Homeless Congress - April 12, 2018

For the remainder of the meeting the YWCA was in charge. Nicole Evans of the YWCA, who as of May 1, 2018, will take over as the Executive Director at the Norma Herr Shelter as the YWCA takes the reign from Frontline

  • What can we do to help make your homeless experience be as brief as possible?
  • To empower women to receive the institutional services that they are entitled to overcome the homeless experience, trauma, physical abuse, substance abuse, and self-suffering.
  • Encourage women to make Informed decisions for themselves
  • To increase resources that are available to women in the shelter to establish independence in the community.
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Homeless Congress’s October Meeting Notes

In the back room of the Cosgrove Center on Thursday, October 12th, about 15-20 folks gathered around for October’s Homeless Congress meeting. We discussed several items and then jumped into the main agenda. The main agenda items were:

  • Potential involvement with the Poverty Truth Commission

  • Revisiting Homeless Congress’s 2017 priorities and brainstorming some potential 2018 priorities

  • Women’s Shelter Update

  • ADAMHS Board Letter

Prior to setting the agenda, Chris opened the space for the members of the congress to share non-agenda items.

Rude Treatment from Homeless Services Staff: One gentlemen mentioned the condescension he experiences from homeless services staff, whether it be at 2100 Men’s Shelter where he stays at or at the Welfare Office. Other members of the congress agreed.

Some members pointed out that this rudeness from staff is particularly strange because many staff in these institutions are previously homeless. However, they no longer empathize with the currently homeless, forgetting that “one missed paycheck is all it takes to be homeless”. Staff that were previously homeless instead now use their relative position of power to rudely treat people currently experiencing homelessness.

One gentlemen mentioned that it would be useful to have a monitor or auditor who ensures that homeless services staff are friendly and kind instead of patronizing.

Specialty Shelters: One gentleman mentioned that the current shelter situation is only based on one’s gender. He remarked that this causes an issue as some of the individuals at the shelter are experiencing severe mental illness. This an issue for those experiencing mental illness, as they are not provided the resources (caseworkers, therapy). This is also an issue for the other individuals in the shelter, as they feel the level of security protocol they are subject to is not suited for them. Having a separate shelter for those experiencing mental illness was suggested as a possibility.

Another member of Homeless Congress quickly suggested that Specialty Shelters used to exist in Cuyahoga County but were slowly phased out as funding has decreased. Chris mentioned that this occurred also due to HUD’s extreme focus on Permanent Supportive Housing to the detriment of developing a better shelter system. One member asked if foundations in the area, particularly Cleveland Foundation, provide funding for homeless services. Another member of Homeless Congress replied that foundations have become more focused on educational/youth initiatives than those focusing on homelessness.

2016-17 and 2017-18 Homeless Congress Priorities: Homeless Congress’s 2016-17 priorities were 1) shelter standards through regulations, 2) shelter requirements by law, 3) medical/health support at shelters, 4) Passing the Homeless Bill of Rights in Cleveland, 5) separate facility for severely mentally ill homeless men and women, 6) addressing discrimination of voucher holders, and  7) tiny homes campaign.

In this discussion, several things were mentioned:

  • Jobs: One member would like to see jobs and securing employemnt be an added focus. She felt that many individuals experiencing homelessness are still capable of working. Yet, the stigma associated with being a homeless individual limits their job opportunities. The inability to find employment through this disenfranchisement only makes it harder to no longer be homeless.

  • Addiction: Another member of Homeless Congress cautioned against seeing money as the only barrier to escaping homelessness. He feels that there needs to be a serious and genuine push to deal with addiction and mental illness within the homeless services provider. Even if individuals with mental illness and/or addiction secure housing or employment, they often return to the shelter system. They are often unable to maintain housing and employment without the proper emotional/mental support.to

  • Toxic Culture At Norma Herr: One gentleman remarked that a staff member at Norma Herr remarked that going to Norma Herr without knowing anyone already there who could protect or take care of you meant that “you were f******!”

Women’s Shelter Update: Chris explained the situation regarding the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, currently run by Frontline Services. The YWCA was the only bidder to offer to run the shelter. However, the County’s offer fell short of their requirements to run a dignified shelter. The city’s offered budget of ~$2 million was well below what the YWCA felt was reasonable based on the standards they wanted to see in the Women’s Shelter. Ultimately, the YWCA declined the County’s current offer to run the women’s shelter, though they left the door open if the offer were to change.

The next meeting is Wednesday, November 8th at Cosgrove Center. We hope you can join us there.

Notes taken by Vishal Reddy 

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Homeless Congress Meeting Notes for August

Homeless Congress

August 10, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The meeting began with the new Director of Operations at NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, re-introducing himself to some of the members that had not met him yet.  Afterward, We went over the purpose of the Homeless Congress, what the Congress has done, some of the goals that have been attained or will be addressed, and why it is so important, which is, it can be a “bridge to City and State Officials” and it “allows homeless people to have a unified voice.”  Everyone in attendance was asked to complete the membership form in the back of the packet.  After informing everyone what the agenda was going to be for the meeting, Chris asked for an approval of the agenda. Members were informed of the dates for upcoming events which are the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, and the ADAMHS Board meeting.  

It was announced that Ruth Gillett will not be attending any more meetings unless there is a specific reason for her to do so because she feels the members were being rude to her.  No one was purposefully rude to her but, being the bearer of bad news, as far as they were concerned, she did not like their response and seemed to take it personally.  It was not any member or participants intention of disrespecting anyone at the meeting, but we would like to extend an apology to her if she felt that it was. 

She was attending the meeting to keep the Homeless Congress up to date on the status of the Rapid Re-Housing Program and the Shelter Policies that would be put into place soon.  She also got input from the members for both projects.  She informed everyone, at the July meeting, that the Shelter Policies would be voted on by the Office of Homeless Services on July 20, 2017.  It was announced that the Single Adult Housing Committee presented to the Office of Homeless Services and the policy that they recommended passed. There were only two votes against the policy, one was Loh (member) and the other a representative from NEOCH. A copy of the Shelter Policy was included in the packets that were passed out to members.

Next, the discussion was about the bidding process for a service provider for the Norma Herr women’s shelter.  Loh informed members that Frontline will not be able to get any long term contracts as the service provider even if they choose to bid (which they have acknowledged more than once that they will not be bidding).  RP problems and the bidding process was the next concern.  Some of the concerned members asked what would happen if no one bids.  One response was that the current provider’s (Frontline) contract would have to be extended.  Another response for the RP problems is that there needs to be a quarterly report on the grievances that are turned in.    

One member wanted to know “why there are no residents involved in this process?”

This was discussed for a while and another member stated that the bidding process should also be public information.  Specifically, a member wanted to know what would or should happen if there is no provider in place by August. (We now know that there was one bid to the RFP) At that point everyone was informed that there are at least two agencies interested in applying for the contract and the date to submit a proposal has been extended to August 18, 2017. 

Larry Bresler, Executive Director of Organize Ohio, then began his presentation by informing members that one of the members and dedicated participants, Norman Wolfe, passed away.  He provided information on the viewing and funeral arrangements.  He then informed the members that Norman, he, and Ramona Turnbull were involved in orchestration of the End Poverty Now march and participated in the New Poor People’s Campaign.  He then presented about the new project called “The Truth Commission” and wanted to ask for volunteers to do personal testimonies on six focus areas (4 personal testimonies for each).  The focus areas are: 1) Environmental degradation, 2) Criminalization of the poor, 3) The right to housing including utilities, 4) The right to living wage jobs, 5) Right to quality education, and 6) Right to healthcare.  

The information provided by the personal testimonies would them be presented to people chosen to be commissioners.  The commissioners would then meet and “come out with their initial findings.”  Finally, the Mayoral candidates would be asked to respond to the findings.  There will also be music and poetry readings “presented while the commissioners are deliberating.” NEOCH will follow up with the members to make sure anyone who is willing to do a personal testimony be accommodated.   

Next, Ms. Eleace Sawyer introduced herself as the new President and CEO of Care Alliance and she wanted to discuss the changes or added services that will be put in place soon.  These positive changes do affect the members of the Congress and homeless population.  Care Alliance provides services at the women’s shelter twice a week.  She asked for feedback about the services being provided and need to be provided.  One member informed her that Dave’s Pharmacy will be moving and there is no pharmacy close enough to walk to for current residents at the women’s shelter to get prescriptions filled.  Ms. Sawyer talked about the Federal Pharmacy Program which may be able to assist to address this problem.  She also stated that she will be addressing this concern.  She informed members that nutrition and podiatry services are also being put in place to address the needs of the homeless population. 

