Sunday, February 26, 2017

Salem's 2017 Social Spending

The Commission finished making its 2017 recommendations a little early this year (for earlier posts on this subject, start here).  They had an easier job of it, it seems, as there was more money available.  We're guessing the feds pushed a little more out at the end of 2016, anticipating the new administration would have other priorities, which is good for communities this year, but maybe not those to come.

At left are the numbers, based on what was said and shown at the meeting held last Wednesday in the conference room of the Urban Development Department.  (The public are not provided the project summaries or  spreadsheets).

For those not seated close to the spreadsheet projected onto the wall (i.e., not on the Commission), the numbers were rather hard to make out.  I thought about waiting to publish until I could confirm a couple of the totals with staff, but considering how, uhm, fluid these figures have tended to be, it's doubtful one can ever know for sure who got what, exactly.  In any case, the City Council has yet to approve the Commission's award recommendations, though they rarely change them.

This year's awards look a lot like previous years' awards.  MWVCAA's HOME Youth and Resource Center is missing from the recipients (someone flubbed the application deadline), as are Women at the Well/Grace House (applied, didn't get anything) and Mano a Mano (also missed deadline).  Other details below. 

* Merit's executive director is married to the manager of Federal Programs Division, who staffs the Commission.  [Update: manager left in April to go to work for Catholic Community Services.]

**The City Council pre-approved an award of $500,000 for this SHA project for this year, plus an additional $58,040 (leftovers?).

***It was said at the meeting that the Commission had said last year it would not award any additional funds to the Jason Lee Manor rehab project, because of amounts already awarded.  However, staff announced at the meeting that they had found $148,200 in some sort of reserve that the project might be eligible for, and offered reasons why the Commission should approve the award, notwithstanding their previous determination not to do so.  Commissioner Vargas argued strongly in opposition, but the recommendation passed anyway.

^The City's General Fund allocation was $400,000, which leaves $575 to be allocated.

The Commission's recommendations go to the City Council in March, and the final figures will be published in the Annual Action Plan in mid-March.  This blog will be updated/corrected as information is made available.

[Update 2/26/17:  The current federal administration has indicated that so-called "sanctuary cities" risk their  entitlement to federal funding, which could include CDBG and HOME funds.  After posting this blog, we spotted an item on Monday night's City Council agenda indicating the Council will consider Councilor Andersen's motion to adopt a "sanctuary city"-type declaration, specifically:

Resolution 2017-22 (proposed)
Salem would not be the first to make such a declaration.  For more discussion, see the linked articles.]
[Update 2/27/17: the resolution was adopted.][Update 3/9/17: chart and text corrected to be consistent with the minutes, now published, which explain all inconsistencies originally cited, except where the funds allocated to the Jason Lee Manor project came from.  In other news, the Washington Post reported on leaked preliminary budget documents from HUD that outline deep cuts in FY 2018.  Under the preliminary budget discussed in these documents, the CDBG and HOME Investment Partnership programs would be eliminated.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Minutes 2/21/17


February 21, 2017

Bruce Hoffman, Chair

Woody Dukes
Brock Campbell
Michael Livingston,
Vice Chair

Bob Hanna
Bill Holmstrom
Sarah Owens, Secretary-Treasurer

Neal Kern
David Dahle
Erma Hoffman

Rebekah Engle

p=present a=absent e=excused

Residents: Carla Loecke, Rob Uplinger
Organizations: Jimmy Jones, MWVCAA; Simon Sandusky and Jeanine Knight, UGM; Maurice Anderson, Salem Homeless Coalition and St Mark Lutheran Church.
City and County Representatives: Officer Josh Edmiston, SPD  
Guests: Jackie Jones, Lorrie Walker, Erin Boers, Joseph Penner

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21, 2017, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present.

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

Officer Edmiston reported that trespassing complaints relating to people sleeping in doorways and under awning were up, that the City was expecting an influx of as many as 50-60,000 for the August solar eclipse, that there are no more portable toilets available to rent for that event and the City may have to look elsewhere, maybe Idaho, to meet the need.  He said SPD had “moved on” eight to nine people living in the foundations of the former Boise Cascade structure, now South Block apartments, and they were checking the property every couple of days to make sure they did not move back.  Six of the eight had been trespassed from UGM, he said, and so had nowhere to go.  The City is in the process of cleaning out the site, which had been occupied for about a year.

