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Questions for Mr. Davis from Council Members

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Jones: Uh, let’s open up to questions now from the committee. Councilwoman.

Councilwoman Conwell

Conwell:  Uh, thank you Mr. Chair. To Mr. Davis, uh, you stated, um, that women should be empowered, um, in your statement just now, but if you believe this, um, it is ironic that if women aren’t homeless, you try to unempower them by discrediting them to advance your mission. What do you have to say in regards to this? There’s a couple of councilpeople, you know being women in particular, that you, I look at it as, trying to bully. Um, so I hope that in the role that you play as an executive director, uh, for homeless women, like you said, they do need empowering, but all women need empowering. All individuals need empowering. So in my mindset, when you’re trying to help individuals for whatever reason ,um, to me, you should come together with community stakeholders and sit down and try to accomplish those goals. So that’s my statement, so my question would be – How do you work with community stakeholders on issues regarding homeless individuals?  

Davis:  We’ve been saying there’s problems at the women’s shelter for years, and have been rebuffed. We tried to get the County Office of Homeless Services to demand changes at the shelter and have heard nothing. We’ve invited, uh Council individuals as well as City Council to the meetings that we have on a monthly basis to hear some of these concerns, and then take those concerns back and actually implement changes at the shelter. And we haven’t, uh, seen many changes over the last, even the last year. Um, when we hear these pronouncements that, yes we are making changes, and we’ve done this and that, but when you actually talk to women who stay there, they don’t see the changes, they don’t see that there has been any improvement in the shelter. Um, and my role is to advocate for homeless individuals in Cuyahoga County, and, you know that’s very tough because it’s a population that’s very transient and doesn’t stay homeless for long periods of time, so I have to serve a population that has a lot of issues, and a lot of, uh, concerns, and is very fragile, and uh, that’s my role in the community to try to amplify their voice. So I’m sorry if I stepped on your toes, but I think that the larger issue of how we treat our moms, our grandmas, our aunts when they show up without a place to stay, is of paramount importance in this community and I think that right now, uh, the disparity about, of  how we treat women in our community compared to men is pretty shocking and pretty amazing that, uh, women have to endure, um, the shelter on Payne Avenue and, uh men have some options and choices that, that women don’t have.        

Ms. Conwell:  Well we have a difference of opinion on how you go about doing those things.  You don’t step on people’s toes, if you are Christian and you believe on that, don’t step on people’s toes to try and get what you want.  My other question would be, do you advocate for women or men or both?

Brian: We advocate for all homeless individuals.

Ms. Conwell:  All right, and do you agreed that individuals that stay in shelters have different issues and barriers for housing?

Brian: Different than?

Ms. Conwell: From one another

Brian: Very diverse interest

Ms. Conwell: Which makes it very hard and I’m not advocating for Frontline or anyone in particular but have worked in the field makes it very difficult when you are dealing with different individuals with diff issues, how to balance that and just that the shelter system that we have so we ask that you know anyone would look at this and have some understanding now some of these issues that have come before us have been stated as being addressed.  Maybe they were addressed with some and now there is new cases? This committee likes to really hear an accurate basis on these issues and I’m going to just mention 5 of the top issues that I heard today from the women was non consistency with rules, having worked there, that can occur because you have different individuals and you have different people that you begin to like or build a rapport with so that can happen on an everyday basis I don’t think we have soldiers of the military and I don’t think that’s something we can actually change  The second thing that I heard was some non-compassionate staff  Again we are dealing with individuals.  That can be addressed and looked at. Number 3 was drugs and bullying primary victims, which are seniors, there is a group of us that are trying to work on different issues in regards to seniors.  Just speaking on my behalf the reason that I haven’t brought homeless individual or you involved into that is because we don’t want to provide false hope and first we need to reach out to the partners, the community stakeholders and sit down and see what we can actually do before we raise hope.  Number 4 would be some cases of pneumonia, so we’ve heard a couple of those, we can address those issues in regards to safety if the pneumonia is actually occurring or someone is getting ill because there in a colder part of the shelter. And the 5th thing that I heard was medication distribution issues.  So that something that I guess we could address with director Ruth Gillette.  So those are some of the things that I just wanted to have a say about but in moving forward, there are several council if not all of us that are very compassionate about homeless issues and individuals that are in that.  It could happen to any of us, we can get in a car accident, we could lose our jobs, they’re are all kind of issues that keeps us on a thin line from being homeless.  So I don’t think any of us are very uncompassionate or anything in regards to this issue.  But once again we don’t have a money tree, so we are constantly working on this issue, it might not be as fast as some would like so what I would suggest is that in moving forward, be a partner with us, sit down and join in our regular conversations which is a meeting that I think I have every quarter that I’ve started in regards to what we can do and City of Cleveland is part of that issue of those meetings.  Be a part of it, state what the causes are and learn how to work with the community advocates, you are not the only one that is a community advocate.  There are many in this city and this county that have may have been homeless at one time or on the verge of can be homeless so that’s just my suggestion to you is that I invite you to be a part of those meetings Levigne Ross will reach out to you and give you, we have only had 2 preliminary meetings and involve you in those so you can be a part and share what is going on from your lens of the window then there’s our lens of the window there is the women’s lens of the window, and there is also the office of Homeless Services.  Thank You.