She talked about having someone who is homeless or formerly homeless on their Board.  In addition, she would also like a representative from her staff to attend the Homeless Congress meetings.  Care Alliance also applied for transportation and were able to secure two vehicles.  One member commented on the fact that in Alabama it is considered a crime to be homeless and there is no healthcare.  Members informed Ms. Sawyer about how glad they are that Care Alliance is looking into addressing the food problems and will be in touch with the Food Bank to see what type of relationship can be established to better address the lack of nutrition in the food being served to the residents at the shelters.  One resident suggested a town meeting. She discussed special meetings and talked about looking at data about all the 911 calls made from Norma Herr by the residents.

Next, Akshai Singh:  Organizer, Cleveland for Public Transit, took the floor to discuss issues like fare cost, reliability, safety, and racial profiling by the RTA Police.  He also discussed service cuts and fare hikes.  The next fare hike is coming up soon and it will be a fifty cent increase on the current fare.  The fare could go from $5.50 to $6.00 at that time.  The organization he is representing is working to lower fares.  He informed the members that the Cleveland public transportation is the least affordable and there is no assistance for people who rely on public transportation.  He said they need to find local solutions and state side solutions.  Group members meet with RTA on a quarterly basis.  They will be discussing what improvements are needed so that the Mayoral candidates and the City Council can use it to improve the transportation system, make it more affordable, and reliable.  The next meeting is on August 31 at 7:00 pm.  One member stated that there is limited seating at the bus stops in certain areas (only 2 people can sit).  Another added that there are no public bathrooms in the Rapid Stations.  Mr. Singh stated that the RTA has been cutting services for the last 4 years.  The last topic on this subject was about the cost of tickets for riding when you don’t have one in advance.  This discussion went on for a while before the meeting was brought to a close

 The next Homeless Congress meeting is September 14th at 1:00pm.

NEOCH to Host a Session to Develop City Council Questions

While City Council does not do much toward ending homelessness in Cleveland, they could.  At this time, the County has taken the lead with regard to homelessness, but all the shelters are in the City of Cleveland.  In addition, 76% of the people using the shelters are previously housed and tax payers of the City of Cleveland.  NEOCH is planning to host a series of discussions with the candidates running for City Council in the four districts with the most homeless people in Cleveland.  This will focus on developing questions around homelessness for these discussions. 

We hope to have people currently experiencing homelessness as well homeless service providers attend the meeting on Tuesday August 29th to come up with potential questions.  Then after the primary when there are two candidates left, we intend to hold these discussions in a shelter or homeless service provider's site in these four Wards.  Please join us to develop the potential questions for Cleveland City Council members.

by Chris Knestrick

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Homeless Congress Notes for July

July 13, 2017 Meeting--Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

 After taking a month off, the new director of NEOCH, Chris Knestrick, organized the new era for the Homeless Congress.  Roy Love, Board President introduced Chris to the Homeless Congress members.  He talked about the work he has done prior to taking the job at NEOCH.  He acknowledged that he is aware that the Homeless Congress has a voice and his commitment to help NEOCH and the Congress achieve their goals.  After he told everyone a few things about himself, he opened the meeting for questions including the fact that he was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  After a few questions and a short discussion, he turned the meeting over to Ruth Gillett.

 Ruth Gillett took the floor to present on the work of the Single Adult Housing Committee of the County Office of Homeless Services.  First, she acknowledged that there were three members of the OHS Advisory Board in attendance, myself included.  She then invited the members of Congress to attend the OHS meetings.  Her next order of business that she wanted to discuss was the fact that she feels that she was disrespected at the last meeting.  She informed everyone that she does not attend the meetings to be disrespected.  However, Ruth didn’t specify how she was disrespected.

 She began her presentation of the new proposed policy for the publicly funded shelters by stating that the beds are a “safety net” so people don’t have to be on the streets.  Ruth wanted to be clear that the shelters in Cleveland don’t turn anyone away and are supposed to be a temporary or short term.  The goal is to assist the resident to move out of the shelter and into housing.  At this point, I commented on the fact that the men’s shelter has an E community that does not have time limits and acknowledged that the women’s shelter doesn’t have anything like that in place.  I felt this was important enough to bring to everyone’s attention because it is the “only” single women’s shelter in the city of Cleveland.  Ruth stated that it was County policy that no one is forced to leave the shelter unless they break the law.

 Ruth continued that the focus is on housing first model for providing assistance.  She talked about the different paths to obtaining housing and the goal of the staff is to find out what “your path” is and how to get you into housing quickly.  She went over what needs to happen for an individual to maintain the housing?  She stated the purpose for this Single Adult Committee and went over their recommendations.   The single adults will meet with staff and put together a housing plan within 45 days of arriving at the shelter.  The staff is responsible for making sure everything that is needed to meet the housing plan is done.  Staff are supposed to also assist the client to access employment and benefits. 

Ruth talked about the importance of referring an individual to the Rapid Re-Housing program for assistance.  Rapid Rehousing program will provide the participants with a short tem rental subsidy (up to 2 months rent + security deposit).  She reminded members that it is also possible to have a roommate to split the cost of the rent and/or utilities.  This will allow a resident at a shelter to be able to move without having to stay longer to save money for rent and the security deposit. 

 One of the attendees argued that at the women’s shelter the staff does nothing to assist them.  Ruth informed this resident that this is “the projected program,” which means that they will be put in place in the near future.    She explained that the projected program is not just about the client, it’s about holding the staff accountable as well.  Another member asked if the people who don’t have an income are just overlooked or “left alone.”  Her response was, “No”. 

 Ruth then addressed the fact that members felt banning people from the shelter was a punishment for not complying with the three offers for housing rule that will be in place.  If a resident is offered housing three times and does not accept any of them, they will lose privileges at the shelter.  Ruth stated that the objective is not to put people back on the street and that many choose to stay at the shelter for one reason or another.  She added that the three housing options will be in areas the participant chooses with the assistance of housing locator.  Ruth explained that the main reason for the three housing offer refusal discipline is to provide “incentive” to leave the shelter and move into their own housing. 

One of the members said she also received no help from the staff and the housing lists they provided were outdated.  In addition, she complained about other problems obtaining housing. One example was if an applicant has a felony.  Mike Moguel, Operations Director at 2100 Lakeside Shelter, responded to her complaint by informing her that is the purpose of the housing locators and what the applicant is willing to do.  He said the housing locator can assist getting past any barriers. He added that there is an EDEN housing locator for hard to place participants.  After further discussion about housing locators and requirements for the program, Ruth let everyone know that having a disability or not having disability is not the focus of the Rapid Rehousing program.  The focus is on those with a low income.

 There were a series of questions about the difficulty people had in reaching staff at the shelters for help.  Chris Knestrick informed Ruth that he was concerned about people being punished for turning down housing for the hundreds of legitimate reasons to turn down housing.  His examples were: someone getting beat up or something bad happening in the area the proposed housing is located or being located near a previous abuser or far off a bus line.  His other concern was that the policy puts the burden on an already fragile population living in the shelter, but does not hold the staff accountable.   He then asked her if the staff is not following the rules or doing what they should be doing, what is the accountability process? 

 Ruth felt that he was being insulting by asking that question.  She explained that the resident is involved in locating potential housing, her presentation was recommendations that will be voted on at the next Advisory Board Meeting, and there are milestones that layout staff responsibilities.  She then asked if “firing them (the staff) or shooting them was the answer he is looking for?” She then stated she tries “to work with humans as humans to provide positive results for humans.  It’s all about tracking progress.”  He apologized if his question sounded insulting and then stated, “To him, it sounds like the only humans being held accountable are the ones coming into the shelter.”  She stated that is “what he is reading into it and the information being presented will be voted on this coming Thursday, July 20th at 9:00am at the ADAMAS Board.” 

 An attendee that had recently moved from Toledo and now staying at the women’s shelter said Toledo, Ohio is more effective in addressing homelessness.  She said the women’s shelter staff here show no compassion, love, or concern.  Another shelter resident stated that “she was in a bad situation before she came to the shelter and the shelter staff does not make it any better.”  Another resident staying at the shelter said her phone was stolen while it was still in the package and staff did not assist her, and another wanted to know “what is going to be done about elderly residents who have to sleep on the floor on mats?”  Ruth was not able to answer any of these questions so, I asked about the proposal that we were discussing.  I wanted to know what basic services a resident would receive once they turn down three offers of housing.  My question was “exactly what would the residents at the women’s shelter not be receiving?” 

 Ruth’s response was, “Once (this policy was) in place, the residents participating in the programs would be able to stay in at the shelter whereas the one that don’t would not.”  It is unclear what this means, but it seems that the only thing a resident would get would be a bed at night otherwise they would have to leave the shelter for most of the day.   Mike Moguel said that the way it would work at the Men’s shelter would be that if a resident in a dormitory turns down three offers that the resident will be moved from the dorm and put into the E Community.

 Seniors not being accommodated was revisited.  Ruth said that issue is being addressed with the goal being not to have any elderly in a shelter.  Fairhill Center is the only shelter that only serves elderly individuals.  The resident went on to complain that at this time, the elderly residents at the women’s shelter have to sleep in chairs, on bare floors and they are tripping over each other. 

