Wednesday, June 19, 2019

re Regional CoC

6/18/19 Minutes

Members: Deb Comini, M. Bryant Baird, Santiago Sorocco, Brian Hart
Organizations: Raleigh Kirschman, UGM; Richard McGinty, McGinty, Belcher and Hamilton Attorneys, PC
City, County and State Representatives: Cara Kaser, Ward 1 Councilor; Shari Wahrgren, Urban Development Department; Grey Wolf, Public Works Department
Guests: Charles Weathers, Tom Rohlfing

The regular meeting of the CANDO Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m., on Tuesday, June 18, 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 May meeting were approved.  

Councilor Kaser reported on the progress of budget approval and addressing the anticipated $8M shortfall expected to occur in the next cycle.  She also reported on pedestrian- and bike-friendly traffic improvements in the area.

In interested citizen comments, Charles Weathers shared design drawings for a mixed use development at 990 Broadway and E Street, just north of the Grier Building.  Mr. Weathers is also responsible for the mixed use development at 440 State Street, next to Key Bank, which will have a “food hall” with “micro eateries” on the first floor.    

The CANDO board heard presentations by Tom Rohlfing on plans for the Riverfront Carousel Artisan Studio addition, from Sheri Wahrgren on the Streetscape Design Plan, and from Grey Wolf on plans to address erosion by removing hazardous trees along Shelton Ditch between 25th Street and Winter Street.  The City has contracted with Mountain View Tree Service for this project.

The motions of Sarah Owens to authorize letters supporting the use of RDURA funds for UGM’s new Men’s Mission, and reaffirming support for a Salem/Marion and Polk Counties Continuum of Care, and to recommend the City Manager’s “Do Nothing” option respecting implementation of the Food and Sundries Distributions to the Homeless Task Force recommendations, all passed unanimously.  

There being no other business before the board, the Chair adjourned the meeting promptly at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

HUD Joins 2d Regional CoC Providers Convo

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

HUD officials join providers, ROCC staff, in small group discussion
HUD representatives Todd Adkins and Toni Strutz with the Community Planning and Development (CPD)  Field Office in Portland joined local government and nonprofit homeless service providers Monday morning at the Kroc Center to discuss recent developments in the effort to form a regional Continuum of Care, the second such meeting called by the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Steering Committee (MWHISC).  See "Kroc Center Hosts CoC Convo."

Forming a regional CoC would mean Marion and Polk counties leaving the Rural Oregon CoC (ROCC).

ROCC staffers Jessica Adams and Caleb Green were also present at the second meeting.

The meeting was also attended by twenty homeless housing and services providers, seven of whom had not attended the first meeting (listed at the end, with the newbies in bold.) 

Providers at the first meeting were told there was some possibility of Yamhill, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties joining the regional CoC.  They asked that the next meeting be held after the geographical area had been determined.

At this second meeting, Jan Calvin, a consultant to the MWHISC, gave a 15-minute recap of HUD's CoC Program, the events leading to the regional CoC initiative, and a "macro timeline" of the CoC formation process (below).  She said "we are here", and pointed to the "Resolutions, Letters of Support" bubble.  She then asked if there were questions.

Robin Winkle asked if there was a process "to become part of the Development Council.  Calvin responded that the Council would consist of the "current jurisdictions) (Salem, Keizer, Marion County, Independence and Monmouth) plus Polk County, and said the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action (MWVCAA) and United Way are being "looked at", but she also indicated that the MWHISC was "open to thoughts on how to do this."  Winkle said that she was just wanting to know if the Council would be a "closed group."  Calvin said, yes, it was "a closed group that's now looking for an MOU", but then said, "definitive, not closed -- public."  Winkle said, "if we're going to do this, I want to make sure we're involved."  Shelly Ehenger followed up, "So, is there a process [for getting on the Council]?"  To which Calvin responded, no, there's no process.

