Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gary Waterbeck Passes

Photo by Cindy Miller of Gary Waterbeck

Photo Grad and Union Carpenter

Gary Waterbeck passed away this morning. For long time readers of the Homeless Grapevine or this blog, you will remember Gary from the 2007 Grapevine photo project. Gary was a strong, quiet and reserved gentleman who had struggled with health issues. Gary came to NEOCH asking for help from people who were harassing him at his campsite. He did not want to live in the shelters in Cleveland for many different reasons, and felt that he could get off the streets on his own. He met a friend of ours, Cindy Miller, who was helping us work on improving the shelters in Cleveland . I talked to Cindy about how we remember Gary, and she wanted to make sure that he was remembered for more than just the stereotypical issues facing a homeless guy in Cleveland. There is no such thing as a typical homeless person, but Gary was not even a typical man.

ry was a union carpenter who wasn't working due to the cutbacks in construction work in Cleveland. Some of the large construction projects he worked on included schools, assisted living facilities and the Lerner Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He did independent contracting work but lost that income due to someone stealing his van and all his tools. He had cut his insurance down to liability coverage. The day after he arrived at the men's shelter he got a job selling hot dogs at the corner of Ontario and Superior. He often worked through temp agencies on assembly lines and even power washing at Jacobs Field. He and a group of other men chose to sleep in a camp rather than at the shelter because by the time they finished work and got back to be transported to the overflow shelter at Aviation High School they missed meals or there was not enough food or they missed the shuttle bus. Often they did not feel safe at the overflow site at Aviation. Gary then traveled down to New Orleans in 2005 to help with the recovery efforts.

Cindy felt safer with Gary than she did in the shelters and they started hanging out together. Gary became disabled as the result of an injury he sustained while in New Orleans helping with the clean up after Hurricane Katrina. A group of men from the shelters and men who were no longer in the shelter went to aid in the cleanup. In 2006, they found a place together in East Cleveland and then a house in Toronto , Ohio . Both joined the photography project taught by Steve Cagan at NEOCH, and both successfully graduated the program. My favorite images captured by Gary are below.

In the past few months he was feeling well enough to be independent again and was active in the newly formed Toronto (Ohio) Coalition for Revitalization. He had helped in negotiating a donation of paint and supplies for a newly started project of the coalition.
Gary and Cindy fought the crushing federal bureaucracy, crazy state government rules, and small town politics over the last two years. They also had to struggle with the bizarre American health care system. Gary was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2009. His death was the result of pneumonia. He had received months of chemotherapy that drastically reduced the tumor in his throat. Gary waged a valiant battle to conquer this latest challenge in his life. Gary Waterbeck passed away early this morning, and our heart goes out to his family and to Cindy. Please keep him in your thoughts.

Brian with help from Cindy
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Photos by Gary Waterbeck 2007

Monday, December 28, 2009

Save the Date for 2010

Portraits of Homelessness at Levin College of Urban Affairs

Join advocates and friends of the Coalition on Friday January 8, 2009 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Thomas Campbell Exhibition Gallery at Cleveland State University Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs Atrium for the Portraits of Homelessness Gallery show. Featuring photos and stories by Lydia Bailey, Board member of NEOCH and staff at Lutheran Metro Ministry 2100 Lakeside Shelter. Lydia and shelter director, Mike Sering will talk as well as remarks by the men featured in the exhibit. For more information go to the CSU Urban Affairs website. 2100 Lakeside Shelter is the largest meal program and shelter in Ohio, and Lydia takes some of the stories that she has found and puts a face on the story of homelessness.

Please join us at CSU on January 8, 2009.

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2009 Homeless Memorial Day

Photo by Rosie Palfy


The 23rd Annual Homeless Memorial Day took place on December 21, 2009 at St. Malachi Hall. As authorized by recent state legislation, Ohio now recognizes the 21st of December as a day to remember the homeless. The 2009 vigil, the first with official state recognition, was a memorial to those who passed away this last year after having spent some time in their lives homeless.

The candlelight vigil joined other cities throughout the United States, including every major city in Ohio, in remembering the plight of the homeless on this winter’s solstice, the longest night of the year. Ohio State Representative Michael Skindell offered a reflection to the crowd of at least 175. The multi-denominational memorial service that followed was led by preachers Rabbi Joshua Caruso, Reverend Kelly Burd, and Minister Larry Davis. This year’s gathering, in light of the national health care debate, called attention to the health care needs of homeless people.

