A Better Shelter for Women in DC

Going back 30 years, we have not figured out how to serve women in shelter in Cleveland.  There was a guest editorial in the Huffington Post about a new way of thinking about women's shelter that we should listen to in Cleveland. 

 We have written about the problems in our nation's capital with serving homeless families and the large number of people sleeping on the streets.  Friendship Place operates a shelter in Washington DC called The Haven for single women.   This is written from the perspective of the Executive Director, and so you have to take it with a grain of salt.  All Executive Directors exaggerate the effectiveness and atmosphere of the shelters.  But the information that they have learned seem reasonable and we wish we had them here in Cleveland.

Women hang on longer, drawing help from friends, relatives, coworkers and fellow congregants. As a result, they tend to exhaust their natural resources to a greater degree than men, which can have an impact on the rebuilding process.

 These women that are served at the Norma Herr shelter and at Friendship Place are single, but a large number are estranged from family and children.  They have faced violence, exploitation, and abuse.  Some need safe haven from trafficking and others have mental health needs that are unmet.

The shelter in Washington has decided not to kick women out in the morning and then have them wait to get back in the shelter.  Cleveland went the other way by kicking women out and making them line up at 3 p.m. to get back into the shelter starting in 2012.  The County says that this is an overnight shelter and does not want to pay for social service offered during the day.  The women are expected to go find those services on their own.  The shelter in DC allows women to take night classes or work at night and then sleep during the day.  This is difficult in Cleveland. 

The shelter in DC does not have overnight staff.  The women are trained to respond to emergencies and help the other residents.  In Cleveland, there are babysitting night time staff all night and an armed police officer 24 hours a day (very expensive!).  The shelter in Washington has found improved outcomes and improved participant satisfaction, something lacking in Cleveland.

"This simply makes sense: the women feel trusted and empowered.  They are part of decision making process and know they are treated with dignity and compassion by their new community --the Friendship Place Community."

according to Director Giraud.

The shelter claims to be saving money, which was the reason the county eliminated day services in Cleveland at the Norma Herr Women's Shelter.  Friendship Place in Washington finds that the women can take care of themselves and don't need staff to help with sleeping.  We wish we had this progressive vision for offering women shelter in Cleveland.

Brian Davis

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A Well Respected Man: Bill Resseger

       He is nothing like the Kinks' song except for the title.  Bill Resseger is retiring this summer from his decades of service to the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development.  He has a wealth of knowledge that the City is unfortunately losing.   He knows everything about the funding of homeless services and the development of housing.  He knows how to assure that the City gets its fair share of State and Federal dollars to preserve and expand affordable housing.  Resseger has an even temperament and was a calming presence even when the neighborhoods were being robbed by predatory lenders and financial services industry.   Resseger served six mayors from the low key Ralph Perk to the explosive Michael White and finally the former tenant organizer, Frank Jackson.  
        He knows government regulations and how to get funds into Cleveland.  He is an expert on funding of homeless services, and has a long history for what would work and what will not work.  We recognized his years of service at the CAHA meeting yesterday.  Bill Resseger was part of the founding of Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meetings to preserve affordable housing locally back in 1998.   This was a time when there was a huge threat to affordable housing with the loss of thousands of subsidized housing units.  In the late 1990s, Community Development was more about bailing water from a sinking ship than it had to do with developing anything.  Resseger was not the guy running around screaming that "Rome was burning."  He was not the guy who organized town hall meetings or criticizing stupid decisions by government.  Resseger was the guy who showed up every day and did his job. 
       He knew how to cut through red tape and understood bureaucratic written instructions to complete a grant application. He learned how to go from paper applications back in 1974 to the all electronic world of 2014.  He knew how to satisfy the federal beast which was always requesting more and more information.  He was good at cleaning up messes and implementing the goals of six different administrations in community development. He probably saved the City millions in fines and settlements that plague other cities efforts to spend federal development dollars. He knew his job.  He knew the social service system and the people he served: taxpayers.
      He was not the speech maker or the General who put together a strategy for moving a neighborhood forward.  He performed the essential job of keeping the wheels of government working.  Bill Resseger quietly told politicians that their grand magic bullet plan for saving the city was not workable, was corrupt, was stupid or all of the above in the most subtle and understated way possible.  He could translate vision into paperwork, and often did.  We saw this when he worked to transform a strip club/prostitute motel into a transitional housing shelter.  The barely clothed female dancers were told that they would be out of a job on the day that the Mayor was showing up to do the ribbon cutting on the new shelter, which made for an awkward afternoon for community development. 
        He did not always agree with us, but he was always honest.  If Bill took no position on an issue, we knew that the City would most likely not take a position.  I wish he would have been more adventurous, but Lakeside Ave. is littered with the carcasses of adventurous public employees.  We always got a fair hearing with Bill Resseger and the tax payers of Cleveland were well served by his long career.  He championed the City of Cleveland and always defended their interests at the table.  I never heard him complain about bad bosses or terrible elected office holders either in the executive or legislative branch.  He did every job he was asked to do.  He was a shining example of public service in a time when government service is often criticized or scorned. 
        We have a much improved shelter system in Cleveland.  We do not turn people away at the shelter door, which Bill can certainly take partial credit for along with Ruth Gillett.  We have some beautifully renovated subsidized buildings in the City and we did not have the wholesale loss of housing that we saw in Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit and Chicago.  We have robust Permanent Supportive Housing and senior housing developments, which seems to be the only game in town for developing housing in America.  We have the innovative lease to purchase program operated by Cleveland Housing Network and a Public Housing program that did not wither away because of a lack of federal support.  We do not have the incredible number of people sleeping on the streets as we see in Washington, San Francisco or Detroit, and we have some neighborhoods on the rebound locally.  Thanks Bill for showing up and serving the citizens of Cleveland. 
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Brian Davis
Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.
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PS: If you have any questions about how much of a behind the scene guy Bill Resseger is, try to find a picture of him.  Go ahead...in this age of Facebook and photographs of everything on the internet...try an image search for Bill.  It does not exist.  He has been sitting at his desk filling out paperwork while the rest of us have been posting selfies and updating our profiles. 

