Friday, March 31, 2006

Cleveland Needs Your Ideas to Improve City

An Editorial
The Homeless Grapevine has proudly borne the self-proclaimed title of “Ohio’s Most Depressing Publication” for over 12 years. The competition has gotten a little crowded since the sunny coverage of the Clinton years has waned in most of the “liberal media,” but our laser-like focus on homelessness and poverty and the fact that our home-base is in Cleveland have helped us keep our title from these upstart challengers.

In addition to this tradition, we have also been one of the premier outlets for homeless people to get their voices into the media. In a media market that typically only mentions homeless people during the holidays or for scare-mongering and/or the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes (see our Local News on page 7 for Channel 19’s most recent egregious example), we have tried and succeeded at being a diamond in the rough.

Often, the concerns of our writers and commentators have been geared toward improving specific programs, or airing grievances about the conditions in certain shelters, or the condescending and harmful attitudes of certain “care providers,” etc. While all of these have been important to serving our mission, we feel that we can provide a platform on wider issues in the community as well.

Too often in Cleveland’s history, our leaders have sought silver-bullet fixes to Cleveland’s myriad woes. Each initiative, from Gateway to building a Convention Center, is billed as being the unique solution that will magically solve Cleveland’s problems in one fell-swoop. Ideas are proposed behind closed doors, and decisions are frequently made with little community input, and usually even less input from homeless people.

As Mayor Jackson’s interest in taking an unannounced tour of homeless shelters would suggest, we may finally have an administration in this City that is not openly hostile toward us or homeless people, nor do we have an administration eager to ignore the issues and concerns expressed in our paper. Thus, the time is ripe to widen our forum and give those who struggle to survive in this city a chance to propose more ideas to make Cleveland a healthy and stable community.

We want to hear everything: ranging from ideas about new community projects to tearing up all the parking meters or easing vending license fees. We want to hear any idea that could improve Cleveland in any way whatsoever, for specific people, or Cleveland in general.
For instance, Cleveland’s nationwide reputation is still marred by our river that caught on fire more than a generation ago. Why don’t we turn that around by pushing for innovations to make Cleveland simultaneously environmentally and economically friendly? Our large number of fast-food restaurants could easily be tapped to make Cleveland a leading bio-diesel capital. We might even be able to get Willie Nelson to move here.

Our universities could pioneer tele-commuting programs for commuter students that could easily be retrofitted for downtown companies. Parking and traffic congestion would be greatly reduced, and many of our citizens would be freed from the necessity of car-ownership or filing onboard the RTA.

We could open up homes that were closed from drug-busts during the White administration to rehabilitation by homeless people. The sweat equity they would put into their homes could be assigned a financial value, and homeless people in Cleveland could move from shelters into the beginning stages of home-ownership. The possibilities are endless, and there is no telling from whom great ideas and subsequent accomplishments will come.

It would seem that everyone except those who actually live in Cleveland recognize our City’s potential. A large part of that has to stem from the disenfranchisement of our citizens, especially our homeless citizens, from participating in Cleveland’s planning processes. Homeless people have a huge stake in seeing Cleveland succeed because it will mean more jobs, better-paying jobs, will become available for everyone.

Back in June of 2005, The Homeless Grapevine started a weblog, Thus far, it has been a forum in which we have discussed the media’s coverage of homeless issues, but we would like it to be more than that. We would like to open up this weblog as a means to collect and publicize the ideas of those who seek to improve Cleveland. The best entries will make their way into our humble pages, which get sent to intelligent movers and shakers in Cleveland, as well as people in high office in state, local, and federal government.

Working together and sharing ideas, we can all make Cleveland a better place for everyone. We can actually take advantage of all of our potential and astound the naysayers in other cities. We can’t change the weather, but we can change almost everything else if we work together.

To submit your ideas for improving Cleveland, send email to Please write “Improving Cleveland” in the subject line.

Or, send a letter to
“Improving Cleveland”
Homeless Grapevine
3631 Perkins Ave. #3A-3
Cleveland, OH 44114

All submissions will be published on our blog, and the best will be reprinted in future issues of the Grapevine.

