Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Perennial Overnight Warming Shelter Problem

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Wednesday12/13/17
Saturday 12/16/17


Winter.  The holidays.  The cold.  The dark.  People are seen sleeping on the streets, and they make others --  those with homes to go to -- feel uncomfortable.  Not afraid, just uncomfortable.  It's, you know, a moral thing, that descends with the winter darkness, and  weighs on one's soul.
  
The grumbling begins, first on FB.  It moves to email (Mayor, City Manager, MWVCAA).  Then the Statesman Journal runs a story.  Then a local business steps up.  Then there's a story about that, and then City officials say they're exploring other options. Then AP and the Oregonian pick up the story about the local business stepping up.  Then there's a meeting at City Hall, and...nothing changes, except the critical audience has expanded to the state and the nation.  Before the week is out, the warm and fuzzy from The Great American Eclipse is all but forgotten.

Given the planning that made the Eclipse such a success, you'd have thought the City would be able to get out in front of something that happens every winter.  Sadly, you'd have been wrong.  At our October meeting, Ward 1 Councilor Kaser reported "plans are in place for a warming center", but she didn't go into any detail.  MWVCAA was handling it, weren't they?   
Thursday Evening 12/14/17
Sunday 12/10/17
If the City's at fault, it's for blindly relying on MWVCAA, Charlie Brown style, year after year, despite previous disap-pointments.  Or, as Virginia Tate put it in a post  about MWVCAA's "coordinated entry" program:

"This has been my experience with every program the MWVCAA offers. When I lost my job and was afraid I’d lose my home, I went to the office. There was one woman sitting in a very nice office and no other activity going on. I shared my experience and she handed me a booklet of agencies and that was that.  No other personal contact. No other assistance.  The booklet had one or two places that might help, but other information was out of date.   In fact, every time I’ve called their office, nothing.  Their staff is ridiculously uninformed and have no idea how to deal with vulnerable populations."

Monday 12/11/17
Tuesday 12/12/17
Tate con-tinued, "I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a group of agencies that came together to build an adult learning center that offered GED, adult literacy, support services, job opportunities, and computer classes. Until all of these agencies come together and discuss how best to spend their resources and limited funds, fewer and fewer people will be served."  (Emphasis added.)  Make that, fewer people are being served.

Wednesday 12/13/17
Thursday Evening 12/14/17


The hope that the City would step in with resources continued into Friday, December 15, by which time the focus had shifted from where to locate the warming shelter (MWVCAA having claimed initially -- and falsely -- that the problem was the lack of a dedicated space) to volunteers trained to staff the shelter.

Friday Morning 12/15/17
Virginia posted another comment: "I hate to nitpick now that things are moving (sorta) but I see where they [MWVCAA] had a volunteer training on Nov 6th for warming centers. People commented they were interested and how do they sign up. They answered no new training was scheduled. I also saw where they [MWVCAA] posted in early Dec for volunteers for other counties - Polk, Yamhill, etc. Nothing for Marion. I don't see a new training post. So, where are the volunteers that were trained in Nov?  I feel they may have let this fall through the cracks and now here we are." (Emphasis added.) 

Les Margosian replied: "Having volunteered at warming shelters over the last several years, I'm surprised to read that a shortage of volunteers is a major reason for not being able to open. We have not received the customary call for volunteers and I'm thinking that IF this is one of the reasons, its strictly a BS reason. Also, I'm thinking that waiting til Hell freezes over for opening our shelters is probably not a valid criteria."  (Emphasis added.)  Nevertheless, the "hell freezes over" criteria remained in place following Friday's meeting between City officials and MWVCAA's director, Jon Reeves.

Friday Afternoon 12/15/17
"
The forecast looks pretty evident,"  Reeves told the Statesman Journal  on Friday, as if the decision to open was entirely in the hands of meteorologists.  Anything to distract from questions on the practical issues allegedly preventing MWVCAA from asking the City for the emergency declaration that would permit available spaces to be used as warming shelters.   

Reeves also told the SJ on Friday that "City officials are 'definitely working on ways to support the effort'."  And he didn't want to say what those "ways" might be because, what?  We might expect results? 

Colt Broadlayson, agreeing with Les, felt like "MWVCAA has been giving us the run around."  Susann Kaltwasser said she'd "come to the same conclusion. MWVCAA is not doing a good job on several levels. I think the problems run deep and I am going to urge my elected representatives to start digging into some issues."

Saturday 12/16/17
"They [MWVCAA] said the criteria for not opening was based on Red Cross criteria, then when checked out, we find out that RC has no criteria." 

