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Derelict Paradise

Derelict Paradise: Homelessness and Urban Development in Cleveland, Ohio

Daniel R. Kerr
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Derelict Paradise
    Book Description:

    Seeking answers to the question, "Who benefits from homelessness?" this book takes the reader on a sweeping tour of Cleveland's history from the late nineteenthcentury through the early twentyfirst. Daniel Kerr shows that homelessness has deep roots in the shifting ground of urban labor markets, social policy, downtown development, the criminal justice system, and corporate power. Rather than being attributable to the illnesses and inadequacies of the unhoused themselves, it is a product of both structural and political dynamics shaping the city. Kerr locates the origins of today's shelter system in the era that followed the massive railroad rebellions of 1877. From that period through the Great Depression, business and political leaders sought to transform downtown Cleveland to their own advantage. As they focused on bringing business travelers and tourists to the city and beckoned upperincome residents to return to its center, they demolished two downtown workingclass neighborhoods and institutionalized a shelter system to contain and control the unhoused and unemployed. The precedents from this period informed the strategies of the post–World War II urban renewal era as the "new urbanism" of the late twentieth century. The efforts of the city's elites have not gone uncontested. Kerr documents a rich history of opposition by people at the margins of whose organized resistance and everyday survival strategies have undermined the grand plans crafted by the powerful and transformed the institutions designed to constrain the lives of the homeless.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-027-7
    Subjects: History, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    In 1945, fourteen-year-old Ralph Pack joined the white migration north from Appalachia, leaving West Virginia with his family and moving to Cleveland. When he was seventeen, he went to work at Monarch Aluminum making pots and pans. The place taught him a fundamental lesson: “The majority of the factory jobs, take my word for it, you become part of the machinery. And I always hated that.” To counteract the monotony he jumped from job to job, working on the railroad, as a dishwasher, as a clerk in cheap hotels, and in countless other odd jobs. He also became a heavy...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Employment Sharks and Spying Organizations
    (pp. 13-38)

    On July 22, 1877, the fourth day in a massive railroad strike that swept across the country, theCleveland Daily Heraldran the headline “Anarchy: The Reign of the Mob Continues in Pittsburgh.” The night before, after the Philadelphia Militia killed several women and children in Pittsburgh, a crowd pelted soldiers with stones as they tried to advance with fixed bayonets. The striking workers stormed the Allegheny Arsenal, intent on seizing weapons to repel the militia. Within an hour, Pittsburgh’s sheriff and the militia’s major general were dead. The city was “virtually in the hands of an armed mob” composed...

  7. CHAPTER 2 A City with a Smile
    (pp. 39-70)

    In 1932 Cleveland’s city manager , Daniel Morgan, proclaimed, “Cleveland is a city with a smile. It takes hard knocks with a smile and does not falter.” Not solely interested in boosting morale, he thought of a smile as a sign of a welcoming city—a place that tourists might like to visit. With the city spiraling further into the industrial depression, local business leaders and public officials hoped that they could change its economic course by promoting tourism and convention activity. Although the desires of Cleveland’s elite may seem to have little to do with the reality of the...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Nation’s Housing Laboratory
    (pp. 71-104)

    In the midst of an economic collapse, the city of Cleveland paid for an advertisement in 1931 to remind residents that “appearances are important.” The advertisement continued, “You have enough to worry about in the depression without looking at and thinking about property that is suffering from lack of beauty as well as protection that paint gives. Cheer yourself with some color.” If the fresh paint did not improve morale, the city hoped that the investment in paint and the employment of painters might alleviate the relief crunch that the Associated Charities was facing. The ad campaign was part of...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Businessmen Gone Berserk
    (pp. 105-127)

    The late thirties and early forties offered a unique period of time in which city planners, public officials, and business leaders reflected on and redrew the blueprints for the future of “their” city. With the first public housing projects behind them and the economy showing signs of recovery, the period provided an opportunity to reflect on the shape that development would take in the coming years. Planners associated with the Regional Association of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce, and the City Plan Commission grappled with the question of how to address the pending threat of decentralization. In a series of...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Urban Renewal Doldrums
    (pp. 128-163)

    At a national urban renewal conference held in Atlanta in 1958, Thomas Patton, chairman of the Cleveland Development Foundation and president of Republic Steel, reflected on the city’s recent successes in rebuilding Cedar-Central:

    Four years ago Cleveland was suffering from a severe case of the urban renewal doldrums. Slums were growing at an alarming rate and engulfing once proud avenues leading to the heart of the city. Downtown improvement was at a standstill. Merchants were discouraged. . . . It was obvious also that as the city grew old and dingy, it was becoming less and less of an attraction...

  11. CHAPTER 6 A Bombing Run
    (pp. 164-199)

    As the smoke cleared from the Hough Rebellion, Cleveland’s postwar urban renewal policies took the brunt of the blame. On the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman William Widnall of New Jersey declared, “The Cleveland situation is an ugly reminder of what happens when commercial renewal is pushed at the expense of low and moderate-priced housing.” He continued: “The housing situation is especially critical for Negroes, because they often suffer under the dual handicap of low income and discrimination. Yet it is upon this doubly handicapped group that the burden of displacement is placed.” Charles Vanik, a congressman from...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Open Penitentiaries
    (pp. 200-244)

    In the early 1980s, a public spectacle emerged in downtown Cleveland—people sleeping in doorways, sidewalks, and public parks. Few understood what was going on. In an article that appeared in May 1980, thePressintroduced “the homeless” to the general public: “The homeless are the old and confused, the alcoholics, and the ‘shopping bag’ people who sleep regularly in public places, unless severe weather forces them to look for more adequate shelter.” In a subsequent article on “Bag Ladies,” the paper concluded that many of these “homeless” women were “outcasts by choice” and others because of the “fell clutch...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 245-250)

    There is a fundamental question that is rarely asked: Who benefits from institutionalized homelessness? It is only through seeking answers to this question that we can begin to understand why homelessness has become more entrenched than ever, even after the country has spent billions of dollars on shelters and social services. Cleveland’s historical experience suggests that there are several groups with a vested interest in the continuation of homelessness. Banks, developers, and contractors hoping to build luxury townhouses in former working-class residential neighborhoods benefit from the maintenance of downtown shelters and rural prisons. These warehouses contain many of the people...

  14. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 251-252)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 253-282)
  16. Index
    (pp. 283-295)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 296-296)