Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2/20/18 Minutes

Residents: Deb Comini, Alice Morton, Hank Stebbins,
Organizations: Raleigh Kirschman and Daniel Clem, UGM; Rick Yurk, BAM Agency; Betsy Belshaw, Salem Parks Foundation
City and County Representatives: Kevin Hottman, Public Works Department; Darren Rice, Willamette Valley Communication Center; the Honorable Jane Aiken; Cara Kaser, City Council
Guests: James Garaventa

The regular meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.

The minutes of the January meeting were approved by unanimous consent.

Councilor Kaser reported on the first meeting of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force and said she would be looking for specific strategies that could be budgeted and implemented quickly, and that the next meetings were March 6 and 20 at 7:30 in the Anderson Room of the Regional Public Library.  She said the City was engaging other area communities to discuss the Army Corps of Engineers proposal to keep the reservoir in Detroit drained for two years to allow construction of a cooling tower behind the dam, with the ultimate goal of  expressing their concerns about the project to the Corps as a unified group.  She also invited everyone to attend the meetings of the Congestion Relief Task Force.

In public comment, Betsy Belshaw, Salem Parks Foundation, shared information about SPF’s grant program.

In unfinished business, City of Salem’s 911 Project Manager, Darren Rice, spoke to the board about the need to convert seven on-street parking spaces on the west side of Cottage in front of the Willamette Valley Communication Center (595 Cottage St) into employee-only parking spaces, reiterating what SPD Communications Director Mark Bucholtz had explained at the January meeting -- that the Center has sufficient employee parking, that generally the spaces under discussion were empty, and that it was for security reasons only that SPD was making the request.  He also stated the lost parking revenue to the City would be about $2,000 per year, that WVCC was in the second year of their last three-year lease, that one car had already hit the building on the north side, and that WVCC was making the request as an interim, stop-gap measure, based on advice from FEMA to improve security, pending their final audit report, which was being delayed on account of the hurricanes last fall.  In answer to questions from the board, Kevin Hottman said the change would require new signage and moving the pay station at an estimated cost of $700 to $800.

In new business, Bob’s motion to oppose the request to convert the spaces to employee-only parking, and Bruce’s motion to oppose the Union Gospel Mission’s application for a Conditional Use Permit to allow the relocation of the Men’s Mission with expanded capacity to serve 300 persons to the 700 to 800 block of Commercial Street NE, failed to pass.

The meeting adjourned at 7:12 P.M.

Monday, February 19, 2018

News from the Continuum

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Weiner Tapped to Replace Boes as MWVCAA Vice Chair
A lawyer has been tapped to replace all around nice guy Herm Boes as Vice Chair on the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) Board of Directors. 

Weiner, a person with lived experience who's also chair of the Marion County Association of Defenders and has served part-time as a municipal court judge, was on the MWVCAA Board all of last year and, in that capacity, approved, without recorded comment or concern, every aspect of The Golden ARCHES Project that was put before him.  So, it's doubtful he will be providing MWVCAA Executive Director Jon Reeves the meaningful advice and oversight he so desperately needs, which is unfortunate, because Weiner has been chosen to lead the board in evaluating Reeves' performance this past year.  Last year, Chair Jeff Wood used an employee survey for that.

Reeves has been MWVCAA's executive director for almost 3 years, having succeeded Teresa Cox, who'd headed the agency for about 15 years when she finally stepped down.  She came out of retirement for a while to direct Women at the Well's Grace House. 

In the past 10 years, MWVCAA has had almost as many CFOs, and its annual audit continues to reveal material weaknesses such as lack of internal controls and processes to ensure accurate data is being reported and staff inexperienced in grant accounting.  And, it's a well-known secret that Reeves knows he is out of his depth as an executive director and is unhappy in the job.  What's not known is, given that awareness, why he doesn't just resign and go back to working with young children, which is what he knows.  (MWVCAA's CFO resigned in January 2018, followed in June by Reeves, who took a job in the state's in the Early Learning Division.  Reeves's deputy Cyndi Leinassar resigned shortly after Reeves.) 

