County Attempts to Reduce Number of Single Adults Using Shelter

We have documented the attempt to reduce the number of people who reside in the County shelters with a committee that the County created.  They had proposed an awful recommendation in March that we editorialized would add to the number of people sleeping outside. After Paul Sherlock and Jim Schlecht passionately decried the potential rules would harm homeless people, the rules were tabled for further study. 

The County committee met and our friend, Loh, attended and gave us a summary of the results. These are potential rules for the shelters.  This has to be voted on by the "Homeless Discussion Group" known as the Office of Homeless Services Advisory.   There are problems, but this is a huge victory for the advocates.  Cleveland will not shrink from its commitment to provide shelter to everyone in need. 

Recommendation from the Single Adults Committee Meeting

June 15, 2017

Exit Plan required of all shelter residents:

  • Within 1 week of arrival (at least a start)
  • Needs to include: income, safety, client choice
  • To be documented
  • 45 days

Review of Rights & Expectations

  • Within 24 hrs
  • To include Exit Plan, Follow-up expectations
  • To be documented

Exit Plan Follow-up by Shelter Staff

  • Frequency depending upon level of need
  • To be documented

 Resident Expectation:

  • Actively engage in Housing Plan

Staff Expectation:

  • Communicate with Outreach Partners
  • Continued effort with those who have yet to be successfully engaged
  • To Be documented

If shelter residents have not moved out of shelter after 3 appropriate housing offers the following would take place:

  • Cleveland Mediation Center (Editor's Note: which is now a program of the largest homeless service provider Frontline Services) will host a mediation between the resident and shelter staff
  • If the resident continued to reside at the shelter after the 3 housing offers and the mediation agreement, the resident’s shelter services would be curtailed to basic shelter accommodation.
  • Residents could appeal the shelter service limitation using the shelter grievance policy.

This is a victory for advocacy that no one will be kicked out to the streets and we have to thank Jim Schlecht and Paul Sherlock for the advocacy.  The reality is that the Women's shelter is only a basic shelter accommodations so there is really nothing to take away from the 200 women staying on Payne Ave at night.  There are couple of things to consider with this committee:

  1. There are such a small number of people who fall under this policy is it really worth all these meetings?  Very few people in our community turn down housing, and it will not free up much space.  There are so many waiting for every bed left in our community that this small population is hardly the problem. 
  2. There is nothing in these rules that puts pressure on the agencies to be better at managing the multiple barriers to housing for their clients.  Women with a mental illness, huge debt issues, and previous evictions are hard to house.  Guys with a sexually based offense or an arson conviction are extremely hard to house, but the agencies are not stressed to work with individuals on their individual needs in the same way the residents are pressured to get out of the shelter. 
  3. Case managers force people to bend to a small number of programs available in our community instead of trying to find the best path off the streets for those in need.  They do not set up hours that are conducive to the residents or make things clear to those seeking help.  No one takes the time to explain the homeless landscape and the services available to those struggling with housing. 
  4. None of these rules address all the barriers that we have created in our society.  The lack of acceptance that people make mistakes and need to be given a second chance or the unreasonable expectations built into our economy are not one of the bullet points.  The inability to prepare people to live independently or be able to afford to pay rent are not looked at by these committees.  The racism and discrimination that are on the rise in our society are never factored into these plans.  The shredded safety net and frustration in dealing with the health care industry are not discussed in any of these documents. 
  5. If you were the director of a shelter, would you want another shelter's program mediate for you?  Would one small landlord want another giant landlord conglomerate to come in and mediate between the small landlord and their tenant?
  6. The entire grievance process is broken in the shelters and so this needs to be corrected.
  7. Also, the reality is that most people don't ever want to sleep in a shelter.  They have no privacy and are extremely overcrowded with bunk beds everywhere.  When they get to be like the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Cleveland then we can talk about people overstaying their welcome. 

If the committee wants to address the rise in Single Adult homeless people there are so many other areas they could focus instead they are focused on the small number of people who have given up.  We cannot expect as a society to have neglected affordable housing for 25 years and not see a sharp increase in homelessness.  We heard about a used car lot on the East Side of Cleveland that keeps its cars open at night so that people do not break the windows and every morning they have to wake up homeless people and ask them to exit the cars.  The lack of shelter beds, the lack of trained staff who can help people, and the many barriers that society puts in people's way would be a good place to start the discussion of why there are so many single adults asking for help.

Brian Davis

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