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HNA Meeting Minutes for January 2, 2019

Hillsdale Neighborhood Association Meeting

January 2, 2019

Multnomah County Library -- Hillsdale

 

16 Members Attending, including 13 Members of the Board

Don Baack

Barbara Bowers

Glenn Bridger

Matt DeRosa

Jose Gamero

Joan Hamilton

Robert Hamilton

Tatiana Lifshitz

Rick Meigs

Leslie Pohl-Kosbau

William Reese

Andrea Wall

Eric Wilhelm

 

No Action Items.

 

- - - -

 

The meeting began at 6:30 pm. Matt DeRosa chaired. Members introduced themselves.

 

Don Baack suggested modifying signup sheets to make consent for membership the default rather than opt in. Jose Gamero said he would check the Bylaws to make sure this was permitted by Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) standards.

 

The Minutes were approved 11-0, with one abstention (Eric Wilhelm), and one not yet in attendance (Leslie Pohl-Kosbau).

 

The Agenda for the Meeting was approved 12-0.

 

Announcements

Members discussed the process for introducing new items to the Meeting Agenda. Some had wanted to introduce an agenda item concerning land-use, and were disappointed to not be able to secure approval for it via an email discussion.

 

Eric Wilhelm announced that he, Leslie, and Wes (Risher) planned to meet at the Food Front on Monday 1/7/19 to discuss the OHSU light rail connection at Terwilliger Boulevard and SW Gibbs Street.

 

Since the scheduled speaker had not yet arrived, the Chair began the discussion of a permanent location for future HNA Meetings.

 

HNA Meeting Location

Barbara Bowers said she felt that Hillsdale Library hours of operation did not allow sufficient discussion time and suggested the Watershed was a better venue. Glenn Bridger agreed. He said land use issues, in particular, required a 20-day turn-around, which made for periodic pressure to increase the meeting time to address emergent matters.

 

Matt countered that such meetings could be held by the Land Use Committee instead, and then brought to general Membership as findings to be put to a vote.

 

But Rick Meigs said, “Land use issues turn out a lot of people and should be discussed in the best venue possible to allow full participation, probably in the General Meeting.”

 

The scheduled speaker arrived at that point and took the floor.

 

Presentation: “Houselessness in Portland,” by Marc Jolin, Director, Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services

 

Marc’s presentation addressed homelessness in Portland during the winter months. As Marc began, Robert Hamilton asked him about the terminological shift from “homelessness” to “houselessness.”

 

Proponents of the term “houselessness,” Marc said, prefer it because it allows that people without shelter nonetheless belong to a community. “Homeless” in their view is a distancing mechanism that implies people do not belong. At the same time, the latter term is well established and widely connotes problems such as lack of privacy and rights to property, not just belonging. So the issue is not settled. People use both terms.

 

Marc began by talking about special actions the Joint Office of Homeless Services undertakes in winter. As the cold months approach, 300 beds of winter shelter capacity are added. These are temporary emergency beds, not permanent shelter. This year, these new shelter beds include: Rose City Park United Methodist Church (40 beds); a church in St. Johns (60 beds); the Walnut Park Building on Killingsworth and MLK (85 beds); and a 5000 square foot area called Project, at NW 17th and Raleigh, sponsored by a private developer named Tom Cody (75 beds, specifically for unsheltered families).

 

Various non-profit organizations run the operations at these shelters, including: Do Good Multnomah (a veteran's services organization); Transition Projects; Portland Homeless Family Solutions; and Congregation Beth Israel, among others.

 

When expected use is 6 months or less, Marc said, temporary use permits allow many different property types—churches, office spaces, open warehouse commercial spaces—to be converted to shelter, avoiding residential occupancy requirements. “Basic life safety conditions” are certified by a fire marshal.

 

As the number of beds is increased, outreach to unsheltered families is intensified. Families can call 211 and get on a waiting to receive shelter and receive rides to shelters or other safe places (with help from a non-profit called Join).

 

When temperatures hit 32 degrees, cold weather advisories go out to first responders and outreach teams, who direct people to 211 as a clearinghouse for all available shelter beds. The 211 system authorizes taxi transports to vacant shelter beds. Outreach teams deliver blankets, hats, socks, hand-warmers, tarps and other cold-weather gear to existing camps.

 

Temperatures below 32 degrees or combined with snow or rain trigger “severe weather” alerts, which then open all emergency shelter beds. As those beds fill, still other locations, previously identified as possible temporary shelters, are rapidly converted.

 

Matt asked why temporary shelters aren't kept open year-round, and Marc said the answer is “principally budget.” A single permanent shelter bed costs between $10,000-$12,000 per year to be maintained.

 

“The current budget does not meet the need,” Marc said. “I’ve got people who want housing badly tomorrow, but I don’t have the resources to move them into it. I’ve got people on the street who want a shelter bed tonight desperately, but I don't have the resources to move them into that. The City and County are making really big investments, but because there has been so much pulling back at the federal level around housing investments and core services, we’re increasingly left to our own devices here.  We’ve done a lot as a community to step into the gap, but there’s no question we continue to have unmet needs, in every sector.

 

“The majority of 211 calls concern housing assistance, and many of those are about prevention—housing stability. A report by Echo Northwest identified that at any given time there are 56,000 households in the Metro Area that are sufficiently rent burdened that they are at some not insignificant risk of becoming homeless, and of those, some percentage are going to fall into homelessness each year. …Shelter costs money, and so we have to make some of those hard decisions….

 

“People are sleeping on our sidewalks not because we don't know how to help them, or because we don't know what the strategies are. (The problem is) that we don’t have the resources to scale the interventions.”

