Saturday, July 29, 2017
Revised: January 2019
By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston
"This [reforming the local CoC] is going to happen, so you need to support it." --Mayor Bennett
That was the unequivocal response Tuesday night to misgivings expressed by Jon "it's not easy" Reeves, CEO of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA), and Robin Winkle with Shangri-La, during the public comment period of the last meeting of Salem's Affordable Housing, Social Services and Homelessness strategic plan work group.
Together, MWVCAA and Shangri-La receive the bulk of the program dollars coming into Marion and Polk Counties through HUD's CoC Program -- about $600,000. They greatly fear local control over those funds could increase competition, and, if that happens, they might lose funding. So, they basically want to maintain the status quo to keep their grants locked down, even if it's bad for the wider community.
The members started out by affirming their preliminary recommendations as "still relevant" and hearing about HRAP. Twelve individuals have been enrolled (meaning a relationship has been established) and five have been housed. They have three landlords they're working with, Kevin Winder being one. He said he liked working with Sonya, but "if it doesn't work, it's gonna put stress on the relationship." He said that in front of Ralph, which to us felt very awkward, but Ralph appeared not to notice.
After seven minutes of high-speed statistics on the local homeless population from data guy Jimmy Jones (more or less what was reported here at p 13-14), Pamala Garrick schooled the group on HUD policy priorities (see below).
earlier remarks to HUD, saying "it makes sense to have resources controlled in the environment where the resources are delivered." Mayor Bennett, pinned him with, "And you'll bring those policy decisions to the Housing Authority Board?" Yes, Andy said, he would, at which point Kenny LaPoint said that OHCS was "looking at using...additional resources to support continuums across the state...because HUD does not always give you what you need to run a continuum." Councilor Andersen renewed Councilor McCoid's question about timing, saying "we don't want this 26 [other] counties thing, we want it to come down to the two counties and the city, for all the reasons we've talked about." When could that happen? Next spring? Yes, but there are "a series of...milestones" on the way to registration, Andy cautioned. Councilor Andersen: "But it's our goal to hit those...milestones, right?" Everyone nodded. Then Jimmy Jones said something very interesting. He said we needed to "do the groundwork, to make sure our metrics are solid."
Now, the reason that's interesting is that Jimmy's agency, MWVCAA, has long been the "lead agency for the City of Salem and the local CoC (ROCC Region 7), and it's supposed to have been "mak[ing] sure our metrics are solid" for as long as area providers have participated in the CoC Program (more than 12 years). However, it hasn't done a very good job. Take, for example, the need to regularly monitor grantee and sub-grantee data quality, conduct a well-designed annual point-in-time count and promptly provide the community and policy-makers with accurate PIT Count, Housing Inventory Count and System Performance Measures reports. It's been years since any of those "metrics" have been what could reasonably be considered "solid." So, Jimmy's right, someone needs to "do the groundwork", and that "someone" is his agency, his department, his program, his staff and himself.
|Salem has seen an increase in shopping cart "trains" like this one over the past year|
The discussion touched briefly on staffing needs and whether the money should come from programs, before Jimmy Jones again hijacked the conversation with talk of funding formulas and projected allocation increases. He was just explaining how the opposition to reforming the CoC "is and isn't" based on "turf protection" (Councilor Andersen's term), when Kellie Bataglia reclaimed the floor in order to go over the 11'x17' list developed for the meeting.
Once again, time ran out before any more decisions could be made (except whether they wanted to meet again) (no). So, it would seem that the 11'x17' list, amended to include a recommendation to develop a locker/storage program (see photo above), is destined to be passed along to the community to peruse at the open house on September 19, and from there to the entire City Council.
|Community Garden at Robert Lindsey Tower|
Sharon Heuer of Salem Health announced on Tuesday the creation of four teams. Three out in the county: the Woodburn SIT (sponsored by PH Tech), the North Marion SIT (sponsored by Salem Health) and the Stayton SIT (sponsored by Santiam Hospital). Salem Hospital will also sponsor a North Salem SIT. By "sponsor" is meant put up base funding for direct aid.
