Sunday, July 17, 2016

MWHITF: Agenda for Meeting 5

Meeting number five of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force will be chaired by Keizer Mayor and Co-Chair Cathy Clark.  It will focus, using that term loosely, on the rental-housing market and service coordination.

Right after introductions, the Task Force will hear from a panel of "rental managers" (we think they prefer to be call property managers, but hey).  Expect such probing questions as, why don't poor people pay their rent?  Why isn't there more housing available to poor people?  Why are poor people evicted more often than others?  Why aren't property managers more compassionate about evicting poor people with children and health problems, including mental health problems?  (Those wanting answers to such  questions should read Matthew Desmond's Evicted.)

The panel consists of Task Force member Kathleen Ashley, secretary of the Salem Rental Housing Association and owner of Making Homes Happen, Inc., (probably single family); Violet Wilson of V & R Management, LLC (single family and small multiplexes in Keizer); George Grabenhorst of Sperry Van Ness Commercial Advisors, LLC, and the Oregon Association of Realtors, formerly on the Marion County Planning Commission; Ronda Wymore, Communications Director of of Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service (expertise in technical administration and technical training); and Ashleigh Armenaki, a broker with Windemere, and Hector L. Garcia (not "Garci"), a broker with John L. Scott, both of the Salem Association of Realtors

From the Salem Assoc. of Realtors Website
If you are wondering what sort of relevant insight is likely to come from this panel, so are we.  They read more like career real estate folks that someone on the Task Force happened to know than managers of properties rented to the hard-to-house, not that it takes any insight to realize, "If a family’s income after rent is in the two-digit zone, there’s a powerful temptation to skip a month’s rent to buy groceries or pay a utility bill to keep the heat on."  They certainly won't need more than five minutes apiece (30 minutes total, per the agenda).   

Following the panel is a 50-minute session titled, incongruently, "Asset Maps/Service Coordination."  Incongruent, not just because they are distinct concepts/processes, but also because Verena Wessel's committee on Support Services is, supposedly, in the process of generating "an asset map of existing services."    

Asset Map
An asset map is an inventory of all a community's assets.  See, e.g., here.  An "asset map of existing services" as used by Wessel's committee probably just means a list of all the homeless-assistance services in Marion and Polk Counties.  (No, there apparently isn't one, though we've tried.)  Service coordination, on the other hand, has to do with how a community delivers services, in this case, homeless services.  As noted previously, Marion County does not coordinate services very well, if at all.  See here and here.  

A Typical 211 Search Result
It will come as no surprise, then, that Wessel's committee (which has yet to meet), will not be presenting this agenda item.  Nor should it surprise anyone that the Task Force has not selected Brent Demoe, Polk County's Family and Community Services Manager Director and Service Integration guru, to present on these subjects.    Rather, the Task Force has chosen to hear from Afshin Khosravi, CEO of Trilogy Integrated Resources, a California company that has created hundreds of government websites (what it calls "networks of care") similar to Marion County's now defunct CRN or its successor, 211 (see TIR's client list here), and Walter Reed, owner of Healthcare Business Education, Inc., apparently doing business as "GOODS Services", about which we could find no information [Update: Mr. Reed created GOODS, which stands for Greater Oregon Online Data Services, and apparently was several years ago used by DHS and Marion County.]  Mr. Reed has been to several if not all meetings of the Task Force.

A Typical Property Manager
The "Asset Map/Service Coordination" conflation in this agenda suggests the Task Force is or may be susceptible to the common misperception that inventory = integration, particularly when the inventory takes the form of an electronic database.  Not only is that not true, as a few moments spent with 211 will illustrate, it is especially not true when it comes to homeless- and poverty-assistance programs, which is why you won't find any homeless- or poverty-assistance "networks of care" in TIR's repertoire.

Integrating and coordinating the homeless- and poverty-assistance programs in Marion and Polk Counties is going to require real change in service delivery systems, and real change management.  It remains to be seen whether the Task Force can make itself relevant to that effort, or will continue as a mere distraction.   
The meeting is set to begin wrapping up at 5:30, with 10 minutes of committee housekeeping, including "adopt any subcommittee proposals", and 15 minutes for public comment.       

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