Thursday, September 25, 2008, 3:30 p.m.
Community Development Committee
Gladys Ray Shelter
1. Approval of minutes
2. Gladys Ray Shelter and Centre Detox update
3. Cooper Tire update
4. Discuss 2009 Community Development grant (applications due Oct 31)
5. Discuss 2008 Housing and Economic Stimulus bill
6. Update on 2009 computer equipment donations
7. Other business
8. Next meeting: October 23, 2008
The Regular Meeting of the Community Development Committee of the City of Fargo, North Dakota, was held at the Gladys Ray Shelter at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, September 25, 2008.
The Community Development Committee Members present or absent were shown as following:
Present: John Paulsen, Linda Klebe, Lynn Fundingsland, Steve Stoner, Pat Zavoral, Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, Dan Fremling
Absent: Commissioner Tim Mahoney
Also Present: Rocky Schneider, Chris Shotley, Lieutenant Joel Vettel, Scott Stenerson, Dave Anderson
Commissioner Piepkorn welcomed everyone present and called the meeting to order.
Item 1. Approval of Minutes: Regular Meeting of July 17, 2008
(3:30 p.m.) John Paulsen moved to approve the Minutes of the July 17, 2008 meeting as presented. Second by Steve Stoner. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 2. Gladys Ray Shelter and Centre Detox Update
(3:31 p.m.) Jan Eliassen, Gladys Ray Shelter Executive Director, stated the shelter sees several individuals daily. She stated the shelter is meant to be a single point of outreach. She added Social Services, Home Health, and other organizations come into the shelter in the mornings to help break the cycle of homelessness. She stated the shelter is hoping to extend their hours of operation in October to be open 5 days of the week, if not all, and to add additional outreach services.
Mr. Paulsen asked Ms. Eliassen to describe outreach services.
Ms. Eliassen replied the shelter relies on community based services such as mental health services, access to housing, Veterans Upward Bound, and the Veterans Administration that works with the homeless. She stated there are individuals who have mental health needs that the shelter hopes to bring into the building on both sides of the border. As of now, she stated, the shelter is only open at night.
(Rocky Schneider and Dan Fremling present)
Ms. Eliassen stated the goal is to get people to come into the shelter after 6:00 p.m. and be a single point of outreach and direct them to services.
Mr. Stoner asked what the average number of males and females the shelter is serving.
Ms. Eliassen answered the number of women the shelter serves has increased. She stated there are fewer shelters in the area that serve women. She added the shelter serves all age groups of various races; approximately 20-25 men; and between 2-10 women each night.
Mr. Paulsen asked if other shelters have closed or if there are fewer shelters than in previous years.
Ms. Eliassen answered no, there are fewer options. For example, she noted, the YWCA serves only women and shelters in town have been full for a number of months, and populations change with the season.
Pat Zavoral asked Ms. Eliassen to elaborate on the individuals asked to leave other shelters.
Ms. Eliassen confirmed the shelter is serving those individuals. She stated, one of the difficulties of those being served is that these individuals cannot access other shelters due to mental illness and behaviors. Quite often, she said, they come here. She stated the shelter is serving 20-25% of individuals that have consumed alcohol; the majority are extremely mentally ill and are not connected to other services, not on their medication, and are told they can return to the other shelter(s) in 60-90 days. Ms. Eliassen stated staff knows they cannot access those shelters, so individuals try to live in this shelter for the duration of the time.
Mr. Zavoral asked Ms. Eliassen to discuss the success in housing vouchers.
Ms. Eliassen stated numerous individuals have applied; now the goal is to find landlords who will rent to these individuals.
Dan Mahli stated the vouchers come from HOME funds. He said rather than keeping individuals homeless, the goal is to connect them to housing and services.
Mr. Zavoral asked if the State is helping.
Mr. Mahli replied the State 10-Year Plan is being presented to the Governor in October. If approved by the Governor, Mr. Mahli stated the 8 regions in North Dakota would look to the State for funding. He said Mike Anderson, Chair of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency, is on board with the 10-year Plan to End Homelessness.
Mr. Paulsen asked whether funding is dependent on the legislature.
Mr. Mahli replied, yes. He stated the shelter has been modeling a Harm Reduction Plan with Southeast Human Services. The Plan, he stated, is based on teams including nurses, phych nurses, housing staff, and job coaches to connect with the homeless and help them rebuild their lives.
