Sunday, May 7, 2017

Working Together: Outreach, HRAP, and Strategic Plans

Lane County's CAHOOTS Van (Photo Courtesy KVAL.com)
After talking with folks at the Salem Housing Authority about their efforts to offer services to those least likely to access them (discussed previously here), we learned that Union Gospel Mission was doing something similar.  One thing quickly led to another, and we found ourselves last week in a wide-ranging  conversation with SHA and UGM staff at the Ike Box.

The conversation began with Sonya (SHA) telling Jeanine (UGM) about SHA's outreach efforts, and Jeanine telling Sonya about UGM's "Search and Rescue Team", which has been operating since early this year.  Turns out, there are indeed overlaps, but there are also differences.  For example, the SHA team does not have a van, and so cannot safely transport those in need.  The UGM team has a van, but does not have any females on the team, and so cannot safely transport females in need.  The SHA team are seasoned pros, while the UGM team is young and relatively inexperienced.  The thought occurred:  maybe they could team up somehow.

Sonya told Jeanine about how she and Nicole, the other half of SHA's team, went down to Eugene awhile back to ride along with the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, or CAHOOTS, team.  How, after ten hours, they still weren't ready to go home, they wanted to see more.  Sonya suggested that Jonathan and Vince, the UGM team, might check out CAHOOTS as well.  And maybe let Sonya and Nicole ride along with them in the UGM van on one of their rounds.  

Jonathan and Vince go out to Polk County and "up the canyon" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays they restock the van, and visit the camps and whatnot in the city.  They ask people what they need, provide what resources they can, and offer services through UGM's programs.  Jeanine said they're both over 6'4" and familiar with the needs and circumstances of the households they're wanting to help.

Won't blog the entire rest of the conversation, which got into individual cases and what we're pretty sure were trade secrets.  But, Sonya invited Jeanine, who happens to be UGM's Director of Programs, to speak at an upcoming meeting of the Emergency Housing Network, talk about UGM's current programs, and maybe dispel some of the more common myths about how they're run.  Sonya  promised to provide Jeanine a list of those myths, but she kept coming back to, "How can we work together?"  We talked about the Homeless Rental Assistance Program (HRAP) and the possibility of UGM participating in data collection and sharing through ServicePoint, Oregon's Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), and yesterday we learned that Jeanine and Bruce Bailey, UGM's CEO, plan to meet with SHA next week about those things.

Salem's May 6 Strategic Plan Worksession
Also last week, the Citizens Budget Committee moved HRAP to the "Wish List", to be discussed and, if all goes well, voted in to next year's budget at their meeting on May 15.

As it is now, the proposed program budget is for one year, which means HRAP as currently conceived is the nature of a pilot.  But, it's not as if there's a Plan B.

All the research points to permanent supportive housing as the most effective approach in dealing with a chronically homeless population.  Without PSH, that population is only going to grow.

The City can choose either to continue to try and maintain residents in the streets and wooded areas, which costs tens of thousands of dollars a year per individual, or it can spend about a third of that to leverage existing resources and provide these residents the housing and services they need.  Clearly HRAP is the only sensible and humane way forward.  With an estimated 500 chronically homeless residents living in Salem, it will take the City roughly five years, at a rate of 100 per year, to fully implement HRAP.  Accordingly, the HRAP should be budgeted for the next five years, not just the one, so that it is "fiscally sustainable", a value the Salem City Council is beginning to embrace as part of its strategic planning process

SS/HLness Goals & Recs at 3
HRAP is the nearly perfect expression of the goals of the Affordable Housing, Social Services and Homelessness Strategic Plan Workgroup (see left), but, unfortunately, it's too practical to be a strategic plan goal.

It is in the nature of strategic planning, it seems, to have to state goals in the abstract, even to the point of obscurity.  Accordingly, yesterday, the City Council, after hearing Councilor McCoid's presentation, came up with this "overarching" goal statement (combining the affordable housing goals with the social services and homelessness goals):

"Adequate housing supply and security of housing for those in need, regardless of economic situation or status, with maximized access, resources and services for the homeless."

Ugh.  Why not just say, "End homelessness", and be done with it?  If a workgroup's specific goal statements are too numerous, they should be sent back to the workgroup, not mangled into something meaningless by the entire Council on a beautiful spring morning.   

SHA Staff at the May 6 Worksession
If the process was hard for us to watch, how much more so must it have been for the City staff who were present, though you'd never hear them say so.  (Photo at left: SHA's Nicole Utz, Kellie Battaglia, Andy Wilch and Pamala Garrick.)  They'll have to "fix it", of course, as best they can, try to "wordsmith" it into something less horrible, but we'd much rather have them focused on fleshing out the group's specific goals and recommendations -- which, please note, Councilor Andersen, do not include supporting the implementation of the MWHI Task Force's strategic plan.  (Citing the need for "intergovernmental cooperation" at the budget committee meeting last week, Councilor Andersen moved onto the "Wish List" the $65,000 Homeless Initiatives Coordinator position, which the Task Force envisioned would be housed at the Council of Governments.)  Councilor Hoy asked staff for additional information about the item, listed in the proposed budget as an "enhancement", but Councilor Andersen is the one who is going to need to make the case for its inclusion in the budget, and his reasons should be substantive, something more than an inchoate need for "intergovernmental cooperation", which is code for "playing politics."  More about this later.  
Moved onto the Council "Wish List" by Councilor Andersen May 3, 2017
[Update 6/1/17:  The Salem budget committee accepted the staff recommendation not to include the the Homeless Initiatives Coordinator position in the budget, but await "further organizational development of the MWHI before considering."  The Keizer budget committee declined to include in the budget Mayor Clark's request for $5,000 to go toward funding the coordinator position, but the City is reportedly planning to fund it anyway.]

The Keizer Times

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