LOH Provides Parody to Readers!

LOH UNCOVERS The COVER-UP: Norma HERR vs. Norma HELL

In light of the fact that Cleveland has reduced the number of taxpayers-funded public emergency homeless shelters, it was great that they finally opened up the bidding process so that other providers could submit a bid for the Women’s Shelter. [Editor's Note:  There was also a bid out for the Men's Shelter at the same time, but the current provider submitted a bid for the Men's Shelter.]  The first round happened earlier this year, and it came out as an unbelievable disaster for those who are in need of true help.  Fortunately, I, the "Troublemaker" Loh as some call me, did NOT stop going to various County Council meetings to speak during the public comment period, even after bids were submitted.  My statements, complaints, and/or even suggestions were backed up with visual evidence that I provided to all the elected officials and County Council staff at the meetings, and further proven by other women brave enough to attend meetings and finally spoke up.  The women staying at the Payne Ave. shelter offered their own suffering experiences under the fear of all kinds of retaliations and losing their housing.

However, during the waiting period for "the moment of truth" ... or the moment of "ugly truth," before the County announced anything about the shelter, somebody at the current service provider's organization suddenly had a light bulb turn on up above their head to start a series of beautification procedures to camouflage the ever neglected and abused facility.  The staff found that there were more visitors coming to check out the the conditions and wanted to Come INSIDE of this HELL!  The very first thing to draw my attention was, at the end of April when the beautification started, a specially designed new Flyer was printed out in multiple copies and colours with FrontLine Services logo to distribute, and later, also posted by the Main Entrance.  I had to laugh-out-loud (lol), thinking "WHOM do they want to impress--innocent visitors or suffering residents?"

