Friday, November 29, 2019

Zombie Hillcrest Project Revives

Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

 

Remember last year's monumentally bad idea to turn Hillcrest, the former Youth Correctional Facility, into homeless housing (see here, here, and last paragraph here)?  Well, it's back.

Hillcrest closed in September 2017, after the state determined that an upgrade to meet modern standards was cost-prohibitive.  But, in the last few weeks, Silverton resident Gene Pfeifer and Christian radio talk show host Fay Demeyer have been pitching the 207,000 SF facility as a "solution as to what to do with Homeless that are not illustrating good manners in public"  (see the "business plan outline" beginning at page 2).

According to their plan, the facility -- which now is owned by the State and located way out south -- would provide not just a "roof and food", but a program for "learning self-discipline on the path to be reintegrated into the workforce."  It also would relocate a certain element of the population away from downtown.  Or, that's the idea, anyway.

The idea of using Hillcrest as shelter first came to the City's attention in an October 3, 2018 meeting called by Councilor Kaser to consider the feasibility of an "organized camping" program.  Later that month, at the October 2018 meeting of the Salem Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, Councilor Lewis asked SHA Administrator Andy Wilch about Hillcrest:

There's been some talk about the Hillcrest property...my interest is that there is a dormitory type building sitting there empty, and we have a homeless crisis.  So, putting those two things together, it makes sense to me -- is it usable, can we do it from a capacity standpoint, and let's assume for a minute that the State of Oregon just lets us use the building, if it's within our ability to use it for homelessness.  Comments?

Wilch replied,

About three years ago, we went up and looked at the same units that you're talking about, and, at that time, we didn't really see the need...the market has changed a lot, for a lot of our clients.  And so we are having some additional conversations, working with the City and SHA.  I know there was a group that went up there [with] DAS...this afternoon to look at it.  One issue that I think is going to be hard to [overcome] is DAS will probably want to have a single sale.  So, unless they're willing to break up some of the pieces, it could be pretty hard to make that work.  But, if you want to, we could work on that, along with the City.

To which Commissioner Lewis replied:

I don't know if I'm interested in purchasing the property and using that part for homelessness.  I'm more interested in using it while it's still vacant or supposedly up for sale.

Whereupon the City Manager in his capacity as Executive Director of the Housing Authority reassured everyone that a report would be forthcoming.

Pfeifer and Deymeyer's "Hopecrest" project proposal
The January 2019 City Council work session on the Council Policy agenda included a staff report on Hillcrest that indicated that the City would have to acquire the entire 44.6 acre site, asking price $5.6M.  Of the 17 buildings on the site,

The Administrative Building appears to be the most feasible option for converting to transitional single room occupant housing with shared communal living, kitchen and restroom facilities. It would require restroom and kitchen improvements and may require other, currently unknown improvements to convert the building to residential use. 

The project pretty much dropped off the City Council's radar after that.

Pfeifer and Deymeyer apparently were inspired to revive the project by the controversy over the sit-lie ordinance.  Judging by their "business plan" for "Hopecrest", they know very little, if anything, about recovery from chronic homelessness or the current state of homeless services in Salem, and they haven't read the 2019 staff report.  So, we expect to see all sorts of enthusiasm for the project in the coming weeks.

Those who don't believe in zombies and unicorns will want to read the SHA staff report. 

January 2019 Report on Feasibility of Hillcrest as Housing



12/1/19 Update:  there's an organizational meeting planned for Thursday, December 5 at 6:30 at First Baptist Church.  Organizers want the City and partners to spend $2.2M to purchase the property. 

If you go, be sure and ask what organizers plan to do to avoid what happened with Yaquina Hall, and what the sciences says about the success rate of projects like "Hopecrest" when it comes to getting people stably housed.  Better yet, forego the meeting alltogether, and watch this video of Ian De Jong speaking to a group of homeless housing providers instead.   

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Sit-Lie 2017, 2019 and 202?

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


City Council consideration of Ordinance Bill 22-17 September 25, 2017


Council Rejects Sit-Lie in 2017


In 2017, Chief Moore told the Council that a great deal of thought has gone into the ordinance, including thinking about everything said during public comments.  He said that the ordinance doesn't criminalize  homelessness, that homeless people have addiction and mental health issues and Salem Police officers are maximally empathetic and compassionate and help people access services and get off the streets.  He said business owners deserve equal empathy and to have this "tool" (the ordinance).  He said homeless people are feared, and perception is reality.  He said the basic purpose of the ordinance is to provide education and access to services.  He also said that, if an individual refuses services, s/he can be excluded from a crime prevention district.
 
Mayor Bennett asked what the police contact will look like.  Moore said that officers will make contacts just as they do now, letting individuals know their behavior is not acceptable "or in many cases illegal", and that they need to move on.  Bennett got the Chief to suggest that there are plenty of places for people to go.

A motion was made by Councilor McCoid, seconded by Councilor Nanke to schedule a public hearing at a future meeting to receive public testimony.  (Councilor Lewis was absent.)

Councilor Nanke said that the ordinance will protect children, and compared it to concealed-carry weaponry, zoning and code compliance laws.

Councilor Andersen noted that existing law prohibits camping in parks and allows exclusion from crime prevention districts for various offenses.  He complimented the City Attorney on the ordinance and said it was still likely to be challenged.  He and Councilor Kaser remarked on the lack of public support for the bill, including from the business sector.

Councilor Andersen offered a substitute motion, seconded by Councilor Hoy, that the Mayor establish a task force of Council, staff, social service agencies, downtown community and the greater Salem community to study the issue of homelessness in the downtown and north Salem crime prevention districts as defined in the proposed statute. 

Chief Moore, Mayor Bennett and Councilor Kaser all agreed with Councilor Anderson that "the real problem here is the possessions that people take with them" and that the optimal means for addressing that would be to provide storage facilities (which CANDO recommended the City develop back in 2017).

Councilor Kaser commented that the complaints she receives do not concern sitting and lying down on the sidewalk, but behaviors, some of which are illegal (crimes, offenses).  She also observed that whether someone's collection of personal property is "unsightly" is highly subjective.