 Chris then asked the members if they support the proposal that was presented by Ruth.  Most of the members of the Homeless Congress said they do not.  The main reason was staff accountability and it is not clear exactly how the proposal will be implemented especially at the Women’s Shelter.  One member, Loh explained that EDEN is designed to place residents that have severe disabilities and the other program is for people that don’t have disabilities.  She warned them that if they don’t have a “stable job” the Rapid Re-Housing program may not be a good solution.  She also commented about then lack of resources (bus tickets or transportation) available to assist residents to look for stable housing. 

 The women’s shelter update was the next topic of discussion.  Members were informed that the proposals to oversee the women’s shelter for 2018 are due July 28th and neither Frontline nor Lutheran Ministry will be submitting a proposal.  A resident of the shelter said the shelter needs more organization, oversight and structure.  She further stated that within seven days her purse was stolen, she got into a fight, and was put out for three days with no information on where to go.  She complained that at Norma Herr, she felt that she was just there to have somewhere to lay her head and good luck with the rest.  The resident complained that staff at the Women’s Shelter don’t give out any information to help residents link to resources. 

 A letter to the ADAMAS Board was discussed next to inform members that Ms. Valeria Harper of the ADAMAS Board was invited to attend a Homeless Congress meeting.  She was invited to discuss the importance of opening a separate shelter for homeless individuals with severe mental health challenges.  The last order of business was to acknowledge that NEOCH will no longer be taking complaints from residents at the Norma Herr women’s shelter or 2100 men’s shelter.  It was suggested that the complaints be referred to Cuyahoga County Council: Yvonne Conwell or Cleveland City Council: T.J. Dow.

The next meeting is August 10, 2017 at Cosgrove Center

By Ramona Turnbull

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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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Homeless Congress Notes for May

May 11, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The meeting began with an overview of the Homeless Congress and work to date.  

The group had a long discussion on the Cuyahoga County Council meeting that was on May 3, 2017.  At this meeting, the Council members voted on who will get the contract to provide services for the Norma Herr women’s shelter.  The committee is recommending that Frontline get the contract, but they did not get the contract for 3 years that the County Office of Homeless Services had recommended.  One of the members of the Homeless Congress, Loh, said she went to one of the other meetings and filed a grievance and still feels that the grievances are not handled properly.  She also informed the members that there was another suicide attempt recently at the women’s shelter.  The members were informed that the next important meeting is on May 23, 2017 when the contract will be voted on by the full County Council meeting. (After the meeting of Homeless Congress another County Health and Human Services meeting was held and the contract was reduced even further). 

In January, the Congress voted to prioritize advocating to open a separate shelter for mentally challenged homeless individuals so they can get the help they need.  This information was sent to the ADAMAS Board.  The first week in May, Brian, Ramona, Loh, and Rosie (who are members of the Homeless Congress) met with William Denihan, Michael Doud, and Valeria Harper of the ADAMAS Board to discuss the need and options that might be available in the community.  The only thing accomplished at this meeting was bringing the need for a separate shelter to the ADAMAS Board attention.  We briefly discussed possible funding options. But, William Denihan will be retiring in August.

Rosie informed members that Mr. Denihan is very concerned about this issue, but funding is limited.  At the meeting on May 3rd, Dale Miller asked about the mental health, drug, and alcohol issues at the shelter.  Eric Morse responded that the women at the shelter “all” have either mental health issues or drug and alcohol issues.  He also stated in addition to that “if a separate shelter is needed for residents that have mental issues or drug and alcohol issues, there is a shelter already in place for that and it’s the Norma Herr women’s shelter”. 

The next topic was the Open Doors CLE Art Project (photos posted on the front of the NEOCH website) that the Cleveland Institute of Art students are working on. I gave the Homeless Congress an update on the upcoming art exhibit.  The doors for the art project will be on display at Slavic Village on May 20-21st from 1-5pm and May 27th at Willard Park (by the free stamp) from 11am – 5pm.  The doors will be on exhibit for other projects as well.  There will also be a tribute to Michael Stoops, Founder of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who recently passed at the Willard Park opening. 

Next was an update on the Single Adult Committee-SASH.  The members were informed that nothing has been finalized and the committee is still working on the guidelines.  Randall, who is a member of the committee, discussed some banning policies as far as the length of stay at the shelter.  He explained that at this time they are considering allowing a resident to reject up to three “feasible” offers of housing, if none of these offers are accepted there would be a mediation, and finally they are working on consequences for refusing housing.  One option that is being considered is take away some services and only allow the resident to sleep at the shelter at night.  Also discussed was setting time limits on how long a resident could stay at the women’s shelter.  One member commented that there is one women that has been at the women’s shelter for 10 years, doesn’t work, and refuses housing.  It was also suggested that these women shouldn’t have privileges and have to sleep on a mat as opposed to having a room. Other women commented that there are no privileges available at the Women's shelter to take away.  There was some controversy about this and how Cleveland shelters are proud to say no one is turned away, yet, the committee is considering not allowing a resident to return once they leave the shelter or discharged (put out) for not accepting housing. 

Brian Davis argued that these women should be able to have a bed, in the only shelter for single women in Cleveland, if the city can put new windows in the Q.  Davis said, "What kind of society are we living in that cannot offer a cot and some food to its citizens but can find money to improve the playgrounds for the rich with museums and sports stadiums."  He further stated that it is a matter of cost vs. alternative.  He feels that they should not be concerned about the personal issues that have led the person to stay in the shelter unless the individual is offering alternatives.  If the reality is that all of our systems are broken (mental health, addiction, health care) and we are so unforgiving as a society including landlords and the re-entry community, then why are we putting so much pressure on people to leave.  If there are so many problems in holes in the safety net, why to we begrudge people sleeping in a shelter.  It is not a paradise and they are not staying in luxury.   He said, “Human beings should be treated like human beings”. 

Next “worker accountability” was discussed.  Randall stated that the committee will make sure staff is working with the client to find appropriate housing.  He said the committee is discussing how these decisions should be made or not made and the contributing factors. 

After the raffle, the surveys for the women’s shelter was discussed and it was determined that the women still feel the renovations did not help.  In fact, most felt that the renovations made matters worse.  Updates regarding the contract to provide services for the women’s shelter were discussed next.  The members were informed about the outcome of the Cuyahoga County Council meeting.  They were told about:

  • Dale Miller's excellent questions about the shelter and why there are so many problems.
  • Did Frontline not meet the minimum requirements?
  • Was there a way to shorten the contract?
  • Brian and Loh had both talked about how unfair the whole process was.
  • Councilwoman Conwell was upset over the NEOCH and Congress treatment of their staff Ruth Gillett.  Brian and Roy from NEOCH tried to meet with her in the morning and she was a no show.
  • Gillett had decided not to attend this meeting of the Homeless Congress.

LMM and the County had sent specifics of the new arrangement at the Women's Shelter which would include operating 24/7, having access to Wi-Fi, and other services.  LMM was going to join Frontline to improve the shelter as soon as this contract was approved by the County.   It was explained that staff from LMM will be eased in and current staff will be swapped in back and forth. LMM will oversee day to day operations and Frontline will be more focused on case management. There were a series of handouts from the County/LMM about the changes.

The next discussion was about agency accountability and complaints of suffering in regard to an uncaring provider, disrespectful staff, and lack of resources to help residents move forward and out of the shelter.  One of the members informed everyone at the meeting that this has been going on for over 10 years.  There was a short discussion about two County Council members spending the night at the shelter incognito and there was notes distributed from the County about the overnight stay and the changes needed.  The notes didn’t address how terrible things were at that time, and some of the huge issues.  Brian stated that he couldn’t believe that they didn’t demand immediate action because of the conditions that they saw on that one night.  Following this discussion, one of the members said that the food that is being sent to the women’s shelter is not what is being served according to the pictures he has seen online.  Ms. Gimmel of Eden, asked questions and urged the members to give the agency a chance to change.

The final order of business discussed was about this being the last Homeless Congress for Brian Davis of NEOCH.  Brian and Roy (NEOCH Board President) assured members that most of the programs will remain the same at NEOCH even after Brian leaves.  Roy also stated that NEOCH will continue to do all it can do and will work to make a smooth transition.

*There will not be a Homeless Congress meeting in June and members were informed of this. 

The next meeting will be July 13, 2017.

by Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Homeless Congress Notes for April 2017

Homeless Congress

April 13, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The CIA (Cleveland Institute of Art) students were first to speak at the meeting.  They are currently doing a project called “Open Doors Cle” which will

  1. Give a voice to the homeless community.
  2. Raise awareness of the current condition of homelessness to the stable housing community,
  3. Develop a stronger relationship between those experiencing homelessness and those in stable housing, and
  4. Set the groundwork for future dialogue and inspiration for the communities support for each other.”

