Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Perennial Overnight Warming Shelter Problem


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  The booklet had one or two places that might help, but other information was out of date.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 the 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.  


  

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


December 19, 2017
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

Woodburn Service Integration Team
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, someone from 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 -- like did it get them on a wait list for housing? or were they mostly about data collection for ARCHES? -- the WVCH person  indicated she didn't know and said someone from ARCHES would need to answer that question.  So, the facilitator turned to the ARCHES 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.  The Coordinator said, "I can't talk about that", and indicated she didn't know enough about the coordinated entry program to be able to talk about it, they'd have to ask someone else.

September Report of the CRP Director


Unfortunately, asking "someone else" is not likely to lead to any better information as to what being assessed does for clients.  Nor are the broad and unsubstantiated claims for the "Coordinated Entry Program" found in official reports and speeches to civic groups much help with this question.

The ARCHES Project may have a very excellent list with some very useful aggregate data, but it's not part of a coordinated entry system unless providers have agreed to rely on it for referrals.  To our knowledge, only one or maybe two housing providers have agreed to accept referrals exclusively from the ARCHES "Master By Name List" (SHA and Westcare)  So, unless your client is a homeless veteran or a highly vulnerable, chronically homeless individual, s/he is unlikely to benefit from being assessed.

Does that mean you shouldn't send your non-vet, 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 ARCHES Project tries to obscure the fact 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.)  When in doubt, a phone call is in order.

Adding to the confusion, ARCHES 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 sticking point.  But, rather than work that problem, ARCHES allegedly told non-participating providers that ARCHES would enter their data.  According to several sources, however, ARCHES doesn't even get all their own data entered, so that's not much of a solution.

Moreover, a CES doesn't just require data entry, it also requires access, 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 ARCHES has been able to develop through its 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. 

[12/17/17 Update: interesting convo over at Salem City Council FB Group]

Friday, December 8, 2017

Those Statesman Journal "Answers"

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 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 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 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 the result of 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.  

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.  So did 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 lazy journalism of the Statesman Journal.

[12/12/17 Update: should have noted that UGM re-opened it's day room ~June 2017 (as reported here in the Archive).

Friday, December 1, 2017

City Poised to Bail Out MWVCAA

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 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 reported previously, it isn't being used for that purpose, and can't be used for that purpose, until the building is renovated and the use is permitted.  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.  OHCS and the Housing Stability Council, which oversees the administration of state housing programs, have been advised of the situation, asked to investigate, and to take corrective action to prevent the misuse of state funds in the future.  For now, however, much, if not 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 MWVCAA gave the community to believe would be completed by November have not even begun, MUBs are looking at another winter under the bridge, and MWVCAA is still looking for paying tenants to help cover their $10,000/mo mortgage payments and their two $250,000 balloon payments that are coming due in 2018 and 2019.  Might the City come to the rescue?

It was mid-February, 2017, that Mayor Bennett first announced his intention to open a sobering station in Salem, during his "State of the City" address.  Shortly thereafter, MWVCAA, flush with their 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?  The question doesn't concern MWVCAA CEO Jon Reeves, because, according to him, the two programs will be serving many of the same people.  (Note:  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), Polk County, and Marion County.  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 somewhat naively pledged on behalf of the city the generous sum of $40,000 toward Strategic Plan implementation.  When, 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, the County (i.e. Janet Carlson), promptly withdrew 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.  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), COG, 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 implement the MWHITF Strategic Plan.

Neither the City, nor local providers, were ever very keen on the MWHITF Strategic Plan, or the plan to implement it, which was to hire and house a "Homeless Initiatives Coordinator" at COG, who would then be responsible for plan implementation.  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 and 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 COG 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.  Then, on November 27, 2017, without discussion, the City Council approved 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.

Does all this guarantee Salem will get its sobering station, that MWVCAA will get its anchor tenant, and that Ashley Marshall will get the job Commissioner Carlson was hoping to give her?  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.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Monday: Council Returns to Horse Trading Ways


With "the ink barely dry" on Salem's new Strategic Plan, the Council are being drawn into the horse-trading ways of what was hoped might be the past.

On the agenda for this coming Monday's City Council meeting is an item some in the leadership might be hoping will go unnoticed after a four-day weekend of turkey, visits with family, and holiday shopping.

It's the IGA to spend $45,000 to hire a Homeless Program Coordinator at the MWV Council of Governments, in conjunction with Marion County and the cities of Keizer, Monmouth and Independence.  The agreement, which over the summer was considered to be more dead than alive, was not recommended by the Council's strategic plan work group on affordable housing, social services and homelessness.  But, here it is being proposed again, after the adoption of the Strategic Plan. 

As noted in a previous blog, 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 and other local providers.  Although the staff report asserts that "The program will not duplicate or dilute existing advisory boards or initiatives the City has started -- such as the Homeless Rental Assistance Program" -- that bare statement does not comport with reality and the position's "scope of work."  Anyone who knows anything about the area's homeless services delivery system will recognize the likelihood of overlap and duplication.

One example:  The staff report states "A specific regional project that would help Salem is an analysis of whether changing the continuum of care would be in Salem and the two-county region's best interest," but, it says nothing about the fact that the Affordable Housing, Social Services and Homelessness strategic plan workgroup recommended in July the re-forming of the Salem/Marion and Polk County CoC.

