I had succeeded at something. I left the NEOCH office feeling a sense of accomplishment. After selling the paper for a while I was asked to make a contribution to the paper. I believed I was too stupid to write an article so I just submitted artwork to the paper because I felt drawing was the only thing I could do right. It wasn't until much later I gain enough confidence to write.

I sold the paper off and on from the late 90’s to 2005. Each time I left the paper I would see Brian somewhere out in the community and he would convince me to come back to the paper. Selling the paper was a good thing for me because over the years it has taught me many things and has helped me to grow as a person. Being around my fellow vendors, the NEOCH staff and Brian made me feel a sense of belonging in my isolated world. For most of my life I was around people who had jobs and a close relationship with others. Not having a safe place to live, not having a stable job and not having a close relationship with people had me feeling empty and inferior. Interacting with others who was just as broken as I was, people who didn’t have their life together and people who were trained to deal with all types of people filled an empty void I had.

No one tried to change me into what they felt I should be and no one tried to force me to fit in with what they believed was normal. No one judged me by my past or by my mistakes or limitations or by what I didn't have or couldn't do. At NEOCH I was treated like a valuable human being who was worthy of respect. When I was around my fellow vendors, the NEOCH staff and Brian, I felt normal. As I watched my fellow vendors make mistakes, I learned that mistakes are normal and acceptable. As I watched Brian give people chances after they made mistakes it made me see that mistakes can be excusable and not held against you.

Selling the paper put me out in society and helped me build social skills. It forced me to get out there and talk to all types of people which was hard for me to do at first. Selling the paper taught me how to manage money. With help from Brian, the NEOCH staff and my fellow vendors I learned to have confidence in myself and my abilities and they taught me that I had value even if successful society couldn't see it.

  The Homeless Grapevine folded and the Cleveland Street Chronicle formed. A couple of vendors convinced me to come back and sell the paper. I didn't really want to come back because I was into my own things. I was selling beaded jewelry and body oils. In May 2011, I came back to the paper as a more confident and dedicated vendor. Over the years Brian Davis has helped me to see the paper for more than just an income opportunity. He helped me see the paper for what it really is a voice for the homeless, poor and low-income. These are groups of people wealthier people don’t understand or don’t want to listen to. Now instead of just selling the paper to earn extra money, I take pride in writing informative articles for people to read. I take pride in taking the time to talk to people about the paper. I enjoy being a part of the paper's growth and success.

      If I had not chosen to walk into the NEOCH office at the age of 20, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Without selling the paper first, I would have never gotten the courage to become an entrepreneur. Thanks to NEOCH’s support in my life I am able to buy a Zone 1 & Zone 3 permit each year and feel confident enough to get out into society and sell the necklaces that I make without anxiety. Thanks to the Homeless Grapevine and the Cleveland Street Chronicle, I now have an interest in writing and is currently working on manuscripts for books I hope to get published one day

Eternal Benchmark of “Good Supervisor”

by Marcia Bufford

What seems like a lifetime ago…I was asked to volunteer for NEOCH’s first Stand Down in 1995.  Within weeks I was trying to find a reason and a way to stay permanently.

Brian Davis has a passion for social justice that is infectious.  Brian has taught me so much I hardly know where to begin.  By the way, Brian is a man of very few words [except when advocating for homeless people]. He leads and teaches by example.  He lives his values and standards daily, 24/7 at the office, at public meetings, at his church, at City Hall, previously on his radio show, in front of news reporters, with family, close friends, & acquaintances.  He’s nothing if not consistent.

Over the years during difficult times in my life Brian has been a constant presence; offering compassion and a sense of security whenever it was needed.  I am so grateful for those times when he showed up in my life.   I know I wouldn’t have two master’s degrees and the professional experience I have if it weren’t for Brian.  There really is no way to capture in words the impact that Brian Davis has had on my life. 

One day back in 1997 I asked him if he always wanted to work at NEOCH and he responded, “There are only two things I ever wanted in my life: to be the director of NEOCH and to be a father.”  In my opinion, because he set this intention and focused his time, talents and resources to these specific goals is the reason he has excelled beyond measure as both the Director of NEOCH and the Loving & Devoted Father of Lianna and Amara.

Under Brian’s leadership NEOCH has been a force for positive change in the homeless community, service provider community, and the greater Cleveland community.  I have brought programs and initiatives that I learned from Brian to San Francisco & Sacramento.  This year will be our first Homeless Memorial Day 12/21/2017 that I am working on putting together after attending many in Cleveland.

Brian is my eternal benchmark of “Good Supervisor” and NEOCH will always be “THE BEST” job I have ever had!!!    

Editor’s Note: Marcia Bufford was a long time Board Member of NEOCH until she moved to San Francisco.

I Heard Brian’s Passion to End Homelessness So I Joined the Board

Commentary by Jennifer Kocan

I first learned about homelessness in the Fall of 1993. I had led a fairly sheltered life up until I started attending classes at Cleveland State University. One afternoon, Brian was giving a talk about the state of homelessness in Cleveland. He was also dispelling some of the common myths. I distinctly remember how impressed I was with Brian's knowledge and his passion to end homelessness.

