It is August and the Shelter is Overflowing!!!

Women's Shelter Residents Staged Mock Groundbreaking to push for the creation of a new shelterMost people do not think of homelessness during the summer and we get only a small number of donations during the summer, but right now the family and women's shelters are over capacity.  They are so full this weekend that they are putting women with children in the shelter for single women which is already overcrowded.  A few of the women called this morning to ask what is the deal, "Why are they putting children in the women's shelter again?" 

I did some investigation and found that every shelter is full and they encouraging people to stay with family or friends until Monday morning.  Workers are forced to tell Domestic Violence victims to go to a police station if they fear for their safety.  I guess having your kids sleep in a jail cell at the police station is safer than sleeping in a car or on the streets, but it seems cruel to tell a woman fleeing with her kids to go to a jail to be safe.  She has to uproot her family and flee the comforts of her home and she ends up in jail on her first night of her new life on the run.  This would not inspire confidence that the County encourages fleeing the violence in the home by telling women to sleep in the lobby of a police station. 

The Women's shelter has around 200 women sleeping every where with only 160 beds.  So they are already full to capacity and now they have women with children sleeping in one of the rooms.  This means children are interacting with the 200 single women at the shelter and one bathroom is blocked for only families. They also have one staff assigned to babysit families taking them away from the other 200 women who need help.  For the past five years, we have seen the rise in families during the summer months, but the County has done very little to address this crisis.  We have eliminated 444 beds in the local shelter system most of those in the family system.  This is a crisis brought on by the decisions made by the County staff who allowed over 300 family and women's beds to disappear.  The women's shelter is way over capacity and we have not added any beds for the summer. Because of this poor planning, we have no where to refer a family today.  We have heard that it is cheaper to offer rental assistance to families, but that does not help on weekends like this one when there are no beds available.  A young child cannot sleep on a promise for rental assistance.  We have two shelters that take families in to sleep on the floors until a bed opens up, and those spaces on the floor are full.

I have yet to understand why this is not front page news?  Why is Frontline Services so secretive about this information?   This is exactly what we were talking about with the Coordinated Intake transparency problem this week.  Why does the Coalition for the Homeless find this out from residents of the shelter and not from the agency?  I am sure that there are churches or other groups who would help if there was some media?  The people of Cleveland are generous and would act if they heard children are suffering in the lobby of the police stations or are stuffed into the shelter for single women with those just released from jail, those with an active addiction, and the mentally ill.  The women organized earlier in the year a series of events to practice opening a new shelter in an effort to nudge the County into acting to create a new shelter.  No one listened, and now we are telling women and families that they are on their own until Monday morning. We hope that no one is hurt this weekend because we do not have a shelter bed available in Cuyahoga County. 

Brian Davis

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