Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Kroc Center Hosts CoC Convo

Janet Carlson et al, sharing the case for leaving ROCC and forming a local CoC

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

About two dozen bigwigs from Salem-area housing and social services agencies met at the Kroc Center last week to hear about the movement initiated by the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative (MWHI) Steering Committee to pull out of the 28-county Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC) and form a local CoC.

Invitations to the two-hour meeting came from Jimmy Jones, Executive Director of the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA), who has been working closely on with the steering committee and Mid Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG) staff, Sean O’Day, Janet Carlson, and Jan Calvin on community outreach.  The MWHI Steering Committee is housed at MWVCOG.

To pull the sting of anticipated negative feedback during the main meeting, Carlson et al, met beforehand with reps of the three local agencies awarded CoC Program grants for 2019:  Robin Winkle, Homeless Services Director for Shangri-La, Jayne Downing, Executive Director for Center for Hope and Safety, and TJ Putman, Executive Director for Salem Interfaith Housing Network.  The strategey must have worked, because none of them raised any objections or concerns during the meeting.  

Beside the community (including the homeless community), those most likely to be affected by the restructuring are homeless shelter and housing providers.  Housing reps at the meeting:  Candace Jamison, Executive Director for Marion County Housing Authority;  Christian Edelblute, Executive Director for West Valley Housing Authority;  Nicole Utz, Acting Administrator for Salem Housing Authority;  Rita Grady, Executive Director for Polk Community Development Corporation;  Kim Lyell, Polk CDC;  Shelly Ehenger, Federal Programs Manager, City of Salem;  Brent DeMoe, Director of Family and Community Outreach for Polk County;  Dan Clem, Executive Director for the Union Gospel Mission;  Kristin Keunz-Barber, Strategic Partnerships Manager for Northwest Human Services;  Dan Williams, Administrator for the Salvation Army of Marion and Polk Counties' Kroc Center;  Jason Ramos, Director of Social Services for TSA;  Josh Graves, Deputy Executive Director for Catholic Community Services;  Kim Lemman, Executive Director for St. Francis Shelter.  (Notably missing:  reps from the Oregon Departments of Human Services and Housing and Community Services, WestCare Veterans Home, Shelly's House, Sable House, Titus 3 House.)

But, supportive and preventative services reps were also present:  Melissa Baurer, Community Liason and Service Integration Coordinator for Santiam Hospital; Cyndi Leinassar, Community Relations Liason for Salem Health;  Ian Dixon-MacDonald, Vice President of Programs for Marion Polk Food Share; Heather Wright, Polk County Homeless Connect;  Christina Korkow, Executive Director for Recovery Outreach Community Center;  Cathy Todd, Director of Employment Services for Easter Seals;   Patrice Altenhofen, Executive Director for Family Building Blocks;  Lisa Harnisch, Executive Director for Early Learning Hub.

Also present were Caleb Green, Assistant Program Coordinator for Community Action Partners of Oregon, which houses ROCC staff, and Pegge McGuire, Deputy Director of Programs for Community Services Consortium of Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties.  

Ehenger, Winkle, Jamison, Harnish, Downing, Lemman
The atmosphere in the main meeting was one of intense, but aloof, interest, with repressed hostility emanating from one corner.  There were few questions, and no apparent enthusiasm.  We asked Jones after the meeting how he thought it went.  "Better than I thought it would", he said.

Below are our notes on the meeting, which we found impossible to summarize accurately.

Jones thanked everyone for coming. O'Day gave what has become his standard introduction, and Carlson started going through her slides.  (See "CoC Issue at City Council" for links to slides and the video of the same presentation to the Salem City Council.)

At the slide about all the funding sources that a functional CoC might target strategically, Carlson told of her experience applying for a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project grant along with other members of the ROCC, and how impossible it was for Marion County to show it was collaborating with distant counties like Harney.

Jones shared how he had tried to persuade Salem providers to support a local coordinated entry system, and how his work group "collapsed on its own weight" because it didn’t have the support of government.  (See "Coordinated Entry After One Year.")

Carlson admitted that the continuum had gaps,  that people had looked the other way on homelessness, that there was no hub, no overarching planing or oversight.  She said the steering committee's Homeless Program Coordinator had counted 550 programs delivering some form services to the homeless in Marion and Polk Counties.

Jones talked about ROCC scoring a 17 out of 50 possible points for data quality in the 2019 competition due to "unforced errors", and came in well below the weighted mean of 166 (out of a possible 200 points).  He said that CoCs scoring above the weighted mean "get all their Tier 1 [renewal] projects funded."  (See "ROCC Fissures Continue to Grow.") 

Carlson made her "usual disclaimer" that the move to form a local CoC is "not about the money, but it's always about the money."  She spoke of the broken promises of support ROCC made in 2011 when  the decision was made to merge with ROCC, and how ROCC was not receiving less HUD funding since that time, but Marion and Polk County programs were.

