March Homeless Congress Notes

Attendance was smaller than usual.  Upcoming events were first on the agenda. It was announced that Ruth Gillett, Office of Homeless Services, asked for some time to speak to the Congress going forward.  Council meetings, Committee meetings, NEOCH Annual meeting and the Ohio Primary dates and times were discussed.  NEOCH endorsed Issue 23, the Health and Human Services levy.

 Voting information was given and the Congress members were informed that if they vote early there is no ID required.  Attendees were asked if there was any announcements they would like to make. One member informed everyone about the memorial service for Melvin Nathan, which was on March 11th at 2:00pm.  He had moved into housing prior to passing away.  Also another member brought to everyone’s attention is the police department will be doing a survey or report on Crisis Information which they will be sharing with the men’s and women’s shelters. 

There was a complaint by a resident of the men’s shelter about not being able to stand in front of the building of 2100 Lakeside shelter.  The residents were told to go across the street or be arrested.  Brian Davis informed him that if he were to get arrested for loitering, to contact him and he will provide legal assistance and that the loitering laws are considered unconstitutional.  There must be a victim before there is a crime.  The Congress members asked if there was a way to get this solved without people getting arrested.  Davis agreed to put this in the notes for the resident council at 2100 Lakeside to get this question answered about smoking.

Some of the residents of the men’s shelter also made a request to invite Chief of Police, Calvin Williams, to a meeting to address overuse of the disorderly conduct and loitering laws and explain the complaint process for homeless people.

Ruth Gillett then shared information about the request for input from homeless people about solutions to homelessness.  A question came up about how the County could work on reducing the time people stay at the shelters.  Members discussed with her the problems in the system that prevents homeless people moving on.  One was, what if the staff does not assist them to get housing or access to needed resources?  Also it is very difficult to find housing and more difficult to secure it.  Another barrier is there are no housing vouchers available. 

Her response was that is the reason she would like to attend the meetings and get feedback on what is necessary or what problems are preventing residents from obtaining housing.  She also said she wants to keep the Congress informed about resource information especially housing vouchers.  It was suggested that the Congress advocate for affordable housing.

The final order of business was any problems at the women’s shelter as this has been an ongoing problem.  One of the residents from the women’s shelter said there are problems with the dryers (only one is working), the food is still terrible, and the rooms are too cold.  One resident said she got ill, went to the hospital, and was informed that she had pneumonia.  The basement has finally been renovated, but has not been re-opened yet.  Another resident said when she asked when it would be opened, she was told the next day (March 11th) or that following Monday.  Another problem was that the staff are not providing help to secure housing.  She said staff just gave her a list of housing, but no other information or assistance to secure it or any assistance to go to fill out an application like a buspass.

At the end of the meeting I informed the Congress about the Art Project of the CIA (Cleveland Institute of Art) artists are working on with some of the women at the shelter.  The current Project was a mock “Ground Breaking Ceremony” performance and “Ribbon Cutting” Performance that will be taped to practice for a time when a new shelter is opened.  In addition, they also have plans for a mural for the shelter and a statute to go in front of the shelter.  Everyone was then reminded when the next meeting will be held which is April 14th.

Ramona Turnbull

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