Salem Health will administer the Woodburn, North Marion and North Salem SITs. Skye Hibbard from the Community Health program will facilitate the Salem Health team meetings, part time. The Salem Health programs/teams are in the nature of a pilot (not a long-term commitment).
Santiam Hospital will administer the Stayton SIT. Santiam Hospital has a service integration program that is coordinated full time by Melissa Baurer, formerly of The Salvation Army. Santiam Hospital is fully committed to service integration.
|A West Salem SIT Mtg|
Service integration teams also want a healthy community; however, their purpose is more narrowly focused on basic needs (eye glasses, tires, a bed), and their meetings are intended for agencies and professional providers seeking to "facilitate collaboration among community partners to provide coordinated resources and information...matching resources to clearly defined needs, while avoiding duplication of service." Gradually, CPT advocates came to a better understanding of the service integration model, and accepted its presence in Salem.
|excerpt from the mtg notes of the March 2017 Children and Families Commission Mtg|
The Edgewater CPT and West Salem SIT also overlap, though the latter covers the entire West Salem High School catchment area.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Revised: January 2019
By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston
|Affordable Hsg, Social Svces & Homelessness SP work group|
The meeting was intended to focus on affordable housing, i.e., how do we get more of it? But, go figure, Councilor Cook wanted to talk about whether there's any need and whether there's any data to support the alleged need. Now, before you say anything, she does, after all, represent Ward 7, where they don't seem to need much of anything, and she'd only had since April to read the materials containing the data she wanted.
Had Councilor Cook been able to restrain herself, the group would probably have selected from among, or at least ranked, the twenty or so "strategic housing tools" listed on an 11x17 color-coded sheet. Dedicated local funding (e.g., cannabis tax revenue), opportunity fund-construction excise tax, local housing fund, reduced/waived development fees, reducing infrastructure costs, low-interest-rate loans, surplus public property/land, bonus density, ADUs, and parking flexibility were all in yellow, meaning the group had previously shown interest in these tools. Tax exemptions, cash-in-lieu/inclusionary housing ordinance, commercial linkage fees, fast track regulatory process, inclusionary zoning/housing (on-site), annexation ordinance, community benefit ordinance were all in white, meaning the group had not previously shown interest in these tools. Two new ideas, tax increment financing and add City FTE dedicated to housing policy and implementation, were in blue. Finally, five tools were removed from the list, as being more related to homelessness than affordable housing. Also on the list were "How does it [the tool] work?", "Pros" and "Cons and/or Challenges." Minutes of the meeting have been posted.
For readers who may be wondering what ever happened to the Affordable Housing Committee that the City Council created in December of 2015, the above list is its relic. For a while, the Housing Advisory Committee served as an interim Affordable Housing Committee and worked up this very same list. But, perhaps because housing was not a priority for Mayor Peterson, no one was ever appointed to the "real" committee, and things just sort of petered out. It's a good example of why the City must make a commitment to strategic planning if it expects to address its more difficult problems.
The work group's affordable housing goals are simple: increased housing stock and a sustainable funding stream. As April Brenden-Locke noted during public comment, the work group indicated a preference for tools that comply with the existing law, could be implemented within a year or two and had a good return on investment (units to dollars). It shouldn't be that hard to rank the items on the list and then make a few decisions.
"chance meeting" stories like the one about how a $12M "gift" from Sen. Courtney landed in the lap of the YMCA, is that it reinforces the tendency of charitable institutions to "solve their problems" by waiting passively to be rescued. Take, for example, the Mid Willamette Community Action Agency. They've known for over a year they wanted to move The ARCHES Project from its Madison Street location. Their lease was up six or seven months ago, but when a suitable location didn't magically appear, they extended another six months, only to have the same thing happen. With half a million in state homeless assistance funds they've got to use or lose by June 30, what do they do? They buy a building that's three times the size they need for a whopping $2.1M, close their day center and move, without coordinating with partners, and without a business plan. Three weeks later, no one's even bothered to update the website. Same sort of approach characterizes MWVCAA's warming center and point-in-time count preparations, even though they're annual events.