DeMoe asked how many of ROCC's 6,392  homeless are in Marion and Polk Counties, and Jones answered about a third.  (Based on the point-in-time numbers, it's about a fifth.)  Ehenger asked about Yamhill County's numbers. (Yamhill counted 657 individuals in the 2018.)

In response to a question about including Yamhill County, O'Day repeated what Carlson had said, that it's not about money, but about having measurable impact.  He said Willamina and the Confederated Tribes span Polk and Yamhill, and that Marion, Polk and Yamhill have regional ties through other organizations like the Regional Solutions Task Force and United Way.  He said the problem with ROCC was both performance and redistributing the region's dollars across ROCC.  In response to a question from Jamison about what resources the CoC would plan for, Carlson said the CoC would ultimately need to plan around all dollars, setting community priorities in the context of national priorities.

Jones called on McGuire to talk about about Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties' interest in forming a  regional CoC.  McGuire said that, in the past, the Community Services Consortium had discouraged any talk of separation from ROCC, but they were now interested.  (For logistical and other reasons, the MWHI steering committee decided at the regular April meeting that they do not favor including LBL.)

O'Day said that MWVCOG was a member-based organization that waited for members to say what they would like to have happen, so whether MWVCOG would host the local CoC remained to be seen.  He said that MWVCOG is experienced and knowledgeable in allocating federal resources effectively and in partnering with non-profits.  He said MWVCOG was not, however, interested in "empire-building or stealing community resources."

Clem asked whether NGOs could participate in the CoC and whether MWVCOG could attract private dollars.  O'Day talked about various MWVCOG committees that currently incorporate NGOs.  He said MWVCOG had historically not worked with private dollars but some Councils of Government did, citing MPOs as an example.  Carlson said she would discourage "the private course", and that "the focus and purpose was on government" involvement.

Williams asked how ROCC viewed the leave effort.  Carlson related a brief history of communications, and said HUD had assigned someone to offer the steering committee technical assistance.

Ehenger suggested following "the Atlanta model" instead of a government model, so that the region would be better able to work with private entities like the Ford Foundation.  O'Day answered that MWVCOG had "no problem" working with the Ford Foundation and similar entities.  DeMoe asked the group not lean too early one way or the other with respect to public versus private host entity.

Carlson reached the end of the slides at about 11:00, and called for questions/comments.  "I like it", DeMoe said, and left.  Clem asked whether there were any anecdotes about what it was like for Lane County and Clackamas County to bring  together local organizations for this kind of work.   (Lane and Clackamas each formed a CoC in the 1990s.)  Carlson talked about the advantages of the single-county CoC model, the length of the relationships in Lane, and the strength of its structures and systems approach.  Jones talked about Clackamas having a "homeless czar" with a lot of authority to make decisions.

Williams asked whether the staff positions were a HUD expectation.  Carlson said no, but they were needed.  She explained that HUD provided funds for planning and admin.

Jamison talked about her experience in the Multnomah County CoC, and its success in bringing a functional end to veteran homelessness.  She spoke of the advantages of having a system in place, so that when funding does comes available, the community is ready to act.  She said she had seen firsthand that this approach works.

Graves said he had been working more with affordable housing, and was frustrated with how hard regulations made it to "get people into housing."  He said "parts of the system are missing", and asked if the restructuring would bring any additional restrictions that would make it more difficult to get people into housing.  In response, Jones said "affordable housing in Marion County is a catastrophe."  Utz commented that regulatory compliance was one of biggest hurdles in getting Housing First projects up and running, giving as an example that project-based vouchers require sobriety.  She said all the subsidy layering needed to make a project viable adds years because of the competing compliance standards.

Michael reminded the group what Jon Reeves and others on the MWHI Task Force had said about how siloed Salem-area organizations are.  He pointed out that, in reforming a local CoC, the region was not joining some new program, "so it's not going to make your work harder."  Graves said he was hoping it would make his work easier.  Carlson returned to the points she'd made about the ultimate purpose of the restructuring being collective impact on the problem.  Sarah added that the reason organizations end up in silos is that silos are easier.  Collaborating is a challenge, having to share resources and data is a challenge.  Those things don't occur now, but they'll need to in a functioning CoC.  Downing said  with obvious irritation, "We already do those things."  (Jayne often says this.)  
Carlson asked the group for letters of support, and wanted to know how they wanted to participate in the process.  Meetings?  Updates?  How often?  O'Day said MWVCOG planned to use the remaining steering committee resources for planning if there was agreement to move forward.  Leinassar said yes it should go forward, and that Salem Health wants to be a part of it.  Maybe quarterly updates.  Carlson said the most important question now was size, and that would need to be determined in the next 6 weeks.  Williams offered the Kroc Center for meetings.  Clem suggested the next update come after the size is determined, maybe one in June and again in the fall.  By this time, several people had left, and the meeting was adjourned about a quarter to noon. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Yamhill Poised to Vote "Leave"

Janet Carlson, Jimmy Jones and Sean O'Day at the 4/23/19 Yamhill County BoC Work Session

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

"It's really the ROCC, isn't it?", asked Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla, in response to Janet Carlson's "Continuum of Care" presentation on behalf of the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative (MWHI) steering committee, which is housed in the Mid Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG).  He was ready to vote "Leave."  Commissioner Rick Olson was also heard to say, "just do it", but Commissioner Mary Starrett (not pictured because she arrived late to the work session) said she wanted to have further discussion. 

