Video sheds light on poverty in East Cleveland

Video sheds light on poverty in East Cleveland

EAST CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The city of East Cleveland has run into some hard times. And now, a man who grew up in the struggling city hopes a video he shot while driving through its neighborhoods will open people's eyes.

Jamal Collins hopes to raise awareness of the poverty and devastation all around him. In this video he posted on You Tube, he wants to give you a hard look at the city he grew up in. Collins says conditions are so bad now in some places, it saddens him that children have to walk through these neighborhoods to get to school.

The video shows street after street of abandoned homes and buildings and trash piled high in empty lots. Not every neighborhood looks like this, but it's what you find when you walk down several streets in East Cleveland.

"To me, it's in a state of emergency. Entire streets are abandoned," said Collins, during his narration of the five minute video.

Collins shot the video in January to show what people live with every day in East Cleveland. It's been viewed more than 11,000 times on You Tube.

"I think the problem is if there's less opportunity, less jobs, that brings frustration. When it brings frustration, that brings crime, a loss of hope, drug abuse and all of these other things that's plaguing the community as it is," Collins said.

He worries the most about the children who live and play in these neighborhoods.

Collins teaches graphic design to kids at the Boys and Girls Club in East Cleveland. He came back home after graduating college and earning a decade of experience in graphic design.

"I just want to give people hope, because you're a part of your environment. If you're looking and seeing that, it affects you in some way shape or form," Collins said.

Thanks to his graphic design classes, kids like 11-year-old Quincy Jackson are opened up to a whole new world full of possibility.

"It teaches us new stuff about technology," Jackson said, sitting at a computer.

Collins says it's a chance for these kids to have a mentor and rise above the drugs and crime that are taking over many of the streets.

"I want to give these kids hope, trying to get them to think as designers, engineers, so they can come back and help the community," he said.

Mayor Gary Norton released this statement on the state of his city:

I commend Jamal Collins for teaching our children and being concerned. This video depicts the horrific physical and economic decline that has occurred over the past 50 years in One of America's hardest hit cities.  Unfortunately, similar scenes exist in urban areas throughout America. In 1970, East Cleveland's population was 41,000, with a workforce of 20,000 and average household income of $50,000. Today the population is 17,000, the workforce is 5,000 and the average household income is $20,000. Disastrous declines in the population and economy, coupled with drugs and violence of the 1990s, the foreclosure epidemic of the 2000s and the Great Recession of the 2010s, created entire blocks of vacant structures. The city has raised several million dollars and partnered with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to demolish nearly 3000 housing units since 2010, but hundreds more dilapidated structures remain. Lack of money is the limiting factor. 50 years of catastrophic economic decline cannot be reversed overnight, no matter how shocking the video might be. While this video focuses on a few vacant streets in One of America's hardest hit neighborhood, there are several very nice neighborhoods and East Cleveland. Euclid Avenue is connected to several residential streets with great housing stock and strong families, such as Farmington, Alvason, Rosalind and Roxbury. Then, of course, there is the historic Forest Hill neighborhood and Forest Hill Park. We have built two new apartment complexes (100 percent occupied) and are nearing completion of a new community services Center. There are a few more things to talk about, and I know the broader community wishes us the best in our endeavors.

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