New Request for Proposal Out for Women's Shelter

The new Request for Proposal to administer the Community Women's Shelter was published yesterday and is due July 28, 2017.  We know that West Side Catholic is not going to pursue the grant this time.  Obviously, based on the poor treatment that they received last time, who would want to go through that again?  NEOCH hopes that some other provider will come forward to challenge the current homeless service provider at least to improve the service.  This is the only shelter left in Cuyahoga County for single women so it is a critical service.  The County and taxpayers benefits when groups compete for contracts. 

There are some improvements over the last request, but there are still some troubling things in the submission.  The new RFP is more focused on effective emergency shelter operations, but there is still the requirement to use Frontline Services (the new owner of Cleveland Mediation Center) to resolve grievances. What agency would have some other homeless service provider resolve their grievances for them?  There is no plan for providing an off-site overflow if all the beds get filled.  There is no requirement to show that staff are well trained in non-violence and de-escalation or to even know the social service system. 

Two controversial items from the last round of funding were removed.  One said that you had to operate a shelter of at least 125 per night in the past and you had to operate a safe facility in the past.  The 125 bed requirement limited the number of agencies to five in Cuyahoga County who could possibly apply.  The operating a safe facility in the old RFP was criticized by advocates who showed that the police were called hundreds of times to both entry shelters in Cleveland.  Loh who regularly complains to County Council was regularly criticizing the County for giving a contract to an unsafe facility especially since she was repeatedly assaulted inside the shelter. There is nothing in the RFP to require that the shelter provider reduce the number of EMS/Police calls to the shelter. 

This one provides 10 points to Project Budget and Narrative, but then requires the vendor to negotiate a contract with the County.  They could bid low to get the 10 points and then negotiate a higher contract price once the County staff add items to the contract as additional expenses.  Wasn't that the plot of the movie War Dogs?  A provider gets no points for negotiating partnership agreements with other groups in the community, which seems strange.  This time no dollar amounts were disclosed while the last contract had dollar amounts attached to the request, which is also strange. 

You can find all the Requests for Proposals on the Cuyahoga County Website for more details or go to the pre-proposal conference on July 6, 2017 at 1 p.m. at 1641 Payne Ave conference room.  Here is a copy of the RFP.

Brian Davis

Post Script: The deadline was extended for this project until August 18 announced on July 24, 2017.  It was announced last week that neither Frontline Services nor Lutheran Metro Ministry would be pursuing this grant as the main social service provider for this program. 

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Another Update about Women's Shelter

Today was the Homeless Congress meeting which is our monthly check in with homeless people.  We had a pretty full crowd with 30 homeless and formerly homeless people and a number of social service providers.  We had the County staff presentation as well as County Councilman Dale Miller attending the meeting to watch.  Ramona will have a fuller picture on the meeting when when she finishes the notes especially the discussion about timelimits for the shelter. 

The big issue was the contract currently being considered by the County over management of the Women's Shelter.  There are two competing proposals to administer the Women's Shelter.  Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services answered many questions about the process.  She said that there was a County representative, two members of Ohio Jobs and Family Services, City of Cleveland, ADAMHS Board representation, United Way, and a local foundation who will make the decision over the next few weeks.  There was some concern expressed by some residents or former residents about the fairness of the process.  They questioned Gillett about the makeup of the committee and will these individuals be able to see past what is written on paper to what is or has gone on at the shelter for the past 10 years. 

We have documented the many problems expressed by the women over the last few years.  We have laid out potential solutions, but we are clear that NEOCH believes that there needs to be a change in providers.  Frontline Services is a fine organization that we work with closely on outreach and management of most of the permanent supportive housing programs, but we believe that they do not understand how to administer an entry shelter for single women.  It just has not worked and the length of stay and overall rise in the numbers of women at the facility shows the extent of the problem with the existing social service provider.  The women are stuck and there is no where to go.  NEOCH's only goal here is to make sure that conditions improve for single women who find themselves without housing.  We believe that the County needs to look for a new provider, new ideas, and a new strategy for providing a quality service to homeless women. 

I expressed reservations to the residents of the shelter in arguing balls and strikes about the process or the umpires who will decide who gets the contract at the Homeless Congress meeting. The County did give more time for the applications and gave extra time for any transition that might take place which were requested by both the women living at the shelter and by NEOCH.  The County has tried to set up a fair process that gives both sides an equal shot at the contract.  We should not question the independence or impugn the integrity of those who will make the decision on who will run the shelter.   These are all people who spend much of their days looking at proposals and ferreting out quality programs in grant requests.  In my opinion, anyone working or who had previous experience with homelessness would be biased and would have good or bad experiences with specific staff or one of the programs seeking funds.  It would be like putting an employee of a guy standing trial for theft in the jury pool.   We trust the process and hope that committee sees the need for a change locally.  

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Questions for the County Plan to Manage Homelessness

Our friend LOH attends many of the public meetings in the community and regularly comments about the State of Homelessness.  She is especially troubled by the large number stuffed into the women's shelter and the lack of a good plan for housing homeless families.  The two big shelters are completely full right now with single men and single women and nearly every night people are sleeping on mats on the floor.  Families with children are already sleeping on floors at two existing family shelters in Cleveland.  This is the current inadequate plan for the overflow system for families.  All of those beds and spaces on the floor are full so families are being sent to the Community Women's shelter.  For the last seven weeks many families are being sent to the Single Women's shelter with all the mentally ill women, drug addicted single women and a few sexually based offenders.  There are a number of newly homeless women who are just trying to find a job or housing, but the Community Women's Shelter has regularly 200 women and does not turn anyone away.  It was unbearable last year now it is an emergency that needs help tonight before there is a horrible incident.  

We typically have a high number of families entering the shelter in the summer when the kids are out of school, but this is troubling that we are still seeing high numbers after school has started.

Loh made some excellent comments at the last County Health and Human Services public comment time: 

  1. Homeless Families ARE Still Staying at A shelter supposedly ONLY For Single Female Adults, even though Schools already started ......
  2. Homeless Congress already decided to move forward with changing [the] service provider to help residents staying at the County Community Women's Shelter due to No changes from the service provider to improve the daily operation to Help the residents.  [Then, the presentation on Behavioural Health without the insurance and Medicaid part of it, into the Fact that BAD Staff Members are the Key Element to Defeat the purpose of "Sheltering" and "Helping" by Loh!]
  3. Upon the upcoming Voter Registration Event at Cosgrove, I am, personally, looking forward to seeing Council[woman] Conwell and her speech there.

County staff were present, but have offered no solution to this crisis.  Two years ago we had a large church in Cleveland Hts. that had offered space to the families. So, we had to pay for transportation and staffing, but we could serve a large number of families.  Now, we have limited floor space and certainly not enough to meet demand.  We have been forced to undermine our principles of not turning away women with children because of a lack of space.  We know that women with children fleeing violence in their household have been told to sleep in a police station.  We find families sleeping in cars and in parks over the weekend nearly every weekend.  We NEED Media attention, community, business or religious leaders to step in and we need help with this serious problem TODAY!!!