These doors will be decorated by people who have experienced homelessness.  They will be used to “create a public art installation” that will be on display at a few locations throughout the city.  The art students brought a self-standing door that will be used for public comments and any other concerns, questions, or comments about homelessness or the project.  This includes drawings and poetry.  This particular door will be one of two on display at the Bishop Cosgrove Center.  The members seemed excited about the project and participating in it.

The next topic of discussion was a priority item for the Homeless Congress which is the need to open a separate shelter for the severely mentally ill.  There is a meeting with the CEO of the ADAMHS Board in early May and Brian Davis asked if there are 4 members (2 women and 2 men) that are able to attend this meeting.

Ruth Gillett of the County Office of Homeless Services presented to the Homeless Congress members next.   She distributed flyers about housing updates for the Rapid-Rehousing Program for singles. This program started in the last few weeks. Ruth briefly explained what the purpose and access to the Rapid-Rehousing program  Through this program the participant will receive short term rental assistance.  The program has operated for families for years, but was expanded to include single adults with income.  These individuals staying in the shelters with some income can get rent for up to four months.  Gillett felt that this may give someone to get stable whil either have a place to live. After the four months, the individual should be able to pay rent on their own. She reminded the members that may also have a roommate.  She has until the end of September to spend the money allocated for the singles program and feels confident that she will be able to spend all the money for housing.

She further explained that the participants will get 30 days to find housing once approved. They will also get help finding a house, apartment, or unit.  They will be inspected to make sure it meets housing quality standards.  Next, she went over the numbers as of April 13th.  There were 37 men enrolled or locating housing, 13 women, and 27 youths (18-24).  Only 1 man and 1 woman have been housed at this point.  According to Ruth, there are 43 young adults housed at this time.  Some participants are waiting for their potential residence to be inspected and there are 4 inspections scheduled for the week of the Congress. 

Next on the agenda, there was a Q&A for Ruth.  There were a number of questions asked:  One question was about getting assistance with furniture if just coming from a shelter.  She suggested the furniture bank and Salvation Army.  Brian Davis wanted to know if it was “preordained that Westside Catholic Center would not get the contract because NEOCH was included in the proposal" as was suggestested by Rosie at the County Council meeting.  Ruth denied this allegation.  He also wanted to know if there are any requirements in the RP that would lower the number of EMS and Fire department calls.  She addressed a number of reasons why there were so many calls and basically ended up that most of the calls were from residents.  Gillett concluded that residents have a right to call for the EMS,  “being helpless is not good for your health” and “a number of people in the shelters have a number of health problems."  The last question he asked was,   "Are there any changes that the County would require going forward after all the complaints that were made?"  She suggested that the Congress invite Frontline and LMM to one of the meetings for a question and answer session. 

She further stated that there are standards and programs that were descriptive in the proposal that is expected of the service provider.  Many of the residents of the shelter asked questions, but Gillett did not have many answers.  Brian Davis asked another question if it were true that the committee that made the decision was all white for a shelter that is composed of 75% African American residents.  Gillett thought about and confirmed that the committee was all white?  Some of the members of Congress asked why the committee was all white, but did not get an answer. 

Rosie Palfy’s asked a series of questions about the Norma Herr women's shelter for Ruth Gillett, Frontline Service & LMM:

  1. How will the service provider address security? Will off-duty Cleveland police officers continue to work at the shelter?
  2.  Will more staff be hired to monitor & handle the shelter's day-to-day operations? Will more staff be hired to do case management & help the women find housing?
  3.  How will the maintenance problems be addressed?  
  4.  How will issues with the food be addressed?
  5.  Is there a plan to manage overflow?
  6.  Why isn’t the contract going to be in LMM’s name since they will be running the day-to-day operations of the shelter? Why isn’t Front Line going to be named as LMM’s subcontractor?
  7. How will bringing in new staff from LMM be any different than if Front Line Service "cleaned house" & brought in their own new staff? How will this new contract address the existing problems?

Rosie also suggested that due to all the problems in the past there should be a one year contract instead of a three year contract.  It was then suggested that Marcia Fudge should be contacted about concerns with homelessness.  Gillett did not answer any of Rosie's questions.  There were questions about changes to disrespectful staff.  There were questions about the services available at the shelter, and what would it take to remove a shelter provider.  None of these questions were answered. 

Brian Davis then addressed his upcoming resignation and there was a copy of his resignation letter included in the packet.  The Homeless Congress was very upset about it and acknowledged this.  They also said they do not accept his resignation.  There was a great deal of appreciation for the work of the Coalition and Brian expressed by the members.  Davis informed the members that the NEOCH Board was committed to continuing the Homeless Congress meetings. 

The last concern some of the members had was that pregnant women should be in a family shelter for safety issues.  This will be further discussed.

The next meeting is on May 11, 2017.

by Ramona Turnbull

Opinions expressed are those by the person who signs the entry

Homeless Congress Notes from March

March 9, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

This meeting of the Homeless Congress was dedicated to only one issue and that was the pending decision of who will be the social service provider to oversee the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter.  Ruth Gillett, Director of County Office of Homeless Services, (pictured here from a report on WEWS Channel 5) was in attendance to answer questions about the recommendation for Frontline to continue to administer the shelter.   There was a committee that is making a recommendation to the County Council for Frontline Services to continue to administer the Women's Shelter on Payne Ave.

Ruth Gillett, who organized the committee that made the recommendation, spoke about the process.  She could not give much information about the differences in the two proposals or the reasons for the results to the residents of the shelter who came to the meeting.   She was not able to give the scores provided by the committee of the two providers who submitted grant proposals.  She passed out two sheets of paper, one blue and the other yellow, which had information about the criteria considered in the decision process and the point system that determined the score for each agency that sought the contract.  Nothing specific just an overview of the process was distributed.

She gave a history of the issues at the Women's Shelter from her perspective and the process for issuing a request for proposals at the end of 2016.  Gillett said that only two agencies applied to oversee the women's shelter and only one to provide services for the men’s shelter.  The agencies that the County committee recommended were Frontline Services for the Women and Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry for the Men's Shelter.  West Side Catholic Center with NEOCH and Metanoia supporting their proposal was the other provider seeking the contract for the women's shelter and they were not selected.  Gillett could not give many details about why the West Side Catholic proposal was not selected except that it did not get as many points as the Frontline Proposal as subjectively submitted by the committee.

She further informed the members that the shelters were meant to be for people who need emergency housing, provide shelter on demand, and in this area (Cleveland) no one gets turned away.  In other words, the shelter is a safety net for someone needing emergency shelter or housing.  Over 20 years, “elected officials, citizens, and public funds collectively funded the men and women’s shelters” and now “provide for 800 beds between [the] three shelters [including overflow, 2100 shelter, Norma Herr, and North Point]."  She also stated that “there is a progression of improvement and staff level [at the Women's Shelter]."  She went on to inform members that over “400 agencies were informed about the RP electronically”.  She said there was also “10 social service providers” that were informed by mail.  They were informed about the “criteria for each section of the proposal," how the applicants would be scored, and the scope of work.  They had to follow a process and a “review committee” was set up to ensure that the proposals met these requirements.

Gillett said because of the “public interest surrounding the contract for the women’s shelter” there were seven people selected to be on the review committee and no one from her office voted on this committee. 

  • Chris Alexander, Cuyahoga County DJFS
  • Paul Porter of the Cuyahoga County DJFS
  • Karen Anderson Department of Children and Family Services
  • Michiel Wackers from the City of Cleveland
  • Dan Hinman from the United Way  
  • Michael Doud from the ADAMHS Board (Alcohol and Drug Addiction Mental Health Board
  • Leslie Perkul a representative for the O’Neill Foundation

The agency selected to receive the contract had to “provide a high level of services for people experiencing homelessness, project understanding and how it is to be measured, time frames, product management, qualifications, prior experience, and level of staff capacity," according to Gillett. She asked the rhetorical question whether the County would give the contract to a provider that was going to create problems for the County.  Gillett brushed off concerns about the current provider not keeping women safe or allowing violence within the shelter.  Gillett encouraged the Congress to invite Frontline Services to discuss the changes they intend to implement at the Women's Shelter going forward.

She went on to say that “one proposal scored higher than the other one."  Gillett said the above committee had rated the Frontline proposal "substantially higher" but could not provide details.   She stated that “no one is allowed to share the score.”  So, that information is not available, and will never be available.  Many of the women and advocates were not happy to hear that Gillett could not give more information about why Frontline had received the grant.  To many of the residents and the advocates who saw everyday staff issues, a lack of oversight, a lack of training, food issues, and a huge overflow problem, they wanted more details.  Most expressed disbelief that the committee took into account the current operations of the shelter and problems plainly visible every day were taken into account when deciding on the contract.

