I still do not understand how we went from #1 poorest city in 2003 to #12 in 2004 then back to #1 for 2005. I have to believe that the data is somehow flawed. Katrina destroyed an entire city and yet Cleveland is the poorest City in the United States? The further that we get away from the actual Census it seems the more suspect the data. I do not question the fact that Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in America just the huge swing out of the Top 10 then back to #1.
Just a simple look at the facts show that we are certainly one of the poorest cities:
- Highest concentration of foreclosures in the country.
- 20 straight years of increases in homelessness.
- An economic recession since 2000.
- Plenty of housing vacancies, but thousands who cannot afford the relatively inexpensive rents compared to other American cities.
- Most of the available jobs in the downtown area are minimum wage if you are lucky.
- Thousands of jobs lost to other states and other countries from Cleveland. Major employers (BP, the Steel Industry, TRW lost with many more coporations downsized.)
- Thousands without access to healthcare while we have one of the "best" hospital systems in the world.
- There are 25,000 people homeless every year or 4,000 people homeless every night in Cleveland.
- We have had a vacuum in local leadership to address poverty for 25 years in Cleveland with traditional business or religious leadership on the sidelines.
- For the past 10 years, we have lost fixed affordable housing structures or they were converted to vouchers.
- Families are the fastest growing homeless population in the city.
- At least 40% of the male homeless population have jobs, but cannot make enough income to pay the rent.
My suggestions would be:
1. Immediately release the plan to address the affordable housing crisis. (This has been in the works for around 2 years.) Gather community leaders to implement plan.
2. Create a County trust fund to build (on a large scale) affordable housing.
3. Develop a Public Works Program to create $10 per hour full time jobs to individuals to improve the city with art, clean up, renovation of housing, and improvement of the infrastructure. This could be paid for by a County income tax for those making above $150,000.
4. Universal Health Care within Cuyahoga County. Paid for by the cost savings from health insurance paperwork. So employers would pay into a universal health care fund instead of paying for health insurance. This would be a huge cost saving for most employers.
5. Pass a school levy and set up a financial accountability committee to respond to parents and the community to oversee every dollar. Every school needs to be more accountable to the community with transparent and frequent interaction with the neighborhood.
6. Every public employee within County or City government needs to be responsible for improving the area and reducing poverty. They are on the public payroll and together could make a huge impact on reducing discrimination, disseminating information on resources, and solving problems people have with bureaucracy.
These few steps would make Cuyahoga County a destination point for families, retirees, and those struggling to find housing. Housing, jobs, health care and public education are the most important issues that we face. Too often we have spent the last few years fighting about other issues that really don't make much of a difference. We need unity, leadership and some vision out of this hole that we began digging with the bankruptcy of the City in the 1970s and have yet to stop.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.