LOH Provides Parody to Readers!

LOH UNCOVERS The COVER-UP: Norma HERR vs. Norma HELL

In light of the fact that Cleveland has reduced the number of taxpayers-funded public emergency homeless shelters, it was great that they finally opened up the bidding process so that other providers could submit a bid for the Women’s Shelter. [Editor's Note:  There was also a bid out for the Men's Shelter at the same time, but the current provider submitted a bid for the Men's Shelter.]  The first round happened earlier this year, and it came out as an unbelievable disaster for those who are in need of true help.  Fortunately, I, the "Troublemaker" Loh as some call me, did NOT stop going to various County Council meetings to speak during the public comment period, even after bids were submitted.  My statements, complaints, and/or even suggestions were backed up with visual evidence that I provided to all the elected officials and County Council staff at the meetings, and further proven by other women brave enough to attend meetings and finally spoke up.  The women staying at the Payne Ave. shelter offered their own suffering experiences under the fear of all kinds of retaliations and losing their housing.

However, during the waiting period for "the moment of truth" ... or the moment of "ugly truth," before the County announced anything about the shelter, somebody at the current service provider's organization suddenly had a light bulb turn on up above their head to start a series of beautification procedures to camouflage the ever neglected and abused facility.  The staff found that there were more visitors coming to check out the the conditions and wanted to Come INSIDE of this HELL!  The very first thing to draw my attention was, at the end of April when the beautification started, a specially designed new Flyer was printed out in multiple copies and colours with FrontLine Services logo to distribute, and later, also posted by the Main Entrance.  I had to laugh-out-loud (lol), thinking "WHOM do they want to impress--innocent visitors or suffering residents?"

Frontline Version

Frontline Version

Loh's Version

Loh's Version

When I pointed out to the security officer, other residents passing by actually paid attention to what I said.  Then, they read the flyer and began their own LOLs while shaking their heads, or started loud cussing with all the complaints using lots of colorful words.  But, I wasted no time, and in a few seconds I re-composed MY version of the middle part on Flyer, specifically, the section titled "OUR COMMITMENT," due to my own strong feelings toward the Fake News stated on this flyer to give people false hope.  It was my mission to fight back the injustice and to uncover the covers-ups at the next County Council Meeting. I intended that this flyer would be shown and accompanied by my parody version to present to the elected Council.  But, even this one paragraph was enough to ease the tensions in the shelter by making them "lol" harder and move on at that moment.  Then, within one day, word by word and line by line, I finished the whole re-composition to parody the flyer with a little input from a non-homeless individual as the reality checks for this dysfunctional place.  Then later, I presented both documents at two County Council meetings in May as part of my public comments.  Please look at the bottom of the Printed Flyer, there is a graphic of House printed in the center.  Coincidentally, I already have a non-homeless friend who graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art last year made a logo for our Homeless Arts Project a while ago which is an image of a Broken House Split into Two Halves.  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to put on the "designer parodied graphics" on to parody all the way for the full effect: a house of false promise vs. a broken house in reality!

~~~Commentary by LOH~~~

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Ramona's Comments to County Council on Women's Shelter

 I’ve been coming to the Council Meetings pouring out my heart to let you know that the conditions at Norma Herr are terrible.  Since I was at the last meeting there has been another suicide attempt and there is a resident that goes there on and off because she doesn’t feel safe. Instead, she will sometimes sleep outside.  She feels she has a better chance of not getting robbed on the street as opposed to inside the shelter and she doesn’t trust the staff.  When she does stay there, she sleeps in the hall close to the officer on duty.  She was recently punched in the face by someone and she still will not stay at the shelter.

 The current provider has been informed repeatedly about numerous problems at the shelter and LMM acts like its rocket science to prepare decent meals for the shelters.  I can’t understand how either of these providers could realistically get the contract to provide services to the women’s shelter instead of the Westside Catholic Center, Metanoia, and NEOCH who have been reaching out to this population for years.  This population also trust all three of these organizations.  The request for a new provider was done as an alternative if Frontline didn’t meet the much needed requests made by the women over a year ago. 

 The Renovations even prove the lack of consideration for the women by the current provider and as an ex-resident of the shelter, the decision to let the current provider continue to provide this unservice is quite disturbing.  I came to reach out to the council one more time to ask them to take the women into consideration first, being this is the only shelter for single women in the entire city and they still don’t even have a television.

by Ramona Turnbull

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Women's Shelter Update May 2017

Wow, a lot has happened over the last two weeks with regard to the Community Women's Shelter on Payne Ave.  First, Dale Miller objected to a 3 year contract back at the hearing on May 3rd because of all the problems he heard about at the Homeless Congress.  He raised serious questions with Frontline by asking them to come to the front to answer those questions.   He made Eric Morse COO of Frontline Services come up and explain why the women’s shelter is so lowly regarded and their are so many complaints.  There were questions about the EMS calls, the lack of help for the mentally ill, and how this new partnership will work.  Eric said for the first time that almost all the women are either addicted or mentally ill and they just don’t have enough money.  Ruth Gillett Director of the Office of Homeless Services said that the complaint to the Inspector General over the process was found to be without merit.  (We will seek that complaint through an open records request).  In the end, the contract was redrawn to go from 31 months down to 19 months.  It was expected to be passed last Tuesday May 9 at the regular council meeting. This was a good meeting to watch on line, but it is three hours long so here is the run down:

  • 39 minutes 51 seconds:  Ramona Turnbull testifies about the conditions
  • 43 min 22 sec: Brian Davis testifies about all the problems with the Request/Contract
  • 46 min 37 sec: Rosie Palfy testifies
  • 54 min 10 sec: C. Loh once again talks about all the problems at the shelter
  • 1 hour: 54 min 02 sec:  Ruth Gillett gave her presentation and powerpoint of the Women's Shelter contract.
  • 2 hr 09 min 13 sec: Councilwoman Conwell comments on NEOCH and Brian Davis.  She mentioned it was disheartening to hear about the treatment of their director.  She claimed that this process was only after listening to the women.  She claimed that this was going to help the shelter residents and they took the time to make this work.
  • 2 hr 21 min and 20 sec:  Dale Miller starts his questions of Ruth Gillett
  • 2 hr 29 min and 54 sec: Dale Miller begins questioning Frontline Services staff.

Then the following week at the Council meeting, Dan Brady said, "We are going to send this back to the Health and Human Services committee to straighten out this legislation."    He sent it back to the Health and Human Services committee, which is highly unusual.  We heard that there were private discussions about extending the contract by only 4 months and just starting over. In the end, the contract was extended until the end of December 2017 with a new RFP issued soon. 

