Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What Can We Do?

We Cannot Respond If They Don't Want Our Help

We had a few calls asking us to respond to those lowlife scum of the earth morning radio show jocks who got the tent city removed. It seems on Monday they talked all about how bad homeless people were and how they were going to go down to stay with the guys in the tent city. They forced the City into intervening, and the guys had to leave by 11:30 a.m. today or face arrest.

Anthony and his crew did leave, and vowed not to tell the media where they were going. He made an appeal for an attorney to help, but they reluctantly left the underpass. We really cannot intervene since the tent city guys did not request that we intervene. They do not trust us and have made it clear they do not like us. We cannot force ourselves on a group of homeless people. We could not agree with these guys on a strategy or the possible results of any court proceedings. These types of cases are difficult to fight because of the questionable legal standing, and then to add a hostile group of clients to the mix makes it impossible to get a compromise. Unfortunately, we are looking at an outcome that is good for the entire homeless community, and these guys are wisely only looking for their interests.

I know that there is very little that NEOCH could do to help the tent city dwellers, but we can go after the morning show. We can urge people not to listen to 92.3 in the mornings or ever. We also could tell people that we will publish the list of irresponsible advertisers who support this kind of hate in the morning. Send us a list of their advertisers and we will publish them on our blog under the headline: "Businesses to Avoid Because they Support Hate Speech." Send us the list and we will publish them.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Value of Blogging

Not a Level Playing Field but Moving Forward

We have had our own media outlet for 13 years (Homeless Grapevine), but it was a sporadically published and not intended to be timely. The Blog is another form of media that allows us to respond immediately to issues in the community. For decades only a few people had access to the public at large through the airwaves and the daily newspaper. They really had a padlock on shaping public opinion, and all of the rest of us had to sit on the sidelines with banners and bumper stickers when we had an issue. In addition, if our agency was condemned in the media, we were offered the birdcage liner pages to respond with a limit on words and content. We could send out a "press release" complaining, but I am fairly certain they compress all those into urinal cakes for the bathrooms of all the news rooms. If your agency was attacked by a television station you were out of luck. Their 17 minutes of news everyday were too valuable to allow time for amateurs to complain.

I spent some time this week communicating by e-mail with Mike McIntyre of the Plain Dealer about our blog entry for Tuesday. He felt that his story was fair and balanced, and I disagreed. As a journalist (not here but with the Grapevine), I would have never allowed the McIntyre piece, even by a homeless person, to be published in the Grapevine without a great deal more information provided. We disagree, and I did not convince him nor did he convince me of his fairness.

The point is that before this exchange would have never occurred between journalist and injured party. Basically, 10 years ago they would have told the reader to go suck and egg or they would have said, "I condemn you to the letter's page." Even if just four people visit this corner of the internet, it is still out their in the public domain. There is an opportunity for a quick reply to a problem seen in the mainstream media. You can make your case on a blog and a simple Google search will lead readers to your site when they are looking into the issue. The point is that the other side of the issue is presented and available to the general public. I have had this same experience before with a few other journalists who did not like the way we characterized their writing or reporting skills in this blog or the Grapevine blog. Now to figure out a way for the media to be forced to link to our blog when they attack us. If people get sent here, they do not have to tell us how old you are or what zip code you reside before being able to read our content.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Its A Hard Knock Life

Bad Day for NEOCH

Monday was a rough day for NEOCH in the media. The PD took a swipe at us with their Snarky column by Mike McIntyre. In case you missed it, the highlights of the column in the last two weeks were the revelation that a Kennedy crack was uttered in Cleveland to an "alleged Kennedy" and the movement of a test for cab drivers. It is basically news of who is coming and going in the world of politics and then some "witty" observations. This week he took a swipe at NEOCH with the "revelation" that a check to the winner of the poetry contest got lost. We definitely messed up, and should take better care of our clients. In our defense, we have been fighting to stay open for the last two months, so we were distracted. I just can't believe that a lost poet's check, a Kennedy joke, and the movement of a test for cab drivers are really deserving of the limited ink/space in the Plain Dealer.