Many years would go by before I would run into Brian again. This time, it was in 2006 at one of the Homeless Stand Down events.  It was around this time that I joined NEOCH as a board member. Over the last 10 years, Brian has taught me about so many different things… everything from how to manage a nonprofit organization, how to interact with government officials, how to speak at a press conference, how to authentically advocate for someone who is experiencing homelessness, and in general how to be a good human being.  

Thank you, Brian, for giving it your all day in and day out. Lives were changed because of you. I look forward to seeing where the next chapter in your life takes you!  

Editor’s Note: Jennifer Kocan is a board member of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

The Route Taken to Meet Brian Davis While Serving Homeless People

by Denise Moore

On my route, serving homeless people, I would have people ask me, “Hey, do you know Jim Schlecht,” or “Hey Denise, do you know Brian Davis or do you work with NEOCH?”  My answer would always be the same…”NO, I do not know these men and I have never heard of NEOCH.”  I was told by the homeless population that these were wonderful men who do a lot to help the homeless population in Cleveland. 

My clients would tell me how they were filling out applications for housing and how they were selling the street newspaper to make a few bucks.  They always referred to programs that NEOCH ran.  The names of these men and NEOCH just kept popping up.  I was learning from the people on the streets about Brian Davis and the organization called NEOCH. 

I met a guy named Tyrone who was a NEOCH outreach worker and he seemed to be knowledgeable about resources available for the homeless.  He wanted me to meet Brian Davis, the Executive Director of NEOCH, and the man who was behind all the programming at NEOCH.  Tyrone suggested I apply for the open outreach training position at NEOCH.  I was hired. I learned a lot during the street outreach training. I learned about advocacy.  I, also, quickly saw that NEOCH was the missing piece to my puzzle of street outreach in Cleveland.

Brian has advocated on behalf of the homeless in Cleveland for 23 years.  When Brian was not at work advocating for the homeless, he was educating people and trying to organize individuals and groups to work together to come up with solutions to prevent homelessness.  He has involved the media to gain attention to issues that are urgent and need quick answers to avert a crisis. 

Brian’s goal was to amplify the voice of the homeless and bring attention to their plight.  Brian saw that homeless people were often a forgotten sector of our society.  He took the rights and issues of homeless individuals to city hall, to County Council, to the individuals who lead the shelters. Basically, he took upon himself the struggles of homeless individuals and families and he has taken their hardships to the people who could do something about it.  Brian’s most recent fight being the struggle to reform the horrible and unsafe living conditions at the women’s shelter on Payne Avenue.

He has worked hard to ensure that the homeless are treated with dignity and respect; that they are organized and empowered to change the things that stand in their way of having a productive life. Brian developed and led a program for homeless individuals to earn some money in a way that was not humiliating for them. They could sell the homeless newspaper, the Street Chronicle, and earn money on each paper they sold.  The paper is not only sold by homeless but written by them as well.  It gives them a way to have a legitimate income. There is also the Street Voices program that allows people who were formerly homeless to tell their stories in churches, schools and businesses.

He involves media, social justice groups and social service providers to bring the plight of the homeless to light with the goal of community leaders making changes.  Brian and NEOCH staff have hosted special training seminars and regular meetings to help keep the workers, leaders, case workers and social workers who work with homeless people up to date on services that are available to homeless people. 

The homeless in Cleveland are losing a champion who has given his all to make their lives better.  He has done this on a salary which is way lower than most directors of non-profits.  Brian has done it for the right reasons.  He has fought for the homeless people, to make their day to day lives better and he has worked hard to put an end to homelessness.   I am sad to see him go.  I have been able to learn so much from him.  He is a genius, a walking encyclopedia regarding homelessness.

There will be a new director of NEOCH but there will not be another Brian Davis.  I am assured that NEOCH will continue as an organization and that growth will happen.  I am not as confident that Brian will be replaced with someone that can fill his shoes.  It’s going to be a tough task to replace someone who has 23 years of experience, knowledge and success.  The loss of Brian Davis is already being felt in the homeless communities and will continue for years to come. 

Street Newspaper Ended My Panhandling Days

By Buzzy

It was 1999 or 2000 when I met Brian Davis and his band of VISTA workers. Quite a young group of volunteers, but they cared about the rights of the homeless people.  I was there mainly because my days of panhandling were at an end.

I had become quite an accomplished panhandler in those days. Not the aggressive kind that became the down fall of panhandling in Cleveland, but a panhandler with manners. I had a couple of nice spots that I was well established at, the Flats and the Westside Market. However, my gig at the Market was soon to become a thing of the past due to a newspaper called The Homeless Grapevine and a vendor named Angelo.

From the very beginning I liked Brian. He seemed courteous, intelligent, and much more. Also, he has a good sense of humor even though some of the vendors don’t like his humor. He tries to be light-hearted with everyone. 

As I became more involved with selling the Grapevine, I became more involved with NEOCH. One of the most important things I appreciated about Brian was the trust that he had in me. At one time NEOCH was given the change from the various wishing wells around Cleveland and Brian entrusted me to count it and do the wrapping which I thought was very cool.