It turns out there was a provision in the RFP that said that a group had to get an 85 score to be "technically responsive."  The legal department said that since neither West Side Catholic nor Frontline Services got the 85 so the County could not proceed.  They have decided to go forward with an 8 month contract to expire December 31, 2017 for Women’s Shelter.  It will be the LMM/Frontline proposal but only through December.  They will issue a new RFP soon without the 85 score minimum provision in the grant.  So, Loh going to County Council every couple of weeks and talking about the poor conditions worked.  Dan Brady showed up at the May 16 Health and Human Services Committee when Ruth Gillett announced the eight month contract, and said that he wanted Council to stay informed throughout the process to avoid any future issues. 

NEOCH is going to press for a whole new committee that meets with the residents of both or all bidders. We also are going to press for an RFP that addresses the real issues facing the shelter.   It was a remarkable turn around.  It had to be humiliating County staff to see three County Councilmembers criticize the process and the outcome.  Ruth Gillett, the Director of Office Homeless Services was very defensive and respectively pointed out that she would have to start the process almost immediately if the committee approved a one year contract.  Gillett did not show up for the Homeless Congress because she said that she was so abused by the residents in April. 

We raised a couple of problems with the process over the last few months:

  1. 1. The RFP asked the applicants to answer questions that have nothing to do with addressing all the problems at the shelter.  "What is your understanding of the project?"  It is offering a bed and some food not a moon landing.  No questions around what are you going to do about overflow; or the huge number of EMS calls; staff mistreatment; a lack of effective grievances; and the inability to keep women safe.
  2. The committee that was designed to make the recommendation on who administers the shelter was all white in 2017.  The shelter houses 78% African Americans but the County appointed an all white committee to make the decision. 
  3. The committee never spoke to the women living in the shelter to hear their concerns.
  4. The committee obviously did not do a simple Google search on the conditions at the shelter.  They could have read thousands of words on the problems and issues associated with the shelter.
  5. The committee that made the decision had an intimate relationship with the current provider, but very little with West Side Catholic or Metanoia.  They were deciding between a close friend and a virtual stranger to run the shelter. 
  6. There was no plan for how to provide services to this deeply fragile population including the re-entry, mentally ill and addicted group trying to find help.

Brian Davis

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When Will the Women Be Considered?

My biggest concern about Frontline Services continuing as the provider for the women’s shelter is the total lack of empathy, consideration, and failure to take responsibility for their actions.  After all the complaints that were made, no one seems to be listening!  The problems that have been presented were totally ignored and all the grievances that have been filed were not even considered. 

There is either a lack of communication here or the people making the decisions have no regard for human life, specifically the lives of women.  It seems that women have been targeted as outlets for people who are supposed to be responsible professionals as a way to practice doing the extreme opposite.  A lot of the women residing at the shelter have children or don’t want to be a burden to their family or possibly running from domestic violence with nowhere else to go!  They all have their own lives and responsibilities to address. 

The people that were selected for the committee don’t have a clue what homelessness really is or what to look for to make this type of decision and I’m pretty sure that it is totally unethical.  They should be more representative of the population being served.

The women residing at the shelter aren’t even getting enough consideration to have programs in place or a television to watch and keep up with what is going on around them.  This is a form of isolation which is also abuse, not to mention the horrible food that is served with no real nutritional value.  Under the current conditions, I’m sure that if they could every women in the shelter would leave tomorrow. 

I feel that the decision to continue to let Frontline, even with Lutheran Metro Ministry as a partner, provide services for the women’s shelter would be mean, heartless, and cruel.  When will the women be the focus of which group should be providing services for the only single women’s shelter in the entire city…and it has no TV!!!!  I feel that it is the provider’s responsibility to make sure to provide necessities that will eliminate chaos and boost morale?

by Ramona Turnbull

Editor's Note:  Ramona testified before the County Council.  These are her adapted comments without the County time limits.  These are the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of NEOCH.  The legislation is going forward, but there may be a limiting of the time frame of the contract from 19 months down from 31 months which was in the original legislation.

County Councilwomen Slept Overnight at the Women's Shelter

 NEOCH did an open records request for all documents sent to County Council about the Community Women's Shelter on Payne Ave. from last May until the present.  We wanted to see if taxpayers were sending complaints directly to the County Council.  Most of the information that we got back were actually e-mails from NEOCH.  We did learn two interesting items from the 28 pages we got back from the County.  1. The CEO of Frontline Services (current social service provider of the shelter) does not read our blog or pays attention to NEOCH.  Susan Neff sent an e-mail to the County last May on the day of the hearing about the women's shelter saying that she had just found out about the hearing and would not be able to attend.  We put up flyers at the shelter, the drop in center, and all over our website, but I guess the power players don't pay attention to the little guys down in the trenches. 

The other interesting news was that two County Councilmembers slept over night at the Community Women's Shelter on August 1, 2016 which by the way the first day of the month is typically a lower population day.  People have money at the beginning of the month, and so many do not stay in shelter.  We found out about this overnight excursion because Susan Neff sent the two Councilpeople a request to meet on August 2, 2016 in order to talk about their "anonymous" stay at the shelter.   Below are the notes from the meeting held later in the month. 

Some of the interesting items from the notes:

  1. The residents who saw the notes laughed that there could possibly only be 142 people in the shelter.  Something must be wrong with the counting system at the shelter.
  2. The Councilwomen spent most of the meeting talking about the number of residents who were not moving out of the shelter.  Forest for the trees?
  3. There is no visit to the shelter without some level of shock over the number of people on the floor or the distance between staff and residents, but that was not mentioned.
  4. Evidently, the Councilwoman missed the food as part of their visit.
  5. The recommendations made by the Councilwoman are solid and we all agree would benefit the shelter.
  6.  They wanted to reduce the stay to 6 months, but we have always been told that the length of stay for the majority of the residents is around 60 days.  This is confusing.
  7.  They still have not fixed the problem with men hanging out around the building.  One problem is that there is a bus stop right outside, which makes it difficult to control traffic.
  8.  We agree that there should be an overflow shelter for women and the West Side Catholic proposal would have involved Metanoia opening that facility.
  9. "Beds should be rotated" was a good suggestion especially for those with a disability who are new to the shelter.   I am sure that women would give up their beds to a disabled or elderly woman.
  10.   Grouping like minded individuals into a community is another good suggestion, and we hope that this is the one improvement that LMM will bring to the shelter.
