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Ready, Willing & ABLE

by / Saturday, 26 January 2008 / Published in Uncategorized

Ready 

When I was on the TLC Board and told them about the Saturday morning meetings we wanted to have as a result of the Mayors lunch for the homeless, they said they weren’t “ready”.  That we shouldn’t move that fast until we have structure in place, and that can be part of the plan next year.  In fact they said my plan to do this was “sabotage” of the TLC. 

In fact they finally gave me “permission” to do it as long as it was not associated with TLC, but was a part of Tent City.

Okey Dokey. 

Lives are being changed NOW.

As many of you know on January 5th we went ahead and had a two hour meeting with over 100 homeless friends. 

Several items came up, but the most urgent THEY said was the lack of consistent access to the mental health medications they need to be stabilized, and the lack of consistent access to medical help and prescriptions.  

So from that meeting we got a PLAN of action for what’s needed, rather than what we “think” they need.   Instead of having meetings about how we can put together the teams to put together the plans to be able to solve these issues, we convened some of the medical and mental health experts currently helping the homeless who came voluntarily, off the clock on a Saturday morning, January 19th to create action NOW.

1 of the complaints the homeless had was they had to line up outside the Mildred Bayer Clinic for the Homeless at 5.30 am in any weather to get in line for one of the 5 morning slots for optical services.  

The suggested solution was appointments. The problem MBC had before was people getting appointments but there were no shows so slots were being unfilled.  We all thought what if the case workers made the appointments for the individual and helped assure they would make it to the appointment. 

Only six days later, it was done.  Richard Langford, Director of MBC called and said they worked out the details and wanted to give the appointment system from case managers a two month trial, with individuals able to “fly standby” to cover no shows, kinda like every other doctor or dentist does with appointments. If there are cancellations we get a call saying we can get in earlier. 

As I wrote January 1st, “To most people the “homeless” are nothing more than vague faces of poverty reflected in the mirror of a society afraid to even look, much less help.

To us that live, laugh, love and serve with them they are friends that Matter. God’s very precious children who are hurting and dying, but craving, aching and struggling for mental, physical, emotional and financial serenity.

Just like you and me! They just do not have a home.”

It is easy to see how the homeless should be treated. Just like you would want to be treated. 

Willing

As for the issue of limited access to medical doctors and medicines for preventative care. What any emergency room worker will tell you is many people, homed and unhomed come to the emergency room with problems that could have been solved much earlier had the individual without insurance had access to health care much earlier.

While our Saturday morning meetings can do nothing about the national health care crisis, we CAN do something about getting our friends access to preventative care. 

As we noted earlier Ruth Arden, EC of St. Paul’s said at the meeting that she had a friend, a doctor who is a phone call away if she needs her, often by telephone or if necessary the occasional unscheduled visit.    

Lights, bells and sirens went off.  1Matters! 1 to 1.  1 doctor to 1 shelter. 

All we would need to do is find 14 or so doctors who would volunteer to be there for 1 shelter, and we would ask them to serve a 1 year term. We knew this is doable. There are at LEAST 14 docs in this town in private practice or retired that would love to do this.  (And maybe an additional optician or 2 volunteering once a month to allow expansion of the vision program) 

A 1Matters team of 4 people from the medical community  has already started contacting docs.

The only question we had would be the malpractice insurance.   Richard Langford called yesterday, six days after our meeting and said he got approval.  Several years ago MBC had a fully funded “Black Bag” project that provided docs and nurses paid by MBC to go to the shelters.   We will be moving the 1Matters volunteer docs under the “Black Bag” project and the MBC umbrella, which already has malpractice insurance. 

Stay tuned, exciting results and details coming shortly.

1Matters, will you?

ABLE

It is my understanding from a friend in Cleveland that ABLE is planning to file a suit by the end of the month against the City of Toledo, claiming the city’s anti-panhandling ordinance is unconstitutional. 

