Friday, December 30, 2016

Ending Homelessness with Data

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

Since October 1, 2016, 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."  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 intends to continue collecting, 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 SA's co-directors, Captain Kim Williams, who came to Salem from Oakland, California about 6 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, it's 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 of course support her observations.     

Slide courtesy Jimmy Jones
The Lighthouse Shelter takes in women and families with children. On the master waitlist Jimmy's compiling  according to SPDAT score (most vulnerable at the top) 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 the 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.  We can do this, and when we do, we will marvel that we waited so long.

Don't believe it?  Listen to this interview with Jimmy Jones, and see if it doesn't change your mind.

In other news, the Housing Stability Council is on track to approve the 4% LIHTC for the Portland Road affordable housing project, an important piece of the project's overall funding package. For a detailed description of the project, see Housing Stability Council January meeting materials here at pp 55-57.

Update 1/2/17: figures adjusted after Statesman Journal reported that UGM has a 60-bed capacity at 770 Commercial St.   

Thursday, December 29, 2016

ROCC: Leave or Remain?

Should Marion/Polk Counties Leave or Remain in ROCC?
Update:  As reported here on April 16, the Mayor of the City of Salem and three City Councilors have indicated they will recommend leaving the ROCC (aka Oregon Balance of State CoC) be made a strategic plan goal.  As community outreach concludes, the clear consensus is to begin leave planning, with only one local provider expressing concerns (see below).

Update:  On February 21, 2017, the CANDO board considered the question, "Should Salem and Marion and Polk Counties begin planning to re-create a local continuum of care to plan and coordinate the effective delivery of local homeless housing and services, some of which are funded through HUD's CoC Program?"  The board had received a letter from one of two CoC Program grantees expressing concerns about  leaving the regional organization, however, after receiving a presentation from Jimmy Jones on the unique needs of the homeless in Salem and Marion and Polk Counties, the CANDO board voted unanimously to support the commencement of leave-planning.

Executive Summary

Congress finally acknowledged homelessness as a national problem in the late 1980s with enactment of homeless assistance legislation.  In 1994, HUD instructed local communities to form primary planning/coordinating bodies to oversee the delivery of all homeless housing and services.  These planning bodies, which HUD calls Continuums of Care (CoCs), were to all include homeless housing and service providers, including police, hospitals, schools, etc., regardless of whether or not they received HUD funding.

In response, six Oregon "communities" formed CoCs, including Marion/Polk.  Oregon's remaining 26 counties became by default the "Balance of State" CoC (aka Rural Oregon CoC or ROCC). 

For several years, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA), administered Marion/Polk CoC's grants.  Besides MWVCAA, grantees included Shangri-La Corp., Northwest Human Services, Salem YWCA (has since folded), The Salvation Army and the Salem Housing Authority.  Although a couple of people have said that the provider community collaborated pretty well in those years, evidence is lacking.  It is undisputed that the Marion/Polk CoC never formed the functional “primary planning/coordinating body” that HUD was looking for, or that  MWVCAA struggled just to administer the program, finally giving up in 2011. 

When Marion/Polk CoC merged with ROCC in 2011, ROCC was supported by the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department.  About a year after the merger, OHCS cut ROCC loose (discontinued the program).  Since that time, ROCC has sought unsuccessfully to build its organizational capacity as an unincorporated association.  Its board of directors is very weak and defers to its part-time staff, who travel among the 28 counties conducting video-conferenced meetings narrowly focused on compliance issues.  Participation is discouraged, the bylaws are not observed, and the board refuses accountability on the grounds that ROCC is a "fake" organization that exists only as a HUD requirement.  There is no dedicated office or website, and information is not readily accessible.  This lack of organizational capacity has made it increasingly difficult for ROCC to compete successfully for HUD funds.

Today, only two providers serving Marion/Polk receive CoC Program grants.  For whatever reason, ROCC receives only about 10% of Oregon's total CoC Program allocation, despite having about 43% of its homeless, 15% of which is in Marion and Polk Counties based on the 2016 PITC.  In 2016, Marion/Polk received less than one fifth what Lane County received, and over $300K less than Marion/Polk received in 2010.  Finally, Marion/Polk receives only about 2% of Oregon's total CoC Program allocation, despite having about 6% of its homeless based on the 2016 PITC.