  11. Rule changes should happen by January 2017.  Nope, still waiting for resident input on rule changes. 
  12. Eight months and still waiting for the County or Frontline to engage the community on rule changes. 

by Brian Davis

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County Health and Human Services Meeting

Not that it will make a damn bit of difference, because the County is going to do what they are going to do...A few women wanted to vent about the conditions at the shelter so here is the announcement about the meeting. The County committee is recommending another 31 months of Frontline Services running the Women's Shelter despite clear evidence of substandard conditions and a legitimate alternative.  If hundreds of demonstrators could not sway more than 3 County Council members against the Q renovations, they are not going to be able to change the Women's Shelter provider. 

by Brian Davis

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Nathan Testifies About the Women's Shelter

Testimony of Nathan Manthey on February 14, 2017 County Council Meeting after the discussion about the homeless single women. 

This meeting had a large crowd discussing the transformation of the Quicken Loan Arena with public money.  Here is the link to the testimony with Nathan's remarks at 1 hour 24 minutes in this YouTube video.  There were two other commentators on homelessness after Nathan and two young people before Nathan (at 1 hr 19 minutes Kathleen Mosier and Andrew Shearer at 1 hour 22 minutes) who talked about spending money on homelessness/housing rather than renovating a playground for well to do members of our community.  Here are the comments of Nathan Manthey previously of Cleveland Institute of Art:

"Hello County Council.  My name is Nathan Manthey, I am a practicing artist in the Cleveland area and I am here to talk to you about the current contract that is up for bid for staffing concerns at the Norma Herr Women’s Center.  Basically, my interest takes place last year, I was a senior at the Cleveland Institute of Art and I took a course called Project Find.  The objective of that course was to establish relations between artists at the Cleveland Institute of Art and homeless and other displaced communities within Cuyahoga County.   

Our first stop was at the Norma Herr Women’s Center and we met with an employee there, the name of Richard Carr.   That employee asked us, What kind of art project we would be interested in?  And after discussion with him he told us that the project that he thinks that would benefit Norma Herr would be a hard or metal sculpture outside of the building. And the reason for that was because he claimed the women that came there were angry and vengeful and that to have a metal or a sculpture made out of anything besides metal would ultimately mean it would be abused and torn apart by these women. 

I didn’t appreciate that distilling of the spirit of the homeless women so I met directly with them.  We created a project where they would go out on empty lots since there are a surplus of empty lots in Cuyahoga County and they hosted mock ground breaking [or] ribbon cutting ceremonies for fictitious women shelters. They got to create their own speeches and they got to thank whoever (sarcastically thank) whoever they thought should provide these for them.  When I voiced the original idea of this project to the director of the Office of Homeless Services, I believe she’s the director, Ruth Gillett, she dissuaded me or tried to dissuade me from continuing on with this project. And she said essentially that the women would be confused by the idea of this project and that they would believe that the shelters were actually being built. And that they were, that they would essentially be angry by that. 

My problem with that is that these people that represent the staffing at the shelter do not hold the women in high esteem.  If you are a social welfare program you need to care more about the people that you are delivering that social welfare to.  I believe that Frontline Services and I have talked to several, several members of the Norma Herr Women’s Center, all of them have complained to me about the current staff of Frontline Services and there is some slow improvement but I know there is finally other contract bidders for the staffing concerns this year and I want the committee to strongly consider going with those other bids besides Frontline.  That’s the end of my statement."

 

by Brian Davis and transcribed by Denise Moore

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New Day and New Updates on Women's Shelter

There was a really nice piece about the Women's Shelter posted in the Scene Magazine today. This is the url if you need to cut and paste:http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2017/02/13/residents-hopeful-for-change-at-norma-herr-womens-shelter-but-not-too-hopeful.   This story laid out all the issues facing the women everyday at this horribly administered shelter, but unfortunately made the point that most women do not trust the process.  They have been let down so much that they see no hope in there being a change. Change is always difficult and it takes a lot to take the risk on a change.  Scene sent a reporter to stay at the shelter overnight who was shocked by the conditions in the shelter, and was comforted by other residents.

We have heard from a number of people who say that we should sit back and be proud of what we have done to call attention to the problem or the minor adjustments that have taken place over the last year or the horrible staff who left the shelter or the hearing the County held last year.  This misses the point of our advocacy.  There are more women staying in the shelter every night compared to last year.  There is a feeling that the place is less safe with all the people, beds and nothing to do in the evening.  There is more depression and feeling of hopelessness.  So, at the end of the day, we have done nothing to help.   We have tried and spent countless hours trying to improve the shelter, but without much to show.  Things are worse for the women today and they are hoping and praying for a change. 

by Brian Davis

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County Issues a Request for Non-Profits to Bid on the Women's Shelter

NEOCH objected to the Request for Proposals issued by the County for an operator of the facility.  Mainly because of the short time line and the steering toward the existing  provider.  We did not want the current provider to say, "Hey, this is the best we can do because who else is going to run the shelter?  No one else applied for the grant so what do you expect?"  Basically, they are saying what are you going to do kick us out?  Good luck because no one else applied.  We object because the RFP built for only huge providers who run giant shelters.  Here is the letter we sent.  

November 14, 2016

Ruth Gillett

RE: RFP #38561 Issued November 3, 2016 

We were surprised with the issuance of this Request for Proposals because the Homeless Congress had asked for a new provider back in September 2016 and you never came back to invite them to provide input on the request.  You did not reach out to homeless people or their advocates to ask what could be added to the RFP to improve the shelter.  I am especially frustrated since I met with Eric Morse, COO of Frontline Services operator of the current shelter in September and he said that they were just awarded one year of funding so we should meet with the women together because no matter what happens they will be operating the shelter for the next year.  We began meetings, and then this RFP came out.  I feel like I was duped. 

My other issue is that this RFP is slanted so that there can be only one outcome.  You have set up a process in which the existing providers have an unfair advantage over any other group in Cuyahoga County, which seems dangerously close to contract steering.  My issues with the RFP are:

  1. There is only 26 days to organize a coalition to meet all the concerns expressed in the RFP.  If you were truly looking for new ideas and an improvement in the service you would have provided warning that this was coming and allowed for groups to respond.  You have issued this when there was a major Election and a Thanksgiving holiday which most homeless service providers spend many resources. 
  2. Three years of funding is a long time to be stuck with a bad provider.  If the average woman is homeless for 50 days then there are thousands of women who will have a negative experience with County government funded programs over three years.
  3. Based on the minimum requirements section there are only three existing providers locally who have run a shelter with the size of 150 people per night.  We understand that this is an important facility in our community, but how do you expect to improve the services if you limit the bid to only three choices?