In addition to his duties on the MWVCAA Board of Directors and the MCAD, Weiner is seeking election to replace the formerly honorable Vance Day on the Marion County Circuit Court Bench this May.  (Weiner came in third, with about 21% of the vote.)

MWVCAA opened another overnight warming shelter last week, Sunday through Wednesday nights.  First they announced it would be at ARCHES, but the venue was quickly switched to First Congregational Church (two nights), then to the First Christian Church's Morgan Building.  MWVCAA asked for experienced/trained volunteers, about 10 per shift, and got about 7 per shift, according to the sign up sheet.  (There were ten total warming shelter nights during the 2017-2018 season in three locations (First Christian, First Congregational and First Presbyterian), with an average of 76 guests per night.  See here at page 40.)  

The Oregon Community Foundation recently gave MWVCAA $7,000 to support the overnight warming shelters, which MWVCAA says they will use to purchase replacement blankets and mats.

Councilor Kaser updates CANDO at the February 20 meeting

In a divided vote, CANDO failed to pass a motion to oppose allowing UGM's CUP to relocate and expand the Men's Mission.  Even though the hearing officer had issued a decision allowing the permit with additional conditions, the consensus was that the decision was likely to be appealed to the City Council, and perhaps from there to LUBA, so the Chair felt the motion should go to the board for consideration.  You might think it strange that the board waited so far into the process (which has, after all, taken years), but really, it's not unusual for land use issues to heat up as they move into the conditional-use permitting process.  It seems almost not to matter how many conversations an owner/developer has with the neighborhood beforehand, or over what period of time.  Is that because neighbors aren't paying attention to those conversations?  Or is it that the owner/developers tend to avoid talking about potentially thorny issues that they've thought about, but maybe the neighbors haven't, so why bring it up?  Or is it because the project doesn't seem "real" until the owner/developer applies for that permit, and the official notices start going out?

The February 15 meeting of the Downtown Advisory Board that Salem Breakfast on Bikes reported on was cancelled.  Among the other budget items slated for consideration at that meeting was $500,000 for "ARCHES/Sobering Center."  Interestingly, that item was dropped from the revised February 22 agenda, perhaps because someone realized that a sobering center isn't really what most people would consider urban renewal?  Well, except maybe the Mayor.  (The "not urban renewal" problem was fixed a few months later.  See "Urban Renewal to the Rescue", 28 November 2018.)

OHCS recently published the EnviroIssues Report on Phase 1 of the outreach to service providers and low-income "recipients" needed to inform OHCS's statewide housing plan.  None of the focus groups was in the mid-Willamette Valley, but the themes the groups developed are pretty much what one would expect in any area, in or outside Oregon. To find out more about the development of the Statewide Housing Plan, start here.

OHCS reports that James LaBar has been selected as Governor Brown's new Housing Policy Advisor, which might be good for our area, as he has been and will continue to be the Mid-Valley Region Coordinator for the Governor's Regional Solutions Office.  Salem City Manager Steve Powers sits on the RSO's Mid-Valley Advisory Committee.  The bad news is that Jackie Winters is the committee's convenor, and perhaps due to her reportedly poor health, they don't appear to be doing very much.  Maybe that's why James has time to advise the Governor on housing?

Friday, February 16, 2018

News from the Continuum

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

The PH Tech PITC Team
The Point in Time Homeless unsheltered Count (PITC) is officially 166 in Polk County (102 in 2017, 45 in 2016) and 453 in Marion County (295 in 2017, 182 in 2016).  That's a total of 619 unsheltered (287 in 2017).

The total sheltered count has dropped to 599 (799 in 2017 and 641 in 2016) due to "reduced use rates."  Find the PITC reports here.

People always ask, does this mean there are more homeless?  Or is the counting better?  Answer: it's both, but mostly the latter, thanks to orgs like PH Tech, who fielded a whole team (pictured at left with signs showing where each of them conducted surveys -- downtown circled in yellow).  