Ian Dixon-MacDonald asked, "Is the [Mid-Willamette Valley] Council of Governments interested [in hosting], and what about Yamhill County?"  Calvin said that COG (which hosts the MWHISC) had indicated it was open to being asked, and that she was giving a presentation to the COG Board on the 24th.  She said Salem, Marion and Polk counties, as well as Monmouth, Independence, Silverton and Keizer, had adopted resolutions supporting a regional CoC.  She said Yamhill County's Board of Commissioners had voted in May to remain in ROCC, but "one commissioner" (Rick Olson) was planning to hold a meeting with Yamhill County mayors to discuss the situation further.  Calvin said she would be there to answer questions, but the meeting had not been scheduled.  Later, when asked about Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties, Calvin indicated they would not be joining.

For the remaining hour, everyone was asked to break into small groups to discuss the components of an ideal CoC, and report back.  Calvin passed out a by-topic outline: geography, participation, purpose/function, organization, communications, data, output/accomplishments, other.  Todd Adkins and Toni Strutz, the HUD staffers, participated in the discussions.  Strutz was in a group with Carolyn Fry.  About halfway through the list, Fry asked Struz (who had been quiet) what she thought about one of the areas.  Strutz replied "There's no guarantee."  Fry asked what she meant.  Strutz said, "There's no guarantee there will be more resources."  

Participants appeared overall to be engaged throughout the exercise, even though most had little comprehension and much less experience of HUD expectations for CoCs.  For the most part, reports back were focused at a systems level versus on individual organizations or service sectors.  Calvin asked the groups for their outline notes, and promised to share the "notes of the meeting" by email.  The meeting ran over by about ten minutes.

Reviews of the meeting were vaguely positive, though most we talked to observed the absence of new information, and the absence of United Way and MWVCAA, as well as other, leadership.  In fact, the second meeting was down about a dozen director/executive director positions compared to the first meeting, a sign that "update/feedback" meetings are probably not the best way to continue to try and engage providers when there's no solid information to give them, and nothing of substance for them to discuss.  Calvin did say, however, that there would be another meeting in September.

Housing reps at the second meeting:  Candace Jamison, Marion County Housing Authority;  Pamala Garrick, Salem Housing Authority;  Kim Lyell, Polk Community Development Corporation;  Shelly Ehenger, City of Salem;  Kristin Keunz-Barber, Northwest Human Services;  Dan Williams, Salvation Army of Marion and Polk Counties' Kroc Center;  Robin Winkle, Shangri-La;  Josh Graves and Jim Seymour,  Catholic Community Services; Amy Hamilton, NEDCO; Dana Shultz, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency.

Supportive and preventative services reps at the second meeting: Melissa Baurer, Santiam Hospital; Cyndi Leinassar, Salem Health;  Ian Dixon-MacDonald, Marion Polk Food Share; Heather Wright, Polk County Homeless Connect;  Christina Korkow, Recovery Outreach Community Center;  Julie Conn-Johnson, Salem Keizer School District; Shaysee May, Northwest Senior and Disability Services;  Carolyn Fry, Marion County Health and Human Services;  Colleen Bradford, Oregon Department of Human Services.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Talking about Homelessness

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Bieze Appeal withdrawn circa 6/11/19
Gerald Bieze withdrew his appeal of the City's decision to allow the Union Gospel Mission's proposed modification to the Conditional Use Permit and Zone Change for the new Men's Mission on NE Commercial Street NE (700-800 block) this week.

The Bieze appeal, like the Glennie appeal before it, was concerned with "likely adverse impacts" of the new mission on adjacent property owners, and, like the Glennie appeal, it was a loser.  Good for everyone that it was withdrawn.  But, no one should make the mistake of thinking this signals anyone's learned anything.

In April, almost a year after Glennie lost his "likely adverse impacts" appeal to City Council, he sent a mass email to his fellow downtown property owner buddies with a link to the KOMO polemic, "Seattle is Dying", saying it had been "many months since I’ve offered anything relating to the UGM mega-shelter."  

Glennie told his friends the show was "very much worth your time", as it was "[b]alanced, thoughtful and offering pragmatic solutions."

He also said that it "[o]ught to be mandatory viewing for City Council and management staff", suggesting that they were "oblivious the damage caused by refusing to enforce existing statutes."

