Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MWHITF: Second Meeting

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


The Task Force 3/29/16
Yesterday afternoon, the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force met for the second time before a gathering of about 85 citizens and members of the provider community.  Absent: Mayor Peterson, Keizer Councilor Kim Freeman (2d absence), UGM Director Bruce Bailey (sent a substitute who left early), and Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton.

The meeting, chaired by Mayor Kathy Clark, started 10 minutes late. 

During the main program, titled "Systemic Issues:  Barriers and Opportunities to Develop Affordable Housing", Rob Justus  (Home First Rob Justus Speaking to MWHITFDevelopment) spoke and answered questions about the HFD approach and the potential benefit of adjusting development standards.

Mike Erdman (formerly on the boards of the YMCA and the troubled Salem-Keizer Community Development Corporation) and Eric Olsen (Edward's Addition, Monmouth) spoke together and answered questions about the challenges of making single family home developments affordable.

fr row: Erdman, Olsen - table: Berger, Hays
Ron Hays (task force member and philanthropic arm of Mountain West/Larry Tokarski) spoke about his research into the numbers of people in need of affordable housing, the cost of providing that housing, and the need for the task force to "look at the [scope] of what we are facing." 

Richard Berger, (subbing for Don Jensen [Keizer Station]) spoke for 2 minutes about how long it takes to prepare to break ground on a development and the limitations of Oregon weather.

At 5:30, Commissioner Carlson began a rambling discourse on strategic planning, handing out copies of the Marion County Reentry Initiative's strategic plan and Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan for ending homelessness.

Oddly, her comments contained absolutely no reference to the Marion Polk 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the plan that she has said more than once she expects the work of the task force to flesh out (exact words, "meat on the bones").

Carlson handed out a document titled "Strategic Framework", which did not appear to build on the 10-Year Plan, but "begins anew." 

A typical strategic planning process usually begins with the development, or review, of the organization's mission and vision statements, a strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis, identification of goals (or "deliverables"), starting with long- and moving to short-term (e.g., 5-year, 1-year, 6-month, 3-month, etc.) goals.  It winds up with the development of some sort of performance indicators -- because everyone should agree on how "success" will be defined.

Carlson's "Strategic Framework", on the other hand, appeared to be the result of some sort of group "brainstorm."  It lists topics collected from members of the task force that Commissioner Carlson then classified under four headings, with three left unclassified: "List of funding sources and amounts", "data collection system" and "Connection to Coordinated Care Organization."

Some of the categorized items on the list seemed to be placeholders.  "Identify target populations..." (Commissioner Carlson has said several times that the task force needs to pick a target population); "$40M OHCS application..." and "financing"; "Build Community"; "Rural Studio"; "Healthy Homes"; "Scattered sites vs. projects"; "Radiator Labs"; "Coordination - meals" (e.g., UGM vs. Meals Under the Bridge); "Runaway and homeless youth strategy"; "No Wrong Door"; and everything under Public Safety, except "LEAD" and "Harm Reduction Model."

The remaining items on the list seemed to be established strategies involving crisis intervention,  affordable housing development/retention, and/or permanent supportive housing.      

Comments by Rob and Lorrie
At 5:46, the task force took public comment.  For some, this was the most interesting part of the meeting.  Their message: we have a problem now, tonight

"We need to house the homeless."  "We should not be proud" of the shelter that UGM is able to provide.  The community needs more transitional housing like the Salvation Army's  Lighthouse Shelter.  Note: TSA eliminated its transitional housing program in August 2017.  

Comments by Kendra and Leah
The community needs toilet facilities. Rate cuts are forcing group homes for the mentally ill to close.  (Carlson indicated this was not a problem.)  The wider community wants members of the homeless community or their families on the task force. Landlords discriminate against those with housing vouchers.  The cost of required background checks is rising and creating yet another barrier to housing. 

No action was taken during the meeting.

The next meeting of the task force is scheduled for May 2 at the Keizer Civic Center.   

Monday, March 28, 2016

No Sleeping No Camping Returns

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston



When a downtown church installed a portable toilet in their parking lot last June, they felt they were solving a problem, and they were.  However, they did not realize that their solution would bring new problems, which it did.  People who need after-hours access to public toilets also need a place to sleep, and it only makes sense to want to sleep near toilet facilities.  So, after a bit, the church made adjustments.

The decision to allow people to sleep on the church grounds was not an easy one for several reasons, not the least of which was the amount of work needed to support the decision. 
Organizers determined that a "Rise & Shine" team of 10 to 15 people was needed to enforce the overnight-only (10 pm to 8 am) limitation, and make sure the facilities were kept clean.  Research and analysis was needed, including interviews with police and others in the community who had dealt with similar situations.  And, as problems developed, they needed to meet as a congregation to reassess the situation.

