Councilman Zack Reed Attends Congress

Thanks to Kris for taking the notes for this meeting.  Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed attended the meeting and addressed the Congress.  Councilman Reed heard concerns from the group including:

  • too little food being served at women’s shelter along with other women’s shelter meal concerns and not allowed to bring outside food into the shelter.
  • concerns regarding disparity in shelter conditions, options, and services between men’s and women’s shelters (worse conditions, options, and services in women’s shelter).
  • only one shelter for single women without children, no option to stay at facility during the day even with bed rest orders unless you’re one of the lucky 12 or so (insufficient bed rest beds),
  • not providing case management, training programs or opportunities for women the way the men’s shelter(s) do.
  • people who are elderly or who have physical disabilities are sleeping on mattresses on the floor in the overflow room instead of giving them priority for beds,
  • the staff force women with disabilities and bed rest orders out into the cold to seek services or spend their day at the Cosgrove Center when doing so puts them at risk,
  • Previous problems at the Men's Shelter in 2002 were handled by the County/City quickly and resulted in a new provider stepping in and improving the men's shelter.
  • insufficient heat, but not allowed to bring a blanket in from outside and no pillows at all and no extra blankets available.).

Brian requested City Council take action to require shelters in the city to display the rights of people with disabilities in the shelters and LGBT shelter rights and that they amend the City’s fair housing ordinance to include source of income protections (so that folks with a housing choice voucher cannot be refused housing opportunities).  He indicated that families presenting for shelter shouldn’t be diverted as it resulted in many folks returning to unsafe situations or sleeping in cars.  They fear that their children will be taken away from them.  There was some discussion of trans folks who were not routinely informed that they have the right to stay in the shelter of the gender with which they identify if they like.  Also, some discussion of people with comfort (disability-related) animals do not go to the shelter because they don’t know if they have the right to bring their animals with them.  Another woman reported that a woman who is blind was denied access to the dining room with her guide dog. 

Before leaving, Councilman Reed committed to writing a letter to the County Executive, Armond Budish and copying each member of County Council to recap the concerns he heard at the meeting and as what, if anything, would be done to address the concerns. He will request that at least the County respond to the concerns raised by the Homeless Congress in a letter to Councilwoman Conwell.   Additionally, he committed to contacting Susan Neff at Frontline Services to meet with her to discuss any actions are under way and what may be planned to address these concerns.  He agreed to turn over the two pieces of advocacy on fair housing and income protections to the departments within the City who could champion these issues.  The Councilman requested he be invited back in a few months to continue the conversation.

Revised from Notes taken by Kris Keniray who took the notes and attended the meeting.

Brian Davis