 

Leslie asked whether, with many housing units sitting vacant, the County has spoken with building owners to see if they can offer reduced rental rates to expand affordable housing.

 

Marc said yes, that there have been initiatives recruiting landlords, some of whom have offered modest or temporary reductions. Many help voluntarily by not increasing rents as much as they could—to keep people housed that they already know and for whom they understand that raising rents would be a hardship.

 

Opportunities also exist now for development projects, such as those of the Portland Housing Bureau, to provide financial and tax benefits in exchange for keeping rents lower on a number of units in a given building. The “Multi-Unit Limited Tax Exemption” does this. The city’s “Inclusionary Housing Program” requires that new housing starts contain a certain number of affordable units or contribute monies to a fund for such housing.

 

Bond money is starting to help, too. The City of Portland recently bought a completed private development on Burnside, set the rents at an affordable rate, and partnered with the Joint Office of Homeless Services to move families there and provide them with support services.

 

But with no expansion of Federal Section 8 funds on the horizon, the need is intensifying for new options to subsidize long-term affordable housing. The Joint Office has just begun to introduce local, long-term housing vouchers for seniors, and for people with disabilities. Such vouchers might be used to take advantage of increasing vacancies in the future once landlords are motivated to accept them.

 

Arnie Panitch asked about employment opportunities for people who are homeless.

 

Marc said that some programs the Joint Office helps run are dedicated to helping people get jobs. But the jobs often pay too little to keep people housed. Also, about 70% of the unsheltered homeless population (sleeping outside) report having an illness or disability they have to overcome first—through appropriate healthcare—in order to be able to keep a job. And a growing number are seniors, who can’t afford housing on their social security benefits (average $1200/mo), but have “aged out” of the work force.

 

Don asked whether the chief priority then should be housing, or instead, healthcare. Marc said that the first priority is housing, ideally, because health is not sustainable without it. “If you're sleeping with 120 other people at night in a crowded shelter, no matter who you are, it’s going to be hard for you to recover from a mental illness.”

 

Discussion followed about fixed incomes in relation to costs of housing, and Marc referred Membership to the statistics he presented to the HNA at a previous meeting (see Minutes of August 5, 2018, HNA Meeting and attachments).

 

“There’s no way I can see of (providing deeply affordable housing) without a significant public subsidy,” Marc said. “People on long-term disability insurance, or on a veteran's benefit, or on social security—they’re going to need a public subsidy into their housing to make it work.”

 

Marc then made a few requests of HNA Members.

 

To distribute a Resource Guide. He provided copies of the bright-pink booklet, Street Roots Rose City Resource Guide, and asked Members to keep tem in their cars to give to the next person they encounter who says they need shelter or other assistance. More copies can be obtained as needed, free of charge.

 

To download and use the 211Info App. Available for download to phones, this app allows searching for shelters, food programs, or anything else related to homeless services. It is designed to allow citizens to help advocate for individuals they encounter who may not be able to seek assistance for themselves.

 

To volunteer to help at a shelter.  Transition Projects, Portland Homeless Family Solutions, and other groups working with homeless populations constantly need volunteers to help with food and activities. The need is acute during severe weather triggers. Go to ahomeforeveryone.net and volunteer to be an on-call volunteer. (Marc also provided a comprehensive list of area shelters.)

 

To be aware of coming State legislation to address homelessness, such as landlord/tenant issues, and funding for supportive housing.

 

To participate in conversations about renewing City and County budgets for groups like the Joint Office of Homeless Services and related groups working to address homelessness.

 

To donate time to a non-profit you believe in.

 

Marc concluded by saying that the “point in time count” of homeless people in Portland begins January 23, 2019, lasts for a week, also needs volunteer support. Ahomeforeveryone.net is a good resource for information about that, too.

 

Marc left. Members distributed handouts.

 

Discussion resumed about future meeting locations.

 

HNA Meeting Location: Continued Discussion

 

Jose suggested that, instead of holding longer General Meetings to address emergent issues such as land-use matters, the HNA should arrange separate meetings.

 

Don said he felt that the current library venue constrains the time for discussion too much and that a 7-9 pm time slot had worked better. He said the Watershed or St. Barnabus Church were good venues.

 

He was skeptical of the value of streaming live video of the meetings.

 

Sharon Keast said four to six people were attending the current meeting by live video, and that wi-fi at the Watershed location should pose no obstacle to continuing to stream video from there. Jose felt this number would increase once an effort was made to more broadly advertise the live-stream.

 

Glenn Bridger announced that he had scheduled a land use issue discussion to start at 6 pm on 2/6/19, just prior to the HNA General Meeting planned for the same day at 6:30 pm. “I think that neighborhood issues such as land use are the driving reason why we have neighborhood associations and that they have to have a priority status on the agendas.”

 

Leslie Pohl-Kosbau said she has been having trouble finding a place to hold a Parks Subcommittee Meeting, and that the last-resort option has been Food Front.

 

Rupert Ayton felt the Watershed was unwelcoming, that its doors were often closed on arriving, and that it was not appropriate for open meetings such as those of the HNA. Land use discussions warranted no special consideration, he believed, since the HNA often acted as a “rubber stamp,” approving decisions already made. His experience was that developers would come and present, check the box that they had presented and answered neighborhood’s questions, but then do nothing different than previously planned. In any event, shorter meetings allowed time for emotions to cool, so that issues could be revisited later when cooler heads prevailed.

 

The meeting adjourned at 7:45 pm.

 

Submitted by William Reese