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.

LOH Provides Parody to Readers!

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

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

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

Frontline Version

Frontline Version

Loh's Version

Loh's Version

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

~~~Commentary by LOH~~~

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

When Will the Women Be Considered?

My biggest concern about Frontline Services continuing as the provider for the women’s shelter is the total lack of empathy, consideration, and failure to take responsibility for their actions.  After all the complaints that were made, no one seems to be listening!  The problems that have been presented were totally ignored and all the grievances that have been filed were not even considered. 

There is either a lack of communication here or the people making the decisions have no regard for human life, specifically the lives of women.  It seems that women have been targeted as outlets for people who are supposed to be responsible professionals as a way to practice doing the extreme opposite.  A lot of the women residing at the shelter have children or don’t want to be a burden to their family or possibly running from domestic violence with nowhere else to go!  They all have their own lives and responsibilities to address. 

The people that were selected for the committee don’t have a clue what homelessness really is or what to look for to make this type of decision and I’m pretty sure that it is totally unethical.  They should be more representative of the population being served.

The women residing at the shelter aren’t even getting enough consideration to have programs in place or a television to watch and keep up with what is going on around them.  This is a form of isolation which is also abuse, not to mention the horrible food that is served with no real nutritional value.  Under the current conditions, I’m sure that if they could every women in the shelter would leave tomorrow. 

I feel that the decision to continue to let Frontline, even with Lutheran Metro Ministry as a partner, provide services for the women’s shelter would be mean, heartless, and cruel.  When will the women be the focus of which group should be providing services for the only single women’s shelter in the entire city…and it has no TV!!!!  I feel that it is the provider’s responsibility to make sure to provide necessities that will eliminate chaos and boost morale?

by Ramona Turnbull

Editor's Note:  Ramona testified before the County Council.  These are her adapted comments without the County time limits.  These are the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of NEOCH.  The legislation is going forward, but there may be a limiting of the time frame of the contract from 19 months down from 31 months which was in the original legislation.

County Health and Human Services Meeting

Not that it will make a damn bit of difference, because the County is going to do what they are going to do...A few women wanted to vent about the conditions at the shelter so here is the announcement about the meeting. The County committee is recommending another 31 months of Frontline Services running the Women's Shelter despite clear evidence of substandard conditions and a legitimate alternative.  If hundreds of demonstrators could not sway more than 3 County Council members against the Q renovations, they are not going to be able to change the Women's Shelter provider. 

by Brian Davis

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

Women's Shelter Update on Contract

We posted a series of updates on the Women's Shelter contract in February with the Scene article here then we had a discussion at the February Homeless Congress (which Councilman Dale Miller attended). We posted the notes from the March meeting when it was announced that the County was going to select Frontline to continue to run the shelter over the upstart West Side Catholic.  Basically, there has been tremendous debate about the conditions at the shelter and mistreatment by the staff (documented here).  The County held a hearing in May 2016 and nine brave women testified about the need for reform.  The County issued a Request for Proposal in October and extended the deadline until January 31, 2017.  Two providers stepped forward to respond to the proposal: West Side Catholic and Frontline Services and sought the $1.4 million contract to run the shelter on Payne Ave.  Full disclosure: NEOCH and Metanoia supported the West Side Catholic proposal and would have benefited if they were awarded the grant.   This took a lot to convince all three groups to take a risk on such a huge project.  The West Side Catholic Center is an amazing group serving the Ohio City/Clark Fulton neighborhoods and the Women's Shelter is a massive expansion.  The NEOCH Board which does not do direct services had to be convinced to go in on a shelter proposal. 

The County assigned a committee of eight people to make the decision and we found out today that they gave Frontline 84 points out of a possible 100 while West Side Catholic received 54 points out of 100.  One of my issues is that they did not measure important items such as overflow, security, number of calls by safety forces, suicide attempts, and keeping people safe; while they did give many points for philosophical issues such as "Understanding the scope of the Project?"  It is providing shelter and food to women! What is there to understand?  We are not landing a spacecraft on the moon.   Also, it was strange that SEVEN white people and 0 African Americans made a decision about the future of the women's shelter which serves 75 to 80% African Americans in Cleveland.  But that is your County Government in action. The committee was:

  • 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
  • With Ruth Gillett guiding the entire process but not voting.

The traditional way that legislation is passed is that it is introduced and then sent to a County committee and then read two more times before a vote is taken.  We had informed the residents of the shelter that the legislation would be introduced on April 25 then sent to the Health and Human Services and Aging Committee on May 3 for a hearing.  We told the women to target May 3 for comments and passed out a flyer at the Homeless Congress (with County staff present) as well as distributed this flyer in the shelter.  The women were planning to make posters and protest outside the County building as well.  Based on the last two Homeless Congress meetings, the residents really don't like this decision and were very angry at the County staff for making this decision. 

