Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Beautiful Day for Protest

One of CANDO's favorite cops, Sgt. Jason VanMeter
Spring was in the air today, as Oregonians gathered at the Capitol, on the front steps, and over in Willson Park along Court Street near the WWII memorial.

As couples and families with small children strolled along the Capitol Mall among the blooming cherry trees, they could hear the voices of 70 or so people at the southern end, insisting that love trumps hate, and that homophobia has got to go.  "Jesus hates Fascism", according to one of the many hand-made signs, and does not care particularly about making America great again.

The crowd on the Capitol steps were there for one primary purpose:  to prevent the MAGA (Make America Great Again) March from occupying them. And a beautiful
day it was for a protest.  Even the State Troopers and the Salem Police bicycle patrol seemed happy and relaxed as they stood watchfully nearby.  The only unhappy people we could see near the Capitol were a dozen or so black blok types, presumably not from around here, who, after hovering in front of the steps awhile, made off in a westerly direction, toward Willson Park, where the MAGA Marchers had set up tents at the WWII memorial, behind a "fence" of police bicycles (and police).

We noticed as they left that the police were following, so we followed, too.  That's where we ran into the former head of the Downtown Enforcement Team, Jason VanMeter, who was happy to chat with us, despite needing to hold his bicycle in position as a part of the fence.  In recent years, Jason's been behind a desk, promoted from the DET to admin, which he was very happy to abandon in January, in favor of patrol duty.  He's now working with the mobile crisis response team (we think that's the right name, but we'll update if we find out it's something else), which he helped create. 

"Fence" between the east and west crowds
As most readers may know, Willson (two 'l's, people) Park belongs to the state.  And there were a lot of state police there to protect it  today.  That's how we like to think of them, anyway, as protecting the park, even knowing they were really there to protect us from each other.

It was kind of hard to hear our conversation with Jason because of all the yelling behind him.  We couldn't make out what the argument(s) was/were about, but it's fairly safe to assume it wasn't about who was likely to prevail in the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament.

There was one arrest while we were there; it was one of the younger MAGA Marchers wearing a black III% hoodie (anyone know why it's III% instead of 3%?).  Don't know what for, exactly.  Nothing serious, it would seem.  [Update: T. Oregonian reports it was for illegal possession of a firearm.)

Arrested III%er at far left, Daniel Bejamin in the red MAGA hat
The crowd dispersed a bit after the arrest and the fence reformed in a slightly different location.  The yelling having subsided, we chatted with some of the MAGA Marchers.  A woman with lipstick to match the red MAGA hats asked us if we were tourists, saying she was from Tigard.  She said the Love people (meaning the crowd on the Capitol steps) were nice, but the young men in black (meaning the black blok types) didn't believe in anything, "they just want a fight."  We wondered later if she was aware the guy who was arrested was a III%er on the side of the MAGA Marchers.  (We had to look it up, but if you don't know, the 3% is a reference to the percent of colonists believed to have been "active in the field" of what's commonly referred to as the American Revolution.) 
 
A fellow MAGA Marcher joining our conversation, a man, said "those guys are Bernie burnouts."  He said that they feel betrayed, hate Hillary Clinton, and don't believe in anyone or anything.  He agreed with the woman that they "just want a fight." 

The crowd (which was about the same size as the one on the steps of the Capitol) fixed their sunglassed eyes on us, sideways, as we wandered through their midst without signage or identifying colors.  "He's the only one who can do this", said the man with the microphone on the steps of the obelisk.  "He's a maverick."       
        
We ran into Jerry Moore, in civvies and shades, over by the fountain that was turned off a couple of years ago on account of the drought, and is now just a chlorinated duck pond.  He seemed a little surprised at the size of the turnout, although it was well within SPD's predicted total of 300.  We agreed the weather likely brought more people out.

Former Salem City Councilor Daniel Benjamin wandered over to greet  the Chief, saying it was good to see him, though he wished it were under different circumstances.  He was not, we think, referring to the fact that they were meeting at a pro-Trump rally, but rather to his having been forced recently to resign from the Salem City Council.  The conversation was the briefest.  He wandered away again, almost as soon as we had introduced ourselves.

As we chatted with Jerry about the need for people to forego their iPhones occasionally and talk to one another, sit on front porches if they have them, and risk actually talking to their neighbors about their barking dogs, the black blok types disappeared somewhere, and gave us a clear shot of the bicycle fence.

Was the ardor for argument chilled by the arrest, the warming sunshine, or was it just time to start thinking about lunch?  We don't know.  We said goodbye to Jerry, and continued our walk.  