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

P.S. Thanks LOH for the Public Square Image

Updating the No Bid Contract for Intake

Well, we lost the battle, but the County agreed that they would open the process to a competitive bidding process for 2017.  Staff of the Office of Homeless Services, Ruth Gillett was non committal at the County Controlling Board meeting last week about the future contracting for Coordinated Intake.  The Controlling board met again this week on Monday August 8 with two elected officials showing up for the meeting Councilman Dale Miller and County Executive Armond Buddish attended this meeting.  Ms. Gillett did not attend, but it was reported that she spent last week answering questions that NEOCH staff raised in the meeting last week to staff from Council and the Executive's office.

I clarified a few misstatements from last week in my three minutes allowed during public comment.  I said that we cannot get information on homelessness from the agency and Ms. Gillett referenced a Policy committee that was abolished earlier this year.  How do we get information on the number of people sleeping on the floor or in need of bed rest from a defunct committee? I asked how we could get solid or potentially embarrassing information from the OHS Advisory about Frontline Services when their Chief Operating Officer is also chair of the Advisory? Ms. Gillett had indicated that we had never asked for these statistics, which was not true.  We had repeatedly asked how many people were denied bed rest in the Women's Shelter. We had asked in writing for a nightly report if anyone was denied a bed

Our objection to this no-bid contract is not just an objection to the diversion policy but also to the agency.  We do not think that it is fair that one of the local shelters gets to also be in charge of the placement of homeless people in every bed in Cuyahoga County.  This conflict could cause issues, and has led to this dreadful decision to eliminate beds for single women locally.  Finally, we believe that either Cuyahoga County should administer coordinated intake for shelter or the United Way First Call for Help should be given the opportunity.  Both would do a better job with transparency and community input to this service. 

Our friend, Loh, made comment as well bringing up a very good point that I had not thought of.  Frontline was provided this contact to conduct on an intake to everyone entering shelte and in February 2015 moved to Cosgrove Center.  Then they cut their services suddenly with little community notice in September to close on the weekend.  This caused hardship at the Women's Shelter where confused families were going to seek help.  Loh made the point that they are not fulfilling this contract because they are not offering 7 day a week service as it was originally funded.  Shouldn't the county have re-bid the contract if the agency cut their services by 28%? It is not the same service as it was originally awarded.  There are plenty of families who seek shelter on the weekend and 2-1-1 has to provide assistance for no additional funding. 

Shari Weir of the Office of Homeless Services spoke in support of allowing Frontline Services to proceed without opening up to a request for other bidders.  She claimed, as Ms. Gillett had claimed last week, that this was a model program. [Free advice to other bureacrats: Don't claim a program is a model when there are people in front of you complaining about that program.  The complainers do not take comfort in the fact that they were harmed by a program recognized by some "expert" as a model. It just makes taxpayers question if all government is corrupt.]  Ms. Weir claimed that there is not adequate funding or time to seek bids.  There was a general recognition that a delay would harm the program.  No one asked why there was not a process put forward for a competative bid when this application was submitted in March 2016?   Ms. Weir said there would be a request for competative bids for next year.  She also claimed people are helped over the weekend on the phone, but did not indicate if this was also recognized as "model" delivery of services to not have the service available on the weekend.

The Council and the County Executive were satisfied that the concerns raised had been addressed.  No one asked me if I was satisfied that my concerns had been satisfied.  The vote was unanimous to approve the no-bid contract with the understanding that there would be a bid next year.  We will keep our members updated. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

No Bid Contracts in Cuyahoga County Homeless Services

NEOCH staff testified against the no bid contract being provided to Coordinated Intake operated by Frontline Services today.  We do not support these contracts especially when combined with the $700,000 given to EDEN for Rapid Rehousing this is over $1 million going to this endeavor without a competative bidder.  We believe that there are others in the community who could do this critical service in Cleveland or there should be a discussion if the County themselves should be overseeing Intake to save us money.  We believe that an RFP process could get some reform of the Intake to be fairer to homeless people and more transparent for the community.  Here is the letter that we submitted to the County Controlling Board.

July 28, 2016

Cuyahoga County Board of Control             
2079 East 9th Street, 4th Floor - Committee Room B
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

RE: Coordinated Intake Funding Request

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless was informed that the expansion of Coordinated Intake would receive funding without a competitive bid.  We oppose this decision and hope that the Controlling Board will intervene to force a competitive bid.  We believe that selecting which shelter a person must go to and who receives rapid rehousing rental dollars is so important that we must as a community assure that the correct provider is in place for this critical service.  We also do not believe that we have ever had a discussion as a community to determine if this service would not be better undertaken by the County Department of Jobs and Family Services. 

The staff at Coordinated Intake are very nice people and in fact one of the managers is a former employee of NEOCH.  The lack of transparency by the current provider and the inability to provide oversight with the current contract are the main issues for NEOCH.  These funds came to Cuyahoga County because a number of men’s shelters were closed.  These shelters provided housing for single males for an average of six to eight months on average, and now those beds are removed from the system.  We lost women and family beds over the last six years and we do not want to turn the men’s system into the disaster of the women’s system. There is only one way for government to make big decisions and that is through the contracting process. 

This contract was last put out for bid in 2012 after an extremely corrupt process in 2009 for awarding this contract.  We did not have much of a track record and we did not understand the full ramifications Coordinated Intake.  We did not realize the impact on the shelters and the transformation of the emergency shelter system locally.  We did not realize when this was started that the women and family shelters would disappear so rapidly.  We did not realize that the Central Intake would demand that homeless people go through Intake or lose their status as a homeless person.  Now, we see the full ramifications of the Intake and we need to step back to set guidelines and refine the goals for reducing homelessness.  

The current Coordinated Intake is not responsive at all to the public, and a person’s fate for where they will sleep at night is in this Coordinated Intake’s hands.  They have never had their rules approved by any other agencies or homeless people.  They have never talked to homeless people about the goals, prioritizing of certain populations over others or the morality of diverting mothers with children from shelter.  We still do not know how the grievance process works for intake, and we have never had an honest debate about the cost/benefit analysis of emergency shelter vs transitional shelters vs. permanent supportive housing.

We are especially concerned about the diversion of families away from shelter.  We believe that this will lead to a tragedy in which a woman returns to her abuser and is killed.  We have already met women sleeping in their cars with their children because they were afraid to reveal too much information to the staff at Coordinated Intake.  Families are not always clear about their access to shelter locally and are not clear about the responsibilities of the Intake staff to report possible abuse to Children and Family Services.  The merits and ethics of diversion have not been debated publicly and yet 24% of the families who seek shelter in Cuyahoga County are sent away. 

I believe that if a private company wants to supplant the County Government with an essential service, they need to show good cause for why they can far exceed Cuyahoga County from overseeing this operation.  Shouldn’t low income people struggling with housing see a case worker employed by the County in order to assess what other benefits they may be eligible for as well? Wouldn’t Cuyahoga County be more invested in the conditions of the shelters if they were sending people to the shelters every day?  Couldn’t Cuyahoga County Department of Jobs and Family Services do this service better and for less money without all the overhead of buildings and administration or additional staff? 

