HHSA Committee Approves Revised Homeless Service Contract

On Tuesday, May 16, 2017, the Health, Human Services, and Aging (HHSA) Committee of the Cuyahoga County Council approved three resolutions regarding various human service contracts, recommending them for passage by the full council. Continuing a debate from previous meetings, the decision to award a renewed contract to Frontline Services for the operation of the Norma Herr women’s shelter was the sole focus of public comment, as advocates made heard their grievances about living conditions at the city’s only shelter for single women.

In its May 3 meeting, the committee approved the Office of Homeless Services’ (OHS) contract with Frontline, despite the fact that Frontline’s bid for the contract did not meet OHS’ minimum score requirement established in the RFP process. Frontline scored the higher of the two bids received for the Norma Herr contract, and was less than a point away from the minimum requirement. The renewed contract, however, was shortened by the committee to one year, rather than the three-year contract initially recommended by OHS. The contract was on the full council meeting agenda for consideration of adoption on May 9, but was referred back to the HHSA Committee for further review by Council President Dan Brady.

At the May 16 meeting, OHS Manager Ruth Gillett proposed an amendment to the contract resolution that would exempt the successful bidder from the minimum score requirement, and award the contract to Frontline through the end of the calendar year (eight months) while a rebidding process is conducted. In the future, OHS would not use a minimum score requirement, and bidders’ scores would not be made public until after the contract is awarded. The committee unanimously approved the amendment, recommending it for passage by the full council.

Council President Brady, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, pledged the council’s commitment to remain heavily involved as the contract is rebid to ensure the public has confidence in the shelter.

Next the committee heard testimony from Bob Math, manager for the Division of Job and Family Services (JFS), on an amendment to a contract with the Centers for Families and Children that would extend the contract through the end of the calendar year in order to implement a job skills center and streamline services for work-required public assistance recipients. The new $561,000 contract would cover the operation of a computer lab, sanction compliance services, and job placement, search, and retention services. Mr. Math highlighted that these services were previously covered under three separate contracts, until recently when JFS recently combined the sanction compliance and computer lab services under one contract, saving the county around $500,000. The amended contract would further capitalize on this savings opportunity by bringing the job placement services under its umbrella. Councilmember Dale Miller expressed the need to find similar opportunities in county government to consolidate services for improved efficiency and cost savings.

In response to Councilmember Nan Baker’s inquiry about the effectiveness of the job placement program, Mr. Math explained that of those who are referred to the program, about 70 percent become job-ready. Of those who become job-ready, around 60 percent find employment. The contract resolution was unanimously approved by the committee and recommended to the full council for passage.

Finally, the committee approved and referred to the full council a resolution authorizing a combined $516,000 in contract amendments under the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative with various providers through the end of the calendar year. The Fatherhood Initiative serves about 5,700 fathers and teens through its 12 programs, including its Boot Camp for New Dads, which teaches important skills such as changing diapers, holding babies safely, practicing safe sleep, learning anger management, and building healthy relationships. The initiative also recently received $200,000 from the Ohio Department of Medicaid to implement infant mortality prevention programs.

The list of organizations receiving funding under the approved contracts, along with their respective amounts, can be found in the May 16 meeting minutes. The Center for Community Solutions will continue to monitor the proceedings of the HHSA Committee in future blog posts.