Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Wednesday, June 4, 2003 at 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 12:07 p.m.

City Council: Councilor Laws, Amarotico, Hartzell and Hearn. Councilor Morrison was absent. Jackson arrived at 12:35 p.m.

Staff: City Administrator Gino Grimaldi, Communication Manager Ann Seltzer, Community Development Director John McLaughlin, Police Chief Scott Flueter and Senior Program Manager Sharon Laws.

1. Education - Framing the problem

Jackson County Homeless Task Force (HTF) co-chairs Ed Angeletti, ACCESS Inc., and Bill Yaeger, Salvation Army, spoke regarding the Homeless Task Force. The purpose of this organization is to examine the entire community's homeless needs and resources, identify the gaps and priorities, establish goals, and implement long range goals that address the gaps and priorities identified by the community. Their ultimate mission is to eliminate homelessness and its root causes, and to improve the quality of life for the person and the community.

Angeletti presented GAPS analysis indicating estimated unmet needs, homeless counts in Jackson County, and the top five responses for the cause of homelessness. He briefly touched on the breakdown of the homeless population in Jackson County, which included: adults with disabilities, veterans, youth, single adults without children, and homeless families. Angeletti spoke on the top five root causes of homelessness in Jackson County, which included:

· Loss of income/employment
· Low income
· Domestic Violence
· Drugs/Alcohol
· Mental Illness

Yaeger explained the Salvation Army has a 2-year program that works to incorporate the homeless back into the community work force. Their program provides the necessities like food, laundry, shelter, and counseling to develop an individual to become employable. This center can assist 44 people at a time, and they process over 300 homeless people a year.

2. Community Works, StreetWise
DawnDee Elliott, Homeless Youth Advocate spoke regarding the homeless teen population in Jackson County. StreetWise has two drop in centers, one in Ashland and one in Medford, and works with youth ages 11-22. The centers are open 13 hours a week, and volunteers spend 18 hours a week visiting with the homeless youth in the community. Their services are free of charge and can be used as often as necessary.

Their program is faced with a number of issues. The first is getting the youth into these centers. Many of the young homeless aren't ready to ask for help or acknowledge that there is a problem, and some feel that it is safer for them to stay on the streets than at home or in a shelter. Also, the Ashland center is located next door to the police station, which frightens many of the teens away. Once they do come in to the center, they are helped with some of the basic necessities, including food, water, sleeping bags, hygiene supplies, counseling, and referrals for other services. If they are over 18, StreetWise can help them get started in an 18-month program that will assimilate them back into the community. They work toward getting the youth their GED (if they were not able to complete high school), and help to teach life skills that will enable them to receive employment.

The biggest problem this organization faces is finding a safe place for the youth under 18 to stay. If they do not have family or friends that will take them in, StreetWise has no place to send them because they are still minors and are not eligible for the other programs. An Emergency Shelter for youth under 18 is much needed. There is also a strong need to get the word out to the homeless youth population, as many of are not aware such a facility exists. Last year these centers logged over 700 visits by homeless teens, but they have not yet been able to reach the majority of the homeless youth population.

3. Interfaith Care Community of Ashland (ICCA)
Sharon Schrieber, from ICCA spoke about their role in the Continuum of Care, the services they provide, and the trends and challenges they face. County wide they assisted 26,000 homeless last year, almost ½ of which came from Ashland. Sharon spoke of the trends of homeless here in Ashland. Ashland is becoming known throughout the region as a safe haven for transients because of its reputation as a nice, safe, and caring community. On average, only 25% of the individuals she assists in Ashland have lived here for over a year.

Their organization works with all of the other homeless care centers, and offers a wide variety of services, including: food bank, showers, clothes, prescriptions, transportation, telephone and computer use, and mentoring. She expressed the need for housing available for the young homeless and also family housing. Their organization has 3 houses in Medford, but none in Ashland. She commented that when housing becomes available in Medford or Grants Pass to Ashland homeless, they will often turn in down because they do not wish to leave this community.

She stressed that the best way to keep families from falling into homelessness is to keep them in their existing home. Their organization will often get a hold of landlords and bill collectors to keep families where they are, but in the end it comes down to dollars and cents and the families fall into homelessness. She noted those families and citizens, who have recently become homeless, have a much higher success rate of returning to the community, than the chronically homeless who willingly choose that lifestyle.

4. State of Oregon Employment Agency
Bob Satnik with the Oregon Employment Department spoke briefly about their services. He stated their agency does not have any programs that target the homeless directly. They do have a program set up for Veterans, where they are qualified to receive a free bicycle for transportation. He noted that they treat all applicants the same, and that anyone who would qualify for work is eligible to use their services. Satnik stated that Oregon has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. More people want to live and work in this valley than the general growth of the economy will support. He followed up with a few statistics. Last year approx. 24,000-25,000 people in Jackson County registered for their services, between 2,500-4,000 actually registered as being out of work. Their agency was able to place 10% (about 2,400-2,500), and 10% of those people were from Ashland (about 250).

5. Camping enforcement issues and possible protocol options.
Police Chief Scott Fleuter presented a map of areas that the homeless tend to camp at night. He spoke briefly on the Police Department's protocol when encountering the homeless. They have a voucher they can provide for emergency situations, and have put together a reference book that lists resources, but it needs updating. He noted there is no homeless shelter in Ashland, and there is a need for transporting people to the Medford Gospel Mission. Fleuter mentioned that and Emergency/Temporary Shelter here in Ashland would be helpful.

When officers encounter camps on public property they are required to post a warning, if it is private property, they can offer a citation for trespassing, but this happens very rarely. Fleuter stated that it is unfair to say that the homeless people are the reason for increased crime in Ashland. He concluded that that majority of burglaries are the result of younger adults, many of which are supporting drug habits. Homelessness is not the qualifying issue when officers are called out; rather the activities involved will often lead to arrests and tickets.

Kirk Dunlap, a local homeless resident, spoke briefly about his personal rights. He feels that he is not violating any laws and should be able to challenge the system.

6. Community Health Center
Peg Crowley spoke regarding the services that the Community Health Center provides to the community. Crowley stated the best thing that we can do is to help people avoid becoming homeless, and that this is being done through the SafteyNet Program. She felt that a continued investment is important to these programs, as transient numbers are expected to continue to increase. She concluded by saying that our community has done a good job of helping those who ask for it, but it is necessary to make everyone aware that there are services available for those in want it.

Council commented on the following issues:
· That Jackson County Task Force is a good program, and we need to start to solve the homeless problem by seeing how Ashland works with the existing programs that are in place in the region
· Concern that Ashland could become a destination for the homeless, and that by using resources to solve a local problem, we could end up attracting homeless people on a national level
· For the Council to stay better informed on what types of issues these organizations are facing. The Council could then choose to either invest or not invest, and plan appropriately for future budget purposes.
· Remarks on how a lot has been heard about the symptoms of homelessness, but not about the solutions to avoid such a problem.
· Opinion that the homeless issue is part of the general social services that needs to be provided. That it is no immediate crisis that would require action in the middle of the budget year, but that increased funding is a topic that should be considered at the time the budget is started.
· That our community supports organizations we already have, and to use existing programs.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder

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