  4. One of the minimum vendor requirements is that the vendor operate a safe, clean shelter which in my opinion disqualifies the existing provider.  “In order for offers to be considered responsive, vendors must meet these minimum prior requirements: Provider must provide detailed documentation that it has the capacity to: 1. Operate a safe, clean shelter that serves 150 or more persons per night…. A vendor’s failure to meet these minimum prior experience requirements will cause their proposal to be considered non-responsive and the proposal will be rejected.”  A quick survey of the women at the shelter would show that many women do not feel safe at the shelter.  The fact that an armed security guard is at the front door does not prevent fights, threats and assaults in the basement as Loh has testified to in the past.  There are five reported assaults on the Cleveland Police website just in the last month at 2227 Payne Ave., which does not include those who decided not to fill out a police report.  I would argue that the existing service provider should be disqualified from answering this bid because of the safe provision. 
  5. I don’t understand how a provider has to support a strategic plan to reduce the number of people entering the shelter.  How is the provider going to be able to control the impact of a Donald Trump administration’s budget cuts on the number of people entering a shelter?
  6. The budget line item is again written to favor the existing providers.  Under the budget on page 2 estimated the cost of this project at $3,120,672 which is less than the total cost of the two shelters which is well over $4 million.  How is the “estimated cost of this project” just the addition of the County portion of the funding for the Men’s and Women’s shelter?  This is especially true with all the other funding listed in the previous sentence without any totals.  How is an upstart organization supposed to know how much funding exists in these areas?
  7. The Request is due by November 29 and the contract starts on January 1.  How would a new provider be able to move into running the shelter in less than one month?  This would only work for the existing provider and no other group in the community. 
  8. There is no way for homeless people in partnership with small grass roots organizations to respond to this RFP because of the restrictions in the request. 
  9. There is nothing about the importance of voting and submitting a plan for registering these individuals which was a part of previous requests.  We believe that this is a violation of the Motor Voter Bill to not include this in the RFP as part of a County contract serving low income people with a public function like shelter. 

10.  I do not understand why a non-profit, Cleveland Mediation Center, is specifically mentioned in the RFP to review grievances when homeless people have stated that they do not trust this organization to oversee grievances. 

11.  The women submitted a list of 13 concerns to the County in September 2015, and yet very few of those concerns have been incorporated in the RFP such as a resident council, display of your fair housing rights, meetings between the director and residents, and a procedure for reducing bullying and harassment issues. 

For all the above reasons, we believe that this RFP is fatally flawed and should be withdrawn and redone with the input of the women staying at the shelter. 

Sincerely 

Brian Davis

Post Script:  On November 15, the County indicated that two of our concerns may be taken care of.  They are working to extend the deadline for submission of a grant to January 31, 2017.  They also may move the start date back to March 2017 or somewhere in that area.  We hope that they can look at some of the other points that make it impossible for small groups to apply and to get some more input from homeless women. We will post the updated Request on our website as soon as it is released.

Women's Shelter Improvement Plan

These are the issues that the women sleeping at the shelter want changed.  The Homeless Congress and staff of NEOCH have been meeting to discuss these issues.  Solutions recommended by the Women Living at the Community Women’s Shelter in 2015 and updated in October 2016.

  1. Staff Re-Hired With Client Input: 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.  We need some backup for the food since we cannot count on edible food or even enough for everyone. 
  1. Create an Independent Resident Council: 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.
  2. Movement of Disruptive Residents: 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. 
  3. Grievance Procedure Reform: 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.
  4. Display of Grievances: 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. Outside Agency/Religious Organizational Support: 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. Redo the Rules and Regulations with a Resident Committee: 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 bed rest or movement to more appropriate facilities. 
  7. New Procedure for Employee Evaluation Going Forward. 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. Quarterly CEO Meetings with Residents: 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. Display of Fair Housing Rights: 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. Independent Organization Sets Up Process to Review Harassment Claims: 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. Public Acknowledgment of the Need for a Shelter for Mentally Ill Women: 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. [Did you know that there is not a specialized center for people with a severe mental illness to go without being confined by the courts in one of the state hospitals?]
  12. Training for Security Guards:  The women are concerned with the threats and lack of compassion by the armed security officers.  The women want the police officers who work at the shelter to have to be certified in the crisis intervention with mentally ill people, and sensitivity training or implicit bias training before they can work at the shelter.
  13. Seminars for the Residents on LGBTQ Issues:  Many residents have had no previous experience in living with trans individuals and have no experience with sensitivity around LGBTQ issues.  The residents feel like this was thrust on them without warning or discussion.  There is an understanding that this is the law, but there needs to be some cultural sensitivity training and some open discussion about the law with the residents and the local fair housing groups.

Brian Davis

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Homeless Congress Asks for a New Women's Shelter Provider

Homeless Congress


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 8, 2016 at our regular Homeless Congress meeting and unanimously approved a resolution asking that the County find another social service provider to administer the Community Women’s Shelter at 2227 Payne Ave.  One year ago the Homeless Congress voted to give a September 2016 deadline for some improvement and provided a 13 point list of the areas we felt were critical deficiencies.  As you know from the hearing held in May, there are a large number of complaints from the women.  These include:

  1. Staff disrespect, a lack of empathy that has not improved in 12 months.
  2. Mistreatment by staff and a total disregard of the opinions of residents. “We are treated as inmates and not partners in the struggle to overcome homelessness.”
  3. Lack of structure in the shelter and the rules change frequently without notice.
  4. Grave safety issues that even with security makes the women feel that violence can break out at any time.  The security seem to protect staff before they provide security for the residents.
  5. A lack of competent impartial oversight that the residents can go to in order to get help when the shelter violates the County standards.  The women do not feel that government is overseeing the operations of the Shelter and the Frontline supervisors do not seem to know what is going on day to day at the shelter.
  6. A lack of programming to help the women move out of the shelter or improve their situation.  There is nothing to do in the shelter but sit, get angry and fight.
  7. A fair grievance process was never set up a fair grievance process that involves an impartial person to resolve complaints.
  8. The shelter rarely responds in writing to complaints and the process takes way too long.  They also enforce the punishments before the grievance is resolved in violation of the County standards. 
  9. Lots of trauma and stress living in the shelter, and staff do not do anything to alleviate the horrible conditions. There are regular threats by staff to expel residents for small infractions of the rules.
  10. No independent resident council and we have not been able to meet with the COO or CEO of Frontline for 10 months.

We have a website with all the details and a transcript of the County Health and Human Services hearing at  www.neoch.org/houseofpayne/.  We ask that the County initiate a process for replacing the shelter provider locally.  The women who currently stay at the shelter along with NEOCH would appreciate the opportunity to have input on the Request for Proposal.  We are going to begin to interview potential replacement providers to hear alternatives to Frontline Services running the shelter. Despite a few changes that have taken place in the shelter, the worst staff member being relocated, and the claims of staff at the May hearing to be in compliance with the local shelter standards, the current residents of the shelter felt that our community needs fresh ideas and new energy on Payne Avenue.

