Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Women's Shelter Population Growing

Is there anywhere that is free out there in Cleveland to house 100 homeless women?

Rising Temperatures and Resident Counts at Women’s Shelter Continue to Worry NEOCH Board Members

Nearly two weeks after Natoya Walker Minor, Cleveland’s Chief of Public Affairs, and Ruth Gillett, Cuyahoga County’s Director of Homeless Services, refused an invitation from the female board members of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless to spend two nights at the Community Women’s Shelter, conditions continued to deteriorate over the holiday weekend.

As the weekend temperatures soared, so did the number of homeless women seeking shelter at the temporary location. The almost 80 women found themselves enduring the scorching heat wave in a shelter with only one shower. During previous years, this shelter has traditionally housed about 100 women a day during the summer months. Despite this fact, Walker Minor and Gillett made the decision to relocate the women to a facility designed to house only 50 people when the publicly-funded shelter closed in early May for renovation.

Each government official said that they had spent years planning for the renovation and searching for temporary sites, yet they chose a building with only one shower, five sinks and five toilets. Walker Minor and Gillett declined the invitation to stay at the shelter, whose facilities they agreed were “inconvenient”, but “doable.”

Due to their poor planning, the residents have been forced to use showers at the nearby Bishop Cosgrove Center and North Point Men’s Transitional shelter. Cosgrove was closed over the holiday weekend as well as on Monday. During this time, the women’s only other option was North Point, which only has one shower available for their use.

“There are too many people living in that shelter. They've run out of beds, so some women are sleeping on mats on the floor. This building is clearly not designed to accommodate the needs of that many people," said Rosie Palfy, a NEOCH board member. "There is absolutely no way that nearly 80 women can be expected to adequately bathe themselves under these conditions."

The steady increase in the number of women sleeping in this shelter has caused concerns about the women’s hygiene and safety while in the shelter. The current situation violates not only Ohio’s Basic Shelter Standards, but also Cleveland’s building and housing codes. Aside from these issues, the limited number of showers continues to cause worry about its inaccessibility to disabled women and fear about the residents’ ability to find and maintain employment.

“We cannot risk women getting a staph infection or losing their job because they cannot maintain their personal hygiene,” said Marcia Bufford NEOCH's board president. The board continues to fight for shelter standards and stands unified in their decision to challenge city and county officials to improve the living conditions for homeless women.

Marcia Bufford and Rosie Palfy are the contacts for this information

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Post Script: After this release was developed, we have been told that 100 women are now sleeping in the shelter. Ruth and Natoya would know this if they had accepted our offer to sleep at the shelter.

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