[Update:  for a different perspective, check out Cameron Whitten's live stream video.  I think we must have arrived shortly after he stopped filming.  Thanks to Cameron, we got some nice pics of our friend Sarah Rohrs.]

 

The "Pointless" Task Force

"the task force is pointless"
Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson is again in the news after attempting to throw Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler under the bus on a local radio show.  On March 16, the same day Salem Weekly published a cover piece on Carlson titled "Radio Show Outs Commissioner",   Carlson went on another show ("Gator's Radio Experience"), and said that Wheeler had resigned from the Task Force because "she had some personal things going on in her life at that time."

Did the KYKN team ask Carlson, if that's true, then why did Wheeler's letter say "It is with the full consensus of our Polk County team that we will no longer be participating"?  Of course not.  But you'd better believe the KMUZ WWU Tuesday team who broke the story would have. 

Polk County records (above) show that the Polk County team ceased participating on the Task Force because doing so was, in their view, "pointless."  Therefore, unless you consider not wanting to engage in pointless activity a "personal thing",  Commissioner Wheeler did not resign because "she had some personal things going on in her life at that time", as alleged by Commissioner Carlson.  But, lest there be the slightest doubt, consider the below email, received March 23, 2017, from Commissioner Wheeler:

So why did Commissioner Carlson tell the KYKN team that Commissioner Wheeler resigned because "she had some personal things going on in her life at that time"?  Did/does she sincerely believe that to be the case?  Based on oral reports and public records of events on October 18 (the day Wheeler resigned), the answer is no.

As reported previously, Commissioner Wheeler's letter reached Commissioner Carlson on the morning of October 18, just before a large, regular meeting of public officials.  The news resulted in Carlson's having an emotional "meltdown" strong enough to cause Mayor Peterson to come to her aid.  After a few "there there"s, it was resolved between Mayor Peterson and Mayor Clark that they would go to lunch and decide "what to do" about the resignation.  "What to do" did not include reaching out or otherwise expressing care or concern to Commissioner Wheeler, as one would expect from persons believing "personal things" had caused a colleague to resign.  Nor did "what to do" include promptly informing the other Task Force members of the resignation and the reasons for it.  No.  "What to do", here, meant "damage control."  Consider Carlson's thought process, in her own words:
[T]here was some confusion in how the letter was written, and so, when, when we got the letter, Anna, Cathy and myself, from Karen [sic], we needed to check in to find out whether it meant that Jennifer was stepping down, or whether Polk County was stepping away.  And that took us a little while to, uh, Anna talked to Mike Ainsworth, I talked to Craig Pope, uh, we also talked with our legal counsel, they had not rescinded their charter, so we thought it would be best to clarify at the next meeting, that while Jennifer had resigned, that Polk County was still at the table.  So it was the consensus of the co-chairs to come up with a statement, uh, to say that the four jurisdictions were still moving forward.  When I talked with Craig, they were really not interested in trying to, you know, the other two commissioners had a lot of commitments, didn't want to step in, and only three meeting left at that point, so, uh, that was where we went.              
Consistent with a sincerely held belief that Wheeler had resigned because of "personal things going on in her life" or fake news?  We might find out if Carlson or the County's Public Information Officer ever gets around to rescheduling their interview with KMUZ's Willamette Wakeup Tuesday team, but don't hold your breath.  Hear the WWU Tuesday team's comments on the Salem Weekly piece and the KYKN interview here

On April 20, 2017 the Task Force's "Transition Team" (COG President Mike Ainsworth, Salem City Mgr. Steve Powers, Chuck Bennett, Janet Carlson, Cathy Clark, Shaney Starr, and Jon Reeves) will meet at COG to discuss implementation of the Task Force's strategic plan.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Minutes 3/21/17


 March 21, 2017

Residents: Deb Comini
Organizations: Jeanine Knight, UGM; Ross Swartzendruber, Salem Creative Network; John Hawkins, Friends of Salem Police (PAC)
City and County Representatives: Councilor Kaser; Sgt. Kevin Hill, SPD; Brady Rogers, Neighborhood Enhancement Division; Karen Odenthall, SKATS MPO;  
Guests: none

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

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

Councilor Kaser reported that the City’s Strategic Planning Project process is in Phase 2.  The “big issues” have been identified and assigned to six work groups who will conduct four to six public, goal-identifying meetings over the next three months.  She also reported that the Salem Housing Authority Board of Commissioners received an information report on the Mayor’s Homeless Rental Assistance Program (HRAP) which will be coming before the Citizens’ Budget Committee next month.  

