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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.

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Entries in shelter standards (15)

Saturday
Jun032017

Homeless Congress Notes for May

May 11, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The meeting began with an overview of the Homeless Congress and work to date.  

The group had a long discussion on the Cuyahoga County Council meeting that was on May 3, 2017.  At this meeting, the Council members voted on who will get the contract to provide services for the Norma Herr women’s shelter.  The committee is recommending that Frontline get the contract, but they did not get the contract for 3 years that the County Office of Homeless Services had recommended.  One of the members of the Homeless Congress, Loh, said she went to one of the other meetings and filed a grievance and still feels that the grievances are not handled properly.  She also informed the members that there was another suicide attempt recently at the women’s shelter.  The members were informed that the next important meeting is on May 23, 2017 when the contract will be voted on by the full County Council meeting. (After the meeting of Homeless Congress another County Health and Human Services meeting was held and the contract was reduced even further). 

In January, the Congress voted to prioritize advocating to open a separate shelter for mentally challenged homeless individuals so they can get the help they need.  This information was sent to the ADAMAS Board.  The first week in May, Brian, Ramona, Loh, and Rosie (who are members of the Homeless Congress) met with William Denihan, Michael Doud, and Valeria Harper of the ADAMAS Board to discuss the need and options that might be available in the community.  The only thing accomplished at this meeting was bringing the need for a separate shelter to the ADAMAS Board attention.  We briefly discussed possible funding options. But, William Denihan will be retiring in August.

Rosie informed members that Mr. Denihan is very concerned about this issue, but funding is limited.  At the meeting on May 3rd, Dale Miller asked about the mental health, drug, and alcohol issues at the shelter.  Eric Morse responded that the women at the shelter “all” have either mental health issues or drug and alcohol issues.  He also stated in addition to that “if a separate shelter is needed for residents that have mental issues or drug and alcohol issues, there is a shelter already in place for that and it’s the Norma Herr women’s shelter”. 

The next topic was the Open Doors CLE Art Project (photos posted on the front of the NEOCH website) that the Cleveland Institute of Art students are working on. I gave the Homeless Congress an update on the upcoming art exhibit.  The doors for the art project will be on display at Slavic Village on May 20-21st from 1-5pm and May 27th at Willard Park (by the free stamp) from 11am – 5pm.  The doors will be on exhibit for other projects as well.  There will also be a tribute to Michael Stoops, Founder of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who recently passed at the Willard Park opening. 

Next was an update on the Single Adult Committee-SASH.  The members were informed that nothing has been finalized and the committee is still working on the guidelines.  Randall, who is a member of the committee, discussed some banning policies as far as the length of stay at the shelter.  He explained that at this time they are considering allowing a resident to reject up to three “feasible” offers of housing, if none of these offers are accepted there would be a mediation, and finally they are working on consequences for refusing housing.  One option that is being considered is take away some services and only allow the resident to sleep at the shelter at night.  Also discussed was setting time limits on how long a resident could stay at the women’s shelter.  One member commented that there is one women that has been at the women’s shelter for 10 years, doesn’t work, and refuses housing.  It was also suggested that these women shouldn’t have privileges and have to sleep on a mat as opposed to having a room. Other women commented that there are no privileges available at the Women's shelter to take away.  There was some controversy about this and how Cleveland shelters are proud to say no one is turned away, yet, the committee is considering not allowing a resident to return once they leave the shelter or discharged (put out) for not accepting housing. 

Brian Davis argued that these women should be able to have a bed, in the only shelter for single women in Cleveland, if the city can put new windows in the Q.  Davis said, "What kind of society are we living in that cannot offer a cot and some food to its citizens but can find money to improve the playgrounds for the rich with museums and sports stadiums."  He further stated that it is a matter of cost vs. alternative.  He feels that they should not be concerned about the personal issues that have led the person to stay in the shelter unless the individual is offering alternatives.  If the reality is that all of our systems are broken (mental health, addiction, health care) and we are so unforgiving as a society including landlords and the re-entry community, then why are we putting so much pressure on people to leave.  If there are so many problems in holes in the safety net, why to we begrudge people sleeping in a shelter.  It is not a paradise and they are not staying in luxury.   He said, “Human beings should be treated like human beings”. 

