Friday, December 30, 2016

Ending Homelessness with Data

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Slide courtesy Jimmy Jones
This is what homelessness looks like in our community -- to a data analyst.

Since October 1, 2016, the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA)'s Jimmy Jones and others have assessed the vulnerability of more than 354 homeless individuals in 318 households containing 611 individuals, using a tool called the SPDAT.  So far, their scores range from 2 (less vulnerable) to 17 (very vulnerable).

The graph (left) plots the scores clockwise from highest to lowest.   

Those with scores inside the green and red circles (~5 to 9) are likely to be successful in transitional housing (TH) placements.  Those scoring higher -- which the graph shows is about half of those assessed, have much higher needs, and require permanent supportive housing to be successful.  Our community, meaning Marion and Polk Counties, has virtually no permanent supportive housing (PSH).

What happens when someone needs a certain level of support to succeed, and doesn't get it?  Well, obviously, they're going to fail.  We see that in the child welfare system, for instance.  Traumatized children who act out, lose interest in school, etc., because although they're getting basic-level care, they don't get the care they need.  It's the same situation in homeless housing system.  When we force highly vulnerable people in need of PSH into long-term resort to shelters and camping, they're not going to succeed; they're going to become what's called, "chronically homeless" and "service resistant."  This is the primary reason our community has a chronic homeless rate that is twice the national average, according to the most recent data collected by MWVCAA.  It's not just their failure, though, it's ours, too.  

How many Task Force recommendations address this problem?  Zero.

Data of this sort, which MWVCAA continues to collect, is absolutely vital if we are to understand and confront the problems in our community with realistic solutions.  For too long, the City of Salem has relied on the charity of the supporters of the Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army to take care of its most vulnerable residents while it basically looks the other way, or worse, complains about their lack of success.  As the events of recent weeks have indicated, we've reached a tipping point.  And it's not because Portland is "busing their homeless to Salem", as much as we might like to think so.  Nor is it solely the result of the lack of affordable housing, though that's certainly a factor.  And, housing experts agree, it's going to get worse over the next few years.

It's nice that the City of Salem recently arranged to let UGM use its leased property at 770 Commercial Street (which served as an inclement weather shelter a couple of weeks ago) for its overflow, after Chief Niblock cut it to 28 from the previous no-one-turned-away in inclement weather.  But whereas UGM formerly could shelter up to ~300, now they've got only the 180 beds at the Mission, overflow capacity of 28, plus another 40-60 at 770 Commercial Street.  That's a net loss of ~50-30 shelter beds.  And keep in mind that up to one-half of those in, or seeking shelter, more than likely have higher needs that UGM can provide for.

It's a similar story at the Salvation Army's Lighthouse Shelter.  We spoke recently with one of TSA's co-directors, Captain Kim Williams, who came to Salem from Oakland, California about six months ago.  She told us she expected Salem's homelessness issues would not be nearly as severe as what she'd left in California.  She was surprised to learn that in fact, they're worse, particularly with respect to the severity of guests' mental health and substance abuse issues, and she's at a loss to know how to help many of them, given her program's (and the community's) limited resources.  Jimmy's data support her observations.     

Slide courtesy Jimmy Jones
UGM's Simonka Place takes in women and families with children. Jimmy's master list prioritizes based on SPDAT score (most vulnerable given highest priority).  There are, so far, 130 single female head-of-household families with a total of 138 children.  The average SPDAT score for those households is 9.88.  That's outside the range where transitional housing is appropriate. 

Graph at right shows how many of those women report a history of domestic violence.  
The takeaway here is that more shelters and more affordable housing are not going to address the needs of the most vulnerable -- and most visible -- in our community.  Neither is more transitional housing.  This community needs to make resources available for permanent supportive housing, and prioritize existing resources according to SPDAT scores.  We need to stop putting people where they can't succeed, stop trying to help them by giving them what we have available, and start trying to give them what they need to be successful.

To learn more about this subject, listen to the podcast of Michael's interview with Jimmy Jones.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

MWVCAA's Cold Weather Shelter 2016-2017

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

The winter of 2016-2017 continued a cherished holiday tradition in Salem: the frantic search for shelter for citizens threatened by freezing weather.  See here for the story on the winter of 2015-2016.
Guests Prepare to Depart 770 Commercial St Ctr on 12/15

Salem Forecast for December 13 through December 17, 2016

This winter's tale began December 5, 2016, with the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency's announcement that a warming shelter for veterans would be opening the following night, if they could secure enough volunteers.

