August 10, 2017---Cosgrove Center
Organized by NEOCH
The meeting began with the new Director of Operations at NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, re-introducing himself to some of the members that had not met him yet. Afterward, We went over the purpose of the Homeless Congress, what the Congress has done, some of the goals that have been attained or will be addressed, and why it is so important, which is, it can be a “bridge to City and State Officials” and it “allows homeless people to have a unified voice.” Everyone in attendance was asked to complete the membership form in the back of the packet. After informing everyone what the agenda was going to be for the meeting, Chris asked for an approval of the agenda. Members were informed of the dates for upcoming events which are the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, and the ADAMHS Board meeting.
It was announced that Ruth Gillett will not be attending any more meetings unless there is a specific reason for her to do so because she feels the members were being rude to her. No one was purposefully rude to her but, being the bearer of bad news, as far as they were concerned, she did not like their response and seemed to take it personally. It was not any member or participants intention of disrespecting anyone at the meeting, but we would like to extend an apology to her if she felt that it was.
She was attending the meeting to keep the Homeless Congress up to date on the status of the Rapid Re-Housing Program and the Shelter Policies that would be put into place soon. She also got input from the members for both projects. She informed everyone, at the July meeting, that the Shelter Policies would be voted on by the Office of Homeless Services on July 20, 2017. It was announced that the Single Adult Housing Committee presented to the Office of Homeless Services and the policy that they recommended passed. There were only two votes against the policy, one was Loh (member) and the other a representative from NEOCH. A copy of the Shelter Policy was included in the packets that were passed out to members.
Next, the discussion was about the bidding process for a service provider for the Norma Herr women’s shelter. Loh informed members that Frontline will not be able to get any long term contracts as the service provider even if they choose to bid (which they have acknowledged more than once that they will not be bidding). RP problems and the bidding process was the next concern. Some of the concerned members asked what would happen if no one bids. One response was that the current provider’s (Frontline) contract would have to be extended. Another response for the RP problems is that there needs to be a quarterly report on the grievances that are turned in.
One member wanted to know “why there are no residents involved in this process?”
This was discussed for a while and another member stated that the bidding process should also be public information. Specifically, a member wanted to know what would or should happen if there is no provider in place by August. (We now know that there was one bid to the RFP) At that point everyone was informed that there are at least two agencies interested in applying for the contract and the date to submit a proposal has been extended to August 18, 2017.
Larry Bresler, Executive Director of Organize Ohio, then began his presentation by informing members that one of the members and dedicated participants, Norman Wolfe, passed away. He provided information on the viewing and funeral arrangements. He then informed the members that Norman, he, and Ramona Turnbull were involved in orchestration of the End Poverty Now march and participated in the New Poor People’s Campaign. He then presented about the new project called “The Truth Commission” and wanted to ask for volunteers to do personal testimonies on six focus areas (4 personal testimonies for each). The focus areas are: 1) Environmental degradation, 2) Criminalization of the poor, 3) The right to housing including utilities, 4) The right to living wage jobs, 5) Right to quality education, and 6) Right to healthcare.
The information provided by the personal testimonies would them be presented to people chosen to be commissioners. The commissioners would then meet and “come out with their initial findings.” Finally, the Mayoral candidates would be asked to respond to the findings. There will also be music and poetry readings “presented while the commissioners are deliberating.” NEOCH will follow up with the members to make sure anyone who is willing to do a personal testimony be accommodated.
Next, Ms. Eleace Sawyer introduced herself as the new President and CEO of Care Alliance and she wanted to discuss the changes or added services that will be put in place soon. These positive changes do affect the members of the Congress and homeless population. Care Alliance provides services at the women’s shelter twice a week. She asked for feedback about the services being provided and need to be provided. One member informed her that Dave’s Pharmacy will be moving and there is no pharmacy close enough to walk to for current residents at the women’s shelter to get prescriptions filled. Ms. Sawyer talked about the Federal Pharmacy Program which may be able to assist to address this problem. She also stated that she will be addressing this concern. She informed members that nutrition and podiatry services are also being put in place to address the needs of the homeless population.
She talked about having someone who is homeless or formerly homeless on their Board. In addition, she would also like a representative from her staff to attend the Homeless Congress meetings. Care Alliance also applied for transportation and were able to secure two vehicles. One member commented on the fact that in Alabama it is considered a crime to be homeless and there is no healthcare. Members informed Ms. Sawyer about how glad they are that Care Alliance is looking into addressing the food problems and will be in touch with the Food Bank to see what type of relationship can be established to better address the lack of nutrition in the food being served to the residents at the shelters. One resident suggested a town meeting. She discussed special meetings and talked about looking at data about all the 911 calls made from Norma Herr by the residents.
Next, Akshai Singh: Organizer, Cleveland for Public Transit, took the floor to discuss issues like fare cost, reliability, safety, and racial profiling by the RTA Police. He also discussed service cuts and fare hikes. The next fare hike is coming up soon and it will be a fifty cent increase on the current fare. The fare could go from $5.50 to $6.00 at that time. The organization he is representing is working to lower fares. He informed the members that the Cleveland public transportation is the least affordable and there is no assistance for people who rely on public transportation. He said they need to find local solutions and state side solutions. Group members meet with RTA on a quarterly basis. They will be discussing what improvements are needed so that the Mayoral candidates and the City Council can use it to improve the transportation system, make it more affordable, and reliable. The next meeting is on August 31 at 7:00 pm. One member stated that there is limited seating at the bus stops in certain areas (only 2 people can sit). Another added that there are no public bathrooms in the Rapid Stations. Mr. Singh stated that the RTA has been cutting services for the last 4 years. The last topic on this subject was about the cost of tickets for riding when you don’t have one in advance. This discussion went on for a while before the meeting was brought to a close.
The next Homeless Congress meeting is September 14th at 1:00pm.