Saturday, May 6, 2017

Community Action Makes Collective Agenda Clear

The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA), which receives the bulk of  CoC Program funds going to Marion and Polk Counties, was recently stirred to opine that "true collaboration must precede a discussion on planning" to reform our local CoC (short for  "continuum of care"), that there is no "evidence that any community partner has the capacity to...operate a CoC", and that local  governments should build a "neutral infrastructure" to "create capacity" to carry out necessary changes in the local homeless services delivery system.  

The letter was prompted by our report the day before to the Boards of Commission of Marion and Polk Counties, and the Mayors and City Councils of Salem And Keizer, that, after four months and more than 50 conversations with various local groups and individuals in some way serving or caring about the local homeless population, we had concluded that there is in the community a consensus favoring a decision to begin planning how we might reform our local CoC, which we gave up in 2011 to merge with the 26-county Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC or OR-505 BOS CoC).

MWVCAA's reaction (and the letter does appear to be a reaction, as MWVCAA's not before bothered to share its "collective agenda") that "true collaboration" must precede any "discussion of planning" is just bizarre, given MWVCAA's historical and admitted failure to facilitate "true collaboration" between area housing and homeless service providers, despite its being the City of Salem's "lead agency" for that purpose.  (Not to mention the irony that the City reports to HUD every year how wonderfully well MWVCAA is doing in that regard, with not the slightest demur from MWVCAA.)

The letter doesn't say why "true collaboration" must precede any discussion of planning.  Perhaps the reason is that MWVCAA wants to control the discussion?  It would seem so, because the letter then proceeds to "discuss planning" by laying out their view of the current circumstances, and the preconditions they believe are necessary to CoC formation.  Specifically, after pronouncing that there is currently no local entity capable of operating a CoC (which is laughable, considering what is operating the ROCC now), the letter "advise[s]" local governments first to build a "neutral infrastructure" to "create capacity."  

If government were to take MWVCAA's advice, it would first set about to build something ("infrastructure"), and and leave the planning discussion for later.  Perhaps this is how MWVCAA does things, but government's not likely to go for it.

It was also rather bad advice-giving form for MWVCAA, as the recipient of the bulk of local CoC dollars, to fail to declare its self-interest in continuing the status quo.  

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