When Homeless People Meet OHS, Again:  What A Surprising Homeless Congress Meeting on Thursday, 13th July 2017

  Finally, NEOCH has a new director in charge, so that we can resume our monthly Homeless Congress Meeting to discuss all the lousy miserable homeless issues, again!

     Wait!  Who is coming to the Homeless Congress meeting this afternoon?  Wow, Ms. Ruth Gillett of the Office of Homeless Services!  She is brave enough to come back to this "brutal meeting" as she called it to her bosses?!  Oh, What?  She is here to talk about some Single Adults' Housing Strategies business ... AND answers questions?!  Hold on, first of all, Is there such a thing as Housing Strategies for Single Adults?


    Secondly, Ms. Gillett will ANSWER questions.  Oh, well, many still remember HOW she answered questions, or actually did NOT answer questions back in March and April, right! Afraid, be very afraid!  Will homeless people mistreat Ms. Gillett again?!  Curious to know ...... As the World Turns ......

       Huh?!  Who is that lovely lady sitting in the last row, definitely a new face at this meeting?  Ms. Gillett went to this lady to greet her, so she must be with Ms. Gillett.  All right, now the meeting starts with Mr. Roy Love, i.e. NEOCH Board President, to get the agenda for this meeting and the minutes of the previous meeting approved. But, an elderly homeless grandma already starts asking questions to Ms. Gillett.  Oh, how hungry are we homeless people!  Trying to find answers for our problems everywhere and anytime.  In all likelihood and most probably we will find NONE!

       Now, the meeting and events homeless people should pay attention in our community are announced.  And...here comes the drum roll...finally, the new guy in charge is introduced, Mr. Christopher Knestrick!  Unfortunately, he is sitting at the front, and not jumping out of a huge cake!  But, he is looking good, and his voice...wow, talk about a new face for NEOCH, and a new voice for homeless people!

      Now, it is time for the Reality TV show!!  What?!  Ms. Gillett always seems like such a nice Grandma, but at this meeting, she suddenly turns into a tough Grandma?  She proclaims that she does NOT have to come to these meetings because we were disrespectful to her in past meetings.  But she still decided to come to inform us the new policy and the vote at a big "advisory" meeting next week.  Wow!  What should we do now?!  All go to sit in a corner and have a "time out" as they do at the women's shelter.  Or, no food tonight ... which happens nearly every night at the shelter, anyway. 

     Well, after she begins telling us about this new policy, the elderly homeless grandma starts in on her legitimate questions which cannot wait any longer, and just like the shelter doors opening at 3 pm, others also start asking questions.  But, they are all well-behaved, waiting to be called on by the new guy in charge.  However, the answers from Ms. Gillett have NOT changed much.  Some questions she ignores while others she does not really answer in a straightforward manner.  Lots of spin, but no real answers, again!

      Now, in the middle, our new guy in charge, honestly and politely, asks two questions.  And, our Tough Grandma, Ms Gillett, says that Chris's question is INSULTING?!  Please!  He is new to the job.  This is his 7th business day at work.  Can't she even give him a little break?!  He only wants to know if there is anything for the staff or case workers when they do NOT do their jobs properly or do NOT do their jobs at all.   The proposed policy clearly states that homeless people will receive NO services at the shelters after turning down three housing offers.  And his questions are based on what he hears right here right now in this meeting from all the questions and comments, and especially, from the women sleeping at the Payne Avenue shelter.

       Guess what Tough Grandma says?  Now, she sarcastically asks what Chris would do with the staff. She wants to know our new guy wants the staff and case workers to be FIRED or to be SHOT in the Dark?!  Well, our new director at NEOCH does NOT mean that and Ms. Gillett knows it, correct?  But Tough Grandma ONLY has a one-sentence answer for Chris's legitimate question:  "The staff will be held accountable."

     She is the one forgetting that in this new proposed policy, there is NO mention of impartial third party to handle the grievances for homeless people.  In addition to that, as always, Gillett never mentions what actions to take when the staff and case workers do not perform or even fail residents.  Our new guy just points out the obvious.  What a plot twist!  Nobody sees that coming.  Or, do they?

       But, wait a minute!  If a homeless person can be FIRED or punished from a homeless shelter to get SHOT in the dark or put in permanent time-out because they turn down three housing choices, why can't the bad staff or careless case workers have their pay cut or face some punishment for not performing  their duties to help homeless people?!

        Anyway, after the presentation and the Q&As, Ms. Gillett leaves the meeting before the meeting is really finished as she has done in the past.  But there are many voices to whom saying, "thank you," and "have a nice evening," ...... and so on.  But, that lovely lady sitting in the last row, she continues writing notes, and she does not leave! 

        Our new guy at NEOCH is brave, no doubt.  After asking his "insulting question" that offends Ms. Gillett, he continues the meeting without having a mental breakdown.  Maybe, he will have a future at this job after all.

       Raffle tickets are drawn, two winners are happily receiving their prizes.  Then time for the update of new Women's Shelter Bidding Process after the failure of the last process.  Oh, FrontLine Service is NOT entering the Bid?  Thanks, whoever made this possible.


     And then we talk about the letter to the new CEO of ADAMHS Board to re-state our wish to support a separate facility for homeless people with severe mental health issues.  Sure, the new guy also reminds us NEOCH can no longer help sheltered homeless people to file grievances.  But, now we can go to County Council Meetings to do so. Oh, that lovely lady is still writing notes throughout the whole meeting, even at the end of the meeting? Her hand is probably very, very sore by now, but her notes are probably even more than notes taken by one of her bosses from the County.  Cuyahoga County Councilman, Dale Miller attended the March Homeless Congress meeting  and he really listened to all of us, and of course Ms. Gillett.  We can tell that Councilman Miller really listened because he brought up many of the complaints at a County Council meeting and made staff from Frontline Services answer the concerns of many of the women. And the responses from Frontline staff were not up to the satisfaction of the County Council who cut their contract from 3 years to 8 months. 