Nathan Manthley (former student at Cleveland Institute of Art) worked with the women who were residing at the shelter on a art project in the past.   Manthley was concerned about the current safety of the residents and asked if this was taken into account when the contract was awarded. There was also a concern that no homeless people were involved in the decision making.   Gillett did not answer.  One member felt that there was no communication between the people providing the services and the people receiving the services.  She informed Ruth that, in her opinion, there should be at least one person on the committee that has experienced homelessness involved in the voting process.  Ruth replied that this is not part of the process and contracting services in the communities in the past and now is their job.  She stated that there is “no bias” and that the committee “represented the public.”  This statement was met with a very negative response.  Another member stated that Frontline has proven for the last three years that they cannot properly provide compassionate and successful services.

She was asked if there was an argument or opposition to this decision, and she could not answer.  She was asked if Frontline was able to meet even the minimum requirement to even bid on the project.  Gillett did not answer.   She was asked if the committee ever toured the shelter or talked to the residents.  They had not.  Gillett was asked if the number of suicide attempts at the various shelters was factored into the decision. It was not according to Gillett. 

Included in the packets that were passed out to the members and participants was a “list of issues” that have been collected from residents of the women’s shelter in the past, and the “history of NEOCH’s work on trying to reform the women’s shelter."  These are posted on the NEOCH website here.  The last topic addressed was what the Homeless Congress will “do next with Frontline in charge of the women’s shelter for the next three years”.   NEOCH staff talked about its failed attempt to reform the shelter for over a decade.  Brian Davis said that NEOCH went "all-in" on this attempt to provide an alternative grant application by supporting the West Side Catholic proposal.  There is no where else to go for the NEOCH advocacy around the shelters. The homeless coalition has decided to step away from doing anything at the two entry shelters in Cleveland.  NEOCH believes that it only does harm to the agency and to the clients of these shelters. 

By Brian Davis and Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Letter to ADAMHS Board for Mental Health Shelter

The Homeless Congress picked as the single most important issue facing our community is that mentally ill people do not have a place to get the care they deserve.  They are placed in one of the two big shelters and cause disturbances and are taken advantage of on an almost daily basis.  NEOCH is not a mental health agency and we do not have trained mental health counselors or psychologists on site.  We are observers and we interact nearly everyday with severely mentally ill people.  None of us can figure out how it benefits the mental health of a person with something wrong with the brain to be placed in a facility with 200 to 400 others.  Does this help the person stabilize?  It just seems like a punishment that will only make their condition worse.

Here is the letter we sent on behalf of the Homeless Congress:

Dear Mr. Denihan

We have a great deal of respect for all you have done in your career even when we were sitting on the opposite side of the table during the White Administration.  We know that the community will miss your ability to manage huge bureaucracies and turn around government agencies struggling.  We are hoping that you will take the lead in finding a better place for severely mentally ill people from having to sleep in the two big shelters in Cleveland.  This is a critical issue especially because we believe that it is extremely damaging to the mental health stability of those struggling to be placed inside a facility with 200-400 people.  The current system is not healthy for those without mental health issues and especially those who are taken advantage of because of their mental illness.  We know that mentally ill people at the two entry shelters are exploited; they have their valuables including medicine stolen on a regular basis, and are abused and even raped in and around the shelters.  We know friends who have repeatedly attempted suicide inside the shelters, and we ask for your help in finding a smaller more caring place.

These vulnerable individuals are afraid of the large crowds.  They are frequently disruptive smearing feces in the bathrooms and cause disturbances in the shelters.  There are regular conflicts that demonstrate the personal care these taxpayers need but cannot find.  They deserve a trained professional staff to help them with their mental health issues.  We would never as a community expect an addicted individual to detox in a shelter with 200 to 400 people.  Why do we expect a mentally ill person to try to stabilize in the chaos of the shelters?  The shelters are unmanageable with all these untreated individuals with a mental illnesses and without personalized care.  The experiment has failed, and we are not building enough Permanent Supportive Housing to keep up with the demand.

A few areas that we will address in a white paper we are preparing on severely mentally ill people in shelter will look at:

  • Current homeless shelter situation has shown that those with severe mental illness are not able to fully integrate into presently available shelters.
  • Those with severe mental illness are unable to receive the health care they need in the current system.
  • Hospitals (ER and in-patient) even St. Vincent’s Psych ER end up admitting these individuals and discharging them shortly after; this results in heightened health care costs, arguably greater instability for the homeless individual (being medicated, then returning to homelessness where consistently continuing medications is unlikely).  Just stabilizing these individuals with medicine and then sending them out to the streets is not helping these individuals or the community.
  • Creating a separate shelter specifically for the severely mentally ill will decrease these problems and increase stability in the lives of severely mentally ill individuals.
  • Separation of shelter programs in other cities have shown its effectiveness; hospitalization rates decrease as a result of specialized shelters.
  • Within these shelters, narrative therapy has shown to be effective; this gives individuals control over their own lives, rather than feeling forced to do anything.
  • “Housing First” plans tend to work well, where attempts for transitional housing are made as soon as soon as an individual is admitted and adequate health care is consistently provided, but we need many more slots for the severely mentally ill.
  • 20-25% of homeless are mentally ill according to many national studies.
  • Rates of criminal behavior, contacts with the criminal justice system, and victimization among homeless adults with severe mental illness are higher than among housed adults with severe mental illness.
  • There are better strategies in other cities that could effectively serve the population.  Cleveland is far behind in providing a quality specialized care for those with a severe mental illness in a smaller setting.  Most of the cities in the United States do a horrible job serving mentally ill people who lose their housing, but there are some bright spots that we could learn from. 

We know that Frontline Services opposes a separate shelter for mentally ill people, and we know that whatever Frontline wants they get.  We understand that they are the largest organization in our Continuum of Care and are granted anything that they want.  We are hoping that with your retirement, you can look at this situation with clear eyes and not through the lens of one misguided organization more interested in a dream world in which a mentally ill person is immediately housed rather than real world we currently reside.  In the Trump/Kasich era, we are going to have mentally ill people who lose their housing and need emergency housing.  These friends are often misunderstood or face discrimination because of their disability which often leaves them without housing.  We need a better system that will provide a soft landing for individuals and then a quick return to housing.  We need a professionally trained staff who have experience in working with behavioral health issues to make this work.  Imagine the fear of being forced into a facility with 400 men or 200 women and having no where else to go.  It is horrible what we are doing to this fragile population in Cleveland.

 Sincerely,

 Brian Davis

Executive Director

 The ADAMHS Board were willing to listen, but we have not seen action toward creating a caring facility for those with a severe mental illness trapped in our two entry shelters. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Homeless Congress Notes for February

Homeless Congress

February 9, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

Members were informed of the dates for upcoming events which are the Cuyahoga County Council meeting, the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Committee meeting, and the ADAMHS Board meeting. Brian Davis, executive director of NEOCH, organized the meeting and helped to guide the group through the agenda.

Dale Miller of the Cuyahoga County Council, Ruth Gillett of the County Office of Homeless Services and Eric Sandy, the Managing Editor of Scene Magazine were all in attendance.  A pamphlet “The Fair Housing Rights of People in Shelter” was passed out to members and guests. 

Next, Ruth Gillett gave members an update about the Rapid Re-Housing program.  She asked if anyone heard anything from any of the case managers at the shelter about referrals.  Some said they had.  Although it is still work in progress, she said referrals can be made now.  She responded to the question, “How much income is needed”?  Ruth said there is no set income.  She was asked if having a felony would prevent someone from being able to participate in the program.  Although there are some felonies that are permitted, she went over the limitations.  Anyone with Tier 3 sex offense will not be permitted to apply for this program, and arson was another.   Basically, felonies that make the individual difficult to secure a lease will not be a part of the program.

One of the members complained that there is no talk about housing on the Federal level and regular cuts to public housing.  Ruth suggested writing an elected official.  She was asked about how many people does she think can be placed.  Her response was about 200.  

Ruth went through a detailed explanation of the rapid rehousing program in response to a question.  She explained that the program will pay the security deposit and 2 months’ rent after it has been determined that the participant can afford the rent when the voucher runs out.  She informed everyone that staff is still being trained to refer applicants. 

 The next topic was the HUD Point in Time Count.  She explained that this is a count of people who have become homeless for the year.  The count was done on January 25, 2017.  She informed everyone that this is done to track how many people became homeless from year to year.  It is also a way to track if there is an increase or decrease in the numbers.  Next, she talked about time limits for the shelters and wanted more input. 

This was a continuation of the feedback from the January meeting.  She asked if time limits should only be for people with an income.  She suggested that 45 days should be the limit.  Members began discussing the problems with this which included staff’s lack of input to assist with finding housing and transportation to look for housing.  One member said the case manager should be the one with time limits not the residents.  Unexpected changes in income was also a factor.  Residents who turn down housing was addressed as well, and that topic will be readdressed.  Client choice was the immediate response.  The client does not have to accept the housing if they don’t like it.  NEOCH passed out in the packet their opposition to shelter time limits that goes back to 2005.