There is a growing consensus that that the goal of preventing and ending homelessness in Marion and Polk Counties would be advanced significantly if the community could concentrate its planning and coordinating efforts to Marion and Polk Counties, rather than continuing to try to plan, coordinate, and compete for funds along with ROCC’s 26, mostly rural, counties.  A successful separation will require careful planning and preparation to ensure the necessary organizational structures and capacity are in place before it occurs.  With that in mind, several members of the community have been discussing separation and sharing information with "stakeholders" and interested persons through out the area about how we might create an effective “primary planning/coordinating body” of homeless providers in Marion and Polk Counties. 

Learn more about HMIS and Coordinated Entry here and here.  Read more about ROCC here, here, here and here, and view descriptions of Marion and Polk Counties' 2017-18 projects hereSee ROCC's most recent consolidated application here (includes the OHCS/PHB Contract & CAPO MOU, which is characterized as the CoC "governance agreement").  Read the only statement in support of remaining that we've received thus far (March 4, 2017), here.

Institutional History

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) instructed local communities to form a primary planning and coordinating body for homeless housing and services to work toward the goal of ending homelessness. HUD referred to these groups as the local Continuums of Care (CoCs).  CoCs were supposed to carry out specific functions, including creating and approving the annual submission to HUD to apply for CoC homeless assistance grants (formerly known as Supportive Housing Program, Shelter Plus Care, Moderate Rehabilitation, etc.). At some point, Portland/Multnomah County formed a CoC, as did several other Oregon Counties, including Marion and Polk.  All records of the Marion and Polk CoC formation have been lost or destroyed.

In 2004, the City of Portland, Portland Housing Bureau (PHB), implemented a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) for the Portland/Multnomah County CoC, and contracted with Bowman Systems, LLC, to provide ServicePoint software (Oregon’s HMIS application) and services.

Over the years, the Marion & Polk CoC, under the leadership of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, carried out the functions needed to receive CoC homeless assistance grants, but it never succeeded in forming a “primary planning and coordinating body for homeless housing and services” or in extending its active membership beyond the grantee agencies.  In 2011, the Marion & Polk CoC merged with the 26-county Balance of State CoC (aka Rural Oregon CoC or ROCC), led by Oregon’s Housing and Community Services Department.

In 2012, HUD released an Interim Program Rule that codified the CoC structure and defined its responsibilities, and the Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services, ROCC’s Collaborative Applicant, entered into an intergovernmental agreement with PHB for the designation and transfer of rights to purchase and use ServicePoint licenses.  PHB continues to own and operates the HMIS, and serve as the Primary System Administrator and custodian of the HMIS data, and OHCS continues to administer user licenses for ROCC, however, in September 2012, OHCS notified ROCC that it would cease acting as its Collaborative Applicant.

Since 2012 ROCC, led by its Board of Directors and Coordinator, and with Community Action Partnership of Oregon (CAPO) in the technical role of Collaborative Applicant, has struggled unsuccessfully to increase its organizational capacity, expand the use of Oregon's HMIS application to non-grantee agencies, and create a system of coordinated entry, all of which are needed to allocate homeless assistance grants to maximum effect.  On December 1, 2016, the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force approved a recommendation that Marion and Polk Counties “[a]ssess local inclusion in the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care”, prompting two members of the community to initiate one-on-one conversations with homeless housing and service providers in both counties for the purpose of determining whether there was consensus for leaving ROCC to re-form a Marion-Polk CoC. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

MWVCAA's Cold Weather Shelter 2016-2017

This winter, Salem continues a cherished holiday tradition: the frantic search for shelter for citizens threatened by freezing weather.

Guests Prepare to Depart 770 Commercial St Ctr on 12/15

Salem Forecast for December 13 through December 17, 2016

It's not as if anyone could have known this would happen.

This winter's tale begins December 5, 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.

The tale continues with John Olivera, owner of Steeles Karate, opening the doors to his gym at 860 High St. NE, at 3 p.m. last Tuesday, December 7, to those who needed shelter from the cold, and with a guest of UGM, complaining to the Fire Marshall about the crowded conditions at the Mission (capacity ~180, with overflow capacity for an additional ~90).
John Olivera at City Council on 12/12

We don't know what UGM does after the Fire Marshall tells them, reportedly, there are problems with their guest accommodations.  (Update 12/23/16 - per Fire Chief Niblock, the overflow capacity was limited to 28.)  Presumably, UGM begins limiting the number of overnight guests allowed to stay at the Mission, leaving many nowhere to go except Steeles Karate.  In any event, the night of December 8, Mr. Olivera shelters 120 guests at his gym.

