Saturday, February 27, 2016

MWHITF: Blogging Truth to Privilege

Bayard Rustin
The usual expression is, "speaking truth to power", a phrase believed to have been coined by Bayard Rustin that spread with the 1955 publication of "Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence."  Speaking truth to power is what the national leaders of civil and human rights movements across the globe did and died for.  It's not, let's be clear, a local or ordinary sort of thing.  

This blog, of course, is both local and ordinary.  Its focus could hardly be more mundane; neighborhood association meetings and activities, and efforts to address local poverty and homelessness in the central area. 

So why should some members of the MWHI task force be claiming that the blog is not to be believed; that it is "adversarial" and "judgmental", "disparaging, sarcastic and cynical"; that it's "breaking people down who are willing to put themselves in front of a community poised and insistent upon action"?

Well, remember the culture we are dealing with.  Another factor is privilege; the complaints are coming from privileged individuals, predominantly white men, who're used to running the show, or at least their show, and likely relatively unaccustomed to receiving anything remotely resembling negative feedback. 

Serving on a public body when one is not prepared for public scrutiny is no doubt stressful.  We appreciate that.  But refusing to hear what a member of the public has to say because the person isn't willing to give a name (as homeless people often are not), or because the message isn't one you like, or delivered the way you think it ought to be, is not the answer. 

For the record, we have received a few comments and corrections to the blog by email, and we updated the appropriate post(s) accordingly every time or, in one case, explained why we disagreed and posted the opposing view in the comments.  We have thus far received not one complaint about a material misrepresentation of fact. 




Saturday, February 20, 2016

MWHITF: Next Steps

Progress Report on Salem City Council's 2015 Goals

Monday, February 22, 2016, the Salem City Council will receive a report on what's been done toward reaching their goal of creating a well-planned community.  As shown above, the first meeting of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative is being reported as a sign of progress toward that goal.

According to the Statesman Journal, the task force will, at its next meeting, "delve into the housing market and development opportunities." And by the third or fourth meeting, they might start looking at recommendations.  (Co-Chair Carlson has twice said that what she expects ultimately from the task force is a list of strong recommendations).

So things would appear to be moving rather quickly.  But what are they moving toward, exactly?

In January, the Mayor told the Statesman Journal that she wanted the task force to "identify areas, projects or programs that aren't working as effectively as they need to be, stop any waste that is occurring, and redirect those funds and those activities."  However, her co-chair Janet Carlson later indicated the task force would not be looking at program effectiveness.  Based on her questions at the first meeting, and the short shrift given the "Services Inventory" portion of the agenda, it would indeed appear that Carlson expects to focus on housing and housing funding, not services. 

And what about the other members of the task force?  Are they just meat puppets?  Or do they have any expectations of their own?  As noted, the Mayor wants (or at least wanted) to look at program effectiveness, gaps in services, duplication, etc.  What about the other task force members?  What do they want to accomplish?  Here's what they said at the first meeting.

Jennifer Wheeler
Co-Chair Wheeler said she "would like to meet some of the community members who are actually doing the work and find out what services are being provided, and maybe where the holes are, the gaps are that need to be filled."  She expressed concerned about the "invisible homeless" in rural areas who she wants to bring "into the light."  She was "very anxious to find out about services and how to connect people to those services."  
Warren Bednarz

Councilor Bednarz has taken the issue "to heart", spent a lot of time educating himself and feels that's the first thing community leaders need to do -- educate themselves, to know what services are out there, what can be combined, coordinated, etc., so "people don't have to scramble" to find them and so that "efforts can be coordinated."  What he wants out of the initiative is "an action plan, not a discussion, not a report."  He would also like to have a homeless person or a home-insecure individual(s) on or closely allied with the task force because he thinks their knowledge/experience/insight would be helpful.
Steve Bobb, Sr.

Steve Bobb, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and formerly on the Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, who joined the task force because he's familiar with veterans who are "on the streets and the issues that put them there." He's been on a few boards "where they have meeting after meeting, and after a little while, that tends to make me a little crazy" and he hopes the task force will be different and actually help people.

Bruce Bailey
Bruce Bailey, Union Gospel Mission, also wanted to see the Initiative result in an action plan.  He would like the task force to focus not on ending homelessness, but on breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Irma Oliveros
Irma Oliveros, homeless liason for the Salem-Keizer School District who also lives in Polk County, sees a steady increase in the number of homeless families and students.  Although she is "not sure homelessness can be ended", she "sure would like to see it minimized."

Jon Reeves
Jon Reeves, Director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, says we need "community solutions."  Referring to the 70+ members of the audience, "I don't know that I've ever seen this much interest in helping the homeless finding stable housing and self-sufficiency."

