Commentary by Brian Davis
Homeless people and social service providers welcome you to Cleveland Ohio as you debate policy and leadership challenges facing the United States. We hope that you keep in mind the growing problems associated with homelessness and the crisis in affordable housing. This is especially relevant in a city that was ground zero for the foreclosure crisis. You can see our pock marked neighborhoods of vacant land and abandoned properties to see how we needed a sheriff to regulate the housing sector. With the help of the national model program the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we are beginning to come back from this body blow to our neighborhoods.
We are no longer the City that was responsible for the creation of the EPA with our river catching on fire. We have solved our internal battles that almost lead to default, and we won a championship to get that monkey off our back. We are no longer the punch line on late night television and we represent the suffering that is going on in America. Cleveland is a strong city for community organizing, pride in unions, and progressive ideas, but we also want to see the division in our country end. Cleveland can be the starting point for a reaching across the aisle to solve problems.
Cleveland is one of the few cities in the United States that has guaranteed access to shelter, which has saved hundreds of lives. We have some fantastic outreach workers who are committed to building positive relationships with homeless people. We have made peace between homeless people and the City of Cleveland as well as the Cleveland Police after many lawsuits. We have some work to do on the shelters in Cleveland and we are losing shelter space at a rapid clip.
The City is on the rebound. We have some fantastic arts institutions thanks to a tax that we imposed on ourselves. We have a decaying infrastructure that we could use help from the federal government. We have a rough road ahead with our public transportation system that we could use state help with. Like the art tax, we need a dedicated revenue source to build more housing. We have a good music scene (check out the Beachland Ballroom) and we have some wonderful restaurants (check out Club Isabella in University Circle).
We need more jobs and need more housing help from the federal government, but you could learn a lot from us about how we have reduced veteran’s homelessness significantly. We need to pass a voter bill of rights to stop all the fights in the states over disenfranchisement and we need to expand civil rights protections to homeless people. We have an amazing collaborative to get birth certificates to homeless people that could be replicated throughout the United States and we did a pretty good job getting people signed up for healthcare.
Thanks for coming to Cleveland and enjoy your stay, but don’t forget to keep your eyes on the prize. We need a United States to take the lead on justice and liberty so that we can all pursue happiness.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle April 2016 Issue 23.2 Cleveland Ohio