Proposals to Improve the Conditions in the Shelters

Passed on August 8, 2013 at a Homeless Congress meeting, a new shelter standards proposal was drafted and agreed upon. This proposal outlines the most essential shelter standards suggested by the Homeless Congress at earlier meetings. At that meeting, the Congress had drawn up a list of ideal, or “dream” shelter standards to be considered. This list was entirely comprehensive and went into great detail about the changes that needed to be made in the shelters. However, in order to be practical, the Congress cut down the length and forewent some of the originally proposed standards to appease City Council. As a result, a compromise was struck and a new proposal resulted. The original dream standards are nonetheless great reference points to base future goals off of for they are great guidelines upon which to advocate for further change in the shelters.

 

We have modified our website to reflect these new changes.  There is actually no law currently regulating the shelters, and the Congress would like to see a change.  They want to see access to shelter and a standard for discharge in law.  They want to see mandatory arbitration before there is a discharge.  The Homeless Congress are also working to improve the regulations that are a part of every contract for public money. 

Click here for the current Cuyahoga County shelter regulations.  We have also added a page on regulations that the Homeless Congress would like added to the current County regulations

By Lora Zuo and Brian Davis

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What is Happening in the United States Around Homelessness?

I attended the National Coalition for the Homeless meeting in April.  Here are some of the things that I heard.  Our two members from Florida were not able to attend, but Florida is still working on stupid laws to restrict access to food.  These are general notes.  You can go to the specific state/community for more information or contact the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Thanks to Gloria for typing up these notes.

Local Reports

Illinois: Working on events around the 20th anniversary Homeless Education Law which was the foundation of McKinney Vinto Homeless Kids Act.  Trying to get $3 million from State Legislature to serve the huge rise in homeless kids in the Illinois school districts since 2009: 26,000 to 55,000 kids in the last full school year.

Mass/NH:  Advocates are doing a lot with hunger and homelessness in New England.  There were 50,000 Kids in Massachusetts schools in the last school year.  They are working on a Children’s Bill of Rights law for the state.

Austin, Texas: No Hate Crimes to report.  The City is mostly in compliance with no sit ordinance. Working on developing permanent supportive housing and constructing a manufactured home area to keep people out of the shelters.  Developing a strategy of “no dischargers to homelessness.”  City is focusing on preventing homelessness.

Minnesota: 6% increase in numbers of homeless families.  Affordability of housing continues to be a problem.  The City of Duluth passed Homeless Bill of Rights.  Developing housing in communities for those disadvantaged because of low credit scores. Want to try to rehab the large number of foreclosed properties.  Working on a minimum wage increase and a second chance re-entry ACT.