The Chair reported that Councilor Kaser had written the board to say she could not be present for the meeting, as the Council had a work session scheduled for the same time, but would attend in March.  Her email included these CANDO-specific items:  there will be an open house to share thoughts about the Winter-Maple Family Friendly Bikeway plans on March 7, from 4 to 7 at Broadway Commons.  Interpreter services will be available.  The City removed the playground equipment at Marion Square Park and plans to reinstall it at Cascades Gateway Park.  The move was made with the approval of the City Manager, but without notice to CANDO.  The reason for the move was lack of use and the frequent use of the adjacent area under the bridge to serve meals to homeless and indigent persons.  The City has been contacted about the lack of notice. 

In public comments, Erma Hoffman informed the board that the second piece of equipment for the Pringle Park playground had arrived, and would be installed some time this spring.

There followed a presentation by Jimmy Jones on what his research is revealing about the needs of Marion and Polk County’s homeless residents.  (Slides pasted below.)

Sarah Owens’s motion to authorize the Chair to execute the letter regarding Salem’s role in the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (aka Oregon’s “Balance of State” Coc passed unanimously.  The plan is to retain the letter to submit at a future date along with others from various parts of the community.      

There being no other business before the board, the meeting adjourned at 7:03 p.m.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mayor Announces Ambitious Plan for Chronic Homeless

This is a very complicated issue, but let me tell you, what we will begin doing in Salem, as a result of this work by Mr. Wilch and his staff, I hope will make you proud, both of our ability to solve a problem, and our humanity when we solve it.   

--Chuck Bennett

Finally, a mayor who understands how to use City resources.

Today, in his first State of the City address as Mayor, our former Ward 1 Councilor Chuck Bennett asked the City to join him, City staff, and area providers as they set about to end chronic homelessness in Salem.  In his words:

Perhaps the most vexing problem that cities face is housing the homeless. Solutions around the country, and even in nearby cities, have been, essentially, to declare defeat, and decide that it is acceptable to have these residents live in tent communities in the public right of way, parks and neighborhoods.  We're not following that path.
I hope we can have a better vision here in Salem.  Three weeks ago, I asked our Housing Authority Director Andy Wilch [SHA Administrator] to come up with a program to house the most difficult people in our community to house.  He and his staff met with me Friday and presented their work product, and I have to tell you, I'm very excited about this project.
Remember, these [SHA staff] are the people who have moved many hard-to-house people off the streets this year [already]...There are estimated to be in excess of 500 people on Salem's streets in this category.  These are the homeless we most commonly see sleeping on sidewalks, on benches, in parks and under bridges.  These are the most difficult people to house from among our estimated 1,500 to 2,000 homeless people in Salem.  And these are also the most vulnerable among the homeless.
This is a very complicated issue, but let me tell you, what we will begin doing in Salem, as a result of this work by Mr. Wilch and his staff, I hope will make you proud, both of our ability to solve a problem, and our humanity when we solve it.    
We're going to initiate a homeless rental assistance program...we are going to find these people a room, a house or an apartment.  We are developing a sophisticated data file on every homeless person inside Salem, to begin to better serve their needs. We'll provide case management services in health, mental health, addiction services and life skills. Many of these people are in very serious health conditions, many are suffering from untreated, often severe, mental health issues, and a very large percentage are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Again, these folks are the hardest to house among our homeless people, and we will continue to work with these folks, aimed at long-term housing.  Frankly, it's time to recognize that compassion without action is just...observation.  The time for study of this issue is long past.  We have the resources.  It's not going to raise your taxes.  We're not going to take [resources] away from the police or fire [department] or the library.  This is marshaling resources that already exist.  The expertise is there -- we don't have to hire new people.  All the expertise exists among our staff, as well as our collaborators in this effort.
We'll be led by the City and its partners to focus on this issue.  We've set a goal to focus on a hundred of these -- until now, hopeless, and I really mean hopeless -- cases.  Please don't leave thinking this isn't an aggressive goal.  These are absolutely the hardest cases on the street...There will be a temptation to retreat from this mission.  If we can stick it out, we can save and change lives that are now considered hopeless.  I hope you will join me in this effort.   

Also today, Marion County Commissioner Carlson made to the other two Commissioners basically the same MWHI Task Force presentation she made Monday night to the Salem City Council.  Among the variations between the two presentations was that this morning, Carlson said that the City of Salem was interested in implementing a "Real Change" (anti-panhandling) program (it was not mentioned at the City Council meeting).

