Agendas and Minutes

Housing Commission (View All)

Housing Commission Regular Meeting

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28, 2012
Chair Regina Ayars called the meeting to order at 4:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers located at 1175 East Main St. Ashland, OR  97520.
Commissioners Present: Council Liaison
Regina Ayars Carol Voisin
Brett Ainsworth  
Barb Barasa Staff Present:
Ben Scott Linda Reid, Housing Specialist
James Dills Carolyn Schwendener, Admin Clerk
Richard Billin  
No Commissioners Were Absent  
Billin/Dills m/s to approve the minutes of the February 22, 2012 regular Housing Commission meeting. Voice Vote:  All Ayes minutes were approved as presented. 
No public comments were made.
Reid briefly went over the staff evaluation of the four applications that were received. It is the City’s policy to award no more than two projects in any given year.  Reid acknowledged that all of the applications were wonderful and they appreciated everyone’s effort.  The following are the two applications that staff is recommending.
For public services staff is recommending the funding of St. Vincent De Paul.  Reid acknowledged that both the Maslow Project and St. Vincent De Paul are fabulous projects and are much needed in this valley. One reason staff is recommending St. Vincent De Paul over the Maslow Project is they serve similar populations and have similar goals but Maslow did not provide clarity on how the CDBG funding would substantially increase the services that they would be offering.  St. Vincent De Paul stated they would be helping thirty additional families with the grant money; Maslow did not quantify a number. 
For Capital improvement projects staff is recommending to fund $20,000 to Living Opportunities for renovations at 747 Normal Street and that $87,646 to be held in reserve for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank to acquire a permanent location. The Ashland Emergency Food Bank would not be prepared to acquire a site until completion of an extensive fundraising campaign and as such could not feasibly acquire the property in this program year.  Staff’s recommendation to reserve the money would be contingent upon successful fundraising which allows AEFB to consider the CDBG funding as leverage for further grant applications but the City would have the ability to re-allocate those funds should fundraising efforts fall short or other unforeseen circumstances necessitate a change in plans prior to March 2013. 
The applicants gave their presentations
Maslow Project – Lacy Renae, Mental Health Counselor and Art Therapist as well as the newly appointed person for overseeing program evaluation was present to represent the Maslow Project. Maslow Project is a non-profit agency providing homeless children and youth with basic needs and support services including case management and counseling support services through agency partnerships and Community resources to best meet the needs of our youth.  Our biggest goal is helping kids graduate from High School despite their homelessness, said Renae. 
Their school based program places case managers in Medford, Rogue River and now Ashland schools to identify youth in need of services.  Renae introduced Ali LaJuenesse new Ashland case manager.  She is based out of Ashland High School though she also serves Ashland Middle School as well as the elementary schools.  Currently there are ninety-nine children and youth who are identified as fitting the criteria for homelessness in Ashland.  Of the ninety-nine children identified as needing services LaJuenesse said fifty-three students are under grade five, twenty-three are between six grade and eighth grade and another twenty-three are between ninth grade and twelfth grade. 
A question and answer period followed the presentation
What year did you get the ninety-nine student count?
The current year, 2012.  Referrals come to Maslow from the school councilors and attendance administrators. The correct count is probably closer to one-hundred and twenty-five youth. LaJuenesse is helping an Ashland High Senior set up an emergency clothes closet as part of their senior project. 
What would be the impact of not getting these funds?
Due to their budget LaJuenesse is serving two days at week at the Ashland Schools.  The grant would allow LaJuenesses’ position to expand to three or four days a week. She would be able to have more of a presence in the schools and be able to identify the additional children and youth who are under the radar.
The grant money would be used to expand your program.  If you don’t get the money would you continue to serve the youth of Ashland two days a week? 
They are committed through June of 2012.  They would need to acquire more funding to start up the program again in the fall.
Explain what you guys do different then what Community Works does in our Community.