Frontline Version

Frontline Version

Loh's Version

Loh's Version

When I pointed out to the security officer, other residents passing by actually paid attention to what I said.  Then, they read the flyer and began their own LOLs while shaking their heads, or started loud cussing with all the complaints using lots of colorful words.  But, I wasted no time, and in a few seconds I re-composed MY version of the middle part on Flyer, specifically, the section titled "OUR COMMITMENT," due to my own strong feelings toward the Fake News stated on this flyer to give people false hope.  It was my mission to fight back the injustice and to uncover the covers-ups at the next County Council Meeting. I intended that this flyer would be shown and accompanied by my parody version to present to the elected Council.  But, even this one paragraph was enough to ease the tensions in the shelter by making them "lol" harder and move on at that moment.  Then, within one day, word by word and line by line, I finished the whole re-composition to parody the flyer with a little input from a non-homeless individual as the reality checks for this dysfunctional place.  Then later, I presented both documents at two County Council meetings in May as part of my public comments.  Please look at the bottom of the Printed Flyer, there is a graphic of House printed in the center.  Coincidentally, I already have a non-homeless friend who graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art last year made a logo for our Homeless Arts Project a while ago which is an image of a Broken House Split into Two Halves.  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to put on the "designer parodied graphics" on to parody all the way for the full effect: a house of false promise vs. a broken house in reality!

~~~Commentary by LOH~~~

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LOH GIVES ANOTHER SIDE OF THE HOMELESS CONGRESS MEETING

When Homeless People Meet OHS, Again:  What A Surprising Homeless Congress Meeting on Thursday, 13th July 2017

  Finally, NEOCH has a new director in charge, so that we can resume our monthly Homeless Congress Meeting to discuss all the lousy miserable homeless issues, again!

     Wait!  Who is coming to the Homeless Congress meeting this afternoon?  Wow, Ms. Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services!  She is brave enough to come back to this "brutal meeting" as she called it to her bosses?!  Oh, What?  She is here to talk about some Single Adults' Housing Strategies business ... AND answers questions?!  Hold on, first of all, Is there such a thing as Housing Strategies for Single Adults?

 

    Secondly, Ms. Gillett will ANSWER questions.  Oh, well, many still remember HOW she answered questions, or actually did NOT answer questions back in March and April, right! Afraid, be very afraid!  Will homeless people mistreat Ms. Gillett again?!  Curious to know ...... As the World Turns ......

       Huh?!  Who is that lovely lady sitting in the last row, definitely a new face at this meeting?  Ms. Gillett went to this lady to greet her, so she must be with Ms. Gillett.  All right, now the meeting starts with Mr. Roy Love, i.e. NEOCH Board President, to get the agenda for this meeting and the minutes of the previous meeting approved. But, an elderly homeless grandma already starts asking questions to Ms. Gillett.  Oh, how hungry are we homeless people!  Trying to find answers for our problems everywhere and anytime.  In all likelihood and most probably we will find NONE!

       Now, the meeting and events homeless people should pay attention in our community are announced.  And...here comes the drum roll...finally, the new guy in charge is introduced, Mr. Christopher Knestrick!  Unfortunately, he is sitting at the front, and not jumping out of a huge cake!  But, he is looking good, and his voice...wow, talk about a new face for NEOCH, and a new voice for homeless people!

      Now, it is time for the Reality TV show!!  What?!  Ms. Gillett always seems like such a nice Grandma, but at this meeting, she suddenly turns into a tough Grandma?  She proclaims that she does NOT have to come to these meetings because we were disrespectful to her in past meetings.  But she still decided to come to inform us the new policy and the vote at a big "advisory" meeting next week.  Wow!  What should we do now?!  All go to sit in a corner and have a "time out" as they do at the women's shelter.  Or, no food tonight ... which happens nearly every night at the shelter, anyway. 

     Well, after she begins telling us about this new policy, the elderly homeless grandma starts in on her legitimate questions which cannot wait any longer, and just like the shelter doors opening at 3 pm, others also start asking questions.  But, they are all well-behaved, waiting to be called on by the new guy in charge.  However, the answers from Ms. Gillett have NOT changed much.  Some questions she ignores while others she does not really answer in a straightforward manner.  Lots of spin, but no real answers, again!

      Now, in the middle, our new guy in charge, honestly and politely, asks two questions.  And, our Tough Grandma, Ms Gillett, says that Chris's question is INSULTING?!  Please!  He is new to the job.  This is his 7th business day at work.  Can't she even give him a little break?!  He only wants to know if there is anything for the staff or case workers when they do NOT do their jobs properly or do NOT do their jobs at all.   The proposed policy clearly states that homeless people will receive NO services at the shelters after turning down three housing offers.  And his questions are based on what he hears right here right now in this meeting from all the questions and comments, and especially, from the women sleeping at the Payne Avenue shelter.

       Guess what Tough Grandma says?  Now, she sarcastically asks what Chris would do with the staff. She wants to know our new guy wants the staff and case workers to be FIRED or to be SHOT in the Dark?!  Well, our new director at NEOCH does NOT mean that and Ms. Gillett knows it, correct?  But Tough Grandma ONLY has a one-sentence answer for Chris's legitimate question:  "The staff will be held accountable."

     She is the one forgetting that in this new proposed policy, there is NO mention of impartial third party to handle the grievances for homeless people.  In addition to that, as always, Gillett never mentions what actions to take when the staff and case workers do not perform or even fail residents.  Our new guy just points out the obvious.  What a plot twist!  Nobody sees that coming.  Or, do they?

       But, wait a minute!  If a homeless person can be FIRED or punished from a homeless shelter to get SHOT in the dark or put in permanent time-out because they turn down three housing choices, why can't the bad staff or careless case workers have their pay cut or face some punishment for not performing  their duties to help homeless people?!

        Anyway, after the presentation and the Q&As, Ms. Gillett leaves the meeting before the meeting is really finished as she has done in the past.  But there are many voices to whom saying, "thank you," and "have a nice evening," ...... and so on.  But, that lovely lady sitting in the last row, she continues writing notes, and she does not leave! 

        Our new guy at NEOCH is brave, no doubt.  After asking his "insulting question" that offends Ms. Gillett, he continues the meeting without having a mental breakdown.  Maybe, he will have a future at this job after all.

       Raffle tickets are drawn, two winners are happily receiving their prizes.  Then time for the update of new Women's Shelter Bidding Process after the failure of the last process.  Oh, FrontLine Service is NOT entering the Bid?  Thanks, whoever made this possible.

 

     And then we talk about the letter to the new CEO of ADAMHS Board to re-state our wish to support a separate facility for homeless people with severe mental health issues.  Sure, the new guy also reminds us NEOCH can no longer help sheltered homeless people to file grievances.  But, now we can go to County Council Meetings to do so. Oh, that lovely lady is still writing notes throughout the whole meeting, even at the end of the meeting? Her hand is probably very, very sore by now, but her notes are probably even more than notes taken by one of her bosses from the County.  Cuyahoga County Councilman, Dale Miller attended the March Homeless Congress meeting  and he really listened to all of us, and of course Ms. Gillett.  We can tell that Councilman Miller really listened because he brought up many of the complaints at a County Council meeting and made staff from Frontline Services answer the concerns of many of the women. And the responses from Frontline staff were not up to the satisfaction of the County Council who cut their contract from 3 years to 8 months. 

        Well, that's about it.  What a meeting!  Let's have a toast to our new guy surviving his first meeting with his "insulting question," and to our being "disrespectful" to a person who earns a salary from taxpayers. 

