Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Pointless Point in Time Count

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

OHCS's 2019 PITC data "tableau"
Every year, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) organizes volunteers in Marion and Polk counties to survey unsheltered individuals.  The survey requires the volunteers to ask people they've mostly never met a series of highly personal questions, often in exchange for a meal, sleeping bag, tarp or other camping equipment.  This "count" of unsheltered homeless is one part of the annual Homeless Point in Time Count (PITC) that's required by HUD as a condition of receiving Continuum of Care program dollars.  Because it's so labor and resource intensive, HUD requires communities to do the unsheltered count only in odd-numbered years.  MWVCAA, however, conducts the unsheltered count every year.

Last January, "everybody" thought the count had netted a record number of unsheltered homeless -- over 800 -- in Marion and Polk counties.  See Whitworth, W. "Homeless PIT Count shows 20 percent increase in Marion, Polk Counties, with big caveat."  (15 February 2019, Statesman Journal.)

Unfortunately, what was reported to HUD was that Marion and Polk had counted less than 600 unsheltered individuals.  The problem?  The 28-county Rural Oregon Continuum of Care or "ROCC."

As has long been known, ROCC is an organizational disaster that cripples effective homeless services delivery at the local and regional levels, and the weakest of its weak links is its data.  As was reported to the Housing Stability Council this month,

12/6/19 OHCS Memo to Housing Stability Council at 95

This year, after ROCC finished mangling Marion and Polk's 2019 PITC data, it reported to OHCS and HUD that the total number of homeless individuals in Marion and Polk counties was not 1,462 (rough count), but 1,095 (official count).  That is to say, instead of the 20% increase over 2018 reported by the Statesman Journal, the *official* 2019 numbers reflect a decrease.  (The total count in 2018 was 1,218 but OHCS and HUD don't recognize even-year counts.  The last recognized unsheltered count was in 2017 and totaled 1,151 individuals.  See OHCS's 2015-2017 PITC data "tableau.")  To see OHCS's analysis of the official statewide data, see here.

Statesman Journal 1/30/19
ROCC isn't the only problem with the PITC.  As one might imagine, not everyone is comfortable sharing highly personal information with total strangers, as is required by the unsheltered count.  As we reported in "Seven-day PIT Count Nets Record Unsheltered", there was last year "a widespread feeling [among providers and volunteers] that campers are now actively avoiding the annual survey."  But, when we ask those most involved in the annual count whether it wouldn't be better if providers forgot about trying to do the unsheltered survey/counting in the off years, and just spent the last week in January focusing on meeting basic needs and building trust, they all say they want to keep doing it.  Why?  Because they believe there's something about doing "the count" that brings in the volunteers.  In other words, they believe they need to manipulate people to get them to show up. 

Call for volunteers for the 2018 unsheltered PITC
There's no real problem with counting the "sheltered" homeless every year.  That data is fairly easy to pull together, and we should do it as long as HUD requires it.  But, in even years, it makes less and less sense to conduct an unsheltered count.  Especially when HUD doesn't require it, and when there is more reliable data available elsewhere.  According to Jimmy Jones, MWVCAA Executive Director, we know from data collected through ServicePoint, Oregon's Homeless Management Information System, that Salem alone has about 1,800 homeless individuals inside the Urban Growth Boundary, 1,400 of whom are unsheltered (400 in cars, 1,000 outside).  See "Camping Ban for Christmas." 

As we have a very good idea how many unsheltered there are in Salem, there's no justification for sending people in even years into the Canyon or the woods outside Woodburn or Dallas, looking for camps and upsetting people who just want to be left alone.  There's no point in collecting "data" that won't be used.

The 2020 PITC is especially going to be an exercise in futility.  Law enforcement have dispersed (and dispersed, and dispersed) the nearly 200 people who for years lived in the area around Wallace Marine Park.  Last year, they were counted, but they won't be this year.    