We have yet to hear a good reason for why this contract should not be put up for bid.  It is a large expansion of the current contract with additional rental assistance available.  Most of the shelter contracts in Cleveland combine pools of other resources, but that does not mean that they cannot withstand the scrutiny of a request for proposal process.  We want to see a public bidding process to provide some level of transparency to this extremely powerful and secretive organization.  We never get any release of information on the number of people sleeping on the floor every night or the number of people denied a medical bed or the number of families split up every night.  How do we provide solutions to the problems associated with homelessness if we do not get reliable, up-to-date information about the number of people falling into homelessness? 

United Way First Call for Help has an updated daily dashboard on the essential services they offer through their 2-1-1 telephone referral system.  I can login right now to find how many people are seeking help with food, shelter or housing every day from 2-1-1.  This is a case of a private non-profit offering a superior product to government and providing regular information to the community.   Shouldn’t community leaders know how many families are seeking shelter this week or this month and how many we could not provide a bed?  Do we know if First Call for Help might be interested in expanding their service to include Coordinated Intake?  They certainly would be more transparent and would create an advisory board similar to the one they created when they took over the affordable housing website locally, HousingCleveland.org. 

We have to wonder if the reason that we do not get information out of Coordinated Intake is that it paints a negative picture of the organization.  Frontline Services runs the largest women’s shelter in Cleveland at the same time as Intake and they are the leading proponent to permanent supportive housing.  What if the release of information would show that they are doing a horrible job at the Women’s shelter or that there has been a significant uptick in people failing out of permanent supportive housing and going back to shelter?  We need an unbiased intermediary to provide referrals to shelter who can be open and honest in the release of information.

We urge you to intervene here and order that the Office of Homeless Service undertake an open and transparent process for selecting a Coordinated Intake provider.  We need enough time to allow for those groups to respond and we need some strict outcomes that involve community input.  We want the system to take into account the unique needs of homeless people and to provide information to the general public.

Thank you for your time and your service to the community.

Sincerely,

Brian Davis

The County Controlling Board tabled the $500,000 contract for Frontline Services until next Monday August 8 at 11 a.m. at their regularly scheduled meeting.  We will be present to correct some of the things that were brought up by staff at the meeting today in order to ask that the County seek bids for this service. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Who Should Represent Homeless People?

This is an inside baseball post and may be way too far into the weeds for most people, but we did advertise back in June for homeless people to apply for the Office of Homeless of Services Advisory Board so we should provide an update.  The County Office of Homeless Services approves the $30 million that comes to Cleveland for the shelters and the housing for homeless people.  They recently changed their bylaws and the composition of their membership.  They tried to reduce the people sitting on the board with a conflict of interest and added four positions for homeless people.  This was a much needed reform, but the big problem with this group is there is never an alternative or an ability to tweak the proposals up for a vote.  The voting process is all or nothing.  They give the voting members an up or down vote on everything. For example either vote "yes" to accept the $30 million or vote "no" and all the shelters close?  We faced the same choice with the vote over new members.  We were offered a vote on a slate of candidates of 15 total while 31 individuals had applied.  It was yes to all 15 candidates selected by some committee or no and there is no board, I guess? All of our expertise and knowledge are disrespected when we are a rubber stamp for staff or an unelected committee. 

All the votes are pro forma with the work done in committee or by staff and the board in a similar manner to the old County Commissioners who were just rubber stamps for a bunch of insiders and patrons.  NEOCH advertised the fact that there were four slots open to homeless or formerly homeless on the advisory board from the two who were currently on the board, and homeless people responded.  Fourteen people applied with 7 currently living in the shelters.  One person stands out for his nerve to take one of these slots.  Keith Moody applied for one of the four homeless slots.  He is staff of the Veterans Administration and has been staff for at least 17 years or more.  He also has a board membership of one of the local shelters.  He had been sitting on the board for years as a "homeless advocate" and so he has gotten to know the other board members, but he has not been homeless for over 20 years. 

The Board members did not get to see the applications or even the reason why the committee selected the candidates for developing this slate.  In fact, the paperwork distributed to the board for a vote gave no biographical information for any of the candidates and did not even list where these indivduals worked.  It was a "trust us" vote.  The committee did all the work for us so we didn't have to worry our pretty little heads about the details.  Full disclosure NEOCH fought to maintain one appointment to the OHS advisory that does not need the full vote of the advisory just like the City, County, and Housing Authority.  When the advisory was chartered by the City and County in 1993, NEOCH had three appointment positions. 

Moody rarely interacts with homeless people except as their case worker.  He does not know anything about sleeping in the shelters. He does not attend the Homeless Congress meetings and does not listen to the issues facing people struggling with housing.  There were plenty of other choices, but the committee was familiar with Keith Moody so they selected him for one of the precious homeless slots.   I don't understand why the Veterans Administration allows a staff person to take a homeless position on the Advisory when they have their own position and that staff is certainly not homeless. 

Moody does not understand the challenges facing women in shelter with the closing down of so many shelter beds or the waiting list for families to get assistance because he rarely communicates with these individuals.   He does not understand the lack of fair housing rights enforcement in the shelters or the fact that the grievance process is broken in Cuyahoga County.    Keith is a personable guy who gets along with most of the board so it would be tough to tell him that he is no longer welcome as a voting member.  This is why Moody should have never applied as a formerly homeless person and put these overly nice committee members in this difficult position. 

We had a board member who applied and was homeless five years ago.  He decided that it was too long ago to use his homeless status in the application.  He applied for one of the open slots as a community member.  Since many of the committee did not know who he was, he was not selected.  While Moody used his long ago status as a homeless person to nudge out the other 16 people who applied and were denied a spot on the board.  We hope that the group tightens up the application process and the qualifications for membership to assure that this valuable slot is reserved for individuals who have some recent contact with people experiencing homelessness.

Brian Davis

By the way the picture is of Loh with those bizarre snails downtown.  Loh received a slot on the OHS Advisory. 

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

County Advisory Looking for Homeless Members

The Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services is looking for homeless people to serve on the board.   The Board decides on the regulations for operating a shelter in Cleveland (but does not enforce these regulations) and which agency gets the funds.  Most of the rest is just discussing homelessness locally.  Here is the flyer created by the OHS staff.

They are going to select 2 to 4 homeless people to be on the board.  Below is the application to print out.  Applications are due by June 17.   The application asks if you were "literally homeless."  This is a bizarre expression created by HUD that makes no sense.  HUD has been using it to clarify that the person meets the HUD definition of homelessness, but that is the most limiting definition.  It does not include those living in a garage or basement, doubled up with a friend, just out of jail, living in a motel or a bunch of other scenarios.  it is not the understanding of homelessness that the man-on-the-street would use.  It is actually the figurative definition of homelessness, but in this backward world of homelessness "literally" means "figuratively" and vice versa.  Weird. 

The application does not ask when the person was figuratively homeless so they can avoid people who had their most recent experience with homelessness in the 1980s or 1990s.  Also, it does not indicate how the committee will decide between one homeless person over another.  There are no demographic information if they would want to get representation from a certain group (LGBT, veteran, families, or youth, etc.)  Hopefully, this will be corrected for 2017.

 Application for OHS Advisory

 

 

Brian Davis

posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Women's Shelter Hearing at Cuyahoga County

Press Release

Wednesday May 4 at 1 p.m. at the County Council Meeting space at 2079 East 9th St. on the Fourth Floor members of the Council will get to hear directly from the residents of the shelter about the conditions at the Payne Ave. shelter.  