Next “worker accountability” was discussed.  Randall stated that the committee will make sure staff is working with the client to find appropriate housing.  He said the committee is discussing how these decisions should be made or not made and the contributing factors. 

After the raffle, the surveys for the women’s shelter was discussed and it was determined that the women still feel the renovations did not help.  In fact, most felt that the renovations made matters worse.  Updates regarding the contract to provide services for the women’s shelter were discussed next.  The members were informed about the outcome of the Cuyahoga County Council meeting.  They were told about:

  • Dale Miller's excellent questions about the shelter and why there are so many problems.
  • Did Frontline not meet the minimum requirements?
  • Was there a way to shorten the contract?
  • Brian and Loh had both talked about how unfair the whole process was.
  • Councilwoman Conwell was upset over the NEOCH and Congress treatment of their staff Ruth Gillett.  Brian and Roy from NEOCH tried to meet with her in the morning and she was a no show.
  • Gillett had decided not to attend this meeting of the Homeless Congress.

LMM and the County had sent specifics of the new arrangement at the Women's Shelter which would include operating 24/7, having access to Wi-Fi, and other services.  LMM was going to join Frontline to improve the shelter as soon as this contract was approved by the County.   It was explained that staff from LMM will be eased in and current staff will be swapped in back and forth. LMM will oversee day to day operations and Frontline will be more focused on case management. There were a series of handouts from the County/LMM about the changes.

The next discussion was about agency accountability and complaints of suffering in regard to an uncaring provider, disrespectful staff, and lack of resources to help residents move forward and out of the shelter.  One of the members informed everyone at the meeting that this has been going on for over 10 years.  There was a short discussion about two County Council members spending the night at the shelter incognito and there was notes distributed from the County about the overnight stay and the changes needed.  The notes didn’t address how terrible things were at that time, and some of the huge issues.  Brian stated that he couldn’t believe that they didn’t demand immediate action because of the conditions that they saw on that one night.  Following this discussion, one of the members said that the food that is being sent to the women’s shelter is not what is being served according to the pictures he has seen online.  Ms. Gimmel of Eden, asked questions and urged the members to give the agency a chance to change.

The final order of business discussed was about this being the last Homeless Congress for Brian Davis of NEOCH.  Brian and Roy (NEOCH Board President) assured members that most of the programs will remain the same at NEOCH even after Brian leaves.  Roy also stated that NEOCH will continue to do all it can do and will work to make a smooth transition.

*There will not be a Homeless Congress meeting in June and members were informed of this. 

The next meeting will be July 13, 2017.

by Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Monday
Apr242017

Women's Shelter Update on Contract

We posted a series of updates on the Women's Shelter contract in February with the Scene article here then we had a discussion at the February Homeless Congress (which Councilman Dale Miller attended). We posted the notes from the March meeting when it was announced that the County was going to select Frontline to continue to run the shelter over the upstart West Side Catholic.  Basically, there has been tremendous debate about the conditions at the shelter and mistreatment by the staff (documented here).  The County held a hearing in May 2016 and nine brave women testified about the need for reform.  The County issued a Request for Proposal in October and extended the deadline until January 31, 2017.  Two providers stepped forward to respond to the proposal: West Side Catholic and Frontline Services and sought the $1.4 million contract to run the shelter on Payne Ave.  Full disclosure: NEOCH and Metanoia supported the West Side Catholic proposal and would have benefited if they were awarded the grant.   This took a lot to convince all three groups to take a risk on such a huge project.  The West Side Catholic Center is an amazing group serving the Ohio City/Clark Fulton neighborhoods and the Women's Shelter is a massive expansion.  The NEOCH Board which does not do direct services had to be convinced to go in on a shelter proposal. 

