Cleveland homeless sweeps draws similar criticism to NYC's FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 12 Dec 1999 23:30:51 -0800 (PST)


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Will protest and resulting publicity impel Cleveland City Council to
address "the matter" of police arresting homeless people there?

See also AP PHOTO
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/p/ap/19991211/us/cleveland_homeless.html [A
t Cleveland City Council meeting, a homeless man holds sign which reads
"The shelters are full.  How about your place?"]

"So far, homeless advocates have had only limited success bringing
attention to the city's policy. About 40 street people and activists
protested the program at a City Council meeting this week, but the council
did not discuss the matter." -- from AP news article below

http://www.nando.net/24hour/adn/nation/story/0,1972500141439-500167550-500619241
-0,00.html
FWD  Associated Press - December 11, 1999 7:14 p.m. EST

     CLEVELAND CRACKDOWN ON HOMELESS
     DRAWS SIMILAR CRITICISM TO NEW YORK'S

     Tragedy highlights problems of homeless youth

     By JOHN AFFLECK

CLEVELAND - Democratic Mayor Michael R. White has  come under the same type
of criticism as his Republican counterpart in New York City for trying to
clear homeless off the sidewalks. Citing public safety, the mayor ordered
police to move along panhandlers and people sleeping on sidewalks and
arrest those who don't cooperate.

The homeless and their advocates are charging that White and the city are
criminalizing the plight of street people and making their lives harder -
similar to the attacks that have been leveled on Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in
New York.

Robert "Ron" Igoe, who has been homeless off and on for about six years,
said he thinks police from both cities coordinated what he called an
anti-homeless campaign. There are many differences between the homeless
problem in Cleveland and New York, however.

New York has some 23,000 homeless. Cleveland has about 3,000. About 100
people have been jailed in New York's crackdown, compared with two arrests
in Cleveland.

And White says Cleveland's program, which started on Nov. 26, wasn't
influenced by Giuliani's efforts. Still, many of the objections are similar
to those heard in New York.

"The intent of the policy is to move poverty out of sight so they will have
a peaceful shopping season," said Brian Davis, executive director of the
nonprofit Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. "The effect is
homeless people are further alienated from the community."

White announced the policy on the day after Thanksgiving - the traditional
start of the Christmas shopping season.

"As we move forward with plans for the millennium celebration and upcoming
holidays, we want to ensure that everyone knows our intention to keep our
streets safe for our citizens," White said at the time. "This year is like
no other."

White said he is trying to balance the rights of the homeless with the
rights of citizens walking down the street. Cleveland, like New York, has
an ordinance that prohibits people from blocking the sidewalk. White, who
declined a request for an interview about the policy this week, also
ordered police to hand out information cards telling the homeless where to
find shelter.

But that does little good, the homeless and their advocates say.

Cleveland has only about 1,000 emergency shelter beds, so on any given
night 2,000 people have no choice but to stay on the street, Davis said.

And if homeless people don't make it into a shelter by about 9:30 p.m., the
shelter won't let them in.

Igoe, 31, said if someone is sleeping on a warm steam grate late at night
and gets rousted, all that person can do is walk the streets or find
someplace to sleep out of sight: an alley, an abandoned building or under a
bridge.

Ron Reinhart, director of a Salvation Army program for chronically homeless
men, said the policy has resulted in homeless people retreating "farther
back into the shadows, where they are much more difficult to find" and
help.

So far, homeless advocates have had only limited success bringing attention
to the city's policy. About 40 street people and activists protested the
program at a City Council meeting this week, but the council did not
discuss the matter.

By JOHN AFFLECK

END FORWARD

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