Sunday, July 16, 2017

News from the Continuum

United Way is Changing Course
The United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley (Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties), a small agency that's been around since 1937 and has an office with ten or so staff over on Bliler Road, has reportedly eliminated its Community Impact division.  Seems it wasn't generating enough revenue, or something.

This is not the direction we want to be going.

"Community Impact" grant recipients 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.

Among the Basic Needs Programs (at right) are a number of homeless housing and services providers serving Marion and Polk Counties.  Thirteen Basic Needs Programs were awarded $308,000 in the last cycle ($154,000/yr).

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 posted to the United Way's website, and the minutes of the January meeting of the United Way board, indicate 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
To deal with the situation, the United Way board, under Randy Franke, developed a plan that would intensify the focus on supporting parents and children with preventive services and projects designed to eliminate toxic stress, develop strategies for dealing with adversity and teach parents how to support their children's education.  The plan was also to get "in front" of project funding.  To do that, they'd need a period of transition.  A year, to be precise.  So, it was decided just to extend current contracts for one year with some reductions, revamp the grant process, be ready to start the new grant process in January 2018, with first grant payments going out July 1, 2018.  That was the plan in January, anyway.

United Way's July 14 Notice

By the end of April, Randy Franke was out, and Ron Hays, the Michael Clayton of local nonprofits, was in.  Shiva, the God of Death, had come to clean things up.

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 expressed not a word of concern or regret about 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
So, it's been a rough few weeks.  UGM's CEO resigning amidst the longest capital campaign known to man for a new men's shelter, the Salvation Army's eliminating its transitional housing program, benches disappearing from downtown, The ARCHES Project suddenly shutting down without notice, and now this.

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.

"I want to personally thank Senator Courtney for his work in obtaining these funds.  Senator Courtney's passion and love for our Y is certainly reflective in this historic gift for our Y!"  Kind of says it all.

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.


  1. ARCHES is not shut down. They moved to a different address. The only program on temporary hold is the day center. All other services are operational, even their phone system. We received a small "new address slip" the week they were moving. I called them today and asked about services and Tracy confirmed services were operational. Tiffany Ottis

    1. Thanks, Tiffany. That's right, The ARCHES Project did move, and the day center is the program that's shut down. We could have been more precise. The brief reference in the blog was intended to convey the situation from the consumer's point of view, and the POV of HOAP, who had twice the number of consumers at its day center the day after ARCHES closed without notice to HOAP (a program is shut down or closed, even if the shutdown or closure is temporary, but especially if there is no plan for getting it running again).