I gave McIntyre all the information, and told him that we had the bookkeeper write a replacement check last week that we had already sent. I sent all the information to the agency in which the client formerly resided, but that organization still decided to kick us while we were down. We deserved our wrist slapped for not providing the best care to our clients, but this seemed excessive. I just wish that McIntyre had told us that Cimperman was trying to one up us. See, the Councilman is not very happy with the Coalition at this time. If McIntyre would have told me that Cimperman put in $200 in for the prize to double our prize, I might have put in more of my own money and got the pot up for our homeless poet. We could have started a bidding war with our homeless poet as the winner. I might have been able to force Joe into the position of giving the poet an additional $200 in order to make us look bad. He got off cheap with only having to contribute $200 in the attempt to publicize his dislike for NEOCH.

The second piece was Channel 19 on Monday night. I know, I know they are not real news, so no one pays attention. But this was actually not a hit from our own tabloid yellow journalists, but the comments from the tent city folks. They have set up a donation basket on the off ramp from I-90 to Broadway Ave. We have tried to work with these guys, but they are impossible. They will not accept any of our advise, and have decided to make a stand on a piece of property that is indefensible. I am no attorney, but I cannot see any legal case to make here. They are a safety hazard on state property and they are in clear violation of a number of laws. Anthony, the self proclaimed leader, has watched too many "Law and Order" episodes and wants to get in a court room to tell his case Sam Waterston style to a jury. He thinks that he will win a huge financial judgment for all the tent dwellers. I have no idea where this came from. On the news, Anthony had the nerve to say that "NEOCH was only trying to fund raise."

I have a long history with Anthony, but he has a lot of nerve saying we are only interested in fund raising. I mean, how is there any money in helping a tent city? Imagine the position that NEOCH now find itself--a social justice group fighting for the rights to live inappropriately in the rain and snow in the richest country in the world. It is a huge step down from fighting to preserve housing and provide livable wages to arguing over where a tent should be placed in a city that spends millions on stadiums, museums, and pubic buildings. When we were first drawn in it was a clear social justice problem. The Brown's Stadium guys did not want a fight or money and were not bothering anyone. Now, they are not making a political statement, or trying to live in peace, or create a community. They are just doing this out of vanity or some delusion of financial windfall. We had to wash our hands of this situation before things get bad. But, Anthony, we would never try to raise funds based on our defense of the placement of a tent.

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

Monday, July 23, 2007

Curfew on Public Square?

Battle for Public Square

Things have been exceedingly busy and time consuming here at the coalition, but I wanted to take a moment to address a statement since I haven't posted to this blog in so long:

As some of you may or may not be aware of, the City has proposed a curfew on Public Square. This curfew would make it illegal to be on Public Square between 10 PM and 6 AM (except for ordinary foot traffic). According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Councilman Joe Cimperman, who represents downtown, said the law is intended to improve safety by banning homeless people from sleeping on the square."

As much as I want to discuss the inherent safety hazard an unconscious person (homeless or otherwise) poses to the public, first I would much rather discuss a direct quote from the Leader of Downtown as reported by Channel 5: "'What we realized was that when people were hanging out all night, harassing people, panhandling people, scaring young men and women, you know making people feel uncomfortable that they were actually allowed to stay there all night because we didn't have anything on the books,' said City Councilman Joe Cimperman."

