Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 11/24/2007 - 19:55.

Don't Gice To Homeless Sign in Cleveland

When I went out Thanksgiving Day to capture the spirit of Cleveland, the image that jumped out at me, along the completely empty streets of downtown, was the above, on dozens of "It's OK to Say No" sandwich-boards chained to public property all over my city (who authorized these to be chained to my streetlights?). I don't even get the image here. Is this a homeless person with one of their cardboard signs saying don't give to me, because homeless people do not typically have manicured lilly-white hands, like this model... and they don't wear designer flanel. So is this a lilly-white downtown Gen-Xer who clubbed some homeless person over the head and took his sign and wrote a new message on the back?

I find it pathetic our leaders are so out of touch with reality as to spend $millions trying to improve our self-image and public presence and then allow some morons to plaster the core of the city with this mindless downer design - downer message - demoralizing for all - who designed this pathetic attempt at mind control? Who... who was paid $10,000s to put this together? You OK being known worldwide for this message, Clevelanders? Do you want to support this cause... ever even heard of them?  Learn, followers... your leaders speak:

Cleveland Say No To Homeless message

They are wrong, but what else is new for NEO

Breuer Cleveland Pan


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I'm sure NEOCH is glad to have the help, but

But, if you visit their website, you'll find this:


A small vocal minority, because of fear, often opposes services that assist homeless people especially in their neighborhood. Those that want to see homeless people find stability need to stand up and provide a counter to the “Not In My Back Yard” crowd.

And this:

Fight homelessness on a regional level!
Homeless people come from around the region. They are forced into Cleveland because that is where all the services are located.

  • Write to your local government official (including Cuyahoga County) and ask them how they are addressing the housing needs of those that are facing poverty.
  • Write to newspapers and television news outlets and ask them why they are not covering the shame of our urban communities that do not provide adequate housing for their citizens. Why do we build palaces and playgrounds, but we do not address the housing crisis?


So I wonder why one should write checks to Downtown Cleveland Alliance instead of being directed straight to NEOCH? Why do downtown businesses not want the homeless in their back or front yards? The job application for the DCA Safe and Clean program begins with requiring your address. How many homeless people are they employing?


Are they asking the same questions that NEOCH is asking? Why are we building palaces instead of helping the homeless to have a safe place to live and jobs and education? Jeff Buster suggested a jobs program that the DCA could learn from – an on demand work corps.


From the press release at Block by Block: “A very exciting element of the downtown Cleveland Services Program is the focus, which will be placed on Social Service Outreach. With the implementation of the staff a trained social service outreach professional will be on staff and will be dedicated to interacting with the homeless of downtown and assisting these persons with the process of gaining assistance from a wide variety of agencies. The Social Service Outreach professional will be able to provide basic case management for the homeless and transition them from the streets of downtown Cleveland into programs where they can be provided with shelter, food, job assistance, vocational training and substance abuse rehabilitation. This approach has proven to be extremely successful in other Block by Block cities.”

But who is their social service staff person and how does one contact them? How can you help someone transition if you simply drive them away?

And in a 2005 letter to Frank Jackson, NEOCH director, Brian Davis ends with this, “Please let the panhandling ordinance die a quiet death.  It is inappropriate to restrict where low income people can ask for money.  We ask that you avoid a court fight with the civil libertarians by limiting any legislation to aggressive behavior only.”


What happened? Read the rest of Brian’s letter here.

What if we turned this thing on its head and worked to end homelessness, moved people into homes, helped them with their issues and offered our bootstraps instead of demanding that they pull themselves up by their own nonexistent ones? What if we offered them work and a place to stay and food and safety instead of running them off so that the well to do will not be bothered? What if we stopped driving people to homelessness through this foreclosure debacle?

Again, like Tom Johnson said, "There was a certain river and many human beings were in it, struggling to get to shore. Some succeeded, some were pulled ashore by kind-hearted people on the banks. But many were carried down the stream and drowned. It is no doubt a wise thing; it is noble that under those conditions charitable people devote themselves to helping the victims out of the water. But ... it would be better if some of those kindly people on the shore engaged in rescue work, would go up the stream and find out who was pushing the people in. It is in this way that I would answer those who would ask us to help the poor. Let us help them, that they may at least fight the battle (against) Privilege with more strength and courage; but let us never lose sight of our mission up the river to see who is pushing the people in."

or to quote Jesus of Nazareth,
"Think ye that building shall endure, which shelters the noble and crushes the poor?"

Brian at NEOCH weighs in

Give as you please

I try to give help to people who seem in need, even if "begging".

It's interesting... lately I've noticed fewer panhandlers downtown and more around Coventry and Lakewood - next stops, Crocker Park and Legacy Village.

Very interesting article in the PD the other day: "Book club at 2100 Lakeside Men's Shelter getting rave reviews"... "a health literacy program between the men's shelter, Cleveland Public Library and the Care Alliance Health Center" It seems when there are such creative outlets available to any people they prove valuable - the grapevine for example.

Said Donna Kelly, one of the club's moderators and a nurse with the Care Alliance: "These men in here are brilliant and they are really excited about reading and some of them are authors, too. There's a misconception out there that people who are homeless don't work, they are all drug addicts and they don't want to be productive, and that is just not true."

One cold winter, when I lived in my office on the Superior Viaduct (before Stonebridge), I got to know a homeless man from Nigeria, who had come to America to study advanced mathematics and got stuck here without proper papers to work and money to return. My office had a kitchenette and bathrooms I shared with him, and I brought him food and let him sleep in the building lobby at night... until other tenants and then the landlord got wind and made sure he got locked out at night, and then locked me out. I soon left for California... no idea what happened to my squat-mate... under my circumstances, I didn't know how to help him more than I did, but I'm sure the solution wasn't giving money to the Downtown Business Alliance..

If more people here had cared, he could have become an asset in our community... he didn't drink or smoke, and was respectful, interesting, and brilliant.

Disrupt IT