Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding a Backbone

The Post-Truth Task Force was told at the November meeting that they needed to "pivot" from their planning role and begin thinking about who or what is going to implement their "strategic plan" once it's completed in February.  When asked what this "development team" or "backbone" organization might look like, Jon Reeves, the current head of MWVCAA, commented, "[Mid-Willamette Valley] Community Action [Agency] has taken a stab at that, and it has arguably been unsuccessful."

Reeves was, of course, referring to the decision five years ago that MWVCAA should give up much of its
leadership responsibility for the Marion and Polk County Continuum of Care (OR-504), "merge" with the Balance of State (OR-BOS) or Rural Oregon Continuum of Care, and become ROCC Region 7.

He was also referring to MWVCAA's unsuccessful efforts since the merger to coordinate Region 7's homeless services delivery "system." 
Now, the decision to merge came well before Reeves became MWVCAA's executive director, as indicated by the polite use of the term "arguably", but there is really no argument to be made -- it's been unsuccessful. 

Readers will recall that veteran MWVCAA staffer Diane Merry admitted earlier this year, at the first meeting of the Task Force, that the MWVCAA had never managed to succeed in creating a functional provider network in Region 7, and that she hoped the Initiative would succeed in doing this.

And, here we are, back to the problem of finding a "backbone."

To understand the depth of this problem, which Ms. Ray describes as "the big problem of this [-- the Post-Truth Task Force's "strategic plan"--] becoming something that sits on the shelf", and we have described as irrelevance, one has only to witness the spectacle of the PTTF adopting "strategies" and recommendations everyone knows they don't believe in.  At this point, they're all just wanting it to be over, a phenomenon some have referred to as "momentum."

That being the case, the first thing we must do is to lay to rest the very bad idea that the PTTF should continue past February in any form.  They didn't sign up for that and they clearly don't want to continue.  Unlike Ms. Ray, they know their "strategic plan" is rubbish, and they very rightly would prefer for it to "sit on the shelf" as an embarrassment of time and resources wasted, rather than go through some ridiculous implementation exercise.  So the only sensible course of action is for the community to count its losses and move on.     

But, we still need to find a "backbone."

The obvious place to start is secession planning.  No, not succession planning.  Secession planing.  We need to begin preparing to secede from ROCC.  We need to make the Region 7 continuum of care much more effective in delivering homeless services.  Put another way, we need to pick up where MWVCAA left off, and achieve what Diane Merry hoped the MWHITF would achieve.  We even have a "toolkit" to show us just what we need to do. [FN1]

There are two compelling reasons to secede from ROCC.  One is money, the other is effectiveness.  Being in ROCC means sharing a "collaborative applicant"/HUD liason/program coordinator with 26 other counties.  That's the biggest, and maybe only, benefit we've been able to identify -- i.e., no one in Marion/Polk has to take on that role.

We've already pointed out that, as ROCC Region 7, Marion and Polk Counties are today receiving more than $206K less than our last award as an independent CoC (OR-504), which was in 2010.  Another downside to being in ROCC is that we must meet and coordinate with 26 other counties across the state.  Having spent several months preparing for and attending ROCC's  mostly video-conferenced meetings and committee meetings, it is hard for us to imagine that Marion/Polk would not be more effective operating its own CoC, which we're supposed to be doing anyway.

The way Balance of State CoCs are supposed to work is that each of region within the CoC area 1) collects, 2) reports to HUD, and 3) studies its own, regional data, which study is supposed to inform the delivery of services in that region.  But, as Jon Reeves and Diane Merry alluded to, MWVCAA, who's the "lead agency" in that process for Marion/Polk, find parts 1) and 2) enough of a challenge that they never quite make it to part 3).  It's fair to say that there's no pressure on them to do so as long as Marion/Polk are part of ROCC.

The comparison is in some ways unfair, but just to give some idea of the problem, consider that OR-500 (Lane County) released its PITC results in May, HUD released the national figures this month, and MWVCAA has yet to publish Marion/Polk's numbers.  MWVCAA controls and neglects to publish other useful data, as well, like the most recent AHAR figures for Marion/Polk, even though the AHAR's already been published.  So, yes, no argument, we need to look elsewhere than MWVCAA for our "backbone."  

Returning to OR-500, the "backbone organization" for OR-500 is Lane County.  OR-500/Lane County has roughly twice* Marion/Polk's (counted) homeless, but in 2014 (the most recent figures available) received three times as much in CoC Program funds. [FN2] Lane County must be doing something right.  Let's study what that is, and so on, with the rest of Oregon's CoCs, so we know what a solid "backbone" should look like.

In sum, although we do not pretend to understand the intricacies of HUD's funding formula, it would appear to us that Marion/Polk would do better financially and otherwise as OR-504, concentrating on developing an effective CoC within its geographic area, with all its local providers, non-grantees as well as grantees.  This means we should to stop messing about with the PTTF and its ridiculous "strategic plan", and start planning for secession from ROCC, including identifying a collaborative applicant with the organizational capacity ("backbone") to build an effective CoC.  We have one in mind, but will leave that discussion for a later blog.


FN1 - Some in the community are already engaged in this effort.  Not secession planning, per se, but in making the Region 7 continuum of care more effective in delivering homeless services, which is much the same thing.

FN2 - 2014 Allocations
500 Eugene, Springfield, Lane County* - $2,759,198
501 PDX -  $15,478,198
502 Medford - $323,920
503 Central - $530,465
504 [frmly Marion/Polk Counties - last award (2010) was $954,195]
505 BOS -  $3,164,408 [24% or $761,535 went to Marion/Polk]
506 Hillsboro -  $3,164,408
507 Clackamas - $1,717,124

*Lane County's 2016 PITC was 1,451, a 1.5% decrease from 2015.  Marion and Polk Counties' 2016 PITC was 957, a 24% increase over 2015's numbers.

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