Community Works has a street outreach worker who works in Ashland.  She works with the kids who are more visible in the downtown area. LaJuenesse is in the process of contacting her to hopefully bring some of those kids into their program.  Primarily the difference is in the population they serve.  Maslow is the only organization that serves just the children and youth so they can provide more services for them.  They do not feel they duplicate Community Works but complement each other.  
St. Vincent De Paul – Rich Hanson and Charlotte Dorsey along with past recipient of the program Desirea Flowers were present to discuss the application of the Ashland Home Visitation program. Mr. Hanson thanked the Commissioners for their confidence they have placed in them by awarding them with the public service grants for the last two years.  With the combination of HUD funds, their twelve volunteers and their own budget monies St. Vincent De Paul has been successful with the challenge of preventing homelessness. The CDBG funds of $30,000 from 2010 enabled them to help eighty-seven people, thirty-six households and move three families out of homelessness. With the HUD funds St.Vincent DePaul is able to help with transition housing by providing rental deposits and several months’ rent.  All the funds go directly to people in need as St. Vincent De Paul is entirely run by volunteers.  Hanson is optimistic that with the continued CDBG funds they can move more families out of homelessness in the coming years. 
Charlotte Dorsey has volunteered with St. Vincent De Paul serving in the Ashland and Talent area for over 13 years.  Dorsey addressed the issue of homelessness and what the CDBG money is used for.  Presently they are working with six individual people; two woman living in their cars, one woman living in a barn, one living at the Dunn house and two senior men.  St. Vincent De Paul is able to work with more individuals this year then prior years due to the CDBG funds. 
Desirea Flowers introduced herself and shared what an honor it was to be here. St. Vincent De Paul volunteers Charlotte and Allison have been awesome and Flowers has developed a wonderful friendship. She was made aware of St. Vincent De Paul from Pam at the Peace Church.  At one point Flowers was living in her car with her two dogs.  After receiving some funds she was able to move to a trailer but needed further assistance with first and last month’s rent, food, gas money etc.  St. Vincent De Paul provided those things for Flowers.  She is forever grateful.  Flowers is currently working and hopes that some day she too can help people get off the streets.
 A question and answer period followed the presentation
Sounds like you give people a fishing pole not a fish to enable them to become who they want to be.  You give them the resources they need.
The nature of the mission is we cannot do it for anyone they must participate at the level they are able.
What do you do with mentally ill individuals?
Because of the personal nature of the team working together it’s possible to work over an extended period of time getting to know the clients.  Many who come for help don’t fully understand the safety net that is available to them.  St. Vincent De Paul gives the client the assistance and education they need to know the agencies that can help them.  Seniors are especially unaware of what is available to them often not having been in the situation before. 
If the CDBG funds are not available or more funds are needed do you use your own money for the same purposes?
St. Vincent De Paul spends from their own funds each month anywhere from $7,000 to $13,000 in Ashland and Talent.  If we chose to use our own money for rental assistance we would run out of money, stated Hanson.  When CDBG funds end they can no longer provide those specific services until it is replenished.  Their current budget this year is $120,000 of which $30,000 comes from the City’s Block Grant.  From their own funds $50,000 is used to pay utilities, $35,000 for rent, and lesser amounts for transportation, medical etc.  The block grant has enabled us to work with people who are in serious situations and need that additional help to leave homelessness.
What type of success have you had in keeping people in housing over a long period of time?
After checking back with people who have received CDBG funds the success rate appears to be 100%.  Clients need an income before moving into housing in order to move forward and meet the responsibility of the expenses associated with housing.  That is what we try to help them secure. The majority of people we find are not able to work and we assist by advocating for social security, veterans pension, disability etc. By receiving some income it allows the client to make housing possible. 
At what point is it considered a success story and no need for follow-up?
We leave that decision up to the individual.  They always have support from us as long as it takes.
Ashland Emergency Food Bank – Susan Harris, part time AEFB manager and Ward Wilson board member spoke regarding their application.  Harris is the only paid position everyone else is volunteers. The Food Bank was started in 1972 from a handful of women who decided there was a need to address the hunger issues families were experiencing in the Ashland, Talent area.  In any given month the AEFB serves anywhere from 425 to 450 households.  Twenty percent come from Talent, five percent are homeless and 38 percent are individuals under the age of 18.  The average household size is 2.5 people.  This is the first time they are seeking funds in order to purchase a permanent home located at 560 Clover Lane.
