Monday, September 30, 2019

News from the Continuum

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Bench tent on Commercial Street, north of Court Street, wk of 9/23
August and September 2019 saw concerted law enforcement action to uproot unauthorized camps and car camps, and prevent their re-establishment in area parks.  Police have denied that the timing and concentration of the actions were intended to influence public opinion on the need for Sit-Lie, Jr. aka the Sidewalk Behavior Ordinance, which bans camping and leaving unattended property in public spaces and, most controversially, makes it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks between 7a and 9p. See Bach, J. and Radnovich, C.  "Recent evictions, police activity could end decades of homeless camps in Wallace Marine Park."  (15 September 2019, Statesman Journal.)  Brynelson, T. "City cuts back more access to Cascades Gateway Park"  (25 September 2019, Salem Reporter.)

Despite prior agreements to coordinate with area homeless services providers, law enforcement did not coordinate and did not even provide advance notice that the actions would be taking place, which obviously limited providers' ability to respond effectively to the sudden increase in demand for services.  New commitments to coordinate have been made in the wake of the clean ups.  See Bach, J. "Homeless camp sweeps coming to these parts of Salem in October."  (29 September 2019, Statesman Journal.)

The clean ups have forced some campers into downtown, but not as many as expected, according to Salem police officer Darren Mumey, who told CANDO in September that he didn't know where the other displaced persons might have gone. 

All the above comes as the City Manager reports progress toward the City's "Safe Community" goal as a result of learning from FEMA how to communicate effectively during emergencies and disasters.

"Safe Community" -- could the irony be any greater?  Could current circumstances make it any clearer that the City does not view the people living in its streets as "community", much less "safe community"?  Or that significant disruptions to their living situations don't require "effective communications" with Salem Housing Authority and other partners like the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency or Northwest Human Services?  Could the City Manager's Office be any more tone deaf?

Sadly, in the past six weeks, these cleanups and the rancorous debate over Sit-Lie, Jr. have completely overshadowed the efforts of area leaders' steady but relatively undramatic efforts to negotiate separation from the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC) and re-form a functional regional CoC.

There was another meeting of CoC "stakeholders" on September 19, hosted by Independence City Manager Tom Pessemier and Monmouth City Manager Scott McClure, at the Polk County Fire District #1 station in Independence.

Jan Calvin, consultant to the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG), shared the latest developments, including the latest "timeline" for implementation and a draft charter for the Development Council, which has been formed to oversee the creation of the new CoC.

The first meeting of the Development Council (DC) was held the following week, on September 24, at the MWVCOG office on High Street.  If you think the DC looks like an expanded version of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Steering Committee, you're right.   

 Council clockwise from left: Jan Calvin, Cathy Clark, Tom Pessemier, Colm Willis, Rhonda Wolf, Dan Clem, Lyle Mordhorst, Scott McClure, Jimmy Jones, Sean O'Day, Janet Carlson, Denise Van Dyke, Kristin Retherford, Julie Conn-Johnson, Chuck Bennett (Chris Hoy on phone)
In addition to reps from Salem, Keizer, Independence, Monmouth and Marion County, the Development Council will have reps from Polk County (Lyle Mordhurst), the Salem-Keizer School District (Julie Conn-Johnson), the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde (not yet identififed), the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency (Jimmy Jones), United Way (Rhonda Wolf), and Union Gospel Mission (Dan Clem).  The DC determined at this first meeting to call the new regional CoC the "Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance." 