        Well, that's about it.  What a meeting!  Let's have a toast to our new guy surviving his first meeting with his "insulting question," and to our being "disrespectful" to a person who earns a salary from taxpayers. 

~~~  Narrated by "Troublemaker" Loh  ~~~

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Homeless Congress Voices Concern About County Shelter Policy

The Homeless Congress met today after a month off.  Ruth Gillett rejoined the group to present about the Single Adult policy.  The discussion focused a new policy that the County was working on to require participation in a housing plan for the residents.  We had previously discussed this policy on this blog here. This policy was in response to the large number of single adults seeking shelter in Cuyahoga County. Here is a quick overview of the policy that is going to be voted on at the July 20 Office of Homeless Services Advisory for information purposes.

Recommendation from the Single Adults Committee Meeting June 15, 2017

Exit Plan required of all shelter residents:

  • Within 1 week of arrival (at least a start)
  • Needs to include: income, safety, client choice
  • To be documented
  • 45 days

Review of Rights & Expectations

  • Within 24 hrs
  • To include Exit Plan, Follow-up expectations
  • To be documented

Exit Plan Follow-up by Shelter Staff

  • Frequency depending upon level of need
  • To be documented

 Resident Expectation:

  • Actively engage in Housing Plan

Staff Expectation:

  • Communicate with Outreach Partners
  • Continued effort with those who have yet to be successfully engaged
  • To Be documented

If shelter residents have not moved out of shelter after 3 appropriate housing offers the following would take place:

  • Cleveland Mediation Center (Editor's Note: which is now a program of the largest homeless service provider Frontline Services) will host a mediation between the resident and shelter staff
  • If the resident continued to reside at the shelter after the 3 housing offers and the mediation agreement, the resident’s shelter services would be curtailed to basic shelter accommodation.
  • Residents could appeal the shelter service limitation using the shelter grievance policy.

I helped to organize the Homeless Congress today and here is the takeaway from the meeting. The Homeless Congress does not support the current Single Adult Policy being proposed by the Cuyahoga County Committee for the following reasons:

The Policy doesSavetta who had previously stayed at the Women's Shelter not adequately take into account all the reasons people would turn down housing that is being offered, such as,  

  1. not being able to afford rent after the 3 months of rapid rehousing  money runs out, which means suffering the trauma of another eviction.
  2. A person not wanting to live in a neighborhood where they suffered a trauma, such as rape or abuse,
  3. People with  mental illness and/or addictions challenges that are not ready for housing.  

Such a policy could not be justly and fairly implemented into a shelter system that is already broken. Particularly, the Community Women's shelter on Payne Ave.  During the presentation in the Homeless Congress, multiply women spoke to this reality and the lack of services provided by the shelter to support the women to find housing and or jobs.  The congress does not believe that the women’s shelter could  in any way meet the proposed  45 day requirement for a housing plan as stated by the proposed policy. In order, for the policy to be implemented their needs to be a real commitment from the shelters to provide the services to place people into housing. If not, the proposal could be used to target particular individuals as a form of punishment.

The only punitive and accountability procedures in the policy are directed at men and women experiencing homelessness.  There is no accountability for the shelter agencies that do not follow through on the policy. Placing the only punitive actions onto an already marginalized population does not seem just and equitable. The policy must also hold the agencies accountable to building a housing plan and providing the services to achieve it.  

by Christopher Knestrick

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Post Script: The Office of Homeless Services Advisory passed the above recommendation concerning single adults using the shelters in July 2017.  There were only two votes against the policy (LOH and the representative from NEOCH).  We will update readers on the implementation of this policy as we move forward. 

Where is NEOCH Shelter Advocacy Going?

NEOCH gave out this information at the Homeless Congress and is posting it on our website.  We have put together a special section on our website here.  This section is under Programs in our main directory called Shelter Upgrades.  We have collected pages about shelters including:

After digesting all this history, NEOCH has made some decisions about the future involvement of the Coalition with the emergency entry shelters in Cleveland.  We posted these on their own page here.  Feel free to comment on our position at the bottom of this posting.

  1. We at NEOCH have tried everything that we can think of to make a change in the Women's shelter for single adults and it is worse today than it was three year ago. We thought that the answer was to change providers, but the County went back to the existing provider.
  2. NEOCH is much weaker than it was in the year 2003 because funders do not like charities fighting with other charities.  They want us all to get along with each other and collaborate or merge to save on costs.  Funders punish those who speak publicly against another non-profit charitable organizations. 
