The Center for Community Solutions wrote two blogs about the November 20 meeting of the Health, Human Services and Aging Committee. This is part two that focuses exclusively on HHSA contracts related to the Office of Homeless Services. Part one focused on other contracts the committee considered. For part one, please click here.
Ruth Gillette from the Office of Homeless Services, opened her testimony with a request for approval of a one-year contract extension with FrontLine services for $600,000. The contract will now end on December 31, 2018. Currently, when a person is identified as homeless, the first step is to go through what is known as “coordinated intake.” This is a special hotline that is staffed by FrontLine personnel, who then pass that information on to the Office of Homeless Services. This helps the county identify the specific needs of the individual, and identify the best place and services to meet those needs. Additionally, this process provides data to the county that helps to better understand conditions that lead to homelessness.The hotline personnel also ask questions to callers that allow for Office of Homeless Services to clarify whether a person is truly homeless and in true need of rapid rehousing, or if he or she is going through a housing dispute or situation that can be rectified through other organizations such as legal aid. Gillette did underscore the fact that no one who is in need of a safe housing option is turned away.
No one who is in need of a safe housing option is turned away.
Conwell wanted to verify that the funding for the contract is the same as in previous years, and Gillette said that it was. Miller wanted to verify that the current number of shelters is sufficient for the number of people who are in need. Gillette said there is sufficient space for homeless individuals who come through the coordinated intake process, but in the event of an overflow, other partner agencies usually have space available. Gillette said that the average stay for individuals in rapid rehousing, who truly are in need, is 53 days. Councilwoman Nan Baker asked if the committee can have a list of places where people are referred for rapid rehousing. The contract was moved and seconded under second reading suspension, meaning that instead of the traditional three readings, it will now head straight to the full council for consideration.
The goal is to help that person, or group of people, get back on their feet and not have a need to return to homeless services.
The next contract was also for the Office of Homeless Services. The contract was also for a year-long extension and will now be completed at the end 2019. The contract value is nearly $1.7 million, and is administered through Emerald Development and Economic Network, Inc. (EDEN). After an individual goes through the coordinated intake process he or she is housed in what is known as rapid re-housing, a short term rental subsidy that assists the individual or family in quickly finding a housing location. The goal is to help that person, or group of people, get back on their feet and not have a need to return to homeless services. The program has shifted in recent years, due to an increase in state and federal dollars, to expand rapid rehousing to include single adults and young people, in addition to families. Elaine Gimmel, the Executive Director of EDEN, testified that 500 households were served in 2017; 243 families and 262 adults and young adults. The longest stay in a rapid rehousing situation for families was five months. Conwell asked if the Office of Homeless Services was working with Ohio Means Jobs (OMJ) or Job and Family Services. Gillette said that it is hard to connect with those programs, because while they are job readiness programs, they also measure success by those who are able to find and secure a job. Those who are in a rapid rehousing situation may not be able to meet the metrics of success at OMJ as easily as someone who is in a stable housing situation. Conwell said that she would like to see that change.
Baker remarked how interesting it was that only 10 percent of individuals who come through the rapid rehousing program come back to the system at some point in the future. The contract was moved and seconded, then passed under second reading suspension.
Only 10 percent of individuals who come through the rapid rehousing program come back to the system at some point in the future.
The final two contracts of the day were both for the Office of Homeless Services. The first contract was a one-year extension now expiring December 31, 2019, for $1,422,933, for the NorthPoint homeless shelter. The shelter building is owned by the City of Cleveland. The city does provide some funding for programs, but most of the funding for the shelter is provided by the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services (HHS) levy, according to Gillette. Conwell asked for a breakdown in funding percentage between the city and the county. Miller wanted to clarify if this contract extension, which was focused on funding of a specific shelter, was related to the rapid rehousing contract that was just considered. Gillette explained that it is part of the process. When a person comes through coordinated intake, and deemed in need of housing, they are temporarily placed at a shelter until they are able to be placed in a rapid rehousing location. Baker said she wanted to ensure that those individuals are given workforce readiness tools that they need in order to get the services they need to be employable. That contract was forwarded out of committee under second reading suspension.
Finally, the committee discussed another Homeless Services contract extension, this time to the YWCA which operates the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter. The contract, which was set to expire on December 31, would be extended to December 31, 2019 and provide an additional $2,850,000 in funding. EDEN owns the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter, but YWCA manages the building. Vice President of Operations at YWCA Teresa Sanders, Margaret Mitchell, also of YWCA, LaTonya Murray from FrontLine and Elaine Gimmel from EDEN each testified in front of the committee. Both representatives from YWCA acknowledged that while operational improvements have been made to the shelter, the building is in need of additional maintenance. For example, there have been reports of lack of heat to certain parts of the building, and a new heating system needs to be installed. In response to a question from Miller, YWCA said that they receive, on average, between 60-65 grievances a week. YWCA also tracks outcomes and resolutions. Of those grievances, about 20 to 25 of them are resolvable. However according to testimony by shelter administrators, there are a certain number of grievances made by individuals with known mental health issues. The contract passed under second reading suspension.