Councilor Cook expressed concern that the ordinance targets people experiencing homelessness, and "doesn't get at root causes."

Councilor Hoy observed that, if the City Council makes sitting, lying down, camping and "abandoning" property on sidewalks crimes (offenses, infractions), then ultimately, people will be arrested, and then he said all efforts should be focused on addressing the needs of the homeless, which the ordinance does not do.  

The original motion to schedule a public hearing at a future meeting to receive public testimony was rejected by a unanimous vote.

Councilor Andersen's motion, seconded by Councilor Kaser, to reject Ordinance Bill No. 22-17 and  establish a Mayor's task force of Council, staff, social service agencies, the downtown community and the greater Salem community to study the issue of homelessness in the downtown and north Salem crime prevention districts and  passed.  Only Nanke voted no. 

City Council consideration of Ordinance Bill 10-19 November 25, 2019

Council Rejects Sit-Lie in 2019


In 2019, there were three public forums and a work session prior to the first reading of Ordinance Bill 2019.  Councilors McCoid and Cook had been replaced by Leung and Nordyke.  Councilor Lewis was present.

City Manager Steve Powers and Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore made opening remarks.  Both emphasized complaints as the reason for the ordinance.  "The City and community can do better than offering sidewalks as a place to live", Powers read from a prepared statement that included a list of various housing and social services programs that the City supports.  Moore told the Council, "The reason for this ordinance is simple.  It takes two to tango."  He said the people police "contact on a routine basis are not interested in services, they're not interested in changing their lifestyle, they're engaged in behaviors we would not consider acceptable anywhere else."  He said the ordinance would give police "a tool perhaps to encourage them to change their lifestyle."  About enforcement he said, "just because the ordinance exists, doesn't mean it will always be enforced."

Mayor Bennett asked Moore what's changed since the ordinance bill was rejected in 2017.  Moore referred again to continued complaints, and said, "It was the will of a whole bunch of people that this ordinance come back."  Councilor Lewis asked what "the disconnect" was between what Moore was saying about enforcement, and the public perception that enforcement would be "universal."  Moore said he couldn't answer that.

Councilor Leung asked Moore about concerns that had been brought to her about a particular officer who reportedly went out of his way to find people experiencing homelessness and "bully them."  Moore responded that the Department has received very few complaints of police misconduct and Powers advised her to refer complaints to the City's police review board.  Leung observed that people who've been "attacked by this officer are not going to [make formal] report[s]."  She asked why would they think the City would listen to them when there's this officer out there who's targeting them?

After gaining the floor, Councilor Hoy, who is Council President, indicated he would propose a series of revisions for Council's consideration.

He spoke in support of removing the sit-lie provisions, saying that it was difficult to see how it could be enforced "with sufficient compassion."  However, he voted against removal, along with Councilors Nanke, Lewis and Bennett.      

Councilor Kaser supported removing the sit-lie provisions for the same reasons she gave in 2017 -- they won't address the complaints of downtown businesses.  Councilor Andersen was concerned the City would be creating a "status crime" and wouldn't be effective.  Councilor Nordyke was also concerned about constitutionality and the prospect of litigation.  She said she believed sit-lie would only push people away from services into residential neighborhoods, "not make them disappear", and she would rather put City resources toward strategies "that actually work."  Councilor Ausec, concurred, noting that the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force didn't think sit-lie would be an effective way to address the complaints, nor did he.   

Nanke did not support removing the sit-lie provisions, saying "the people that are of concern are not interested in being in [] housing", the sit-lie portion is "not going to be used that frequently", and "it's not pushing people."  Bennett did not support removing the sit-lie provisions because he had "never heard this police chief come to us asking for tools they didn't need."

The question I have is if [the Chief] comes back a third time because this is not dealing with the problem and we continue to have the kind of behavioral issues that he's talking about, should we look at it again, because I've just got this feeling it's coming back.

Bennett continued, saying he was "amazed" that "there's so much willingness to say 'no'" and that anyone would suggest anyone on the Salem police force might have "some sort of inappropriate relationship with the public they serve", because he himself had never heard such a complaint.  "I don't quite get it, I gotta tell you...maybe it's just I've been around too long...I just don't get it", he said.  

Lewis also refused to support removing the sit-lie provisions, saying they addressed the most common complaints that the City's been getting for the last three to five years.  He said the idea that the City would use the ordinance to "sweep out" everyone who's been sitting and lying on the downtown streets was "ridiculous."  "We've been told repeatedly this is a tool to allow the police to deal with behavioral issues, and it's not meant to do anything but that", he said.          

Councilor Leung talked a bit about her experience of homelessness due to domestic violence and exhorted the Council when voting to consider the impact of the ordinance on people who were already scared and traumatized.  Her remarks received brief applause from the audience.  Bennett then asked Council, "Do you want to vote?  Or would you like to hear more clapping?"  The Council then voted to remove sit-lie portion of the bill on a five-four vote.

Hoy then proposed to "remove the exclusion zone coupling with the ordinance."  He said the primary reason he had "worked to kill this thing the first time" was his concern about the "streets to jail pipeline."  He said he felt like making violations of the ordinance excludable offenses "facilitates that pipeline, and I don't think we need it."  He said he was also concerned about the uneven application -- greater penalties, depending on where the offense is committed.  "I don't think where you choose to survive" should determine the severity of the penalty, he said. 

Lewis then moved staff recommendation (the original ordinance bill) as a substitute motion.  Bennett supported the motion saying,

Absolutely nothing I've heard yet relating to homelessness, and what we're doing, and actually dealing with the homeless issues.  It deals with behavioral issues that require, and have been prompted to bring in police action, and they need a tool...Most of the testimony I've heard this evening was absolutely unrelated to this and dealt with questions of who are they and where did they come from in the homeless community and I'm just not buying that that's what this is about.  This is about people in the homeless community behaving badly, and interfering with the normal activity in our residential-business district downtown and Ward 1.  I think it's disproportionately affected, and we really have an obligation to deal with it.
    
