Reader weighs in with objections to coverage of Metanoia Project Shelter at Denison Avenue United Church of Christ

Reader weighs in with objections to coverage of Metanoia Project Shelter at Denison Avenue United Church of Christ

To the Editor:

(Plain Press, April 2020) Re: February 2020 Plain Press article by Bruce Checefsky titled “Neighbors and homeless advocates defend Denison Avenue United Church of Christ’s offering of hospitality to the homeless”

To all, I am both shocked and appalled at the content of the non-factual, opinionated and negatively slanted article towards the City of Cleveland Administrators and my neighborhood as written by Mr. Bruce Checefsky in the above defined edition of the Plain Press, and allowed to be placed in circulation by Mr. Chuck Hoven, Owner [Editor’s note: Chuck Hoven is Managing Editor – the Plain Press is a nonprofit organization with a Board of Trustees] of the Plain Press. I am attaching a copy of this negative propaganda laden article to this letter for everyone’s ease of understanding to my response. The article unfairly berates city administrators, whose jobs are to protect the citizens of our city and attempts to turn our officials into mean uncaring representatives of our local government.

Listing just a few issues with this church… There is no sprinkler system, there is limited access to escape from the basement area where people would sleep at night. If the building would catch on fire, the author would be the first to write an article berating and blaming city officials for not doing their jobs and allowing an illegal shelter to exist. They do not even have space for a dumpster, so trash is always lined at the rear of the building creating a blighting image and attracting rodents. The rear door exits to a small stoop with a 39 inch drop off with no protective railing… I could go on and on.

The February 2020 article in the Plain Press starts out reporting a person removing a leg brace so he can work… Does this suggest that this person has a false claim for medical or social services funding and removes the brace to work? It has no meaning and makes no sense.

The describing of a faded mural of the Flag of American leaning on a fence, not sure what mental image or state of thought that was meant to create for the area.

I take issue with the author’s statement that the immediate neighborhood surrounding the church in question is one of the poorest, low income neighborhoods in the city and the nation. The op-ed author speaks without quoting facts and official sources, and he is not correct.

The neighborhood is not made up of “empty storefronts” and “boarded up homes” as the author writes as he paints an image of blight and hopelessness. Be so advised that: there are twelve businesses, thirteen multi-family structures owned by Cleveland investors, two churches and approximately one hundred and thirty residents within two blocks of the church/ counterfeit homeless shelter in this article.

Also be further advised that the two vacant stores at West 97th and Denison are being readied for new tenants and the Point building at Denison and Lorain has been purchased and is being rehabbed, the two storefronts ‘for rent’ in the Denison Square building are now under lease to two new businesses and finally the prior Bollinger Funeral Home has been purchased and is being rehabbed into an upscale Day Care Facility. Why the author wants to paint a picture of blight and despair for this area is certainly a question. Does he feel that homeless people should be assigned and positioned in a blighted area?

As for the boarded buildings, a recent fire caused the building on the North East corner of West 98th and Denison to be boarded and yes, there are two slumlord owned properties adjacent that now are boarded. I am sure that they are on the city’s radar as is the burned-out building.

Be so advised since this so called, “bootleg shelter” has opened there are now panhandlers and trespassers walking the streets and entering surrounding businesses for free coffee, spare change and whatever. I had learned that several people had observed what appeared to be vagrants, new to the area that had been entering the rear of the property of the recently burned building at West 98th and Denison. Could that be the reason that foul play, or people staying warm on a cold day could have caused the fire?

I now have trespassers defecating in the rear of my building, Denison Square. The businesses in my building of five commercial units have experienced several issues with loud, offensive vagrants entering the businesses panhandling and causing a sense of fear to employees as well as clients. This is not good for businesses and this can easily place the neighborhood into a rapidly declining downward spiral. This is not what Cleveland neighborhoods should be subjected to. It would make sense that instead of thinly spreading the homeless problem into family friendly neighborhoods it should be concentrated into a centralized commercial zone where concentrated social services can be brought to bear where economies of scale and consolidation of services could be much more effective to those that need supporting services.

How is it that this op-ed author happened to write this article “without one person” objecting to the creation of a homeless shelter that is zoned and licensed as a church? Will those people still feel the same when they are robbed or when they or their children are harassed by panhandlers that now hang out in their neighborhood all day?

Bringing hundreds of additional people to our neighborhood at West 99th and Denison Avenue and to populate the neighborhood is a BAD idea… Why is that? …

Two primary reasons:

  1. Not all people that are homeless are there by choice. There are some that have made very bad choices in life and some just choose to be there. These are the people that are not vetted, not supervised and have no mission in life but to walk and wander the streets preying on the unsuspecting.
  2. Let’s think about some population and distance demographics from the area surrounding the church by walking distance: 1). St. Ignatius Elementary, 10205 Lorain Avenue, three minutes; 2). Almira Elementary School, 3375 West 99th Street, five minutes; 3). Proposed daycare at 9810 Denison Avenue; thirty seconds; 4). Magical World Daycare, 9808 Madison Avenue, Eleven minutes; 5). E. Prep & Village Prep K-8, 9401 Willard Ave., Seven minutes; 6). Everyone’s Loved Daycare, 9722 Lorain Ave., Four minutes; 7). Head Start at St. Ignatius, 10205 Lorain Avenue, three minutes; 8). A Step Above Daycare, 10320 Lorain Avenue, four minutes; 9). Willard Head Start, 2200 West 95th, seven minutes; and 10). Treetop Daycare & Learning, 7100 Denison Avenue, nine minutes.

Items A and B above certainly raises large red flags in my mind. Do we want to raise the level of risk in this neighborhood?

The homeless issue is a real and large problem and it needs to have both focus and resources intensely applied. However, thinly spreading the problem onto small unprofessional and understaffed organizations without proper facilities or a concentration of a variety of services is not the final solution or best answer to assist the homeless.

We need to wonder if the people who do not object to these neighborhood transient newcomers would also have no objections to the Church’s new idea to become a “Hot Meal” attracting hundreds of the homeless to the area. This appears to be the next step to profits for the church.

The February 2020 article in the Plain Press has a photo of Council Person Matt Zone’s delivering impassioned plea to support and assist the “heatless and homeless” but did not offer a better solution. This newly bootlegged shelter is not legally permitted, logically appropriate, or morally sound and the city should not allow the “church” on Denison to become a shelter. Let us suppose, for example, that Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church & elementary school on Detroit Avenue started to house the “homeless and heatless” at night.

I have a strong suspicion that the new condominium owners and tenants in the $300,000 to $500,000 range along the lakefront and Edgewater Bluffs, as well as the business owners in the West 65th and Detroit area would not tolerate the fallout from this “new infusion” into the neighborhood for one minute, even though Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is closer to the many service provider organizations located toward the center of the city.

I personally feel strongly that the city officials should be applauded as they have the courage and stamina to rise about the misguided social and political opinions on this issue. Hopefully wisdom will prevail, and appropriate steps will be taken to prevent the church from becoming any type of housing or food distribution center for the homeless and eliminate this problem in our neighborhood.

In closing, I would ask Mr. Chuck Hoven to give this article equal time and print in his next edition. That is the American way, correct? Factual, fair and without bias… correct?

Edward Hulesch



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