Quiz: Standard vs. Policy in Government

It is difficult to interact with government.  Homeless people are frustrated that there is no where to go within government to complain about conditions or to get an impartial verdict on discharge.  [Editor's Note: The County says that Cleveland Mediation Center acts as an impartial third party.  Most homeless people feel that CMC is too closely related to Frontline Services as the administrator of the "diversion" program at Coordinated Intake.] For example, where do women go if they get sick from the food served in the shelter?  Where do they go if they are transported to the hospital and the staff throw all their items away before they return from the hospital?  Where do you go to get someone not connected to the shelter to determine if your discharge from the shelter was fair and followed the rules?

Two weeks back a woman on a breathing machine and a walker was kicked out of the shelter for fighting with another resident.  Where can she go to complain that the staff just sat back and did not do anything about the escalating verbal altercation until the situation led to a physical pushing match?  Then they stepped in to kick both women out.  Most women find the current grievance process broken and the procedure never involves an impartial third party that is not a subcontractor of the Women's Shelter. 

The only way that homeless people have found that they have influence over how the shelters operate is the contracts given to the shelters by Cuyahoga County.  The County says that any shelter receiving public money must abide by "shelter standards" in order to receive public funds.  The director signs the contract verifying that they will in fact follow the "shelter standards" and then from what I have seen  forgets about it until the next year.  Over the last year, the shelters have been good about posting these rules on the bulletin boards, and the County included a change in the discharge procedure.  This was a big change and does not allowing staff to discharge people for non-criminal behavior.  It also allows for punishments not to be imposed that have an impact on a person's health and safety until they complete the grievance process.  These are huge improvements in the shelter.   The County has set up this elaborate system to approve new standards within the shelters.   At the July OHS meeting the County Homeless Advisory approved the following:

Public Policy recommendation (minus two members present at the meeting) to the OHS Advisory Board for confirmation

a) Scope of matters to be considered codifying as a Shelter Standard

  • The scope of a shelter “standard” will address reasonable requirements that concern basic shelter operations to assure safety, health, sercurity, and respect within the shelter facility. The objective of setting community standards is to establish a minimum benchmark for shelter operations. Standards are different from “policies”. Policies describe how a standard is implemented by the provider agency. 

In reviewing suggestions for shelter standards, the first step will be to decide if the proposal meets the criteria of a “standard” as opposed to a "priority."  We have come up with a quiz here for you.  From the current list of shelter standards pick if this is a standard or a policy.  The answers will be at the end of the quz.

Is this a standard or a policy?

1. Standard or a policy: 

A. All shelter staff shall receive training in at least the following: a. Emergency evacuation procedures; and b. Agency operating procedures.  OR

B. The shelter shall be clean and in good repair.

2. Standard or a Policy?

a. Shelters providing food service shall make adequate provisions for the sanitary storage and preparation of foods.

b.  The shelter shall have a written policy regarding the control of infectious diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis, etc. (I.22)

3. Standard or a Policy?

a. The shelter shall post and read, or otherwise make known, the rules, regulations, and procedures of the shelter. (I22)

b. The shelter shall only require clients to perform duties directly related to daily living activities within the shelter.

4. Standard or a Policy?

a. Shelters must have written policies related to serving healthy, balanced meals, and shelters must have access to consult with a dietician regarding serving clients with special dietary needs. (IV.32)

b. The shelter shall provide sufficient showers/baths, washbasins and toilets that are in proper operating condition for personal hygiene.  These should be adequate for the number of people served.  Clean towels, soap and toilet tissue shall be available to each client.  (I. 13)

5. Standard or Policy?

a. The shelter shall assure that at least one staff person on duty is trained in emergency first aid procedures. (I36)

b. The shelter shall post and read, or otherwise make known, the rights and responsibilities of shelter clients that shall include a grievance procedure for addressing potential violations of their rights. (I22)

6. Standard or Policy?

a. The shelter shall have reasonable access to transportation services.

b. The shelter shall provide adequate natural or artificial illumination to    permit normal activities and to support the health and safety of occupants.  Sufficient electrical sources shall be provided to permit the use of essential electrical appliances while assuring safety from fire.

7. Standard or Policy?

a. The shelter shall maintain an attendance list which includes, at least, the name and sex of each person residing in the shelter.

b. Each shelter must have a written visitation policy as part of its safety plan (Visitation” refers to non-shelter residents seeking to enter the facility.)


We have no idea what the answers are for this quiz.  We have no idea the difference between a policy and standard are.  We have no idea what this new rule means or if they will go back and take out all the policies from the current shelter standards.  It is a strange game of symantics we have to go through to get social justice within the shelters. 


Brian Davis

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