I did a little bit of research and found that you do have codes on the books to address specifically what you are referencing:
  • "hanging out all night" - 605.09 Unlawful Congregation
  • "harassing people" - 605.03 Disorderly Conduct and 605.09 Unlawful Congregation or - 605.10 Unnecessary Noise or - 621.06 Aggravated Menacing 621.07 Menacing
  • "panhandling people"- 605.031 Aggressive Solicitation
  • "scaring young men and women" - 605.03 Disorderly Conduct or - 605.06 Inducing Panic or - 621.06 Aggravated Menacing or - 621.07 Menacing
  • "you know making people feel uncomfortable" - 605.03 Disorderly Conduct
If violations like those above are occurring and nothing is being done, your problem is with the enforcement of the law and not with the lack of a proper law. I understand why this curfew law was proposed, but frankly, everything it is attempting to combat is already made illegal in the Cleveland City Code.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Future of the Coalition

NEOCH is Not Closing, but May Become Smaller

Dear Friend/Member/Advocate:

The Board of Trustees of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) would like to thank all of those who stepped forward to help in our time of need. We were overwhelmed with the response from elected officials, formerly homeless people, members, and the foundation community. The response to our call for help has allowed us a few months to reorganize in order to become a smaller organization. We have addressed our immediate needs, and we are committed to never finding ourselves in this position again.

We need to thank the many individual donors who stepped forward to help as well as the Gund Foundation and the City of Cleveland. Never in our history has NEOCH had a contract with the City of Cleveland, but on Wednesday July 11, the City of Cleveland approved a $50,000 contract with the Homeless Coalition. We also must thank Ohio Representative Michael Foley, attorney Subodh Chandra, First Call for Help and Treasurer Jim Rokakis for their creative thinking in helping work through some of our financial issues. Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s office and specifically Laurie Rokakis did a great deal of work to move the federal Housing Department to release funds that we have waited for since March 2007. Finally, all of the major foundations in the community were helpful in focusing on our priorities and reinforcing the importance of the Coalition to the Cleveland community.

We realize that the only way to assure that we never are faced with the possibility of closing our doors until every homeless person has their own door to close we must streamline our operation. To this end, the NEOCH Board of Trustees will be working over the next two months on a plan for increasing support for our core operations while attempting to find consistent and viable funding for all of our programs. This may result in changing our relationship with programs like Bridging the Gap, Cleveland Community Voice Mail, Homeless Legal Assistance or the Homeless Grapevine or even moving those to the umbrella of another non-profit. The NEOCH Board strongly believes in the value of each of the programs and the thousands of the people that they help. At the same time, we also realize that we need to move back to be an incubator of new programs that are then adopted by the larger community.

NEOCH Board members are committed to the core mission of the organization of advocacy and public education. We will continue to push solutions forward to end homelessness, and to work for the prevention of homelessness for every individual or family struggling with housing stability. We believe that reducing the number of programs that we oversee will strengthen our core mission by continuing to advocate against policies that target homeless people. The NEOCH Board and staff are committed to working with homeless people on creating housing and programs that lead to a reduction in homelessness.

The Board is working on moving a few of the programs, but not damaging the mission and the operations of those programs. We do not want to see the dedicated staff serving homeless people lost or the programs to be forced to change, and there is no talk of termination of any of the programs. The NEOCH Board is looking for homes for the programs, which will benefit homeless people and we hope will lead to an expansion of services or opportunities.

NEOCH is still sponsoring an Open House on July 19 at 7 p.m. to discuss areas of support for the future. We are looking for ways in which the public can assist the local Homeless Coalition in fund development and expansion of our membership.

The NEOCH Board of Trustees

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Last Days of the U.S. Social Forum

Saturday: Last Day of the Workshops in Hotlanta.

I could not find the Housing workshop that I wanted to go to, and the health care workshop did not have a presenter show up, so I stumbled into two workshops that were very interesting. I listened to the Jobs with Justice people talk about organizing techniques in various cities. I listened to the presenters in another workshop talk about the immigration raids taking place around the country including the unlikely city of Painsville, Ohio.

