January 12, 2017 Homeless Congress Notes
This was the first meeting of the year and there were new potential members in attendance. The purpose of the Homeless Congress was explained to new members. The agenda was introduced for approval and then upcoming events were announced.
Brian Davis let the members know about the upcoming Stand Down this weekend and where it will be held. They were informed that there will be transportation to and from the event. The members wanted to know if they needed to have ID to get in. They were informed that only the Veterans will need ID to get the services reserved for the Veterans.
Other events and meetings were announced. One is the Immigrant/Refugee Welcome to Cleveland Dinner that will be held on January 20, 2017 at St. Colman Catholic Church. Everyone was invited. They were also informed that the Central Kitchen meeting will be on January 23, 2017.
Ruth Gillett spoke next and gave an update on the Rapid Re-Housing Program. The Rapid Re-Housing is a new program for singles. Ann, from Eden, said the program will start in the next two weeks. She informed them that the applicants being considered at this time for the singles program will need an income. The staff from the shelters are being trained about the program, and how to select clients eligible for the project.
Ann went on to explain how the program works. Once the applicant is referred, they will meet with a Housing Locator and go over any in information that is needed to secure housing. Then, the Housing Locator and the Shelter Case Manager will work on things like utility assistance, evictions, tenant education and other information to assist to maintain housing. One of the members said it should be made clear that the applicant needs to meet with their case manager, not just any staff.
Members were also informed that anyone in the other shelters will also be able to apply and they were encouraged to consider having a roommate. But, it is still best for both participants have an income. It was made clear that the person eligible must have some income.
The next topic was time limits for the shelters. Forty days was suggested. Ruth wanted more feedback on time limits. At the men’s shelter, residents have other programs to go to such as transitional shelters. This is not the case for single women.
The other problem brought up by the members was that many of the shelter staff are not respectful of the clients or residents. One of the other members commented that if there are going to be time limits it would only be fair to have staff that will be able to assist in housing. There was discussion about the quality or knowledge of staff to be able to refer people to stable housing, employment, getting disability, etc. It would be unfair to set up a time limit if staff are not trained in their jobs to be able to make proper referrals for the clients at some shelters. Will this policy result in more and more people sleeping on the streets of Cleveland?
Davis distributed a part of President Obama’s farewell address to make the point that a small group of people can make changes. He made suggestions on how Homeless Congress members can and have made changes in the homeless community. The Congress went over the Priority List of items including the Tiny Homes, redoing shelter standards and protecting laws to keep landlords from discriminating against voucher holders, finding shelter space for mentality challenged residents, and addressing the Homeless Bill of Rights. There were six options suggested and there was a request for additional items from the members.
Finding space for mental health residents was chosen as the top priority for Homeless Congress in 2017. There was overwhelming consensus that this was the biggest problem facing homeless people in Cleveland. They felt severely mentally ill people were being exploited by other residents or physically harmed to say nothing for the disturbances and problems caused by un-medicated individuals who do not do well in an environment of a high concentration of people.
Staff invited many elected officials to the next meeting on February 9, 2017 at the Cosgrove Center at 1:30 p.m. in the St. Peter’s Room. This is the best venue to speak directly to homeless people, and politicians are welcome to attend.
By Ramona Turnbull
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