Minority Position Statement
There are serious implications on the Task Force of ignoring input and recommendations of homeless representatives, and the wrongful treatment of Rev. Eddie L. Perry, the only black clergy representative on the Task Force, and because checks and balances were lost and disregarded along with interests of those most directly affected, the homeless community.
Due to disrespectful treatment of homeless people and their champions in the African-American clergy, and for the other reasons below, we request that Richmond City Council form a new homeless initiative committee to help improve severed trust issues between consumers and other "stakeholders."
Attached to this minority report are the following documents that support the positions taken in this report:
1. ASWAN letter to City Council- January 12, 1998 with a proposed Resolution
2. ASWAN letter to the Homeless Task Force- December 9, 1997
3. Petition signed by homeless and formerly homeless people
4. Baptist Ministers' Conference letter- December 15, 1997
5. Central Virginia Legal Aid Society letter- January 6, 1998
The Need for a Safety Net:
Due to the Not-In-My-Back (NIMBY) prejudice against homeless people, especially in the downtown area, there is a need for checks and balances to protect the interests of homeless people against use of public funds to help them in ways that would seek to hide homeless people. The homeless community and its supporters seek checks and balances by means of a safety net for homeless programs through the public's right to petition local government if homeless programs in the downtown area are under direct line of fire.
The benefit of the right to petition the local government on behalf of homeless programs was brought home to the homeless community when hundreds of people came to City Hall and demanded that City Council remove zoning restrictions on homeless meals programs at places of worship.
The proposed coordinating body might have the effect of preventing a public hearing process where homeless people and their champions in the African-American church community would be able to prevent cuts in funding to homeless services in the downtown area, they should not face a possible veto by the proposed coordinating body with capability similar to that of a school board where appeals and grievances are decided by the proposed coordinating body and City Council would be powerless to intervened.
The homeless community and supporters of the homeless need to be able to petition their local government to protect the interests of the unsheltered people of Richmond.
December 9, 1997
The City Administration sent to members of the Task Force a statement of minutes for the December 9, 1997 meeting of the Task Force, including the following:
"Rev. Perry asked for his name to be removed from the Task Force because he did not receive the meeting's notices in the mail. The request was granted. . . ."
"The reason for the dissolution of the Task Force was because of the ASWAN petition, critical issues related to the homeless have been and/or accomplished. . . ."
"Ray Pardue further stated that there was a need for a private entity to deal with regionwide homeless issues, otherwise the discussion will continue to be centered around the City government. . . ."
Rev. Perry asked that his name be removed from the Final Report document concerning the proposed "Entity," not that his name be removed as a Homeless Task Force member.
Critical issues related to the homeless had not been resolved, but actually worsened, as can be seen from the ASWAN petition.
A coordinating body is not needed to achieve regional cooperation. Henrico and Chesterfield Counties joined in the 1997 HUD/NOFA process, leading to more funding for homeless services in the community. This did not require a costly, wasteful new coordinating body to be formed with a business plan supported by those who favors "NIMBY."
Ray Pardue, Executive Director of Flagner House (homeless shelter in Henrico county) wrote a letter September 19, 1997 to John Felts, an ASWAN Co-Convener, which stated the following:
"It is dangerous for you to continue to make generalized statement about those who care about reducing homelessness and have worked many years to bring reform. . . ."
"I do not appreciate your making assumptions about me or members of the group. You appear to be of a one track mind with a very limited view at hand. Do not expect me to absorb your abuse any longer."
"In addition, please explain to me the connection between ASWAN Committee membership and having the skills to draft a document for a larger body's review. There simply is none. . . ."
"Your position on the racial composition of the Coordination Organization Subcommittee is some what puzzling. The Subcommittee was formed from volunteer from the Regional Task Force. There has been no objection to anyone joining regardless of race, gender or whatever else one thinks is an issue. The "playing of the race card" has become all too common. If you are so concerned about the racial composition, why has not ASWAN appointed several African-American representatives? Do not complain about others unless you "walk the walk."
"My impression is no one will make you or those you represent happy. Nevertheless, you can expect me to follow through with my professional commitment to be meaningful involved in the process."
When ASWAN representatives first joined to participated in dialogue on the Entity subcommittee of the Homeless Task Force, the racial make-up of that committee was 100% white. In late 1996, ASWAN had three co-conveners, of whom two were white. At the time of Ray Pardue letter, ASWAN had four Co-Convener, of whom two were black. Later, ASWAN increased the number of black Co-Conveners to three out of five. However, the Homeless Task Force did not walk that same walk, as is show below.
September 26, 1997
The minutes approved by the Task Force for its September 26, 1997 meeting, included the following:
Matt Hileford motioned to add more black clergy to the Task Force. The motion was denied because the City Council Resolution that created the Task Force only empowers the chairman to appoint members to the Task Force. . . ."