In a surprising "dark side of the force" move the County staff has decided that this is an emergency and will pass it at the April 25th meeting without sending it to committee.   "Whereas, it is necessary that this Resolution become immediately effective in order that critical services provided by Cuyahoga County can continue..." Ruth Gillett did not warn the women at the Homeless Congress meeting that this may not be discussed at the May 3 meeting since it will have already passed.  It is easier to get a response from the County at a committee when there are only a few things on the agenda.  There are two dozen contracts at the typical County Council meeting.  It is unlikely that they would have been able to change any minds, but the women wanted a chance to vent.  We can look at the hundreds who showed up to multiple meetings to oppose the Q renovation deal and could only sway three Council members to vote "no". 

The new contract will also mean a $6,202 per month raise for the current provider Frontline Services.  So, even after all these problems came to light, they will get additional tax payer dollars to run a substandard shelter.  They will be paid $124,454.58 per month for the next 31 months to run the shelter on Payne Ave. until December 2019.  Last year the shelter was paid $118,252.83 per month (which is exactly the amount that West Side Catholic was asking for to run the shelter). 

If a local taxpayer were to go over at 8 p.m. to the shelter on Payne Ave. and then ride over to the West Side Catholic shelter on Lorain Ave, there is no way they would concur that Frontline deserved an 84/100 while West Side Catholic was running a 54/100 women's shelter.  You could see that the Payne Ave. shelter was not operating an 84 scored shelter in about 10 minutes.  But the committee did not go visit the existing shelters and did not ask any current residents of the shelter about their opinions.  65 women did sign a petition asking the County to choose West Side Catholic (many others were afraid to sign). They were ignored as were all the complaints at the Homeless Congress.

Here were the scores:

 

Frontline

WSCC

Project Understanding/Scope of Work/Solution/Narrative

19.9

13

Methodology/Project Schedule/Evaluation

22.6

12.9

Project Management/Project Reporting/Interaction with County/Risk Management

20.7

13.7

Vendor Qualifications/Prior Experience/Personnel

21.0

14.4

 

 

 

Total

84.1

54.0

 There were actually two of the seven who were especially harsh toward the West Side Catholic proposal. It does point to a problem with the distribution of information between homeless people and community leaders and the holes in democracy.  How do you have all this negative media, a webpage dedicated to all the problems, large numbers of grievances, a hearing before the County Council about the problems, and yet the County continues the contract with the same provider running the shelter for the last dozen years?  How could Councilman Dale Miller who came to the February Homeless Congress  to hear the concerns and horror stories from the women and then allow this to continue?  How could Council President Dan Brady hear from pregnant and disabled women about all the hardships they face and allow the status quo to continue?  What do they have to do to get the contract taken away? 

It is unlikely to change until there is a scandal or large scale tragedy at the shelter.  It is unlikely that there will be a change if this contract comes up for bid again because of the retirements and resignations at West Side Catholic and NEOCH.  Lutheran Metro Ministry is joining as a partner with Frontline to try to improve the shelter.  We hope that this will work, but hold little hope.  We wish them well and hope that LMM and Frontline can turn this around.  NEOCH will not be commenting or doing resident council meetings or taking grievances.  Good luck to all the single women taxpayers who fall on hard times with their housing.  You are not going to like the conditions that you will find yourself if you cannot afford rent or are fleeing an abuser.  Complain to your elected County government, because they had a chance to make a change but decided things are operating at about 84 out of 100 points. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Post Script:  Rosie called the County to verify this information, and found out that the language allows the County to pass immediately, but that is not going to happen.  There will not be a vote tonight on this issue.  It will be referred to the Health and Human Service Committee next Wednesay May 3 at 1 p.m.  Women will be allowed to vent their concerns.  It is likely that the legislation will then go back to the Council on May 9 for final passage, and will not wait until the third reading on May 23. 

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

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Where is NEOCH Shelter Advocacy Going?


NEOCH gave out this information at the Homeless Congress and is posting it on our website.  We have put together a special section on our website here.  This section is under Programs in our main directory called Shelter Upgrades.  We have collected pages about shelters including:

After digesting all this history, NEOCH has made some decisions about the future involvement of the Coalition with the emergency entry shelters in Cleveland.  We posted these on their own page here.  Feel free to comment on our position at the bottom of this posting.

  1. We at NEOCH have tried everything that we can think of to make a change in the Women's shelter for single adults and it is worse today than it was three year ago. We thought that the answer was to change providers, but the County went back to the existing provider.
