Sunday, October 29, 2006

Give Us Your Tired and Poor...

Would We Accept the Statue of Liberty Today?

On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York City by President Grover Cleveland with these words on the pedestal, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" There is no possibility that we would ever accept such a brazen symbol of Democracy 120 years after the dedication of the original Ms. Liberty. We would dismantle that Lady and send her back to France on ship carrying a banner "Mission Accomplished."

Here are some of the reasons that our current leaders could never accept a 2006 Statue of Liberty. First, we would be leery of any gift from France. Second, we do not want any more of those "illegals" and so we don't want 151 foot tall billboard advertising immigration. We are now afraid of "your huddled masses," so keep them on your own shores. Third, you can't even walk up the 120 year old Statue anymore. It is a symbol of America and therefore a potential security threat. Close off the symbols and thus you make us all safer--and don't make any new symbols for America and we are all safer. Fourth, we certainly don't want any more homeless people. We are all in our fourth or fifth year in our 10 year plan to "end" homelessness and so we don't need any more from other countries. Finally, the whole statue is too feminine and liberal elite for those in power. Lady Liberty expresses idealistic virtues that are way too advanced for a society looking for easier to understand statues like the simple cowboy in Ft. Worth or the Giant Bull on Wall Street.


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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lawsuit to Protect the Right to Vote

NEOCH Files Suit to Assure the Elderly, Students, and Homeless People Participate in Democracy

The Homeless Coalition and the Service Employee International Union in Columbus filed suit on Monday against the current Secretary of State over the requirement for Ohio voters to show identification at the polling place. Many homeless people have problems keeping identification. Because of theft and the constant requirement to move around it is very likely that you will have to get new identification during your stay in the homeless community. Basically, homeless people must carry all of their belongings with them all the time. In talking to local homeless service providers, we find that between 20 to 30 percent of homeless population does not have identification or 800 to 1,200 homeless people on November 7 will not have identification in Cuyahoga County.

This is not a huge number compared to the half million voters, but then when we add in students, elderly, and poor people who may not have the proper ID it starts becoming big numbers. Then when you add the thousands of poll workers who will not understand the law and will disenfranchise voters who have an ID that does not match the address in the poll workers book, we start seeing large numbers who will not be able to vote. Then we find that the 88 counties are interpreting the law in much different ways, we see that Ohio will not have a uniform group of voters. So, if you happen to be poor in Youngstown there are stricter rules than in Cuyahoga County and you may not be able to vote just because you happen to live in one part of the state.

This is why NEOCH signed onto the lawsuit and are spending staff time these last two week to stop this horrible law from disenfranchising thousands of citizens. I have learned that there are many people who love going to the polls on election day. They have a history with the workers and they want to interact with others. They do not trust the mail and they feel they are part of democracy by going somewhere to vote. This will be difficult for many if our lawsuit does not prevail. We thank Subodh Chandra and the attorneys at Porter Wright in Dayton for all their work and the excellent complaint that they filed.

NEOCH testified against this horrible piece of legislation passed in early 2006. The state legislators did not listen to the experts who work on these issues everyday. They "fixed" a troubled system making it more complicated and addressing none of the problems. They did not hear how difficult it is to receive a birth certificate if you were not born in Ohio. The birth certificate is the basis of all ID. They did not listen when experts told them that illegal voters were not the problem. The problems were with training, staffing for election day and the standards for electronic voting. In fact, on the day I went down there was not one elections officer or activist testified in favor of HB 3.

We hope that this lawsuit prevails and we can have a fair and free election on November 7.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A look back at Previous Hate Crimes

A Look Back at the Stun Gun Attack

Remember the Vigil this Saturday at 7 p.m. on Public Square. In 2002, Clevelanders were witness to a brutal hate crime against homeless people. Three males from Youngstown attacked homeless people in the center of Cleveland, near where the vigil will take place, while filming their own attacks. They had tried to attack homeless people in Youngstown, but unsuccessfully.

The homeless in Youngstown were not out in the open but in cars and under bridges. The three guys felt it was unsafe sneaking into the woods to attack homeless people in Youngstown.
They drove to the center of Cleveland and used a stun gun to attack 5 or 6 people on Public Square. Their car broke down, and a former homeless person helped them out. The Youngstown teens bragged about their exploits and the good Samaritan saw the video equipment and the stun guns. The teens also broke down in front of the police headquarters, which made it easy the Samaritan to report the incident to the police.

The one using the camera was over 18, Jared, and the other two were juveniles. The two young teens blamed Jarad as the ringleader. The media could not go into the juvenile court and so focused on the one adult. Every media outlet was in court and the prosecutor refused to offer a deal to the adult. All three were only charged with misdemeanors assault. Jarad got 3-4 months in jail which got him fired and his college career was in jeopardy. He tried for shock probation after a month, but with the media glare the judge turned him down.

The two young people said that they were influenced by the adult. The juvenile court prosecutor did not keep NEOCH in the loop at all. We could not do any advocacy because of the cloak of secrecy. The teens got off with six months of community service to be served only on the weekend. No disruption in school or their jobs. In looking at the video tape it was obvious that the camera person, Jared, was not the ringleader.

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

Monday, October 23, 2006

Vigil to Stop Violence Against Homeless People

Homeless Coalition Responds to "Hate Video"

When a select group of people is targeted with violence and brutality, it's usually considered a hate crime except if the victims are homeless.

