Diana Cyganovich, the current Executive Director of Cogswell Hall and resident of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, provides a well-rounded portrait of one of Cleveland's west side communities. After moving to Cleveland in the late-1970s, Cyganovich expresses the challenges and improvements she has observed take place in the area over the past thirty plus years.
Cyganovich, Diana (interviewee)
Nemeth, Sarah (interviewer)
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:02] Hi, my name is Sarah Nemeth. I'm here today with Diana Cyganovich for the Cleveland Regional Oral History Project. It is June 21, 2017, and we're at Cogswell Hall. Could you please state your name for the record?
Diana Cyganovich [00:00:16] Diana Cyganovich.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:18] Thank you. And where were you born?
Diana Cyganovich [00:00:21] I was born in Johnson City, New York, which is in the Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes region of New York, near Ithaca, where Cornell University is. So, I grew up in that area.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:35] And when was that?
Diana Cyganovich [00:00:37] I was born in January 9th of 1953.
Sarah Nemeth [00:00:42] Oh, well that's almost my birthday. I'm January 4th. And then you went to college in.
Diana Cyganovich [00:00:52] I went to college for one year at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. And I graduated and then I transferred to State University of New York at Albany and I graduated from there in 1975.
Sarah Nemeth [00:01:07] Okay, and what did you major in?
Diana Cyganovich [00:01:09] Political science and social work.
Sarah Nemeth [00:01:12] And from there then you. Did you move here or did you stay?
Diana Cyganovich [00:01:19] So from there, I spent one year after college working in Tioga County Department of Jobs and Family Services. I think it was called the Child Welfare Department at that time, I was working with children. And then I moved to Cleveland to go to graduate school. But before I started at Case, I had a year at Cuyahoga County Department of Human Services here working in Children's Services. And then I did a joint program at Case that was a master's in social service administration and a Juris Doctorate law degree.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:02] Okay, what made you move to Cleveland?
Diana Cyganovich [00:02:05] Well, mostly to go to graduate school. I thought maybe I'd come here to graduate school and maybe move back to New York, but I never got out of town.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:13] So, what made you stay?
Diana Cyganovich [00:02:15] Well, my first job after graduate school was actually a legal job here in town. And so I passed the bar exam here. I thought hard about going back to New York and trying that bar exam and then said, well, I've got a job here. I'll stay here for a while and see what happens.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:31] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:02:33] And then I met my husband and decided to stay, marry him, and stay here.
Sarah Nemeth [00:02:38] Okay, but when you were going to graduate school, what year was that?
Diana Cyganovich [00:02:45] Well, you're making me think. Let's see. I graduated in January of 1981, and it was three and a half years. So, I started in the fall of 1977. Yes.
Sarah Nemeth [00:03:01] 1977.
Diana Cyganovich [00:03:03] Yes.
Sarah Nemeth [00:03:03] So, that's when you moved to Cleveland, as well?
Diana Cyganovich [00:03:05] I moved to Cleveland in 1976, so I had a year working before I started graduate school.
Sarah Nemeth [00:03:11] And where did. What side of town did you live on when you first moved?
Diana Cyganovich [00:03:15] I like the way we say that in Cleveland. What side of town?
Sarah Nemeth [00:03:18] Yeah.
Diana Cyganovich [00:03:19] So when I first moved to Cleveland, my I stayed temporarily with my mom's cousin in Brook Park and started looking for housing. And I found housing in Lakewood. So I stayed in Lakewood for the most of the first year. I was here, but while I was working at Children's Services. I found an apartment in Cleveland Heights with a roommate from Children's Services. And that was closer to Case Western Reserve University. So I stayed in Cleveland Heights and I lived in Cleveland Heights until I was married in 1985 and then moved to the west side of Cleveland into the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. My husband and I lived in an apartment and then in September of 1987, we purchased our house here on Franklin Boulevard and we've lived here ever since.
Sarah Nemeth [00:04:09] Wonderful. What were your first impressions of Cleveland?
Diana Cyganovich [00:04:11] That's hard to remember. I guess because I was I was what 23, single, and my job was with a lot of other young single people. That for me, the first part of Cleveland was just a lot of fun because there were people to get to know right away. There were things to do. There were like like a lot of fun stuff. So in that way, it was very easy for me. I think some people that move, you know, sometimes if you don't find a group of people. So I found Cleveland to be a delightful place to live, and have just over time have just found that, you know, so many people don't understand just how great it is here.
Sarah Nemeth [00:05:00] Right. It definitely gets a bad rap sometimes.
Diana Cyganovich [00:05:01] It does. And I distinctly remember when I would. Early on, when I would go home and visit my parents and see other relatives. Everybody would say, oh, you're living in Cincinnati. Oh, you're living in Chicago. Nobody could remember I lived in Cleveland. I had to keep reminding them I lived in Cleveland. So, that was kind of funny.
Sarah Nemeth [00:05:21] So when you moved you, you mentioned that you had a lot of. You did a lot of fun things with other people. Do you remember any of those fun things or places that you went, maybe?
Diana Cyganovich [00:05:30] Well, one of the things that happened is in that first year when I found somebody from Children's Services who became my roommate. She was dating a man who had a boat, a cabin cruiser. He had inherited it from his dad, who sadly had died fairly young. And so we spent a lot of time at the yacht club on the boat. And so it was just a lot of fun. So it really is probably what kept me fairly sane during graduate school was to sort of have this outlet with people who had nothing to do with graduate school that were just a group of people you could go on the weekends or whatever and have a good time. I have a real funny boat story. Can I tell a really funny.
Sarah Nemeth [00:06:14] Yes, tell me the story.
Diana Cyganovich [00:06:15] One of the funny stories is. One of the times there was a group of us. I think there were five or six of us that decided we were going to go from the Eastlake Yacht Club to Put-in-Bay for the weekend. And so we get in the boat and we're traveling and traveling and traveling. And the next thing we know, we know where we're out of sight of land. Next thing we know, we start seeing more boats. And so we're thinking maybe this isn't quite the lane we should be in. Keep going and going and going. And finally, we see land not on our left, but on our right. And we're heading west on Lake Erie. So we're like, where are we? The compass is telling us we are in one place, but we're obviously someplace else. So one of the guys on the boat gets at the front of the boat as we're pulling into the harbor. And he yells out. Can you tell us where we are? And the person yells back Wheatley. He says Wheatley, What? Wheatley, Ontario. So we've actually got to cross the lake instead of down the side of the lake to Put-in-Bay. And so we were we ended up getting to getting some consulting with some of the fishermen from that harbor to make sure we could safely get the boat where we needed to go. We ended up spending a night on Pelee Island with the boat and then ending up in Put-in-Bay. But it's just I just thought it was the funniest thing. And, you know, it's all because the compass was off.
Sarah Nemeth [00:07:39] The compass. That is funny.
Diana Cyganovich [00:07:44] And hopefully, hopefully, if any of the people that were on that boat hear this story they will laugh again.