  2. NEOCH is much weaker than it was in the year 2003 because funders do not like charities fighting with other charities.  They want us all to get along with each other and collaborate or merge to save on costs.  Funders punish those who speak publicly against another non-profit charitable organizations. 
  3. County Office of Homeless Services staff obviously do not trust NEOCH staff and do not believe anything that the residents say about the shelter.  They distribute over $33 million dollars and the decisions made by OHS can mean the difference between a pregnant women being able to keep her baby or having the child taken by the County. It is harmful to the 23,000 people who find themselves without housing to have the Homeless Coalition distrusted by the County group who gives out most of the public money in Cleveland.
  4. Frontline Services senior management do not trust NEOCH staff and do not believe anything that the residents say about the shelter.  Frontline is by far the largest homeless service provider in the County and current administrator of the Women's Shelter on Payne Ave.  They run many programs such as outreach, veterans programs, and management of the Permanent Supportive Housing.  It makes it very difficult to serve the non-female homeless population for NEOCH if there is this poisonous relationship with the Empire the largest homeless provider.
  5. Now that Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (administrator of 2100 Lakeside Shelter) has thrown their support behind Frontline Services to assist at the Payne Ave shelter, this has also damaged our relationship with LMM.  NEOCH started out as a program of LMM inside their building, so this is especially tough. They are one of the largest facilities in Ohio, and most homeless men have stayed at Lakeside. It is rough to have a bad relationship with the agency that administers 2100 Lakeside Shelter. 
  6. The retaliation and hostility toward NEOCH for raising these issues is a threat to our non-profit agencies very existence.  Groups refuse to come to meetings chaired by NEOCH that would benefit their clients.  They will not collaborate on non-shelter issues or come to events hosted by NEOCH.  It is great to be committed to a cause, but if you are out of business what was the point?
  7. NEOCH will not be doing anything at 2100 Lakeside or 2229 Payne Ave.  We will not be helping with complaints or hosting meetings about the shelter or coordinating resident councils.  We were not paid for these activities and they have only caused the agency to nearly go out of business. A group can’t fight the good fight if they can’t pay the rent!
  8. We will not comment on problems at the shelter or respond to the conflicts that will inevitably come up at the two shelters.  We wish the two big shelters well and hope that they can self- correct.  Remember that only one-third of the homeless population uses the shelters in a given year, so there are plenty of homeless people for us to concentrate our efforts.
  9. We know that there is very little oversight of the shelters by Cuyahoga County.  We know that the grievance process is broken at both shelters.  We know that the grievances are rarely resolved in favor of the clients and are basically not worth the paper they are printed on.  We recommend calling your City Councilmember TJ Dow at 664-2908 or call Yvonne Conwell at County Council 698-2017 if you are having problems.
  10. We believe that at this point a client associated with NEOCH at Lakeside or Payne Ave. is a target and our involvement will not help their situation. There is no way to protect individuals against retaliation, which can result in the individual sleeping outside.  At this point, our involvement in the two main shelters does more harm than good.
  11. With the upcoming change in leadership at NEOCH it is only appropriate to step back from shelter advocacy that leads no where.  It only gets the agency in trouble and a new director will have many other things to work on for NEOCH.

Brian Davis

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Nathan Testifies About the Women's Shelter

Testimony of Nathan Manthey on February 14, 2017 County Council Meeting after the discussion about the homeless single women. 

This meeting had a large crowd discussing the transformation of the Quicken Loan Arena with public money.  Here is the link to the testimony with Nathan's remarks at 1 hour 24 minutes in this YouTube video.  There were two other commentators on homelessness after Nathan and two young people before Nathan (at 1 hr 19 minutes Kathleen Mosier and Andrew Shearer at 1 hour 22 minutes) who talked about spending money on homelessness/housing rather than renovating a playground for well to do members of our community.  Here are the comments of Nathan Manthey previously of Cleveland Institute of Art:

"Hello County Council.  My name is Nathan Manthey, I am a practicing artist in the Cleveland area and I am here to talk to you about the current contract that is up for bid for staffing concerns at the Norma Herr Women’s Center.  Basically, my interest takes place last year, I was a senior at the Cleveland Institute of Art and I took a course called Project Find.  The objective of that course was to establish relations between artists at the Cleveland Institute of Art and homeless and other displaced communities within Cuyahoga County.   

Our first stop was at the Norma Herr Women’s Center and we met with an employee there, the name of Richard Carr.   That employee asked us, What kind of art project we would be interested in?  And after discussion with him he told us that the project that he thinks that would benefit Norma Herr would be a hard or metal sculpture outside of the building. And the reason for that was because he claimed the women that came there were angry and vengeful and that to have a metal or a sculpture made out of anything besides metal would ultimately mean it would be abused and torn apart by these women. 