Other examples from the "scope of work":  the "coordinating and convening", "resource development", "communication", and "evaluating and addressing gaps" duties substantially duplicate these local efforts:

6 Polk County Service Integration Teams (SITs) - sponsored by Polk Co, Salem Health, School District;  2 hrs monthly (each), all community service providers; purpose: networking, collaborative problem-solving and leveraging funds;  incentive: community-building and access to funds.  Began circa 1995.

Marion County Service Integration Teams - sponsored by Salem Health, Santiam Hospital and others; all community service providers; purpose: networking, collaborative problem-solving and leveraging funds; incentive: community-building and access to funds.  Began Sep 2017.
Emergency Housing Network (EHN) - sponsored by Salem Housing Authority and UGM; 1.5 hrs monthly, originally a committee of Marion and Polk's CoC, now attended by area homeless housing and related service providers; purpose: networking and resource sharing, also satisfies HUD FSS program requirement for a primary coordinating committee. Began before 2010

Marion/Polk Community Network for Veterans -  sponsored by MWVCAA; monthly, vet and other providers and interested persons; purpose: identify and address veteran issues. Began ?.
Mid-Willamette Valley Housing (aka Health & Housing) - sponsored by WVCH; 1 hr monthly, health care and housing providers; purpose: explore programs combining housing and health care resources.  Began Nov 2015.
Marion County Homeless School Liasons - sponsored by ?, homeless student liasons from Marion County school districts?; meets ~3x/yr; purpose: networking?. Began ?.
Salem Homeless Coalition (SHC) - sponsored by St Mark Lutheran Church; 1 hr monthly, homeless advocates, housing and services providers; initial purpose: plan an emergency warming center.  Began circa 2013.
Salem Urban Development Community Services and Housing Commission (CSHC)  - sponsored by City of Salem; 1-2 hrs monthly, by appointment; purpose as stated in SRC 20G (recommend annual allocation of CDBG, HOME and City of Salem General Fund funds, identify social service needs and recommend ways to meet needs, monitor and analyze efficacy of City-funded programs, initiate efforts to coordinate service delivery). 
 Salem Housing Advisory Committee (SHAC) - sponsored by City of Salem; 1 hr monthly, by appointment; purpose: advise City of Salem Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on matters relating almost exclusively to regulatory compliance.
 Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council (MCPSCC) - a requirement of ORS 423.560, this appointed group meets monthly for two hours to "increase public safety by enhancing law enforcement efficiencies and reducing crime" (relevant to the CoC for its harm reduction strategies and reentry programs).
Oregon Housing Stability Council (OHSC) - "Established in 1971 and formerly known as the Oregon State Housing Stability Council, the Council was renamed "Oregon Housing Stability Council" by the Oregon Legislature in 2016. The nine-member appointed Council is charged with meeting the tremendous need for the provision of affordable housing for lower income Oregonians."
Polk County's Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) - similar to MCPSCC, but meets less often; has a housing subcommittee.
The "data collection, analysis and reporting" duplicates the work supposedly being done by providers, let by the MWVCAA's Community Resources Program staff in cooperation with the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department and the ROCC, as required by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department.

That leaves "policy research, analysis and reporting" and "special projects", which activities occur on a regular, ongoing and as needed basis.  In short, the area does not need another bureaucratic, make-work, layer to improve its homeless services delivery.  In fact, this proposal is much more likely to delay improvements than it is to facilitate them.  So, why is the City poised to execute the IGA and fork over $45,000?  Because that's the price that Marion County (i.e., Janet Carlson) requires for its support of a sobering station.

Councilor McCoid's Case for Spending $12,500
And, that's not all.  The Council's expected to spend another $12,500 for "start-up funding" for a 100-Day Challenge "to address Youth Homelessness."  The fact that it's impossible to tell from the "discussion" in support of the motion (see right) (which is the only information provided) just what the money will be going for, who or what is responsible, what the project or program is that's starting up, what the project deliverables are going to be, etc., will probably not prevent the motion from passing, if, as we suspect, it's a horse trade for the sobering center.

Worth it?  Depending how badly you're wanting to "reduce downtown Salem concentrations of the homeless" and relieve the pressure on the jail and hospital, it might be.  Certainly, some in the leadership see it that way.  But if you're wanting to improve the delivery of homeless services, if you're wanting to prevent and end the experience of homelessness in people's lives, no, they're not worth it. They're both likely to be a waste of time and resources (just like the Hopeless Task Force was), distract from more important work, and delay any real progress.

Update 11/25/17:  $200,000 for "the city's estimated share of a sobering center" was an unfunded "wish list" item during the 2017 budget process.  The reason given for the "do not include" was the project proposal's lack of "specificity."  See our report here (also discussing the failure to include $65,000 for what was then called the Homeless Initiatives Coordinator).  Then in July 2017, the City put out an information report estimating that "the cost of operating a sobering facility on an annual basis could be as much as $600,000 to $700,000, to be funded by operating grants and contributions from Marion County, the City of Salem, and Salem Health."  As discussed in a previous blog, the City's  plan is supposedly modeled on the one in Grant's Pass, however, the City's projected annual operating costs are more than twice ($600-$700K) what Grant's Pass says its annual operating costs are ($250K-$300K). The difference might have something to do with the scope of services that will be offered.  The County reportedly wants a much bigger program, including treatment options, not just referrals.  The big question is, does the County intend to pay for those services?  

Update 11/18/17:  After public comment from COG CEO Sean O'Day, Mayor Clark, Commissioner Carlson and Tricia Ratliff, Director of the HOME Youth and Resource Center, the Council unanimously approved without debate both Councilor McCoid's motion, and the IGA.  See here for Statesman Journal coverage.  

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.