When questioned, CAA staff said no one seeking shelter would be turned away, regardless of their veteran status.

Around this time, a guest of UGM complained to the Fire Marshall about the crowded conditions at the Men's Mission (capacity at that time said to be ~180, with overflow capacity for an additional ~90).  After an inspection, UGM began limiting the number of overnight guests to 28, leaving many nowhere to go.  At 3pm on December 7, John Olivera, owner of Steeles Karate, opened his gym at 860 High St. NE to anyone  needing shelter.  The night of December 8, 20 guests took shelter at the gym.

John Olivera at City Council on 12/12
The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency's decision to open its church-based overnight shelter only under limited circumstances [see 12/8 announcement below] was criticized in local and social media.  See Currie, C. "Warming centers scarce for homeless." (Statesman Journal, 8 December 2016).

The weekend of December 10/11, the national weather service predicted freezing temperatures and a wintry mix of precipitation beginning the middle of the following week.  Also about this time, the churches in line to host MWVCAA's overnight shelter discovered that they were scheduled to host homeless families through the Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network  (SIHN) "over the next couple of weeks."

Those churches told MWVCAA, and later the City Council, that they could not host the MWVCAA overnight shelter in the coming weeks because of their commitment to SIHN.

On Monday, December 12, the Salem City Council moved to second reading Ordinance Bill 26-16, which, basically, allows weather events to be considered emergencies, and allows the City to open and operate something called "mass shelters" on City-controlled property in conjunction with a Declaration of Weather Event Emergency.  See staff report here.  See Statesman Journal coverage here.

Laura Perez, FCUCC, at City Council
On Tuesday, December 13, a "weather event emergency" began at 6pm.  The City, MWVCAA and local providers scrambled to prepare two shelters.  One at the "O'Brien Site" at Liberty and Division, which the City was leasing in the hope it would one day be the site of a new police facility, the other at First Christian Church, where CANDO holds its regular monthly meetings.   

The Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force never discussed the need for warming shelters.

On December 15, guests departing both shelters as snow was falling reported having had a good night, except for the talking, with around 30 guests total at each shelter.  According to Statesman Journal reports, the Commercial Street shelter had 40 guests and First Christian had 38, supported by >60 volunteers, neither reaching capacity.

Both facilities had crates for guests' animals.  Yellow Cab  transported volunteers without charge.  Total snowfall in Salem was around 5".  The initial call for volunteers was for 8-10 per shift at the Liberty Street shelter, and 24 per shift at First Christian Church.   The call for the Liberty St shelter was later changed to 27 per shift.  The temp was 19 degrees F at 5 am, with 32 degrees F the expected high for the day, which was predicted to be sunny.  The low temps meant there was very little melting of the snow during the day.

Both shelters opened Saturday and Sunday, December 17 and 18. Rain and above-freezing temperatures were predicted for the rest of the week.

MWVCAA notice issued 12/8/16
First Christian Church on 12/15 am - Entrance to Shelter
On December 28, MWVCAA reported the following:

Total Unique Guests: 187 (91 at First Christian and 96 at Commercial St)

Total Pets: 11 (1 dog at First Christian and 7 dogs, 3 cats at Commercial St)

Total Nights of Shelter: 187 people stayed 342 nights 
* 26 guests stayed 4 nights
* 17 guests stayed 3 nights
* 47 guests stayed 2 nights
* 93 guests stayed 1 night

Total Volunteers: 175 (at First Christian = 97/580 hours) (at
Commercial St = 78/511 hours)
MWVCAA activated warming shelters for New Years Day 1/1/7 thru 1/4/17 at the former Department of Energy building owned by First Christian Church, located between the Church and Cinebarre, below.  It later was extended  through 1/6/17.

On January 9, MWVCAA announced it was activating another warming shelter, beginning Wednesday night 1/11 to run through Friday 1/13.

Tuesday's predicted low is 29, with
rain/snow expected.  The forecast  doesn't meet MWVCAA's criteria for activation, which is 27 degrees F for 3 consecutive nights.

Former Department of Energy (owned by First Christian Church)

Forecast for Friday 1/6/17 thru 1/9/17

Forecast for 1/10 thru 1/13

Sunday, December 4, 2016

MWHITF: Meeting 9 - No Backbone

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Ryan G., Nowshin A., Meghan M., Shanbo Z., Devon D.
Despite quite a few Task Force members being absent, the Task Force outnumbered the audience  at the December meeting.  There are two meetings left to go.

