Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Good Will Gone Wild

Local University Students Sleeps Outside

I have never been a big fan of these fund raisers, but apparently Habitat for Humanity supports the concept locally. CWRU students slept outside earlier this month, and had a great night. One of our old interns wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the mixed up message and inappropriate stereotypes. Mike is correct that it is difficult to match the goals of raising dollars with awareness campaigns. There is some debate at the national level about these pizza and box nights. It is not fun to be homeless and it is nearly impossible to realize the problems faced by homeless people in one night.

The issues associated with being homeless is that there collapse of all stability without an end in sight. There is no place that is safe that people can use as a headquarters. There no place to put your stuff as George Carlin loved to talk about. There is no privacy and the future is always cloudy when you lose your housing. It may be fun for one night or even a couple of weeks, but that sense of freedom wears off real fast. Eventually, we need a regular safe place to return to. We all need a dresser to hold important documents and clean clothing. We want to stay up late if we feel like it, and we want a private quiet place to just think.

I know in Columbus and Athens do a homeless experience project to try to get across to students the frustration of being homeless, but they are not usually fundraising opportunities for the agencies. Back in the 1980s, the students built a shanty on the quad at CWRU. This was my first experience with the problem of homelessness, and got me interested in working on these issues. It was not a fund raiser, but an attempt to get the students involved in the problem. This was similar to the anti-war and anti-apartheid movements of the 1970s and 1980s. The organizers brought in speakers both local and national and confronted the university administration over their lack of involvement in addressing poverty. The students were arrested, but it generated a great deal of media and student attention. The group that formed met throughout the rest of the year and did a few other events to try to push the university to become more involved in taking a leadership role in addressing the poverty all around the school.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

We Need Blankets!!!

The Shelters Are In Need of Your Help!!

The Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Men's Homeless Shelter at 2100 Lakeside is in need of blankets for their residents. The economic downturn has caused them to lose a few of the sources they had supplying their blankets so they have asked for our help. They will take any new or good used blankets in any size. Please consider doing a blanket drive where you work or at your faith congregation for 2100 Lakeside Shelter. Blankets can be dropped off at the shelter on your way to work, at lunch, or on the way home. If you do a blanket drive and can collect more than 30 blankets one of the shelters would be happy to pick them up for you. For more information or to schedule a pick up call NEOCH at 432-0540 ext. 103

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Reply to Shelter Standards Request

Guidelines vs. Regulations

The Homeless Congress has secured the endorsement of 20 City Council candidates to pass some kind of regulations of the shelters. The list of council members is regularly updated on the NEOCH website with a link to the proposed legislation as written by the Congress.

One interesting note came by fax on October 5, 2009 from current City Councilman Anthony Brancatelli and candidate for Ward 2. While he checked the box in support of the proposal to regulate the shelters, he altered the the form to say that he would work to pass "or support" the regulations. Then at the end he added that he supports the concepts, and Brancatelli added "and understand that the state may provide such regulations." Some Council members have been deceived into thinking that the guidelines published by the State Department of Development are an adequate substitute to local regulations.

These guidelines have no enforcement mechanism, and there is no place within the State to go to complain about violations of these guidelines. All the shelter director has to do is sign once a year that they follow these guidelines and they get their money. No shelter has ever had their funding removed, because they are not following the guidelines. These rules have no provision for even enforcing violations of the suggested guidelines. So, even if a homeless person walked all the way down to Columbus and found the Department of Development they have no way of filing a complaint. There is not even an inspector general who can ever audit the shelters to see if they are in fact abiding by the state recommendations.

What homeless people are asking for is some local oversight of the shelters. They want someone to complain to when their stuff is inappropriately thrown away. They want someone impartial who will listen if they think that they were wronged. They want someone watching the millions of dollars that go to the shelters in our community. It is a simple request, but it seems like some bureacrats don't want to have to take sides and so are forwarding the myth that the shelters are already regulated. We are not accepting support for guidelines as a substitute for support for regulations.

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