A Better Shelter for Women in DC

Going back 30 years, we have not figured out how to serve women in shelter in Cleveland.  There was a guest editorial in the Huffington Post about a new way of thinking about women's shelter that we should listen to in Cleveland. 

 We have written about the problems in our nation's capital with serving homeless families and the large number of people sleeping on the streets.  Friendship Place operates a shelter in Washington DC called The Haven for single women.   This is written from the perspective of the Executive Director, and so you have to take it with a grain of salt.  All Executive Directors exaggerate the effectiveness and atmosphere of the shelters.  But the information that they have learned seem reasonable and we wish we had them here in Cleveland.

Women hang on longer, drawing help from friends, relatives, coworkers and fellow congregants. As a result, they tend to exhaust their natural resources to a greater degree than men, which can have an impact on the rebuilding process.

 These women that are served at the Norma Herr shelter and at Friendship Place are single, but a large number are estranged from family and children.  They have faced violence, exploitation, and abuse.  Some need safe haven from trafficking and others have mental health needs that are unmet.

The shelter in Washington has decided not to kick women out in the morning and then have them wait to get back in the shelter.  Cleveland went the other way by kicking women out and making them line up at 3 p.m. to get back into the shelter starting in 2012.  The County says that this is an overnight shelter and does not want to pay for social service offered during the day.  The women are expected to go find those services on their own.  The shelter in DC allows women to take night classes or work at night and then sleep during the day.  This is difficult in Cleveland. 

The shelter in DC does not have overnight staff.  The women are trained to respond to emergencies and help the other residents.  In Cleveland, there are babysitting night time staff all night and an armed police officer 24 hours a day (very expensive!).  The shelter in Washington has found improved outcomes and improved participant satisfaction, something lacking in Cleveland.

"This simply makes sense: the women feel trusted and empowered.  They are part of decision making process and know they are treated with dignity and compassion by their new community --the Friendship Place Community."

according to Director Giraud.

The shelter claims to be saving money, which was the reason the county eliminated day services in Cleveland at the Norma Herr Women's Shelter.  Friendship Place in Washington finds that the women can take care of themselves and don't need staff to help with sleeping.  We wish we had this progressive vision for offering women shelter in Cleveland.

Brian Davis

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