(Plain Press, February 2018) Homeless people from throughout Greater Cleveland gathered at Public Auditorium at East 6th and Lakeside on January 21st for the Homeless Stand Down led by Hands On Northeast Ohio. Many individuals and families came away with duffle bags, nap sacks or garbage bags filled with supplies to help sustain them.
Among the groups helping to organize and sponsor the Stand Down were the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Care Alliance, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, Cleveland Department of Public Health, Cleveland Photographic Society, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, Medworks, Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission, RTA, and the Cleveland Food Bank.
The Homeless Stand Down featured not only respite from the cold, breakfast and lunch but also a wealth of social services, legal services, bus passes, health screenings, podiatry, dental information, children’s dental screenings, hygiene items, outreach services and housing information. There were also games for youth and services for veterans as the Stand Down provided help for both individuals and families.
Among the services provided were haircuts by members of The Urban Barber Association (TUBA). Waverly Willis, the founder of TUBA, says he himself benefited from the Homeless Stand Down when he was homeless. Willis credits resources from the Homeless Stand Down and two years of treatment at Y-Haven for helping him turn his life around. Willis, once on the streets of Cleveland, homeless, drug and alcohol addicted and begging for money, says he is now 13 years clean and sober. He owns two west side Urban Kutz barber shops and plans to open a salon in April.
Willis says he made a commitment to God, that if God released him from his demons of addiction, he would spend his days helping people. While still in recovery in 2006, Willis founded the nonprofit organization TUBA which among other charitable services participates in the Homeless Stand Down each year providing haircuts to the homeless.