The Salem Weekly published a short piece about the move which ended with this cryptic statement, "With ARCHES' arrival it may well play a leading role in the lack of available housing that is so prevalent in our city." If this is how the agency that supposedly coordinates our local continuum of care operates, it's no wonder that the community wants the City Council to take on housing and homelessness as part of its strategic planning process.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Residents: Santiago Sorocco, Brian Hart, Paul Gehlar
Organizations: Simon Sandusky, Union Gospel Mission; Ken Van Osdol, Salem Downtown Rotary Club; Laura Tea-Pelley, Salem’s Riverfront Carousel; Maurice Anderson and Mary Hart, Salem Homeless Coalition; Karma Krause, Special Projects Facilitator, Salem Keizer School District
City and County Representatives: Councilor Kaser; Officer Shane Galusha
The regular meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem. Vice-chair Michael Livingston acted as Secretary.
The minutes of the June meeting were approved by unanimous consent.
Officer Galusha reported that the SPD was busy with summer events and eclipse planning. The City is anticipating an influx of 250,000 to 300,000 visitors and a three-day gridlock spanning August 21, leading SPD to consider requiring officers who live far from City center to stay at the Department overnight, during that period. Officer Galusha also reported the City had received a number of complaints about the removal of benches downtown, as well as other “livability” issues.Councilor Kaser reported that the City is concerned that the Transit Committee be representative of the larger community. She also reported that the completion of the Peter Courtney Bridge will be celebrated August 2.
The board heard a presentation by Karma Krause on the process that led to the Salem-Keizer School District Board’s decision to approve a bond for the May 18 ballot, and shared highlights of the $619.2M preliminary bond package. The bond would increase the property tax levy rate between $1.28 and $1.30 per thousand of assessed value.
The board also heard a presentation by Ken Van Osdol about the process by which Salem’s Downtown Rotary came to choose improving the Riverfront Park amphitheater as their centennial project, after then-Mayor Anna Peterson happened to mention to a past-President during a concert in the Park that it was a shame she could not hear the music being played, and wouldn’t it be nice if the amphitheater could be improved. He also shared proposed design drawings, which do not include the fence he said would be needed for crowd control. In response to a question, he said the police would be relied on to prevent people sleeping and camping in the amphitheater, as they have in the Pavilion, which is a past project of the Rotary.
There were no public comments.
In new business, Michael Livingston’s motion to recommend to the City Council that the City institute a pilot locker program at 770 Commercial St. NE passed unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 6:54 p.m.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Revised: January 2019
By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston
|United Way is Changing Course|
"Community Impact" grant recipients [https://www.unitedwaymwv.org/FundedPartners] were of two types, basic needs and collaborative projects. Basic needs means "urgent and emergency services" like shelter, safety, food, utility assistance, rent assistance, emergency medical, dental and mental health services.
Collaborative projects improved participants' education, health or financial stability and involved at least three collaborative partners.
The 13 collaborative projects funded in the last cycle included: Service Integration Teams in Yamhill County; Family Support Collaboration in Polk County, which provides "Family Support Coaching, financial literacy training and other supports to households who have tried to access services, but face eligibility barriers or other restrictions"; and PEARLS in Marion and Polk County, which "helps victims of domestic and sexual violence transition from crisis situations to maintaining long-term financial stability and permanent housing." All together, the collaborative projects were awarded $730,000 ($365,000/yr).
Financial statements [https://www.unitedwaymwv.org/financials] posted to the United Way's website and the minutes of the January meeting of the United Way board indicate that annual donations tend to fluctuate by about $300,000 in any given year (between ~$1.5M and $1.8M) and were down the last couple of years, due to more companies competing for those coveted payroll deductions that the United Way relies on, fewer people being on a payroll and the retirement of the generation that grew up giving to the United Way.
|from the January mtg minutes|
|United Way's July 14 Notice|
The Community Impact division was closed the week of July 4. Last week, the official word went out: United Way was reneging on its promise to extend funding for the division's 26 projects. In communicating this news, CEO Ron, "Do I look like I'm negotiating?", Hays no concern or regret about de-funding United Way's 26 projects.
