By DeWanna Hall
For the past two weeks, I have been traveling to Cosgrove Hunger Center surveying women who live in the Women’s shelter, in hopes of gathering women to meet and discuss their concerns at the shelters. From these surveys, a series of questions were asked regarding the food/bathrooms, operations, changes they would like to see, and their willingness and participation in future meetings. These surveys were kept anonymous and confidential to respect the privacy of the women.
Most of the women had similar answers about the changes they would like to see happen at the shelter. Among those changes were more resources that would help women look for jobs, better counseling for the women, and to be treated fairly and with respect. One of the residents discussed a need for more housing programs and improvements on where women are being placed. “The shelter should be used as a central station for welfare and to get more out of resources like housing and jobs.” Some of the women have been waiting for months to see social workers to receive the help that they really need. Others are not happy with the lack of care that goes on in the shelter. The surveys consisted of 21 responses to six questions; each one answered, and each one had a voice and told a powerful story.
As I sat and listened to the women talk adamantly about their concerns and issues, just by the look in their eyes, anyone could tell that they wanted their voice to be heard. This is why I was happy to be there for them, to hear their concerns and possibly give some hope that things will get better or change. I am sure it is hard for many of the women to see that change based on what most of the women told me, especially when women are being treated unfairly. Many women talked about their struggles with staff and not being understood by staff. One resident, just like many, spoke about seeing a more compassionate and caring staff while others felt, “the whole staff needs to change because (we) can tell staff is tired of dealing with homeless people.”
Everyone knows that change does not happen overnight. Most of the women want to see some outsider helping to set up meetings to improve the shelter and maybe branch into having women’s resident council meetings in the future. Staff of the Homeless Coalition met with the women in December to discuss the survey and their concerns. We posted flyers about the meeting and for any woman interested; we made sure to spread the word to other women in the shelters as well. In hopes of having this meeting, women will be able to speak out their concerns as well as improvements that need to take place at the shelter and having their voice heard.
Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO