Friday, October 21, 2016

MWHITF: Leadership Ignores Polk County's Departure

The remaining Task Force co-Chairs continued Wednesday and Thursday to refuse to acknowledge receipt of Polk County's notice that they don't intend to participate further in proceedings.  See here.

Wednesday, during a meeting of the Support Services/Education committee, staff was overheard telling a committee member, who'd asked if it was true Polk County had backed out, that there were always rumors flying about the community and that the (remaining) co-chairs would be meeting Monday to talk about it.  Talk about what, if it's just a rumor?  

Yesterday, after the Transitional Housing/Shelter committee meeting, we asked staff the time and place of next Monday's meeting, as we would like to observe the proceedings on behalf of the media (specifically, our community radio station, KMUZ 100.7 FM).  We were told "I'll have to ask Janet."  She meant, of course, she'd have to ask Janet if she could tell us. 

Now, for those of you who might not be familiar with Oregon's public meetings law, it's okay to exclude the public from executive sessions like the ones the co-chairs have been conducting each month, but they're supposed to be noticed (which they haven't been), and it's generally not okay to exclude the media.  Somehow, we doubt we're going to be given the time and place of the meeting.

As if all this is not weird enough, we've also learned that, according to staff, the committees will be shutting down after Thanksgiving, and, after that, it's up the "the organizations" (the area providers, that is), to carry through on the Task Force recommendations.

Wonder if they know that.

We also wonder how the above "plan" fits in with the plan for the four MBAs from Willamette?  See here.  Who're they developing performance measures for?  Are they, then, going to monitor these other organizations' performance?  What happens when they graduate in May, if we haven't managed to end homelessness by then?  How is the Task Force's strategic plan, once they finish it, going to avoid the fate of the 10-year Plan to End Homelessness -- you know, the one Janet said needed meat on its bones, the one that never went anywhere?  These matters are barely mentioned at Task Force meetings, and never discussed, at least not in public. 

At its meeting on Wednesday, the Support Services/Education committee had an informative presentation from the folks at 211info, then got lost in the weeds listening to Janet and Walter Reed talk about Community Data Link and ran short of time to work on their recommendations.  They just barely managed to get out a third rewrite of two adopted and described previously as being "variously and vaguely worded" and "having something to do with promoting"

1) WorkSource Oregon "as a hub to strengthen collaboration among local workforce development providers or agencies", and 2) Cherriots' efforts to "train providers on how to connect clients and transit services", staff to reword as needed for official purposes.   

The third rewrite produced this version:

Promote collaboration among local service providers and Worksource Oregon to maximize workforce development by:
a. Increasing communication among service providers, and providing organizational training to help case workers prepare their clients for referrals to Worksource Oregon.

b. Referring clients to Worksource Oregon for job skills training, employment workshops, educational opportunities, and job placement.     

What do you think?  Better?  Or worse?  The rewrite drops the Cherriots piece and adds words without adding clarity, so we'd say worse.

But we'd also say it doesn't matter, for reasons too numerous to mention, but come down to what's been said from the beginning: the process was flawed, so, naturally, the recommendations -- all of them -- are rubbish.  Even if they weren't, there's no viable implementation plan.  That's why Polk County called it quits; continuing was just a waste of their time.  But rather than deal with an admittedly difficult situation, the leadership has chosen not to recognize Polk County's departure at all, and continues to deliberate in secret.

Ever on the verge, the Task Force has finally entered the realm of farce.

Except it's not very funny to people sleeping in the streets, the woods, their cars, in others' homes or shelters, is it?

