by Peter Schindler, Senior Program Officer Community West Foundation
I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at Public Hall throughout the years for a wide variety of events, yet nothing was as powerful as being there today (Saturday, Jan. 24) for the Cleveland Homeless Stand Down. As I walked down Lakeside Avenue to Public Hall, I was stunned for a minute by the hundreds of people waiting in line to get in.
Today was the day for our homeless brothers and sisters to get warm clothes, medical exams, haircuts, and the opportunity to connect with agencies that are able to meet many of their needs. I was pleased to meet friends from many of our partner agencies including the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), Care Alliance, Community Service Alliance, Joseph’s Home, the Salvation Army and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, all of whom were working very hard providing help to the hundreds and hundreds of people who were there.
I walked around and looked at the faces – many hardened like stone from years of pain and indignity, some nervous, some sad, and others smiling and talking with their friends over a cup of coffee. My photographer friend, Debra, accompanied me, and our plan was to take some discreet photos of the event. What surprised me was how many people wanted Debra to take their picture – and to talk with us.
It was as if this day was providing them with some sort of validation that they do exist and are worthy of our respect.
As I walked among the least of our brothers and sisters I was overwhelmed with a variety of feelings: grateful for what I have, proud to be part of the Community West Foundation and its commitment to our community, and a lot of anger that so many in our community are homeless and living in poverty that most of us cannot even imagine—including an exceptionally large number of veterans.
As I walked out of Public Hall I knew I’d be heading to my car and back to my warm home. What I immediately saw were many people holding a few bags of warm clothing looking up and down the street—and perhaps wondering where they were going to be spending this evening. Today was good—but we need to be aware of our homeless the other 364 days of the year.
Tonight Debra and I will be going to Metanoia, where we will help NEOCH to distribute special thermal socks and underwear, provided by funding from Community West, to all who stop by—and the majority of whom are chronically homeless.
Community West Foundation will soon be launching a campaign to collect more socks, boots and warm clothing to help the homeless in Cleveland continue to stay warm for the rest of the winter and into spring. It will be rewarding to see the SocksPlus campaign in action—especially as we face another frigid week.
To see more photos from today’s Homeless Stand Down in Cleveland, visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/CommunityWestFoundation.
Additional photos by the Villager Newspaper here.