Salem Mayor-elect Chuck Bennett is now subbing for Mayor Petersen.  

After another of Commissioner Carlson's rambling introductions, five graduate students from Willamette University, enrolled in a course intended to offer "experiential learning as business consultants" and styling themselves as "PACE 2.1 Consulting", gave a 10-minute presentation broadly describing their project "scope" as "conduct primary and secondary research" and "analyze and evaluate strategic plans for each subcommittee", their research on "Veterans Support" (Polk County's efforts in this area), and their "Future Project Plans."  Data analyst Ryan Gail talked about the need for assessment tools to ensure the allocation of resources based on a person's unique needs.

The "PACE Project", first mentioned back in October, is apparently the result of conversations between Carlson and the course instructor.

Notably, the Task Force was not asked to take any action to approve or ratify the "project scope" or plan, and no time frame for completion, other than "the spring", was given.  As with the decision to contract with Karen Ray, the Task Force was simply informed that the students would be involved. 

Following the students' presentation, the Task Force was running about 10 minutes late.  The process of approving the second set of recommendations also ran over 10 minutes, leaving only 5 minutes to decide what the Task Force's successor organization should look like, based on Karen Ray's memo of options.

During the discussion of the recommendations, Mayor Clark asked to have the word "camping" taken out of the recommendation to look into some kind of sanctioned camping program (specifically, "Analyze the advisability of allowing, supporting or facilitating some form of temporary, support-coordinated camping.")  She was okay with the recommendation, just not the word "camping."  As someone in the audience put it, "They recommend not discussing the reality of people's lives."

On the form of the successor organization, there was a brief, unenthusiastic, very general discussion, but, no decision.  One member thought funding should precede a decision on form, but had no suggestions about funding.  Ultimately, it was the opinion of the Chair (Mayor Clark) that the Task Force was looking for a combination of options 2 (public-private) and 3 (collaboration), which preference she and Carlson would take back to Karen Ray for further development.

KMUZ's Sara Cromwell and Michael Livingston
There was public comment from KMUZ's Willamette Wake Up Tuesday hosts on all the things local providers could do with $20,000, which just happens to be the exact amount spent for Karen Ray consultation services to the Task Force.  The full text of their comment is below.

You've Just Been Given $20K!

I've been following and reporting on the work of the Task Force for KMUZ Community Radio. In preparation for a future program, we asked a number of local social service providers the following question: Pretend you've just been given $20,000 for your program.  The only requirement is that you spend it on something that is likely to have immediate impact, as opposed to a long-term project. Please list all the things you might use the money for. 

Sara Cromwell -- another KMUZ volunteer --and I are here today to share with you some of the responses. 

If HOME Youth and Resource Center -- a Community Action program -- had $20,000 to spend, they’d use it for
  • 16 hours training in mental and behavioral health and suicide prevention
  • 20 sets of new undergarments for girls
  • 20 sleeping bags
  • 20 pairs of boys' underwear
  • 20 sets of youth rain gear
  • 80 hours of case management and street outreach
  • 40 hours and mileage transporting youth in need of shelter, medical care and other basics
  • stabilize one family with a rent or utilities payment
  • make a needed repair to a youth's house or buy a needed household item
  • one laptop to use in the field or for street outreach
  • travel expenses to reunite youth with their families outside the area
  • 50 youth bus passes
  • help with 20 youths' phone bills
  • 40 birth certificates and IDs
  • 50 haircut vouchers
  • 50 pairs of new shoes
  • help with college tuition or youth internship stipend
  • AND 20 quality backpacks.

If the Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network had $20,000 to spend, they’d use it one of two ways
. They could pay the first and last month’s rent and a security deposit to put 6 families into transitional housing.  $20,000 would also allow them to hire one-half a full time staff person to develop the capacity of their Family Mentoring Program, which matches trained volunteers with vulnerable families in an effort to create a sustained and productive mentoring relationship. The volunteer mentors work with families on budgeting, parenting, and relationship-building.  The program was developed and is used by Interfaith Hospitality Network affiliates across the country, as well as other organizations working with low-income families.

