Sunday, September 25, 2016

MWHITF: Meeting 6 - Recommendations

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "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 Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force adopted a total of eight recommendations Monday night.  All recommendations were approved with very little discussion.

Three recommendations we covered in a previous post, though two were reworded (again) between leaving the committee and reaching the Task Force.  The other five are pasted below.

In plain English, this what the Task Force committed to at its sixth meeting:

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."

This week, the Task Force also issued a flyer describing its committees and all the topics it's been dabbling in over the last six months.  

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.

Monday, September 12, 2016

MWHITF: Halfway Point

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

It's the first full week after Labor Day.  Time to put away your summer whites and begin bashing the opposition for not having accomplished anything since last session, whilst you, on the other hand, have been working tirelessly for the good of all.

It's also the halfway point for the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force; 6 months in, and 6 to go.  After 10 hours of meetings of the full, 20-member Task Force plus 2 staff, video-taped by Keizer TV and attended by 27 presenters, about a third of the 29 "technical assistants" who were not presenting, and 65-70 others (some attending more than one meeting), at least 5 to 10 hours by the co-chairs in executive session and about 20 hours of committee meetings, public comments from 10 different people (maybe twice that, if you count the committee meetings) and more than 100 different documents handed out or posted to the Task Force's website, what has been accomplished?

As Commissioner Carlson put it, the Task Force has been "just kind of dabbling in topics", waiting for the committees to come forward with recommendations.

Recommendations for what, is unclear.  Recall that, as discussed previously, Mayor Peterson told the Statesman Journal last January that she wanted the Task Force "to identify areas, projects or programs that aren't working as effectively as they need to be, stop any waste that is occurring, and redirect those funds and those activities."  A few weeks later, Commissioner Carlson told Willamette Wake Up that it was important to support the area's social services providers because "they're doing great work" and the task force was not "here to suggest that what's happening now isn't working."  Then, even as Salem, Keizer, Polk and Marion Counties were in the process of adopting a charter that identified the Task Force's purpose as being "to identify and launch proven strategies that will reduce homelessness" in those regions, Carlson was saying she wanted the Task Force to put "meat on the bones" of the Marion and Polk Counties' 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.  However, before anyone could dust off their copy of that Plan, she was circulating preliminary drafts of what was to become an entirely new Strategic Plan, setting up a committee structure based on the plan, and directing each committee to return to the Task Force in September with at least two plan-related recommendations.

We've attended, or listened to, all but one of the meetings of all seven committees (not the Health and Housing Committee, which is an outside group that has agreed to give the Task Force its recommendations).  All but one (Public Safety) are chaired by a member of the Task Force, and, with a couple of exceptions, their meetings all resemble mini-Task Force meetings, which is to say that they have been heavy on presentations and short on informed discussion.  The committee members seem  not at all sure why they are there, and their discussions are like murmurations of dunlin in slow motion, circling, circling, circling -- never or only briefly landing anywhere.

By our count, only two committees have voted on recommendations, for a total of five.

The Committees at the Halfway Point

 Goal 1 Committee - Affordable Housing & Goal 5 Committee- Financial
The latter was charged to develop strategies that address foreclosure and eviction prevention, crisis intervention, vacant homes/property and credit recovery, but the committee chair, Mayor Peterson, said she wasn't interested in the crisis intervention/credit recovery pieces.  She wanted to tackle financing collaborations for public and private dollars to increase affordable and multi-family housing instead.  So she and her hand-picked committee of three local bankers, a property manager and a real estate mogul met once in May (theirs was the first committee to meet) and talked about how complex the problems were and how difficult it would be to find solutions they could support.  Shortly thereafter, she decided to merge their meetings with the Affordable Housing Committee, as their goals were so similar, and exit Mayor Peterson from any more work in committee.  (Recall that the Mayor has only a few months left in office and that she said last February that she expected the Task Force to take action after two or three meetings and was not interested in extensive planning).  

The Affordable Housing Committee (chaired initially by Ron Hays, later by Councilor Bednarz because Hays got busy with Mountain West Investments Corporation's development of 180 units of affordable housing at 3350 Portland Road, among other projects) has met for four hours, most of it spent listening to Hays talk about how large the problem is and how complicated it is to finance affordable housing profitably.  Other than supporting Mountain West's efforts, the committee are all at sea about what they might do beyond meeting and talking.  Though Chair Bednarz is clearly troubled by the problems of poverty (his wife is a social worker and on the board of MWVCAA), he is just as clearly not willing to work to increase collaboration among housing providers (David Leith asked twice for this, nicely, during the August meeting), or put an affordable housing bond measure on the ballot (Hays asked three times, nicely).  "Politically, I'm not sure that's possible", is how he put it (audio of August 29 meeting at ~00:57) when he was forced to respond, but his meaning was clear.  (Recall that Chair Bednarz, who has for many years made a comfortable living investing in real estate, lost his bid for reelection, and, like Mayor Peterson, will be out of office in a few months.)