Councilor Kaser reported that on April 19, there will be a public hearing on replacing Salem’s existing regulations for vehicle for hire and transportation network companies (SRC 30.700 to 30.835), and that she had heard only from the affected businesses.  [Background: In August 2015, City Council amended SRC Chapter 30 to allow for operation of transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, within the City Limits (see Jul 2015 Report). Around the time City Council passed the amendments, Uber ceased operation within the City and there are no transportation network companies (“TNCs”) currently operating within Salem.  On January 9, 2017, on the Mayor’s motion, Council directed staff to prepare amendments to the Salem Revised Code to accommodate TNCs “business model.”  (See Mar 2017 Report.)]  Also on April 19, there will be a hearing on the Planning Commission’s recommended code amendments affecting short-term “AirBnB” type rentals, now being offered contrary to existing regulations.  Kaser said she would like to receive comments on both matters by March 27, that there are a great many openings on City boards, commissions and advisory committees, there will be a new Citizens Police Academy starting in April.
 
Officer Hill reported that the Downtown Enforcement Team has been busy since January covering downtown seven days a week and have been seeing increased litter, vandalism and nighttime trespassing.  He said they were preparing as “event season” gets under way for a crowd of about 300 at pro- and anti-Trump rallies at the Capitol on Saturday March 25.   

Michael Livingston reported that the engineering planning phase of the Maple-Winter Street Bikeway Project is under way and should be completed by January 2018, at which point the City will be in a position to seek project funding.  He said the bikeway is expected to be a model for others in the City, and other neighborhoods have already expressed interest.

In public comments, the board heard from John Hawkins on the subject of the $61.3M bond measure for the proposed 115,00 SF police facility on the May 16 ballot, and referred everyone to the interactive webpage to find out more.  The board also heard from Ross Swartzendruber about the Salem Greenway open streets event along Maple-Winter Streets planned for Saturday, June 17 from 10 to 2.  Volunteers willing to help at intersections may sign up at the Salem Greenway website.     

There followed a presentation by Karen Odenthall about the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation System FY 2018-2023 Transportation Improvement Program.

There being no other business before the board, the meeting adjourned at 7:07 p.m.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Janet Carlson: Fact Check



Last week, the Salem Weekly did a story on one of the many (11) reports by community radio station KMUZ's (100.7 FM in Salem) Willamette Wakeup about the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Task Force.  The report aired January 17, 2017.

The story prompted a local commercial radio station to interview Carlson.  Here are the highlights.

"Surprised" by Report

Talking about the podcast of the report, Carlson said, "We were not aware that it existed before she [Marion County Public Information Officer Jolene Kelly] found it in their [Willamette Wakeup's] archives."  She said Kelly was "surprised" by what she heard.

In fact,  we'd sent Janet the podcast on January 28 (see below), just like we'd sent the podcasts of all the previous Willamette Wakeup reports for the past year, as well as all the reports from here.  Someone might have been surprised, but it was not Carlson.  

Carlson: "We sent a letter to KMUZ asking if we could have equal time to be able to clarify and straighten out, uh, some of the misinformation that was included in that show."

January 28 email to Carlson with link to 1/17 podcast
In fact, Kelly's letter asked KMUZ to "either remove the podcast from further distribution, or allow the county, and other task force conveners if they wish, the opportunity to respond in a follow up interview" (see below).  Zermer and Bill Smaldone (the President of KMUZ's Board of Directors and member of the Salem Weekly Editorial Board) both reviewed the podcast, and concluded "the research was thorough and makes a compelling argument for public concern."  John Gear, legal counsel to the Board, also reviewed the podcast, and heartily approved the quality of the reporting as a "scoop." 

Carlson: "It hasn't been rescheduled.  We're working on it.  It isn't that we don't want to go on the show, it's just that we haven't had the opportunity."

It's true in fact that it hasn't been rescheduled, but that's because Marion County hasn't attempted to reschedule it.  The last communication was a February 20 email from Marion County saying they would "touch base next week" (see below).  Only the most pathologically naive would be foolish enough to believe Janet Carlson is somehow sitting by the phone, waiting for someone from KMUZ to call her to reschedule her interview.  

Jolene Kelly's letter to KMUZ
Carlson: "It surprised us that we weren't contacted at all, after this small group that requested the email, to find out if they had questions, so they made a lot of assumptions.

However, Carlson failed to identify a single erroneous "assumption" in the report.

Carlson: "I don't think Melanie Zermer or the [KMUZ] Board was aware of the content of the podcast, either."

Zermer and the Board certainly were aware of the content of the podcast when they declined to remove it as Marion County had requested.  It's not overstating the case to say they were, in fact, quite satisfied with the quality of the reporting.  

Everything was "Legal"
 
Carlson said, "[The hiring of Karen Ray] was totally legal.  Follows all our county contract laws and rules."