Bennett, Nanke and Lewis voted to approve the bill as originally drafted.  Council then voted on the revised bill (sans sit-lie and exclusion provisions), which Bennett characterized as "close to, but better than, nothing."  Only Lewis voted against the revised bill.  The ordinance is to take effect after the second reading set for December 2.

In addition to making the revisions directed by Council, the City Attorney revised the ordinance  findings, "clarified" the definition of “public sidewalk” to include the landscape or parking strip, added that violations constitute a “public nuisance” under SRC 50.800, "clarified" that police have discretion when determining whether to issue an exclusion notice for listed offenses, and may issue variances when a notice is issued.  See City Manager Powers' staff report.  (Note: the City Attorney's last two "clarifications" were apparently needed to conform the ordinance to police practice.  However, allowing police discretion whether to impose an additional penalty for a violation inside a Crime Prevention District is, as a matter of law, arbitrary, and therefore a violation of constitutional due process requirements.  The Council should, therefore, not adopt the City Attorney's proposed revision substituting "may for "shall" in Section 95.770.  See Engrossed Bill at page 11.) 

Mayor Bennett's "just got this feeling it's coming back"

Saturday, November 23, 2019

11/18/19 Minutes


Members: M. Bryant Baird, Jim Griggs, Valerie Freeman
Organizations: Raleigh Kirschman, UGM; Luis Garcia, Ike Box; Mark Bulgin, Isaac’s Room; Breezy Aguirre, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, The ARCHES Project
City, County and State Representatives: Officers David Smith and Zach Merritt; Ward 7 Councilor Vanessa Nordyke.
Guests: none.

The regular meeting of the CANDO Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m., on Tuesday, November 19, 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 October meeting were not approved for lack of a quorum.  

In interested citizen comments, Michael Livingston reported on the distribution of the CANDO Good Neighbor Guide:  we visited 72 downtown Salem businesses and spoke with owner or manager at 29 of them.  Guide received a uniformly positive response, many looked through it while we were there, and some asked for extra copies for employees.

Asked if business had problems with "homeless" individuals?
  • 15 “too busy to talk”
  • 11  “not mentioned”
  • 13  no problems, or no current problems
  • 8  “yes, but no specifics”
  • 15  occasional, or infrequent problems (intoxicated; “alternate reality; unruly person asked to leave; people drunk or using drugs at sidewalk restaurant tables; people sleeping in doorways when staff arrive)
  • 4 on High St north of Marion (2 based on previous contacts) identified continuing serious problems -- e.g., vandalism and people mentally ill and out of control)  Owner of one of those businesses spoke highly of Be Bold Street Ministries staff -- Josh & Matt, whose contact information is in the pamphlet

Asked if business did have any problems, how those were handled?  
  • 10 relational approach -- asking people to leave & calling police as needed
  •  3  security guards handled it
  •  8  relational approach only
  •  4  other approaches (e.g., call police & coordinate with nearby businesses; complain to mayor & council; call Be Bold Street Ministries)

Josh Lair of Be Bold Street Ministries said that, as a result of the guide’s distribution, he had received 27 calls, and Matt Maciera had received 15.

Sarah Owens reported that plans to open a women’s shelter on Front Street across from the Lighthouse Shelter are in the works.  Diane Rush of the Inside Out Church is working with the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley to put the project together.

Officers Smith and Merritt reported on the increase in camping downtown, particularly in the 600 block of Commercial Street, following the recent “sweeps” of camps in the area near Wallace Marine Park.  In August, the City’s legal department changed its position that adjacent property owners, who are responsible for maintenance of parking strips (areas between a sidewalk and the street), had the right to trespass people camping on them.  Officers now have been told that no one has authority to trespass campers on City rights-of-way unless they’re intentionally blocking them.  Police are trying to keep sidewalks clear. The question was asked whether camping was allowed in parks.  Smith said no.  Previously, the City’s legal department had treated parking strips as “parks” and trespassed people from them accordingly, but the legal department also has retracted that advice.  Pearl Dunn with The ARCHES Projects is in frequent contact with police about the campers.  Police can respond to blatant public cannabis and drug use. Public drunkenness is not a crime, but disorderly conduct is. Disorderly conduct is fighting or violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior, making unreasonable noise, obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic, or creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition (see ORS 166.025).   Charging someone with possession of stolen shopping cart requires the owner to press charges; TJ Max and Grocery Outlet will do that, but most other owners will not.  The camping ban/abandoned property provisions of Ordinance Bill 10-19 are intended to address both issues (shopping carts and camping in public rights-of-way).

The skate park across the street from Arches in Marion Square Park is another “clash area.”  Police have also been dealing with problems at the Transit Mall with rowdy youth smoking cannabis, drinking, etc.  They met recently with some of the adjacent businesses to discuss the problems there.  They said most of these youth are not experiencing homelessness, “some are from TLP, some headed in that direction, skipping school, etc.”  

The board heard a presentation by Program Director Breezy Aguirre on The ARCHES Project’s coordinated outreach program, and efforts in partnership with the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley to develop a mobile crisis assistance team based on Eugene’s CAHOOTS program.  The outreach program takes the relational approach to addressing difficult situations consistent with the CANDO Good Neighbor Guide.  The plan for the CAHOOTS-style HEART project (Homeless Emergency Assistance Response Team) is a pilot deploying 1 van, 5-6 FTE (1 EMT and 1 QMHP at $18/hr) on limited shifts, serving citywide, anyone in crisis (not just downtown, not just “homeless” and not 24/7). The target population is victims of systems trauma.  Systems trauma refers to the damage that results from systems that build in failure.  Twenty-five “key stakeholders” are meeting about the project tomorrow at United Way.  

There being no other business before the board, the Chair adjourned the meeting at 7:06 p.m.

Sit-Lie Targets People with Disabilities

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


If the City Council enacts Ordinance Bill 10-19 with a sit-lie provision -- with or without the civil exclusion penalty --  the City had better be prepared for a challenge from Disability Rights Oregon, based on what was said during the November 18 work session.