            Every month the residents of the shelter meet to discuss issues facing homeless people in Cleveland and for years the horrible state of the Women’s Shelter has dominated the discussion.  Even the men living at other shelters are concerned because often they have a wife or girlfriend at the Payne Ave. Community Women’s Shelter.  We have closed many of the other family/women’s shelters so that the “House of Payne” as the women call it, is the last facility with a bed available in the community.  This is the facility that women without children fleeing an abuser have to go to or grandmothers who are evicted must enter when they have a housing emergency.  After a couple of years of discussions with individual County Council members, the County intends to open their Health and Human Services committee on Wednesday at 1 p.m. to a discussion with residents about the Community Women’s Shelter. 

            The County Council Health and Human Services Hearing will hear directly from residents of the shelter about the conditions and the staff mistreatment.  The Coalition has put together a 12 point plan to reform the shelter, but is most concerned that the administration has very little control over the shelter staff.  Residents will talk about the unfair discharge policy and the broken grievance system.  They will talk about problems with the food, renovations, and the lack of housing or social service help.  Residents have prepared short two minute speeches about the problems at the shelter including the regular threats and harassment by the staff.  Despite armed security, there is regular concern with security, fights and theft at the shelter while staff just sit in their offices and allow chaos to reign.  The women who speak will need to overcome the fear of retaliation to talk about the regular changes in the rules and the total lack of structure keeping the women in a constant state of confusion.

       NEOCH and the women hope that the County forces immediate changes in the shelter.  We hope that they schedule unannounced visits in the evening to see the overcrowded space and the horrible conditions these women are forced to endure.   The women want a committee set up to implement their long term solutions to the problems and some County oversight to make sure that the Women’s shelter is implementing the recommendations.  The Homeless Coalition set up a webpage dedicated to all the problems at the “House of Payne” under Solutions at www.neoch.org. for more information. 

Brian Davis

Posts Reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

County Health and Human Services Meeting

January 20, 2016 Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Meeting.

Thank you so much, Cuyahoga County, for keeping the videos of your committee meetings on the site.  They are a little complicated to find, but with some hunting it is great that you keep them up there.  The Health and Human Services meeting oversees funding for the shelters and homeless services.   Loh, who regularly attends the Homeless Congress,  is gracious enough to go to these meetings and give us a heads up when something comes up about the Community Women's Shelter.  At nearly every meeting Loh (a resident)  invites her elected officials to attend the Homeless Congress meeting or visit her at 9 p.m. at the shelter to see what is going on over on Payne Ave. 

This meeting came to our attention, because it was pretty soon after Dale Miller attended the Homeless Congress and heard an earful from the women.  Councilwoman Conwell chaired this meeting and the Women's Shelter funding was on the agenda.  Thanks to Denise and Ramona for the partial transcript of the meeting notes below. 

After a year of intense pressure on reforming the shelter, we got more money going to the women's shelter without any changes and 30 more beds.  There is a renovation underway which is great, but the staff, food, lack of oversight and an ignoring of the grievances still exists.  The additional funds to hire more staff under the supervision of the same agency was not well received by the women that I have talked to about the shelter.  Shouldn't the funding go to the Cosgrove Center who provide help to the women during the day?  The two budgets approved were for 2100 Lakeside at $1.701 million to serve an average of 380 people per night and 2227 Payne Ave. at $1.419 million to serve 180 people per night.  Why are the women so much more expensive especially since most women have to leave at 8 a.m. and don't come back until 3 p.m?  This is the most expensive babysitting service in our community.  There are too many staff who are called "case workers" even though they are not doing much work on people's cases.  The Women's Shelter has to be for two shifts of armed security on site at the request of the staff which are not present at the Men's Shelter. 

Anyway, we present the notes from the meeting to see what the bureaucrats from Cuyahoga County and staff of the shelter are saying about the facility that they do not typically say directly to the women at the shelter or at the Homeless Congress meeting.  There is a discussion at the meeting regarding the large number of women who are staying at the shelter for a long period of time.  There is no easy solution to this problem.  Is this a systematic failure?  After all, if there is only one shelter for single women and many people who need additional case management help that they cannot find, where are they supposed to go?  Is this an agency problem?  Are these women so demoralized and beaten down by the staff that they have given up ever getting into housing?  Or is this an individual issue that these women do not possess the skills to get housing or a job because of their background? Do they need some help that they cannot find after 3 p.m. when the shelter opens?  None of us know the answers to these questions, so it is impossible to give an answer. 

There was a discussion if there are 30 people over the number of beds currently in the shelter or were there 60 women sleeping on the floor.  This seems like a bizarre discussion that has no solution.  It is like a dispute between whether things should be characterized as horrible or just terrible.  The County Council needs to fix this problem and not debate the numbers.  This is the reason we elected these individuals to fix problems facing our community and not to just debate the issues. 

 Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Still Missing Cuyahoga County Council

Despite the rumours to the contrary the Community Women's shelter is still in need a dramatic reform. Staff have not been trained properly and are still disrespectful.  Grievances are not followed up on, and management dismiss the concerns of the women.  We are so thankful to have heard from Councilman Dale Miller in January, but we want to hear from the others.  We want them to visit the shelter at 9:30 p.m to see the devastating conditions that they fund.  If County staff are saying that we are exaggerating the number of people sleeping in the shelter, then the County Council members should take the time to go over to the shelter at 9:30 p.m. and count the number of women sleeping there.  Sit down with them and talk about the issues in confidence to avoid retaliation problems.  We want to meet with the women who live in the shelter and tell them to their faces that they are exaggerating the extent of the problem as was said at the January 20 meeting by County staff.  We want them to come to the Homeless Congress meetings to hear directly from County taxpayers forced to stay in the shelter. Congress meets on the second Thursday of the month at 1 p.m. at Cosgrove Center.  Now, that the Council has a larger salary, how about going out to some of the facilities you fund to see how they operate and if you are proud of the services being offered?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

PS: Putting 30 more beds into an already overcrowded shelter with staff who have lost all compassion is not helpful.

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

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Volunteering to Serve Homeless People For Holidays

Originally appeared on our Facebook Page (Cleveland Homeless)

Will NEOCH be having any volunteer opportunities around Thanksgiving?

 

Yes, we always have volunteer activities available and we welcome your help. Our Thanksgiving volunteer activity is a homework assignment to raise the issue of homelessness with a local elected official. We hope that you will set aside some time while serving a meal, putting together hygiene kits for distribution, or donating clothing to the Cosgrove Center to do some advocacy to end homelessness in Cleveland. Ask a suburban councilperson what they are doing to address domestic violence in their community? If they say they refer them to the DV Center in Cleveland please inform them that is respectfully the wrong answer. We only have a small number of DV beds (40 compared to 90 in Akron). These beds are always full and many women have to flee to the horrible Women's shelter because of a lack of space. Tell him or her that the suburbs need a better response and hope that they do something better for their residents in 2016. Let us know about your Councilperson's response and we will publish them.

You could ask your County Council person why they have done nothing to help the county funded Community Women's Shelter on Payne Ave. You could ask them to visit at 9 p.m. to see all the people sleeping on the floor and the horrible conditions then implement the Homeless Congress recommendations about the women's shelter. You could ask them why the County Animal Shelter is better than the County Entry Women's Shelter.