And here it must again be observed that, even as there is this momentous Homeless Alliance forming with the purpose and intent of implementing the most effective, evidence-based policies and practices available to address a burgeoning crisis in the community, the City of Salem is pulling in the opposite direction with its anti-homeless "Sidewalk Behavior Ordinance" -- and no one on the DC dare say anything about it, least of all those who understand best that enactment will only make things worse.  That's how good, and bad, things are right now in the continuum.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Call Sit-Lie Round 3 a Draw

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Sit-Lie Jr. forum #3 at Salem Housing Authority
The third forum on Sit-Lie, Jr. followed what the City calls an "open house format" -- simultaneous two- and three-person conversations -- designed perhaps to avoid what happened at the last two forums?  See "City Fumbles Sit Lie Forum", "Sit-Lie Jr Loses at 2d Forum", "City Schedules Sit-Lie Jr Round 3" (for the cartoon version).  

"Open house" meant no presentation -- just staff, tables, chairs, and comment forms for about fifty attendees.  Kenny Larson said he helped people audio-record seven or eight comments.  Seemed to be roughly even representation of business, the "homeless" community, and concerned citizens.

Per staff, comments will be *compiled* and made available along with a staff report when the ordinance bill goes to City Council, probably not before November.  *But, per the City Manager, the comments will be "scanned", greatly lessening the likelihood they will be read.

Comments that probably won't make it into the official record:  Mayor Bennett, that the people targeted by the ordinance "choose to be homeless" and Chamber rep Tom Hoffert, that he doesn't interfere with homeless camps, so it's only fair to expect homeless people not to interfere with business.  Asked by email for comment on his remark, Bennett replied, "No one chooses to be homeless." 

Also not likely to make it into the record is the fact that the City has advised the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency, which owns the building commonly known as "The ARCHES building" at 615 Commercial Street NE, that its duty to maintain the adjacent parking strip (SRC 72.210) gives it the authority to "trespass" anyone camping on it, even though the strip is owned by the City.  MWVCAA in fact has a "trespass letter of consent" on file with the police department, and people have in fact been trespassed off the parking strip based on that TLC.

By implication, these facts would seem to greatly lessen the need for Ordinance Bill 10-19, because, if the duty to maintain (see SRC 72.210 and 72.220) gives any adjacent owner, lessee, occupant, etc.  the right to trespass people from the area they must maintain, then a business can just give the police a TLC that covers the sidewalk and any parking strip adjacent to their premises.  Voila, the supposedly pressing need for Sit-Lie, Jr. is greatly diminished, and everyone can relax.  This assumes the City Attorney's Office is on the same page with itself. 

10/5/19 Update:  Salem police have notified MWVCAA that "[a]fter extensive review, our legal department determined the police cannot take enforcement action on individuals who are occupying the landscape strip."  

Saturday, September 21, 2019

City Schedules Sit-Lie Jr. Round 3

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

If you didn't get all your questions answered at the first two forums on Sit-Lie, Jr., you'll have another chance this week.  The City has scheduled a third forum for Thursday morning, September 26, from 9a - 10:30a in the community room at Robert Lindsey Tower on Church Street (Salem Housing Authority).  The format will be "open house" with staff available to "share information and answer questions."   Written and audio-recorded comments will be accepted. Staff will be on hand to audio-record comments.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

9/17/19 Minutes

Members: Jim Griggs, M. Bryant Baird  
Organizations: Robert Oakes, Community Relations Liaison, Salem Health   
City, County and State Representatives: Darren Mumey, Downtown Enforcement Team; Cara Kaser, Ward 1 Councilor; Julie Warncke, Transportation Planning Manager, City of Salem
Guests: none

The regular meeting of the CANDO Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m., on Tuesday, September 17, 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 July meeting were approved.   

Officer Mumey reported that the Downtown Enforcement Team recently ended a relatively quiet summer event season and had spent the last week working with the Parks Department to prevent people displaced from the area around Wallace-Marine Park from camping either in that park or in Minto-Brown Island Park.  He said he had expected downtown would be flooded with campers, but there were only a few. He said he did not know where the others had gone. He said Marion Square Park had far fewer issues this year than in the past.  

