Saturday, November 10, 2007

We Need Inspiration

Forum on Homelessness...Not Much News

Last week, the City Club young leaders put together a forum on homelessness with Councilman Joe Cimperman, City of Cleveland Administration Natoya Walker, and Mike Sering from Lutheran Metro Ministry. If you read this blog with any frequency, you could have skipped the forum. There was nothing new announced. The Aviation Shelter will be open through January 2008, and North Point Transitional shelter will open before Aviation closes. I guess that I was looking for inspiration; for someone to step forward and say we are going to solve this problem. Natoya tried with some poetry at the end of her presentation, but it was too late. No one said the words, "I will take on this problem, and will solve it. We will no longer manage this problem. We are going to put time, money and community resources into solving homelessness."

Mike was there to give the real picture of what is happening in Cleveland as part of the 2100 Lakeside Shelter staff. Joe was there because his ward has the largest number of homeless people and the largest number of shelter beds. Natoya brought the position of the City, but she also brings the baggage of the last 20 years of bad public policy. Joe talked about panhandling and the curfew. Both Natoya and Joe mentioned the Mayor saying that he would serve the least of us, and all of the panelists talked about the incredibly expensive supportive housing projects being developed in our community.

Often, you can get a good sense about what is going on in the community from the questions that came up at the forum. There were questions about NIMBYism, the impact of welfare reform, the disdain for poor people by Ohio City Near West Development Corp., are there opportunities now that so many houses are foreclosed on?, there was a follow up question regarding the PD nursing home story, and a question about panhandling. The final two questions were about transportation issues for homeless people and the sad state homeless families find themselves. I wanted to ask a question about supportive housing. I wanted to ask, "With the history of the federal government withdrawing funds from Public Housing, Mental Health facilities, and transitional shelters, have we thought how we are going to fund all these supportive housing projects long-term after the federal government withdraws their funding?

Not much new from the answers, and we even received some confusion. Peggy Cella asked about family homelessness and the answer was about supportive housing which actually does not involve children. Only single adults are eligible for the 220 units of supportive housing that have been developed, and federal rules bar families from participating. As we have said many times, families are suffering more then any other population with the current funding environment from Washington DC. Joe talked about how he preferred the St. Clair Superior Coalition over what was happening on the near west side of Cleveland. This was news to me, because I have not heard any elected official take on the gentrification issues going on in Ohio City before.

We need to cultivate some leaders who will take on these overwhelming issues plaguing our city, and will work for solutions. We don't hear anyone lifting us up with a vision of a time in the near future without homelessness. We are now living with a younger generation that only knows going downtown and seeing homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks. We don't hear big ideas about solutions because we have come to view homelessness as part of the landscape. No one hearkens back to a time without the large number of visibly homeless people. I want a religious figure or elected leader or media personality to take on the problems of poverty with a goal of ending homelessness. Am I asking for too much?

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

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