NEOCH and the Homeless Congress propose that the following be put into law as shelter standards. Among the many issues that homeless people face in shelters, there are some of the most pressing concerns in how shelters operate. Many of the basic life necessities of the shelter clients are not always being met. It is our hope that the City and County will put these provisions into laws, so that the the rights of the homeless as people are met.
Here are the current Cuyahoga County Shelter Standards for reference.
Updated based on Discussion with People Experiencing Homelessness
Proposed Shelter Standards
Passed with some revision on 8/8/2013 at the Homeless Congress meeting.
1. Requirement to Offer Shelter to anyone requesting help:
(a) Provide at least one 24-hour emergency drop-in center that provides shelter, mental health services, medical services, and transportation to available off-site services and programs if the facility is full;
(b) Shelters shall not discharge individuals unless there is a plan for housing at a place fit for human habitation or unless there is criminal activity with a police report generated.
2. In order to operate a shelter in Cuyahoga County, a non-profit entity must include the following quality of life enhancements:
(a) All contracts between the County and shelter operators shall include provisions that require shelter operators to:
(1) Treat all shelter clients equally, with respect and dignity, including in the application of posted shelter policies and a legitimate grievance process involving final arbitration by a impartial third party individual;
(2) Commit to serving healthy food with one hot meal at the facility. Meals must include accommodations for those with special dietary needs or religious beliefs;
(3) Provide shelter clients with pest-free, secure property storage inside each shelter. Shelter staff shall provide closable plastic containers to clients for storage purposes. If storage inside a shelter is unavailable, the shelter operator may provide free, pest-free storage off-site as long as the off-site storage is available to the shelter client up until the time of evening bed check;
(4) Ensure that all clients receive appropriate and ADA-compliant transportation services, to attend medical appointments, permanent housing appointments, substance abuse treatment, job search appointments and job interviews, mental health services, and shelter services;
(5) Ensure that the shelter is aware and abiding by federal, state and local fair housing laws with regard to access and continued occupancy of a shelter bed;
(6) Clients will receive a housing plan within three weeks of entering a shelter or the central intake prepared with the input of the clients to quickly and efficiently move a household back into stable housing that will give the client the best opportunity to remain in housing;
(7) Each shelter over with over 80 beds should have daily health care clinic available to the residents. All other shelters must have a plan for regular visits by heath care professionals that must be posted in the shelter. Staff must develop and post a policy for allowing residents bed rest when ordered by a qualified doctor. This bed rest policy must be posted in the shelter.
3. Each Shelter Should Develop a Complaint and Investigation Process
(a) The County shall develop a complaint process that protects residents of the local shelters and assures that an eviction does not result in a person forced to sleep on the streets;
(b) Every shelter must provide readily available resident complaint forms, as well as provide a form upon request;
(c) Shelters with over 80 beds must have staff designated as a client's rights officer to assist those completing a grievance;
(1) Those shelters with under 80 beds should develop a plan for how to assist those who are illiterate or have some other barrier to completing a complaint form to submit a grievance;
(d) Shelters must accept and investigate written complaints from residents, client advocates or those who utilize the service, as well as members of the Shelter Monitoring Committee;
(e) Shelter staff must respond in writing to written complaints within two business days;
(f) Shelter staff must make every effort to take corrective action within five business days;
(1) If the client is not satisfied with the action taken, the shelter operator shall refer the complaint to an impartial third party not connected to any homeless service provider (could be a volunteer attorney) and has no relationship with any of the parties involved in the complaint;
(g) The County Shelter Monitoring Committee and Office of Homeless Services shall receive a copy of the complaint and shall supervise the process, and receive the outcome of the grievance or complaint;
(h) If a resident files a grievance they must be allowed to see the grievance to completion before the punishment is enforced;
(i) There needs to be a government entity that has control over funding that can act on potential problems;
(j) The telephone number and address for either the Office of Homeless Services or a shelter monitoring committee special telephone number must be posted in every single shelter covered;
(k) 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 general resolution of those complaints;
(l) This information should be made available to the public on a website along with the results of the monitoring evaluation of every shelter.