Here are recommendations that we do not have in the current County Shelter Standards that we would like to see added to their list. Do we maintain this list or shorten it?
General Shelter Regulations as Overseen by County
1. All shelters that accommodate nighttime residential stays must be operated by nonprofit organizations that release their 990 tax returns on a yearly basis. Organizational and program budget information must be released to the public on a yearly basis as well. The shelter residents and taxpayers should be able to go to a website and find out how much they are paying to sustain each shelter in the community.
2. Each shelter must write up plans for their ultimate goal- going out of business. They need plans to get everyone housed in some limited period of time so that there is no longer a need for shelters. An annual report should be developed by the Office of Homeless Services or Department of Community Development using the information provided by each shelter to assess how close they are to going of business because they are no longer necessary.
3. There must be 24 hour access to shelters—there should always be a place to go inside within Cuyahoga County. When the entry shelters are full there should be a referral to another facility. The County shall provide at least one drop in center that is operational 24 hours a day for those who do not want to use the shelters. This would be a place inside, but not necessarily with beds.
4. It is mandated that harm reduction models be developed, specifically in the form of a “wet” shelter within the city of Cleveland within two years of passage of this law for both men and women. This will be a facility in which active users can stay so they do not freeze to death or die of heat exposure, but where they would be required to abstain from doing drugs or alcohol off site. Shelters may keep their sober living environment as long as a “wet” shelter if created within the community, and there is an ability to transfer residents to other shelters if they relapse. Residents of publicly funded shelters may only be kicked out of the facility for illegal activity. Shelter staff must file a police report for any of these incidents as criminal activity that results in discharge.
5. Staff members need background checks and must be subjected to random drug tests. Drug finding does not necessarily result in termination, but could result in referral to a treatment program instead.
6. In order to foster an atmosphere of partnership among staff and residents, the shelter senior staff shall hold meetings with all the residents at least once per month and must provide 48 hours notice for scheduled meetings.
7. Shelter residents must be able to post maintenance concerns in a prominent common area within the shelter, and staff must respond within 48 hours.
8. Law enforcement including bounty hunters and immigration enforcement agents should not have access to the shelter to search for specific individuals without a warrant.
9. Shelters must provide transportation (a shuttle service) for people with health concerns and people getting health care. There also needs to be a way to access prescription drugs especially the payment of prescription drugs by the shelters. There should be funds for individuals to get bus tickets or transportation so that they can get a job and find housing.
10. Each shelter must have a paid janitorial staff for any shelter that houses more than 50 residents. The County encourages the development of a business that employs homeless people who may be contracted to take care of the janitorial needs of the shelters.
11. Any death within the shelter must be investigated under the direction of the medical examiner of Cuyahoga County, and a report shall be released to the public within six months.
12. As part of the submission of various plans to the County including a safety plan, staff training plan, the shelter should work toward sustainable (green) facility by reducing the facilities carbon footprint in the community. The shelter as a part of the yearly review process should be graded on its ability to recycle. Reuse, and conserve energy within their buildings.
Shelter Intake and Discharge
13. The shelters must make some accommodations in the event that there is a wait to get into the shelter so that people do not stand outside during inclement weather including hot days over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or extremely cold days of less than 5 degree with the wind chill.
14. The shelter staff must be able to provide communication with the individual seeking shelter in their primary language by working with other agencies in the community who may provide translation or interpreting skills including with written documents.
Shelter Grievances and Complaints
15. Each shelter (with more than 50 people) must have at least one client advocate on site that will advocate for the interests of residents and who can handle resident concerns. It was suggested that an outside entity should employ the client advocates at each shelter to assure that they are independent. Another option would be hired to travel to the various shelters to act as homeless ombudsmen.
16. If a resident files a grievance they must be allowed to see the grievance to completion before the punishment is implemented. The Office of Homeless Services shall receive reports from the Homeless ombudsmen as well as the Sheltering Monitoring Committee. There needs to be a government entity that has control over funding that can act on potential problems. The telephone number and address for either the homeless ombudsman or shelter monitoring committee must be posted in every single shelter covered. This Office of Homeless Services should present a report to Cleveland City Council, Cuyahoga County Council, the Cleveland Mayor, and the County Executive every year as shelter allocation decisions are being made on the number of complaints and the resolution of those complaints.