UGM's application for a conditional use permit to move/expand the Men's Mission has cleared a second hurdle, despite strong opposition from some local businesses who fear having a homeless shelter in the 'hood will drive down property values and negatively impact the area's "quality of life."   The decision is expected to be appealed to the City Council before it becomes final on February 27.

The only genuine issue is what conditions should be imposed, not whether to allow the move/ expansion.  The current shelter capacity is 185 from November through March, otherwise 150.  The Mission proposes to have 204 shelter and 96 "recovery" beds at the new facility. 

This week, the Urban Renewal Agency approved the use of $1.2M in North Gateway URA funds to purchase the three-story building located at 4107 Fisher Road and the adjacent half-acre lot at 4075 Fisher Road for $1,425,000, balance of funds to come from the Salem Housing Authority using OHCS resources.  SHA plans to complete the building (80% complete in 2014) and convert it to a 35-unit single-room occupancy (SRO) facility for those in need of permanent supportive housing.  For more details, see here.   SHA,

Rough Plans for First Floor of Fisher Road Facility
Salem Health, WVCH (the local CCO) and Northwest Human Services are discussing putting a medical respite care facility on the first floor of the Fisher Road facility (see drawing at left).  Currently, Salem Health can sometimes cover the cost of a few days stay in a motel room, but otherwise must discharge homeless patients to the street.  To learn more about the reasons for and requirements of a homeless medical respite program, see here.  (Salem Health subsequently agreed to provide $270K for 6 respite beds on the first floor under a three-year lease agreement.  The remaining 29 units will be SROs.)

Change came briefly to the West Valley Housing Authority.  Its executive director, Christian Edelblute, spent several days dividing his time between WVHA and Marion County Housing Authority, with the intent to take over as MCHA's executive director after a couple of weeks.  But, after four days, he returned to WVHA.  "Four days was enough", he said.

Alison "Ali" Treichel
We got to meet Ali Treichel this week.  She's the new Homeless Initiatives Program Coordinator hired by COG.  She's from Spokane, originally and is living in PDX (husband's employment is there).  She's making the rounds, going to meetings, talking to people.  First impressions were good.  Seems sensible, unpretentious.  Understands she's here because the Mayor really wants his sobering center, hopes nonetheless that she can find a way over the next year to make a difference for homeless residents of the valley.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

News from the Continuum

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Jon Reeves, Executive Director of the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA), told the first meeting of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force that ARCHES had "worked with and assessed over 3,031 individuals, so that tells you that there's an immense amount of homelessness in our community...but just in the last year and a half, we've also housed about 849 there's a lot of housing going on, but there's a lot of housing need, so think about that."

So, we did think about that.  And here's the problem we ran into: where does that number, "about 849", come from?  It's not been in any of their management reports.

At left are the figures from ARCHES' last three annual reports (performance year running from Jul 1 to Jun 30) (PH = permanent housing, PSH = permanent supported housing).

We asked Jon and Jimmy Jones, Director of the Community Resources Program for MWVCAA, about that number, but did not receive a reply.

Now, wouldn't you think, if a program housed nearly one third of the homeless individuals they worked with, that they would be bursting with pride and letting everyone know how they did it?  Evidently, not MWVCAA.

OHCS has basically one measure of performance, which is whether people remain in permanent housing after six months.  Know how many such individuals The ARCHES Project reported for PY 2016 (ending June 30, 2017)?  Eighteen.  So, let's also think about that.

The last bit of news from the continuum this week is that the Council of Governments has hired Ali Treichel as the Homeless Initiatives Coordinator.  All we're told about her is that she is "wrapping up her master's in social work and has worked with the homeless community." 