The presentation last Tuesday to Yamhill County on ROCC: Leave or Remain? came on the heels of Monday night's presentation to the Salem City Council.  See "CoC Issue at City Council."    

Commissioner Starrett also sits on the board of Yamhill County Community Action Partnerships (YCAP), which holds three 2018 CoC grants totaling about $182K and is the Yamhill County-based provider participating in ROCC.  Starrett's first question was, "What happens to existing contracts with HUD?"  She also wanted to know, "Will we be dinged for all the people who are homeless by choice?", to which Jimmy Jones replied, "No, not at all."

HUD does not recognize a category of people who are "homeless by choice."  For more about this concept, see "10 Myths about Homelessness" and Gionfriddo, P. "Homeless by Choice The choices we made are what put my son with schizophrenia on the streets."  (12 March 2015, Psychology Today.)  

Starrett also asked about gap funding.  Carlson replied that the steering committee had "two staff funded through the application process" but would need "$212,000 in 12 months."  The minutes of the March 2019 steering committee meeting record a vote to retain Carlson and Jan Calvin for up to 30 and 20 hours/wk at $85/hr through March 2020, based on available funds, currently totaling $80K.  Carlson said the steering committee would need to have a resolution of support by "late May, early June."

McMinnville's Mayor Hill, Manager Jeff Towery, and Council President Kellie Menke also attended the work session and heard Carlson's presentation.  We spoke to Mayor Hill and Councilor Menke afterward.  Their enthusiasm for leaving was palpable and unqualified.  They said they'd already had several meetings about it.  A resolution of support is scheduled to go before the Mac Council on May 14.
In addition to Yamhill County and McMinnville last week, Carlson et al also pitched to Keizer, Monmouth, Independence and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.  All were receptive and are expected to pass resolutions of support.

Contributing to the gap funding for staff might be an issue for some.  MWVCOG members are asked to contribute annual dues based on population (less the population of major cities) and resources available.  Marion County and Salem are the largest contributors, each paying $32,455 for FY 2018-19, while Polk County paid only $6,592.  Marion County and Salem also contributed $45,000 each to the homeless coordinator position, while Keizer, Monmouth and Independence each contributed $5,000.  McMinnville's dues for FY 2018-19 were $15,366, while Yamhill County's were $12,006.  Carlson told the steering committee at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday that she will be developing possible formulas for calculating new steering committee member contributions, which would need to total $107,000 in order to fill the gap in the gap funding for staff. 

5/21/19 Update:  after a second work session, the Board of Commissioners decided against leaving ROCC to form a regional CoC with Marion and Polk counties.  See "Yamhill County to Remain in ROCC."    

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Urban Development's 2019 Award Recs

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Training materials on UDD's new process for federal programs
The Urban Development Department (UDD) recently completed its review of applications for the City's 2019 allocation of CDBG, HOME and General Fund public service dollars using a new process developed by Urban Renewal Department staff.

The new process was established in response to advice last fall from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  See "Conflict at the CSHC."  It relies on an ad hoc committee for citizen input, instead of the City boards/commissions used since inception (SSAB, HUDAC, CSHC).

The ad hoc committee members for 2019 are listed here, at the very bottom.

The old process had other problems beside conflicts of interest, the biggest being that it was very subjective.  Unwritten and lacking objective standards, it was basically arbitrary.  The new process is, at least, written.  Asked whether it worked satisfactorily in the latest round of applications, or whether more adjustments were needed, UDD Director Kristin Retherford responded "Yes, I do think the new process worked well. I also think that as we focus more on things like project readiness, more systemic approaches, etc., that the future could see additional refinements to the process."  Providers we talked to were, unsurprisingly, more focused on results than the process (results in their favor = good process, results not in their favor = bad process).

The recommenda-tions were announced last Friday, April 19.

Under the old process, applicants were permitted to witness the deliberations of  the citizen board or commission, but not any more.

Under the new process, applicants submit their materials and wait several weeks for an announcement.

There were fewer applications this year than last.  There was also less money available. It is concerning that there were not more applications for housing construction and rehab projects.

According to the 
Draft Annual Action Plan (AAP), the City set aside an additional $223,354 for housing development or rehab by an unidentified Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO).  That amount was not included in the awards announcement, it only appears in the draft AAP.

