NEOCH did an open records request for all documents sent to County Council about the Community Women's Shelter on Payne Ave. from last May until the present. We wanted to see if taxpayers were sending complaints directly to the County Council. Most of the information that we got back were actually e-mails from NEOCH. We did learn two interesting items from the 28 pages we got back from the County. 1. The CEO of Frontline Services (current social service provider of the shelter) does not read our blog or pays attention to NEOCH. Susan Neff sent an e-mail to the County last May on the day of the hearing about the women's shelter saying that she had just found out about the hearing and would not be able to attend. We put up flyers at the shelter, the drop in center, and all over our website, but I guess the power players don't pay attention to the little guys down in the trenches.
The other interesting news was that two County Councilmembers slept over night at the Community Women's Shelter on August 1, 2016 which by the way the first day of the month is typically a lower population day. People have money at the beginning of the month, and so many do not stay in shelter. We found out about this overnight excursion because Susan Neff sent the two Councilpeople a request to meet on August 2, 2016 in order to talk about their "anonymous" stay at the shelter. Below are the notes from the meeting held later in the month.
Some of the interesting items from the notes:
- The residents who saw the notes laughed that there could possibly only be 142 people in the shelter. Something must be wrong with the counting system at the shelter.
- The Councilwomen spent most of the meeting talking about the number of residents who were not moving out of the shelter. Forest for the trees?
- There is no visit to the shelter without some level of shock over the number of people on the floor or the distance between staff and residents, but that was not mentioned.
- Evidently, the Councilwoman missed the food as part of their visit.
- The recommendations made by the Councilwoman are solid and we all agree would benefit the shelter.
- They wanted to reduce the stay to 6 months, but we have always been told that the length of stay for the majority of the residents is around 60 days. This is confusing.
- They still have not fixed the problem with men hanging out around the building. One problem is that there is a bus stop right outside, which makes it difficult to control traffic.
- We agree that there should be an overflow shelter for women and the West Side Catholic proposal would have involved Metanoia opening that facility.
- "Beds should be rotated" was a good suggestion especially for those with a disability who are new to the shelter. I am sure that women would give up their beds to a disabled or elderly woman.
- Grouping like minded individuals into a community is another good suggestion, and we hope that this is the one improvement that LMM will bring to the shelter.
- Rule changes should happen by January 2017. Nope, still waiting for resident input on rule changes.
- Eight months and still waiting for the County or Frontline to engage the community on rule changes.
by Brian Davis
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