The second set of workshops there were two workshops right next to each other that were probably the best of the week. The first was Globalization at the Crossroads by the Environmental Health Coalition which looked at the Maquiladora Plants in Tijuana, Mexico. They showed the impact and environmental costs over 30 years in this border town. They had a great slide show that was somewhat dated with 2002 stats and pictures. The tariff free manufacturing plants have just taken over, but done nothing to improve the city. They still have a lack of sewers or roads. They have these horrible labor standards, and all the promises of NAFTA have turned out to be lies. The heart of NAFTA was that it would stem immigration. We attract more people across the border then we ever had in our history. They steal salaries from the workers and force them to work in the worst conditions possible. The slide show focused on the movement of all our television makers from the United States to Tijuana or China. I left after the speaker went into the Spanish presentation. They had translation available, but I had a hard time following the translation.

The workshop next door featured the Venezuelan Consulate member, Jesus Rodriguez, stationed in Chicago talking about the problems with representative democracy. The workshop was entitled “A Democracy movement for the USA” and was organized by the group Liberty Tree. This was an excellent panel discussion with Rodriguez from Venezuela, John Nichols of the Nation Magazine, and George Martin, the national organizer from United for Peace and Justice. Martin had come to Cleveland during the 2004 election and tried to have speakers at CSU including Joan Baez, but was stopped by the conservative board of the University. How did I never hear about this, and I live here? Finally, the university relented at the last minute, but would not allow them to advertise and only 60 people showed up. Nichols was great talking about all the problems with our current elections system and he talked about the mainstream media ignoring all of these issues. How was it that the U.S. Social Forum was right next to the headquarters for CNN, and they never mentioned the forum that brought 10,000 people from around the country to Atlanta?

Finally, Rodriguez from Venezuela said that he was not allowed to criticize the United States, but would talk about the changes in his government since the rewriting of the constitution in 1998. He talked about the principles of participatory democracy that allow better access to the ballot box for minor parties, and allow citizens to control where money and resources are used within the country. They have 5 branches of government including a branch that oversees elections. There is an independent section of the government that acts as ombudsman headed by the Attorney General. Venezuela does not have these high hurdles for getting a candidate on the ballot like we do in the United States. There is an ability for groups to form political parties and become viable voices for segments of the population. He admitted that there were problems that they are working on, but it does sound better than our system. I am convinced that we are long overdue for another Constitutional Convention to fix some of these structural problems in our system.

They opened up for questions, and once again people do not know how to ask questions. There should be a workshop on how to ask a simple direct question from the participants and not try to hijack the discussion. Some guy tried to become a part of the workshop by championing his idea to produce cable access shows. That is when I was out of there. When the zealots grab the microphone and try to sell us on the next revolutionary idea from the audience is the time I leave.

One unexpected but interesting controversy at the Forum was a series of forums by the CARA/Sista II Sista group called “Organizing Community Accountability in Communities of Color.” They hung up a sign that said “For People of Color Only.” This generated a lot of attention by those walking by the workshop at the Marriott, and many put comments on the sign. It turned out that the sign really meant no white males. A white woman went in and came out crying because she was made to feel so bad for being white. It seemed that they wanted her to apologize for all the sins of all white people in the past. For such an advanced group of progressives, this workshop seemed to be the opposite of the theme of the forum, “Another World is Possible*Another U.S. is Necessary.” I don’t know why most progressives object to the right wingers who want to eliminate affirmative action and try to crush alternative voices in the media, but have no problem excluding white people from their discussion. I don’t know why the organizers would allow this, but if you can’t even talk to progressive whites at the US Social Forum your organization has little hope for long-term success.

The two forums in the evening were on gender and sexuality and workers rights. After the experience with the gender group excluding whites, I was not much interested in the gender plenary session. They were not as inspiring as the previous plenary sessions from the previous days.

Sunday was the closing ceremonies. We were too exhausted and too depressed to make it all the way downtown for the closing remarks. There was a presentation of all the resolutions that came up during the forum and then the summary speeches. I went to see the botanical gardens instead. A very impressive center, but a little pricey.

REGARDING NEOCH: Rep. Mike Foley called and said that he was working on ways to save the Coalition. He said that the City of Cleveland wanted to meet with me to discuss options. This is very good news.

