Tuesday, October 25, 2016

News from the Continuum

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally published under the title, "Developments Downtown."]

"Just a reality of the environment...downtown"
At last night's meeting of the Urban Renewal agency, CB2 Architects presented design plans for a new mixed-use development on the corners of Front and Court Street.  It will use urban renewal funds and bring 40 units of 1 and 2 bedroom rental housing to downtown.  (CANDO officially endorsed this project at its last meeting.)  The response was positive, except the Mayor had a concern:

"I notice that a landscaped plaza is planned for the open area between the two structures and will provide both private and public open space?  Well, being one of the Chairs of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative and dealing with so many of the issues of the homeless in downtown, and the many vagrancy problems that we are facing, I'm concerned about any amount of public space...I'm sure you don't want to build it like a fortress with gates and walls, but as a downtown resident, there are moments when I feel like I would like to live behind gates and walls.  It's just a reality of the environment that we have downtown.

Hasn't thought about controlling homeless
It seems the Mayor "just wanted to be certain that we weren't imposing upon you a responsibility to provide public space in order to receive grant funds."  In response CB2 said, "We have not put any thought into how we are going to control the homeless people." 

Readers may recall that a couple of folks this past summer set up camp for a few days under the High Street bridge near the Mayor's condo, (bottom), generating a social media controversy and upsetting the Mayor.

910 Front Street NE
Further north on Front Street is an empty cold-storage warehouse that some folks were thinking might be repurposed as a resource center with showers, laundry facilities, meal service and some form of shelter or housing for adults experiencing homelessness.  The building is diagonally just across D Street from the UGM store, where UGM's planning to build its new Men's Mission, which will offer many if not all of the same services being contemplated for the resource center).  (Th Front Street project didn't get beyond the contemplation phase.)

The Center for Hope and Safety is planning to demolish the old Greyhound Bus Station adjacent to its administrative offices at 605 Center St NE, across Church Street from the Macy's parking garage, and construct retail space under a couple of floors of "transitional housing" units.  CHS is hoping the City will assist with the project, probably with CDBG, HOME Investment Partnership or Urban Renewal funds. 
Design concept for CHS project

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Minutes 10/18/16

October 18, 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: Deb Comini, Paul Gehlar 
Organizations: Simon Sanduskey, UGM; Brian Hines, Salem Can Do Better PAC 
City and County Representatives: Councilor and Mayor-elect Bennett, Officers Hill and Galusha, Steven Bellshaw, Deputy Chief of the Salem Police Department 
Guests: none  

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present. 

The minutes of the September meeting and the letter of intent to apply to the Salem Parks Improvement Fund for two bicycle repair stations were approved by unanimous consent. 

Officer Hill reported that the Downtown Enforcement Team was down to three officers due to reassignments, but in January would be back up to six, seven including him, and on duty seven days a week, up from the current five.  Several classes relating to the upcoming holidays will be offered to area businesses to help increase personal safety and prevent fraudulent activity.  Finally, eleven volunteers will soon begin bicycle patrol training and are expected to assist with enforcement of disabled parking restrictions.  

Councilor Bennett reported on recent actions by the City Council. 

In public comment, Simon Sanduskey said he had been receiving a number of concerned inquiries about changes in policy and practice at the Mission, and wanted to clarify that the Mission was still serving three meals a day, that showers were available for men in the afternoon, whether or not they were involved in a UGM program, and that the only changes were that the locker program had been discontinued, and everyone was expected to be outside and looking for work from 9 to 3:30 p.m. (except to eat lunch).  The reasons for the changes had to do with safety and a census (around 260) that required residents who were able to do so to become self-sufficientPositive effects from the changes had been seen almost immediately     

Following presentations on Measure 24-399 (City of Salem Police Facility General Obligation Bond Authorization) by Councilor Bennett and Brian Hines, with Deputy Chief Bellshaw answering questions, the Chair announced as unfinished business the motion postponed from the last meeting to adopt the proposed Recommendation to the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force.  The motion was adopted unanimously. 

During new business, Michael Livingston proposed two new motions that were adopted, to join the City Council providing a letter of support for The Big Jump Project and in supporting Measure 24-399.  Sarah Owens also proposed new motions that were adopted, to authorize the expenditure of up to $50 for refreshments for the November meeting, to cancel the December meeting, and to support the four-story mixed-use building, discussed at the August meeting, to be built at the corner of Front and Court Streets and add 40 1-2 bedroom apartments downtown, and more residents to CANDO.    

There being no other business before the board, the meeting was adjourned at 7:07 p.m.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

MWHITF: Meeting 7 - RHY

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "MWHITF: Meeting 7 - Polk County Calls it Quits."]