Sacremento CA: Homeless Bill of Rights put on hold in the State.  The funding for the Housing Trust Fund lost in legislature.  The City is building a new arena – 70 construction jobs to homeless people, but on the negative side there will be six single room occupancy buildings lost or 75 total units of affordable housing lost. The City is considering aggressive panhandling ordinance in the next month.  There was money allocated for the Safe Ground to assist with keeping the space clean and removing trash unfortunately the members are fracturing and need to regroup.  The number of homeless children in the schools has tripled in the last few years now at 250,000 student in California.  Sacramento did a really intensive Homeless Death study used and is now being used by nurses to improve outcomes.

Georgia: Legislative session is a Biblically short 40 days.  They passed even stricter voting charges that make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote. A NYC Mayor  Bloomberg funded group is in Atlanta planning around homelessness and housing.  This despite the fact that homeless family numbers exploded in NYC during the Bloomberg administration because he eliminated affordable housing funding.  It seems that a private equity group has been purchasing subsidized housing and may be interested in converting it to something else.  The main shelter in Atlanta continues its legal struggle against the City of Atlanta and other community leaders who have shifted funding for homeless services resulting in huge losses of shelter beds.

South Carolina: There are no State or local dollars going to homelessness--only dollars is from HUD Continuum of Care funding at $9 million. Tried to get rental assistance in state but that was killed in the legislature.  The state charges $50 for a person to get ID if they are coming out of jail.   There is a lot of interest in homelessness and housing, but no political will to do anything about the situation. 

Louisiana: Redevelopment of a nursing home for affordable housing has taken years because of opposition by local government.  They have been in court for years and the people who want to redevelop the property have continually won, but the project has still not happened.  The Justice Dept came in to investigate and found why the City of New Orleans has continually violated the law to redevelop this property.  The State has punished the city for not developing the property and not being in compliance, but the City has not backed down and seem to not care about homelessness and remains opposed to the development.

What is going on in the Nation’s Capital?   War on Poverty brought up a lot of discussion on the merits of the food stamp, Medicare, and other 1960s era legislation.  The right wing is saying that all the programs have failed on want to block grant all the programs to the States to develop 50 different laboratories for how to deal with poverty.  They insist that there is too much focus on inequality instead of economic opportunities available to Americans.  It looks like the House Tax Reform efforts are dead, and it seems a long shot that immigration reform will happen.  There is some light on Sentencing Reform with the Justice Department proposing commuting the sentences of a number of the 100,000 people held for long prison sentences for federal drug offences.  They are reviewing clemency decisions and there will be small number who have their sentences commuted under limited circumstances.  This President has been the least generous President on clemency in modern history.  There is some Congressional interest in sentencing reform because of the huge amount of money we spend on incarceration.   There is a bill that would ban receipt of food stamps for life for any ex-offender and no Federal Housing benefits.

New York City: Bad news because of the huge numbers of families asking for shelter-- 53,000 homeless families each night with 22,000 children – highest number in American history.  400,000 apartments lost – lower income families saw their housing disappear over the last five years.  New administration has completely changing course. Recognized the deplorable conditions within some of the shelters and are trying to move families out of these facilities.  Plan to put 6,000 homeless families into housing.  Need state resources, which is a problem because the legislature is pretty dysfunctional.  They will introduce a new affordable housing plan in the next week.  The bad news is that Bill Bratton was appointed Police commissioner.  He has not been good to low income and minority members in his previous jobs.  He is working on stepped up enforcement of panhandling on subway.  The did stop the “Stop and frisk policy" which the court and the new administration declared discriminatory.   NY is working on new ID opportunity for immigrants. 

Boston/Massachusetts: Good Mayor for housing elected in Boston and there is a Lame Duck governor finishing up his term for this year.  They continue to see growth of those living in shelters/motel homeless who are receiving some kind of assistance.  They are looking for funding for care for people leaving a mental health or behaviorial health institution.  They are a laboratory for the new ACA healthcare access & resources integrated care must include housing, must be important part of the diversion gap.

Indiana: No Statewide Coalition yet.  Local police & mental health partnered to figure out when is it appropriate to arrest.  Food and shelter programs being harassed and shut down across the state.  Concern that there is a real disconnect in HUD saying numbers down and communities saying there is a rise in homeless families.  Many shelters lost public money and now are exclusively funded by private sources.  They have no incentive to collaborate or be a part of coordinated intake.  Shelters are still dying in our communities.  They are having issues with the Complete count numbers by HUD done in January throughout the United States.  

Arkansas: Problems with shelters numbers going up but funding for the shelters going down because of changes in definition of who is homeless that has shown a decrease in need.   They did shoot down a voter registration law.

Washington state:  There is a threat to the dedicated revenue source that provides rental assistance.  Because of state budget issues they want to take funding from this revenue source to go to other sources.