"When some try to volunteer they are told by MWVCAA that they have enough volunteers and the next training is in January. Something is not right."



Bonnie Davidson commented, "Perhaps a good strong look into how MWVCAA really spends the various grants and donations it receives is due. Shame on this agency that purportedly exists (and whose employees are very well paid and comfy warm at night) to serve the poor. Salem residents should keep shining a light on how the least among us are not being served by MWVCAA.

Dana Sidhe Seer Canning commented, "MWVCAA in my humble opinion should be removed from the city's go to list period! Churches/ Businesses should be involved and volunteers can staff. Aren't we paying someone $55k to coordinate the homeless [services delivery]? Surely if the city would green light use of a building I would gladly take responsibility to staff and care for our fellow community members.

Yes, the City is paying someone to coordinate homeless services.  In fact, they're paying several.  In addition to the recently funded Homeless Program Coordinator position at the Council of Governments (which support was a trade off for the County's support of the Mayor's sobering center -- the City's share being $45K, not $55K), there are two Federal Programs staff in the Urban Development Department overseeing the Community Services and Housing Commission which is charged under SRC Chapter 20G to execute certain duties, including "Initiat[ing] efforts toward exchanging information for the purpose of coordinating social service delivery systems, public and private, and their governing and administrative bodies that affect the Salem area population."  There's also the Salem Housing Authority that staff the Emergency Housing Network and coordinate all the service providers needed to run their Housing Rental Assistance Program (HRAP). 

Monday 12/18/18
By week's end, it was clear to the community that the problem wasn't a lack of space or insufficient trained volunteers, it was MWVCAA, which remained steadfast in its commitment to a "prevent death" standard, when some, maybe many, in the community believe the standard should be higher, more along the lines of "prevent suffering."  But, preventing suffering takes many more resources than preventing death.  This question -- what are we really wanting to do --  is Salem's perennial warming shelter problem.  

Will the community retain in 2018 what it has learned in 2017?  Or will they/we and the City again rely on MWVCAA for warming center planning?  Because, if we do rely on MWVCAA, it's Groundhog Day.  

Golf, anyone?  

Monday 12/18/17

Update 12/18/17:  MWVCAA determined that their forecast criteria had been met, and activated a warming shelter in the central area for the period Wednesday 12/20/17 thru Tuesday 12/26/17.  (First Presbyterian Church (Chemeketa and Winter.)  They say they require 32 volunteers/staff per four hour shift.  Professionals we talked to think experienced shelter operators probably would not require as many volunteers.

Update 12/27/17:  The requisite number of volunteers signed up, and MWVCAA stayed open through 6:30a Tuesday, despite the thermometer and forecasts rising a few degrees above 27.  Lows over the New Year's Day weekend are expected to hover around freezing, rising to mid thirties later in the week.  For more about the 2017-2018 sheltering season, see "MWVCAA's Cold Weather Shelter 2017-2018."


  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

City Hall's Hieroglyphs

Long meetings at City Hall provide an opportunity to study seemingly ancient carvings on the doors to the Council Chambers.  All sex/gender attributions are inferences based solely on clothing style circa 1970s.

Hieroglyph 1 depicts 20th c. courtroom: jury of men and women, witness being sworn in by male clerk, male judge, female reporter/clerk
Hieroglyph 2 depicts 20th c. classroom-type setting: male instructor
Hieroglyph 3 depicts 20th c. unidentified workplace setting
Hieroglyph 4 depicts 20th c. office workplace: men reading, asking papers to be filed, women taking orders, filing, typing

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

12/19/17 Minutes


Residents: Deb Comini, Jeremy Mills
Organizations: Ken Hetsel, Mid-Willamette Watershed Council; Steve Evans, Cherriots; Myron Jones and Dan Clem, UGM; Jeff Tross, Tross Consulting; Chris Blackburn, Downtown Storage
City and County Representatives: none
Guests: none

The regular meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 21, 2017, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.

The minutes of the November meeting were approved by unanimous consent.

The board heard a presentation from UGM’s CEO Dan Clem on the plans for the Men’s Mission that included conceptual drawings of the new shelter to be built several blocks north of the Mission’s current location.

In public comment, Chris Blackburn expressed several concerns about the plans to move Men’s Mission. Specifically, he was concerned whether parking would be adequate, assuming UGM were to be successful in reducing the number of required parking spaces, whether public safety would be negatively affected by further concentrating homeless services providers in the area (e.g., MWVCAA’s ARCHES Project, HOST, and HOAP) and the small size of the outdoor plaza near the west/guest entryway.