Verena Wessel
Verena Wessel, serving as a mere citizen (with 15 years experience in delivering social services to homeless individuals) says "We've got to get some traction.  It's not going to get any better."

SPD Chief Moore is also concerned about the "invisible homeless" and wants to see better coordination of services.  
Chief Moore

Sheriff Myers feels the criminal justice system is not the right place for people
Sheriff Myers
who are homeless, but that's typically where they end up.  So he wants the task force to help him "do right by these people" who typically have mental health/substance abuse issues.

Judge Leith
Judge Leith, who presides over the Marion County Drug Court, believes homelessness is of "truly primary importance to the community."  
This Is Not Enough

Wouldn't you kind of expect, on hearing comments like these, that the four jurisdictions would be pooling a few thousand dollars for a consultant to give them  something like a "Homeless Needs Assessment" or other serious examination of area programs and services that can give them some sort of objective basis for evaluating program and project effectiveness, gaps in services, duplication, etc.?  The providers themselves obviously cannot do it, nor can staff.  But it's something that the task force would seem to need in order to do its job -- at least as some of the members seem to see it.  

3/9/16 Update: the task force has been given the following documents by way of “homework”:
  • The federal strategic plan to end homelessness (FSP) (80 pages)  
  • What looks like a handout from a 2006 CSH Supportive Housing Leadership forum that is clearly out of date (2 pages).
  • A January 29, 2016 article from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ online magazine “Stateline” about cities’ and states’ response to the affordable housing crisis.  

The task force continues to coast at 30,000 feet with Janet Carlson in the cockpit (email updates go out over her name alone).

The FSP was introduced in 2010, updated in 2015.  In keeping with Housing First, the original plan prioritized the chronically homeless demographic over families, and was shifted to vets with the update.  As NCH pointed out in 2010, the FSP strategies are general in nature and lack action steps, points of responsibility remain nebulous, they lack of specific implementation steps and cost estimates, and many of the methods outlined are vague and without firm commitment to allocate funds and implement strategies.

That said, the task force should (if they read it) note this paragraph (page 31): 

The handout on financing is outdated.  Although it’s not recommended for the lay person, you can find current information on the various ways to finance supportive housing here.  

The Meyer Memorial Trust white paper is useful reading.  If you need it you don’t need to read the “Stateline” article.

Friday, February 19, 2016

MWHITF: Before we try to solve the homeless problem

West Coast Mayors

Remember the west coast Mayors' summit on homelessness that took place a few months ago?  One of their  conclusions was that "We don't have enough data to even understand what is causing the homelessness we have in the streets of our cities, so data is one of the things we want to do better."

What about the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force?  Do they have enough data to understand what's causing the homelessness in Marion and Polk Counties?  Are they even asking the question?

"Before we try to solve the homeless problem," said the acting Chair at the task force's first meeting, "we need some very basic information."  She then posed eight questions:
1. Who are the homeless in Marion and Polk Counties?

2. Who are the chronically homeless in Marion and Polk Counties?

3. Is there a standard definition of a "chronically homeless" individual compared to a "homeless" individual?

4. Is it important to make the distinction and why?

5. How many homeless people are there in Marion and Polk Counties?

6. Who counts the numbers and how are they counted?

7. Why with all the low-income housing, Section 8 vouchers, grants, etc., can we not place anyone who needs a permanent home into a permanent home?

8. What barriers do homeless people encounter and what services or tools do we currently have to address them?
Did the task force get those questions answered, do you think?  The task force was given some numbers from the 2015 homeless count.**  But is that census, which is generally acknowledged to be the best method for developing valid trend data, a reliable source of information for the task force's purposes?  Researchers say no, that "the question — 'How many people are homeless?' — is both misleading and nearly impossible to answer in any precise way."  The west coast mayors all had the same data, mind, from their own homeless counts, but they found it wasn't enough.  They needed more.  Likely the task force will, too.  
question — “How many people are homeless?” — is both misleading and nearly impossible to answer in any precise way, - See more at:
How about the last two questions?  There was a panel of experts to help out with those.  Did the last two questions get answered satisfactorily, do you think? Here's a recap of what was said. 

Questions for the Panel**

 Citing data from Multifamily NW's
Andy Wilch, SHA Admin
fall report and SMI CRE, Wilch told the task force that there's not enough because the vacancy rate dropped 13% from last spring (2015) and not risen, allowing rents in the Salem area to rise 10%, and landlord incentives to decrease by 28%.  In other words, "demand."  He also cited data from the recent Housing Needs Assessment that, of the 57,000 households in the Salem MSA, 37% earn $35,000 or less, "so it's an economic issue, as well."  He also pointed out that "hard to house" populations cannot compete in the marketplace.