But, hey, you know, if you don't believe in positive community impact any more, you probably don't believe in negative community impact, either. But, as one provider said, "It kind of stinks."
|Photo courtesy whomever Salem Weekly stole it from|
Ron might be right on one thing -- these changes don't appear to be having much impact on "the community." You know, the one that matters. The well-off. The one that's hoping to raise $1-2M for an amphitheater at Riverfront Park, and $12M to build a new YMCA. The one that senate presidents give "gifts" of lottery funds.
The Statesman Journal says the "gift" came about as the result of a "chance meeting" between Senator Courtney and YMCA board president, Chuck Adams. If only Senator Courtney had had a chance meeting that day with Brent DeMoe or Jennifer Wheeler, and Courtney had asked why Polk County has no emergency shelter, despite all the people living in tents in Wallace Marine Park and along the river. Might things have turned out different?
Maybe, but that would never happen. That's not the way things work. Here, or anywhere else.
We don't begrudge the community its new YMCA building, or its amphitheater, especially as the amphitheater will probably double as a de facto homeless shelter, and the YMCA does greatly benefit the wider community, that is, if you believe in such things. We'd just like a better balance. Greater awareness, less crisis-thinking, more planning. Fewer decisions by white men, more by the community. Doesn't seem like so much to ask.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
Revised: January 2019
By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston
On the City Council's agenda for Monday night is an information report ("paper") on the sobering center the City hopes one day to have, likely, but not necessarily, somewhere in CANDO, modeled on the one in Grants Pass. Interestingly, the City projects that the center's annual operating costs will be more than twice ($600-$700K) what Grants Pass says its annual operating costs are ($250K-$300K). The centers look to be about the same size, so its not clear what, other than location, makes the Salem center cost so much more.
Oregon law established community action agencies as the delivery system for all federal anti-poverty funds, they do not have a good track record. Through the years, MWVCAA has tended not to plan, or not to plan effectively, which means it's tended to make decisions in crisis mode, like when the lease is up, the money is gone, a deadline looms, or freezing temperatures are forecast. As the public's partner, MWVCAA lacks transparency and accountability. That's somewhat the fault of the City, the larger community, and, of course, the MWVCAA board, for not expecting more than we do. But, is it really that hard to publish the occasional program management report?
For a long time, we didn't even know such reports existed. However, federal regulations (effective last fall) started requiring the meetings of Head Start governing bodies (e.g., the MWVCAA board) to be made public, including access to meeting materials. Before, the only way we were likely to hear about a program involving MWVCAA was a casual oral "update" at some meeting, or through one of its partners, e.g., this report from the Salem Housing Authority on the Veterans' Rental Assistance Program or VRAP.
Dallas Community Resource Center in Polk County.
As if we needed reminding how challenging any of that will be, last Sunday night, a compressor on top of the Academy building -- home to the Dallas Community Resource Center -- malfunctioned and flooded the sprinkler system on the third floor. The water eventually reached the lower floors, soaking walls, carpets, floors/sub-floors and anything absorbent in its way.
That's the sort of thing people don't plan for, and yet they must. The point is that hosting a resource center is major, major undertaking, even when it's well-planned, and contingencies are backed up by other county departments.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Revised: January 2019
By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston
A.P. Walther's public FB group (deceptively named "Salem City Council"), which was unusual to say the least. (Back in January of 2016, A.P. told us to stop with the homeless posts, the implication being he didn't think anyone was interested.)
