Homelessness in San Diego, Houston, Lane County has similar faces. Tony the Movie is a must watch. by Pat Farr

Friday, June 7th, 2019

 

On June 6 2019 I joined an audience of perhaps a hundred at the Bijou Arts Cinemas to watch a screening of “Tony the Movie” at the invitation of Reverend Wayne Martin.

Tony the Movie inspires watchers to take action

The movie follows Tony Rodriguez, a homeless man in San Diego, through days and weeks of his life.  He accompanies a news reporter to other cities to see first-hand how chronic homelessness has been addressed in those communities.

As the movie progresses, watchers are shown examples of how regional action committees have been established to provide effective housing to transform homeless support systems.  “Housing First”, Permanent Supportive Housing, has proven effective across the nation to efficiently and humanely end the cycle of homelessness for people with behavioral health conditions.  Lane County’s Poverty and Homelessness Board is such a “committee.”

The audience included housed people who are excited about finding solutions in Lane County as well as people who are living on the streets.

Wayne Martin asked for impressions after the movie and heard a number of quotes, including these:

“I get off work at 2 in the morning and then I need to find a place to sleep.  The stress builds up inside me, and all the money I earn is used to just survive…”

“I have a home now.  A lot has been going on here in the last 12 months…”

While the movie elicits deep emotion as you watch Tony trying “to live in society” while working, storing his belongings daily and being moved along regularly, it also gives a ray of hope and anticipation of how Lane County and its cities are pro-actively working together to help men and women and families “live in society.”

You can watch the movie here.  

 

The recently concluded “TAC Report”–a shelter feasibility study–has given birth to an action plan that will include strategies with short- and long-term tactics to “Transform our Homeless Support System.”

If you are interested in seeing, hearing and reading more please contact me via my public email at pat.farr@co.lane.or.us , please reference “Tony.”  I will give links and lists of how plans are being laid to make an immediate difference and tie future solutions to existing efforts.

Evening Lane County Commission Public Forums will be held to accommodate day workers, Diana Jones publishes schedule. by Pat Farr.

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

 

On May 21 I suggested that Lane County Commissioners begin holding evening public comment sessions to facilitate testimony from people with day jobs.

Late in the day on May 21, 2019 I suggested that the board of Lane County Commissioners begin holding monthly evening public comment sessions in order to accommodate people who work days and are unable to state their opinion at our regular board meetings on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. See the webcast of the May 21 meeting here.

In 1997, as President of the Eugene City Council, I changed public forum sessions from once monthly to each Monday regularly scheduled meeting.  My change was received with enthusiasm and that schedule continues to this day.

At the regular Board of Commissioners meeting on May 21 a large number of people signed up for public comment, usually held from just after 9 am until all comments had been received and ending before 9:30 most meeting days.  On that day so many people wanted to testify on one particular subject that others had to leave before their turn to talk was called.  Time certain agenda items were delayed causing staff and other presenters to wait beyond their allocated time or leave the meeting.

At my suggestion, the Lane County Board of Commissioners is increasing opportunity for public participation by holding regular evening public comment sessions. The evening public comment sessions are in addition to the regular daytime opportunities.

 The evening public comment sessions will generally be held on the third Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. (I initially suggested 5:00 pm) in Harris Hall, as long as there is also a regular, daytime meeting scheduled on that date.

Public comment will last from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and be open to all Lane County residents to comment on any topic. Speakers will be given a maximum of three minutes.

The currently scheduled evening public comment sessions for 2019 are:

  • Tuesday, June 18, at 5:30 p.m. in Willamalane’s Ken Long Room (250 S. 32nd Street, Springfield)
  • Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. in Harris Hall (125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene)
  • Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. in Harris Hall (125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene)
  • Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. in Harris Hall (125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene)
  • Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. in Harris Hall (125 E. 8th Avenue, Eugene)

 I would like to thank the Board of Commissioners, including Jay Bozievich, Joe Berney, Heather Buch and Pete Sorenson for unanimously supporting my recommendation for evening public comment sessions, and particularly thank Diana Jones for building the schedule.

Scheduled evening public comment sessions are listed on the County’s online calendar at www.lanecounty.org/calendar.

Giving Veterans a Home. by Pat Farr

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

A new house for returning Veterans.

