Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cleveland Weekend

 For social work seniors it's Cleveland Weekend time!

The weekend in Cleveland, being hosted by The Catholic Worker and St. Patrick's Parish, has been part of the senior-level Community Practice course since the mid-1990's. The weekend is structured to introduce students to the "living laboratory" of the Near West Side/Ohio City area of Cleveland on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River. The neighborhood has changed continuously over the years as the process of gentrification has moved forward. Old dilapidated houses were purchased by young urban professionals who liked the neighborhood's proximity to downtown Cleveland offices and who saw the potential for rehabilitation of the sound but deteriorated Victorian housing stock. As the neighborhood housing was restored and higher income people became more numerous, businesses catering to them followed.
A view from the bridge
Through the process of gentrification, housing values rise. The low-income people of the neighborhood get pushed out. If they are renters, their dwellings get rehabilitated and they can no longer afford the rent. If home owners, they come to the point where they cannot afford the taxes on their increasingly valuable homes.  Some sell and move, but others feel attached to their neighborhood and do not wish to leave. The increasing taxes leave them little money for repairs on their homes. Gentrifiers sometimes become impatient with the remaining low-income residents and would like for them to be pushed out, but other newcomers enjoy the diversity of the community.

Today the neighborhood has a rich diversity of income levels and ethnicities. Agencies and church-supported services serve the homeless and those with low income. Fancy restaurants and specialty shops serve those with higher incomes. This brief description of the Near West Side of Cleveland sets the stage for the seniors' weekend exploring the neighborhood and talking to its residents.

The first group of seniors have already returned, and the second group are headed out this weekend. If you've been on a Cleveland Weekend trip and would like to tell us about it here, please let Prof. Stratton or Liza Kelley know. We won't post anything specific until both groups have come back from their experience (no spoilers!) but if you have an insight or reflection you want to share, we'll put it up.