Latest Grapevine Gives Bullhorn to Homeless

Press Release
For more information call 216-432-0540
or email

A fantastic new issue of The Homeless Grapevine has just been dropped on Cleveland! Our front page explains the dangers faced everyday by homeless people and singles out Ohio as the 4th most dangerous state to be homeless. The article, based on the National Coalition for the Homeless’s Hate Crime report, mentions the beating of a homeless individual on Public Square by two young men with a stick, and another individual who had a brick thrown at him as examples of Ohio’s intolerance toward homeless people.

Further evidence of the dangers of homelessness can be found in our center pages, where we mourn the individuals who died from homelessness in Cleveland in 2005. Over 40 individuals were known to have passed away in 2005, and a candlelight vigil was held in December to honor them.

On a slightly more positive note, an interview with Rick Oliver and Ann Poston of Mental Health Services details the efforts MHS underwent to house approximately 850 men, women, and children who came to Cleveland last year in the wake of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. According to the interview, Cleveland was the only area of the country to house 100% of the Katrina evacuees seeking assistance, and did so with a paltry $200,000 from FEMA.

But, for those in New Orleans, the situation is decidedly more grim. A commentary submitted via email details former staff writer Pete Domanovic’s experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans, saying at one point, “I have never witnessed so much corruption and mismanagement in my life.”

Domanovic’s commentary is one of several in Issue 75 that were submitted from distant locales, proving that Northeast Ohio’s street newspaper is a premiere venue for getting the voices of homeless people into the media. For instance, in this issue, we catch up with Joseph Smith, a man we interviewed in Issue 72 (“Local Homeless Man Lives Outside of Shelter System”), and he describes the struggles he has faced since moving from Cleveland to Kentucky last year. Additionally, former Grapevine writer and author Bridget Reilly (Real Life in the Marginal World) contributed a commentary to this issue in which she discusses the historical roots of US poverty policies and the negative effects they still engender today.

Inside, readers will also discover that Mayor Frank Jackson took an unannounced tour of Cleveland homeless shelters in an effort to better understand the issues facing the homeless community. Mayor Jackson met with elected representatives from the various shelters, and stressed that he would work with homeless people, care providers, and the Coalition for the Homeless on the large number of issues which came up during the tour.

As already discussed, The Homeless Grapevine always features original commentaries. An enlightening commentary about the Bush administration’s “six year old war on American Cities” takes the Bush administration to task for its efforts to “weaken cities politically and starve them by cutting finances.” The commentary brilliantly weaves a segment from Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to underscore its message.

One of the running themes of Issue 75 is the idea of grassroots democracy, and increased citizen participation. To that end, our Editorial asks homeless people and all of our readers to submit their ideas to improve Cleveland. Citing initiatives from Gateway to the controversial Convention Center, the Editorial derides the historic tendency in Cleveland to seek “silver-bullet” solutions to its woes, and calls for greater citizen participation in Cleveland’s future. The Editorial promises to publish all idea submissions on The Homeless Grapevine’s weblog (, and will reprint the best suggestions for improving Cleveland in future issues.

As always, Cleveland’s Voice for Social Justice has much more, including original poetry, feature articles, photographs, and more! Pick up Issue 75 at the West Side Market, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless offices, or from any licensed vendor.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Where did this Euclid Story Come From??

Media Drops the Ball of Euclid Voting Rights Story

So, the Bush Justice Department has filed a complaint about voting problems in Euclid, Ohio. This is the first African American discrimination complaint filed by the Bush administration in Civil Rights division of the justice department. There was a 2001 complaint that was started during the Clinton administration, and a suit against African Americans suppressing white votes in Mississippi. It must be really bad in Euclid if the Bush administration is actually acting. So, how is that I have not heard anything about this problem from our local media? These slackers at Justice picked one city in the entire United States to come down on so that it seemed like they were actually doing something before Congressional hearings begin in April, and this is the first I heard about problems in Euclid?