Less than half the Task Force was present when Mayor Peterson called the 7th meeting of the Task Force to order last night, with about 20 veteran hangers-on like us in the audience.

Noticeably absent were Commissioner Wheeler, Steve Bobb, Irma Oliveros and Brent Demoe, all of Polk County.  Wheeler was one of the Task Force co-Chairs until she resigned, earlier in the day, taking "the team" with her.  (See Wheeler's memo, below.)  Wheeler and Bobb co-Chaired the Veterans' committee.  Oliveros served on the Support Services/Education committee, and Demoe was a technical advisor who, up until last night, attended meetings with Wheeler.

Both Demoe and Oliveros were initially scheduled to present, but Demoe was removed from the agenda last week shortly after it was published.  Although Oliveros was still on the agenda, she failed to appear.

The Polk County teams decision to cease participating on the Task Force was not announced, and no reason was given for any  absences.

Also absent were Bednarz, Blum, Leith, Moore and Starr.

Late arrivals by Mayor Clark and Jon Reeves allowed the Task Force to approve the minutes of September's meeting, aside from which no action was taken.

The agenda called for a 30-minute presentation on resources for runaway and homeless youth (RHY), followed by a 20-minute Q&A with a RHY panel.  There was no panel per se, rather, the Task Force heard a brief encore of the presentation made to the Public Safety committee about what a local, 12-bed shelter for minors would cost (~$.5M) and what the Task Force could do to help secure the federal grant that could pay for it (letters of support).  See the proposed shelter budget here.

Figures provided at the August meeting of the Public Safety committee showed that HOME Youth and Resource Center, the local day shelter for minors, served 514 individuals last year, 83 of whom self-identified as homeless.  During that same period, HOST saw roughly 30 minors in their day shelter and 50 through street outreach, 30 of whom identified as homeless.  As HOST refers minors to HOME during its hours of operation, their numbers overlap to some unknown degree, as would be true of the 11 Marion or Polk County minors served during the same period by Jackson Street Youth Services in Albany and Corvallis.

Some will recall that NWHS used to run a shelter for minors, but it was closed down three or four years ago, and not solely because they lost their funding source.  Parents and DHS were known to drop off or ignore kids and foster-care runaways staying at the shelter, because they knew the kids were being cared for.  That's why the Public Safety committee was given to understand in August that the number of shelter beds needed here, now, was about 3 to 5, and "triple that number if the community knew and DHS knew [a shelter] was available."

Following the discussion of a shelter for minors, the Task Force heard from the superintendent of Polk County's Central School District.  He spoke at length about the District's collaboration with the County's school-based mental health services, dental and health services for students and their families through the Central Health and Wellness Center, and the Service Integration Teams

There was a brief presentation by Jayne Downing of the Center for Hope and Safety, item 3 on the agenda, whose main message seemed to be that the Task Force should not to do anything that might upset the favored position of domestic violence victim service providers, like identifying homeless veterans or the chronically homeless as a "target population."

There was not much in the way of updates from the committees, and no recommendations were put forward.  Asked when the community engagement committee would be ready to report back to the Task Force, Jon Reeves initially said February.  When told that was the Task Force's "last meeting", he replied (with some uncertainty) "January", but he could use some help organizing the responses.  (He actually seemed to think it would still matter by then.)  Finance, senior and reentry housing have been moved from the November and December agendas to January and February, and November and December will focus on committee recommendations.  See "Meeting Matrix" here.

At the very end of the meeting, Commissioner Carlson announced that "we have a group of Willamette MBA students working with the Task Force":   

[T]hey will focus on two areas...they will be looking at what other communities are doing, researching best practices...I have received 1,125 emails...I went through and printed out the reports and I have a stack of paper this high...so we have not had the chance to really thoughtfully digest those and figure out where they fit -- are there just really big things that we are missing in our sub-committees, just because we don't know what we don't know?...I think that is something that will be of great benefit to this group.
Then, once we have completed our strategic plan, the second thing is for them to...help us come up with measurements...we don't want to add a whole bunch of workload to already overworked people on the one hand, but on the other hand we want to be able to say a year out, two years out, five years out, did we make a difference with the things we put in here that we're going to do?  

Mayor Clark also had closing remarks:
I do want to say how gratified I have been over the last several months as we have learned about the various faces of homelessness in our community, that people are becoming less invisible because we're becoming more aware, and if we've done nothing else, we've begun to build that awareness, so I'm proud of the work that we are doing collectively, together to make a difference, one at a time, for people in our community.   

Monday, October 17, 2016

MWHITF: Growing Conflict

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[From material originally posted January 1 and 8, 2017, under the title, "The Hopeless Task Force", and on March 25, 2017, under the title, "The 'Pointless' Task Force."]