If the 2019 recommendations are approved, which they usually are, Salem Housing Authority (SHA) will receive $425K plus another $100K in CDBG funds for the Yaquina Hall project, to reimburse SHA for the $425K used to acquire the multi-family housing complex and additional land located at 4107 Fisher Road (project has since been named Redwood Crossings).  See staff report here.  WestCare will receive $70K to make ADA improvements to its 30-bed facility for homeless veterans (located off Center Street, where the former Salem Outreach Shelter used to be before it closed in 2013).  Integrated Supports for living will receive $81K to rehab "Fisher/Sizemore Apartments", and Polk CDC will receive $180K for owner-occupied housing rehab somewhere in West Salem (?).  Because there weren't more applications for housing grants, $106K in CDBG funds will likely go to Merit for "microenterprise."

2019 HOME funds are all going to tenant-based rental assistance and security deposits -- no housing rehab, preservation or new construction.  The City definitely needs to find ways to leverage its federal dollars more effectively.

The only substantive change in 2019 social (or "public", as it's referred to in this anti-social age) services recommendations is Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network (dba Family Promise)'s case management grant is recommended to go to Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency to staff Salem's cold-weather shelter(s).  See very brief project descriptions in the awards announcement.

Not surprisingly, Jayne Downing managed to avoid having the Center for Hope and Safety disqualified from receiving CDBG funds by HUD conflict of interest rules.  See "Conflict at the CSHC."

The City is not required to spend CDBG funds on social services, and could decide to spend the $400K of General Fund dollars on something more than maintaining the same projects.  What's missing, however, is a diversified applicant pool and a shared strategy to guide funding decisions.     

6/9/19 Update:  the staff report to the City Council for the May 28 public hearing showed a change in the recommended CDBG grant to the Salem Housing Authority for housing (Yaquina Hall).  Instead of $525,000, the recommended grant was $451,960 (a difference of $73,040).  No explanation was given for the change.  See staff report here.    

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

CoC Issue at City Council

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Janet Carlson and Sean O'Day with MWVCOG at City Council
After a long delay, the ROCC: Leave or Remain? issue went before the entire Salem City Council last night, a mere 18 months after its Affordable Housing, Social Services and Homelessness Strategic Plan Work Group (including Andersen, Bennett, Cook and McCoid) recommended leaving (see "News from the Continuum", 29 July 2017).  

City Mgr's Update for 3/20/19
Politics dropped the  recommendation in the lap of the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative (MWHI) Steering Committee, where it languished until February of this year.  See "MWHI Steering Committee Continues Oversight."

On March 28, the MWHI Steering Committee -- Tom Pessemier (Independence), Scott McClure (Monmouth), Kathy Clark (Keizer), Steve Powers (Salem), Colm Willis (Marion County) -- voted to recommend re-forming the Marion and Polk County CoC, possibly including Yamhill County.  In effect, another recommendation to leave the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC).  See "Steering Committee Says Reform Local CoC."

In preparation for last night's work session, Council received two staff reports --  one at the April 8 Council meeting, one at the work session.  Both were by MWHI Steering Committee member and Urban Development Department Director Kristin Retherford.  Both included an issue brief on the CoC question by former Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson, who is under contract with the Mid Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG) to provide consulting services to the MWHI Steering Committee.  Neither report mentioned the "leave" recommendation made in 2017.  Neither did the City Manager's March 20 Update.  Amnesia or recency bias?

MWVCOG Consultant Janet Carlson
At the work session, Sean O'Day, Executive Director of the Mid Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG), which houses the MWHI Steering Committee, gave a five minute  how-we-got-here intro that also omitted reference to the 2017 "leave" recommendation (in all likelihood, he wasn't aware of it).

Janet Carlson then gave an abbreviated version of her presentation to the steering committee.  See "Steering Committee Says Reform Local CoC."

Councilor Kaser asked the first question, which was "Why Yamhill?"  Sean O'Day responded, saying, basically, as Yamhill is part of MWVCOG, and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde are in both Polk and Yamhill, it makes sense to ask Yamhill if they would like to be included.

Councilor Andersen asked whether local CoC funds are going to other areas of the ROCC?  Jimmy Jones, Executive Director of the Mid Willamette Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) responded, saying, basically, yes.

Councilors Ausec and Hoy at the work session

Councilor Hoy commented, and his comments were "seconded" by Mayor Bennett, that he appreciated and agreed with Carlson's analysis.  He said when he first learned, years ago, that Salem and Marion and Polk Counties were part of the ROCC, he was "stunned", indicating he would favor re-forming the local CoC (Councilor Hoy participates through his work in the highly competitive Clackamas County CoC).

Councilors Cook and Lewis likewise  expressed appreciation of the analysis.  Cook said she was "really excited about the accountability factor" and the potential for "data-driven results" in a re-formed, local CoC.  Lewis asked why three staff were proposed for the local CoC, when ROCC appeared to have only two.

Jimmy Jones and Janet Carlson at work session

Carlson responded to Lewis's question with a detailed explanation of the education, training and skill sets needed for each position, adding that MWVCAA would be "donating" the Homeless Information Management Information (HMIS) technical support position during the gap period.

