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Housing and Human Services Commission (View All)

Housing and Human Services Commission Regular Meeting

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Ashland Housing and Human Services Commission
Minutes May 25, 2017
Vice Chair Rohde called the meeting to order at 4:30 pm in the Siskiyou Room at the Community Development and Engineering Offices located at 51 Winburn Way, Ashland OR 97520.
Commissioners Present: Council Liaison
Sue Crader Traci Darrow, left at 6:00
Rich Rohde  
Joshua Boettiger, arrived at 4:45 SOU Liaison
Tom Gunderson  
Gina DuQuenne, left at 6:05  
Michelle Linley Staff Present:
Heidi Parker Linda Reid, Housing Specialist
  Carolyn Schwendener, Clerk
Commissioners Absent:  
Crader/Linley m/s to approve the minutes of the April 25, 2017 regular Commission meeting.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, motion passed. 
Mark Haneberg remarked he has applied to be on this Committee.  He met with the Mayor on May 4th and they will be meeting one more time, tomorrow Friday May 26, 2017.  Mr. Haneberg wanted to mention to this Committee that goal ten of the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan appears to mandate housing for all Oregonians.  As encouraging as this sounds, stated Mr. Haneberg, the buildable lands inventory has a fatal flaw not allowing for that goal to be met.  I would ask this Commission to follow goal ten and try to avoid the pitfall of the implementation, stated Mr. Haneberg.   He went on the explain that saying we are going to have housing for everyone is one thing but figuring out how to achieve that goal is another issue.  Not all the vacant land is truly available for development.     
The Commissioners discussed the Eugene Car Camp Ordinance and how it could relate to Ashland.  What are the negatives surrounding this ordinance?  What happens to the people who get turned away? Other jurisdictions have had problems with those who were not able to participate.  Has the group that is organizing this contacted any other churches yet?  The Commissioners agreed to have Reid contact the group from the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Social Justice and Action Committee for an update.  This Commission would like to ask them further questions.
The Commissioners indicated in a straw poll they are interested in moving this forward.  Parker visited this program about six years’ ago and explained part of the reason they started it was because the police were handing out so many tickets to people sleeping in their cars it was creating a backlog in the courts.  They contacted St. Vincent De Paul who designated a person in charge of the car camping process.  This person had authority over the site and could ask people to leave who were misbehaving. Parker’s recollection was the campers could stay longer than three days, perhaps a week to ten days.
Reid told Darrow as a Commission and as a staff person it’s not always clear how to Communicate to the Council the priorities of this Commission and how to get things done. Would there be interest on the Council to pursue this program, inquired Reid. How would we get through this process? Darrow suggest to get as much information as possible, define what it looks like, provide data outcomes, evaluate it and see if it works. What are the concerns?  Identify if any parts of the Ashland Municipal Code are in conflict with this idea and what needs to be looked at.  Know the answers to the questions ahead of time, said Darrow.  Reid will speak with the Community Development Director Bill Molnar to see how much time she can devote to this program.
Parker commented when the Homeless Task Force was meeting they met with the prior Police Chief regarding the use of the City Parking lot at the police station for overnight camping.  He was very supportive but at the time the Police Station was remodeling their bathroom.  The current Police Chief is not as supportive of this idea.
Parker distributed the 2016-2017 Ashland Winter Homeless Shelter Summary.  See exhibit A at the end of the minutes. This was their biggest year yet of providing a legal, warm, safe place for the un-housed in our Community to get a much needed night’s rest.  A total of 112 nights of shelter were provided from mid-November to mid-April with eight of those being Emergency or Special Shelters.  Though it’s difficult to arrive at the exact number of people they served, explained Parker, the number ranges between 25 and 52 people a night.  The amount of occupants at each shelter are limited by the Fire Code Occupancy rates provided by the Fire Marshall based on square footage of the building.  The shelters utilized more than 120 volunteers with at least two volunteer hosts spending each night. An additional 119 volunteers provide support to those spending the night to help prepare, serve food, launder blankets, welcome guests and provide clean up in the morning.