The Salvation Army and other members of the community begin pitching in, like they always do, and Mr. Olivera, reportedly, begins calling on churches in the downtown area to open their doors to those needing shelter.

On December 9, the Statesman Journal publishes an article that's critical of Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency's decision to open its church-based overnight shelter only under limited circumstances [see 12/8 announcement below].  Pressure from the community begins to rise, as it did last year

Laura Perez, FCUCC, at City Council
The weekend of December 10/11, the national weather service predicts freezing temperatures and a wintry mix of precipitation will begin the middle of the following week.  Also about this time, the churches in line to host MWVCAA's overnight shelter discover they are scheduled to host homeless families through the Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network "over the next couple of weeks."  Those churches tell MWVCAA, and later the City Council, that they cannot host the MWVCAA overnight shelter in the coming weeks. 

Enter the Salem City Council.  On Monday, December 12, the Salem City Council passes and moves 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.  Read the staff report here.

At this point (Tuesday, December 13), a "weather event emergency" will begin tonight at 6p, and the plan is to open, by tomorrow night, two shelters at the "O'Brien Site" at Liberty and Division, which the City leases in the hope it will one day build a new police facility there.  UGM is to operate one shelter, and MWVCAA (referred to as "Community Action Network" in the Declaration) is to operate the other.
1/2/17 Update: 770 Commercial St Warming Ctr

Statesman Journal coverage of last night's City Council action.

In case anyone's interested, no, the Homeless Task Force never discussed this chronic crisis situation.

This post will be updated as information becomes available.

Update 12/14/16: MWVCAA announced last night that two shelters were being "activated" --  one at the former Delon BMW (pictured at top and above right) and the other at the First Christian Church (pictured below), where CANDO holds its regular monthly meetings.  No information was given as to whether the population  (e.g., men, women, minors) would be limited at either shelter (see excerpt of earlier MWVCAA announcement below). 
Clarification in case it's needed:  the Salvation Army Lighthouse Shelter, like UGM, has always stretched its capacity during weather events, and continues to do so.

Update 12/15/16: Guests departing both shelters as snow was falling reported having had a good night (except for people talking), with around 30 guests total at each shelter.  Photos added. 

Update 12/16/16: The Statesman Journal reports that the Commercial St shelter had 40 guests and the church had 38, supported by >60 volunteers, and that neither reached capacity.  (FCC's capacity is 40, don't know about Liberty St.)  Both facilities have crates for guests' animals.  The newspaper also reported that Yellow Cab offered to and did pick up without charge volunteers needing safe transport.  Total snowfall in Salem was around 5".  The initial call for volunteers was for 8-10 per shift at the Liberty St shelter, and 24 per shift at FCC.  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 is predicted to be sunny.

Update 12/18/16: Both shelters opened last night (Saturday) and will be open again tonight.  There has been very little melting as temperatures remained at or below freezing, but rain and above-freezing temperatures are predicted for the rest of the week, beginning tomorrow.

Update 12/28/16: MWVCAA reported the following:

Total Unique Guests: 187
* 91 at First Christian
* 96 at Commercial St

Total Pets: 11
* 1 dog at First Christian
* 7 dogs and 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


* At First Christian = 97 volunteers gave 580 hours
* At Commercial St = 78 volunteers gave 511 hours

Below is the update that MWVCAA issued December 8.

First Christian Church on 12/15 am - Entrance to Shelter

Update 12/28/16:  Another MWVCAA Warming Center was activated for New Years Day 1/1/7 thru 1/4/17. The center will be the DOE building between Cinebarre and the First Christian Church.

Update 1/2/17: The Statesman Journal is reporting that the MWVCAA warming center will be open through 1/5/17, and that its hours were set to coincide with meal service at UGM.

The City's leased property at 770 Commercial street has been given over to UGM as an overflow shelter to make up for the beds lost when Fire Chief Niblock told them on 12/23 that they couldn't expand beyond 208 guests.

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

Update 1/6/17: The MWVCAA warming center is set to run through Friday (tonight).  

Forecast for 1/10 thru 1/13

Update 1/9/17: MWVCAA's announced today it's activating another warming center, beginning Wednesday night 1/11 to run through Friday night.  Tuesday's predicted low is 29, with rain/snow expected.  Unclear why that's not cold enough to warrant activation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Trouble at OHCS

Does anybody know where this Resource List came from?    -- Warren Bednarz, 12/1/16


Remember hearing ten months ago about the community's need for a resource guide, something that didn't require an app, that you could hand to someone you wanted to evict from your rental unit or alleyway, so you would feel like, you know, you were helping them?