~~~  Narrated by "Troublemaker" Loh  ~~~

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County Councilwomen Slept Overnight at the Women's Shelter

 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. Evidently, the Councilwoman missed the food as part of their visit.
  5. The recommendations made by the Councilwoman are solid and we all agree would benefit the shelter.
  6.  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.
  7.  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.
  8.  We agree that there should be an overflow shelter for women and the West Side Catholic proposal would have involved Metanoia opening that facility.
  9. "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.
  10.   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.
  11. Rule changes should happen by January 2017.  Nope, still waiting for resident input on rule changes. 
  12. Eight months and still waiting for the County or Frontline to engage the community on rule changes. 

by Brian Davis

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Ramona's Statement about the Shelter

by Ramona Turnbull

As an ex-resident of the women’s shelter and because I was there one year and ½, I feel obligated to speak today.  Since becoming employed at NEOCH I have been better able to understand the differences between the two shelters.  The men’s shelter has communities for the different needs a resident has, the women’s shelter does not.  They have services to help obtain GED’s, jobs, and housing.  The women’s shelter does not although they will tell you there are.  There is a reward system for residents that do well in the programs or help around the shelter. There are even stipends that can be earned.

At the women’s shelter you are denied any rewards, consideration, respect, or empathy if you’re having a real bad day.  The programs and some of the churches that were coming to the shelter no longer come.  One resident residing at the shelter stayed for a short time and decided to look for assistance and consideration outside of the shelter and she was killed.

The lack of communication between staff can be very damaging.  So is the treatment of the residents and this is a very big problem.  Even the renovations that were recently installed are very representative of how badly women are treated at the only shelter in Cleveland for single women.  Their isolation and treatment of the women are a cause for concern and it needs to stop. 

Services and other outside providers should be able to enter the shelter to assist the women to move forward.  At this point, they will not even allow the women to have a Resident’s Council at the shelter like they have at the men’s shelter. Brian Davis informed them there would be no cost and the NEOCH would get the funding and they still declined.

For some reason, the staff at the women’s shelter are isolating the women that have been forced to go there for help.  Isolation is a form of abuse and it needs to stop as soon as possible.

Posts are the opinion of those identified by the byline. 

Editor's Note:  This is the statement that Ramona made about the shelter at the hearing in May.  She did not get a chance to present the entire piece because she was so nervous.  We present the entire text of what she wanted to say here.  For a video of the entire session go here.

Nice Bit of Reporting on WEWS Channel 5

This is a wonderful piece of reporting on WEWS on our "Missing in Action" Poster by Derick Waller.  What did we learn from this piece?

