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The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event

Ruth Gillette – Director of Cuyahoga County Homeless Services

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Ruth: Good afternoon, um, I had not planned to speak today, um, there have been many things that have been said and you, many of you have asked very good questions, um, that I think we have answers to but, you know,  like we would be here for several hours and I don’t really think you want me to go through all of them but I would like to provide for example it seems that Councilman Schron is very interested in what is the grievance policies and procedures that are observed throughout the county by providers, what we do to monitor those, um, you know, each agency is responsible but we have set a standard, um, and that’s just an example, so, um,  I would just ask that you would give me an opportunity to provide some responses in writing, I have been taking notes, and then um, perhaps if you have other questions,  you know everything that the Office of Homeless Services does in the community is transparent, we have an advisory board, NEOCH is part of the advisory board, um, people who are formerly homeless and currently homeless come to those meetings its broadly a stakeholder group. I attend the homeless congress meetings. Um, to say, the only thing I want to say is for Brian to characterize that we do not see eye to eye on issues, I think is certainly accurate and perhaps an understatement. Um,  But, having said that, um, I would like to see if I could get back to you on some of these issues., Um,  if that’s ok., if there is anything you really  want a response on right this minute, please let me know.

Questions from Council Members

    Councilwoman Conwell

Ms. Conwell: The chair to director Gillette, Just one main thing, are there any differences in your opinion from the models of the men’s shelter vs the female shelter.

Ruth: To the chair and councilwoman Conwell, So that’s like a big issue, right, I mean I would really have to lay out for you their staffing patterns.  You know, like, Brian has kind of broadly referenced how they operate.  I am not really sure, there are differences obviously, they serve more people, its men not women, and on the one hand it is interesting that Brian speaks so highly of them and I don’t want to say that things aren’t great there. Right? But, I mean, the truth is every shelter has issues.   I think it’s, anyway, um, you know, I don’t think you can say, there is probably things that they do that, you know that could be done at, I don’t know, I just don’t think you can say these are two apples. You know, it’s not that easy. I don’t think, with my opinion, I don’t know. 

    Councilman Schron

Pernel: Councilman Schron

Schron: I wasn’t trying to raise the grievance issues as much as that it was on this sheet of paper.   It’s one of the 4 items of which I was trying to identify. Item 2 was, are responses and grievances responded to within five days?  So It became very logical to me to say that these only apply to the women’s shelter, are they being done in the men’s shelter? That’s all I’m trying to identify.  If you say yes on all 4 that’s one thing, but I was just was asking the questions in regards to what is on this sheet of paper. 

Ruth: Thank you, Can I just add one thing to the chair to councilman Schron.  I think you were also asking about the role of the office of Homeless Services in terms of oversight and monitoring to the contracts. And um, you know I think that our focus first and foremost is to verify the funds are being spent according to the contract.  We certainly are involved in, I do go to resident meetings at the women’s shelter and by going to the congress I am aware of sort of non-contract issues that are being raised, So, I would be interested to know if there is other levels of oversight that you feel the office should be conducting relative to our contracting in the community?

Schron:  Then if you were at the congress, you were aware that they had drawn at least a suggestive line of 1 year for performance at the women’s shelter? 

Ruth: To the chair and councilman Schron, I must have been, I can’t say that it was in the foremost of my mind. 

    Chairman Jones

Pernel: Have you been presented with these 4 items from the homeless congress? 

Ruth: Have I?  No, No, I have not. 

Pernel:  So as we come to this level to discuss, my question that comes to mind is, If the advocates had not come to you with their concerns, why come to us now?, then you can always come to this council…but if there is no breakdown in the system, my concern would be if you were not responsive or in some way but if you haven’t been presented with the concerns, I will leave it at that. 

Ruth: To the chair, I am sorry, so the community has been going through a several year process to establish community shelter standards, we have had shelter standards ever since the office was in existence that were established by the state of Ohio.  We have always incorporated those into our contracts with shelter providers.  Several years ago NEOCH began to suggest there should be additional standards and so a committee of the advisory board had been meeting every other month to consider the shelter standards that had been recommended by the homeless congress and NEOCH.  So many of the, so not the specific things to Frontline, but many of those issues for example, discharges in writing, grievances, various other aspects.  There have been many lists of concerns I have been aware of.  Most recently, that I was aware of,  there was a list of 13 demands that the congress was submitting to you all, but they, those did not come to me, I mean I think there has been a recognition that the office of homeless services does not really control very much, I know that’s hard to believe, I think I control everything but it seriously that they were looking for a response from someone other than the office of homeless services for whatever reason, if that makes sense, I don’t know

    Councilman Brady

Pernel: Councilman

Don Brady: Yes thank you Mr. Chairman. Ruth, we have had this sort of continuing dialog at times, off and on, just speaking for myself over the last 5 yrs. You know around the budget time we always tried, as I know you know, to see if there was some way we could help with additional resources and I know in the last budget process councilwoman Conwell was involved in the issue of looking for resources for extra bedding I believe, I know you were not asked to come and give a presentation today, so I understand that, so I am not, but the issue that has been raised is I want to know your opinion on without going on forever today but maybe we can have some conversations at another time, Is there an overcrowding problem at the women’s shelter at times?  It’s been raised, I am asking to your knowledge.