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Friday at the U.S. Social Forum

Another Hot, Depressing Day in Atlanta

Things were a little quieter at NEOCH heading into a pre-holiday weekend. I got a call from the Mayor's office that they want to meet to talk. Laurie Rokakis at Dennis Kucinich's office put a fire under HUD to get us the Continuum of Care contract. More and more people called wanting to come to the meeting with the foundations. We have asked for letters instead. Friday was the first day that we began to see people sending in funds to help. The staff of NEOCH are optimistic and the Board have scheduled a series of meetings to work through this crisis.

I finally got to see the main shelter in Atlanta. This is a huge facility at least twice as big as 2100 Lakeside shelter in Cleveland. Anita Beaty, a friend from the Civil Rights struggles and a fellow NCH Board member, showed me around the Metro Atlanta Task Force building. They have an emergency shelter, transitional facility, offices, a drop in center, a 24 hour help line, national service offices, and an art gallery all in the same building. They have big plans for the building with huge renovations and very little support from the power structure in Atlanta. Emory, the City, Coca Cola, and SunTrust are not big supporters of homeless people, and this makes Anita's job all the more difficult. There are these offensive signs on the streets around the shelter basically saying "Don't even think about talking to anyone or you will be fined" as part of the anti-panhandling ordinance that was passed. They regularly ticket homeless people for jaywalking around the shelter, and have tried to move the shelters outside the City limits.

The shelter is very hot and of course overcrowded. It is amazing how they have made due with so many obstacles. People always say that I am too confrontational with people and institutions in Cleveland. I would love to change places with Anita or the people from San Francisco or New York or Los Angeles for a month, and then the power structure in Cleveland would see that I am one of the more easy going homeless advocates in the country. I think 2100 Lakeside is nicer than the Task Force shelter, but they are much older and they have a lot more room to grow than Lakeside.

On the third day of the US Social Forum, I went to a workshop by the Bush Crimes Against Humanity Commission, which met last year and found President George Bush guilty of violating the Geneva Convention and violating other mandates of the UN Charter. This was conducted by lawyers using the binding treaty that the US signed when they joined the United Nations. Treaty law is binding on the United States, but seems to be ignored today. Anyway, they investigated five areas of crimes:
  1. Katrina/Gulf Coast Recovery
  2. Iraq War and Reconstruction/Governance of Iraq
  3. Torture/Detention/Extraordinary Rendition of prisoners to torture countries
  4. Global Warming
  5. Global AIDS
They took testimony and had a panel of left and far left judges who found Bush and the Administration guilty. The group was pushing a DVD that is available about the commission. They had very persuasive evidence on the first three, but anyone with any sense could see that Bush has overstepped his authority and has severed our relationship with the rest of the world. It is sad that the rule of law has broken down and the checks and balances that are the foundation of our government were toppled with the destruction of the World Trade Center. They did not talk about the last two crimes. I missed the political prisoner and homeless people organizing themselves discussion, because it was on the other side of town.

The next workshop was by a group in New England called the Freedom Center called "Who's Calling Who Crazy? Psychiatry and the Oppressed. This workshop was way overcrowded for such a small room. The presenters were very opposed to psychiatric medicine and the DSM IV. They used acupuncture, therapy, and yoga as an alternative. The presenters felt that most people have issues at one point in their life that could all fall in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders IV. It does not help that homosexuality, PMS, and other common traits have all been listed as mental disorders in the past. One of the women had been diagnosed by the U.S. Military as mentally ill and discharged. She was given heavy psychotropic drugs that changed her personality and had bad side effects until she found the Freedom Center. This was a two hour attack on the NAMI and the American Psychiatric Association and the large number of people including kids who are on very strong brain altering medicine in America. I liked it, but it was just too crowded. I am sorry that I stepped on that woman's hand as I was leaving. Hope you feel better.

