My Introduction to the Norma Herr and 2100 Lakeside Homeless Shelters

by Emily Garcia


When I was helping the women at Norma Herr Women’s Shelter with their grievances for the shelter, I learned that the staff treated the women horribly.

According to the women, the food would run out or was rationed, or sometimes, they’d feed them outdated food. Women who are diabetic are not allowed to bring snacks into the shelter they may need to have on hand in case of emergency attacks, or to prevent attacks.  Women with diabetes do not have access to special food to control their disease, and those who do not eat pork do not always have an alternative.

Staff don’t clean the shelter, won’t let the women use the cleaning products, nor do they address or get maintenance to fix up the shelter in a timely manner.  They do not let the women stay in the shelter during the day, insisting that they are only a shelter and not a job center or housing referral center.   The shelter doesn’t provide much for the women to do during the evening, and they don’t provide resources to help the women find housing.  This causes a lot of bickering and fights at night among the women.

The shelter doesn’t have hot water for the showers, and there aren’t enough working showers for the women to use.  Many of the showers and toilets are broken and out of commission.  One woman said that staff would tell the women that if they’d do some of the staff’s chores, hot water would be provided for showers.

Other issues of concern that the residents told me include: staff showing favoritism to some residents instead of being fair to all of the residents; staff losing residents’ mail; staff giving residents a deadline to remove their belongings from the building, but throwing away residents’ belongings before the deadline.


When I attended a Resident Council Meeting at the 2100 Lakeside Men’s Emergency Shelter, I learned that the staff treated the men there a lot better than the staff at the women’s shelter.  It was amazing the difference between the two shelters.  The men had lots of compliments for the way things were going.  The men had a few problems with some of the volunteers, but also identified a number of exceptional staff. 

The men there had only a few issues with the shelter, the first had to do with food. Complaints about food included: not enough options for men who are diabetic; not enough food; food being overcooked. It seems like the food issue could be easily fixed.  It was interesting that one trans woman filed a complaint about the women’s shelter and had previously stayed at the men’s shelter.  She had a good list of all the differences between the two shelters and how much better the men’s shelter was compared to the women’s shelter.  She wondered why the men’s facility allowed 120 men to stay in the shelter to work on issues during the day.

Other issues at the men’s shelter were the need for monitors in the men’s bathrooms and how to deal with problems with some of the residents who have mental health issues.  It was much different compared to the large number of complaints women filed in April. 

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronical and NEOCH June 2015