Sarah Nemeth [00:07:48] Believe me, that would make me very nervous to be out and about but it is all about having a good time.
Diana Cyganovich [00:07:55] Having a good time and it all turned out well. So it was a good time.
Sarah Nemeth [00:07:58] So you spend a lot of time on the lake. Was there any. Like you're in graduate school, was there a restaurant that everyone went and hung out at or bar or something I don't know.
Diana Cyganovich [00:08:09] No, not really. I mean, I was living in Cleveland Heights right on Coventry. So there was a lot of activity there. It was a time when Coventry was kind of like the Haight-Ashbury of Cleveland. So there was, you know, coffee shop and there was some bars there. Got involved some with the Heights' Dems in Cleveland Heights. The Democratic Party, there was part of the Coventry Street Fairs that they used to have that was like a weekend-long street fair, that type of thing. So it was just a lot of different things. It wasn't one thing in particular.
Sarah Nemeth [00:08:44] What did they do at the Coventry Street Fairs?
Diana Cyganovich [00:08:47] Oh, gosh. It was a two-day music and arts. There was a lot of vendors. So it's kind of like I guess today I would equate would be similar to the one day that they do the Clifton Arts & Music Festival. It would be something similar to that. But it was usually a two-day event. I can't remember if it went from Friday night to Sunday or if it was just Friday night and all day Saturday. I think it was Friday night to Sunday, but it was a kind of a big thing that people would come to from all over.
Sarah Nemeth [00:09:20] And they don't do that anymore?
Diana Cyganovich [00:09:20] No, they do. I think what they do now and this is where I'm just like, you know, I don't live in Cleveland Heights anymore.
Sarah Nemeth [00:09:26] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:09:27] But no, I think what they do is the least a few summers. They've had an evening, a couple of evenings, like one a month for a while where they were having more like a market and some arts and crafts stuff and artisans and music. So it went from like a weekend thing to maybe once a month, but for three or three or four times during the summer.
Sarah Nemeth [00:09:50] And you were involved with planning or did you just attend?
Diana Cyganovich [00:09:56] When it was the weekend thing and when I was living in Cleveland Heights, I was part of the planning.
Sarah Nemeth [00:10:00] And what was the purpose? Was it to?
Diana Cyganovich [00:10:01] Just to bring people and bring the community together and just highlight, you know, Cleveland Heights and the Coventry area and help artists sell their wares. And people have a good time.
Sarah Nemeth [00:10:12] Was there divisions? Like socio-economic divisions or race divisions in that country at that time?
Diana Cyganovich [00:10:18] It was pretty... I remember that area being fairly integrated. I mean, there there certainly were some differences, but I think that it was a fairly integrated area. The street fair was fairly integrated. I mean, Cleveland Heights was pretty much moving into a pretty integrated community. So, yeah. I mean, sure, there was a socio-economic differences. You know, because you do have that. But I thought there was... I think it was a lot of diversity involved.
Sarah Nemeth [00:10:53] Okay. Someone once told me that there was like on one part of the street, there was the multi-family dwellings, and then on the other side, there's the bigger mansions and houses. And when those people came together, sometimes there was some sort of a clash. I didn't know if you noticed that at all?
Diana Cyganovich [00:11:12] You know, I don't know if it was I was young and fairly naive about such things, not having come from Cleveland, not having been here through all the racial tension.
Sarah Nemeth [00:11:23] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:11:23] But I didn't find that there was that much of there was a clash. Certainly, there were middle-class, single-family homes. There were lots of apartment buildings with multi-family dwellings and there were mansions. And they're all kind of in the same, you know, twenty-block area or something. So, certainly there were differences. I never saw anything that comes to mind that would have said to me that it was a very tense kind of environment.
Sarah Nemeth [00:11:53] Or an issue.
Diana Cyganovich [00:11:53] Or a major issue. And I'm sure there were issues.
Sarah Nemeth [00:11:57] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:11:57] You know. I mean. Later. I am going to jump ahead on you. Later, later in my life, after I had practiced law, I went into nonprofit work and I was working in the field of domestic violence. And one of the things that I did was work with a lot of the police departments around the county on working, understanding the dynamics of domestic violence better, and also kind of working them out with them on policies and things and also supporting victims of domestic violence when they had to go through the court system. And one of the things I did notice is it struck me one day that in Cleveland Heights that considering the population was a very mixed population, I did see a difference. When you were talking who was arrested? You know, kind of thing. So, I mean, I know that there was, you know, and I did pick up on some tensions at that time, but I wouldn't say it was that it did. It defined the community. I wouldn't say that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:02] That makes sense. Who was arrested more?
Diana Cyganovich [00:13:07] Probably minorities or people in interracial marriages.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:11] Really?
Diana Cyganovich [00:13:12] It was. Yeah. It was an observation I made.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:16] Interesting.
Diana Cyganovich [00:13:16] Yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:18] I mean. Unfortunately, I could guess minorities, but I would never have put an interracial.
Diana Cyganovich [00:13:22] Interracial couples. And what I know about domestic violence it does not happen any more often in minorities or interracial couples. It happens across the board in all segments of our society. So, it was interesting who I saw in court.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:39] Interesting. So you get married?
Diana Cyganovich [00:13:42] Yes. I got married and.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:43] Where did you meet him at?
Diana Cyganovich [00:13:46] Well, that's a funny story, too.
Sarah Nemeth [00:13:48] Okay!
Diana Cyganovich [00:13:48] And we'll tell this one, even though it's kind of a personal little story. I was dating his best friend. We broke up. David stayed around and a friendship grew into a loving relationship. And it's been wonderful. We've been married 32 years. It will be 32 years June 29th this year.
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:09] Congratulations.
Diana Cyganovich [00:14:09] And it's great. So, I mean, that's that's how I met him.
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:14] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:14:14] I mean, it was just kind of a fluky thing. But it was.
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:18] The best things happen that way.
Diana Cyganovich [00:14:19] They do. They do. The best things do happen that way, you know. So he he always claims it's because that I went to a wedding of a mutual friend of Tom and Dave. And Tom wouldn't dance with me and Dave did. And he was he always pins it to that. And I'm not sure it was exactly that moment, but that was kind of the gist of it.
Sarah Nemeth [00:14:42] What made you decide to move to Detroit Shoreway?