The County assigned a committee of eight people to make the decision and we found out today that they gave Frontline 84 points out of a possible 100 while West Side Catholic received 54 points out of 100.  One of my issues is that they did not measure important items such as overflow, security, number of calls by safety forces, suicide attempts, and keeping people safe; while they did give many points for philosophical issues such as "Understanding the scope of the Project?"  It is providing shelter and food to women! What is there to understand?  We are not landing a spacecraft on the moon.   Also, it was strange that SEVEN white people and 0 African Americans made a decision about the future of the women's shelter which serves 75 to 80% African Americans in Cleveland.  But that is your County Government in action. The committee was:

  • 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
  • With Ruth Gillett guiding the entire process but not voting.

The traditional way that legislation is passed is that it is introduced and then sent to a County committee and then read two more times before a vote is taken.  We had informed the residents of the shelter that the legislation would be introduced on April 25 then sent to the Health and Human Services and Aging Committee on May 3 for a hearing.  We told the women to target May 3 for comments and passed out a flyer at the Homeless Congress (with County staff present) as well as distributed this flyer in the shelter.  The women were planning to make posters and protest outside the County building as well.  Based on the last two Homeless Congress meetings, the residents really don't like this decision and were very angry at the County staff for making this decision. 

In a surprising "dark side of the force" move the County staff has decided that this is an emergency and will pass it at the April 25th meeting without sending it to committee.   "Whereas, it is necessary that this Resolution become immediately effective in order that critical services provided by Cuyahoga County can continue..." Ruth Gillett did not warn the women at the Homeless Congress meeting that this may not be discussed at the May 3 meeting since it will have already passed.  It is easier to get a response from the County at a committee when there are only a few things on the agenda.  There are two dozen contracts at the typical County Council meeting.  It is unlikely that they would have been able to change any minds, but the women wanted a chance to vent.  We can look at the hundreds who showed up to multiple meetings to oppose the Q renovation deal and could only sway three Council members to vote "no". 

The new contract will also mean a $6,202 per month raise for the current provider Frontline Services.  So, even after all these problems came to light, they will get additional tax payer dollars to run a substandard shelter.  They will be paid $124,454.58 per month for the next 31 months to run the shelter on Payne Ave. until December 2019.  Last year the shelter was paid $118,252.83 per month (which is exactly the amount that West Side Catholic was asking for to run the shelter). 

If a local taxpayer were to go over at 8 p.m. to the shelter on Payne Ave. and then ride over to the West Side Catholic shelter on Lorain Ave, there is no way they would concur that Frontline deserved an 84/100 while West Side Catholic was running a 54/100 women's shelter.  You could see that the Payne Ave. shelter was not operating an 84 scored shelter in about 10 minutes.  But the committee did not go visit the existing shelters and did not ask any current residents of the shelter about their opinions.  65 women did sign a petition asking the County to choose West Side Catholic (many others were afraid to sign). They were ignored as were all the complaints at the Homeless Congress.

Here were the scores:

 

Frontline

WSCC

Project Understanding/Scope of Work/Solution/Narrative

19.9

13

Methodology/Project Schedule/Evaluation

22.6

12.9

Project Management/Project Reporting/Interaction with County/Risk Management

20.7

13.7

Vendor Qualifications/Prior Experience/Personnel

21.0

14.4

 

 

 

Total

84.1

54.0

 There were actually two of the seven who were especially harsh toward the West Side Catholic proposal. It does point to a problem with the distribution of information between homeless people and community leaders and the holes in democracy.  How do you have all this negative media, a webpage dedicated to all the problems, large numbers of grievances, a hearing before the County Council about the problems, and yet the County continues the contract with the same provider running the shelter for the last dozen years?  How could Councilman Dale Miller who came to the February Homeless Congress  to hear the concerns and horror stories from the women and then allow this to continue?  How could Council President Dan Brady hear from pregnant and disabled women about all the hardships they face and allow the status quo to continue?  What do they have to do to get the contract taken away? 