Each year we had a picnic for all who worked at NEOCH including us Homeless Grapevine vendors. This was the first time I was introduced to Brian’s family. I was taken aback that a guy in his position cared enough to let his family be around what society looked upon as the lowest of lows in the hierarchy of our society. From there on I got involved more with participating in what NEOCH was all about.

On the run from the law for five years, one day I walked into the NEOCH office and announced I was turning myself in. I thank Brian for sending a couple of VISTAs to say a good word for me, at my Parole Board hearing. It was one of the most caring things that someone has ever done for me. 

While working at NEOCH, I’ve been invited to go on speaking engagements to different venues. I have even talked to lawyers and congressmen, giving them an up-close-and-personal view of homelessness since I was actually living that life. I will miss Brian because he has a very caring and giving personality.  

I wish you well Brian in all your future endeavors. Thank you for making me a better human being.                                                                         

Keep the Faith!!

Brian, You Will be Missed

By Artie Price

Brian has been loyal and very helpful to me during the 10 plus years I’ve been a vendor. He has a good heart and will do anything for anybody to help them.

If it wasn’t for Brian, I wouldn’t be here today. When I was messed up, he took me back as a vendor. Without a job, I was stressed a lot. Working as a vendor, I have little or no stress.

He is respectful to the vendors and the staff at NEOCH.  He’s been a good boss because he:

o   Treats everyone well

o   Visits me when I was in the hospital

o   He came to my parent’s funeral, and showed respect to the family.

o   Gave my dad a job selling the paper

o   Corrects us, the vendors, when we do wrong

I appreciate everything he has done for me.

Good Luck, Brian! You will be missed.

The Driving Force Behind Advocacy To End Homelessness

By Angelo Anderson

I met Brian when he was a volunteer at NEOCH.  He didn’t have much to say, or maybe I didn’t have time to listen.  He listened when Cleveland was hurting with the deterioration of its heart, the hopelessness a city experiences as its homeless numbers rises.  He listened and he spoke up. 

Brian is an advocate for the poor and homeless in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.  His voice has been heard all over the country and his passion and understanding of homelessness and solutions that work to bring down the numbers for people living on the streets are highly respected. 

Brian is leaving NEOCH, and Cleveland will be poorer because of it.  Nobody wants to hear about inadequate facilities being used to house homeless women and children.  Nobody wants to talk about people dying on the streets because their mental illness was so severe that they wouldn’t seek help for. No one wants to talk about the lack of funding for outreach on the streets so that we can provide short term help or these type programs just disappear.  

Who’s going to advocate for safe sleeping places for the homeless people?  Who will sit in on county meetings that determine how money is spent on combating homelessness in Cuyahoga County?  Who will raise objections to inferior funding, policies that inadequately address homelessness and in some cases make living on the street a crime?   Silence is often a sign of community support for policies that make it illegal to be poor.

For many years Brian Davis, and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, was the driving force behind ADVOCACY AGAINST HOMELESSNESS in Cuyahoga County. Many people didn’t like him, but all who work in the continuum of care respected him. 

Brian, you will be missed. 

Why I Appreciate Brian Davis

by Diana Robinson

If it wasn’t for Brian giving me a job, I would be struggling.  I enjoy being a vendor and I have been one for 4 or more years.  Brian does a beautiful job and helps to solve our problems at the vendor meetings.

He keeps everything professional and makes sure we have our vendor’s licenses to be able to sell papers in our spots.  He always gives us respect, male or female, and he is always there for us. 

He would resolve any conflicts between the vendors and keep things running smoothly.  He would also allow us to throw dinners for the holidays.  I really appreciate him being. 

He not only helps the vendors, he helps other people too.  He has a lot of responsibilities that I wouldn’t want to take on. 

I hope whoever takes his place will be a better person than him or at least as patient and understanding as him.  The staff is also very helpful and I appreciate them.

Thank You for Being a Friend to Homeless People

By Kenneth Payton

Brian Davis has been a blessing to the people of Northeast Ohio for over 20 years. Not just the homeless community, but everyone who he’s crossed paths with, including myself.

The past four years at NEOCH has been a very good experience for me. I appreciate everything he has shown me on the job.  It has been very good for me to learn new skills, different from what I’d been used to doing. Brian has been very patient with me, teaching me how to work with computers, and helping me to sharpen my skills with other office tasks.

I have written stories related about homelessness in general, and helped me document my own experience with homelessness. I have trained vendors to sell The Street Chronicle; helped edit stories for the paper that they’ve written, and helped resolve problems between vendors.

I’ve developed my public speaking skills by working with Street Voices speakers.  This program is for formerly homeless men and women who speak of their experiences at churches, colleges, and schools.  I have helped homeless people register to vote and wrote about my experiences.  I also did work transporting homeless people to the polls on Election Day as well as over to the Homeless Stand Down.

I wish him all the blessings as he goes onward in life. Thank you for being a friend, Brian.  You will be missed.