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As Dianne Cleaver retires from Urban Neighborhood Initiative, the need for affordable housing remains

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Dianne Cleaver
Dianne Cleaver is stepping down from her position at the helm of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative after nearly a decade.

Cleaver has led UNI's initiative since its founding in 2012.

The goal of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative is to break the cycles of poverty and racial inequity in Kansas City's urban core.

During Cleaver's tenure with the organization as its president and CEO, her main focus has been revitalizing 10 different neighborhoods within the boundaries of Truman Road to the north, 52nd Street to the south, Troost Avenue to the west and Prospect Avenue to the east.

"Disinvestment has occurred in the neighborhoods," explains Cleaver. "They've been largely African-American neighborhoods subject to the systemic racist issues that were built into many — if not most of — our institutions, but certainly in housing."

Cleaver has spent her entire career working in human services with disadvantaged populations, an area where needs are substantial, but progress doesn't always come quickly.

"I have learned to appreciate the small steps forward," she told Up To Date host Steve Kraske, "and to recognize that it is going to take a long time."

As for what's next for Cleaver, she plans to stay involved in local civic affairs going forward, but not before a break.

"I'm going to step back and, first of all, I'm going to take a little rest. And then, I'm going to look for ways that I can have a meaningful impact without working 60 or 70 hours a week."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.