Leslie: Collins is better choice for city’s unhousedWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
Disclaimer: I really like Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman D. Michael Collins. During the past two decades, I have spent much time with each. Both are intelligent, conscientious, bullheaded and extremely qualified to lead this city.
My vantage point is from the curb level. The difference between the curb level and the policy level is that at the curb, one can see there is an accident every day at a particular corner. But the policymakers wait until they see the stats and then say, “Last year, there was an accident every day at that intersection; we must do something about it.”
This discussion is about the direction of public policy in regards to how and where we spend the tax dollars the federal government sends to us earmarked for helping those most in need.
Emergency shelters are the landing pads. When life forces you out on the street for any reason, the emergency shelters and their staffs help you stabilize and right your course. Transitional shelters are more like inpatient facilities. You want your kid, father, mother, friend, etc., to go there to get their act together.
Coordination is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and there are two acceptable “coordinated assessment” models: “No Wrong Door” and “Central Access.”
No Wrong Door means that no matter which shelter you go to in Toledo, the staff is responsible to help get you housed and will help you get to the shelter most suited to your needs.
Central Access means you must call 2-1-1 before a shelter can let you in. For example, to comply, St. Paul’s Community Center had to install a phone in the lobby so people needing shelter could call 2-1-1 before entering. This is the requirement taken directly from the manual: “If your agency serves clients who you suspect may be experiencing a housing crisis, please assist them in dialing 2-1-1.”
Bell said the approach his administration has chosen, the Central Access model, is what HUD legally requires. This is not true.
Collins said the approach the shelters have been taking for the past 25 years, No Wrong Door, is the best and most efficient model. Local shelters concur.
Just the facts
Two years ago, all of the shelters collectively hired a consultant to assess which model was best for this community. The consultant recommended and the shelters voted to implement No Wrong Door.
The shelters preferred this approach as they have been using it for 25 years, so the skill set and experience were already in place. All that was needed was designing a universal intake form and then training case managers on that form. This approach was much cheaper and much more efficient.
Despite the consultant’s recommendation and a nearly unanimous vote from the experts doing the work at the curb, the city’s Department of Neighborhoods decided instead to take $300,000 from the shelters and create two new levels of bureaucracy: United Way of Greater Toledo got $200,000 to hire case managers and the Toledo-Lucas County Homelessness Board got $100,000 for, well, I am not really sure. This caused some shelters to lay off case managers.
For two years in a row Toledo City Council, led in part by Collins, fought the administration and was able to secure funds to keep the shelters open.
This year, the Department of Neighborhoods and the Homelessness Board inserted a clause in the contracts that if the shelters lobby for funds from Council they need to repay everything they got this year.
How is it working?
According to the Homelessness Board’s third-quarter report, the average length of stay in emergency shelters increased to an average of 49 days, compared with 38 days in Q2, and 37 days in Q1. Short-term recidivism (what I call the failure rate) more than doubled from 3 percent to 7 percent.
With the Bethany House domestic violence shelter no longer funded as part of its system, Central Access sent an individual to a shelter two blocks from her abuser.
Many view this mayoral election as a referendum on our community’s compassion. If the current public policy direction is successful, shelters will close.
I ask, where will the families go if there is no right door? Vote your conscience.
Ken Leslie is founder of 1Matters and Veterans Matter and an advocate for the unhoused.
Tags: 1Matters, 2-1-1, Bethany House, Central Access, D. Michael Collins, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Neighborhoods, HUD, Mike Bell, No Wrong Door, St. Paul's Community Center, Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board, United Way of Greater Toledo, Veterans Matter