Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shelter Still Lacking in Showers

NEOCH Scolded For Asking for Decent Conditions

In an interview with Ohio News Network about the debacle surrounding the temporary location of the Community Women Shelter, Cleveland’s chief of Public Affairs, Natoya Walker Minor, claimed that NEOCH is “completely wrong on [our push for improved condition for the 80 women currently sleeping at the shelter].” She went on to say that the issue “has gained too much notoriety for a temporary situation.”

Much of the notoriety the issue has gained has been because of the Board of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless voicing concerns over the shelter, which is accommodating more people every night than that building can handle, and only has one shower. Because of these issues, NEOCH feels that this location is unacceptable for human habitation, regardless of whether it is a temporary situation. After all, half the women who enter the shelter today will not be there by the middle of August. So, there entire experience with homelessness will be at a facility without enough showers, beds, sinks or toilets.

Because the city and the county have largely dismissed the pleas and concerns of the NEOCH Board, they have filed complaints with the State, the fire department, and other government entities. NEOCH Board members, however, question the planning process that preceded the shelter’s relocation. Walker Minor and Cuyahoga County Director of Homeless Services Ruth Gillett said they spent between six months to a year planning the renovations and move of the shelter, but were unable to find a facility with showers.

"The question is why do city and county officials think that inhumane and intolerable living conditions are acceptable under any circumstances -- temporary or otherwise? That is the most disturbing part of all of this,” said board member Rosie Palfy. The NEOCH Board cannot understand how any plan involving a temporary shelter did not consider the shower needs of the women and the natural increases in homeless women every summer. The facility has had over 100 women on some nights with even pregnant women sleeping on the floor on a mat.

“I’ll be the first to admit, it is inconvenient,” Walker Minor told ONN. NEOCH maintains that this inconvenient solution is not an acceptable one, especially after a year of planning. If there was an apartment building with 90 residents and only one working shower, that building would quickly be condemned and the residents would be immediately moved into a facility that is in compliance with the law. “Why do homeless women and pregnant women have to suffer through this summer sleeping on the floor without adequate bathroom facilities because of poor planning and an unwillingness to seek help from the public to pay for a decent temporary shelter,” asked Marcia Bufford, NEOCH Board President?

These problems, accompanied by the sweltering heat Cleveland has encountered recently, combine to exacerbate the issues facing the women staying at the temporary shelter. The shelters need to maintain compliance with some minimum level of basic standards, and should not place women who have already experienced extreme hardship into a facility that is so overcrowded and does not provide a place for women to practice good hygiene as they prepare for job interviews or a meetings with potential landlords.

Press Release by Marcia Bufford and Rosie Palfy
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