Friday, December 28, 2007

Holidays Are Rough

2007 Vigil and Today Show Toy Drive

The 21st Homeless Memorial Day was a sombre occasion with special guest County Commissioner Peter Jones. Mayor Frank Jackson also stopped in to honor those who had passed. I was asked at least 8 times that I should invite the Mayor to talk. For the record, I asked him twice and he was not interested in talking. He is not the ribbon cutting Mayor that we have all come to expect. Representative Foley attended the memorial and announced the introduction of the homeless hate crimes bill in Ohio. The legislation was introduced and already received a bill number HR 419. To date only Rep. Mike Skindell, Rep. Jennifer Brady and Mike Foley have signed on as co-sponsors from the Cleveland area. We will work on this in the new year. We read the names of 39 people who passed away and then six additional people were added by members of the audience. We will add those names to our list on our website.

The volunteers from Franklin Circle Church were great, and provided an excellent meal for our friends and our members. We had representatives of 2100 Lakeside, Care Alliance, Catholic Worker, County Office of Homeless Services, the Veterans Administration, and the Coalition in attendance to honor those who had passed. This year we asked a number of other organizations to co-sponsor the event, because we wanted to also honor a person who had probably saved more lives than anyone else in our community: homeless nurse Patricia Tomcho. Peter L. Jones presented a County resolution recognizing all her 25 years of service to the community. The Coalition and the other partners presented her a Lifetime achievement award to thank her for all her years of service. Tomcho is retiring next year, and without her our reading of the names of those who passed would be a lot longer every year.

The vigil is always a beautiful service, but certainly depressing to realize that our society is letting all these people slip quietly into the night. To raise our spirits, NEOCH gets to be part of the NBC Today Show annual toy drive. Toy manufacturers from around the country send out toys to various cities to be distributed to homeless children. NEOCH is the central distributor of these toys in Cleveland. We usually take the whole lot over to the family shelters in the boxes and then the staff distributes them. This year, I decided to have the family box and wrap the presents and then take them over on Christmas eve to distribute. So we spent Christmas eve wrapping new presents for a few hundred and then taking them over to the shelters for distribution. It is a nice way to balance out the first day of winter when we remember those who died by giving some comfort to the future County Commissioners and doctors who happen to find themselves living in a homeless shelter this year.

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

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