Councilor Kaser reported that the City will be using other funding sources (e.g., urban renewal and donations) to cover police facility cost increases that are largely the result of tariffs.  She said Council would be deciding whether to refer the City operating fee to the voters at the next meeting, and the payroll tax at the meeting after that. She was undecided as to whether she would support implementing either revenue measure in the event voters rejected it.  She said she will be seeking reelection. She said she did not know when Ordinance Bill 10-19 or “sidewalk behavior ordinance”, which she described as “obviously super contentious”, would be going to Council. She said there would be a third forum on it at the Salem Housing Authority, date and time TBD.  She said violations within a crime prevention district would result in exclusion, but she did not know the penalty for a violation outside a CPD. Asked whether there was any talk of compromise, e.g., leaving the abandoned property and camping ban provisions and removing the offenses, she said she had not heard any, and she “didn’t want to make the perfect the enemy of the good.”  She said that she had heard a lot of people expressing unfounded fears about the ordinance, and that the police could do a better job of communicating. She said “people” were not being held “accountable.” She also said the ordinance was needed “for prevention.” She said she had had many conversations with people “about behaviors” who “don’t know what to do.” She said the ordinance was not “an ideal thing, but we have a problem, and not a whole lot of other solutions coming forward.”  Asked if there had been any indication that it would be challenged in court, she said the City Attorney had reviewed it against the case law. Asked if there would be a work session, she said none had been scheduled. Sarah Owens asked that the Council hold a work session.    

The CANDO board heard a presentation by Julie Warncke on the recommendations of the Congestion Relief Task Force that affect CANDO directly, in particular the recommendation to close the north crosswalk at Front Street/Court Street to facilitate right-hand turning movements from Court Street NE to Front Street NE, which may reduce queue lengths on Court Street during peak hours.  ODOT would have to approve the closure. CANDO agreed to discuss the closure and take a position at its October meeting.

Michael Livingston’s motion to adopt CANDO Resolution 2019-1 concerning the proposed sidewalk behavior ordinance passed unanimously.  

There being no other business before the board, the Chair adjourned the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