Diana Cyganovich [00:14:45] David. David actually was living in an up-and-down, a half a house that was owned by Cornucopia, which is an organization that ran the Bin. And then Nature's Bin on Sloane Avenue that recently closed. And so they were an organization that worked with people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. And they had this grocery store for training for people to learn to be and other to be employed in other grocery stores. And many did go when they used to have baggers at grocery stores regularly. Many of these people ended up being baggers at grocery stores. And David was involved with the organization and lived in one of their houses. They had two doubles and one single. And so we lived in one of the apartments and he was kind of the maintenance manager kind of thing for the to do the minor maintenance stuff and things like that for the apartments. So that's why we ended up living there. And then we when they were selling those houses, we started looking for a house and we happened to find one here on Franklin Boulevard, partly because we had friends that lived on the street and they knew of a house that was going to be going on the market, but it hadn't gone on the market yet. So we were able to talk to the owner. You know, it took us four months to see the house. When I got in, I realized partly because the kitchen counters were in and the frames were in, but there weren't cupboard doors. He probably had the kitchen gutted or something. He didn't want to show the house. That's what I figured probably happened. Why it took so long. But as soon as I walked in, I said, this is a great house because it has a lot of the natural woodwork left, left. And I grew up in a family where my dad worked, worked in hardwoods and had a business that was called a dimension plant, which is a company. Kind of business that does takes the raw lumber from the sawmill and cuts it into stated dimensions from furniture companies and then glues all the pieces together, so when you look at a piece of furniture and you see those different pieces of wood that would have been produced in a company like my dad had with his.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:08] Oh, okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:17:08] Two uncles, there was a family business. And so I always loved woods and woodworking and, you know, that kind of thing. So this house had a lot of the natural wood still. Nobody had ever painted it.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:19] Oh, that's nice.
Diana Cyganovich [00:17:19] Nobody had ever tried to do anything bad to it wasn't damaged. And so that, to me is what kind of sold me on the house for myself. So we were put in a bid and we got the house. And and we've lived here ever since. And it's been so we've had been in the house almost 30 years.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:35] Okay, that's exciting to walk into a house and see everything the wood.
Diana Cyganovich [00:17:39] Yeah, it's great. It's wonderful.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:46] I hate when they put the lacquer paint...
Diana Cyganovich [00:17:47] Yes. Yes. Try to paint things. Yes. I'm not into that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:50] It takes a long time to try to get it off.
Diana Cyganovich [00:17:51] It doesn't come off.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:52] Right. Never.
Diana Cyganovich [00:17:55] Never quite comes off.
Sarah Nemeth [00:17:56] Right. I've never heard about this greenhouse that your husband had worked at previously.
Diana Cyganovich [00:18:04] It's not a greenhouse. It was a grocery store.
Sarah Nemeth [00:18:06] Grocery store. Okay. I thought you... heard in my head, I thought it was a greenhouse.
Diana Cyganovich [00:18:10] That was. It was actually a produce they they started with. The Bin was a produce market in Birdtown in Lakewood, right on Madison. And then they became more of a health food grocery store when they moved over to Sloane Avenue in Lakewood.
Sarah Nemeth [00:18:24] Okay, so Lakewood's Sloane Avenue and there was a grocery store. And it worked with a.
Diana Cyganovich [00:18:33] Well, they had already... They had already... They still had a training program and they still have a training program for people with disabilities to become trained to do some kind of job that is in the grocery kind of industry somewhere.
Sarah Nemeth [00:18:48] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:18:48] Or or some kind of retail, because it's kind of transferable skills to maybe some other kind of retail.
Sarah Nemeth [00:18:55] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:18:55] And I think they still have a training program in the catering, but they had to Whole Foods put them out of business.
Sarah Nemeth [00:19:05] Of course.
Diana Cyganovich [00:19:05] You know, the bigger ones come in and none of the smaller ones can make it kind of thing.
Sarah Nemeth [00:19:09] Well, that's interesting. I didn't know that far back the people were focused on Whole Foods.
Diana Cyganovich [00:19:15] Yes.
Sarah Nemeth [00:19:16] In my mind, it is just like a more recent thing.
Diana Cyganovich [00:19:18] Well, you know, all their stuff wasn't necessarily organic to begin with because there wasn't really that much in terms of organic farmers back in the 1970s and or what was called organic farming. Of course, probably a lot of small farmers did do organic farming, but it was never really labeled. No, it was more of just what they were trying to have healthy foods in a neighborhood and a training program for people. So it was kind of a good combination of the two things.
Sarah Nemeth [00:19:52] Okay. So you move here in 1985 and what are your first impressions of Detroit Shoreway?
Diana Cyganovich [00:19:59] It was kind of mixed at the time. That on the. We lived on 58th West 58th north of Detroit. Two examples of how the neighborhood was kind of mixed. Where Spice Kitchen is right now on the corner of 58th and Detroit with Myron's Bar, Myron's Bar was the old neighborhood bar for the working folk and at seven o'clock in the morning you could walk by Myron's Bar and there'd be a people bunch of people sitting at the bar. Coming off third shift. So that's when they would go to the bar. So it was open from like, I don't know, 6:00 in the morning till 2:00 in the morning I don't know.
Sarah Nemeth [00:20:41] Oh, geez.
Diana Cyganovich [00:20:42] So that was one thing you know, the other thing was. It just was. Well, it's just a mix. It was a mix. And actually, when we bought our house in 87 here on Franklin and one of the things I said to my husband was this is either the best decision we've ever made or it's not going to be a good decision, because at that point, the neighborhood still most homes were very low cost. There was. It was a question of what direction it was going in. I think the Gordon Square Arcade had already been really kind of renovated, maybe for maybe less than 10 years. And the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization was relatively young. All of those things I didn't really know then. I know the history more now. So it was kind of a very much a mixed lower working class to some middle income neighborhood. And so it was just kind of a question. It was just a little different. I never felt unsafe walking or anything like that. I didn't, you know, feel that. But it was definitely, definitely today. There's a lot there's people with more resources living in the neighborhood, in the immediate neighborhood than there was at that time.
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:04] The bar that you had mentioned, where did they work? The factory. Where were the factories?
Diana Cyganovich [00:22:11] I actually don't know.
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:12] You don't know?
Diana Cyganovich [00:22:13] I don't know. There was a lot of small manufacturing around here, though.
Sarah Nemeth [00:22:15] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:22:15] There was there, and there's very little of it left. If you drive around and go off on some of the side streets and stuff, you'll see small brick buildings. There was a lot more going on. What is now Battery Park? What is now The Edison, which is the newer apartment complex north by the railroad tracks over overlooking the lake and Edgewater Park. There were those were all those were all factory buildings. So when I moved here, it wasn't like all the factories were up and running because I think it early changed some, but there still was a lot of small manufacturing of different types going on around the neighborhood.
Sarah Nemeth [00:23:02] What were the demographics that you observed in the neighborhood?
Diana Cyganovich [00:23:07] Very mixed. Yeah, I would say socio-economic there was a mix. There was a mix in terms of culture and race. It may have been. Well, I think there's a lot of things that happened. '70s, '80s in terms of there were a lot of folks from Cambodia and Vietnam that were moving to the neighborhood. Then the next influx, I think, was from Africa, you know. So we've had immigrants, refugees kind of come to the neighborhood. There's been it's kind of a you know, it's still it's very mixed. You know, one of the things they did a lot of busing in Cleveland, and I don't know a lot about it because I wasn't here when they started busing, but they did a lot of busing in Cleveland to kind of mix races and cultures and things like that. And I kept thinking, this neighborhood, we are just already so mixed that if everybody went to the same school, you would have the mix you wanted.