It is unlikely to change until there is a scandal or large scale tragedy at the shelter.  It is unlikely that there will be a change if this contract comes up for bid again because of the retirements and resignations at West Side Catholic and NEOCH.  Lutheran Metro Ministry is joining as a partner with Frontline to try to improve the shelter.  We hope that this will work, but hold little hope.  We wish them well and hope that LMM and Frontline can turn this around.  NEOCH will not be commenting or doing resident council meetings or taking grievances.  Good luck to all the single women taxpayers who fall on hard times with their housing.  You are not going to like the conditions that you will find yourself if you cannot afford rent or are fleeing an abuser.  Complain to your elected County government, because they had a chance to make a change but decided things are operating at about 84 out of 100 points. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Post Script:  Rosie called the County to verify this information, and found out that the language allows the County to pass immediately, but that is not going to happen.  There will not be a vote tonight on this issue.  It will be referred to the Health and Human Service Committee next Wednesay May 3 at 1 p.m.  Women will be allowed to vent their concerns.  It is likely that the legislation will then go back to the Council on May 9 for final passage, and will not wait until the third reading on May 23. 

Thursday
Sep222016

Guidance from HUD for LGBTQ Individuals Using Shelters

Guidance from the Great Funding gods in Washington on how shelters need to serve Transgender individuals using HUD funded facilities.  These are extremely helpful, but when is Cuyahoga County going to display these rules so that everyone including residents of the shelter understand these rules?  We have been pushing to get these rules displayed and Cuyahoga County officials have been unwilling to require posting the LGBTQ rules in the shelters. 

A Message from Harriet Tregoning,

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development

I am pleased to inform you that we have reached an important milestone in HUD efforts to ensure equal access for all persons in our programs. On September 21, 2016, HUD will publish a final rule in the Federal Register entitled Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs.

This rule will ensure that all individuals have equal access to many of the Department’s core shelter programs in accordance with their gender identity. This rule becomes effective October 21, 2016.

I encourage all CPD grantees to promptly review their policies to ensure consistency with the new rule.

Following what had previously been encouraged practice by HUD, providers using funds awarded through the Department’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), including those operating single sex projects, are now required to provide all individuals, including transgender individuals and other individuals who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, with access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with their gender identity without being subjected to intrusive questioning or being asked to provide documentation.

HUD’s new rule will require a recipient, subrecipient, or provider to establish, amend, or maintain program admissions, occupancy, and operating policies and procedures (including policies and procedures to protect individuals' privacy and security), so that equal access is provided to individuals based on their gender identity.

Other provisions and changes to the rule include:

  • Eliminates the prohibition on inquiries related to sexual orientation or gender identity so service providers can ensure compliance with this rule.  The removal of the prohibition on inquiries related to sexual orientation or gender identity does not alter the requirement to make housing assisted by HUD and housing insured by the Federal Housing Administration available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  • Amends HUD’s definition of “gender identity” to more clearly reflect the difference between actual and perceived gender identity.
  • Makes a technical amendment to the definition of “sexual orientation,” which was adopted from the Office of Personal Management’s (OPM) definition of the term in 2012 to conform to OPM’s current definition.
  • NOTE: the definition of “family” remains the same. See FAQ 1529 for specific guidance for projects with CoC and ESG funding.

As a new program regulation, failure to comply with the requirements of this rule will be considered a violation of program requirements and will subject the non-compliant grantee to all sanctions and penalties available for program requirement violations. HUD has provided a suite of Technical Assistance materials to support final rule implementation, which can be found at https://www.hudexchange.info/homelessness-assistance/resources-for-lgbt-homelessness/.  