We wrote Glennie, and asked him what in his mind was the connection between the "Seattle is Dying" video and the new Men's Mission, and what did he think were the "pragmatic solutions" the City should be implementing?  He replied with several assertions, none of which was responsive, followed by a rehash of his unsuccessful arguments on appeal.  After a week's correspondence, we were able to identify Glennie's primary concern as "the 20-30% of the chronic homeless population'...[who] commit crimes, and are likely to be suffering addiction issues."  Glennie believes that "based on what was represented in ["Seattle is Dying"], money spent on incarceration and the M[edicated]A[ssistance]T[reatment] program appears to be money better spent than the other alternatives that have tried and failed."  He stopped short, however, of advocating for the adoption of "section 35" type laws like Massachusetts', featured in the video.  See, Wood, J. "Massachusetts' contentious tactic to fight opioid epidemic: jailing addicts."  (23 April 2019, The Guardian.)

The "Seattle is Dying" video is, of course, not in the slightest "balanced, thoughtful [or] pragmatic."  See, e.g,  "DRW's AVID Program Responds to KOMO's 'Seattle is Dying'" and Hill, K. "'Seattle is Dying' prompts political response to homelessness in Spokane."  (31 March 2019, The Spokesman Review.)  But, despite its being roundly criticized and debunked (Disability Rights Washington called it "sensational, inaccurate and exploitative"), it resonates with people who, like David Glennie, experience property crime and "unsafe" public places, and conclude the problem is lax law enforcement.

Some segments of the population, Eric Johnson (author of "Seattle is Dying") included, have long seen law enforcement as the ultimate bulwark against petty anti-social behavior of the sort perpetrated by some chronically homeless individuals.  Upstanding citizens themselves, they tend to view modern law enforcement's adoption of a "harm reduction" approach to "quality of life" crimes as misguided "political correctness."  They tend to believe zero-tolerance, "broken-windows" policing is what's called for, and they haven't tried to wrestle with the resource and other issues that led law enforcement to change its approach.  "Fix it", they tend to say.  "I shouldn't have to deal with this."

Ultimately, the philosophical and practical divide between "harm-reduction" and "broken-windows" policing gets cast as a political left-right, liberal-conservative divide, with the crisis of homelessness falling into what Johnathan Martin (Seattle Times "Homeless Project" editor) calls the "mushy middle." 

Public conversations about homelessness, we've observed, tend to take place in this "mushy middle", and get bogged down with emotion and personal anecdote, wherein "the rights" of people experiencing homelessness are consistently pitted against "the rights" of the rest of society not to be affected by their experience, and the guilty speak of choice, and caution against "enabling."  "Not in my front yard", as they say in San Fran.

If Salem is to make progress in this area, public conversations about homelessness will need to avoid that "mushy middle."  Settling on the most humane, most effective methods for ending homelessness needn't involve "progressive" versus  "conservative" politics, but it does require, as a starting point, a commitment to principles of harm reduction, which does not equate to lax law enforcement.  If that's a hard concept for you or someone you talk to, consider the what Sgt. (now Lt.) Jason VanMeter of the Salem Police Department told the Salem Homeless Coalition in February 2016: 

We as a community need to embrace the Harm Reduction Model which is successful in Seattle. The Harm Reduction model meets people where they are.  This enables us to supervise and manage illicit behavior versus a zero tolerance model. The best example is the mission and shelters in Seattle allow their people to drink and smoke in the shelter, because it's better to supervise and manage the inevitable versus kicking them onto the street where I get called by business owner to deal with them.

Concept two -- Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. (LEAD). This is what  I'm passionate about, pre-booking access to social services. Instead of taking people to jail I can call a case manager that meets me on the street and takes it from there, this program is a collaborative effort between prosecutors, defense attorneys, social service workers, and medical professionals (people with letters behind their name). If some one is admitted to LEAD and relapses, applying the harm reduction model, we just get them more help versus a stiffer sentence.  Unlike current programs where if a person has a dirty UA they are kicked out of the program. Doesn't make sense. 

Harm reduction is a less expensive model -- art-a-johns for example, we know people will urinate and defecate in public without public access restrooms. I'd rather meet them where they are at, versus legalizing urinating in public, defecating in public, and trespassing. I've spent several years living in Africa and the Middle East and I want that behavior regulated in the US because it's not pleasant when it is not.  It lacks depth of solution when it comes to mental health and chemical dependency. Housing as we know is the key, not a shelter, housing (transitional and permanent).