Brian:  I have never questioned anyone’s compassion, anyone here, even the agency staff, I have never questioned their compassion for the issue they wouldn’t be working with homeless people without some degree of compassion and I’m not asking for any more money either, we have good examples in Cuyahoga County, we have very difficult individuals with mental illness, with criminal backgrounds staying at the men’s shelter, single individuals, and we don’t have anywhere near the level of issues that we have with the women’s shelter so it’s not like there is 400 guys at that facility , it’s overcrowded, it’s got a lot of the same issues as the women‘s shelter, it’s just when you file a complaint, when you are discharged, when you ask for help, from the staff, there is a much different environment at the men’s shelter than there is at the women’s shelter, so we have a model here locally that we can look at funded by the county also, so I’m just saying this is an outlier here that we need to focus on.

Councilman Brady

Pernel:  Council members, Councilman Brady

Brady: Thank you Mr. Chairman, you actually started getting into the question that I was going to ask you about the men’s shelter in response to Councilwoman Conwell, and I want to give my respect to her for all the work that she has done on this issue and her attention on this issue and hope that would be respected and that if you want to work with the county council, the county council is willing to work with you but we have to do that from a position of mutual respect, now several people have mentioned and you have as well, that there are is a striking difference in your opinion there is a striking difference between the men’s shelter and the women’s shelter, now there is a lot of difficult issues here for anybody to deal with even the matter how well intentioned they are.  The council, the way we have responded as a body, is when we believed there were resources that were needed, we tried to provide those resources but what I am hearing is that is really not the problem, although if there is no place to stay as someone alluded to that still may be a problem, but could you, could you try to explain more clearly why you think the men’s shelter functions in a way that is superior to the women’s shelter and try to pick out a few examples and details about why you think it works there and  it’s not working in the women’s shelter in your opinion?

Brian: Sure, I think that the men’s shelter staff all the way up to the director are very much involved in the day to day operation of the facility that is not the case in the women’s shelter so I think a lot of stuff goes on over at the women’s shelter that the senior administration are not aware of and I think it’s gotten to the point of being very out of control at the…

Brady:  Well, Brian, I, sorry, I mean like what, I mean you know what I mean, I want to hear it, but I got to understand it.

Brian: Right, so when you file a grievance at the men’s shelter, it is heard, answered and there is a degree of respect and mutual let’s try to find a way to compromise on this issue.  At the women’s shelter, it just seems to me, I’ve filed lots of grievances that there is a starting point of we don’t believe the women and so therefore, there almost always wrong so we are not going to treat them with the respect that the men get in filing their grievances.  We have, if you have an issue from the smallest detail to major issues that we heard here, there is a community coordinator over at the men’s shelter that you can go to try to get your situation resolved that you don’t have at the women’s shelter there doesn’t seem to be an advocate on site to help you through your problems.  It’s very demoralizing over at the women’s shelter and I swear to you people have just given up because they feel like they are being mistreated every day from the bed placement to having their beds taken at the women’s shelter, from being searched when they come in the door for food, to the if you don’t like it, then go get yourself an apartment attitude that happens at the women’s shelter that really doesn’t happen at the men’s shelter

Brady:  Brian, just on this point because you are making a very clear point, so obviously people are not, I would have some doubt people are being treated differently because they are men or women, I may be wrong about that, but it seems to me, that you believe that the homeless shelter which is larger for men is being managed well, and I’m sure it’s not easy to do, but, so Lutheran Ministries, they administer the men’s shelter, is that the case?

Brian: That’s correct.

Brady: And Frontline administers the women’s shelter? Is that the case?

Brian: Yes

Brady: And is it your belief that the problem is with Frontline?

Brian, Yes, it is.

