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This blog is dedicated to distribute current information about the Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland or poverty or the state of homelessness. Entries are written by board or staff of the Coalition. The opinions contained in this blog reflect the views of the author of the post. This blog features information on shelters, affordable housing, profiles, statistics, trends, and upcoming events relating to homelessness. We welcome comments, and will remove offensive or inappropriate messages. All postings are signed by the author.

The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event
Friday
Apr072017

Homeless Congress Notes from March

March 9, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

This meeting of the Homeless Congress was dedicated to only one issue and that was the pending decision of who will be the social service provider to oversee the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter.  Ruth Gillett, Director of County Office of Homeless Services, (pictured here from a report on WEWS Channel 5) was in attendance to answer questions about the recommendation for Frontline to continue to administer the shelter.   There was a committee that is making a recommendation to the County Council for Frontline Services to continue to administer the Women's Shelter on Payne Ave.

Ruth Gillett, who organized the committee that made the recommendation, spoke about the process.  She could not give much information about the differences in the two proposals or the reasons for the results to the residents of the shelter who came to the meeting.   She was not able to give the scores provided by the committee of the two providers who submitted grant proposals.  She passed out two sheets of paper, one blue and the other yellow, which had information about the criteria considered in the decision process and the point system that determined the score for each agency that sought the contract.  Nothing specific just an overview of the process was distributed.

She gave a history of the issues at the Women's Shelter from her perspective and the process for issuing a request for proposals at the end of 2016.  Gillett said that only two agencies applied to oversee the women's shelter and only one to provide services for the men’s shelter.  The agencies that the County committee recommended were Frontline Services for the Women and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry for the Men's Shelter.  West Side Catholic Center with NEOCH and Metanoia supporting their proposal was the other provider seeking the contract for the women's shelter and they were not selected.  Gillett could not give many details about why the West Side Catholic proposal was not selected except that it did not get as many points as the Frontline Proposal as subjectively submitted by the committee.

She further informed the members that the shelters were meant to be for people who need emergency housing, provide shelter on demand, and in this area (Cleveland) no one gets turned away.  In other words, the shelter is a safety net for someone needing emergency shelter or housing.  Over 20 years, “elected officials, citizens, and public funds collectively funded the men and women’s shelters” and now “provide for 800 beds between [the] three shelters [including overflow, 2100 shelter, Norma Herr, and North Point]."  She also stated that “there is a progression of improvement and staff level [at the Women's Shelter]."  She went on to inform members that over “400 agencies were informed about the RP electronically”.  She said there was also “10 social service providers” that were informed by mail.  They were informed about the “criteria for each section of the proposal," how the applicants would be scored, and the scope of work.  They had to follow a process and a “review committee” was set up to ensure that the proposals met these requirements.

Gillett said because of the “public interest surrounding the contract for the women’s shelter” there were seven people selected to be on the review committee and no one from her office voted on this committee. 

  • Chris Alexander, Cuyahoga County DJFS
  • Paul Porter of the Cuyahoga County DJFS
  • Karen Anderson Department of Children and Family Services
  • Michiel Wackers from the City of Cleveland
  • Dan Hinman from the United Way  
  • Michael Doud from the ADAMHS Board (Alcohol and Drug Addiction Mental Health Board
  • Leslie Perkul a representative for the O’Neill Foundation

The agency selected to receive the contract had to “provide a high level of services for people experiencing homelessness, project understanding and how it is to be measured, time frames, product management, qualifications, prior experience, and level of staff capacity," according to Gillett. She asked the rhetorical question whether the County would give the contract to a provider that was going to create problems for the County.  Gillett brushed off concerns about the current provider not keeping women safe or allowing violence within the shelter.  Gillett encouraged the Congress to invite Frontline Services to discuss the changes they intend to implement at the Women's Shelter going forward.

She went on to say that “one proposal scored higher than the other one."  Gillett said the above committee had rated the Frontline proposal "substantially higher" but could not provide details.   She stated that “no one is allowed to share the score.”  So, that information is not available, and will never be available.  Many of the women and advocates were not happy to hear that Gillett could not give more information about why Frontline had received the grant.  To many of the residents and the advocates who saw everyday staff issues, a lack of oversight, a lack of training, food issues, and a huge overflow problem, they wanted more details.  Most expressed disbelief that the committee took into account the current operations of the shelter and problems plainly visible every day were taken into account when deciding on the contract.