Dtown Hless Solutions Task Force - 1st Meeting

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Chair Cara Kaser and Urban Dev. Dept Dir. Kristin Retherford
About 100 people invested one way or another in Salem's downtown showed up for the first meeting of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force, including Chief Moore, Lt. Upkes, Sheriff Myers, and: 

A Somewhat Diverse Group

The task force was born out of the failure of the "sit-lie" ordinance last fall, and its charge is
[T]o address behavioral issues and propose solutions related to the specific impacts that homelessness is having on downtown vibrancy and livability, including issues such as trash and litter, abandoned property, health and hygiene, and other behaviors that impact perceptions of safety.  Our downtown should be an inviting and welcoming home to all of Salem’s residents, and a place where the rights and needs of customers, visitors, individuals experiencing homelessness, residents, business owners, and property owners are addressed equitably.

Salem's Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force First Meeting

The task force is chaired by Councilor Kaser and staffed by Urban Development Department Director Kristin Retherford.  Initially, a total of three meetings were planned, but last night there was talk of a possible fourth meeting on March 20.  (There will end up being six meetings total, last one in August.)

The members were chosen by the Mayor, Kaser and Retherford with the stated intention to have a blend of advocates, service providers, residents, businesses, and property owners.

The "advocate" designation would appear to be a matter for interpretation (name tents had only names).  Judging by the audience response to members' introductory remarks,  Shannon Garcia and Paul Logan probably qualify.

Shannon Garcia (Oregon Law Center), said she wanted to see community solutions,  particularly those involving the police, that focus on relationships.  More specifically, she wanted elected officials to treat homeless residents as "part of their constituency" and as valued members of the community.  (Applause.)

Lt. Upkes not summarizing sit/lie ordinance

Paul Logan (Northwest Human Services) (HOAP and HOST) said, "We need a recognition in the community that we need to join with businesses.  No longer is it going to work to say that social services and churches should fix this problem.  No longer is it going to work to say that law enforcement should... handle this problem [when the social services and churches efforts prove insufficient]...We've got to address this as a community." (Applause.)

Logan validated people's perception that the problem was growing by saying that, four years ago, roughly 600 patients at the West Salem Clinic identified as homeless.  Today, roughly 2,600 do so.  And, the number of kids and adults identifying as homeless in the HOST and HOAP programs has increased by 20%.  (The Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) closed its day shelter on Madison Street last June.  The next day, the number of people seeking services at Northwest Human Services' day shelter (HOAP) doubled to 140.  The MWVCAA shelter has not reopened.)  Logan added,

We are overwhelmed.  I have never seen a time in my 22 years here to where we almost have to close the doors... We're having to move people in shifts in order to take care of them.  There are that many more homeless people. 

And from CANDO's Neal Kern, "Like Cara said, it's an overwhelming problem to address, but I think some of the need is to feel that there's a process in place, both for folks on the verge of becoming homeless...once they are homeless...and for residents and business owners, if they're having an issue, what's their process?  Right now, it's like everyone's [trying to handle their own problems], without a lot of coordination."     

The situation is one that is leaving people feeling sad, angry, and fearful, but there was general agreement that the number of Salem residents who are homeless/at risk had sharply increased in recent years, that the increase was negatively affecting the entire community in a variety of ways, that the housing crisis resulting from the abrupt halt ten years ago in housing construction was/is a major factor, and that, while the problem is not unique to Salem, Salem needs to "do something."  But, deciding what that "something" should be, and who should do it, would have to be left for the third meeting. 

Meeting #1: Defining the Problem
The big question is, of course, what would it take to convince the business community they need to do more? 

The learning curve was looking pretty steep Tuesday night.  Sandy Powell (Olivia's) (where Shryock's used to be) told the task force that the downtown business owners she talks to are "feeling just as hopeless as the homeless are feeling."  Her observation would seem to suggest, among other things, that some in the business community are seeing themselves more as victims than as partners with social services and churches in finding solutions.  Can the task force hope to alter that perspective?

It was seven o'clock before they'd reached item "c" on the agenda.  Lt. Upkes did not summarize the sit/lie ordinance.  He did say several minutes in to his presentation that the police "can't evict someone [who's lying on] the sidewalk, yet that is one of our major complaints, so we're caught in the middle", but he also described how they don't just throw up their hands.  They engage the person who's creating the difficulty, ask them about their situation, offer to help them find services, sometimes transport them, etc.  He also explained that business owners don't always understand that, in trespass cases, "arresting" does not mean "jail."  It often just means issuing a citation (which can then lead to exclusion from the downtown).   Upkes' comments would seem to indicate the need to help business owners understand and accept a few practical and legal realities.