Harm reduction equals tiny town or legal camping areas. Having been an infantry Marine on multiple combat deployments I assure you a large tent with sections for privacy can soon become a welcome home.  A place to live and store things, this is a harm reduction tactic that eliminates the need to adjust laws or take tools away from police and business owners.

As far as the shelters, allowing beer contributing to relapse, let's just say there is no lack of meth and heroin in the shelters right now. It's well known on the street.  I get dope off a majority of my custodys.  Beer is the least of our community worries. However, getting stores to stop selling high gravity malt beer would be a great start.  It's a soft balance between treatment, tolerance, realistic expectations, and our desired end state.

In a couple of weeks, the Urban Development Department will reconvene a portion of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force (DHSTF) (Cara Kaser, Salem City Council; Neal Kern, CANDO; Kevin Hill, SPD; Nicole Utz, SHA; Dan Clem, UGM; Paul Logan, NWHS, Ashley Hamilton, The ARCHES Project; Tom Hoffert, Salem Area Chamber; and a rep from the Salem Main Street Association) for "ongoing coordination and collaboration on homeless issues in follow-up to the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force", and meet quarterly thereafter.  The DHSTF last met on August 8, 2018.  For more about their work, and to see where they left off, see the list of topics below under "CANDO Archive task forces."

CANDO's Michael Livingston with Sgts Hill and VanMeter, October 2016

Thursday, June 6, 2019

HUD admits ROCC "formed out of thin air"

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Nora Lally explains leave process at annual ROCC meeting
The admission was made this week in Salem, at ROCC's annual meeting, during a session intended to explain the elements needed for HUD to recognize a region as an independent Continuum of Care.  (For background, see "ROCC: Leave or Remain?")  Leading the session were Nora Lally and Matt Olsson with HomeBase, Todd Adkins and Doug Carlson with HUD's Community Planning and Development (CPD) Portland Field Office, Jessica Adams (CAPO staff assigned to ROCC), and Justina Fife (UCAN Community Action Partners and ROCC board chair).  Our notes on the session can be found at the end of this post.

In attendance were about 35 representatives from ROCC's  member agencies, almost all of which are CoC Program grantees, including the three from Marion and Polk counties that will receive CoC funding in 2019-2020Shangri-La ($311,185), Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network (dba Family Promise) ($160,764) and Center for Hope and Safety ($188,561).  Shangri-La's Robin Winkle was the only local rep who asked questions.  TJ Putman and Tiffany Ottis with Family Promise were present, as was Jayne Downing with Center for Hope and Safety.  Diane Merry and Scott Eastburn with the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency also were there.  MWVCAA lost its Rapid Rehousing project when ROCC gave it an undeserved low score in the most recent competition.  See "ROCC Fissures Continue to Grow."  Shelly Ehenger (Salem Urban Development Department) and Pamala Garrick (Salem Housing Authority) also attended.

Doug "heavy lift" Carlson, with Matt Olsson at left
After Lally, Doug Carlson  (Director of the CPD Portland Field Office) did most of the talking.  He did most of the talking a couple of years ago, too.  See "HUD Seeks to Ease Tensions Within the ROCC" (recounting the May 2017 conference call between Marion and Polk officials and HUD).

Carlson is concerned that Marion and Polk officials think, "If you do this [separation] the government will give you a bunch of money."  Echoing his comments from 2017, he said,

I do know what the realities are. We had a discussion with the group from Marion and Polk a few years ago, the theme was consistent:  we need more money.  I can't guarantee HUD is going to step up. If we need to explain that to commissioners or elected officials, because I don’t want there to be a mistaken belief.

Referring to Lane County, which receives about the same CoC Program funding that ROCC does, Carlson said, 

What Lane has is extraordinary support from local governments.  What really benefits their CoC program is knowledge and capacity, and all the public, private and government entities in the structure. It's an extremely heavy lift [to achieve that level of cooperation]. We know from our experience that its a heavily lift administratively.