Speaking about the proposal to put a project manager in the MWV Council of Governments to oversee implementation of the Task Force's strategic plan, Carlson said Mayor Bennett "jumped on the idea and said he thought it was a great idea" (not mentioned at the City Council meeting, nor did the Mayor seem all that enthusiastic Monday night). 

She said she and Mayor Clark had "talked to each of the jurisdictions...about setting aside some funds so we can jump start this project manager position over at the COG", but did not mention the $40,000 each from Salem and Marion County that she referred to at the City Council meeting.

Carlson said the project manager would report to an executive team made up of the executive directors of various agencies and "jurisdictions who would help guide the process" and "oversee the implementation, for example, the housing authority directors, the Community Action director, the Union Gospel Mission director, those people would be key in helping guide that work because they're the ones that are providing those services."  (UGM's and MWVCAA's directors were on the Task Force, so they might have consented to this, but it's doubtful any other agencies or "jurisdictions" even know about this plan.)


When Carlson asked for questions, Commissioner Cameron wanted to know what to expect to receive in the way of "reports."  Carlson said she couldn't yet say.  In a typically rambling response, she said she suspected that Salem and Marion County combined provide "the lion's share" of resources for the homeless, and that "thousands of people are housed in the City of Salem every day in programs by the Housing Authority."

Commissioner Brentano said he sensed Commissioner Carlson's concern, and didn't want to offend, but he didn't know "what we're signing on for.  We need a better picture of the real dollars and the commitment long term that you're looking for, so, there's a lot of that's what I'll be looking for."  He also said that he was "always concerned about setting up programs that attract others to come into the area...I don't want to become the Mecca for homelessness.  I want to take care of our own, but not expand it."  In another rambling response, Carlson talked about Eugene's camping programs, and the HBSS proposal for a camping program in Salem or Marion County, and indicated her belief that neither owned a suitable parcel.   

It's worth it to watch the video of Mayor Bennett's address.  The part quoted above begins somewhere around 25'. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mayor Vows Not to Surrender as Plan Thuds

Cmr. Carlson presents certificate to frmr Mayor Peterson
Last night, the City Council received a 15-minute presentation on the work of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force over the past year from Commissioner Janet Carlson, who concluded by presenting a certificate of appreciation to former Mayor and co-chair Anna Peterson, as former Councilor and Task Force member Warren Bednarz looked on.

During the presentation, Carlson commented on some of the many recommendations contained in the Task Force's 27-page strategic plan, and took credit for Mountain West's efforts to develop affordable housing. 
One of the things that we've already accomplished in this particular area is that Mountain West received a $5 million dollar grant from Oregon Housing and Community Services and is committed to developing several hundred units of affordable housing over the the next several years.
Also mentioned were a transitional housing project of Marion County and the shelter relocation planned by Union Gospel Mission, both of which preexisted the Task Force.  Carlson even seemed to take credit for the City's having made shelter space available to UGM when its capacity was reduced, and for the Marion County DA's embrace of harm reduction principles, although the Task Force was responsible for none of these things.

"The Task Force spent a lot of time talking about what we call 'pivoting to implementation'", Carlson told the Council, "What we have talked about, and what we are working on, is hiring a project manager and creating a leadership team, which would consist of the people which represent the key partner organizations...we will also be convening people at the program manager level, and then the line staff, which are already convened through the Emergency Housing Network, so we are believing we could tag on to that."  

Marion County has set aside $40,000 for this project.  Steve Powers and Chuck Bennett have told us they can identify another $40,000 to jump start this position.  City of Keizer is not committed yet, but is looking for another five.  And then we are working with the Council of Governments.  We are working with their board...ultimately this position would be folded in to their regular staff...The first step is to create a memorandum of collaboration among all the different entities...[and then] prioritizing strategies, looking for the low-hanging fruit, taking the ones that are more difficult and putting them into a project management plan and moving forward. 

Following the certificate-of-appreciation presentation and another warm thank-you to Warren Bednarz, Carlson turned the floor back to the Mayor, who expressed his gratitude to everyone for their work, saying the City was already working "on aspects of this that we will talk about further with Council as time passes, but this is going to be a tremendous undertaking."    

"I will tell you, the one thing I like about [taking] this [work on] is, we're not going to surrender to this problem, and say, the only place to live is in a tent, in a park, in the mud.  We are not going there.  So, we are going to treat our neighbors without homes with dignity, and with real care", he said, and then  proceeded on with the evening's agenda.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Should Salem Spend $40K to Implement TF Plan?

