Nice Bit of Reporting on WEWS Channel 5

This is a wonderful piece of reporting on WEWS on our "Missing in Action" Poster by Derick Waller.  What did we learn from this piece?

  • Yvonne Conwell picked up the phone for the News Media, but will not respond to homeless people.
  • She claims that someone said she was not "compassionate," but no one has ever accused her of a lack of compassion that I have ever heard? In fact, the opposite is true if you check the notes from the last meeting when Councilman Dale Miller attended the Homeless Congress.
  • The flyer looked good on camera in color. 
  • The advocates were symbolically out in the cold while the elected official was comfortable inside. It worked metaphorically as well.
  • I am not sure what "I was the one who reached out and got the ball rolling..." means, but she is obviously upset by our advocacy. This problem has existed since 1998, but at least back then there were other options available. 
  • We raised the same issue back in October on WEWS, and it is still bad.  So for all the talk and meetings, the women still feel there are problems.  If I sat over at the Cosgrove Center for a couple of hours per day, I could collect at least 50 legitimate grievances that would go unanswered about the Women's Shelter. 
  • The County gave over $300,000 to the women's shelter.  We did not find out who asked for them to throw money at the shelter by hiring more staff?  There is a culture of poorly trained staff who disrespect the residents, and no resident or former resident would suggest adding money for more staff. Plus, the shelter only opens at 3 p.m. so how much help could these women get at the end of a day.  What landlord or employers or mental health counselor is available after 3 p.m. to help?
  • Conwell has "seminars for families and children about preventing homelessness?"  Unfortunately, there are no families or children staying at the shelter we are talking about to learn about preventing homelessness.
  • If we have 130 beds and 30 new beds now and yet there are regularly 185 people sleeping at the shelter how does that help? Shouldn't we try to solve the problem and not try to solve half the problem?  This is the only shelter available for single women in Cuyahoga County so shouldn't we plan for the number of women who actually show up not the number we hope show up before 7.
  • Conwell is having another "closed door" meeting but I was not invited, and this was not advertised for the women at the shelter. Wow, what if I volunteered to have my mouth taped shut just so I could report back to the women then could I come?

What needs further explanation:

  • This was one of the many missing flyers that we issued identifying most of the County Council.  Mr. Waller at WEWS picked this one out to follow up on primarily because the shelter is in Councilwoman Conwell's district.  Also, the secret meeting was circled and viewed as attractive to the media.
  • Ruth Gillett at the Homeless Congress meeting on Thursday disputed that that the Councilwoman had in fact conducted a "secret" meeting, but it is curious that the director of the shelter, the director of Cleveland Mediation and the COO of EDEN (owner of the Women's Shelter building) showed up for the meeting and no residents of the shelter attended. We have the notes on our blog in the above link. 
  • Imagine if you went to County Council to complain that the County funded Prosecutor was not prosecuting mostly white police officers for shooting black people in our community, and they said don't worry we are giving him additional funding to solve this problem.  You would be angry over this turn of events.  This is how the women at the shelter feel.  They complained about staff out of control, no one believing them, retaliation, no oversight and no one responding to grievances.  The response from the County was more money to the same agency running this shelter.  From the perspective of the residents, the County is rewarding Frontline Services for the mistreatment of homeless women.
  • If there is any dispute if this shelter is out of control, there is an easy solution send County staff over there at 9:30 p.m. to see for themselves.  Or better send a staff in undercover to see the treatment that they receive as the typical homeless woman. 
  • If there is a dispute about the numbers, there is an easy way to solve that issue--visit the shelter at 10 p.m.  But does that even matter?  If our policy is not to turn people away and the shelter claims an average of 174 per night with only 160 beds on site how does that make sense?  Doesn't that say to taxpayers that you need a new shelter to serve the growing population?
  • NEOCH staff were criticized for always focusing on the negatives and never being satisfied.  Those are both true statements, and that could be the mission of a homeless advocacy organization.  The Women's Shelter has not improved for two decades and we have tried many different things to get a change.  We have been criticized all along for being sexist, a bully and single minded.  We have had our funding eliminated and put on the persona non-gratis list of many meetings, but at the end of the day it is really bad over at 2227 Payne Ave.  We keep getting dragged back into these discussions, because women regularly complain about the conditions.  Other shelter staff complain and regularly whisper thanks because they are afraid the County will retaliate if they publicly criticize the largest service provider in the homeless community. 
  • Two incidents happened recently that lead me to my position.  The first was in August when a women attempted suicide in the lobby of the shelter and no one from the staff or security believed her and called the EMS.  Other residents were afraid and after a 20 minute delay called themselves.  After a few grievances including the woman who attempted suicide filing a grievance, the shelter management without seeking the 9-1-1 call log declared the whole incident was false and staff acted properly.  This woman should never have stayed at the shelter, but then even after her attempt she was there for a few more months.  Then only last month a woman had her service dog taken by the dog training academy determined the environment was too bad for the dog, but they left the human in these conditions.  Senior management determined that there was no issue here and they had done all they could for the resident even though staff had ignored and harmed this women getting into housing.  NEOCH sent a Department of Aging outreach staff over to the shelter, supervisors told her that she was no longer at the shelter even though the women was sleeping upstairs.  Over the time that the service dog was at the shelter, one supervisor regularly antagonized the women, criticized and threatened the elderly woman to the point that she is afraid to talk to the media or a lawyer about this situation for fear of being forced out of the shelter. 
  • The Congress and the NEOCH Board agree that there needs to be some dramatic changes at the shelter including a termination of all staff and a do-over hiring everyone with new interviews involving residents.  We have set up a page on our site to ask for big changes
  • The building was renovated for the expectation of an average of 100 people per night with the number of bathrooms for 100 women and heat, washers and cafeteria geared toward 100 women.  Now there between 174 to 210 women coming to the shelter, some with addictions others mentally ill and a few with both behavioral health issues.  Many are getting out of jail while others had their children taken from them.  There are those frustrated over not being able to find a job or survivors of abuse.  They are all crammed together sent out on the streets from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and provided a substandard meal at the shelter.  There is no programming and festering anger at night with so many people tripping over each other.  What did you expect would happen at this shelter on the edge?

Brian Davis

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