Well, we lost the battle, but the County agreed that they would open the process to a competitive bidding process for 2017. Staff of the Office of Homeless Services, Ruth Gillett was non committal at the County Controlling Board meeting last week about the future contracting for Coordinated Intake. The Controlling board met again this week on Monday August 8 with two elected officials showing up for the meeting Councilman Dale Miller and County Executive Armond Buddish attended this meeting. Ms. Gillett did not attend, but it was reported that she spent last week answering questions that NEOCH staff raised in the meeting last week to staff from Council and the Executive's office.
I clarified a few misstatements from last week in my three minutes allowed during public comment. I said that we cannot get information on homelessness from the agency and Ms. Gillett referenced a Policy committee that was abolished earlier this year. How do we get information on the number of people sleeping on the floor or in need of bed rest from a defunct committee? I asked how we could get solid or potentially embarrassing information from the OHS Advisory about Frontline Services when their Chief Operating Officer is also chair of the Advisory? Ms. Gillett had indicated that we had never asked for these statistics, which was not true. We had repeatedly asked how many people were denied bed rest in the Women's Shelter. We had asked in writing for a nightly report if anyone was denied a bed.
Our objection to this no-bid contract is not just an objection to the diversion policy but also to the agency. We do not think that it is fair that one of the local shelters gets to also be in charge of the placement of homeless people in every bed in Cuyahoga County. This conflict could cause issues, and has led to this dreadful decision to eliminate beds for single women locally. Finally, we believe that either Cuyahoga County should administer coordinated intake for shelter or the United Way First Call for Help should be given the opportunity. Both would do a better job with transparency and community input to this service.
Our friend, Loh, made comment as well bringing up a very good point that I had not thought of. Frontline was provided this contact to conduct on an intake to everyone entering shelte and in February 2015 moved to Cosgrove Center. Then they cut their services suddenly with little community notice in September to close on the weekend. This caused hardship at the Women's Shelter where confused families were going to seek help. Loh made the point that they are not fulfilling this contract because they are not offering 7 day a week service as it was originally funded. Shouldn't the county have re-bid the contract if the agency cut their services by 28%? It is not the same service as it was originally awarded. There are plenty of families who seek shelter on the weekend and 2-1-1 has to provide assistance for no additional funding.
Shari Weir of the Office of Homeless Services spoke in support of allowing Frontline Services to proceed without opening up to a request for other bidders. She claimed, as Ms. Gillett had claimed last week, that this was a model program. [Free advice to other bureacrats: Don't claim a program is a model when there are people in front of you complaining about that program. The complainers do not take comfort in the fact that they were harmed by a program recognized by some "expert" as a model. It just makes taxpayers question if all government is corrupt.] Ms. Weir claimed that there is not adequate funding or time to seek bids. There was a general recognition that a delay would harm the program. No one asked why there was not a process put forward for a competative bid when this application was submitted in March 2016? Ms. Weir said there would be a request for competative bids for next year. She also claimed people are helped over the weekend on the phone, but did not indicate if this was also recognized as "model" delivery of services to not have the service available on the weekend.
The Council and the County Executive were satisfied that the concerns raised had been addressed. No one asked me if I was satisfied that my concerns had been satisfied. The vote was unanimous to approve the no-bid contract with the understanding that there would be a bid next year. We will keep our members updated.
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