Nathan Manthley (former student at Cleveland Institute of Art) worked with the women who were residing at the shelter on a art project in the past.   Manthley was concerned about the current safety of the residents and asked if this was taken into account when the contract was awarded. There was also a concern that no homeless people were involved in the decision making.   Gillett did not answer.  One member felt that there was no communication between the people providing the services and the people receiving the services.  She informed Ruth that, in her opinion, there should be at least one person on the committee that has experienced homelessness involved in the voting process.  Ruth replied that this is not part of the process and contracting services in the communities in the past and now is their job.  She stated that there is “no bias” and that the committee “represented the public.”  This statement was met with a very negative response.  Another member stated that Frontline has proven for the last three years that they cannot properly provide compassionate and successful services.

She was asked if there was an argument or opposition to this decision, and she could not answer.  She was asked if Frontline was able to meet even the minimum requirement to even bid on the project.  Gillett did not answer.   She was asked if the committee ever toured the shelter or talked to the residents.  They had not.  Gillett was asked if the number of suicide attempts at the various shelters was factored into the decision. It was not according to Gillett. 

Included in the packets that were passed out to the members and participants was a “list of issues” that have been collected from residents of the women’s shelter in the past, and the “history of NEOCH’s work on trying to reform the women’s shelter."  These are posted on the NEOCH website here.  The last topic addressed was what the Homeless Congress will “do next with Frontline in charge of the women’s shelter for the next three years”.   NEOCH staff talked about its failed attempt to reform the shelter for over a decade.  Brian Davis said that NEOCH went "all-in" on this attempt to provide an alternative grant application by supporting the West Side Catholic proposal.  There is no where else to go for the NEOCH advocacy around the shelters. The homeless coalition has decided to step away from doing anything at the two entry shelters in Cleveland.  NEOCH believes that it only does harm to the agency and to the clients of these shelters. 

By Brian Davis and Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Wednesday
Apr052017

National Coalition Homeless Action Day in DC

The National Coalition for the Homeless held an event in DC on April's Fool Day to call attention to the foolish decisions around housing and homelessness in America.  Activists from Minnesota, Austin and other cities held local protests on the same day in their home towns. 

There were people in for the National Coalition for the Homeless board meeting in town from Mississippi, Denver, Minnesota, Sacramento, Chicago, and of course Washington DC. 

Help us tell our legislators: WE WON’T BE FOOLED! Housing Ends Homelessness, and the President’s Budget will slash what little housing and community development programs we have in place, creating more entrenched homelessness and rolling back important advances we have made in getting folks off the streets.

Here is the items that the National Coalition were asking for from Federal officials:

 

      1. Preserve funding and create further local, state and national housing resources solely for extremely low to moderate income, elderly and disabled households.
      2. Stop ordinances, policies and practices that 1) criminalize and harrass people who are unhoused, 2) promote racial discrimination, or 3) prevent equal treatment of immigrants, people with disabilities, or those who identify as LGBTQ, especially in access to housing, employment and healthcare.
      3. Ensure that safety net programs like food assistance, health care and emergency housing are available to any Americans residents in need of support.

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Friday
Mar312017

Where is NEOCH Shelter Advocacy Going?


NEOCH gave out this information at the Homeless Congress and is posting it on our website.  We have put together a special section on our website here.  This section is under Programs in our main directory called Shelter Upgrades.  We have collected pages about shelters including:

After digesting all this history, NEOCH has made some decisions about the future involvement of the Coalition with the emergency entry shelters in Cleveland.  We posted these on their own page here.  Feel free to comment on our position at the bottom of this posting.

