NEOCH objected to the Request for Proposals issued by the County for an operator of the facility. Mainly because of the short time line and the steering toward the existing provider. We did not want the current provider to say, "Hey, this is the best we can do because who else is going to run the shelter? No one else applied for the grant so what do you expect?" Basically, they are saying what are you going to do kick us out? Good luck because no one else applied. We object because the RFP built for only huge providers who run giant shelters. Here is the letter we sent.
November 14, 2016
RE: RFP #38561 Issued November 3, 2016
We were surprised with the issuance of this Request for Proposals because the Homeless Congress had asked for a new provider back in September 2016 and you never came back to invite them to provide input on the request. You did not reach out to homeless people or their advocates to ask what could be added to the RFP to improve the shelter. I am especially frustrated since I met with Eric Morse, COO of Frontline Services operator of the current shelter in September and he said that they were just awarded one year of funding so we should meet with the women together because no matter what happens they will be operating the shelter for the next year. We began meetings, and then this RFP came out. I feel like I was duped.
My other issue is that this RFP is slanted so that there can be only one outcome. You have set up a process in which the existing providers have an unfair advantage over any other group in Cuyahoga County, which seems dangerously close to contract steering. My issues with the RFP are:
- There is only 26 days to organize a coalition to meet all the concerns expressed in the RFP. If you were truly looking for new ideas and an improvement in the service you would have provided warning that this was coming and allowed for groups to respond. You have issued this when there was a major Election and a Thanksgiving holiday which most homeless service providers spend many resources.
- Three years of funding is a long time to be stuck with a bad provider. If the average woman is homeless for 50 days then there are thousands of women who will have a negative experience with County government funded programs over three years.
- Based on the minimum requirements section there are only three existing providers locally who have run a shelter with the size of 150 people per night. We understand that this is an important facility in our community, but how do you expect to improve the services if you limit the bid to only three choices?
- One of the minimum vendor requirements is that the vendor operate a safe, clean shelter which in my opinion disqualifies the existing provider. “In order for offers to be considered responsive, vendors must meet these minimum prior requirements: Provider must provide detailed documentation that it has the capacity to: 1. Operate a safe, clean shelter that serves 150 or more persons per night…. A vendor’s failure to meet these minimum prior experience requirements will cause their proposal to be considered non-responsive and the proposal will be rejected.” A quick survey of the women at the shelter would show that many women do not feel safe at the shelter. The fact that an armed security guard is at the front door does not prevent fights, threats and assaults in the basement as Loh has testified to in the past. There are five reported assaults on the Cleveland Police website just in the last month at 2227 Payne Ave., which does not include those who decided not to fill out a police report. I would argue that the existing service provider should be disqualified from answering this bid because of the safe provision.
- I don’t understand how a provider has to support a strategic plan to reduce the number of people entering the shelter. How is the provider going to be able to control the impact of a Donald Trump administration’s budget cuts on the number of people entering a shelter?
- The budget line item is again written to favor the existing providers. Under the budget on page 2 estimated the cost of this project at $3,120,672 which is less than the total cost of the two shelters which is well over $4 million. How is the “estimated cost of this project” just the addition of the County portion of the funding for the Men’s and Women’s shelter? This is especially true with all the other funding listed in the previous sentence without any totals. How is an upstart organization supposed to know how much funding exists in these areas?
- The Request is due by November 29 and the contract starts on January 1. How would a new provider be able to move into running the shelter in less than one month? This would only work for the existing provider and no other group in the community.
- There is no way for homeless people in partnership with small grass roots organizations to respond to this RFP because of the restrictions in the request.
- There is nothing about the importance of voting and submitting a plan for registering these individuals which was a part of previous requests. We believe that this is a violation of the Motor Voter Bill to not include this in the RFP as part of a County contract serving low income people with a public function like shelter.
10. I do not understand why a non-profit, Cleveland Mediation Center, is specifically mentioned in the RFP to review grievances when homeless people have stated that they do not trust this organization to oversee grievances.
11. The women submitted a list of 13 concerns to the County in September 2015, and yet very few of those concerns have been incorporated in the RFP such as a resident council, display of your fair housing rights, meetings between the director and residents, and a procedure for reducing bullying and harassment issues.
For all the above reasons, we believe that this RFP is fatally flawed and should be withdrawn and redone with the input of the women staying at the shelter.
Post Script: On November 15, the County indicated that two of our concerns may be taken care of. They are working to extend the deadline for submission of a grant to January 31, 2017. They also may move the start date back to March 2017 or somewhere in that area. We hope that they can look at some of the other points that make it impossible for small groups to apply and to get some more input from homeless women. We will post the updated Request on our website as soon as it is released.