  3. County Office of Homeless Services staff obviously do not trust NEOCH staff and do not believe anything that the residents say about the shelter.  They distribute over $33 million dollars and the decisions made by OHS can mean the difference between a pregnant women being able to keep her baby or having the child taken by the County. It is harmful to the 23,000 people who find themselves without housing to have the Homeless Coalition distrusted by the County group who gives out most of the public money in Cleveland.
  4. Frontline Services senior management do not trust NEOCH staff and do not believe anything that the residents say about the shelter.  Frontline is by far the largest homeless service provider in the County and current administrator of the Women's Shelter on Payne Ave.  They run many programs such as outreach, veterans programs, and management of the Permanent Supportive Housing.  It makes it very difficult to serve the non-female homeless population for NEOCH if there is this poisonous relationship with the Empire the largest homeless provider.
  5. Now that Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (administrator of 2100 Lakeside Shelter) has thrown their support behind Frontline Services to assist at the Payne Ave shelter, this has also damaged our relationship with LMM.  NEOCH started out as a program of LMM inside their building, so this is especially tough. They are one of the largest facilities in Ohio, and most homeless men have stayed at Lakeside. It is rough to have a bad relationship with the agency that administers 2100 Lakeside Shelter. 
  6. The retaliation and hostility toward NEOCH for raising these issues is a threat to our non-profit agencies very existence.  Groups refuse to come to meetings chaired by NEOCH that would benefit their clients.  They will not collaborate on non-shelter issues or come to events hosted by NEOCH.  It is great to be committed to a cause, but if you are out of business what was the point?
  7. NEOCH will not be doing anything at 2100 Lakeside or 2229 Payne Ave.  We will not be helping with complaints or hosting meetings about the shelter or coordinating resident councils.  We were not paid for these activities and they have only caused the agency to nearly go out of business. A group can’t fight the good fight if they can’t pay the rent!
  8. We will not comment on problems at the shelter or respond to the conflicts that will inevitably come up at the two shelters.  We wish the two big shelters well and hope that they can self- correct.  Remember that only one-third of the homeless population uses the shelters in a given year, so there are plenty of homeless people for us to concentrate our efforts.
  9. We know that there is very little oversight of the shelters by Cuyahoga County.  We know that the grievance process is broken at both shelters.  We know that the grievances are rarely resolved in favor of the clients and are basically not worth the paper they are printed on.  We recommend calling your City Councilmember TJ Dow at 664-2908 or call Yvonne Conwell at County Council 698-2017 if you are having problems.
  10. We believe that at this point a client associated with NEOCH at Lakeside or Payne Ave. is a target and our involvement will not help their situation. There is no way to protect individuals against retaliation, which can result in the individual sleeping outside.  At this point, our involvement in the two main shelters does more harm than good.
  11. With the upcoming change in leadership at NEOCH it is only appropriate to step back from shelter advocacy that leads no where.  It only gets the agency in trouble and a new director will have many other things to work on for NEOCH.

Brian Davis

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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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County Plan Will Result in More Sleeping Outside

Cuyahoga County has a problem.  There are too many people sleeping in the two entry shelters.  We are one of the last cities in the United States that does not turn people away if they ask for help.  There are so many asking for help that we are constantly running overflow and the Women's shelter is dramatically overcrowded among the hundreds of issues on Payne Ave. (How many days in a row do you run overflow before it becomes the actual number of beds needed?)  The County floated an idea for time limits as a response, but instead came up with these new rules to be included in the contracts of every publicly funded shelters.  The County Office of Homeless Services Advisory will be asked to approve these new rules for shelters in Cuyahoga County.   

Guiding Principles for Emergency Shelter

  • Shelter is a temporary, safe space for people who are literally homeless*, fleeing domestic violence, or a victim of human trafficking.
  • Shelter should be brief, rare, and non-recurrent.
  • Shelter services focus on helping individuals and families access stable housing.

Shelter should be BRIEF :

  • Shelter staff and clients will work together to develop a housing plan with a goal of rapidly exiting shelter.
  • Shelter will be limited for those who refuse to participate in a housing plan or refuse to accept stable housing when offered.
  • Shelter staff will prioritize staff time and resources to reduce length of stay

 Shelter should be RARE:

  • Shelter entry is the community safety net to be accessed after appropriate interventions such as prevention, diversion, and accessing other systems’ resources have been fully explored.

Shelter should be NON-RECURRENT:

  • Returns to shelter will be minimized by stable housing, linkage to resources, and after care when appropriate.

