Thursday, May 19, 2016

News from the Continuum

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "Neither Collaboration, Nor Collective Impact."]

On May 15, for the first time in maybe forever, the Salem Urban Renewal Agency's Annual Action Plan (AAP) was submitted to HUD with written comment, the theme of which was that the AAP overstates the extent to which the City engages in any collaborative process with the community, beyond what is needed to administer its federal grants program (link is to City's old website, which links to the 2016 AAP, but access is dodgy, and readers might need to ask City staff to assist.) 

We were not the first to make the observation, however. As noted recently by former Salem Planning Commission member Rick Stucky:

"One of the major hurdles in developing more [affordable] housing is limited federal funds, but also the city's urban renewal [development] department. The department over the 20+ years I was involved with SKCDC [Salem Keizer Community Development Corp.] went from an agency that worked with affordable housing organizations [to] help break down those barriers to one that was focused on HUD compliance. That is not to say the early years they were not looking at HUD compliance, it's to say the staff at that time had a vision and creativeness to work within the regulations and with the affordable housing organizations."  [Emphasis added.]

Dammasch State Hospital
Mr. Stucky's right of course.  Collaboration requires vision, creativity, knowledge and skill, of the sort that turned Dammasch State Hospital into the Villebois Community in Wilsonville.  You know, the one that integrated 73 housing units for the seriously mentally ill.  

Kristin Retherford, Salem's new Director of Urban Development, was working as a project director, urban renewal manager and economic development manager for Wilsonville during the time Villebois was being built, so perhaps there is hope for change under her leadership.     

Shangri-La Staff at May Meeting
We recently attended a meeting called by Kendra Morgan and the Youth and Family Services folks from Shangri-La for the express purpose of having a "strategic conversation about coordinating efforts and reducing the duplication of [parenting classes and home-visiting support] services."

To find out what the barriers are to providing efficient and effective services, they divided us into two groups, rural and urban.  The responses were similar, and not surprising.   

Providers pretty much seemed to accept as given that there was not enough cooperation between providers and not enough money.

Participants were also aware of and lamented the demise of Marion County's  Community Resource Network (CRN), which 211 more or less replaced.  [Update:  CRN was reinstated in July 2017.]

Barriers to Providing Services
  • not knowing where to send/refer someone for help
  • program limitations (e.g., age, gender)
  • not knowing or being able to find out program limitations prior to referral
  • lack of interaction/guidance with/from/for providers 
  • incorrect/out-dated information about programs resulting in a dead-end
  • wait lists 
  • systems trauma (trust)
  • lack of trauma-informed services
  • lack of transition services
  • literacy, language, and clients who just cannot comprehend what is being offered
  • depression and other mental illness 
  • criminal or eviction history
  • lack of ID, parental consent or funds (e.g., security deposit)
  • having to choose between needs (e.g., providing shelter and keeping a youth in school)

The group briefly discussed implementing in Marion County the service integration and co-location models that Polk County uses.  There was general agreement that the programs were effective, but others had tried to implement the service integration model in Marion County, without success.  One participant suggested Salem's neighborhood associations might facilitate collaborative efforts, however, they tend to focus on protecting private property interests, parks, and other quality-of-middle-class-life issues, not on social services.  Organizers did not share their next steps. 

Minutes 5/17/16

May 17, 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
Bill Holmstrom
p=present a=absent e=excused

Residents: Deb Comini, Carla Loecke, Lucy Loecke, Paul Gehlar
Organizations: none
City and County Representatives: Councilor Bennett; Officer Demarco
Guest: none

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, 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 April meeting were approved unanimously.

Officer Demarco reported that there would be another “Coffee with a Cop” at Ike Box on May 24 from 8 to 10a.  In answer to a question, he said the man who was recently found dead in Bush Park had contacted the police numerous times over the years, threatening to kill himself, and had been hospitalized many times because of that.  He lived at the Union Gospel Mission.  The release of further details about him would have to be approved by Officer Okata. 

Councilor Bennett, now Mayor-elect Bennett, reported that the Budget Committee had recommended next year’s budget with several wish-list items, including extending West Salem Library’s hours from 15 to 31 hours a week, a half-time park ranger at Minto-Brown Island to deal with unleashed dog owners, a pilot ivy-removal project at an undeveloped park in a southeast Salem, additional funds to the Salem Parks Improvement Fund, including $20K for a bocce ball court, an increase of $90K to the sidewalk repair fund (for a total of $1M), and $4K to subsidize the “Arta-pottie” project.  He also reported the Council would be looking at adjusting the zoning code to permit AirBnB-type lodging in residential zones (currently occurring throughout the well-off sections of town, in violation of code and the requirement to pay transient occupancy taxes).  He also reported that the intersection of Liberty and Center (just off the bridge) holds the record for the most vehicular crashes.

Michael Livingston reported on the Family Friendly Bikeways (aka Bike Boulevards) project, saying that, since receiving the planning grant, the City had been working with ODOT on a scope-of-work agreement which has now been completed.  The planning is expected to take 12-13 months, and will be assigned to new planning staff arriving in June.  He said Director Fernandez had said there would be opportunity for citizens to comment on the plan.  He also said that, thanks to the urging of Councilor Bennett during meetings on the Capital Improvement Fund, Director Fernandez had committed publicly to “get this [project] done.”  