You could reach out to County Executive Armond Budish to ask why the County is second guessing families and turning them away from family shelters in a Orwellian named policy of diversion. Ask him to meet with NEOCH to discuss these issues. You could ask him to implement a moratorium on diversions so that families do not resort to sleeping in their car or risk going back to an abuser because they are turned away from shelter. Let us know what he says.

You could call up United Way or local religious leaders and ask what they are doing to help with this huge rise in family homelessness in Cleveland? How are they helping to serve these kids who are scared because they see the fear on their parent's faces? Why do we not have a bed in the community for these families?

You could ask Cleveland officials why there is a tax to support the arts, but no specific tax to build affordable housing? There is no local housing trust fund, but money is raised for theaters, orchestras, and museums? There is plenty to do to fill the hunger needs of the population, but think how many people would benefit from working on a new family shelter or a fund to build affordable housing?
It seems like an overwhelming problem, but the community stepped up in the past when there was a need and you have to know that things are really bad right now for families. We encourage you to volunteer and dedicate time to clothing, food, and hygiene kits over the next month, but we need you to work on policy and advocacy at the same time. We have a volunteer section of our website that has other projects in the community you can work on, but we also have an advocacy section with issues we could use your help in solving.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Councilman Zack Reed Attends Congress

Thanks to Kris for taking the notes for this meeting.  Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed attended the meeting and addressed the Congress.  Councilman Reed heard concerns from the group including:

  • too little food being served at women’s shelter along with other women’s shelter meal concerns and not allowed to bring outside food into the shelter.
  • concerns regarding disparity in shelter conditions, options, and services between men’s and women’s shelters (worse conditions, options, and services in women’s shelter).
  • only one shelter for single women without children, no option to stay at facility during the day even with bed rest orders unless you’re one of the lucky 12 or so (insufficient bed rest beds),
  • not providing case management, training programs or opportunities for women the way the men’s shelter(s) do.
  • people who are elderly or who have physical disabilities are sleeping on mattresses on the floor in the overflow room instead of giving them priority for beds,
  • the staff force women with disabilities and bed rest orders out into the cold to seek services or spend their day at the Cosgrove Center when doing so puts them at risk,
  • Previous problems at the Men's Shelter in 2002 were handled by the County/City quickly and resulted in a new provider stepping in and improving the men's shelter.
  • insufficient heat, but not allowed to bring a blanket in from outside and no pillows at all and no extra blankets available.).

Brian requested City Council take action to require shelters in the city to display the rights of people with disabilities in the shelters and LGBT shelter rights and that they amend the City’s fair housing ordinance to include source of income protections (so that folks with a housing choice voucher cannot be refused housing opportunities).  He indicated that families presenting for shelter shouldn’t be diverted as it resulted in many folks returning to unsafe situations or sleeping in cars.  They fear that their children will be taken away from them.  There was some discussion of trans folks who were not routinely informed that they have the right to stay in the shelter of the gender with which they identify if they like.  Also, some discussion of people with comfort (disability-related) animals do not go to the shelter because they don’t know if they have the right to bring their animals with them.  Another woman reported that a woman who is blind was denied access to the dining room with her guide dog. 

Before leaving, Councilman Reed committed to writing a letter to the County Executive, Armond Budish and copying each member of County Council to recap the concerns he heard at the meeting and as what, if anything, would be done to address the concerns. He will request that at least the County respond to the concerns raised by the Homeless Congress in a letter to Councilwoman Conwell.   Additionally, he committed to contacting Susan Neff at Frontline Services to meet with her to discuss any actions are under way and what may be planned to address these concerns.  He agreed to turn over the two pieces of advocacy on fair housing and income protections to the departments within the City who could champion these issues.  The Councilman requested he be invited back in a few months to continue the conversation.

Revised from Notes taken by Kris Keniray who took the notes and attended the meeting.

Brian Davis

Homeless Congress Asks For Changes in the Shelter

From: Homeless Congress

                                        September 14, 2015

Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell

Cuyahoga County Council

2079 East 9th St.

Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Dear Councilwoman Conwell:

The residents of the local shelters met on September 10, 2015 at our regular Homeless Congress meeting and unanimously approved a resolution asking that the County include the following 12 items in any future contract with Frontline Services to administer the Community Women’s Shelter at 2227 Payne Ave.   As you heard when you attended the Congress meeting earlier this year, there are serious problems at the Women’s Shelter.  We have filed formal written complaints and held meetings with the CEO of Frontline Services, but have not seen many changes.  We still have out of control staff, little help in moving into housing and a broken grievance process.  The staff were not disciplined for misdirecting clients about public meetings regarding the conditions at the shelter in the last two weeks.  The bedrest problem still exists every night with many disabled and elderly individuals sleeping on the floor.   There are far too many people sleeping in this County funded building and the staff do not foster an environment to move people into healthier and more appropriate housing. 

We still are interested in the County Council hosting a hearing with actual residents of the shelter and not just staff of the shelter to hear about these issues.  We have waited for three weeks since the residents met with the CEO, two months since ADAMHS CEO heard these concerns, four months since they met with you, and twelve years since Frontline took over the shelter to see a change.  All of us are concerned about the conditions at the shelter deteriorating further with extremely volatile residents living in these extremely crowded conditions.   These are taxpayer dollars that are funding this shelter with very little oversight.  The taxpayers who fall on hard times are not served when they show up at the Community Women’s Shelter. We have already seen women so distraught at the shelter that they attempted suicide in the middle of the night.  If Council does not step in here there is going to be a horrible tragedy that explode in the media. 

Here are our approved list of demands that we ask you include in any further contract with Frontline Services:

  1. All Frontline Staff who currently work at the shelter would be laid off over the next three months (one third at a time), and would have to reapply for their jobs or accept a transfer to another position within Frontline that never would involve contact with the Community Women’s Shelter at Norma Herr.  An elected group of current or recent residents of the shelter would interview the potential employees and would have a meaningful input regarding potential staff. 
  2. An independent resident council would be started to comment on staffing, maintenance, facility issues, food, grievances, and the daily operation of the agency.  These notes would be collected by a third party (not an existing subcontractor of Frontline) and presented to senior staff at Frontline.  The staff would respond in writing and those notes would be available to other residents by being displayed.  Frontline could hire an independent third party group for the exclusive purpose of overseeing a resident council.
  3. There are a number of residents who are creating a hostile living environment and are not being sanctioned or punished for all the problems they create. The resident council would be allowed to recommend for transfer or discharge residents who are regularly violating the rules or fighting and not being disciplined by the staff.  Frontline staff/client rights officer would have the final say on the population living in the shelter, but at least would have to respond in writing to the concerns. 
  4. The shelter must re-write their grievance procedure with the input and approval of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  Grievances must be done in a more timely manner and must have a written response.  At the end of the process there must be an independent third party (non-Frontline staff) who can make the final decision.  This could be a volunteer attorney who has no relationship with the shelter, staff or the agency.  This cannot be a subcontractor of the agency such as Cleveland Mediation Center, to make final decisions on grievances submitted to the agency. The main topics of the grievances need to be displayed on a weekly basis with some non-identifying information released about the results.  This is to assure that people trust the grievance process and will be willing to complete a grievance. There also must be some consequence for the staff if they are regularly the subject of complaints or are found to be violating the rights of residents.
  5. The shelter has to do a better job of accepting help from the outside to improve the conditions.  They need to have one staff dedicated to accepting church groups who want to donate items or volunteer or serve a dinner.  Residents should be encouraged to assist and volunteer to help at the shelter in order to improve the conditions. 
  6. The Shelter Rules and Regulations will be rewritten with the input of an independent resident committee by January 2016.  The shelter needs to offer more incentives to those who live at the shelter to participate in programming and quickly move on to housing.  They need to divide up the shelter into smaller communities with staff who specialize in assisting special populations and offer specialized care with programs for people in need of help such as addiction, mental health, students, job seekers, or those seeking housing.  This does not mean dividing up the shelter by different populations in different bedrooms, but building the concept of community among like-minded individuals within the shelter.  They need to offer more medical assistance to those who are on bedrest or movement to more appropriate facilities. 
  7. Resident input should be sought as part of employee performance evaluations and those comments should be taken into account when deciding on promotion or salary increases.  If the employee does not get at least 10 resident comments either positive or negative, the senior staff need to gather additional input.
  8. The director of Frontline needs to meet with the residents at least quarterly to hear concerns and ways to improve the shelter.  No staff working at the shelter are allowed to attend this meeting.
  9. Since the shelter has had repeated violations of fair housing rules by not offering bed rest ordered by doctors and not respecting the rights of the disabled or the LGBT HUD rules, the shelter must display the fair housing rules that they are following. 
  10. The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center will have a female staff person on site everyday who can respond independently to sexual harassment and related issues by the women.
  11. Frontline will accept that there is a need for a separate shelter for severely mentally ill women and will begin to work on finding and funding a separate facility.
  12. If changes are not implemented by September 2016, the Homeless Congress will revisit the idea of changing the service provider who oversees the Community Women’s Shelter.    

Sent on behalf of the Homeless Congress.  Please feel free to contact Brian Davis of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless if you want to reach any member of the Congress.  

NEOCH

Copies to:        Susan Neth, Ruth Gillett, Matt Carroll, and Valeria Harper

All County Council Members

County Council Responds...Sort of

We got a letter back from Council person Yvonne Conwell.  (Actually, is it a letter if it is only two sentences?) Here is the link to our letter.  We wrote a long letter asking how she could host a meeting about the Women's Shelter and not have any residents from the shelter attend? 

  1. Did not get an answer.
  2. Did not get a follow up meeting scheduled.
  3. Did not get an apology for excluding residents of the shelter to a public meeting. 

I think I would have rather had nothing.  It came too late in the day to share with the Homeless Congress.  It might be just as well because they would not have been happy.  There was plenty of space at the bottom of the letter for more content.  Strange?

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Domestic Violence Victims Need Help with Parking

An Open Letter to Cuyahoga County Asking for Help

Mr. Armond Budish
Cuyahoga County Executive
Cuyahoga County Administrative Headquarters
2079 East Ninth Street 
Cleveland, OH 44115

Dear Mr. Budish:

A woman experiencing homelessness has informed us of a problem facing women who are going through domestic violence.  The Northeast Ohio Coalition believes that the County could help.  I have recently been made aware of a women who is a victim of domestic abuse that lost her income and housing after a “partner/victimizer” was arrested and charged with domestic violence and additional charges.   Not only did he abuse her, but he is responsible for the deaths of three women in East Cleveland, and is sitting in jail awaiting trial.  This women has been subpoenaed repeatedly to testify against her abuser in one of the cases.  We currently have a letter from her seeking help to pay for the fees she has to pay for parking as she appears in court.  She is complaining about the fact that she has lost her income and is financially strapped, but has to continue to show up in court for the proceedings against her abuser.  She does not have the fees that she needs to pay to park her vehicle either at the public parking meters or the county parking garage while she attends court appearance after court appearance as the victim of abuse. 

I am asking if there is any way that victims of domestic violence who have to appear in court be given free parking passes to the County garage for the days that they have to appear due to the cases associated with the domestic violence that was perpetrated against them. Unfortunately, these women typically have their finances tied up in legal proceedings as they try to separate from their abuser.  Others flee their abuser with only their clothing and some pocket change.  The woman who contacted us for help has two autistic children to complicate the matter.  She had to pay for parking on July 20, July 30 and August 11 to visit the defendants Parole Officer and then to the Domestic Violence Unit at the Justice Center.  She even missed a hearing because she did not have money for the parking garage and drove around for over 20 minutes until she could find a meter.  She has contacted several agencies who were not able to help her. 

Is it possible that these women who are victims of domestic violence who have to be at the Justice Center be issued a special pass which allows them to park for free while they are across the street at the Justice Center taking care of the business necessary to bring their abuser to justice?  They have already suffered greatly at the hands of someone who claimed to love them and many of them feel victimized again by the system that is in place to help them.  Even putting together a fund through Domestic Violence Child Advocacy Center would be helpful.

I would ask that you consider this request.  If you need to speak to me to discuss this, I can be reached at (216) 432-0540, ext 102.

Sincerely,

Denise Toth

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

PS:  The DVC folks called saying that there are funds available to the woman through the Cuyahoga County Witness/Victim of Crime Center.  This is wonderful news but it is not clear to advocates, outreach teams or us that this is available on their list of services here.  It is no wonder that this woman who wrote a two paged impassioned letter asking for help was not clear where to get help.  No where on the page do they say that they help with parking or can help with her austic children while she goes to court.  There is counseling and supportive services, but it is not clear they can offer financial help with transportation.  They should do a better job advertising their services and even being clear on their own website that this is available. Here is the description of the agency from the 2-1-1 database:

Provides victims/witnesses of misdemeanor and felony crimes with information, counseling, support, and advocacy to address the emotional, psychological, and financial hardships caused by crime. Seeks to ensure that victims will be treated with dignity, and receive quality, comprehensive services to assist in meeting their full range of needs.

It does not spell out the assistance available for parking, so how is a victim supposed to know to ask for this help from them?  Good to know, but maybe they need some additional funds to be more clear to victims that their service is available and can help them get to court to testify against their abusers. 

Brian Davis, just my opinion.

County Council Meets to Discuss Women's Shelter without Homeless Woman

The Women sleeping at the Norma Herr Center have been complaining about the conditions at the shelter for months, years and in fact decades.  10 years ago, many of the same issues promoted a demonstration set for the day Katrina hit New Orleans.  We cancelled the event because of the crisis and the break down of the infrastructure in the Gulf Coast, but the problems at the shelter still exist.  There are food complaints, staffing issues, grievances, facility problems, lack of oversight, and a lack of enforcement of the County rules for running a shelter.

Over the last six months the women have been bringing their complaints to our monthly Homeless Congress meetings to let elected officials know about the problems.  In May 2014, we had County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell as the guest speaker at the Homeless Congress to hear the concerns of the shelter residents.  She heard from the women who stay at the shelter along with a response from the County staff and many of the shelter providers were present who disputed the poor conditions and staff mistreatment.  Councilwoman Conwell said that she would take some of the concerns back to the full Health and Human Services Committee.  That meeting took place on June 17, but there were no women from the shelter present. 