Pegge McGuire, Community Services Consortium (CSC) of Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties, said Lane County understood much earlier than other Oregon communities what the CoC Program offered.  But, instead of pursuing those opportunities, "they just relied on OHCS" for direction.  That's when Carlson said,

ROCC was formed out of thin air.  It was put together by us [at HUD] and a consulting group out of necessity because OHCS wasn’t interested.  That is why we have the ROCC in its current form.

ROCC in its current form is an unincorporated coalition of service providers from 28 counties across Oregon.  It has two support staff housed at Community Action Partners of Oregon (CAPO).  Its  governing body is dominated by grantees with minimal CoC program knowledge and capacity and little interest in a systemic approach to the ending homelessness.  The organization itself is incapable of holding funds, is barely recognized by its local governments, has no institutional structures, and demonstrates only a nominal commitment to CoC Program goals.

We asked Carlson which he thought was the heavier lift, achieving CoC Program goals while a member of ROCC, or achieving them through a regional CoC that has substantial local government support and a unified funding agency, but did not receive a reply before this was posted.

To see all our posts on this subject, look for "ROCC: Leave or Remain?" under CANDO Archive Issues.

Panel: Jessica Adams, Justina Fife, Nora Lally, Matt Olsson, Todd Adkins, Doug Carlson

Notes on June 4, 2019 Session with HUD Officials at ROCC's Annual Meeting

We arrived at the Holiday Inn on Market Street at 10 to find start of the session with HUD had been moved up to 9:45, and Lally speaking in front of a series of slides.  "It's not really an approval process, more like acknowledging the necessary elements have been demonstrated", she said, referring to a slide headed "Basic Timeline."  The first element was a "transitional body" and their vote to support forming a new CoC.  Next came "consult" with the wider membership and their vote to approve moving forward.  Lally said such a vote would not need to be unanimous, but would need to be "more than 51%", a "preponderance."  If that element was satisfied, the next step was to notify the existing CoC.

Lally was just starting to explain that the new CoC would have to have a governance charter when Justina Fife, came over and told us we couldn't videotape the session.  Michael told her he was using an audio recorder.  She said we couldn't do that, either, and went away again.

The slide read "Potential Impacts of a Split on Balance of State CoC", first bullet point, "Reduction in Annual Renewal Demand tied to any projects that choose to go to the new CoC."  Doug Carlson was explaining how the process that Lally was describing was "normal practice."  He said explaining it was "not advocacy or non-advocacy", that this sort of thing happens in other communities, and that HUD doesn't take a position on how communities want to structure themselves.  But then he commented  that “splits are unique”, and that they generally "see more mergers."

Carlson said they were there to answer questions.  Lally said they wouldn't be able to answer all questions, but that William Snow (CPD's Office of Special Needs Assistance) was willing to schedule time for follow up questions.  

Robin Winkle (Shangri-La) referred to the slide that was up and asked, "Do projects really get to choose?"  She rose from her seat at the back of the room and went to sit at the front, near the speakers.  She complained that "none of this has really been brought to the grantees — it has once", she said.  She said "Shangri-La is actually in five counties."  Would they have to participate in both CoCs?

Lally explained that the choice referred to in the slide was whether or not to create a separate CoC, not which CoC to go with, and that participating in multiple CoCs "is not unheard of."

Winkle wanted to know how the restructuring was going to affect people in programs?  Olsson said that HUD would want to make sure that clients are "not affected" and that "HUD will work to restructure projects", but there could be an impact "on the administrative side."

At 10:15, it appeared that there were no more questions.  The group was told they had another 30 minutes, and there would likely not be another opportunity to speak with HUD reps in person like this. Someone asked how many projects do Marion and Polk Counties have?  The response was four.  "So three [grantees] have to agree to leave?"  "No", Lally explained, "the vote is not just grantees.  It's the stakeholder group as defined by HUD's interim rule."

"It sounds like the group who wants to separate, [if it has all the pieces together] that’s it?", someone asked.  Lally answered in the affirmative, but Carlson added several times that "It's a heavy lift", as if to suggest the separation might not occur.