The women argued at the meeting that staff were still disrespectful to the women and could not offer much help in moving into stable housing. They felt that there was not enough impartial oversight of the shelter and hope that a Request for Proposal process can at least build in improvements to the shelter for 2017 and beyond no matter who is running the facility.  There has not been any active negotiations between the agency and the residents in the last year over improving the conditions, or much of an attempt to meet the 13 demands that were included in our list of concerns from 2015.  The vote was unanimous without one person present at the meeting voicing any opposing views to asking the County to seek other social service providers to oversee this facility. 

Since this is the only emergency facility left in our community for women who do not have custody of their children and so is critical in the struggle to end homelessness.  The current facility is overcrowded, filled with women of different backgrounds and different barriers to stability.  Current staff are paralyzed in how to serve the large numbers of fragile women.  The Homeless Congress believes we need a dramatic change to bring in a group of social service providers who can provide activities and services that move women into housing faster. 

We would welcome you or any of the County Councilmembers to any of our upcoming meetings.  We meet on the second Thursday of the month at the Cosgrove Center at 1 p.m. (October 13, November 10, and December 8) to hear directly from the women.  Please call NEOCH to let us know that you will be able to attend (216/432-0540).

As voted upon at the September Homeless Congress

Cleveland Women's Shelter Hearing May 4

Thanks to Council President Dan Brady for organizing this discussion.  We hope that when the County Council hears of the problems at the shelter they will force some reform.   We have some immediate actions that could be taken to improve the living conditions and some long term solutions.  I think that we need to open some smaller facilities to serve the unique needs of the women (Re-Entry, Mentally Ill, Addicted, Moms who need to re-unite with their kids, and older women).  But there are huge problems at the shelter only complicated by the current renovations taking place.  In my opinion, the staff are out of control and poorly trained.  They have made the facility into a toxic environment without a proper grievance procedure or a way to respond to problems.  I think that we need to bring in a new provider who has more experience with running a shelter, but that is not the opinion of the Homeless Congress yet.  The hearing is open to the public.

Brian Davis

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Woman Organizing for a New Shelter

 These a few of the 190 residents of the Community Women's Shelter sleeping near Cleveland State every night in Cleveland.  They have raised concerns about the shelter especially the staff disrespect and contempt for human decency by the staff employed at 2227 Payne Ave.  They have filed grievances and heard little back and the shelter continues to operate as business as usual.  Nathan from the Cleveland Institute of Art met with the women on a map project in 2015, and wanted to follow up in 2016.  He began meeting with the women on a regular basis to talk about the needs at the shelter.  They decided that the only solution is to have a series of smaller shelters that could provide specific help to certain populations in the shelter. They want a shelter serving those who are still in chemical dependency recovery process and then a separate shelter for those with a severe mental illness.  There should be a shelter for pregnant women and those mom's who are working to regain custody of their children.  These are pictures of their dress rehersal for a possible ribbon cutting in the future when the City leaders realize we need more shelter beds.  These women will be prepared when the specific needs of the women are addressed with a shelter that serves their issues and not forced into an overcrowded shelter that forces women to try to change to find the help they need. 

Here is the speech that Loh (a resident) would give at the ribbon cutting (edited for written communication).

Finally, today is the day, homeless people, especially, homeless single females, have a safe place to rest their heads when they are too tired to carry on the daily struggles in their lives. They have a place to eat some decent proper food to maintain their damaged health, free from harassments and retaliations hurting them even more and worse by bullies working at shelter!

Many many thanks to Cuyahoga County Council and hard working staff at Office of Homeless Services who helped us to find the funding and a compassionate, capable, new homeless service provider to ensure this new facility actually is really full of hope, energies, functional resources, space, and opportunities for each and every weary body and soul coming in here to recoup.  And these women quickly leaving with a renewed life ahead of them!  Thank You, Thank You, and Thank You!

Congratulations to these brave women for being willing to dream of a better place to live that will not crush their individuality and spirit as they find in the current shelter system. 

Brian Davis

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County Health and Human Services Meeting

January 20, 2016 Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Meeting.

Thank you so much, Cuyahoga County, for keeping the videos of your committee meetings on the site.  They are a little complicated to find, but with some hunting it is great that you keep them up there.  The Health and Human Services meeting oversees funding for the shelters and homeless services.   Loh, who regularly attends the Homeless Congress,  is gracious enough to go to these meetings and give us a heads up when something comes up about the Community Women's Shelter.  At nearly every meeting Loh (a resident)  invites her elected officials to attend the Homeless Congress meeting or visit her at 9 p.m. at the shelter to see what is going on over on Payne Ave. 

This meeting came to our attention, because it was pretty soon after Dale Miller attended the Homeless Congress and heard an earful from the women.  Councilwoman Conwell chaired this meeting and the Women's Shelter funding was on the agenda.  Thanks to Denise and Ramona for the partial transcript of the meeting notes below. 

After a year of intense pressure on reforming the shelter, we got more money going to the women's shelter without any changes and 30 more beds.  There is a renovation underway which is great, but the staff, food, lack of oversight and an ignoring of the grievances still exists.  The additional funds to hire more staff under the supervision of the same agency was not well received by the women that I have talked to about the shelter.  Shouldn't the funding go to the Cosgrove Center who provide help to the women during the day?  The two budgets approved were for 2100 Lakeside at $1.701 million to serve an average of 380 people per night and 2227 Payne Ave. at $1.419 million to serve 180 people per night.  Why are the women so much more expensive especially since most women have to leave at 8 a.m. and don't come back until 3 p.m?  This is the most expensive babysitting service in our community.  There are too many staff who are called "case workers" even though they are not doing much work on people's cases.  The Women's Shelter has to be for two shifts of armed security on site at the request of the staff which are not present at the Men's Shelter. 

Anyway, we present the notes from the meeting to see what the bureaucrats from Cuyahoga County and staff of the shelter are saying about the facility that they do not typically say directly to the women at the shelter or at the Homeless Congress meeting.  There is a discussion at the meeting regarding the large number of women who are staying at the shelter for a long period of time.  There is no easy solution to this problem.  Is this a systematic failure?  After all, if there is only one shelter for single women and many people who need additional case management help that they cannot find, where are they supposed to go?  Is this an agency problem?  Are these women so demoralized and beaten down by the staff that they have given up ever getting into housing?  Or is this an individual issue that these women do not possess the skills to get housing or a job because of their background? Do they need some help that they cannot find after 3 p.m. when the shelter opens?  None of us know the answers to these questions, so it is impossible to give an answer. 

