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Ramona Turnbull – Former Resident of Women’s Shelter

Chrissy: First, we have Ms. Ramona Turnbull.

Ramona Turnbull:  Hello. I am a ex-resident of the Women’s Shelter, and I actually feel obligated to speak today. Since becoming employed at NEOCH, I’ve been able to understand the differences between the men’s shelter and the women’s shelter. And the men’s shelter has communities where if they come in , say, if they don’t want to seek employment, they go to a community ‘E’; or once they’re in the housing, they can seek services inside the shelter like GED, job assistance, housing, things like that, and the shelter doesn’t have anything like that.

There’s no type of communities. It’s like everyone is just there. It’s like one big room with all different types of people, with no structure or anything like that, and so, you know, we pretty much help each other. But, there’s also a reward system for the residents that do well in the programs there, or help around the shelter. They can even earn stipends.

At the women’s shelter, you’re denied any type of rewards. You get no consideration, or respect, or empathy. If you’re having a really bad day, you’re just pretty much going to have a pretty bad day! There’s nothing. No assistance for people who are really, really sick. There’s nothing! I understand that it’s a shelter, but there’s no consideration for the women there.

And the programs, and some of the churches that were coming to the shelter, are no longer coming, I don’t know exactly why. But I know there was a women’s group that brought the women who continued to stay there a certain amount of time, they continued to participate, they were given really nice gifts, and everything and that’s the last time I saw them. They…They…The staff wasn’t really happy with them.

One resident, she was staying at the shelter for a short time and she really had a hard time, so she started looking for consideration and assistance outside the shelter, and ultimately, she was killed. She…instead of her coming to the shelter and doing what she needed to do there, she sought outside help, and the supervisor at Minute Man ultimately, he recognized her vulnerability and she was killed. And nobody knew she was even missing from the shelter, until people started wondering where she is.

 The lack of communication between the staff can be very damaging, because one staff member tells you one thing and another one tells you something else, and then it…it’s…it’s very confusing to say the least. It can be pretty bad, and the treatment of the residents, and this is a very big problem. And they really need to have consideration. Really. They really do. Thank you.

 Ramona giving her testimony

Linda Reynolds – Resident of Women’s Shelter 

Jones:  Chrissy?

Chrissy:  Next, Miss Linda Reynolds

Linda Reynolds:  Good afternoon. Um, one of the main problems that I have had in being able to obtain housing has been the fact that, when I have been at Norma Herr more than once. The first time I came there, I was coming from out of state. I was born in Cleveland, but I had moved out of state. I was returning to Cleveland and had housing. This has happened twice, I had housing promised to me, but the persons changed their mind. So I ended up in Norma Herr. The stay in itself, at that point in time was being managed by a mental health agency.

Jones:  I’m sorry to interrupt, but could you pull the microphone down?

Reynolds:  Okay is that better? Okay.

Jones:  I have that problem myself, soft-spoken.

Reynolds:  Okay. So there was, there was stricter enforcement of residents taking their meds on time, there was stricter enforcement of keeping appointments with your counselors or therapists which was down the street. So there was a different atmosphere in the shelter. The next, the next time I came, it was quite different. Frontline was managing it and there was,   there’s just not that connection between the counselors and therapist and the meds actually being regulated and you know, follow-up to be sure that people are actually on their program. So the behavior of the women is quite different. They, there just is not that mental health support that was there previously.

Another thing is that, when I was being interviewed, or when I was given an assessment as a new resident, the intake, I was asked “what is your mental health diagnosis?”, and I said I don’t have one. And so the lady that was doing the intake wanted to give me one and I refused it. And she said “just take, just take the diagnosis. Just take the diagnosis, I can get you SSI,” and I said “I don’t want SSI, I have a Master’s degree. I want a job! You know. Do you, is your agency hiring?

Well, I also talked to someone, by phone, that called me that was a county employee, and we talked about that diagnosis and she said “if you take this diagnosis, just take it, I can get you more money than you can make!” And I said “No, I’m not going to prison for fraud, I’m not going to take the diagnosis because I don’t have one.” Well she said to me “You’re going to be…, You’re not going to be happy.” I wasn’t happy because I was probated for no reason, I was probated and when I got to the facility… (Bell rings) Is that my two minutes? When I got to the facility…

Jones:  Please finish your thought.

