In April 2013, the County decided that anyone who does not go to the Coordinated Intake first would not be considered homeless and therefore not have access to the rest of the services in the community. For men, you have to go to 2100 Lakeside shelter first before going to any other facility in the community for assistance with your homelessness. Women and women with children must start their journey at the Norma Herr Center at 2227 Payne Ave. If they go to one of the privately funded shelters in the community before going to Coordinated Intake, they lose their ability to access rental assistance, transitional housing or any other publicly funded homeless service. So, if a woman goes to Laura's Home because she needs a place for her kids for the night and stays there for a month then she tries to get in something more stable the family would be told that they are not homeless and therefore do not have access to a transitional shelter or rental assistance.
We complained and the Homeless Congress complained to the County about this rule as being unfair because these women did not know the rules when they came to the shelter. There should be a grandfathering of all the women who were in the shelter before the policy went into place at a minimum. We also felt the policy is a direct attack on religiously based shelters that do not rely on taxpayers for support. Why should a shelter that receives no public money force their clients to go to the County Coordinated intake first? Why should these private religiously based shelters be forced to take women from the County intake system who may not be a good match for their facility? If a Christian based shelter is paying the full price of the shelter, food and clothing, should they be forced to serve an unmarried couple or a woman who may need health or mental health assistance that the staff are not trained to offer? There is no public money going to Laura's Home and they want the ability to serve the clients that would fit with the religious teachings that are part of the daily activity of the shelter. It does not seem fair that if the women is living in a privately funded shelter, she should lose access to publicly funded services. She paid her taxes and just because she did not know the rules of being homeless in Cleveland her family will have to spend extra time homeless.
The County Council backed the County staff decision to exclude residents of Laura's Home, City Mission, St. Herman's and Maggie's Place from receiving publicly funded services and blamed the HUD policy for this decision. We wrote about this in our member section of the website (must login). Here is the response from the County (again in the member section of the website). NEOCH then went to HUD to complain about this policy. All we got back was this:
Outcome/Conclusion: The Cuyahoga County CoC [Continuum of Care=federal funding grant recipient] coordinated assessment and central intake process is compliant to the requirements at 24 CFR 578.7 of the CoC Program interim rule. Regarding the 3 women, the continuum’s action is substantiated by their central intake process.
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This is not going to go over well with conservative Congress members who often have strong support from religious organizations. HUD is allowing this split between private shelters and publicly funded shelters at a time in which the federal government is cutting shelter funding. They are allowing the County to treat those who go to privately funded shelters as second class citizens who are not entitled to the same tax supported services as the rest of the tax payers. The City Mission has been a part of the homeless system in Cleveland for over 100 years. I do not understand why County officials want to alienate the Mission? They have been a part of our response locally whenever the shelters are full by providing overflow space. They have offered shelters and transitional space for years, and now their clients are being scolded for going to the mission before Coordinated intake. Even staying one night at Laura's Home before going to Coordinated Intake, they lose their status as a homeless person. This is a horrible policy and County officials need to rethink this mistreatment of residents who are just trying to find a warm place to lay their head after being kicked out of their housing.
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