If Congregations Helping People had $20,000 to spend, they’d use it in their Back-to-Work Program to pay for 

  • 10 certificates, re-certifications, or license renewals
  • 10 pairs of workboots and socks
  • 10 sets of flagger supplies
  • 10 sets of scrubs and shoes for CNA, CMA, dental hygiene assistants
  • 10 construction or maintenance belts with tools
  • 19 food handler permits
  • AND 45 bus passes or gas vouchers
Northwest Human Services’ Homeless Outreach Advocacy Program could, with $20,000, immediately put 6 families into permanent housing.  If they had any money left over, they’d use it to help people obtain their out-of-state birth certificates so they could then get their IDs.

Polk County could use $20,000
to buy a used van or truck to pick up donations of large household items for use by families exiting homelessness.  Currently, county employees pick up these items on their own time, using their own vehicles.  With a dedicated vehicle, this task could be picked up by local volunteers.  Any amount left over would be used to buy mattresses, sleeping bags, tents, socks, jackets, boots, tarps, camping gear for cooking, help with security deposits, pet food, pet care and pet supplies, waterproof backpacks, sleeping pads, air mattresses, head lice kits, and rain gear.

$20,000 could expand the number of beds covered by Servicepoint --
Oregon’s Homeless Management Information System -- and the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency’s coordinated entry system, by paying for 8 Servicepoint licenses and more than 100 hours of training and technical assistance for the eight organizations that don’t currently use Servicepoint or participate in the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency’s coordinated entry system.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Minutes 11/15/16

November 15, 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: Gordon Friedman
Organizations: Simon Sandusky, UGM
City and County Representatives: Councilor and Mayor-elect Bennett, Officer Shane Galusha
Guests: none

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present.

The minutes of the October meeting were approved by unanimous consent.

Officer Shane Galusha reported that preparations for the upcoming holiday season were under way and that volunteers were being trained to help with downtown patrols.  He also reported that he and other SPD officers had been called in to relieve PPD “riot team” members dealing with the post-election protests in Portland.  He confirmed that the number of men sleeping along Liberty Street under the Rite Aid awning had increased in recent weeks, and said that the Downtown Enforcement Team could do little about it, other than to ask them to move along.  He did not know why the numbers had increased.  

Councilor Bennett reported that the Mayor had opened Monday night’s City Council meeting with remarks intended to allay fears resulting from the recent U.S. presidential election.  

[The text of the Mayor’s Remarks:  “While the nation may have new leadership, we want to assure you that the City of Salem remains consistent with its values and its vision for our community. Our leadership remains committed to taking care of this community, and to listening to concerns, just as we’ve done in the past. This national election and the tone, I can assure you, will do nothing to change the way our City’s commitment to protecting the civil rights, the inclusiveness and the practices that this city has held dear. It is paramount that this city, this international city, shalom, a city of brotherly love, would continue to remember what we stand for, what we all work so hard for, and what we hope to continue embracing in our community.”]

Councilor Bennett also reported that Council had received a proposal from Home Base Shelters of Salem to help them lease a parcel of city-owned land for a “Rest-Stop” type of program, but that so far, a suitable parcel had not been identified, that plans to demolish the First National Bank Building at 280 Liberty Street NE, designed by Pietro Belluschi, were going forward, to be replaced, he believed, with housing, and that Pacific Office Automation had purchased and would be occupying the building next door at 260 Liberty Street NE.  

In public comment, Sarah Owens suggested that members of the board make a point to visit H.O.A.P. on Church Street NE, between 9a and 2p some Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, to get acquainted with staff and and the facility, which Stephen Goins has been managing for Northwest Human Services for about a year now.  Simon Sandusky invited everyone to share a Thanksgiving meal at the Mission next week, emphasizing that all are welcome.  

In lieu of a presentation, the board bid a formal farewell to Chuck Bennett in his role as Councilor for Ward 1, and wished him success in his new role as Mayor, which he will be taking up in January.  In remarking on Chuck’s many years of service to CANDO, members of the board said they would remember him for his responsiveness to the needs and concerns of the neighbors, his regular presence at monthly meetings and overall approachability, his open mindedness on contentious issues, his dedication to downtown as livable, walkable, and bike-friendly, and his willingness to take on a revision to the “Tree Code.”  Chuck promised he would maintain his interest in downtown, including its most vulnerable residents, and return from time to time to meet with CANDO.    

There being no other business before the board, the meeting was adjourned at 7:05 p.m.

Note: the next meeting will be January 17th.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sanctioned Camping

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


[Originally posted under the title, "HBSS Takes Request to Council."]

