Collaboration Works Over Law Enforcement
We have convened a group over the last three months to talk about the feeding of homeless people outside. We are blessed in this community with an outpouring of spiritual fervor for getting nourishment to homeless people. There are so many church meals served to those without money, we could fill 4 legal size pieces of paper front and back of meals in Cuyahoga County. There is a problem that the City has been talking about for years and that is the distribution of meals on Public Square. The debate is which came first the homeless people who live there or the meals? Las Vegas, St. Petes, and Orlando have all decided the distribution of food was first and have outlawed it.
Some City Council members have also decided the best way to approach this problem is to make new laws (curfews and panhandling). We have decided the better way is to sit down and talk together to lay out a plan to work this out. So, on Thursday many of the church groups and Food Not Bombs along with the City, professional outreach teams, homeless people, and the Coalition met to continue this discussion. The outreach workers made the case that sometimes the congregations coming downtown with food is not helping and may times it actually harms people. Those with diabetes, obesity, and other health issues are becoming sicker with all this food. The waste of food is attracting rats, which are also difficult for homeless people. On Sundays, there are six meals served on Public Square each and every Sunday. The members of the Homeless Congress talked about their support for finding an indoor location. All were appreciative of the tremendous work of the religious congregations and activists to help, but all in the room wanted to work together to improve the condition of those without housing.
We are making a push to find an indoor location that any church could use to provide food and ministry to homeless people with a coordinated schedule. The problem is the amount of trash generated, the construction on the Square, the lack of bathrooms on the Square, and the health problems that come with living outside are all major concerns of the professional outreach. The religious groups have developed a friendship with these men and woman, and have brought nourishment of the stomach and heart. If the two work together, all of these people can change the face of homelessness in Cleveland, and they are now speaking honestly to each other. We shall see how the power of prayer and communicating face to face will be able to move people inside in the next couple of weeks.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.