A large Cincinnati-based corporation, Western-Southern, wants to relocate a downtown shelter for homeless and recovering women, the Anna Louise Inn, owned by Cincinnati Union Bethel. W-S is willing to pay CUB $3million to move the Inn. Their claim, if they have a rightful one, is the shelter is located in a non-descript part of downtown where W-S would like to form a neighborhood.
There are many definitions of neighborhood. From New Urbanism – one where a community is walkable, and designed to contain a diverse range of jobs and housing. Another few from Merriam Webster – 1: in a neighborly relationship, the quality or state of being neighbors, 2: proximity: a place or region near : vicinity, 3: an approximate amount, extent, or degree 4, a : the people living near one another, b : a section lived in by neighbors and usually having distinguishing characteristics.
Neighborhoods are not created. They are built one sidewalk block at a time. They emerge one shop owner at a time. Neighborhoods are a work in progress and succeed best when the character is maintained, and the people who live, work and play in that area are left to define it.
Western-Southern’s first attempt was to purchase the building outright, of which two offers were been spurned because the owners of the Anna Louise Inn were awarded federal dollars to renovate. CUB simply does not want to move the Inn.
The Anna Louise Inn has long history of serving women in Cincinnati. According to the CUB website, “In the early 1900’s, young women from rural areas were coming to Cincinnati to work and could not find suitable housing. Often the cheapest rooms were in undesirable neighborhoods, or landlords would charge more because women required a sitting room for guests in addition to a bedroom, a separate bathroom, and more security. Recognizing a need for affordable and safe housing for women, the agency turned to the Tafts…who helped provide funding to erect a five-story building to accommodate 120 women in single rooms…. The Inn was filled to occupancy on its first day.
Western-Southern’s latest attempt is to force City Council to turn away federal dollars because the owners are not keeping in line with the original mission. Western-Southern is claiming the renovation of the Anna Louise Inn will also bring men into this facility, which CUB has outright denied.
Women in transition need a home. They need a bed and a safe space to allow for healing from abuse, addiction and caring for their families. They don’t need a bright shiny facility, located away from the heart of downtown where job prospects might be less so and they become isolated from “the rest of us”.
It’s essential for them to be rooted in a neighborhood, this neighborhood, which will support them, where businesspersons and residents can model for them behaviors they too are working on. Women need relationships and diversity, and neighbors who will reach out to show kindness. They need to be where they can find connections to some level of normality. They require “people living near one another” as Merriam-Webster puts it.
All of this is consistent with the concept of a neighborhood, disputing the comments in Western-Southern’s letter, “For a really successful neighborhood to develop, though, you’ve got to have a consistent experience. For that to happen, you can’t have a facility in the heart of it that is completely inconsistent with that experience.”
These women will benefit from the energy of a lively neighborhood where they can enjoy the green space in nearby Lytle Park, watch fireworks when Joey Votto hits a homer or walk the same path as those who are walking to work at Western-Southern. Women will strive more surrounded by others who are striving.
And finally, they will be standing in the place of so many women who came to Cincinnati to work for a better life. They will gain from the century of wisdom accumulated on those grounds.