In the last few minutes of the meeting, the task force struggled to choose between practical needs and root causes in selecting the "top three" problems/needs from those they'd identified.  The "scope of work" says the task force is to
address behavioral issues and propose solutions related to the specific impacts that homelessness is having on downtown vibrancy and livability, including issues such as trash and litter, abandoned property, health and hygiene, and other behaviors that impact perceptions of safety.  
But it's not just the behavior of the people experiencing homelessness that the task force should be thinking about.  It's everybody's.  As Paul Logan put it,

What we can do as a city is look at a shared vision between service providers, law enforcement and businesses as to what downtown should be like -- for us [as service providers], as business people, [and] for the clients who live on the street...We [need to know where the boundaries are and] say the same things to people when we know they're crossing boundaries...We [as a city] need to be more consistent [in the way we respond to behavioral issues]...Having joint teams of law enforcement and providers [like the one between SPD and SHA] to create relationships, because behavior changes and people get ready for treatment based on a relationship that suggests there's something else out there [for them] and that they're valuable...and a lot of that does come through community policing.   
The meeting ended a few minutes after that, Logan's words having been captured on the poster paper as "shared vision" and "public-private partnership."

Saturday, February 3, 2018

News from the Continuum

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

"Volunteers Count Homeless" (1 Feb 2018, Statesman Journal)
The big story in the continuum this week was, of course, the survey of unsheltered folks in Marion and Polk Counties.

The unsheltered -- those living in places considered unfit for human habitation (like a tent, a shack with no plumbing, a camper with no utilities) -- are a subset of people experiencing homelessness, and reaching them is the most difficult part of conducting the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count.  So difficult, in fact, that HUD requires that they be counted only ever other year.

Did any of that discourage Santiam Service Integration Coordinator Melissa Baurer from raising her hand when the call went out for volunteers willing to coordinate surveys in their communities?  No, it didn't.

Santiam Canyon Survey Sign Up 11/29/17
Maybe it should have -- but, "I am a competitive person," she once explained, after she shot 3 video-game elk and no cows in 30 seconds, first time out.  "Maybe you have caught on to that.  Child of nine and playing sports gives you that drive."

Melissa didn't care that the community resources are notoriously limited in the Santiam Canyon, or that there had been only one other Canyon survey, back in 2017, with one hub, and this year they were wanting hubs and field teams in  Aumsville, Stayton, Mehama/Lyons, Mill City, Gates and Detroit, on account of the need, and also transportation being what it is up there.  

FF to this week. If you know Melissa, and Melissa's organizing something, chances are she's going to find something for you to do.  So, Tuesday, we were picking up soup and bread for 100 at The Salvation Army and making plans to drive it, along with Jesus Gutierrez (who'd been drafted to replace the flu-stricken Mehama/Lyons hub team leader, who'd been drafted to replace the volunteer from Northwest Human Services who had to cover for sick co-workers), to Stayton to pick up biscuits and gravy for 100 at Roth's no later than 7 the next morning and drop it off per instructions at all the hubs between Stayton and Detroit, before they opened.  Then, she'd have something else for us to do. 

 Hub at the Old Community School, Lyons
KYAC's Ken Cartwright at the Canyon Art Center Hub

Chris Garza at Roth's, filling in for assistant manager Bob Anderson, couldn't have been more helpful or pleased if we'd been taking his biscuits and gravy to a state breakfast at the Governor's mansion.  He even thanked us for letting them participate and said very sincerely to let them know if we needed anything else. 

We were 15 minutes late meeting Troy Gulstrom at the Old Community School in Lyons (went the wrong way on Emma), but he didn't seem to care, greeting us cheerfully and saying he'd got the coffee going. We left Jesus and Troy to get the biscuits and gravy organized, and headed out for the KYAC studio and Canyon Art Center in Mill City.