The board then duly nominated and elected to serve as their officers:  Bruce Hoffman as Chair, Michael Livingston as Vice-Chair, Sarah Owens as Secretary/Treasurer.

The motions of Sarah Owens to adopt 2015-2016 Annual Goals as the 2016-2017 Annual Goals, and to approve purchase of Annual Meeting flyer copies ($6.20) passed unanimously.

There being no other business before the board, the meeting of the Board of Directors adjourned at 7:48 p.m. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

"It's Neighborhoods that drive out the Unwanted."

The Future Trail From Salem to Minto-Brown Island

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

At the last meeting of the Budget Committee, on Councilor Bennett's motion to recommend the funding of addition of an additional officer to the Downtown Enforcement Team in connection with the opening of the bridge to Minto-Brown Island later in the year, Mayor Peterson had this to say:

Mayor Peterson at the May 11 Budget Ctee Mtg
"It is an item that I have heard from the community again and again and again that as we are preparing to open the bridge to Minto-Brown Island and also, even if we weren't building a bridge to Minto-Brown Island, the number of homeless people who are camping on Minto-Brown Island has increased, and the number of people from the community who have come to me and said, please do something, I don't feel safe -- we need more law enforcement to really manage what's happening in our parks, particularly Riverfront Park and Wallace Marine Park.  So, I strongly support this motion." 

Councilor Lewis said he could not support the motion, saying, among other things, that he just couldn't support the idea of a highly qualified, highly paid police officer "babysitting people." 

"If we can't take care of ourselves, then we've got a lot more problems than police officers.  And so - it's neighborhoods that drive out the unwanted, not necessarily the police."

Leaving aside whether Councilor Lewis is correct in thinking people who fear people experiencing  homelessness (or, more precisely in this case, people living in tents) are babies, he is correct that people experiencing homelessness are not inherently dangerous.

What is dangerous, however, is a public official  implying that people experiencing homelessness are "unwanted", and the way to respond to their presence in our neighborhoods is to "drive them out."  It's especially dangerous to the people experiencing homelessness.

Homeless people are far more likely to be the victims of violence than are the domiciled, so much so that Alaska, Washington, California, Florida, Maine, Maryland and Rhode Island have added the homeless to their hate crimes laws.   See here, here and here.

NCH 2014 Crime Report
It's also dangerous to citizens who might feel encouraged to take it upon themselves to attempt to "drive out" of their neighborhoods people they assume do not belong there.

And, it's dangerous to our sense of community -- this "otherizing" of some of our neighbors.

To be sure, encountering people who have been living rough requires tact and training.  The Salem police and Polk and Marion County Sheriff's deputies have that training.  So do many providers.  That's why officers and deputies bring them along when they go to talk to people on the streets or living in tents about engaging in services instead of continuing to live as they are.  Listen here and here.     

As discussed in an earlier post, we really need to stop talking about homelessness as a public safety issue.  The fact that Mayor Peterson, both as Mayor and as Co-Chair of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force, continues to do this shows great ignorance and insensitivity.

As for Councilor Lewis, what can be said?  Do the neighbors of Ward 8, in fact, drive out the homeless from their neighborhoods?  The neighbors of Ward 1/CANDO certainly don't, and we believe our neighbors over in Polk County are at least as humane as we are.  So, perhaps, Councilor Lewis was just very cranky after three hours of Budget Committee meeting and regrets his words.  We would like to think so, anyway.       

by Rhea Cramer
In the end, the Committee did not recommend funding the police officer position, but instead recommended funding a one-half FTE park ranger position at a cost of $52,500.

They also recommended, among other things, allocating $20,000 for ivy removal, $20,000 for bocce ball courts, and $4,000 in the form of a grant to subsidize a public toilets (aka "Arta-Pottie") project.

The PP slide at right is from a presentation by Genia Banes and Rhea Cramer to the 2016 meeting of Oregon's Citizen Review Board. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

MWHITF: Meeting 3 - Veterans

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

A homeless veteran's camp off Portland Road
Based on the most recent census data, there are about 21.8 million U.S. veterans alive today (5/11/16).  Of that, fewer than 50,000 are homeless, according to the latest HUD Point in Time Counts (PITC), which also indicate that that number is trending downward.  See here and here.

So, let's say roughly 4% of U.S. veterans are known to be homeless.

If the information given the Task Force at its third meeting was correct, there are 7,500 veterans living in Polk County and 25,000 in Marion County, so, Marion and Polk combined might be home to as many as 1,300 homeless veterans (32,500 x .04 = 1,300).  See the Power Point presentation here.

That number seems high, given that the last Marion/Polk PITC identified only 116 homeless veterans, and staff at The ARCHES Project put the total at around 300 in a recent Salem Weekly article.  See "Meaningful Hope for Oregon Veterans", 3/17/2016, here.

Looking at the numbers another way, only 7.3% of Americans are veterans (by gender, 13.4% of males and 1.4% females).  See here.  But, based on the national PITC figures, 8.6% of all homeless were veterans in 2014, and in 2015, that figure rose to 11%.