In new business, Michael Livingston's motion to issue a letter supporting the City's application for Community Development Block Grant funds to pay for ten speed humps and sidewalk improvements along the Maple-Winter Bikeway near the Oregon School for the Deaf/JGEMS passed unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 7:01 P.M.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Coordinated Entry" After One Year

Revised: January 2019
 

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Woodburn Service Integration Team
The Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) and The ARCHES Project "just completed our first year of Coordinated Assessments and referrals for Marion and Polk County."  See here at 6.

At the November meeting of the Woodburn service integration team, Patricia Godsey with WVCH, the local CCO, passed along advice she'd heard at the Statewide Housing Plan roll out, to have homeless/at risk clients assessed by ARCHES' coordinated entry staff.

Asked what being assessed did for the clients -- did it get them on a wait list for housing? or were the assessments mostly data collection for ARCHES? -- Godsey said she didn't know, that someone from ARCHES would need to answer that question.  So, the facilitator turned to Rosa Ramirez, the Resources Coordinator for Marion County, who has been praised for "attending the newly-established Service Integration Team meetings as an integral partner" (see here at 6), and asked her if she could help out.  Ramirez said, "I can't talk about that", indicating she didn't know enough about the coordinated entry program to be able to talk about it.

September Report of the CRP Director


While The ARCHES Project may have a list with some very useful aggregate data, it's just a list unless providers have agreed to rely on it for referrals.  To our knowledge, only one housing provider accepts referrals exclusively from the "Master By Name List" -- the Salem Housing Authority for its Homeless Rental Assistance Program.  So, unless your client is a highly vulnerable, chronically homeless individual, s/he is unlikely to benefit from being assessed.

Does that mean you shouldn't send your medium needs client to be assessed?  No.  It just means you shouldn't do it assuming your client is going to benefit from it. 

The fact is that assessments don't actually benefit most clients -- take the text of the flyer circulated last July (at left), for example.  It doesn't require being "spdatted" to "find out if you're eligible" for ARCHES programs.  That's always been done through ARCHES' "pre-screening" process.  (A little over a year ago,  ARCHES stopped accepting electronic applications, and changed its intake policy to require in-person administration of the VI-SPDAT, available only one day per month in some rural areas.)

Adding to the confusion, MWVCAA uniquely defines CES as "A national HUD mandate to develop a collaborative system for assessment and prioritization to improve the efficiency of homeless services on a community basis."   (No mention of referrals.) (See here at 17.) 

HUD, on the other hand, defines a coordinated entry system as "A centralized or coordinated process designed to coordinate...assessment and...referrals."  (See right.)  

As discussed in a previous blog, this  area lacks a true coordinated entry system (CES) in part because implementation essentially requires participating housing providers to use ServicePoint, which, for various reasons, has been a problem.  To be useful providers must have access to the data, the way doctors have to be able to access medical records.  Imagine trying to treat someone for a medical condition without access to their medical records.  That's largely how homeless services delivery operate in this area.  So while it's been helpful for analysis and planning purposes to have the picture of homelessness that The ARCHES Project staff have been able to develop through data gathering, we have a long way to go before we have a true "no wrong door" approach to homeless services delivery in this area.

See comments on this post at the Salem City Council FB Group.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Those Statesman Journal "Answers"

Revised: January 2019
 

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Statesman Journal's New Offices, Photo Courtesy SJ
Since moving out south to 340 Vista Avenue last May, the Statesman Journal's perspective on Salem's homeless residents has altered somewhat. 

While in CANDO, at 280 Church Street, staff took their latte breaks at the Ike Box, along with their homeless neighbors, looked out their windows at the transit mall, and could walk downtown anywhere they needed to go.  And anywhere downtown they went, there were CANDO's homeless residents, also.

There are few homeless out in the Vista neighborhood, however, or at the French Press, in the Roth's parking lot (not counting the panhandlers on the corner), or in the Candalaria neighborhood, to the west.   

Judging by its most recent article, "Your Questions about Salem, Oregon's Homeless Crisis, Answered", the new perspective hasn't improved its reporting on the subject.

For this latest article, the SJ asked readers to "guide our reporting by sending in questions they have" about Salem's homeless through a note on their FB page.  SJ claims the questions they chose to answer were the "most frequently asked", but they were clearly cherry-picked from among those posted on its FB note.

