Sunday, February 26, 2017

CSHC's 2017 Award Recs

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "Salem's 2017 Social Spending."]

The Community Services and Housing Commission (CSHC) was able to make its 2017 recommendations a little early this year.  It's easier to divide the pie when there's plenty to go around. 

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).

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

* Merit - Multi-year recipient whose long-time executive director was for many years married to the Federal Programs Division manager, who staffed the CSHC in 2017.  The manager left in April to go to work for Catholic Community Services.  In 2018, HUD found the relationship to be a conflict of interest.

HUD also found allowing employees of grant applicants to sit on the CSHC to be a conflict of interest.  St Francis's Executive Director, Kem Lemman, and Center for Hope and Safety's Executive Director, Jayne Downing, were both members of the CSHC in 2017.  They resigned in 2018 after HUD said they couldn't apply for funds while on the CSHC or for the year following.  In January 2019, the City Council repealed SRC Chapter 20G, which created the CSHC. 

** Salem Housing Authority - The City Council pre-approved the first $500,000 for the Yaquina Hall rehab (Statesman Journal article here). 

*** Jason Lee Manor - The Federal Programs manager advised CSHC members that this project might be eligible for $148,200 that had been found in some sort of reserve, and offered reasons why those funds should go toward the project.  Member Arturo Vargas noted that the Commission had said last year it would not award any additional funds to this project, and argued strongly against the award.

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

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

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

In his first State of the City address as Mayor, 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.   

See the CCTV video of the Mayor Bennett's address here.  The part quoted above begins somewhere around 25'. 

Carlson Pitches Plan to Marion County

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "Mayor Announces Ambitious Plan for Chronic Homeless."]

Laura Walker and Janet Carlson 2/15/17
On February 15, 2017, Marion County Commissioner Carlson pitched to the other two County Commissioners pretty much the same MWHI Task Force presentation she had pitched to the Salem City Council the night before.  However, Carlson told the County that the City of Salem was interested in implementing a "Real Change" (anti-panhandling) program, which she didn't mention at the 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."  That also was not mentioned at the City Council presentation. 

Carlson 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 had 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.)

Same Brentano and Kevin Cameron 2/15/17
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 Home Base Shelters of Salem  proposal for a camping program in Salem or Marion County and indicated her belief that neither owned a suitable parcel.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mayor Vows Not to Surrender as Plan Thuds

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

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 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 neither of those things.

Commissioner Carlson
"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."  And, according to Carlson:

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. 

Mayor Bennett
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 this 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.

The next morning, Commissioner Carlson gave pretty much the same presentation to her colleagues on the Marion County Board of Commissioners.  Then she attended the Mayor's State of the City Address down at the Convention Center.  Carlson was visibly displeased when the Mayor barely mentioned the Task Force's Strategic Plan, and focused instead on announcing an ambitious new program, designed to meet the needs of Salem's chronically homeless population and on his plans for a sobering center, in partnership with Salem Health and Marion County.  That afternoon, the sobering center plans began to unravel.  If Mayor Bennett wanted the County's tangible support for the sobering center, he was going to have to pony up tangible support for Carlson's project manager and leadership team.  Eventually, Salem would agree to the trade off, but it would take the better part of a year.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

MWHITF: Strategic Plan in Brief

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Since adoption, the Strategic Plan of the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative (MWHI) Task Force has been significantly reworked under the supervision of its principal author, Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson and the rest of the MWHI Steering Committee.  The latest version can be found here. With Commissioner Carlson leaving office at the end of the year, this version might become the final version.

The original plan was much less impressive.  Below is a summary of the original, stripped of excess verbiage, with links/updates.  The plan objectives are grouped by the how hard, or easy, it should be to meet them. 

Summary of Original Task Force Recommendations

Will be completed/moot by the Task Force's last meeting
Community engagement/outreach (5).

Self-executing (requires no TF action)
"Support" MWIC's affordable housing projects
"Endorse" Salem/Keizer's implementation of the HNA
"Support" YHDP grant to expand RHY services (not successful)
"Endorse" UGM's relocation/expansion plan
"Endorse" [Westcare] veteran housing project
"Support" any and all DV and family housing projects
"Endorse" the local LEAD effort
"Support" Salem's non-existent anti-panhandling programs (see "Toilets and Panhandling")
"Endorse" the local CCO's efforts to get more people into supported housing (allowed)
"Endorse" MC Re-entry Initiative's transitional housing project
"Support" PHA DV and homeless preferences
"Support" Dream Ctr, HOME expansion & similar neighborhood-based services
"Support" SKATS' travel training program
"Develop" landlord assessment tool (deleted 1/7/17
"Determine" desirability of "temporary support-coordinated camping" program
"Support" Marion County, Salem Health, etc., in creating a Salem-area sobering station
"Support" community partners in creating a one-stop resource center

Not self-executing (requires action)
Inventory land/buildings suitable for housing, change zoning as needed
Explore CDL as "regional tool" (P18) and adopt statewide resource network
Create "Development Team" to implement plan
Develop senior shelter, housing, supportive services, and supportive housing
Develop medical street-outreach team
Develop veteran housing and services

"Advocacy" only 
for coordinating and facilitating grant applications
for more money from the state housing agency
for a home-buyer tax credit
for DV/homeless preference in new housing
for greater HMIS coverage and a plan to secede from ROCC
for collaboration between providers and WorkSource Oregon
for policy changes in SK 24J .
for continued transit service up the canyon  

"Assistance" only
to expand finlit training in schools 
to bring finlit classes to the poor (vs. making them go to a class somewhere)
to offer training about requirements related to service assistance animals 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

MWHITF: Last Meeting

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Salem and Marion County are talking about putting up  $40,000 each toward hiring 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. 

Mayor Bennett opened the final meeting of the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force 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 the City's tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA) program, 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.

Next up was Jon Reeves to talk about the results of his committee's community engagement efforts.  Reeves mused about the process they'd 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, which had  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."  See here. The Task Force adopted those and 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 called on to help the Task Force "pivot to implementation", a process she and the Task Force had been working on since the November 2016 meeting. 

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 said 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.  (Illustration at left.)  She went on to talk about  the need for systems change generally, eventually arriving at  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."

Or, as the Statesman Journal put it, maybe it's because, "[m]ore 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.  (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.)    

Prior to its last 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).

Some Task Force members were visibly taken aback to hear, half an hour before the meeting and the Task Force were to end, Mayor Clark propose putting a staff person in the MWV Council of Governments (COG) to "make sure the strategic plan happens."

COG has no history or experience with homeless housing and services.  As Mayor Clark put it,

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 [sic] 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. 

Although it was not entirely clear, Carlson and Clark appeared to be 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 worked 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 crystalline trinkets to each of the staff.

Sorry homeless people, maybe we'll have something for you next winter.

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." 

It asserts that homelessness "has reached near epidemic proportions in many cities of the U.S."  It doesn'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.

Everyone can agree with the Weekly's observation that resources "need to be used in the most effective possible manner", but it is hard to know what to make of the statement that, "Providing a place to live or sleep may meet immediate basic needs, and that may be a needed first step." (Emphasis added.) 

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.     

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


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]