6pm on 10/21 UPDATE:  No reply to our request for the date and time of Monday's co-Chairs meeting:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Minutes 8/18/16


October 18, 2016 

Bruce Hoffman, Chair 
Woody Dukes 
Brock Campbell 
Michael Livingston,  
Vice Chair 
Bob Hanna 
Bill Holmstrom 

Sarah Owens, Secretary-Treasurer 
Neal Kern 
Diana Dettwyler 

Erma Hoffman 
Rebekah Engle 
David Dahle 
p=present a=absent e=excused 

Residents: Deb Comini, Paul Gehlar 
Organizations: Simon Sanduskey, UGM; Brian Hines, Salem Can Do Better PAC 
City and County Representatives: Councilor and Mayor-elect Bennett, Officers Hill and Galusha, Steven Bellshaw, Deputy Chief of the Salem Police Department 
Guests: none  

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present. 

The minutes of the September meeting and the letter of intent to apply to the Salem Parks Improvement Fund for two bicycle repair stations were approved by unanimous consent. 

Officer Hill reported that the Downtown Enforcement Team was down to three officers due to reassignments, but in January would be back up to six, seven including him, and on duty seven days a week, up from the current five.  Several classes relating to the upcoming holidays will be offered to area businesses to help increase personal safety and prevent fraudulent activity.  Finally, eleven volunteers will soon begin bicycle patrol training and are expected to assist with enforcement of disabled parking restrictions.  

Councilor Bennett reported on recent actions by the City Council. 

In public comment, Simon Sanduskey said he had been receiving a number of concerned inquiries about changes in policy and practice at the Mission, and wanted to clarify that the Mission was still serving three meals a day, that showers were available for men in the afternoon, whether or not they were involved in a UGM program, and that the only changes were that the locker program had been discontinued, and everyone was expected to be outside and looking for work from 9 to 3:30 p.m. (except to eat lunch).  The reasons for the changes had to do with safety and a census (around 260) that required residents who were able to do so to become self-sufficientPositive effects from the changes had been seen almost immediately     

Following presentations on Measure 24-399 (City of Salem Police Facility General Obligation Bond Authorization) by Councilor Bennett and Brian Hines, with Deputy Chief Bellshaw answering questions, the Chair announced as unfinished business the motion postponed from the last meeting to adopt the proposed Recommendation to the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force.  The motion was adopted unanimously. 

During new business, Michael Livingston proposed two new motions that were adopted, to join the City Council providing a letter of support for The Big Jump Project and in supporting Measure 24-399.  Sarah Owens also proposed new motions that were adopted, to authorize the expenditure of up to $50 for refreshments for the November meeting, to cancel the December meeting, and to support the four-story mixed-use building, discussed at the August meeting, to be built at the corner of Front and Court Streets and add 40 1-2 bedroom apartments downtown, and more residents to CANDO.    

There being no other business before the board, the meeting was adjourned at 7:07 p.m.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

MWHITF: Meeting 7 - Polk County Calls it Quits

No More Regional Task Force - Marion to Go it Alone
Less than half the Task Force was present when Mayor Peterson called the 7th meeting of the Task Force to order last night, with about 20 veteran hangers-on like us in the audience.  Noticeably absent were Commissioner Wheeler, Steve Bobb, Irma Oliveros and Brent Demoe, all of Polk County.  Wheeler is, or was, one of the Task Force co-Chairs; she and Bobb co-Chaired the Veterans' committee.  Oliveros served on the Support Services/Education committee, and Demoe was a technical advisor who, up until last night, attended meetings with Wheeler.  Both Demoe and Oliveros were initially scheduled to present (see here), but Demoe was removed from the agenda last week shortly after it was published.  Although Oliveros was still on the schedule, she failed to appear, and no reason was given for her, or any of the others' absences.  (Also absent: Bednarz, Blum, Leith, Moore and Starr.) 
Late arrivals by Mayor Clark and Jon Reeves allowed the Task Force to approve the minutes of September's meeting, aside from which no action was taken last night, and we do mean, "none."       

The agenda called for a 30-minute presentation on resources for runaway and homeless youth (RHY), followed by a 20-minute Q&A with a RHY panel.  There was no panel per se, rather, the Task Force heard, as predicted, a brief encore presentation about what a local, 12-bed shelter for minors would cost (~$.5M), and what the Task Force could do to help secure the federal grant needed to pay for it (letters of support).  The conversation about the proposed budget was hard to follow ($.5M per year? 2 years?), as mere audience members were not provided copies or shown slides, nor was the budget posted to the website.  [10/18 Update: budget now posted here.]

Consistent with the Task Force's approach to other alleged gaps in the so-called continuum of care, there was no demonstration of need, probably because they don't intend to pursue it if the grant doesn't come through, which it probably won't, given the competition (see here).

If you're interested, though, figures provided to the Public Safety committee in August tell us that HOME Youth and Resource Center, the local day center for minors, served 514 individuals last year, 83 of whom self-identified as homeless.  During that same period, HOST saw roughly 30 minors in their day center and 50 through street outreach, 30 of whom identified as homeless.  Note:  HOST refers minors to HOME during its hours of operation, so their numbers overlap to some unknown degree, as would be true of the 11 Marion or Polk County minors served during the same period by Jackson Street Youth Services in Albany and Corvallis.  Some will recall that NWHS used to run a shelter for minors, but it was closed down three or four years ago, and not solely because they lost their funding source; parents and DHS were known to drop off or ignore kids and foster-care runaways staying at the shelter, because they knew the kids were being cared for.  That's why the Public Safety committee was given to understand in August that the number of shelter beds needed here, now, was about 3 to 5, and "triple that number if the community knew and DHS knew [a shelter] was available."

Following the discussion of a shelter for minors, the Task Force heard from the superintendent of Polk County's Central School District.  The Task Force (excepting maybe Janet) was all kinds of impressed with what he had to say about the District's collaboration with the County's school-based mental health services, dental and health services for students and their families through the Central Health and Wellness Center, and the Service Integration Teams.  Unlike the situation in 24J (see here), 13J didn't appear to need a thing.  But, of course, Marion County couldn't possibly follow Polk County's example, we're too big

The Center for Hope and Safety, item 3 on the agenda, didn't seem to need anything either, unless it was for the Task Force not to do anything that might upset the favored position of domestic violence victim service providers, like identifying homeless veterans or the chronically homeless as a "target population."

There was not much in the way of updates from the "subcommittees", and no recommendations were put forward.  Asked when the community engagement committee would be ready to report back to the Task Force, Jon Reeves initially said February.  When told that was the Task Force's "last meeting", he replied (with some uncertainty) "January", but he could use some help organizing the responses.  He actually seemed to think it would still matter by then.

It's official as of this morning.  [10/20 Update: the leadership is refusing to recognize Polk County's announcement it will not be participating in future proceedings.  They say they will be considering next steps at a meeting on Monday, 10/24.]  Polk County has abandoned ship.  Sailed away, more like, and left Marion County adrift in an unseaworthy vessel, in a thick fog of unctuousness.  Don't blame 'em.  Not everyone enjoys charades, if we may now switch metaphors.  Some people, in fact,  just aren't any good at it.  The trick is to believe, despite all appearances, that everything's going according to plan: 

I do want to say how gratified I have been over the last several months as we have learned about the various faces of homelessness in our community, that people are becoming less invisible because we're becoming more aware, and if we've done nothing else [a hint of insight there], we've begun to build that awareness, so I'm proud of the work that we are doing collectively, together to make a difference, one at a time, for people in our community.  -- Mayor Cathy Clark     

At the very end of the meeting, Commissioner Carlson provided this update:  

We have a group of Willamette MBA students working with the Task Force...they will focus on two areas...they will be looking at what other communities are doing, researching best practices...I have received 1,125 emails...I went through and printed out the reports and I have a stack of paper this we have not had the chance to really thoughtfully digest those and figure out where they fit -- are there just really big things that we are missing in our sub-committees, just because we don't know what we don't know?...I think that is something that will be of great benefit to this group.
Then, once we have completed our strategic plan, the second thing is for them us come up with measurements...we don't want to add a whole bunch of workload to already overworked people on the one hand, but on the other hand we want to be able to say a year out, two years out, five years out, did we make a difference with the things we put in here that we're going to do?  

