Homeless Congress Members Working to Improve Women's Shelter

 How the Homeless Congress is trying to Improve the Community Women’s Shelter

  • NEOCH and Homeless Congress members filed 43 complaints over a one week period. We sent copies to the Cleveland Mediation Center and County Public Policy Committee.  The shelter gave a two sentence response to most of the complaints even those that were very long (3 pages).  Some complaints were never answered, and two women appealed but only one woman has been able to pursue her appeal. No one from the County or the Public Policy Committee asked to follow up on the grievances.
  • One vocal advocate living at the Women’s Shelter gave copies to the County Council and ADAMHS Board (both funders of the shelter).
  • This same vocal advocate and resident of the shelter regularly attends both Council and ADAMHS Board meetings and regularly provides public comment about the need for governmnet oversight.
  • Invited County Councilwoman, Yvonne Conwell, to the May 2015 Homeless Congress to hear complaints.  She attended and said that she would take the information back to her colleagues and ask Pernell Jones Jr to host Congress members at a hearing.  Never heard back.
  • Invited every County Council person to either attend one of the Congress meetings or ask that a couple of members of Congress to meet at their office.  Have not heard back from most of them.
  • There were a number of stories about the Women’s Shelter published in the Cleveland Street Chronicle newspaper this last month.
  • Invited CEO of the Alcohol and Drug Addictions and Mental Health Services Board to the June 2015 Homeless Congress.  He attended and promised to have a discussion with their board about a separate shelter for severely mentally ill and to join the women for dinner (unannounced) at the Women’s Shelter to see how things are going.  He is going in for back surgery so has not been able to do these activities.  We will continue to follow up.
  • The CEO of Frontline (Susan Neth) attended the last Office of Homeless Services County meeting on 7/8 and said that they are aware of the issues and in response they have done the following:
  1. Cleveland Mediation Center is facilitating “Listening Circles” and then bringing the information collected to the shelter directors.
  2. Moved the suggestion box to a more secure location out of the hands of on-site staff.
  3. CMC is providing customer service training to the staff.
  4. EDEN (owner of the building) has been made aware of the facility problems and is working on raising the money for making improvements.
  5. There are on-going discussions and she will update the group about progress.
  • This female advocate and resident of the shelter has asked for some improvements to the shelter as part of her grievance appeal and she gave those in writing to the shelter staff in June. There will be a follow up meeting later this month to discuss these.  Her suggestions were:
  1. She identified problems with staff and gave praise to another group of staff.
  2. She wants a better process to protect people’s safety.
  3. More cameras and use of that video to determine if staff are acting professionally.
  4. Assignment of a client rights officer to be able to gather video and release it to City Prosecutor if there is violence so that residents can file orders of protection.
  5. Specific rules for volunteering at the shelter and no punishments for those who volunteer and keep the shelter clean or save the shelter money.
  6. Residents of the shelter should elect two other residents to sit in on complaints about staff to represent the interest of the residents.  There should also be feedback to the residents that a complaint was heard and action was taken so it is worth completing a grievance.
  7. An independent resident council should be established that will not lead to retaliation or favoritism of residents that attend the meeting and will have written notes with a response from the shelter.
  8. If complaints are filed regarding staff behavior the residents should know that the shelter senior staff responded and an action (not specific) was taken.
  9. Senior staff should host a meeting of the residents at 1744 Payne to hear all the client grievances specific to staff without fear of retaliation.
  10. The grievance procedure needs to be changed to be more timely, transparent, and should have some results that make it worth completing a complaint.
  11. The shelter does not seem to be following the 2014 grievance procedure that the County mandated especially with regard to discharges.  That needs to be corrected.

We are working regularly on the issue, but have all this activity made any improvements in the shelter?  Many of the residents expressed concern that the shelter has not made many changes at the July Homeless Congress meeting since they started putting pressure in March of 2015. 

Brian Davis

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