This comment completely ignores the facts reported by the Willamette Wakeup team that raise questions about the propriety of events leading to Karen Ray's hire, e.g., that Karen Ray was Carlson's friend and that she, Carlson, asked Karen Ray to reduce her price by $5,000 so as to avoid having to go through any County-mandated review process.  The report never claimed her hiring was not "legal."  Everyone knows cronyism and skating are "legal." 

Marion County's last communication to Willamette Wakeup

Carlson: "[The Willamette Wakeup report] implies somehow that the Task Force was hiring Karen Ray.  The Task Force, really other than having the four jurisdictions charter, it has no legal standing, it has no money, it has no budget, and so it's not the Task Force that hired anybody, it's Marion County that hired Karen Ray."

This comment, like the one before it, completely ignores the concerns expressed in the Willamette Wakeup report, having to do with Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler's stated and repeated wish to put the matter of whether or not to hire an out-of-state consultant to facilitate the work of the Task Force -- to the Task Force itself.  It apparently does not occur to Carlson, even now, that the Task Force might have wanted, or was entitled to have, a say in what work they would do, or how they would do it.  To Carlson, it's all about who has the power.   

Wheeler Left due to "Personal Things"
   
Asked "from your mouth, what happened with Jennifer Wheeler", Carlson said this:

Jennifer had some personal things going on in her life at that time, and she stepped away from the Task Force, uh, she, there was some confusion in how the letter was written, and so, when, when we got the letter, Anna, Cathy and myself, from Karen [sic], we needed to check in to find out whether it meant that Jennifer was stepping down, or whether Polk County was stepping away.  And that took us a little while to, uh, Anna talked to Mike Ainsworth, I talked to Craig Pope, uh, we also talked with our legal counsel, they had not rescinded their charter, so we thought it would be best to clarify at the next meeting, that while Jennifer had resigned, that Polk County was still at the table.  So it was the consensus of the co-chairs to come up with a statement, uh, to say that the four jurisdictions were still moving forward.  When I talked with Craig, they were really not interested in trying to, you know, the other two commissioners had a lot of commitments, didn't want to step in, and only three meeting left at that point, so, uh, that was where we went.  I sent you an email, I hope you got that, from Jennifer where, uh, she basically did not condone the, you know, kind of the blogs and the commentary that was going on about the Task Force and Polk County. 
This doesn't even sound truthful.  
The alleged email from Wheeler, we have not seen*, so we can't comment on that except to say there is a strong factual basis for all of the Willamette Wakeup report, including all the reasons behind Polk County's decision to resign, and the unmistakable fact that they did resign (Wheeler's letter speaks for itself [see left], which is why Carlson never released it).  Carlson's account of "what happened with Jennifer Wheeler" is not truthful, but it's entirely consistent with our previous reports of her views on the  matter.    
[Update: see Wheeler's response to Carlson's assertion here.]

Everything was "Transparent"

In closing, Carlson said, "The other point that we want to make is that in some of that innuendo or insinuations or speculations, there's a lot of discussion about transparency and whether we're being transparent or trying to mislead and all of that, you know everything was done appropriately under public meetings laws, you know, when a question came up, I contacted our county attorney, she sent me a statement, I sent that statement out, and I sent that statement to you [the interviewers], that, you know, what we were doing was within the bounds of the public meeting law.  I'm the one in Marion County that actually started the training in public meetings law.  It's a big deal to me, so it's interesting that somehow I'm getting tagged with the idea that I'm doing something inappropriate."  (Emphasis added.)  

Yes, on this we can agree.  The idea that Carlson is doing something inappropriate is interesting.  Willamette Wakeup also thought it was interesting, and so did Salem Weekly.  That's why they reported on it.  Accurately. 