  • Yvonne Conwell picked up the phone for the News Media, but will not respond to homeless people.
  • She claims that someone said she was not "compassionate," but no one has ever accused her of a lack of compassion that I have ever heard? In fact, the opposite is true if you check the notes from the last meeting when Councilman Dale Miller attended the Homeless Congress.
  • The flyer looked good on camera in color. 
  • The advocates were symbolically out in the cold while the elected official was comfortable inside. It worked metaphorically as well.
  • I am not sure what "I was the one who reached out and got the ball rolling..." means, but she is obviously upset by our advocacy. This problem has existed since 1998, but at least back then there were other options available. 
  • We raised the same issue back in October on WEWS, and it is still bad.  So for all the talk and meetings, the women still feel there are problems.  If I sat over at the Cosgrove Center for a couple of hours per day, I could collect at least 50 legitimate grievances that would go unanswered about the Women's Shelter. 
  • The County gave over $300,000 to the women's shelter.  We did not find out who asked for them to throw money at the shelter by hiring more staff?  There is a culture of poorly trained staff who disrespect the residents, and no resident or former resident would suggest adding money for more staff. Plus, the shelter only opens at 3 p.m. so how much help could these women get at the end of a day.  What landlord or employers or mental health counselor is available after 3 p.m. to help?
  • Conwell has "seminars for families and children about preventing homelessness?"  Unfortunately, there are no families or children staying at the shelter we are talking about to learn about preventing homelessness.
  • If we have 130 beds and 30 new beds now and yet there are regularly 185 people sleeping at the shelter how does that help? Shouldn't we try to solve the problem and not try to solve half the problem?  This is the only shelter available for single women in Cuyahoga County so shouldn't we plan for the number of women who actually show up not the number we hope show up before 7.
  • Conwell is having another "closed door" meeting but I was not invited, and this was not advertised for the women at the shelter. Wow, what if I volunteered to have my mouth taped shut just so I could report back to the women then could I come?

What needs further explanation:

  • This was one of the many missing flyers that we issued identifying most of the County Council.  Mr. Waller at WEWS picked this one out to follow up on primarily because the shelter is in Councilwoman Conwell's district.  Also, the secret meeting was circled and viewed as attractive to the media.
  • Ruth Gillett at the Homeless Congress meeting on Thursday disputed that that the Councilwoman had in fact conducted a "secret" meeting, but it is curious that the director of the shelter, the director of Cleveland Mediation and the COO of EDEN (owner of the Women's Shelter building) showed up for the meeting and no residents of the shelter attended. We have the notes on our blog in the above link. 
  • Imagine if you went to County Council to complain that the County funded Prosecutor was not prosecuting mostly white police officers for shooting black people in our community, and they said don't worry we are giving him additional funding to solve this problem.  You would be angry over this turn of events.  This is how the women at the shelter feel.  They complained about staff out of control, no one believing them, retaliation, no oversight and no one responding to grievances.  The response from the County was more money to the same agency running this shelter.  From the perspective of the residents, the County is rewarding Frontline Services for the mistreatment of homeless women.
  • If there is any dispute if this shelter is out of control, there is an easy solution send County staff over there at 9:30 p.m. to see for themselves.  Or better send a staff in undercover to see the treatment that they receive as the typical homeless woman. 
  • If there is a dispute about the numbers, there is an easy way to solve that issue--visit the shelter at 10 p.m.  But does that even matter?  If our policy is not to turn people away and the shelter claims an average of 174 per night with only 160 beds on site how does that make sense?  Doesn't that say to taxpayers that you need a new shelter to serve the growing population?
  • NEOCH staff were criticized for always focusing on the negatives and never being satisfied.  Those are both true statements, and that could be the mission of a homeless advocacy organization.  The Women's Shelter has not improved for two decades and we have tried many different things to get a change.  We have been criticized all along for being sexist, a bully and single minded.  We have had our funding eliminated and put on the persona non-gratis list of many meetings, but at the end of the day it is really bad over at 2227 Payne Ave.  We keep getting dragged back into these discussions, because women regularly complain about the conditions.  Other shelter staff complain and regularly whisper thanks because they are afraid the County will retaliate if they publicly criticize the largest service provider in the homeless community. 
  • Two incidents happened recently that lead me to my position.  The first was in August when a women attempted suicide in the lobby of the shelter and no one from the staff or security believed her and called the EMS.  Other residents were afraid and after a 20 minute delay called themselves.  After a few grievances including the woman who attempted suicide filing a grievance, the shelter management without seeking the 9-1-1 call log declared the whole incident was false and staff acted properly.  This woman should never have stayed at the shelter, but then even after her attempt she was there for a few more months.  Then only last month a woman had her service dog taken by the dog training academy determined the environment was too bad for the dog, but they left the human in these conditions.  Senior management determined that there was no issue here and they had done all they could for the resident even though staff had ignored and harmed this women getting into housing.  NEOCH sent a Department of Aging outreach staff over to the shelter, supervisors told her that she was no longer at the shelter even though the women was sleeping upstairs.  Over the time that the service dog was at the shelter, one supervisor regularly antagonized the women, criticized and threatened the elderly woman to the point that she is afraid to talk to the media or a lawyer about this situation for fear of being forced out of the shelter. 
  • The Congress and the NEOCH Board agree that there needs to be some dramatic changes at the shelter including a termination of all staff and a do-over hiring everyone with new interviews involving residents.  We have set up a page on our site to ask for big changes
  • The building was renovated for the expectation of an average of 100 people per night with the number of bathrooms for 100 women and heat, washers and cafeteria geared toward 100 women.  Now there between 174 to 210 women coming to the shelter, some with addictions others mentally ill and a few with both behavioral health issues.  Many are getting out of jail while others had their children taken from them.  There are those frustrated over not being able to find a job or survivors of abuse.  They are all crammed together sent out on the streets from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and provided a substandard meal at the shelter.  There is no programming and festering anger at night with so many people tripping over each other.  What did you expect would happen at this shelter on the edge?