Marty, Centre Inc., gave a statistical overview of the detox center. He stated, as of April 2008 55-60% of individuals were homeless, 45% were homeless as of July, and in August, 67% were homeless.
Mr. Zavoral asked whether there was an increase in the number of women accessing the shelter.
Ms. Eliassen answered the majority are seriously mentally ill. In response to a question posed by Commissioner Piepkorn, she stated that Southeast Human Services is very supportive. Ms. Eliassen said there are staff designated as homeless workers who come to the shelter on Wednesday nights and prepare applications, connect the homeless with physiatrists, and work on mental health outreach. She stated some of these programs are in an infancy stage.
Commissioner Piepkorn asked what the number of repeat individuals from last year are and stated he understood there had been a couple of individuals that had utilized the shelter 20 times.
Marty stated 36 females entered detox last month; in 2007, 616 individuals were in detox one time; 108 individuals were in 2 times; and 2 individuals were in 19 times. He stated the average length of stay was 1.5 days, but it depends on how much someone has had to drink and what their withdrawal symptoms are.
Dawn Mayo, Assistant Planner, asked whether the individuals in detox only one time tend to be college aged.
Scott Stenerson, Downtown Resource Officer, Fargo Police, stated very few who enter into detox are college students. He stated college students generally have somewhere to go.
Mr. Zavoral asked how it is working between the detox center, the shelter, and the Police.
Ms. Eliassen stated the shelter has guidelines that it follows. If someone is impaired beyond what is allowed, she said staff walks them to detox. She tells individuals they cannot be served by the shelter when intoxicated. They cannot be forced into detox, however, so if they leave, Ms. Eliassen stated dispatch is called. She stated the shelter has walked someone to the detox center on 13 occasions. When shelter staff bring someone to detox, she said it is considered a referral. She stated the only time someone is required to stay in detox is if law enforcement brings them in.
Lieutenant Joel Vettel, Fargo Police, stated Ms. Eliassen and shelter staff have done a marvelous job. He stated the Police’s concern is that shelter capacity is anticipated to rise from 30 to 80%. If this occurs, he stated, the shelter needs to continue to stress who they are trying to serve. He said this is an emergency shelter, and there is a need to utilize the other shelters for what they are for. He said it seems the shelter is becoming the easy answer and officers need to be reminded that other options need to be exhausted before utilizing the shelter. He stated the detox center will bridge the gap. He also stated police staff will work weekends, if needed, to alleviate overcrowding since there has been such a drastic increase.
Mr. Paulsen asked what would be done if the shelter were full, knowing that the desire is to not put people at risk.
Ms. Eliassen commented a lot would be dictated by the individual’s condition and the weather. She stated, “we will get creative”. She said staff wants to make sure basic needs are met and let them know exactly where they need to go the next day. She stated the reason we want the numbers down enough is so there is room in those circumstances.
Commissioner Piepkorn asked whether staff communicates with other shelters regarding capacity.
Ms. Eliassen answered, yes. She stated, through communication, the other shelters have been over their numbers and very full the last six months.
Mr. Paulsen asked whether the increase is due to an increase in population within the community, an increase in the number of individuals facing trouble, or other reason.
Lieutenant Vettel stated it is all of the above. He said there is a perception that if you build it, they will come and it is hard to determine if that is true. He said time will tell and all involved are doing as much as they can to mitigate it. He mentioned that perhaps the shelter is too welcoming, too comfortable. He stated the shelter needs to be the last resort, staff needs to continue the agenda, and law enforcement needs to do all it can to analyze where these individuals fit best.
Mr. Mahli added the Wesley Center was taking in 25-30 people a night. He stated the shelter surveys everyone who comes through the door and it is his guess that many of those accessing the shelter come from the Wesley Center.
Lieutenant Vettle stated the Wesley Center was a disaster that should not be repeated. He said there were assaults, sexual assaults, attempted damage to gas lines going into the building, and law enforcement had to be called.
Ms. Eliassen pointed out there are more and more homeless across the nation. In North Dakota, she stated, the housing crises doesn’t appear to have suffered as much and she does not see the colder seasons bringing homeless here. She stated, however, we will continue to see an increase in the number accessing the shelter and she is not sure how to meet the demand.
Item 3. Cooper Tire Update
(3:55 p.m.) Lynn Fundingsland stated the Beyond Shelter Board and a number of guests recently toured Beyond Shelter Inc’s housing projects, which included the Cooper House site. He stated the site is cleared.