Notably, Carlson said absolutely nothing in the interview about Willamette Wakeup's report that she lied to the Task Force when she told them that Sheriff Garton and Heidi Mackay had not resigned, they "just couldn't be here."  And that's not all she failed to dispute.  See here for complete details.

~~~

*We've asked Commissioner Wheeler for a copy of the alleged email or to be told the nature of her disagreement with the reporting, but have not yet had an answer.  When and if we receive a reply, we will update this blog.

Update 3/19: added comment to the effect that Carlson is not waiting by the phone for KMUZ to call.

Friday, March 10, 2017

HL Voucher Lottery to Morph

Jimmy Jones speaking to the Emergency Housing Network about changes to the homeless voucher lottery.
Yesterday at the Emergency Housing Network (EHN) meeting, staff of the Salem Housing Authority and the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency announced SHA's intent to change its homeless voucher lottery system from random selection to a needs-based prioritization system (which means it's no longer a lottery).  MWVCAA's Jimmy Jones, who's recently been promoted from Coordinated Entry Specialist to the Director of the Community Resources Program, was there to explain the needs-based prioritization process, discussed last November in the CANDO Archive.

The lottery was suspended last summer and resumed only last month.  It will remain unchanged (10 vouchers awarded each month through random selection, along with 5 domestic violence victim vouchers) through March and April.  In May, however, providers hoping to obtain a voucher for a homeless client must contact MWVCAA to have their client assessed and placed on a master list prioritized by degree of vulnerability.  No change to DV voucher lottery is anticipated.  Clients scoring into the highest levels of need on the master list of all persons assessed in Marion and Polk Counties will be offered one of the 10 homeless vouchers set aside that month.  That, at least, is how we understood the plan going forward.  

The plan appeared to be well received.  There were three questions from the audience:  could clients manipulate responses to affect their VI-SPDAT score (no), could the data be broken out by county (yes), and what is the next step for the data being amassed (it will be used to inform local decision-making about allocation of resources)?

There were approximately 50 people in attendance, including UGM's CEO and former Task Force member, Bruce Bailey (red shirt, upper right corner of the photo).  Some housing providers not represented at the meeting included Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network, which shelters up to four families in participating churches, and also runs a tenant-based rental assistance program funded with City HOME program dollars, and Grace House, which houses single women, no children, often straight from Coffee Creek, for up to six months.  UGM, Salvation Army, St. Francis and Center for Hope and Safety were all present.  Four members of the Home Base Shelters of Salem board were present, as well (HBSS seeks to implement a Rest-Stop (aka "Safe Spot") type of program in Marion or Polk County).

Acceptance of the switch to a needs-based selection system is huge for this community, both because it's the first and biggest step toward the implementation of a true coordinated entry system, and because it's needed to implement the Mayor's proposal to target resources toward the chronically homeless.  A first for this community, and long overdue.

The proposal for a Homeless Rental Assistance Program or HRAP to house 100 of Salem's chronically homeless residents over the course of a year comes before the Salem Housing Authority BOC Monday, March 13, at City Hall.
According to the overview published yesterday, the program budget is "$1.9M, with $1.4M requiring new funding."  If the BOC gives the program the nod, the matter will go before the Citizens' Budget Committee in April.  As the chart above indicates, the program saves money in the long term, mainly in "Police-Jail" and medical, including behavioral health costs, most of which the City does not pay for directly, which could create a bit of a math/thinking challenge for some on the budget committee.

But maybe not.  Events over the past year, like the housing shortage and rising rents, the extended sub-freezing temperatures, the deportation actions and Muslim ban, the rise of hateful, racialized rhetoric and consequent fear, the prospect of deep cuts to housing, health insurance and other social care programs, which promise to make the situation even worse than it is, all these things, along with the "recovering" economy, a new City Manager, Mayor and Councilors, all these things seem to have made Salem officials more willing, not less, to think, plan and act more broadly/inclusively than they have in the past.  So maybe it won't be that much of a challenge for them to see that housing the chronically homeless is both humane and practical, if done right.

Do, fix, do fix, that's what's needed, along with the cooperation of property owners.  Landlords will find a good partner in the Salem Housing Authority.  If you know any owners of rental property, tell them you hope they'll lease to SHA just one unit, a 1 or 2 BR, in each of their properties.  That's all they have to do.  Just one unit.  They won't have to "manage" the SHA tenant, SHA and partners will do that, if only they can get the units.

Friday, March 3, 2017

News from the Continuum

Morningstar Community Church