There was a discussion if there are 30 people over the number of beds currently in the shelter or were there 60 women sleeping on the floor.  This seems like a bizarre discussion that has no solution.  It is like a dispute between whether things should be characterized as horrible or just terrible.  The County Council needs to fix this problem and not debate the numbers.  This is the reason we elected these individuals to fix problems facing our community and not to just debate the issues. 

 Brian Davis

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Shelter Sister Alumni Pledge to Reform the Women's Shelter

Shelter Sister Alumni Pledge

We have tried to reform the Community Women’s Shelter (Search our website for Women's homeless shelter) for years and nothing has worked.  We know that the women are afraid to speak up out of fear of retaliation.  The staff have created such an oppressive environment that women are afraid that they will be improperly discharged if they say anything about the shelter and the shelter does not respond to grievances according to Cuyahoga County rules.  So, NEOCH is organizing a Shelter Sister Alumni group to address the problem.  We are asking that after (current or recent residents)  get into housing that they pledge to work for the reform of this specific shelter.  They will attend meetings, stay in contact with NEOCH or meet with County individuals.  If these women are not going to have time or will not be able to fulfill this pledge then we ask that they do not fill out the form.  We are asking that they keep a copy of the flyer with them as you move into housing.  The Shelter Sister Alumni Pledge is:

I agree to work to reform the Women’s Shelter on Payne Ave. after I get into housing.  I will:

_____Call NEOCH (216) 432-0540 at least once per month to find out if there are any updates.

_____Attend a meeting about the Women’s Shelter at least quarterly depending on my work schedule.

_____Visit a County elected official to urge them to reform the shelter and provide better oversight.

_____ Attend a meeting with the provider about solving the problems at the shelter.  Posted on Cleveland Homeless Blog on www.neoch.org

_____ Or attend the Homeless Congress Meeting. 2nd Thursday at 1p.m. at Cosgrove.

_____  E mail NEOCH at neoch (at) neoch (dot) org regularly to keep us updated. Shelter Sister Alumni in the subject line or visit at NEOCH is at 3631 Perkins 3rd Floor over near Dave’s or the Keybank on Chester.

We have tried everything including asking politicians for help, protests, meetings, threats, filing grievances, going to the media and nothing has worked.  Because it is so overcrowded, it is probably the worst we have seen this shelter in 20 years.  It is a toxic environment that is not healthy for the women.  There are so many problems, but the fundamental issue is that most of the staff do not care about the women.  There is very little oversight of the shelter and the staff do not follow the county rules or even their own policies.  They do not respond to grievances and their is an atmosphere of fear of retaliation over at the shelter.  We are at a loss for how to reform the shelter. 

 Download a copy of the Shelter Sister Alumni Pledge form to complete or distribute

 

by Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry, but the Coalition board has supported the position of the Homeless Congress as it relates to the Community Women's Shelter

County Council Meets to Discuss Women's Shelter without Homeless Woman

The Women sleeping at the Norma Herr Center have been complaining about the conditions at the shelter for months, years and in fact decades.  10 years ago, many of the same issues promoted a demonstration set for the day Katrina hit New Orleans.  We cancelled the event because of the crisis and the break down of the infrastructure in the Gulf Coast, but the problems at the shelter still exist.  There are food complaints, staffing issues, grievances, facility problems, lack of oversight, and a lack of enforcement of the County rules for running a shelter.

Over the last six months the women have been bringing their complaints to our monthly Homeless Congress meetings to let elected officials know about the problems.  In May 2014, we had County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell as the guest speaker at the Homeless Congress to hear the concerns of the shelter residents.  She heard from the women who stay at the shelter along with a response from the County staff and many of the shelter providers were present who disputed the poor conditions and staff mistreatment.  Councilwoman Conwell said that she would take some of the concerns back to the full Health and Human Services Committee.  That meeting took place on June 17, but there were no women from the shelter present. 

We have heard that Conwell wanted to hear from the "other side" so she did not invite any residents from the shelter.   This is absurd.  If I had known, I would have never allowed anyone except residents of the shelter to speak at the May Homeless Congress meeting.  Many of the people who commented on the shelter either worked for the shelter, were contractors of the shelter or were supposed to be overseeing the shelter.  In fact three of the people who attended the County Council June 17 meeting spoke at the May Homeless Congress Meeting to defend the shelter.  We have written a letter criticizing Councilwoman Conwell for this "secret meeting." She owes the women a hearing as she promised at the Congress meeting.

Dear Councilwoman Conwell,

Recently, it has come to NEOCH’s attention that you held a meeting on June 17th about the shelter issues brought forth by the Homeless Congress from May.   We are writing to express our profound regret that you did not invite any homeless people or their advocates to the meeting. However, before doing so, I would like to mention some points brought up in the May Homeless Congress meeting. Bed rest was one of many concerns including disrespectful staff, horrible food, and improper discharges were also mentioned.  At that meeting, you heard from both representatives from the homeless community as well as the social service agencies.  So, then why only invite the social service providers to the June 17 meeting?  Most of the homeless population are intelligent individuals and can describe the conditions in which they live. Why did you hear only one side of the issue?  It is like you held a discussion about bike safety in the County and invited only automobile drivers or a hearing on expanding the Cleveland landlord tenant law into all the County, but only invited landlords to discuss the issue. 

There was not a single resident of Norma Herr at the meeting even though women from the shelter regular attend your meetings? We could have helped facilitate attendance if you had told us?  If someone was there to represent the residents, you could have asked if the procedures being “implemented” to address concerns were effective.  You could have heard directly from people sleeping there if the abuse they allege has continued.  You could have heard if conditions had changed in response to the May Homeless Congress meeting or the 44 complaints submitted in April to the County and to Frontline management.

At both meetings, the issue of grievances came up. At the Homeless Congress meeting you mentioned that cases should be handled on a neutral basis.  It seems disrespectful to the women who find themselves without a place to live to not be invited to the County meeting about the place they sleep.  As you know from your years working at the shelter, these women are taxpayers and largely find themselves without housing through no fault of their own.  Many of these residents can tell you why they do not trust the Cleveland Mediation Center.  They could tell you why CMC is beholden to Frontline Services and cannot be considered neutral.   An organization cannot be a neutral 3rd party when they are paid by one of the parties to administer a program just as a judge could not be considered impartial if they were receiving program funds from one of the lawyers appearing before them.