That's a "yes" to the first question, and a "not in a good way" to the second question.  

The "really big thing" that's being missed is OUR PARTNER just LEFT US.  And as our partner was much better than we are at collaborating and integrating and doing all the stuff we say we want to start doing for the sake of helping those in need, don't you think, Task Force, before proceeding any further with this so-called strategic planning nonsense, that the leadership needs to inform the community what the heck is going on with this Task Force, and how they intend to fix it?  Because if you don't fix it, you'll be remembered for running off the most capable partner we had, thereby making things worse for the neediest on this side of the river and those who care about them.  

[10/20 Update: Marion County staff yesterday dismissed as "rumor" Polk County's announcement it will not be participating in future proceedings of the Task Force, but said that the co-chairs would be meeting Monday 10/24 to talk about it.  Expect a legalistic approach to the problem, something along the lines of, Polk is required by its Charter to participate until the Charter is revoked.  Note that section 4.d. allows for members to resign in writing to Task Force staff.]  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

MWHITF: Agenda for Meeting 7

New October Agenda
Runaway and homeless youth remains the focus of tomorrow's meeting after changes to the agenda (see original here).  Expect to hear encore pitches for a youth shelter (ages 12-17) in Salem (made 8/25 to the Public Safety committee) and for additional supports for the SK24J STEP program (made 9/15 to the Support Services/Education committee). You can find the written materials submitted at those meetings here and a summary of supports needed for the STEP program here.  (The relationship between domestic violence and homelessness being well known and DV programs like CHS being very well supported in this community and statewide, it's likely that this part of the program is informational only, and unlikely that there will be any requests or recommendations in this area.) 

To recap an earlier blog, RHY is the number one priority of the Public Safety committee, so, after the 8/25 presentation, they resolved to have a "grants conceptual group to expand [RHY] services in Marion/Polk [C]ounties."  The only known consequence of that resolution was the announcement at the last ROCC meeting that MWVCAA was interested in competing on behalf of Marion and Polk Counties (ROCC Region 7) for a HUD Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant (along with Regions 6 and 2).  It's long shot, though, because our only chance is to compete as a rural community, and it's highly unlikely we qualify as a rural community under HUD rules.  The application deadline is November 30.  Perhaps we'll hear something about the status of our application at the meeting.  [10/18 Update: it was announced at the meeting that we'll be applying as an urban community, which means we'll be competing with all the other urban communities in the U.S. for one of 6 slots.  According to higher ups in ROCC in a position to know about such things, we have no chance.] 

In considering how (whether?) to RHY expand services, the Task Force and interested persons will want to pay particular attention to the data (what there is of it), and consider, for example, what  proportion of homeless kids that are "unaccompanied" as opposed to being in homeless families.  
Salem-Keizer Public Schools (count is not unduplicated)
The original agenda for this meeting did not include the 20-minute Q&A with the RHY "Panel" (presumably the four presenters and hopefully a couple of youth with lived experience).   Hopefully, the Task Force will ask the panel what trends the above numbers reflect.  What accounts for the steady rise in the number of homeless elementary and middle school students?  Why does the number of high school/unaccompanied (presumably high school) students trend downward?  Are they dropping out?  What are they doing instead of finishing school?  Are they staying in the community?  Or do they head to Eugene or Portland?  Why?  And do the trends reflected here support the need for a shelter for minors?

