Do homeless people review shelters & providers where you live?

Tom Boland (
Sat, 29 May 1999 23:23:27 -0700 (PDT)

Do homeless people report on shelter conditions where you live?

Do they have formal procedures to publicly evaluate local service
providers' effectiveness in helping them get their own aims, such as

If so, how do they report and to whom?  To officials? To funders? To media?

If you've lived or worked at a shelter, how were grievances handled?

Fairly and with due deliberaton?

See below for a related article:
FWD  [Ohio, USA] Cleveland Plain Dealer - Sat 29 May 1999


     By Michael O'Malley - Plain Dealer Reporter

At a downtown Cleveland homeless shelter, a man complaining about toilet
stench and unwashed blankets raises a ruckus, so the supervisors punish him
and the rest of the night dwellers by forbidding them to watch television.

     At another shelter a block away, a mentally ill man who lost his
shelter pass is told he can't come in unless he cleans the toilets. Others
who lost their passes are banned for a week.

     These are examples, says a homeless advocate, of the mean treatment
street people regularly face in four downtown shelters run by a nonprofit
group called Cornerstone Connections, based in a downtown Methodist church.

     Brian Davis, director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the
Homeless, is calling for the resignations of Cornerstone Connections'
Executive Director Barbara Williams and the agency's shelter supervisors.

     The supervisors are untrained and belligerent, and Williams has
ignored his complaints about them for three years, he says.

     "There's a culture of violating clients' rights and absolute
disrespect for the clients," said Davis. "It's like a jail. We think there
are violations of human rights, and it's got to change immediately."

     Williams declined to comment.

     "It would be irresponsible to fire the executive director based on
allegations we haven't had a chance to investigate," said James Roosa,
president of Cornerstone Connections' board of trustees.

     The four bare-bones, overcrowded shelters - three for men, one for
women - are for people unable to get into the City Mission, the Salvation
Army or other full-service shelters that have beds and showers.

     In the overflow shelters, dwellers sleep on padded mats on concrete
floors just inches apart. Blankets are cleaned every two weeks, showers are
rarely available, and there is no food.

     Cornerstone Connections gets most of its funding from Cuyahoga County
and the city of Cleveland. It has an annual budget of more than $600,000,
an administrative staff of 16 and dozens of part-time shelter workers. The
program is called Project HEAT.

     The largest Project HEAT shelter for men is on E. 18th St. and is
nothing more than a big garage where, on cold or rainy nights, nearly 100
men share one toilet and a urinal. There is one shower, but the water is
cold with little pressure, said Maurice Watley, who has been homeless since

     Watley said night supervisors allow television watching until 11 p.m.,
"but if there's complaining or bickering, they'll shut it off."

     He said the television was recently unplugged because two men were
eating chicken, violating the shelter's no-food policy. "They snatched the
TV cord," said Watley. "Everybody was saying, "Why do we have to suffer
because of those two guys?' "

     Roosa said he was unaware of the incident, though he said it needs to
be investigated.

     "We acknowledge, like most organizations, we need to take a periodic
look at the staff and how they respond to the clients," he said. "We're
actively in the process of addressing all of [Davis'- issues."

     Roosa said it is easy for Davis to criticize when he does not run a
shelter. Cornerstone Connections must impose strict policies because every
night the staff is faced with problems relating to alcohol and drug
dependency, mental illness and poor security, he said.

     Another Project HEAT shelter, in the basement garage of the county's
welfare building at E. 17th St. and Superior Ave., is for the mentally ill,
elderly and sick.

     Jack, a former homeless man who asked that his last name not be used,
said he had been on the streets for a year after suffering a nervous
breakdown and would often stay in the county building. One night, he said,
he had no shelter pass and was told he had to clean the toilets to come in.

     He said he agreed, but in the morning he left without doing it,
telling the supervisors, "You clean it." He said he never went back there.

     Ron Reinhart, director of the Salvation Army's shelter program, is the
former chief supervisor of Project HEAT. He said after seven years of
seeing no change in operations, he quit. "Those conditions are deplorable,"
he said. "Those circumstances and environment lead to even more futile
efforts to rehabilitate those men and women."

     The shelters should be run by homeless people, not hired bullies,
Davis said.

     "The only way there is going to be change is if the homeless people
are given an ownership interest and the administration stops treating them
like kids," he said.

     Roosa agreed, saying he was working on getting homeless people on the
agency's board. "We're running it the best we can."


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