in re Sidewalk Behavior Ordinance

WHEREAS, between October 2016 and January 2019, more than 2,600 residents of Marion and Polk counties were identified through evidence-based assessments to be at risk due to living outdoors or in places not fit for human habitation;
WHEREAS, these “homeless” residents include children, families, veterans, and those suffering from addiction and physical and mental illnesses, some of whom have been “homeless” off and on for many years, many of whom have sought housing and been denied for lack of resources; 
WHEREAS, approximately 1,800 of these residents live within Salem’s Urban Growth Boundary, with as many as 700 living within one mile of Marion Square Park, including the Union Gospel Mission and Wallace Marine Park;
WHEREAS, the vast majority of these residents go out of their way not to draw attention to themselves and to avoid causing a disturbance on the sidewalk;  
WHEREAS, petty offenses can lead to misdemeanor convictions that can and do have collateral consequences that create barriers to housing and employment;  
WHEREAS, the Salem Revised Code includes a number of petty offenses, so-called “quality of life” crimes punishable by exclusion, such as disorderly conduct (SRC 95.120), urinating and defecating in public (SRC 95.125), trespass (SRC 95.550), drinking in public (SRC 90.020), public indecency (SRC 96.220), noise disturbance (SRC 93.010), and pedestrian interference (SRC 95.700); 
WHEREAS, proposed Ordinance 10-19 seeks to expand the list of “quality of life” crimes to include sitting and lying on sidewalks during the day and evening hours;  
WHEREAS, for residents living in the streets, sitting and lying on the sidewalk during the day and evening hours may reasonably considered “acts of living”; 
WHEREAS, making “acts of living” illegal is cruel, stigmatizing, counterproductive and bad public policy;    
WHEREAS, in 2012, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in partnership with Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), published “Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to Criminalization”, which outlined “alternatives for communities who implement local measures that criminalize ‘acts of living’"; 
WHEREAS, in 2014, HUD issued guidance citing a recent report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, “No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities”, finding that there had been a significant increase in city-wide bans on camping, loitering, and begging in public areas, which HUD characterized as “effectively criminalizing people’s need to survive” (emphasis in original) and “exacerbat[ing] existing problems”;
WHEREAS, in 2015, HUD required applicants for Continuum of Care Program funding to describe “specific strategies implemented” — such as engaging local policymakers and law enforcement officials — to “ensure that homelessness is not criminalized”;  
WHEREAS, in 2016, the City of Salem helped launch the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative “to identify and launch proven strategies to reduce homelessness” in the region; 
WHEREAS, the Initiative’s strategic plan included numerous recommendations, some of which concerned code amendments specific to Salem, but none of which involved prohibitions on sidewalk conduct; 
WHEREAS, in 2017, the City Council considered and refused to enact a substantially similar sit-lie ordinance for reasons including that it criminalized homelessness, failed to address “root causes”, and did not address the behaviors businesses typically complain about, many of which already are illegal;
WHEREAS, the City Council subsequently authorized the Mayor to appoint (what would become) the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force to identify practical solutions to the problems experienced by downtown businesses;
WHEREAS, in 2018, the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force repeatedly declined on policy grounds to support the enactment of a sit-lie ordinance;
WHEREAS, in 2019, the City convened the Good Neighbor Partnership in follow up to recommendations made by the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force;
WHEREAS, the Good Neighbor Partnership has also refused to endorse, tacitly or otherwise, a sit-lie ordinance; 
WHEREAS, on September 9, 2019, the City Council authorized a Memorandum of Agreement to create a Development Council to oversee and manage the development of a local Continuum of Care for purposes of receiving much-needed homeless assistance funding through HUD’s Continuum of Care Program;
WHEREAS, to compete successfully for Continuum of Care Program funding, the region must demonstrate compliance with HUD policy and guidance, potentially  including being able to describe specific strategies implemented to ensure that within their jurisdictions, homelessness is not criminalized;  
WHEREAS, insofar as proposed Ordinance 10-19 criminalizes homelessness by making what might reasonably be considered “acts of living” illegal, it is inconsistent with 
  1. CANDO’s goal to “Support initiatives offering practical solutions for neighbors living in the streets”;
  2. the mission and purpose of organizations that CANDO supports, like the Salem Housing Authority, the Union Gospel Mission, Northwest Human Services, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and United Way;
  3. the mission and purpose of the Homeless Rental Assistance Program, whose activities include the expenditure of General Fund dollars to remove criminal history barriers to housing and employment;   
WHEREAS, proposed Ordinance 10-19 targets people experiencing homelessness, is not designed to address the substantive complaints of downtown businesses and is likely to inflict adverse, unintended  harm on Salem’s most vulnerable residents, including further stigmatization of their condition, whether or not they are found to be in violation of proposed Ordinance 10-19;
NOW. THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that CANDO recommends to the City Council AGAINST enactment of proposed Ordinance 10-19. 
ADOPTED by the CANDO Board of Directors, this 17th day of September, 2019.

CANDO Secretary/Treasurer

Friday, September 13, 2019

Sit-Lie Jr. Loses at 2d Forum

By Sarah Owens


A "homeless" couple speak against the ordinance at Loucks Forum  
Sit-Lie, Jr. lost at Loucks today.  Out of 28 people offering comments, only four clearly favored enactment, including Tom Hoffert, Director of the Salem Area Chamber, former City Councilor TJ Sullivan,  Huggins Insurance, and Tyler Jackson of Jackson Jewelers.  Comments were limited to three minutes.  Even then, not everyone who wished to comment was able to do so. 

About 80 people attended the forum, including City Manager Steve Powers (far left in photo), Mayor Bennett, Jim Lewis and Chris Hoy (all in the back row at right).  All are believed to favor enactment.