First, DRO is going to cite the Oregon law that prohibits cities from adopting any law that imposes civil penalties of any kind for "behavior that includes as one of its elements...being found in specified places under the influence of alcohol, cannabis or controlled substances."  ORS 430.402.

DRO will then allege something along the lines of:  Salem's "sidewalk behavior ordinance" is preempted by ORS 430.402, targets a protected class (people with disabilities) and is overbroad and unconstitutional on its face because it contains no exceptions for people with substance use or mental health disorders.

And DRO will cite as evidence these remarks by the Salem Police Chief (all emphasis added): 

"We don't have the ability to address, uhm, people that are laying on the ground, and uh, scattered with property, perhaps passed out, perhaps drunk, we don't have a drunk-in-public ordinance in the state, and so it deals more with conduct issues that aren't necessarily criminal behavior."

"[P]eople laying on the sidewalk drunk, maybe drug-induced, maybe emotionally disturbed, and the fact that they're allowed to stay there and act the way they do is concerning to many people."

"Now we can contact someone anytime, but they can tell us 'I don't want to talk to you, go away.'   If we had an ordinance we would have a reason to contact someone, and the first thing we would do is to try and get them associated with some social services or some help that might stop that cycle [of arrests]...our officers hooking people up with services that might be of benefit to them, whether it's housing or alcohol or drug treatment."

"[T]he people we deal with downtown have been offered services over and over and over again, and they reject the opportunity to take advantage of them and that's why they are so difficult to deal with."

"[They are] "service resistant" and
don't want to follow rules and regulations.  They don't want to go places where they can't do drugs or drink or whatever, and I think those are the people we routinely deal with, who for three or four years we've gotten complaints about because we have no tools to change their behavior...and people are just tired of it.  Those are the complaints and the calls that we get all the time." 

DRO will no doubt also cite the horrid "Persons who" findings in Section 2 of the ordinance, and assert that the ordinance's exception for people with certain "physical" disabilities shows the omission of any exception for people with substance use or mental health disorders was deliberate and intended.

Anyone who thinks to rely on assurances from Salem's legal advisors that Ordinance Bill 10-19 is constitutional should remember, these are the people who can't recognize conflicts of interest, who said parking strips were City parks for purposes of trespassing campers from them, that adjacent property owners had the right to trespass campers from parking strips, that four was a majority of eight, that the City was not required to provide arrest records because a juvenile was involved, and that a City task force that included four City Councilors was not a public body.

Sit-lie is a bad law now, and forever.  It cannot be made right, and the City will lose if it tries to defend it.


Work Session Dissipates Sit-Lie Support

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


November 18 Work Session, from left: Councilors Ausec, Hoy, Nordyke, Lewis, Andersen and Kaser
Support for the sit-lie portion of Ordinance Bill 10-19 dwindled to a minority of three -- Mayor Bennett, Councilor Nanke and Councilor Lewis -- following a work session that challenged City staff and Salem Police Chief Moore to explain why the City should ban sitting and lying on the sidewalks.  Councilor Hoy indicated he can no longer support the sit-lie prohibition unless the civil exclusion penalty is removed.

Bennett opened the November 18 work session saying,"This is an opportunity to talk among ourselves, kinda see where we're headed on the sit-lie ordinance, this is an opportunity to take a look at this and figure out if you want to make any changes."  He called on Urban Development Director Kristin Retherford for remarks.

Retherford related a brief history sit-lie in Salem, beginning with the failed passage in 2017, the appointment of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force (DHSTF), the implementation of its recommendations, the continued complaints from downtown businesses and the redrafting in 2019, and ending with the forums.

The stated goal of the work session, Retherford said, was to discuss the ordinance and provide direction to staff about any revisions, e.g., the four listed in the staff report.    

Hoy asked the first question.  He wanted to know the reason for the lack of progress implementing the DHSTF recommendations.  Retherford blamed the fact that both Union Gospel Mission and the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency, with whom the City has chosen to partner for the purpose of  implementation, had major construction projects.  Hoy asked when The ARCHES Project's ten personal property storage units would come on line.  Retherford replied "early spring."

Councilor Andersen asked how staff could conclude the DHSTF recommendations were ineffective and that sit-lie was necessary, given that the recommendations had not been fully implemented?  Retherford explained that the DHSTF recommendations don't address "behavioral issues."  Andersen observed that City code currently addresses a number of relevant behavioral issues, for example, disorderly conduct, and asked what behavior did sit-lie address?  Moore replied that sit-lie addresses camping, erecting campsites and structures and abandoned property. 

"It's all in the eye of the beholder."
Continuing his list, Moore added, "some of the unsightly issues that you see, with people that have carts of, uhm, property that could be two to ten in a row, just abandoned property.  [The ordinance] has to do with litter, garbage and some of those things that are left there.  And of course the sit-lie would probably have more to do with, uh, behavior and uhm, the things that may, uhm, uh, have an impact on the livability more of the downtown than anything else."

Moore paused and said, "You know, being homeless is not a crime, and the sit-lie and anything that we put together isn't going to solve homelessness.  But since we first introduced this [in 2017], we've continued to have concerns about behavior downtown.  It could be anything from disturbances and trespassing and criminal mischief, and you're right, we have ordinances that address those things. But we don't have the ability to address, uhm, people that are laying on the ground, and uh, scattered with property, perhaps passed out, perhaps drunk, we don't have a drunk-in-public ordinance in the state, and so it deals more with conduct issues that aren't necessarily criminal behavior in all cases.  Some it is criminal behavior, but we have to be present and able to see it before we can do anything to enforce it."

Bench at Court and Commercial Streets
Nanke arrived late, around the time Andersen asked staff to rank the relative seriousness of the three problems the ordinance bill is intended to address-- camping, abandoned property and sit-lie.  Retherford indicated that "the behavior piece and the property piece" together were the most serious, and gave as an example the City bench on the corner of Court and Commercial  Streets which someone is using for storage, despite requests from the City to move the belongings somewhere else.

