Cleveland woman creates safe haven in troubled neighborhood

CLEVELAND- In just the first week of summer, there have already been multiple homicides and several other shootings across the city and the mayor and police chief are asking people to step up and report crime.

“It’s like everybody is just waiting for this place to die off so that they can just wipe it completely out and just reset it but when you reset it, you're resetting home,” says Anita Gardner of her home neighborhood, Mt. Pleasant, on Cleveland’s east side.

The increase in crime and drug use is what motivated Gardner to start the Concerned Citizens Community Center on Kinsman Road in Mt. Pleasant.

She’s been running it for 10 years and it has been located in an old home for four years. “I love my community. I’m not moving. I want to be part of the solution because I know a lot of the problems,” Gardner said.

The center aims to make the community safer by starting small and helping people get control of their lives.

“Everything has escalated and then everybody wants to jump and say this needs to be done and that needs to be done; well, let’s just kind of start at the bottom so that it doesn’t escalate,” she said.

The center offers anything and everything that someone may need including a free clean clothes closet, food, a shower and access to housing resources.

Gardner never turns anyone away, but she is focused on helping kids ages five to 20-years old. They have tutors who help with homework and they teach cooking and sewing classes.

“We teach them how to wash them, how to repair them and a lot of kids have gone back to school because they are not the dirty, smelly kids anymore; they actually have a change of clothes,” Gardner explained.

The center also has a way for people to come and anonymously report crimes to the police. Gardner says the community needs to work together to stop crime.

“Yes, we do have a few issues with some police officers, but we have a lot of issues with a lot of people in our community and if you don’t collaborate and try to find some kind of common ground you’re always going to have that friction,” she said.

Gardner doesn’t make any money running the center and everyone who works there with her is a volunteer. They keep the house open by small donations from religious groups and individuals.

Gardner is okay with that because she wants to have complete control over how she operates the center.

“We won’t get funded by the large organizations because they can’t tell us what to do and how to do it,” she said.

The center does take donations of food, money and other items. They can be reached at 216-215-0801 and they are located at 13611 Kinsman Rd in Cleveland.