While, for 10 months, the Task Force and its committees debated the feasibility of paper guides and investigated costly alternatives to 211info, Polk County quietly developed its own resource guide.  And, yesterday, they announced that Salem Health has "graciously agreed to print several thousand" in English and Spanish, for use in and by the community.  (Polk County's guide is a booklet, not a 2-page list.)

Fortunately for Councilor Bednarz, the Polk County guide contains most Marion County resources as well, on account of West Salem being in Polk County, because the list he asked about at the last meeting is many years old, so old, in fact, no one could say where it came from.  It's doubtful it even exists in electronic form anymore.  This is what the Task Force came up with for Marion County.  

The Secretary of State's audit report on Oregon's housing agency, OHCS, which came out yesterday, casts doubt (at least in the minds of some of us) on Governor Kitzhaber's decision in 2012 to let the agency "live."  Director Margaret Salazar, commented on the audit report and the need for a Statewide Housing Plan, currently in the works, in yesterday's Message to all staff.  She wrote,

As Oregon grapples with the current housing crisis, a plan that uses data and research to inform the investments of scarce housing dollars is a priority. The plan will include robust data analysis and broad stakeholder engagement.    
She continued, "[t]ransparency in how we do our work, both internally and externally, is crucial to this agency's success."     

It's too bad the remaining Task Force co-chairs (Carlson and Clark) don't similarly value data analysis,  broad stakeholder engagement and transparency in their planning, but then, they haven't exactly shown Salazar's humility in the face of failure, either.  So, it was refreshing to receive yesterday, instead of the usual bloviating rah-rah summary of what happened at the last Task Force meeting, this simple message from staff,

The work of the task force is wrapping up. Subcommittees will bring their final recommendations to the group at the January meeting, and the task force will review and adopt a strategic plan at the February meeting. 

One could take the absence of any statement about pivoting, launching a successor organization, getting funding commitments, etc., as a small sign of something approaching humility, a sign that someone at least connected to the "leadership" might be beginning to realize that there are real problems with Task Force recommendations, that they lack coherence and buy-in, and, except for the self-executing ones, will probably never be implemented.  Let's hope that's the case, anyway, because the community needs to move on.  The next Task Force meeting is January 23.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

PTTF: Meeting 9

Ryan G., Nowshin A., Meghan M., Shanbo Z., Devon D.
Despite several absences at last week's meeting, the Task Force members outnumbered the audience members.  There are two meetings left, January 23 and February 7.

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

After another of Dr. Janet'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

  1. broadly describing their project "scope" as  "conduct primary and secondary research" and "analyze and evaluate strategic plans for each subcommittee."  
  2. their research on "Veterans Support" 
  3. and their "Future Project Plans"

The "PACE Project", first mentioned back in October, is apparently the result of conversations between the course instructor and Dr. Janet, to whom the student consultants will report.  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 the decision to contract with Karen Ray, the Task Force was simply informed that the students would be involved. 

Also notable was/is the plan to have the students make recommendations "for Veterans' Needs and Issues."  [See 12/21/16 update below.]  Dr. Janet has given the Task Force to understand that the Veterans committee, which was co-chaired by Steve Bobb and Jennifer Wheeler, both of Polk County, ceased its work without having put forward any recommendations.  However, the audio record of the last meeting and subsequent emails indicate otherwise.  So, one has to wonder, is Dr. Janet telling porkies again?    

As for the students' presentation, it was refreshing to hear comments that reflected current thinking in this area, particularly from the data analyst, Ryan Gail, who talked about the need for assessment tools to ensure the allocation of resources based on a person's unique needs.  These students,  seem to "get" what Jimmy Jones (MWVCAA ARCHES Project) said at the last VC meeting in October, about the need for a commitment to widespread participation in a local HMIS and SPDATs.  These students, unlike the Task Force, are not still viewing about homelessness through a 1980s or 90s lens, so there's some reason for hope.  

The students made several references to "our briefs" that the Task Force had before them, but those briefs have not been made public, so we cannot comment on them.  (They appear to have been  part of a multi-page document given only to the Task Force, based on the fact that the they were referred at various points during the meeting to "page 35" and "issue briefs at pages 31-34.")