Andersen asked if the complaints were not  about "visual issues" or "what it looks like downtown"?  Retherford replied, "Looks like and smells like."

Moore said "It's all in the eye of the beholder...If you drive down Commercial Street, you think it's camping.  If you happen to own a business, or go downtown shopping, you probably think it's people laying on the sidewalk drunk, maybe drug-induced, maybe emotionally disturbed, and the fact that they're allowed to stay there and act the way the do is concerning to many people, so ranking them is really difficult.  I think it's all dependent on what your view of the world is and where you're coming from."

"Can the City prohibit public drunkenness?"
Councilor Kaser asked if the City could prohibit public drunkenness, to which City Attorney Atchison answered no, such laws had been deemed unconstitutional.  The Mayor asked about laws prohibiting vagrancy and loitering.  Atchison informed him that Salem's vagrancy law (SRC 95.560 -- see here) had been repealed, and its prohibitions on loitering applied only to minors (SRC 95.390 and 96.140) (but see SRC 95.020, prohibiting "any person" from loitering in, on, around or about any stairway, aisle, hallway or any public place of business while drinking alcohol).  Councilor Kaser asked if there were any laws prohibiting camping on parking strips and sidewalks.  Moore said no.

Councilor Nordyke asked about people who'd been repeatedly arrested, wanting to know how effective that was.  Moore said it wasn't, but the ordinance would "give an officer an opportunity to contact someone in the downtown area."

Now we can contact someone anytime, but they can tell us 'I don't want to talk to you, go away.'  If we had an ordinance we would have a reason to contact someone, and the first thing we would do is to try and get them associated with some social services or some help that might stop that cycle [of arrests]...our officers hooking people up with services that might be of benefit to them, whether it's housing or alcohol or drug treatment, I think that's where we can make the difference, and I think this ordinance helps us do that. 

Nordyke observed that there was nothing stopping providers and volunteers from offering services, and Moore agreed, adding that "the people we deal with downtown have been offered services over and over and over again, and they reject the opportunity to take advantage of them and that's why they are so difficult to deal with. 

Complaints concern activity that's "already illegal."
Nordyke asked Retherford whether the Downtown Clean Team was doing what it needs to do, given the volume of complaints?  Retherford said the Team is staffed to funding capacity and doesn't clean private property (like doorway alcoves) or in the alleys, which are the subject of a lot of the complaints.  Nordyke asked about implementing a CAHOOTS model crisis assistance team.  Retherford said the Good Neighbor Partnership was looking at it, but, as with the sobering center, funding was an issue.

Hoy said he was concerned about "uneven enforcement" and there being additional penalties for offenses committed inside one of the Crime Prevention Districts.  Moore agreed the difference was "unfortunate", but "if you're going to keep anything, an exclusion zone in the downtown area would probably be most effective because that's where ARCHES and the Gospel Mission is and the places that, for lack of a better term, draw more people.  If you were to uncouple it, we would not be able to arrest for trespass."

Kaser asked whether enforcement of the camping ban and abandoned property provisions would be complaint driven?  Moore said no, enforcement of the camping ban would be immediate (consistent with the notice provisions).

Andersen asked if there was "a certain percentage of people causing the problems."  Moore responded by describing three groups of "homeless", those the police never have contact with, those who are "maybe passing through town and they take advantage of services...and move on," and those who are "service resistant" and 

don't want to follow rules and regulations.  They don't want to go places where they can't do drugs or drink or whatever, and I think those are the people we routinely deal with, who for three or four years we've gotten complaints about because we have no tools to change their behavior...and people are just tired of it.  Those are the complaints and the calls that we get all the time. 

Andersen asked if was true that neither the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force nor the Good Neighbor Partnership had endorsed sit-lie.  Retherford said that's correct.  Andersen asked Atchison about sit-lie's constitutionality.  Atchison assured him it was.

Hoy said that local non-profits were making plans to implement a CAHOOTS model as a pilot.

Nordyke asked about "homelessness drifting into the neighborhoods" and parks as they are pushed away from downtown services.  Moore said the "ordinance wasn't designed to push anyone out of anywhere" but to "better control behavior."  He said camping activity in parks had "certainly increased over the years and it may just be a sign of the times.  There are lots of homeless people."

Bennett asked for suggestions for staff to have ready for the first reading on November 25.  Hoy said his goal was to come up with the "least burdensome ordinance that could still impact livability in the City," and he would support a proposal to "decouple" the civil exclusion provisions and change the hours from 7a to 7p.  Andersen said his main concern was with the sit-lie portion, and he would like the option to have it removed.  He also wanted to include a June 2020 sunset provision.  Kaser said she would support removing the sit-lie portion and would consider a sunset provision.  Lewis said he was concerned about "diluting the ordinance" but didn't have any suggestions on how to revise the bill.  Nordyke said she didn't think sit-lie would address the vast majority of complaints she's hearing, which involve activity that's "already illegal" and "not improved by sit-lie."  She had no suggestions for bill revisions.  Councilors Ausec and Nanke, who had not spoken at all during the work session, also had no suggestions.

Kaser asked how soon would the ordinance take effect.  Atchison said 30 days after second reading, "so, in December."

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Oregon Law Center Weighs in on SIt-Lie

 

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Oregon Law Center Managing Attorney Jorge Lara today informed the City Council that there are problems with Sit-Lie Jr.

Note: the letter refers to "newly created crime prevention districts", however both of Salem's Crime Prevention Districts were created many years ago to allow police to exclude individuals committing low-level, "quality of life" offenses inside the districts from them for 30-day periods.  Downtown Enforcement Team members David Smith and Zach Merritt told CANDO last night that "uncoupling" violations of the proposed ordinance from the two Crime Prevention Districts (as Councilor Hoy has proposed) would remove the "teeth" needed to ensure compliance with the ordinance.  "Tickets (citations)", Owens said, "don't mean anything [to the target population]."  They can, however, create barriers to housing and employment down the road.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

News from the Continuum

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Ex-Wallace-Marine Park area campers have moved to downtown
Residents in the 600 block of Commercial Street NE are pretty upset about the recent influx of campers to the neighborhood following police "sweeps" of camps around Wallace Marine Park.  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.)