Delana Beaton, Lorrie Walker, Verena Wessel at City Council
November 14, 2016.  Three members of the Home Base Shelters of Salem (HBSS) board of directors went before City Council last night during the period for public comment to ask the City to "identify a parcel of [city-owned] land most appropriate for a...supervised temporary camp" for people experiencing homelessness, and "in navigating the potentially complex zoning/ordinance/licensing issues" that would have to be resolved in order to move forward with such a project.

Delana Beaton (HBSS President), Lorrie Walker and Verena Wessel  and others formed HBSS in the  summer of 2016 for the purpose of developing a sanctioned camping program modeled on Eugene's "Rest Stops."  We first reported on HBSS's project in "Mayor Rants re Failure to Plan for Homeless." (14 August 2016). 

The group's appearance at Council follows private meetings with Council members and others to share an initial draft proposal, which Delana said they've been revising as they go.  The women fielded questions from Councilors Andersen, Lewis and McCoid and said they'd be back in 2017 with a "formal" request.  A copy of HBSS's proposal can be found with the October minutes of the South Central Association of Neighbors. 

Dan Bryant giving the tour
Earlier on Monday, staff and officials from Polk County, among others, visited Opportunity Village in Eugene, and a couple of camps developed under Eugene's "Rest Stop" program, on which the HBSS project proposal is based.  All members of the Task Force were invited to go (transportation provided), but only Commissioner Wheeler, Sheriff Garton, and Heidi Mackay (all of Polk County) participated.

At the first stop, Opportunity Village CEO Dan Bryant told the group about the Village's history and evolution, the role that the Eugene City Council played in the process and the Village's gradual acceptance into the community.  The group also spoke briefly with the villager on gate-duty and, once inside the gate, one or two  of the other villagers.       

 A Eugene "Rest Stop"
The next visit was to a camp run by Community Supported Shelters (CSS) (they call their camps "Safe Spots").  Residents sleep in conestoga huts or tents on platforms.  The camp had recently acquired a metal hut and a wood stove to use as a common area.  Previously, residents gathered around a barrel fire in the center of the camp (under the chair in the photo at left).    Winter conditions at the camps are described in detail in this CSS blog.

There's plenty of information about Square One Villages and the Eugene Rest Stop program at the links, so we won't repeat it.  

On the ride back in Polk County's all-purpose bus, people shared impressions, questions and concerns, including the "potentially complex zoning/ordinance/licensing issues" that would arise if they wanted to do something similar in Polk County or West Salem (whether or not on publicly owned land).  Given HBSS was already working on a project, it was generally agreed that anyone interested in a West Salem project should pursue a partnership with HBSS.

Entrance to Opportunity Village
On November 21, Delana and HBSS board member Susan Smith told Ken Adams on  Willamette Wake Up that their goal was "not to become an uninvited project in a residential area."  The first camp would have a maximum of 20 tents with "matching tarps, so not unsightly at all" and serve a "totally unserved group" within the homeless population, of which there were "about 2,000 in Salem last January."  They said they anticipated expanding to four or five camps, eventually, and that they hadn't yet decided on the criteria for excluding an applicant based on criminal history.  They said "hopefully, the City is organizing itself around the Task Force" and that their camp was "the first step."  Delana as much as said that the program was consistent with the Housing First principles espoused by Tanya Tull.

"I think where we start having problems is where it starts being tents"
On December 1, 2016 the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force considered a recommendation to "analyze the advisability of allowing, supporting or facilitating some form of temporary, support-coordinated camping", which Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark said would cause her to get "pushback" (even though the recommendation was merely to "analyze").  She said she needed to understand how such a program would be effective in moving people into stable housing, that she'd not seen it be effective in other "jurisdictions." She said, "I have a very difficult time saying yes -- this is something we should spend some time exploring at this point."

Sharon Heuer, Greg Hansen in the OV kitchen
Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson observed that "there's camping and then there's camping" and said that "this item is probably as close as we're going to get" to addressing homelessness in the short term.

Marion County Sheriff Myers said "we should at least explore it", and Salem Police Chief Moore concurred, saying, however, "it's not an endorsement."  (It's no secret that Salem police foresee problems with sanctioned camping.)

Salem Mayor-elect Bennett said the City had been asked to find "unused land" of a certain type, and, so far, the City had not been able to find any, but that they would know "by January" for certain.

