WKYC-TV, normally a decent local television news program, presented a one-sided story last night about homeless people. I know that local television news are only out for ratings and focus their energy on sex, blood, violence, and scandals so what should we expect? My experience is that WKYC is usually a step above the low bar set by television news, but last night was a low point for these guys. What happened to presenting the other side of the story? What happened to talking to homeless people or homeless advocates or even the shelter directors that you have defamed? What happened to journalistic standards? Tom Meyer should be ashamed of himself for presenting such a distorted fairy tale.
For background, the story was about the large number of EMS runs to the Lakeside Shelter. This is a problem, and we all recognize that there is an issue. This is too complicated of a story to put into a nice sound byte, but that does not stop "the investigators" from trying. Here is the laundry list of problems with Mr. Meyers distortion of the news:
- Why didn't the shelter get to comment?!!!
- What the hell does the number of sexually based offenders have to do with this story? Why was this even mentioned except to enrage the viewer? Did Mr. Meyer bring this up to say that sexually based offenders who have completed their jail time do not deserve an ambulance? or health care? or to live in our society?
- $145,000 to $545,000 for public safety runs to the shelter seems cheap to me. If we are willing to buy for millions of dollars a vacant building in this community clean it of asbestos and then sell it again for a loss or pay millions every year for a few sports teams to have beautiful houses in order to make money with ticket sales than the least we can do is pay a half million to keep homeless people alive and safe at the shelters. We waste so much money in this community, and you begrudge homeless people the right to 215 calls to EMS?
- Homelessness is not fun and there is nothing enjoyable about staying at a shelter so calling the fictional story "2100 Club" is just offensive.
- What do you expect, Mr. Meyer? Until we have universal health care in the United States, hospital emergency rooms will become the primary care facilities for the poorest among us. Any collection of 450 disparately poor people in the same place will require large scale and expensive supportive services with food, health care, and counseling.
- Even the lead in to the story was wrong... Tim White said, "Most of those emergency calls can be traced to one location." Are they saying that the majority of calls come from Lakeside? This is factually incorrect. If there were 1,018 Safety calls in one year to Lakeside, that would mean that there are less than 2,040 total calls in the City of Cleveland for all three safety forces. In fact, EMS alone handles over 85,000 calls a year. Lakeside is a drop in the bucket at 215 calls. I am willing to bet that calls to the jail and some of the larger subsidized housing properties exceed 215 EMS calls in a year.
- Insurance requirements dictate that only a health care professional can say if a call is serious enough for an ambulance within the shelters. Shelter staff are not qualified to make a decision about the seriousness of a health care need. No staff want to have a guy die because they refused to call the ambulance. Put a doctor at the shelter in the day and evening (more than $545,000 a year) and you would cut the number of calls way down.
- This is a battle taking place between City Hall and EMS and Fire officials. Why do you have to put homeless people in the middle of this battle? At least identify the contract dispute taking place and be honest that EMS is using our airwaves to try to get a better contract.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.