Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell
Cuyahoga County Council
2079 East 9th St.
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Dear Councilwoman Conwell:
The residents of the local shelters met on September 8, 2016 at our regular Homeless Congress meeting and unanimously approved a resolution asking that the County find another social service provider to administer the Community Women’s Shelter at 2227 Payne Ave. One year ago the Homeless Congress voted to give a September 2016 deadline for some improvement and provided a 13 point list of the areas we felt were critical deficiencies. As you know from the hearing held in May, there are a large number of complaints from the women. These include:
- Staff disrespect, a lack of empathy that has not improved in 12 months.
- Mistreatment by staff and a total disregard of the opinions of residents. “We are treated as inmates and not partners in the struggle to overcome homelessness.”
- Lack of structure in the shelter and the rules change frequently without notice.
- Grave safety issues that even with security makes the women feel that violence can break out at any time. The security seem to protect staff before they provide security for the residents.
- A lack of competent impartial oversight that the residents can go to in order to get help when the shelter violates the County standards. The women do not feel that government is overseeing the operations of the Shelter and the Frontline supervisors do not seem to know what is going on day to day at the shelter.
- A lack of programming to help the women move out of the shelter or improve their situation. There is nothing to do in the shelter but sit, get angry and fight.
- A fair grievance process was never set up a fair grievance process that involves an impartial person to resolve complaints.
- The shelter rarely responds in writing to complaints and the process takes way too long. They also enforce the punishments before the grievance is resolved in violation of the County standards.
- Lots of trauma and stress living in the shelter, and staff do not do anything to alleviate the horrible conditions. There are regular threats by staff to expel residents for small infractions of the rules.
- No independent resident council and we have not been able to meet with the COO or CEO of Frontline for 10 months.
We have a website with all the details and a transcript of the County Health and Human Services hearing at www.neoch.org/houseofpayne/. We ask that the County initiate a process for replacing the shelter provider locally. The women who currently stay at the shelter along with NEOCH would appreciate the opportunity to have input on the Request for Proposal. We are going to begin to interview potential replacement providers to hear alternatives to Frontline Services running the shelter. Despite a few changes that have taken place in the shelter, the worst staff member being relocated, and the claims of staff at the May hearing to be in compliance with the local shelter standards, the current residents of the shelter felt that our community needs fresh ideas and new energy on Payne Avenue.
The women argued at the meeting that staff were still disrespectful to the women and could not offer much help in moving into stable housing. They felt that there was not enough impartial oversight of the shelter and hope that a Request for Proposal process can at least build in improvements to the shelter for 2017 and beyond no matter who is running the facility. There has not been any active negotiations between the agency and the residents in the last year over improving the conditions, or much of an attempt to meet the 13 demands that were included in our list of concerns from 2015. The vote was unanimous without one person present at the meeting voicing any opposing views to asking the County to seek other social service providers to oversee this facility.
Since this is the only emergency facility left in our community for women who do not have custody of their children and so is critical in the struggle to end homelessness. The current facility is overcrowded, filled with women of different backgrounds and different barriers to stability. Current staff are paralyzed in how to serve the large numbers of fragile women. The Homeless Congress believes we need a dramatic change to bring in a group of social service providers who can provide activities and services that move women into housing faster.
We would welcome you or any of the County Councilmembers to any of our upcoming meetings. We meet on the second Thursday of the month at the Cosgrove Center at 1 p.m. (October 13, November 10, and December 8) to hear directly from the women. Please call NEOCH to let us know that you will be able to attend (216/432-0540).
As voted upon at the September Homeless Congress