Opportunity Village cul de sac
Bennett indicated the City would next look at acquiring property suitable for "some kind of Opportunity Village" program, and that he did not object to the recommendation as long as it "doesn't say 'camping in tents', as long as it's 'camping' in something" short of "formalized housing."  He said, "I think where we start having problems is where it starts being tents, and in almost anybody's neighborhood."

In the end, the Task Force recommendation was amended to replace the word "camping" with the word "shelter."

On December 20, HBSS members met with the City Manager Steve Powers, who told them that the City did not have any property/parcels that would be suitable for their project.

Another Opportunity Village cul de sac
On December 31, the Statesman Journal reported on an interview with Bennett.  The section on "Tackling Homelessness", read:
By a Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency count in January 2016, there were more than 850 homeless people in Polk and Marion counties.
“We know what doesn’t work – all we have to do is look at Portland and Eugene and we can see examples of unsuccessful strategies,” Bennett said, citing “camp-where-you-want” spaces.
Outside the Rest Stop for Veterans
“I’m not sure tent camps work. My impression is they don’t,” he said. "I have yet to get a positive report on a tent camp."  * * * “This is a complicated issue. This is not something that’s gonna be fixed by something simple,” he said.
The County told HBSS much the same thing, according to Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson's oral report at the February 15, 2017 meeting of the Marion County Board of Commissioners.

That same day, Mayor Bennett announced an aggressive new homeless initiative, one designed to house the chronically homeless -- in something other than tents.

HBSS adjusted its strategy.  According to a flyer advertising a talk by Delana in February 2017, HBSS was "rebranding" as "a group dedicated to developing micro-housing."

HBSS published a summary of its new plan the first week in March, 2017. [].  The website was taken down shortly thereafter and was not put back up.  HBSS's new plan said they'd identified "a prospective village site in Marion County outside high-density urban residential neighborhoods and retail commercial areas" and expected to have the ARCHES Project staff "identify highly vulnerable persons from the unsheltered population using a standard vulnerability assessment tool."  Delana told us the new plan should not have been published and declined to answer questions about it.  We heard nothing about the HBSS plan for the next ~18 months.  

The UUC "Habitat and Hope Transitional Village" project

In September 2018, Bob and Cindy Francis presented a plan for a "Habitat & Hope Village" to the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Steering Committee (including Salem Urban Development Department Director Kristin Retherford, Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson, and Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark).  

The plan called for 8x8 duplex construction of lumber/plywood (basically two wooden tents side by side), to be constructed as funds come available, up to a maximum of 20.  The proposal indicated HBSS was involved in the planning, but did not identify project leadership, members or partners, and no funding source was identified.  The steering committee seemed unimpressed.   

In December 2018, the "Habitat & Hope Village" project reappeared as an "Affiliated Ministry" of
the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem, located at 5090 Center Street (intersection with Cordon Road).  

According to the blurb on the UUCS website, the units would now have electricity and heat, the ARCHES Project (Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency [MWVCAA]) would be responsible for screening and "case work", and UUCS would provide volunteers, financial support and land (1/2 acre across the street, currently a parking lot) (green dot on map at right).   

The project would take two years to complete.  MWVCAA, the congregation and the County would have to agree formally to support the proposal. 
From the January 2019 UUCS Newsletter

In a January 10, 2019 radio interview, four members of the Habitat & Hope Village board of directors (Delana Beaton, Bob Francis, Gregory Greg and Larry Nassett) told a credulous Melanie Zermer that The ARCHES Project "has pledged to provide case management for the residents", that they plan to acquire the land (which they would not identify) by May, then begin to fund raise and secure the necessary land use designations, even as they acknowledged that they lack government and community support.

MWVCAA's Executive Director, Jimmy Jones, would not confirm that the ARCHES Project was going to "provide case management."  "Referral only", he told us.

Another polarizing 4/20/18 FB Post about what to do
The Habitat and Hope Village website, which came on line some time in April (?) 2018, drops the reference to case management.  According to the website, villagers must have a SPDAT score between 0-4 at entry, which is a basically a no-housing-intervention-indicated rating (don't really need case management -- the program will serve only those who could rehouse on their own).  "The city will not let us build", Greg Gregg, wrote recently, without further explanation.  The group subsequently changed their project design from a village to a group home for five women.  As of the end of 2019, the project remained in very early stages.  Details here.  