Carlson also said, in response to a question from Mayor Bennett, that the steering committee would be taking a closer look at Jimmy Jone's suggestion to try to include Linn and Benton Counties, but that she had talked with the Marion County Commissioners about it earlier in the day, and "their reaction was not highly favorable" toward inclusion.

In closing the work session, Mayor Bennett asked whether the Council might move on the resolution in support of re-formation, but the City Attorney said no.  Bennett then asked whom Councilors should contact with questions and was told to contact Carlson, or her co-consultant on the project, Jan Calvin.  Carlson and Jones will offer a similar presentation to the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners today at 1:30.  

6/14/19 Update:  at its regular meeting on June 10, the Salem City Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2019-17, supporting the formation of a regional CoC.  By that action, Salem joins Polk and Marion counties, which adopted similar resolutions on April 24 and May 22, respectively.  Per the staff report, “The new Continuum of Care would be registered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2020.”  A second meeting with area housing and service providers is scheduled for June 17, 2019.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

4/16/19 Minutes

Members: Deb Comini, Jim Griggs, M. Bryant Baird, Richard McGinty, Sara Cromwell, Alan Mela, Valerie Freeman
Organizations: Dan Clem, UGM; Troy Brynelson, Salem Reporter; Sam Carroll, Downtown YMCA; Denyc Boles, Salem Health
City and County Representatives: Cara Kaser, Ward 1 Councilor; Gina Courson, Marion County Probation and Parole
Guests: Jon Christianson

The Annual Meeting meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m., on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present.  

The agenda and minutes of the March meeting were approved by unanimous consent.

Councilor Kaser reported that the Council had held a work session on the Sustainable Services Revenue Task Force recommendations and sent three revenue options to itself: operating fee, payroll tax (both would go to General Fund), gas tax (would pay for things like street and sidewalk maintenance).  Kaser said she didn’t like the payroll tax. Several present asked what was being done about people sleeping in alcoves, etc., downtown. Kaser’s reply included advice that alcoves were private property and police could be called to assist if someone refused to move after being asked to do so.     

In interested citizen comments, Jon Christianson shared posters advertising a May 10 concert to raise funds to move the Salem Peace Mosaic.  Richard McGinty, who owns a business at 694 High Street (just south of the Inside Out Church), said he was “here because the homeless issue is out of hand.”  “It’s easy to talk, but it’s smarter to do something”, he said.

Sam Carroll gave a presentation on the status of the project to rebuild the downtown YMCA.  See Lynn, C. “New YMCA building in downtown Salem to start construction in 2019.” (13 June 2018, Statesman Journal.)  See also Lynn, C. “YMCA secures financing, downsizes plans for downtown Salem center.”  (24 February 2019, Statesman Journal.)  The new $20.5M,  51,000 sf facility will replace the 93 year-old building at the corner of Court and Cottage Streets NE.  The 16 tenants of Court Street Apartments, which the YMCA purchased in 1972, will be relocated by July. Abatement work is expected to begin in August, demolition in September, and site/foundation work in mid-October.  The new facility is expected to open in March 2021 and have two levels plus a roof terrace, outdoor track, enclosed community room and warm-water pool.

Dan Clem presented the new site and design plans for the Men’s Mission, which accommodates the acquisition of Mike’s Electric.  The new plans call for an entrance off Division Street through a courtyard. Unchanged are plans for a commercial kitchen, elevator, “hot room”, sick bay, classroom and learning stations, three floors and a roof deck.  The facility will be able to shelter up to 222 in 7-man bays on the second floor, and house 78 in the New Life Fellowship recovery program on the third.  The new plans go before the Planning Commission in May. Demolition is expected to begin by the end of the year.

After the Chair opened the floor for nominations to the Board of Directors, Michael Livingston nominated Neal Kern, Member and Chair, who was re-elected to the Board by unanimous consent.  The Chair then closed the Annual Meeting, called to order a meeting of the board, and opened the floor for nominations of officers. There being none, pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of CANDO's Bylaws, Neal Kern will be continuing in the position of Chair, Michael Livingston will be continuing in the position of Vice-Chair, and Sarah Owens will continue as Secretary/Treasurer, until their successors are elected or appointed and qualified.

The motion of Michael Livingston to adopt the proposed 2019-2020 Annual Goals passed unanimously.  
There being no other business before the board, the Chair adjourned the meeting at 7:10.  p.m.

Addendum to Minutes

Statement of Ashley Hamilton
Program Director with The ARCHES Project

Thank you for reaching out to us for comment. All very good questions. I have provided responses below in the color green. Please let me know if you need anything further or have additional questions. I’m unsure if I’ll make the CANDO meeting this evening so hopefully these comments will help.