Based on reports of group fights fueled by intoxication spilling into traffic, frequent domestic violence episodes, and prolonged bouts of incoherent yelling, it's a rough and vulnerable group that's moved on to the parking strips by the ARCHES Project property, across Union Street from the chemical toilets in Marion Square Park.

ARCHES Project staff and partners assessing campers have found that a substantial number are likely to score high on the vulnerability index and will qualify for HRAP.  One individual had lived in the WMP area for 16 years before being rousted by police.

Camps along the rail line (11/16/19) next to Marion Street Bridge
Camps have also been set up along the rail line near the Marion Street Bridge, and on the parking strips in the 700 blocks of Marion and Union Streets.

The camps on parking strips are fueling support for Ordinance Bill 10-19, which would ban camping on City property when it takes effect.  The big question on everyone's mind is, where can these people go?

As always happens, the camps downtown have renewed awareness (or maybe anger is a better word) and a sense of urgency about the problem.  Local businessman Larry Tokarski held a four-hour, VIP homelessness "summit" last week, reportedly to "get everyone on the same page", whatever that might mean.  See Brynelson, T. "Local leaders meet to talk homelessness."  (November 15, 2019, Salem Reporter.)

Based on Salem Reporter's account, the page looks something like the one at right.

Wherever would we be without business leaders to get us on the same page?

One of the stranger lessons to come out of the Good Neighbor Partnership is that business leaders often prefer to focus on what is sometimes referred to as "managing homelessness" versus finding out what's needed to get people stably housed, even though the former is far and away more resource intensive.

By "managing homelessness" is meant doing what it takes to meet people's basic needs despite their not having a decent and stable place to live.

The Good Neighbor Partnership met 11/13 at SHA
We're talking emergency overnight shelters, "Safe Sleep" programs, warming centers, sanctioned camping (including car-camping programs), stand-alone feeding and clothing programs, etc.  All such programs come with high opportunity costs and, good intentions notwithstanding, do little to nothing to help a person find stable housing.  You would think business leaders would want to support something more permanent -- something like housing infrastructure -- which is what the professionals keep telling them is what's needed, but the business leaders just don't get it.  They prioritize their own complaints, demand government protection, and only when they finally realize that the authorities are not going to lock up the problem and throw away the key, do they want to talk about alternatives.  

Maybe our business leaders are not as smart as they or we think they are?  Or as generous?  Or maybe, just maybe, things are every bit as happy and forward looking as the City's 2019 Community Report would suggest, and everything's as it should be?

City of Salem's 2019 Community Report, page 4
But, however bad or good you might think things are now, they could be about to get a lot worse.  The Trump Administration has just ousted USICH Director Matthew Doherty in advance of what's expected to be some sort of massive "sweep" of encampments in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and if that happens, the obvious question once again is where will those people go?

City of Salem 2019 Customer Satisfaction Survey
Whatever happens, it's not likely to alter the steady rise of homelessness as Salem residents' biggest concern, or the way it appears to be eroding confidence in City government, as discussed in the City's 2019 Customer Satisfaction Survey.  Maybe the City just needs to keep telling residents homelessness is not the City's problem? 

Finally, with all the news there's been about Ordinance Bill 10-19 (aka Sit-Lie, Jr. or the Sidewalk Behavior Ordinance), we've not reported on the August training event organized by United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley called  "Humanizing Homelessness."  United Way described it as "A training opportunity for local business owners and their staff to acquire better skills for positive outcomes for interactions with homeless people."  The training was sponsored by Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry, The Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters and US Bank.  There was a morning and evening session.  We went to the morning session, which was well attended and well received, though overshadowed by the looming prospect of sit-lie making enforcement the preferred "tool" for downtown businesses facing difficult situations.  United Way currently has no plans for future trainings.

From L: Elizabeth Schrader, Kevin Hill, Breezy Aguirre, Phyllis _______, Kim Hanson

Friday, November 15, 2019

Staff Restrict Sit-Lie Options

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Councilor Andersen says he remains undecided on the bill  
Staff have presented City Council with four options for revising proposed Ordinance Bill 10-19 (aka Sit-Lie, Jr. or Sidewalk Behavior Ordinance) on Monday night.  Council could order one or none of all of them, or they could offer their own.

Notably missing from staff offerings is the option to remove altogether the prohibitions on sitting and lying, which option Councilor Kaser has said she favors.  See Brynelson, T. "Salem councilors consider easing the restrictions proposed to govern sitting, lying on public property" (November 6, 2019, Salem Reporter.); and Brynelson, T. "Salem City Council to discuss 'sit-lie' ordinance in work session Monday."  (November 13, 2019, Salem Reporter.)

The staff options offered for Council's consideration are:

1) Revise camping restrictions to address repeat violations.  Under current City Code, sidewalk camping is not prohibited unless the site becomes a public nuisance, or campers intentionally interfere with a pedestrian. Under Ordinance Bill 10-19, if there's no one present in a sidewalk camp, or if the camper refuses to remove the camp when cited, police have to post the camp for 24 hours prior to removal (see Salem Police Department directive 9.12). The concern is that a cited camper might simply decamp down the block, and thereby evade the 24-hour notice.  Staff propose to revise the ordinance bill to allow police to issue separate citations for each infraction ($250 each).  (Seems like this is merely a clarification.)

2) "Uncouple" violations of the proposed ordinance from the two civil exclusion zones (Downtown Crime Prevention District and North Salem Crime Prevention District) by removing the proposed renumbering and amendments to Salem Revised Code 95.735 and 95.736.  (Councilor Hoy's preferred option.)

3) Change hours of enforcement from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to "align the ordinance with the hours of existing day centers."  (A dubious claim.)