No new recommendations or updates have been posted, but it should not be a surprise that the time allotted to that part of the meeting was cut in half (from 40 to 20 minutes), as not much has happened since the September Task Force meeting, and only two committees have any future meetings scheduled*: 

SP Goals 1 & 5 - Affordable Housing and Finance - met 1x, no quorum - nxt mtg not scheduled  [10/17 update - nxt mtg 11/3]

SP Goal 2 - Transitional Housing/Shelter - met 1x, recommended that the Task Force authorize staff to inventory vacant and distressed properties in Marion/Polk that might be used for housing or shelter - nxt mtg 10/20

SP Goal 3 - Support Services/Education - did not meet - nxt mtg 10/19

SP Goal 4 - Public Safety - met 1x, no recommendation that we can recall - nxt mtg not scheduled [10/17 update - nxt mtg 11/9]

SP Goal 6 - Veterans - met 1x, unknown whether any recommendations have been made, or whether the field trip to Eugene occurred or is still in the works - nxt mtg not scheduled [10/17 update: field trip planned for 11/14]
SP Goal 7 - Community Engagement - did not meet, but might have some survey results to share - next mtg not scheduled - nxt mtg not scheduled
For more detail about previous committee activities and recommendations, see here and here.  For a discussion of the recommendations adopted at the Task Force's September meeting see here.

As noted elsewhere, the subjects allotted to the November and December meeting have been moved into 2017 (dates now set for January 23 and February 7).  Perhaps there will be some explanation for what's planned for November and December at the meeting tomorrow.

*The Health and Housing committee is not covered here as it's not really a Task Force committee. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Send Up a Flare

One way to involve Cherriots in affordable housing development
The City Council last week voted to approve a set aside of $400K of next year's HOME allocation and $100K of the FY 2018-19 allocation for 288 units of  affordable housing on Portland and Caplinger Roads.  Details here.  In musing as to how and whether Cherriots tracks  new housing development, and, you know, knows to send buses to where they're needed, it was suggested that the City "send up a flare."  And to think we've ever questioned the Mayor's calling Salem the "Collaboration Capital."

Also last week, staff finally got 'round to posting the audio of the 9/15 Support Services/Education committee meeting.  The first 20 minutes were spent re-re-writing the committee's first two recommendations (discussed previously here and here), resulting in: 
1. Assist Collaborate with the school districts within Marion and Polk Counties to offer expand effective and relevant financial literacy training in selected schools through proven curriculum materials and community trainers.
2. Assist Support NEDCO, Maps Credit Union, and others in implementing site-based financial literacy training at selected community nonprofit organizations (UGM, Simonka House, St. Francis, etc.).
The chair, it seems, was concerned about over-committing: "once the Task Force terminates/concludes, we're not going to be in a position to support or do anything else to further these efforts."  "Encourage" or "support" was better than "assist", she opined, and a bit later, "Oh, that's a good word -- 'suggest'...we need language that says we support their efforts, but we're not going to be able to do anything about them."  At which point Janet joined the meeting.

"The Task Force will be disbanded in January", she clarified, but "[a]ll of these recommendations - there will be an entity that will say 'we will do this' or 'we will make sure this happens'", so "we need an action word that's got some teeth in it, and 'encourage' is not one of those words."  She subsequently said the Task Force would be "disbanded in February." The latest meeting schedule is here.

With the word-smithing of those recommendations out of the way, the committee then heard about the needs of homeless students in the Salem-Keizer School District.  The problems/barriers/challenges identified during the discussion may be summarized as follows:   

1) 10-day drop policy (must re-enroll after 10 days unexcused absence)
2) low awareness (unwelcoming atmosphere in District)
3) poor staff/teacher training (trauma-informed/homeless needs)
4) age discrimination (19-20 yo shunted to alternative programs)
5) few in-school supports (high student-to-teacher/counselor ratio)
6) high wait lists (esp. literacy program which has just 3 teachers)
7) more high-needs students generally (not just homeless)
8) homeless students' lower skill level (esp. reading)
9) few or no home supports (including laundry facilities)
10) situational anxiety/depression and related
Recognizing that the Task Force was not in a position to [action word] the District to [action word] these problems, Irma Oliveros (a member of the Task Force) told the committee that what she wanted from the Task Force was to [action word] to [action word] productive/pro-social options for older students wait-listed for alternative programs -- like the computer lab she used to run at the Ike Box.    
The committee then heard from Craig Oviatt (a technical adviser to the Task Force), who affirmed the situation was as bad as had been described, and told the committee that homeless and at-risk students basically need a quiet place to study and daily encouragement to look beyond their circumstances in planning their futures.  It seems that he and others at the Dream Center in West Salem's Edgewater neighborhood have been working with youth for some time, and were seeking to open a learning center for students whose parents don't have the resources or life experience needed to help them learn study skills and generally expand their horizons.  He was the last to be allowed to speak.