Ken opened his window to offer words of encouragement as Jenny Kraupa of Bolt Carlisle & Smith, CPAs in Stayton, and Barbara Sanders with the Canyon Closet, gave us several hefty hygiene/clothing kits to take up to the Gates hub.  Although they'd opened at 4:30 am, they'd not yet had any customers.

The china and flatware were set out in the beautiful new Fire Hall in Gates, along with coffee, water and lemonade, thanks to RFPD Chief Gary Swanson, team lead Sara Cromwell (all the way from Wilsonville) and Gates residents Dee Ann Jackson and Carol Cree.  We wanted to stay and chat, but it was 8 am, and we needed to get up to Detroit while the gravy was hot.

We had a little difficulty finding the Detroit hub at 160 Detroit Avenue; however, we eventually spotted team lead Andrew Rice of Easter Seals leaning on the side of the building.  None of his team had arrived yet, but neither had any customers.  He led us around to the entrance at the side of the garage and assured us he could handle things, no problem, so we headed back down the Canyon again, to the Gates Fire Hall, to see how things were going.

Michael and Carol at the Gates Hub
There were still no customers back at the Fire Hall (which turned out to be a good thing, as much of the gear and clothing to be given out had not yet been delivered), so we sat down with Carol for a chat.  She said last year's survey had "opened eyes" to the reality of homelessness within canyon communities.  People like Robert, squeezed out of gainful employment by the growing demands of an electronic age and the intellectual limitations of a traumatic brain injury, who not infrequently is unable to make ends meet. 

At 9:30, a truck with gear and supplies pulled up, and we helped unload food, clothing, tents, tarps, blankets and sleeping bags.

Cassie and Sara unloading at the Gates Hub

Marion & Polk Food Share had donated "shelf-stable" food items.  Since last fall, canyon communities had been collecting clothing and gear for the hubs and handing it over to John Schmiedl (Marion County Emergency Management), and, yesterday, he'd redistributed everything to the hubs.  The truck shipment included items collected/purchased by Beth Hays, Community Resource Trust, with help from the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley.

"This is food", Sara said, pointing to the canned soup and granola bars she was arranging on one of her tables.  "That", she said disapprovingly, pointing to the Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes and other junk food at the end of the table, "is not food."  Sara, who was trained and has worked as a chef, believes everyone deserves to be served tasty, nutritious food.

Surveys, Guides, Releases at the Gates Hub
We left Sara and her team arranging the supplies in a welcoming display (still no customers, despite Carol's FB posts and Ken's announcing on his show that the hub was open for business) and set off to see how things were going at the Mill City hub.  Before we could get there, however, we got a call from Melissa asking us if we'd like to go with her to knock on doors in the nearby trailer park.  She was up at the Fire Hall, and she wanted customers.  

We headed back to the Fire Hall, helped Melissa load up a box with cups of coffee, granola bars, blank surveys, and a few Santiam Canyon Resource Guides, walked over to the park, and started knocking on doors.  A couple of folks said they might come over later.  We walked back to the Fire Hall, wondering where else we might look.

The Chief had stopped by to see how things were going, and offered to take us up Mad Creek Road to talk to a resident who might have seen folks around his place (he hadn't).  On the way there, we stopped to talk to Ray, who was collecting bottles and cans, and invited him down to the Fire Hall for a free lunch.  We tried driving up Rock Creek Road and a few logging roads, but found the most frequently used areas were empty.

Ray and Robert, whom we'd talked to on the way to the trailer park, were at the Fire Hall when we got back.  Shortly thereafter, Keddy Haines, a drug and alcohol counselor who used to work with Melissa at the Salvation Army, arrived with hot lasagna, salad and bread sticks donated by The Olive Garden on Lancaster Drive in Salem.  While we were unloading, Ray came over to Keddy and greeted him warmly, asking how he had been doing.