The initial post lamented the decision(s) to remove downtown benches from the sidewalks outside Liberty Plaza and the Center Point building, which adversely affects downtown livability, even though some might think it improved it. The conversation then touched on the City's Homeless Rental Assistance Program (HRAP), which is intended to house 100 of Salem's most vulnerable residents over the next year, and the Yaquina Hall affordable housing project as being good, but not enough, whereupon it was pointed out that the the Affordable Housing, Social Services and Homelessness strategic plan work group hasn't finished its work, yet, and it went on from there.
Considering where things were one and two years ago, this conversation suggests the community's knowledge and understanding of this very complex problem may be deepening. They're wanting to see data, set goals, and have people with lived experience involved in policy decisions. They realize the answer to homelessness isn't criminal penalties, or for everyone just to "get a job."
But, are area social service providers ready for the public and donors to start caring about what they do? Not caring in the sense of, "Oh, that's nice, you're helping people", but caring whether the programs are working.
Increasingly, donors -- especially business donors and private donors with business experience -- are concerned about the economic value of their investment. They expect results, not just numbers served. Social service providers prepared with answers will get the gold.
For a lot of programs, though, the single largest source of funds is the City of Salem. The City is intensifying its investment of General Fund dollars (e.g., toilet maintenance, HRAP). What are they getting for that investment? What is the public getting?
The Affordable Housing, etc. strategic plan work group indicated at its April 2017 meeting that it's interested in requiring recipients of City funds to collect and share data. Obviously, they don't mean the data they've been getting, like how many were served, they mean meaningful data, like how many people remain stably housed after six months. Providers don't just volunteer that information; the City at least has to ask for it. Why doesn't it?
The public are not to be treated as one might a private donor, who, once a month, or year, are given a big thank-you and a humanizing success story meant to appeal to emotion. The public want information. What's the expected return on investment? What are the shared goals and metrics? How well or poorly were the funds used, and what is the strategy to improve performance? Some providers already think this way, but not nearly enough, and perhaps not the most vocal.
Speaking of planning, the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) did complete the purchase of 615 Commercial Street NE for the ARCHES Project. The ARCHES Project shut down its Madison Street services in late June and moved into the former warehouse-converted-office-building just north of Marion Square Park. The building has no kitchen, laundry or shower facilities, and can't be used as a day shelter until renovations are completed. It's not known when the day shelter will reopen.
To deal with the loss of The ARCHES Project, Northwest Human Services is offering additional services through HOAP in 2 shifts. Shift #1 8a-11:30a, lunch at 11 and Shift #2 12p-3:30p, lunch at 1. (Come for one or the other, not both.)
The Salvation Army is converting its Lighthouse Shelter from transitional to an "overnight" shelter, no reason given. Same number of beds, still serving breakfast and dinner, still "zero-tolerance" on any use of controlled substances, still supported by TSA's social service office, but no in-house case management. The changes are expected to be fully implemented by August 1, 2017. Long-term plans are to close the shelter and build apartments out by the Kroc Center.
Additional meetings of the Affordable Housing, etc. strategic plan work group are scheduled for 4:30 at the Robert Lindsey Tower Community Room, on Tuesday, July 18 and 25. The focus at the first meeting will be on housing, and the second will focus on social services and homelessness.
Oregon's Housing and Community Services Department (OHCS) has been slowly upgrading the information available on its webpage. As of now, the HMIS stuff is the best. The other links are pretty generic and demonstrate how much need there is for local communities to have solid, credible and actionable local data. Still, it's an improvement, as long as it's on the way to something better, and not for show. It's the rural communities that understand the least about homelessness in their areas, and who are, arguably, most in need of solid data.
MWVCAA finally put up something it refers to as the "2016 Homeless Count Totals." It's not the full, multi-page report they used to put out before Amber Reeves left. It's just the one page. The total (1,537) does not match the total reported to HUD (857), but it does match what MWVCAA reported to the City of Salem and what the City reported to HUD (incorrectly) in its 2017-2018 Annual Action Plan back in April. Jimmy Jones subsequently shared the official 2016 numbers, saying, "We previously put out a release of that 2016 information that was less than helpful." Both reports are available on MWVCAA's website.