Based on the most recent local PITC figures, 6% of the homeless in Marion and Polk Counties are veterans (116/1,660 = .06).  See here.  Omitting the homeless school children from that equation increases the percentage to 10%, which approximates the national average.

From the PP presentation to the Task Force
So, it was a bit of a surprise to hear the Task Force at its third meeting told there are something like 3,586 (827 + 2,759) homeless veterans in Marion and Polk Counties, based on the "national average." See graphic at right. 

It would seem that someone got confused and applied the percent of homeless who are veterans (11% nationally) to the number of veterans (7,521 in Polk and 25,086 in Marion), instead of the number of homeless (1,660 in both Marion and Polk).

Eleven percent of 1,660 puts the estimate at 183 homeless veterans in both counties, a figure that's comfortably higher than the most recent PITC of 116, but lower than the ARCHES staff estimate of 300.

One of the presenters, acknowledging the estimate of 3,586 was "skewed", said the true number was something like 5,000 across the state.  However, he did not say where that number came from.

Oregon counted 13,176 homeless across the state in January 2015, the most recent PITC figures available, of whom 1,467 or 11% reported being veterans, about what you would expect.  See here.   

Looked at another way, Oregon has an estimated 331,632 veterans.  See here.  If 4% are homeless (second paragraph above), that's 13,000.  While 5,000 seems more reasonable than 13,000, that's not an insignificant difference.  The question is, should the Task Force be making decisions based on what appear to be SWAGs?

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans advises that the first thing to do to help homeless veterans is, "Determine the need in your community."  See here.  But there was not  a single question from the Task Force about the numbers presented at the meeting.

It wasn't really that kind of meeting.  It was a yellow ribbonny kind of meeting.  One Task Force member was even observed crying.  See the video here.

Although told at the beginning of the meeting (correctly) that a majority of homeless veterans are Vietnam-era vets (i.e., over age 50), at least some on the Task Force misunderstood that to mean most are Vietnam vets (i.e., served in-country) and suffering from combat-related PTSD and system trauma.

The meeting was plainly emotional, and the message was clear: in offering homeless veterans aid and assistance is the promise of redemption for not having "welcomed them home in their own time."  The strong sense was that veterans, unlike other homeless, are "owed."  It was said more than once during the meeting that the words "veteran" and "homeless" should not be in the same sentence.

Yet, it appears that the causes of veteran homelessness are the same as for everyone else:  lack of affordable housing, lack of living wage income, lack of job skills, lack of access to mental health and addiction services. 

What ultimately distinguishes the veteran homeless population from non-veteran homeless populations is that there are definite and deep resources available to veterans that are not available to non-veterans. 

On the one hand, the Task Force members seemed to care a great deal about veteran homelessness, and on the other, they appeared to be unfamiliar with all the veteran-specific programs and resources in the area.

For example, they didn't seem to know much about Salem Housing Authority's HUD-VASH program, including how many are assigned to Salem (63).

Mr. Pygott and Ms. Strike
The person in charge of veterans' programs for MWVCAA said she couldn't "speak to details about that [SHA's HUD-VASH program] because I don't know all of the details."  She barely said more about her own "SSVF" and "EHA Vet DRF" programs, which she referred to only by their acronyms.

The meeting's consequent emphasis on the details of the private, non-profit program at Home of the Brave (closed six months later), reprised the subtle message of earlier Task Force meetings: government just gets in the way, or in the case of veterans, caused the problem in the first place.        

So, it was no great surprise that nothing was said about the Salem Housing Authority application to the Oregon Health Authority for a grant of up to $1.25M for a Housing First-type program that would assist as many as 30 homeless and at-risk veterans to secure permanent supportive housing. 

To be eligible for Home of the Brave, a vet must be ready and willing to deal with issues like mental illness and addiction.  In the two and a half years of its existence, 32 veterans graduated into permanent housing.  But, 73 others were turned away, many, if not all, of whom would be eligible for  the program SHA is developing, which will take veterans "where they are", and not require participation in services.

Mr. Sparks, Mr. Smith, Mr. Bobb, Mr. Crowder, Mr. Hall
So, maybe the Task Force should consider government for some things - the harder things that others can't or won't do.

After the "information" portion of the meeting, committee assignments were announced, followed by a draft "strategic plan."  This inspired several rounds of self-congratulation.

Mayor Clark was particularly enthusiastic:
"This is a moving train.  This has already left the station.  People are already starting to make a difference, and I couldn't be prouder than to be a part of a community that says, let's go, let's do this." 
"I'm starting to see some meat on the bones, basically.  When I came in here four months ago, February, I was, "We need to move, we need to move now."...But I'm starting to see the constructs of a real animal with muscle on it...I think we're going to do real well by what we're doing right now, taking the time to analyze, to break [the problem] into pieces, look at those pieces, and get answers...I applaud, actually, Commissioner Carlson for starting this whole thing out, so, thank you."

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 6, when the Task Force will focus on the mentally ill, addicted and therefore chronically homeless.  That will also be the focus of the July meeting.  See here.