NEOCH staff are not big fans of Coordinated Intake for families. We have written in our member section about the problems with families going to Laura's Home first. We have talked about the confusion faced by many families who are diverted back to family or friends. Now, we are seeing women with kids who show up later at night not having a place to sleep.
We passed the summer with LMM staff picking up families and took them to the overflow site. This system worked and we did not have to pay for expensive hotel rooms or see long waits for shelter. This fall now that we have passed the time that we need overflow shelter, we are having problems with families that show up at 10 p.m. and all the beds in the county are taken. This does not happen every night, but we have seen cases such as last weekend when there were women with kids waiting a very long time for a bed or not being able to find a bed at all. There were seven kids in a facility not designed for children last Saturday because they had no where else to go.
When the system became overwhelmed in New York City, the Central intake system became a deplorable holding center for homeless kids to the point that one child committed suicide after being sent back to the Department of Homeless Services Intake Center. New York City is similar to Cleveland in that neither City is supposed to turn homeless families away from shelter. The NYC shelter system is governed by lawsuit and Cleveland's shelters are governed by 20 years of practice and a contract. To reform the intake center in NYC, the lawyers went back to court to get a decision that the City was in contempt of a 30 year old court decision. In Cleveland, we can complain and hope that someone is listening with authority to help families at 10 p.m. on Saturdays.
If we do not address this today when it is rare for a Mom to sit for six to eight hours for shelter or are turned away because there is no where to go, it is going to happen more frequently. We need to set up a system in which a Mom and kids show up at 10 pm after every shelter bed is full and there will be an emergency plan to keep the family safe. We cannot have seven young children sleeping in a home not equipped or licensed for sheltering kids anymore. We don't want the Coordinated intake site to become an endless holding area for families and the stuff of nightmares for the kids that have to go there.
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