Saturday, July 28, 2018

DHSTF Smothers Son of Sit-Lie

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


[Originally published under the title, "Task Force to Consider Recommending Son of Sit-Lie."]

At its final meeting, the Task Force that was created as an alternative to enacting the first sit-lie ordinance was asked to recommend that the Council enact Son of Sit-Lie.

Recommendation: Assess Salem codes and ordinances to ensure that the City is appropriately balancing the rights of those who live, work, and shop in our downtown, and providing the City of Salem Police Department with the tools they need to address behaviors that negatively impact others.
Option a. Revise Salem’s ordinances to provide restrictions to camping or storing personal items on downtown sidewalks during business hours. 

Despite Ordinance No. 22-17's very public execution almost a year ago, and significant public opposition to its revival since then, City staff included anti-camping/storage measures as an "option" that the Task Force and City Council should (re)consider in the draft recommendations that were presented to the Task Force at its final meeting.  (The draft recommendations can be found here.)

Mayor Bennett was present for the meeting, and sat at the Task Force table, letting his preferences be known. 

But, much to his displeasure, the Task Force didn't go for it.  In the end, the business people who believe the police don't have "the tools they need to address behaviors that negatively impact others" either didn't show up, or wouldn't advocate publicly for the "enforcement" they've been privately demanding.

The Mayor was visibly and understandably annoyed after the Task Force effectively smothered the "" option by combining it with a proposed "Good Neighbor Partnership", which, after the meeting, he summed up as "why can't we all get along." 

Staff moved the "enforcement" option forward in the final recommendation, despite the Task Force's forceful rejection.   

Final Draft Recommendation - 1 added, 2 moved up, 3 amended

As a reminder, the City said the Task Force would:
1. address specific impacts of homelessness in downtown Salem including trash, health, hygiene, and perceptions of safety,
2. work toward identifying specific, measurable, and time-bound solutions that make the downtown inviting and welcoming to all Salem residents and visitors,
3. ensure that solutions equitably address the rights of downtown customers, visitors, businesses, property owners, and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Friday, July 27, 2018

"It'd be nice if my employees knew what to do."

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


The great thing about our current economic system is that there is nothing so odious that it cannot become a legitimate source of income for someone.  War, addiction, anthropomorphic climate change, extreme poverty, even homelessness.

Used to be, if a person wanted to work with people experiencing homelessness, s/he had to become a member of the clergy, or work unpaid.  Then, starting in the 80s and 90s, a person might find a low-paying position with a non-profit dedicated to that kind of work.  Nowadays, though, it's possible not only to find a job at decent pay, but to make a career out of it.

How's that for progress?

All bitterness aside, the fact that today, especially in urban areas like Salem-Keizer, we've now got all these relative experts --  well, that's actually a good thing.  These people are program managers, case managers, system navigators, case navigators, housing navigators, screeners, housing stability coordinators, coordinated entry specialists, housing specialists, housing services coordinators, support specialists, peer support specialists and service integration coordinators.  And that's not even all.
What has changed?

Society has advanced to the point where homelessness and living at risk of homelessness is recognized as a condition, something akin to a wound or pneumonia or diabetes, that can be most effectively treated using a widely-framed medical model in a system of integrated care.

Please note the qualifier "widely-framed" before registering outraged disagreement about the effectiveness of the medical model in the comments section.  We are not talking about the model's earliest iteration, which tended to take a mechanistic view of the individual as the sum of his curable diseases, while  ignoring his state of mind, history of trauma, family and environment.   
This enlightened medical model recognizes that people don't always act sensibly, and might from time to time need help making better choices.  Choices like eating or drinking or smoking less, exercising more, etc., are obvious examples.  Less obvious examples might be showering regularly or sleeping indoors or taking prescribed medication despite negative side effects. 

Over time, research has shown what most people already know from personal experience -- i.e, that unconditional help in the form of information, encouragement, and opportunity are what move a person toward healthier choices, not fear, humiliation, isolation, rejection, insult or pity, which are the daily diet of the chronically homeless.

The gradual response to this awareness in the professional community has been toward integrated programs of care designed to provide the former and avoid, insofar as is humanly possible, reproducing the latter.  These newly-designed programs require trained workers in a variety of positions, hence the new employment opportunities for those wanting to work with people experiencing homelessness.

So, you may be wondering, why is it downtown  businesses can't contact one of these trained workers, instead of the police, when they need help dealing with incivilities and disruptive behavior?  That's a good question.

One reason is that they don't know whom to contact, besides the police.  As Olivia's owner and Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force member, Sandy Powell, said at the first task force meeting, "I don't think we really know what resources are available, and how we can help...It'd be nice if we knew those resources...if my employees knew what to do." 

Another reason is that the local continuum of care has significant gaps, a major one being "street outreach" workers.  These are workers whose primary aim is to bring people off the streets and get them connected to services.  (Aka "engaged in" services, a euphemism for when a person has managed to overcome shame and abject hopelessness sufficiently to face the prospect of further shame and disappointment as they try to better their situation.)  Whether a person engages in services has a great deal to do with what sort of services are available.  In Salem, services for some populations are severely limited, especially the chronically homeless, who tend to live downtown.  So, street outreach workers downtown might sometimes have to function as street "case managers", checking in on folks, seeing where they are on MWVCAA's housing wait list, advocating for them, etc.  

The Union Gospel Mission has what it calls a "Search & Rescue Team" that travels around to the camps, but it's pretty informal.  Northwest Human Services' HOST program does some limited "street outreach", but it's oriented toward youth.  Maybe, probably, if they were asked to, local providers could pull together an outreach program so businesses had someone besides the police to call, especially if local businesses would help to support such a program financially.  But, as far as we know, no one has asked them to do that.   So, instead, businesses call the police, who are trained on law enforcement, not on working with the homeless. 

Listen to Ronal Serpas's Remarks Here
The arrangement really doesn't make much sense, and the police know it.  As Ronal Serpas, a former police chief put it,

A lot of America has empathy for people, but they don't have a lot of patience.  So the question becomes, "I want you to remove these people from in front of my business.  I want you to remove these people from in front of the park where I bring my children.  I want you to remove these people from in front of my home.   And, when they commit incivilities that are also violations of the law, I expect you to do something about it."  
One of our sergeants was interviewed on television, and it stunned me when he said it, and it remains with me to this day.  He said to the television news reporter, who was potentially putting him in the box of, "You must really get off on arresting these people."  And he said, "Ma'am, let me be perfectly clear with you."  He said, "I am giving people a life sentence, two days at a time, and I hate it.  It's not what I signed up for.  It's not why I became a police officer.  But in our community, the only alternative we have for these many events, [is] to bring people to jail.  They go to jail, two days later, they recover enough to be back out on the street, and then I see them again on day four."
Now, that is absolutely what is going on in America...Officers don't have anything but the back of their car, and that is a solution for no one. 

Ron Bruno, a law enforcement official who developed a crisis response team for Salt Lake County, Utah, has observed that the vast majority of 911 calls concerning someone experiencing a mental health crisis do not require law enforcement.  He asks, "So why do we keep opening that door?  Because every time law enforcement shows up on the scene, you are bringing the justice system."

One solution would be to train teams of law enforcement officials to the point that they become experts on the resources in the community and partners with providers, so that they become, in effect, outreach workers.  That's kind of what's been done with the Downtown Enforcement Team, but is this really the best way to go? 

It wouldn't seem so.  As Miriam Krinsky observed, "Our criminal justice system is filling a space that our mental health and public health systems need to be filling."  She suggests that the more the criminal justice system does to fill that space, even if they do it imperfectly, the less likely it is that the mental and public health sectors will step up.  Doesn't it make more sense to ask the mental and public health sectors to step up?  For the City (and the County) to figure out what would that take, and help make that happen?  

August 1 Agenda
The sixth and supposedly final meeting of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force has been scheduled for August 1. At one point, the purpose of this meeting was to receive the results of staff research, which the task force was then going to use to formulate recommendations.

Now, however, it appears recommendations will be "presented", and the task force will then discuss them.

Presumably, the recommendations will be detailed versions of what was discussed at the public hearing on June 13.  Toilets, sanitation, a contact list, showers/laundry, behavior expectations, tougher laws, work.  

June 13 Agenda
It's doubtful, but not impossible, we will see in connection with item c, a recommendation to direct staff to work with local providers in developing an outreach program or team, so businesses have someone besides the police to call when they encounter disruptive behavior, and to work with local businesses on how they might support such a program financially.

More likely, however, the item c recommendation will be just what's indicated in the June 13 agenda -- a list of numbers from the 2-1-1 website, which the business owner or employee won't have the knowledge or expertise to navigate, and will cause him or her to become even more frustrated before s/he finally ends up calling the police, even though the situation doesn't require law enforcement.

Item f will doubtless remain a recommendation, and remain vague, because, although everyone pretty much knows that law enforcement isn't a good response to homelessness, we also don't have much else.  Including patience.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

7/17/18 Minutes

Members: Bill Thorp, Valorie Freeman, M. Bryant Baird, Paul Gehlar
Organizations: Denyc Boles, Salem Health; Lori Beamer and Jayne Downing, Center for Hope and Safety; Raleigh Kirshman, Union Gospel Mission
City and County Representatives: Darron Mumey, Salem Police Department; Stacy Nelson, Public Works; Councilor Cara Kaser
Guests: none

The regular meeting of the CANDO Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem.  The Chair and Secretary-Treasurer were present.

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

Officer Mumey of the Salem Downtown Enforcement Team reported that, aside from three sets of kids becoming separated from their parents, there were no problems at this year’s Cherry Fest NW, operated by the Hoopla Association.  The festival had a beefed-up private security presence to accompany the newly permitted sale of hard liquor.  Likewise, River Rock went smoothly, except for one individual who had to be persuaded he did not require the lead singer’s autograph.  Hoopla 2018 tips off August 4th.  Everyone was reminded to be careful driving, and not to let the warm weather and long days cause us to relax behind the wheel.  He said there are nine individuals currently enrolled in the LEAD program, which no longer requires a person be criminally charged in order to participate.  Questions for Officer Mumey concerned the need for social service outreach to individuals gathering near the Center Street Safeway, and whom to call about graffiti in the neighborhood.     

Councilor Kaser reported that a rise in construction costs for the new public safety facility is requiring the City to consider using $2M in urban renewal funds to cover certain public/community amenities, specifically, a large community meeting room, restrooms, the plaza in front of the facility and artwork.  The sixth meeting of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force still has not been scheduled due to lack of meeting space, but she hopes it will take place by month’s end. [Secretary's note: the meeting has since been scheduled for 6p, August 1, Regional Public Library, Anderson Room.]  The purpose of the meeting will be to develop recommendations to the City Council. UGM CEO Dan Clem has agreed to meet with the neighborhood and business groups to work out the details of a good neighbor agreement, which she wants reduced to a signed writing, and followed by regular check-in meetings.  She thinks the City might be willing to act as convenor. The City Council adopted the State Street Corridor Plan, and Councilor Kaser intends to move to have it implemented as soon as practicable.   

In public comment, Paul Ghelar shared design drawings and floor plans for the four-story mixed-use building under construction at the corner of Front and Court Streets.  It will be called The Court Yard, and provide 40 1-2 bedroom apartments downtown. CB Two’s drawing below.

Also in public comment, the Chair passed along information given him about the 2018 High Street Hustle, which will take place August 11th, and Denyc Boles responded to CANDO’s concerns about cigarette butts and other litter accumulating on the CANDO side of the Winter Street bridge, saying there had been a misunderstanding with the City about how far the no-smoking zone extended.  (It extends all the way to Pringle Pkway/Bellevue.) She assured the board that the problem would be addressed through a campaign beginning August 1. A trash receptacle will also be placed in the area. Boles also shared that signs had been ordered and parking on the east side of Church street would be limited to three hours, unpaid, within the next couple of weeks.  

The board heard presentations by Stacy Nelson on the City’s Clean Streams and Clear Choices Initiative, and by Jayne Downing about the Center for Hope and Safety’s development of the old Greyhound Bus station next door, which will soon be razed to make room for Hope Plaza, a three-story, mixed-use building intended to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual exploitation no longer under safety threats.  The project, which is set to begin construction in 2020, envisions first floor businesses offering services such as job training. The upper floors will consist of meeting rooms and 20 low-income apartments, with an interior courtyard.

In new business, Sarah Owens’s motion to submit a letter of intent to apply for a Salem Parks Improvement Fund grant to install bike fixit and mutt-mitt stations in the vicinity of the Salem Convention Center passed unanimously, with the understanding that Parks Chair Erma Hoffman would work with the appropriate agencies to carry the project through to completion.

There being no other business before the board, the Chair adjourned the meeting at 7:07 p.m.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Adult Day Shelter Finally Opens Downtown

Revised: January 2019

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


Waiting for Glass at The ARCHES Project's New Day Shelter
A mere 382 days after The ARCHES Project closed down its Madison Street day shelter, the new shelter at 615 Commercial Street NE is now open and available to consumers, although it still does not have laundry, shower or kitchen facilities.  

The shelter would have opened the week of the 9th, had the glass fire doors not been shipped without the glass, as the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA)'s Community Resource Program (CRP) Director Jimmy Jones explained to Michael on Wednesday, when we dropped by for a few pictures.  Glass arrived Saturday, and the shelter was able to open Tuesday, July 17, following 3 consecutive days of extreme heat.  Hours are 8:30 to 3, M-F.  Max occupancy is 98.

The opening of the day shelter was not the grand affair that accompanied the opening of the co-located Veterans Service Office earlier in the month.  No dignitaries, ribbon-cutting speeches, or crudités -- just sign in, please, for your white-bread sandwich in a sack, which, if you like, you may now eat inside.  [Photo below:  dignitaries at the VSO opening ceremonies on the second floor included State Rep. Paul Evans (tall guy), Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler (red), ORDVA Director Sheronne Blasi (to Wheeler's left) and Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson (seated).]
VSO Opening July 1, 2018 
To recap for background, MWVCAA purchased the facility at 615 Commercial Street NE in June 2017 for $2.1M, using ~$.5M in state homeless assistance funds (SHAP and EHA) as a down payment.  The balance was seller-financed at 6%, with one quarter-million balloon payment due in 2018, and another in 2019.  Jones had said earlier this year that additional homeless assistance funds would be used to cover the 2018 balloon payment but said recently that those funds would not be used.  Rather, he said, "both the balloon payments and the mortgage payments" would be paid with "unrestricted agency dollars."  He declined to name the source of those dollars.  A review of all MWVCAA's funding sources for PY 2016 (the last year available) found less than $250K in private donations, which might or might not have been restricted.  All the rest was in the form of government grants, which are almost always restricted.  MWVCAA previously has lamented its lack of access to unrestricted funding as a reason for not being able to open winter warming shelters on a more frequent basis.

To renovate the first floor of the facility (as it could not be used as a shelter without extensive renovation) MWVCAA asked to use, and OHCS approved, an additional $.5M in FY 2017-19 homeless assistance funds.  The chart summaries below show how Oregon's homeless assistance funds are distributed statewide (by statute, the funds go to Community Action Agencies).  For an OHCS report on the CAAs' use of SHAP and EHA funds, follow the link in the caption.

Housing Stability Council July Meeting Materials beginning at 35
Last winter, WVCH gave MWVCAA $65K to pay for a Co-Location Services Director at its new facility, which MWVCAA sometimes refers to as the Marion County Resource Center.  Since then, MWVCAA has added Josh Lair, Marion County's LEAD program liason, a Marion County Health Department worker 2x month to deal with the recent uptick in Hep C cases among homeless IV drug users), and of course, the VSO.  The Oregon Law Center, which was reported last January as sharing space in the Center, is there by appointment.  The ARCHES Project, OHA-OHOP (housing for people with HIV/AIDS) and Easter Seals (veterans employment services) were already sharing space and are still doing so.  It would seem there's still quite a ways to go before the facility becomes a true one-stop shop or resource center for people experiencing homelessness, but at least a piece of it finally can be used as a shelter for part of the day.

The opening of the day shelter marks the end of Phase 1 of construction.  Phases II (sprinkler system, kitchen, showers, laundry) and III (sobering center), which Jones says they plan to complete together now that necessary funds have been secured, are expected to begin soon.  (As of January 2019, construction has not begun.)

Jimmy Jones, Michael Livingston & Melissa Baurer Tour 1st Floor
Jones told us constructing the day shelter "shell" cost about $107K.  The remaining construction will take more time and, of course, cost more money.  The building's new uses (showers, laundry, kitchen, sobering center) have made sewer capacity an issue, and will require breaking through the concrete floor to replace pipes and fittings at an additional cost of ~$150K over and above original estimates.  Fortunately for MWVCAA, the City of Salem is providing ~$300K in federal funding and the state legislature has promised another ~$400K, in addition to the homeless assistance funds approved by OHCS for "Rehab/Conversion" (see above.)

A "soft opening" of the "day center" is planned for July 31.  In case anyone is wondering, a soft opening is an informal opening that takes place without much publicity, before the official opening.  Presumably, the "official opening" will take place after construction is complete, which Jones said in July could be November.  "That's when the City wants the sobering center ready", he told us in July.  However, as of January 10, 2019, the estimate on sobering center operating costs has jumped almost $300K to $950K, with only $400K committed.  If the sobering station project does not move forward, Jones says the space will likely be renovated for offices.