In case you missed it, there was a Big Meeting of the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC) last month, right here in Salem, at the Morningstar Community Church.  We knew about it because we were invited to attend, but when we got there, we were told we were not welcome.  We were, of course, disappointed, but not surprised, on account of our daring to suggest Marion and Polk Counties might be better off re-creating our own CoC.  See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here According to reports, there was a lot of cool data and resources and information presented during the 2-day meeting, which begs the question why they wouldn't want that information to get out into the community.  (We were told it would be shared, but, one month later: nothing.)  No reason was ever given for closing the meeting, and neither the staff, nor the board (who defer to staff) seemed to care that closing the entire meeting for no reason violated ROCC's guiding principles, as stated in its bylaws.  "We're a not a legal organization", Jo Zimmer told us by way of explanation, "we're fake!"  In other words, unincorporated associations don't have to adhere to their bylaws because they're "not legal."

And they wonder why some of us are thinking ROCC is not quite up to the job of ending homelessness.

Also (reportedly) discussed at the meeting was ROCC's "rebranding" itself as the "Oregon Balance of State CoC."  If that seems a little like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, it nevertheless has the ring of truth.  It's not hard to imagine them really believing, "There's nothing wrong here, but maybe we need to disassociate ourselves from the community's perception that there's something wrong and we might do that by changing our name."  However, "rebranding is notoriously difficult, especially with businesses that have an established identity and history", to say nothing about rebranding to anything like, "Oregon Balance of State CoC."  

Team Toilet: Anna, Gary, Tim, PK, Darlene, Verena
Also in case you missed it, after 18 months in service, the two Arta Potties behind the Bishop building and at the corner of Front and Court Streets have been put in storage with Ace Chemical Toilets (there's still one in the parking lot of the First Congregational Church, though).

The reason given for the removal was overuse.  "We simply need all 7 placed, not two or three potties. We have had long morning lines to serve", organizer Rebecca Courtney told us.  "We...have just formed a new partnership with "Partnerships in Community Living, Inc...this way we can provide tax deductions and receive the non profit $$, meeting the city requirements" [for a $4K grant/loan authorized last spring.]

There's a little more information here about the organizers getting more people involved and renegotiating the terms of the City's $4K loan/grant, but no real information or plan has emerged.  According to the Salem Weekly article, "Interested people can make tax-deductible donations to Partnerships in Community Living’s 'Arta-Potties' account. Funds will be used to purchase more potties, art installment and weekly cleaning from the project’s continued partner, Ace Chemical Toilets."

Salem Fellowship of Reconciliation 2/26/17 Mtg Ad 
Home Base Shelters of Salem in recent weeks appears to have moved on from advocating with the City to allow tent camping in secure sites to "developing micro-housing."

Towards the end of 2016, HBSS members met with the City Manager about their proposal to provide secure tent camping facilities for select homeless adults.  Mr. Powers reportedly told them that the City did not have any property/parcels that would be suitable for their project, which the City was not all that keen on to begin with.  HBSS received a similar message at a meeting with Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson, according to her oral report at the February 15 meeting of the Marion County Board of Commissioners.  Consequently, it seems, HBSS is reworking their proposal, and their image, as "a group dedicated to developing micro-housing."  According to statements made at the February meeting of the Salem Homeless Coalition, HBSS intends to return to City Council some time this month, or perhaps April.

[3/5/17 Update: according to the summary of HBSS's micro-housing plans here, they "have a prospective village site in Marion County outside high-density urban residential neighborhoods and retail commercial areas."  Seems like it's going to be hard for folks living out in the county, especially if they've been assessed by ARCHES as "highly vulnerable" as the summary suggests, "to actively work to develop the community connections, knowledge and skills necessary to secure more stable shelter", not to mention "participate in the Salem community by providing weekly volunteer service."  Also, $12K annual budget seems low.][Update 3/8/17: website taken down. Per HBSS, the new info was published prematurely.]

The extended period of sub-freezing weather in January, boosted by social media, raised awareness among Polk County residents of their unsheltered and inadequately housed neighbors, culminating in a community forum attended by about 80 members of the community and area providers.  One result of that gathering could turn out to be a Dallas-based Interfaith Hospitality Network modeled on the Salem IHN directed by TJ Putman, in which volunteers host homeless families overnight in church classrooms for a week at a time, while the parents work on finding housing, employment, etc., supported by a case manager.  The program's claimed 100% success rate will be hard to reproduce, though, without also screening families for criminal histories and active substance abuse issues, and having a well-funded tenant-based rental assistance program. There was an informational meeting about the IHN in Monmouth last Thursday called, "Supporting Families Back on Their Feet", but we haven't yet heard how that went.

There was something new at the Polk Community Connect event in January, an acknowledgement that reproductive health care qualifies as a basic need.

We volunteered at the Connect, and also tabled for KMUZ Community Radio.  Our table was next to the Planned Parenthood table, which allowed us to observe the many people who visited it to ask about the wide range of services PP offers, including general health, transgender counseling and advice about STDs, like what to do when one partner is being treated and the other isn't (one question of many along those lines that we overheard).  Other visitors to the table wanted only a handful of mints and/or condoms, which were about equal in popularity.  Several others, including a couple of OHSU nursing students, commented to us how gratified they were to see the PP table at this Polk County event, indicating they, too, thought it a valuable service to participants.