Are meals still being served in the parking lot after hours and how often?
Meals are still being served at ARCHES. We have been working closely with the City and Marion County to create a structured approach to the Benevolent Meal Program (BMP). Currently, we are in the process of collecting copies of Food Handler Permits, County Permits, as well as having organizations sign our Policies and Procedures. Meals are traditionally served after hours at various times/dates (please see attached April Meal Calendar). However, as a part of our restructuring process we are asking providers to adhere to a more concrete timeframe; starting meal services between 5:00-5:30pm. We are still getting providers onboard with this element but I anticipate a more regimented process by month’s end. One particular Thursday does appear to be a “food desert” of sorts, but a few new providers have voiced interest in taking on this day. Though I’m less inclined to adopt new service entities until we can hone our process a bit further.

Is garbage/litter being satisfactorily controlled?
Garbage still remains an issue. Of course, some days are better than others. But we are testing a new techniques on how to control excess garbage. 1) We purchased additional and larger garbage bins that remain outside 24/7. This has notably cut down on the litter outside. 2) We recently installed a mini-safe on the back stairwell which contains our garbage bin keys. Providers are given a code to access the safe so they can use our bins to toss excess garbage and food waste. However, in return for this access we are requiring that providers walk the entire property and collect left behind garbage. This is a very new element to our process so the verdict on its success is still out. 3) In our P&Ps providers sign an agreement to help abate garbage. We are hopeful this will hold providers accountable to their impact on the property. 4) In the end, our goal is to have providers serve their meals indoors. We believe this transition will cut down drastically on waste. A good example is Be Bold Ministries. As a trial run we hosted their monthly “We See You” breakfast this past weekend. Operations went amazingly well; they served 240 persons in 1.5 hours via a rotation system. I was onsite that day and can confirm that service indoors made a notable impact on reducing outdoor garbage.

For how long are the meals expected to continue?  Is there a goal of an end date?
There is no real end date to the BMP. However, we do foresee hosting the meals indoors after rehab completion later this summer. Though I will say that we are going to hold providers accountable, both now or once they move indoors. If we are finding folks acting against our P&Ps then we will conclude our relationship with that specific provider. Of course we want to help churches/business who have a heart for service, but we won’t be jeopardizing our facility or operations to do so.

Is any area of the property posted as no trespassing, and is there a consent letter in place?
We do have No Trespassing signs posted, both in the parking lot and the breezeways. There is also a letter of consent filed with the City of Salem, I believe it expires in July of this year. So we will be renewing that. Security patrols have also been hired. They operate 7 days a weeks in the evenings, 7pm-7am. Over the course of the night, security is contracted to be at ARCHES on three separate occasions at variable times. We did just recently add daytime weekend service as well; with 2 visits between 7am-7pm. I have noticed camping has declined significantly since the introduction of patrols, but of course there are a few outliers in-between visits. For the most part, after our 3pm Day Center close folks seem to be migrating to the park picnic tables.

Is drug dealing known or suspected to be taking place on the premises?
Drug dealing and use has occurred onsite. This is just a nature of the work. However, both of these are not tolerated. As a response, we do take a phased and tailored approach in our actions. Mainly a “ask, tell, and then enforce” model. If we see it, we then ask folks to stop/leave, and if they comply that is the ideal response. Folks are then able to return with a fresh start the next day. But just like with anything else, situations are not always that easy. So we are prepared to issue folks written warnings which detail the violation of our Day Center Agreement. After repeated warnings we will move into longer term service bans (though nothing more than a week or two depending on severity). I will say we try VERY hard not to ban anyone and do provide ample opportunities for folks to comply with our agreement. But overall, our biggest issue is the legal smoking of tobacco within 10 feet of our building rather than drug dealing/using.

Any plans CANDO might want to be aware of?
Over the course of the next few months we do anticipate some service disruptions due to rehab. This can range from Day Center closures to the shutdown of indoor public restrooms, so folks will have to use supplied porta-potties. However, we are working closing with our rehab team to minimize these impacts.  

Lastly, the City is loaning our BMP a park bench and a sanitation station to help our outdoor meal providers as well as improve meal distribution. They should be here by next week.
I am not surprised that word is getting out about us becoming the “after-hours hangout”. When we first adopted the BMP things were a bit touch and go. But our providers believe in the work and we believe in them – so with continued communication operations have improved. I also believe strongly that we are working every angle to combat the “hangout” narrative while also keeping focus on the needs of our unsheltered neighbors. It’s a delicate balancing act and I feel confident that we have seen successes from our newer implementations, and will continue to do so. However, we are still committed to piloting our efforts and will make adjustments when needed.

