Revised: January 2019
By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston
HUD's stated purpose in calling was to provide information so that any decision would be made with "eyes wide open" as to "what is best for the local area."
There were seven people from HUD on the call, and at least seven people from Marion and Polk Counties, including Commissioners Wheeler and Carlson, Salem Housing Authority (SHA) Administrator Andy Wilch, Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (WVCAA)'s Jon Reeves and Jimmy Jones, Shangri-La's Robin Winkle and Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network (SIHN)'s TJ Putman. Of course, Jo Zimmer, ROCC's part-time staff, was also on the call. Not everyone identified themselves.
Jimmy spoke about a need-resource allocation imbalance.
Andy said it was somewhat of a political issue, but existing resources were not sufficient and SHA wanted an arrangement that would best serve the local area.
TJ talked about not being able to get Tier 2 funding and said the ROCC was not a "fair playing field."
HUD specifically asked to hear from the State about the situation, but no one from OHCS had called in, apparently.
Our reasons were summed up as being "a little more on the autonomy side" and the others as "a desire to see more funding." HUD said they discourage splits because communities don't benefit as much as they expect to. They said this was mostly due to unrealistic expectations about their ability to perform (compete). Acknowledging that Salem-Marion-Polk was "not exactly small", funds were nonetheless, "limited." How limited? "We have to think through exactly how the money will be divided", they said, and suggested that Polk, for instance, might decide not to split off.
|Photo courtesy The Task Mistress|
The call wound up with HUD's re-extending the offer of TA, which "usually goes through the CoC", at which point several on the ROCC board said they thought it would be helpful. (No one else did, though.) Commissioner Carlson asked that "the jurisdictions" be included in future discussions. (That did not happen.) Jo Zimmer asked whether ROCC gets to vote on the split and was told there would be "a voice on all sides", "heavy engagement", that it "takes time" to ensure "equal distribution" of resources. It being 5pm Eastern Time on the nose, HUD then hung up.
Was the call a waste of time? Depends on its purpose. If its purpose was to elicit information, probably so, because everyone was definitely holding back. If its purpose was to chill enthusiasm for a split, it may have had some effect. Especially on those focused exclusively on the resource aspect. But, chilling is not necessarily a bad thing. It can, for instance, help manage expectations.
A recent baseline assessment of the Salem, Marion and Polk CoC (see here) shows how much work there is to do before we are in a position to compete effectively for HUD funding. This is work that should have been done before, but was not, due in large part, we believe, to the lack of accountability and transparency in ROCC's and MWVCAA's structure and governance and to the inability to extract county-level data off the HUD data exchange, or from MWVCAA.
|The May ROCC Mtg|
As she droned on about the 2017 competition, Zimmer admitted that "when that NOFA drops, it's frenzy, frankly." We hope Adkins heard that. It would not need to be "a frenzy" in a local, well-managed CoC.
There was a brief discussion of system performance measures, with the obligatory begging for projects to clean up their data. Jimmy's told us that Marion and Polk have very clean data. Assuming that's true (we can't know, because MWVCAA's not made those reports available, and county-level data can't be extracted from the ROCC data that's on the HUD Data Exchange), we don't especially benefit from it, because local metrics are diluted by those of the other 26 counties.
Ten minutes into the second hour of the meeting, Zimmer got to the "Geographical Split - reforming previous CoC in Marion-Polk counties" agenda item, saying somewhat ominously, "awareness needs to be put out over the CoC just as a matter of process" and "I've not been directly involved in those conversations."
This was a lie, of course, our having corresponded with her about it last December and discussed the matter at length on December 28th, when she finally admitted that she'd "tried to take a position" (on the reforming idea), but "couldn't, because I can see it both ways." The fact is, she's known these talks were taking place since last August, when she declined to talk about a possible split on the record with a MWHI Task Force committee. Nothing prevented her from reaching out, if she wanted to work the problem, but, she didn't. Instead, she persuaded the board to have a big fat secret meeting, for no particular reason that we could see.
"I hate to be grey about all of that", she said in closing.
At that point, Todd Adkins chimed in for HUD, saying he was happy to answer any questions, his office would be putting a request for "TA" up the chain and everyone would have an opportunity to review the scope of work being requested. He said the view from headquarters was that the talk of splitting was "a manifestation of the stresses and difficulties that balance of state CoCs are experiencing across the country" and that TA could help ease the situation. There weren't any questions, and the meeting adjourned early, about ten minutes later.
That was the last anyone outside the ROCC inner circle heard about the TA. The question whether to remain in ROCC or reform the Salem/Marion, Polk Counties CoC appears to be lodged in the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative Steering Committee, awaiting a "cost-benefit analysis."