[Update 12/21/16: we have obtained a copy of the 38-page document given the Task Force.  The materials not provided to the public consist of 11 "issue briefs", 4 at pages 12 through 21, and 7 at pages 24 through 35. None of the briefs were approved by the committees.

The first four briefs are on eight "strategies" relating to homeless veterans proposed by the PACE students labeled "Strategic Plan Recommendations." The Task Force did not consider adopting these strategies at the 12/1 meeting, and they don't appear on any of the lists of recommendations generated to date.  Basically they call for coordinating efforts to find and house veterans using the VI-SPDAT as an assessment tool, providing bus passes, gift cards and rent support, and developing affordable housing including micro-housing.

The remaining seven, two-page briefs correspond to one or more of recommendations that the Task Force was asked to approve at the meeting.  Each brief sets out the recommendation ("strategy"), the "Problem to be addressed" by the recommendation or strategy, and the "Research basis for proposed strategy."  Like the recommendations they are intended to support, the statements in these briefs are very general.  They could have been written by an intelligent eighth-grader with access to the internet.]   

Following the students' presentation, the Task Force was running about 10 minutes late.  The process of approving the second set of recommendations (see here for a simplified list of all 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.

The level of discussion was, as in previous meetings, extremely shallow, uninformed and even misinformed.  The most interesting thing in this segment was when someone in the audience would shout, "Can't hear you!" 

The second most interesting thing was when 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 Dr. Janet would take back to Karen Ray for further development.  
KMUZ's Sara Cromwell and Michael Livingston

Then came public comment from KMUZ's Willamette Wakeup's Tuesday hosts, consisting of 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 can be found at the end of this post.

Next steps: the Task Force "leadership" is now down to two (unless Dr. Janet and Mayor Clark intend to include Mayor-elect Bennett in their secret planning sessions).  If the Task Force is going to "pivot to implementation", a lot has to happen at the next two meetings.

January's meeting is already pretty full, with the last of the recommendations, or some of them, to be considered, along with the report of the community engagement committee, and what's listed on the 11/1 version of the "meeting matrix" (seniors, senior housing, reentry housing, and "other public safety issues").  That leaves February for everything else, including Karen Ray's "tree planting" ceremony.  If there's a plan, it's not been shared with the public, who, for the most part, seem to have lost interest.  They certainly don't seem to feel there's anything worth celebrating.        

You've Just Been Given $20K!

(Michael Livingston) 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, recertifications, 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 those eight organizations that don’t currently use Servicepoint or participate in the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency’s coordinated entry system.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The MWHI Task Force Strategic Plan

Courtesy Olive Grove

Marion County [Board of Commissioners] just passed the attached item...This is FYI, but we probably want to document it somewhere as part of our work.

-- Janet Carlson

As further evidence that the "strategic plan" being developed by the Post-Truth Task Force is likely to sit on the shelf, presented below is a list that contains all the recommendations, adopted and pending (P), published so far.  They have been edited for brevity and simplicity.  The full bureaucratic text can be found in the documents linked below in all their permutations. 

The first set of recommendations (10, if numbered consecutively),  adopted in September and discussed here, showed up again last month in Karen Ray's list of 10 approved, and 20 pending (P) recommendations.  Some of those 20 pending (P) recommendations have come forward in the second set of recommendations (11 through 22, if numbered consecutively, as shown here), and will likely be were adopted at the December meeting.  The second set also contains several new recommendations (highlighted here).  [Update 1/23/17: the third set of recommendations (23 through 43, if numbered consecutively, as shown here), will likely be were adopted at the January meeting, except for 32, 33 and 41.  The third set contains several new recommendations (highlighted here).  All recommendations in Karen Ray's list have now been brought forward] The pending (P) recommendations highlighted below have not yet been brought forward (and might not be). Note that leadership has elected not to include the recommendations of either the Polk County's Veterans committee or CANDO ("Favoring a systematic response to homelessness").  At the final meeting in January, recommendations 32, 33 were adopted as reworded, 41 was dropped, and one new recommendation concerning service/assistance animals was adopted.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations

Will be completed/moot by the Task Force's last meeting
Community engagement/outreach (5).

