Jay Westbrook and Maria Smith were honored by the Homeless Coalition as the 2013 and 2012 Ione Biggs Social Justice Award winners respectfully. We presented them with a plaque that they can display on their office wall. We also have a recognition plaque in the office with the engraved names of the previous winners. We keep Ione Biggs name alive in Cleveland with this Social Justice award, and each of the winners knew Ms. Biggs and were fans of her advocacy and dignity.
For those who do not know, Ione Biggs was one of the first female police officers in Ohio. She had a long history of fighting for the rights of women especially women of color. She was an anti-war activist. She was a long time friend of NEOCH and regularly attended our demonstrations for improved conditions in the shelters. Biggs was a member of the City Club and she was regularly asking leading questions to those who had to face her for the weekly lunch. The Ione Biggs Social Justice Award is intended to highlight the life achievements of the recipient in the area of community service, public policy, access to justice, and equality that changed the lives of those who live in Greater Cleveland. Previous winners include David Westcott, Gail Long and Frank Jackson.
Maria Smith is an attorney at Legal Aid Society of Cleveland specializing in eviction prevention and she has a deep understanding of re-entry and benefit issues. On the award that we gave to Maria Smith as the 2012 Biggs winner it said,
For a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the advancement of equality, civil rights, structural change, as well as increasing the opportunities of the politically, economically and socially disadvantaged in Greater Cleveland to obtain affordable housing or maintain existing housing. Smith has worked to create a society that can forgive and can provide equal access to its people.
Maria Smith has worked to keep people out of the homeless shelters and pushing an agenda to forgive those who have served their time. She advocates for reducing barriers to affordable housing and broadening access to subsidized housing units. Smith works on a daily basis to prevent improper evictions. She has co-chaired the County Re-Entry Task Force, which has created greater opportunities for those attempting to re-integrate into society and find stability. Smith has made a long career in arguing against spending US tax dollars on death and war arguing for allowing tax payers to direct public dollars to peace and human services. We congratualate Maria Smith for the decades of service to Cleveland, homeless people and creating a just society.
We also recognized retired Councilman Jay Westbrook of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Here is the inscription on Westbrook's award:
For a distinguished career serving the people of Cleveland and assisting the economically and socially disadvantaged to access federal resources and maintaining a safe place to live in our community. He provided honorable service to those struggling with housing and living in poverty attempting to work toward a more just society.
Westbrook was one of the leaders of the strategic plan that led to the creation of the County Office of Homeless Services in the early 1990s. He has worked to preserve and expand affordable housing in Cleveland, and was always a friend to the Homeless Coalition. Westbrook was railing against the financial services industry for raping the Cleveland neigbhorhoods years before the tidal wave of foreclosures. He helped try to pass legislation to protect the neighborhood which were all challenged by the banks and mortgage servicers. Westbrook as City Council President and member of the leadership team on City Council maintained universal access to shelter for the last 25 years. We believe this policy has saved the lives of thousands of people locally. We congratuate Jay Westbrook as the 2013 Ione Biggs Social Justice award winner.
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