Cleveland at the end of the 1960s saw entire neighborhoods change radically in only a few years. Collinwood is a neighborhood that went through such a transition. Collinwood, like much of Cleveland, as ethnic communities and whites left for the suburbs, African Americans and white Appalachians arrived to fill industrial positions. Racial tension and race-based violence became a major concern in Collinwood. In 1966, the Hough riots erupted in Cleveland demonstrating conclusively that race relations were at a low point.
The year 1967, which was a year after the Hough Riots, brought a great success for black Americans: Carl Stokes became the first black mayor of a major city. Stokes strove to improve the living conditions of Clevelanders through the use of his flagship program, Cleveland: NOW!. The Stokes administration applied the Cleveland: NOW! brand to a variety of initiatives related to community development. Stokes planned to use $177 million in funds to redevelop Cleveland and planned for the program to use over $1 billion during a ten-year period. Many of these programs from Cleveland: NOW! worked from neighborhood multi-service centers.
However, the Cleveland: NOW! program hit a snag early in development. The Glenville Shootout, a battle between black nationalists and the police, occurred on July 23, 1968. This battle and subsequent riots severely hampered the Cleveland Now! project and dashed the public’s enthusiasm for Stokes. The situation became even worse when it was discovered that Fred Ahmed Evans, the leader of the group that fought the police in Glenville, had purchased the weapons using money from the Cleveland: NOW! program. Most examinations of the Cleveland: NOW! program end here. Some works on the topic argue that the Glenville Shootout "killed prospects for the success of Cleveland: NOW!” However, the program did not officially end until after 1971 and continued to work successfully towards rebuilding Cleveland even after the riots. An example Cleveland: NOW!’s programming success is the Collinwood Community Services Center (Collinwood CSC).
The Collinwood neighborhood had many of the same issues on a smaller scale as the city. Collinwood experienced extreme demographic changes that led to racial conflicts at the time. The Collinwood CSC’s report shows 90% of the population of South Collinwood was ethnic Europeans and 5-10% was black in 1965. By 1968, they estimated that the black population had grown to 30%, the ethnic population had fallen to 40% and Appalachian whites had established themselves with 30% of the population. The area also saw a dramatic rise in crime rate. The Center associated the rise with violent conflicts between young Appalachian and African American men.
In this volatile scenario, the Collinwood CSC was established. Initially a project of the Alta House, it quickly signed up for the Cleveland: NOW! program. This pairing of settlement house and city government to establish a multi-service center was common. These multi-service centers all provided a variety of general social service functions. These functions ranged from job counseling, juvenile court office, city health offices, officials from county welfare, legal aid, and classes in health and safety. Many others included health care services and daycare. They drafted specific proposals for programs directed towards their community.
One of the first multi-service centers was in the Collinwood. The direct predecessor to the Collinwood CSC was the Collinwood Youth Association which began in 1967. The Center started operating in January 1968. It stood initially at 742 East 152nd Street. The multi-service center operated multiple locations in the area other than the main office. These were two drop-in centers on East 140th St and two other centers at Five Points (the intersection of St. Clair and 152nd St.). They proposed to move their main center to the Five Points area, and, in the end, it was moved to 813 East 152nd St. The community center became the Five Points Community Center sometime after 1989 and exists there to this day.
The Collinwood CSC was oriented to combatting the rising crime rate in the area through social programing and helping Appalachian migrants find employment. To accomplish this, the Collinwood CSC designed programs to engage young people and to provide job assistance and training. They developed programs specifically targeting job training, community programing, and drop-in centers for youths. These programs had good participation and a high success rate. The drop-in centers were places to gather for young blacks and Appalachian whites.
The Collinwood CSC, like many of Cleveland: NOW!’s programs, has been written off as a failure. The writers who declare this are usually only examining Cleveland: NOW! via the effects of Carl Stokes political career, or its ability to prevent race-based conflict, or the popularity of the program. Examining the Collinwood CSC by looking at the successes of its programs and the number of people affected by it tells a different story. The Collinwood CSC is representative of the whole of Cleveland: NOW! in that it is pronounced dead with the Glenville Shootout, but is only getting started serving the community.