May 5, 2012 [Michael O’Malley, The Plain Dealer]
LAKEWOOD, Ohio — A pilot program operated by two nonprofit groups to place refugees in vacant, foreclosed homes has settled its first family into a renovated house in Lakewood.
Bhutanese natives Ruk and Leela Rai, along with their 3-year-old son, Anish, moved into an updated century home on Hopkins Avenue last week.
Two years ago, the International Services Center resettled the Rais in Cleveland from a refugee camp in Nepal, where Ruk and Leela had lived for 20 years. Their son was born in the camp.
Through the center’s programs, they learned life skills and found jobs. And now they are the first recipients of the new housing program created by the center and the Cuyahoga County land bank.
About a year ago, the land bank, which has acquired a number of empty foreclosed homes, teamed with the center to split the costs of renovating the vacant Lakewood home and renting it to a refugee family.
So far, the partnership has worked well. And there’s a good chance it will continue, as the center needs housing for its stream of refugees, and the land bank, which razes many empty foreclosed homes, needs occupants.
It cost $40,000 to rehab the Lakewood house, which is cheaper than demolishing an empty foreclosed property.
The partnership is looking for another house to rehab, and the program might become lease-to-own, said Traci Gilley, community relations director for the center.
Meanwhile, the Rais are paying $550 a month, plus utilities, as they adapt to a new culture.
“These are people who have spent most of their lives in a refugee camp,” Gilley said. “To them, Cleveland is the Promised Land. Everything about Cleveland is great to them, even the weather.
“Their lives have been put on hold for a long time. And now this is chapter one.”
Polish community celebrates: Cleveland’s Polish community is celebrating the signing of Poland’s Constitution on May 3, 1791, with a number of events today, including a parade in Parma.
At 8 a.m. today, a wreath will be laid at the Polish Cultural Garden on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Cleveland, followed by a 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. John Cantius Catholic Church in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.
At 2 p.m., a parade will step off at the Parma Circle area, which is near the intersection of Ridge Road and Ridgewood Drive. The parade will proceed north on Ridge to Snow Road.
Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich are scheduled to attend.
Jewish American heritage heralded: May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and Cleveland is marking the event with a celebration Monday in the rotunda of Cleveland City Hall, 601 Lakeside Ave.
The free event begins at 5:30 p.m., featuring the company Dance Israeli.
Following the ceremony, the public is invited to the City Council meeting, where scholarship winners of an annual essay contest — “Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out!” — will be honored. Some of the winners — 11th -and 12th-graders — will be reading their essays at the event.
The top winners of the contest, created by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, were Gabrielle Jones, a senior at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, who won the grand prize, a $50,000 scholarship; first runner-up Hannah Schmidt of Brush High School, who was awarded a $25,000 scholarship; and second runner-up Jane Kim of Beaumont High School, who received a $15,000 scholarship.
Dragons on display: Marking the lunar Year of the Dragon, the St. Clair Superior Development Corp., a neighborhood group that includes the Asian business area on Cleveland’s near East Side, will install 25 dragon statutes Friday, May 18, throughout the neighborhood and downtown.
The fiberglass sculptures, sponsored by local businesses, will decorate the urban landscape through August. Some businesses purchase the sculptures, while others pay a seasonal sponsorship.
Those that are not purchased will be auctioned Sept. 29 at the Masonic Hall at East 36th Street and Chester Avenue.
This is the seventh year for the public art project, featuring the works of artists from throughout Northeast Ohio.
The Year of the Dragon officially started Jan. 23. Last year was the Year of the Rabbit. Next year is the Year of the Snake.