4) Sunset June 1, 2020 unless Council votes to continue the ordinance for an additional period based on review of crime stats (number of citations issued, individuals cited, individuals issued civil exclusion orders, individuals cited for violation of the exclusion order.) (Should be uncontroversial.)

See the full staff report here.

CANDO issued a resolution opposing Ordinance Bill 10-19 in September.  See here.  Wednesday,  November 13, SCAN authorized a letter to the Mayor and Council, opposing Ordinance Bill 10-10.  SCAN is in Councilor Andersen's ward.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Sit-Lie: Mixed Messaging, Expectations and Trust

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston




Salem Connection Vol 10 Issue 31
The City's mixed messaging on sit-lie is causing everyone a good deal of confusion.

Monday, the Mayor announced that there would be a work session at 6p Monday, November 18 to try to get everyone on the same page.  See Brynelson, T. "Salem City Council to discuss 'sit-lie' ordinance in work session Monday."  (November 13, 2019, Salem Reporter.)

City propaganda has claimed sit-lie will "address citywide impacts of behaviors in the public right-of-way" and "ensure all of Salem remains welcoming to all visitors by keeping sidewalks and public spaces clean."  City staff have told the public that this means uniform and consistent enforcement throughout the City.

However, recent reports are that at least two City Councilors who support sit-lie are doing so because Chief Moore has said sit-lie is needed for about a dozen people whose behavior is causing problems -- presumably downtown -- and police lack the means to address it, and that, if sit-lie were to pass as-is, it would be applied with compassion and very selectively and rarely.

So, now people are asking, "Which is true?  Will enforcement be uniform citywide?  Or will it be selective and rare?"

The reports on what the Council's been told echo what Chief Moore told us when we met with him several months ago -- i.e.,  that he believes the vast majority will simply comply with the new law, either on their own, or when warned, and there won't be much need for enforcement (which we take to mean not many citations will need to be issued).  As we didn't recall the Chief saying sit-lie was needed to deal with about a dozen people downtown, we asked him about the reports.  He emailed in reply that the reports were "pretty much what I have stated, both publicly and privately, and to you and Michael, for about three years."

So, there we have it:  sit-lie is intended to address the behavior of 12 individuals, and enforcement will be selective and rare.

Still curious about the dozen behavior problems, we asked Jimmy Jones whether, at any point, the City or Police Department had come to the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) and said, "Look, we've got a dozen or so people downtown who're causing problems we can't control. Here are their names.  Can you target resources toward them and maybe get them stably housed so we don't have to find a reason to put them in jail?"  He said no, he'd not been asked. 

Police have no-showed all five Downtown Good Neighbor Partnership meetings held so far this year.

Police know MWVCAA/The ARCHES Project does all the screening for housing programs (including Salem Housing Authority's Homeless Rental Assistance Program), and police know how to ask for assistance for people living on the streets, so it's very odd that police haven't asked for assistance with this group of people.  Kinda makes you wonder who these people are that the police supposedly can't deal with.  Are they people with names?  Or, more likely, are they merely an estimate of how few will be cited under the ordinance? 

Salem's de facto homeless policy is "trust the police."  Councilors who support sit-lie believe that if Chief Moore says he needs this ordinance, then the City Council should just give it to him.  It doesn't matter what the ordinance says (which is why they haven't bothered to read it).  But what if Chief Moore is wrong?

What if having sit-lie on the books won't be enough to elicit compliance?  The City has revealed no plans to put up signs or otherwise educate the public in the event Council adopts sit-lie.  What if police have to warn/cite in order to gain compliance, as seems likely?  Is Chief Moore prepared to devote resources to that effort?  Other cities that adopted sit-lie laws initially issued numerous citations, gradually decreasing enforcement activity over time -- not because people had got the message, but because enforcement action wasn't having the desired effect.  See, e.g., here and here.

But, if compliance with sit-lie isn't widespread, it's not going to have the desired effect (i.e., result in a "Salem that's welcoming to all visitors by keeping sidewalks and public spaces clean"), and it's not going to reduce complaints from downtown businesses.    

And what if, heaven forfend, Chief Moore's cops are not all as caring and compassionate as he and his senior officers are?  And, let's say there is widespread, dispassionate, enforcement.  There's a substantial likelihood that sit-lie will cause even more people experiencing homelessness to avoid contact with police -- as happened in San Francisco.  Even now, in Salem, stories like this are not uncommon, we just don't hear about them:

My brother was on the way to work, and, as was his habit, he stopped at the Starbucks off of Salem Parkway (2505 Liberty Street, near Spin City Laundromat).  He and a Salem police officer ordered their drinks around the same time and were waiting to get them.  While they were waiting, the officer walked over to a disheveled man at a table quietly warming himself over a cup of coffee, with what appeared to be his belongings beside him.  The officer told the man he was not allowed to loiter and should move on.  My brother said something like, hey, he’s not doing anything, to which the officer responded by telling him to mind his own business.  My brother said that's what he's doing (motioning toward the man bent over his coffee), minding his own business.  The officer asked our friend would he rather the officer come over there and talk to him, to which my brother said something like sure you can talk to me, at which point he was called to get his drink. 
 
Trust between police and their communities is vital.  But trust doesn't mean being naive, or turning a blind eye when procedures aren't followed or discretion is abused.  Even with Chief Moore's reassurances, sit-lie has great potential for abuse, and very little on the up side, despite all the hype in City propaganda about keeping Salem clean and welcoming to all visitors.

Trust requires truthful, consistent messaging.  In 2018, Salem police officer David Smith told the Statesman Journal, "You can understand how frustrating it is for [people experiencing homelessness] when everybody is trying to help them one day, and then the next day everybody wants them to leave.  So to me, I think it's important that we be more consistent in our message."  See Hernandez, L. "Salem police on front line of growing homeless crisis, urge changes."  (June 14, 2018, Statesman Journal.) 

"Salem police...urge changes" in 2018
Maybe Chief Moore thinks he needs sit-lie, or maybe it's Mayor Bennett or City Manager Powers who think Chief Moore needs sit-lie.  We don't really know whose bad idea it is.

