I’m sitting in the front row after we finished a meeting for final changes to the Good Neighbor Agreement and I decided that I’ll live blog this one. Enjoy.
Hank Smith kicks it off by introducing himself. He’s the policy advisor to Mayor Wheeler and Ms Brocker-Knapp.
Introduces Urban Alchemy folks, Kirkpatrick Tyler (KP) and Ron I-didn’t-get his-last-name (I’ll update this), along with OR State Rep Rob Nosse, Skyler Brocker-Knapp.
Hank talks about the status of the site. Construction is about done. No guests yet.
KP introduces himself. He talks a bit about the founding of UA, in particular its background in preparing incarcerated folks for reestablishing themselves.
Much emphasis on the background of UA in professionalizing this kind of work.
This is a copy of the handout given out during the meeting.
KP addresses the issues of no curfew, no loss of housing when brandishing a weapon. The only thing that gets a resident kicked out is an act of violence against another guest or staff member.
KP gets specific on curfew: asks audience if they’d take an offer on a mansion if they had to be inside from 9pm to 7am, and couldn’t leave. Makes distinction between arbitrary rules and those necessary to ensure safety.
Talks about why people carry weapons, and their policy for securing weapons because it prevents them from caching weapons outside the facility. Tells some stories, including one about The Arch shelter in Austin TX: metal detectors and lots of screening up front, but a back door accessible to everyone. (Mullet-style security, I guess?)
Talks about their success using these policies of “treating people with love and respect” to make the shelters usable and successful. The use of those values has to be “as real as this table” (he taps on the table) to be effective.
Talks a bit about how the team builds relationships with potential guests. It’s not immediate.
Safe rest aspect: asks audience how they slept last night. For those who didn’t, how did it affect your day? The environment is important in helping guests connect with themselves, outside the “trauma loop”, in a safe space.
Care coordinators are used inside. Emphasis on reestablishing connections with existing service providers and then filling gaps.
Then the care coordinators work on where the guest wants to go next. It’s important that the care coordinators share the lived experience of the guests to make that connection.
Talks about growing the model for “healing villages”. Asks audience about gardening, yoga, walking club. Each day, there’s an activity of engagement for the guests. Vision boarding, hair and nails days, gardening, etc. There will be planting boxes in the shelter
“We are aware that we are right smack in the center of your most precious possession: your children and where they go day to day.”
Talks a bit about the disruption at Peninsula. The facility disrupted a settled-in encampment where there were, as he describes them, some illicit activities.
Open to questions
Some things are different in the guidelines than what was stated: no drugs/alcohol and won’t store guns.
KP clarified that drugs and alcohol might not get you kicked out. So weapons policy excludes guns
What happens to guns if a guest has one?
Team: “you can’t take this in here, you can’t take it outside, what do we do with it?” Says 4 times there have been incidents, but they were successful in getting weapons surrendered to police.
Questions about drug/alcohol use in pods, is it allowed?
It’s supposed to be low-key, in pod, not public use. It’s against rules, but doesn’t disqualify for housing. Points out that usage is a response to stress
Question about modified work programs.
Not quite sure about the question myself. KP talks about connecting folks to existing programs, but he can’t list them off. Hand asks Skyler to address it, and she talks about the connection to those programs.
Are there other engaging activities throughout the day?
There are some activities, but they’re not mandatory for housing.
Question about GNA not being legally binding, renaming to a memorandum of understanding.
Hank takes this one, we’ll look at it.
Question about guns, will they be checked in.
There is no checking in guns. When someone appears with a gun, care coordinators get the gun disposed of safely. Ron takes it: he’s never seen a gun, they get turned over to law enforcement.
Concern was with guns getting back into the community.
Question about the 1000-foot perimeter. Is it hard and fast?
Hank takes it, talks about the negotiated boundaries. I point out it’s on the website.
Liveability projects addressed via care coordinators?
Addressed via oversight committee.
How do you address exploitation of the facility by a guest?
We don’t measure that because that’s not what we’re about. We’re not concerned about folks milking the system because we don’t look at them for what they’re doing, we look at them for what they can become. That’s part of the care coordinators motivating and connecting with residents. We don’t kick people out for “milking the system”, we work with folks to build their lives up.
But there’s no housing to be had
KP talks to Skyler about that every day. Folks become service resistant because promises are unmet for housing at the end jumping through all the hoops a system requires.
Sanitation centers: Do they include shower, toilet, sink?
3 ADA-accessible bathrooms and 4 other bathroom units. 2 laundry units.
Will guests be encouraged to volunteer to maintain the area?
Ron talks about the gardening day. KP clarifies that guests are not responsible for upkeep of the facility. UA believes in 5-star service. Guests are responsible for their own units.
What groups of people will benefit?
The “service population” is unhoused men, women, other genders, single or couples. No children onsite. UA doesn’t service those.
Question about UA stories, allegations of abuse and responses to those. How are instances of abuse handled, given the power dynamic.
KP talks about the allegations being unfounded, particularly Echo Park. UA, law enforcement, municipality investigated and cleared it. Tells the story of a care coordinator who pulled a knife and was immediately disciplined, dismissed and triggered an entire staff retraining. Sausalito incident was addressed through legal system, where KP says charges dismissed by a judge. Also goes through an allegation of an inappropriate relationship. Goes back to Sausalito incident, and case being “thrown out”. Goes through a lawsuit where the winning plaintiff distributed funds (?). There are folks who are invested in keeping poor people poor. Goes back on message with how they respond to incidents.
Hank says time for only a few more questions, but he’ll write down questions for answering later.
Will an increase in folks with substance abuse problems and no income result in an increase in petty crime, shoplifting, and drug dealing?
In SF, every community where there’s been UA shelter has seen a decrease in crime. Also seen at other sites, even where they’ve assumed responsibility for shelters operated by others. “Urban Alchemy is not bringing homelessness to your neighborhood. Don’t treat us as your whipping boy.” We are asking to partner with you as a solution, and bringing resources.
Homeless people are called the most vulnerable, but questioner thinks children are the most vulnerable. Operator of New Day School. Have you worked in similar communities?
Tenderloin has a preschool 2 blocks away. Two other sites are in residential communities.
National labor shortage, are you having trouble recruiting and retaining staff? What’s your contigency plan?
We’re not facing that challenge because of where our personnel come from. More service organizations like us are creating this opportunity for former offenders.
Will there be coordination with We Shine village?
We’ll coordinate with them as we do with other providers.
Question about accountability, do you offer guests work opportunities to learn it?
We do have opportunities to get folks acclimated to living on their own. They don’t teach it by making you clean the bathrooms, but they do it by helping you keeping your own space and the grounds around it.
Statement about placing active listening and working with love the forefront of the work. As a retired HS principal, would like to see this transform schools. A general statement about the nostalgia for old Portland. How can we help you?
Crowd says, pay your taxes. KP says, build a relationship with Ron and team. Reach out to Ron before something goes wrong. Encourage him when you see something positive, like care coordinators having a good interaction.
KP starts to wrap up, says this site won’t be different than others.
Funding-related question: does each site have its own budget? Are we exposed if Sausalito is sued? How is site wind-down handled?
KP says not exposed to other sites. Hank takes it, and talks a bit about how budgeting is handled.