By Molly Martin
Cleveland, OH—On the morning of July 14th, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) learned that several men experiencing homelessness were planning to refuse to leave the Ramada Inn on Thursday, July 15, the date that Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry is scheduled to cease emergency shelter operations at the hotel. Currently, 103 men experiencing homelessness are residing at the hotel to escape the danger that covid-19 and variants pose to public health.
NEOCH stands in solidarity with the men who are refusing to leave, especially after Independence’s racist and discriminatory actions to remove the men from the hotel. As of 9pm Wednesday, 52 of the 103 men currently seeking emergency housing at the Ramada Inn are refusing to depart because they feel unsafe and they are calling on the County to reverse course.
Despite the support of the owner of the Ramada Inn, over 2 months ago Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry was asked by Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish to end their contract with the hotel after speaking with Independence Mayor Gregory Kurtz. According to the hotel’s owner Sharif Omara, “We have supported LMM and these men for months and we cannot let them leave this way. They have the right, as humans, to have a safe and comfortable place to stay. It is dangerous and inhumane to throw everyone into 2100 Lakeside Ave. We believe this will definitely increase COVID-19 amongst the homeless population as most of them have yet to be fully vaccinated.”
Many of the hotel guests have spoken to NEOCH about their mounting concerns of the dangers of the Delta Variant. Anthony MacDowell, a current guest who wishes to remain at the hotel is concerned about what’s next, “I’ve got nowhere else to go. I’m not going back to 2100, especially with this pandemic and the lack of cleanliness there. There’s also no reason to give into the mayor’s racist desires to have us kicked out. I don’t understand why he’s like that. We all bleed the same color.”
NEOCH stands in solidarity with the 52 guests who are refusing to leave and have sent the following requests to Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry:
- Honor the original contract date of August 31 to keep the Ramada Inn as a designated de-congregate emergency shelter location,
- Continue supporting Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry so that they can continue serving as the lead service provider for food, security, and on-site social service needs,
- Ensure that there are no interruptions on housing applications and housing plans for guests,
- Ensure that the Country communicates directly to the guests of the Ramada Inn, and;
- Address the issue of the loss of beds from young adults at North Point shelter to make space for the men that are moving into that location.
NEOCH will be holding a press conference with guests of the Ramada Inn at 9am on Thursday morning, July 15th, at the Ramada Inn, located at 5300 Rockside Rd, Independence, OH 44131.
NEOCH will be on-site to show solidarity with guests refusing to leave.
Below is the letter NEOCH has sent to County Council leadership this evening.