But in Cleveland, the Evergreen Laundry, an 11,500-square-foot building less than a mile from the old entertainment district, offers a hand of hope. The nondescript concrete building is one of three businesses that make up the city’s Evergreen Cooperative, launched in 2009, at the height of the Great Recession.
The co-op’s model helps residents of seven poor neighborhoods find jobs, build stability and buy houses. It benefits local institutions, such as hospitals and universities, which invest in the community and get goods and services they need. It reduces the city’s impact on the environment through the use of green technology, solar panels, lower water consumption and local production.
Here’s how it works: Large institutions rooted in the area, such as the Cleveland Clinic, agree to infuse some of their combined $3 billion purchasing power into the co-op’s neighborhood companies rather than outsourcing it. The companies, in turn, train and hire people who need jobs — then help them build equity in their own future.