Next the raffle was held.  Eight winners were awarded hoodie sweatshirts and one winner received a large book bag. 

The County is still deciding who will run the women’s shelter and Brian brought to the attention of the members that some of the current residents went on television and provided the link so everyone can watch it on tv or online.  We applauded them!  He also informed the women currently living at the shelter that they can speak with Eric Sandy from Scene Magazine after the meeting.

After questions from some of the women, Ruth explained what the bidding process entails and where everything is now.  They are still in negotiations right now and a decision will be made in March.  It will be announced who will be the provider for the shelter at that time.  One member was upset that no formerly homeless person was involved in the decision process.  Also, the decision makers were hand-picked and did not involve groups that were advocates for homeless people.  One member asked if the Review Board will have access to the grievances to see what is really going on.  Brian explained that the grievance process were included in the proposals.  Another member responded that most of the time the agencies talk about successes not addressing the issues.  One member had concern that the review committee will be swayed by the paper application, and will miss what is really going on at the shelter every night. 

Brian defended the process pointing out that the County gave extra time and extended the contract for the existing contract in response to Homeless Congress concerns.  He also explained that this is the first time there has been more than one provider bidding since the 1990s. He explained that there cannot be homeless people or advocates on the committee, because one side or the other would claim that they are biased.  This is such a heated topic in the homeless community there is no one who is impartial. 

The Congress members then talked about their highest priority for 2017 which is getting a shelter for severely mentally ill opened to improve services to this fragile population.  He asked if some of the current or former residents will go to the ADAMHS Board meeting to talk about the problems with mentally ill residents being in the same shelter without services in place for them.  A few members agreed to attend.  Some members of the ADAMHS board do not agree that there should be a separate shelter for mentally ill people. 

Rosie, a member, said there is a new policy that police officers will handle crisis in a different way.  She gave some infomation on the Justice Department consent decree and the implementation of the way that police interact with mentally ill people.  She referred to the Tanesha Anderson case as an example of what needs changed.  She stated that an offender could be transported by ambulance if they are really uncomfortable about riding in a police car.  There was a invitation to the Hope for the Homeless Campaign meetings.  The members were informed that one of the objectives is to get religious leaders involved in addressing homelessness.  The second was that there is a new Director of Care Alliance and she will be invited to attend a meeting.

Bus passes were given out.  The next meeting is on March 9, 2017.

by Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

January Homeless Congress Meeting Notes

January 12, 2017 Homeless Congress Notes

This was the first meeting of the year and there were new potential members in attendance.  The purpose of the Homeless Congress was explained to new members.  The agenda was introduced for approval and then upcoming events were announced. 

Brian Davis let the members know about the upcoming Stand Down this weekend and where it will be held.  They were informed that there will be transportation to and from the event.  The members wanted to know if they needed to have ID to get in.  They were informed that only the Veterans will need ID to get the services reserved for the Veterans. 

Other events and meetings were announced.  One is the Immigrant/Refugee Welcome to Cleveland Dinner that will be held on January 20, 2017 at St. Colman Catholic Church.  Everyone was invited.  They were also informed that the Central Kitchen meeting will be on January 23, 2017. 

Ruth Gillett spoke next and gave an update on the Rapid Re-Housing Program.  The Rapid Re-Housing is a new program for singles.  Ann, from Eden, said the program will start in the next two weeks.  She informed them that the applicants being considered at this time for the singles program will need an income.  The staff from the shelters are being trained about the program, and how to select clients eligible for the project.

Ann went on to explain how the program works.  Once the applicant is referred, they will meet with a Housing Locator and go over any in information that is needed to secure housing.  Then, the Housing Locator and the Shelter Case Manager will work on things like utility assistance, evictions, tenant education and other information to assist to maintain housing.  One of the members said it should be made clear that the applicant needs to meet with their case manager, not just any staff.

Members were also informed that anyone in the other shelters will also be able to apply and they were encouraged to consider having a roommate.  But, it is still best for both participants have an income.  It was made clear that the person eligible must have some income.

 The next topic was time limits for the shelters.  Forty days was suggested.  Ruth wanted more feedback on time limits.  At the men’s shelter, residents have other programs to go to such as transitional shelters.  This is not the case for single women.    

The other problem brought up by the members was that many of the shelter staff are not respectful of the clients or residents.  One of the other members commented that if there are going to be time limits it would only be fair to have staff that will be able to assist in housing.  There was discussion about the quality or knowledge of staff to be able to refer people to stable housing, employment, getting disability, etc.  It would be unfair to set up a time limit if staff are not trained in their jobs to be able to make proper referrals for the clients at some shelters.   Will this policy result in more and more people sleeping on the streets of Cleveland?

 Davis distributed a part of President Obama’s farewell address to make the point that a small group of people can make changes.  He made suggestions on how Homeless Congress members can and have made changes in the homeless community.  The Congress went over the Priority List of items including the Tiny Homes, redoing shelter standards and protecting laws to keep landlords from discriminating against voucher holders, finding shelter space for mentality challenged residents, and addressing the Homeless Bill of Rights.  There were six options suggested and there was a request for additional items from the members.

Finding space for mental health residents was chosen as the top priority for Homeless Congress in 2017.   There was overwhelming consensus that this was the biggest problem facing homeless people in Cleveland.  They felt severely mentally ill people were being exploited by other residents or physically harmed to say nothing for the disturbances and problems caused by un-medicated individuals who do not do well in an environment of a high concentration of people. 

Staff invited many elected officials to the next meeting on February 9, 2017 at the Cosgrove Center at 1:30 p.m. in the St. Peter’s Room.  This is the best venue to speak directly to homeless people, and politicians are welcome to attend.

 By Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Homeless Congress Notes for November

November 10, 2016---Cosgrove Center

Upcoming events were addressed and it was announced the Councilman Reed was asked to attend the meeting, but he couldn’t because he is out of town. 

Ruth Gillett, Office of Homeless Services, attended the meeting and talked about the changes to the OHS Advisory Board and participation by three members of Homeless Congress.  She also discussed the Rapid Re-Housing Program that is tentatively set to begin in November (now it looks like January 2017).  She explained that the staff at the two big shelters will be trained on how to refer residents to the program.  This will include making certain that the resident being referred meet the criteria.  She informed the members that the purpose of the program is to help move out of the shelter.  Some income will be necessary to maintain housing, but it will provide three or four months worth of rental assistance to move into housing.

The target population from those staying at the shelter will be residents that have been there the longest and have the ability to pay rent with employment or disability assistance.   There will be a housing locator assigned to the participant to assist in locating affordable housing.  Shared housing with a roommate was an option discussed as a way to be able to afford and maintain housing. 

One of the members wanted to know who is supervising the program.  Gillett informed him that the program is a collaborative effort between the Office of Homeless Services, EDEN, and Frontline Services.  Another member asked who determines whether or not housing passes inspection because there have been problems with the housing he is seeking.  It has not passed the inspection three times.  He was informed that there is a standard set of regulations that the housing must pass to receive any government money. 

There was a question about getting Housing Choice Vouchers and the waiting list and everyone was informed that Voucher Program will not be available until around 2018.  Ruth Gillett went on to say that the Rapid Re-Housing Program is not only for long term disabled homeless residents.  She said this program should be able to assist 300-400 single adults.  She also informed members that utilities are not included in the rent vouchers, so anyone interested in getting housing through Rapid-Rehousing should seek housing that includes utilities.  They will be responsible to pay them otherwise.

EDEN has developed a list of landlords that are willing to participate.  One of the members wanted to know how to resolve a back payment for past EDEN housing.  Ruth explained that he could make payment arrangements by calling the EDEN office.

Bidding for providing services for the women’s shelter was the next topic discussed.  The deadline to submit the bid to oversee the shelter was November 29, 2016 (extended to January 2017 after the meeting).  Brian Davis, NEOCH, feels this is not enough time for interested agencies to prepare and get their bid submitted.  Due to holidays and Election Day, this will make it very difficult to prepare and coordinate information to be able to bid.  He and Loh asked if there was a chance for an extension.  Disputes between residents residing at the women’s shelter was the next concern addressed. There was some discussion about the conditions at the shelter and the problems with the fights between residents.  There was a question about the County allowing for the women to move women who are disruptive to be moved to another facility.  What was the County's recommendation for where a woman stays after there is a dispute between shelters? There is nothing formally in place to address this except to suspend one of the residents from the shelter, especially if there is a restraining order in place.  Ruth stated that at this time, if one resident files a restraining order against another, North Point could be used to house one of the residents. 

Next, there was a discussion about the priority list for the issues at the women’s shelter and the meetings with Frontline Services over the list.   They were informed about the surveys that will be distributed to the current and past residents of the women’s shelter.  They had received copies in their packets and they were asked to read over the surveys and if they felt any changes needed to be made.  They were also asked to think about what changes they feel should be made for the Homeless Congress future in response to the election.  They were also asked if funds should be focused on overflow for shelters or funding organizations to work on public policy changes.  The unanimous decision was overflow.  Overflow was supported as the highest priority.