Reynolds: …when I got to the facility, the people that were assessing me had no idea what DSM-IV is, was at the time, what is DSM-V now, diagnostic rule throughout the country, the guide for the diagnosis for mental health, she… they… neither one of them, not the psychiatrist nor the psychologist had an idea, they were foreigners, of what a DSM-IV was. So I was there for over 30 days. And I did not get the 3-day…if you’re not seen within 3 days, it’s a closed case because they’re supposed to assess you within 3 days of your coming. That didn’t happen. They were on vacation. (Laugh.) So I have that in my record. Now that has been overruled.

The second time I was, came to Norma Herr, I was also probated, because there was a woman beneath me that was spreading feces on herself. They switched the names and guess what? I was marched out into the driveway, handcuffed behind, handcuffed and taken to uh, a facility.

So I’m saying that the mental health standards at Norma Herr is one of the main things for safety. I was assaulted and beat in the face with someone’s fists, and that’s why I’m gone. I’ve been assaulted there three times but that was the last time. I’ve decided that I’m not going back. Do I have housing today? No. But I’m not going back to Norma Herr because I’m 68 years old, it’s not safe for seniors there.

There’s a lot of bullying on seniors. The mental health issues is one of the very key things. The bullying and the lack of being able to actually, to control the population in a safe environment is very key. And then there’s the drug problems. So that…

Jones:  Thank…

Reynolds:  that’s my take on it.

Jones: Thank you.

Reynolds: Thank You.

Iris Wiley – Resident of Women’s Shelter

Chrissy:  Next Miss Iris Wiley.

Jones:  And let the record reflect Councilwoman Simon is in attendance. And Brown.

Iris Wiley:  Good afternoon. I’m here from the Women’s Shelter to, to bring up some other issues that we’re concerned with. I first came to this shelter last year in April which will be approximately a year, and since I have been there, I have noticed that there is a lot of, I would say, a lot of tension between the residents and the staff members there. I remember once I had uh, an encounter with one of the staff workers there where some supervisors were it was either you do as I tell you to do or we will pull your bed or you can’t do this and can’t do that.

Well I’ve never in my life been in a shelter, but unfortunately sometimes things do happen to put you in a situation with a bad choice. But I am here today to represent some, a lot of the women’s here that I have seen how the staff have talked to the residents, they have looked down on us and made us feel as if we nothing, and I always said if, uh, because you are in the shelter, this does not define who we are as womens. We are people; we are human beings first. Okay we have issues, and I was kind of upset because one of the staff members actually said some nasty words to me but being the type of person I am, I looked at her, but I did write her up. We found that, I realized that a lot of things that was written up, it did not come back, they were never, the grievances were never handled. There were some of them, I believe, was torn up.  We had issues where we had a grievance in the shelter,  we were not allowed to get original documents to fill this out so we could make a complaint, it’s like they was trained to keep you, from, us from doing it, and that’s just the way they treated us. Okay we make a complaint. I had filed a complaint and I found the complaint on one of the supervisor’s desk and I questioned her, and I says “I made this request out Monday. Why is it still on your desk and this is Friday?” Okay. Well the next day they finally got it together.  Um, since I’ve been there, I caught pneumonia in January because of the conditions, because of the cold, it was extremely cold where I was at. Um, it’s not good to go and come out and be sick. It’s not good. They was going to threaten to pull my bed if I hadn’t called and it just so happened that one of the ladies came by that saw me she says if you don’t call in, you will not have a bed. This is another problem, some of the womens, they’re on medication and sometimes medication makes them a little drowsy or sleepy, and if you don’t leave, if you don’t leave out the building at 8, off the floor by 8 o’clock, guess what? You come back, you don’t have a bed! And I think that’s something that this chairman needs to look into. The rules and regulations are changed. There’s positive rules and regulations, but the staff change it when it’s convenient for them, and I don’t think that’s fair and it’s not fair to a lot of womens and then the next thing you know you got a lot of tension that goes on there. You understand and it’s it’s really sad. It saddens my heart, too, okay because I am part of this. I’m no better than the womens there so we all try to pull together. But this is terrible the staffing there is, they’re not compassionate at all and it’s terrible. It’s really a sad thing for any human being to treat another human being like they treated us, and like they’re still doing. Thank you.  Have a good day.

