Shelter Politics Dominate Local News Updates

Men’s Overflow shelter:

     The County and City worked together to extend the period of time the men can continue to utilize the overflow shelter at Aviation High School. The men’s shelter is dangerously crowded with over 500 people seeking shelter every night in a shelter than can house 400 men. The Salvation Army in 2003 had resorted to sleeping men in shifts, and housing some men on the loading docks outside their facility. The resident council at the shelter had demanded and petitioned City and County officials to open an additional facility to serve the growing need. After more than one year and many false starts, the closed Aviation High School was chosen to serve 150 people in need of shelter.

     This facility was opened in March, and transportation is available from 2100 Lakeside shelter to the overflow. The men say that it is peaceful and a welcome relief from the chaotic days of stuffing 600 men into a facility that is intended for 400. In the morning the men are able to be transported to the temporary labor companies, Public Square or the Cosgrove drop in center. The overflow was slated to close in June, but an extension was worked out through September.

     There are now underway attempts to buy 2100 Lakeside, and Councilman Cimperman of Ward 13 has publicly talked about the overflow shelter transition into a new facility over an 18 month process. Sources within the City have also talked about plans by the County to drop the Salvation Army as the provider of men’s shelter at 2100 Lakeside. There was a great deal of anger over the demand by the Salvation Army of a significant increase in the budget in early 2004.

Women’s Shelter:

     There are many unhappy women staying at the new entry shelter for women opened at 2219 Payne Ave. called the Community Women’s Shelter. Most women say that they do not like the “Army” approach that the new provider has taken in operating the shelter. Mental Health Services took over the shelter in February 2004, and moved into new larger facilities on Payne Avenue during that same time. While the shelter has almost doubled in the number of beds available, many women are unhappy over the direction of the shelter.

     They are unhappy that they must be searched by a police officer upon entry, they are unhappy that staff does not consult them on rules, and they do not appreciate the young staff that was hired. There are many women who like the urgency that the new staff places on getting women into more appropriate facilities, but a majority complain about the cramped conditions during the day. All women are confined to a dining area for 10-11 hours of the day. It is a difficult undertaking to accept anyone that comes to the door and maintain peace for a little over 100 women per night, but there are a growing number of women who are giving up on the Community Women’s Shelter. This is a dangerous trend that could see more women returning to abusers or sleeping outside and vulnerable.

The East Side Drop In is Back

     After shutting down for men for most of the day for the past few years, the Bishop Cosgrove Center finally reopened to men during the hours that 2100 Lakeside is closed. The Cosgrove had provided a lunch always, but for much of the day was closed to men. The Women’s entry shelter had moved into Cosgrove Center, which had displaced the men. There were a significant number of men outside last summer trying to find a place out of the sun. The day time shelter offers showers, clothing, and times for social service providers to meet with clients. The opening of the drop in shelter is very much appreciated within the men’s community and allows a diverse crowd to break bread together.

     The Cosgrove hosted a spring Community Health Fair organized by the City of Cleveland that attracted hundreds.

Day Laborers Sued Over Advocacy Campaign

     Ameritemps Day Labor company filed a civil lawsuit citing commercial defamation and libel, interference with a business relationship, and unfair competition against the Day Labor Organizing Committee. In April, the Day Laborers demonstrated at Larry Dolan’s house over the treatment of workers at Jacobs Field. Dolan, owner of the Cleveland Indians, sent a strongly worded letter condemning the demonstration. Ameritemps did not like the negative attention and the stories in the media, because they hold the more than a million dollar contract to clean the stadium after games. Thompson Hine is representing the temporary labor company against homeless and low income workers.

     The unfair competition is for the local attempts to start a Community Hiring Hall, which is not a DLOC undertaking. They have a position on the Board, but have a separate fiscal agent and a separate identity. We will continue to track this developing story.

Domestic Violence Shelter loses State Funding

     The state of Ohio has begun to crack down on eligibility for the Emergency Shelter Grants awarded in the last year. First East Side Catholic lost funding because they were determined to be discriminating against boys over age 13. They were forcing families to break up in order for mothers with boys over 13 to enter. The state also found in the law that Domestic Violence shelters are prohibited from receiving funds from the Emergency Shelter Grant.

     The same shelters had received ESG dollars for at least six years with very few questions asked. The Ohio Department of Development attempted to change the way the money was distributed, but this did not go over well with the social service providers. As an interim step, the state scrutinized applications thoroughly, and a few providers were dropped.

     This is a second blow to the Domestic Violence Center which lost part of their victims of crime money from the state after the merger of Templum House and the Center for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. This caused one of the shelters to close for lack of funding. Now the shelter under Ohio law is not considered an emergency shelter.

Around the State:

Columbus News: The Columbus Shelter Board undertook a strategic plan for better serving men called “Rebuilding Lives.” The goal was to move the shelters out of the downtown and put them around the City of Columbus. One shelter, The Open Shelter, objected and remained in the immediate downtown area near the Center for Science of Industry. For bucking the system, they lost all their public funding. In order to survive in 2003, they sold their building to the City of Columbus. In exchange the City gave the shelter one year to find another location or close.

     The year is up June 30, 2004, and the City is demanding that the shelter close. The Open Shelter was the only shelter to serve sexually based offenders. They were the only shelter that served the hardest to serve. The Open Shelter is not going down without a fight lashing out at the funding community, the city government , and downtown businesses. They have staged protests, and are demanding to stay open. They claim the 100 men that they serve will be sleeping on the street.

Dayton Panhandling: In an effort to further humiliate pan handlers, the City of Dayton quietly passed a law that requires pan handlers to register and now must wear huge 7 inch by 7 inch identification badges around their neck. This legislative scarlet letter is intended to discourage panhandling. The previous registration law did little to reduce panhandling, so the City has taken the law to the next level. Officials could not be reached to verify if the license in fact had a giant scarlet “P” on it.

Cincinnati Shelter Threatened: Cincinnati plans were released in late May for the redevelopment of the Over the Rhine neighborhood near the arts center of the Cincinnati Symphony. The plans do not include the Drop Inn Center Shelter. The shelter disappeared from the neighborhood if the vision of the arts community is successful. They intend to build a children education center and attempt to remove homeless people from Washington Park. The shelter has always faced threat, but the current political environment is hostile toward the impoverished, social services, and affordable housing.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue 65 (b) June-August 2004 Cleveland, Ohio