*The next meeting date is December 8, 2016

by Ramona Turnbull

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Notes from the October Homeless Congress

Anastasia, an instructor from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and her students attended.  They wanted to discuss some projects she has in mind to with some of the residents from the shelters.  Project Find is the name of the projects she is working on.  One purpose of this project is to bring more awareness to homelessness. 

Each of her students were introduced and communicated their ideas to the members of the Homeless Congress.  Ross, Malinda, and Matthew are the first names of the students.  They had surveys to distribute to the members and to be delivered to the shelters.  They expressed just how important art is and the different ways it could help.  

The students asked for ideas and feedback.  One suggestion was artwork in the shelters and murals.   The members asked about doing some art projects at the men’s shelter.

Anastasia discussed the projects they did last year.  She talked about the mural that was created to put up at the women’s shelter to create the spirit of resiliency.  She also talked about the art classes she conducted at the shelter.  She suggested ideas about projects that would bring awareness to homelessness.  Ms.  Valentine of the Cosgrove Center talked about the art projects on the third floor and informed everyone that there will be an Art Gallery in February.   Ms. Valentine informed Anastasia about the art classes on Tuesday and Thursday’s from 10:00am-2:00pm at Cosgrove.

The raffle was held and one female and one male won the prizes.

Ruth Gillett was next on the agenda.  She presented a PowerPoint presentation about the new Advisory Board. She talked about the project to end veterans and youth homelessness.  She also discussed the new rapid rehousing funds for single homeless adults.  Youth are defined as those between ages 18-24, and the goal is to get them into housing as soon as possible.  It is coordinated intake’s responsibility to link them to the proper resources.  They must address the reason the youth is homeless.  Some of the situations discussed include those kicked out of the house or those exiting foster care. 

In November, short-term rental assistance for single individuals will begin.  The goal is to do a better job linking them to resources.  Better preventative measures is a goal to help end family homelessness.  Gillett stated that there is a need to utilize the shelter system according to the highest need.  The rental assistance that will be provided through this program, is in a progressive engagement model.  It can go up to 6 months, 8 months, and then transfer to a long term program if that is what the individual needs. 

Most people can get back on their feet within 4 months of assistance.  Shared housing was also readdressed as an option.   Another participant asked if she has to be homeless for a long period of time to get the rapid rehousing.  The answer was no.  Another wanted information on what the process and criteria to successfully get Rapid Re-Housing is.  Ruth’s response was that information will be made available as soon as it is all in place, and she will return to discuss at the November meeting.

Also discussed was reasons why landlords are hesitant to accept participants of Rapid Re-Housing.  Brian Davis discussed the Fair Housing Regulations and that landlords may be improperly screening out those with criminal backgrounds.  Davis also discussed urging City Council to pass protections for tenants against discrimination based on their source of income.   It has not been passed in Cleveland as of yet, but we would like it to be passed in Cleveland so that the landlords cannot discriminate against people with vouchers from getting an apartment. 

Next, the meeting for the women’s shelter residents at Frontline was discussed.  The meeting will be on October 20, 2016 at 1:00pm.  They will be meeting with Eric Morse, the COO of Frontline to discuss needed changes at the shelter.  Frontline recently renewed the contract to be the provider at the women’s shelter for another year.  Topics for the meeting are the 12 recommended solutions that were agreed to prior to Frontline renewing the contract.

Cleveland Mediation Center is no longer a part of Frontline and Brian Davis wanted to know if the women residing at the shelter would be willing to trust them as a group to resolve grievances with the shelter.  At the time of the meeting, the answer was no.  This will be further discussed later.  Brian asked if there are any problems that need to be addressed now.  One of the women staying at the shelter talked about how rude the security officers are that are working at the shelter.  Another complaint about trans women staying at the shelter and the women having no experience with this issue.  These two issues were added to the agenda to be further addressed.  The Congress meets on the second Thursday of the month at Cosgrove. 

by Ramona Turnbull

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Homeless Congress for September

 Homeless Congress

September 8, 2016---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

 The first topic on the agenda was voting in preparation for the November election.  Golden week is no longer available and the members were encouraged to vote early.  The potential voters were informed about not needing an ID if they vote early and what is acceptable as an address to use for voting.  Cosgrove and the West Side Catholic Center were two of the addresses that can be used for voting purposes. Brian Davis discussed the problems with voting and the lawsuit over those purged, it may be a good idea to register to be sure.  It is no problem to submit multiple registrations.   NEOCH will be assisting with voting and will have a Voting Event on September 27th.  Members were advised that anyone that does not receive a card in the mail with voting instructions may not be registered.

The Campus District Neighbors Plan’s representative, Karla, requested that one male and one female from the shelters volunteer to be on a committee.  The Campus District does all kinds of things in the neighborhoods. They are responsible for some of the banners throughout the city, art shops, art therapy, and trying to get better bus shelters with windows that will block the wind.  Community Development is in every district and their focus is to better the neighborhoods to help make it a better place to live. 

The Campus District Neighbors Plan would like assistance to beautify neighborhoods and make them better with input from the residents.  Two of the Congress members were encouraged to join the committee and were informed that community leaders will be in attendance.

Ruth Gillett revisited Rapid Re-Housing.  She talked about the funding for Rapid Re-Housing and getting the program started by the end of the year.   They discussed barriers to housing.  She also informed members that through the program, they will be able to assist with finances for moving out, security deposit, and several months of rent.  She said she hopes to have the program in place by November.  A member asked if you are supposed to find your own housing or will the County assist in finding houses or apartments.  At this point, that has not been decided. She further informed members that there will be two groups: one age 18 – 24, and the other 24 and over.  There will also be a case manager assigned to each participant.  Participants must have an income or have an income pending.  Ruth stated that the money has to be stretched for singles and said at this point they will pay security deposit and 2 months rent. 

A member wanted to know how they will be informed that the program started or if they are eligible.  She stated that when the information has been put together, they will make it available.  Some members also wanted to know why people with an income are being offered housing first.  It was explained that there has to be an income in place after the voucher runs out.  They are also making sure there is a focus on people that really need the assistance.  There will be relocation opportunities.  Another reason people with an income are able to get housing first is the program does not want to set anyone up for failure and then have an eviction notice on their record which will hurt them down the line. Shared housing was brought back up as an option. Ruth was asked if they will assist to pick or find a roommate. At this time, her response was participants choose their own roommates and encouraged them that it should be someone they know. Members were also informed that criminal background convictions will not restrict anyone from participating.  However, multiple felonies do make it harder to secure housing.

 The landlord would submit a lease (rental agreement).  The property must pass an inspection.  Also, must be fair market rent and any income is counted.  Participants must meet with a case manager at least once a month.  Members asked about furniture.  It was suggested that the shelter staff can assist with referrals.  They can also assist with taking can of any outstanding utility bills.  Ruth Gillette will have more information about this program at the next meeting.  Rapid Re-Housing for singles was last done 5 years ago.  Vouchers were discussed in detail and making sure that no one is abusing the voucher program. 

 One of the artists that worked with the women at the shelter in the past, on an earlier project, wanted to discuss another project she would like to include the women in.  She briefly informed them that she would meet with them to go over the details about the project.

 The raffle was held.

 Next the members went over the Priority Items for the upcoming year. They are:

  1. Shelter Standards Improvements in Regulations
  2. Shelter Law Passed in Cleveland or Cuyahoga County
  3. Shelter System Needs an Ability for Both Men and Women to Recover and Fulfill Bed Rest Orders
  4. Homeless Bill of Rights Passed by the City of Cleveland
  5. A Separate Facility for Mentally Ill Homeless Men and Women
  6. Fair Housing Regulation Passed to Protect Voucher Holders in City or County and
  7. Tiny Homes Campaign.  One member wanted to know who makes the laws and rules for the shelters.  The members were informed that there is no one organization or person in place for shelters. 

Next the recommendations for the changes that need to be made at the shelter were discussed.  The deadline for the changes at the women’s shelter is set for September 2016.  It was noted that County Council President Dan Brady could not attend the meeting, but made a commitment to try and meet the deadlines set by the Congress.  Brian Davis wanted to get some input from the shelter residents that were present at the Homeless Congress meeting about the changes that had taken place over the last year.  The situation at the shelter has not improved.  According to many women who sleep at the shelter it is actually worse.  The members of Congress were asked if the time for the deadline should be extended or it they should ask that Frontline be replaced.  Staff behavior was also discussed and the members felt that it is time to ask that Frontline be replaced.  There was no one present who opposed this advocacy position for the Homeless Congress.

Bus passes were given out.  The next meeting date is October 13, 2016. 

Notes taken by Ramona Turnbull

Homeless Congress Notes for June 2016

The June 9th Homeless Congress meeting was the last meeting before the RNC, so it was important to discuss the changes in the voting process for the upcoming presidential election.