These are some fancy words, but they shift the burden of housing people from the shelters to the jails, RTA buses, hospitals, libraries, and outreach workers.  We hope you Cuyahoga County tax payers don't mind a homeless guy sleeping on their shoulders on the bus because that person struggling with an addiction could not get into shelter. How are all these policies directed only at the homeless individual?  Where is the punishment for the staff who do not understand the resources available in our community and are making bad referrals?  What about punishments for the continued employment of frustrated, burnt out and poorly trained staff?  Where is the punishment for the County officials who shut down too many shelter beds (520 over the last dozen years)?  How about a strategy that if your agency places people in housing and 25% return to seek shelter in six months, all of that staff loses their offices and desks? They would have to perform their duties in their car until they get their numbers down; or how about they lose salary; or even lose the contract for overseeing those services?

I am still looking for one strategy from the above information for how to deal with single adults.  These are broad lofty goals with affirming language that no one could disagree with (brief, rare, non-recurrent), but what does it mean?  The policies the County outlined have to be the most offensive policies put on paper in the last 20 years.  I can give you 5,000 different good reasons that an individual would turn down housing and yet the County and the shelter staff are going to respond to those choices that a family makes by declaring them ineligible for shelter. 

  • The grandmother who lived over on Imperial Ave and does not want to be in the Mt. Pleasant area because she came face to face with a serial killer.
  • The young mom who was raped on Lorain Ave. and she declines housing over in that neighborhood, because she does not want to meet her attacker at the store. 
  • The Dad who realizes that there is no grocery store in the area and they do not want to take two buses to get food.
  • The family that wants to hold out for housing near their school that their kids' love and have been so beneficial to their education. 
  • Or the mentally ill guy who believe that there are aliens on Woodland and declines housing. 
  • All of these people are fragile, damaged or make a logical choice that helps their family and need help filling their housing needs.  They do not need to be punished for their decisions. 

My problem is that staff will misunderstand these goals and use them as weapons against residents instead of using them to encourage housing.  We still have staff who misunderstood the preference for those who have been homeless for a long period of time.  Staff at the Women's Shelter are saying that they can only help the residents with housing after they been homeless for that magic one year mark.  I can’t even imagine how this new rule will be used to reduce the “problem” people at the shelter.  They could just declare that the person turned down housing and must leave the shelter at 11 p.m. after a verbal outburst by that resident against the staff.  A quick and easy discharge with no grievance, paperwork or chance for appeal and all in compliance with the new County rule.

In Cuyahoga County, we do not have any oversight of the shelters.  There is no one to go in order to appeal a denial of service to an impartial third party.  So, when a decision is made that the person is ineligible for shelter because they turned down housing where do they go to appeal this decision?  The County policy does not put in place a mechanism for appeal of these decisions. They are expected to go before the director of the shelter and hope that that director goes against their own staff. 

Any group or individual who votes for this policy is publicly stating that they don’t care if more people sleep on the streets of Cleveland.  The result of this policy is that you will have more trying to stay safe in the emergency rooms or riding the RTA all night or sleeping on the streets or abandoned buildings.  Taxpayers will see a decline in the number of people using the shelters, but we will all have to witness a rise in the numbers outside. The meeting is Thursday March 16 at 9 a.m. at the ADAMHS Board on the 6th Floor (2012 West 25th St.), and is open to the public.  This will mean a much bigger population at Metanoia next year, and all the day time drop in centers will have more people seeking help.

We are the richest country in the history of man, and we cannot give a homeless guy with a mental illness a mat on the floor?  Cuyahoga County has enough extra in tax dollars to dress up the arena with more glass, but we are complaining about too many adults seeking shelter?   If Cuyahoga County, Frontline Services and Lutheran Metro Ministry are struggling so much with the numbers, ask the voters to contribute money to a shelter fund so they don’t have to walk over people on the sidewalks.  Who is going to act as a leader in effectively addressing homelessness instead of just coming up with new strategies to harass poor people into being ashamed that they have to ask for help?

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

PS: Thanks to Paul Sherlock and Jim Schlecht for showing up for the meeting.  This proposal was tabled for the committee to redraft and resubmit to the County. Thanks to Loh and Ramona from the Homeless Congress and Linda from City Mission who spoke clearly that this policy needs more work before it is ready for prime time.  We will keep the readers posted when this comes back at the May meeting.

Fair Housing Rights of People in Shelter

