Friday, March 07, 2008

Columbus Has a Great Plan

Columbus Mayor Appoints Cabinet Official to Work on Homelessness

Mayor Michael Coleman has appointed a cabinet level position to attempt to solve homelessness. This is a great idea, and we should think about this for Cleveland. The Mayor in Columbus at the urging of City Council appointed Erika Clark Jones to a cabinet level position to do advocacy and coordinate services.
"I consider this position to be a strong voice for the seemingly voiceless," she said. In addition to homelessness, the new office will focus on three main issues: the problems of the uninsured, affordable housing and work-force investment according to the Columbus Dispatch article.
As a former resident of Columbus, I hate to admit when Columbus does something better than Cleveland. In fact, we were told a few years ago that Columbus had solved homelessness, and HUD champions them as the center of progressive thinking on homelessness. No matter the propaganda and spin, this is a great idea.

We have had a joint City and County office for 15 years in Cleveland, but it has not done much. Yes, they bring in huge dollars for the County compared to the rest of the state, but bottom line is that homelessness is worse than it was 15 years ago. The City/County OHS does not do a very good job coordinating services, all of the services are still concentrated in the City of Cleveland, and no one coordinates lobbying activities. I am going to ask the Mayor of Cleveland to look to Columbus for a better way to address homelessness. Every urban community needs a cabinet level office to address homelessness, because it is most severe expression of every other problem in our society. Re-entry, illiteracy, housing, job re-training, entitlements, civil rights and the health care crisis are all serious problems for homeless people and are the cause of homelessness. The issues associated with homelessness cause prolonged stays in the shelters, are very expensive for the public, and cause instability in society. Tax payers are amazed that if they fall on hard times and cannot afford the rent or mortgage, they fall hard all the way to the shelters. They need a voice at the Mayor's cabinet to raise these issues, and restore the social safety net in our society.

In other Columbus Ohio news, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless has hired full time staff and just published a street newspaper called Street Speech. While I am not a big fan of street newspapers that begin with the word Street (6 out of the 10 papers pictured on the front of the new paper are named "Street..."), but it is an impressive first issue. Street Speech is colorful, and has some interesting commentary inside. The paper has a review of the "Thrift Store," poetry, and a profile of the vendor of the month. Congratulations Columbus Coalition for a big step forward in providing a voice to homeless people.

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

1 comment:

Cynthia Miller said...

Columbus (understandably) is a much more progressive city than Cleveland. Obviously, Coleman is a take charge, problem solving mayor.

Unfortunately very little if any stand is being taken to address the Social Security Administration's contribution to poverty and homelessness.

I personally would like to see a forum created where the disabled homeless present their stories to representatives holding city, county, state and federal offices and demand that the government be more accountable.

Poverty is by design and the federal government, most notably the SSA, is the chief architect.