Today in America homeless people are under attack. They are beaten with baseball bats, pummeled with bottles, shocked with stun guns (which happened in our city a few years ago) and getting videotaped drinking window cleaner and urine on a Hate Video/DVD called Bumfights. Just a few weeks ago in Painesville two teenagers were caught throwing sticks and rocks at homeless people living under a bridge. One of the victims suffered a broken nose.

Youth are preying on this vulnerable population living on the streets of America. These brutal attacks go underreported and few pay attention to this growing problem. This needs to change. A few weeks ago, 60 Minutes educated viewers on this new trend, and now it's time for Cleveland to do the same.

The AmeriCorps*VISTAs at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) are holding a vigil on Saturday, October 28 at 7 p.m. in front of the Old Stone Church on Public Square to take a stand against the assault of homeless individuals.

Over the last six years there have been over 500 murders of homeless people in the United States; targeted just for sleeping outside, says Brian Davis, executive director of NEOCH. This is a far larger number than any hate crimes directed against a minority group or individual affiliated with a religious organization.

The AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) program places individuals with community-based organizations to help find long-term solutions to poverty and homelessness. The VISTAs at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless focus on homeless issues such as civil rights, housing, advocacy, and getting individuals linked with voicemail.

For more information please contact either Charlene Higginbotham, Josh Kanary, Sara Cantrick or Sarah Valek at (216) 432-0540.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and

Friday, October 13, 2006

Washington DC: Homelessness Capital

How do Federal Officials Walk Past So Many Homeless People?

Washington DC certainly does not have the most homeless people in the Country that spot is reserved for Los Angeles followed by New York City. They also do not have the largest per capita or most visible long term homeless like San Francisco, but DC has an amazing number of homeless people sleeping outside. I am visiting Washington for the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting, and it never ceases to amaze me how many people sleep outside in the nation's capital.

Maybe because our legislators only work part time and rarely stay in the City anymore, so they do not see the real face of the district. The Congress is usually only doing business Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with the other days back in the district raising money. There are men and women sleeping on park benches. There are people in doorways early in the morning, and homeless people everywhere. How do they not get the attention of people that could actually do something? There are people sleeping near the White House (as close as you can get in the pre-9/11 world). There are men and women near the Capital, and yet nothing gets done.

When they drive to work or more likely are driven to work are they on their cell phones and blackberries so they block out the human toll of their decisions? How do they not see the impact of gutting of the HUD budget with the sad faces sleeping on the steam grates? How do they not see that the spending on "security" and war has meant less spending on stability of citizens of the United States? The National Coalition oversees an urban plunge where college students become homeless for a week. This should be a requirement for all freshman congressional representatives and their staffs.

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

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Painsville Attack on Homeless People

Juveniles Caught Beating Homeless People Should Receive Stiff Penalty

It's been less than a week since CBS' "60 Minutes" aired a segment about brutal attacks on homeless men in Florida, of which one attack resulted in the death of a homeless man admittedly "inspired" by the "Bumfights" videos.

Tonight, Cleveland's FOX network affiliate reported an attack on a homeless person living under a bridge in Painesville. One of the homeless men interviewed reported that not only was he beaten and hit but that he saw his attackers had a gun. After he was beaten, the 'thugs' went over to the other side of the river and attacked a group of homeless people there.

Two individuals are being held under $10,000 bond apiece and are under suspicion for two other similar attacks in the area. Considering that the Florida teens who killed the homeless man with a baseball bat were sentenced to prison for thirty-plus years for their night of 'fun' makes me wonder if the creeps responsible for beating and terrorizing the homeless in Painesville intended to use the gun they reportedly had.

Could the reason for having that gun possibly be to commit murder and rid they area of the "detested homeless" people? Or did they have the gun in case they would have had to defend themselves from the very people they came to terrorize. Although Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael A. Cicconetti is known worldwide for his inventive methods of sentencing, I don't think that His Honor will pass sentence lightly. But if he chooses to 'set an example' to show these creeps how it feels to be homeless I would like to offer him the following suggestion.

In addition to the prison sentence, require these guys to wear ankle monitors and be under constant police surveillance. Set them free for one week in the winter wearing light jackets (and no gloves please!) to survive, as homeless people do. Let them fend for themselves without money! Let them try to find food, shelter and clothing. Let them try to get help from social service agencies.

Chances are that the help they will find during this leg of their sentence will come from those they set out to victimize-HOMELESS PEOPLE!

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

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ohio Needs A Homeless Hate Crimes Bill

NEOCH Will Push for a Homeless Hate Crimes Bill in Ohio

Ohio has been listed more than once as one of the most dangerous states in the Union for homeless people. On "60 Minutes" tonight Ed Bradley interviewed one of the kids from Florida who was in jail for beating a homeless person to death. He said that he and the other three kids killed the guy for sport and for "fun." In Ohio, there were people set on fire in Dayton, rocks thrown at homeless people in Columbus and Youngstown, and a serial murderer of homeless people in Toledo. Bradley interviewed the director and producer of "bumfights." This lowlife scum actually attempted to justify his making money off of exploiting those with some behavioral health problems.

NEOCH is working with the new Homeless Congress to meet with a few state representatives after the election to talk about adding homeless people to the existing hate crimes law. This way kids who use a stun gun to attack homeless people will never be charged with mearly misdemeanors and if sentenced will have an extended jail time after conviction. This might put some fear in the minds of young people who decide to "hunt" for homeless people and beat them for "sport." We certainly hope that the homeless individuals featured in bumfights sue into bankruptcy the arrogant kid who came up with this evil idea. We hope that federal officials improve the laws so that the exploitation of people with a mental illness or alcohol and drug problem becomes a crime.

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