Ward Wilson introduced himself.  He stated they are a faith based organization and by far the largest food bank functioning in Ashland. The Food Bank expects to deliver 380,000 pounds of food to anywhere from 5,500 to 6,000 households.  Roughly twenty-five percent of all households within the City of Ashland contribute food to the food bank.
The AEFB has entered into a lease to buy agreement with People’s Bank in Medford.  They have two years to raise the money and purchase the building at a fixed price of $475,000.  The bank has allowed the AEFB to pay a small rent of $600.00 a month allowing them to be successful.   
A question and answer period followed the presentation
Have you at this time applied for any of the other non-governmental grants that you are expecting to receive?
            No we have not applied yet.  It is unknown if those funds will be received.
What would the impact be if we weren’t to award the grant at this time but ask that you apply again next year?
The biggest thing is that the restricted award would give us something to say to potential donors letting them know we are on our way.  We do feel we will be able to meet our goals but that first drop in the bucket is a big help with our promotion. We are also planning a campaign for direct asks of donors in town to supplement the other requests. 
What type of relationship do you have with the other businesses in the area?
A very good relationship. We are located next to Brammo Manufacturing and owner Craig Bramscher is very supportive of our project. Holiday Inn Express and the Best Western have been exceptionally supportive as well.  We have been very well received in our area.
Is all the space currently being used?
            Yes, extensively.
Are there other additions you will need to make on the building?
No, not at this time.  We don’t anticipate our donated food becoming a whole lot bigger; hopefully the economy will be improving.
The bank is giving you a break on the price.  Sounds like they have been a good partner.
We have been impressed with the willingness from the bank to consider the lease to buy proposition and their willingness to contribute their support to the community. 
Will you be able to get the option extended?
There is no guarantee we could.  Due to the changing economic atmosphere it’s hard to determine what could happen in the next couple of years.  Reality is if the economy improves and they receive another offer they could accept that offer and not extend our option.  We do think the possibility of an extension is feasible though we don’t believe we will need it; our goals are achievable.
With property taxes and upkeep what are you doing to continue ownership?
One of the advantages of being a 501C3 is they have been granted a property tax exemption.  Since we are the tenant the bank doesn’t have to pay taxes on this property. Our overhead runs less than 10% of the dollar value of the 380,000 pounds of food given out each year.  Our rent runs $7,200 a year and utilities along with Susan’s salary run around $65,000. Our monthly needs are not that great.
What other organizations are you collaborating with?
            Private foundations, individual donors and hopefully the City of Talent.
Living Opportunities – Jim Gochenour, Development Director for Living Opportunities was present to give an overview of the application.  Living Opportunities has been around since 1983. They are the largest provider of services for people with developmental disabilities in Jackson County, serving over 300 people.  Their mission is “For people with developmental disabilities to work for the same employers, live in the same neighborhoods and have the same experiences everyone aspires to in our community.”    
Living Opportunities has housed the employment and leisure activities in the Ashland building located at 747 Normal.  They have over 100 individuals that are employed, over 50 businesses that employ their clients and 45 staff members working in their employment office. Ashland has been very receptive of them and they have many local businesses partners. Their placement rate is 99.5% for employees with disabilities. 
Living Opportunities is requesting $20,000 in order to complete the renovation at 747 Normal Street.  The first phase of the renovation was the installation of a new roof, including patching and repairing the current understructure, for $15,000; phase two included rewiring the buildings existing electrical and overlaying the ceiling with drywall to accommodate new lighting, for $13,581.23.  Matching funds of $20,000 are needed in order to complete the remodel project, plumbing that needs repaired, interior walls, windows and doors along with additional electrical work and a new heating system.  The total amount needed to complete the project is $40,000, $20,000 of which they already have.
A question and answer period followed the presentation
You indicated that you had a project that was previously funded by CDBG funds, what was that.