Self-executing (requires no TF action)
"Endorse" the local LEAD effort (2, P11, 37).
"Support" Salem's non-existent anti-panhandling programs (P10 and P12, 28, 29).
"Endorse" the local CCO's efforts to get more people into supported housing (3). (allowed)
"Support" MWIC's affordable housing projects (P1 and 19).
"Endorse" MCREI's transitional housing project (P3 and 19).
"Endorse" [Westcare] veteran housing project (P4 and 19).
"Support" any and all DV and family housing projects (P5 and 20, 21).
"Endorse" UGM's relocation/expansion plan (P6 and 19).
"Support" PHA DV and homeless preferences (P7 and 21).
"Support" Dream Ctr, HOME expansion & similar neighborhood-based services (P14, 18).
"Support" SKATS' travel training program (P16, 25).
"Endorse" Salem/Keizer's implementation of the HNA (11, 12, 13, 15).
"Support" YHDP grant to expand RHY services (1, P13 and 18, 19)(not successful)
"Develop" landlord assessment tool (4) (deleted 1/7/17
"Determine" desirability of "temporary support-coordinated camping" program (P9c and 22c).
"Support" Marion County, Salem Health, etc. in creating a Salem-area sobering station (35).
"Support" community partners in creating a one-stop resource center (36).

Not self-executing
Inventory land/buildings suitable for housing, change zoning as needed (P8, P9d, 14, 22d).
Explore CDL as "regional tool" (P18) and adopt statewide resource network (P19, 26, 27).
Create "Development Team" to implement plan (P9 and 22).
Develop senior shelter, housing, supportive services, and supportive housing (30, 31, 32, 33).
Develop medical street-outreach team (34).  
Develop veteran housing and services as per the list under the 12/31 update below (39, 40, 42, 43).

"Advocacy" only 
for coordinating and facilitating grant applications (6, P9b and 16, 22b, 23).
for more money from the state housing agency (7).
for a home-buyer tax credit (10).
for DV/homeless preference in new housing (P2 and 21).
for greater HMIS coverage and a plan to secede from ROCC (P9a and P20, 22a).
for collaboration between providers and WorkSource Oregon (P15, 24).
for policy changes in SK 24J (P17 and 17).
for continued transit service up the canyon (38). 

"Assistance" only
expanding finlit training in schools (8).
bringing finlit classes to the poor (vs. making them go to a class somewhere) (7).
offer training about requirements related to service assistance animals (adopted at last meeting) 


Stripped of excess verbiage, the plan can be seen for what it is: a perfect reproduction of the values of the provider community it comes from, namely Marion County -- siloed, uncoordinated, unsystematic, concerned with turf, and content to base decisions on anecdote and personal world views, rather than data.  That's why, no matter how hard the Task Force tries, this plan will fare no better, and deserves to fare no better, than the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, which is only four years old, and sits on the shelf.  Recall that Dr. Janet*, who was also on that plan's leadership team, when asked what she'd like to see coming out of the MWHI by the end of the year, replied, "some very solid recommendations" that would put some "meat on the bones" of the 10-Year Plan.  Evidently, Dr. Janet was aware her 10-Year Plan needed work.  Why, then, was that the last anyone heard about the 10-Year Plan?  (Unless it was discussed at one of those secret "agenda-setting" meetings.)  The answer: it's rubbish, and everyone knows its rubbish, just like the current plan.  
*We apologize for not having observed Dr. Janet's doctorate in preceding blogs.  We only just happened to notice yesterday from video footage the "Ph.D." on her name tent.  Although we've been to all the meetings, the audience is seated so far away from the Task Force that none of the name tents are legible.  We regret the oversight.

[12/2 Update: to reflect that second set of recommendations were adopted at the December 1 meeting.  Also at that meeting, Verena Wessel said the P15 and P16 recommendations would be coming forward in 2017.]

[12/31 Update: we obtained a copy of the materials given the Task Force members at the 12/1 meeting.  In those materials were six "issue briefs" covering eight recommendations from the PACE students, all  purportedly based on their review of the audio records of the committee on veterans co-chaired by Jennifer Wheeler and Steve Bobb, Jr.  They were: 
1-3 Use SPDAT, VI-SPDAT and VAT as assessment tools. 
4. Provide veterans with bus passes, gift cards and rent support.
5. "Find veterans using rapid identification and assign them to permanent housing."
6.  "Promote coordination among various agencies including HUD Veterans' Affairs Supportive Housing   Program, current shelters, public housing authorities, US Department of Veterans Affairs."
7.  Develop permanent supportive housing units.
8. "Build a 'tiny house' development to house homeless veterans in communities with shared kitchen and living facilities."
It's unclear why Task Force did not include these recommendations in the list of recommendations considered and adopted at the December 1 meeting.