Post Script:  (from Ashley Hamilton) In relation to our security patrols. We interviewed several companies before we selected our contractor [Elite Security Professionals]. We had to be certain that they would conduct themselves within our operational philosophy of “ask, tell, and then enforce”. It was critical that we did not contribute to the charging of low-quality of life crimes when folks are merely seeking a dry place to stay. To-date, our security personnel have [not] yet needed to contact law enforcement and are generally able to get folks moving along peacefully. They have even saved a life by calling an ambulance for someone in need. Their ability to be client-centered on our behalf provides us with a great sense of assurance with this service moving forward.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

ODE: MWVCAA's "Serious Deficiency" Deferred

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Last September, we reported that the Oregon Department of Education, Childhood Nutrition Program (ODE CNP), had notified the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) at the end of June 2018 that it was seriously deficient in its operation of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), based on its review of the agency's FY 2017 audit.  The notice stated that "the serious deficiencies require long-term revision of financial management systems." See "ODE to MWVCAA: 'Seriously Deficient.'" MWVCAA took corrective action.  Yesterday, ODE CNP notified MWVCAA that its corrective action was "successful" and that the serious deficiency finding was temporarily deferred, despite the fact that there were findings in the most recent audit.  The notice (below) is self-explanatory.

Friday, April 5, 2019

MWVCAA's Cold Weather Shelter 2018-2019

The Church at the Park on Turner Road, one of three 2018-2019 shelters


By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

The winter of 2017-2018 was cold and controversial.  The weather wasn't nearly as bad (a total of 11  shelter nights in three locations downtown with an average of 76 guests per night) as its timing -- no one wants to see people suffering in the streets during the height of the Christmas season.  See Bach, J. "Salem's first emergency warming shelter brings relief to homeless."  (21 December 2017, Statesman Journal.)

Then in February, the unexpected occurred.  A bureaucratic miracle removed responsibility for Salem's cold-weather shelters from Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA)'s then Deputy Director, Cyndi Leinassar, and gave it to MWVCAA's then Community Resources Program Director, Jimmy Jones.  Suddenly, the community had resources for cold weather shelters. 
"Salem Warming" created for 2018-2019 season
By the fall of 2018, MWVCAA had hired a volunteer coordinator, put up a website, and announced the creation of a Salem Warming Network which proposed to open warming centers when the temp was expected to drop below 33.

There was just one little problem.  The warming centers -- church buildings --  were not approved for use as shelters.  To get around that, the City would have  to declare a "Weather Event Emergency", as it had in 2017.

The Fire Department said no, initially.  The City's standard for what constituted an "emergency" (set while Leinassar was in charge), was three consecutive days when the temp was expected to drop below 28.

The simple "below 33" didn't constitute  a Weather Event Emergency.

There had to be a work-around.  Per Assistant Fire Department Chief Greg Hadley, it was determined/agreed that the warming centers could be opened a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year on these conditions:  they had to be identified and inspected. If the building did not have a sprinkler system, people had to sleep on the ground floor.  There had to be smoke and CO2 alarms, at least two exit/entrances, an emergency evacuation plan, a fire watch posted, maximum occupancy of 1 person per 50sf, rules posted and compliance documented.  Hadley told us that the solution seemed to work well, and could be applied next season (2019-2020).

The Network website offered/offers visitors basic information about hours, locations, transportation, training opportunities, sign ups, and program changes.

The 2018-19 program looked like this (info taken from a FB post)(compare the volunteer manual):

Three locations, not all downtown:  First Presbyterian Church in CANDO, Church at the Park, and South Salem Friends Church can accommodate 190 total.

Fewer volunteers per shift/per night  than previously.  At First Presbyterian Church, they were reportedly:

Shift 1: 6:30p - 11:00p ~ 7
Shift 2: 10:30p - 3:30a ~ 5
Shift 3: 3:00a - 7:30a ~ 7

A "lead" on every shift arrived early to set up floor mats and the "beverage station" (decaf, sugar substitute at night).  Leads were familiar with most of the guests, and responsible to assign duties, taking preferences into account.  Training on how to be a lead was available.

Other roles:

outside greeter - lets ppl know they will need to check all property (including food, drink, meds) except coat, cell phone, book

inside greeter - welcomes and record name on numbered roster and wrist band (like in a hospital)

bike mgr - checks in and locks bikes (outside)

property mgr - record name/roster number of any personal items on tag(s), hand to bagger  

bagger - bag property and attach tag(s)

runner - take bags to secured storage room

property room mgr - stage and organize property in numeric order

blanket mgr - hand out new or reserved blankets (returning guests)

beverage station workers - offer hospitality, keep area tidy, monitor supplies in cooperation with host church volunteers

hall and bathroom monitors or floater - (as in school)

sleeping area monitor - respond to questions, clean and de-escalate as needed 

patrol - walk "the perimeter" checking that doors are locked, encouraging anyone hanging around outside to come in and get warm

3d shift/closers - make coffee, wake guests, sanitize and stow mats, bag and label blankets, tidy area 

As in years past, Willamette Valley Yellow Cab provided rides to and between shelters.  Animals/pets were allowed, and did not need to be crated as long as they were leashed and under control.       

Lowering the standard for activation added 31 nights, for a total of 42 in 2018-2019.  Salem shelters were opened 14 nights in November and December, and 7 in January.