I didn’t appreciate that distilling of the spirit of the homeless women so I met directly with them.  We created a project where they would go out on empty lots since there are a surplus of empty lots in Cuyahoga County and they hosted mock ground breaking [or] ribbon cutting ceremonies for fictitious women shelters. They got to create their own speeches and they got to thank whoever (sarcastically thank) whoever they thought should provide these for them.  When I voiced the original idea of this project to the director of the Office of Homeless Services, I believe she’s the director, Ruth Gillett, she dissuaded me or tried to dissuade me from continuing on with this project. And she said essentially that the women would be confused by the idea of this project and that they would believe that the shelters were actually being built. And that they were, that they would essentially be angry by that. 

My problem with that is that these people that represent the staffing at the shelter do not hold the women in high esteem.  If you are a social welfare program you need to care more about the people that you are delivering that social welfare to.  I believe that Frontline Services and I have talked to several, several members of the Norma Herr Women’s Center, all of them have complained to me about the current staff of Frontline Services and there is some slow improvement but I know there is finally other contract bidders for the staffing concerns this year and I want the committee to strongly consider going with those other bids besides Frontline.  That’s the end of my statement."

 

by Brian Davis and transcribed by Denise Moore

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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

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New Day and New Updates on Women's Shelter

There was a really nice piece about the Women's Shelter posted in the Scene Magazine today. This is the url if you need to cut and paste:http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2017/02/13/residents-hopeful-for-change-at-norma-herr-womens-shelter-but-not-too-hopeful.   This story laid out all the issues facing the women everyday at this horribly administered shelter, but unfortunately made the point that most women do not trust the process.  They have been let down so much that they see no hope in there being a change. Change is always difficult and it takes a lot to take the risk on a change.  Scene sent a reporter to stay at the shelter overnight who was shocked by the conditions in the shelter, and was comforted by other residents.

We have heard from a number of people who say that we should sit back and be proud of what we have done to call attention to the problem or the minor adjustments that have taken place over the last year or the horrible staff who left the shelter or the hearing the County held last year.  This misses the point of our advocacy.  There are more women staying in the shelter every night compared to last year.  There is a feeling that the place is less safe with all the people, beds and nothing to do in the evening.  There is more depression and feeling of hopelessness.  So, at the end of the day, we have done nothing to help.   We have tried and spent countless hours trying to improve the shelter, but without much to show.  Things are worse for the women today and they are hoping and praying for a change. 

by Brian Davis

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Another Update about Women's Shelter

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

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

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

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

by Brian Davis

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Women's Shelter Update

Thanks to Joe Pagonakis from WEWS Newsnet5 for highlighting the rough time the women are having at the shelter.  It is ironic that on the night of this report there were 215 women sleeping in the shelter, which is far higher than the 170 beds and the number of meals ordered.  There are far too many women in the building.  There are far too many sleeping on mats on the floor.  There are far too many women stuck with no where to go.  There was a tour of the shelter yesterday by some important people we heard.  The women who spoke yesterday to Joe at Newsnet5 said that there are some really good staff who help the women, but the majority are horrible.  The women said that they do not feel safe.  They hate the food.  They talked about how it took six months of being there before they got a case worker assigned to help with housing. 

All the women voiced their support of a new shelter staff and a new agency coming in to operate the shelter.  60 women signed a petition in support of West Side Catholic Center to oversee the shelter.  There were many women afraid to speak up or who tried to respond to the survey that was shown in the Channel 5 piece but were warned by staff not complete the survey or they would be punished.  The Homeless Coalition supports a new provider operating the shelter.  We have tried to push for a change, but the bottom line is that there is an entrenched staff who are not helping the women move forward.  We need to clean house as a community, and bring in new ideas and new strategies for serving women.

 

Support letter removed at the request of the author. 

by Brian Davis

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Women's Shelter Up For Bid

We have not talked much about this over the last two months, because we have actively been working on finding an alternative to Frontline Services running the Community women's shelter on Payne Ave.  We have regularly posted all the problems at the shelter here.  A handful of brave women stepped forward last year to testify about the conditions at the shelter in the first of its kind hearing at the County Council.  Last year, the Cuyahoga County Council fulfilled a promise by requiring the Office of Homeless Services to open up the contracting to other social service providers.  Then they extended the deadline when the first announcement only gave three weeks to complete the massive application.  So, the County accepted two proposals last week to run the women's shelter.  One from Frontline Services and the other from West Side Catholic.  This will silence the criticism we heard last year that no one else bid on the contract.  Here is what Councilwoman Conwell said back at the May hearing,

Just for the audience to know, no one else bid on the contract which means that no one else wants to do this work. So, as we move forward as a community, we must also keep that in mind we don’t want to ever get in a situation that, that we don’t have anyone that wants to provide that work. Not saying that we can’t work together to fix the issues that occur in any household.