Shelly Wilkins-Ehenger
Wilkins-Ehenger, Administrator for the Marion County Housing Authority (housing outside Salem and Keizer's UGB), said of 700 vouchers issued in 2015, only 128 families had been able to find homes, and the vacancy rate was, according to her information, less than 1%.
Linda Strike, ARCHES

Strike said the clients in the ARCHES programs "like Section 8" had had similar problems trying to rent "even though we would pay for them."  She identified having a criminal history or a "very bad rental" history as barriers.  She said Community Action Agency has a workshop program designed to help homeless individuals overcome such barriers, but the funding for it was coming to an end.     

Craig Bazzi, CARS
Craig Bazzi confirmed that being recently incarcerated acts as a barrier.

Satisfied?  Or are you left wanting to know more?  Do you, like Chief Moore, suspect there are a lot of homeless folks who're not even on a housing voucher waiting list or in some sort of program "like Section 8."  What about them?  Who are they?  Where are they?  Why should we care?  Who is receiving help?  What kind?  Is it working?  How do we know?  What does it cost?  What would it cost not to provide that help?  And what about that last question?  ("Should there be a focus on a subset?") How is that to be answered if we lack data on who is being helped and whether the help is effective?  The west coast mayors ultimately decided to pool their money to develop a template and collect data.  "Beyond data collection, the mayors also hope to study specific programs from each city – such as San Francisco's Navigation Center."  Sound like a good idea to you?

What do you think? Knowing what you know now, what would you do to try and solve the homeless problem?  (Hint: it's okay to say you would seek more and reliable data and information about specific programs in the area.)

**The document titled "Background and Scope" that contained those figures has not been posted to the MWHI webpage.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

MWHITF: First Meeting

The New MWHI Webpage (text is from the media release)

The Mid-Valley Homeless Initiative task force held its first meeting yesterday.  CCTV was supposed to record it, but it looks like they got only the last 43 minutes.  Maybe they'll find the rest somewhere.  [Update:  the whole vid's now been posted here]

Of the 20 members appointed, 16 were present.  Absent: Gladys Blum, Kim Freeman, Patty Ignatowski, Shaney Starr.

The Statesman Journal's headline reads "Homeless Initiative Members Press for Change."  The article, however, states only that "several members articulated that they hope this committee will be able to bring about real change."  This is very Salem:  publicly hoping = pressing.  The several members who spoke of the need for change were Warren Bednarz, Bruce Bailey, Chief Moore (better coordination needed) and Sheriff Myers ("the homeless don't belong in the criminal justice system, but that's where they end up").

But change is not what Co-Chair Carlson envisioned for the task force when she repeated earlier statements that she wanted the task force to come up with recommendations that would put "meat on the bones" of the ten-year plan.  Would such recommendations satisfy Councilor Bednarz's desire for an "action plan, not a discussion, not a report"?  We shall see. 

Co-Chair Peterson Opened the Meeting

The task force members were grouped (philanthropists - business - providers - law enforcement) and arranged in a square, the four co-chairs seated at their own table at the far end of the Anderson Room, under the display screen.  Those on the side opposite (providers) sat seated with their backs to 70+ people crammed into the other half of the room, many of whom were  technical advisers to the task force.  Just a handful of audience members were not representing media or a service organization of some sort. 
Audience (partial)

The meeting started fifteen minutes late with comments from the Co-Chairs, followed by introductions all around.  When it came his turn, Jon Reeves, with his back to the audience, commented on their number, praising their interest in homelessness as rare and much needed if the initiative was to have any success.  This struck us as somewhat odd, until we heard Diane Merry (subbing for Amber Reeves) admit that the Community Action Agency had never managed to succeed in creating a functional network of local service providers, something we've long suspected, and that she hoped that the Initiative would succeed in doing this.  The question is, are they even going to try?

What, for instance, did the mayor mean when she said, "We are just beginning what will take a community focus."  The provider community?  Or everybody?  If the latter, what's the plan to involve them/us?  There is none.    

Co-Chair Carlson Querys Task Force Panel

After introductions, the "orientation" began with that Jon Stewart video Commissioner Carlson likes so much.  After that, the air began to thicken with jargon and carbon dioxide as all available oxygen gradually left the room, and task force members began to feel as confused as Hasan Minhaj in the Daily Show video.  Finally, at ten 'til six, Councilor Bednarz called a halt.  (Chair-for-the-meeting Peterson had left by then.)  He wanted some "idea where we're headed", that it was 41 days until the next meeting, and he "wanted some action tonight", or "at least homework" for the task force members.  He did not get either.  Co-Chair Carlson assured him that she and her fellow Co-Chairs would be debriefing this
Councilor Bednarz
meeting and planning future meetings, and would
be happy to receive his input.  Carlson told the
Statesman Journal that they might be able to start looking at recommendations by the third or fourth meeting.

