When CityBeat heard the Westwood Civic Association was planning a so-called “West Side Summit,” the group's leader responded that he was seeking input from various West Side neighborhood groups and that they could help set the agenda.
A recent e-mail exchange between WCA President John Sess and a Community Press reporter, however, in which Sess attempts to get publicity for the event, paints a somewhat different picture about its purpose.
UPDATE: The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless has canceled its Wednesday mock rally for Western & Southern Financial Group. The Coalition Tuesday evening released the following statement: "Due to a change in plans the mock 'Rally to Support Western and Southern' has been canceled. Stay tuned for upcoming gatherings and events to support the Women of the Anna Louise Inn as we fight for the right of self determination."
The following is CityBeat's Tuesday afternoon blog post in response to the event announcement:
The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless is helping to organize a mock rally to support what it believes is the bullying of the Anna Louise Inn women’s shelter by Western & Southern Financial Group. The mock group will be called “Citizens for Corporate Bullies” and will hold signs that say “Greed is Good,” “We Support Corporate Bullies,” “Poor Women Not Welcome” and “W&S Take Whatever You Want.” The event begins a noon May 2 at 4th and Sycamore streets.
The Coalition has created a fake persona who supports W&S’s desire to build condos to attract a more desirable class of residents and rhetorically asks, “Besides, what gives the Anna Louis Inn the right to stay in that building just because they own it and it’s been there for a hundred years?”
The protest is in response to ongoing legal issues surrounding the Inn’s proposed expansion and W&S’s development efforts in the neighborhood. CityBeat last October reported on the situation in a story titled, “Putting on the Pressure: Western & Southern won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” The following is an excerpt summarizing the situation then:
Last summer the facility’s owners rebuffed an offer from the powerful Western & Southern Financial Group to buy their property, triggering a heated legal battle. The company, located near the Anna Louise Inn in the affluent Lytle Park district on downtown’s eastern edge, wanted the site so it could demolish or redevelop the Inn and build upscale condominiums.
After the offer was rejected, the Anna Louise Inn continued with a long-planned renovation and was awarded a $2.7 million loan by Cincinnati City Council. That’s when Western & Southern filed a lawsuit against the Inn and the city, alleging zoning violations.
The showdown pits the Inn, opened in 1909 with the help of prominent attorney Charles P. Taft, against a company that ranks in the Fortune 500 and is headed by CEO John Barrett, an ex-chairman of the Cincinnati Business Committee who is widely considered one of the most powerful men in the city.
The facility’s owners and some city officials say Western & Southern is trying to use its sizable financial resources publicly, along with its political clout behind the scenes, to strong-arm opponents and get what it wants.
Representatives for W&S have stated that the company's $3 million offer to purchase the building is fair and have also offered to aid the Inn in finding a new location.
WVXU reported that supporters of the Inn held a rally April 4 calling for a quick judgment in a court case that could delay funding for the renovation.
Anywhere but here.
That's the common response when city residents are asked where group homes for men and women experiencing homelessness and/or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction should be operated.
While most citizens seem to agree that the group recovery facilities like halfway homes and supportive housing are generally a good thing, there's one point everyone seems to disagree on: where to put them.
Most recently, a 100-unit supportive housing development that would house chronically homeless and disabled, low-income individuals became the subject of much ire when residents near the proposed site in Avondale complained the facility would threaten the safety and revival efforts in an area already oversaturated with low-income housing.
Now, a Ludlow, Ky., branch of a local entity operating
transitional housing facilities for recovering addicts across the
Greater Cincinnati area is facing scrutiny from the Ludlow Historic
Society, a small advocacy group that works to promote and preserve the
neighborhood's historic buildings.
In an email to society members obtained by CityBeat, Ludlow Historic Society President Ruth Bamberger wrote:
While we believe that ex-addicts need housing, the city has serious concerns with its ability under current law to control or limit housing to this population. The Ludlow Historic Society is likewise concerned because we are striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their homes and raise their families.
Bamberger specifically cited concerns about the program’s legitimacy, its proximity to schools and its affect on the Ludlow housing market.
New Foundations Transitional Living (NFTL), a for-profit, private transitional housing operator founded in 2010, runs seven sober houses across the Greater Cincinnati area for men and women who have successfully completed a detox or rehab program and have been discharged from the court system.
NFTL also works with treatment centers and probation officers to monitor residents entering the program. The program supports itself completely from rental fees paid by patients in the program; residents are charged $322 per month for housing, amenities and some therapeutic and rehabilitation services.
Transitional living facilities for drug and alcohol rehabilitation generally provide low-cost housing to people recovering from addiction interested in getting their lives back on track, while "halfway houses" usually cater to people recently released from incarceration that need more rehabilitation to assimilate back into society.
Jason Lee Overbey, director for New Foundations Transitional Living, thinks that Bamberger’s contempt is berthed from misinformation and stereotyping. “New Foundations is not low-income housing,” he says. “We are not a shelter. We are an organization providing residents a safe place to reside — with structure, observation and assignments — to begin and maintain their journey in recovery."
Overbey says that all applicants go through an extensive screening prior to being accepted. NFTL doesn't accept sex offenders, arsonists or anyone with an open felony or misdemeanor warrant, and prospective residents also have to commit to stay drug- or alcohol-free and maintain employment.
“The people that live in our facilities dress nice, they smell nice, they’re educated,” he says. “A lot of our residents are professionals themselves. They pay taxes, shop, go to church, give back to the community in Ludlow. Who should we be more worried about, them or someone anonymous in the neighborhood who could be violent or actively abusing?”
The Ludlow, Ky., location, Elm Men's House, currently houses 13 patients who have either willingly checked themselves into the program and were accepted following a comprehensive application process or ordered to live in one of the facilities by a court, although those mandated comprise less than half of NFTL's residents.
The Historical Society held a private meeting on Tuesday,
Oct. 8 in Ludlow's City Council chambers with City Administrator Brian
Richmond. Overbey says the Historical Society has not responded to New Foundations' meeting requests.
Neither of the two buildings encompassing the Ludlow facility are actually designated as "historic."
There’s not much information on the community ripple effects of transitional housing, although one 2010 study found residents were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence, ultimately concluding:
The promising outcomes for SLH residents suggest that sober living houses might play more substantive roles for persons: 1) completing residential treatment, 2) attending outpatient treatment, 3) seeking non-treatment alternatives for recovery, and 4) entering the community after criminal justice incarceration.
The Ludlow Historic Society could not be reached for comment.
Cincinnati City Council is set to approve $960,000 to fund this year’s Summer Youth Employment Program, but the councilwoman overseeing the process wants to begin collecting data to track outcomes and increase efficiency.
Council’s Budget and Finance Committee this afternoon heard a presentation from city staffers about plans for the 2012 program, which is designed to provide employment and training for low-income youth.
The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC), a quasi-independent agency based at City Hall, has a new chairman and vice chairwoman.
The CHRC's board of directors has elected Robert Harris to serve as chairman, and Carla Walker to serve as vice chairwoman.
Urban analyst Aaron M. Renn is a consultant, speaker, writer and blogger on a mission to "help America's cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century." His popular blog, The Urbanophile, examines different cities and explores a variety of urban planning topics, including innovative strategies for urban success.
Aaron recently posted a lovely long song to our fine city saying we have "the greatest collection of assets of any city [our] size in America," even going so far as to say that the Queen City has an "embarrassment of riches."