[1/13/17 Update: HUD announces Seattle selected as a YHDP community for our region and feds announce 1115 Medicaid Waiver renewed 5 years.]

[1/23/17 Update: incorporated the third set of recommendations.]

[1/24/17 Update: noted which recommendations were not adopted.]

[2/8/17 Update: incorporated changes made at the last TF meeting.]

6/1/17 Update: final version.]

Monday, November 28, 2016

PTTF: Agenda for Meeting 9

Monday evening before a Thursday meeting.  The agenda's not been posted as promised, so we'll chat a bit about the news from today's committee meetings.

The Caplinger Road project (108 units) has been scrapped, Ron Hays announced today at the Affordable Housing committee meeting.  The Portland Road project (180 units at 3350 Portland Road NE) depends on tax credits and LIFT funding, and probably a bunch of other stuff (read: might not happen).  That's about all there was to come out of that meeting, not counting the formal adoption of certain informal recommendations previously published.

The Transitional Housing/Shelter committee also met today, and had a lively discussion over whether to recommend that Marion/Polk seriously consider seceding from ROCC, with staff and the Center for Hope and Safety weighing in "against", and the Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army arguing, basically, "for" anything that was likely to address this community's long-standing need to coordinate services effectively.  Unfortunately, we had to leave the meeting before the matter was decided.

Ah, here it is, the agenda's come through a little after 5.  Well, as you can see, there's not much there.  The PACE Project item is the MBAs that Commissioner Carlson dug up to help make sure there weren't "just really big things that we are missing in our sub-committees, just because we don't know what we don't know." She also wants them to "come up with measurements" so subsequent generations can know "did we make a difference" with their strategic plan.  That's 20 minutes.

[11/29 Update: the second set of proposed recommendations have been pasted below, renumbered to follow the first set, which were adopted in September.]

The next item of arguable interest (25 minutes) is the discussion based on a memo from Karen Ray, which was required by the terms of her contract with Marion County.  Looks to be consistent with her advice at the last meeting, but, somehow, it manages to be even more ridiculous in this format.   

Kinda reminds us of Rafael Behr's recent description of Teresa May's "enigmatic confidence" about the government's approach to Brexit:

She hired the Brexit tailors, who promised an outfit spun from a new luxuriant cloth with magical properties visible only to those with the political discernment to appreciate it. She comports herself with gravitas, anticipating the moment when this fabulous attire can be paraded. But already doubting voices rise from crowd. Already people are impatient to know the cut and pattern of the suit. And the fear grows that the prime minister, oblivious to impending ridicule, will lead Britain, naked, into a dangerous world.

[11/29 Update: the proposed recommendations to be considered under Item 3 on the agenda, renumbered to follow the first set of 10, adopted in September.  The highlight indicates the recommendation is new, i.e., was not included in Karen Ray's list of proposed recommendations.]

[11/29 Update:  added links to agenda, memo, and recommendations after they were posted to the web page.]

Finding a Backbone

The Post-Truth Task Force was told at the November meeting that they needed to "pivot" from their planning role and begin thinking about who or what is going to implement their "strategic plan" once it's completed in February.  When asked what this "development team" or "backbone" organization might look like, Jon Reeves, the current head of MWVCAA, commented, "[Mid-Willamette Valley] Community Action [Agency] has taken a stab at that, and it has arguably been unsuccessful."

Reeves was, of course, referring to the decision five years ago that MWVCAA should give up much of its
leadership responsibility for the Marion and Polk County Continuum of Care (OR-504), "merge" with the Balance of State (OR-BOS) or Rural Oregon Continuum of Care, and become ROCC Region 7.

He was also referring to MWVCAA's unsuccessful efforts since the merger to coordinate Region 7's homeless services delivery "system." 
Now, the decision to merge came well before Reeves became MWVCAA's executive director, as indicated by the polite use of the term "arguably", but there is really no argument to be made -- it's been unsuccessful. 

Readers will recall that veteran MWVCAA staffer Diane Merry admitted earlier this year, at the first meeting of the Task Force, that the MWVCAA had never managed to succeed in creating a functional provider network in Region 7, and that she hoped the Initiative would succeed in doing this.

And, here we are, back to the problem of finding a "backbone."

