Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump, how he will attract the voter support he needs to win the presidency in November. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives.

Helen Martin’s Mt. Pleasant home is just 10 kilometers southeast of downtown Cleveland.

But unlike the glittering scene outside the Republican National Convention, this neighborhood is filled with hundreds of vacant and crumbling homes.

“Our infrastructure is falling apart in this country. Look how old it is," said Martin, showing VOA around the neighborhood.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has vowed to improve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, including cities like Cleveland, and to create jobs.

His supporters at the convention, like economic development leader Alan Stockmeister, said Trump’s business credentials make their party best equipped to address these problems.

“It's about jobs, jobs, jobs… The platform is economic development, creating jobs will create infrastructure. So it's a Catch-22. We have got to do both,” said Stockmeister.

“So much of it begins right with the local leadership. You have to have leaders in those communities that understand economic development and what has to be done to make job opportunities for these folks," said Bob Sebo, and Republican delegate for Ohio.

But many in Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods, such as resident Ray Jefferson, aren’t convinced.

“The real message I get from Trump is like, ‘If you’re down, I’m going to keep you down but if you’re up I’m going to look out for you,’” said Jefferson.

They’re not alone. African Americans in Ohio overwhelmingly reject Donald Trump. An opinion poll last week indicated less than one percent of black voters in the state support the Republican nominee.

Marie Kittredge runs Opportunity Corridor Partnership, an organization helping to develop an impoverished part of Cleveland. She doesn’t believe either Trump or the Democratic Party's presidential contender, Hillary Clinton, fully understand urban issues.

"We’re not a nation that values public investment at this point… So that makes those little mistakes, those little problems — even something like demolishing houses, fixing sidewalks — that’s a big struggle," said Kittredge.

Back in Mount Pleasant, Helen Martin - a strong Clinton supporter - wants action to revive her neighborhood.

“You’re always raising money for this or taxes for that. You can build these stadiums, you can give money to the football people, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Do it for us,” said Martin.