Goal 2 Committee - Transitional Housing and Shelters
This committee, chaired by David Leith (the only member of the Task Force beside Jon Reeves to sit on three committees), was supposed to develop strategies to address gaps in transitional housing and shelter beds.  Of course, this assumes there are gaps, which was fine with the committee, who, except for the chair, are all transitional housing or shelter providers.  However, after two hours of no-agenda meetings spent discussing, among other things, the demise of Home of the Brave and the difficulties with the long-planned Westcare veterans' shelter, UGM's, St. Francis Shelter's and the Center for Hope and Safety's plans to expand, and the advantages in more local housing providers using Servicepoint, the region's Homeless Management Information System, they had no recommendations, though they did agree that the bottleneck created by the lack of affordable housing is the immediate problem. 

Goal 3 Committee - Support Services and Education
Verena Wessel chairs this committee, which is run by Commissioner Carlson.  It is Carlson's only committee, and its charge is to develop strategies to enhance coordination and reduce gaps in support services.  After two meetings, they voted to recommend that the Task Force "bring financial education to high school and middle school students" and "identify a training curriculum" that can be offered on-site to people in shelters and transitional housing.  Carlson subsequently rewrote them to read:
1. Assist the school districts within Marion and Polk Counties to offer effective and relevant financial literacy training in selected schools through proven curriculum materials and community trainers.
2. Assist NEDCO, Maps Credit Union, and others in implementing site-based financial literacy training at selected community nonprofit organizations (UGM, Simonka House, St. Francis, etc.).    
What constitutes a "proven" curriculum in today's world was never discussed.  Although Carlson was unable to persuade the committee to recommend that the Task Force pursue her idea for a $30K/yr homeless Network of Care webpage, which would have duplicated 211info, she did manage to get the committee to recommend that the Task Force "explore Community Data Link as a tool for improving regional service coordination and referrals." CDL would also duplicate 211info.

This third recommendation stands out as extremely odd for several reasons.  1) It assumes that 211info is inadequate and the model cannot be made to work, 2) it was made without notice to or consultation with 211info, 3) it was made without discussing the results of a survey of more than 100 providers about their experience with 211info, which was provided to the committee in advance of the meeting, 4) it was made with little or no information about CDL, six minutes after it was first mentioned, 5) it reverses the committee/Task Force roles, that is to say, it's a committee's job to "explore", not the governing body's.

Finally, on September 8, three members of the committee passed two recommendations in the last five minutes to promote WorkSource Oregon "as a hub to strengthen collaboration among local workforce development providers or agencies" and Cherriots' efforts to "train providers on how to connect clients and transit services."     

Goal 4 Committee - Public Safety
This committee was charged with developing strategies and new approaches for addressing public safety issues relating to homelessness, including runaway and homeless youth (RHY).  It's not chaired by a member of the Task Force, so Commissioner Carlson's been helping out when she's available, even though she's not on the committee.  After the first meeting, they decided to focus on RHY strategy.

After the second meeting, the committee voted to recommend that the Task Force "expand RHY services" and, at Carlson's urging, "endorse 'Phase 1' of the Marion County DA's strategy for dealing with drug charges" (referred to as "Step 1" in the DA's presentation).  She also suggested they set up a "grant-writing" sub-committee, which she promptly joined.  On the agenda for that meeting, but not reached, were were these proposed recommendations: "expansion of detox beds", "community education - panhandling - product vs. money", and "fund organizational work vs. [giving] money to panhandlers."    

Goal 6 Committee - Veterans
This committee is focused on housing and supportive services for veterans.  Co-chaired by Commissioner Wheeler and Task Force member Steve Bobb, the committee has had two, very well-attended meetings. These meetings were much more upbeat than those of the other committees, partly due to the relative wealth of resources for this population, but also because of the enthusiasm of the participants.  No recommendations have come out of this committee.

Meeting Matrix
Goal 7 Committee - Community Engagement                            
The Task Force's smallest committee is chaired by Jon Reeves and called the "Focus Groups/Coalition Coordination" committee.  According to the "Meeting Matrix" (which has had several iterations), someone, presumably this committee, was supposed to have begun conducting focus groups and community forums last March, and provide feedback to the Task Force in September.  But, that didn't happen, as they say.  The first community forum is set to take place at CANDO's September 20 meeting.