Comments were directed broadly.  The problems of downtown businesses.  The stresses and indignities of living on the streets.  What happens when people experiencing homelessness are made to "move on" and there is no place for them to go.

Retherford and the panel that did not respond to comments
The panel was moderated by Urban Development Director Kristin Retherford and consisted of Salem Housing Authority Administrator Nicole Utz, City Attorney Dan Atchison, and a Salem Police officer.  Comments started at 12:25 following remarks by Retherford, Utz and Atchison.  The panel sat silently during the comment period.

Applause erupted several times, but only in response to comments that were supportive of people experiencing homelessness and/or opposed to criminalizing homelessness.  Several commenters directly challenged the claim that Sit-Lie, Jr. does not "criminalize homelessness." 

TJ Sullivan was actively heckled for implying that people experiencing homelessness are invariably addicts and claiming without evidence that Sit-Lie, Jr. "will push [people experiencing homelessness] into areas where they will get the help they need."  A representative of the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter described Sit-Lie, Jr. as "an unpopular and immoral ordinance."  Lorrie Walker, Salem Homeless Coalition, said she had 200 signatures on a petition opposing Sit-Lie, Jr.

Salem Reporter covered the forum.  A CCTV crew was also there, recording. 

The forum was very emotional and ended at 1:30 without a summing up.  Retherford said a third forum was planned for mid-morning, hopefully before September 30.  At one point, Sit-Lie, Jr. was tentatively on the City Council's September 23 agenda, but now the City is saying it's not known when it will go before Council.    

More about what exactly was said and where things could go from here in a subsequent post.   

Friday, September 6, 2019

City Fumbles Sit-Lie Forum

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Photo Courtesy Statesman Journal, May 2015
UGM's Dan Clem and City Panel (Nicole Utz, Skip Miller, Dan Atchison)
Thirty-four minutes.  That's how much time the City gave to Sit-Lie, Jr. at the first forum called for that purpose (per the press release, it was supposed to be a half hour of info, one hour for public questions and comments).

Deputy Chief Skip Miller began by telling the audience of 50+ people that the proposed ordinance will "put some limitations on when and where people could sit and lie and relax", but then shifted immediately into a defensive posture.

The ordinance "took years to come to fruition", Miller said.  Homelessness is a national problem, the City gets a lot of calls, people are frustrated and angry, the City's worked very hard, SPD is very compassionate.

The Statesman Journal quoted Miller as saying, "'This ordinance is not about criminalizing homelessness,'...It's 'to set limits on these behaviors and give police the lawful reason to make contact with people and provide them information on social services.'"  See Barreda, V. "UGM hosts public forum to discuss sit-lie ordinance."  (September 4, 2019, Statesman Journal.)

Police have not previously needed a "lawful reason to make contact with people", and have for many years been able to issue exclusion orders for a variety of disruptive behaviors, e.g.,  disorderly conduct (SRC 95.120), urinating and defecating in public (SRC 95.125), trespass (SRC 95.550), drinking in public (SRC 90.020), public indecency (SRC 96.220), noise disturbance (SRC 93.010), and pedestrian interference (SRC 95.700).  See Hessell, K. "Salem ordinances conflict with homeless living." (May 9, 2015, Statesman Journal.)  The question facing the community today is whether sitting and lying on the sidewalks during the day should be added to the list.

Miller explained the need for the ordinance this way:

We don't have anything that really deals with effectively in our downtown or crime prevention areas, so, right now, there [are] a lot of things that people do that really frustrate our community that makes homeless people feel unsafe for various reasons, but we do not have ability to do much for it, and I think we are pretty successful...about ways to gain willful compliance and offer help.  What this ordinance would do is give us an additional tool.  

When Miller says that the ordinance "is not about criminalizing homelessness", he means it does not literally make having nowhere to live illegal.  He is, of course, correct that the ordinance, on its face, does not make "homelessness" a crime.