NEOCH staff worked to convince West Side Catholic of the value of administering the Women's Shelter and then to respond to the request for proposal.  We also convinced Metanoia to partner on this project as well. They bring their non violence and conflict resolution efforts to the collaboration.  They also have strong ties in the community and can operate an overflow system effectively.   West Side Catholic is one of the finest programs in the homeless community.  Women go all across town to be able to spend time in the drop in center to be able to get involved in the many programs they offer.  West Side Catholic has operated a shelter for women and families since the early 1980s, and have a positive relationship with the homeless population in Cleveland.  NEOCH is supporting the West Side Catholic application and hope that they will change the atmosphere over at the last shelter in Cleveland reserved for single women.  Here is the letter of support from a few members of the Cleveland City Council in support of West Side Catholic.

 

 

by Brian Davis

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New Section of the NEOCH Website

Improving Cleveland Shelters Added to Website

Shelters are often the only resource available to individuals and families facing homelessness for a variety of reasons. The work NEOCH has done through the Homeless Congress and current members of the homeless community is discussed on our website here. The process of creating laws regarding homelessness and administration regulations belonging to each shelter contract are explained. The data collected from a survey distributed to the members of the women’s shelter in July 2014 is displayed. The graphs show the different housing statuses individuals identified with (i.e. Emergency, Gateway, etc.), common concerns in shelters, quality of shelter staff and service, length of shelter stay, and employment opportunities.

The most common complaints from the women’s shelter are posted on this page. These include problems with staff behavior, facility space, lack of food, lack of general rules, and safety issues. Furthermore, the May 2016 Cuyahoga County Council regarding the Women’s Shelter is discussed with an available video link. Links for an entire list of complaints, problems with the food supply, and the responses from the owners (Frontline Services) are provided. Recommendations for possible changes are given and links to more resources are listed at the bottom of the page.

The Fair Housing rights of individuals receiving shelter are listed, as well as examples of prohibited forms of discrimination. The “protected classes” under the Federal Fair Housing Act are stated. Laws regarding sexual orientation, disability, and service animals are explained. Contact information for the local fair housing organization and the local fair housing enforcement agencies are provided. Links to the transcript from the May 2016 Cuyahoga County Health Human Services and Aging Committee are available, as well as a link to a video of the entire hearing.  Finally, a history of overflow at both the men’s and women’s shelters in Cleveland is provided. This spans the years of 1990 and 2004. The facilities involved in assisting overflow and the finances involved are also discussed. Topics of debate regarding potential regulations of shelters are listed.

by Kelly the Intern

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County Issues a Request for Non-Profits to Bid on the Women's Shelter

NEOCH objected to the Request for Proposals issued by the County for an operator of the facility.  Mainly because of the short time line and the steering toward the existing  provider.  We did not want the current provider to say, "Hey, this is the best we can do because who else is going to run the shelter?  No one else applied for the grant so what do you expect?"  Basically, they are saying what are you going to do kick us out?  Good luck because no one else applied.  We object because the RFP built for only huge providers who run giant shelters.  Here is the letter we sent.  

November 14, 2016

Ruth Gillett

RE: RFP #38561 Issued November 3, 2016 

We were surprised with the issuance of this Request for Proposals because the Homeless Congress had asked for a new provider back in September 2016 and you never came back to invite them to provide input on the request.  You did not reach out to homeless people or their advocates to ask what could be added to the RFP to improve the shelter.  I am especially frustrated since I met with Eric Morse, COO of Frontline Services operator of the current shelter in September and he said that they were just awarded one year of funding so we should meet with the women together because no matter what happens they will be operating the shelter for the next year.  We began meetings, and then this RFP came out.  I feel like I was duped. 

My other issue is that this RFP is slanted so that there can be only one outcome.  You have set up a process in which the existing providers have an unfair advantage over any other group in Cuyahoga County, which seems dangerously close to contract steering.  My issues with the RFP are:

  1. There is only 26 days to organize a coalition to meet all the concerns expressed in the RFP.  If you were truly looking for new ideas and an improvement in the service you would have provided warning that this was coming and allowed for groups to respond.  You have issued this when there was a major Election and a Thanksgiving holiday which most homeless service providers spend many resources. 
  2. Three years of funding is a long time to be stuck with a bad provider.  If the average woman is homeless for 50 days then there are thousands of women who will have a negative experience with County government funded programs over three years.
