Impact Cleveland and a community crime reduction committee are partnering to help each other better serve the Blythe Avenue community.
The group was originally formed as part of the community crime reduction grant. The benefits of the group working with Impact Cleveland were demonstrated in the first meeting between the two Tuesday.
Dustin Tommey of Impact Cleveland mentioned a specific house that had a tree growing out of the chimney. Tommey thought the house had not been condemned. Cleveland Police Department Capt. David Maddox promptly contacted the codes department. Before the meeting was over Maddox received word that the house has been located and paperwork was moving forward to condemn the site. This is one example of what impact Cleveland hopes to accomplish with partnerships in the community.
Tommey outlined the group’s work so far in the Blythe Avenue community.
“Impact Cleveland’s role is to bring together as many strategic partners as possible to kind of funnel resources and strategic investing into this community and at the same time not for it to be a bunch of outsiders doing something … but really giving the community a voice to say, ‘This is what we want here,’ and to let that drive the strategic partners that we enlist,” Tommey said.
Casteel said changes should focus on a small geographic area in order to have longlasting results.
“What we’re going to be doing is based off a model of one neighborhood at a time,” Tommey said.
Connecting with United Way of Bradley County Inc. and Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland Inc. are the initial partnerships for Impact Cleveland.
To understand what the neighborhood wants, Impact Cleveland conducted a survey and then held a community meeting.
At the gathering, needs from the survey were prioritized into the top four changes the community wants.
Concerns included illegal drug activity, speeding, trash and property issues. The community group then began brainstorming solutions.
“These are issues that I hope to empower this community to address themselves, by being engaged with the right players,” Tommey said.
Tommey said the neighborhood presents some challenges because many of the community members are renters. He said this means partners cannot simply come in and offer home improvement projects.
Casteel said many in the neighborhood also move frequently.
“As we move forward I am going to be kind of facilitating some of these community meetings, and there is an existing neighborhood association that I hope to strengthen and empower,” Tommey said.
Juvenile Court director Terry Gallaher said having a recreational area the neighborhood can take pride in, such as a Greenway, would add to the efforts of impact Cleveland.
Tommey said there has been talk of updating the playground in the area.
Casteel said the city could partner by providing further lighting in needed areas and having department heads present at the community meetings so area residents know who to call about concerns.
“Sometimes in lower-income neighborhoods, you have people who are on an island and don’t know where to go,” Tommey said.
He pointed out having two police officers participate in the small group discussion at the last meeting was helpful to area residents. Tommey said he felt it helped those present build a stronger trust in local law enforcement.
Gallaher said his mother lives in the neighborhood and has said she is “appreciative of someone knocking on her door, someone [who] seems to be interested in changing her world … I think you all are doing a great thing to reach out to people over there.”