Cleveland Housing Authority and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s Reba M. Powers Unit have teamed up to provide additional programming space for after-school activities.
A pavillion complete with a covering and outdoor lights will be added to the right side of the building.
Housing Executive Director Paul Dellinger described the two organizations as having a “great, great” relationship.
“The Housing Authority is not a social service agency. Most people’s perception of us is that we are,” Dellinger said. “We are bricks and mortar.”
Housing Authority provides rental assistance to residents based on their ability to pay.
Added Dellinger, “We don’t have the capacity, funding or staff to provide social services activities.”
This is where the relationship with the Powers Unit comes into play. The Powers Unit is located on Lay Street in the middle of government housing. The student-focused nonprofit is equipped with the resources needed to offer community support and programs.
Powers Unit Director Brian Lessig said the club has hosted block parties in the past as an effort to connect with the community. The idea is to give area residents a better understanding of what the Boys & Girls Clubs can offer for their children. Community events also attract children who would not otherwise visit the club.
“The club is kind of like a portal to the world for these kids to be able to connect and do service or their homework in a safe, positive, fun environment,” Lessig said.
A part of increasing interest in the club is improving the look of the Powers Unit.
The pavillion’s construction is phase one of Lessig’s master plan. Phase two involves general improvements around the club to modernize the interior and exterior. A community service group recently painted the railings at the front of the unit. They were also able to add a new coat of paint to the outside of the doors.
The Housing Authority is looking into providing a sign for the unit as their next project.
Improvements to the club also increases the value of the building in the eyes of the young members.
“Having a clean, updated club helps their mindset in terms of wanting to take care of stuff,” Lessig explained. “If they see you taking care of something, they are going to take care of it.”
Members are also taught to value their lives and the opportunities available to them.
Lessig encourages students to break the cycle of poverty in their lives.
“If no one in your family has gone to college, then you need to be the first,” Lessig said. “I try to guide them in the direction of being the first in their family to achieve things.”
He reminds students they do not need to get caught up in the drama of their family and friends’ lives.
A part of breaking from the mindset is providing youth with a safe place to dream and expand their horizons.
Various programs are offered through the Powers Unit to its Lay Street members. These include everything from flag-football to technology instruction. However, there is not much space for the club to grow and there is a limit on green space.
Phase three of the master plan will provide an area for members and residents to play and interact.
“There is an overarching plan designed for this facility,” Dellinger said. “We have actually put in an application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish [the buildings directly across the street from the unit] to provide a comprehensive recreation green space.”
Community partners, like the Montessori Kinder School, are working to offer advice and aid.
“There is a lot of synergy around this plan,” Dellinger said. “It is going to provide some additional programming space to really expand the activities they are doing around here.”
Lessig explained an interactive green space would be a boon for the community.
“[Community events] are really important over here. It provides interaction,” Lessig said. “It gets [residents] out of their normal routine and allows them to participate in something with their kids and have one-on-one communication.”
Dellinger reiterated the Housing Authority board sees projects with the Boys & Girls Clubs as an extension of the investment and commitment to the organizations’ relationship.