To understand the depth of this problem, which Ms. Ray describes as "the big problem of this [-- the Post-Truth Task Force's "strategic plan"--] becoming something that sits on the shelf", and we have described as irrelevance, one has only to witness the spectacle of the PTTF adopting "strategies" and recommendations everyone knows they don't believe in.  At this point, they're all just wanting it to be over, a phenomenon some have referred to as "momentum."

That being the case, the first thing we must do is to lay to rest the very bad idea that the PTTF should continue past February in any form.  They didn't sign up for that and they clearly don't want to continue.  Unlike Ms. Ray, they know their "strategic plan" is rubbish, and they very rightly would prefer for it to "sit on the shelf" as an embarrassment of time and resources wasted, rather than go through some ridiculous implementation exercise.  So the only sensible course of action is for the community to count its losses and move on.     

But, we still need to find a "backbone."

The obvious place to start is secession planning.  No, not succession planning.  Secession planing.  We need to begin preparing to secede from ROCC.  We need to make the Region 7 continuum of care much more effective in delivering homeless services.  Put another way, we need to pick up where MWVCAA left off, and achieve what Diane Merry hoped the MWHITF would achieve.  We even have a "toolkit" to show us just what we need to do. [FN1]

There are two compelling reasons to secede from ROCC.  One is money, the other is effectiveness.  Being in ROCC means sharing a "collaborative applicant"/HUD liason/program coordinator with 26 other counties.  That's the biggest, and maybe only, benefit we've been able to identify -- i.e., no one in Marion/Polk has to take on that role.

We've already pointed out that, as ROCC Region 7, Marion and Polk Counties are today receiving more than $206K less than our last award as an independent CoC (OR-504), which was in 2010.  Another downside to being in ROCC is that we must meet and coordinate with 26 other counties across the state.  Having spent several months preparing for and attending ROCC's  mostly video-conferenced meetings and committee meetings, it is hard for us to imagine that Marion/Polk would not be more effective operating its own CoC, which we're supposed to be doing anyway.

The way Balance of State CoCs are supposed to work is that each of region within the CoC area 1) collects, 2) reports to HUD, and 3) studies its own, regional data, which study is supposed to inform the delivery of services in that region.  But, as Jon Reeves and Diane Merry alluded to, MWVCAA, who's the "lead agency" in that process for Marion/Polk, find parts 1) and 2) enough of a challenge that they never quite make it to part 3).  It's fair to say that there's no pressure on them to do so as long as Marion/Polk are part of ROCC.

The comparison is in some ways unfair, but just to give some idea of the problem, consider that OR-500 (Lane County) released its PITC results in May, HUD released the national figures this month, and MWVCAA has yet to publish Marion/Polk's numbers.  MWVCAA controls and neglects to publish other useful data, as well, like the most recent AHAR figures for Marion/Polk, even though the AHAR's already been published.  So, yes, no argument, we need to look elsewhere than MWVCAA for our "backbone."  

Returning to OR-500, the "backbone organization" for OR-500 is Lane County.  OR-500/Lane County has roughly twice* Marion/Polk's (counted) homeless, but in 2014 (the most recent figures available) received three times as much in CoC Program funds. [FN2] Lane County must be doing something right.  Let's study what that is, and so on, with the rest of Oregon's CoCs, so we know what a solid "backbone" should look like.

In sum, although we do not pretend to understand the intricacies of HUD's funding formula, it would appear to us that Marion/Polk would do better financially and otherwise as OR-504, concentrating on developing an effective CoC within its geographic area, with all its local providers, non-grantees as well as grantees.  This means we should to stop messing about with the PTTF and its ridiculous "strategic plan", and start planning for secession from ROCC, including identifying a collaborative applicant with the organizational capacity ("backbone") to build an effective CoC.  We have one in mind, but will leave that discussion for a later blog.


FN1 - Some in the community are already engaged in this effort.  Not secession planning, per se, but in making the Region 7 continuum of care more effective in delivering homeless services, which is much the same thing.

FN2 - 2014 Allocations
500 Eugene, Springfield, Lane County* - $2,759,198
501 PDX -  $15,478,198
502 Medford - $323,920
503 Central - $530,465
504 [frmly Marion/Polk Counties - last award (2010) was $954,195]
505 BOS -  $3,164,408 [24% or $761,535 went to Marion/Polk]
506 Hillsboro -  $3,164,408
507 Clackamas - $1,717,124

*Lane County's 2016 PITC was 1,451, a 1.5% decrease from 2015.  Marion and Polk Counties' 2016 PITC was 957, a 24% increase over 2015's numbers.