Questions Answered

"What are the demographics of homeless people in Salem?", "Why, all of a sudden, has Salem's homeless population swelled?", "What barriers do they face on the path to not being homeless anymore?"  "What's being done in other parts of town [than the central area and] What about warming shelters?"  "What type of outreach are officials doing for the homeless rental assistance program?"  "Are there shelters where the homeless can have pets with them?"  "Are there homeless shelters in Salem that are non-religious?"  "What shelter options exist for homeless teens?"  

Questions Not Answered
 
These questions, which were not answered, were also posted to the SJ's FB note:  "How does the City's plan to invest $45K in a "Homeless Program Coordinator" at the Council of Governments [COG] fit with the City's recently adopted Strategic Plan goals and strategies for Affordable Housing, Social Services and Homelessness [AHSSH]? Is the City counting on the COG position to implement the City's AHSSH goals and strategies? If not, why create the additional layers of oversight? Aren't the Policy and Steering Committee and the Coordinator going to be duplicating existing efforts?"  "How about answering the same questions for this area that the Seattle Times is working to answer for the Seattle area in its Project Homeless initiative?"  "Is SJ willing to 'pull back the curtain on the response system and see how well it serves the distinct populations of homeless'?"  "Do the homeless really want help? If so, what kind? How many are elderly? How many are teen? How many shelter beds are available in Marion-Polk counties? How many are needed?  Why don't you talk homeless people? What are their stories? What kind of help do they need?"  "Are there plans to create other shelter options like tiny houses, etc?" "What are the timelines on the projects underway, like the day-use center? What can citizens do to help those in need?" "What is Salem doing/going to do to help provide more comprehensive mental health care to these individuals?" "How...are [city officials] coordinating the different pieces in this plan re: banning loitering on sidewalks before a day Center or rental assistance program are up and running wouldn't be very effective."  "How can existing supports be augmented to address homelessness and issues related to homelessness instead of creating new infrastructure?" "What can be done so that the shelters are more comfortable for people? Can we look into coed shelters? Can we look into ways to help the homeless who have pets? What about a daytime shelter?" "How many choose the homeless life style, living on the streets, in cars and in our parks? If they refuse help, then what?" "Is anyone doing anything to address the root causes of homelessness?" "How are city zoning laws effecting housing prices, and is there anything to be done to lower prices so housing is more attainable?" "Are the homeless [in Salem] transients looking for handouts or have they lived in Salem, and actually need help?"

"A Variety of Experts"

The SJ article claims they "reached out to a variety of experts" to answer the eight cherry-picked questions.  Those "experts" were Dan Clem, former Salem city councilor and Union Gospel Mission (UGM) Director since May of this year, Stephen Goins with Northwest Human Services (NWHS), Jimmy Jones with the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA), and TJ Putman, Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network Director.

Dr. Jones, who was quoted in five of the eight answers, holds a doctorate in European History, and joined MWVCAA in July 2016 as a coordinated entry specialist.  In March, 2017, he was promoted to Director of its Community Resources Program, and became the driving force behind The Golden ARCHES Project.  He probably would not consider himself an "expert." 

Mssrs. Clem and Putman also probably would not consider themselves experts.  They answered the questions about the role of religion and pets in shelters.  Stephen Goins, who might actually deserve to be called an "expert", being a qualified mental health practitioner who for several years has managed HOST and HOAP for NWHS as Director of Transitional Programs, was asked about barriers to recovery.

The Answers 

 Bowl of Apples, Photo Courtesy HGTV
Answering, "Why, all of a sudden, has Salem's homeless population swelled?" (and without pausing to examine the question's premise), the SJ quotes Dr. Jones, who "likens the noticeable uptick to a bowl of apples on a table. If there were one apple in the bowl, you might walk by and not notice it. But as you put more apples in the bowl, they'll start to spill over.  'Eventually, you're going to have a whole table full of apples, overflowing everywhere else,' he said. 'And then, all of the [sic] sudden, you're going to notice that.'"  

Really?  The homeless are like a bowl of apples on a table?  

Dr. Jones is also "quoted" as saying that Salem's unsheltered homeless population grew from about 200 in 2014, to about 500 in 2017.  When we asked Dr. Jones how he arrived at the 2014 estimate, he demurred.  "We [he and the SJ] talked for 30 minutes, and I don't remember the context of it all...[the number was] something akin to the street count in the PIT in 2014."  (The MWVCAA's 2014 Point in Time Count report indicates 202 unsheltered individuals were surveyed in Marion and Polk Counties that year.)  When we asked why he would accept the 2014 PITC figure, but not the 2017 PITC figure of 295, he admitted he thought the 2014 count was wrong, but didn't want to venture a guess as to the true number.  