PP Welcome Here, Not in Salem

But, if you were expecting to see a PP table at the Salem-Keizer Community Connect this year, you'll be disappointed.  They weren't allowed last year, either.  The event is sponsored by Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, the Salem Leadership Foundation, Cherriots, Salem First Baptist Church (host), the United Way and Profund Northwest.  The City of Salem supports the dental van(s) with a $2K grant.  We're not sure which one(s) of these was unwilling to "Care.  No matter what", but it's too bad they were allowed to decide for everybody else.                 

The Polk Connect took place the same day as the Marion and Polk Counties' Point-in-Time Count.  Preliminary (oral) reports on the PITC results suggest we will not see large increases in the numbers counted, despite additional efforts on the part of MWVCAA staff and others to "get out into the county" this year.  MWVCAA did not publish a  2016 report (though they have in years past), but we asked for their data, and based on that, last year's count was 857.  Jimmy Jones, with MWVCAA, has been collecting data on Marion and Polk Counties' community's homeless population since August of last year.  He estimates that there are now, in Salem alone, about 2,000 people experiencing homelessness.  MWVCAA recently asked Jimmy to take over the direction of its Community Resources Program (which includes the ARCHES Project), and he will be speaking to the Salem City Club about his research on March 17.

from the December 2016 SHA Program Management Report
Updates on a couple of Salem Housing Authority's programs.  The RAP for vets with SMI is reportedly doing well.  According to ARCHES staff, "we are off to a good start.  Sara Webb runs that program for Linda [Strike], and she's very committed to the cause and a very talented person generally. We're finding new vets to be screened every day, and I would say we have a pretty good data picture of what the vet issues are in the community, even only 5 months into the game."

Still, "it's hard to gauge the relative effectiveness of any program this early in the game. You get a lot of false positives until you have a full data set to examine.  We'd need a year of entry, and then be able to look at how many we assessed, how many then got a mental health screening, how many were offered assistance, and how many were able to lease up. Then we'd need to know how many were successfully housed after a year, and so on."  In other words, they're just getting started.

Funding for the program to house Salem's chronically homeless announced by the Mayor in his State of the City address on February 15 will be going before Salem's Citizens' Budget Committee some time in April or May.  We've not seen any "official" statement of the plan/program yet, but Salem Housing Authority staff are engaged in planning, and Housing Administrator Andy Wilch told the Salem Housing Advisory Committee last week that long-term success in ending chronic homelessness will require the community to adopt a "uniform approach with coordinated access", a message consistent with experience nationwide and HUD guidance.  The  Mayor reports he will be meeting with Wilch and City Manager Steve Powers "soon" to plan next steps.  If you want to hear more about these plans, tune in to KMUZ on Tuesday morning, March 7, for Mayor Bennett's monthly visit with Willamette Wakeup (8 am on KMUZ 100.7 FM in Salem).   

Finally, you may have heard that the assets of the Marion County Housing Authority are being transferred quietly to other appropriate agencies, and the MCHA will be "no more" within in a few months.  This is generally believed to be an efficiency move that is unlikely to have any adverse effect on its clients.  If anyone has information to the contrary, please be sure and drop a comment.    

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Letter to CANDO re ROCC Leave/Remain?


At left is the first page of a letter from Robin Winkle, an officer in the ROCC (Secretary).  She also happens to work for one of two providers serving Marion and Polk Counties that has for years received funding through ROCC.  She also happens to be a good friend of ROCC's paid Program Coordinator, Jo Ann Zimmer.

The letter was sent to CANDO the day we were considering this letter, which says in pertinent part, "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."  The letter makes no representations about funding levels or costs, as it assumes those matters will be addressed in the planning phase, at which point it will be determined "how much funding will actually come to our community should this separation move forward."  Same with respect to costs associated with ServicePoint (Oregon's HMIS), and the letter's bulleted questions (see below).  For the record, we discussed Ms. Winkle's concerns with her several weeks before she wrote the letter, when we first sought her views on a possible separation, and assured her they would be dealt with to everyone's satisfaction during the planning process, a fact she omits from her letter in an effort to make it appear they have not been considered.

On page two of her letter (at right), Winkle refers to us condescendingly as "a few community members that have never participated in a HUD Continuum of Care", a reference that unsurprisingly ignores HUD's definition of a CoC (which are all those in the community who serve or care about the homeless), and the fact that we've been members of the ROCC and attending meetings since June 2016.  Sadly, although we've come to expect this haughty lack of respect from the ROCC leadership, we know it's not personal; it's merely a symptom of ROCC's many internal problems.