Sarah Nemeth [00:24:11] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:24:11] You know. So my observation is, although I think some that some of its pockets, you know, there may be a pocket that's more Hispanic. There may be a pocket that's more Asian or a pocket that's more African or a pocket that's more Caucasian, European. But they're all all those all the cultures are around, you know. And another one would be the Arabic folks in the Middle East with Arabic history or foreign culture. So, you know, it really is a mix.
Sarah Nemeth [00:24:48] Okay, but there are pockets. That was one of my next divisions if there is
Diana Cyganovich [00:24:52] It's somewhat pocketed. But I mean, it was always pocketed. I mean, I think when it was this area was first settled, you had the Irish community, you had the Italian community. I mean, north of Detroit, there's still a core Italian community around between, you know, 58th and 75th or something. You know, around in that area, 70th. You know, there is a whole pocket that was Irish. There was a whole pocket that was German, you know. So we always had pockets of people because people would come and they would stay with people that were from their same background.
Sarah Nemeth [00:25:28] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:25:28] You know, and we still have that. It's just that it's it's different groups, you know, and the pockets, I don't think are as big, you know.
Sarah Nemeth [00:25:37] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:25:38] And there's a lot more mixing, you know, on, you know, different streets. We're we're yeah, maybe there's quite a few Hispanic people that buy in the same neighborhood. Just like when David and I bought our house, there were a number of other people we knew from some groups we were in that they were white Europeans that bought in the neighborhood. But it's not... It's not absolute.
Sarah Nemeth [00:26:02] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:26:02] You know, you know you have the Hispanic folks living next to the non-Hispanic folks and, you know, blacks and whites. And yet, yes, it really is a mix.
Sarah Nemeth [00:26:17] So when you first moved here, what were, were the European maybe ethnic enclaves more were they, had they moved out by then?
Diana Cyganovich [00:26:30] Quite. Quite a few had moved out, quite a few had moved out. There still were people in the neighborhood. There was a whole Romanian group that was here at one time and many of them had moved as the kids got older. I mean, the grandparents probably still were around. I think quite a few of the people that from Italian ancestry have stayed. But that's changed, too. Yeah. Yeah. People moved. People moved around. I think at that time it wasn't so much people moving into the city as it is today. People were moving out of the city. So as folks, the next generation grew, they went elsewhere for job opportunities and elsewhere for other things. So. I mean, that I mean, I think that's a common thing that happens. Now, it seems like people want to move to this neighborhood, you know. So there's a lot more influx into the neighborhood kind of thing.
Sarah Nemeth [00:27:25] Have you ever observed any issues of gentrification now that is on the rise in the neighborhood?
Diana Cyganovich [00:27:31] Absolutely. You know, and that's one of the things that for the up until very recently, I would say that there was an ability to still kind of have mix in in social economics within the last couple of years. What I've seen happen is housing prices double and quadruple or quintuple, you know. And. Which is in some ways good for real estate. You want the market going up. It's just that there was a big jump in the last two years, which causes me some concern. It wasn't a gradual. For a long time it was a gradual, you know, like you buy a house for $50,000. The next person bought it for 60. The next person bought it for 65. The next person bought it for 70. You know, the next person was 80 or 90. And then it got to $100,000. And then some were going for 120, 150, and 170, and suddenly we're at 320 and 380 in the blink of an eye. You know, that causes me concern. You know that... that does. I mean, I think that can, that may not be as positive as that gradual.
Sarah Nemeth [00:28:48] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:28:48] Kind of. You know, over 20 some years we went from $50,000 to $150,000 to $170,000. And then in two years we went from 170 to 320 and 380. You know, that's there's something wrong.
Sarah Nemeth [00:29:02] Right
Diana Cyganovich [00:29:03] You know, to me there is something wrong.
Sarah Nemeth [00:29:04] If it was gradual, people could keep up with that.
Diana Cyganovich [00:29:07] People could keep up with it. It doesn't feel artificial, you know. But, you know, I don't know what, what it means. It just... It's.
Sarah Nemeth [00:29:18] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:29:18] It's... It's an observation.
Sarah Nemeth [00:29:20] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:29:20] You know, two years ago, I was actually looking with my son at houses in the neighborhood and they were 150, 170, and some closer to Ohio City were, you know, 200 and that kind of thing, 300. You could find it, but you find range. But right now, finding a house that's, you know, that isn't a fixer-upper for 150 or 170 is much harder.
Sarah Nemeth [00:29:49] That always makes me nervous. When. Well, do you think that with the gentrification that's happening or that you observed that it's losing some of its, of the community essence of what it was?
Diana Cyganovich [00:30:06] It hasn't yet; I don't think but I think it could. I mean, one of the nice things about Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. They've been committed to different levels of housing. So affordable housing, low-income housing, midrange housing, as well as housing that's for people that are more wealthy. I mean, they were our partner here at Cogswell Hall when we did a major renovation. In addition, and this is all low income housing. There's a number of other places within a few blocks of here that it's low-income housing. There. They've done they and Cleveland Housing Network also have done houses that are called opportunity houses, where it's for folks who are a little bit lower-income to be able to afford a house. It's renovated in a certain way. And I don't know exactly how it works, but that they can afford to buy the house that at a little bit lower cost so that.
Sarah Nemeth [00:31:04] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:31:04] It's more reasonable. So there is a commitment to that. I just don't know with the tension right now of people wanting to live so much in this neighborhood because we're the next one. You know, we've kind of flooded Tremont and Ohio City here on the West Side. So Detroit Shoreway is next. And there's a lot of people moving in. And so I don't know how Detroit Shoreway is going to be able to manage. I hope they can. I hope they can manage. Still having very affordable housing for people so that we can continue to have a mix of folks. I think it it it brings a richness to the neighborhood. You know, this is a pretty solid neighborhood. And as people have moved in, I found that this is a pretty welcoming neighborhood and we try to be. But I also have noticed that many, many of the people who are moving in are white European. You know, there isn't as much of folks coming from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Sarah Nemeth [00:32:09] Do you know? Well, it seems like a lot of your work has been in housing.
Diana Cyganovich [00:32:13] Well, actually.
Sarah Nemeth [00:32:15] Has it?
Diana Cyganovich [00:32:16] Actually the first the first five years of my career was was in law.
