Find Help

The Cleveland Street Chronicle
Jim Schlecht Event

FrontLine Service

Meeting with NHWC Residents

August 25, September 2, November 5, 2015

A total of 57 Norma Herr Women’s Center Residents openly shared their concerns about the NHWC with Susan Neth, FrontLine CEO, Eric Morse, FrontLine COO, and Elaine Gimmel, EDEN COO over the course of three meetings.  Below is a summary of those concerns and responses/follow-up actions to those concerns. A number of concerns have already been addressed; they remain in this document, which is a comprehensive summary of the meetings.

Obtaining feedback from residents is a priority and carried out in numerous ways.

  •  Monthly meetings with Shawna Derrington, Shelter Program Manager and LaTonya Murray, Director of Emergency Housing
  • Quarterly meetings with Susan Neth, FrontLine Service CEO and/or Eric Morse COO
  • Monthly Meetings with Cleveland Mediation, in which no FrontLine representatives are present
  • Client Rights Officer, Gloria Hawkins, FrontLine Service
  • Suggestion Box

 We are committed to providing numerous opportunities for women who use the shelter to learn about the shelter operations, services and protocols.  In addition to receiving a Resident Handbook and Resident Rights Handbook upon first entering the shelter, staff from NHWC now convene a New Client Orientation three times a week.  This provides opportunities for residents to ask questions and receive additional clarification and information. 

Physical Facility

EDEN has secured nearly $665,000 in funding to renovate the NHWC and has a final request in for an additional $100,000.  Renovations started prior to the meetings with the residents and will continue through the spring of 2016 to repair/upgrade areas within the shelter.  Specific concerns identified by residents were: 

Cameras don’t work in the basement

The security system in the shelter will be upgraded in December 2015.

Wall is crumbing in the 1st floor hallway, water accumulates and people fall

The reconstruction of this wall will occur during renovations in January of 2016.  Rubber mats will be placed on the floor to minimize the likelihood of people falling.  The cleaning company will be making additional efforts to mop up any water in the hallway.

 Items that have bedbugs are being thrown out without being wrapped

All items with bedbugs, with the exception of mats and furniture, are placed in bags when discarded.  Only mats/furniture are discarded uncovered due to their size.  We are working to obtain a dumpster which can be secured in order to minimize the likelihood of items being removed and returned to the shelter.

Mats have springs sticking out, they are ripped and taped together with duct tape

New mats/mattresses are being secured. These items are part of the additional $100,000 request which we should get a response by December.

Ceiling in the basement bathroom has what appears to be mold growing from ceiling tile

The ceiling tiles will be replaced as part of renovation. The basement bathrooms have been identified as a priority for renovation activities. These bathrooms will be the first to be renovated in December 2015.

Ceiling in 1st floor bathroom has a leak right over a toilet area

The ceiling has been repaired.

Second floor dorm area is leaking from the ceiling, as is the quiet room

Both roofs of the buildings have been replaced as of October 7, 2015.

Residents do not have the ability to clean out their own area or to assist with cleaning the facility; they do not have access to cleaning products

      We order mops, brooms, etc. quarterly per our budget. Unfortunately, they quickly disappear as residents move from the shelter.  While some residents choose to bring their own cleaning supplies onto the premises (we cannot allow caustic chemicals to be brought in, i.e. bleach, ammonia, toilet cleaner, etc.), EDEN does not allow anyone to access general products used for cleaning or maintenance as this is against OSHA standards. We are currently working to develop a Volunteer Program within the shelter as a means of providing residents with an opportunity to assist in keeping the shelter clean and to enable them to develop experience which can be utilized in job search efforts.

Washers and dryers are broken on a regular basis

Washers and dryers will be replaced and additional ones added as part of the facility renovations in January 2016.  In the meantime, if any machine is not operable, residents can complete a Maintenance Request from located in the main staff office. Staff will then call the work orders into EDEN who will contact Coin Mach who has a contract to maintain service.

Showers are not working; currently; only one is working upstairs

This has been addressed and showers are now working.  If showers are not working, residents can complete a Maintenance Request from located in the main staff office. Staff will then call the work orders into EDEN so that their Maintenance Technician can repair the showers that are not operable.   

Residents can only have 7 days’ worth of clothing; residents advocated that they be able to keep more personal belongings at the shelter (Tote, Locker, Linen basket)

The Norma Herr Women’s Center serves as a temporary, emergency shelter and we must limit the number of belongings to ensure everyone’s safety.  We have limited space and must ensure that in the event of an emergency everyone has a safe means of exiting.

There isn’t sufficient toilet paper

Replacement rolls of toilet paper can no longer be left out, as residents have consistently placed multiple rolls in the toilets, causing them to clog and overflow.  NHWC staff will ensure that they have replacement rolls available, particularly overnight and in the early am.

