I am often asked how I can do this work with all the depressing stories that we see everyday. The only way to do work that features any contact with extremely low-income people is to remain hopeful that things will turn around. The down payment of this hope is that every week I meet people who make it off the streets and into stability. With this overly optimistic view of the world intoxicated on hope during the holidays, I give you my thoughts on the next year.
In regards to homelessness, there are some big outstanding issues that need to be addressed early in the year. The most serious is the deplorable conditions at the women’s entry shelter that currently features mold from the moisture, mats on the floor, and a lack of bathrooms. If the facility were an apartment building, it would be shut down as not fit for human habitation. There is the on-going problem with the men’s shelter, and the uncertainty of which organization will oversee the project in the best interest of the community. Finally, there is a need to fill the 150-200 vacant units at Riverview Tower in Ohio City. Activists are looking to end the senior only policy at the building to bring disabled and homeless people to fill the vacant units.
Councilmen Joe Cimperman, Merle Gordon and Council President Frank Jackson are planning a hearing to begin the process of addressing homelessness through a comprehensive affordable housing plan for Greater Cleveland. It is hoped that this will result in some coordination of the housing activities that are taking place in Cleveland and will involve input and assistance from suburban communities. The first hearing will take place January 9, 2003, with a plan developed in six months.
Mayor Jane Campbell has set a goal of developing 1,000 units of housing every year for Cleveland. Housing activists will attempt to gain some commitment from the Campbell administration to develop a percentage of the units for those with a very low income.
The Housing First initiative has developed a plan to build or renovate 1,000 units of supportive housing over the next five years. These would be units for people who have fought long term battles with homelessness. The units would feature support services to the tenants to assist individuals from being evicted. This effort is spearheaded by the Sisters of Charity, Enterprise Foundation and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.
The West Side Collaborative is looking at developing 500 units of affordable housing concentrating on the near West Side of Cleveland. They are working on developing the replacement units outside of the Central neighborhood. The Collaborative recently hired a staff person to provide supportive services to those applying for this housing, and expects to start placing people into housing in 2003.
We hope to expand the Cleveland Tenants Organization’s homeless prevention/eviction diversion program. This has to be a part of the City Council planning process is a look at prevention efforts in the community and preventing evictions. Last year was the largest number of eviction in the last 15 years of records at Cleveland Housing Court, and we do not want to repeat that disastrous statistic.
Finally, CTO will continue to monitor and work with other activists to preserve the affordable housing that exists in Cleveland. After all, developing housing at the same time we let properties slip away is just spinning our wheels. To remain vigilant, we attend the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meetings in order to keep up to date on troubled properties. We continue to work with Spencer Wells at the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio to assure tenant input when a building is going through mortgage restructuring. We also mobilize all community resources when a building is in danger of closing down or becoming unaffordable to its tenants. CTO was there mobilizing the tenants when Longwood was threatened with closing down. Our biggest current threat is Park Lane Villa in the Hough neighborhood, which is facing tremendous obstacles to continuing as an affordable place to live. We are also keeping our eyes on the proposed development on the West Side of Lakewood, which could reduce the number of moderately priced units available in our community
Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland, Ohio.