  3. Based on the minimum requirements section there are only three existing providers locally who have run a shelter with the size of 150 people per night.  We understand that this is an important facility in our community, but how do you expect to improve the services if you limit the bid to only three choices?
  4. One of the minimum vendor requirements is that the vendor operate a safe, clean shelter which in my opinion disqualifies the existing provider.  “In order for offers to be considered responsive, vendors must meet these minimum prior requirements: Provider must provide detailed documentation that it has the capacity to: 1. Operate a safe, clean shelter that serves 150 or more persons per night…. A vendor’s failure to meet these minimum prior experience requirements will cause their proposal to be considered non-responsive and the proposal will be rejected.”  A quick survey of the women at the shelter would show that many women do not feel safe at the shelter.  The fact that an armed security guard is at the front door does not prevent fights, threats and assaults in the basement as Loh has testified to in the past.  There are five reported assaults on the Cleveland Police website just in the last month at 2227 Payne Ave., which does not include those who decided not to fill out a police report.  I would argue that the existing service provider should be disqualified from answering this bid because of the safe provision. 
  5. I don’t understand how a provider has to support a strategic plan to reduce the number of people entering the shelter.  How is the provider going to be able to control the impact of a Donald Trump administration’s budget cuts on the number of people entering a shelter?
  6. The budget line item is again written to favor the existing providers.  Under the budget on page 2 estimated the cost of this project at $3,120,672 which is less than the total cost of the two shelters which is well over $4 million.  How is the “estimated cost of this project” just the addition of the County portion of the funding for the Men’s and Women’s shelter?  This is especially true with all the other funding listed in the previous sentence without any totals.  How is an upstart organization supposed to know how much funding exists in these areas?
  7. The Request is due by November 29 and the contract starts on January 1.  How would a new provider be able to move into running the shelter in less than one month?  This would only work for the existing provider and no other group in the community. 
  8. There is no way for homeless people in partnership with small grass roots organizations to respond to this RFP because of the restrictions in the request. 
  9. There is nothing about the importance of voting and submitting a plan for registering these individuals which was a part of previous requests.  We believe that this is a violation of the Motor Voter Bill to not include this in the RFP as part of a County contract serving low income people with a public function like shelter. 

10.  I do not understand why a non-profit, Cleveland Mediation Center, is specifically mentioned in the RFP to review grievances when homeless people have stated that they do not trust this organization to oversee grievances. 

11.  The women submitted a list of 13 concerns to the County in September 2015, and yet very few of those concerns have been incorporated in the RFP such as a resident council, display of your fair housing rights, meetings between the director and residents, and a procedure for reducing bullying and harassment issues. 

For all the above reasons, we believe that this RFP is fatally flawed and should be withdrawn and redone with the input of the women staying at the shelter. 

Sincerely 

Brian Davis

Post Script:  On November 15, the County indicated that two of our concerns may be taken care of.  They are working to extend the deadline for submission of a grant to January 31, 2017.  They also may move the start date back to March 2017 or somewhere in that area.  We hope that they can look at some of the other points that make it impossible for small groups to apply and to get some more input from homeless women. We will post the updated Request on our website as soon as it is released.

Women's Shelter Improvement Plan

These are the issues that the women sleeping at the shelter want changed.  The Homeless Congress and staff of NEOCH have been meeting to discuss these issues.  Solutions recommended by the Women Living at the Community Women’s Shelter in 2015 and updated in October 2016.

  1. Staff Re-Hired With Client Input: All Frontline Staff who currently work at the shelter would be laid off over the next three months (one third at a time), and would have to reapply for their jobs or accept a transfer to another position within Frontline that never would involve contact with the Community Women’s Shelter at Norma Herr.  An elected group of current or recent residents of the shelter would interview the potential employees and would have a meaningful input regarding potential staff.  We need some backup for the food since we cannot count on edible food or even enough for everyone. 
  1. Create an Independent Resident Council: An independent resident council would be started to comment on staffing, maintenance, facility issues, food, grievances, and the daily operation of the agency.  These notes would be collected by a third party (not an existing subcontractor of Frontline) and presented to senior staff at Frontline.  The staff would respond in writing and those notes would be available to other residents by being displayed.  Frontline could hire an independent third party group for the exclusive purpose of overseeing a resident council.
  2. Movement of Disruptive Residents: There are a number of residents who are creating a hostile living environment and are not being sanctioned or punished for all the problems they create. The resident council would be allowed to recommend for transfer or discharge residents who are regularly violating the rules or fighting and not being disciplined by the staff.  Frontline staff/client rights officer would have the final say on the population living in the shelter, but at least would have to respond in writing to the concerns. 
