Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MWHITF: Second Meeting

Yesterday afternoon, the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force met for 
The Task Force 3/29/16
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 MWHITF
) spoke for 28 minutes plus 7 answering 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) together spoke for 13 minutes plus 7 answering questions about the

fr row: Erdman, Olsen - table: Berger, Hays
challenges of making single family home developments affordable.

Ron Hays (task force member and philanthropic arm of Mountain West/Larry Tokarski) spoke for 17 minutes 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.  

Strategic Framework

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").

Rather, the focus, if you could call it that, was on a document provided at (unfortunately not before) the meeting titled "Strategic Framework."  Despite expectations, it does not build on the 10-Year Plan, but "begins anew." 

Now, we're not saying a fresh start isn't warranted.  But, your 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.).  It winds up with the development of some sort of performance indicators -- because everyone should agree how "success" will be defined or it won't mean anything. 

But, judging from the "Strategic Framework" document handed out at the meeting, that's not how the task force approached its process.  This document appears 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." (?)

Hard to know what to make of the list.  Without defined goals, a list doesn't/can't mean very much, not if what you want is a strategic plan/framework.  It's kind of like asking how do you think you want to do this when you haven't yet decided what it is that you want to achieve.  Or what do you want to take along, when you haven't yet decided where it is you want to go.

Now, one could say that all the items in the list relate in some way to the overarching goal of ending or reducing or dealing with poverty/homelessness and other social ills, but if that is the goal, it is far too broad to be useful in strategic planning.  As some on the task force observed at the meeting, strategic planning requires SMART goals.  This framework isn't yet connected to any SMART goals, and it remains to be seen whether they will be.  

Some of the categorized items on the list are clearly just placeholders of some sort.  "Identify target populations..." (Commissioner Carlson has said several times that the task force needs to pick a target population, and she is known to be looking for a  transitional housing facility for her Reentry Initiative); "$40M OHCS application..." and "financing" (?); "Build Community" (?); "Rural Studio" ($20K house demo project); "Healthy Homes" (a HUD program); "Scattered sites vs. projects" (more stereotyping to overcome?); "Radiator Labs" (energy efficiency); "Coordination - meals" (UGM vs. Meals Under the Bridge - why don't they just work it out?); "Runaway and homeless youth strategy" (need one); "No Wrong Door" (never been made to work, doesn't mean it can't be); and everything under Public Safety, except "LEAD" and "Harm Reduction Model" (two things: homelessness is a public health issue, not a public safety issue, and most homeless people do not panhandle).

The remaining items on the list seem to be established strategies that pertain either to 1) crisis intervention, or 2) affordable housing development/retention, or 3) "permanent" supportive housing.  

Crisis Intervention

As discussed at the task force's first meeting, Marion and Polk Counties are currently employing harm-reduction strategies like LEAD where appropriate.  Both have well-established and operated 211 health and social services information line and crisis hotlines.      

Affordable Housing Development

City of Salem staff are in phases 1 and 2 of a work plan approved in February 2016 to implement the recommendations of the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area Housing Needs Analysis, which recommendations include code amendments to encourage private development of multifamily housing.  And, as discussed in a recent post, the interim Affordable Housing Committee established by the Salem Housing Authority Board of Commissioners in December is currently developing affordable housing policies and strategies to recommend to the BoC for adoption.

Community Land Trusts and New Markets (sic) Tax Credits are well-established tools that help non-profits do, and expand on, the sort of things that public housing authorities (PHAs) have been doing for years.  Oregon has several community land trusts.

New Markets Tax Credit is a program of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) Fund administered by the U.S. Treasury Department.  The CDFIs Fund makes capital grants, equity investments and awards for technical assistance to CDFIs, which use a "market-based approach to supporting economically disadvantaged communities."  Community and Shelter Assistance (CASA), a CDFI based in Sherwood, Oregon, is active in Marion and Polk Counties.     

"Permanent" Supportive Housing

"'Permanent' supportive housing"is the primary element of a Housing First program; standard supports include "ready to rent"/financial literacy classes, credit recovery activities, job training, education and employment services, transportation assistance, mental health and addiction counseling, and "navigators, advocates" (aka, case workers).  "Landlord outreach"/"eviction prevention" and "tenant-based [rental] assistance" (TBRA) (aka housing subsidies) are necessary elements of any housing program that doesn't own/manage the properties where their clients reside.  Lastly, programs serving families, veterans, the reentering, and victims of domestic violence are among  the most favored and best supported.  The identification of those four populations in the task force's document suggests that is where the task force intends to focus.  

All items in this category are available piecemeal to select populations in Marion and Polk Counties.  Though there is a lot of "networking" going on, the programs that provide these services are not coordinated, and do not share information.  They are also constantly changing.  If Marion and Polk Counties were to decide to implement a Housing First approach (i.e., develop a comprehensive, strategic plan to provide "permanent" supportive housing for all who need it), they would have to bring programs together in a true collaboration that would require a fundamental shift in the way they do business, like what took place in Salt Lake City.                    

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.  (UGM is Salem's emergency shelter provider, though it receives no government funding.)  The community needs more transitional housing like the Lighthouse Shelter (Salvation Army).  

Kendra and Leah
The community needs toilet facilities. Rate cuts are forcing group homes for the mentally ill to close.  The community wants members of the homeless community or their families on the task force. Landlords do discriminate against those with housing vouchers.  The cost of required background checks is rising and creating yet another barrier to housing.  You get the idea.  So did the task force, but...
No action was taken during the meeting.  The next meeting of the task force is scheduled for May 2 at the Keizer Civic Center.  

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