Ruth: To the chair to Councilman Brady, you know we have actual daily census information about the number of a people, so the numbers go up and down and what county council and councilman Conwell has assisted with is to add beds to accommodate the overflow when the so there is a certain number of beds.  More women were coming than there were beds for this became an issue that was considered overcrowding.  Additional beds have been added but again, because of our community policy not to turn anyone away, if someone comes in there not turned away if there is no bed, they are provided a mat on the floor.  Currently the shelter is going thru renovations that has displaced some of the sleeping space, so is it overcrowded because people are moved in different areas of the shelter, probably now it’s a bit chaotic at the shelter because of the renovations, but is it overcrowding?  It isn’t in violation of the building and housing code or the fire code.  The census has gone up but on average, it’s in, Frontline is here, Latonya, who manages the shelter could give you like how many people were there last night but it has gone down recently so that the average is around 160-170 people a night.  People are allowed to come in in the middle of the night, when they come in in the middle of the night, they are not given a bed, they are provided a mat so that they don’t disturb other people, so the goal would be to reduce the population, we want to help women leave,

Miller: Right

Ruth: Because again, the concern and the commitment of council additional staff have been added to help provide more intensive case management to identify senior citizens, for example, youth, and try to really put resources together to develop a housing, linking those folks with housing in the community.  You know it’s, staffing is needed, additional staffing is needed, not as babysitters, but, I don’t know, I’m sorry, that is my answer.

Brady: That’s ok, I know you didn’t expect to come up and be questioned today, so I want to respect that, so I won’t continue to do that, but I do want to say as one councilman, I don’t want to speak for anyone else, that I’d like to engage around some of these issues, as a councilman with you and we have a lot of respect for you and a lot of respect for the work that you have done and but I can’t listen to people that say they have serious issues with the women’s shelter and just simply determine that they don’t know what they are talking about or they have some kind of imaginary problem if you know I, anything can be improved and this must be some of the hardest work a person can possibly do, running a homeless shelter, so I recognize that, as long as there are people who have complaints, I want to know about it, and I want to know how those complaints are handled, if I can have access to them so I can see them and try to provide as one councilman and the former chair of this committee for 4 years, some oversight and make a judgement for myself and thank you very much for all the work that you do and we want you to know how much we appreciate you.

Ruth: I am honored to work for the county in this capacity. But I would also like to say to that point about what has been a response of the agency.  Frontline Service staff and Eden staff cuz usually Eden is also included in the list of things that are problematic have met with councilwoman Conwell and councilman Jones on more than one occasion and again their leadership and have been provided information about their operation and we, they are transparent in their operations and we strive to be transparent.  I just feel that to some degree, it becomes a he said, she said or they said, we said and I don’t really think that’s very useful in resolving issues.  I think we really do want to resolve the issues and so I hope that this particular opportunity for people to communicate doesn’t become another there sort of they said this and we said that, you know that kind of thing.  I hope that going forward if there is some more communication on this, I don’t know, there is more openness on the part of all the parties to kind of work together, that’s all thank you.

    Chairman Jones

Pernel: There are cities in other parts of this country who I think are probably less responsive, when it comes to homeless services It has always been my belief we have been responsive.  There are certainly challenges there and I know there are challenges in the men’s shelter. It’s always a downstream thing if you are not fighting to keep swimming forward they you are just drifting away.  So I know there are challenges in the men’s shelter.  It’s good to know that the advocates believe it’s going very well.  I just simply say we have to continue to work together. Any comments or concerns people have this forum is always available but I do have a concern that what’s brought to us today has not been brought to you.  So, it appears there needs to be some work on all sides, we are not going to have a he said she said, this is not meant to turn into a debate or confrontation of any type for this committee meeting but I do want everyone to have the opportunity to express themselves and then we continue from there also if there is anyone in this group that needs to come forward and have comments if Lutheran or Frontline feels the need if they would like to, this certainly is an opportunity for them as well. But I will turn it over.  Allright Councilman Miller

    Councilman Miller

Councilman Miller: Mr. Chairman director one area where I’ve certainly gotten conflicting reports is about the question of the actual presence of alcohol and marijuana at the facility and I know the policy is that it is not allowed but that we do allow people be present who are under the influence under some circumstances and my question is if you can shed any light on that situation and as to what is done in fact to ensure that these substances are not in fact present and how successful you are at it? 

Ruth: To the chair, to Councilman Miller, I would really like to ask the Frontline staff to come up and respond to that because on a day to day operational basis, I am not, you know, I can’t really, I know that they have protocols and they do, but as far as how successful that is, and what they do when its not, I want to ask one of them if that’s ok.

Pernel: It is.  The purpose today is that we were presented with 4 items and let’s keep the focus to be responsive to the comments that have been brought forward.

    Councilwoman Conwell

Ms. Conwell: Mr.  Chair, can I ask director Gillette to provide this committee with the contract, you said you provide the oversight of the contract to make sure that the services that are listed in the contract, that is what your oversight is. So could you forward that to us?

Ruth: I can provide you the scope of services which is attached to the contract and then the contract.  Ok.

Ms. Conwell: Thank you

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