In 2020, and in all even years, volunteers should simply be asked to help out at the Salem Community Homeless Connect or the Santiam Outreach Community Center or one of the warming centers in the Polk County or City of Salem warming networks.  If, as Jones has said on multiple occasions, community resources for the homeless are well and truly spread "like butter over warm toast", the answer cannot continue to be, "We've always done it this way."       

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Camping Ban for Christmas

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

 Revised 23 December 2019

Salvation Army Social Services 12/13/19
For people experiencing homelessness, the 2019 holiday season did not bring much comfort, much less joy.

This week, not only did the City start enforcing its camping ban, The Salvation Army closed its doors for ten days just to focus on its "Christmas Toy & Joy Project" over at the Kroc Center.  Too bad for any camper that might want a bed at TSA's 80-bed Lighthouse Shelter, as TSA's not been doing intakes for weeks now, despite being nowhere near full, fueling speculation that TSA intends to close it down come spring.

Across the street in the Inside Out ministries building, United Way has begun operating the 10-bed, low-barrier overnight shelter for women called Safe Sleep.  See Brynelson, T. "Homeless women in Salem get new chance for a safe night indoors."  (December 12, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  United Way hopes to raise $150K for renovations to the building (which is leased for $1/year) that are needed to remodel the kitchen, add a shower and laundry facilities, and allow the shelter to expand to 50 beds.

TSA's Lighthouse Shelter                                                            Inside Out's Safe Sleep

Did we mention there's a staffed, 80-bed shelter (kitchen, showers, laundry) operating at less than half capacity across Front Street? 

After a brief flirt with the bad idea of allowing organized camping on City property (estimated cost for a 40-tent site ~$1M/yr) (see "Will Downtown Host Organized Camping"), the City Council agreed by a 6-3 vote to spend $213K from the City's contingency fund to keep two of the four warming centers (92 spaces) in the Salem Warming Network open every night through March, beginning 1/1/20.  See Brynelson, T. "Salem leaders decide to shelter homeless instead of setting up public camping."  December 10, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  That's about $26 per night per mat.  ($213K/90 = $2,367/92 = $26.)

The overnight warming centers currently open when the mercury drops to 32 degrees.  There are four approved sites:  South Salem Friends Church (capacity 54), First Presbyterian Church (78), Church at the Park (14) and Capital Park Weslyan Church (109).  However, these sites rely heavily on volunteers.  So far this year, Capital Park Weslyan Church has not been able to open.  This means that the City has only 146 out of a possible 255 spaces available in the warming network.

When the Council voted on December 9 to keep two of the four warming centers open every night for 90 days, it was believed that both Church at the Park (capacity 14) and First Presbyterian Church (78) had agreed to expand.  Turns out, however, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church was not 100% on board with the expansion.  See Bach, J. "Salem drops sanctioned homeless camping idea, agrees to pay for warming shelters."  (December 10, 2019, Statesman Journal.)  That left the City with just Church at the Park -- capacity a mere 14 people.

City NOT likely to allow stopgap camping at this WMP parking lot
A December 18 press release announced that City staff "are rapidly exploring other sites for shelter operations by reaching out to other churches in the warming shelter network and looking at other buildings as possible options for a 90-day nightly operation."  On December 20, it was reported that City officials were considering allowing camping on City property "possibly at West Salem's Wallace Marine Park" until a wet shelter site is found.  See Bach, J. "Salem reconsiders homeless tent camping as 'stopgap' until 90-day warming shelter" (December 20, 2019, Statesman Journal.)  

12/23/19 Update:  Statesman Journal reported "City officials...backed away" from sanctioning camping, and seemed to suggest they were at some point considering allowing unsupervised camping on City property.  See Bach, J. "Salem homeless told to leave Oregon Capitol grounds after establishing camp in protest."  (23 December 2019, Statesman Journal.)
In January, City staff will submit plans for a car camping program.  Eugene's program is run by St. Vincent de Paul and costs the city more than $160K/yr.  Jimmy Jones, Executive Director of the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency told the Council on December 9 that Salem has about 400 residents living in cars.  See also Bach, J. "Downtown Salem homeless warned to decamp by Wednesday morning as sweep looms."  (December 17, 2019, Statesman Journal.)  "The homeless population inside the urban growth boundary — not counting people in transitional housing programs or those who are couch surfing — stands at about 1,800 people. That figure includes about 330 in emergency shelters, 400 in cars and 1,000 people outside."  The 330 in emergency shelters doesn't count the 146 warming center spaces that are available when activated.  

Union Gospel Mission hosts the vast majority of those in shelters.  The Men's Mission's capacity is ~100 in summer, with another 48 in winter, and Simonka Place can hold up to 100.  The Salvation Army comes in second with a capacity of 80, however, as noted above, access has lately been limited to about 30.  Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network can shelter up to 14, short term, in church buildings, and the aforementioned Safe Sleep program can shelter 10.  A number of other programs provide shelter beds for certain sub-populations (youth, DV victims).   

TSA gave Safe Sleep 2 beds
It's estimated that between one third and one half of the 1,000 Salem residents living outside would not accept an offer of barracks-style shelter except in extreme conditions.  That means, as a practical matter, Salem reasonably needs another 330 to 500 "duration" shelter spaces (spaces that are available 7 nights/week), just to meet residents' basic needs.

The City's prepared to allow tent-camping until it can provide around 100 duration shelter spaces for three months, and allow car camping if sites can be found.  But a car-camping program will not add shelter spaces, it will only make life more tolerable for those already car-camping.  Same for a tent-camping program, whether or not it's organized.

Let's be clear.  Cars and tents are not housing.  According to HUD, they're not even shelter.  Camping is not a "best practice", it's not "Housing First", and it's surprisingly costly, both for the campers, and for the communities supporting camping.  Ask the City, which paid for one camp's toilets, hand-washing stations, and garbage removal.  Ask the staff of The ARCHES Project, who spent hours picking up trash over the past month, when they needed to be working cases.  Ask the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency, which paid for security to keep campers safe.  Ask the Downtown Enforcement Team and the Salem Housing Authority, who spent hours just trying to keep the lid on.  Ask Community Supported Shelters in Eugene, which pays about $400/mo to support one Safe Spot space.        

The City's desire to site a temporary (90-day) low-barrier shelter site asap has been intensified by pressure from the Governor's Office and other state officials.  It seems safe to say that "everyone" is aghast that the City, having known since 2017 that camping would be banned, did such a poor job of implementation planning.  The City will forever be remembered for sweeping the homeless from its streets and sidewalks the week before Christmas 2019, when there was "no place for them to go." 

If there's any benefit to embarrassing the Governor's Office, it's aid and assistance solving the problem.  The good news is that the City, having failed to find a way to cover the operating costs of the Mayor's sobering center (~$1M), will soon be getting the chance to figure out how to cover the operating costs of a permanent low-barrier shelter or navigation center (~$1M), which is approximately what the City thinks it would cost to operate a *safe* 40-tent organized camping program.  See Brynelson, T. "Salem needs 'navigation center' for homeless, state-backed report said." (December 16, 2019, Salem Reporter.); "Courtney calls for state funding to build shelters in Salem."  (December 20, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  (Salem Reporter says "shelters", but construction and operation costs for just one shelter will easily exceed the $3M to $4M Courtney's promised.)

Courtesy Jimmy Jones, Exec Dir Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency

The implementation of the camping ban upset a lot of residents, much the same way seeing tents downtown upset a lot of people this fall.  But many who've loudly condemned the City's actions and demanded that the City provide people "a place to go" object just as strongly every time the City tries pass a bond measure, raise taxes, or impose a fee.  The City needs to do a much better job of planning, obviously, but it also needs to do a better job informing staff, elected officials and the public about the true costs of maintaining 1,000 Salem residents outside, in places not fit for human habitation, which includes tents and cars, and any temporary "solution" other than housing.  Maybe then the City and the public it serves will get serious about ending homelessness using proven strategies, and not just at Christmas time. 

12/22/19 The Capitol Mall is now occupied.

12/23/19 The Capitol Mall is now unoccupied.  See Brynelson, T. "Homeless campers cleared from Oregon Capitol Mall."  (23 December 2019, Salem Reporter.)

Friday, December 20, 2019

12/17/19 Minutes

Members: Valerie Freeman, Richard McGinty 
Organizations: Raleigh Kirschman, UGM; Tyler Brown and Mark Bulgin, Isaac’s Room
City, County and State Representatives: Officer Kevin Hill; Fire Chief Mike Niblock; Councilor Cara Kaser
Guests: Lamont Smith, Sturgeon Development Partners; Chi Nguyen, Cherriots Board of Directors

The regular meeting of the CANDO Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m., on Tuesday, December 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 October and November meetings were approved unanimously.   

In interested citizen comments, Mark Bulgin offered to answer questions about Ike Box’s application for a retroactive change of use to allow it to operate a coffee shop.  It seems that a 2009 application for a variance of the parking requirements did not include this detail, even though it was agreed to in a pre-site-plan review. 

Councilor Kaser offered to answer questions on the implementation of the City’s new camping ban and said people should listen to what Jimmy Jones, Executive Director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency said at the last CC meetings (begins at 2:26:10).  She reported that he told Council the campers will disperse “and that’s fine”, they will come back for services.  She said she didn’t get the impression that he was concerned (3:20:00).  She said that, although the Council did not direct staff to pursue organized camping, Councilors were waiting to “see what happens with the next 90 days” with the expanded warming program.   

Sergeant Hill reported that the large camp in the 600 block of Commercial Street, as well as other camps in the neighborhood (on Division Street between Liberty and High streets and in the 700 blocks of Marion and Union streets).  He said initially the ban will be complaint-driven. He said implementation involves more than just posting camps -- e.g., he coordinates with providers, contacts campers ahead of time, brings them trash bags, talks with them, and all this takes many hours.  He said that, by tomorrow, some campers will have left, some will be packing, and some have to be encouraged to move. He said to limit the pressure/stress on campers, police, the Marion County Crisis Response Team with QMHPs, Be Bold Street Ministries and ARCHES Project staff will be at the camp before the cleanup crews arrive.  He said campers would be given new sleeping bags and tarps to help them get on their way. He said they can go to the warming centers that are open. Chief Niblock said that 4 sites had been approved as warming centers: South Salem Friends Church (54), First Presbyterian Church (78), Church at the Park (14) and Capital Park Weslyan Church (109).  (Note: the warming centers are staffed mostly by volunteers. A thin volunteer base has meant Capital Park Weslyan Church has not been able to open, so only 146 out of a possible 255 spaces have been available.) 

The board heard presentations by Lamont Smith on the construction of the Holman Riverfront Park Hotel and by Chief Niblock, Salem Fire Department, on the need to increase the City’s revenue.  

Michael Livingston’s motion to take a position on organized camping on City property within CANDO passed unanimously.  Michael will draft a proposed resolution for the board’s consideration in January.  

There being no other business before the board, the Chair adjourned the meeting at 7:17 p.m.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Will Downtown Host Organized Camping?

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

November 23, 2019 News
After years of removing campers under strained legal theories like parking strips = City parks and the obligation to maintain = the right to exclude, police will finally have  bona fide legal authority to eject campers from City rights-of-way, beginning December 16, 2020.

Violations will not be "enumerated offenses" which require exclusion if committed in a Crime Prevention District.  See Brynelson, T.  "Salem City Council approves sidewalk conduct ordinance without sit-lie aspect." (November 25, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  See Bach, J. "Homeless not banned from sitting, lying on Salem sidewalks." (November 25, 2019, Statesman Journal.)