We have heard that Conwell wanted to hear from the "other side" so she did not invite any residents from the shelter.   This is absurd.  If I had known, I would have never allowed anyone except residents of the shelter to speak at the May Homeless Congress meeting.  Many of the people who commented on the shelter either worked for the shelter, were contractors of the shelter or were supposed to be overseeing the shelter.  In fact three of the people who attended the County Council June 17 meeting spoke at the May Homeless Congress Meeting to defend the shelter.  We have written a letter criticizing Councilwoman Conwell for this "secret meeting." She owes the women a hearing as she promised at the Congress meeting.

Dear Councilwoman Conwell,

Recently, it has come to NEOCH’s attention that you held a meeting on June 17th about the shelter issues brought forth by the Homeless Congress from May.   We are writing to express our profound regret that you did not invite any homeless people or their advocates to the meeting. However, before doing so, I would like to mention some points brought up in the May Homeless Congress meeting. Bed rest was one of many concerns including disrespectful staff, horrible food, and improper discharges were also mentioned.  At that meeting, you heard from both representatives from the homeless community as well as the social service agencies.  So, then why only invite the social service providers to the June 17 meeting?  Most of the homeless population are intelligent individuals and can describe the conditions in which they live. Why did you hear only one side of the issue?  It is like you held a discussion about bike safety in the County and invited only automobile drivers or a hearing on expanding the Cleveland landlord tenant law into all the County, but only invited landlords to discuss the issue. 

There was not a single resident of Norma Herr at the meeting even though women from the shelter regular attend your meetings? We could have helped facilitate attendance if you had told us?  If someone was there to represent the residents, you could have asked if the procedures being “implemented” to address concerns were effective.  You could have heard directly from people sleeping there if the abuse they allege has continued.  You could have heard if conditions had changed in response to the May Homeless Congress meeting or the 44 complaints submitted in April to the County and to Frontline management.

At both meetings, the issue of grievances came up. At the Homeless Congress meeting you mentioned that cases should be handled on a neutral basis.  It seems disrespectful to the women who find themselves without a place to live to not be invited to the County meeting about the place they sleep.  As you know from your years working at the shelter, these women are taxpayers and largely find themselves without housing through no fault of their own.  Many of these residents can tell you why they do not trust the Cleveland Mediation Center.  They could tell you why CMC is beholden to Frontline Services and cannot be considered neutral.   An organization cannot be a neutral 3rd party when they are paid by one of the parties to administer a program just as a judge could not be considered impartial if they were receiving program funds from one of the lawyers appearing before them.

As for bed rest, the staff has set an arbitrary limit on the number of people who can stay in no matter if they have a bed rest order or not.  They have made severely disable women sleep in the lobby and wait in the cafeteria all day until a bed opens up.   If any residents of Norma Herr attended the June 17th meeting, this statement by Frontline could have been refuted.  We could have brought women in walkers to the table to show that bed rest orders are not followed.   Again, this comes back to the lack of representation of the women who are affected by these issues.  We urge you or any of the Council members to show up for dinner around 5:30 p.m. on any night (UNANNOUNCED)and then answer the question would you want your disabled relative to stay in this tax payer supported shelter?

The women could have talked about all the holes in the “shelter standards” offered by the Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services and the fact that there is no where to go if you have concerns that those standards are not being followed.  Finally, after all the heart ache that you heard from the women staying at the shelter that you fund, it seems cruel that the only outcome will be a future committee meeting on the “positive things that are happening at the shelter, since the media focuses on the negative.”  If this were only true then there might be changes at the women’s shelter.  We have not seen any negative stories about the women’s shelter.  From our experience, the women’s shelter is the one facility out of step with the rest of the system.  The staff are cruel and not being supervised.  They do not see their job as intervening to help, but instead are merely employed to prevent a riot.  There is no incentives for women to work a housing plan, and no sympathy for the unique issues of each of the 150 women sleeping in the shelter. 

I call your attention to the feature on WCPN in July (/cleveland-homeless-blog/2015/7/21/wcpn-looks-at-homeless-youth-in-cleveland.html).  This young person was going to Tri-C full time and was sleeping at the women’s shelter.  She was starving because no staff would hold a bag lunch for her and dinner was served before she got back from class.  The media is only reporting was is really happening in our community.   You do not need better publicity, you need to demand a better shelter.  Please, please follow up with a real hearing featuring current or former residents of the shelter who can give you an honest assessment of how our taxpayer money is being spent at the only facility available to single women.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

PS: Got a semi response to this letter on September 10.  We posted a copy of the letter with a short commentary here. 

Rest in Peace: Transitional Shelters

We had a presentation from the consultant the County hired in July about the changes that are taking place with regard to the Department of Housing and Urban Development funding and the rules associated with receiving funds from the federal government.  Suzanne Wagner, a national consultant and huge cheerleader for Permanent Supportive Housing, came to Cleveland to tell us that the time is up for transitional programs.  The studies have all been done, the research is complete and the transitional programs are too expensive and keep people homeless for too long.  So get ready to convert the transitional shelters to something else.

We have steadily moved forward with this plan to eliminate transitional programs by de-funding all the transitional beds for women.  Some of those units were transformed into permanent supportive housing with the optimum word permanent.  While the average  transitional bed may turn over once or twice a year, the average PSH bed turns over once or twice every 10 to 15 years.   If these beds are not replaced it creates a back up on the front end of the shelters.  We have steadily lost transitional beds while steadily increasing the number of overflow or temporary beds locally. 

Yes, there are studies that show PSH are more economic for the community, but they do not compare apples to apples with regard to transitional programs.  They never factor in the capital cost of building a permanent housing unit when compared to the transitional shelters.  They do not factor in that the homeless pool of resources is not growing and yet the homeless programs have to slice the pie thinner and thinner.  We have to pay the housing costs of those in PSH every year with homeless funding along with all the other "priorities" we are mandated to serve coming out of Washington.  We have to prioritize family homelessness and youth homeless while our money is all going to Permanent Supportive housing which neither youth nor families typically qualify for.  In 2015, we spent 83% of the federal homeless dollars on Permanent Supportive Housing according to Cuyahoga County with a similar budget as we had in 2005.

Facility                                                  Monthly Cost                                 Yearly Costs

  • Emergency shelter costs                   $5,000                                        $26,800
  • Transitional Housing                         $2,700                                        $32,500
  • Rapid Rehousing                               $880                                           $6,500

This was distributed by Wagonner and comes from the HUD Family Option Study July 2015.  Again the problem is that this does not factor the cost of building these units and it does not factor in the loss of housing vouchers in the community that support these projects.  These vouchers were previously used to support a broad cross section of low income people.  Now, they are confined to a limited population in a geographically small area.

The problem with all of this is that 20 years ago, we heard from similar consultants who came to Cleveland telling us how great transitional programs can be for the community.  They said, "Look, your alcohol, drug and mental health programs are failing you, and so you need to create alternatives locally where people have the time to find the treatment they need."  They told us that transitional programs are a "game changer" and will significantly reduce homeless.  Our advocates at the time in the community said, "Okay, lets try it."  We invested in nearly 1,000 units of transitional housing in the community to ease people out of homelessness into housing.  The big issues were that they screened many out of joining the program (so does the PSH program), and they kept people for a longer period of time than was necessary (but no where near permanently!).  We needed these beds in our community for people with big issues.  The transitional shelters were slow in preparing the bed when a person left but they became an integral part of our response to homelessness.   It was confusing if these beds should be under the landlord tenant law since many lived there longer than the typical lease, but many found the help they needed in a transitional program.  Instead of fixing these shortfalls, HUD and Cuyahoga County are moving to eliminate public funding for transitional shelters. 