Volunteers and Veterans gather in front of Veterans House for its dedication

St. Vincent DePaul of Lane County and Bethel School District teamed with a host of volunteers and veterans to refurbish, remodel and repurpose this house in west Eugene to serve as a home for the household of a veteran returning from active duty.  Here.

School Board Chair Debi Farr, Superintendent Chris Parra and Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis at the dedication of Bethel Schools and St. Vincent DePaul Veterans House in Bethel

This house becomes a part of the tremendous effort in Lane County to house homeless veterans.  Operation 365 in 2015/6 housed over 400 veterans’ families in a single year and has housed over 500 more since.  Here.

Henry Farr’s memorial flag flies on the lawn of Veteran House 10 in Bethel. Henry served in the Royal Navy

 

Brenda Wilson, Pete Kerns and Jon Ruiz at the VetHouse dedication on April 4 2019

Lane County’s strong commitment to housing and shelter is demonstrated by its Housing Improvement Plan. by Pat Farr

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

In 2018 Lane County Board of Commissioners, in its budget process, allocated $2,000,000 to its newly formed Housing Improvement Plan (HIP).

Lane County and the Homes for Good Housing Authority are partnering to break ground on this 51-apartment housing first project, The Commons on MLK, adjacent to Lane County Behavioral Health campus.  It is one of five permanent supportive housing projects recently funded in part by Lane County’s Housing Improvement Plan.

On January 12 the board gave $1.5m to five local housing projects that had been selected through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

The announcement the Board of Commissioners posted in 2018 stated:
“Lane County hereby solicits applications from cities, public agencies, private foundations, non-profit charities, healthcare organizations, affordable housing developers and supportive services providers for planning, development, and construction of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). Applications may include new construction, acquisition and rehabilitation of existing units for PSH. 

In addition to Permanent Supportive housing needs, Lane County recognizes that housing affordability is a significant countywide issue, particularly as it relates to the diversity, supply and affordability of housing options. Therefore, the County will also consider proposals that offer solutions to the broader challenges of housing affordability and that designate some of the units for PSH.”

The projects selected are directly tied to the Lane County Strategic Plan and the Poverty and Homelessness Board’s Strategic Plan.  The Poverty and Homelessness Board’s Governance Charter guides its ongoing work.  The PHB charter and strategic plan lay within Lane County’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan.

The projects selected for funding by the Board of Commissioners are:

  • Tiny House project, $200,000: Permanent supportive housing for individuals with criminal histories vulnerable to homelessness due to a shortage of affordable housing available to those with felony convictions. Five duplexes will be built to 10 people to live in on property adjacent to Sponsors’ Roosevelt Crossing facility. Sponsors will own and manage the units, offering below-market rents. Construction is slated to begin this spring.
  • Polk Apartments expansion, $550,000: Permanent supportive housing for 10 former foster youth who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. A mix of studio and single-room occupancy units will be added to an existing complex that currently houses 12 former foster youth for a total of 22. NEDCO owns the property and will manage the units. Construction is set to begin this fall.
  • Cottage Village project, $500,000: Thirteen tiny houses will provide affordable housing for those with low incomes (under 50 percent of median income) or very low incomes (under 30 percent of median income). The community will be built by SquareOne Villages and operate as a limited-equity housing cooperative. Construction is slated to begin this month.
  • Legion Cottages project, $250,000: A joint project of the American Legion, City of Cottage Grove and Homes for Good, it will develop four tiny homes to serve homeless veterans referred and case managed by the St. Vincent de Paul Vet LIFT program, which serves homeless veterans dually diagnosed with substance abuse and mental health issues. Construction is slated to begin this fall.
  • The Commons on MLK, $500,000: Fifty-one units of permanent supportive housing primarily targeted toward chronically homeless individuals who meet Frequent Users Systems Engagement criteria. Lane County also has transferred property adjacent to Lane County Behavioral Health to Homes for Good for this project. Construction is scheduled to begin in June.

These projects help fulfill goals of the HIP that include:

 Seed and incentivize a community effort to build Permanent Supportive Housing and to increase the supply of affordable housing in Lane County.

 Spark investment and leverage other public and private sector partners.

 Move quickly, with clearly defined outcomes, budgets and timelines to catalyze shovel-ready projects.