"The Task Force did not receive funding to staff the "Entity", hence the process got bogged down for a year and half. But now, through ACCESS Services, over $90,000 is available to staff the "Entity". A business plan is in the process of being developed to be distributed to local businesses and Gray Wyatt is working with Leadership Metro Richmond to obtain additional buy-in from the business community. . . ."
"The Entity's purpose is to create a partnership between the business community and the homeless providers."
The minutes falsely claimed that the related City Council's Resolution only empowers the chairperson to appoint members of the Task Force.
A motion to add more African-American clergy to the Homeless Task Force actually was ruled "Out of Order" by the chairman, Dr. George Mushgrove.
All but one Homeless Task Force members received a "Final Report" document in the mail and were asked to respond to it at the next Homeless Task Force meeting. When Rev. Perry complained that he never received the "Final Report" documents or any notices of any Task Force meetings, Dr. Mushgrove responded, "the fact that you are here means that you found out about the meeting."
Rev. Eddie Perry, Civil Chairman for the Baptist Ministries Conference of Richmond and Vicinity have spent many years protecting the interests of homeless people, yet, as the only black clergy on the Homeless Task Force, he had been treated with total disregard and disrespect.
The City Administration on the Homeless Task Force had used the Homeless Task Force as a platform to make mockery out of the only black clergy Homeless Task Force member.
Misinformation surrounding the concept and funding for a "Coordination Body" in Richmond surfaced in the Homeless Task Force minutes. In 1996, the Homeless Task Force changed the ratings of the ranking committee for the McKinney Act homeless funding of area service providers, so that the "Entity" could be able to receive funding through the "McKinney Act," $137,000 was lost and was not recoveable. SRO was asked to step down in its third ranking so that the "Entity" would obtain sufficient ranking for funding. The same day that SRO refused to step down to the point of not being able to receive their own funding, is the same day SRO received a Section Negative 213 letter from the City Administration disqualifying SRO from receiving funds while advancing the proposed Entity in ratings. HUD rejected the Entity application, $137, 000 was lost.
August 4, 1997
The minutes of the August 4, 1997 meeting included the following:
"John Felts stated that he would like the Task Force to reconsider the last meeting's vote on the make up of the Entity's board membership because the primary supporters of the 1/3 homeless representation on the Entity Board were not at the meeting. The chairman mentioned that the vote was done through a democratic process, and there were strong arguments against separating the board membership into 1/3. Mr. Felts also stated that ASWAN members were not at the meeting because they were not notified. The chairman noted that notice of the meetings were mailed through the usual process using the approved mailing list. Notices to ASWAN members are mailed to the Daily Planet.
The minutes falsely claimed that notices sent by mail, and that the vote was done though a democratic process.
A member of the city Administration acknowledged during the August 4th meeting that notices were by telephone only for the July 7th meeting. Rev. Perry and ASWAN members were not present as they were unaware of the meeting.
If the City Administration doesn't like the developments of the decision-making process, all it has to do, is to hold another meeting and not invite the primary supporters.
The Homeless Task Force minutes have repeatedly given false information of the process and seem to be biased, resulting in false information about the Homeless Task Force process and meetings from the City Administration for City Council review.
The "Final Report Presented By The Coordination Body Subcommittee" had a Business Plan (page 3-8), based on a proposal prepared by the "Business Plan Task Group" chaired by Gray Wyatt (President of the Downtown Neighborhood Association). This "Business Plan" had much of the same content, with some cut and paste work, as the Continuum of Care presented by the Richmond Community to HUD as part of the 1997 HUD/NOFA process, with one major exception:
The Richmond community's Continuum of Care submitted to HUD in 1997 mentioned in several places the existence of a well-known primary obstacle to location of homeless services -- "Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY), however, there was no mention of the NIMBY issue in the document submitted by the "Business Plan Task Force" or in the "Final Report" of the Coordination Body Subcommittee, though this issue have become one of the most major barrier in establishing homeless assistance and programs.
Many homeless persons would ask why a "Business Plan"? Which could be biased by ignoring the need to stand against undue influence caused by the NIMBY issue, since some downtown businesses play a major NIMBY role, as the Downtown Neighborhood Association.
The last paragraph on page 7 of the Final Report of the Coordination Body Subcommittee states, "Establishing trust is essential to the success of the coordination organization. . . ."
Has trust really been established? Actually, the problem of lack of trust is far worse from the homeless community perspective, due to certain members of the Task Force ignoring homeless representatives input, What had been fought for by homeless representatives and approved by the Coordinating Body Subcommittee was discarded in their absent at the July 7, 1997 Homeless Task Force meeting.
In the "Final Report"(page 17) under "Values" states, "While differing opinions and openness will be encouraged, no actions or activities will be supported which do not demonstrate dignity, equality and respect for all persons."
There are many different indications of the Homeless Task Force process that show resentment towards an homeless grassroots organization and the African-American clergy.
Attached to this minority report are December 1997 letters from the Baptist Ministers Conference of Richmond and Vicinity and from ASWAN that show that the process for formation of a proposed coordinating body which failed to "demonstrate dignity, equality and respect for all persons."