2019 Ends with Frantic Search for Camping Alternative

On December 2, 2019, the City Council delayed enactment of Ordinance Bill 10-19 (mainly a camping ban at that point) two weeks to allow staff time to identify City property that might be suitable for a camping program that had yet to be designed.  The policy shift appears to have been intended as an answer to constituent concerns about where the campers around The ARCHES Project would go once the camping ban took effect.  See News from the Continuum and Brynelson, T. "Salem bans open camping, and now seeks a place to host it." (December 3, 2019, Salem Reporter); Bach, J. "Salem may set aside City property for homeless."  (December 2, 2019, Statesman Journal.)

Councilor Chris Hoy subsequently notified colleagues he would be moving to direct staff to investigate and report on car-camping options at the next meeting on December 9.  See Bach, J. "Homeless car camping plan considered by Salem city councilor."  (December 5, 2019, Statesman Journal.)  Brynelston, T. "Salem official eyes organized camping for people who live in vehicles." (December 6, 2019, Salem Reporter.)

With just days to adjust to the sudden policy shift, staff scrambled to explore options.  At the request of MWVCAA's Jimmy Jones, code enforcement agreed not to declare the camp around ARCHES a public nuisance, although it qualified as such.  See "Will Code Enforcement Trump Council?" and Bach, J. "Downtown Salem Homeless Camp to get portable toilets, hand washing stations."  (December 5, 2019, Statesman Journal.)

Staff set up informational meetings with Councilors Nordyke, Kaser, Hoy, and Andersen.  Management staff, police, Salem Housing Authority and MWVCAA all tried to dissuade them from what they considered an ill-advised and impracticable course of action.  Nevertheless, by week's end, they were still determined that the City should allow camping somewhere, despite having no viable plans/programs, professional support or funding.  Monday, December 9, 2019, staff published a report and recommendations clearly intended to chill enthusiasm for the idea.  Estimated cost to operate one site 24/7: ~$1M/year.  At the meeting, a majority of Council seemed willing to pay for six months, but for the fact it would take 60-90 days to organize.  They opted instead to expand two of the warming centers (First Presbyterian and Church at the Park) to a duration model (open every night, regardless of temperature), at a cost of $213K.  Nordyke, Kaser and Andersen told Salem Reporter a campground could still be considered at a later date.  See Brynelston, T. "Salem leaders decide to shelter homeless instead of setting up public camping." December 9, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  Camping ban went into effect December 16.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Coordinated Assessment and Entry

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

The is the second of two posts about the tools needed to support a systematic approach to improving homeless services delivery.

The first post (here), introduced ServicePoint, a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) application in use in Oregon, and showed how it can be used to monitor Bed Usage Rates (BURs).

This post covers coordinated assessjment and entry system (CES) basics. 

Coordinated assessment and entry (or, "coordinated entry", for short) is the "no wrong door" idea that recognizes it's just too not realistic to expect most clients to navigate all the available services on their own, trying to find the one that is appropriate to their situation.  No one disputes that services are too spread out, there are too many restrictions, forms, rules, and regulations, and the programs are too siloed.  

A lot's been written about "no wrong door" in the context of the Affordable Care Act, where privacy requirements continue to be a challenge to full implementation.  If you want to read about coordinated entry in the homeless assistance context, the best place to start might be with HUD's Coordinated Entry Policy Brief, which identifies the qualities of an effective coordinated entry system:
  1. Prioritization
  2. Low barrier
  3. Housing First orientation
  4. Person-centered
  5. Fair and equal access
  6. Emergency services
  7. Standardized access and assessment
  8. Inclusive
  9. Referral to projects
  10. Referral protocols
  11. Outreach
  12. Ongoing planning and stakeholder consultation
  13. Informing local planning
  14. Leverage local attributes and capacity
  15. Safety planning
  16. Using HMIS and other systems for coordinated entry
  17. Full coverage
As noted elsewhere, ROCC does not have an effective coordinated entry system, and this has hurt its  ability to deliver homeless assistance, and to compete for HUD funding.  
ROCC's 2016 Consolidated Application
At left is ROCC's description to HUD of the coordinated entry elements ROCC does have or is working on.   Without question, the challenge of building a system inclusive of 28 counties (not all of them rural) continues in 2019 to be beyond ROCC's capabilities, despite all the hard work by Jimmy Jones, now Executive Director of the Mid Willamette Community Action Agency (MWVCAA), and his assessment teams, over the past two years.    