Pegge McGuire (Deputy Director, Community Services Consortium, which covers Linn/Benton/Lincoln) said her organization was "under political pressure to pull out" of ROCC, but she wasn't interested in taking on governance responsibilities.  Winkle asked whether she would be looking at joining Marion and Polk, or forming another CoC.  McGuire said if she were to recommend leaving, she would recommend joining Marion and Polk.  Someone said that she had heard frequent comparisons between ROCC and Lane County in terms of CoC funding.  McGuire commented, "No one will catch up to Lane."

Carlson recounted his version of the decision to join the ROCC in 2011, then said,

What Lane has is extraordinary support from local governments.  What really benefits their CoC program is knowledge and capacity, and all the public, private and government entities in the structure.  It's an extremely heavy lift [to achieve that level of cooperation]. We know from our experience that its a heavily lift administratively.

McGuire said, "It wasn't until Scott Rich came to the State and said, 'You are walking away from all this money', but Lane knew that already.  Other [communities] didn’t grasp that, they just relied on OHCS.  I don’t know that [Marion and Polk] will ever reach what Lane has."

Carlson said "ROCC was formed out of thin air.  It was put together by us and a consulting group out of necessity because OHCS wasn’t interested.  That is why we have the ROCC in its current form."  Adkins said "Lane has had a lot of government support, but it’s not that easy.  There are built-in advantages for those who got in early.  The annual renewal demand for successful counties [like Lane] far exceeds their pro-rata need."  Carlson said that HUD today is "just basically renewing projects", and was not really funding many bonus projects.  He said it wasn't a matter of going to D.C. and lobbying HUD for more money.  He said the situation would continue without additional funds from Congress.

At 10:30, it again appeared there were no more questions.  Then someone asked about the impact on ROCC's HMIS grant, and "What are the next steps for ROCC to fill the gap?"  Lally responded that questions on the HMIS grant should be directed to William Snow.  Concerning the next steps, she said that HUD recognizes that splits should be coordinated between the legacy and new CoCs or the split will be much more difficult. 

Shelly Ehenger (City of Salem) asked whether field office staff would be same for both CoCs.  Carlson said he has very small staff, implying that they would be the same.  Winkle commented, "If we have the commitment of the providers [in Marion and Polk counties], great, but if it dwindles away, it will be like before. I just don’t want to see the people we are serving hurt."

McGuire said that providers in her community "don’t have a lot of interest in putting energy in governance", that she was "just trying to follow conversation and hear what the flavor is."  Fife asked rhetorically what will happen if Marion and Polk counties aren't successful, and want to rejoin the ROCC.  Carlson said he didn't "want there to be a misnomer", for people to think, "If you do this the government will give you a bunch of money."  He said,
I do know what the realities are. We had a discussion with the group from Marion and Polk a few years ago, the theme was consistent:  we need more money.  I can't guarantee HUD is going to step up. If we need to explain that to commissioners or elected officials, because I don’t want there to be a mistaken belief. 
McGuire said she thought that there was that mistaken belief and the belief that more control over projects would somehow translate to more money.  Someone else said that local control of the review and ranking process would not help, either.  McGuire said that the elephant in the room was ROCC's  governance.  Someone said what’s unfortunate is the timing, because things are better with CAPO taking on more of a role. 

Jan Calvin (consultant with Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Government) said she could speak to the question of political leaders' expectations regarding more money.  She said that, in presentations about the CoC, leaders were told its not about the money, but also that "It's always about the money."  She said "money" doesn't necessarily mean CoC money.  She said that only one tenth of the money coming into Marion and Polk Counties is CoC funding.  She said the issue for Marion and Polk was, "How do we do better work in our [geographic] footprint and in our organizations." 

Scott Eastburn (Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, The ARCHES Project) said that local control over the review and ranking process should make a difference.  He said he had heard the former ROCC coordinator (Jo Ann Zimmer) say CoC funds should be spread throughout region, not go just to the biggest agencies.  He said regional distribution wasn't one of the ranking criteria, and that  Marion and Polk had lost funds because of that instruction.  He said he was worried about his clients, too.  He said Marion and Polk counties have made a lot of changes for the good, but doesn’t feel like they have been fairly represented by ROCC.  

6/21/19 Update:  from CAPO's June newsletter