What is Wrong in Ohio City?
In the last month, the Plain Dealer has reported a growing amount of anger on the near West Side of Cleveland with letters and stories. The Coalition for the Homeless has had over the last four years witnessed growing hostility toward poor people in Tremont and Ohio City. From the attempts to move the women's shelter to the West Side of Cleveland and to find a good compromise to the problems at the Jay Hotel, there is a rising level of tensions. The problem is that both Tremont and Ohio City residents feel they are overburdened with poor people despite the reality that 9% of the County jobs have disappeared over the last six years of RECESSION, and so poor people are everywhere.
The Coalition has been especially critical of the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation, because it is the opinion of many at the Coalition that they have done very little to heal the anger or bridge the gulf between poor people and the wealthier homeowners and merchants. Many in positions of leadership with OCNW keep forwarding the myth that they are unreasonably overburdened with social services to respond to the needs of poor people. They assisted with the closure of the Jay Hotel, and now are working on getting rid of all the "drug dealers and criminals" from Riverview. They dropped the line about a preference for affordable housing from their mission statement, and have made it difficult to locate a site for the replacement units at Riverview.
It just seems like many in Ohio City and OCNW are saying to the rest of us: "We don't care where those people with problems live as long it is not in 'our neighborhood.' " Many of those with drug and alcohol problems or a criminal past have now taken up residence on our city streets, under bridges and are now attempting to find a warm places including those in Ohio City.
OCNW has provided no leadership in finding solutions and seems to allow the loudest, angriest,
and those gripped with fear to rule the day. My concern is that they lost their social justice and community organizing roots. I have heard from many of the activists who live on the near West Side similar concerns about OCNW. Many in positions of leadership confuse charity with justice, but they are very different concepts. Helping out with a meal or hosting a Christmas party once a year does not change the culture or the community. Applying for tax credits for "lower" income people to live or rooting out "bad people" is certainly not justice. It does not end discrimination or provide a safe or decent environment to grow, and it certainly does not make a change in society to increase the opportunity for those less well off.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.