While the Task Force was taking its summer break, Commissioner Carlson contacted a former friend, colleague, and specialist in collaboration, Karen Ray, and asked her to submit a proposal for a personal services contract.  The services would be to the Task Force, but paid for by Marion County.  The proposal Ray submitted set out four objectives:

1.  "create individual leaders committed to championing the elimination of homelessness",

2.  "garner organizations and their resources",

3.  "market the effort by making the Task Force's work consumable to the layman", and

4.  "develop a plan for a high-profile roll-out event to the implementation stage."

On September 9, 2016, Carlson wrote to Ray,
Hi Karen - Thanks so much for your proposal! I've edited [sic] to make sure we're in synch with the factual pieces (edits attached).  My plan is to send a revised draft, once I get it back from you, to the other three conveners for their review and feedback.  Then, assuming they like the concept, we can move forward.
One of the "edits" Carlson made was to take out "any references to me, or anywhere where I am separated from the other three conveners.  I think we will avoid sensitivity if we just talk about the conveners and staff generally."   

Carlson was also concerned about the contract's original $25,000 price tag, an amount that exceeded the "sole source" cap, and would require a deliberative public process.  Carlson asked Ray, "Any way you could scale the proposal down to [$20,000]...?" 

Carlson was unable to persuade her co-chairs, particularly Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler, of the need to go out-of-state or pay $20,000 for services that were available in the community, and probably for a lesser or no charge.  It appears that Wheeler especially did not like the idea of the co-chairs making the decision for the Task Force, rather than bringing the question to the Task Force, as a whole. 

Wheeler was unable to attend the next meeting.  On October 4, 2016, Carlson informed Ray,
The co-chairs agreed to move forward with your contract and are excited to work with you towards a strong implementation plan for the future...And since Jennifer could not attend yesterday's meeting, we appreciate your offer to set up a time to visit with her by phone to gain her perspective.
Carlson's announcement that the co-chairs had agreed to move forward with Ray's contract included notice of two "leadership team " meetings with Ray.  On October 6, 2016, Wheeler replied, 
Regarding the proposed upcoming conversations with Karen Ray, I feel that those conversations would be crucial to have before the entire task force as a whole, not just the leadership team.  I do not see the benefit of attending a leadership team meeting with Karen Ray and would rather utilize my time and her time before the entire task force.
Wheeler's reply received no response.  She conferred with her team.  At regular Polk County "Conference & StaffMeeting" on October 17, Wheeler reported that the "all agree that the task force is pointless and [the team] would like to withdraw participation."  On October 18, 2016, Wheeler submitted a memorandum on behalf of the Polk County appointees by email to Lisa Trauernicht.  The  memo stated, "It is with the full consensus of the Polk County team that we will no longer be participating on the Homeless Initiative Task Force.  We will continue to focus on the needs and partnerships in Polk County that best reflect our community, utilizing resources and strategies that support our collaborative nature."

In the email transmittal, Wheeler asked that the memorandum be forwarded to "all members of the task force."

Trauernicht forwarded Wheeler's email and letter, but only to the other co-chairs, Carlson, Mayor Clark and Mayor Peterson.

Through a series of private emails and meetings over the next several days, the three decided not to forward it to the other Task Force members, acknowledge its receipt, or let the Task Force or the public know that "the Polk County team" did not intend to participate in future Task Force proceedings.  

Gloria Roy, Marion County's attorney, would later opine that none of these leadership decisions  constituted "substantive task force matters", and therefore, the leadership was not a "governing body" or a Task Force committee for purposes of Oregon's Public Meetings Law. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

MWHITF: Committee Work Continues

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "Send Up a Flare."]

The City Council last week voted to approve a set-aside of $400K of next year's HOME allocation and $100K of the FY 2018-19 HOME allocation for 288 units of affordable housing on Portland and Caplinger Roads.  Details here.  The housing project is included in the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force's Strategic Plan, even though the Task Force has no responsibility for it.  (The Capliner Road project did not "pencil out" and was scrapped, and the funds went to the Portland Road project.)   

In musing as to how and whether Cherriots will now provide bus service to the new development, it was suggested that the City "send up a flare."  And to think we've ever questioned the Mayor's calling Salem the "Collaboration Capital."

The committees of the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force continue to meet.  The first 20 minutes of the Support Services/Education committee's most recent meeting were spent re-re-writing the committee's first two recommendations (discussed previously here), resulting in: 
1. Assist Collaborate with the school districts within Marion and Polk Counties to offer expand effective and relevant financial literacy training in selected schools through proven curriculum materials and community trainers.
2. Assist Support NEDCO, Maps Credit Union, and others in implementing site-based financial literacy training at selected community nonprofit organizations (UGM, Simonka House, St. Francis, etc.).
Chair Wessel was, it seems, concerned about over-committing: "Once the Task Force terminates/concludes, we're not going to be in a position to support or do anything else to further these efforts."  "Encourage" or "support" was better than "assist", she opined, and a bit later, "Oh, that's a good word -- 'suggest'...we need language that says we support their efforts, but we're not going to be able to do anything about them."  At which point Janet joined the meeting.