Reid remembered at a prior meeting Councilor Slattery said the Council is interested in having a seven-day shelter and wondered if that would be possible? Would there be enough volunteers to staff it?  Parker emphasized seven days a week would require more volunteers and as a coordinator it really increases the number of phone calls, back ground checks and overall work involved. This is more than Parker can take on but she commented perhaps an agency in town would be willing to do that.  Parker liked the idea the previous City Administrator had of placing a giant tent on City land and having volunteers rotate through that.
Darrow pointed out the shelter discussion is an agenda item on a future Council Study Session. She is not sure yet which date that will be.
The Commissioners acknowledged that Parker has done a phenomenal job with this program and it is critical what Parker has built needs to continue.   Keep this on the agenda as our role is to help Shepard this through from the volunteer side through the City Council side, stated Rohde.
Reid explained that two members of this Commission worked with two members of the Planning Commission to undertake the public outreach portion of updating the Housing Element Policies.  As part of that outreach the committee decided to do three things.
  1. Put up a questionnaire on the City’s website.(Open City Hall)
  2. Have an open house outreach event.
  3. Have a Community facilitated forum
    The feedback that Reid provided in the packet was information from all three of those events.  The most feedback received were the written comments from Open City Hall.   Reid gave a sampling of those comments and acknowledged that what became very apparent was that most people felt the policies are really convoluted and hard to read and understand.  With the drafting of these policies Reid said they will simplify the language and make it more user friendly. 
    Rohde attended the forum and facilitated one of the discussion tables. About twenty-five people attended. Though the feedback was good it as hard to categorize and pin down peoples exact point of view, remarked Rohde.  Time was spent collecting information rather than commenting on it. 
    Gunderson pointed out after reading the comments most everyone was supportive of low income housing and workforce housing but there obviously is people on the other side of the fence. Reid replied that all of these issues are contentious issues, some people want less growth some want more growth, some want higher density, some want no more density.  Reid said as a community our job is to balance all of the interests while meeting the needs of our citizens. 
    The written draft form will come back to this Commission in July and the final ordinance will come back in September. It then goes to Council who will start their process.  The ordinance should be adopted by Council by November or January 2018 at the latest. Each time the Ordinance goes before you, the Planning Commission and City Council the public has the opportunity to comment, added Reid.  
    Rohde suggested each Commissioner should carefully read this draft and pick out the one area in which they care about the most.  Be prepared to come to the July meeting with your recommendations.  Rohde also asked how can the Commission take a little bit more aggressive step to approach the Community with this including breaking down stereotypes and breaking down inclusions.  Is it possible to sponsor an event in which we present the values of affordable housing to the Community, inquired Rohde?  Put this on next month’s agenda. 
    Staff – Reid announced that last week Louise Dix from the Fair Housing Council of Oregon was in town to do a Fair Housing Training for landlords and property managers.  Approximately twenty-five people attended. Reid added the event was quite valuable and very well received, a lot of good feedback was given. 
    Next Friday is Project Community Connect at the Medford Armory.  This event has taken place since 2009 and provides food, live music, venders, service providers, judges and legal services.  Last year they were able to expunge $300,000 in fees and fines. Approximately five-hundred people attend each year. Reid will be doing an interview with the Jefferson Exchange tomorrow morning regarding the event.
    General Announcements – Rohde asked if everyone saw the final decision on the Social Service Grant allocation? He called attention to the fact that in the end the decision went back very close to the recommendation of this Commission. Rohde acknowledged one of the City Council members made the comment “This was the worse process he ever participated in, in his life “Though the process was not good we have laid out improvements we can make which should help the council decide how to proceed in the future.  Rohde said we ought to be proud of what we did not defensive and formalize a little more for the next year. 
    Quorum Check – Everyone should be able to attend. Small possibility Crader might not make it. 
    Next Housing and Human Services Regular Commission Meeting – 4:30-7:00 PM; June 22, 2017, in the Siskiyou Room at the Community Development & Engineering Department located at 51 Winburn Way.
    The meeting was adjourned at 6:25 p.m. Respectfully submitted by Carolyn Schwendener


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