Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Day in the Life

The Highs and Lows of One Day at NEOCH

Started out the morning with a very sad case of a woman calling, because she cannot find her husband who has become homeless. They had a fire at their house, and her husband stopped taking his medication. Without his medicine he started down a path of paranoia and his severe mental illness came out. He lashed out at his wife. The husband told his family that his wife was abusing him. He left the house and she has not seen him. She was so worried and was crying looking for help.

The issue is that the shelters will not reveal if a person is at the shelter no matter who is calling or showing up. Unless the individual has a court order or has a release of information--patient/client relationship, the shelters will not give information away about any of their residents. We sent her a Street Card, and told her to hang up flyers or notes at the various shelters. We do not have a good system in Cuyahoga County for family reunification. NEOCH is trying to put together a people finder component of our website that would allow case workers and homeless people to see if there are people looking for them. This will take awhile to develop, but it is heartbreaking hearing these stories every day.

A better part of yesterday, was the Homeless Congress. We had over 32 homeless people from 9 different shelters in the community together to talk about issues. This is difficult to get a very angry population who are for the most part ignored by society to be on the same page. The membership constantly changes, and we have to do some trust building at every meeting. But they have some great suggestions and are beginning to work together. They are starting to realize that together they can make changes while separate they will forever live in shelters.

Then I got back to the office and found out that one of our former vendors was probated and on the loose. She had also gone off her medicine and had started self medicating with illegal drugs. The last time I saw her she was so different. She was a nice older woman who would remind you of Carol Burnett's character in the Mama's Family skits or that quiet older aunt who blends into the wallpaper if you saw her at a coffeeshop. After only a month or two away from her medicine, she looked nothing like her former self even her walk was different. She was angry and not taking care of her appearances or her hygiene. It was an amazing transformation, and now we have to decide on our responsibilities if she did show up at our office to her and to others.

Any non-profit has to spend a large amount of time on the mundane and the bureaucracy especially with government organizations. I have been going round and round with the State of Ohio over $400 that they claim they owe us to close out a grant. We do not agree, but spend so much staff time over such a small amount of money. Then we have the to deal with the best in 1984 style language ever thought up by agreeing to check the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals List or as it is commonly known the terrorism watch list for those helping to finance terrorists in order to receive any state funding. This is a 261 page document in alphabetical order that is not searchable of known terrorists and their aliases. How does any organization search this list to compare it to their own donors or their clients is beyond me? We have to sign a form that says we do not knowingly give or receive money from any of these people. Freddy Garcia is on the list, Teresa Gomez is on the list, and Oscar Hernandez also finds himself on the list. Then we also have to check the State Department list that was last updated in 2004.

If this is the best way we have of protecting against terrorists then we are all in deep trouble. With aliases, I am willing to bet that half of the players in Major League Baseball share a name with the people on the Treasury Department's Terrorism list. How is any agency supposed to search a 261 page pdf document of terrorists? Those that want to do harm to us must be laughing themselves to sleep every night that they have inflicted such fear in this country that non-profits are asked to comb through an alphabetical list of thousands of names of bad people to make sure the money we receive is "pure."

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

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