Yesterday, we had a lively Homeless Congress meeting with County Councilman Dale Miller. The purpose of this meeting was to talk about the State of the Shelters, and do we need a law to govern the shelters. Bottom line was that nearly everyone at the meeting felt that it was important to continue the effort to pass a law that would regulate the shelters. County Councilman Dale Miller welcomed the crowd and told them of some of the funds that the county had spent recently on homeless services. Besides funding nearly every shelter, they had extended funds to the Metanoia Project and the Homeless Stand Down. Miller mentioned that he had provided funds for a new Third Party grievance procedure which the Coalition had opposed. [Our position is that the group handling grievances for homeless people should not have a daily relationship with the shelters that the residents are complaining about. It is like a judge in a trial also owning a business and then this judge weighing in on employee lawsuits for his suppliers and business partners.]
Dale Miller attended the meeting to hear from residents of the shelters. The County Office of Homeless Services position is that legislation is not necessary because the Office had updated the contracts with the shelters over some concerns of homeless people and put into the contracts new administrative rules that they have to follow. It seemed as though the Council had accepted these rules as an alternative to passing a law. Homeless people who use the shelters did not agree. They said:
- Staff at the shelter are not trained properly to deal with homeless people
- The staff do not have the knowledge of the resources available to homeless people in the community.
- There was a lot of concern about the lack of programming at the Community Women's Shelter compared to the services available at West Side Catholic and 2100 Lakeside. There was a great deal of anger that women just sit around all day waiting for help.
- Questions were raised about the expense of constantly sending EMS to the two big shelters. Isn't there a better alternative to have more nurses in the shelter?
- The staff are not taking the time to help people move out of the shelters quicker.
- Why isn't there more punishment for people who break the rules such as pulling the fire alarm in the middle of the night at the women's shelter.
- More GED programs in all the facilities needed.
- Is there any evidence that shows the difference between shelters that offer programs vs. those that have decided to only be an overnight shelter?
- We need more overnight drop in centers like Metanoia and safe access to showers.
- There were many complaints about the grievance procedures.
- Unfair that only another staff decides on the grievance (not impartial)
- There is a problem with retaliation when a homeless person files a grievance.
- Most of the time the punishment is enforced before the grievance is ever heard.
- There is no punishment for staff who were wrong in the grievances.
- Physically disabled have problems at nearly every shelter.
- Why don't the shelters hire from within (formerly homeless people)?
- There is still a problem with people getting food who have a special diet. (Hopefully this will be solved with the introduction of the Central Kitchen.)
- Is there any oversight of both Permanent Supportive Housing to see if people are going back to shelter? And the same question was asked about North Point Transitional Shelter.
- There was concern about the focus on jobs exclusively at North Point and not on other programming.
Nearly all the concerns are addressed in our shelters standards, which we have posted on our website. The Congress members were assigned County Council members to ask that a law be introduced. The prisons, nursing homes, mental health and developmentally disabled facilities all have laws that protect residents. Shelters do not have minimum standards. We need these NOW!!!
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry