The Cuyahoga County Council Health, Human Services, and Aging committee met on April 20 and on May 4. Between the two meetings, the committee only had one contract on the agenda. The contract with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, would be extended to September 30, 2022 to operate the 365-bed Men’s Emergency Shelter at 2100 Lakeside Avenue, as well as several other temporary shelter locations that are utilized during the pandemic. The extension amount is $4,272,759 and would be funded entirely by HHS levy dollars, according to the Director of Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, David Merriman.
The extension amount is $4,272,759 and would be funded entirely by HHS levy dollars.
Speaking to the contract was Michelle Sirak, the Director of the Office of Homeless Services, as well as Michael Sering, Vice President of Housing and Shelter, from Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries.
Capacity and COVID questions
Councilman Dale Miller asked what is the current census (the total number of individuals at the shelter) is at this time. Sering replied that the total currently is 280, which is approximately 70 percent of the current capacity. Of those at the shelter, due to COVID mitigation efforts, COVID positivity rates have remained under 5 percent, out of over 2,700 COVID tests. Though Sering believes that the threat has not passed, there is still a public health emergency, and LMM has not changed or reduced any public health policies or strategies.
Expansion and construction
Miller asked about the status of the purchase of a county building next to 2100 Lakeside. Sering responded that the county is still moving forward with the purchase, which would allow for more than 50 percent more space for individuals to socially distance. Sirak added the expansion could possibly mean that LMM would be able to discontinue using other sites for overflow purposes. She said that the Department of Public Works is putting out an RFB (Request for Bid). She added that once the builder is chosen, construction for 2020 Lakeside (the new address) will be completed in six months.
The shelter staff have seen an increase in base wages from $12.00 to $14.00, though that’s still short of a living wage.
Staffing challenges at the shelter
Miller asked one final question, which was for Sering to share what is the most challenging to the shelter. Sering said that, not unlike other industries, staffing remains a top issue. He said that the shelter staff have seen an increase in base wages from $12.00 to $14.00, though that’s still short of a living wage.
The end of this contract will align with a Master RFP for Homeless Services that will begin in September. Community Solutions has written about that in previous articles.
The contract was passed under second reading suspension.
Racial equity across the county
The May 4th meeting did not feature any contracts, only a presentation on the Senior Transportation Connection. At the conclusion of the meeting, Chairwoman Yvonne Conwell mentioned that she will seek a meeting with several county agencies who are working on issues related to racial equity, and how they may work better together.