Miller appears to be unfamiliar with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidance citing a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, “No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities”, finding that there had been a significant increase in city-wide bans on camping, loitering, and begging in public areas, which HUD characterized as “effectively criminalizing people’s need to survive” (emphasis in original) and “exacerbat[ing] existing problems."  The report cites specifically to laws prohibiting lying down or sitting in particular public places as an example of laws criminalizing homelessness.

"People can sleep in the parks in the daytime, sit in the benches, and in the grass", Miller told the audience.  He also said they can also go to "UGM, ARCHES Project, Salvation Army, and other social service agencies."  But can they?  The proposed ordinance would be effective year round, from 7a to 9p.  Parks are open dawn to dusk, which in winter comes well before 9p.  Parks offer less protection in winter from the elements than the streets downtown. 

Social service agency locations also have limiting factors.  The ARCHES Project day shelter is open 8:30a to 3p, M-F.  UGM's day room is open to men 6-8am and 9:15am to 8pm.  HOAP day shelter is open 9a to 2p M-F, (women only 9a to 11 Mon/Thurs).  Lighthouse Shelter and Simonka Place are not normally open during the day (may open for inclement weather events).  Thus, men may hang out at UGM during the day, except between 8a and 9:15, unless for some reason they've been trespassed, and can also go to ARCHES and HOAP until mid-afternoon.  Women, have fewer choices.  At 7a, there's UGM for breakfast.  Mondays through Fridays, women can go to ARCHES at 8:30, or to HOAP at 9a, but both close mid-afternoon.  So, on weekends, holidays and non-holiday weekdays after 3p, women are on their own, except for the evening meal at UGM.  There are no "other social service agencies" offering day shelter.

5:35p forum audience, which grew to >50 by 6p
With about 15 minutes left, only seven members of the audience got the mic.  Bob Davis (Habitat & Hope Village) challenged Miller's use of the word "compassion."  Barbara Bikman told Miller the likely reason the ordinance "took years" was because it has "major constitutional issues."  She said it's safer downtown, and that exclusion orders are "radical and creepy."  Lorrie Walker (Homeless Coalition) said her group was collecting signatures of those who are "totally opposed" to the ordinance, that the problem is much larger than the City can handle alone, and that targeting people who are less fortunate is not the answer.  A woman with long dark hair who didn't identify herself said as far as officers showing compassion, she hadn't seen a lot of that.  "They just say leave", she said.  "They don't listen to what we have to say, or to our problems."  She and her husband had lived in Salem for about 25 years.

Rian commenting at the UGM forum
Kelly Teves said she didn't plan on becoming homeless at almost 50.  Salem Reporter quoted her as saying, “Pushing people out of downtown because they lie down to sleep, because they feel safe there in the daytime, is just pushing them to another spot where the police or parks people will ask them to leave because they’re homeless.”  See Brynelson, T. "First forum for Salem's 'sit-lie' ordinance leaves residents, officials wanting more discussion."  (September 5, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  A slightly built man who didn't identify himself said he didn't choose to be homeless, was hit by a car, and was an electrician with 20 years experience.  He said to look at what Finland had done (drastically reduced homelessness through a Housing First approach).  Finally, a young man named Rian wanted to talk about housing programs that exclude people with criminal records and police harassment, and observed that in winter, parks close as early as 4p.  He was cut off, before he finished speaking, and the forum was shut down.

