For more information call: Brian Davis at 216/432-0540
Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless
3631 Perkins Ave. 3A-3 Cleveland 44114
For Immediate Release
NEOCH Board Opposes Time Limited Shelters
In the last applications for funding in the County budget process there was talk of putting a time limit on all the shelters in Cleveland. This proposal was also debated as part of the upcoming strategic plan, Heading Home, to be released in early 2006. Greater Cleveland has an amazing network of shelters in place to assure that no one is forced to sleep outside, and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board of Directors has voted to oppose any time limits on shelters in Cleveland.
NEOCH staff and board are united in opposing restrictions that would limit access to the shelters, because these restrictions could lead to the death of another homeless person. Brian Davis, Executive Director of NEOCH, said, “On December 5, 2005, a man froze to death on the streets of Cleveland. We cannot allow the shelters to close their doors to those in need or we will have more people dying on the streets. If anything every shelter should relax its rules and be forced to take more people into their facility and not be so quick to kick people out. We can point to other cities that fund only time limited shelters and even in our own history to show that this strategy does not work. Punitive actions with regard to shelter do not work to reduce costs or reduce the amount of time people spend homeless.”
The statement approved at the NEOCH Board meeting in November is clear to state that shelters are not the answer, and if the County continues to rely only on shelters to solve homelessness the County will certainly have to break the bank. Closing the shelters at a certain number per night is shortsighted and not the answer to this growing problem. Last year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that Cleveland had a 2% increase in requests for shelter so it makes no sense to limit access to shelter in a time of increased demand. It is the belief of the Coalition that our community needs to keep the doors to the shelters open and not set an artificial cap on the numbers for the safety of the homeless population. Enclosed is the statement passed by the NEOCH Board of Directors.
Board Statement on the Need for Shelter in the Community
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless believe that Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland should plan for the day when shelters are no longer necessary for homeless people. We firmly believe that every individual and family should have the opportunity to live in a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable place that they can call “home.” We should set a deadline for our community for the near future in which every person residing in the County has a place to live for the long term and not an emergency time-limited space to reside.
In the absence of an affordable place to live for every resident of the County, the NEOCH Board of Directors believe that there must be a safety net in place to guarantee that no one has to sleep in an unsafe space such as the street, a vehicle or abandoned property. We believe that the best way to accomplish this goal is to have a diverse menu of choices available to those who find themselves homeless. This would include time-limited emergency shelters, pay to stay facilities (flop houses), emergency housing, short-term vouchers, rental assistance, and non-time limited overflow spaces. It is the opinion of the Coalition for the Homeless that in the absence of universal access to affordable housing, the community must have a place that will accept anyone who comes to the door no questions asked, and a place that does not put artificial demands on the length of stay of tax payers of Cuyahoga County.
The NEOCH Board believes that the 10-year experiment of the deplorable conditions at Project Heat with huge lists of people banned from these facilities was a failure, and we do not want to go back to those days. We also believe that cities that exclusively offer only time-limited shelters to displaced and homeless populations are also a failure. They set unreasonable restrictions on a population facing huge obstacles to finding housing. Time limits on shelter have no real value except to save County and City government’s money. Time limits also force some to make unsafe decisions like sleeping on the streets during extreme weather conditions. Severe illnesses contracted because of these conditions require hospitalization. The average cost of hospitalization is now considerably in excess of $1,000 per night. [Updated] Cleveland had its first death because of hypothermia since the winter of 2000 on December 5, 2005, and imposing time limits on shelter will only result in increased risk of death by other homeless people.
Passed by Board: November 17, 2005 Date Issued December 22, 2005