Thursday, January 18, 2018

News from the Continuum

Toilet placed at ARCHES Nov 22 2017
After a little more than two years, the Arta Potties folks have finally thrown in the towel, and the last remaining toilets (behind the Bishop Building and in the ARCHES parking lot) have been removed, and the program shut down, for pretty much the same reasons the City was forced several years ago to close its public restrooms after hours.  The toilet owned by the First Congregational United Church of Christ on Cottage will remain.

According to one of the Arta Potties originators, Rebecca Maitland Courtney, despite discounts from ACE Chemical and the support of downtown businesses, there were just too few owners willing to allow a toilet to be placed on their property to make the program work, resulting in overuse, misuse and vandalism of the two or three toilets that were in operation.  She says the City was also unwilling to allow a toilet on City property.

Tables and fencing under the bridge, courtesy Parks Department
The Parks Department recently put some picnic tables and barriers under the Marion Street Bridge.  Not too sure what the barriers are for, but the folks with Meals Under the Bridge seem very appreciative.  Presumably, they help keep everyone organized somehow.  The move is consistent with the City's gradual adoption of the harm-reduction model in dealing with so-called "quality of life issues."  

HUD announced recently that it will be funding MWVCAA's Rapid Rehousing program for yet another year (about $389K) through its Continuum of Care (CoC) Program.  (For a description of MWVCAA's RRH program, see here at 30.)  HUD will also fund Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network's (SIHN's) family self- sufficiency program (about $152K) (described below and here at 33).  Total 2017 CoC Program dollars going to Marion and Polk County projects/programs = $743,673 (including Shangri-La's usual $202K grant), up from $579,075 awarded last year.   

Readers will recall that the CoC Program is how HUD provides homeless assistance to states through local "continuums of care" or CoCs, usually a county or a group of counties centered on a "metro" area.  Oregon used to have eight, but in 2011, the Salem, Marion and Polk CoC merged into the 26-county "Balance of State" (BOS) CoC because MWVCAA couldn't or wouldn't continue to administer the program.  

Since 2012, local homeless assistance programs have been forced to compete and collaborate with those 26 counties over federal funding and administrative issues, which, unsurprisingly, has not improved the delivery of local homeless services.

Last year, elected officials from Salem and Marion and Polk Counties began talking about reforming the local CoC (separating from the BOS CoC, aka "Rural Oregon Continuum of Care" or ROCC) [see here (10/30/16 Un-merger, Expansion, Revision), (12/29/16 ROCC: Leave or Remain?), here (1/26/17 ROCC v. Maximum Feasible Participation), here (3/1/17 Letter to CANDO re ROCC Leave/Remain), here (5/9/17 Outreach Report), here (5/6/17 Community Action Makes Agenda Clear) here (5/10/17 Shangri-La: CoC Capacity Has Not Changed), here (5/24/17 HUD Seeks to Ease Tensions Within the ROCC) and in the following News from the Continuum blogs here, here, here, and and here], causing panic and heartburn in those who stood to lose (mainly MWVCAA, Shangri-La and the ROCC coordinator).

A very cynical observer might conclude that ROCC's decision to support giving $150K to the previously unsupported SIHN family self-sufficiency project/program in this last competition was meant as an enticement to keep Salem and Marion and Polk Counties within the ROCC.   

The most detailed report to date on the City's Homeless Rental Assistance Program came out last week in connection with a City Council work session on budget priorities (see "Strategic Plan HRAP Action Update").  More recent figures provided in a report to the monthly meeting of the Health and Housing Workgroup (formerly sponsored by WVCH, and now by Salem Health) were that 41 are enrolled, 22 have been housed and 14 have been deemed ineligible (including 3 registered sex offenders, 2 "too fragile to live independently", 2 who've died and 3 who can't be located, among them Vincent, the "shopping-cart train" guy, who reportedly left town after a run-in with SPD).  Probably one or two more will have been housed by the time this is published.  The pace has definitely picked up.

Sobering Center Plan Circled in Blue
The work session also resulted in renewed support for the Mayor's sobering center (see Strategic Plan Salem Sobering Center Proposed Action), which will cost the City at least $200K for its share of annual operating costs, possibly more, if the legislature doesn't come through with the requested $367K to "build out" the center in MWVCAA's new building on Commercial.  It's not known whether the City plans to pay MWVCAA rent (we've asked, and no one will say, so it could be a point of contention).  So far, the City has offered no details to explain: how it arrived at estimated annual operating costs of $600K to $700K (Grants Pass's center costs $250K to $300K annually), the arrangement with Bridgeway (who the City says will operate the center), or how much Salem Health, WVCH (the CCO), or either County have said they are or might be willing to contribute annually.  Nor can the City identify any ROI, other than to say it's expected that the center will "benefit the community." 
Salem's SC expected to cost >2x more
Listen to what the Mayor had to say about the sobering center plan in this recent interview with Willamette Wakeup.  He also talks about the City's emergency warming shelter planning, and the need for a Homeless Programs Coordinator at COG, which position is funded in part by the City.

Mayor Bennett is in the process of appointing his "Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force" (born out of the failure of the "sit-lie" ordinance last fall), to be chaired by Councilor Kaser and staffed by UDD Director Kristin Retherford.  A total of three meetings are planned, tentatively scheduled for February 7 and 28, and March 7 from 6 to 7:30 pm.  According to Retherford, Task Force membership will be a blend of advocates, service providers, residents, businesses, and property owners.  It's "scope" will be

[T]o address behavioral issues and propose solutions related to the specific impacts that homelessness is having on downtown vibrancy and livability, including issues such as trash and litter, abandoned property, health and hygiene, and other behaviors that impact perceptions of safety.  Our downtown should be an inviting and welcoming home to all of Salem’s residents, and a place where the rights and needs of customers, visitors, individuals experiencing homelessness, residents, business owners, and property owners are addressed equitably.

Men's Mission Proposed Site
Lastly, the controversy over UGM's application for a conditional use permit continues (see also here and here).  The permit would allow UGM to expand to 300 beds and relocate the Men's Mission from its current location on Commercial Street NE and Center, three blocks north to the site of its store.  A hearing officer's decision is expected mid-February, and an appeal to the City Council seems inevitable.  Given the need, it seems highly unlikely that the City Council would not approve the permit application, the only potential issue being the conditions.  CANDO has been asked to take a position, and will take the matter up at its meeting in February.

 From the October 2017 DAB Meeting Minutes