Homeless Congress Notes for November 2017

In the back room of the Cosgrove Center on Wednesday, November 8th (had to reschedule from the normal Thursday time), about 45-50 folks gathered around for November’s Homeless Congress meeting. We discussed several items and then jumped into the main agenda. The main agenda items were:

  • YWCA Update on Women’s Shelter
  • Campus District Inc. Efforts

YWCA Update on Women’s Shelter

From the YWCA, we had two guests: Teresa Sanders, Vice President of Social Services Programs and Operations, and Tish Gomez, Family Engagement Specialist. Teresa Sanders gave an update on the situation with YWCA and the Women’s Shelter.

YWCA Mindset: When Teresa mentioned to someone that the YWCA was interested in running the women’s shelter, someone remarked back, “Why would you run into the burning building?” Teresa said that for her, homelessness is a social justice issue and that everyone deserves to be housed. Teresa knows that one of the goals of the women’s shelter should be to ensure women secure housing so they can stay out.

Transition: Teresa felt that the transition needed to happen smoothly. This meant that if the contract was signed by December 1st, then it would be by March that the transition would be finalized. Teresa guaranteed that shelter operations would continue during that transition period. During the transition period, Teresa will be reaching out to

Changes: Teresa outlined several potential changes which included bringing more service providers into the building, increasing the number of case managers, and regularly meeting with the women in the shelter. Teresa also suggested that the YWCA’s highly transparent culture would reduce the likelihood of there being a toxic culture in the Women’s Shelter. The YWCA will create a highly transparent grievance protocol.

Staying the Same: Despite the YWCA’s religious roots, Teresa reaffirmed that no religious programming would be imposed on the women in the shelter. Also, Teresa confirmed that the women’s shelter would remain a shelter for just women.

Campus District Inc.

From Campus District Inc. (CDI), we had two guests: Bobbi Reichtell, Executive Director, and Rachel Oscar, Community Organizer.

Bobbi spoke at length about the importance vitalizing of the neighborhoods around the CSU campus, especially because many of the homeless services are centered in this community. Bobbi spoke about the Campus District’s recent ideas to beautify some of the spaces near the shelters in the neighborhood. The area around Norma Herr was of particular concern for CDI. Taking questions from the Congress, Bobbi said that the Mayor’s office is against any type of proposal that would dislocate or move the current shelters. Several members of the congress felt that cosmetic solutions for the neighborhood would not deal with some of the deeper issues in the community. Bobbi acknowledged that beautifying the space alone would not solve all the issues. She said that CDI is serious about working to also address those other issues, but that creating a community that is more visually appealing can also play an important part in vitalizing a community

Homeless Congress for September

 Homeless Congress

September 8, 2016---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

 The first topic on the agenda was voting in preparation for the November election.  Golden week is no longer available and the members were encouraged to vote early.  The potential voters were informed about not needing an ID if they vote early and what is acceptable as an address to use for voting.  Cosgrove and the West Side Catholic Center were two of the addresses that can be used for voting purposes. Brian Davis discussed the problems with voting and the lawsuit over those purged, it may be a good idea to register to be sure.  It is no problem to submit multiple registrations.   NEOCH will be assisting with voting and will have a Voting Event on September 27th.  Members were advised that anyone that does not receive a card in the mail with voting instructions may not be registered.

The Campus District Neighbors Plan’s representative, Karla, requested that one male and one female from the shelters volunteer to be on a committee.  The Campus District does all kinds of things in the neighborhoods. They are responsible for some of the banners throughout the city, art shops, art therapy, and trying to get better bus shelters with windows that will block the wind.  Community Development is in every district and their focus is to better the neighborhoods to help make it a better place to live. 

The Campus District Neighbors Plan would like assistance to beautify neighborhoods and make them better with input from the residents.  Two of the Congress members were encouraged to join the committee and were informed that community leaders will be in attendance.

Ruth Gillett revisited Rapid Re-Housing.  She talked about the funding for Rapid Re-Housing and getting the program started by the end of the year.   They discussed barriers to housing.  She also informed members that through the program, they will be able to assist with finances for moving out, security deposit, and several months of rent.  She said she hopes to have the program in place by November.  A member asked if you are supposed to find your own housing or will the County assist in finding houses or apartments.  At this point, that has not been decided. She further informed members that there will be two groups: one age 18 – 24, and the other 24 and over.  There will also be a case manager assigned to each participant.  Participants must have an income or have an income pending.  Ruth stated that the money has to be stretched for singles and said at this point they will pay security deposit and 2 months rent. 

A member wanted to know how they will be informed that the program started or if they are eligible.  She stated that when the information has been put together, they will make it available.  Some members also wanted to know why people with an income are being offered housing first.  It was explained that there has to be an income in place after the voucher runs out.  They are also making sure there is a focus on people that really need the assistance.  There will be relocation opportunities.  Another reason people with an income are able to get housing first is the program does not want to set anyone up for failure and then have an eviction notice on their record which will hurt them down the line. Shared housing was brought back up as an option. Ruth was asked if they will assist to pick or find a roommate. At this time, her response was participants choose their own roommates and encouraged them that it should be someone they know. Members were also informed that criminal background convictions will not restrict anyone from participating.  However, multiple felonies do make it harder to secure housing.

 The landlord would submit a lease (rental agreement).  The property must pass an inspection.  Also, must be fair market rent and any income is counted.  Participants must meet with a case manager at least once a month.  Members asked about furniture.  It was suggested that the shelter staff can assist with referrals.  They can also assist with taking can of any outstanding utility bills.  Ruth Gillette will have more information about this program at the next meeting.  Rapid Re-Housing for singles was last done 5 years ago.  Vouchers were discussed in detail and making sure that no one is abusing the voucher program. 

 One of the artists that worked with the women at the shelter in the past, on an earlier project, wanted to discuss another project she would like to include the women in.  She briefly informed them that she would meet with them to go over the details about the project.

 The raffle was held.

 Next the members went over the Priority Items for the upcoming year. They are:

  1. Shelter Standards Improvements in Regulations
  2. Shelter Law Passed in Cleveland or Cuyahoga County
  3. Shelter System Needs an Ability for Both Men and Women to Recover and Fulfill Bed Rest Orders
  4. Homeless Bill of Rights Passed by the City of Cleveland
  5. A Separate Facility for Mentally Ill Homeless Men and Women
  6. Fair Housing Regulation Passed to Protect Voucher Holders in City or County and
  7. Tiny Homes Campaign.  One member wanted to know who makes the laws and rules for the shelters.  The members were informed that there is no one organization or person in place for shelters. 

Next the recommendations for the changes that need to be made at the shelter were discussed.  The deadline for the changes at the women’s shelter is set for September 2016.  It was noted that County Council President Dan Brady could not attend the meeting, but made a commitment to try and meet the deadlines set by the Congress.  Brian Davis wanted to get some input from the shelter residents that were present at the Homeless Congress meeting about the changes that had taken place over the last year.  The situation at the shelter has not improved.  According to many women who sleep at the shelter it is actually worse.  The members of Congress were asked if the time for the deadline should be extended or it they should ask that Frontline be replaced.  Staff behavior was also discussed and the members felt that it is time to ask that Frontline be replaced.  There was no one present who opposed this advocacy position for the Homeless Congress.

Bus passes were given out.  The next meeting date is October 13, 2016. 

Notes taken by Ramona Turnbull