The following forty-seven names were read as a list of those who we wish to remember:


Andrew Bankey

James Bennett

John Bozich

Orlando Burns

Lawrence Byrd

Tonia Carmichael

Brian Chalmers

Joe Clark

Nancy Cobbs

Tishana Culver

Gary Daly aka Battlecat

Twyla Dean

Crystal Dozier

Telacia Fortson

Linda Gozelinchick

Alvah Grays

Leslie Green

Nate Hairston

Kenny Hayes

Doug Haynes

Aaron Holland

Amelda Hunter

Dina Jackson

Lisa Jockel

Timothy Johnson

Lisa Johnston

Ken Klingbiel

Leshanda Long

Willie Maddox

Michelle Mason

Jack Mulhall

Christopher Perkins

Lemmet Pinkard, Jr.

Manuel Rivera

Dustin Rose

Dean Smith

Farooh Smith

Kim Yvette Smith

Mary Spriggs

George Sterling

Diane Synkowitz

Leonard Thornton

Raymond Vivier

Janice Webb

Nathaniel Wheeler

Chuck Whitlock

If you’d like more information about the event or would like to add to the list call the Coalition at 216/432-0540.

Brian Davis

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Overflow in Cleveland

Community Women's Shelter in Cleveland Ohio

Sheltering People in Cleveland During the Winter

Will the winter of 2010 be the first year that Cleveland has to turn people away? One of the best things about Cleveland for homeless people is that we are one of the last cities in America that still has guaranteed access to shelter. If a family or an individual shows up looking for a bed, they will be given a space inside and will not be denied access. This means we will not have many babies born in mangers, but it is expensive and it often means that Mothers and Fathers have to split up. This twenty year old commitment that has survived three Mayors and many County Commissioners is something that all tax payers can point to as a wonderful use of public dollars. This has saved the lives of many individuals and clarified the role of government in serving those without housing. We do not have the number of people sleeping outside, riding the buses all night, or dying of hypothermia that other cities have because of this guaranteed access to shelter policy.

The way it works in Cleveland is that we have two shelters that act as the entry point for those without housing. We have formalize that this year by placing the central intake case workers at these two shelters. Men go to 2100 Lakeside after 3 p.m., and are given a bed for the night. Women and women with children go to 2219 Payne Ave. anytime during the day. They are given an extensive assessment to see if they have other alternatives or to figure out what their path off the street is going to be fastest for them. After receiving a bed and the assessment, it is hoped that they quickly move into a less crowded facility or a shelter that can dedicate staff to finding permanent stable housing.

If the two entry shelters are full, they pull out mats on the floor or people take beds that are empty from people out on leave or working all night. If all the beds and mats are full, the individuals are transported to other shelters that may have vacant beds. For the past two summers, we have not needed a men's overflow shelter during the summer months. But usually beginning in November, every men's shelter bed in the community is used and the County has to pay for additional spaces first in the basement of the VOA then at the City Mission and then at a local church. The transportation costs and the overnight costs and the logistics are difficult for the City, County and the shelter providers, but they have made it work for all these years.

We are worried that this might be the last year for a number of reasons.
  1. In summer 2009, the women's entry shelter had almost two times the capacity of the facility and the men's entry shelter was completely full by 5 p.m. every day. This is unusual.
  2. We just started offering "rapid rehousing" assistance to people who go through central intake at the entry shelters. This is the first time with the new stimulus programs that shelters are giving out rental assistance right from the shelter. We are afraid that this will attract more people, and the entry shelters will be overwhelmed.
  3. The economic downturn and the subsequent cuts to government programs are pushing more and more people to the point that they cannot sustain their housing.
  4. The women's shelter is having heating issues and in the near future they are planning a major renovation. We still do not have a plan for where all these families will stay during the renovation.
  5. Will it get to the point that it is just too expensive to provide shelter to all those in need and willing to live in a shelter? Some cities do a lottery every night for the limited shelter beds others just close the doors when they get full.
We will continue to advocate for universal access to shelter as the least we can do to help people who find themselves without housing.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Updates on Housing Choice Voucher Program

Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance

Every month housing advocates meet to discuss any threats to affordable housing. The December meeting featured representatives from the Housing Choice Voucher program who provided their periodic update on the success of this critical affordable housing program. Priscilla Pointer Hicks attended the meeting to give a report to the community on the voucher program. Currently, they have distributed 99.8% of all the vouchers available or over 14,000 vouchers on the streets. 35% of the vouchers are disabled, and they are hoping to be able to expand if the federal Section 8 reform bill passes.

