CLEVELAND — When you chip away at the City of Cleveland’s history you’ll uncover that generations of Northeast Ohioans were plagued by a silent, but sometimes deadly contaminant for decades.
“Lead goes from your blood to your bones and then into your other organs,” Yvonka Hall said. “Ninety percent of our homes here in the City of Cleveland were built before 1978. When we look at the poverty rating for Cleveland, we understand that we have the highest poverty levels in the United States of America.”
Homes in the region were coated in lead-based paint before regulations began in Ohio in 1978.
Fast-forward to present time, and city-funded initiates like the Paint Program aim to repair damage done in past decades while preventing future illness.
“I think that easily we should be able to do over a thousand families if the funding ends up as we hope it will,” Ward 12 Councilman Tony Brancatelli said.
Through grant money, landlords, tenants and homeowners in Cleveland can now apply for up to $600 worth of paint and supplies to renovate the exteriors of their homes.
“We're all getting our honey-do list on,” Brancatelli said. “One of the most important honey-do’s is making your home safe.”
Hall, an advocate with the Black Health Coalition and the Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing said this program goes beyond curb appeal.
“The Paint Program is a program that should never have been ended in the first place,” Hall said.
She said it instead puts emphasis on quality of life, as data shows one in four babies in Cleveland are stillborn with traces of lead in their blood.
“It not only impacts them when they're young, but it will impact them for the remainder of their lives,” Hall said.
Brancatelli said the Paint Project is simply the “primer” step to building a safer and healthier future for Northeast Ohioans.
“A family of four earning $73,000 a year could qualify for this,” Brancatelli said. “We want to make sure it can be used in all parts of our city, not just select neighborhoods.”
Applications for the Paint Program through the City of Cleveland are due Feb. 28.