            Discrimination is a serious issue that can be heightened in vulnerable populations. Until recently, there were no explicitly stated laws citing the rights of the homeless. During the Obama administration, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development took a much broader interpretation of what constitutes a residential setting.  They began looking at shelters as residential facilities and therefore had to abide by the federal fair housing laws.  NEOCH worked with the local fair housing Center, Housing Research and Advocacy Center to put together a brochure for homeless people to use to assert their rights.    Examples of discrimination regarding housing can include rejecting a person from housing opportunities, denying them housing, and segregating people within a facility. Identifying the available resources for reporting discrimination grievances is an important step in overcoming barriers associated with homelessness.

            Sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity, and religion are all protected classes under federal law. Within each class, specific acts mandate actions that housing providers cannot take against a person simply based on who they are. For example, the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) protects women against violence and stalking, including while they are living in public-assisted housing. This act is an incredible safeguard for women because it relieves them from a constant fear of danger. In some cases, this may help protect them from the reasons they became homeless in the first place. Factors qualifying individuals as having a disability are also very important to be understood. These range from mental illness to cancer to HIV/AIDS. Housing providers including shelters cannot use these as reasons to turn a person away and an individual can press charges if there is evidence that a provider was attempting to violate these rights. Related to disabilities, it is illegal to reject a service animal from living in a home with the owner including in a shelter.

        While housing providers can ask for proof of the need for a service animal, requiring “pet deposits” or refusing an animal for some other reason is unacceptable. There have been situations in the past where a service animal was considered a “pet” by a housing provider and, therefore, the service animal and the person were rejected. In these circumstances, it is essential for the person facing discrimination to know their rights and to know the laws.  This brochure and webpage should help homeless people know their rights. 

            Fair housing is a fundamental right, regardless of a person’s background that was a cornerstone of the Civil Rights acts of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This brochure that was recently published outlines how shelters need to respect the fair housing rights of homeless people.  This includes service animals, protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, and protecting against sexual harassments.  If you feel you have experienced discrimination, follow the steps to filing a fair housing complaint. This brochure gives contact information for agencies who can offer assistance if you feel your rights were violated.  The Housing Center has over the previous four years worked to protect the rights of homeless people who felt their rights were violated.  We will have hard copies of these brochures available to distribute in the near future.  Right now there is a link at the bottom of the webpage to print out and make copies of. 

by Kelly the Intern

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

New Section of the NEOCH Website

Improving Cleveland Shelters Added to Website

Shelters are often the only resource available to individuals and families facing homelessness for a variety of reasons. The work NEOCH has done through the Homeless Congress and current members of the homeless community is discussed on our website here. The process of creating laws regarding homelessness and administration regulations belonging to each shelter contract are explained. The data collected from a survey distributed to the members of the women’s shelter in July 2014 is displayed. The graphs show the different housing statuses individuals identified with (i.e. Emergency, Gateway, etc.), common concerns in shelters, quality of shelter staff and service, length of shelter stay, and employment opportunities.

The most common complaints from the women’s shelter are posted on this page. These include problems with staff behavior, facility space, lack of food, lack of general rules, and safety issues. Furthermore, the May 2016 Cuyahoga County Council regarding the Women’s Shelter is discussed with an available video link. Links for an entire list of complaints, problems with the food supply, and the responses from the owners (Frontline Services) are provided. Recommendations for possible changes are given and links to more resources are listed at the bottom of the page.

The Fair Housing rights of individuals receiving shelter are listed, as well as examples of prohibited forms of discrimination. The “protected classes” under the Federal Fair Housing Act are stated. Laws regarding sexual orientation, disability, and service animals are explained. Contact information for the local fair housing organization and the local fair housing enforcement agencies are provided. Links to the transcript from the May 2016 Cuyahoga County Health Human Services and Aging Committee are available, as well as a link to a video of the entire hearing.  Finally, a history of overflow at both the men’s and women’s shelters in Cleveland is provided. This spans the years of 1990 and 2004. The facilities involved in assisting overflow and the finances involved are also discussed. Topics of debate regarding potential regulations of shelters are listed.

by Kelly the Intern

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry


Ramona's Statement about the Shelter

by Ramona Turnbull

As an ex-resident of the women’s shelter and because I was there one year and ½, I feel obligated to speak today.  Since becoming employed at NEOCH I have been better able to understand the differences between the two shelters.  The men’s shelter has communities for the different needs a resident has, the women’s shelter does not.  They have services to help obtain GED’s, jobs, and housing.  The women’s shelter does not although they will tell you there are.  There is a reward system for residents that do well in the programs or help around the shelter. There are even stipends that can be earned.

At the women’s shelter you are denied any rewards, consideration, respect, or empathy if you’re having a real bad day.  The programs and some of the churches that were coming to the shelter no longer come.  One resident residing at the shelter stayed for a short time and decided to look for assistance and consideration outside of the shelter and she was killed.

The lack of communication between staff can be very damaging.  So is the treatment of the residents and this is a very big problem.  Even the renovations that were recently installed are very representative of how badly women are treated at the only shelter in Cleveland for single women.  Their isolation and treatment of the women are a cause for concern and it needs to stop. 

Services and other outside providers should be able to enter the shelter to assist the women to move forward.  At this point, they will not even allow the women to have a Resident’s Council at the shelter like they have at the men’s shelter. Brian Davis informed them there would be no cost and the NEOCH would get the funding and they still declined.

For some reason, the staff at the women’s shelter are isolating the women that have been forced to go there for help.  Isolation is a form of abuse and it needs to stop as soon as possible.

Posts are the opinion of those identified by the byline. 

Editor's Note:  This is the statement that Ramona made about the shelter at the hearing in May.  She did not get a chance to present the entire piece because she was so nervous.  We present the entire text of what she wanted to say here.  For a video of the entire session go here.

County Advisory Looking for Homeless Members

The Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services is looking for homeless people to serve on the board.   The Board decides on the regulations for operating a shelter in Cleveland (but does not enforce these regulations) and which agency gets the funds.  Most of the rest is just discussing homelessness locally.  Here is the flyer created by the OHS staff.

They are going to select 2 to 4 homeless people to be on the board.  Below is the application to print out.  Applications are due by June 17.   The application asks if you were "literally homeless."  This is a bizarre expression created by HUD that makes no sense.  HUD has been using it to clarify that the person meets the HUD definition of homelessness, but that is the most limiting definition.  It does not include those living in a garage or basement, doubled up with a friend, just out of jail, living in a motel or a bunch of other scenarios.  it is not the understanding of homelessness that the man-on-the-street would use.  It is actually the figurative definition of homelessness, but in this backward world of homelessness "literally" means "figuratively" and vice versa.  Weird. 

The application does not ask when the person was figuratively homeless so they can avoid people who had their most recent experience with homelessness in the 1980s or 1990s.  Also, it does not indicate how the committee will decide between one homeless person over another.  There are no demographic information if they would want to get representation from a certain group (LGBT, veteran, families, or youth, etc.)  Hopefully, this will be corrected for 2017.

 Application for OHS Advisory



Brian Davis

posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Homeless Congress Asks For Changes in the Shelter

From: Homeless Congress

                                        September 14, 2015

Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell

Cuyahoga County Council

2079 East 9th St.

Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Dear Councilwoman Conwell:

The residents of the local shelters met on September 10, 2015 at our regular Homeless Congress meeting and unanimously approved a resolution asking that the County include the following 12 items in any future contract with Frontline Services to administer the Community Women’s Shelter at 2227 Payne Ave.   As you heard when you attended the Congress meeting earlier this year, there are serious problems at the Women’s Shelter.  We have filed formal written complaints and held meetings with the CEO of Frontline Services, but have not seen many changes.  We still have out of control staff, little help in moving into housing and a broken grievance process.  The staff were not disciplined for misdirecting clients about public meetings regarding the conditions at the shelter in the last two weeks.  The bedrest problem still exists every night with many disabled and elderly individuals sleeping on the floor.   There are far too many people sleeping in this County funded building and the staff do not foster an environment to move people into healthier and more appropriate housing. 

We still are interested in the County Council hosting a hearing with actual residents of the shelter and not just staff of the shelter to hear about these issues.  We have waited for three weeks since the residents met with the CEO, two months since ADAMHS CEO heard these concerns, four months since they met with you, and twelve years since Frontline took over the shelter to see a change.  All of us are concerned about the conditions at the shelter deteriorating further with extremely volatile residents living in these extremely crowded conditions.   These are taxpayer dollars that are funding this shelter with very little oversight.  The taxpayers who fall on hard times are not served when they show up at the Community Women’s Shelter. We have already seen women so distraught at the shelter that they attempted suicide in the middle of the night.  If Council does not step in here there is going to be a horrible tragedy that explode in the media. 