The enactment of the camping ban was a partial victory for Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Director Tom Hoffert and Board President T.J. Sullivan, who told Council on behalf of the Chamber that Ordinance Bill 10-19 was "a critical step towards ensuring a safe and welcoming community."  They were joined on November 25th by seven others who supported the bill.  All other public comment (34 people at the November 25 meeting, and 12 at the December 2 meeting) strongly opposed it.  Hoffert also told Council that the Chamber was "engaged in assisting the complex coordination required to find solutions and provide access to needed services" through the Good Neighbor Partnership.

Tom Hoffert at 11/25/19 CC meeting
When Hoffert had finished addressing the Council, Councilor Lewis asked him if he would be willing to ask his board to work with other organizations to bring forward a bond measure that would allow the City to do what's needed in this area.  Hoffert said he would "take that challenge forward." 

Hoffert blogged recently that "Salem businesses are actively supporting our homeless service provider organizations, notably partnerships with Community Action Agency’s ARCHES Project, Union Gospel Mission and their Simonka Place for Women & Children, Northwest Human Services’ HOAP and the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley."  See the November 22, 2019 Public Policy Blog post here.  We asked him whether the partnerships he referred to in the blog  meant the Good Neighbor Partnership, or something else.  He did not respond.

Tomorrow, Monday, December 9, Council will receive a staff report that includes recommendations for how the City can both implement the camping ban, and tell campers who can't or won't go to the Union Gospel Mission or Lighthouse shelters, "you can go here."  See Brynelson, T. "Salem bans open camping, and now seeks a place to host it." (December 3, 2019, Salem Reporter); Bach, J. "Salem may set aside City property for homeless."  (December 2, 2019, Statesman Journal.)  If the "here" is an area where camping is allowed, it's likely to be some place downtown, in the vicinity of Marion Square Park, if not inside the park itself.  It will have to be supported with toilets, hand washing stations, copious trash receptacles and security, both environmental and human.  It will have to meet code requirements (e.g., SRC Chapter 98) on a continuous basis.  It will be expensive to maintain, it will create tremendous liability for the City, and it will not end anyone's homelessness.

Contrary to what some, including Councilor Nordyke, seem to believe, tents are not housing; they're not even considered shelter. 

Also Monday night, Council probably will also ask staff for a report that includes recommendations for a car-camping program.  See Bach, J. "Homeless car camping plan considered by Salem city councilor."  (December 5, 2019, Statesman Journal.)  Brynelson, T. "Salem official eyes organized camping for people who live in vehicles." (December 6, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  Eugene's program costs the City about $165K per year.  The sites are scattered throughout the City.

In the absence of some alternative that's 100% volunteer-run (like Safe Sleep United, a women-only shelter that's presently due to open December 15), or mostly volunteer-run (like the Salem Warming Network) the Salem City Council is going to have to make some hard choices.  Where's the money going to come from?  Not the Chamber.  More like the Homeless Rental Assistance Program, which actually ends homelessness.  

Let's face it.  There is zero chance a bunch of amateurs can throw together a safe camping program before the camping ban goes into effect.  Zeeee-Row.  Staff know it.  Council know it.

So, there's a substantial danger that, tomorrow night, Councilors Hoy and Kaser, who started this whole mess last summer by signaling their willingness to endorse sit-lie, might seek to expiate their sin through some kind of grand gesture involving General Fund dollars, and drag a majority of soft-headed councilors with them.

But, one has to wonder, didn't Kaser and Hoy see this coming in July?  Or August?  Or September?  Or October?  If they didn't, what on earth were they thinking would happen when they got their camping ban?  They should have let staff know months ago what they wanted to have happen in the way of mitigation.  If they even genuinely want mitigation, and are not just going through the motions in response to public outcry.  Uhmmmm, yeah.  This is not the way to make sound public policy.

12/9/19 Update:  ten sites made the list, including two in CANDO. Site  requirements and cost estimates (per site);  9 chemical toilets and wash facilities for 24/7 services at $2,500 a month. Trash dumpsters and removal $1,500 a month.  Tents $400 each (durable tents used for emergency situations).  Temporary fencing $500 a month for rental or approximately $20,000 for permanent.  Lighting for safety and security $200 a month. Camp building for case manager, security, or site monitor $15,000 to $20,000 1-time expense.  Staffing to administer the site and provide security 24/7 would bring the total estimated cost to about $1M a year, per the staff report and comments at the City Council meeting. 