The letter asks, "Are there changes that need to occur in the current CoC system that can be made without separating from the Oregon Balance of State** CoC [aka the ROCC]?" and then answers it with "I believe that our community can come together to provide a continuum of care without separating."  In other words, we are admonished to "work from within", without any admission that there is a problem, and without any offer of assistance.  Precisely what one might expect from a 17-year veteran of a closed system/organization.

Having given all due consideration to the concerns raised in this letter, the CANDO board at its February meeting voted unanimously in favor of proceeding "to the planning phase to determine how best to proceed with recreating a Marion & Polk Counties CoC."  The letter so stating will be presented to the City Council, along with others from "a few community members", when community outreach efforts have been completed, and everyone who might wish to weigh in has had a chance to do so.

**The ROCC board at its closed February meeting reportedly discussed "rebranding" as the Oregon Balance of State CoC, presumably in recognition of its growing reputational problems.

[Update 3/7/17:  A couple of people who haven't been following the posts about the ROCC have said they'd like to know the answers to the questions posed in the letter from Ms. Winkle.  So, rather than sending them back to prior posts, here are the answers in brief: 

Why does HUD recommend that smaller CoCs merge with larger CoCs?  Well, first, what's a "small CoC", and when has HUD recommended that, to whom, based on what information?  It's certainly not general advice.  We asked Ms. Winkle these questions, and she declined to answer.  So, that would be a question for HUD.  Certainly HUD might advise CoCs with insufficient capacity/resources (like OR-504 back in 2011) to merge, but that doesn't mean HUD would advise against Marion and Polk Counties recreating an effective and sufficiently resourced local CoC today.

Why did Marion and Polk Counties merge with the Oregon Balance of State [ROCC] in 2012?  Because MWVCAA lacked the organizational capacity to continue as the lead agency, and they just more or less threw up their hands.  It wasn't a considered or even thoughtful solution.  It was just the first door out.

How much funding would truly come back to the Marion and Polk Communities?  Not sure what "truly" means here, but, as Ms. Winkle well knows, that question is for HUD, and someone with a relationship with HUD will need to ask it in order to get a straight answer.  That said, MWVCAA and Shangri-La received $610K in this last cycle.  In 2010, Marion and Polk received over $900K.  Although there will be a gap in funding due to the transition, it seems unlikely we'll do worse in the long run.

What will the implementation of an HMIS cost the grantees, in addition to what each grantee pays for? The current grantees (MWVCAA and Shangri-La), and many potential grantees in Marion and Polk Counties have already implemented an HMIS (in Oregon, it's ServicePoint).  Licenses are less than $400.  Training/technical assistance funding is a gap issue, but not an issue overall.  It just needs to be planned for, and it will be.

What Marion-Polk agency has the funding, capacity and staff knowledge to be the lead agency and collaborative applicant?  Several, actually.  This is a silly question.  Consider the fact that ROCC relies on a part-time consultant nominally supervised by the admittedly totally uninvolved Community Action Partners of Oregon.  We're hardly likely to do worse, and we certainly intend to do better.

Are there changes that need to occur in the current CoC system that can be made without separating from the Oregon Balance of State CoC [ROCC)]? No.  Not based on what we've seen.  If it coulda happened in ROCC, it woulda happened by now.  It's not gonna happen, and Ms. Winkle can't even bring herself to assert that it could, she can only ask questions. 

What is the true benefit of Marion and Polk Counties separating out from the Oregon Balance of State CoC [ROCC]?  Having a functional, effective, local CoC would include these benefits (note that none focus on 'the money', about which Ms. Winkle is so concerned):

  1. Homelessness, and chronic homelessness in particular, is a humanitarian concern that has significant economic impacts on every community's resources.  Therefore, any reorganization that promises to improve the effectiveness of homeless assistance dollars should be supported.     
  2. Since 2011, Marion and Polk Counties have been working with 26 other counties in Oregon to improve homeless services through a federal program called the Continuum of Care, but progress is very slow.  
  3. If M-P were to reorganize as our own CoC, we could concentrate on local programs and services that directly address the unique needs of area residents.
  4. Accurate local data allows providers to respond appropriately to the needs of area residents, but right now, M-P's data gets rolled in with the other counties, and is difficult to separate.  Read about Homeless Management Information Systems here.
  5. Currently, only two providers in M-P receive federal CoC Program grants.  Reorganizing under local control would make it easier for M-P providers to learn about the program and apply for grants to support and house local residents.
  6. Reorganizing under local control would make it easier to expand the number of providers collecting and sharing data, improve the quality of the data, and use the data to allocate resources where they will be most effective.
  7. Developing a coordinated entry system that will allow providers to prioritize resources for the most vulnerable is much more feasible across 2 counties than across 28.  Read about Coordinated Entry here
  8. A locally controlled collaborative can be held to account for progress or lack of progress in preventing and ending area homelessness in ways that a 28-county collaborative cannot.
  9. The local community, including the homeless community and homeless advocates, would be able to participate in and expand the capacity of a locally controlled collaborative in ways that are just not feasible across 28 counties.
  10. A M-P collaborative would be more agile and more likely to adopt innovative strategies.]