Sarah Nemeth [00:32:21] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:32:21] And then and then about the next 15 were domestic violence, sexual assault, that area. And it was working. I worked with what was called Templum at the time, which is now part of the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center where we worked, had shelter. I did a program that was a court advocacy program where complementing what Witness Victim Service Center for victims of crime in Cleveland, they were housed downtown Cleveland. And so there's 13 suburban courts in the county. And so, they, folks in the suburban courts who had no reason to come downtown were not necessarily getting the same services. So we developed a program for domestic violence victims to be able to reach out to them when they were having to go to court in the suburbs to kind of give them support, make sure they understood what was happening and that type of thing. And again, to try to educate court personnel, as well as law enforcement and prosecutors and defense attorneys, something about the dynamics of what goes on in domestic violence. So I did that for almost 15 years, 13 years at that job, and then three years split between two other projects. And then I've been here at Cogswell Hall. It'll be about, it'll be 15 years in July. And so I kind of shifted from the mission being around women's issues in terms of violence against women to when I came here, this was a housing for women, two women who were low income with a plethora of issues and challenges, I should say. Challenges. So, you know, it's. It's, it's strange to me that I'm sitting here today talking about having worked with women all these years, when when I started my career I thought I'd be working with kids because my first two jobs were with children. And then I thought I would be doing juvenile work in law and stuff. But it shifted and that's what happens in life. Things come along, opportunities come along. You find that this is all this is something great. I can really, you know, do this. So I've been really blessed to be able to work in organizations that are local. I've been able to live and work and within reasonable distance. I haven't had to travel. Well, I had one job in Columbus when I lived here but. So, I did travel. I did travel the state for a year and a half. But other than that, I mean, I've really pretty much lived and worked locally, you know.
Sarah Nemeth [00:34:52] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:34:52] Kind of in this similar area kind of thing. And so it's been great. It's been great because my my work is part of the community that I'm living in. Which is kind of nice, but there also are boundaries, you know. It's not like, you know, it's not my whole. It's not my whole life at work. There is another life. You can't have.
Sarah Nemeth [00:35:18] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:35:18] Everything at work.
Sarah Nemeth [00:35:18] No, you can't. But it is nice being able to give back to the place that you live.
Diana Cyganovich [00:35:25] Yeah, it is. It's wonderful.
Sarah Nemeth [00:35:26] And it's rewarding.
Diana Cyganovich [00:35:26] And helping people in the same neighborhood. And also, I mean, we've got this thing now in Detroit Shoreway of hire local. And I was starting to look at the last few hires we've done. They are people that live here in the neighborhood, you know, so we've been naturally doing it for a long time. We've always said, you know, probably half our staff live within a mile of this place.
Sarah Nemeth [00:35:49] Oh, well that's cool?
Diana Cyganovich [00:35:51] Yeah, it is pretty cool. Yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [00:35:55] Well, I am going to go back a bit in your time. So when you first move to Cleveland, as you had mentioned, people weren't really moving into this neighborhood. People weren't really moving in. Was downtown? What was your impression of downtown?
Diana Cyganovich [00:36:11] Well, when I first came here, there still was a lot downtown there. There were still stores. There were two big department stores. I don't remember if Halle's was still open. I don't know if the third one was still there or if it just closed. I think it was still open. I think there were three major department stores downtown. There were lots of other retail. But people left at 5:00, 6:00 o'clock. It was deserted. I mean, there just wasn't street traffic. Nobody was living downtown. Yeah, cause while I was in law school. I had a job at a firm downtown. And I would work, you know, usually after classes and sometimes into the evening, you know, and catching the bus back to Cleveland Heights. It was pretty deserted. It was pretty deserted after 6:00, 7:00 o'clock. You know, kind of thing. So that's very different. Downtown has a lot more people. But so I was here, while you saw the decline in terms of retail downtown or, you know, store shops and things. And in the place of it, we have a lot more restaurants. What's been really nice is and I don't spend a lot of time downtown, but I recently well in the last six months, I walked from Cleveland State toward Public Square and realized that a lot of retail is coming back. It's smaller stores. It's not the big, Higbee's and Halle's and May Company and what was now Macy's kind of thing. But it's but there's but there is retail up and down the street and you know we have a grocery store downtown. Yeah. Which we actually had one once before. But it was in what's now Reserve Square. There was a grocery store in there and it never quite made it.
Sarah Nemeth [00:37:54] What was... [unintelligible]
Diana Cyganovich [00:37:54] Well, if there's still... There's still a grocery... I almost. You know what? I don't remember which chain but it was one of the chains.
Sarah Nemeth [00:38:00] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:38:00] Actually had a store there. But there wasn't a large store there for a long, long time before Heinen's went back downtown.
Sarah Nemeth [00:38:09] It's interesting. When did you see downtown come back?
Diana Cyganovich [00:38:17] I don't know if I can pin it down. So I was in the Leadership Cleveland class of 2013. And one of the things I remember at that time was some of the things that we went and did and saw. It became clear to me that things were moving in a different direction. One of the places and then a couple of alumni days, we did some things, one of them in University Circle. So I think I don't know exactly when it started, but, you know, by 2012, 13, 14, I think you could really see things moving in a different direction. And actually asked Bruce Akers who who was part of Leadership Cleveland started in 1978, you know, because he had a long term perspective. And I said to him, I said, what do you think, Bruce? Do you think this is another blip or is this different? And and I remember talking him about how it might be different this time, because Cleveland did have like blips of through through the last 50 years, you know, going down and then starting to come back maybe a little bit and then going back down again. And this one seems more sustainable because they're more people. People are moving in. That's a big difference. It's that you don't think happened ever before.
Sarah Nemeth [00:39:40] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:39:40] So it's huge.
Sarah Nemeth [00:39:41] Well, that's positive.
Diana Cyganovich [00:39:43] It's very positive.
Sarah Nemeth [00:39:49] I am trying to think of something else that I wanted to ask. I noticed on your bio that you sent me that you work with the Greater Cleveland Community Shares Board and that focus on how focuses on housing policy as well but if you could explain?
Diana Cyganovich [00:40:02] Well, Greater Cleveland Community Shares is actually a workplace federation. A workplace giving federation, it's a federation of 44 agencies right now. It may be going up to 46 when we may be voting in two more agencies in this year. So it's been running around 44 46 agencies for the last maybe 10 years or so. Started in 1984 of a group of agencies coming together to get into workplaces to get donations towards the work they're doing. And it started with a lot of advocacy organizations because at that time, the organization everybody thinks of United Way, that's the workplace giving organization. They do Health and Human Services. They were not doing advocacy organization. So all the advocacy organizations were left out. And so a group of them came together and formed Greater Cleveland Community Shares. And it's one of an many across the country.
Sarah Nemeth [00:40:56] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:40:56] They are in all kinds of states and cities. But it's the same concept is an employer offers this as a benefit to the employees that you can sign up and you can make your donation out of your paycheck. The way can Greater Cleveland Community Shares works as people can designate where their money goes. There isn't a committee that says we're going to give grants to these agencies and you just give us money for this area of work. You actually give it to whatever agency you want to give it to. It's one of the things I love about it. So Cogswell Hall has been part of it. I can't even remember what year we came in, but it's been at least five years. And so a couple of years ago, I went on the board and I work as the chair of the Access Committee, which we're trying to get into more workplaces.