What we do know is that, 18 months ago, the Downtown Enforcement Team were not asking for sit-lie.  They were instead focused on a proven strategy -- building relationships.  And they  were asking for a safe place to take people who were intoxicated, for public storage for personal property, and for a 27/7 navigation center.  See Hernandez, L. "Salem police on front line of growing homeless crisis, urge changes."  (June 14, 2018, Statesman Journal.)  To date, the City Council has given the police none of those tools.  And its messaging is nothing close to consistent.

"Trust the police" is not much of a homeless policy, but when the City can't or won't work to give police  appropriate tools, tools they've said they need, and forces them to ask for rusty, unreliable substitutes like sit-lie, the City can hardly claim to be trusting the police.   

San-Francisco has more than 36 "quality of life" laws, including its own sit-lie, passed in 2013.  In 2019, however, the primary strategy of San Francisco police is to "routinely steer[] homeless people to shelters, navigation centers and health services."  The proverbial pendulum has swung away from enforcement tactics like sit-lie because experience has shown they are not effective.

The City Council should be finding ways to support proven strategies like building relationships, not enacting outdated, inhumane and ineffective laws because they apparently can't be bothered to cooperate with providers to address the problem behaviors of twelve individuals.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Sit-Lie Business

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


The City's stated reason for resurrecting sit-lie was increased reports of vandalism and "growing concerns and demands" from business that the City "do something."  This post takes a look at the available evidence supporting these claims.

Salem Crime Stats

"Over the last several months, concerns and complaints from business owners have increased as have reports of vandalism."  (Emphasis added.)  So wrote Kristin Retherford in a July 12, 2019 email, adding, "In response to these growing concerns and demands that the City take action to address behaviors, on July 22, the City Council will be considering an ordinance relating to activities within the public right of way."

CANDO Crime Stats
As the chart above illustrates, however, reports of vandalism in the months prior to July were substantially lower than they were in most of 2018.  Looking at the stats just for CANDO, May saw an increase in vandalism (about 20 incidents) over April and June, but not at the rates seen in August, September or October of 2018.

As for the alleged increase in "concerns and complaints from business owners", well, the City kept no records.  Back in 2017, when the City Council was considering the first sit-lie ordinance, CANDO urged the City to keep track of complaints of downtown businesses and to share them with CANDO and/or the Downtown Advisory Board, so that the problems might be analyzed with law enforcement input, and strategies developed to address them.  For whatever reason, the City chose not to honor the request. 

The lack of concrete data on the number and type of complaints/problems makes it impossible to "work the problem", which is what downtown businesses say they want the City to do.

A year after the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force recommended that the City convene a Downtown Good Neighbor Partnership to facilitate the coordination of homeless services and assist downtown businesses to develop a set of reasonable and mutual behavioral expectations, the City "initiated collaboration meetings between staff, Salem Police Department, service providers, and downtown business and property representatives to provide updates on efforts and improve communication between parties."  That work group was later dubbed the Good Neighbor Partnership.

The first item on the GNP's agenda was Sit-Lie, Jr.  It was not the point from which to start a partnership.  See "City's Community Forum Plan Falters" (August 20, 2019).  If only it could be said that, despite the conflict over Sit-Lie, Jr., the GNP is fulfilling the purpose for which it was formed and making good progress toward service coordination in support of downtown businesses.  However, unfortunately, business and law enforcement have not been cooperating.  Specifically, law enforcement has no-showed all meetings so far, and business has failed repeatedly to provide a list of "scenarios" -- examples of situations they want assistance handling -- which is needed to understand the problem and coordinate an appropriate response.  Might this be because business doesn't need assistance as much as some might think?

A September survey by Salem Main Street Association that some may have hoped would demonstrate widespread support in the business community for Sit-Lie, Jr. failed to make that showing.  See "SMSA Survey" (October 15, 2019).

Staff summary of DAB gathering
A City-sponsored gathering "to educate the downtown business and property owners about the role of the Downtown Advisory Board, key projects, and related parking fund challenges" drew 12 people who were asked "to share their vision for the future redevelopment of the UGM/Saffron sites and feedback on downtown challenges and priorities for how parking fund dollars should be used."  If Sit-Lie, Jr. was discussed at that meeting, it didn't make the staff summary.  
       
CANDO recently spent some time visiting over 70 downtown street-level storefronts and restaurants, inviting folks to come to meetings, and sharing copies of the CANDO Good Neighbood Guide, which offers businesses guidance on dealing with people who appear to be having difficulty meeting their basic needs or appear to be exhibiting disruptive symptoms of mental illness.  During these visits, a few expressed frustration with the City's response to specific problems they'd had, but most did not.  This was surprising, given the City's assertion this past July of "growing concerns and demands relating to activities within the public right of way."  Incidentally, the response to the Guide has been consistently positive.  

Providing safety and security measures was ranked as a high priority (#3) for the use of the City's parking funds (see above).  A number of downtown businesses have taken advantage of the Riverfront Downtown Urban Renewal Area Strategic Grant Program to "address[] homelessness within the RDURA" by preventing crime through environmental design.  As of the end of September, nine businesses had received grants of about $21,000 each, on average, to purchase security cameras, lighting, fencing and trash enclosures.

Many complaints to the City concern public  urination/defecation, which already is unlawful under City code.  The Downtown Enforcement Team has advised CANDO to urge businesses with such concerns to install security cameras and share the footage with the police, so a detective can be assigned and the offense pursued.  Given the availability of funds to purchase and install the cameras, and the willingness of police prosecute violations, the City can expect more businesses to take advantage of a CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) approach.

All the above begs the question what business need Sit-Lie, Jr. answers?  Who, besides a hand full of local business people (e.g., Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Director Tom Hoffert has spoken in favor of it [while saying the Chamber has not taken a position], as have T.J. Sullivan of Huggins Insurance, the CPA John Hawkins, and Tyler Jackson of Jackson's Jewelers) even want it?  We just don't know, and, we suspect, neither does the City Council.