Let me tell you a story.  Last October I was talking to my friend Mike Stoops with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington DC.  He advised me he heard Toledo is the meanest city to the homeless in the state of Ohio.

This surprised me because I found Toledo to be the direct opposite to the homeless.  I asked where he heard this, and he said a friend in Cleveland with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless told him, and in fact said that ABLE was going to file suit on behalf of the homeless.

I asked why and Mike told me they were going to take on the anti panhandling ordinance as the homeless were being harassed and arrested for it.  This was news to me, and to the homeless I work with.  In fact I didn’t even know we had an anti-panhandling ordinance.

I emailed Gerry Dendinger with city council to verify and he said yes, and emailed me the statute… enacted in 1987.   

The next day I invited the ABLE attorney working on this “case” to lunch.  He told me his biggest problem was finding a homeless person to file on behalf of.  He said he had not done any research on the history of arrests, but there were around 1200 arrests from 6/06 – 6/07 for loitering and panhandling was a part of that.  And he intended to take this all the way to the Supreme Court.  He had even gotten Jeff Gamso with the ACLU involved.  

That means the 300 or so chronically homeless  on the streets were all panhandling, and had been arrested 4 times each.  If this were true, this would be a problem I might have heard about. 

I asked out of those 1200 loitering charges, how many were for prostitution.  He said he didnt know because he hadn’t looked.  He said he had “sampled” the arrests and found most of the police reports stated panhandling as the only illegal activity.

He said he intended to take this all the way to the Supreme Court.  He had even gotten Jeff Gamso with the ACLU involved.  

I asked if he had talked to the city about this and he said no. 

I asked him that if I had a beef and was going to sue him, would he want me to just sue, or talk to him first.  He said talk to him first.

He then told me part of his “Settlement Strategy” was to get the police department to have mandatory “sensitivity training” for all officers. 

I suggested that if this was his goal, I bet a simple call to Chief Navarre would probably get this accomplished on a VOLUNTARY basis. I told him a lot of the officers I know would love this information to find other options rather than use the last resort of arresting them.  Every year at Tent City the police usually bring at least a half a dozen people to Tent City because there are options.  (Including this one we documented November 10th.)

In fact JUST last night Jonette Patterson from Furtherance Foundation  got a call from an on duty officer from his private cell phone trying to place an individual rather than take them in.  

I said I am not naive, yes there are officers, the quite minor exception on any department that harass pretty much everybody, including the homeless.  But the majority seem to care.   

I said, “Let me get this straight, you want to file a suit against an entity that you have never talked to, over a case that doesnt exist, and that you can’t even find a plaintif for?”

I told him come to Tent City the following week and ask the homeless if this was a problem.  I saw him there, a total of 5 minutes.  I asked the homeless at Tent City if this was an issue. I found only one out of at least 100 I asked that had been arrested for panhandling. I asked the circumstances and he said he deserved it because he was “drunk as a skunk.” and that was the lightest charge they could give him.

I told him I was going to publicly side with the homeless on this and join whoever he was suing to get them removed for lack of standing. I told him and a higher up in ABLE that I thought this was nothing more than his attempt to get self publicity to pad his resume. 

Lunch ended.

If you are a funder or donor to ABLE then you are a huge supporter of social justice.  And if  you beleive in true justice rather than “publicity justice” be sure to make your stance known to them.  

Addendum: This morning we had about 150 unhomed friends attend our Food for Thought.  I walked down the line and asked every single person if they knew ANYBODY that had been arrested for panhandling.  ONE person said yes, but that was when he was in Miami.  

I talked to several homeless friends about ABLE this morning. They too think this is bull and several said they will join me at a press conference after the filing of this suit, they said our police and our city deserve that support.  

Double Addendum: 1 of the questions we will be asking the ABLE attorney, hopefully under oath will be documentation and oral history of what they had to go through to find a plaintiff.  They had been working and searching for nearly a year. 

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