"The Task Force will be disbanded in January", Janet clarified, but "[a]ll of these recommendations - there will be an entity that will say 'we will do this' or 'we will make sure this happens'", so "we need an action word that's got some teeth in it, and 'encourage' is not one of those words."  (Janet subsequently said the Task Force would be disbanded in February.)

With the word-smithing of those recommendations out of the way, the committee then heard about the needs of homeless students in the Salem-Keizer School District.  The problems/barriers/challenges identified during the discussion may be summarized as follows:   

1) 10-day drop policy (must re-enroll after 10 days unexcused absence)
2) low awareness (unwelcoming atmosphere in District)
3) poor staff/teacher training (trauma-informed/homeless needs)
4) age discrimination (19-20 yo shunted to alternative programs)
5) few in-school supports (high student-to-teacher/counselor ratio)
6) high wait lists (esp. literacy program which has just 3 teachers)
7) more high-needs students generally (not just homeless)
8) homeless students' lower skill level (esp. reading)
9) few or no home supports (including laundry facilities)
10) situational anxiety/depression and related
Recognizing that the Task Force was not in a position to [action word] the District to [action word] these problems, Irma Oliveros (a member of the Task Force) told the committee that what she wanted from the Task Force was to [action word] productive/pro-social options for older students wait-listed for alternative programs -- like the computer lab she used to run at the Ike Box. [http://www.isaacsroom.org/ike-gets-ink/]  
The committee then heard from Craig Oviatt (a technical adviser to the Task Force), who affirmed the situation was as bad as had been described, and told the committee that homeless and at-risk students basically need a quiet place to study and daily encouragement to look beyond their circumstances in planning their futures.

It seems that Craig and others at the Dream Center in West Salem's Edgewater neighborhood have been working with youth for some time and were seeking to open a learning center for students whose parents don't have the resources or life experience needed to help them learn study skills and generally expand their horizons.  He was the last to be allowed to speak.

In summing up, Janet said the committee would need to recommend to [action word] the Dream Center's expansion, along with "a ton of" other things based on the "really rich conversation" they'd just had.

Toward of the meeting, Janet announced "we" are bringing Chan Hellman, "one of the nation's leading experts on hope theory and the science of hope", to Salem in January. It seems Janet went to this conference last spring, and wants to expand Marion County's use of something called the Adult Hope Scale developed circa 1991 by the late "positive psychologist" C. R. Snyder et al. to measure program "efficacy." 

Also last week, the Transitional Housing/Shelter committee met and, after having a nice chat about SROs, voted to recommend that the Task Force authorize staff to inventory vacant and distressed properties in Marion/Polk that might be used for housing or shelter.  Jon Reeves, who is not a member of the committee, expressed his interest in finding a new location for MWVCAA's ARCHES Project, possibly co-locating with others using the Dallas Academy model.  Seems he'd heard the committee might be discussing the disposition of the former Salem Rehab Hospital, now sitting vacant, and right across from MWVCAA's offices.  It was suggested he contact Leilani Slama with Salem Health, which owns the property.

At the end of that meeting, the chair noted that a field trip to Eugene's Square One Villages was being organized and asked whether the committee might want to endorse the development of similar program in Salem.  Once again, Reeves passed up the opportunity to talk about the Home Base Shelters of Salem [http://www.homebaseshelters.org/volunteer-staff-directors] project that aims to bring the Eugene program to Salem.  Even though he is on the HBSS Board of Directors, he didn't so much as mention it.  Instead, Ron Hays, also not a member of the committee, but having knowledge of the Eugene program, cautioned the committee to visit the camps first, before drawing any conclusions.

Conestoga under construction in Eugene
Hays's cautionary advice reminded us of Pat Farr's comments to the Task Force at its last meeting: 
It's not where you'd want your granddaughter to live, by any stretch of the imagination, and it's not where anybody would want to live, but you compare it to an emergency housing, which is one-night-only housing, or you compare it to living under a bush, and it's hugely popular. 
From an historical perspective, it's not at all unusual to find otherwise good and decent people blaming the victims of structural inequity for their situations.  It justifies doing less than one might otherwise, if it were, say, a granddaughter.

But, one day, perhaps in the distant future, society will compare today's attitudes toward poverty and homelessness with yesterday's attitudes toward slavery, segregation and other forms of invidious discrimination, and the comparison will not be favorable.