Danielle Smith – Resident of Women’s Shelter

Chrissy:  Next, Ms. Danielle Smith.

Danielle Smith:  Well my issue is the way the staff treat people and the way they run the building. To me it, it seems like they run it totally unprofessional like some other places would. And, and, and there been problems with, with the whole waking up early in the morning and stuff, and on, just recently I got sick in that building, I got pneumonia. I was in the hospital for three days. And that the, the sanitation is un unclean there, and, and and I think the staff should try and do better to treat people with a little more respect, ‘cuz some of us do have a serious disability and stuff, ‘cuz, ‘cuz I don’t like the way they treat ones  in there with disabilities, ‘cuz I have a disability. And generally, for any other woman that’s in the shelter, they, that I hear a lot of is about the way the, this one particular worker talks to us. She don’t talk to us with no type of respect. She thinks she’s higher than us and stuff, and she pretty much treats us like animals.

Alyssa Wiemer – Resident of Women’s Shelter

Chrissy: The final person signed up to speak at the beginning of the agenda is Alyssa Weimer.

Alyssa Wiemer:  Hi! First off I would like to give some commendation to Danielle Smith she’s autistic and it took a lot of courage for her to come up here and speak like she did. So good job Danielle! Um, secondly, I have only been at this shelter since April 1st, and the only reason that I came up here was because I need some epileptic treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. They have encouraged me to stay at the Norma Herr, but the fact of the matter is that there are several major, major issues which mainly have been spoken on upon already, but just to reiterate some certain things already, um, the health issues of residents with the more severe mental and physical disabilities that they have are not being adequately addressed. I think those, um, the staff that deals with those women throughout the period of the day should make sure that they’re staying on top of what they need to do. That they are staying on top of their hygiene, staying on top of taking their medications like they’re supposed to, so that it doesn’t cause conflicts with the other women at the shelter, which has happened several times since I’ve been there. It hasn’t gone to blows or anything, but it has gotten to the point where some things, they just don’t let it go. So that it causes very much conflicts within the dorms.

The overcrowding issues are ridiculous! I’ve only been there since the first, but I have seen multiple, multiple, multiple people come in and there’s not enough beds. There’s not enough mats for all of the women. So, what are we supposed to do with all these women who keep coming in? And, that’s just something that I think needs to be addressed too, there’s no room. So what is the staff supposed to do? Um, some of the staff also shows a lot of favoritism towards some of the women, which in my case, is ridiculous! We have to be off the floor by 8 a.m., but some women, and they’re not workers, are getting off the floor around 9:30, 10 o’clock a.m. and they don’t have any repercussions, their beds aren’t being taken like they’re supposed to be. So the issues in regards to that, there need to be more repercussions for those who are repeat offenders of the rules. If you’re not offending the rules, there should be some kind of, more of an incentive for you.

The housing vouchers they’re supposed to be helping us with, there’s no help. There’s very, few information that can be given to us. I’m not from Cleveland, so I don’t know, I barely know Cleveland. I need a little more help learning my way around here and there’s not really that help given, and I think that’s something that needs to be addressed too for those of us who aren’t from here, we need to be helped a little more in learning the ropes of Cleveland, and things like that. So, basically all in all, there’s a lot of issues at that shelter. A lot of them are being addressed here today, and I pray and I hope that this committee finds reasonable, reasons to even decide something in the positive that will help us women at the shelter. Thank you.

Approval of April 20th Minutes

Jones:  Was that the final comment Chrissy?

Chrissy:  Yes Mr. Chair.

Jones:  Good. Can I have a motion for approval, the approval of the minutes from the April 20th meeting? (Moved. Seconded.)

Jones:  Moved and seconded. All in favor say “Aye.” (Ayes)  I second. Alright, we have no matter referred to the committee today, we just want to deal with this important issue today regarding Homeless Services. Uh, I’d like to, um, um, invite Brian to the, to the podium.

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