I talked to a few other people who read the daily paper every day, and no one had heard of this problem in Euclid until today. Imagine that we had all those voter suppression activities in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, and this is the first complaint filed by the Justice Department. There has never been an African American selected for the Euclid City Council despite one-third of the population are African American. We need the PD and public radio get on these kind of stories before they are broken by the Bush Administration.


Monday, March 20, 2006

NEOCH to Give Media Award at Annual Meeting

NEOCH to Award the Journalist of the Year 2005
This blog contains information on the sad state of the media. Every once in a while we compliment the media on their coverage of poverty. At the NEOCH Annual meeting, the Coalition will give out an award to the Journalist of the Year 2005. The tickets for the Annual meeting are reasonably priced and will take place at the lovely Massimo da Milano restaurant on May 5, 2006. Please join the Coalition as we look back on 2005 and look forward to 2006. For more details call NEOCH at 216/432-0540.

Not To Criticize Real Democracy But...
I love the Meet the Bloggers and listen to them whenever I can. Those guys do a great deal of quality work for free, and it feels wrong to criticize. They are the future of real democracy, and most likely the future of journalism. I listened to the Eric Brewer interview, and have to say that it left a lot to be desired. It just seemed like a lot of tossing of softballs, which Brewer seemed to indicate at the end of the interview. I am not a big fan of the corporate biased PD, but they cannot be all wrong all the time with regard to Brewer. I mean no one asked about the inappropriate crack about the former Mayor's weight. What could be so important that he had to break in to the Mayor's office to be sworn in during the Christmas break? He ran Onowar's campaign for Mayor, did he not realize at that point there was something wrong? Why was he so vicious with people during his journalism days? The guy was charming, but so many totalitarian dictators in our past were as well.

The New Grapevine will be out within a few days..

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Few Updates

Mayor's Visit, Red Cross Month, and Bear the Police Dog

Channel 3 did an excellent overview of the Mayor touring the shelters. Beres made the point the Mayor said that he wanted to be judged on how the City treats the least of us, and he was following up on that pledge. Good story and good digging out that story since neither NEOCH or the City did a press release before the event. If we could just convince them to get rid of non-news from their program (sports, weather, entertainment) it may be worth sitting through the commercials. On second thought, no. Full coverage of the day at the Clevelandhomeless blog.

Sorry, we have not posted for a week, but it has been a very busy week.

Sun Press News Courier Herald...
There was a small piece (big for Sun News--small for the NY Times) about a split vote over the proclamation of Red Cross month in Cleveland Hts. Three out of the Seven council people voted against the resolution. What an embarrassment for the Red Cross. A symbolic act that means absolutely bubkis passed on a 4 to 3 vote. If I were the Red Cross, I would have asked that the resolution not come to the Council to avoid the embarrassment. I would provide a link, but could not find it on their website.

Which brings me to the poor state of the Sun News on the web. Please separate from at your earliest opportunity. It takes forever to get to the Sun Section of, and then only a limited number of stories are available. They also do not have a good way to search just the Sun News or to see a flavor for the news across all neighborhoods. You have to go to each Sun news paper that you want to read and then read the headlines--"Is Independence part of the Sun Herald or is it part of the Courier, forget it?"

Dog Bark Busts thieves
Why is that no media mentioned how great it was to have Commander Wayne Drummond as a resident of the City of Cleveland, so that while he was walking his dog he could solve crimes? During this last week, Drummond was out in his neighborhood off duty from his job as Commander of the Sixth District, walking his dog when he spotted two teenagers breaking into a car. Doesn't this undermine the argument by the police that ending the residency rule will have no impact on the City? The story was only mentioned as a cheers and jeers in the Plain Dealer, and there was no mention of the residency rule. If we allow the police to move out of their city of employment as the State legislature recently voted, "Bear" the Dog might never have received his cheer from the PD.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Acting Homeless And No Sweeps Week???