So, the SJ article wrongly suggests, based on Dr. Jones's unexamined opinion, that Salem's homeless population has been growing by 100 more apples a year.  It also seems to suggest that those apples are "overflowing everywhere" because the bowl's not big enough.  Or something.  

SJ Photo: A Sack Lunch at ARCHES
If you don't find the SJ's answer satisfying, try this:  the perceived "uptick", which was noted primarily in CANDO's central area, was partly due to the decision by the then UGM management, in the summer of 2016, to close the locker program, "because of the difficulty preventing the lockers from being used to store drugs", and the day room, so as to encourage long-term guests to get out and seek work.  (UGM re-opened its day room ~June 2017, but not the locker program.)  

This change in policy meant men who had previously been able to move about the city without all their belongings in tow (i.e., without necessarily appearing to be homeless), were no longer able to do so.  Others, some in wheelchairs and unable to work, who previously had remained in the day room, were forced outside the building, where they just waited until they were allowed back in.  The fact that UGM is located prominently next to the Center Street Bridge just added to their visibility.

Other factors include the closing of the ARCHES day shelter on Madison Street back in June, and The Salvation Army's decision to cut back on its programs for the homeless in August, and the ARCHES inability, since June, despite its being a requirement of the state funding ARCHES  received for the purchase of the building, to open a day shelter at its new Commercial Street location.  That failure has meant, among other things, that the sack lunches ARCHES distributes every M-F must now be eaten outside, in the weather -- a fact the SJ article depicted but failed to appreciate as contributing to the perceived "uptick" in the downtown homeless population it was attempting unsuccessfully to explain.

Note: the SJ also failed to report that, last July, CANDO sent a recommendation to the City Council
which was backed by the Salem Police Department and Stephen Goins, to pilot a locker program to replace the one lost in 2016, with no response.  MWVCAA has indicated in grant applications and reports that it intends to institute a locker program in its new building, but, so far, nothing's been done.
  
So, aside from the apple thing, the article offers little that was not already published here, on social media, and through Dr. Jones's speaking engagements at Rotary Clubs and such like over the past year.  (See links above under Questions Answered.)  One newsbit:  according to Dr. Jones, "Once our day center is done, we plan on using it as a nighttime warming center with a bit higher trigger, maybe 32 degrees."  

For MWVCAA to use their new building as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness would be a  nice change of pace.  But, bear in mind that when anyone from MWVCAA says "plan", what they usually mean is "hope", or "thought about."  It doesn't mean they're actually doing anything to make it happen, though you wouldn't know that from the uncritical accounts published by the Statesman Journal.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Let's Make a Sobering Deal

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Photo Courtesy HMNS
Free meals are served every evening on the east side of Marion Street, under the bridge, between the UGM Men's Mission, and the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA)'s new building at 615 Commercial Street NE.

The new MWVCAA building was acquired in June, 2017, with state funds ($487,000), on the condition that it be used as a day shelter for homeless and needy individuals.

But, as we all know, it isn't being used for that purpose, and can't be used for that purpose, until the building is renovated and okayed by the City, and no one seems to know when that will be.

State rules required the shelter to be opened and in use by June 30, 2017, but, due to poor planning, that didn't happen.  The Oregon Housing Department (OHCS) and the Housing Stability Council, which oversees the administration of state housing programs, don't seem to care.

So, for now, most of MWVCAA's 16,000 SF building lies empty or unused.

Which is too bad, because, ever since the SonRise Church lost its lease on the former Marion Car Rental and Park four or five years ago, the network of people that make up "Meals Under the Bridge", or MUBs, as they're called, have been hoping for another indoor location, so meals can be served and consumed in relative comfort.  Maybe even something with a commercial kitchen.

Last fall, 2016, when MWVCAA told the Salem Homeless Coalition they wanted to co-locate The ARCHES Project in a bigger space with other homeless services providers, the MUBs folks were supportive, hoping they'd be considered.  But that was then.

Now, almost six months post-purchase, the renovations that community was told would be completed by November have not even begun, MUBs are looking at another winter under the bridge, and MWVCAA is hoping for paying tenants to help cover their $10,000/mo mortgage payment.

Tenants like the City and County.  

Recall last February, 2017, when Mayor Bennett first announced his intention to open a sobering station in Salem, during his "State of the City" address.  Remember how MWVCAA, flush with its portion of $10M in statewide Emergency Housing Assistance (EHA) and State Homeless Assistance Program (SHAP) funds, started looking into buying, instead of leasing, a new space for The ARCHES Project, and the possibility of co-locating with the planned sobering station?  Was a sobering station a good fit with a homeless day shelter?  MWVCAA CEO Jon Reeves said sure, they'd both serve the same people.  (Reeves holds a graduate certificate in infant-toddler mental health and came to the executive directorship from the Head Start side of MWVCAA in 2015.)

