Driving down Carnegie Avenue one would hardly notice the somewhat decrepit doorway pictured above, and if you did, it’s only because it looks so out of place in a downtown environment, where standards for the upkeep of buildings are usually higher than somewhere out in one of Cleveland’s ‘hoods.
Nonetheless, there it is, big as life and twice as ugly.
If you happen to drive past the doorway at the right time of the morning — any morning, seven-days-a-week, winter or summer — you’ll see folks standing in line, as if they’re waiting to get into a movie theater, or maybe for a chance to be among the first to buy the latest “must have” gizmo that Madison Avenue foists on a gullible public possessing the power of plastic to charge whatever is shiny at the moment.
But if you were to stop and look closer at the faces, the anticipation in the eyes of these mostly young people — predominantly white, the majority women, some fairly well dressed and groomed, others a bit frayed around the edges — is not so much acquisitiveness you’ll see there but a sense of impending relief. In street parlance is called “getting the ‘haights’” off, or simply “getting straight.”
The door in the picture is to one of Cleveland’s two methadone clinics, and the reason it looks so decrepit is because that’s what we as a society think of addicts who have to congregate at that door to obtain their medication. And because of their sickness we all too often think of them as dope fiends and junkies … not everyday people who are attempting to manage a beast of a medical condition.
Can you imagine the door to any other medical facility — at least one not in a Third World country — looking so horrible, so downtrodden? Can their treatment regimen at the hands of the staff inside of the facility be all that much different than what the disgusting door signals?
If we truly want to help people overcome their addiction we need to remain compassionate and treat those struggling with dignity. But there’s nothing dignified about that door, which looks more like a portal to degradation than to recovery. Bringing the front of the building up to decent standards would be a good place for us to start.
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.