Here are our approved list of demands that we ask you include in any further contract with Frontline Services:

  1. All Frontline Staff who currently work at the shelter would be laid off over the next three months (one third at a time), and would have to reapply for their jobs or accept a transfer to another position within Frontline that never would involve contact with the Community Women’s Shelter at Norma Herr.  An elected group of current or recent residents of the shelter would interview the potential employees and would have a meaningful input regarding potential staff. 
  2. An independent resident council would be started to comment on staffing, maintenance, facility issues, food, grievances, and the daily operation of the agency.  These notes would be collected by a third party (not an existing subcontractor of Frontline) and presented to senior staff at Frontline.  The staff would respond in writing and those notes would be available to other residents by being displayed.  Frontline could hire an independent third party group for the exclusive purpose of overseeing a resident council.
  3. There are a number of residents who are creating a hostile living environment and are not being sanctioned or punished for all the problems they create. The resident council would be allowed to recommend for transfer or discharge residents who are regularly violating the rules or fighting and not being disciplined by the staff.  Frontline staff/client rights officer would have the final say on the population living in the shelter, but at least would have to respond in writing to the concerns. 
  4. The shelter must re-write their grievance procedure with the input and approval of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.  Grievances must be done in a more timely manner and must have a written response.  At the end of the process there must be an independent third party (non-Frontline staff) who can make the final decision.  This could be a volunteer attorney who has no relationship with the shelter, staff or the agency.  This cannot be a subcontractor of the agency such as Cleveland Mediation Center, to make final decisions on grievances submitted to the agency. The main topics of the grievances need to be displayed on a weekly basis with some non-identifying information released about the results.  This is to assure that people trust the grievance process and will be willing to complete a grievance. There also must be some consequence for the staff if they are regularly the subject of complaints or are found to be violating the rights of residents.
  5. The shelter has to do a better job of accepting help from the outside to improve the conditions.  They need to have one staff dedicated to accepting church groups who want to donate items or volunteer or serve a dinner.  Residents should be encouraged to assist and volunteer to help at the shelter in order to improve the conditions. 
  6. The Shelter Rules and Regulations will be rewritten with the input of an independent resident committee by January 2016.  The shelter needs to offer more incentives to those who live at the shelter to participate in programming and quickly move on to housing.  They need to divide up the shelter into smaller communities with staff who specialize in assisting special populations and offer specialized care with programs for people in need of help such as addiction, mental health, students, job seekers, or those seeking housing.  This does not mean dividing up the shelter by different populations in different bedrooms, but building the concept of community among like-minded individuals within the shelter.  They need to offer more medical assistance to those who are on bedrest or movement to more appropriate facilities. 
  7. Resident input should be sought as part of employee performance evaluations and those comments should be taken into account when deciding on promotion or salary increases.  If the employee does not get at least 10 resident comments either positive or negative, the senior staff need to gather additional input.
  8. The director of Frontline needs to meet with the residents at least quarterly to hear concerns and ways to improve the shelter.  No staff working at the shelter are allowed to attend this meeting.
  9. Since the shelter has had repeated violations of fair housing rules by not offering bed rest ordered by doctors and not respecting the rights of the disabled or the LGBT HUD rules, the shelter must display the fair housing rules that they are following. 
  10. The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center will have a female staff person on site everyday who can respond independently to sexual harassment and related issues by the women.
  11. Frontline will accept that there is a need for a separate shelter for severely mentally ill women and will begin to work on finding and funding a separate facility.
  12. If changes are not implemented by September 2016, the Homeless Congress will revisit the idea of changing the service provider who oversees the Community Women’s Shelter.    

Sent on behalf of the Homeless Congress.  Please feel free to contact Brian Davis of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless if you want to reach any member of the Congress.  


Copies to:        Susan Neth, Ruth Gillett, Matt Carroll, and Valeria Harper

All County Council Members