  1. We at NEOCH have tried everything that we can think of to make a change in the Women's shelter for single adults and it is worse today than it was three year ago. We thought that the answer was to change providers, but the County went back to the existing provider.
  2. NEOCH is much weaker than it was in the year 2003 because funders do not like charities fighting with other charities.  They want us all to get along with each other and collaborate or merge to save on costs.  Funders punish those who speak publicly against another non-profit charitable organizations. 
  3. County Office of Homeless Services staff obviously do not trust NEOCH staff and do not believe anything that the residents say about the shelter.  They distribute over $33 million dollars and the decisions made by OHS can mean the difference between a pregnant women being able to keep her baby or having the child taken by the County. It is harmful to the 23,000 people who find themselves without housing to have the Homeless Coalition distrusted by the County group who gives out most of the public money in Cleveland.
  4. Frontline Services senior management do not trust NEOCH staff and do not believe anything that the residents say about the shelter.  Frontline is by far the largest homeless service provider in the County and current administrator of the Women's Shelter on Payne Ave.  They run many programs such as outreach, veterans programs, and management of the Permanent Supportive Housing.  It makes it very difficult to serve the non-female homeless population for NEOCH if there is this poisonous relationship with the Empire the largest homeless provider.
  5. Now that Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (administrator of 2100 Lakeside Shelter) has thrown their support behind Frontline Services to assist at the Payne Ave shelter, this has also damaged our relationship with LMM.  NEOCH started out as a program of LMM inside their building, so this is especially tough. They are one of the largest facilities in Ohio, and most homeless men have stayed at Lakeside. It is rough to have a bad relationship with the agency that administers 2100 Lakeside Shelter. 
  6. The retaliation and hostility toward NEOCH for raising these issues is a threat to our non-profit agencies very existence.  Groups refuse to come to meetings chaired by NEOCH that would benefit their clients.  They will not collaborate on non-shelter issues or come to events hosted by NEOCH.  It is great to be committed to a cause, but if you are out of business what was the point?
  7. NEOCH will not be doing anything at 2100 Lakeside or 2229 Payne Ave.  We will not be helping with complaints or hosting meetings about the shelter or coordinating resident councils.  We were not paid for these activities and they have only caused the agency to nearly go out of business. A group can’t fight the good fight if they can’t pay the rent!
  8. We will not comment on problems at the shelter or respond to the conflicts that will inevitably come up at the two shelters.  We wish the two big shelters well and hope that they can self- correct.  Remember that only one-third of the homeless population uses the shelters in a given year, so there are plenty of homeless people for us to concentrate our efforts.
  9. We know that there is very little oversight of the shelters by Cuyahoga County.  We know that the grievance process is broken at both shelters.  We know that the grievances are rarely resolved in favor of the clients and are basically not worth the paper they are printed on.  We recommend calling your City Councilmember TJ Dow at 664-2908 or call Yvonne Conwell at County Council 698-2017 if you are having problems.
  10. We believe that at this point a client associated with NEOCH at Lakeside or Payne Ave. is a target and our involvement will not help their situation. There is no way to protect individuals against retaliation, which can result in the individual sleeping outside.  At this point, our involvement in the two main shelters does more harm than good.
  11. With the upcoming change in leadership at NEOCH it is only appropriate to step back from shelter advocacy that leads no where.  It only gets the agency in trouble and a new director will have many other things to work on for NEOCH.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Mar292017

Next Training for Homeless Service Providers

This is the next in our regular series of trainings for homeless outreach staff, volunteers or shelter workers.  We will go over some critical referral information, ideas for housing help and answer questions.  You must RSVP for this training.  Call 216/432-0540.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Wednesday
Mar292017

Drumplay Celebrates 25 Years of Protecting the Thompson Legacy

Cleveland's world music and jazz poetry group, Drumplay is celebrating twenty five years as a working ensemble.  They will perform on Friday April 14 at 7 p.m. in the Lakewood Public Library Main Auditorium at 15425 Detroit Ave.

They are one group that keep alive Daniel Thompson's legacy and he regularly performed with them before his death.  Their Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Middle Eastern sound features jazz and rhythmic drum and make for a rewarding night.  Friend of the Cleveland Street Chronicle, James Onysko is founding member of Drumplay. They are dedicating this performance to the 25th anniversary of Daniel Thompson being named Poet Laureate of Cuyahoga County.  There was a nice concert at Market Square park in 1992 to recognize Daniel with Drumplay performing. 

All are welcome to join Drumplay at the Lakewood Public Library.  The group is planning to release a new album titled 2.5 that will also mark the 25th anniversary. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.