#PovertyTruths

Most people living at Cogswell Hall live below the poverty line. Since society sometimes harbors assumptions and myths about poverty, we want you to know a few things about our low-income residents.

  • They pay rent. Each resident pays rent equal to 30% of his or her income. This income comes from sources such as social security, small pensions, current work, or retirement benefits.
  • Some work. Some of our residents work, usually at low paying, part-time jobs. Other residents volunteer in the community, some as often as daily. About one-fourth to one-third of them regularly do.
  • Some worked but now cannot. Police officer, nurse, social worker, sailor, musician – these are among the professions our residents had to leave because of a mental or physical disability that arrived in adulthood.
  • They take initiative. Residents initiate programs and activities such as a chair-exercise group, have written and been awarded a grant for a summer lawn party, and joined neighbors in controlling feral cats.
  • They are persistent. We have survivors of abuse, homelessness and trauma, including traumatic brain injury. We have people born with physical or intellectual disabilities. We are truly amazed with all that they do while coping daily with conditions and memories more intense than most of us ever experience.

In 2017, we at Cogswell Hall will be talking about poverty. We invite you to follow the #PovertyTruths theme in our blog, social media, print resources and other forums. Whether we’re profiling a living, breathing myth-buster or looking at social policies that affect people who are poor, we hope you will find the topic as important as we do. And we know we are not the only people with poverty experiences to share. Join the conversation!


Emil Pikula grew up in classic Cleveland neighborhoods: shooting off fireworks in Old Brooklyn, hanging with hippies on Coventry, and hitting the deck during drive-by shooting in Duck Island. But it wasn't really romantic. Lifelong struggles with chronic anxiety and other difficulties left him nearly homeless in his 50's. He found Cogswell Hall just in time.

Susan (not her real name) grew up in Lorain, Ohio, one of eight siblings. Her father, a machinist at BF Goodrich, belonged to the American Slovak club, where Susan enjoyed serving the weekly fish fry as a young girl. Her mother was an excellent cook and worked at home taking care of six boys and two girls. After high school, Susan received her associate’s degree from Lorain County Community College, where she majored in art and computer-assisted design.
This is the true story of a real resident. See more at the #PovertyTruths page at CogswellHall.org.

Sitting in Cogswell Hall’s “Smokers’ Circle” does not earn you CogsMart points, but there is no denying the cultural importance of this space to a small group of residents. Recently, a healthier idea was born in that semi-circle of chairs and benches in the northwest corner of our tiny campus, next to the butterfly bush and memorial garden.

You may know James Brown’s 1968 hit, Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud. Cogswell Hall’s Linda Gaffney has her own version of that phrase, delivered with a smile and a shake of her cane: “Say it loud, I’m crazy and proud!” It’s a good parallel. Brown was the “hardest working man in show business.” Linda’s hard-working life, much of it in law enforcement, has left her with plenty of stories to tell.

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