Thursday, August 03, 2006

No More Homeless at Airport

Homeless Evicted from Airport after September 1, 2006

Responding to the yellow journalists at Channel 19 fake news channel, the City is relocating the individuals who sleep at the airport. In a meeting on August 2 with homeless service providers, the city said that homeless people need to leave the airport. The individuals were making a mess and were a security threat and so they must leave. From the perspective of homeless who stay at the airport, this was a clean, safe and secure place to sleep. There was no threat of being beat up or having your stuff stolen at the airport. The federal government is concerned that terrorists could pretend to be homeless and scope out the airport in detail or slip into secure places.

We certainly understand that the airport is not an appropriate place to live, and we hope that this turns into a opportunity and not a black eye for the community. There are many women who stay at the airport because it is a safe place that no one will mess with them. We heard from the police that they want to make sure that there are no arrests. This is a much different police force from the 1990s who supported Mayor White's attempts to make homelessness illegal. The police seem to be more compassionate and learned a lot from these negative encounters in the 1990s. They want a relocation similar to the one at the Convention Center. They are committed to allowing the social service providers take the lead and not law enforcement. Staff at the Coalition certainly hope that all the providers can work together to find alternatives to the people who have found safe haven at the airport. Homeless providers (NEOCH included) have not always been very good partners in solving problems, and we will be measured on how we solve this problem without arrests.

Already we heard Mental Health Services offering housing to some of those who are regularly at the airport. We heard 2100 Lakeside keeping beds available at all hours to make sure that people can be relocated into a bed and will try to break some of the negative impressions of the shelter. The Women's shelter is re-evaluating policies and previous punishments to try to welcome some of the women at the airport back. The Veterans Administration is going to talk to those at the airport to see if any have served in the military. We shall see if this airport move is as smooth as the Convention Center. No matter what happens most of the people at the airport will not go to shelter or housing so they will end up somewhere, and someone else will be complaining about homeless people destroying the peace. Sometime in the near future we will have to deal with the overall problem and not just move people from one side of town to the other.

One other ray of hope is the possibility of a 24 hour drop in center opening. Back in the 1980s Ralph Delaney was taking bread and water to homeless people downtown with a goal of opening a storefront that could be a warm place for those forgotten by society could stay inside, get a cup of coffee, and start the process of rebuilding stability. West Side Catholic Board of Trustees approved the use of their facility on the near West Side of Cleveland to operate 24 hours a day. We need to find $250,000 to $300,000 in order to operate the facility. The heavy lifting is always finding the money. We all have ideas, but finding the money is always a problem.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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