Homeless Meet with City/County Today
The Homeless Congress meeting today had a huge agenda, and was one of the best meetings we have ever had. Our good friend Cleveland Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland attended to hear about the Shelter Standards. She pledged to bring the issue to the rest of Council. We agreed to give the social service providers a month and a half to get comments back to the Congress. Homeless people who attend the June 21 meeting will review the comments and suggest changes to the standards. Ruth Gillett and Rick Werner of Cuyahoga County both attended, and Natoya Walker of the City of Cleveland also joined the Congress. Gillett had not seen the Shelter Standards document, but did say there were already minimum standards for shelters. She suggested that if homeless people had problems they should file a grievance with the shelter.
This is not a NEOCH meeting, so it would have been appropriate to stand up and scream at Ruth that her suggestions just do not work in the real world in the same style many homeless people face at night when they question shelter staff. The problem is that a grievance always stays within the shelter, and there is no impartial look at the problem. It is like suggesting to those families facing foreclosure because of a predatory loan that they file a grievance with the mortgage company that issued the unethical terms for the loan and expect that they will reform themselves. We have laws in place to protect tenants, homeowners, nursing home residents, but homeless people have no law to turn to for protections against being thrown out into the snow in the middle of the night.
The most interesting part of the meeting was the discussions about Aviation High School and the North Point Motel. As we have discussed Aviation will close on Halloween, but the scariest part of this is the unworkable plan that the City and County have developed to replace Aviation. Tonight there are 550 people using either 2100 Lakeside shelter and Aviation High School, which operates as an overflow. The City and County are pushing the other shelters to take up the slack and move more people into housing/transitional housing and treatment. They want to reduce the number to 375 this summer so that there is no need for an overflow shelter. Then they want to open North Point as a permanent housing facility. Based on the questions, the Homeless Congress members were very skeptical of this plan. It was amazing to me that the only people in the room that could do basic math were the homeless people. This plan had post-war Iraq planning written all over it.
We have 15 years of proof that we are not going to open a facility like North Point with two people in a private room and expect fewer people to utilize the homeless system. It is like these government people do not understand poverty and they work in the poorest city in America. There are so many people waiting for housing (Over 50,000 according to most studies), but many choose not to use the shelters. Most in the community feel shelters are degrading, dirty, unsafe, or have one of a thousand other reasons, but if the City makes a shelter available that has a private room more people will show up for help not fewer.
City and County officials made a commitment to continue to allow anyone who shows up at the door to sleep inside a shelter, which is unique to Cleveland. No one explained how all these people would fit inside 2100 Lakeside or how many would sleep in the halls and cafeteria after the loss of the Aviation overflow site.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.