Coordinated Intake Hurts Privately Funded Shelters

Photo by David HagenThe Plain Dealer did a really nice overview of the problems homeless people are facing if they go to a private shelter before they go to the Central Intake site in Cleveland.  This is a huge issue that has brought Republican and Democratic lawmakers together to question this policy.  Democrats Fudge, Kaptur and Senator Brown as well as Republican Rob Portman have all written to the federal agency funding all these services to ask for a clear explanation. 

The policy started last year when folks at the City Mission and their female/family program known as Laura's Home were informed that if their residents spend even a night in the shelter before going to Coordinated Intake run by Frontline Services,  the County will declare the individual no longer homeless.  They will have to leave Laura's Home and become homeless again before they will be able to access any publicly funded shelter or service in Cuyahoga County.   We filed a complaint on behalf of three residents and had one additional resident contact us over the last eight months.  The Coordinated Intake and County refused to respond to the complaint.  We then went to the federal government at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to seek help for our clients and were denied any help.  HUD staff found that the County policy was consistent with the draft rules issued by HUD. 

All of this raises many questions.   Why would these women not be at least given the chance to access services if they were at Laura's Home before the Central Intake rules went into effect?  Why are taxpayers being denied public services because they did not follow rules that they did not know were required?  Why is the County annoying the privately funded shelters with this rule when the City Mission and Laura's Home have been critical component of the safety net? Why is the Federal government not providing stricter rules that would prevent discrimination of residents of religiously based shelters that do not rely on public tax payer dollars?

Recently, a federal interpretation of a rule regarding the use of public and private, faith-based shelters has left some homeless Clevelanders seeking assistance from emergency shelters worse off than before they entered shelter.  The federal interpretation of this rule states that homeless people must first contact the county’s central intake office before going to an emergency shelter in order to keep their status as a homeless individual. This status allows a person or family access to county resources for the homeless.  Because of this federal misinterpretation, an individual or family who, after becoming homeless, seeks emergency shelter from a non-county shelter such as City Mission, St. Hermans, or Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, without first going to central intake forfeits their status as homeless and consequently loses access to all county resources for the homeless. Many times, those seeking assistance from emergency shelters are unaware of this rule and therefore unknowingly break the rule and lose access to these resources.

Progress on amending this misinterpretation has been made in the last few weeks. On April 23rd, the website of U.S. Senator Rob Portman published a press release describing the efforts of Senator Rob Portman, Senator Sherrod Brown, and Congress member Marcia Fudge to inform the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of their concerns with the misinterpretation of this law that is causing homeless Ohioans difficulty.  The three lawmakers urge HUD to make certain that homeless people are not denied resources they need to become self-sufficient simply because they accidentally chose immediate shelter over future assistance by first going to an emergency, faith-based shelter.

In the press release, Portman states, “Faith-based organizations across Ohio like Cleveland’s City Mission play a crucial role in helping struggling families get back on their feet. I’m concerned by any regulations or interpretation of regulations that push Ohioans back onto the streets, instead of giving them the help they need from organizations like The City Mission.”

Additionally, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has also published an article on April 23rd discussing the misinterpretation as well as Fudge, Portman, and Brown’s recent efforts to urge the HUD to amend the problem.

The future of this issue is not yet clear.

by Brian Davis and Allison the BW intern

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HUD Rejects Our Complaint About Coordinated Intake

In April 2013, the County decided that anyone who does not go to the Coordinated Intake first would not be considered homeless and therefore not have access to the rest of the services in the community.  For men, you have to go to 2100 Lakeside shelter first before going to any other facility in the community for assistance with your homelessness.  Women and women with children must start their journey at the Norma Herr Center at 2227 Payne Ave.  If they go to one of the privately funded shelters in the community before going to Coordinated Intake, they lose their ability to access rental assistance, transitional housing or any other publicly funded homeless service.   So, if a woman goes to Laura's Home because she needs a place for her kids for the night and stays there for a month then she tries to get in something more stable the family would be told that they are not homeless and therefore do not have access to a transitional shelter or rental assistance.

We complained and the Homeless Congress complained to the County about this rule as being unfair because these women did not know the rules when they came to the shelter.  There should be a grandfathering of all the women who were in the shelter before the policy went into place at a minimum.   We also felt the policy is a direct attack on religiously based shelters that do not rely on taxpayers for support.  Why should a shelter that receives no public money force their clients to go to the County Coordinated intake first?  Why should these private religiously based shelters be forced to take women from the County intake system who may not be a good match for their facility?  If a Christian based shelter is paying the full price of the shelter, food and clothing, should they be forced to serve an unmarried couple or a woman who may need health or mental health assistance that the staff are not trained to offer?  There is no public money going to Laura's Home and they want the ability to serve the clients that would fit with the religious teachings that are part of the daily activity of the shelter.   It does not seem fair that if the women is living in a privately funded shelter, she should lose access to publicly funded services.  She paid her taxes and just because she did not know the rules of being homeless in Cleveland her family will have to spend extra time homeless. 

The County Council backed the County staff decision to exclude residents of Laura's Home, City Mission, St. Herman's and Maggie's Place from receiving publicly funded services and blamed the HUD policy for this decision. We wrote about this in our member section of the website (must login). Here is the response from the County (again in the member section of the website).  NEOCH then went to HUD to complain about this policy.  All we got back was this:

Outcome/Conclusion:   The Cuyahoga County CoC [Continuum of Care=federal funding grant recipient] coordinated assessment and central intake process is compliant to the requirements at 24 CFR 578.7 of the CoC Program interim rule.   Regarding the 3 women, the continuum’s action is substantiated by their central intake process.  

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or if I can be of assistance in the future.

Sincerely,

Tonya Proctor   

This is not going to go over well with conservative Congress members who often have strong support from religious organizations.   HUD is allowing this split between private shelters and publicly funded shelters at a time in which the federal government is cutting shelter funding.  They are allowing the County to treat those who go to privately funded shelters as second class citizens who are not entitled to the same tax supported services as the rest of the tax payers.  The City Mission has been a part of the homeless system in Cleveland for over 100 years.  I do not understand why County officials want to alienate the Mission?  They have been a part of our response locally whenever the shelters are full by providing overflow space.  They have offered shelters and transitional space for years, and now their clients are being scolded for going to the mission before Coordinated intake.  Even staying one night at Laura's Home before going to Coordinated Intake, they lose their status as a homeless person.  This is a horrible policy and County officials need to rethink this mistreatment of residents who are just trying to find a warm place to lay their head after being kicked out of their housing. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those and only those who sign the entry.