On Monday, the City Council will receive a presentation on the MWHITF's strategic plan.  As they do so, they might want to consider a few things.

First, it begins with a lie.  Polk County did not help create the plan, having dropped out in October, and their only recommendations (from the Veterans Committee) having been ignored, out of spite, and replaced by the recommendations of a group of students from Willamette University.

Second, Councilors should keep in mind that, at some point, they will be asked to approve $40,000 to "jumpstart" the hiring of a project manager to implement the plan they are hearing about.  They should ask themselves whether the plan they're hearing about is worth $40,000 to implement, and also, whether that $40,000 would not be better spent on housing and services for the homeless.

Councilors should ask themselves whether the Task Force members who voted for the plan did so because they believed in it.  If they are so inclined, they should watch the last hour of the last meeting, and consider whether a majority even had time to read the plan.          

Councilors should also ask themselves whether they believe that providers in the area support and will collaborate on implementing the plan, because, if they don't or won't, there's no point in hiring someone to oversee implementation.

If any Councilor does believe there's widespread support for the plan, then they should probably talk to a few people.  Not publicly, because no provider will say what they truly think in public -- or amongst each other.  Providers won't talk unless they feel like it's safe to be honest, because they're afraid of offending the City and others on whom they may depend for funding, and they're afraid of backbiting.  If they feel safe enough to say it, providers will say they didn't participate in making the plan, weren't consulted about it, and don't believe the plan is worth $40K to implement. Unsurprisingly, they will likely also say, if asked, that they're not inclined to devote any of their own time or resources toward implementation.

Councilors may hear it said that the plan puts "meat on the bones" of Marion & Polk Counties' 10-Year Plan, but that's not true.  In reality, the two plans have nothing to do with each other.  Moreover, unlike the Task Force's plan, HUD approved the 10-Year Plan, as did all participating jurisdictions, and it provides access to financial resources.  The Task Force plan, on the other hand, is a disorganized mishmash that's unconnected to anything.

So now let's talk about the "implementation structure."  This is what Commissioner Carlson and Mayor Clark are asking Salem to give them $40,000 for.

The slide below refers to a "commission" -- that's because, up until a couple of weeks ago, the co-chairs were talking about Salem creating a housing commission.  Then, they figured out they already had housing commissions.      

So, as Mayor Clark happened to be on the board of directors of the MWV Council of Governments, they devised a plan with COG whereby COG would hire and supervise a FTE in COG, initially paid for by Salem ($40K), Marion County ($40K), and Keizer ($TBA), and that FTE would "make sure the plan happens."  None of the details have been worked out, but here's what the Task Force was told at about 5:30 last Tuesday, half an hour before the end of their very last meeting:  Someone, probably Commissioner Carlson and Mayor Clark, will select an advisory committee.  That committee will work with COG to hire a project manager who, under the direction and control of the COG board of directors, as advised by the committee, will convene a 3-layer implementation team of area providers, yet to be recruited, that will "make the strategic plan happen."  If everything works out, Willamette University students will provide priorities and performance measures in May, plan implementation will commence in June, and the COG will adjust dues payments to pick up the cost of the staff person going forward.  Note: the slide doesn't reflect much of this plan, probably because it's too new.

If that were a small-business plan, would the City give it a micro-loan?  No, it wouldn't.  So why would anyone even think of supporting it with a grant of $40,000?  Politics. Pure Politics.   
The Mayor inherited this project in December, and, as a co-chair, is under tremendous political pressure to support it.  It is, therefore, vitally important for each member of the Council not simply to "go along to get along" with the Mayor, but rather to exercise his or her own, independent, judgment.  If, however, a councilor should lack the time to read and evaluate the plan on his or her own, then take it from those of us who went to every meeting, reviewed the audio of, or attended, every committee meeting, read every document, and had hundreds of conversations about the process over the course of the last year:  let this one go.  It is not worth pursuing.   