But, sobering stations are expensive propositions that, in Oregon, can cost anywhere from $350,000 to $700,000 a year to operate.  The City would need partners.  Big partners, like Salem Health, WVCH (the local CCO) and Polk and Marion Counties.

According to sources, Salem Health was willing to put up some "seed money", but, not nearly enough.  Polk County and WVCH either weren't interested or weren't asked, and Marion County (i.e., Janet Carlson) wanted a deal.  According to sources, her support was contingent on the City supporting the implementation of the MWHITF Strategic Plan.

The MWHITF Strategic Plan was developed during the last year of former Mayor Anna Peterson's second term, and inherited by her successor, Mayor Chuck Bennett, who attended the last two meetings of the Task Force.  During the last one, he pledged on behalf of the city the generous sum of $40,000 toward Strategic Plan implementation.

He later thought the better of it.  During his "State of the City" address, he focused on his Homeless Rental Assistance Program, and failed to confirm his pledge of support for the Strategic Plan.  Commissioner Carlson left the event hall with a face like thunder, and promptly withdrew the County's support for the sobering station.

From that point, according to sources, negotiations were carried out by other, top level, City and County staff, and also the CEO of the Mid-Willamette Council of Governments (COG), Sean O'Day.  O'Day was once Salem's Deputy City Manager.

In May, 2017, City staff recommended not including a proposed $65,000 for the position in the budget, ranking it a 12 out of 13 on the General Fund "Wish List."

In June, 2017, as MWVCAA was scrambling to acquire their new building before the end of the fiscal year (when unspent EHA and SHAP funds would revert to the state), MWVCOG, at the request of Commissioner Carlson and Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark, was authorizing O'Day to negotiate an IGA, primarily between the City and Marion County, to hire a someone to coordinate implementation of the MWHITF Strategic Plan. 

In July, 2017, the City's Affordable Housing and Homelessness strategic plan work group considered the COG plan, but did not recommend supporting it.  By August, the plan was considered more dead than alive.

However, in September, 2017, City staff were seen touring MWVCAA's new building as a possible site for the sobering station. 

In October, COG authorized Day to execute the IGA he'd quietly negotiated over the summer, and MWVCAA forwarded architectural plans for their new building to the City that included the sobering station.

On November 27, 2017, the City Council approved without discussion the execution of the COG IGA, and payment of $45,000 toward a position that would now be called a "Homeless Initiative Program Coordinator."

The next morning, Commissioner Carlson e-blasted the job announcement to her lists.

Do these latest developments guaranteed the Mayor will get his sobering station, that MWVCAA will get its anchor tenant, and that Commissioner Carlson will have her Strategic Plan implemented?  Certainly it doesn't.  But, the probabilities have definitely shifted.  As more than one provider told us, "Janet always gets what she wants."

Maybe MUBs should speak with Commissioner Carlson about finding a place indoors, one with a commercial kitchen, perhaps, where people may be allowed to shelter briefly, instead of taking their meals outside, in the shadow of the Marion Street bridge, and MWVCAA's new $2.1M building.

Friday, November 24, 2017

11/21/17 Minutes


Residents: Tyras Freeman, Valorie Freeman
Organizations: Ken Hetsel, Mid-Willamette Watershed Council; Raleigh Kirschman, UGM; Ross Swartzendruber, Salem Creative Network; Amy and Peter Urban, Oregon Seniors and People with Physical Disabilities; Chris Pelke, Salem Music Scene; Ken Houghton, MWVCAA ARCHES Project; Julie Varga and Dorothy Pedersen, Bahá'í Faith;  Kathleen Thorpe, Home Base Shelters of Salem
City and County Representatives: Councilor Kaser; Heather Ray, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Parole and Probation; Brady Rogers, Administrator, City of Salem Neighborhood Enhancement Division; Aaron Panko, Community Development Department
Guests:  Teresa Joslin, Lorrie Walker, Brad Ramsey, Omar Alvarado, Chris Carman, Sarah Kraus, Matthew Hamilton

The regular meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.   

The minutes of the October meeting were approved by unanimous consent.