One of the items that we hear all the time is that the Section 8/voucher holders are bad tenants and turn a neighborhood. There are bad section 8 tenants just as their are bad regular tenants, but what does not get enough attention are the bad landlords. But besides all that, there is a great deal of mythology associated with the Section 8 voucher program. What most people do not realize is how small an impact Section 8 tenants have on a community. Based on the report issued by CMHA here are the top communities based on the percentage of their total rental housing using a Section 8 voucher. These are based on 2000 Census figures of rental housing. A great deal has changed in the last 10 years. So, for example some markets have seen large numbers of houses become rental units because of foreclosures which increases the number of rental units and can alter the percentage of voucher holders.

Community (listed by %) Rental Units in 2000 Choice Vouchers 12/1/09 percent
1. Maple Hts. 1,697 541 31.9%
2. Garfield Hts. 2,460 482 19.6%
3. South Euclid 1,532 256 16.7%
4. Euclid 9,874 1,589 16.1%
5. Highland Hills 128 19 14.8%
6. Bedford Hts. 2,393 278 11.6%
7. Cleveland Hts. 7,960 837 10.5%
8. East Cleveland 7,229 687 9.5%
9. Warrensville Hts. 3,290 283 8.6%
10. Shaker Hts. 4,266 340 8.0%
10. Orange Village 50 4 8.0%

Other notable cities:
Lakewood 14,642 424 2.9%
Cleveland 98,135 7,555 7.7%
Parma 7,904 154 1.9%

It is interesting that the last mayoral election in Lakewood had a great deal of attention on Section 8 voucher holders. The victor in that race railed against voucher holders, and yet Lakewood has such a small number of the renters.

Next meeting is January 4, 2010 at 1:30 p.m. at 1350 Euclid Ave. in the basement of the US Bank building.

Brian Davis
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Homeless Stand Down 2010

Photo from a 2005 Homeless Stand Down by staff

Time to Sign Up To Volunteer at Stand Down

It is time to sign up to volunteer for the 2010 Homeless Stand Down. InterAct Cleveland is now signing people up for the Cleveland Homeless Stand Down at the Convention Center. The dates for the Stand Down are February 7, February 28 and the big social service fair is set for Friday March 5, 2010. In the past, we have needed over 800 volunteers to stage these three important events. We will be giving away clothing on the first two dates and providing a day of rest on all three days. All volunteers sign up for a training session. Volunteer trainings are scheduled in January and February.

The 2010 Stand Down is expected to the biggest ever with the downturn in the economy and the lack of jobs. We hope that you can sign up as a volunteer on the InterAct Cleveland website. We need to collect winter clothing items, hygiene items, coats, and boots. We need congregations to sign up to make bagged lunches or donate RTA bus passes. All this information can be viewed on the InterAct website.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Sleeping Outside in Cleveland

How Has The Economic Crisis Affected Homeless Living Outdoors?

Over the Thanksgiving weekend holiday, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless recorded the number of people sleeping outside; an annual project that NEOCH has conducted for the last 12 years. NEOCH attempts to count and talk to everyone (if they are not sleeping) in the area between West 6th St. & East 20th St., then between the Lake & Carnegie Ave. “We believe that this is a good baseline for the lowest number of people sleeping outside for the year in Cleveland since, during the holidays, families take their relatives inside and so fewer people are homeless. This count does not define the number of people sleeping outside, but it is a good indicator of the trends,” said Brian Davis, executive director of NEOCH. This year’s extensive search tallied a number very similar to that in the counts of 2007 and 2008.

Here are the thoughts of the Director of the Coalition, Brian Davis, on the reasons for this trend:

  • The sustained high rate of foreclosure has continued to make available a number of vacant properties in neighborhoods. Often these properties are abandoned, some still have furniture, and some even have heat. Many homeless people sleeping outdoors see this as an opportunity to find a good alternative to sleeping outside in the cold exposed to the elements and possible attack.
  • The blue-and-yellow Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s clean up crews are patrolling the downtown for the fifth year. Their presence has made it very uncomfortable for homeless people who want to be left alone but, for their own safety, do not want to be invisible. The Downtown ambassadors do make the downtown look nicer, but for some this rigid attention to the sweeping of the sidewalks makes it uncomfortable to live on the streets. There is a noticeable improvement in the how things look Downtown. Without the construction of the Euclid Corridor and with the admirable efforts to keep the streets clean, the City is sparkling and ready for a turnaround. It really looks nice and inviting if not a bit lonely early in the morning.
  • For the last two years, the Coalition has hosted monthly meetings to get all professional outreach teams on the same page. By keeping their maps of the city’s homeless updated, teams have been able to continue talking to the men and women who are resistant to shelter. The teams have worked out a schedule to talk to everyone outside in order to convince those resistant to shelter to come inside. Their coordinated efforts have helped stabilize the outdoor count over the past few years, even in the wake of economic downturn.

