Wants community involvement, input from organizations
The city is beginning to put together a strategic plan that’s meant to address homelessness — but it may be awhile before a formal plan is finalized.
The Finance, Administration and Police Subcommittee met last week to review the Draft Homelessness Strategic Plan Framework and discuss the first round of additions, as well as how to get further community input regarding what should be included in the plan. This was the first time the framework had been presented to the committee.
“It’s not a strategic plan yet,” said City Manager David Kelley. “It’s a framework for development of a strategic plan. One of the reasons why we developed it was to start to put together this framework on which we could have a dialogue on how, as a community, we want to address the issue of homelessness.”
The framework plan consists of eight parts: an executive summary that outlines the city’s goals, guiding principles and vision of success; an introduction that gives voice to the purpose of creating a strategic plan; background surrounding homelessness in Cloverdale, local and county programs and community efforts to address homelessness; the city’s best practices for addressing homelessness; a planning process that focuses on the use of a community outreach group; strategic plan framework; action plans; and a section set aside for resources.
Some of the components included in the draft framework were discussed at previous subcommittee meetings where community members voiced their input on how they believe the city should address homelessness.
One of the next steps discussed, the creation of a community outreach group or ad hoc committee, is meant to address any gaps in information that may be in the draft plan.
“I think one of the things we should really look at is establishing a community advisory group, where you invite key representatives (in the community) to address specific initiatives,” Kelley said, adding that the city would then develop a “process where the community advisory group goes through those initiatives, refines them and makes sure that they’re reflective of (the city’s) values and visions in the community, and ultimately result in adoption of a formal framework.”
“By appointing a committee that oversees (the plan), those representatives will hopefully be invited to the table to identify what they can and can’t do … so it can be put down on paper,” said Kelley, suggesting that around 20 people sit on the committee.
Both Vice Mayor Gus Wolter and Mayor Melanie Bagby agreed with the idea of creating a committee or ad hoc to address the opinions of local organizations and community members, though both questioned the suggestion of having 20 people on the committee.
There was also discussion surrounding whether or not it would behoove the city to work with neighboring Healdsburg to address homelessness from a regional perspective, since Healdsburg has expressed interest in collaborating with Cloverdale on the issue.
In response, Vice Mayor Gus Wolter advocated for making sure that Cloverdale builds its own city-specific plan and Mayor Melanie Bagby requested that the city receive more information regarding how Healdsburg would propose working together.
Regardless of potential partnerships with other cities, both councilmembers want to see the city move forward with creating a Cloverdale-specific plan.
“I think we need to have a very clear direction on how council is working with people who are already doing the work, and how that can be a framework for clearing up communication and making sure we’re not duplicating the work,” Bagby said, addressing the work done by local groups such as Alexander Valley Healthcare, Wallace House and St. Vincent dePaul, all of whom are mentioned in the plan framework.
One of the components of the plan that may be parsed out more is the definition of the specific ways that local groups contribute to addressing homelessness.
“Right now in our 2017 reporting, we reported 127 homeless people … the amount we’re dealing with is a lot larger than some people realize, or want to accept,” said Deborah Howell, CEO of Alexander Valley Healthcare. The 2018 statistics aren’t currently available. “On our part we have three case managers to deal with these patients. The one thing that we do know has happened is we’ve had people working with our homeless population and they find them shelter outside of Cloverdale, and then they come back. Their doctors are here, their nurses are here, their outreach workers are here. A lot of them are from here and they don’t want to live in Santa Rosa. That’s an issue that we should address and look at.”
“We all provide these services and we’re trying to tackle this really huge problem,” said Colleen Halbohm of Wallace House, talking about Alexander Valley Healthcare, the Clean River Alliance, Wallace House and Reach for Home. “We each try and stay in our own lane and work together so that we aren’t tripping over each other. That doesn’t mean that her program is better than mine, or her program is better than theirs — it means that there’s a place for everybody in this problem. Our agency works more with (sober clean and sober living) families. Her program (Reach for Home) focus more on chronically homeless. Debbie is going to be spread out over all of it … the bottom line is that we’re all about helping homeless people.”
Since the plan is in its beginning stages, one subject of the meeting was suggestions for what to add to the plan.
The issue of finances, specifically financial stability, was discussed by both the organization representatives present and the city.
“A vision of success would be all of our partners working together to communicate clearly, and having a clear understanding of the discal climate — what’s cyclical, what’s ongoing, what’s a one-time investment,” Bagby said.
Additional suggestions included adding a section to the draft that addresses youth homelessness — the city has around 12 homeless youth.
The issue of mental health was also brought up, specifically focusing on the lack of sufficient mental health resources in the county.
“The mental health component is a huge gap,” Bagby said. “This is one of the policy issues that we need to advocate for as a council … Whether you have a home or not, there aren’t enough mental health resources in the community.”
During the meeting, two suggestions were made regarding the next steps for the draft strategic plan — one suggested that the draft be brought to the Cloverdale City Council at a future date for input from the full council regarding the creation of the plan, as well as discussion surrounding creating a community advisory group; the other suggested sending it to be workshopped by the council. As of press time, the next step for the framework hadn’t been decided.