Sarah Nemeth [00:41:43] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:41:43] Having more employers use this, you know, and or or just start a workplace giving campaign with Greater Cleveland Community Shares as part of it. So it's it was it's a great it's a great way for individuals to be able to support charities without feeling like you have to write that big check.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:09] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:42:09] You know, and kind of thing. It comes right out of your paycheck. It can be a small amount. I mean, people get 50 cents a pay, a dollar a pay, two dollars a pay, five dollars a pay, ten dollars, you know, whatever people can afford. And they and there and they're helping they're helping their community.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:28] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:42:28] You know. So I'm pretty passionate about Greater Cleveland Community Shares. I love the way it works. That that the donor gets to decide what happens with their money and there isn't somebody else deciding where your money goes. You know.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:38] Right. That's nice. Yes, definitely when I donate I always like to know.
Diana Cyganovich [00:42:45] Yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [00:42:46] But then you don't know most of the time.
Diana Cyganovich [00:42:47] Well, you know, and you have affinity to certain things, you know, and different people have affinities to different things. I mean, the 44 agencies and community shares are everything from the arts organization to the Animal Protective League to Bike Cleveland to Cogswell Hall to, you know, policy matters, which looks at, you know, policy, statewide policy. So there's just a range of organizations. So, you know, folks can give and say, hey, just split it up amongst them all or I want to give to this one or these three or whatever it is. And that's what we do. So it's wonderful.
Sarah Nemeth [00:43:20] Well, you mentioned affinity for things. How did you get focused on this line of work? How did you get involved?
Diana Cyganovich [00:43:27] Well, again, it was serendipitous. So as I said when I went to graduate school. So when I came, when I came to Cleveland, I knew I'd be going to the social workers master's program, School of Applied Social Sciences here. I deferred a year to take this job with Children's Services, partly to pay off a car. It was I had another year payments and I said, oh, here's a great opportunity. I can pay off my car and start school next year. So I did that. And during that year, I looked in the catalog months looking through the catalog and stuff, and it showed that they had started this law social work program. So I said, oh, being a lawyer, always sounded kind of interesting to me. I think I'll take the LSAT. So I took the LSAT. I probably was least stressed-out person ever who took the LSAT because I was just kind of doing it, saying, Okay, if they let me in I'll go and if they don't I won't. So I wasn't like, you know, wedded to it the way way my son was when he went to law school. So I. They let me in. And I think again, it was serendipitous because when I started law school, it was when they were trying to attract a lot more women.
Sarah Nemeth [00:44:38] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:44:38] And so it was a little bit easier as a woman to get in. Then it may have been for a white male to get in. They wanted more minorities. They wanted more women. And so it kind of worked in my favor. I imagine it did. I don't know that for a fact.
Sarah Nemeth [00:44:54] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:44:54] I just imagine it did. But about a third of our class was women. And that was getting to be kind of. That was a growing from, you know, early '70s when there were hardly any women in law school. In fact, if you ever read Ruth Bader Ginsburg's book, The Notorious RBG, it's very interesting to look at the history of women in law because she really... Her life shows it. And so I've... I ended up doing both. And like I said, I thought I would be doing work with kids. So both of my internships for social work were with children and one was at the runaway shelter that was part of the free clinic on the East Side. And the other one was with juvenile court and probation, juvenile probation department. So, I... You know, I thought I would do that. So when I got out of law school and started practicing law, I was doing general practice with high legal services and so did a smattering of things. And during that time, as part of a worship community that's now called Community of Christ The Servant which started most of the people had their background in the Catholic Church. But we're coming together in a little different way than the traditional church way. And one of the men that I met there, he was on the board of Templum Domestic Violence Program here in town. That was started, but was started by a couple of nuns or had had a couple of nuns running it for a number of years. I'm not sure they were the exact person that started it, but they became administrators of it. And it was shifting and it was changing to lay administration. But he was he was on the board and they said, you know, we really could use a lawyer on the board. We have one, but we could use another one. Would you be interested? And I said, oh, yeah, that sounds interesting. OK. So it's my first experience going on a board of a nonprofit. What happened is within about a year of when I was on the board, the director had written a grant proposal because the Violence Against Women Act had been passed and there was funding for more services for victims of domestic violence. And she wrote a proposal for this legal advocacy program, which would was the servicing the suburban courts victims who were going to suburban courts. And she wanted somebody that had a law and social work background. So I took a leave from the board and was one of the people that applied. And she hired me and I discovered that it was work I could be passionate about. You know, it was really about nonviolence. You know.
Sarah Nemeth [00:47:51] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:47:51] The really talking about another another aspect of nonviolence. You know, a lot of times people think of anti-war as nonviolence, but people who work in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault, it really is about nonviolence. It's really about training people not to be violent.
Sarah Nemeth [00:48:07] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:48:07] You know. And so, like I said, I did that type of work for about 15 years. And then I made a shift here. And how I made the shift here was I was working for the state coalition and it was a statewide job. So I was traveling all over the state. My grant was running out and said to my husband, I said, you know, I could take three months off. Nancy tells me there's going to be another grant and I could be hired for this other position, but it will be like two to three months before I had another job or I can look for something else. And for the only time in his entire life that he said anything about my work. He goes, Do you think you could find something closer to home? I said, OK, I'll look. So I opened up. You could still open a newspaper then and look for a job. That's what was so funny. I say that now. It's like, oh, that's right. That was only 15 years ago. You could open up the Plain Dealer and there were a lot of jobs listed. So there was this job listed. It said, you know, help wanted executive director for the historic home for women. I said, I wonder if that's Cogswell Hall because I knew this. This was the only building I could think of that had been a historic home for women in Cleveland. And not that I knew all the all parts of Cleveland, but I'd been in the social work enough. And sure enough, it was here and they were silly enough to hire me. So I've been here for 15 years and it's been wonderful. It's been wonderful. This is the this is a fabulous organization. You know. It just. And I can talk about that now if you'd like me to?
Sarah Nemeth [00:49:30] Yeah, that would be great.
Diana Cyganovich [00:49:31] I'd love to, because this organization started in 1878 when Mrs. Cogswell and her sisters in the Women's Christian Temperance Union saw a need of women on the living, you know, on the street coming out of the workhouse or other situations where they were basically on the street until they started a drop-in center on the East Side. And as they did the drop-in center within a few years, they realized that many of these women just needed a place to stay, as well as what the Temperance Union was into, which was spiritual guidance and education and training and that type of thing to help people get off streets and get jobs and things like that. So they decided to run a house on the East Side and I think they had two houses on the east side and then they ended up a house on, you know, West 32nd and Franklin, that house burned, they temporarily lived on Clifton. Clinton. Sorry, not Clifton. Clinton Ave. And they built another house on the site that eventually was sold to what they called the German Hospital, which was the precursor to Fairview because that was in this neighborhood originally, and they sold it to the... to the hospital for a nurse's residence. And with that money, purchased the land where Cogswell Hall is.
