Wow, a lot has happened over the last two weeks with regard to the Community Women's Shelter on Payne Ave. First, Dale Miller objected to a 3 year contract back at the hearing on May 3rd because of all the problems he heard about at the Homeless Congress. He raised serious questions with Frontline by asking them to come to the front to answer those questions. He made Eric Morse COO of Frontline Services come up and explain why the women’s shelter is so lowly regarded and their are so many complaints. There were questions about the EMS calls, the lack of help for the mentally ill, and how this new partnership will work. Eric said for the first time that almost all the women are either addicted or mentally ill and they just don’t have enough money. Ruth Gillett Director of the Office of Homeless Services said that the complaint to the Inspector General over the process was found to be without merit. (We will seek that complaint through an open records request). In the end, the contract was redrawn to go from 31 months down to 19 months. It was expected to be passed last Tuesday May 9 at the regular council meeting. This was a good meeting to watch on line, but it is three hours long so here is the run down:
- 39 minutes 51 seconds: Ramona Turnbull testifies about the conditions
- 43 min 22 sec: Brian Davis testifies about all the problems with the Request/Contract
- 46 min 37 sec: Rosie Palfy testifies
- 54 min 10 sec: C. Loh once again talks about all the problems at the shelter
- 1 hour: 54 min 02 sec: Ruth Gillett gave her presentation and powerpoint of the Women's Shelter contract.
- 2 hr 09 min 13 sec: Councilwoman Conwell comments on NEOCH and Brian Davis. She mentioned it was disheartening to hear about the treatment of their director. She claimed that this process was only after listening to the women. She claimed that this was going to help the shelter residents and they took the time to make this work.
- 2 hr 21 min and 20 sec: Dale Miller starts his questions of Ruth Gillett
- 2 hr 29 min and 54 sec: Dale Miller begins questioning Frontline Services staff.
Then the following week at the Council meeting, Dan Brady said, "We are going to send this back to the Health and Human Services committee to straighten out this legislation." He sent it back to the Health and Human Services committee, which is highly unusual. We heard that there were private discussions about extending the contract by only 4 months and just starting over. In the end, the contract was extended until the end of December 2017 with a new RFP issued soon.
It turns out there was a provision in the RFP that said that a group had to get an 85 score to be "technically responsive." The legal department said that since neither West Side Catholic nor Frontline Services got the 85 so the County could not proceed. They have decided to go forward with an 8 month contract to expire December 31, 2017 for Women’s Shelter. It will be the LMM/Frontline proposal but only through December. They will issue a new RFP soon without the 85 score minimum provision in the grant. So, Loh going to County Council every couple of weeks and talking about the poor conditions worked. Dan Brady showed up at the May 16 Health and Human Services Committee when Ruth Gillett announced the eight month contract, and said that he wanted Council to stay informed throughout the process to avoid any future issues.
NEOCH is going to press for a whole new committee that meets with the residents of both or all bidders. We also are going to press for an RFP that addresses the real issues facing the shelter. It was a remarkable turn around. It had to be humiliating County staff to see three County Councilmembers criticize the process and the outcome. Ruth Gillett, the Director of Office Homeless Services was very defensive and respectively pointed out that she would have to start the process almost immediately if the committee approved a one year contract. Gillett did not show up for the Homeless Congress because she said that she was so abused by the residents in April.
We raised a couple of problems with the process over the last few months:
- 1. The RFP asked the applicants to answer questions that have nothing to do with addressing all the problems at the shelter. "What is your understanding of the project?" It is offering a bed and some food not a moon landing. No questions around what are you going to do about overflow; or the huge number of EMS calls; staff mistreatment; a lack of effective grievances; and the inability to keep women safe.
- The committee that was designed to make the recommendation on who administers the shelter was all white in 2017. The shelter houses 78% African Americans but the County appointed an all white committee to make the decision.
- The committee never spoke to the women living in the shelter to hear their concerns.
- The committee obviously did not do a simple Google search on the conditions at the shelter. They could have read thousands of words on the problems and issues associated with the shelter.
- The committee that made the decision had an intimate relationship with the current provider, but very little with West Side Catholic or Metanoia. They were deciding between a close friend and a virtual stranger to run the shelter.
- There was no plan for how to provide services to this deeply fragile population including the re-entry, mentally ill and addicted group trying to find help.
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