In November 2015, Cuyahoga County will declare "functional zero" in the number of homeless veterans.  So, this has to be considered a victory and we should use the lessons we learned from "solving" veteran's homelessness.  The Veterans Administration never moved away from transitional shelters and we have many veteran only transitional beds still in the community.  They were a strong part of the response to vets struggling with PTSD or traumatic brain disorders.  They were important for veterans in recovery or those with long term health issues.  We had a diverse number and type of programs available to homeless veterans.  Some transitional programs were tied to employment opportunities, some were tied to their health issue and other transitional programs were within HUD funded programs.  The system obviously worked since we are declaring victory.  Why is HUD forcing people to fit into these narrowly constructed programs?

Aren't there 700 people in the community who would benefit and would be better citizens if they had time to recover in a transitional program?  We need a diverse response to homelessness, because our society is diverse.  We need rental assistance for some, transitional for others, legal help for some and shelter for others.  One size does not fit all in the homeless community.  Say goodbye to the transitional shelters which are already gone in Chicago and Columbus.   It was nice while it lasted, but they have been declared obsolete by HUD and the County.  Those with a disability who may need a longer time to get stable are out of luck unless they stay homeless for a year and have the "right" kind of disability. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

County Staff and Providers Discuss Homelessness

The County is the caretaker of much of the assistance for homeless people in Cuyahoga County.  We receive around $24 million in funding for homelessness and housing programs.  County staff complete the application for funding, and do a very good job of following all the rules to maximize our allocation.  While nearly every other city in Ohio has faced a loss of funding because of problems with their application, Cuyahoga County has never had this issue.  They could do a better job of overseeing the shelters use of these funds, but that is another post. Every jurisdiction that receives homeless funding must have a local committee to oversee the funds.  In Cuyahoga County, this group is the Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board.  There is a committee called the "Review and Ranking committee" which forwards the list to the Cuyahoga Council for approval.

This year, the federal government required the County Continuum committee to approve a plan for how to count homeless people on January 27, 2015.  This "Point in Time" count is the dumbest thing done by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.  There are a huge number of problems with the count including that it does harm to the homeless community by dramatically under-representing the number in a community.  The Homeless Coalition representatives both voted against the plan.  No one else joined in opposing the plan to attempt to "count" homeless people.  We would have no problem if federal government wanted to count the number living in shelters in Cleveland.  We can all trust that data, and we know that would be accurate.  Once they open it up to counting people outside on one night the data is useless.  Our issues with the Point in Time Count are:

  • The media and elected official misunderstand this data and regularly inaccurately portray this as some kind of census of homeless people.  There is no way to make the leap between one day and the number for a year.  It is factually flawed.
  • It violates all rules of collecting statistics for research.  To make this leap from those who you see on the streets to actually measuring a point in time stretches reality.  The variables of abandoned buildings, RTA rapid transit and buses, and hospital waiting rooms where homeless people may be staying make it impossible to do an actual point in time count.
  • Most of the other similar sized cities estimate the number of homeless people while Cleveland does not.  This makes it look like we have a tiny population compared to other cities.  They lie and we are honest locally. 
  • This exaggeration by other cities harms Cuyahoga County funding.  We get fewer resources because we have theoretically reduced the number of people sleeping outside.
  • No matter how great a job we do in serving homeless people (and we are doing a pretty good job), we are still the second or third poorest city in America.  With so many living in poverty, there are going to be many people struggling with housing. 

In other news, we heard that neighbors have filed a lawsuit to stop the next Permanent Supportive Housing project from going forward.  This will slow down the development of affordable housing for disabled homeless people in Cleveland.   It will cost additional funds to defend this lawsuit to overturn the building permit issued by the City of Cleveland. 

Shelter numbers for 2014 were released and we will post those on our website, because we trust those numbers.

The County limited the scope of the Public Policy committee to focus on a couple of narrow items.  There are huge issues in our community that shelter providers and social service groups should consider and layout a plan.  There are huge issues such as the explosion in family homelessness, the relationship between police and homeless people, problems with mentally ill homeless people, and recognizing and better serving victims of human trafficking in the women's shelters.  The providers are busy dealing with the crisis of homelessness everyday, and just don't have the time to weigh in on solutions.

There is still funding available to renovate the local shelters from the State of Ohio.  There are four projects going forward, but there is still funding available to help improve the facilities of local shelters. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Democratic Candidate Night for County Executive Primary

Candidates Rogers and Russo at the Candidate Night. Photo by Norman WolfeI attended the Candidates’ Night on April 10 co-sponsored by community organizations that included the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Congress.  The six Democratic candidates running for the County Executive position were invited to participate, and five of the candidates came eagerly to tackle the issues that affect everyone in one way or another in Cuyahoga County.  The event was held at the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Richard Sering Center.

The panel included; State Senator Shirley Smith, high school principal Thomas O’Grady, former sheriff Bob Reid, Democratic operative Tim Russo, and neighborhood activist Walter Allen Rogers Jr.  Len Calabrese who recently retired from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland did a wonderful job as the moderator.

Each of the co-sponsors submitted 2 to 3 questions that are relevant to their particular agency.  The questions included issues of health care, mental health, and human services, all very critical issues that the candidates will face if elected.

As the evening progressed, forty minutes into the questioning came the question that NEOCH submitted.  I, of course, was anxious to hear the responses to the question that Brian Davis of NEOCH submitted for the homeless community and, by default, everyone that exercise their right to vote.  The elimination of Golden Week (an in-depth explanation of the Golden Week can be found in earlier articles in the blog section of this site) has ruffle feathers in many venues. The one question of the two that was selected to be answered by the candidates was:

 The Secretary of State has recently changed the hours so that a county of 1 million potential voters has to have the exact same hours to process our voters as Van Wert County with only 25,000 potential voters.  Do you believe that this is a threat to our home rule and what are you prepared to do as County Executive to prevent long lines and meet the needs of Cuyahoga County voters who want to vote on the weekend as well as be able to register and vote at the same time?

For the first time that evening, I could tell that the candidates were on the same page about this issue, the long and short of it is—it stinks.  It turned out to be a debate with the governor, whom I might add, was not there.  The words and phrases to describe the elimination of Golden Week went as follow; assault on home rule, direct contradiction of what our Founding Fathers envisioned, disenfranchise any vote is a terrible mistake, violation, Soviet Union, dictators rigging elections, etc.  Who would have ever thought that our election process could be summed up in this manner, but it is good to know that all the candidates have solutions that could bring the voting system back to the post-1776 era.

There were questions about Re-Entry issues, hunger and Medicaid expansion, and wage issues. These many health and human services groups and labor organizations were concerned about the future of the County in the face of government cuts and hostility toward Cuyahoga County down in Columbus.  

by Norman Wolfe

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.