A total of eight meetings remain within which the task force is scheduled to complete its work: March 29, May 2, June 6, July 20, September 19, October 17, November 17 and December 1. 

[Update: added detail about task force grouping and July meeting date.]

[Update: agendas and some informational materials are available at the MWHI webpage on the Marion County website (some provided at the meeting, some not, and the "Background and Scope" document used in the first presentation was not posted).  Note:  you end up at the MC site if you go here:]

[Update: meeting attendees

Technical Advisors
Herm Boes, SLF
Diane Merry, Linda Strike MWVCAA
Brent Demoe, Community & Family Svces, PC
Tiffany Ottis, Roberta Moore, CHP
Jayne Downing, CHS
Craig Bazzi, MCJD
Faye Fagel, MCJD
Sharon Nielson, Nielson Group
Andy Wilch, Pamala Garrick, SHA
Christian Edelblute, Sheri Beehner WVHA
Shelly Wilkins-Ehenger, MCHA

Public Safety Reps
Paige Clarkson, Deputy DA, MC
Tim Fox, OSP

Health Care Reps
Cami Jack, Salem Health
Rachel R, Silverton Health
Margaret Terry, MVBCN
Sara Carrillo, OHA/OHP
Robin Sischo, Marion County Health, TAY
Bill Guest, CEO, Willamette Valley Community Health
Walter Reed, HBE Inc.

Social Svces Reps
Janet Scott, DHS, SSP
Melissa Baurer, Community Services Director, Salvation Army
Rick Burnette, Shangri-La
Stephen Goins, NWHS
Eva Corbin, Carolyn ___, Grace House/Shellys House
Jeanne Knight, UGM/Simonka Place
Maureen Casey, Erin Chris Jones, CCS
Linda Bednarz, MWVCAA board

Other Org Reps
DJ Vincent, SLF
Bill Hayden, First Congregational Church
Terry Howard, Volcanoes
Kai Blevins, Salem Social Justice Collective 
Ken & Jan Nelley, OR Voices
David Lewis, Capitol Manor
Melissa Scott, PSU

Gov't Reps
Tom Andersen, Salem City Council
Evan Sorce, Chief of Staff, Representative Paul Evans
David Clyne, City Mgr, Independence
Steve Powers, City Mrg, Salem

Sarah Owens, Michael Livingston, Sara Cromwell KMUZ
Craig Murphy, Keizertimes

Community Members
Pam Rawlins
Pam McCollum, LCSW
Jane Silbernagel, LCSW
Peter Bergel
Lorrie Walker
Maurice Anderson
Sheronne Blasi
Jane Doe ]

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Minutes 2/16/16

February 16, 2016

David Dahle, Chair
Woody Dukes
Brock Campbell
Michael Livingston,
Vice Chair
Bob Hanna
Diana Dettwyler

Erma Hoffman, Treasurer
Bruce Hoffman
Neal Kern

Sarah Owens, Sec’y
Rebekah Engle

p=present a=absent e=excused

Residents: Bill Holmstrom, Deb Comini
Organizations: Don Russo, Elsinore Theater; Maurice Anderson, Salem Homeless Coalition
City and County Representatives: Councilor Bennett; Officer Vanmeter; Steve Powers, City Manager
Guest: Cara Kaser, Ward 1 Candidate

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem. David Dahle was in the chair and Sarah Owens acted as secretary.

The minutes of the January meeting were approved unanimously.

Officer Vanmeter reported that he continues to receive complaints about garbage under the bridge and talked about how he intends to clean it up using his contacts at UGM, the crisis response team, and a LEAD-type of approach. 

Councilor Bennett reported there would be another work session on the siting and design of a new police facility on February 22, followed by a public hearing on February 29. He also reported on the decisions made at the last Council meeting to create a quiet zone through downtown and to authorize use of Streets and Bridges General Obligation Bond funds for right-of-way acquisition and construction of Marine Drive NW south of the Urban Growth Boundary (near Cameo Drive NW), but not to allow opportunity purchases of right-of-way needs in Marion County for the Salem River Crossing Preferred Alternative (aka, the Third Bridge). 

In public comment, Cara Kaser introduced herself as a candidate for the Ward 1 position on the City Council, and treasurer Erma Hoffman explained that, with respect to the SPIF grant application for funds to purchase playground equipment for Pringle Park, she had simply chosen the “most expensive” option of three, and that if matching funds cannot be found, a less expensive option could be chosen.  

The board then heard a presentation by City Manager Steve Powers on his view of the City’s challenges and priorities over the next few years. 

There being no other business before the board, the meeting of the Board of Directors adjourned at 7:02 p.m.