The Cleveland Truth Commission on Poverty featured over 20 personal testimonies from local low-income individuals telling their stories involving environmental degradation, housing, quality education, healthcare, living wage jobs, and criminalization of the poor. Their testimonies were read to a panel of notable commissioners who reviewed the testimonies, gathered themes and presented their findings to those in attendance.
Brooks Berndt, Environmental Justice Minister, United Church of Christ (UCC)
Before becoming the UCC Minister for Environmental Justice in 2015, Berndt served for eight years as the pastor of First Congregational UCC in Vancouver, Washington. He has been active in various environmental campaigns including a successful effort to transition the state of Washington away from its only coal plant and an ongoing campaign to prevent the establishment of the largest oil terminal in the country.
Sala W. J. Nolan Gonzalez, Minister for Criminal Justice and Human Rights (UCC)
Rev. Nolan, an ordained minister, has been active in criminal justice and human rights ministry for over thirty years in national and international settings as pastor to and advocate for inmates and victims of crime. For over thirteen years, she was the National Minister for Criminal Justice and Human Rights for the United Church of Christ.
Maria Smith, Supervising Attorney at Cleveland Legal Aid Society
Ms. Smith is a Supervising Attorney with the Housing Unit at Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Eviction cases are amongst some of her most important work. Prior to Legal Aid, Ms. Smith worked for the non-profit institute for Child Advocacy and alongside with those suffering from violence and economic depression in Nicaragua, Brazil and Guatemala.
Marian Kramer, Co-Chair, National Welfare Rights Union
Ms. Kramer has fought government programs such as "workfare"; defended poor women against unjust prosecution for "welfare fraud"; and led electoral campaigns to elect the victims of poverty to political office. commitment to end poverty in America by empowering the poor, and especially women, as the leaders.
Chris Knestrick, Director of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH).
Mr. Knestrick has over 10 years of experience working with the homelessness in Cleveland and directing advocacy efforts in the international and local community. He has been committed to organizing work, and nonviolent resistance that centers the voices most impacted by public policy and state violence (NEOCH).