Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Homelessness in the County Election

Very Little Discussion of Homelessness

As a non-profit organization, we do not get involved in electoral politics, but with the lack of much discussion on homelessness in the County Executive election we really did not have much of a chance to get involved. There was one question asked about homelessness in the debates between County executive candidates from September. This was a horrible question that linked homeless people to a lack of security. Now, I love WCPN and recognize it as the best news radio station in Ohio, but Eric's question was offensive. I like Mr. Wellman normally, and I know that he was getting the questions from the audience but this question should have been discarded. If someone from the audience had asked a racist question or a sexist question, it would not have been used.

But here is the only question that we could find about homelessness during the County election debate. Most of the candidates pointed out the false comparison between safety and people who were downtown and experiencing homelessness. Also, these are people and so they do not like being referred to as "the homeless." They are not homogeneous and share very little common characteristics except their housing status.

Cuyahoga County Executive Debate
September 28, 2010 on the CSU campus
Candidates for County Executive
hosted by Eric Wellman of WCPN

Candidates: Matt Dolan, David Ellison, Ed Fitzgerald, Ken Lanci, Tim McCormack, Don Scipione.

Eric Wellman Asks Question: Stay in Downtown Cleveland [and] Making the streets safer; making the streets of downtown Cleveland pedestrian friendly and safer connects directly to stimulating downtown business safety is a necessity to add it to encourage foot traffic and family friendly activity downtown. The needs of the homeless population in downtown Cleveland need to be addressed to make steps for this goal. As County leaders, how will the Council apply a formal statement of engagement with the homeless population in downtown Cleveland?

Tim McCormack: Is this about safe streets or the homeless?

Eric: I think it's about both. The question pertains to the homeless.

Tim McCormack: When I was present of the county Commissioners, we had two homeless shelters, one for women and children that was horrific. I walked in and inspected one late night and ordered that we get those people out, and within months we built a new shelter for women and children as well as many mental health persons within that population. 2100 Lakeside was built in about three months. 1,000 plus men are there every night [Editor's Note: Lakeside can only serve 400 people with a maximum of 550 with overflow--not 1,000 people]. Many of who are veterans, now all of you think some times the worst were pathetic in many as in where there lives have gone. So I was very active in building that must important to close off. Service wrap around drum addition, mental health and housing services are all their now on site in order to move them to viability.

Don Scipione: I don't see the relationship between homelessness and safety. First of all, I agree with Tim's clarification of the question. There are two separate issues. Now, are talking about the homeless situation. This is what County government does it part of there responsibility deal with people who can not help themselves, we get to create a more variant society that will lend it self to more people working at job and prosperity that's a long term solution, but let's not get confused. San Francisco... has anyone ever been to San Francisco and seen a homeless person? They are all over the place that's not stopping tourist coming to the city.

Matt Dolan: Here is an example of the co-operation level we talked about; we can be involved in public safety. We are the administrative arms of law enforcement and the city has a jail and the county has a jail that is an example. You work with the city and let the administrative arms of the county run the jails that allows the city to be what they are responsible for public safety and law enforcement. More people, more officers on the street so that the people feel save to come downtown to work downtown and create the thriving atmosphere that I talked about in my opening. The County has to change, as Tim McCormack says, its delivery of services wrapped around those who run...administrate and operate 2100 Lakeside; continue those relationships with the non-profit sector so that we are administrating those county services as effectively as we can to get people back to work and in good health.

David Ellison: The homeless are not necessarily criminals and they don't... I have a problem with the question just like the others do. The County, the majority of County, its work is to provide health and human services and its primary obligation until this new charter was passed. The reality is that it's not working very well right now and in the time of greater economic stress, it's going to work even more poorly. We have to find a way to engage the people who don't have homes that are homeless and at the same time address the problems of criminal behavior and punishment and that kind of thing. If people don't have options and opportunities except to commit crime or to be out on the street, our system is working and we should be looking to solve problems.

Ed Fitzgerald: When I was Mayor in my city, we made sure we preserved human services so that those who do find themselves to be homeless have options. We have a very aggressive program when it comes to trying to provide housing, especially transitional housing. We have had some success with. My city, as we sit here today, is 27% smaller in terms of personnel, which allowed us to make a lot of physical progress, but we used some of these savings, and put them into our Police Department, which is now 10% larger. We integrated those Police officers into them up and down our commercial area- we have what is called neighborhood police officers. It has worked. Our crime rate overall is down 18%, and robberies in my city are down by 20% - our overall crimes are down by more than 40%. The county can play a roll in this. Over 10% of county employees are Sherriff Department employees. They have a downtown patrol that would be a good first step. There is more they can do to support local law enforcements and direct services.

Ken Lanci: I had the opportunity to spend several hours at the homeless shelter. I went in the afternoon to handle the intake. There were 330 people that day. We served meals and after that, I sat down with several of the homeless to try to understand how they got there. I think we have put more emphasis on prevention. (When the horse is out of the barn, it is really hard to go get him.) What I came back with is the feeling that our Judges, in a lot of cases, are over sentencing people for non-violent crimes. Crimes, which one would think, you would have to think about them in the perspective of who is going, what there record and do they deserve this? Because when you sentence someone to prison, you have ruined their opportunity to get a job. So therefore, they end up, if they have a family, with family or relatives or they end up in a homeless shelter. My focus is going to be on prevention working to be able to help them before they get there.

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