The temperature inside of the shelter is too hot/cold at the shelter

The temperature of the shelter is controlled by a heating/cooling system that either provides heat or cooled air, it does not alternate between the two.  We understand that this is particularly challenging when it is warmer during the day and becomes so cool at night that we need to heat the building, however it is not feasible to replace the entire heating/cooling system. The system has registered an average of 75 degrees since it has been installed and it is set to not go below 72 degrees. It is set at the same temperature and is not turned down or up at certain times of day.  

Staff & Operations

While there were many concerns specific to staff, residents were clear that these concerns did not pertain to all staff of the NHWC.  Concerns expressed were:

Many are mean and disrespectful 

FrontLine prioritizes staff training that is person centered and trauma informed.  We are working to identify additional customer service/sensitivity trainings for staff, as well as ways in which we can increase their support from peers and managers.  Residents are encouraged to speak to supervisors or document concerns about any experiences they have with staff that they believe to be mean and/or disrespectful.  Specific staff responses are addressed in supervision and through the Human Resource department at FrontLine Service.  We are unable to disclose information about these interactions or their outcomes.

Inconsistent in carrying out policies – they have favorites

We strive to remain consistent in carrying out the policies of the NHWC and are currently reviewing the policies and re-training staff on them.  However, we must be able to be flexible in these responses and to factor in the individual situation, the challenges that the resident may be experiencing (at the time or in an on-going manner), as well as any clinical challenges the individual may be experiencing. 

Do not help residents find housing 

Unfortunately, there are very limited resources in the community and we are only able to talk with residents about what is available.  Additionally, sometimes the housing options that are available are not consistent with what a resident is seeking and there are no other alternatives.  Case Managers are also challenged by the increased census at the shelter.  Case Managers report that often they are approached by so many residents for assistance that they do not have the ability to outreach to others who are not seeking assistance.  We are currently working with our partners to identify ways to increase their presence in shelter and  decrease the census.  By decreasing the census, we are hoping that shelter case managers will have increased time to focus on the needs of those on their assigned caseloads. 

Do not respond when residents are abused by other residents; some staff report that they don’t have the authority to do so 

Any time that a resident feels that they are being victimized or abused by another resident, or witnesses this type of situation with other residents, they should report the situation to a supervisor or a manager on duty immediately for resolution.  Residents are also able to document this concern for review by the Client Rights Officer at FrontLine Service if they are more comfortable doing so.  FrontLine is working to create opportunities for staff and residents to increase their awareness around managing conflict.  We will be working with community advocacy organizations to schedule presentations at the shelter.  Additionally, conflict resolution is an ongoing focus of supervision and training with our staff.

Throw out belongings, to include medications, even when residents report their absence 

When a resident does not return to the shelter and is identified as ‘absent’, staff will gather their belongings and store them on-site for at least 24 hours in the storage room. Staff do not search through the resident’s belongings to identify medications or important documents.  Storage rooms are emptied once a month, as part of a general shelter cleaning.  All items not retrieved by the resident are discarded in a dumpster.  This storage area is not the same area that is used to store the belongings of residents who are leaving the premises for the day.

 Belongings are thrown into a closet area and residents have to ‘dig’ for theirs to retrieve them 

When residents are staying in an overflow area and leaving the facility for the day, they are responsible for putting their own belongings in the storage area.  They are provided with bags and totes and the storage area is locked until after dinner, at which time belongings can be retrieved.  We do not have the staff capacity to monitor the retrieval of belongings.  Residents may feel like they have to ‘dig’ for their belongings if they were stored under the belongings of other residents.  We are exploring the possibility of placing shelving units in this area.

 Do not distribute mail.  Many residents at the meeting reported that they will be told by a family member or worker outside of the shelter that mail was sent to them, sometimes a check/money order, yet they never receive any mail. 

Mail protocol has been revised and was posted in November for all staff to follow.  Mail will be distributed daily, it is recommended that residents advise staff if they are expecting something.  Mail will be retained in a file cabinet for residents in the shelter.  For those who leave the shelter, mail will be pulled and ‘Returned to Sender’.  HIPAA regulations do not allow us to post a list of who has received mail.

 Do not respond appropriately when residents present a Dr’s note to stay in. 

The shelter’s function is to provide a safe and warm temporary shelter for women who are homeless.  It does not provide drop-in services to those using the shelter, however does accommodate a limited number of women whom either have special needs or with whom staff are working closely.  For this reason, shelter management reviews and approves the doctor’s notes/stay-in requests from women to ensure that those most in need have access to the shelter.  A Dr’s note does not ensure that a resident will be able to remain onsite during the day. 

Do not respond appropriately when residents are in a medical crisis 

All staff have been instructed that in the event of a medical emergency/crisis, EMS is to be called.  In any situation where a resident believes this has not been followed, they are strongly encouraged to either advise the manager/supervisor on duty, or to document their concern and forward it to the Client Rights Officer at FrontLine.