Some service providers are afraid to take a stand against injustices and discrimination aimed at homeless people. They receive city funding and want to continue a good bridge relationship with the city, and believe there will be a price to pay if they don't go along.
The homeless community looks to their strongest champions in the African-American clergy because the homeless community's own providers (with the exception of some groups, such as the Daily Planet, CARITAS, First Homes, SRO of Richmond, Catholic charities, etc.) turned their backs on the civil rights concerns of the homeless community, in order to go along.
Current laws in Richmond victimize and penalize homeless people for their struggles to find a way for basic daily functions. People who fall into homelessness in Richmond face arrest because it is illegal to sleep in public, and they often have no private space in which they have permission to sleep. After being refused shelter when all shelters are full with a waiting list, a homeless person must hide to evade arrest. City police, from time to time, have made sweeps, locking up homeless people, while the Richmond city government neglected adequate emergency shelter for decades.
The City Government, from time to time, has used jails for housing and incarceration as treatment for the most vulnerable individuals among us for committing the crime of sleeping. A Police officer can honestly say, "All the shelters are booked, so turn around, you are going to be booked."
This report contends that the proposed 17th Street location for a new street center is designed for complete failure. A multi-service center for the homeless such as a public "Hygiene Center" along with daily meals should have an accessible centralized location.
The City Government proposes to cut down on the problem of insufficient shelter beds only if it can divert federal and state funding to help the homeless by housing, feeding, and providing services to homeless people across from the jail, down an arduous and steep incline from downtown to an isolated location on 17th Street.
Now that the City government is looking into this critical need of an increase of shelters, it proposes to increase homeless shelter beds only if they can be isolated from Richmond's mainstream. The effort to create a coordinating body that would have influence over allocation of public funds for homeless services comes in the midst of this wrongful and disparaging effort to hide homeless people from the community.
There is a clear intention that the City Government plans to expel homeless residents from the downtown area, without showing that the homeless have done anything to deserve to be remove from their current community.
Under these conditions, it is no wonder there is a wave of a civil rights movement in the homeless community and advocates for the homeless, particularly among the African-American churches in the Richmond area, in the midst of restrictive zoning changes to drive homeless people out of their present community, that would complicate genuine efforts within the provider community by agencies such as the Daily Planet to assist and reduce the number of unsheltered people.
The use of police sweeps to address public concern are counterproductive in addressing homelessness. It undermines solutions by generating fines and/or criminal records instead of assistance of homeless people to self sufficiency. Also, it is fiscally inefficient and wasteful of city's resources.
The cost of incarceration because people are homeless is roughly 25% percent higher than the cost of providing shelter, food, transportation, and counseling services combined.
As the pace of economic growth surpasses that of increased homeless population, one may wonder, why the increase of restrictions and zoning requirements on help to the homeless in the midst of a decrease in public assistance to the poor as in the recent welfare reform bill?
In 1960, the average household in the nation spent 14.2% of gross income for housing; by 1992, the figure had more than doubled to 31.7%.
We should not ignore the fact that the causes of poverty and homelessness are direct out-growths of the extreme economic inequality that exists in our society. We should focus on true solutions, not how we can make homeless people less visible by attempting to cast them out of their own community. Homeless people have their community, whether its by-right or not, it's still their community and presently homeless people are here to stay in their community, sheltered or unsheltered.
ASWAN's advocacy for strong checks and balances, including on service providers, for more participation by homeless and formerly homeless people on the boards of directors of homeless agencies, and for more productive results and an attitude of equality from people of all walks, has come at a price to ASWAN, including the way that ASWAN is treated by some area service providers that openly display resentment toward a homeless grassroots organization which consist of homeless or formerly homeless individuals.
The endorsement of a proposed "Entity," on the basis of a true consensus-making process, might not completely satisfy everyone, but the outcome should be one that the homeless community and their strongest champions in the African-American church community are willing to live with. But because serious objections continue to exist, not only in the homeless community and among the black clergy, and because these concerns may also be held by some area service providers, it is of utmost importance not to move forward at this time with the proposed Entity.
It is possible that the group does not have enough information to make a good decision. Sometimes a decision must be deferred until more facts are gathered, more discussion takes place, or members have more time to think about it. Fuller understanding by each participant will increase the possibility of reaching consensus.
If nothing comes out, or if the atmosphere is getting unfriendly and pressured, "Suspend Judgement" -- agree to discuss the matter again when the group can do so in a more meaningful way.
Take no positive action on the matter as a group until it has been satisfactorily resolved for all members of the group.
Be willing to repeat this process patiently as often and as long as it takes to find that mutually acceptable solution.
-- "The Consensus Decision Making Process" By the Training/Action Affinity Group.
This minority report supported and signed by minority representatives
of the Richmond Regional Homeless Task Force
was prepared by John M. Felts, ASWAN Co-Convener
ASWAN Main Page http://www16.brinkster.com/6499/aswan