At Least We Don't Live in Columbus Ohio

We have real problems with diversion as part of Central Intake mostly based on concerns of women at the shelter.   We do not believe that it is ever a good idea to return a woman to the place she was last night if there is a possibility that the women will experience domestic violence.   The County is following a trend in the United States to interview people and ask them where they slept last night, and then try to negotiate a place to stay with family, friends or landlord that is not in the shelters.  This is called Diversion and it is the latest trend out of Washington DC.  Over 20% of the people do not get a shelter bed and are relocated back to the community.   I am skeptical that a victim of domestic violence would tell a total stranger that she is being abused if she is embarrassed or ashamed that she has stayed with the abuser for an extended period of time.  We don't have clear rules for serving the population at the Central Intake site and there is not an established grievance procedure if the person is diverted improperly.  New York City advocates have pushed back and delayed implementation of the diversion program, but in Columbus, Ohio it is a nightmare. 

Columbus has a phone based system that the person seeking shelter calls in to get a bed. I talked to a guy, "Alex," who I trust to give me the real situation and his experience in trying to get shelter in Columbus.   He showed up at Friends of the Homeless and was told that he has to call to get a "reservation" instead.  So, they let him use the phone to call to get a bed.  He waited in their lobby on hold on the phone for an hour and half to get a bed before they kicked him to the street because he was on the phone too long.  He found another phone and called in finally reaching a human.  This person asked his name, social security number, date of birth and some other highly personal information to tell a total stranger on the phone.  They then asked him "Where did you spend last night?"   Alex said, "I am uncomfortable telling you where I slept last night."  The rude Central Intake staff told Alex, "Well, when you are comfortable talking about it call us back,"  and hung up the phone leaving Alex without a place to stay.   This whole process in Columbus just seems evil to me.  If Alex had been given a shelter bed there is also a time limit on the reservation, so if he does not get to the shelter in a timely manner the bed is given to someone else.  It is much easier to be dirty and devious on the phone than it is in person. 

That is why I say once again, "At least we don't live in Columbus Ohio.

Brian Davis

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