Brian Davis

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County is Too Big for the Part Time County Council?

We did get a response from one of the Councilpersons about the flyers we have sent out. This Councilperson told us that the Council had appointed Councilwoman Conwell to focus on homelessness. It is interesting take on the issue of homelessness that the County Council has divided up the work among the 11 members.  According to this elected official, since the County Council members are part time members they don't have time for all the problems facing the County.  They have assigned Councilwoman Conwell to homelessness and she reports to the other 10.  I asked if we could get a re-vote on this issue since Ms. Conwell previously worked in a shelter and seems to have a dim impression of homeless people.  Also, since homelessness touches every single other issue it does not seem like a good division of resources. 

We have re-entry folks struggling with homelessness, we have victims of abuse, rape and violence who fall into homelessness.  We have families that cannot find childcare or health care and fall into homelessness.  We have developmentally disabled who are too old to receive assistance from their parents or foster care kids graduating to homelessness.  We have pregnant women who are not able to provide a healthy environment for their children.  We have 50,000 who felt that they needed help with housing and we have no where for homeless people to recover after an illness.  All these problems involve homeless people but they also overlap with welfare, senior and adult services, MetroHealth, Re-entry, fostercare, criminal justice, housing, development, jobs, etc.   Homelessness is a problem that every Councilman and Councilwoman need to be involved in solving.  Homeless people are the canary in the coal mine and when they show up asking for help we know that the safety net has failed. 

The County has taken the lead on funding the shelters and deciding how to spend $34 million in public money so every Councilman needs to be involved.  Every Council person should know the level of misery they are subjecting females without housing to every day.  They should know how their budgetary decisions have an impact on the streets.  They should know that their agents are turning people away from shelter through a trick known as "diversion" or that it is really really hard to get shelter on the weekend.  They should all know that their decision to remove 82 beds will make men's overflow necessary on more nights in the 2016-17 winter.  They should all realize that without a men's or women's shelter for the severely mentally ill more people will sleep outside. 

Ms. Conwell is a very nice woman who has a special place in her heart for the cute homeless kids in our community, but she should not be the only Council person educated about homelessness.  There are homeless people from Dave Greenspan's Fairview Park or Rocky River and his suburbs.  There are homeless families from Parma and Chuck Germana's District, and Sunny Simon should be aware that Mom's who flee their house in Beachwood because of violence have to go to the women's shelter on Payne Ave. because we have no other place to go with an available bed.  There are no shelters in suburbs so people who have problems with government failing them will end up in Cleveland looking for help.  They call me all week and can't believe that there is no safety net for common problems and that the only response is go to an unsafe and overcrowded shelter downtown.

This is not what we voted for when we voted down the County Commissioners form of government and the scandals.  We wanted all 11 Councilmembers to know about all the problems facing their district and not one-eleventh of the problem.  We want change, and in my opinion we have not seen any changes.  I cannot think of one thing that the County Council can claim in the last six years except creating nicer offices and a nice place to meet for the senior staff of Cuyahoga County.  Please tell me one thing that the Council has done to improve the lives of poor people in the biggest County in Ohio?  If the Council has in fact adopted this division then Ms. Conwell should be at our Homeless Congress every month and regularly meeting with homeless people.  She should not be having secret meetings without residents of the shelter if she wants to get a real picture of homelessness.  Please tell me in the comments section what you think of the Council and if you have seen anything from them in six years?

Brian Davis

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