Upcoming Discussion of the Value of Supportive Housing

Here is an announcement from Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services:

This is a reminder of the annual, full Continuum of Care (CoC) Member meeting scheduled for Friday, June 16th,  10:00 AM – 11:30 AM. Anyone who is interested in reducing homelessness in Cuyahoga County is considered a member of the Continuum of Care . As always, everyone is welcome to attend the CoC meeting.

The location of this special meeting is the newest Housing First Building:

                 Commons at West Village
               8301 Detroit Avenue,  Cleveland, OH 44102.

There is a parking lot with the building.

 Agenda

Katie Kitchin, Director of the Ohio Office of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and Barb Poppe, formerly head of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) will attend and present the following information for your review and feedback:

Based on analysis of Cuyahoga County Annual Performance Reports for each intervention type of Street outreach, Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, Rapid Re-Housing, Supportive Services Only (SSO) and Permanent Supportive Housing – what are the projected GAPS in the interventions in Cuyahoga County, and rolling up data statewide, the State.

Assess how our CoC is:

  • implementing Housing First practices,
  • aligning with federal benchmarks and criteria and progress toward reaching functional zero for each subpopulation
  • aligning with HUD’s Recovery Housing brief;
  • identifying promising best practices;
  • other items to be determined
  • In addition, CoC members may be asked for feedback on “who” can be diverted from homelessness; “who” could or would benefit from TH; and after ending chronic homelessness, who should the next target population be for prioritizing PSH?

This is a lot to cover in an hour and half!

Please RSVP to 216.420.6844 if you want to attend this meeting.

Thank you!

Editor's Note:  This will focus on how great Permanent Supportive Housing is for the community and will not address the overcrowded shelters, the large number of homeless deaths, the huge waiting lists for housing, and the inability for a homeless family to find help. It will also not focus on the value of spending 80% of our homeless dollars that to PSH instead of the loss of 450 beds of shelter locally.   Other than all that everything is looking good for homeless people especially on one day in January when County officials count.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Updating the No Bid Contract for Intake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Y Haven Latest to be Sacked by HUD

I have been talking about this slow crawl to the elimination of transitional shelters from the "continuum of care" in Cleveland and around the United States for years.  The Plain Dealer posted a story today about the loss of funding to Y-Haven.  NEOCH has been saying that the transitional programs will disappear for years and trying to get all the shelters to oppose these plans.  I always thought Y-Haven would be the last one left to survive, but I was wrong--there are three left.

Back in 2010, NEOCH approached the shelters to say that there is a danger with HUD funding changes that will fundamentally disrupt homeless services locally and the groups should come together to oppose these plans.  We wrote to all the major shelters (except Mental Health Services) with this pitch:

There are new rules for receipt of funding being driven by HUD, these rules are impacting other public and private funders and current service providers.  Service providers and advocates need to work together to ensure that the coming changes won’t impact our constituents ability to access services.  We feel that if we do not all come together that some needs of the homeless in our community may be overlooked.  The expertise in case management, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment that we have perfected in Cleveland may be lost because of financial constraints, change of focus and the lack of a clear plan.

Our plan was that we should set aside competition and our previous disputes in order to get all the shelters to come together to oppose the County plans around funding Permanent Supportive Housing with emergency services money.  The shelters felt that I was too controversial and a thorn in the side of the County and would not come together around a strategy to oppose the County.  Many of those programs are now out of business or hanging on by their finger nails.  We made the case that this will lead to one shelter closing every year to the point that in the end there will be no funding left for shelters. It was not that we opposed funding for Permanent Supportive Housing.  We just felt that the community should not use money taken from the shelters to build this housing.  After all, a permanent supportive housing unit does not turn over while a shelter bed turns over every 40 days and a transitional bed turns over every 6 or 7 months.  In Cleveland, we closed:

  • Family Transitional Shelter was a scattered site owned by a non-profit. (~30 spaces for families--60 beds total with kids)
  • East Side Catholic Shelter both transitional and emergency shelter for women and families (24 units for families or 44 beds)
  • Cleveland Housing Network Transitional for families (15 beds)
  • Triumph House for families 25 rooms for families (50 beds)
  • Domestic Violence Center (closed one shelter for families or single women) (40 beds)
  • Shelter for Mentally Ill Men at 1701 Payne (40 beds plus overflow)
  • Railton House transitional shelter for men closed last week (56 beds)
  • VOA Youth Transitional Shelter on Walton lost funding and will soon reduce size (20 beds lost)
  • Transitional Housing Inc changed to PSH was previously for single women (61 beds)
  • Templum House closed and merged with the DVC program (community saw loss of three actual Domestic Violence shelters for women and families to one) (8 beds lost)
  • Continue Life both transitional and emergency shelter for pregnant women (18 total beds) in two buildings.
  • Abdenour House for people with AIDS (5 beds).
  • Hitchcock Center stopped being a shelter and became a treatment program--must pay to stay (28 beds lost)
  • University Settlement had two transitional shelter building and were the first program lost locally. (18 beds)
  • Upstairs Program operated by Care Alliance for women with a mental illness (16 beds)

Total Beds lost 479 over last dozen years in Cleveland. We hope that Y-Haven will find the funding to continue and we will not lose those additional 113 beds.  On the positive side we got Zacchaeus House as a replacement for Family Transitional with the ability to serve 14 families in scattered sites and not fixed units that are owned by the agency.  The Salvation Army Women's shelter has room for more families (16 additional units).   We also have Seasons of Hope which is a small house that can serve about 4 to 6 women in a no questions asked facility.  So, we lost 479 beds and gained 35 beds for an overall net loss of 444 beds locally.  We did not lose that money from the federal government.  In fact, we have much more money going to housing for homeless people than we did in 2000.  This money goes to Permanent Supportive Housing (620 new fixed units and about 300 new housing vouchers) and the Rapid Rehousing program which provides three months of rental assistance to families. 

We have fundamentally changed how we serve homeless people in Cleveland from a temporary shelter bed system to a housing program. We lost other beds that were reserved for mentally ill people and addicted folks, but those were not really shelter beds.  This was the expectation pushed by HUD and dutifully implemented by Ruth Gillett at the County Office of Homeless Services. After all, they are the Department of Housing and Urban Development and not the Federal Shelter Department.   The problem with this strategy is that there are a lot of people who need the level of care that they get in shelter that they do not get by being placed into housing. The reality is that housing is much more expensive than shelter so you can only serve a fraction of the number you can serve in a congregate living facility. They claimed this was all based on research and economics, but these "consultants and experts" said the same thing when they brought the concept of transitional shelters to Cleveland in the 1980s. 

The HUD/Ruth Gillett strategy would have worked if the economy had recovered with more jobs available locally or if disability payments would allow people to pay for an apartment or if we were building more housing locally and rental costs were falling.  None of this happened and so we are at a point that there is only one place left for single women struggling with housing.  We have a system overwhelmed with families looking for a bed to the point that we have an overflow system for families.  We also saw a record number of homeless kids this last school year at the Cleveland Metro School District.  I am afraid we are moving back to the days when there are 60 guys sleeping on Superior Avenue.  If we loose the men's transitional programs, the shelters will become extremely overcrowded similar to what we saw in the 1990s in Cleveland. Or will we put time limits on shelters, open the basement of the welfare building or garage floors, or will we begin to turn people away on a daily basis?  Someone needs to fund temporary spaces for people struggling because they got kicked out by their spouse or parents.  Some agency needs to see the value of places for people to live as they recover from a major health issue.  Where do all the sexually based offenders live when they are branded with a scarlet letter for life?

Y-Haven had its issues, but was extremely valuable to the hundreds of men who need time to recover.  When a guy hits bottom and loses everything, he needs some time to get his life together and rejoin society.  The County and HUD are telling him, "too bad; sleep on the street for a period of time." It is tough to recover, take a shower, find a job, type a resume, recharge your phone all while sleeping on Superior. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.