At the meeting, although a majority of Council seemed willing to pay for six months, they were frustrated by the news  that it would take 60-90 days stand up a safe program.  Council opted instead to expand two of the warming centers (First Presbyterian and Church at the Park) to a duration model (open every night, regardless of temperature), at a cost of $213K.  Nordyke, Kaser and Andersen told Salem Reporter a campground could still be considered at a later date.  See Brynelston, T. "Salem leaders decide to shelter homeless instead of setting up public camping." December 9, 2019, Salem Reporter.)  Camping ban effective date of December 16 did not change.           

Saturday, December 7, 2019

"Too Long...Don't Get it"

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

"Maybe...I've been around too long...I just don't get it"
Mayor Bennett isn't the only City leader who doesn't get it, but he's the only one, so far, to admit he doesn't get it.

Yes, we know he doesn't really think he doesn't get it.  He thinks the Council members who voted against sit-lie don't get it.  But he's wrong.  It is he who is clueless, and here's how, not in order of importance:

He, a privileged white male, thinks he can justify a ban on sitting and lying on sidewalks with the argument, "Look, these people are choosing to be homeless."

He, a privileged white male, thinks the Council should approve and not question the need for a sit-lie ban just because his buddy the Chief of Police says he needs it.

He, a privileged white male, is "amazed" 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, despite having just been informed by the sole person of color on the Council that she had received such complaints and found them credible.

He, a privileged white male, is "amazed" that "there's so much willingness to say 'no'" to what amounts to a "trust the police" policy that's opposed by Latinos Unidos Siempre, Mano a Mano, PCUN, RJOC, American Friends Service Committee, Planned Parenthood, Safe Routes Partnership, Disability Rights Oregon, Oregon Law Center, the Homeless Coalition, 4 Salem neighborhood associations, almost 400 Salem residents with lived experience, and the overwhelming majority of those who offered public comment at three public forums and the City Council session on November 25, 2019.

He, a privileged white male, thinks it's somehow appropriate or funny, after a female Councilor, the only person of color on the Council, is applauded for sharing her experience of homelessness as a result of domestic violence and asking her colleagues to consider the impact of sit-lie of those who are already vulnerable and traumatized, to turn to the Council and say, "Do you want to vote? Or would you like to hear more clapping?"

He, a privileged white male, views sit-lie as being simply about "people in the homeless community behaving badly" and questions of who will be affected and where they came from in the homeless community as being "absolutely unrelated."

He, a privileged white male, expects to bring sit-lie back to Council a third time if "we continue to have the kind of behavioral issues", despite a complete absence of evidence that laws aimed at social control are an effective means for dealing with the behaviors of those who lack the resources to meet their basic needs.

Yes, based on his performance in this particular area, the Mayor has been around too long and doesn't get it.  But then, any amount of time in public service is too long for someone who doesn't get it.  Oh, and another thing, Mayor Bennett.  Salem does not have the largest Housing First program in Oregon.  It's perhaps the largest outside Portland and Eugene, but not in Oregon.  See, e.g., here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Will Code Enforcement Trump Council?

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

Becky Beaman has a camping plan
Becky Beaman, one of 17 offering public comment on Ordinance Bill 10-19 (now mainly a camping ban) Monday night, has a plan for the City to allow one tent camp and one car camp in each Ward.  See here pp 6-20.  The only problem is, she needs the consent of the property owners and someone to run the program(s).  Sound familiar?  If not, see "Sanctioned Camping" for a history of such efforts in Salem.

