This is the kind of person Sue DiNardo was at West Side Catholic Center: there are over 500 photos on the West Side Catholic Center Facebook page and only one of Sue. (Even this photo seems to show her more concerned about her neighbor's well being over her own plate.) She has worked at the facility for nearly two decades and was never making speeches or calling attention to herself or evidently having her picture taken. I looked through around 7,000 pictures at NEOCH including Stand Downs, ribbon cuttings, Homeless Memorials, Annual Meetings and could not find a picture of Sue. She put her head down and got stuff done without a lot of fanfare or accolades. She was a founding board member of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and signed our Articles of Incorporation back in 1987.
She was in a leadership position on the NEOCH Board when I started here in 1994. We would hold the board meetings at the Salvation Army where she managed the family shelter. In all the years I knew her, she did what she was asked to do without complaint. So, if there was a need for a co-chair of the Office of Homeless Services, she stepped up. There was a need to take a leadership role at NEOCH when the director left, and Sue stepped forward. She worked with the board and staff of the Cleveland Tenants Organization to keep NEOCH functioning during a rough spot, and she did whatever she was asked through four directors at West Side Catholic Center.
She was not confrontational or loud or unsure. She was full of compassion and wanted to get things done. She worked at the Cadillac of shelters in Cleveland at West Side Catholic Center, and then took on the challenge of moving Family Transitional Shelter to a scattered site model for housing families called Zacchaeus House under the West Side Catholic umbrella. She was steady and reliable and wanted everyone to get along to provide the best possible service to those struggling with housing. She dedicated her professional life to serving homeless families in Cleveland and was able to see the development of an impressive system of shelters and services. In the early1980s, there were only a couple of services for homeless families mostly because it was so rare to see a family without housing before that. The number of families exploded in Cleveland, and Sue was working behind the scenes with religious groups to keep people safe. Sue helped to create NEOCH and many other programs in Cleveland in an attempt to make homelessness a brief interruption for families and not a lifelong disabling condition.
She touched the lives of thousands who may never have known her or were not aware that Sue's hard work made their life easier. All the kids who enjoyed a meal at the shelter did not know how much Sue had done to make that possible. All the men who got a winter coat and the hundreds of people that Sue's staff sat with while they filled out a housing application were lucky that Sue decided to bring her skills to homeless services. She wasn't championing all that she did for Cleveland, but she worked tirelessly filling out grant applications and completing the truck loads of paperwork that the federal government requires to receive public funds. She was a calming presence on our board when there was a dispute between the free speech folks and social service sector. Sue DiNardo will be missed in the homeless community. She was an unsung hero to homeless families; always trying to alleviate any suffering in Cleveland and accepting people with all their frailty, faults and failings.
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