 

Justice for veterans: Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court diverts veterans from jail into treatment. by Pat Farr

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

 

Retired US Marine Ron Cooper and I are stepping into Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court. Ron has been a mentor and guide in the court since its launch.

Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with issue such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury. One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment (details here). One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance use issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance use and combat-related mental illness (details here). Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.

Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court, administered by Lane County Circuit Court Judge Valeri Love, requires regular court appearances, as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent and random testing for drug and alcohol use. Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment, given their past experiences in the Armed Forces. However, a few will struggle, and it is exactly those veterans who need a veterans treatment court program the most. Without this structure, these veterans might re-offend and remain in the criminal justice system. The veterans treatment court is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.

TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE on Interstate 105. by Pat Farr

Friday, January 11th, 2019

 

Washington-Jefferson Bridge preservation traffic jams are doubling travel times (photo courtesy dreamtime.com)

Traffic jams on Interstate 105 both directions on the Washington-Jefferson bridge entering and leaving downtown Eugene.  While it’s temporary, it is here!  Oregon Department of Transportation issues notices of changes in traffic pattern throughout the project.

To see ODOT update on changes that will be occurring in the near future,  click here.

Lane County’s strategic plan is the road map to effective, open government. by Pat Farr

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Lane County’s one-page summary of its comprehensive strategic plan

In 2014 Lane County’s Board of Commissioners adopted what was its first comprehensive strategic plan encompassing four goal areas:

A Safe, Healthy County

Vibrant Communities

Robust Infrastructure

Our People and Partnerships

Since then, quarterly updates on progress toward the goals, tactics and strategies have been provided to the public and the Board to ensure that the plan is a living document that is understood and supported throughout Lane County Government.

Click here to see the one-page document.

Click here for a link to the entire strategic plan.

 

Lane County Poverty and Homelessness Board has a unified, coherent strategic plan. by Pat Farr

Friday, January 4th, 2019

 

Lane County’s Poverty and Homelessness Board (see link here) has a unified, coherent strategic plan for working toward eliminating homelessness in the county.  Progress on the long road is reported in a living, breathing document (see document here) that details the goals, strategy and partners involved in each item’s execution.  While due dates are not fully determined, the subcommittee performing the work on each item in the living document is identified. (see committees here).

The Poverty and Homelessness Board (PHB) meetings are now broadcast live on Metro TV Channel 25, rebroadcast and accessible for viewing online (link here). Minutes of all past meetings are published (link here).

Every year on December 17 the few of us who knew Tom Egan and many thousands who did not reflect on the the place he froze to death and collectively call for an end to homelessness.  This annual reflection helps elevate the PHB’s goal to “Inform and Enhance Public Awareness and Advocacy Efforts” surrounding poverty and homelessness.

Lane County Commissioner Pat Farr, who served with Egan in the Oregon Army National Guard, tells a story about Egan during a ceremony remembering him on Dec. 18, 2017. Picture is from Jack Moran’s essay published in the Register-Guard on Christmas Day 2018. (Brian Davies/The Register-Guard)

When I first became deeply involved in issues surrounding homelessness I was an executive manager at Jerry’s Home Improvement Center who had recently became Eugene City Councilor from Ward 6, Bethel.

Like everyone else who first gets a taste of the plight of the homeless children, men and women in Lane County I vowed to do something about it.  I wondered why people had not been paying attention and why local government was doing nothing.

I quickly found out that many resources–including government, nonprofit and private–had been dedicated on a wide array of fronts to helping solve the issue.

My first touch was in 1993, when Jerry’s began planning the immense home center you see at 2600 Highway 99 North.  On the site we were going to build our new store there were six houses, all occupied and four of them in good enough shape to preserve instead of raze.

The Jerry’s flagship store stands where houses that are now on Hope Loop once stood.

Jerry bought the houses and commissioned me to work with local agencies to find a new place to move them.  Teaming with St. Vincent DePaul a new location was identified and a new street, Hope Loop, was platted in west Eugene to re-place the homes.

Fast forward a year and I am now a Eugene City Councilor, standing beside Eugene Mayor Ruth Bascom and Springfield Mayor Bill Morisette dedicating those homes to St. Vincent DePaul’s low income housing programs.  Mayor Ruth Bascom has appointed me to the newly-formed Council Committee to Finance Affordable Housing and my work on poverty and homelessness issues has begun in earnest.

