Editorial: Cleveland Needs Your Ideas to Improve City

      The Homeless Grapevine has proudly borne the self-proclaimed title of “Ohio's Most Depressing Publication” for over 12 years. The competition has gotten a little crowded since the sunny coverage of the Clinton years has waned in most of the “liberal media,” but our laser-like focus on homelessness and poverty and the fact that our home-base is in Cleveland have helped us keep our title from these upstart challengers.

      In addition to this tradition, we have also been one of the premier outlets for homeless people to get their voices into the media. In a media market that typically only mentions homeless people during the holidays or for scare-mongering and/or the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes (see our Local News on page 7 for Channel 19's most recent egregious example), we have tried and succeeded at being a diamond in the rough.

      Often, the concerns of our writers and commentators have been geared toward improving specific programs, or airing grievances about the conditions in certain shelters, or the condescending and harmful attitudes of certain “care providers,” etc. While all of these have been important to serving our mission, we feel that we can provide a platform on wider issues in the community as well.

      Too often in Cleveland's history, our leaders have sought silver-bullet fixes to Cleveland's myriad woes. Each initiative, from Gateway to building a Convention Center, is billed as being the unique solution that will magically solve Cleveland's problems in one fell-swoop. Ideas are proposed behind closed doors, and decisions are frequently made with little community input, and usually even less input from homeless people.

      As Mayor Jackson's interest in taking an unannounced tour of homeless shelters would suggest, we may finally have an administration in this City that is not openly hostile toward us or homeless people, nor do we have an administration eager to ignore the issues and concerns expressed in our paper. Thus, the time is ripe to widen our forum and give those who struggle to survive in this city a chance to propose more ideas to make Cleveland a healthy and stable community.

      We want to hear everything: ranging from ideas about new community projects to tearing up all the parking meters or easing vending license fees. We want to hear any idea that could improve Cleveland in any way whatsoever, for specific people, or Cleveland in general.

      For instance, Cleveland's nationwide reputation is still marred by our river that caught on fire more than a generation ago. Why don't we turn that around by pushing for innovations to make Cleveland simultaneously environmentally and economically friendly? Our large number of fast-food restaurants could easily be tapped to make Cleveland a leading bio-diesel capital. We might even be able to get Willie Nelson to move here.

      Our universities could pioneer tele-commuting programs for commuter students that could easily be retrofitted for downtown companies. Parking and traffic congestion would be greatly reduced, and many of our citizens would be freed from the necessity of car-ownership or filing onboard the RTA.

      We could open up homes that were closed from drug-busts during the White administration to rehabilitation by homeless people. The sweat equity they would put into their homes could be assigned a financial value, and homeless people in Cleveland could move from shelters into the beginning stages of home-ownership. The possibilities are endless, and there is no telling from whom great ideas and subsequent accomplishments will come.

      It would seem that everyone except those who actually live in Cleveland recognize our City's potential. A large part of that has to stem from the disenfranchisement of our citizens, especially our homeless citizens, from participating in Cleveland's planning processes. Homeless people have a huge stake in seeing Cleveland succeed because it will mean more jobs, better-paying jobs, will become available for everyone.

      Back in June of 2005, The Homeless Grapevine started a weblog, http://homelessgrapevine.blogspot.com. Thus far, it has been a forum in which we have discussed the media's coverage of homeless issues, but we would like it to be more than that. We would like to open up this weblog as a means to collect and publicize the ideas of those who seek to improve Cleveland. The best entries will make their way into our humble pages, which get sent to intelligent movers and shakers in Cleveland, as well as people in high office in state, local, and federal government. 

Working together and sharing ideas, we can all make Cleveland a better place for everyone. We can actually take advantage of all of our potential and astound the naysayers in other cities. We can't change the weather, but we can change almost everything else if we work together.

To submit your ideas for improving Cleveland, send email to homelessgrapevine@neoch.org. Please write “Improving Cleveland” in the subject line. 

Or, send a letter to:

 “Improving Cleveland”

Homeless Grapevine

3631 Perkins Ave. #3A-3

Cleveland, OH 44114

 All submissions will be published on our blog, and the best will be reprinted in future issues of the Grapevine.

 Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 75 March-April 2006 Cleveland, Ohio.