The Case in Brief
  1. The unexamined premise of the project-manager-in-COG proposal is that there is a "project" that requires a "manager." 
  2. The strategic plan is not so much a "project" as it is a list of project ideas, of varied complexity, most of them unrelated.  
  3. The plan identifies no priorities or performance measures, and the Council should not rely on students, no matter how well-intended, to provide them.
  4. The plan's objectives and tasks are vague, disorganized and subject to multiple interpretations.
  5. Many objectives are self-executing, or already resolved in some way, and the rest require the approval of Salem, Keizer, Marion and Polk Counties, and the boards of social service agencies, many of which did not participate in the planning process. 
  6. All plan deficiencies are exacerbated by the fact that Commissioner Carlson and Mayor Clark are likely to be the ones determining what the manager will do with thell plan. 
  7. The plan does not have the support of the provider community or Polk County. 
  8. Implementation would likely be a serious distraction and make more difficult the ongoing efforts to bring housing and homeless service providers together into some form of collaboration.
  9. Forty-thousand dollars would pay the first and last month's rent and security deposit for 12 families. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

PTTF: Meeting 11 - Pivot to COG?

Photo courtesy T&C Consulting

Come February, someone's going to ceremoniously dig a large hole, and you're going to ceremoniously stand around this tree you've assembled, and plant it.   

-- Karen Ray, November 2016

The big news last night was that Salem and Marion County are talking about putting up  $40,000 each toward the salary of someone to oversee implementation of the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force's Strategic Plan.

Characterizing the Plan as "a tremendous platform for our communities to build on", Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett said the City Manager was already working on several items in the plan. "We're very excited about it", he said. 

Of course "we" are not very excited about it, that's just something "we" politicians say at times like this.  Or he might have been referring only to himself and former Mayor Anna Peterson, hard to say.

Because, honestly, the Salem City Manager is not so much working on several items in the plan, as he is working on several of his own recommendations that Chuck made sure got into the Task Force's Plan so as to have something in it worthy of the City's time and attention.  The same is true for Mountain West, UGM, MWVCAA, Center for Hope and Safety, SEDCOR, Workforce Oregon etc., etc., -- they're all working on their own projects, projects that were included in the Plan so as to make it appear that the Task Force was actually doing somethingThe question is, does it make sense to pay upwards of $80,000 to "jump start" the hiring of a full-time employee to oversee such a plan?  We think the answer is an unequivocal "No."   

But let's get back to the meeting.  Mayor Bennett opened the meeting promptly at 4pm with 10 Task Force members in attendance, enough for a quorum, and about 17 in the audience.  Also present was former Councilor Bednarz, who took a seat on the dais, seconded every motion, and voted, even though he's no longer a member, having been replaced by Councilor Andersen.  Absent were the Polk County reps, along with Verena Wessel and Kim Freeman of Keizer, and Gladys Blum of Salem.  Chief Moore and Sheriff Myers arrived late.    

During the public comment period that began about 4:10, Charles Fong talked about ADUs.  TJ Putman of Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network, who also runs a tenant-based rental assistance program called "Fresh Start", asked the Task Force to recommend funding TBRA programs for families.  Tina Hansen, who's attended most Task Force meetings, expressed her approval of the Task Force's work.  Chuck then called on Jon Reeves to talk about the results of his committee's community engagement efforts.  Reeves mused about the process they used, read some survey comments, and received murmurs of appreciation for his hard work.

At 5:35 precisely, Commissioner Carlson began introducing the two recommendations not adopted at the last meeting because they needed to be reworked, and one new recommendation to offer training on service/assistance animals to landlords and "other agencies."  The Task Force adopted those, and also voted to delete the landlord-assessment-tool recommendation made by the Health and Housing Committee, as they'd decided it wasn't useful.  Commissioner Carlson then moved adoption of the Strategic Plan, which motion passed.

 At that point, Karen Ray was asked, once again, to help the Task Force "pivot to implementation."  There followed something that did not feel much like the "ceremoniously stand around this tree you've assembled, and plant it" moment she had promised last November.

Ray began by telling the Task Force that they'd put together a "high quality plan" that would require "changes in organizational policies and procedures."  She asked them whether they voted for it because it's a quality plan, or just to "go along."  Bruce Bailey copped to going along.  Carlson said it put "meat on the bones" of the 10-Year Plan just as she talked about doing last year, thanks to the high-quality work of the committees.  Councilor Andersen said something about its needing a project manager.  Ray changed the subject.

Ray's "map" of Marion-Polk Homeless Services
She began by claiming that the Task Force had "dissect[ed] what's currently going on in the community" and found that services for the homeless were not well coordinated.  (Her illustration at left.)  She went on to say a whole lot of things about the need for systems change and what not that really didn't have anything to do with the issue facing the Task Force, which was that, so far, no one on the Task Force or in the community had volunteered to be the "backbone organization" that would oversee or staff the Plan's implementation.