The decision was made to continue to allow sleeping on the church grounds.

But, over time, despite all efforts, and the sincere belief that their experience would be different, the problems persisted.  There were people who were willing and able to obey the rules, but they could not protect themselves, or the church grounds, against those who were not.  The church grounds were, in effect, no different from the street in this regard.  Recently, the decision was made to end the program. [http://uccsalem.org/clientimages/26941/2016-03-16.pdf].
 
First Congregational UCC Front Porch
In addition to the church's inability to control who slept or came on to the grounds, the all-volunteer R&S team needed reinforcements, and there were just not enough volunteers to do what needed to be done.  So, after March 31, 2016, it will be back to No Sleeping, No Camping at the church.

Exactly two years earlier, St. Mark Lutheran, next door, had had to make the same decision, namely, to end the permissive use of their porches for overnight sleeping.

As part of St. Mark Lutheran's assessment process, there were brief interviews of seven of their "guests", all of them white, four identifying male, ages 25 to 55, and two female, in their 50s.


St. Mark Lutheran Front Porch
A third female, known to the neighborhood as Barbara, was present for an interview, but she made no reply to any of the questions. (Note: St. Mark Lutheran had not provided toilet facilities, only porches.)

Asked, "Why do you choose to sleep on [this church's] porch?", two replied that the porch was "better than UGM", the others said because it was safe.

Asked, "Why don't you stay at [the Mission] or Simonka [Place]?", they named as reasons being forced to accept UGM's religion, its rules, the presence of alcoholics and addicts, the lack of ventilation making them sick, and not being allowed back.



First Congregational UCC Back Porch
Asked, "Do you have any income or resources to help pay for a place to stay?", there were these answers: SSI; VA pension; one had been staying with his step-mother, but she left Salem; another said "I eat at the soup kitchen, under the bridge, and volunteer at HOAP three mornings a week"; another said he'd had income from family, "but now that's gone."  

Asked, "Is there anyone helping you: a caseworker, a friend, or family?", three said a friend or friends, one said he had stayed with his son and daughter-in-law, but had "worn out his welcome", one said a caseworker, and another said no, she didn't need anyone.

Asked where they went to use a bathroom, they all, except for Barbara, said Safeway, McDonald's, and sometimes the Catholic Church.

Asked whether they had any questions for the interviewers, four said they needed a place to store belongings during the day, one said he could make rent but needed a security deposit for an apartment, another said he didn't want a hand-out, but a hand up.

Asked what is the answer to homelessness, one replied help getting an apartment and a job, another said prayer and "being in God's will", another said "a homeless tent city with rules."   

St. Mark Lutheran decided to turn its energies to supporting the Salem Homeless Coalition.

People still sleep on St. Mark Lutheran's porches, especially on rainy nights, but they move on early every morning.
          
Probably it will take awhile for the word to get around that it's No Sleeping No Camping again at the church with the toilet.  And probably some will return despite knowing it's not allowed, perhaps feeling they have nowhere else to go.  Hopefully, they, too, will move on early every morning.

First Congregational UCC, Front



 


[December 2018 Update:  in addition to hosting emergency overnight warming shelters during the 2015-2016 season, the First Congregational UCC have continuously maintained the chemical toilet on its grounds, but have not reinstated their "Sleeping Ministry."]  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Official Plan to End Homelessness (2008)

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

 

[Originally posted under the title, "MWHITF, Agenda for Meeting 2."] 

Commissioner Carlson maintains that the goal of the task force is to put "meat on the bones" of the Marion-Polk Counties' 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness (dated October 2008).  So, we thought a quick review would be helpful.  From page 34 of the 10-year Plan:



The Plan was supposed to have been implemented/overseen by seven work groups, which were assigned goals and strategies.

     
Finally, the plan outlined "Next Steps", including the development of a "'Homeless Connect' project" (step 1) and a task force with a project manager (step 4).

As for step 1, there's been an annual "Homeless Connect" event in Salem since 2010 (see here and here), but it's just a one-day thing.  Maybe step 4 is partly satisfied by the 2016 creation of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force, followed by the 2018 creation of a Homeless Initiative Programs Coordinator position.  Progress on the other steps is harder to measure.       

