Saturday, January 7, 2017

Does Salem Need a Homelessness Commission?

The Salem Breakfast on Bikes blog  reports that homelessness ranks high in the list of concerns that Salem residents want the City to address, according to a recent phone survey.

The survey also said that, "When asked in an open-ended format what issue is most important for city leaders to address, 21% mentioned an issue relating to housing or homelessness.  This is a 13 percentage point increase since this question was asked in May 2016." 

The survey results have not, as far as we know, been published can be found here (SBOB was given a copy by "a reader"), so we don't know when in December the survey was conducted (Update: see SBOB's comment, below).  However, the increased concern between May and December is pretty predictable, being attributable at least in part to the onset of cold weather, charitable holiday activities, and media attention.  Happens.every.winter, and dissipates every spring.
Statesman Journal

Salem has a new mayor.  According a recent interview with him on KMUZ's Willamette WakeUp and the Statesman Journal, our new mayor is thinking of creating a commission on homelessness.  Does Salem need another commission?  Can such a commission replace, enhance or coordinate any of these existing and nascent organizations? 
  1. Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC) - sponsored by HUD CoC Program area grantees; 2 hrs monthly (+ committees)
  2. ROCC Region 7 - sponsored by MWVCAA; 2 hrs monthly
  3. Marion/Polk Community Network for Veterans -  sponsored by MWVCAA; monthly
  4. Emergency Housing Network (EHN) - sponsored by Salem Housing Authority and UGM; 1 hr monthly, originally a committee of Marion and Polk's CoC, now for area homeless housing and related service providers
  5. Salem Housing Advisory Committee (SHAC) - sponsored by City of Salem; 1 hr monthly
  6. 6 Polk Service Integration Teams (SITs) - sponsored by Polk Co, Salem Health, School District;  each 2 hrs monthly, all community service providers
  7. Marion Service Integration Teams - Northwest Human Services, Salvation Army, Shangri-La and Salem Health have all expressed serious interest in forming a Salem SIT; a planning meeting is scheduled for January 10, 2017.
  8. Salem Homeless Coalition (SHC) - sponsored by St Mark Lutheran Church; 1 hr monthly
  9. Home Base Shelters of Salem (HBSS) - supported by MWVCAA; meetings of the board of directors vary
  10. Salem Urban Development Community Services and Housing Commission (CSHC)  - sponsored by City of Salem; 1-2 hrs monthly 
  11. Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force (MWHITF) - sponsored by Marion County and Cities of Keizer and Salem (formerly involved Polk County); 2 hrs monthly through February 2017

SRC Chapter 20G
The CSHC (No. 10 above) is charged under SRC Chapter 20G to execute certain duties that it does not currently fulfill.  Would those duties be given over to the new commission?  Why? 

Salem's Ward 1 has a new councilorShe also takes an interest in homelessness, but her interest, according to the Statesman Journal, is in "tackling homelessness in the downtown area", taking "action as opposed to planning for a silver bullet solution."  What "action" does she have in mindWhat did she mean by "silver bullet solution"?  Does she intend to take action through existing organizations such as the CSHC?  Is she talking with the mayor about his homelessness commission idea?      
Statesman Journal
Governor Brown told the Statesman Journal that our new mayor "gets how government works" and has priorities that include affordable housing and the needs of the homeless in Salem.  We think that is just very good news.  It's high time we had such a mayor.  And, we are also very encouraged to know that our new Ward 1 Councilor has similar prioritiesBut please, please, please, before we start taking action on a problem, let's do something different.  Let's give the problem "Tree Commission" treatment: let's take our time to make sure we thoroughly understand the situation, have all the necessary conversations, and give lots of notice and opportunity to be heard.  Yes, we want action, but more than that, we want effective action.  The City is a hugely important piece of the solution to Salem's problems in providing effective homeless services delivery, so it's hugely important that we "start as we mean to go" by taking a comprehensive approach, no matter how good it might feel in the short term to "do something" immediately.  Been there, done that, doesn't help.       

1 comment:

  1. The survey intro says "From November 30 to December 4, 2016, DHM Research conducted a telephone survey of Salem residents....The telephone survey consisted of 450 residents and took approximately 20 minutes to complete." Hopefully the City will publish this and other documents related to the project!