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.]   

2 comments:

  1. I understand and appreciate the passion that the CANDO board has about preventing and ending homelessness in our community. I request that your group extend the same respect to Shangri-La employee, Robin Winkle, and her views on separation from the ROCC. You state in your post that she is "condescending" and "admonishing," and imply there is impropriety in her relationships or duties on the ROCC Board. Your response to her letter as "what one might expect from a 17-year veteran of a closed system/organization" does not honor her personal and professional dedication to combatting homelessness. Attacking her character in an open forum such as this blog is hurtful and unnecessary. Robin is one of the most compassionate people I know and a strong advocate for the disabled and disadvantaged. If you believe she is behaving otherwise in her representation of Shangri-La, I ask that you come speak with me about your concerns (as her supervisor) rather than air your grievances with her here. Call my office at 503-581-1732 to schedule time to meet. Karen Rutledge, CEO

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    Replies
    1. Karen, thank you for your comment. However, your claim that the post states that Robin Winkle is condescending or admonishing is not accurate, nor is it accurate to say it implies "impropriety in her relationships or duties on the ROCC Board." It is also not accurate to say that the post "attacks" Robin Winkle's character. Please reread the post.

      The post states that Robin Winkle's letter on page two refers to us condescendingly as "a few community members that have never participated in a HUD Continuum of Care", which, in addition to being disrespectful, is also not true, because it 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.

      The post states that, in the letter, "we are admonished to 'work from within', without any admission that there is a problem, and without any offer of assistance." Admonish means to "To reprove gently but earnestly."

      The post points out certain relevant facts that that Robin Winkle left out of her letter, namely, that she is an officer in the ROCC, that Shangri-La is one of two providers serving Marion and Polk Counties that has for years received funding through ROCC, and that she is a good friend of ROCC's paid Program Coordinator, Jo Ann Zimmer. If there's any impropriety suggested, it would be the letter's failure to mention these facts, not about "the relationships or duties" themselves.

      Nothing in the post may fairly be considered an attack on anyone's character. It is, rather, a legitimate and well-deserved critique of the letter's omissions, insinuations, non-arguments and overall failure to address serious concerns raised about the ROCC.

      No one has "aired" any "personal grievances" here, and no one is doubting that Robin Winkle is a personally and professionally dedicated, compassionate and strong advocate. The issue was never Ms. Winkle, but whether the situation with the ROCC is such that it makes sense to move on to the planning phase of recreating separate CoC for Marion & Polk Counties. For so many reasons, all of them discussed with Ms. Winkle, and none of them mentioned in the letter, we think it is.

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