Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cleveland: A Nice Place to Live

Photo by Pleasure Simmons, which was one of the images selected by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance Photo competition.

What Makes Cleveland Great???

The City of Cleveland feels scorned by the loss of LeBron James, and we all feel like electing Dan Gilbert as the County Executive for what he wrote and said. Cleveland is not all about sports, and no matter if the Indians, Cavs and Browns stink we have a great deal going for this city that often goes unrecognized. In the area of housing and homelessness, there are a number of things that make us among the top cities in America.

1. Guaranteed Access to Shelter: There are still some issues to work out on release of information, intake, and disciplinary procedures, but we still maintain the appearance of allowing everyone who comes to the door into the shelters. If a person is willing to abide by the rules they will have access to one of the publicly funded shelters. This is expensive and causes overcrowding, but it is a life saver for many. The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials should be thanked for all their work to protect homeless people.

2. Peace with the Police: The City of Cleveland signed a consent decree in 2000 that settled 10 years of lawsuits. The Coalition repeatedly sued the City over their policy of arresting and threatening arrest of anyone who decided not to sleep inside. We finally settled the lawsuits, and the City agreed not to arrest or threaten arrest of those who are sitting, sleeping, standing, or eating on the sidewalk. This agreement has held for the last 10 years. In that time, the population of those living outside has decreased.

3. Project ACT: The homeless children and youth program at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is over 20 years old and a model in the United States. They try to serve every child that becomes homeless in our City. They make sure that the child's school is not disrupted if the family becomes homeless during the school year. They serve thousands of children every year.

4. EDEN Inc./Shelter Plus Care: Cleveland is unlike most of other cities in that a private non-profit distributes the vouchers to the disabled. We have over 1,000 vouchers currently on the streets providing housing to homeless people with a disability. This is a great resource that the County has continued to put more funding every year into this program, and is a great supplement to the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

5. Coordinated Outreach: In both Columbus and Cincinnati, they have one or two teams out on the streets, and in both cities one of the outreach teams is a for-profit social worker employed by the downtown business district. Cleveland has five or six teams that go out on the streets to try to build a trusting relationship with homeless individuals. These teams have mapped out the entire city, and regularly meet with people as they struggle to stay alive. They have saved countless lives and moved hundreds into the shelters or housing.

There is plenty more, but this is a good list for now.

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