Brady:  Well I think we should make that clear, that we are talking about the county contracting out with a company to do this and I’m not saying they are not doing a good job, I don’t know, but that’s what we are talking about.  We are talking about a company that the county has a contract with to administer the homeless shelter and a belief by you and some others that they are not doing a good enough job at what the county has given them the responsibility to do.

Brian: That is correct

Brady: Ok

Councilwoman Simon

Pernel: Councilman Simon,

Simon: Just quickly, I am looking at the sheet, doesn’t Frontline Services contract with North Point as well? Is that?

Brian: They oversee North Point that is correct.

Simon: Do you have a problem with North Point?

Brian:  No

Simon: Ok, so it’s the same service provider that’s doing the same thing.

Brian: But it’s a different service, it’s not an emergency shelter.

Simon: But some of it overlaps, no?

Brian: Right, but it’s a much different service than they are operating at the women’s shelter, it’s a transitional facility, so there is screening, it’s not,  The shelter, both shelters at Lakeside and the Women’s shelter have guaranteed access if you need a bed tonight you will go to one of those two facilities if you don’t have children.  That’s not the case for North Point.  There is a screening process for who gets in, there are people who are looking for jobs, it’s a much different environment than the women’s shelter or the men’s shelter.

Simon: Ok

Councilman Brady

Brady:  The Frontline services are identifying as the problem and if I go to your 4 points, these are your 4 points?

Brian: Yes, these are mine

Brady: and if we identify those would all 4 of those relate directly to Frontline Service?

Brian: Yes

Brady: They are either personnel or performance?

Brian: Yes

Brady: Is that the way to sum it up?

Brian: Uh huh

Brady: And who from the county has been out there to observe Frontline in these practices? 

Brian: The office of Homeless Services

Brady:  How often do they get there?

Brian: I am not sure of that, I don’t know

Brady: And what’s the status of the Frontline Service providers, the individuals how much turnover and turn is going on within their staff?

Brian:  There has been a lot of turnover and staff in the last few months, since this issue was elevated when the news medias got involved.

Brady: For the better or for the worse, the turn?

Brian: I haven’t seen much improvement as the women that’s testifying………

Brady: And how much turn was going on in prior periods of time prior to this 3 month period of time with staff?

Brian: There wasn’t as much as has been over the last few months

Brady: I am sure you have seen in your life that turnover and turn in staff is never very healthy to an organization to deliver consistent services.  I don’t want to be presumptive but that’s what I have seen in my experience and I’d like to ask your comments

Brian:  That’s true, but in the social service system there is problems of staff burnout and staff just being overwhelmed with the grief of serving this very fragile population which sometimes makes it difficult to function and carry out the day to day operation of the organization.

Brady:  Well who has training responsibilities for Frontline?

Brian: Training is an issue throughout the continuum not just at Frontline, but I know that and I’ve witnessed the de-escalation mediation training that LMM, the Lutheran ministry has at 2100 Lakeside that all of their staff are required to go through and I’m not sure there is a similar component over at the Women’s Shelter

Brady: County have ultimate responsibility from our staff to make sure that Frontline is putting trained staff on board and that they are consistently being provide services of a quality nature?

Brian:  I think since you provide the bulk of the funding, then yes, it would be the county’s responsibility to make sure that happens

Brady: So ultimately, when you are pointing your finger suggestively at Frontline with these 4 points you are saying, that we the county are not doing our job then too.

Brian:  I think that there is a lack of oversight of the services at the women’s shelter, yes

Brady: Ok, has there been any turn in regards to the people providing that oversight service from our end?

Brian: No

Brady:  Ok so we’ve been providing a consistently personnel staff but it is not turned out at least in your opinion that the results have been productive.

Brian: So far, no

Brady:  Ok, thank you

Councilwoman Brown

Pernel:  Any further questions from the committee?  Councilman Brown

Brown:  Thank you councilman Jones. Mr. Davis, I appreciate your outlining what it is that you are looking for today and I think some of these are what we have discussed in our prior conversation.  Specifically with regards to item number 3 you are requesting that the stay in notes would be respected and you said that what you are asking for wouldn’t require any additional resources, however, if there isn’t enough staff to accommodate the ladies, are you suggesting that we just disregard that number of staff able to support the people that would stay in?

