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National Coalition for the Homeless launches first-ever field office in Cleveland

Roman Bodnarchuk
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The Cleveland operation is the first of five planned regional field offices.

The National Coalition for the Homeless plans to use its first-ever field office to amplify the voices of unhoused populations and provide support in communities throughout the Midwest.

Cleveland was chosen in part because of the national coalition's connections with advocacy groups in the area such as the Northeast Ohio Coaltion for the Homeless, said NCH Executive Director Donald Whitehead.

According to a press release the city's status as one of the poorest in the county was also a factor. Whitehead said the local population reflects many of the issues the coalition is looking to address.

“That region has many different population segments of homeless people. In the Midwest, you have rural, you have urban,” Whitehead said. “We wanted to go to a place where we could get a little bit of every demographic.”

The goal is to have a fully staffed and operational office by June 2022, Whitehead said. The effort is part of a larger campaign called Bring America Home Now, with a goal to address the structural issues that cause homelessness, he said.

“We believe the way to do that is through a grassroots mobilization across the country,” he said.

The coalition plans to open five field offices in total, said Director of Grassroots Organizing Brian Davis, starting with Cleveland.

Part of the coalition's interest in Cleveland stems from its status as one of the poorest cities in the county, Davis said.

The Cleveland office will provide assistance to cities in the Midwest where there’s a lack of strong advocacy work, he said, including Dayton, Toledo and Akron.

“And also work with groups who are led by individuals who are homeless, and trying to amplify their voices on the national stage,” Davis said.

The coalition will kick off its efforts with a panel Tuesday that aims to address racial inequity in the homeless population. African Americans are overrepresented in homeless communities, Davis said, including in Cuyahoga County.

About 28 percent of the county’s total population is Black, Davis said, compared to 77 percent of the local homeless population.

“There’s a huge disparity. We want to look at that and get some input, locally, about how we can address that at the national level with some policies,” Davis said.

The forum is co-hosted by the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP. The event is open to the public and will start at 1 p.m. at 1400 East 105th Street, in the CleWorx offices.

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