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Mendo’s New Homeless Plan

Thirty pages of extremely unreadable bureaucratic detail make up Mendo’s recently published and long-awaited “Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness in Mendocino County.” It was presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for “Discussion and Possible Action.” 

The purpose of the plan, in its own words, is not to actually deal with homelessness, but “to share with the community a common agenda and plan of action to make homelessness RARE, BRIEF, and only ONE TIME. The Plan was developed by “the Strategic Planning Committee of the Mendocino County Homeless Services Homeless Continuum of Care (MCHSCoC), a collaborative of over 31 public agencies and private non-profit organizations throughout the County that serve the unsheltered population. The Plan was reviewed by the MCHSCoC (Continuum of Care) governing board and formally adopted on April 27, 2020. The following jurisdictions have also adopted this Plan: XXX, XXX, XXX. [sic].”

(I.e., no jurisdictions.)

The Plan goes to great lengths to note that “the Plan includes two additional goals related to strengthening collaboration both between the CoC and the broader community and within the CoC governing body itself” — which of course has nothing to do with helping homeless people either.

Supervisor John McCowen, a key official who personally deals with Ukiah area homeless people himself, has repeatedly insisted that the “Marbut report” which recommended prioritizing help for local homeless people and discouraging traveling homeless would be incorporated in the Plan. But the Marbut report is barely mentioned in the Plan, and then only with a couple of highly selective irrelevant statistical footnotes. 

There’s lots of flaky statistics in the Plan which supposedly breakdown the homeless into this or that category based on flawed counting methods (as also documented by Marbut, hence his $50k report being sidelined) of age, ethnicity, etc. But despite the promises that the Plan would address Marbut’s primary recommendation to help locals first, there’s no effort to distinguish the locals from the travelers in the Plan.

There’s a long list of the categories of “help” that Mendo’s many agencies offer, most of it in impenetrably complex categories of advice and info that not only cannot be navigated by an ordinary housed person, much less that do anything to actually help anyone. Nor are there any counts of how many people have availed themselves of this wonderful panoply of advice. Our favorite is the County’s Health and Human Services list of homeless services which includes “jail diversion work.” There are some local non-government Mendo people providing a few free meals to the homeless. But they’d be doing that whether or not there was a “plan,” and no mention is made whether they even try to distinguish between locals or traveling transients. 

One of the ways the Plan plans to “make homelessness rare” is “identify new funding for development of housing for homeless.” They “plan” to “identify new funding” for the homeless. Great. That’ll help a lot. Especially if their attempts are successful. If not — oh well! We tried!

There’s lots of work on identification of this, and models for that, development of strategies and collaborations and teams for certain homeless “cohorts” and other stuff, plus development of ways to measure effectiveness (the actual ways are never mentioned, of course). 

There’s no mention of how much more homelessness the area will experience due to the pandemic downturn and other economic impact, nor of those made homeless by wildfire. 

And if all this transparently useless activity somehow works, the Plan says that if they’re successful, “We will see a 5% annual decrease per year in the length of time that people are homeless as measured by HUD’s LSA.”

Five whole percent! (As measured by… Don't ask.)

Early in the introduction, however, the “Plan” bluntly spells out its true purpose: “This Plan also fulfills Federal and State requirements that local jurisdictions receiving funding from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have a community plan for addressing homelessness.”

In other words, the Plan is nothing but required eyewash so that the “31 public agencies and private non-profit organizations” will continue to receive funding, not to actually help any homeless people.

4 Comments

  1. George Hollister August 31, 2020

    I forward Jim Rickett’s comment: “Well, at least they have a plan, even if they stole it from some school district. Ever notice the way public school systems have, especially since formation of a federal Department of Education, become gigantic, all-tail-and-no-teeth bureaucracies? When I went to elementary school in San Jose, the school had about a dozen teachers, a principal, a secretary, a part-time librarian and a custodian. That’s it. No teacher’s aides, no vice principal, no assistant vice principal nor staff for them, no counselors, zip. Ever wonder what all those folks do at today’s schools? They keep track of numbers and write reports that go into statistics that are sent to DC in order to justify federal funds they receive. In the Clark County School District that serves Las Vegas, roughly one school district employee in eight actually teaches. Is it any wonder that of all that federal money coming in is left for teacher salaries?
    More importantly, when did everyone become convinced that we can somehow leverage our money by sending it to Washington, letting the people there take their cut off the top and send back what’s left. The Second Law of Thermodynamics (summarized as “you can’t even break even”) applies. And not even the DNC can repeal it.”

  2. mr. wendal August 26, 2020

    …if they’re successful “We will see a 5% annual decrease per year in the length of time that people are homeless as measured by HUD’s LSA.” What a ludicrous goal! How in the world do the Board members sleep at night without questioning that vague, minuscule, meaningless goal? Do they even know what the LSA is all about? Income security by identifying new funding for the “helping” organizations is the real goal here. Programs are constantly changing depending upon funding alone, not effectiveness. It is infuriating.

    And the county gets a nice chunk of the grant money so they support any cockamamie proposals, too. Fort Bragg operated that way for years. We ended up with a bloated, top heavy city administration (funded by their take of the grant money), along with a real-estate-heavy ineffectual Hospitality Center with few services to offer. The County sees easy money to be made off of the homeless. And with a goal of reducing the amount of time a homeless person will spend without a home by a mere 2.6 weeks per year, they are certain to meet their goal and make their self-congratulatory reports to the board.

    Our other local news providers fawn over the board, the county and the CoC members, accepting the vague measures of success without asking for hard numbers and metrics that could be understood by anyone reading or listening to their reports. Thanks to Mr. Scaramella for continuing to shine a bright light on these antics. No one can say they didn’t know what was going on when this all comes tumbling down.

    • George Hollister August 27, 2020

      “Our other local news providers fawn over the board, the county and the CoC members, accepting the vague measures of success without asking for hard numbers and metrics that could be understood by anyone reading or listening to their reports.”

      You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Of course the measure is how much outside money comes in, and management is directed in getting as much of that money as possible. Let’s give everyone involved a big applause for their efforts and success.

      • James Marmon August 27, 2020

        George, I hope you’re playing “Devil’s Advocate”, what you just wrote is wrong, just plain wrong. Is this week’s RNC upsetting you that much? You’ve been mad every since Trump hijacked your Republicans Party in 2016 and turned it into the working man’s party.

        James

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