According to Ray, this was likely because they'd "not yet seen what their self-interest is in solving the persistent problems of homelessness."  Well, maybe, or maybe they,  along with the local paper, are of the opinion that "More than a year [after the Task Force began its work], it's hard to see what's been accomplished", despite more than 1,300 hours spent in meetings** and the completion of a 20-page strategic plan.   

Prior to last night's meeting, the Task Force had had very little discussion about plan implementation.  They'd had the one meeting with Karen Ray where nothing was decided, a five-minute discussion at the end of the December meeting, and a few minutes at the very end of the the January meeting, which they spent listening to Commissioner Carlson talk about about her Implementation Structure Concept memo (p 41).  So some were taken aback to hear, half an hour before the meeting and the Task Force were to end, Mayor Clark propose that they discuss putting a staff person in the MWV Council of Governments (COG) to "make sure the strategic plan happens."

The first problem with this proposal: homeless housing and services are not something the COG has done, or is interested in learning about. 

When we [Carlson and Clark] talked to the [COG Board of Directors'] executive committee, they were really not all that interested in being the ones that understand homelessness, so that's where this group of leaders [?] would be an advisory group to the COG Board.  So we would construct an implementation team that would have leadership from the participating organizations, and then a middle management team, and then there would be networking amongst the line staff.  So that all has to be developed. 
As best we can determine (had to watch the video a couple of times), Carlson and Clark were proposing that someone, probably Carlson and Clark, choose a leadership team and hire a staff person who, under the direction and control of COG, as advised by the leadership team, would convene a 3-layer implementation team that would be responsible for "making sure the strategic plan happens." If everything works out, implementation would begin June 1, 2017, and the COG would adjust dues payments to pick up the cost of the staff person.     

About 6:15, with everyone wanting to go home, and no one really understanding what they were voting on, the Task Force approved the proposal.  Then Mayor Clark announced that the COG had given the Task Force some kind of award, reminiscent of the one Mayor Peterson received last year, and Commissioner Carlson handed out framed certificates of appreciation to all the Task Force members, and crystal-looking trinkets to each of the staff.  Sorry homeless people, maybe we'll have something for you next winter.  

**By our calculations, Task Force members, staff, and technical advisors spent a total of 538 hours in Task Force meetings.  Members of the provider community, media and general public spent another 642.  That's a total of 1,008 hours in Task Force meetings, to which may be added another 330 hours in committee meetings, for a total of 1,338 hours in meetings, at a value of at least $31,523 ($23.56/hr volunteer rate for 2015).  First and last month's rent and security deposit for 9 homeless families.      

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Salem's Homeless Chronic

From the National Alliance to End Homelessness
The latest issue of the Salem Weekly has an op-ed piece titled, "Addressing our Homelessness Crisis."  In it, they assert that homelessness "has reached near epidemic proportions in many cities of the U.S."  They don't say which cities, though, so it's not clear who "our" refers to.

To say homelessness has reached epidemic proportions suggests there's been a rapid and uncontrollable increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness; that there's a "crisis" occurring in many U.S. cities.  Maybe, but the Weekly didn't make the case.   

"The number of people who are homeless...continues to decrease."
Salem, for example, does not have a homeless "crisis" so much as it has a homeless "chronic."  What do we mean by that?  Two things.

One, Salem's approach to homelessness, like its approach to so many things, has been habitual, long-lasting, and patterned over a long period of time to conform to outdated norms.  Specifically, the City has, year after year, let religious institutions such as UGM, The Salvation Army, and others provide its residents emergency shelter, with little if any support from the City, while continuing to fund, year in and year out, the same favored social service programs, without regard for whether those programs are, in fact, effective in addressing community needs.

Two, the City has, as a result of its habitual, long-lasting and patterned approach to homelessness, neglected the most vulnerable, the so-called "chronically homeless", the "service resistant", the "hard-to-house", those who supposedly "don't want to be helped."  As a consequence, and as the Weekly observed, Salem has something like twice the national average of chronically homeless.  That's why the downtown is the way it is, and it's only going to get worse if the City doesn't change its approach to the problem.

We agree with the Weekly's observation that resources "need to be used in the most effective possible manner" (really, who would disagree?).  But how shockingly ignorant the statement, "Providing a place to live or sleep may meet immediate basic needs, and that may be a needed first step." (Emphasis added.)  What other first step, dear Weekly, did you have in mind?  And based on what research?