Meanwhile, Sara and Melissa had been conferring with the other hubs to see how their supplies were holding out.  Team lead Erin Boers (Early Learning Hub) said she could use some sleeping bags and food, so we loaded up food and supplies and headed off to the hub at New Life Foursquare Church in Stayton.

Statyon Hub at the New Life Foursquare Church
Things were much busier at the Church than they were farther up the canyon, perhaps because the Stayton field team had come back in for lunch.  We chatted with team lead Doug Richardson (North Star Industries), Brad Nanke (Santiam Watershed Council), John Schmiedl (Marion County Emergency Management), and  Margo Pabst (Bridgeway's Sandra Bloom House).  Margo had spent two hours surveying an individual with mental health issues, only to find out in the end that she was not homeless.  We later learned the Stayton teams conducted a total of 27 surveys (Detroit 4, Gates 5, Mill City 1, Lyons 10, Aumsville 3).  After a brief visit, we left the bustle to go see how Jesus was doing at the Old Community School in Lyons.

We ran into Melissa in the parking lot.  She'd just finished dropping off more food and supplies.  She said Jesus had gone out with Angie Torres (PH Tech) to try and find customers.  While we were there, Christina Baurer (Linn-Benton-Lincoln ESD) arrived.  Things were quiet at the Canyon Art Center where she'd been all morning (except when she left to make a sign to put out in front of the building to let people know where they were), and Melissa had asked if she would step in for Jesus and help Judy Skinner with the surveys.

Lyons Hub at the Old Community School
Inside, there was just Judy and one customer (said she'd attended the school as an elementary student), so while the customer shopped for what she needed, Michael talked with Christina about her work at "Connections Academy" in Mill City.

Christina said students come to the Academy for all for sorts of reasons.  Some are way ahead of their classmates, and working through the Academy allows them to learn at a faster pace that suits them.  Some are there because they're victims of severe bullying, or their housing situation is unstable for whatever reason, and they're between districts.  The Academy allows students to stay connected to a learning environment despite such challenges.

Michael and Christina at the Lyons Hub
Christina studied community health education and sociology at Western Oregon.  When Michael asked her why she decided to do that kind of work, she said, smiling "Well, when my sister started working for Community Action and [later] Salvation Army, she would have our family volunteer a lot.  And so, when I was in high school, and then college, I would volunteer for different programs."  She then added, "Growing up, our parents taught us to help others and volunteer where we can."

A couple more customers arrived, and Christina went back to work.  We left Lyons, headed to the Canyon Art Center (which we still hadn't managed to visit), until we found out they'd packed it in about an hour early (well, yeah, they'd been open since 4:30 am).  The Aumsville food pantry (which we'd also not visited), Foursquare Church, the Fire Hall and the Community School stayed open, so we're told, until 4 pm (though the packing up probably started earlier) and sent their leftover food and supplies somewhere they could be of good use.  By 4:30 pm, most everyone was headed home.

The unofficial tally for the canyon (there's never an official one) is "around 60."  (That includes Jefferson and Turner.)  We are told that this is about the same number surveyed in 2017.  If you care about such things, that would have been about 20% of all the unsheltered people surveyed last year in Marion County.  As for this year, 453 were surveyed, versus 295 in 2017 and 182 in 2016. 

Through the course of the day, we overheard one or more volunteers saying that conducting the unsheltered survey is important because an accurate survey will bring more resources into the area.

But, we all know that's not really true.

An "accurate survey" only brings more resources into an area if people later come together and lay claim to those resources by organizing effective projects and programs.

Alternatively, you could say that the survey is HUD's way of forcing people to work together on a problem that many don't want to believe exists, if only for one day out of the year.

Whatever HUD's intent, the unsheltered survey brings together people inside and outside of communities; people who care enough to show up and lend a hand to someone they don't know.  What people choose to do with those new relationships is really up to them.  If they choose to do nothing, well, then it's very likely nothing will change.  But, if they choose to ask for help, to learn about the resources that are available to them, and work hard to put them to good use, well, progress is possible.