Famous Tabloid Personality Becomes Homeless For a Night

I can't believe they bumped this story from sweeps week in February. Sharon Reed dressed up as a person with many layers of clothing to spend the day "homeless." I know that this stunt was done weeks ago. It is remarkable that they held this story until March. Hey, Sharon, if you are going to try your hand at panhandling use some of your natural gifts--not so many clothes. While the stereotype is that panhandlers are drunks who can barely talk, most panhandlers are business people that use their talents to get as much money as possible. The goal, afterall, is to stand outside in the freezing cold or burning heat for as little time as possible by getting as much money as possible.

So, she did a little panhandling because, as we all know, most homeless women are panhandlers? Then she went to the women's shelters to make fun of those who snore, those who do not like the food, and those who pay no rent. She certainly did a good job criticizing the women who have been in the shelter for 2 years and have had the nerve to complain. She met a suspected racist bully. In case you did not get the message: this woman deserved to be punished with homelessness (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). She kept her self respect for her one night of homelessness and did not complain about the charity that she was receiving. My hero--Sharon Reed. She was floored that people would still be homeless with "all the government programs that [she] had just learned about." Did she cross over into the twilight zone? Because I have worked with homeless people for 12 years and am not aware of any government programs for non-disabled single people. No, Sharon, public, assistance for "lazy people" was squeezed out of the system over a decade ago. I am sure that to Sharon Reed this was like crossing into the twilight zone. It was a disgusting display of shallowness to be sure.

On Friday, I would like to see Ms. Reed dress up in a suit and pretend to be a journalist. She could talk to other journalists in the city about why they continue to work even though most of them don't make much. She could go around and try to get subscribers or advertisers like other journalists? Then sleep in her car to follow up on a lead provided her by a shady guy in dark glasses while criticizing her bosses who do not understand the art of journalism.

The most disgusting part of all this story is that we live in the richest country in the history of the world and she condemns a women who expects more. We see money, waste, materialism every night on television, and this is pounded into us from a young age. Then we show up at the shelter having lost nearly everything and Sharon Reed is angry that we are demanding, "More please." How dare the peasants on the bottom bunk expect better food, better treatment by staff, or government help? How dare the peasants (who are Sharon Reed's viewers) become angry? It seems that maybe the shelter sold the women out by allowing Channel 19's Diva into the facility. Is it possible staff cannot stand to see the women complain and stick around the place for two years? It would be improper for the staff to condemn these women, but they can have a women who spends more on herself on Friday night than most of the women make in a year come in and do it for them. Can't the real journalists in the country patrol themselves and bounce out tabloid stations like Channel 19 and Fox News to restore honor to the profession?

How About Labor News on WCPN?

Every Day We Hear Business News, but What about the Other Side of the Issues?

Every Friday WCPN has 5 or 6 minutes with Scott Ralston on local business and every night a half hour with Market Place. Then an hour on some weekend business report at 3 p.m. on Saturday. That is a great deal of time on business news. How about some balance in this huge union town? How about at least a weekly show on Union issues like mine safety or Wal Mart's impact on our community? How about an expose' on the Teamsters policy of forcing the temporary workers (even those working only one day) at the IX Center to pay a $100 initiation fee while they get no benefits? How about a look at the Air Traffic Controllers after 25 years of disbanding of the PATCO union? There is plenty of news from the labor movement. How about some balance from our public radio station?


Thank You to the Plain Dealer

Plain Dealer Story on our Quarterly Teach In

A big thanks to the Plain Dealer for the story about our Teach In from Monday 2/27/06. The article talked about the number of churches that go down to Public Square and attempt to feed homeless people. This is a huge issue considering the number of people who need food who stay at 2100 Lakeside and the Community Women's Shelter. Harvard Study Group Coordinator, Jane Campbell, first raised this issue. It is troubling that she never followed up. We certainly do need some coordination of these services. We need some order Downtown, and we need the churches, synagogues, and mosques to take back the leadership of solving homelessness. For too long they have been relegated to handing out band aids when they need to be the lead neurosurgeon on this problem.

Anyway, the Teach In was successful with 42 people attending. A good panel of homeless people and some wonderful information from the local homeless services providers. We are updating our website to reflect some of these ideas for volunteers in the community. Next one will focus on homeless women look for more details on our website.