Sarah Nemeth [00:51:13] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:51:13] And built this historic building that they opened in March of 1914, it was built on the model of small rooms with a large bathroom on each of the second and third floor so that they and they at that point, they had shifted already to housing adult women, to housing juveniles, juvenile female juveniles, trying to intercede earlier in their life to try to help young girls. And so they opened this home. It was called the Training Home for Friendless Girls. They didn't they. So it stayed a home for young girls until the '50s when they started licensing group homes. But during that time, the Women's Christian Temperance Union had also started a number of other organizations in Cleveland, and they also funded a foundation. So they started their own foundation, which, of course, was all run by men because women couldn't handle money, then. That foundation still exists and helps us every every year. But. They did not incorporate actually as a nonprofit until 1937, and they did that because there was a house that actually sat where a parking lot is, that was called Franklin House, which was a home for women, single women over the age of 18. So some young girls would come from Cogswell Hall because they were under 18. And when they got it to be 18, they would move to Franklin House. That would happen with some people. And then others were just, you know, other kinds of situations. But eventually they they tore down Franklin Hall and. We created a parking lot instead, which has remained a parking lot, but in the 1950s, as I said, they were starting to license group homes and the organization didn't want to be licensed. Didn't want to go through a licensing process. So they looked at who else needed housing. That would be what other group of women.
Sarah Nemeth [00:53:23] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:53:23] Or girls would need housing. And so they decided that the category, the the market or the need was for single women that had been like at Franklin House, the 18 to maybe 30, 35 year old single women, because landlords wouldn't rent to women in the '50s and '60s. You know, you were. You were also were not considered a proper woman if you weren't chaperoned. So you were supposed to go from your husband or your your father to your husband or you were supposed to be chaperoned. I mean, living in a chaperone environment. So this was one of the places in Cleveland that was a chaperone environment for proper young ladies. And it's interesting who lived here. Some of the women who had lived here in the '50s and '60s actually have come back and talked with us or we've connected with, you know, and there's different stories. Stories of one woman said she lived here for four years while her fiancee was in the service. You know, because this was a nice, low cost, safe place for her to live. Most of the women had jobs or were in school. Some of them are in nursing school because St. What was St. John's Hospital is now St. Augustine's was right down the, right down the street.
Sarah Nemeth [00:54:37] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:54:37] You know, and so they had a nursing program there. One woman told us a story about her family was from Medina. And of course there were no interstates then. There was no way to commute from Medina to downtown Cleveland. And she worked for a law firm in downtown Cleveland. So she'd live here during the week and go home on the farm every weekend. You know, it's stories like that. It's just like a different group of people. Some of the people who we've connected with who lived here as young girls, you know, under the age of 18. And when one of them actually is an artist, she worked for American Greetings most of her life. She now has her own art studio on Lorain Avenue. You know, so it's like people from all walks of life.
Sarah Nemeth [00:55:18] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:55:18] People from all different backgrounds came here. So it remained a home for single women until landlords started renting to women. And then, of course, there wasn't a need for necessarily this. I mean, in the early '70s, is kind of when things changed. The early '70s, late '60s, early '70s, it changed. You know, women having their own apartment wasn't as quite as looked upon as negatively by society, although that was about the time I was graduating from high school. And I remember that one of my older cousins, you know, I'm living in rural New York. Might I have an older cousin who graduated from college, who moved to Boston, which was the same city where her boyfriend was living. And boy, did the aunts talk. You know, it was like, so I have a sense of what that culture was like, what the what the society more mores were at that time, like the early '70s, late '60s. And so when I came here, it made sense to me and made sense to me that somewhere in that early '70s is when landlords did start renting to women. So there wasn't a need for this place. So it became a home for women 60 and over, and it was home for women 60 and over that had were lower-income, didn't need a nursing home, didn't maybe have couldn't maybe didn't want to or couldn't handle an apartment anymore or didn't want to live with family or couldn't live with family or didn't have family to live with or whatever. And so for probably almost 20 years, it was women 60 and over. And then gradually the age limit went away. It just became women.
Sarah Nemeth [00:56:54] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:56:54] And it remained women until 2009, because during the renovation, we went from these small rooms with a shared bathroom on the floor to everybody having a larger room with a private bathroom and so at that point, there was. I mean, there. We really because we're permanent housing, we do have to follow fair housing.
Sarah Nemeth [00:57:17] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:57:18] And so you can't discriminate by gender. So we've had men and women here since 2009, and it's still a wonderful place. It still has a great history.
Sarah Nemeth [00:57:28] Right, so.
Diana Cyganovich [00:57:28] And it will be here for a long time to come. I hope.
Sarah Nemeth [00:57:30] It is so adaptable.
Diana Cyganovich [00:57:33] Yes.
Sarah Nemeth [00:57:33] Just completely evolving all the time.
Diana Cyganovich [00:57:36] And it evolved in a way that that it wasn't it wasn't chasing money to evolve.
Sarah Nemeth [00:57:40] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:57:40] It wasn't like, you know, trying to keep the institution going to evolve. In fact, in the late '90s, they actually did a feasibility study and said, should we close our doors? Should we sell the building? Is it really? Is it a service to the community anymore?
Sarah Nemeth [00:57:53] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:57:53] Is there a need for it? And they decided there was still a need, which I'm very glad they did, because then I got a job here. But, you know, it was a thoughtful process, but it was always based on mission. It was always based on what can we do to help? But where's the gap? Where's the gap we can fill? And today the gap is a combination of people who are have become homeless, have lost their housing and are in in the homelessness system, and people who are very precariously housed. You know, they're they're maybe temporarily they're maybe living with family in a situation where there really isn't room for them, you know, but they're, you know, they're sleeping on the couch or something, you know, or it's the couch. It is the couch to couch person or it's the person who's living in an apartment but it becomes very rundown and unsafe.
Sarah Nemeth [00:58:39] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [00:58:39] You know. So they're very precariously housed and very insecure in their housing. And they find a lot of stability here, you know. So we feel like we're still filling a gap in the community. We're not all one thing or another, you know, because there's a lot of different kinds of housing now. And we kind of catch those people that don't quite fit anything else, which I really love.
Sarah Nemeth [00:59:00] Yeah, that's amazing. Is there any other organizations that you work with that like sometimes you might be full or is there someone that you... [unintelligible]
Diana Cyganovich [00:59:12] Yeah, we are full or always full. So the way we're set up is about half our people come from the homeless continuum.
Sarah Nemeth [00:59:21] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:59:21] So we work with all, you know, the Continuum of Care here in Cuyahoga County. They have a there's meetings about prioritizing who's in the shelter that fits supportive housing definition that we have to fall under for those rooms for are some of our government money.
Sarah Nemeth [00:59:39] Okay.
Diana Cyganovich [00:59:39] It's a small amount of money but you have to follow the rules. So when a room that fits in that category comes open, our property manager works with the folks who are meeting together and figuring out, okay, who's the next person on the list that needs, you know, try to take the person that's been then homeless the longest and get them housed first, you know.