 Ed is a long term member of Homeless CongreFirst, it was reported that Voting Golden Week is back, which allows anyone not registered to register and vote on the same day.  Golden Week is the first week of October.  Between October 5th and 12th is the tentative dates for Golden Week, but this has not been confirmed because it is currently being appealed. 

 NEOCH did win the lawsuit pertaining to Absentee ballots after thousands of ballots were thrown out in the past for something as small as putting in one wrong digit in your zip code.  Information on what is allowed was discussed in detail to ensure that residents are prepared for the upcoming election and NEOCH will be registering anyone that is not registered over the summer.

 NEOCH is also suing because many voters were purged from the voting roles.   The state did not follow the proper procedure in the purge.  Anyone who has not voted since 2008 probably was purged. 

 Members were informed and encouraged to join the Office of Homeless Services Advisory Board.  The current Board members are encouraged to be on a sub-committee.  The term is 2yrs. or 3 yrs.. This will allow the Congress members to better understand what is needed to address the problems they are having to overcome homelessness and be better prepared to address any barriers to housing.  They were also informed that it will not be a problem to use the West Side Catholic Center as their voting address after discussion with the US Postal Service.

 The problems and concerns addressed at the hearing were the next topic of discussion.  The 13 solutions recommended by the Homeless Congress on how to reform the Community Women’s Shelter were discussed and the May 2016 Congress meeting with Cuyahoga County Council President Dan Brady.  He agreed to try to meet the deadline set by Congress for September 2016 which states that “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."

Then there was a discussion about the upcoming RNC, and the lawsuit filed by the NEOCH and Organize Ohio by the ACLU.   The problems that the RNC will impose on the homeless population was also addressed. To name a few:  The event zone territory encompasses “4 of the 5 largest shelters in Cleveland, a daytime drop in center and the healthcare for the homeless site”, and the “prohibited items are common items that homeless people carry everyday”. 

 Brian Davis wrote a letter to the Chief of Police to voice his concerns and to advocate for the homeless population to avoid any unnecessary arrests.  He asked that 1) “The event zone be reduced in size”, 2) “Homeless people should be cited as residents who are exempt in Section III (c) …” This is especially important with all the out of town police coming in … or the important bond of trust built up over the years between homeless service providers and the Cleveland Police Department or”, 3) The City could provide $85,000 for two months’ worth of rental assistance…” to put displaced individuals in “housing for the summer”…

 At the time of this meeting a law suit had not been filed.  One was later filed by Organize! Ohio, NEOCH, and Citizens for Trump for various reasons. [In late June, these organizations won the lawsuit.  Organize! Ohio’s complaint was in regard route limitations for the upcoming March to End Poverty 2016 and permits, NEOCH’s was in regard to the restrictions that effect the homeless population and access to services etc.. and Citizens for Trump’s was permit and limitations specific to march routes.]

 The Bishop Cosgrove Center will be closed during the RNC, but shelters will be open. 

 The Justice Center is also doing their part by clearing out a few beds to accommodate for possible arrests.  There was a brief discussion of the ability for those who use the shelter and get a disability check, which we will take up in the future.   Congress needs to focus the August meeting on priorities for the next year. 

 by Ramona Turnbull

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March Homeless Congress Notes

Attendance was smaller than usual.  Upcoming events were first on the agenda. It was announced that Ruth Gillett, Office of Homeless Services, asked for some time to speak to the Congress going forward.  Council meetings, Committee meetings, NEOCH Annual meeting and the Ohio Primary dates and times were discussed.  NEOCH endorsed Issue 23, the Health and Human Services levy.

 Voting information was given and the Congress members were informed that if they vote early there is no ID required.  Attendees were asked if there was any announcements they would like to make. One member informed everyone about the memorial service for Melvin Nathan, which was on March 11th at 2:00pm.  He had moved into housing prior to passing away.  Also another member brought to everyone’s attention is the police department will be doing a survey or report on Crisis Information which they will be sharing with the men’s and women’s shelters. 

There was a complaint by a resident of the men’s shelter about not being able to stand in front of the building of 2100 Lakeside shelter.  The residents were told to go across the street or be arrested.  Brian Davis informed him that if he were to get arrested for loitering, to contact him and he will provide legal assistance and that the loitering laws are considered unconstitutional.  There must be a victim before there is a crime.  The Congress members asked if there was a way to get this solved without people getting arrested.  Davis agreed to put this in the notes for the resident council at 2100 Lakeside to get this question answered about smoking.

Some of the residents of the men’s shelter also made a request to invite Chief of Police, Calvin Williams, to a meeting to address overuse of the disorderly conduct and loitering laws and explain the complaint process for homeless people.

Ruth Gillett then shared information about the request for input from homeless people about solutions to homelessness.  A question came up about how the County could work on reducing the time people stay at the shelters.  Members discussed with her the problems in the system that prevents homeless people moving on.  One was, what if the staff does not assist them to get housing or access to needed resources?  Also it is very difficult to find housing and more difficult to secure it.  Another barrier is there are no housing vouchers available. 

Her response was that is the reason she would like to attend the meetings and get feedback on what is necessary or what problems are preventing residents from obtaining housing.  She also said she wants to keep the Congress informed about resource information especially housing vouchers.  It was suggested that the Congress advocate for affordable housing.

The final order of business was any problems at the women’s shelter as this has been an ongoing problem.  One of the residents from the women’s shelter said there are problems with the dryers (only one is working), the food is still terrible, and the rooms are too cold.  One resident said she got ill, went to the hospital, and was informed that she had pneumonia.  The basement has finally been renovated, but has not been re-opened yet.  Another resident said when she asked when it would be opened, she was told the next day (March 11th) or that following Monday.  Another problem was that the staff are not providing help to secure housing.  She said staff just gave her a list of housing, but no other information or assistance to secure it or any assistance to go to fill out an application like a buspass.

At the end of the meeting I informed the Congress about the Art Project of the CIA (Cleveland Institute of Art) artists are working on with some of the women at the shelter.  The current Project was a mock “Ground Breaking Ceremony” performance and “Ribbon Cutting” Performance that will be taped to practice for a time when a new shelter is opened.  In addition, they also have plans for a mural for the shelter and a statute to go in front of the shelter.  Everyone was then reminded when the next meeting will be held which is April 14th.

Ramona Turnbull

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Dale Miller Attends the Homeless Congress

Our missing posters had some impact because County Councilman Dale Miller showed up to the Homeless Congress today.  He was generous with his time and listened to all the concerns of the residents of the local shelters including the many issues over the Women's shelter.  We took his missing poster off of our website, and thank Miller for attending the meeting. 

We gave out all the copies of the missing flyers that we distributed regarding other County elected officials.  Councilman Miller asked that everyone sign up to vote in the upcoming election to support the Health and Human Service's levy which are used to fund the shelters among other things.  This may not be persuasive since many of the women are very angry over the conditions at the shelter and the lack of oversight by the County.  Miller agreed that Councilwoman Conwell was a wonderful advocate, but disagreed that she favored shelter providers over homeless residents of the shelters. Miller did agree that every County Council person should meet with homeless people or the Homeless Congress and not just rely on one Councilwoman to interact with homeless people.  We had heard from another Council person that the County was so big and had so many issues with only a part time Council that they were forced to divide the problems among the 11. 

NEOCH staff criticized this isolation of problems associated with homelessness to one Council person.   There was concern that Councilwoman Conwell and the shelter directors did not believe what was going on at the women's shelter when residents report problems.  We talked about the seeing eye dog that was taken from one resident because of the poor conditions as emblematic of the problems.  Took the dog out of the unsafe facility left the human?   We also talked about how the shelter does not respond to written complaints from the Women's shelter and does not provide the public a summary of all the complaints filed by the women.  EDEN staff did attend to respond to some of the facility issues.  Elaine Gimmel of EDEN said that they would reassess the company hired to take care of the washers and dryers since they have been slow to respond and would get maintenance on the issue of the temperature in the bedrooms. 

We talked about the food meeting on Monday morning at Central Kitchen to discuss the food issues in the biggest shelters. 

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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Have You Seen These Elected Officials?

 

The County takes the lead in providing services to homeless people, and the Homeless Congress has been trying to schedule meetings for a year with no response. Councilwoman Conwell came to a meeting in March 2014 then scheduled a secret meeting with shelter directors without homeless people present.  We have huge issues that we need to talk about.  The current County strategy is not working and more people are showing up asking for help.  We need to hear from our elected officials about homelessness.  Joe Pagonakis of WEWS confronted the Council about the overcrowded conditions at the Women's Shelter and we still have not seen a change.  In fact, the county is planning on putting 20 additional beds into the shelter despite the fact that there are 30 to 60 women who need a bed every night.  We need help ASAP!!  Tell your elected official to schedule a meeting with the Congress or come to their meeting!!

Brian Davis

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