November Voting Nightmare and Ohio Poverty Cited As Big Concerns at September Housing Meeting

by Sarah Valek

   The Cuyahoga Housing Alliance (CAHA) held its annual forum on housing issues amidst an array of depressing facts and figures. The key speaker, Bill Faith, the Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), presented some troubling statistics.

   According to Faith, Cuyahoga County, besides being home to the claimed “Poorest City in America,” has a rate of foreclosures three times higher than the national average. But it’s not just us—the rest of Ohio is looking pretty bleak these days, with the whole state being number one in the nation for foreclosures. Less than 50% (650,000) of Ohioans live in “deep poverty,” which consists of a family that makes less than $10,000/year.

   This is a direct call for more affordable hosing, according to Faith. The goal for COHHIO over the next few years is to find more comprehensive solutions to our statewide problems of foreclosures and lack of housing.

   Faith presented many possible solutions to explore, one of them being a local Housing Trust Fund in Cuyahoga County. Every county in the state has a real estate transfer fee that could be used for such a fund. Money raised by the fee goes into a general fund, which is administrated by the County Commissioners. Faith suggests that a portion of these fees could be earmarked for specific causes—mainly, for affordable housing.

   One of the most important and timely concerns is getting lower-income people to vote. According to Faith, housing alone will not solve our problems. Faith believes that current government policy is not addressing poverty.  He wants to challenge all those running for office to put forward a strategy to reduce homelessness and create more housing.    Ohio Votes is trying to do just that—getting Ohioans to vote and making sure each vote will count.

   In Cuyahoga County there’s an issue about showing identification at the polling place. If you have moved and haven’t updated your driver’s license, you may have to vote with a provisional ballot when you go to the polls, and there is concern about whether your vote will be counted. A legal case is underway to challenge these rules. Meanwhile everyone is encouraged to vote by mail to avoid problems at the polls.

   While it’s easy to feel down in Ohio, Faith brings a message that he and others are working everyday to make positive changes.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio Issue 78 October 2006