Homeless Congress Notes for February

Homeless Congress

February 9, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

Members were informed of the dates for upcoming events which are the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, and the ADAMHS Board meeting. Brian Davis, executive director of NEOCH, organized the meeting and helped to guide the group through the agenda.

Dale Miller of the Cuyahoga County Council, Ruth Gillett of the County Office of Homeless Services and Eric Sandy, the Managing Editor of Scene Magazine were all in attendance.  A pamphlet “The Fair Housing Rights of People in Shelter” was passed out to members and guests. 

Next, Ruth Gillett gave members an update about the Rapid Re-Housing program.  She asked if anyone heard anything from any of the case managers at the shelter about referrals.  Some said they had.  Although it is still work in progress, she said referrals can be made now.  She responded to the question, “How much income is needed”?  Ruth said there is no set income.  She was asked if having a felony would prevent someone from being able to participate in the program.  Although there are some felonies that are permitted, she went over the limitations.  Anyone with Tier 3 sex offense will not be permitted to apply for this program, and arson was another.   Basically, felonies that make the individual difficult to secure a lease will not be a part of the program.

One of the members complained that there is no talk about housing on the Federal level and regular cuts to public housing.  Ruth suggested writing an elected official.  She was asked about how many people does she think can be placed.  Her response was about 200.  

Ruth went through a detailed explanation of the rapid rehousing program in response to a question.  She explained that the program will pay the security deposit and 2 months’ rent after it has been determined that the participant can afford the rent when the voucher runs out.  She informed everyone that staff is still being trained to refer applicants. 

 The next topic was the HUD Point in Time Count.  She explained that this is a count of people who have become homeless for the year.  The count was done on January 25, 2017.  She informed everyone that this is done to track how many people became homeless from year to year.  It is also a way to track if there is an increase or decrease in the numbers.  Next, she talked about time limits for the shelters and wanted more input. 

This was a continuation of the feedback from the January meeting.  She asked if time limits should only be for people with an income.  She suggested that 45 days should be the limit.  Members began discussing the problems with this which included staff’s lack of input to assist with finding housing and transportation to look for housing.  One member said the case manager should be the one with time limits not the residents.  Unexpected changes in income was also a factor.  Residents who turn down housing was addressed as well, and that topic will be readdressed.  Client choice was the immediate response.  The client does not have to accept the housing if they don’t like it.  NEOCH passed out in the packet their opposition to shelter time limits that goes back to 2005.

Next the raffle was held.  Eight winners were awarded hoodie sweatshirts and one winner received a large book bag. 

The County is still deciding who will run the women’s shelter and Brian brought to the attention of the members that some of the current residents went on television and provided the link so everyone can watch it on tv or online.  We applauded them!  He also informed the women currently living at the shelter that they can speak with Eric Sandy from Scene Magazine after the meeting.

After questions from some of the women, Ruth explained what the bidding process entails and where everything is now.  They are still in negotiations right now and a decision will be made in March.  It will be announced who will be the provider for the shelter at that time.  One member was upset that no formerly homeless person was involved in the decision process.  Also, the decision makers were hand-picked and did not involve groups that were advocates for homeless people.  One member asked if the Review Board will have access to the grievances to see what is really going on.  Brian explained that the grievance process were included in the proposals.  Another member responded that most of the time the agencies talk about successes not addressing the issues.  One member had concern that the review committee will be swayed by the paper application, and will miss what is really going on at the shelter every night. 

Brian defended the process pointing out that the County gave extra time and extended the contract for the existing contract in response to Homeless Congress concerns.  He also explained that this is the first time there has been more than one provider bidding since the 1990s. He explained that there cannot be homeless people or advocates on the committee, because one side or the other would claim that they are biased.  This is such a heated topic in the homeless community there is no one who is impartial. 

The Congress members then talked about their highest priority for 2017 which is getting a shelter for severely mentally ill opened to improve services to this fragile population.  He asked if some of the current or former residents will go to the ADAMHS Board meeting to talk about the problems with mentally ill residents being in the same shelter without services in place for them.  A few members agreed to attend.  Some members of the ADAMHS board do not agree that there should be a separate shelter for mentally ill people. 

Rosie, a member, said there is a new policy that police officers will handle crisis in a different way.  She gave some infomation on the Justice Department consent decree and the implementation of the way that police interact with mentally ill people.  She referred to the Tanesha Anderson case as an example of what needs changed.  She stated that an offender could be transported by ambulance if they are really uncomfortable about riding in a police car.  There was a invitation to the Hope for the Homeless Campaign meetings.  The members were informed that one of the objectives is to get religious leaders involved in addressing homelessness.  The second was that there is a new Director of Care Alliance and she will be invited to attend a meeting.

Bus passes were given out.  The next meeting is on March 9, 2017.

by Ramona Turnbull

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