Puerto Rico: very difficult economic times that are challenging everything that the territory does.  The homeless groups are not as committed to civil rights issues as they were in the past.  Tough budget times are challenging the homeless groups trying to keep beds available to homeless people.  PR had passed Homeless Bill of Rights, but now there is an effort to see how it has been implemented and followed by police and others.  May want to change what we they have to provide real protections to the community.  Health concerns in the shelters has caused a lawsuit within the continuum over new regulations.  The local homeless advocacy have been cut in half making it difficult to operate Speakers Bureau in the territory.  Going more toward services less on advocacy.

Mississippi: 33 shelters in whole state. Number of people coming back home who need help has increased over the last three years.  The shelters continue to experience funding losses.   More people coming back home means a reduction in housing.  Dropouts from college because they can’t afford to continue and then become homeless.

Denver/Colorado: Recreational marijuana has made it difficult for the social service providers to come up with policies to meet this new reality.  There is an inadequate supply of family shelters, local government and state need to address this continued problem. Denver has found that they need 27,000 housing units with a subsidy. They do plan to create 3,000 units, but don’t have the money at this point; overflow shelter usage has decreased. “Camping” ban increased engagements with police.  They rebuilt a shelter that has been mats on the floor to improve conditions.  There are NIMBY problems in a number of communities.  One community is trying to build a wall around their shelter keep what they perceive as problems contained.  Medicare Expansion – 15% before of the Denver healthcare for the Homeless patients had Medicare in 2012– 25% had Medicare in 2013 and they expect 50% this year.  This is a huge boost in helping to support these programs. They are working on doubling the size of their health care clinic in Denver.  There is a nice treatment program for homeless people in Southeast Colorado that has a long waiting list. Developing another seventy-eight supportive housing units. HUD & VA are trying to work on a coordinated intake and assessments to serve homeless and veterans who are experiencing housing issues. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Update on Cleveland's Extreme Weather

 The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County convened a conference call today with social service providers and the Red Cross to make sure that we are ready to serve people living in unstable housing conditions locally.   Here are some of the things we learned:

1. The Metanoia Project at St. Malachi, 2100 Lakeside Shelter and the Community Women's shelter are the points of contact for City and County safety forces.  The RTA, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, St. Paul's and Care Alliance can offer transportation help to get people to these locations. The RTA was offering bus passes to get the person back to their "home" after the crisis is over. 

2.  The police and other Public Safety forces can offer a ride if the individual needs help to get out to the cold. 

3. Downtown Cleveland Alliance will be also providing transportation to shelter as is St. Paul's Community Church.  There are a number of outreach teams on the streets today and tonight looking for people who may need help. 

 4. Bellefaire has shelter provision and possibly transportation  for anyone under 18. Bellefaire JCB·Homeless Youth Hotline·24/7·- 216-570-8010.

5. Red Cross is providing supplies such as winter gloves, hats and cots/blankets.  Salvation Army is willing to provide food help to shelters that get overwhelmed.

6. All City Recreation centers will be available during open Hours as warming centers.

7.  211/First Call for Help can offer help with transportation if there is an individual on the streets that needs a ride to one of the warming centers or shelters. 

8.  The shelters are not turning people away and right now are operating two overflow sites for single adults and one overflow site for families.  These are administered by LMM.

9.  LMM at 2100 Lakeside Shelter is collecting cold weather donations 24 hours a day to give out to the agencies locally. 

10. If you need shelter go to 2100 Lakeside if you are a male and 2227 Payne Ave for women/children and they will find a space for you in the community.  You may have to be transported to some other location, but they will find space for you.

Brian Davis

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Anna Louise Inn Sold

I was reading the Streetvibes (Cincinnati's Street newspaper) from Cincinnati and they detailed the sale of the Anna Louise Inn to developers.   We covered this last year with a call for boycotting Western and Southern over their bullying of this shelter and permanent supportive housing.   The folks at Streetvibes and the staff of the Cincinnati Coalition are not too happy about the deal. 

The shelter operator decided that the long drawn out court case was not worth it anymore.  Developers had paid enough so that the shelter could relocate to a new facility and serve the same number of women.  There will be a boutique hotel on the site so that the employees of Western and Southern will not have to think about homelessness on their way to work. 

Josh, the Executive Director, was especially clear that they would remember the actions of Western and Southern and their CEO John Barrett.  This one hundred year old landmark in Cincinnati has to move.   These women trying to find stability will be pushed to some other part of town.  The agency will be forced to start over in a new facility, and Western and Southern will have succeeded in pushing a Not-in My-Backyard strategy. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry