What Does Open Doors CLE Mean for a Participant?

Feeling the Open Doors CLE Project

The Open Doors CLE Project is a wonderful collaboration!  The purpose of it is to “develop a stronger relationship between those experiencing homelessness and those in stable housing, give a voice to the homeless community, raise awareness of the current condition of homelessness to the stable housing community, and set the groundwork for future dialogue and inspiration for the communities support for each other”, in the words of the artists’ themselves.  Here is a copy of the video from the Willard Park event.

I was very impressed with this project being interactive.  You could actually walk through the doors which made it easy to read both sides of each door.  What really surprised me was the feelings that overcame me as I stood reading the messages and the articles or observing the items on the doors.  I could feel the messages the writers were desperately trying to convey.  So, there was a different experience in between each door all the way to the last door.

As I walked through the last door, I had a feeling of relief, like I’m finally free.  It was similar to the feeling of finally being able to leave the shelter.  I would imagine that everyone’s experience was different, but the messages and design on the doors served their purpose.  Being able to walk through the doors, to me, was a very important component of this project and I would like to commend the artists’ for their creativity.  In the artists’ words, “When participants go through the door, they find themselves in the same public space, lacking the warmth and safety of a home that they expect to find on the other side."

This project came about at a time when the homeless population really needed to have attention brought to their situation and have an outlet to express themselves.  Especially, the women at the women’s shelter due to a tremendous disappointment they recently experienced (not being able to change service providers).  It is very difficult to find housing, funding is being cut, and families have to separate.  Being homeless is very hard on the mind, body, and soul.  It takes a toll on your sense of self, beliefs, pride, faith, and desire to live. 

You have to be very strong willed to survive homelessness in this society.  Most people don't realize how devastating being homeless can be.  Through projects like Open Doors CLE, you don’t have to experience homelessness in order to better understand it.  Bless the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) students and their instructor (Anastasia) for choosing to focus on the homeless population in Cleveland. Thank you for giving homeless people the opportunity to vent and express themselves, and for bringing awareness to this crisis which is growing all across our country.  Thank you for all your hard work.


We posted two galleries of photos from Open Doors CLE here and here 

Here is the original poster and the brochure on the project. 

By Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Homeless Congress Notes for May

May 11, 2017---Cosgrove Center

Organized by NEOCH

The meeting began with an overview of the Homeless Congress and work to date.  

The group had a long discussion on the Cuyahoga County Council meeting that was on May 3, 2017.  At this meeting, the Council members voted on who will get the contract to provide services for the Norma Herr women’s shelter.  The committee is recommending that Frontline get the contract, but they did not get the contract for 3 years that the County Office of Homeless Services had recommended.  One of the members of the Homeless Congress, Loh, said she went to one of the other meetings and filed a grievance and still feels that the grievances are not handled properly.  She also informed the members that there was another suicide attempt recently at the women’s shelter.  The members were informed that the next important meeting is on May 23, 2017 when the contract will be voted on by the full County Council meeting. (After the meeting of Homeless Congress another County Health and Human Services meeting was held and the contract was reduced even further). 

In January, the Congress voted to prioritize advocating to open a separate shelter for mentally challenged homeless individuals so they can get the help they need.  This information was sent to the ADAMAS Board.  The first week in May, Brian, Ramona, Loh, and Rosie (who are members of the Homeless Congress) met with William Denihan, Michael Doud, and Valeria Harper of the ADAMAS Board to discuss the need and options that might be available in the community.  The only thing accomplished at this meeting was bringing the need for a separate shelter to the ADAMAS Board attention.  We briefly discussed possible funding options. But, William Denihan will be retiring in August.

Rosie informed members that Mr. Denihan is very concerned about this issue, but funding is limited.  At the meeting on May 3rd, Dale Miller asked about the mental health, drug, and alcohol issues at the shelter.  Eric Morse responded that the women at the shelter “all” have either mental health issues or drug and alcohol issues.  He also stated in addition to that “if a separate shelter is needed for residents that have mental issues or drug and alcohol issues, there is a shelter already in place for that and it’s the Norma Herr women’s shelter”. 

The next topic was the Open Doors CLE Art Project (photos posted on the front of the NEOCH website) that the Cleveland Institute of Art students are working on. I gave the Homeless Congress an update on the upcoming art exhibit.  The doors for the art project will be on display at Slavic Village on May 20-21st from 1-5pm and May 27th at Willard Park (by the free stamp) from 11am – 5pm.  The doors will be on exhibit for other projects as well.  There will also be a tribute to Michael Stoops, Founder of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who recently passed at the Willard Park opening. 

Next was an update on the Single Adult Committee-SASH.  The members were informed that nothing has been finalized and the committee is still working on the guidelines.  Randall, who is a member of the committee, discussed some banning policies as far as the length of stay at the shelter.  He explained that at this time they are considering allowing a resident to reject up to three “feasible” offers of housing, if none of these offers are accepted there would be a mediation, and finally they are working on consequences for refusing housing.  One option that is being considered is take away some services and only allow the resident to sleep at the shelter at night.  Also discussed was setting time limits on how long a resident could stay at the women’s shelter.  One member commented that there is one women that has been at the women’s shelter for 10 years, doesn’t work, and refuses housing.  It was also suggested that these women shouldn’t have privileges and have to sleep on a mat as opposed to having a room. Other women commented that there are no privileges available at the Women's shelter to take away.  There was some controversy about this and how Cleveland shelters are proud to say no one is turned away, yet, the committee is considering not allowing a resident to return once they leave the shelter or discharged (put out) for not accepting housing. 