Sort through donations for themselves before distributing to residents 

All donations are inventoried by staff when first received, possibly giving the impression that they are being ‘sorted’ through. Donations are documented through the inventory process but oftentimes not immediately distributed and often times are stored for use by those who come to the shelter with no belongings or personal hygiene products.  Also, donations received are rarely in a large enough quantity that there is enough for each person at the shelter to receive them.  It must also be noted that donations of food are sometimes made directly for staff, generally over a holiday, part of a meeting or a gesture of appreciation. The policy around donations has been reviewed with all staff.

Will take food from residents (not allowed in building) and share it with other staff  

It is never appropriate for a staff member/security officer to take food and then to share it with other staff.  In the event that this is ever witnessed, please report it immediately to a manager/supervisor on duty and/or the Client Rights Officer.  The officers are instructed to ensure that food is not brought into the building.  While this had been permitted a number of years ago, it created conflict amongst residents around issues of sharing or a resident(s) bringing food/beverages on site for the purpose of selling to other residents.  Additionally, food that is not controlled by staff increases the likelihood of pests within the shelter.

No longer are able to get coffee in morning 

Coffee is served with breakfast. One part time staff person would give coffee to those residents who “assisted” in the mornings, however this was discontinued once discovered, as it was not available to all residents.  We do not offer coffee after breakfast as a means of controlling the shelter budget.

Talk about residents while they are standing right there, in front of other residents 

This type of behavior conflicts with the agency’s commitment to working with individuals in a manner that conveys respect and confidentiality.  If this is experienced by a resident, it is recommended that it be brought to the attention immediately of the on-duty supervisor or manager or to the Client Rights Officer at FrontLine Service. 

Are not available.  Why are there so many staff present at a time that there are fewer residents? 

The case managers work flexible hours to ensure that there is someone available when residents are present, as well as during the day when it is possible to make linkages to other service providers.  In general, there are more shelter staff working when there are more residents in the shelter (in the evenings and overnight).

There are no activities available for residents

Residents indicated that they were interested in having activities offered, particularly over the weekend.  A specific request was made for yarn and crochet hooks.  We will be working to secure those items and to create a ‘Craft Corner’ at the shelter for weekends.

Residents’ belongings are stolen from their beds/dorms

Several residents reported that items had been stolen from their bed/room.  Staff strongly encourage residents to secure their belongings in a locker or tote, or to keep important items with them when leaving the shelter.  Staff will ensure that rooms are locked during the course of the day to minimize the possibility of theft.

Residents reported that other residents will spend too much time in the shower, or sleep in the shower stall

Anytime a resident becomes aware that another resident is sleeping in the shower, please let the supervisor know as soon as possible so that staff can redirect that resident.  When there are concerns about a resident taking too long in the shower, please advise a staff person so that we can initiate a conversation with that individual.

Some residents confided that they had some discomfort because of transgender residents

FrontLine Service is committed to providing a safe and respectful environment for all women who are in need of shelter.  We will be working closely with the LGBT Community Center in the near future to create opportunities for residents and staff to participate in conversation/presentations with LGBT staff.  It is essential that any and all conversations regarding this are carried out in a respectful and dignified manner.

Food

At the most recent NHWC residents’ meeting, there was consistent feedback that the quality and variety of food served was much better.

The food is rotten

All food issues are addressed with LMM immediately upon discovery. There have been issues of molded     food and shortages as well. 

There isn’t enough food

In the rare instances where the shelter does not have enough food from LMM, shelter staff are able to go to purchase grocery items upon discovery and management approval. 

There is no variety; we have been served beans and rice for many days in a row

The variety in the menu has changed due to feedback from the residents.

Food is not distributed to those who work/are in school

This protocol will be continually reviewed with staff. Residents must request a late plate due to their continuously changing work schedules. Food is always set aside for those signed up to receive these late plates. Staff are able to provide snacks, but this sometimes becomes a challenge if there is a sudden increase in the number of residents at a meal.

2100 has a vending machine and a microwave so that residents can purchase food and heat food on the premises.

In the past we did provide microwaves and residents were able to bring food in from the outside to reheat and eat in the dining area.  The microwaves did not last long as a result of sparking/burning because metallic items were consistently rewarmed with the food.  The practice of allowing food to be brought in was discontinued as it became impossible to contain the food to the dining area; food was constantly being hidden and taken into other areas of the shelter, creating additional problems with pests.  Making food available through a vending machine would create the same challenge.  Avoiding pest infestation is an ongoing priority at the shelter.  Additionally, some residents would bring food and beverages onto the premises and then sell the items to other residents for a profit.  The conflict created by this escalated several times, requiring numerous staff/security to intervene.

 

 [Editor's Note:  The first two meetings took place at the headquarters, but many residents were told by staff at the shelter that either the meeting was cancelled or rescheduled or they were told that the meeting was only for staff.  No one was disciplined for this attempt to deceive the women residents of the shelter. The November meeting was held at the shelter making it impossible to guard against retaliation by the staff for saying negative things about the on-site staff or supervisors.  No group that does not receive funding from Frontline was involved in these meetings to assure some independence or objectivity or to protect against retaliation.]