Women's shelter under public scrutiny in CLE

Posted: 8:24 PM, May 04, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-04 20:24:12-04

It's a place where women without a home go for food, safety, and security, but recently they say that hasn't been the case.

“It was scary, you know when you got into a shelter, you think you’re going to be safe, and I don’t feel safe,” said Maura Mendoza, a resident at the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter.

Another resident, Mattie Beasley, said, “I’d rather be on the streets, than be there.”

The Norma Herr woman's shelter downtown on Prospect Avenue has been receiving complaints on issues like staff con duct with residents, food health code issues as well as cleanliness—all are being called into question by the northeast Ohio coalition for the homeless or NEOCH.

“The bathrooms, the food, everything, disgusting,” said Beasley.

Blood on the toilet seats, cold or uncooked food, and trash dispersed throughout the building and one the worst parts she told me, is the way she’s treated by the staff.

“Even the officers that work there at the front desk, talk to disrespectful,” Beasley said.

She said there’s also mold in the building, that’s made her and other women very sick.

“I caught bronchitis, everybody complains, but people, there’s a lot of people that’s scared to complain due to the fact they feel scared of retaliation.”

But shelter executives said, there’s nothing too alarming.

“It’s not filthy, but it um, and we address every, any issue that arises,” said, LaTonya Murray, Director of Emergency Housing Services for Frontline Service, the management company over the shelter.

Brian Davis, Executive Director of NEOCH, the organization calling the shelter into question before the county said the shelter’s been problematic for years, and now it’s time for things to change.

“There’s just not oversight of the facility by the staff or the county. Nobody’s going in there and saying you can’t do this to women, you cannot mistreat women so poorly.”

He mentioned overcrowding as the main culprit, with the shelter being the only single women’s shelter in the county, but the shelter says, that’s just a myth.

“We made some changes to the facility and increased the beds,” said Murray.

Eden, the company that owns the building and oversees its services admitted to me that they do take some responsibility for some of the issues, and want to be more open to hearing complaints from women like Mattie

“We realize there are issues at the buildings and so we’re trying to address those issues…I feel like there’s always room for improvement and where we can, we always try to do that,” said Elaine Gimmel, Chief Operating Officer of the company.

Today is the first of many hearings that are set to take place to see how the county will respond and handle this situation between the residents and the shelter. Brian Davis of NEOCH said he hopes the county will agree to immediate changes over some of the main issues like cleanliness and food sanitation.