Privacy As a Sword Instead of a Shield

The Women's Shelter is extremely overcrowded.  There are way too many people in that building with as many as 60 people sleeping on the floor every night.  They are sleeping in the kitchen, dining room, quiet room and all over the basement.  There are elderly women sleeping in chairs.  There are women in wheel chairs sleeping on the floor on a regular basis.  There are women with walkers who are barely mobile.  If there was a fire, there is no way for all the women to get out of the building.

Joe Pagonakis did a series of stories about the overcrowded conditions.  He was not allowed to visit the shelter, but obtained pictures from inside the shelter.  He was also able to get an elected official admit that they did not know something under their control.  The County is the main funder of the shelter, and so every County official should know what is going on over there.   Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell said that she had no idea the shelter was so overcrowded, but she would check on the situation.  We are still waiting for her to see the facility after two weeks. 

The shelter would not grant access to the facility because of "privacy" concerns.  This is a pattern for Frontline Services to use protection of the clients as a sword against exposure instead of as a shield to assist clients.  There was no vote by the women or request to allow the media to come see the shelter.  There was a presumption of denial by the agency.  I think that the woman would have appreciated the media seeing how bad it was over there.  I am sure more than a majority over at the shelter would have wanted to speak publicly about how bad the conditions were but they never got the chance.  The top brass at the agency decided against allowing Mr. Pagonakis into the shelter.  I hope that he continues to look into the conditions at the shelter.  I hope that he looks into the reasons behind this overcrowding (closing all the other women's facilities).

I have seen this a lot over the years where the shelter will cite privacy when it means that they will avoid showing their own shortfalls or to avoid doing additional work.  They don't give over names for the homeless memorial not to protect privacy, but instead so that they do not have to admit negative outcomes.  They force individuals to give up personal information and then allow other agencies to be able to view this data.  Privacy is always used to protect the agency and is rarely provided with informed consent.  

Brian Davis

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