HUD has also provided a document that grantees can publicly post to inform clients and staff of the equal access requirements, which can be found at https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/5147/notice-on-equal-access-rights/.

HUD is planning to conduct trainings and provide additional TA materials to assist HUD grantees in understanding the new rule and implementing the policies and procedures appropriately. As these resources become available, you will be able to access them on the LGBT Homelessness Resource Page.

Find more information on HUD’s broader work for LGBTQ inclusion in HUD’s programs at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/LGBT_resources. Please direct any questions regarding this rule and any requests for technical assistance to your local CPD representative.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Saturday
Jun112016

Women's Shelter Makes Some Moves for Improvement

Back in May 2016, the Homeless Congress and the women living in the "House of Payne" (the only shelter for single women in Cleveland) testified for change.  The Homeless Congress had passed a resolution (without any opposition) in September 2015 for a series of 12 items that they wanted to see changed at the Women's Shelter. We posted those potential solutions on our website here

At the hearing we offered four items recommended by a dozen women living in the shelter which could be accomplished on that day to dramatically improve the County funded shelter. 

1.        Fire/Transfer the current supervisor at the shelter who everyone agrees creates a hostile work environment.  Sometimes one staff can dramatically change a congregate living environment.  There is one staff currently working at the shelter who has been a regular subject of complaints, grievances and heartache and needs to be placed in a position that does not involve client interactions.  She tortures these women and embarrasses them regularly.  Everyone knows who she is because her name comes up at the Homeless Congress regularly.  Her leaving the shelter would go along way to healing some of the problems.  Transfer her to some place where she does not come in contact with Frontline clients in the next few days.

2.       All grievances submitted will get a written reply in five business days.   This seems like it should already happen, but it never does.  Residents would have more confidence in the oversight of the shelter if they got something meaningful back in writing when they complained. 

3.       All stay in notes from health professionals will be respected and not questioned.  There will be no further sending them to Care Alliance for a second opinion or excuses that there are not enough staff so they limit the number of people who are allowed to stay inside.  The men’s shelter does not limit the number of stay ins, so why does the women’s shelter violate the fair housing rights of these women?  The staff will make this happen and if there is not space will work to transfer the overflow including transportation to a more appropriate facility in the community.

4.       Every discharge will be in writing including those forced to be out until 9:30 p.m. (the “time out” policy in which they miss dinner).  This was already mandated by the County, but it is never enforced.  We want to see something in writing to every single person discharged from the shelter for any reason so that there is something to file a specific grievance.  There needs to be more documentation and more professionalism in the discharges at the women’s shelter. 

The shelter staff who testified at the County hearing in May said that they already did #2-#4.  This is contradicted by the residents of the shelter, and NEOCH cannot find evidence that these three items are in place.  NEOCH has submitted hundreds of grievances on behalf of the women and have rarely seen a written response.  Nearly every night, women are punished or discharged and they never get anything in writing, and medical notes are only accepted if the shelter has the space to serve the women or does not require they get a secondary notes. 

But this week, the shelter took action to accomplish #1, and let go the staff who is the subject of the most grievances. NEOCH and the women thank the staff at Frontline Services for working to improve the shelter with the removal of this one staff.  This staff was regularly humiliating the women including in front of church groups and was the subject of complaints from other staff.  We only asked that she be transferred somewhere else to do paperwork in a back office, but the shelter evidently terminated her employment.   We posted a picture of our friend, Loh (who some suspect might be an undercover superhero and this picture might give some clues to her alter ego) who has led the efforts to remove inappropriate staff from the shelter.  Loh has railed against staff who bully the residents and should not be around the public in any capacity.  Loh has regularly testified before County Council about the shelter and filed many many complaints especially against supervisory staff who do nothing.  Loh was recently assaulted at the shelter and got very little help from staff.   Loh has spoken to Shelter administrators, the ADAMHS Board, County staff and reported to the Homeless Congress.  Loh has gone above and beyond to improve the conditions at the women's shelter and this week, this resident of the shelter helped to improve the House of Payne.  The women were so happy to hear that this staff person had been escorted out of the shelter and they thank Loh for leading the efforts. 

