County Plan to Limit Shelter to the Deserving Tabled

The horrible County plan to limit shelter and increase the street population was sent back to committee for further discussion.  The three big issues mentioned most frequently were:

  • There is no appeals or oversight of this policy.  The thinking was that we need some discussion to make sure that this policy is not abused.
  • There are many other things going on in the world that factor into this emergency shelter issue--the lack of housing, supportive services, and services to those with a mental illness. 
  • No one wants to pass a policy that results in more people sleeping on the streets.

So, the committee will meet to try to improve the language and policy recommendations to prevent harming the population.  The issue that people kept coming back to was the moochers who are abusing the shelter that could go to a "worthy" individual.  I still do not understand this argument since there is almost no vacancies in the affordable housing market.  If a person who is getting income but wasting their funds rejects housing there are 10 other people who are waiting and would jump at the chance to go into housing.  It is such a small number who are abusing the system, because frankly the shelters are pretty horrible places.  So, we are making policies to limit shelter when we have such a small problem that we need to address.  Our concern is that these policies will be abused by staff and good people trying to get into housing will be harmed. 

Why do all of us care so much about people who are getting a check and sleeping in the shelter?  It is not like they are living in luxury.  It is not easy street.  It is a depressing sterile place with a small plate of food and hundreds of other people.  Why are we begrudging people a bed and some food?  Can't we allow the PTSD guy recover or the rape victim heal in a shelter?  Since the mental health system is so broken and we have no ability to provide the care that our friends with a behavioral health issue need, why are we complaining that they are abusing the place that they feel safe?  It will create all this tension between staff and residents and at the end of the day it will not free up that many resources. 

We need more spaces for people to stay inside and Cleveland should champion the fact we don't turn people away.  We have a way smaller street population compared to every other big city in America.  If we start limiting shelter, this will disappear and business men and women will again have to step over people sleeping on the sidewalk in Cleveland. Taxpayers will have to pay in the end with increased incarceration, mental health and emergency room care.  We will save spaces at the shelter to put more "worthy people" in those beds, but we will pay three, four or five times as much on the other emergency services for those same people.  Also, consider that we reduce the lifespan of the population that we force to sleep on the streets. 

We should expand Metanoia (overnight drop in services) and make it year round.  We should open specialized shelters to certain populations (female youth, pregnant women, moms trying to reunite with their children, etc.)  In a time of huge cuts coming, we need to figure out ways to add capacity at the local level and not limit shelter.  All those who supported this plan and are afraid that someone will point out that there are moochers in the shelters, stand proud and say, "It is the least we can offer. We are a compassionate city and we don't want the addicted, the mentally ill, the lazy or those who have made bad life decisions to sleep on the streets."  There should be some advantage for living in Cleveland and that is at least we will offer you a shelter bed.

Brian Davis

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