Finished up the day over at the Civic to hear Indigenous Voices Native Americans from the Cherokee Nation, the native Alaskans as well as Native Hawaiians. This group has fought water, oil and mineral rights all over America. The Hawaiians want a return of their independence and a reduction in the military presence in Hawaii. The Inuit and the other 200 some nations in Alaska do not want to be lumped together into only a handful of groups that receive recognition from the US government. They just want to be left alone to use the land and resources for their own survival. The Native American population has good reason not to trust any of the rest of the country. They have 500 years of broken treaties, theft of land and resources, and forced migration. There was some talk of genocide of the Native American population. We just did not have the heart to stay through the immigrant rights plenary with the raids in Northeast Ohio and all that has happened with the immigration debate our depression quota was full by 8 p.m.

I got to talk to Larry Bressler, Priscilla from STOP, and Steve Cagan again. I also got to see Nicole formerly of Merrick House, Annette from May Dugan, as well as Heather West from the Deaf and Deaf Blind group. It was an interesting day, but again little hope. Maybe I am just picking the wrong workshops or not doing enough networking, but I did not feel uplifted. I saw more corruption, exploitation, greed, and hostility. The people attending the forum were great, and are the best and the brightest visionaries we have to offer, but we have huge hurdles to overcome.

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

U.S. Social Forum 2007

First Day of Workshops

The U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta is spread out throughout the City. The way that the Forum is set up is to have opening remarks and a short talk in the morning then a 10:30 a.m. workshop lasting until 12:30 p.m. then a 1:00 p.m. workshop. After a short break from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. there is another two hour workshop. Then into the evening with two one and half hour plenary sessions at the main stage at the Civic Center. There are 109 different workshops happening all at the same time all over the City of Atlanta. They are held at hotels like the Marriott, Renaissance, and Westin, at libraries, churches, coffee shops, parks and at the Metro Atlanta Task Force.

The workshops were in the areas of:
**Agriculture/food/land **Community
**Culture/Media **Economy
**Education **Environmental Justice
**Globalization/International Trade **Health
**Immigration/Migration **Indigenous
**Labor/Workers Rights **Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered
**Militarization/War & Peace **Movement Building
**Politics/Democracy **Poverty
**Prisons/Police/Courts **Race & Class
**Religion/Spirituality **Human Rights
**Social and Public Service **Urban Issues
**Women/Gender Issues **Youth/Age/Families

So, there were plenty of choices in workshops to attend. It was very difficult to move from one side of town to the next in a half hour so that had an influence over which place to go. There were activities going on all day at the cultural tents. There were social justice films all day going on as well as cultural events throughout the day.

I decided to attend the workshop to start out the day with the survivors of Katrina and Rita. There were four people from Louisiana and Mississippi along with a moderator also from New Orleans. Two of the presenters had family members who died during the aftermath of the flooding. One of the women had her mother left behind because she could too sick to make it down the stairs. The national guard members said that they would go back--it never happened. Everyone who presented kept saying that national guard members would tell people they would be back and they never did come back. The other woman lost her brother-in-law. They saw babies dehydrated and dead outside the Convention Center. They saw police brutalizing the population forgetting to protect and serve. The first plenary of the night also featured survivors of Katrina/Rita who charged that race played a big role in the rescue and rebuilding effort. No one had good things to say about Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans.

From both the workshop and the plenary, we learned how bad the situation was in New Orleans. There is a great deal of anger toward the federal government, and a big movement demanding the right to return to their homeland. The survivors are asking for help under the U.N. guiding principles on Internally Displaced people, which mandates that people who were forced from their homes by man-made or natural disasters must be provided help in returning to those areas. The men and women of the Gulf Coast are angry over evacuation efforts, forcing people out of their homes, the refusal to re-open public housing after three years, the rent gouging and the gutting by 85% of the budget in 2004 to shore up the levee system. All of those who testified had to endure the worst conditions and the most pathetic response from government that they all deserve reparations. These angry former residents are holding a tribunal in New Orleans at the end of August. It would be great to have similar tribunals throughout the United States around the same time to document the stories from displaced citizens from all over the country.

