13 January 2008

The Drop Inn Center

This week, council is expected to approve the Drop Inn Center's Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) money. Articles in the paper and bloggers seem to be chiming in about whether or not the DIC should move.

Memo to all these pundits: The DIC is not moving. They are a private non-profit that receives minimal city money. Their Board of Directors does not want to move. They have built and expanded their facilities at the current location over thirty years. Their location fits their mission.

Some of the animosity about the DIC centers around crowds loitering, smoking and drinking in public. However, I believe that a lot of the animosity towards the DIC is a result of bad blood from battles that occurred years ago.

At it's birth and teenage years, The Drop Inn Center was like a radical and rebellious child. buddy gray, led the organization as if under constant siege. And like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it often was under siege. But today, that rebellious adolescent is in middle age, and trying to come to terms with their legacy while also trying to figure out how to be a good citizen. And at the same time, with limited money, they are trying to continue on their mission to serve the most destitute in the City.

The most common complaint of neighbors is the crowds of people hanging-out around the shelter on the sidewalks and in the park. I think it would be helpful to examine successful shelters in other cities to see how they handle this problem. I have not done this, maybe someone has. Part of the solution may be the creation of a more private gathering space, like a private courtyard where people can get outside and smoke in a more pleasant environment than the sidewalk.

Other changes may be programmatic, such as developing more "transitional" housing in which the homeless are housed in a supervised environment. Maybe the site at 12th and Elm becomes a shelter for people in the recovery program only and a second site becomes the "no-barrier" shelter, thus in effect expanding the DIC and giving them a positive choice, not just punishment. I definitely am not an expert on this issue, but I think the current leadership at the DIC has the expertise, and they are willing to try different approaches. Whatever path they choose, they must do what is best for their clients; and this should have the added result of helping the DIC become a better neighbor.

[Where: 217 West Twelfth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]


Dan said...

Nice post Mike.

Sean F. said...

I think the DIC is an easy target due to their open door policy and the sheer number of clients they have.

The real problem I think most people have is the concentration of social service organizations in one area of town - which leads to a concentration of poverty that not only doesn't help those in need integrate into society, but also places the entire region's burden on one neighborhood.

Cities that have been successful in helping the homeless of the street (Denver, Seattle, etc.) usually do so through a combination of decentralizing poverty/homelessness and providing transitional housing with tremendous social support built in (i.e. social worker on each floor of a complex).