As for bed rest, the staff has set an arbitrary limit on the number of people who can stay in no matter if they have a bed rest order or not.  They have made severely disable women sleep in the lobby and wait in the cafeteria all day until a bed opens up.   If any residents of Norma Herr attended the June 17th meeting, this statement by Frontline could have been refuted.  We could have brought women in walkers to the table to show that bed rest orders are not followed.   Again, this comes back to the lack of representation of the women who are affected by these issues.  We urge you or any of the Council members to show up for dinner around 5:30 p.m. on any night (UNANNOUNCED)and then answer the question would you want your disabled relative to stay in this tax payer supported shelter?

The women could have talked about all the holes in the “shelter standards” offered by the Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services and the fact that there is no where to go if you have concerns that those standards are not being followed.  Finally, after all the heart ache that you heard from the women staying at the shelter that you fund, it seems cruel that the only outcome will be a future committee meeting on the “positive things that are happening at the shelter, since the media focuses on the negative.”  If this were only true then there might be changes at the women’s shelter.  We have not seen any negative stories about the women’s shelter.  From our experience, the women’s shelter is the one facility out of step with the rest of the system.  The staff are cruel and not being supervised.  They do not see their job as intervening to help, but instead are merely employed to prevent a riot.  There is no incentives for women to work a housing plan, and no sympathy for the unique issues of each of the 150 women sleeping in the shelter. 

I call your attention to the feature on WCPN in July (/cleveland-homeless-blog/2015/7/21/wcpn-looks-at-homeless-youth-in-cleveland.html).  This young person was going to Tri-C full time and was sleeping at the women’s shelter.  She was starving because no staff would hold a bag lunch for her and dinner was served before she got back from class.  The media is only reporting was is really happening in our community.   You do not need better publicity, you need to demand a better shelter.  Please, please follow up with a real hearing featuring current or former residents of the shelter who can give you an honest assessment of how our taxpayer money is being spent at the only facility available to single women.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

PS: Got a semi response to this letter on September 10.  We posted a copy of the letter with a short commentary here. 

WCPN Looks At Homeless Youth in Cleveland

A nice portrait (not of any of the guests on WCPN) by David HaganFrom The Sound of Ideas episode on July 9th, 2015 with Mike McIntyre, Tasha Jones, Gary Stanger, Robert L. Fischer, Kate Lodge, and Angela D’Orazio

A link to the story http://www.ideastream.org/programs/sound-of-ideas/plan-young-adults-aging-out-foster-care

Recently, on WCPN’s The Sound of Ideas, a discussion was hosted on aging out of foster care and youth homelessness. Mike McIntyre hosted five members of the community related to poverty and homelessness, including a homeless youth by the name of Tasha Jones, Gary Stanger of Jim Casey Youth Opportunities, Robert L. Fischer of CWRU, Kate Lodge of A Place 4 Me Initiative, and Angela D’Orazio of the Sisters of Charity Foundation. 

Tasha was a foster child, who aged out of the foster care system, and at graduation she found herself homeless with nowhere to go.  Sadly, this is the story for many young people locally. Every year 120 teens age out of foster care in the area, and CWRU’s studies show that these youth are five times more likely to be homeless.  Tasha found herself staying at family member’s house, and then living in bus shelters.  Though Tasha points out that homelessness is technically defined as being registered under a shelter or on the streets, but does not count those who stay with friends in basements or on couches.  Eventually, Tasha found herself at a woman’s shelter in Cleveland, but was not there often due to being in school at the Cuyahoga County Community College.  After a month at the shelter, Tasha was lucky enough to meet Kate Lodge and received a place at a transitional housing unit.

Tasha talked about her difficulty getting food while staying at the Women's Shelter with her Tri-C class schedule.  "I wasn't eating, I did not eat for almost two months,"  according to Tasha.  She could not get the shelter staff to save her a dinner because she got back in the evening and she was in class during lunch.  Breakfast was too late and dinner was too early for Tasha to be able to get food at the shelter. She suggested that the shelters need to work with the people on their specific issues and not force people to work around the shelter's schedule.  She was taking classes so she did not have money to buy food, and she was starving all the time. Thanks to the people at the Tri-C foodbank for intervening and figuring out that Tasha was not getting enough food. 

Despite Tasha having a hard time, Gary Stanger mentions how many youth are not even as lucky as Tasha to meet the right people to get into programs. He also notes that the technical definition of homelessness does not really count the numerous youth that are going from place to place. He goes on to state, “when they [young people] show up to the shelter that means that they ran out of friends.” 

When asked about increased funding, D’Orazio notes that funders are focusing on coordination between groups to see how their results turn out.  With continued planning, a strategy has developed among many agencies and there is an important need to show those funding programs where they fit in the strategy. 

Fischer studies poverty and in his research has found that among the homeless youth only those unaccompanied by a guardian are counted.  So, in actuality, the number is much higher.  Also, the numbers show that, in the area, 95% of unaccompanied youth are 18-24 and 85% are African-American.  The average homeless youth is 20 years-old and 81% of the unemployed homeless youth are actively search for a job.  As for LGBTQ youth, the numbers are staggering.  Fischer mentions that about one third of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer.

Later, the discussion shifts to transitional housing and permanent supportive housing.  Kate Lodge makes the argument that, though funding is shifting from transitional to supportive, transitional housing is pivotal for the youth.  She goes on to mention the importance of living in a college dorm for many youth and how that shapes them for the future.  To Lodge, transitional housing helps to provide a similar effect for homeless youth, while also providing a safe place to live.  

by Dan the intern

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Homeless Congress Members Working to Improve Women's Shelter

 How the Homeless Congress is trying to Improve the Community Women’s Shelter

  • NEOCH and Homeless Congress members filed 43 complaints over a one week period. We sent copies to the Cleveland Mediation Center and County Public Policy Committee.  The shelter gave a two sentence response to most of the complaints even those that were very long (3 pages).  Some complaints were never answered, and two women appealed but only one woman has been able to pursue her appeal. No one from the County or the Public Policy Committee asked to follow up on the grievances.
  • One vocal advocate living at the Women’s Shelter gave copies to the County Council and ADAMHS Board (both funders of the shelter).
  • This same vocal advocate and resident of the shelter regularly attends both Council and ADAMHS Board meetings and regularly provides public comment about the need for governmnet oversight.
  • Invited County Councilwoman, Yvonne Conwell, to the May 2015 Homeless Congress to hear complaints.  She attended and said that she would take the information back to her colleagues and ask Pernell Jones Jr to host Congress members at a hearing.  Never heard back.
  • Invited every County Council person to either attend one of the Congress meetings or ask that a couple of members of Congress to meet at their office.  Have not heard back from most of them.