Brian: The residents that live at the shelter are not children, so they don’t need the level of supervision that we seem to think..the men’s shelter certainly doesn’t have to have regular babysitters over grown men in every single function that they do over at the men’s shelter we have a shelter that was poorly operated in Washington DC and decided they were going to refocus on just getting women into housing and have no staff at night because these are grown women and they can handle themselves.  I don’t make the link that you have to have more and more babysitters on site to make the facility improved.  We have and we’ve heard women say that there is fights now, and you have lots more staff than you have at the men’s shelter so I don’t think that helps.  That hasn’t helped, there is no track record that the more and more staff that we have on site is going to assist and remember these are women who are mostly been ordered to bedrest, they are sick, they are disabled, what is the issue here?  What are they going to do?

Brown: What speaks to that is if they are sick or if they are disabled then I would be inclined to think that they might need to have someone to aid them with some of their needs as they are healing.  If you are saying that we just disregard that number and just stay in the bed and heal, then we may not have enough members on the staff to support them.  I don’t consider the staff, whether it’s Frontline or LMM to be Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries to be babysitters, I think we are trying to provide transitional support, as you indicated, emergency services, so I think to me that’s a little bit of an insulting reference to say about the staff because I think if we are trying to move forward and make progress we want people who are able to support the ladies in a respectful way and calling them babysitters, I don’t think that does that so I just want to be clear about the record, are you suggesting we disregard the number of staff that should be in place to support the women who have been assigned bedrest or stay in privileges?

Brian: No, I just think that we have a disagreement of how many staff that should be.  I don’t know why for a population the reality is that from 3 in the afternoon until 6 in the morning the staff are not providing any additional assistance to the disabled population or helping them with their health issues, so what would change during the day if these women were allowed to sleep in a bed so they don’t lose their babies because they are a high risk pregnancy, they are not going to do anything that can’t be managed by one person who is there to offer assistance and the difference between the two shelters as I said there is a large number of volunteers who come into Lakeside to help the men there that you don’t see at the women’s shelter that there is alumni that come back who can offer, hey this was my path off the streets, maybe I can help you get off the streets as well, that you don’t see at the women’s shelter.  So entirely relying on paid staff hasn’t really been very helpful to the women compared to the large number of volunteers that come into the men’s shelter to offer help.

Brown: Thank you and again, would you attribute that no support from volunteers and churches as a responsibility of Frontline or is that something that you can assist with soliciting for support if you are seeing the support at LMM at the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry are you in the position to refer or suggest that they provide similar services for the women’s shelter? 

Brian: We have on our website direct service opportunities.  Almost all the homeless social services are listed there, Frontline has asked to be taken off that list on a regular basis so they are not listed because they just didn’t feel like they wanted the volunteer help.  So we would love to refer volunteers there, there would be plenty of volunteers.  I have had board members who have tried to go over and volunteer and have been told, no we are not interested in that, we don’t need that kind of help.  So, it’s just, I think its Frontline’s responsibility as the caretaker of the facility, but it just doesn’t happen at this point. 

Brown: Ok, thank you, Mr. Chair, thank you.  Mr. Davis, I appreciate that, so again, it goes back to Frontline as being your primary concern with this shelter.

Brian: Yes

Brown: Thank you.

Pernel: (ineligible) Brown, thank you

Councilman Schron

Schron:  If Frontline was here, would they concur with your analysis that they are the problem?

Brian: I don’t think so

Schron:  And what do you think they would they say about your same analysis of these 4 points? Would they agree to at least the points?

Brian:  I would hope they would, I mean some of these are actually in county rules right now, there just not followed.  So I would hope they would agree that these are activities that they could get behind 

Schron: The 5 days on the grievance, 5 business days?  Is that?

Brian: Well you are supposed to get a written reply, always for your grievances, that doesn’t happen and you are supposed to be discharged in writing, and that doesn’t happen, but that is in the county rules for operating a shelter, you are supposed to have…

Schron: So the 5 days of written response

Brian: Well 5, well I mean the non-profit can come up with their own timeline but it definitely says that your supposed to have a written reply which that doesn’t happen

Schron: Ok is that are they following that in the other 3?

Brian: No they are not following

Schron: Are they following 5 day written response?

Brian: No

Schron: The other 3 that are listed here?  So they are not doing this either? 

Brian: No,

Schron:  Of these 4 items,

Brian: Oh you mean the other shelters?

Schron: Yes

Brian:  All the shelters are, I haven’t filed grievances at all the shelters, but most of the shelters do follow the rules as they are laid out here.

Schron:  I am just trying to identify, you, we’ve got 4 suggestions and are all the other 3 following all 4 of these suggestions that you have on this piece of paper that just the women’s shelter is the one that you have identified as not following any of these 4?

Brian: The women’s shelter is definitely the outlier in all the…

Schron: But these other ones are following these? I just want to make sure we use the same standard to measure and perform

Brian: My experience has been in filing grievances they follow the county policy and the women’s shelter is not

Schron: So I can assume at the next contract renewal I will assume there will be a voice, at least from you and from those who come before us, to recommend that a new contract be awarded to whoever it happens to be that they would adhere to these same 4 suggestions

Brian: So we meet with the shelter residents on a regular basis, they weren’t at the point of saying that we should dump the current provider and get a new one.

Schron: How did you guess what my next question..

Brian: And they gave a year to try to change the system to improve so they have given to September of this year to try to make an improvement.  Personally, I am at the point of saying we need to change, but that is just me

Schron: So they were given a year in September

Brian: So we voted the homeless members of the homeless congress voted last September to give 1 year to make changes in the women’s shelter before they advocated for a change in the provider.

Schron: Ok did the county sit down and have that same sit down with the women’s shelter, that same 1 year timeline. This is your group talking…

Brian: This is our group, but the county staff does come to that monthly meeting

Schron: And did they adhere to that same 1 year suggested…

Brian: No it was just the homeless congress had made that suggestion and they operated by consensus so that was an anonymous opinion of both men and women who come to the monthly meeting.

Schron: To your knowledge has corrective actions been taken by the county? To set a same timeline or similar timeline for improvement?

Brian: Not that I have seen

Schron: Ok thanks

Chairman Jones

Pernel: Yes councilman certainly this council has been committed to homeless services and this committee in particular as an advocate for the men’s shelter you obviously work with our director Ruth Gillette, Office of Homeless Services, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries as an advocate and it’s good to hear that even the advocates say that things are going well in the men’s shelter,  if the concern is with the Frontline from your perspective, Frontline Services, how has it, you’ve had it appears a strong working relationship with the other side with the men’s shelter and you say the breakdown is with Frontline on the women’s shelter, how has your conversation gone with Homeless Services with Dr. Ruth Gillette, if all has gone well with that work on the men’s side what has how has your conversation been with homeless services in regards to Frontline?

Brian: We don’t see eye to eye on this issue and on some other issues in the community.  I think that it was a huge mistake to have women leave in the morning and not get services on site there and try to go out in the community and find services.  I think that really complicated the issues at the women’s shelter that doesn’t happen over at the men’s shelter.  The men’s shelter, a hundred guys stay during the day and get programing assistance, get housing assistance, get mental health counseling that you don’t see at the women’s shelter and I think that’s a huge disparity that I think has really made the problems at the women’s shelter even more complicated so this is just one of the issues that we don’t see eye to eye on homeless services. 

Pernel: It’s one thing to not see eye to eye and the question is how great is the breakdown and what is going on?  In time we will have to invite the director up to help this council committee really understand from everyone’s perspective what is going on so we know how and what way to act.

At this moment let me turn it to Councilman Miller:

Councilman Miller

Miller: Mr. Chairman first I’d like to thank all the folks from the community for coming in and presenting your stories it was extremely helpful to us and to Mr. Davis you are saying that the problem is not a need for more staff  there may be a need for volunteers. Are you saying that the staff needs to be of higher quality and also that their needs to be procedures followed is that kind of the crux of it?

Brian: I think we have asked for some changes in staff and I think that would set a tone that we are serious in this community that there needs to be changes over at the shelter.  I think they have just gotten comfortable in being able to do whatever they want, change the rules whenever they want and we need a dramatic shake up over there. 

Miller: Uh, I just want to remind everybody that generally Frontline is very highly regarded in services with this population.  We not only contract with them for the two services that we talked about here but we also contract with them for the Pay For Success program and so I think it’s, it would be important for us to bring Frontline to this committee and talk with them and see if we can get on the same page and come up with some actions that will hopefully bring about improvement.  Thank you

Brian:  And we also work with Frontline in coordination of outreach services locally we work with the folks over at North Point and we work with coordinated intake they operate a lot of different programs just this one shelter, as I said,  is the outlier where there are serious issues that need to be corrected.

Pernel: Then, Let me say, you certainly have your right to your prospective and opinion but I don’t want to cast dispersions on Frontline unduly you certainly have the opportunity to speak and in that context I believe who was here are all our providers here? LMM, Frontline, so all the players are here and I want to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to weigh in as a counterbalance to all that has been said.  You say you have a good working relationship with our director of homeless services on the men’s side so they are doing half a good job in your perspective so at this moment unless council has any other comments I would like to take a moment and invite the others up to get the other side.  And maybe we should start with Director Gillette. 

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