The elevator system in the Westin Hotel was a nightmare. So, from then on I decided to skip any workshops on the upper floors of the Westin--if I could not make it with the stairs I would not go. They lock the stairwell on the upper floors. I got to hear a little about the overthrow with the support of the U.S. of Aristide in Haiti. I also got to hear from the American Friends Service Network and the Black Panthers talk about the Criminal Justice System in the United States. There were three panthers including Fred Hampton's son, and then one Panther called in on the telephone. They talked about Attica and the segregation of black nationalists within the prison system. The prisons label people as "gang members" for any organizing and then place these individuals in solitary confinement or in supermax confinement which is 23 hours alone. There was also mention of the Lucasville 5 in Ohio who took the fall for the riots and are serving life sentences.

The last workshop of the day was by the National Coalition for the Homeless about criminalization efforts around the Country. As the co-chair of the NCH Committee, I gave my pitch about efforts in Ohio to make it illegal to be homeless. I did not learn much here since I help put together the national report, but helped further the presentation. I left after the first plenary session of the evening on Katrina--too much depression for one day. I missed a few cool sounding workshops on the disappearance of Native Americans and housing as a human right because of conflicts, but a full day none the less. The theme of "Another World is Possible*Another US is Necessary" did not really fit for the forum. So far, I have not learned much to hope for, but just a series of condemnations on the current system. They sure could have used a few plenary sessions on keeping hope alive and the good things that are going on in America. Maybe I was biased because of all the problems at NEOCH. Four or five workshops in a row could really put a fragile person over the edge.

Regarding NEOCH finances: Back in Cleveland, we started getting some response to our e-mails and the article that was in the Plain Dealer. Our Board secretary was interviewed by Channel 5 and WTAM. Supporters began calling and asking what they could do to help. Old friends that we have not heard for a while were shocked to hear of the problems. Letters started coming in asking the foundations to support the organization. All of the support certainly raised the spirits of the staff.

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

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gathering of Advocates in Atlanta

Official Start of U.S Social Forum

Day Two (Official Day One) Another hot day in Atlanta with the temperature around 90 some degrees. The parade kicked off in the afternoon at the State Capital. We headed over to Centennial Olympic Park past the monument to capitalism: World of Coke or Coca Cola World or whatever. An entire building designed to a stupid drink, and thousands of tourists pay to enter this shrine to corporate dominance. By the way, the entire city is dominated by Coke. They sponsor time in Atlanta and Diet Coke sponsors the temperature. They support nearly every art institution and they seem to own the transportation system. There are many workshops about how bad Coke is to India, workers, and water resources, and there is a protest scheduled after a Native American water ceremony.

We went over to the parade for the start of the United States Social Forum and found a few of the Cleveland group who came down. There were some great signs and great papier-mache masks. A lot of talk of impeachment and the state of America. If nothing else, progressives know how to throw a good parade. Drums circles, performance artists, and every possible progressive or radical political cause under the sun. It was the most diverse collection of people I have ever seen. All under the watchful eye of the Atlanta police in their motorcycles, helicopters, Segues, and those cool Atlanta police cars. There were 10,000 advocates for social justice in the streets of one of the meanest cities in the United States toward homeless people.

Their Civic Center is the center of the progressive universe for this week. There were tents for the indigenous peoples, Africa, Democracy, tent of the Americas, Immigrant rights, Youth, Native American, Solidarity Economy, and our friends from Philadelphia with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Tent. I met up with the group that came down on a bus. There were 40 people from various progressive organizations like Jobs With Justice, Organize!Ohio, STOP, and May Dugan Center. There were hundreds of information tables with literature on every problem from the 9/11 conspiracy theorists to the Vegans and the Cuban 5 supporters.

Regarding NEOCH's financial situation: The Cleveland Tenants Organization is collecting letters of support. We have received calls from many of our friends asking what they can do to help. All of the outpouring of support has certainly raised the spirits of the Board and staff. I have stayed in contact with people back in Cleveland, and we are fighting for our future.

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