To the surprise of many, Council amended the camping ban to make an exception for areas designated by the City (Nordyke), and delayed  enactment for two weeks to allow City staff to identify City property suitable for camping (Andersen).  See Brynelson, T. "Salem bans open camping, and now seeks a place to host it." (December 3, 2019, Salem Reporter); Bach, J. "Salem may set aside City property for homeless."  (December 2, 2019, Statesman Journal).  The amendments signaled a   willingness of a majority of Council to consider, over Mayor Bennett's dead body, allowing what Councilor Kaser refers to as "organized camping" on City property.  The last time Councilor Kaser asked the City to consider allowing camping on City property, the idea was shot down  immediately, mainly by Salem Police.

Kinda makes you wonder what Chief Moore is thinking now.  He goes to Council seeking unfettered discretion to police people for sitting and lying on sidewalks and a simple camping ban, and now he's looking at having to police an impromptu, amateur camping program.  He's got to wonder, "Can this be happening?"

But consider this:  not a single public comment (out of 16 written and 17 oral) offered Monday night supported the camping ban.  Not one.  Made playing to the opposition, so filled with moral conviction, almost inevitable.        

Council directed staff to return next Monday (December 9) with a list of suitable properties and some kind of staff recommendation to guide use.  Assuming they are able to ID one or more properties by next Monday, the meeting should be very interesting to watch.  What limitations will staff propose?  What kind of supports will the Council expect the City to provide and for how long?  How is providing those supports likely to affect various departmental budgets, if at all?  What kind of liability will the City have to assume?  Who, if anyone, will step forward to implement the program?  What will the neighbors and neighborhood association have to say?

Council's actions are based on the premise that the campers who will be displaced by the camping ban, primarily the 60+ people camping in the 600 block of Commercial, near The ARCHES Project, "have nowhere to go" (having previously been driven downtown from the area around Wallace Marine Park).

Problem is, those campers are going to be rousted, dispersed and decamped 24-48 hours after the Neighborhood Enhancement Division declares the camps a public nuisance under SRC Chapter 50.800, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, based on Brady Rogers' statements to the Council last night.  Jimmy Jones, the Executive Director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, says campers when rousted just "scatter."  In other words, they're not waiting around two weeks for the City to organize a camping program.

And there goes Council's justification for emergency measures to allow camping on City property.

All this was evident last night, of course, but everyone was either feeling triumphant, or scrambling to understand how they'd just been sandbagged, so the pointlessness of it all didn't quite sink in.  Welcome to Salem, where there is no comprehensive policy on homelessness, and everything ends up being an emergency. 

12/4/19 Update:  after consultation with police, the Urban Development Department and staff of the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency, it appears Rogers has decided not to declare the camps in the 600 block of Commercial, near The ARCHES Project, a public nuisance, but instead to wait until such time as the camping ban takes effect on the 16th before posting.  It remains highly unlikely that a viable camping program will be in place by that time.  See Brynelson, T. "Tents around The ARCHES Project may stand until camping ban takes effect."  (December 4, 2019, Salem Reporter.)

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.  (The Statesman Journal reports the current asking prices is $4.15M.) 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 DeMeyer apparently were inspired to revive the project by the controversy over the sit-lie ordinance.  Judging by their "business plan" for "Hope Crest", 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.  Pfeifer wants 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 science says about the success rate of projects like "Hope Crest" when it comes to getting people stably housed.  Better yet, forego the meeting altogether, and watch this video of Ian De Jong speaking to a group of homeless housing providers instead.

12/7/19  According to a report by the Statesman Journal, about 50 people showed up for the meeting (of 600 invited) and "a broad charitable source" has shown interest in funding operations for the first two years (United Way is not interested).  The two have also pitched to the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.  SJ quotes DeMeyer as saying she'd "like to see this done in 90 days."  See Bach, J. and Lynn, C. "Duo proposes using former youth corrections campus as haven for Salem's homeless." (December 6, 2019, Statesman Journal.)  Also see the Salem Breakfast on Bikes blog "A Modern Poor Farm?  Concept of Hillcrest to Hope Crest Misses on Transport." ("Altogether this seems like a risky and costly project that is unlikely to help people or to help Salem.") 

12/17/19 from the City Manager's update:

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."