We, who live at the Cass Community Social Services buildings, Tiny Homes, our neighbors, and supporters find the conditions and policies at CCSS inadequate and dehumanizing.
People living in the emergency shelter, Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), and Tiny Homes have concerns of:
Safety & Health
a. The security staff’s main role is surveillance of residents, not safety. Random people who do not live in the Scott building are allowed access into the building and there are daily acts of violence with police frequently being called. The men on separate floors of the Scott Building are allowed access onto the family floor, and women and children do not feel safe.
b. There are loose wires in the Scott Building that are a safety issue.
c. The shelter does not provide healthy and balanced meals. Shelter residents at the Scott Building don’t have a fridge or microwave, and have gotten sick from moldy and expired food.
d. Residents at the Tiny Homes are heavily monitored with cameras and with 24/7 security driving around the neighborhood that keeps track of when they come and go, and security harrasses guests.
e. The One Cup Carwash that will be built next to the Tiny Homes includes a compostable toilet that is a hazard to residents.
Lack of Sanitation and Basic Dignity
a. Several showers and bathrooms do not work. Example: there is one shower that 50-60 people living on the “family floor” of the Scott Building have access to.
b. There has been no COVID-cleaning. The physical condition of the shelter is rundown. There is mold, mildew, and dirt that has built up, and the mold is just painted over.
c. The elevator, washer, and dryer frequently break down, and the basement frequently floods. These repairs and issues are not addressed.
d. Landscapers regularly maintain the park next to the Scott Building, but it is locked and residents do not have access to the park. There is no space or programming for the children in the shelter to learn or play.
e. There are promotional photos taken of residents and their children without their consent. There are frequent “tours” of the Tiny Homes that are promoted by CCSS that are invasive to residents.
f. Tiny Homes residents are required to “volunteer” eight hours a month at CCSS entities.
g. There have been different processes for accepting applicants into the Tiny Homes program for white people. This is institutional racism.
Access to Resources & Permanent Housing
a. There are no resources such as diapers and clothes for families at the shelter.
b. There are too few Section 8 vouchers for families at the shelter. The list of possible housing is outdated and inadequate, the resources available to transition are inadequate.
c. There are few resources for residents at the shelter to find employment and training.
d. There is no financial coaching that was promised to Tiny Homes residents, which was a stipulation for residents getting their deed.
e. Tiny Homes residents were promised the deed to their home after 7 years, but they are effectively tenants with 1 year leases. They have nothing about homeownership in writing.
Retaliation, Evictions, and Harassment from Staff
a. Residents fear that if they speak out, they will be put out.
b. Residents from the Brady building have been given eviction notices without clear reasons, and other residents have received eviction notices for voicing concerns. A resident’s Tiny home was broken into so they installed a standard safety door. They were given an eviction notice for the security door soon after.
c. There is a significant difference in the treatment between the shelter and Permanent Supportive Housing residents. The shelter residents have strict rules and are evicted for arbitrary reasons.
d. Women at the shelter who are victims of violence from male residents in the Scott Building have been evicted.
e. Staff at the Scott Building have sexually harassed women at the shelter.
f. Employees of CCSS pick through and take resources from donations, such as food that is delivered to the Scott Building
Solutions and Moving Forward:
Everyone deserves housing and feeling safe in their home. With an enormous amount of COVID-related federal funding that the city of Detroit has received, people in vulnerable housing situations should be the priority. Shelters are not the solution to this crisis, we need more permanent solutions. Most shelters have similar problems and issues to the Scott Building. Neighborhoods and people most affected should determine what their needs are, and how to meet them.
1. The shelter needs to place women and families in secure housing, where there is adequate privacy, enough clean and working bathrooms and showers, where children have space to play, learn, and grow. The staff should be trained to meet the needs of those living in the shelter.
2. Instead of surveillance and criminalization, the security and staff need to be trained in harm reduction and de-escalation. The human rights to health, safety, autonomy, and agency should be the priority.
3. Immediate emergency housing should be available to any person or family. The transition to stable housing and the resources necessary to maintain permanent housing needs to occur within 14-28 days, with people in the most vulnerable positions having priority. This means the right to a Section 8 voucher, placement in an apartment, or a home with health services necessary to sustain oneself/one’s family. Residents in the PSH should be able to receive Section 8 vouchers as well.
4. Since the Detroit Land Bank and Wayne County Land Bank own a significant number of houses, Land Bank staff should prioritize giving land bank homes to people who are houseless, people living in shelters, people in PSH programs, or who are housing insecure. The Land Bank homes should be livable houses, and with grant money given to residents to fix up their home. The rest of the Land Bank homes should go to people in the neighborhood who lost their home in the illegal tax foreclosures as part of reparations. Finally, the city and HUD need to invest in actual affordable housing that is not based on regional AMI.
5. In the case where people are unemployed or underemployed, job training and/or placement at a living wage of at least $15 an hour should be provided. Childcare should be available for parents.
6. All Tiny Homes residents must be given a land contract in writing stating that they will receive their deed on a timeline based on when they moved into their home (which was originally promised), and that gives them a protected and legal interest in their home. They should not be exploited for their labor, and have the right to privacy and autonomy.
7. Residents need to be able to have an independent tenant/resident council to bring up issues. The residents in the shelter and PSH should have the same rights as tenants. Every resident should be protected from retaliation and should be allowed to speak about problems and conditions without retaliation and fear.
8. There needs to be an independent audit of all shelters and Cass Community Social Services’ finances and programs that are made public. CCSS has received millions of dollars from the City of Detroit, Wayne County, the State of Michigan, HUD, FEMA, and the VA.