Pat Farr with Eugene Mayor Ruth Bascom and Springfield Mayor Bill Morisette dedicating houses that were formerly located at the current site of Jerry’s Home Improvment Center to the St. Vincent DePaul at Hope Loop in west Eugene.

In the years since then I have been asked to participate in a spectrum of programs and efforts designed to give people safe, secure and sanctioned places to sleep, with a strong focus on permanent housing.  Understanding that the best progress is only possible through consolidated work and detailed coordinated planning, the PHB (see link here) was formed in 2014 to bring government, nonprofit, private industry and dedicated individuals together in a powerful policy-recommending group.

PHB and its subcommittee members (see document here) are focused on  strategic plan to reduce homelessness and poverty.  The Board keeps track of details of the plan in a living document listing its strategies and tactics and providing updates on progress.  (See document here)

Jack Moran’s well-researched essay on Egan, published on Christmas Day 2018  (see essay here) has helped forward the PHB’s strategy to inform and enhance public awareness and advocacy efforts surrounding poverty and homelessness but much work and coordinated effort still lay ahead.

Operation Welcome Home will inspire housing for homeless veterans. by Pat Farr

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Welcome Home Oregon Veterans.

The signed declaration committing to seeking an end to veterans homelessness in Oregon

Here in Lane County we are redoubling our efforts to provide housing and services to homeless veterans. I’m proud to have represented our county and cities at Operation Welcome Home’s launch last Thursday. As usual, Lise Stuart and our Veterans Team are looking far into the future to find innovative ways to serve our military heroes today… Read more here.

Operation Welcome Home centers the goal of ending veterans’ homelessness and uses Lane County’s and national best practices and clear goalposts to advance that goal.

Lane County identifies camping area outside downtown Eugene core in response to safety, sanitation and security concerns. by Pat Farr

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

 

Lane County is working to address homelessness

“I have never been so disappointed in Lane County before…”

“I am continually cleaning up feces and other garbage from (my place of business)…”

“Lane  County needs to spend more time on action and less on surveys and talk…”

“Aren’t you tired of just talking about it…”

I sat silently Friday morning (October 26, 2018) as Eugene business people expressed their concerns and anger about homeless camping on public open space in the downtown core of Eugene.

The well-attended meeting (I was a non-participating guest) was a presentation by city staff and others to the Chamber of Commerce’s Local Government Affairs Committee about a homeless dusk-to-dawn camping proposal being considered by the City of Eugene to be located on the now-vacant former City Hall block downtown Eugene. View story here.

I personally decided then and there that action needed to be taken…today.  (I was not alone in recognizing the urgency for action).  I cancelled the rest of my work and activity for the day and focused on finding a way to not only respond to the concerns and demand for action expressed at the meeting I was attending, but to help find a safe, sanitary and more private location as an alternative place  for people to sleep.

Two hours later, County Administration had found a location on county land inside the city of Eugene and six hours later we were meeting with neighbors of the site to explain the county’s intentions.  The outreach to neighbors, as of this writing, is ongoing.

Working with Lane County Sheriff’s Department, Eugene Police, Lane County Public Works, Eugene City Manager’s Office and others the site was prepared before the end of the business day–a day that had started with the early meeting and quotes cited above.

This is not the ideal place or manner to address homelessness.  Lane County’s focus is on permanent housing and our efforts continue in cooperation with Lane County cities, the state of Oregon, the Federal Government, local nonprofits and businesses to add more housing at all levels to provide permanent and supportive housing.

But finding a place for men, women and children to sleep safely at night, with access to toilets and security, is a necessary part of keeping all parts of our cities and our county safe and accessible to all of the people who live here.

Not every comment at Friday’s meeting was negative.  In fact, most of the people in the room expressed and stated a clear understanding of the need to safely house people.

“As a group we have to champion this and make sure it is a success…”

“This is a start, we have to use this as an opportunity…”

“It is an important first step…”

Orderly sanctioned camp sites on Lane County property

Toilets, trash and recycle, fresh water and sanitation being added to reduce neighborhood impact

Cameras and 24-hour monitoring were added for safety and security

The step is taken and the work continues…

Read the Register-Guard associated article here.