Homeless advocates call downtown flier ‘disturbing’

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Two local organizations aren’t on the same page of how to best help the homeless community in downtown Cleveland.

In downtown Cleveland, you’ll hear the sound of construction from blocks away and sometimes homeless people get lost in the boom.

Josiah Quarles works with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless to help those who are less fortunate get off the street.

“So, we do a lot of outreaches, direct outreach to the streets and house folks, and try to accompany them on their journey to stabilize housing,” said Quarles.

When this week they saw what they called a “disturbing” flier regarding how to handle the homeless.

“It really kind of suggested that if you felt uncomfortable in any way by someone who was on the street or panhandling that they should call the police. Panhandling is legal, there is nothing illegal about it at all,” said Quarles.

The flier was passed out by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which Ed Eckart, the Senior Vice President of Operations for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, says was created to help downtown thrive.

“The goal is it is for downtown to be inclusive, safe, clean and welcoming,” said Eckart.

That flier reads, “responding to panhandlers,” which includes things like walk away, say no. Then the last two lines read, “If you feel really threatened call a downtown ambassador or Cleveland Police and if it’s an emergency call 9-1-1.”

“Those are in those situations where somebody feels like they are physically in harm or the potential to be harmed or in danger. Not when somebody is just asking you, you know, for some spare change, that’s not the situation,” said Ed.

Ed advises to first call a downtown ambassador and leave the police as the last resort. The coalition did not agree with that advice saying calling the police only makes it more difficult to find a home.

“That creates a host of more problems right like criminal records and could impede them getting housing,” said Quarles.

News 5 took to downtown to speak with those that walk the street every day about how they feel about the panhandling.

“I think it’s a bit much sometimes a lot of people are already having a hard time making ends meet since the pandemic so it’s like you don’t have to give and when you don’t get it they get attitude,” said Tracy McGee who was walking Euclid Avenue.

“I mean it is some aggressive and handlers that will approach you and get kind of aggressive, but I don’t feel that calling the police on them is the best step,” said Sharon Kincaid walking on East 9 Street.

Ed says they are going to continue working help downtown thrive and Josiah says give the collation a call if you have any questions about how you can better help the homeless.

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