Sunday, September 25, 2016

MWHITF: Meeting 6 - Ticking the Boxes

Task Force, staff and presenters outnumber the audience at the 6th mtg
Absent: Bednarz, Bailey, Garton, Hays, Starr

The Task Force has now adopted its first set of recommendations, and there can no longer be the slightest doubt that this whole initiative is just a tick-box exercise with no substantive agenda.

At last Monday's meeting, which was their sixth, a total of eight  recommendations were "approved" along with two committee updates (yes, the Task Force is now conflating recommen-dations with committee updates). 

Three of the approved recommendations were  discussed in a previous blog, though two were reworded (again) between leaving the committee and reaching the Task Force.  (Janet's Rules?)  Pictured are the other five ---------------------->  By this action, the Task Force has undertaken to  "advocate for" (3x),  "endorse" (2x), "support",  "collaborate with" and  "develop."  These mean what, exactly?

Hard to say.  All recommendations were approved with very little discussion (and absolutely no debate), and that wasn't because the TF members were intimately familiar with the proposals.  It was more like they figured someone must know what they mean, so why not approve them?  (Notably, the really bad recommendation to "explore Community Data Link as a tool for improving regional service coordination and referrals" discussed previously was apparently withdrawn [Janet's Rules?].) [10/4 UPDATE: As discussed here, it seems that staff wanted time to write an "issue brief" on that recommendation, as well as others.]    
Here, in plain English, then, is what the Task Force committed to doing:

1) "Advocate for" coordinating efforts to get money for area programs.
2) "Advocate for" more money from the state housing agency.
3) "Advocate for" a home-buyer tax credit.
4) "Endorse" the local CCO's efforts to get more people into supported housing.
5) "Endorse" the local LEAD effort. 
6) "Support" others' efforts to bring financial literacy (finlit) classes to the poor (vs. making them go to a class somewhere).
7) "Collaborate" with the school district to expand finlit training.
8) "Develop" a "Landlord Assessment Tool."

Now, imagine you are a person without a home, or about to lose your home, or someone who is supporting a vulnerable person.  What strikes you about these recommendations, if anything?  Tax credits and financial literacy classes what you were looking for from the Task Force? 

But lest anyone think that the Task Force isn't doing anything, we should point out that they've come up with this really cool flyer describing all the committees and all the topics the Task Force has been dabbling in for the past six months.  Look, they even included a nice photo of  black and brown people looking happy.

Also this week, the Task Force's community engagement committee conducted its first listening session at one of our (CANDO) meetings.  The event was well publicized, and attended by several members of the Salem Homeless Coalition, though not as many as you might've thought would attend, and no one spoke on its behalf.  Does this imply a certain indifference on the part of SHC members and the downtown community in general? 
The conversation at CANDO

Or perhaps a lack of faith in the Task Force?  Who can say?  In any event, there was sincere conversation, and perhaps it was the start of something.

Finally, it's that time of year again; time for the Federal Programs Division of the Urban Development Department to churn out another Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER), which supposedly reports on our progress on our plans for increasing affordable housing and reducing homelessness, but, yet again, manages to miss the mark in the sure and certain knowledge that no one will notice or care that the City is just going through the motions.  The deadline for written comments closed Friday, September 23.  The public hearing is tomorrow, September 26.  One, and likely the only, comment:


The City’s PY 2015-2016 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) is another missed opportunity. 

Yes, we know that the CAPER format is determined by federal regulation and prepopulated with text from the 2015-19 Housing and Community Development Consolidated Plan (Con Plan), which was adopted by the Salem City Council on April 27, 2015, and that it probably meets the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD)’s minimum requirements.  But, from a community standpoint, it is not what is should be, and federal regulations and practicalities are not to blame.       

The CAPER is supposed to report on our “jurisdiction’s” progress in meeting our Con Plan objectives for providing affordable housing and reducing and ending homelessness.  24 CFR 91.520.  If the CAPER were merely “a report on the use of” federal program dollars (as it represents on its front cover), there would be less cause for comment.  However, comment is warranted as the CAPER also contains gratuitous, overly general and sometimes false characterizations about the City’s actions and relationships, particularly its efforts to consult, collaborate and coordinate, that give the reader – including the City Council -- a falsely positive impression of the community’s effort to address local housing/homeless problems.  The two exceptions are the portions of the CAPER describing:  1) federal programs administration, and 2) Salem Housing Authority actions and administration.