This is real progress that we have not seen for a decade.  Many on the Council, especially Jack Schron, did not like one non-profit (NEOCH) criticizing the hiring practices or personnel decisions of another non-profit (Frontline Services). Here is Schron's comments at the hearing.

"Well, just as a business person, I would hope that you are not going to transfer your obligations for firing or hiring or transferring [staff].  That is ultimately managements responsibility, you have to make that call, you might not do a good job of it, but that is only a recommendation that it seems to me you can never give up that obligation."

The Council were certainly not going to tell a contract agency to fire or move one staff, and in the most litigious society to ever exist, how could they?  But in a larger sense how different would One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest have been if some medical professional had just said, "Hey, Nurse Ratched needs to be fired?"  How much better would we have all been if someone at Marymount Hospital or the Cincinnati VA hospital had said, "You know Donald Harvey gives me the creeps when he is around dying patients, we should let him go?"  Or how many problems could be reduced if we could easily weed out police who feel it is appropriate to chase at high speed two unarmed people from the shelter through downtown to East Cleveland and then shoot them dead or speed up within a foot of a possible shooter and just kill a citizen with a toy gun?  Sometimes one person in the wrong job can poison the entire environment of a workplace. 

We know that Loh's campaign to reform the shelter will be improved after this one staff person was let go this week. We have to also thank Council President Dan Brady who said positive things at the May Homeless Congress, and said that there is a County investigation committee to look at the Women's Shelter.  He committed to living by the Homeless Congress's deadline of improving the shelter by September 2016 and said, "There is a history, in general, that directors of departments are not encouraged to be forthcoming about information with legislative bodies."    Rest easy tonight, Loh, you have accomplished what NEOCH and many others have not been able to do for a decade--improve the women's shelter. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Friday
Feb052016

Women's Shelter Needs Immediate Reform

NEOCH has put together a group of pages on the website dedicated to changing the Community Women's Shelter (which has been named after a previous client who passed away).  The shelter is in such a state of disarray that we choose not to disrespect the legacy of this older woman by having her name tied to a shelter which mistreats its residents. We have set up a web page called "House of Payne" to document all the problems identified by the women and recommended solutions.  This is a list of the problems that have come up over the past year.  We provide a separate page on the state of the food at the shelter.  Finally, to be fair we have offered the shelter staff a page to respond to the concerns

This must be getting to the staff who work in this oppressive environment, because they went through the pictures on the site and found the women pictured and asked her to call NEOCH to have her picture removed.  Read the page and see all the problems that need to be addressed, and then realize the absurdity that they spent time attempting to protect the privacy of one person from the 200 in the shelter.  Imagine all the people that they have improperly discharged and threatened with retribution for speaking up, and yet staff took the time to prompt this woman to demand we remove her picture.  She had given her permission at the Hand Up Gala (a public event) for a posed shot, but now wanted to revoke her permission at the urging of staff.  The staff was kind enough to go through the entire website and find the other picture of her from 2014.  Thanks for the help with our website and lack of help in finding housing for this woman who has been in the shelter since at least October 2014.   We removed the offending picture entirely from the site.  Now, Mr. Staff person, you can get back to changing the rules without warning and searching the women so that they do not commit the high crime of bringing food into the cafeteria because they did not get enough food at night.

We have included a photo with this blog post that we hope no one will find offensive and we know that the flower will not revoke the permission granted over the summer even at the urging of the shelter staff.  Check out the House of Payne website and let us know what you think in the discussion section or by leaving a comment in the moderated comments section. We hope that a County Councilman or County Executive will see the page and do something about the shelter. All the complaining that we and the women have done has not changed the culture over at the shelter.  It is still an unhealthy environment with regular violations of the rights of the residents.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.