Also in the audience:  Cindy Davis (Habitat & Hope Village), Stephen Goins (NWHS), Raleigh Kirschman (UGM), Bruce Donahoe (UGM), Treven Upkes (SPD), Lorrie Walker (Salem Homeless Coalition), Ashley Hamilton (MWVCAA), Ken Houghton (MWVCAA), Tom Andersen (City Council, Ward 2), Jim Lewis (City Council, Ward 8), Chuck Bennett (Mayor), Hazel Patton (Salem Main Street Association), Russ and Delana Beaton (Hood House), Pamella Watson (First Congregational UCC), Sam Skillern (Salem Leadership Foundation), Larry Nassett, Kathleen Thorpe, Angelina Lockhart, several representatives from Be Bold Ministries, Troy Brynelson (Salem Reporter) and Jonathan Bach (Statesman Journal), among many others we did not recognize.  The City did not provide a sign up sheet.  The next forum is scheduled for noon, Friday, September 13, at Loucks Auditorium. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Leave Decision Prompts ROCC Retribution

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

MWHI Steering Committee August 2019 Meeting
This is the time of year that homeless assistance programs across the U.S. compete for limited funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Continuum of Care Program.

As with any competitive grant process, to determine which programs to fund (and which not to fund), applications are scored and ranked in order of funding priority.  In the HUD CoC Program, this "review and ranking" is carried out by the local CoC, which is supposed to know best which programs are performing well, and which are not. 

As reported last week at the August meeting of  the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Steering Committee, this year, the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC) scored three homeless assistance projects serving Marion and Polk Counties well below scores received in previous years -- scores low enough to cause HUD not to fund them in 2020.  The move was seen by some on the Steering Committee as retaliation for the decision to leave ROCC and re-form a regional CoC (see "ROCC: Leave or Remain"), and an attempt to limit the funds that will be lost to ROCC as a result of the split.      

In a letter dated August 30, 2019 to the Community Action Partnership of Oregon, which staffs and is technically responsible for ROCC governance (ROCC is an unincorporated association), the Steering Committee expressed concerns about ROCC's structures and governance and asked that corrective action be taken: 

It is our understanding that conflicts of interest exist on the current Review and Ranking
Committee that scored the FY 2019 applications, as well as on the Executive Committee that approved the project priorities.

Given that these scorings and rankings were conducted by people representing organizations that have been or will be funded through HUD Continuum of Care dollars, contrary to HUD’s conflict of interest policies, we are encouraging and supporting agencies in Marion and Polk Counties to submit appeals of the scoring and ranking recently conducted. We further request that the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care have an independent, objective committee that has no conflicts of interest rescore the applications
for their final ranking.

The conflicts of interest complained of are, however, long-standing, and almost certainly have, from time to time, benefited local projects.  In other words, the situation is one that, over the years, local programs have not merely tolerated, but participated in, if not furthered.  This is but one of the many reasons we have long advocated re-forming the Salem, Marion and Polk Counties CoC with local government support and oversight.

In 2018, ROCC gave an allegedly undeserved low score to the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA)'s rapid rehousing project, causing HUD to defund it, and the region to lose almost $400K in CoC homeless assistance.  See "ROCC Fissures Continue to Grow."  Unless ROCC 1) re-scores the applications and 2) local projects move up in the rankings as a result (which is not anticipated), MWVCAA predicts that local programs will receive only $681,848 in 2019 CoC funding, most of which will be for online domestic violence services, leaving only $138,581 or $120.40 per person for all other services.  These losses could hurt the Development Council's ability to negotiate a fair share of CoC funding in the split with ROCC.  Salem, Marion and Polk counties brought ROCC about $1M when they merged in 2011.

The August meeting was the MWHI Steering Committee's last before it reconvenes on September 24 as the regional CoC's Development Council.  See "Area Leaders Forming CoC Development Council."

Photo at top: around the "u" table, starting far right: Chris Hoy (Salem), Kristin Retherford (Salem), TJ Putman (Salem Interfaith Hospitality dba Family Promise), Lyle Mordhorst (Polk County), Jan Calvin (MWVCOG), Kathy Clark (Keizer), Colm Willis (Marion County), Dan Clem (Union Gospel Mission), Denise VanDyke (MWVCOG), Christy Perry (SKSD), Jimmy Jones (MWVCAA).  Not pictured: Sean O'Day (MWVCOG), Scott McClure (Independence), and Janet Carlson (MWVCOG and on phone).