By the end of January, MWVCAA had determined that volunteer labor would not be sufficient to meet the demands of running even two cold-weather, emergency shelters under the new criteria.  So, they announced they'd be hiring 8-10 "Warming Representatives" to be on call to help out until the season closed March 31.  Unfortunately, the decision was not made in time to avert a shortage during an extended February cold snap, when flu was also making rounds.  At one point, the Marion County court was even ordering offenders to do community service at the shelters.

On February 5, 20 people seeking shelter were turned away.  See Brynelson, T. "As cold snap lingers, warming shelters face volunteer shortage and potential closures."  6 February 2019, Salem Reporter.), Harbarger, M. "Cold weather homeless shelters stay open for fourth night."  (6 February 2019, Oregonian.)  According to Salem Reporter, MWVCAA had about 125 active volunteers, and needed about 300.  Through media, social media and other forms of appeal, MWVCAA managed to add another 204 volunteers, for a total of 329 at season's end.  An estimated 922 (+ 5-10%) unique individuals received shelter through this effort. 

So what did all this cost?  Not counting the in-kind donations from Willamette Valley Yellow Cab and members of the community, roughly $82K.  The biggest cost, as usual, was staff.  A volunteer coordinator plus paid staff shifts cost MWVCAA about $50K.  The remaining $32K was half heating, half everything else (repairs, mats, blankets, licenses, supplies).  The City of Salem provided $16K in "utility stipends" to the churches to cover additional heating costs (that's roughly $900/mo per location), and "everything else" was paid for by the host sites ($10K) and MWVCAA ($6K).

Looking to next winter, MWVCAA reports having applied for a $100K grant from the City of Salem (presumably from General Fund and/or CDBG social services fund) for next year.  Asked about the plan should the City award the grant, Jones, who is now MWVCAA's executive director, stated,

We would use the $100,000 to subsidize the costs of expanded warming, which include a full time coordinator and paid shift leads.  Volunteer models are not fully adequate to cover either the cost or manpower needed to successfully provide warming throughout the winter.  If possible we would like to continue to expand winter warming to something that more closely resembles a duration model.

(A "duration model" shelter would open and remain open for a given period [the "duration"] versus the current model shelter, which opens and remains open only if certain circumstances exist.) 

Food Task Force Recs Hit Wall

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

City Manager Steve Powers has declared that the Food Task Force recommendations will not go to City Council at its April 8 meeting on the grounds that the recommendations to amend the Salem Revised Code "could result in changes to the community's expectations for its parks."  (His email at left.)

That's a good reason to delay implementing law and rule changes, but not a good reason to delay presentation of the recommendations.  It's not now known when or how the recommendations will be presented to Council. 

We asked Powers when he might be "sharing the recommendations with the...Council" and whether it would be a public process, and were told: "The task force recommendations are public and will be available to anyone at the task force webpage.  There will be a report from me at a future council meeting regarding next steps for the task force recommendations."  When we asked for clarification, pointing out that only the draft recommendations are available on the webpage, he replied, "The final report with the task force’s changes will be posted to the web page. I’m not sure why there has been a delay.  The recommendations will be shared at a future council meeting.

It's been about three months since the City announced it would take 30 days to re-evaluate the City's meal distributions permit process.  See "Meals Under Bridge on Shutdown" and "Refusal to Admit Error Delays Meal Permits."  In March, Mark Becktel told the Food Task Force that Council would receive a staff report on its recommendations at its March 25 meeting.  He later said the report would go to Council at its April 8 meeting.  He declined to allow the Food Task Force to review the final draft recommendations, as they were still under review by the City Manager.

Funny what happens to City task force recommendations as they go through the layers of City staff, on their way to Council.  But that's another blogpost.

Although the City refuses to admit it, the Salem Revised Code does not currently require a permit to distribute food in City Parks and rights-of-way except under certain circumstances that don't apply to the vast majority of Salem's meal distributions to the homeless.  See "Refusal to Admit Error Delays Meal Permits."

The Task Force recommended revising the code and rules, assuming the City wanted to require a permit for meal distributions.  The Task Force was not asked to recommend requiring a permit, as staff (incorrectly) maintained throughout the proceedings that a permit was required, even though they weren't able to cite to the code provision that did so.  See "Under Bridge Off the Table (Final)."  (State laws and rules already require permits and licenses for food distributions.)

Given that the Salem Revised Code already allows the typical meal distribution to the homeless (serving under 200 people with no facility reservation), it's hard to see how imposing the requirement of a City permit is going to "result in changes to the community's expectations for its parks."  Perhaps Powers contemplates that, under the new regs, vast numbers of citizens will decide to gather for meals in their neighborhood parks and make a nuisance of themselves?  This seem highly unlikely.  Rather, the new requirement of a City permit will affect primarily the meal providers, which is why they were represented on the Food Task Force.  Whatever concerns the City Manager has, they don't justify secrecy or further delay in putting the Task Force recommendations to the City Council.