Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bad Times in Cleveland

What if We Had a Recession and No One Noticed?

The Coalition, along with First Call for Help and the Cleveland Tenants Organization, presented to the Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance on Monday. Three of the four horsemen of doom and gloom reported to local housing advocates on the state of poverty. (Dana from Hunger Network--the fourth horseman of doom was not part of the event, because that would be too depressing for one meeting.) As Steve Wertheim from First Call for Help said, this is the worst he has seen things in Cleveland in his 30 years of work. Mike Piepsny from Cleveland Tenants Organization talked about the evictions in the community and the large number of people who pay nearly 50% of their monthly income on rent in the community. I distributed and talked about the State of Homelessness report full of depression and stunning statistics.

After sitting through the meeting and hearing all the negative trends in the community, I had to wonder how much worse could it get? I kept wondering that we might miss this whole recession because we have fallen as far as we can fall. Our housing has collapsed; we lost a majority of our manufacturing jobs; and we have a higher than average number of uninsured. Do we have a blank canvas on which to build? One bad sign from this weekend...the main shelter needed overflow even with North Point Transitional opening with 160 new beds.

Aviation High School, which houses between 100 and 160 people a night, closed on Friday. It was the beginning of the month when many people have money to pay for a place to stay with friends, and traditionally the smallest number of people sleeping in the shelters for the month. It was not especially cold and North Point opened, offering space for 160 people. Everything pointed to at least a little breathing room for the shelter at 2100 Lakeside. But even with all these things working for the shelter, they still had to have people sleep on the mats and had to bus people over to the Volunteers of America and City Mission. This is going to be a rough few months if we need overflow on the first weekend without Aviation. I thought we would make it until the last week of February, but the lesson we have never learned in this community is that if you build it they will come. Every improvement to the shelter system has resulted in more people seeking help. We all hope that this does not push the County to end guaranteed access to shelter.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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