  3. Grievance Procedure Reform: The shelter must re-write their grievance procedure with the input and approval of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  Grievances must be done in a more timely manner and must have a written response.  At the end of the process there must be an independent third party (non-Frontline staff) who can make the final decision.  This could be a volunteer attorney who has no relationship with the shelter, staff or the agency.  This cannot be a subcontractor of the agency such as Cleveland Mediation Center, to make final decisions on grievances submitted to the agency.
  4. Display of Grievances: The main topics of the grievances need to be displayed on a weekly basis with some non-identifying information released about the results.  This is to assure that people trust the grievance process and will be willing to complete a grievance. There also must be some consequence for the staff if they are regularly the subject of complaints or are found to be violating the rights of residents.
  5. Outside Agency/Religious Organizational Support: The shelter has to do a better job of accepting help from the outside to improve the conditions.  They need to have one staff dedicated to accepting church groups who want to donate items or volunteer or serve a dinner.  Residents should be encouraged to assist and volunteer to help at the shelter in order to improve the conditions. 
  6. Redo the Rules and Regulations with a Resident Committee: The Shelter Rules and Regulations will be rewritten with the input of an independent resident committee by January 2016.  The shelter needs to offer more incentives to those who live at the shelter to participate in programming and quickly move on to housing.  They need to divide up the shelter into smaller communities with staff who specialize in assisting special populations and offer specialized care with programs for people in need of help such as addiction, mental health, students, job seekers, or those seeking housing.  This does not mean dividing up the shelter by different populations in different bedrooms, but building the concept of community among like-minded individuals within the shelter.  They need to offer more medical assistance to those who are on bed rest or movement to more appropriate facilities. 
  7. New Procedure for Employee Evaluation Going Forward. Resident input should be sought as part of employee performance evaluations and those comments should be taken into account when deciding on promotion or salary increases.  If the employee does not get at least 10 resident comments either positive or negative, the senior staff need to gather additional input.
  8. Quarterly CEO Meetings with Residents: The director of Frontline needs to meet with the residents at least quarterly to hear concerns and ways to improve the shelter.  No staff working at the shelter are allowed to attend this meeting.
  9. Display of Fair Housing Rights: Since the shelter has had repeated violations of fair housing rules by not offering bed rest ordered by doctors and not respecting the rights of the disabled or the LGBT HUD rules, the shelter must display the fair housing rules that they are following. 
  10. Independent Organization Sets Up Process to Review Harassment Claims: The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center will have a female staff person on site everyday who can respond independently to sexual harassment and related issues by the women.
  11. Public Acknowledgment of the Need for a Shelter for Mentally Ill Women: Frontline will accept that there is a need for a separate shelter for severely mentally ill women and will begin to work on finding and funding a separate facility. [Did you know that there is not a specialized center for people with a severe mental illness to go without being confined by the courts in one of the state hospitals?]
  12. Training for Security Guards:  The women are concerned with the threats and lack of compassion by the armed security officers.  The women want the police officers who work at the shelter to have to be certified in the crisis intervention with mentally ill people, and sensitivity training or implicit bias training before they can work at the shelter.
  13. Seminars for the Residents on LGBTQ Issues:  Many residents have had no previous experience in living with trans individuals and have no experience with sensitivity around LGBTQ issues.  The residents feel like this was thrust on them without warning or discussion.  There is an understanding that this is the law, but there needs to be some cultural sensitivity training and some open discussion about the law with the residents and the local fair housing groups.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

NEOCH Had a Few Successes Recently

Ice and Leslie at the Cosgrove Feast and Fellowship in OctoberFamily Homelessness

The Community Women's Shelter no longer housing children.  We raised the issue with the County, the media and the public and we saw a change in October 2016. The Women's Shelter is way overcrowded and there were many homeless families looking for help.  The County came up with the solution of putting women with children inside the already overcrowded women's shelter.  NEOCH felt that the County should declare an emergency and ask for help.  The City Mission stepped forward to help and is now housing families in the gymnasium.  They purchased cots and toys for the kids.  This shows that with public private partnerships, we can solve problems.  We thank City Mission for their help in this time of crisis.

Began negotiations on the Women's Shelter changes

Frontline Services has begun meeting with women on the priority issues to improve the shelter.  We will post the priority items and provide regular progress for the shelter.  So far, we are planning on a survey of the women and the creation of a resident council to rewrite the rules.  There are many questions outstanding that need answered from the agency.  This is only a small step but at least the two groups are talking.