Councilor Kaser said she wanted to thank everyone who voted in favor of the library bond, and briefly reported on the adoption of the City’s Strategic Plan, the work session on the City’s Pedestrian Safety Study, the Salem Streetscape Plan Kickoff Open House planned for November 30, the Council Task Force to Evaluate Near-Term Solutions for Reducing Bridge Traffic Congestion (consisting of the Mayor, and Councilors Hoy, Kaser and Lewis), the opening of the temporary ice rink at Riverfront Park, and the recent sweep to remove “litter-on-a stick” signs in the City right of way and deposit them with the Public Works Department.  She also reported that “plans are in place for a warming center”, but did not go into detail (see here at page 19).

In public comment, Ross Swartzendruber reported on the October meeting hosted by and Salem Creative Network on “The Future of Entertainment in Salem” (having to do with relaxing the restrictions of SRC Chapter 93, aka, “the noise ordinance”) and other efforts to further the cause through social media, commenting at meetings of the City Council and Downtown Advisory Board, and canvassing.  

The board heard a presentation on “The Homeless Brain” by Stephen Goins, Director of Transitional Programs for Northwest Human Services, and the HOAP and HOST programs.

In old business, Michael Livingston’s motion that CANDO recommend that the Salem City Council: direct the Public Works Department to designate one or more City-owned and supervised sites where residents can deposit temporary signs removed from City rights-of-way, and direct the City Manager to post on the City’s webpage information about the prohibition on placing signs in City rights-of-way, what constitutes a City right-of-way, and the designated sign deposit site(s), passed unanimously.  

Also in old business, Livingston also informed the board that arrangements had been made to purchase personal flotation devices through the Salem Fire Department, and all that remained was to decide on a means for affixing the CANDO name and/or logo to the front of the jackets. (See here.)

The meeting adjourned at 7:18 P.M.

Friday, November 17, 2017

News from the Continuum

Revised: January 2019


By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Season Opens on Federal Program $$
Contrary to fears of cuts to federal funding, Salem's Urban Development, Community Services and Housing Commission (CSHC) will have additional funds to award this winter, according to Federal Programs Manager, Shelly Ehenger.  Ehenger says this increase is due partly to Catholic Community Services Community Housing Development Corporation's (Salem's only CHDO) declining the $160,000 award for the multi-family reconstruction project, St. Monica, as well as $30,000 in CHDO operating costs (see here at page 16).  It's also the result of some recent financial housekeeping within Federal Programs, she said.  Ehenger estimates there will be about $1.5M in CDBG funds for the 2018-2019 cycle (about $300K more than last year) and $1M in HOME funds.  If 15% of the CDBG funds is set aside for social services, there will be $225,000 available for social services (about $25,000 more than last year).  See here for details. 

The feasibility of reforming the local CoC (consisting of Salem/Marion & Polk Counties), which inquiry readers may recall we attempted to urge upon elected officials about six months ago, remains an open question, even though Salem's Mayor, four City Councilors (Andersen, McCoid, Cook and Hoy) and Andy Wilch, Salem Housing Authority Administrator, have all demonstrated they support independence, and none of the County electeds have indicated any opposition.

Preliminary Recommendations - 7/25/17 PP Presentation
The Affordable Housing, Social Services and Homelessness Strategic Planning Work Group looked at the local CoC issue and enthusiastically recommended re-formation as one of several "approaches."

Unfortunately, however, through the staff summary process, re-forming the CoC and several other "approaches" ended up lumped together as a recommendation to "Maximize resources for, and coordination of, social services" (see staff summary here).

Page 10 of Salems's Strategic Plan
The "maximize resources" recommendation did make it into the strategic plan (combined with "align Salem's existing social services funding with strategic initiatives") (see right).

BUT, unless you happen to know how that recommendation was developed, you're probably going to wonder, "What exactly does it mean in this context to 'maximize resources'?"

Probably, you're not going to think it means registering Salem, Marion and Polk Counties with HUD as an independent CoC (although a document entitled "Steps to Forming a Local Continuum of Care" is posted to the City's Strategic Planning web page, so maybe you would).

We are told that what's  next is more or less up to the City Manager, Steve Powers, who rightly views the situation as calling for a "regional approach", i.e., one that involves elected officials from both Marion and Polk Counties.

Powers, along with the Mid Willamette Valley Council of Governments (COG)'s Executive Director, Sean O'Day, Marion County Commissioner Carlson and the mayors of Keizer, Monmouth and Independence, worked up a proposal whereby COG would hire and house a Homeless Program Coordinator to work on the local CoC question, along with a whole bunch of other stuff.  (See here under "COG Board", then, "cog-board-agenda-packet-17oct2017.pdf").  