No doubt the 10-Year Plan was work to pull together.  However, it's not hard to imagine why it didn't get off the ground.  In addition to the goals, objectives and next steps being too general and not tied to benchmarks, responsibilities weren't assigned, and there were no cost estimates, deadlines or reporting requirements.  If anyone wants to put meat on the bones of this plan, they should first  put more bone on its bones.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Annual Salem-Keizer Community Connect

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

 

[Originally posted under the title, "Salem-Keizer Community Connect."]

2016 S-K Connect Report
Once a year, in March, CANDO is host to an event called variously the "Salem-Keizer Community Homeless Connect" (2010-2012) and the  "Salem-Keizer Community Connect" (2015-2018).  It's held at Salem First Baptist Church, across Commercial Street from Marion Square Park.

The idea for the Connect came out of the Marion-Polk Counties' 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness (October 2008).  See here.  The stated purpose of the event is to connect people to needed services.  Resources for the event come from many organizations, including the City of Salem.

This post is about the 2016 Connect.

We could see the vision and dental vans parked along Marion Street, headed west, and a couple of men standing by the provider entrance off Liberty Street.  The doors were locked.

The man wearing shorts, a stained parka and a backpack put on his sunglasses and offered to show us where to find the entrance.  As we walked along, he spoke about his frustration trying to sort through conflicting advice from his lawyer and representatives of the Veterans and Social Security Administrations.  His name was Craig.

Craig had just turned 62.  He'd worked as a general laborer most of his life, liked to read.  He also liked to talk.  He'd been a dental assistant for the U.S. Navy for four years during the Vietnam era, and was receiving a small, needs-based pension from the VA.  He'd been homeless for about four months after the trailer he and his mentally disabled son were living in was repossessed, despite Craig having just paid the owner "a whole bunch of money" in future rent.

Now, he was staying at the Union Gospel Mission so he could pay off a couple of thousand dollars in debt, and start putting money aside to get an apartment.  He hoped his son's girlfriend would continue to allow the son to sleep on the floor, but he seemed doubtful.  He was wearing shorts because he hadn't realized UGM had changed the laundry room rules and his other clothing was temporarily locked away. 

Craig left us with Mike, who was assigned to a  roll-around desk where he handed out maps and attached glow-green bracelets to guests, before ushering them inside to a table where they would tell a volunteer which services most interested them.  This was Mike's fourth year at the desk.  At 11:10, traffic was beginning to slow down.  "The families start coming around now", he said.

A woman with a No Pictures sticker across her sternum hurried past us into the building.  Another asked where she could get services for her dog, and did she need to be homeless to get services.  A burly man in a wheelchair wanted a cup of coffee from the urn by the door, but it was all gone.

As the rain let up, a dozen or so guests came back outside to have a smoke and look after their things.  Bert showed us the many supplies he'd chosen, "But this is the best!"  He held aloft a cellophane-covered square of yellow, "A full set of safety rain gear!" 

Inside, guests and volunteers (blue t-shirts), security workers (yellow) and lead workers (green) exchanged greetings and offers of assistance.  But as the initial rush died down, frustrations began to surface.  "We need to offer more services", said one volunteer.  "People need showers, laundry facilities.  We need to provide these things."  We'd heard the same sort of thing at the Polk County Connect, as well.

"Look", said another, pointing to the 2-page intake questionnaire she'd been given to help guests identify needed services.  "Mental health counseling isn't on the list of available services, and it should be." 

"[This morning,] I helped a 21 year-old man, clearly in need of medication, very paranoid."  As there were no psychiatric services she could direct him to, she gave him her standard advice.  "The younger you are when you learn your signs and symptoms, the better your life is.  Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  He said to me, 'thank you for saying that.'"

"The saddest thing I've seen today", she went on, was three generations living in a car, "the grandmother, mother and her three year-old daughter.  I used to work with the mother at the State Hospital."

Turning left out of the intake area took us to the service-providers' tables - services for children and families, addiction and grief counseling, employment, housing, benefits and veteran services.

ReCenter
Heading straight out of intake took us to a gym that was lined with clothing from the Salt Creek Baptist Church, a ReCenter, pet services, haircuts, and a bike repair station.

Tom and Kim were waiting for haircuts.  They had spent the last four months camping up on "the ridge" before the police notified everyone they had to leave.

"We were right there when the police came [on March 8], and they were very nice about it, because we feel that we're normal -- I'm not sure what 'normal' means when it comes to homeless, and we're not judgmental, but, it was tough being there."
That initial police contact was just to warn the campers that they had a week to find somewhere else to live, and to connect them with social services.

"We met two ladies [that day]...and they were exceptionally nice to us."  Within three days, they'd been accepted into a transitional housing program run by the Salvation Army.  "Here we are, and [there's] no going back.  I'm thankful to be part of society again -- I have a lot to offer, I really do", Kim said.