Purge Lawsuit

After a loss at the district court our legal team scored a scored a victory in the Appeals Court and ruled against the Ohio Secretary of State for the way he purged voters.  We posted the information on our voting blog from Demos about the suit here.  The issue was that the Secretary of State notified voters that they may be removed from the voting rolls, but gave them vague or confusing instructions for what the voter should do to correct this situation.  The lawyers spent weeks on negotiating this and eventually had to go back to court to get the federal court to order a resolution.  It was a victory for common sense and voting rights. 

Central Kitchen

In 2015, we kept hearing at meetings that the food at the two big shelters was subpar. The two shelters had contracted with the Lutheran Metro Ministry program called the Central Kitchen.  We had Central Kitchen staff attend Homeless Congress meetings, but it was not getting better.  So, we set up meetings at the Central Kitchen last year and things are getting better.  They hired a new head chef this summer and have made the trainees go out and serve the food at the shelters on a regular basis.  The residents admitted at both the Homeless Congress and at the Resident Council that things are improving at the Central Kitchen.  We congratulate the staff over at Central Kitchen, and hope to see continued improvement.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Homeless Congress Asks for a New Women's Shelter Provider

Homeless Congress


Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell

Cuyahoga County Council

2079 East 9th St.

Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Dear Councilwoman Conwell:

The residents of the local shelters met on September 8, 2016 at our regular Homeless Congress meeting and unanimously approved a resolution asking that the County find another social service provider to administer the Community Women’s Shelter at 2227 Payne Ave.  One year ago the Homeless Congress voted to give a September 2016 deadline for some improvement and provided a 13 point list of the areas we felt were critical deficiencies.  As you know from the hearing held in May, there are a large number of complaints from the women.  These include:

  1. Staff disrespect, a lack of empathy that has not improved in 12 months.
  2. Mistreatment by staff and a total disregard of the opinions of residents. “We are treated as inmates and not partners in the struggle to overcome homelessness.”
  3. Lack of structure in the shelter and the rules change frequently without notice.
  4. Grave safety issues that even with security makes the women feel that violence can break out at any time.  The security seem to protect staff before they provide security for the residents.
  5. A lack of competent impartial oversight that the residents can go to in order to get help when the shelter violates the County standards.  The women do not feel that government is overseeing the operations of the Shelter and the Frontline supervisors do not seem to know what is going on day to day at the shelter.
  6. A lack of programming to help the women move out of the shelter or improve their situation.  There is nothing to do in the shelter but sit, get angry and fight.
  7. A fair grievance process was never set up a fair grievance process that involves an impartial person to resolve complaints.
  8. The shelter rarely responds in writing to complaints and the process takes way too long.  They also enforce the punishments before the grievance is resolved in violation of the County standards. 
  9. Lots of trauma and stress living in the shelter, and staff do not do anything to alleviate the horrible conditions. There are regular threats by staff to expel residents for small infractions of the rules.
  10. No independent resident council and we have not been able to meet with the COO or CEO of Frontline for 10 months.

We have a website with all the details and a transcript of the County Health and Human Services hearing at  www.neoch.org/houseofpayne/.  We ask that the County initiate a process for replacing the shelter provider locally.  The women who currently stay at the shelter along with NEOCH would appreciate the opportunity to have input on the Request for Proposal.  We are going to begin to interview potential replacement providers to hear alternatives to Frontline Services running the shelter. Despite a few changes that have taken place in the shelter, the worst staff member being relocated, and the claims of staff at the May hearing to be in compliance with the local shelter standards, the current residents of the shelter felt that our community needs fresh ideas and new energy on Payne Avenue.

The women argued at the meeting that staff were still disrespectful to the women and could not offer much help in moving into stable housing. They felt that there was not enough impartial oversight of the shelter and hope that a Request for Proposal process can at least build in improvements to the shelter for 2017 and beyond no matter who is running the facility.  There has not been any active negotiations between the agency and the residents in the last year over improving the conditions, or much of an attempt to meet the 13 demands that were included in our list of concerns from 2015.  The vote was unanimous without one person present at the meeting voicing any opposing views to asking the County to seek other social service providers to oversee this facility. 

Since this is the only emergency facility left in our community for women who do not have custody of their children and so is critical in the struggle to end homelessness.  The current facility is overcrowded, filled with women of different backgrounds and different barriers to stability.  Current staff are paralyzed in how to serve the large numbers of fragile women.  The Homeless Congress believes we need a dramatic change to bring in a group of social service providers who can provide activities and services that move women into housing faster. 

We would welcome you or any of the County Councilmembers to any of our upcoming meetings.  We meet on the second Thursday of the month at the Cosgrove Center at 1 p.m. (October 13, November 10, and December 8) to hear directly from the women.  Please call NEOCH to let us know that you will be able to attend (216/432-0540).

As voted upon at the September Homeless Congress

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