Obligatory LeBron James Post

This is a Getty imageThere is nothing else those of us living in Cleveland are talking about right now except the return of LeBron James to Cleveland.  We welcome him back and forgive the betrayal.  We will leave behind the talk about turning his back on his hometown and the burning of the #23 jersey.  All is forgiven and we look forward to a long and successful career in Cleveland.   How does LeBron James relate to homelessness for the purpose of this blog?   I was thinking how many LeBron James's are there sleeping in our shelters in Cleveland?  How many talented individuals never met their Coach Frankie Walker type mentor and got him on the straight and narrow?

For those who don't know the James family struggled with poverty and homelessness throughout his childhood in Akron.  His biological Dad was never in the picture and LeBron missed many months of elementary school.  One father figure who dated his Mom was sent to jail on fraud and drug charges.  He was picked up by his pee wee football coach in the fourth grade after Coach Walker found he was missing most of his fourth grade.   Walker and Gloria James, LeBron's mother, agreed that little LeBron would go stay with the coach. 

Gloria could not afford her housing and nearly lost it, but Walker stepped in to help with the rent and LeBron went back to living at home.  LeBron got a quality education at a Catholic School in Akron that stabilized his high school education even though his family was moving frequently in bad neighborhoods in Akron.   Walker introduced James to basketball and encouraged him to go to St. Vincent St. Mary's high school while keeping up his grades. How many guys at the shelter did not have a Coach Walker?  How many women at Norma Herr did not have an inspirational art or math teacher that redirected their life? How many Jim Carroll's, Bill Clintons or Tupac Shakur's are we missing--all grew up in poverty and did great things.

Imagine the scientists and scholars that we are losing as a society because talented people are languishing in the shelters or in dead in jobs?  Our society would have so many more LeBrons if we could stabilize people's housing situation.  If there was a right to live in an affordable, safe, private place we could take huge weights off our population to focus on discoveries, starting businesses, and programming computers.  LeBron made it out of the underside of Akron, but 2100 Lakeside is full of talented athletes, artists or archeologists who never found their Coach Walker.  They turn to alcohol, drugs or get in trouble with the law before finding a stable life.  Poverty and homelessness is sucking our society of great minds. 

Go Cavs, and Go LeBron!

Brian Davis

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February Links

Photo by Cheryl Jones
A Couple of Interesting Stories

The Huffington Post published an article today about the impact of dramatic cuts on families.  We have seen a sharp rise in family homelessness in both Columbus and Cleveland over the last four years.  The most frightening part of this story was from a young child in Detroit:

“He said, ‘Oh, I’m not eating dinner because it’s my brother’s turn tonight. Tomorrow is my night.’”

The report from the Annie E. Casey foundation found 67% of the children live in concentrated poverty in Detroit.  Michigan has made dramatic changes in cash assistance and dropped 11,000 from the roles.  Over 400,000 are unemployed in Michigan, but only 60,000 receive benefits.

CNN featured an inspirational story about Lamont Peterson and his journey from homelessness to Light Heavyweight world champion. It is nice to see media stories in which homelessness does not seem like a permanent condition.    

The AP is reporting that the City of New York cannot proceed with their diversion plan as we reported previously.   The decision concentrates on the way that the policy was introduced.  The judge did not rule on the merits of the policy at this point.  The City is characterizing the policy as one that anyone can walk in for services whether they need it or not.  The Mayor of New York needs to stay in a shelter for a week, and he would realize that it is not a place where people would volunteer to reside.  This is the final step for most people who have lost everything else. It is an insult for the City to say to a desperate individual that they must impose on their Aunt Rose's hospitality or sleep on the streets.