Sarah Nemeth [01:00:01] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [01:00:01] And just work down. That's kind of working down the list. And we'll also, they think, could fit in well in this environment because this is a more of a community environment than an apartment building where you where you tend to be more private. There is this you know, this is this is a lot of common area, a lot of common space. People come together. We have a dining room where people eat together. So it's a different environment than living in your own apartment, even though you have your own space, also your own room. So. So that's how we fill rooms that come up in that way. The other a little over half of our rooms is for any low-income person. And they have to be under a certain income. And that waiting list is anywhere from three to five years long. And we've had we've had a little more turnover in the last couple of years than we had previously. So we've been able to pull from the list more. But still. What's sad is about this time of the month because it's like second half of the month when the second half of June we start getting the phone calls about people who need housing July 1st. And it's just really sad. There is such a need for low-income housing. You know, I think there's a well. Some folks think that because we have Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing and we have subsidies and we have all these different programs that it's meeting the need. It's not. I just read something recently that in 1970 there were. More affordable housing units than people that needed them. Today we have over a million people across this country who need affordable housing. They can't find it. It's sad. We've gone backwards. We've gone backwards in this field. With all the stuff that we tried to move forward, we've gone backwards in this. We've got more housing insecurity today than we did in the 1970s.
Sarah Nemeth [01:01:58] Have you ever read the book Derelict Paradise?
Diana Cyganovich [01:01:59] I have not read that book. Nope.
Sarah Nemeth [01:02:01] Well, it's about homelessness in Cleveland. I don't know if you have heard of it?
Diana Cyganovich [01:02:05] Yeah, I've heard of the book. I have not read that one. I read some of the books I was trying to get through, Just Mercy. Well, that's more on race issues and systemic racism, which is so alive and well. But sometimes when I read some of these books, I get so angry, I just have to put it aside.
Sarah Nemeth [01:02:24] That is the [inaudible] of living and breathing the field constantly.
Diana Cyganovich [01:02:26] Yeah. Yeah. Like right now the I was trying to watch The NewsHour last night and listen to the Republican senator and the Democratic senator talk about healthcare and I had to turn it off because I know there is a woman in this building who has a torn rotator cuff, is on crutches, so has to use her crutches for another health issue, has no health insurance. She's middle age. She works full-time, but her company doesn't give her benefits for a year. So she's got a couple of months to go. Now, that is sad.
Sarah Nemeth [01:02:58] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [01:02:58] That is sad. Here's a woman who's worked all her life. And can't get the kind of medical care she needs because she can't afford on her own health coverage. And we're talking about reducing it. You know, years ago, my husband was laid off. Not many years ago, but I can't remember the exact date. He was laid off from his job. He'd worked in Catholic education for 30 years and he was laid off from his job. It was during the Obama years. And thank God or whoever you think, believe in or thank somebody some power out there, that at that time the federal government was paying 65 percent of people's cobra who got laid off. It's the only thing that allowed us to survive without like running the risk of losing our housing. Even though I was working full-time, you know.
Sarah Nemeth [01:03:55] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [01:03:55] You know, because we didn't we don't have health insurance here because we're such a small company. We can't afford it. We just can't afford the cost of it. And I. And so that's one issue is the cost. But the other issue is this kind of hard-heartedness about, you know, who's the who deserves it and who doesn't? That's the that's the.
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:15] That's the issue.
Diana Cyganovich [01:04:15] Thing that drives me crazy. And the same with housing who deserves it and who does? Who deserves this and doesn't? Everybody deserves it. It's, you know, everybody.
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:24] Yeah, it's a basic need. It's shelter.
Diana Cyganovich [01:04:26] It's shelter. You know? And I think in our society, health care should be a basic, basic right. You know, we're a wealthy enough country. It's not like we're well, we act. Many times we act like a third-world country, even though we're not.
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:42] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [01:04:42] It's sad. So there's my political diatribe.
Sarah Nemeth [01:04:46] Thank you. Well, it all ties in. Because you're like the.
Diana Cyganovich [01:04:48] Well, I see it every day. I see people every day. I mean, people want to say it's well, it's people. It's people that just won't get off their duff and work. But I see people go to work every day. I see people who are disabled and everybody like say, oh, it's not for the disabled. Well, there are people that are disabled that aren't yet qualified.
Sarah Nemeth [01:05:05] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [01:05:05] As disabled who need help. You know, there's there's that whole group of people. There are people who are disabled in ways that, you know, our disability system will reject. You know, even though they really have difficulty working, there are people that try to work that just can't.
Sarah Nemeth [01:05:23] Yeah, I know.
Diana Cyganovich [01:05:25] And even even the. And there is a lot of people who are working who cannot afford what it costs to buy an insurance policy on the open market.
Sarah Nemeth [01:05:36] Definitely.
Diana Cyganovich [01:05:37] You know?
Sarah Nemeth [01:05:40] I couldn't.
Diana Cyganovich [01:05:40] Yeah.
Sarah Nemeth [01:05:42] I think, thank you for Cleveland State.
Diana Cyganovich [01:05:42] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it really it's it's and it doesn't matter the age group. I mean, it's all ages. It's all ages of people cannot afford to do it. We still have a fairly low wage in this country. You know, people make less than they can afford housing at a reasonable cost. You know, so it's there's a lot of these issues. And I you know, I I kept thinking that by this time in my life, when I'm looking closer to retirement, that since we've been working on these issues, since, you know, the '50s, '60s, '70s, that maybe we would have gotten better at this. And right now, I feel like we're getting worse again.
Sarah Nemeth [01:06:22] It's going back.
Diana Cyganovich [01:06:22] It's going backwards. So. So vote!
Sarah Nemeth [01:06:28] Vote! Yes.
Diana Cyganovich [01:06:28] Well, that's my message: vote.
Sarah Nemeth [01:06:28] Voting is.
Diana Cyganovich [01:06:29] Voting is important. Voting is important. No other election has ever shown us that's the last two.
Sarah Nemeth [01:06:36] Well, I guess we can close on your voting message.
Diana Cyganovich [01:06:41] Yes.
Sarah Nemeth [01:06:41] Unless you have anything else that you would like to say or comment on?
Diana Cyganovich [01:06:45] Well, I guess I'd like to just comment on the fact that Cleveland is a fantastic place to live and raise a family. I mean, I raised my son in this neighborhood and he went to St. Ed's High School. And I know he had friends at St. Ed's who grew up out out of Cleveland, outside of Cleveland, further out, who really were nervous about coming to our house. And I want to say to everybody. You don't need to be.
Sarah Nemeth [01:07:19] Right.
Diana Cyganovich [01:07:19] You shouldn't be. You know, the city of Cleveland is a marvelous place. We have, we have a lot of issues, but more people need to come and live here, raise their children here and help make change.
Sarah Nemeth [01:07:31] Thank you.
Diana Cyganovich [01:07:32] Thank you.
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"Diana Cyganovich interview, 21 June 2017" (2017). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955031.