            No we have never received any funding from Ashland though we have applied in the past.
The completion cost is $40,000 and you already have in hand $20,000 is that correct?
Yes, we purchased the building in 1986 which had been the old Goodwill building.
Will you be able to continue to use the facility while it is being remodeled?
During the last phase we had different people in the community who volunteered to house the people while it was being completed.  Darex gave us space as well as a local church.  We are not planning on spending any money to house the folks while the project is being done.
Without the money what will you do?
            We would not be able to go forward with the project at this time.
The Commissioners deliberated and discussed the presentations in order to make a recommendation. One topic of discussion was whether the City had the ability to award more than two applicants grant money. Reid said in order to award more than two projects it would take an amendment to the consolidated plan which can be done only through the direction of the City Council.  Reid stated the rule was put into place because earlier in the CDBG cycle the City would award multiple grants or split them creating an administrative burden on both the grantee and city staff.   Also as the City developed a priority for housing splitting the grants would eventually make them too small to do those projects.  Reid acknowled the process would entail drafting an amendment to the consolidated plan, publishing a notice about the change in the newspaper and sending the amendment to HUD for approval.
Ainsworth/Scott m/s to “Recommend funding the St. Vincent De Paul Home Visitation proposal in the amount of $14,000 and funding the Maslow Project for $10,000 and that the Living Opportunity ACES remodel Capital Improvement proposal be fully funded in the amount of $20,000.  The Commission would also recommend that the balance of the funds $87,646 be placed in reservation for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank pending the results of their fundraising efforts which could include a second application for the 2013 CDBG RFP and also request Council to direct Reid to draft an amendment to the consolidated plan allowing more than two awards but no more than three in any one year.”
The Commissioners discussed the motion.  The Commissioners main concern was that if in the future several projects were brought before them how many could they award?  The Commissioners agreed that they needed to inform all applicants of other available funds and resources including the Housing Trust Fund.
The Commissioners asked St. Vincent De Paul if they received a reduced award, how would that effect the number of people they could serve?  On average expend approximately $800.00 per client with the Block Grant money, making that total approximately 42.  The Commissioners agreed St. Vincent De Paul has many positive attributes; an all volunteer organization, no administrative overhead, a proven record and they serve a lot of people.  On the other hand we would like to encourage other agencies to come to Ashland and be part of the Ashland Community.    
The Commissioners voted:  The motion passed unanimously.   
Council – Voisin reported that the Council Study Session on Monday April 16 may include a discussion regarding whether to combine the Homeless Committee with the Housing Commission.  It was suggested that the Commissioners might like to attend the meeting.
General Announcements – Dills announced that a Demographer by the name of Charles Rynerson visited the Ashland School Board.  Rynerson had recently reviewed the 2010 census report in comparison to the 2000 census report and discovered the dwindling enrollment in Ashland Public Schools.  He determined there was a direct relationship with lack of affordable housing in the community.  If we want to attract young families in our community we need to offer more affordable housing, stated Dills.  Dills is working on getting the report that Rynerson completed.  It may be posted on the web soon. 
Dills announced that being a newly married man, a full time student and having a job is making it difficult to remain on the Commission.  His term is up next month and he will not be reapplying.   He intends to be at next month’s meeting in order to discuss the RVTV project. The Commissioners acknowledged how much they will miss Dills and hate to see him go, but respect his decision.  Dills said he had gained a lot from the Commission and will continue to volunteer in various capacities.
Reid reminded any Commissioner whose term is expiring to send an email to the City Recorder, Barbara Christianson, acknowledging their desire to reapply. 
CDBG Action Plan Approval
RVTV project discussion 
Preservation letter from Barasa and discussion of incentives
Quorum check; Scott will be out of town everyone else will be there.
Homeless Task Force Meeting-April 17th, 2012:  10:30-12:00 Housing Authority Conference Room 2231, Table Rock Road, Medford
Next Housing Commission Regular Meeting
April 25th, 2012 4:30-6:30 PM
ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 6:50 p.m.
Respectfully submitted by Carolyn Schwendener

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