The Salvation Army eliminated its transitional housing program in August of 2017.  To hear the  interview Michael did with Tom and Kim, go here.       

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SHA to Develop Yaquina Hall

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Yaquina Hall Front
Consistent with the authority granted by the Salem Housing Authority Commission in January, SHA is currently in negotiations with the State of Oregon/Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to acquire certain property on the North Campus of the State Hospital that happens to include Yaquina Hall, with a big meeting scheduled for March 28.  

The building is reportedly sound enough to be a candidate for renovation, but would yield only 37 units, suitable for singles and couples.
Yaquina Hall Rear

Great location and shape (U with a courtyard), within well-established neighborhoods and biking/walking/transit proximity to concentrated employment at government and health facilities, not to mention its proximity to the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA).  But. 37 units in a renovated building is probably not optimal from a purely economic standpoint.  All options should be considered for this property.

[10/29/16 Update: SHA set to acquire the property by year's end and will renovate.]

[3/4/17 Update: property has been acquired and funding is coming together.]

[7/7/17 The Housing Stability Council approved a "grant reservation in an amount up to $4,000,000.00 to Salem Housing Authority" to acquire and rehabilitate Yaquina Hall and SouthFair Apartments.  (The project's size made it necessary to bundle with renovations to SouthFair to make it attractive to private investors.)]

7/7/17 HSC Mtg Packet at 57
 
7/7/17 HSC Mtg Packet at 55
6/9/19 Update:  the City Manager's Update for May 15, 2019 suggested construction, set to begin in May, would be delayed until 2020.   

9/11/19 Update:  the radar work found no evidence of human remains at the site.  See Poehler, B. "Reports clear way for sale of former State Hospital North Campus for affordable housing in Salem."  (September 11, 2019, Statesman Journal.) 

11/27/19 Update:  SHA Administrator Nicole Utz informed the Salem Housing Advisory Committee on Monday that construction has been delayed again for another year at least.  Saying "Don't quote me" on the record at the meeting, Utz shared her understanding of the reason was that the State still had not completed the subdivision plat, and there is no money in the State budget for the necessary infrastructure.  She said the City is in negotiations over costs.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Camp Hayden Quietly Moved On

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


A couple of weeks ago, Sgt. Jason Van Meter of SPD's Downtown Enforcement Team let the community know that K&D Sand and Gravel had asked SPD for assistance removing the large, illegal camp where Edgewater Street merges with Highway 22, known to many as the Capital Manor camp, and to its residents as Camp Hayden, or the camp on the ridge. He explained:

I don't want to go into the camp today and make dozens of arrests.  The Police Department will post the camp as an illegal homeless camp on Tuesday March 8th at 0900.  I would like social services and homeless advocates with us to assist finding people temporary and permanent housing.  (We are already getting the word out to the people in the camp.)  We will repost the camp on Tuesday, March 15th at 0900. 
On Wednesday March 16th, at 10:00 AM those remaining...will be subject to arrest, however again I would rather get them a bed some place other that the Polk County Jail...Would people be willing to assist officers on March 8th and 15th with notifications and offering people housing and services?  Where is bed space available on the 16th? I would like to have alternatives for the homeless, other than arrest, and what are those?

We forwarded the request for assistance to the Emergency Housing Network, a collaborative of shelter providers coordinated by the Salem Housing Authority, sparking questions about numbers and concerns about the capacity of providers to accommodate a sudden influx of people seeking services, as well as offers of assistance.

On the morning of March 8, officers met with representatives from the Salem Housing Authority, the Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and others, where the trail along Edgewater passes under Highway 22.  

From there, they headed west along the trail about 50 yards to the edge of a camp with 10 to 15 active sites.

Most of the 15 to 20 campers they spoke with were already aware they were being asked to move on.  Many were willing to talk with the outreach workers about services.  Most were aware of the services that were available, but some were not.  

After leaving Camp Hayden, the group went to an ODOT property on the south end of Wallace Marine Park, where they spoke with 8 to 10 campers, including a 24 year-old woman who had recently quit her job to take care of her mother, who was suffering from a terminal illness.  After her mother died, the woman was forced out of her home and on to the streets, where she had been since February.  A member of the Salem Housing Authority staff took the woman to her office, gave her food and arranged for housing and other services. 

No arrests were made at either camp that day.  All campers the group spoke with were friendly, even appreciative.

On March 15, SPD returned to Camp Hayden with outreach workers, where they found only ten or so campers remaining.  The next morning, there were only three, and, as they were packing to leave, they were not arrested.

The cooperative outreach effort had been successful by any reasonable measurement -- no arrests, a couple of people enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, several people moved into housing or a shelter and offered services, and the remainder quietly shifted off of private property onto public property.  But, we wondered, will such cooperation be enough in the years ahead? 

On March 18, we went to see whether anyone had moved back to Camp Hayden, despite the owner having given SPD something called a "trespass letter of consent" or TLC, which allows SPD to arrest campers on sight.  We saw no one.

What we did see were more than 20 shopping carts, many, many bicycle parts, camps set off along the right side of the trail, over the embankment, one with carpeted steps carved from the soil.

We saw muddy trails winding away toward the river to other camps, and everywhere torn, sodden and broken things: strollers, pallets, grills, coolers, buckets, crates, cooking utensils, sleeping bags, blankets, clothing, suitcases, water bottles, a surprising number of mattresses, headboards, shovels, chairs, lawn chairs, tarps, rope, carpet, tires, and wheelbarrows.

As we made our way back along the trail, we met
a young woman with short red hair, who was very pregnant, walking west toward the camp.  She was wearing a backpack; her ruddy complexion bespeaking a life spent outdoors.

We asked if she lived at the camp up the trail.

She said no, she just crosses through it.  She lived with her fiance and sister in another camp.  Yes, she knew the people in the camp.  They'd either moved to Wallace Marine Park or the Quarry Camp (partly in WMP).  Some were still moving, but a lot of stuff they'd just abandoned, like the sleeping bag draped over the guardrail over there, and the purple jacket she was wearing.

She told us her baby boy was due any day now, and her sister was just as far along.  She had found out she was pregnant at 37 weeks, but had been taking her prenatal vitamins since then.  She had cash assistance and food stamps, and didn't seem interested in other services.  This was her fourth child.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Poor for an Hour

By Sarah Rohrs


It’s a lot of work to be poor, even for just one hour.

That’s what many learned Thursday, March 17th, while taking part in a “poverty simulation” held at Salem First Presbyterian Church in the downtown area. 

The hour-long simulation was designed to give participants a greater understanding and empathy for those who live in poverty and who struggle daily to make ends meet. 

Social service agency representatives, many of whom help poor and needy people in their work, took advantage of the simulation to be reminded of the challenges those in poverty face. 

Shane Olson of the HOME Youth & Resource Center in Salem took part in his first simulation and said he found it helpful. 

Olson is familiar with homelessness, poverty and other struggles youth and families face in Salem and Marion County. But, he said it’s good for him and others to continually gain deeper awareness and empathy for the poor.

Transportation, child care issues and other factors could be barriers for a poor person that another might not find a hindrance at all.

And poverty is no small problem in Oregon. With statistics in hand, CoActive Connections, based in Salem, painted a troublesome economic picture. The nonprofit organization stages poverty simulations all over the state to raise awareness. 

Oregon’s poverty rate is 17 percent, according to federal income guidelines that some consider outdated, said Melinda Gross, CoActive Connections executive director. 

Using these guidelines, a family of four earning less than $24,250 is said to be in poverty. A family of four earning more than that is not in poverty. 

Some 18 percent of the residents in Salem and Keizer live below the poverty line, and more than 20 percent of the area’s children are poor -- under these guidelines. 

However, if more current housing and other costs are taken into consideration, nearly 38 percent of Oregonians are thought to be unable to meet all their basic needs, Gross said. 

A more realistic annual income for a family of four is closer to $63,000, not $24,250, she said.

Of particular note about Oregon’s population in poverty is that adults in most poor families are working at least one job. 

“Most Oregon households experiencing poverty have at least one person working, and research shows that people in lower incomes work just as much as people in higher incomes. They just don’t make enough money,” Gross said.

Though large in numbers, many poor people feel invisible, devalued or hidden in plain sight.

“A big part of (the simulation) is giving voice to people and their experiences and giving value to those experiences. There’s also an aim to improve policies and services so that they have better and improved services,” she said.

How is poverty simulated? CoActive Connections has developed a model to recreate situations poor families might find themselves in. The entire process takes 3 hours which includes a presentation on poverty, then an hour-long debriefing.

During the event, groups of four people form mock working class families facing any number of hardships those in poverty might face.

Those include low wages, lack of reliable transportation to get to work, obtaining child care, not leaving kids at home alone, health difficulties, plus random challenges, such home repairs or a child sent to juvenile hall.

Throughout the simulation, participants need to scramble to plan how to stretch their dollars, get to work on time, obtain social services and also deal with unexpected surprises, such as illegal evictions.

Their overall goal is to get through a month making ends meet and having a little left over.


“If it was real it would be very stressful,” said Elijah Jung, a little boy who participated in the simulation with his mother, Dayna Jung.

In the mock Xanthos family, Zelda and Anthony Xanthos have had custody of their young grandchildren for several months, following the incarceration of their mother.

Zelda, 50, works full time as a cashier, earning $9.50 an hour, and has little English. Her husband has no high school degree, is diabetic and gets $500 a month on disability

They have a monthly mortgage, utility bills, medical bills, a car payment, and must pay for transportation, clothing, food and other expenses.

During the simulation the Xanthos family had to work together to figure out how they could make it through the month.

Zelda is frequently late for work and has her pay docked. She is forced to cash her check at a check cashing store and loses part of it in fees.

Meanwhile, Anthony goes to apply for food stamps and social services, but after waiting in a long line he was told he didn’t qualify at that time, and he should come back. During the event, the family got a “luck of the draw” card, namely a plumbing emergency.

Both grandparents got sent to “jail” because neither one was home when the kids got there from school.

The family ran out of money throughout the month, and had to pawn a few items to pay their bills and keep food on the table.

During the group debriefing following the simulation many participants said it was hard to pay attention to all the things in their lives.

Some said they found they had no time to get to the store for food, or to spend any time with their kids.

Some of the adults playing children also said they felt abandoned as their parents or grandparents focused on working, making their appointments and going from one place to another.

Other “children “ felt like they had to grow up too fast and spend too much time and energy helping their parents get enough money for the household.

Christopher Hopp, of the Options Family Counseling Services in Salem, played a school teacher. He said he felt bad that so many of the poor kids in the mock “classroom” were sent home with notes to the parents to pony up money for field trips, supplies and other items.

He knew the poor children would be unable to participate and he said it broke his heart. “I think schools put a lot of pressures on the parents,” he said.

Another participant said the simulation drove home a thought that the “poor have no voice of their own.” Another man said it felt like his mock family members were “victims of everything.”

“I was a victim because of the economic situation I was in. The wife and husband lost everything,” he said.

Some participants, however, said they were able to navigate the various social service stations to obtain job training, housing and food vouchers and other items which allowed them to improve their economic situations.

Olson and his family were able to do that because of his knowledge of the system in his job.

Others in pointed out that lack of knowledge of resources and where to go could present an enormous obstacles and lost opportunities to find better jobs and more income.

Meanwhile, Gross and Lori Beamer, CoActive Director of Operations and Outreach, said the stigma and stress of living in poverty are enormous barriers.

Some studies show that those in severe poverty actually lose IQ points because they devote so much of their time and energy to figuring out how to survive, Gross said.

Beamer said once their economic status improves the IQ points start to go back up to their pre-poverty levels.

As someone who grew up in poverty herself, Gross said a primary goal of the simulation is to encourage people not to think of poor folks as “others.”

“I think the most important piece (of the simulation) is something that’s attached to our vision statement and that is nobody will be treated differently due to their economic status,” Gross said.

“We’re all people who have our own individual experiences and we need to value each person’s worth regardless of how much they earn. That is really important,” she said.

Chuck Bennett, State of the City

By Chuck Bennett, Councilor Ward 1, Mayoral Candidate


The State of the City of Salem is very good.


Salem’s economy has been expanding for some time. Employment is up and the rate of job creation has been very good. The City Council has been actively working through its urban renewal and other economic development tools to complete development plans for West Salem, Northgate and downtown. The city is poised to take advantage of a significant level of economic and job creating activity that will be underway for the next several years.


The vacancy rates in all of our housing, retail and commercial space is leading to a substantial increase in the construction industry. New housing is being developed throughout the community but particularly in downtown where the former Boise Cascade site – South Block – has entered its second phase after the almost immediate rent out of out of its first phase. The Rivers condominium development on Front Street is sold out and new plans for downtown housing are coming forward for the next year.


At the same time, commercial activity in downtown has resulted in realization of the one of long held community goals for a vibrant downtown of commercial, retail, restaurant and cultural activities that lasts from morning through the evening hours. There are now three live theaters downtown, public art installations are moving ahead and the restaurant and music scene is in full swing. There is a strong retail sector of locally owned shops and national department stores. And at the same time we have protected our historic character and kept the parking free and available.


Within two years, the city’s Convention Center will be paid for. Planning is well underway for the new Police Station at the old O’Brien auto dealership site in north downtown and a full discussion of scope and cost of seismic upgrades to City Hall is underway. 


In South Salem, major improvements to Kuebler Blvd. are underway in preparation for development of a commercial center at the intersection with Lone Oak Rd.


The Peter Courtney/Minto Island Bridge is nearing completion connecting three of the city’s largest parks and creating a more than 20 mile walking and biking trail through them. The city also has purchased an additional four acres at Riverfront Park that will expand parking and usable park space at the south end of the park. A major upgrade is being completed at Bush Art Barn, planning for development at a 32 acre park at the former Fairview Training Center is underway and work continues at Battle Creek to develop a better city flood control system.


Homelessness continues to be a problem in Salem as it is in the rest of the U.S. An intergovernmental and agency team has been assembled from Polk and Marion counties and the cities of Salem and Keizer to develop a regional response plan including “housing first,” wrap around physical and mental health services and addiction assistance. The group also continues to study responses in other communities around the country.


In West Salem, substantial work in the Edgewater neighborhood has been completed or is well underway. The larger redevelopment plan is complete and planning is underway for traffic improvement projects on Second, Patterson and at the future Marine Drive are underway. One of the most visible changes is at the corner of Edgewater and Wallace Rd. where the new Goodwill Superstore and two additional commercial developments are being built. Completion of the Environmental Impact Study of the Willamette River Crossing is likely to be within the next year. 


On Portland Road, the Northgate urban renewal plan is nearly complete and work is well underway on the public/private Career and Technical Education Center. Nearly $20 million will be spend in the Portland Road area on public improvements including crosswalks, sidewalks, new developments and infrastructure improvements in a major redevelopment in the area. 


Our neighborhoods continue to be the centers of community activity. The Railroad Quiet Zone is expanding this year and will reach all the way past Silverton Road. Downtown a new quiet zone will be instituted along Riverfront Park all the way to the entrance to Minto Brown Island Park. Home values are increasing. The crime rate is down. Our neighborhood services program continues to work with residents to maintain the quality of our neighborhoods. The neighborhood associations are a vital part of the city governance system.

Jan Kailuweit, State of the City

By Jan Kailuweit, Salem City Council Candidate, Ward 1  


Thank you to Sarah Owens and the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization (CAN-DO) for the invitation to share my view of the state of the City.

2015 saw exciting developments and big challenges for downtown Salem.
Downtown livability

Our downtown core saw a major step forward when ground broke for the Peter
The Bridge. Photo source: cityofsalem.net

Courtney Minto Island Pedestrian Bridge. This project is an example of dedicated individuals, government agencies, and local groups coming together over several years to make vision a reality. This bridge will connect Minto-Brown Island Park with Riverfront Park. Six years ago, Riverfront Park was linked with Wallace Marine Park via the Union Street Railroad Bridge, exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. The two bridges will connect the three major downtown parks, with 20 miles of trails total. I applaud the incredible efforts that are making this project happen for our city.
While single-family, car-dependent subdivisions continue to crop up on the edges of Salem, I am excited to see new residential units opening in the downtown core. An example is the recent renovation of the Roth/McGilchrist Building (Gayle’s Italian Market) to include a dozen apartments—an excellent example of historic preservation. And the most recent development, South Block Apartments, has brought 115 new residential units. Those who know me know that I live in the Grant Neighborhood so I can get to work and downtown businesses without getting in a car. These new residences offer downtown employees the opportunity for a very short commute.
Unfortunately, most---if not all---of these new residences are not affordable for lower-income families and individuals, and the entire city is facing a housing shortage. The Statesman Journal recently reported that the Salem metro area has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the state, with housing prices here jumping 10% from spring to fall 2015. We need to promote affordable housing in the downtown area.
Those of us who live in and near downtown know that people are sleeping outside every night in our own neighborhoods. Salem Weekly reported in September that over 1,600 people are homeless in Marion-Polk county, often entire families. It is time for us to start looking at homelessness as a solvable problem and an intolerable situation. I am encouraged by the work of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force—another example of diverse individuals and agencies coming together to solve an urgent problem in our community.
Public safety
I believe public safety is critical for a livable city. I am proud to have chaired the Salem budget committee in 2014, in which we added two additional police officers to the downtown beat after so many cutbacks to staff during the recession. Even with the added officers, there are still times when downtown has no police presence. We need to add back several more officers to reach the staffing levels we had before the recent recession.
As you know, a new police station has been front page news. I am pleased that the O'Brien site can easily be acquired without relocating private residences or tearing down historic homes. I recently took the initiative to request a tour of the current police facility, which was built in 1972 when Salem’s population was about half of today’s population. I was astounded at the cramped quarters for officers and staff, lack of storage for evidence, and the lack of space for locker rooms, interview rooms, and holding cells. The existing space is clearly insufficient for officers and staff to efficiently and effectively serve Salem citizens.
Public officials must be prudent in their expenditure of public funds. In my opinion, this does not necessarily mean aiming for the lowest possible acquisition cost. Other factors to take into consideration are life cycle cost (maintenance, lost opportunity cost, etc.) and eventual replacement cost. I want to ensure transparency as the city takes next steps.
Economic growth
There are a number of recent signs that Salem’s economic climate is somewhat improving, such as Garmin’s $14 million expansion in 2015 and NORPAC Foods’ recent addition of a $25 million cold storage warehouse. However, I believe Salem will need sustained economic growth to catch up with the rest of Oregon. Statistics indicate that the median household income in Salem in 2013 was $43,436--- for the rest of Oregon it was $50,251. Likewise, the median household income rose by 11.7% in Salem between 2000 and 2013, but it rose by 22.8% for the rest of Oregon.
In my opinion, there is a vibrant relationship between government (state, county, and city) and the nonprofit sector in Salem, especially in the social services arena. For instance, there are dozens of nonprofits in Salem serving inmates and their families alone. I believe if we saw similar cooperation and coordination between public and private sector organizations, we could improve regional economic conditions. In particular, we need to foster this relationship to attract higher wage jobs and capital investments, alleviate infrastructure deficiencies, and review possible regulatory barriers.

Local economies rarely prosper by chance. They require careful, realistic, long-term strategic planning. City Council needs to pursue strategies that encourage a business environment where local businesses can cooperate and create a competitive advantage for the entire region. This requires facilitating a process that builds trust and commitment.

The process must include local government, the private sector, and non-profits. It’s a team effort; no one can do it alone.  What will 2016 hold for Salem? I am excited to see our city go beyond divisive politics to build a bridge to Minto-Brown, create hope for the homeless, and turn blighted lots into new communities. We are preparing to invest in our city infrastructure and public safety, and poised to develop our local economy. It will take some serious listening, thinking, and communicating. I’m ready to be part of making Salem a great place to live.
 
Jan (“Yan”) Kailuweit has lived in Ward 1 since 2000. Originally from Germany, he became a citizen 2004. Jan’s experience includes five years on the City of Salem Budget Committee, including as vice-chair and chair. He has also served on the board of the Grant Neighborhood Association and the Salem Public Library Advisory Board. He holds a Masters in Management from Southern Oregon University and has worked for the State of Oregon in various policy positions. He lives in Salem with his wife, Kim, and son.

Cara Kaser, State of the City

By Cara Kaser, Salem City Council Candidate, Ward 1 

 

Salem is at a crossroads, and its people have a choice to make: continue with a business­ as­-usual, small-­town attitude, or fully embrace its unique identity as the major metropolitan area of the mid-­Willamette Valley.   
  
Over the last few years, we’ve seen significant, positive changes in Salem such as the opening of the Union Street Bridge, the rehabilitation of the Roth ­McGilchrist building and Grand Theatre downtown, redevelopment in north downtown along Broadway, and new, thriving local businesses, such as Coin Jam, Rafn’s, Archive, and Barrel & Keg, just to name a few. Over this same time period, our city has ­­ and continues ­­ to face major problems such as poor communication between the City and its people, falling revenue and budget cuts, a car­first mentality that contributes to accidents with pedestrians and bicyclists, homelessness, and an underfunded public transit system, among others.   
  
For some time now, Salem has been just on the cusp of finally realizing that it’s no longer a “small town” and to finally accept that it must approach its challenges and opportunities as a mature city. Salem is not quite there yet, but as the city and its people continue to look for solutions to its problems, we will realize more and more that some of our solutions we devised 50, 30, 10, or even 5 years ago are insufficient for what our city and its people need today.  
  
As a City Councilor, I will work to tackle our city’s problems with the mindset that our city is a large, growing urban center. This means working to better connect people with our city government by making sure that they are included and invited to participate in the decision-­making process of the City and feel confident that the City is transparent in making those decisions. It means working to make Salem more livable for everyone by focusing on pedestrian and bicycle improvements, investing in our public transit system, and working to provide more green spaces such as parks and gardens in our neighborhoods. And it means working to strengthen our downtown, the heart of our city, by growing our small businesses, improving our downtown buildings and infrastructure, and encouraging property owners, business owners, and our community leaders to “Think Downtown First” when looking for development areas.  
  
I’m looking forward to seeing how our city will grow and find creative solutions to our problems over the next 5 years ­­ let alone the next 50! ­­ and I would be proud to be part of these efforts by serving as your City Councilor.