  • There were a number of stories about the Women’s Shelter published in the Cleveland Street Chronicle newspaper this last month.
  • Invited CEO of the Alcohol and Drug Addictions and Mental Health Services Board to the June 2015 Homeless Congress.  He attended and promised to have a discussion with their board about a separate shelter for severely mentally ill and to join the women for dinner (unannounced) at the Women’s Shelter to see how things are going.  He is going in for back surgery so has not been able to do these activities.  We will continue to follow up.
  • The CEO of Frontline (Susan Neth) attended the last Office of Homeless Services County meeting on 7/8 and said that they are aware of the issues and in response they have done the following:
  1. Cleveland Mediation Center is facilitating “Listening Circles” and then bringing the information collected to the shelter directors.
  2. Moved the suggestion box to a more secure location out of the hands of on-site staff.
  3. CMC is providing customer service training to the staff.
  4. EDEN (owner of the building) has been made aware of the facility problems and is working on raising the money for making improvements.
  5. There are on-going discussions and she will update the group about progress.
  • This female advocate and resident of the shelter has asked for some improvements to the shelter as part of her grievance appeal and she gave those in writing to the shelter staff in June. There will be a follow up meeting later this month to discuss these.  Her suggestions were:
  1. She identified problems with staff and gave praise to another group of staff.
  2. She wants a better process to protect people’s safety.
  3. More cameras and use of that video to determine if staff are acting professionally.
  4. Assignment of a client rights officer to be able to gather video and release it to City Prosecutor if there is violence so that residents can file orders of protection.
  5. Specific rules for volunteering at the shelter and no punishments for those who volunteer and keep the shelter clean or save the shelter money.
  6. Residents of the shelter should elect two other residents to sit in on complaints about staff to represent the interest of the residents.  There should also be feedback to the residents that a complaint was heard and action was taken so it is worth completing a grievance.
  7. An independent resident council should be established that will not lead to retaliation or favoritism of residents that attend the meeting and will have written notes with a response from the shelter.
  8. If complaints are filed regarding staff behavior the residents should know that the shelter senior staff responded and an action (not specific) was taken.
  9. Senior staff should host a meeting of the residents at 1744 Payne to hear all the client grievances specific to staff without fear of retaliation.
  10. The grievance procedure needs to be changed to be more timely, transparent, and should have some results that make it worth completing a complaint.
  11. The shelter does not seem to be following the 2014 grievance procedure that the County mandated especially with regard to discharges.  That needs to be corrected.

We are working regularly on the issue, but have all this activity made any improvements in the shelter?  Many of the residents expressed concern that the shelter has not made many changes at the July Homeless Congress meeting since they started putting pressure in March of 2015. 

Brian Davis

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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

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Cogswell Hall--100 Years

Staff of Cogswell Hall saw our post about Cosgrove Center and their 20 years of existence and wondered if we could mention Cogswell Hall serving Cleveland for over 100 years. Their building was renovated back in 2009, but the original construction was in 1914.  Their growth and continued existence is impressive and they are celebrating with an event on September 19 called Coming Home.  Now for those who do not know Cogswell Hall is a permanent supportive housing apartment building on the near West Side of Cleveland.   They are helping those who have been homeless for a long period of time back into housing.  They have social services and other help available to this mostly disabled population.  They should be congratulated for making it one hundred years, and we should celebrate this newly renovated building improving our neighborhoods in Cleveland.  We are also proud that they are fellow Community Shares Members here in Cleveland.  Staff at Cogswell Hall are always helpful with voting, protecting client rights and other social justice issues. 

In looking back at the Cogswell Hall history, it really shows how the city has changed in the last 150 years.   We have grown up and improved our fair housing obligations, but what have we lost during that time?  Cogswell Hall started serving exclusively women and now takes all, but is there a need to serve women in a separate facility?  All the previous incarnations of Cogswell Hall are still necessary in Cleveland, but have sadly disappeared.  They started as a temperance union for women, which is not something we talk much about today.  In an age of medical marijuana, very few are talking about outlawing alcohol.   That would be pretty much the end of professional sports, reality shows, tractor pulls, wrestling, and demolition derbies if we outlawed alcohol consumption.  In 1892, they became a halfway house for those leaving the women's workhouse.  They were a training facility and provided "anti-alcohol encouragement."  These are services we need today.  We have Women's Re-entry, but they don't have a building for transitioning the women back to full time employment and stable housing.  This halfway house for women coming out of incarceration is a type of program we could use today.

In 1899, Cogswell Hall moved to the West Side and worked on preventing young girls from getting into trouble.  Now, we have the YWCA doing the same type of program, but working with a slightly older group of young women.  We could use more programs that work with young women to keep them out of trouble.  The Cogswell Hall current building was built in 1914 and had 27 rooms and was known as the training home for girls.  The group changed their name to Cogswell Hall in 1952--renamed after its founder.  In the 1970s, Cogswell started renting apartments to older women 60 years of age and older. This might be one group that the market is sufficiently serving at this time.  We have an aging society and we may see a need for senior housing in the next 10 to 20 years, but at least right now we are meeting the housing needs of seniors.  Many landlords want to rent to seniors because they do not have parties and typically have steady income.  With only around 1% of the homeless population over 60 it is not a huge issue in Cleveland in 2014. In the 1970s, I am sure that Cogswell Hall served a vital service to seniors. 

In 2004, Cogswell Hall started accepting fragile women of any age and providing supportive services.  While fair housing standards say that apartment owners cannot discriminate based on gender, there was some merit to serving women separate from men.  Women experience violence leading to homelessness at huge rates.  This often makes it difficult to live in the same building with men.  Women still face discrimination in the workplace, pay rate discrepancies, and archaic hiring practices that make it necessary to provide additional help. They still face landlords who prey upon women and they need fair housing protections, but we could use separate facilities to serve especially fragile females.  We keep losing programs for women in this community, and that makes it harder to serve women and female headed households.  We lost East Side Catholic shelter, Triumph House, the Care Alliance program for women, Family Transitional, Transitional Housing Inc, and now this month Continue Life for pregnant young moms.  All these programs were lost in our community and only a handful of the beds were replaced.  We are not doing all we can do to serve homeless women in our community.  While we have made great strides in providing fair housing for minority populations and women, there has been a cost.  This major step forward has actually set back the fragile females who need extra assistance overcoming obstacles in our community.

The building over on Franklin is impressive and the wrap around services offered are wonderful.  Cogswell Hall serves a critical need in our community as they have done for 100 years.  We hope that you can support Cogswell Hall in 2014 to mark their landmark anniversary.  We wish them good luck on their fundraiser.

Brian Davis

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