The “missed opportunity” charge has another aspect, which is that the report omits to mention relevant efforts of which City staff should have been aware, e.g., the Council’s adopting last December the Salem Housing Advisory Committee’s recommendation to create an Affordable Housing Committee, and, more recently, the Mayor’s appointment of the Housing Choices Advisory Committee to provide input on the development of code amendments to expand housing choices in Salem as part of the work plan to implement the Salem Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) recommendations.  The CAPER also omits to report on the results of the 2016 Point in Time Count for Marion and Polk Counties, even though that information has long been available.  (Lane County reported their results last May.)

Omissions such as these evince a lack of awareness and communication between City departments, and are not what one would expect from a City that professes to be “very active in community collaboration.”  Area recipients as well as providers know that the homeless services delivery system in Salem and Marion County is siloed (less than coordinated and collaborative).   Moreover, thanks to the Mid-Willamette Homeless Task Force, it is now abundantly clear that public officials have only the vaguest idea of what the City and other are actually doing in this area, and the City’s approach to its CAPERs and Annual Action Plans are partly to blame.  If the City lacks the resources to give full and accurate progress reports, it should at least stick to the facts, rather than relying on generalizations and clich├ęd terms (e.g., “best practices”, “huge success” and “cross pollinating-funding sources”), that imply much but don’t actually convey information. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Minutes 9/20/16

September 20, 2016

Bruce Hoffman, Chair
Woody Dukes
Brock Campbell
Michael Livingston,
Vice Chair
Bob Hanna
Bill Holmstrom

Sarah Owens, Secretary-Treasurer
Neal Kern
Diana Dettwyler

Erma Hoffman
Rebekah Engle
David Dahle
p=present a=absent e=excused

Residents: Valorie Freeman
Organizations: Maurice Anderson, St Mark Lutheran and Salem Homeless Coalition, Captain Kim Williams, Salvation Army; Maryann Shad, Willamette Humane Society; Jon Reeves and Ken Houghton, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force; Pam Watson, First Congregational Church  
City and County Representatives: Councilor and Mayor-elect Bennett, Officer Galusha, Cara Kaser, Ward 1 Councilor-elect
Guests: Lorrie Walker, Athena Gray, Kevin Gray,  

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:02 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem. Bruce Hoffman was in the chair and Sarah Owens acted as Secretary.

The minutes of the August meeting were approved unanimously.

Officer Shane Galusha, filling in for Sgt. Hill, reported that UGM was closing its day room to those not enrolled in one of UGM’s programs, and that the Downtown Enforcement Team had visited the CAHOOTS program (a mobile crisis intervention team integrated into the public safety system of the cities of Eugene and Springfield).  

Councilor Bennett reminded the board that there would be a hearing on October 10 on the recommendation of the Public Works Department’s Water/Wastewater Task Force to “reduce rates for…670 irrigators, from $4.24 per unit (748 gallons) to $2.97 per unit” and to raise residential rates “to make up the lost revenue to the city – estimated at $600,000 per year.”  See remainder of Statesman Journal coverage here and staff comments to the Task Force here.  He also reported that on October 12 at Center 50+ there would be a joint public hearing of the Salem City Council, the Keizer City Council, the Marion County Commission and the Polk County Commission on proposed land use actions relating to construction of the Salem River Crossing "Preferred Alternative."

In public comment, Lorrie Walker remarked on the proposed Recommendation to the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force, expressing concerns about housing data collection and sharing violating HIPAA, using systems performance measures, housing preferences for the chronically homeless and responsibility for monitoring progress.    

Jon Reeves, on behalf of the community engagement committee of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force, then surveyed all present as to their thoughts about homelessness through a series of questions, including, “What issues do you see that need to be addressed to help people experiencing homelessness?” “What ways can we combine our efforts and resources to do even more?” “What…strategies should be implemented to help people experiencing homelessness?”

At 7:00 p.m., Mr. Reeves being not quite halfway through his questions, the Chair asked unanimous consent to adjourn the meeting so that those with previous engagements might be allowed to depart.  Without objection, the meeting was adjourned, and the proposed Recommendation to the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force was carried over to the regular October meeting as unfinished business.  The survey was then completed with those who remained.