Research has shown that providing housing first is the needed first step.  So, wake up Salem Weekly.  Wake up City of Salem.  This is not a new idea.  What's needed is permanent supportive housing, not sanctioned camping and car-camping programs.  A resource center would be nice, but it won't begin to address the needs of Salem's most vulnerable - the chronically homeless.

Salem's homeless problem is not widespread and uncontrollable, meaning it's not of "epidemic proportions."  It's chronic; built in; systematized.  It's the result of 1) capitalism, and 2) long-term neglect, and while we can't do anything about 1), we can do something about 2).  Other communities have made inroads, but only after they gave up habitual, long-lasting and patterned approaches to the problem, and followed the research.  C'mon Salem Weekly, help us out.  Don't follow habitual thought patterns.  Do your research.     

Friday, February 3, 2017

PTTF: Agenda for Mtg 11 - The Last

The Homeless Task Force will hold its final meeting this Tuesday evening and the agenda is packed.

Public comment's been moved to the beginning (thanks, we suspect, to Mayor Bennett, who actually wants to hear from the public), and just after that, the Task Force will hear from MWVCAA's Jon Reeves about his committee's community engagement efforts.  This item was carried over from the 1/23 meeting, even though everyone agreed last fall that this report should not be left for the final meeting, on account of the optics are bad.

Bad, but consistent with the Task Force's disdain for the general public.

Looking at the written "report" (which are just survey responses), it appears that no attempt has been made to interpret/summarize the content.  Reeves was warned in advance that the project as planned would require a great deal of work, and that is no doubt why it appears not to have been completed.  So, unless Reeves is somehow going to pull it all together in his oral presentation, which is highly doubtful, the surveys were a waste of time.  That's unfortunate, as it looks like collecting and collating the responses took a fair amount of work.  If anyone bothers to read and analyze the responses, please share your findings.  [Update 2/4/17: we've found an "issue brief" on the responses (not useful).] 

The "outstanding" recommendations to be discussed under Item 3 have, to date, not been distributed or posted to the web page, and some are brand new.  Given the difficulty it's had adhering to its schedule during the last two meetings, it's doubtful the time allotted (15 minutes) will be sufficient.  Nevertheless, it's likely that the Task Force will adopt the draft Strategic Plan at this meeting under Item 4.

The draft plan's been distributed, but not posted to the web page.  Interestingly, the plan makes no mention of the fact that Polk County stopped participating in Task Force proceedings last October.

After they adopt the draft plan (to be completed, presumably, by staff), Karen Ray will help the Task Force "pivot to implementation" (her $20K contract, set to expire 12/31/16, was extended to the end of February, presumably to allow her to complete the pivot intiated last fall).

It's likely that Ray will ask the City of Salem to agree to take responsibility for implementation.  This would, we think, be a mistake, but it might be desirable politically.  Because, if not Salem's, upon whose shelf would this plan sit?** Political considerations aside, what's important to this community is that resources be allocated where they are most needed and will be most effective, and that does not include implementing the Strategic Plan, although it would include some of the projects described in it.

Mayor Clark's ten-minute wrap up apparently includes presenting the Task Force with a "regional cooperation award" and likely other self-congratulatory content that does not require a quorum. 

**[Update 2/6/17: There is talk that the Task Force will be asked to put a limited duration, dedicated staff person and the Strategic Plan in the MWV Council of Governments, though it doesn't seem to good a fit, and who pays?]   

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CANDO 21 Feb 2017 Ltr

February 21, 2017

To the Boards of Commission of Marion and Polk Counties, and the Mayors of Salem and Keizer:

It has come to our attention that the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force recently approved a recommendation that Marion and Polk Counties “[a]ssess local inclusion in the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care” (ROCC) to determine whether it was in the community's best interest to remain within this 28-county organization, or to re-form the Marion-Polk CoC.

Having given the matter due consideration, our board has concluded that the goal of preventing and ending homelessness in Marion and Polk Counties could be advanced significantly if the community could concentrate its planning and coordinating efforts on Marion and Polk Counties, rather than continuing to try to plan and coordinate with the other 26 other counties in the ROCC.  We therefore favor a decision to proceed to the planning phase to determine how best to proceed with recreating a Marion & Polk Counties CoC .


Bruce Hoffman

[Approved unanimously 2/21/17]