As we've had several questions about the history of the Commercial Street facility, here's a recap, beginning in 2009.  (We don't know when MWVCAA first started The ARCHES Project.)

circa Nov 2009 - The ARCHES Project opened at 1164 Madison St NE ( shelter, shower, laundry, commercial kitchen, offices)

circa Jun 28 2017 - closed Madison St, opened at 615 Commercial St NE (offices offering some services, but no shelter, showers, laundry or kitchen)

July 17, 2018 - opened day shelter at 615 Commercial St NE, 8:30 to 3, M-F (still no showers, laundry or kitchen)

as of 1/10/19, construction not scheduled to begin  - showers, laundry, kitchen and sobering center.

Update:  see "City to Build Despite Ops Funding Gap." (25 January 2019.) (Projecting that construction might be completed by mid summer.)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Homeless Program Coordinator's Year 1 Work Plan

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Homeless Initiative Program Coordinator Ali Treichel with Chart
In July 2018, Marion County issued a report on the implementation of the strategic plan adopted by the Mid-Willamette Hopeless Initiative Task Force back in February 2017, about sixteen months ago.  It looks an awful lot like the report issued last fall.

The report introduced MWHI Program Coordinator Ali Treichel, who began work at the end of January, and would quit in early November.

The report featured the ARCHES Project renovations, the 100-day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness, and Family Promise's new permanent supportive housing program, which (along with Mountain West's Cornerstone Apartments project, Marion County's LEAD program, and Westcare's transitional housing program for veterans) it characterizes as "significant progress on the strategic plan", even though all those projects were developed independently of the Task Force, and have progressed without the assistance of either Treichel, or her steering committee.

The steering committee approved a plan of work that consisted largely of talking to people and mapping/analyzing systems -- something one might have thought the Task Force would have accomplished in 2016.  Reports were due in October, according to the work plan, but not all were completed before Treichel's departure.  Marion County and the City of Salem both set aside funds to cover the coordinator position a second year, at a total cost of ~$100K. 

Full Plan Here
In July, Treichel said she was analyzing "issues, ideas, and potential solutions against best practice."  "Best practice" in the context of homelessness is distinguishable from "promising" and "emerging" practice and has been described as,

[A]n intervention, method or technique that has consistently been proven effective through the most rigorous scientific research (especially conducted by independent researchers) and which has been replicated across several cases or examples. To be a ‘best practice’, an intervention must be able to show that it produces better results than other approaches and that it is a practice that can potentially be adapted with success in other contexts and/or scaled up to a systems-wide approach. In other words, there is a sufficient body of evidence that allows us to confidently say that the described practice is a generalizable example of something that works. It should be noted that some interventions might demonstrate scientific rigor, but never be generalizable in other contexts.     

If the steering committee holds true to this standard, it will, presumably, have to forego prioritizing  things like financial literacy, curbing panhandling, and sobering, which are, at best, unproven (that is, neither best, nor promising, nor emerging) methods for addressing homelessness.

Fall 2017 Update

Summer 2018 Update
At left and right are bits of the last two reports  (same photos, different reports).

Marion County appears to have  stopped updating the MWHITF web page, so if you want to follow develop-ments, you'll need to look on the MWVCOG website for  meeting agendas, minutes,  work plan, and the revised strategic plan.

The steering committee is led by Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark, who, in April of this year, "noted progress being made", according to the minutes of the meeting.  Clark has said she believes increased awareness of homelessness in the community has led to "increased complaints, unfortunately."

The other elected official on the steering committee is Marion County Commissioner Janet Clark, also a conservative.  COG's Executive Director, Sean O'Day, is on the committee, along with two city managers (David Clyne of Independence and Scott McClure of Monmouth) and one urban development director (Kristin Retherford of Salem).

The one to watch is Kristin Retherford.  She's become the City's de facto point person on the City's response to its homelessness issues.  In addition to being the City's rep on the steering committee, a whole lot of federal money (Urban Renewal, HOME, CDBG) runs through her department.  In addition to those federal programs, she oversaw the Community Services and Housing Commission, until SRC Chapter 20G was repealed in January 2019, and she facilitated the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force.  Separate and apart from the Housing Authority, what Retherford thinks, believes and knows about homelessness and homeless services delivery influences the City far more than any set of maps, plans or reports likely to come out of the steering committee.