Mr. Fundingsland stated the tax credit financing for the Cooper House is insecure. He checks on it week to week and said the capital needed has not been fully assembled. He said the project relies heavily on the tax credits. He stated there are more parties interested in selling the credits than there are buyers. Mr. Fundingsland stated 14 inquiries were sent to investors and only 1 replied. He stated shortfalls can be made up with additional credits, which will hit the market next year, but there are risks. He said Beyond Shelter has the tax credits this year and an investor, but does not know what buyers will be paying next year. He stated the Housing and Economic Stimulus funding might be able to help fund the project. He added Mike Anderson, the State’s Housing Finance Agency Director, is supportive of the project and is encouraging Beyond Shelter to maintain the 2008 credits.
Pat Zavoral stated the Cooper House is the next step for people to utilize after staying in the shelter. Lynn Fundingsland noted the project is estimated to cost around $4 million and the shortfall is about $250,000. He noted, other than the normal staffing needs, he is confident the operating dollars will come into the project from the ND Department of Human Services.
Mr. Fundingsland stated the Cooper Tire units will be furnished, much of which has been donated already. He said there are beds, kitchen tables, chairs, TV stands, fixtures, and night stands that have been donated, and the Fargo North School shop teacher has agreed to build bed frames.
Linda Klebe asked if Beyond Shelter can borrow the funds.
Mr. Fundingsland stated it would make sense to do that but the buyer of the tax credits will not agree to it. He said the rents are so low that any income from rent will cover operating costs. He added that is not the case with most housing projects.
Item 4. Discuss 2009 Community Development Grant
Dan Mahli stated letters have been sent to area non-profit organizations to apply for Community Development grant funds. He noted applications are due by October 31, 2008. He said, in the past, applicants used to present their applications.
Steve Stoner stated, in the past, many applications did not meet the criteria but applicants had the opportunity to present their case.
Mr. Mahli indicated that the social service fund is a wildcard. He added there are 25 social service organizations included and there is $300,000 in social service funding this year. He suggested to prepare staff recommendations for the Community Development Committee in December.
Item 5. Discuss 2008 Housing and Economic Stimulus Bill
(4:08 p.m.) Mr. Mahli stated HUD has been working on the regulations for the housing and economic stimulus bill, but stated information is hard to get. He said the formulas and requirements should be released September 29, 2008. He said North Dakota will receive 20 million dollars but does not know if money will go to the State or if entitlements will receive funds. He said if the State receives the allocation, the Committee will go to the Department of Community Services for funding. He said the funding can be used towards redevelopment, foreclosed or abandoned properties, or the demolition of blighted properties. As soon as they announce the regulations, he said a plan will be put together and brought to the Committee. He stated the Committee needs to ensure that funds are used to assist low to moderate income individuals.
Pat Zavoral stated it will take shape as the other 700 billion dollar bailout is worked through.
Item 6. Update on 2009 Computer Equipment Donations
Dan Mahli stated the 2009 computer equipment applications were mailed out along with the Community Development grant applications. He stated the due date is October 31, 2008 and staff reviews and recommendations will be taken directly to the City Commission.
Item 7. Other Business
Commissioner Piepkorn stated the land bought in the Osgood area before it was developed was a good idea and hopes that it is done in the future.
Lynn Fundingsland stated streaming property is a good idea right now. He added the tool to make it happen is Fannie Mae dollars. He said it is a nice product to use and interest only payments are made for 3 years.
Commissioner Piepkorn asked if the Housing Authority works with the Planning and Development Department to pick areas.
Mr. Fundingsland answered, yes. Jim Gilmour, Planning Director, stated Mr. Fundingsland is informed of what properties have been bought.
Mr. Fundingsland stated the Housing Authority is looking for 1-2 properties for seniors. He said the preference is infill.
Mr. Fundingsland stated, in response to Commissioner Piepkorn’s question, that the Fargo High Rise repairs have been dragged out way too long. He said new funds are needed for that. Mr. Fundingsland talked to HUD regarding the cost of rehab versus the pros and cons of a sale of the property. He stated if the property were sold and it was used for something other than moderate income housing, it would need to be sold at full market value. He stated, however, that housing is needed and there are a lot of people involved. Unfortunately, he stated, the only source of funds available is from the tax credit program and investors will not put money into the property knowing repairs are needed. He said investors fear that if federal funding stops they will need to rent the property.
Commissioner Piepkorn added the property is in a unique location and noted it is on the bus route.
Item 8. Next Meeting: October 23, 2008
The meeting adjourned at 4:24 p.m.