Exhibit C of the IGA
The COG accepted the proposal (revenue-neutral to COG) and authorized Mr. O'Day to execute an intergovernmental agreement with the participating bodies.  It's now up to them to follow through.

Even if they do all follow through in a timely fashion and a qualified person is hired per plan by January 2018, the CoC issue seems likely to be buried in the extensive "scope of work" described in Exhibit C of the agreement (at left).

A costly way to mire a simple strategy in bureaucratic mud.

So, that's where things stand with respect to reforming the Salem/Marion and Polk County CoC.  Re-forming the CoC is favored by Salem, the entity with the most at stake, but matters have become unduly complicated.  Running a local CoC would be far easier than what's being done to avoid it.  As one city official put it, "If we [mess] this up, it'll be the easiest thing we ever [messed] up."

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

News from the Continuum

Revised: January 2019


By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


WVCH, the local CCO, is quietly letting providers know who's receiving 2017 "Transformation Grants."   Marion County says they were awarded $83,000 for its Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which was piloted in Seattle and Dallas, Oregon.

Polk County Service Integration, Santiam Service Integration, and Salem Health will each receive $15,000 for their teams.
 
The Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) expects to receive around $65,000 to hire a Director of Co-Location Services and Grant Management.  This position "will be responsible for managing the co-location services with partner agencies" (Easter Seals and Oregon Health Authority) and "writing for more grants to support this work."  Yes, it looks like the WVCH grant will pay for a grant writer.  Guess we can always hope the person MWVCAA hires is homeless.

The MWVCAA board recently approved hiring Jerry Stevens (Linked In profile says he is, or was, a "Lead Guide" for the Salem Leadership Foundation) and ProFund Fundraising Solutions to help them raise unrestricted funds through something called a "golf marathon."  See last page here.  

Salem Housing Authority most recently reported having 31 individuals enrolled in HRAP and "receiving intensive case management."  They say eleven have been permanently housed.  The remaining 20 are "in various stages of the intake process and waiting for a housing unit to become available."  (As are nine veterans with VASH vouchers -- separate program.)  SHA reports that "many" of the HRAP participants are "actively engaged in receiving services."  SHA still intends to meet its goal of housing 100 by the end of the fiscal year (June 30).  For perspective on those numbers, consider the Seattle program for getting chronically homeless into housing.

SHA also reported recognizing the need for additional case management support for HRAP (the City funding budgeted for .75 FTE) consistent with a 1:15 caseload, based on their research and experience.  They reportedly intend to apply for grants to help fund that additional staff for HRAP.

Sobering Ctr in TX - Courtesy Houston Chronicle
The architecture firm that agreed to help MWVCAA redesign the space in the new ARCHES building,   AC&Co, reportedly has completed the initial drawings, and they include a sobering center.  See here at page 20.  MWVCAA says the drawings are now being "moved forward to partners for consideration."  

The sobering center "partners" are believed to be the City of Salem, Marion County, Salem Hospital, and probably Bridgeway.  The local CCO, WVCH, should be in the conversation, but apparently hasn't shown any interest, as of yet.  

A major sticking point for the existing sobering center "partners" is reportedly the scope of services that should be offered.  The County reportedly wants a much bigger program -- one that includes treatment options, not just referrals.  This disagreement may have contributed to the significant delay in re-opening the ARCHES day shelter.  MWVCAA is still pretending that the day shelter is open.

from the CRP Director's October Report to the BOD

All MC Homeless
OHCS has a new, interactive, PITC "dashboard" that compares by county the numbers from 2015 and 2017 (years that HUD mandates a count of unsheltered homeless). 

Mayor Bennett told KMUZ's Willamette Wakeup this week that he's had only one person ("a lawyer") express interest in serving on the "task force" that the City Council asked him in September to form to address "quality of life issues" downtown (i.e., the issues that gave rise to the City's failed attempt to pass a "sit/lie ordinance").  He seemed not to be all that keen to form a "task force", especially if there wasn't more interest being shown by the business community.  For now, he said, businesses and individuals with "quality of life" issues should contact their neighborhood associations.

Although it's not being discussed publicly, we've heard that the City is working to reconcile its strategic plan goals for affordable housing, homelessness and social service coordination, adopted at the October 23 City Council meeting, with the City's apparent, but maybe not firm, commitment to invest $45,000 in a Homeless Program Coordinator at the MWV Council of Governments.   The concern, obviously, is to avoid having the scope of work of the COG position overlap with work already being done, or intended to be done, by City staff.  The COG position, which was considered to be more dead than alive over the summer, wasn't discussed during the meetings of the work group on affordable housing, social services and homelessness.