However, NEOCH staff do not believe that there has actually been an increase in the total number of homeless people. In fact, both major men’s and women’s shelters over this past summer were full or at overflow. Also, the number of homeless schoolchildren has risen steadily in Cleveland, a shocking epidemic that has just begun receiving nationwide attention.

If our goal in the community is to get homeless people off the streets, we have done a good job. We have unfortunately done that at the expense of the thousands of former home owners who have had to endure this foreclosure nightmare. If the goal is to get men and women into stable, decent, affordable places to live, then we still have a long way to go in Cleveland.

Brian Davis
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Homeless Memorial Day

Candlelight Vigil 2009

The 23rd Annual Homeless Memorial Day will take place on December 21, 2009 at St. Malachi Hall. As authorized by recent state legislation, Ohio now recognizes the 21st of December as a day to remember homeless people. The 2009 candlelight vigil, the first with official state support, is a memorial to remember those who have died over the last year in Cleveland.

Joining with other cities throughout the state and country, which will include a multi-denominational memorial service and a reflection by Ohio State Senator Shirley Smith. This year’s gathering, in light of the national health care debate and the murders on Imperial Avenue, will call attention to the health care needs of homeless people and the need for comprehensive alcohol and drug treatment.

To date, we will read the names of 41 individuals including the women killed on Imperial Ave, many of whom spent time in the shelters and homeless. If you’d like more information about the event, or you would like to schedule an interview with Brian Davis, please call NEOCH at 216/432-0540.

Brian Davis
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Saturday, December 05, 2009

State Foreclosure Call-In Day

From the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio

Good Afternoon Advocates!

Is a generation of foreclosures long enough?

2009 marks the 15th year of record foreclosure numbers – that’s an entire generation of wealth-stripping that we can to stop through sound legislation!

HB 3, the Foreclosure Prevention Act, has been sitting idle in the Senate for six months. During that time more than 45,000 homeowners have lost their homes. How many more homes do we have to lose before the Senate acts?

We need your help on Wednesday, December 9, when dozens of Ohio housing advocates will meet with their senators at the Statehouse.

Your calls will reinforce their visits. Ask your senator to push for public hearings on the bill before the end of the year. PLEASE MAKE TWO CALLS -- one to your senator, and one to Bill Harris, President of the Ohio Senate (614-466-8086)!

If you do not know your senator, click this link and enter the requested information under Find Your Senator.

After you make the calls on December 9, please let us know the response you received by calling NEOCH 216/432-0540 ext 100 or COHHIO at 614/280-1984 (Cathy Johnston).

Thanks for your support!

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National Housing Trust Fund

Reminder: National Call-in for NHTF $, Dec. 1 and 2
National Housing Trust Fund
Please Call Congress National Housing Trust to Get Money

Pass This Message on to Others. Let’s Get NHTF Money Before Congress Adjourns for Holidays.

Please call your representative and both of your senators on December 1 or 2. Please ask your networks to do the same.

Tell them you want at least $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund before Congress adjourns later in December. Urge them to support any bill moving through the House or Senate that contains money for the NHTF.

Let them know that providing money for the NHTF will create needed jobs. Every $1 billion investment in the NHTF, at $100,000 per unit of housing, will create 15,100 construction jobs and 3,800 jobs in ongoing operations. Also, the NHTF will support local economies as low income families can afford to spend more money on goods and services when they are not spending half or more of their income on housing.

Our goal is to create an early-December blizzard of phone calls from all over the country in a compressed period of time to demonstrate strong and urgent support for an initial infusion of money for the NHTF. Please pass this message on to your networks.

877-210-5351 is the toll free number for the congressional switchboard. Ask to be connected to the housing staffer for your representative's and senators' offices.

Questions? Contact NEOCH at 216/432-0540 or see the National Low Income Housing Coalition website at

The day of Action was Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. We missed posting it, because of other deadlines. You can still call your Congressman especially Senators Brown and Voinovich to urge them to support the creation and preservation of affordable housing.

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Guitar Festival in Kent

Annual Woodchopper's Ball 2009

9 of the finest acoustic guitarists anywhere performing. Proceeds benefit the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless on Saturday December 12, 2009 at 7 p.m. at the Kent Stage in beautiful downtown Kent.

Reserved seats are $20 for 9 artists or $2.20 per artist. You can purchase tickets at the Kent Stage Box office by calling 330-677-5005 or go to Brian Henke is the organizer for this ninth Woodchopper's Ball.

Scheduled Musicians:

· Helen Avakian

· Greg Gilbertson

· Tim Thompson

· Kyle Reeder

· Brian Henke

· Eric Wilson

· Stephanie Jackson

· Todd Hallawell

· Robin Kessinger

· Hosted by Charlie Brown

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