Homeless Congress Voices Concern About County Shelter Policy

The Homeless Congress met today after a month off.  Ruth Gillett rejoined the group to present about the Single Adult policy.  The discussion focused a new policy that the County was working on to require participation in a housing plan for the residents.  We had previously discussed this policy on this blog here. This policy was in response to the large number of single adults seeking shelter in Cuyahoga County. Here is a quick overview of the policy that is going to be voted on at the July 20 Office of Homeless Services Advisory for information purposes.

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.

I helped to organize the Homeless Congress today and here is the takeaway from the meeting. The Homeless Congress does not support the current Single Adult Policy being proposed by the Cuyahoga County Committee for the following reasons:

The Policy doesSavetta who had previously stayed at the Women's Shelter not adequately take into account all the reasons people would turn down housing that is being offered, such as,  

  1. not being able to afford rent after the 3 months of rapid rehousing  money runs out, which means suffering the trauma of another eviction.
  2. A person not wanting to live in a neighborhood where they suffered a trauma, such as rape or abuse,
  3. People with  mental illness and/or addictions challenges that are not ready for housing.  

Such a policy could not be justly and fairly implemented into a shelter system that is already broken. Particularly, the Community Women's shelter on Payne Ave.  During the presentation in the Homeless Congress, multiply women spoke to this reality and the lack of services provided by the shelter to support the women to find housing and or jobs.  The congress does not believe that the women’s shelter could  in any way meet the proposed  45 day requirement for a housing plan as stated by the proposed policy. In order, for the policy to be implemented their needs to be a real commitment from the shelters to provide the services to place people into housing. If not, the proposal could be used to target particular individuals as a form of punishment.

The only punitive and accountability procedures in the policy are directed at men and women experiencing homelessness.  There is no accountability for the shelter agencies that do not follow through on the policy. Placing the only punitive actions onto an already marginalized population does not seem just and equitable. The policy must also hold the agencies accountable to building a housing plan and providing the services to achieve it.  

by Christopher Knestrick

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Post Script: The Office of Homeless Services Advisory passed the above recommendation concerning single adults using the shelters in July 2017.  There were only two votes against the policy (LOH and the representative from NEOCH).  We will update readers on the implementation of this policy as we move forward.