Minimum Operating Procedures Provided to Individuals and Families in Shelter
17. Upon entry to a shelter, residents should be offered a voice mailbox so that they can remain connected with the outside world. The County should prioritize universal access to voice mail to assist residents with finding a job and housing.
18. Each shelter should make available a computer that is connected to be internet available to residents in order to apply for housing and jobs. There must be on computer available to every 40 residents with finding a job and housing.
19. A nurse/health care professional must be on duty 24 hours for shelters with more than 100 people in the same building. All shelter staff must be trained in simple first aid including CPR. All shelters must have a Portable Defibrillator in the shelter, and staff should be trained in its use.
20. One of the biggest barriers to stability is the ability for residents to work through previous traumatic experiences. A therapist needs to be available once a week for small shelters and once a day for large facilities. A therapy team could travel to a few different shelters throughout the week, and these could be volunteers from the community.
21. Shelters must help residents establish a savings plan so they can save money and get into housing. Classes on banking and savings must be offered at the shelter.
22. Different types of people have different needs. The goal of the shelters is to provide each person struggling with stable housing assistance to address their homelessness. Large shelters (over 100 people) must divide up their population based on residents’ individual needs so that each person receives more individualized care.
23. For shelters that are open 24 hours, the residents should be allowed to access the beds anytime in order for residents who work second and third shift to be able to sleep.
24. Every shelter must have a bus pass policy that needs to be approved by an outside group of homeless individuals. There was also a desire to see if all the shelters could pool their resources and get a discount on daily bus passes or develop a transportation system to get homeless people to where there are jobs.
Training and Security at the Shelters
25. All shelters that receive public money must send their staff to sensitivity training and must insure that residents and alumni are involved in how these classes are structured. The training must include mediation issues and how to handle tense situations in a nonviolent manner. Staff must be trained on the services available in the community to assure that referrals are appropriate. A certification process should be available to the public to verify that all the staff have attended the proper training requirements.
26. Volunteers at an adult shelter are strongly encouraged, but not required, to receive formal training. If a shelter houses children, volunteers must have criminal background checks in order to volunteer. No one with a violent or sexual-based criminal history will be allowed to volunteer at a shelter housing children.
27. All staff and volunteers at the shelter shall wear identification that includes the individual’s name.
28. Provide staff training on an annual basis on compliance with the American Disabilities Act and the proper care for individuals with a physical or mental disability.
Enforcement of the Shelter Standards
29. A volunteer committee makes regular visit at the shelters. No staff from any other shelter, no board members from any agency should be on the review ream. No one with any conflict should review the shelters. No one that could possibly receive the funding if the shelter got a negative review should be on the committee. We do not consider resident alumni of a specific shelter to have a conflict of interest.
30. The committee that reviews each shelter should have a minimum of three people and maximum of 7 people. They should be made up of formerly homeless people, employees of the local government, and volunteer attorneys. We believe that at least one third of the committee should be made up of formerly homeless people. Each review team should be diverse with both men and women and shall have one third of the representatives formerly homeless.
31. The majority of the reviews will be done without notice of the shelters.
32. All results will be posted on a county website within 3 weeks of completion.
33. The results of the review should be forwarded to the larger committee of all the potential reviewers. This larger committee will meet periodically to process the information and make any recommendations to the City and County regarding changes in the shelters based on the reviews.
34. If the same problem is identified for three consecutive reviews, then the larger committee meets to decide how to handle the problem. This committee can make the recommendation on funding for the shelters. The decisions made by this committee must be binding on the City and County when requests for public funds are sought.
35. The second time a problem is identified the shelter must respond in writing to that complaint, and that gets posted.
36. The review committee will need to have representatives of the City Building and Housing Department to enforce congregate living rules regarding the layout of the Building.
37. The shelter staff would have the opportunity to meet with the larger review group before they make their decision.
38. The shelters should be required to meet as a group on a quarterly basis to improve all the shelters, improve coordination, improve training, and have outside experts coming in to discuss specific issues.
39. The third time a serious concern is identified by the review team the shelter’s funding should be withheld until the problem is resolved. Again, the shelter has a chance to appeal to the full review committee before funds are withheld.
40. The guiding principle for the shelter review committee should be that the review should be tough enough to force a change, but not so tough that we lose shelter beds locally.