In summing up, Janet said the committee would need to recommend to [action
word] the Dream Center's expansion, along with "a ton of" other things based on the "really rich conversation" they'd just had, but no action was taken, and the committee isn't scheduled to meet again before the Task Force meets on October 17.  As of now, the main item on that day's agenda happens to be RHY, so it's too bad the committee's recommendations won't be ready for the Task Force to consider.  [10/9 Update: the agenda posted 10/4 has been taken down (not replaced).]      

In an interesting aside toward the end of the meeting, Janet announced "we" are bringing Chan Hellman, "one of the nation's leading experts on hope theory and the science of hope", to Salem in January. It seems Janet went to this conference last spring, and wants to expand Marion County's use of something called the Adult Hope Scale developed circa 1991 by the late "positive psychologist" C. R. Snyder et al. to measure program "efficacy." 

Also last week, the Transitional Housing/Shelter committee met and, after having a nice chat about SROs, voted to recommend that the Task Force authorize staff to inventory vacant and distressed properties in Marion/Polk that might be used for housing or shelter.  Jon Reeves, who is not a member of the committee, expressed his interest in finding a new location for MWVCAA's ARCHES Project, possibly co-locating with others using the Dallas Academy model.  Seems he'd heard the committee might be discussing the disposition of the former Salem Rehab Hospital, now sitting vacant, and right across from MWVCAA's offices.  Interesting, but not particularly pertinent to the committee's work.

At the very end of that meeting, the chair noted that a field trip to Eugene's Square One Villages was being organized and asked whether the committee might want to endorse the development of similar program in Salem.  Once again, Reeves passed up the opportunity to talk about the Home Base Shelters of Salem project that he's involved in; he didn't so much as mention it.  Instead, Ron Hays, also not a member of the committee, but having knowledge of the Eugene program, cautioned the committee to visit the camps first, before drawing any conclusions. 

Finally, this past Monday, there was another joint meeting of the Affordable Housing and Finance Committees, sort of (only three members attended, so no quorum).  But they had a good little natter with the six (6) City and County staff and the former affordable housing developer who were also present about what allowing ADUs could do for Salem's multi-family housing deficit.  Nothing too exciting from the Task Force perspective, as people who are poor and homeless generally don't have access to that market, as Andy Wilch, Administrator for the Salem Housing Authority, politely pointed out.

So that's what's been happening since the last Task Force meeting.  It's been interesting to listen to all these vague conversations about SROs, fixing up vacant, delapidated and distressed properties, and experimenting with conestogas and whatnot.  They all seem to cover the same ground and then just stop.  The repetition allows patterns to emerge.  Take Pat Farr's comments at the last Task Force meeting:      

Conestoga under construction in Eugene
It's not where you'd want your granddaughter to live, by any stretch of the imagination, and it's not where anybody would want to live, but you compare it to an emergency housing, which is one-night-only housing, or you compare it to living under a bush, and it's hugely popular.  [Emphasis added.]
We think maybe one day, in the distant future (or maybe not so distant future), civilization will examine statements like this, and compare the thinking behind them to the days of slavery, segregation and other forms of invidious discrimination.  "They choose to live as they do", "They prefer camping", and, "Some people just can't be helped."  From an historical perspective, it's not at all unusual to find otherwise good and decent people blaming the victims of structural inequity for their situations, and unconsciously developing a perspective of "not good, but good enough for them."  Confronting our implicit bias does not build houses, of course, but it would make it a lot easier to build them.