In 2016, Jimmy was just getting started.  He described his efforts as follows (edited somewhat for brevity and links added):
Basically we are moving toward a Coordinated Entry program that embraces (as close to best practices as resources allow) the principles embodied in the Coordinated Entry Policy Brief.  The first principle on that list is...prioritization of access, based on vulnerability.  We are determining vulnerability by means of the [Vulnerability Index - Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool] VI-SPDAT. For clients that are chronic[ally homeless] and score into PSH, we also have been using the VAT, as a tool for better case management and potentially, one day, opening or partnering with a PSH-Housing First facility, which would serve the highest scoring clients in our area.
The SPDAT is a fairly simple tool. Easy to teach, train and use.  It gives a score that has demonstrated very high correlation, when it’s been tested against other decision assistance tools.  It is widely used across the United States. I have attached a map of current usage. This map is a little older and doesn’t include many places that use the SPDAT...My previous employer has been using the VI-SPDAT for two years, in a county that has a very well developed coordinated entry and assessment program.  I have personally given more than 200 VI-SPDATS in the last year and I believe in it.  It’s not only descriptive of someone’s current situation, but it is also highly predictive of the kinds of case management and the nature of placement (PSH/TH-RRH/Diversion) that they’ll need.  Essentially it operates on a triage approach.  The original SPDAT was developed for use in hospitals, and the VI-SPDAT follows the same model—trying to direct resources to the people who need it the most. 
So while the SPDAT is a breadth tool, the VAT is a depth tool.  It was developed by DESC up in Seattle, who use it even for shelter (in a slightly different method).  This tool is basically designed to get a good measure of the most vulnerable clients.  It’s sometimes hard to differentiate between different PSH clients, trying to figure out (in essence) who has the highest risk of dying outside, without intervention.  The VAT requires specialized training. And each written assessment is then reviewed by another qualified and trained VAT reviewer.  I have completed 50 VATS in the last year, which is a pretty large number.  In one comparison of similar assessment instruments, the VAT had the highest validity ratio of any tool in the country.* * *
When Jimmy arrived at MWVCAA, The ARCHES Project stopped accepting electronic applications, and changed its intake policy of "first come, first served."  Instead, they use the VI-SPDAT at intake, which takes about 15 minutes for experienced staff.  If the client scores very high on the VI-SPDAT, they also use the VAT, which takes about 45 minutes to do, and another hour to write up.  Using these tools allows The ARCHES Project to prioritize those most in need of services, determine whether the services provided were effective, and, over time, establish a truer picture of homelessness in the community than exists now.  This involves entering the assessment data into Servicepoint, Oregon' HMIS application.
Thanks to the good work of Rena [Croucher at OHCS] and Hunter [Belgard, Portland Housing Bureau(up in Portland), we’ll...have a new coordinated entry entry-exit assessment in HMIS that we will use here in Mid-Willamette [Community Action Agency].  This will allow us to generate our base assessment and SPDATs inside HMIS.  Our Process here will be:
1)    Client comes into contact with our agency.
2)    We open and complete our entry-exit for coordinated assessment.
3)    We place our clients on a master wait list, priority determined by SPDAT score.
4)    Once a housing program selects the client for placement, our coordinated entry-exit is then closed, with an exit destination set to the new housing program.
In casual conversation (back in 2016), Jimmy told us he thought the picture of homelessness here in Salem would not be as bad as it was in Clark Co., WA, where he last worked, but after several months doing assessments at The ARCHES Project and elsewhere in the area, he's concluded it's probably worse, owing in large part to the presence of the Oregon State Hospital and area corrections facilities. He guesses, based on what he's been told about how MWVCAA conducts the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count and the assessments he's done, that Marion and Polk Counties have something like 5,000 people experiencing some type of homelessness, half of whom are extremely vulnerable (lots of issues), half of whom are homeless more due to misfortune combined with tight economic circumstances.  He said this community just doesn't have the resources to deal with that more vulnerable population, and hasn't had the data required to demonstrate the need in order to get the resources.

Asked in January 2019 what he thought of his 2016 estimates, Jimmy said they were "pretty dead on", based on what he and his team had learned over the past couple of years.  "One thing that shocks me still is the larger number of unsheltered homeless women living in camps.  Closer to half female.", he said.  "The other thing is the physical health conditions for the nearly 300 [highest needs] HRAP-VAT clients turned out a bit worse than expected: not just the normal stuff like diabetes and heart conditions, but head traumas and weird stuff like mobility issues."  And, he now refers to area resources -- financial and organizational -- as "grossly inadequate."