Brian Davis argued that these women should be able to have a bed, in the only shelter for single women in Cleveland, if the city can put new windows in the Q.  Davis said, "What kind of society are we living in that cannot offer a cot and some food to its citizens but can find money to improve the playgrounds for the rich with museums and sports stadiums."  He further stated that it is a matter of cost vs. alternative.  He feels that they should not be concerned about the personal issues that have led the person to stay in the shelter unless the individual is offering alternatives.  If the reality is that all of our systems are broken (mental health, addiction, health care) and we are so unforgiving as a society including landlords and the re-entry community, then why are we putting so much pressure on people to leave.  If there are so many problems in holes in the safety net, why to we begrudge people sleeping in a shelter.  It is not a paradise and they are not staying in luxury.   He said, “Human beings should be treated like human beings”. 

Next “worker accountability” was discussed.  Randall stated that the committee will make sure staff is working with the client to find appropriate housing.  He said the committee is discussing how these decisions should be made or not made and the contributing factors. 

After the raffle, the surveys for the women’s shelter was discussed and it was determined that the women still feel the renovations did not help.  In fact, most felt that the renovations made matters worse.  Updates regarding the contract to provide services for the women’s shelter were discussed next.  The members were informed about the outcome of the Cuyahoga County Council meeting.  They were told about:

  • Dale Miller's excellent questions about the shelter and why there are so many problems.
  • Did Frontline not meet the minimum requirements?
  • Was there a way to shorten the contract?
  • Brian and Loh had both talked about how unfair the whole process was.
  • Councilwoman Conwell was upset over the NEOCH and Congress treatment of their staff Ruth Gillett.  Brian and Roy from NEOCH tried to meet with her in the morning and she was a no show.
  • Gillett had decided not to attend this meeting of the Homeless Congress.

LMM and the County had sent specifics of the new arrangement at the Women's Shelter which would include operating 24/7, having access to Wi-Fi, and other services.  LMM was going to join Frontline to improve the shelter as soon as this contract was approved by the County.   It was explained that staff from LMM will be eased in and current staff will be swapped in back and forth. LMM will oversee day to day operations and Frontline will be more focused on case management. There were a series of handouts from the County/LMM about the changes.

The next discussion was about agency accountability and complaints of suffering in regard to an uncaring provider, disrespectful staff, and lack of resources to help residents move forward and out of the shelter.  One of the members informed everyone at the meeting that this has been going on for over 10 years.  There was a short discussion about two County Council members spending the night at the shelter incognito and there was notes distributed from the County about the overnight stay and the changes needed.  The notes didn’t address how terrible things were at that time, and some of the huge issues.  Brian stated that he couldn’t believe that they didn’t demand immediate action because of the conditions that they saw on that one night.  Following this discussion, one of the members said that the food that is being sent to the women’s shelter is not what is being served according to the pictures he has seen online.  Ms. Gimmel of Eden, asked questions and urged the members to give the agency a chance to change.

The final order of business discussed was about this being the last Homeless Congress for Brian Davis of NEOCH.  Brian and Roy (NEOCH Board President) assured members that most of the programs will remain the same at NEOCH even after Brian leaves.  Roy also stated that NEOCH will continue to do all it can do and will work to make a smooth transition.

*There will not be a Homeless Congress meeting in June and members were informed of this. 

The next meeting will be July 13, 2017.

by Ramona Turnbull

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Michael Stoops Memorial In Cleveland

 Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless passed away on May 1, 2017.  We posted a rememberance of him on our blog here.  As part of the Open Door CLE event in Cleveland, NEOCH will host a memorial for Michael Stoops on May 27 at the Free Stamp at 1:30 p.m.   Please come to remember the life of this fallen social justice champion. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Open Doors Cleveland Will Display Homeless Art Project

Open Doors CLE emerged as a result of the projectFIND students from the Cleveland Institute of Art surveying the landscape of homelessness in Cleveland.  They met with the vendors of the paper, members of the Homeless Congress, and residents from both shelters.  The students decided to work with the population to decorate doors in an attempt to bridge the gap between the homeless community and those in stable housing.  They finished their project and are now ready to display them.  They will be at the Rooms to Let: CLE event this weekend in Slavic Village and then at Willard Park/Free Stamp on May 27 from 11 to 5 p.m.  Here is a brochure that you can print out and distribute.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Project Envision Brightens Women's Shelter

Project Envision was initiated by graduating senior in Painting and Drawing at Cleveland Institute of Art, Anastasia Soboleva, and Sculpture and Expanded Media major MJ Tigert as a way to improve the Community Women's Shelter. 

Through Project Envision the artists build a relationship with the residents of Community Women's Shelter with the goal of representing the women's voices through art. The artists held twelve workshops during which the residents of the shelter could paint, draw, and sculpt, as well as discuss ideas and concepts of how art can improve the interior space of the facility.  Anastasia captured in the painting what the women envisioned as Strength, Resilience, Hope and Community. The painting is in process of being installed at the Community Women's Shelter on Payne Ave.

Project Envision was created through project:FIND, a year-long Engaged Practice course at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Project:Find focuses on engaging - through art or design - with displaced communities in Cleveland. It is generously funded by the Murphy Foundation and was directed by Professor Sai Sinbondit. Organizations with which project:FIND collaborated in relation to Project Envision include Norma Herr Women's Center, the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services, FrontLine Services, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) and EDEN, Inc.

Paintings at University Hospital

University Hospital Humphrey Gallery is hosting portraits of homeless people staying at 2100 Lakeside. Every Friday over a semester of his junior year at Cleveland Institute of Art, Elmi Leodan Ventura Mata would visit 2100 Lakeside Shelter in Cleveland to paint portraits of some of the men living in the shelter.  His portraits are on display right off the main entrance of UH through the middle of September.  We have a few photos of the artwork and we will have a few more in the Cleveland Street Chronicle.   It is worth stopping in if you are on the Case campus to see these fine works of art.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.