Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Creating 'community safety partnership neighborhood management programs as a management and mitigation strategy for public nuisances: Part 3 (like homeless shelters)

A couple weeks ago, there were two separate articles ("SLC park has become 'nightmare' with dangerous crime, neighbors say" and "SLC businesses fed up with crime near homeless resource center," Fox13-TV) about the negative impacts on neighborhoods and commercial districts adjacent to new facilities serving Salt Lake County's homeless population.

There's a lot of break ins, assaults, and various other crimes.

It got me thinking.

Why not accompany "noxious uses" like homeless shelters with a "Community Safety Partnership" to provide extra safety and nuisance abatement services to the areas likely to be impacted by the placement?

This idea extends the discussion in the current series on creating more focused neighborhood stabilization initiatives.

-- "The need for a "national" neighborhood stabilization program comparable to the Main Street program for commercial districts: Part I (Overall)"
-- "To be successful, local neighborhood stabilization programs need a packaged set of robust remedies: Part 2"
-- "Creating 'community safety partnership neighborhood management programs as a management and mitigation strategy for public nuisance programs: Part 3 (like homeless shelters)"
-- "A case in Gloucester, Massachusetts as an illustration of the need for systematic neighborhood monitoring and stabilization initiatives: Part 4 (the Curcuru Family)"
-- "Local neighborhood stabilization programs: Part 5 | Adding energy conservation programs, with the PUSH Buffalo Green Development Zone as a model," 2021
Public safety versus policing.  In the post-George Floyd environment, there's been a lot of discussion about the difference between policing and public safety, calls to "defund the police," and renewed interest in alternative approaches, such as that discussed in the book by Alex Vitale, The End of Policing, where he makes the point that many social problems where we deploy police would be better addressed through alternatives to police officers.

And there has been attention brought to the CAHOOTS program in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, which uses a team of social workers and other emergency personnel, but not police, as first responders originally to mental health-related issues ("'CAHOOTS': How Social Workers And Police Share Responsibilities In Eugene, Oregon," NPR) but which has been expanded to include:
"homelessness, intoxication, disorientation, substance abuse and ... dispute resolution. Non-emergency medical care, first aid, and transportation to services is also provided."
From "SLC park has become 'nightmare' with dangerous crime, neighbors say":
The community park was bustling... for all the wrong reasons, if you ask the people who live next to it.  "Lots of homelessness, lots of drug use, and lots of drug dealing," said Matt Engle, who can see the park from his home.

He and another neighbor explained they frequently see drug deals, and drug overdoses. They'll find needles next to human feces. The trash bins were overflowing on Wednesday, with more garbage littering the ground. ...

Part of the reason they think Jefferson Park has become a hot spot for criminal activity, is the location within the Ballpark area. It sits in between the two new homeless resource centers, which each opened within the last year.
The second SLC article is about similar and worse problems experienced by businesses located near one of the new homeless shelters, including assaults drug use, prostitution, break ins, and outdoor defecation. 

WRT both situations, the city does have action teams that work with communities impacted by homeless shelters.  But the response or the way that the program is set up to work appears to be inadequate.

Salt Lake's homeless facilities used to be concentrated in the Rio Grande district Downtown, and they got out of hand in terms of drug dealing and violence.  In response, the city, county, State, and other stakeholders came together and created a program to relocate the facilities, to make them smaller and to not put them all in one place, not unlike how DC has distributed homeless family facilities around the city.

Like my criticisms of the DC response the program may have been built on some flawed decisions resulting from incorrect assessment of the issues.  They built three facilities, but reduced overall capacity, so that the problem of homeless people living on the street persists.  The facilities were full soon after they opened, before winter even set in, and Salt Lake City had to create an emergency shelter.

The plans reduced capacity on the assumption they could reduce homelessness with new service programs, but as I say the problem of homelessness is more like a river than a lake--the population isn't fixed and continually grows depending on social and economic conditions, just as a river isn't a still body of water, whereas lakes are more contained bodies of water.

In any case, creating substantive reduction in need on such a short time line was overly ambitious and likely to fail (which it did).

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Josh Valdez talks about his experience camping in Salt Lake City during the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

And while the deconcentration has removed most of the problems that had existed in the Rio Grande area, in some respects they've merely been displaced, both in other areas of downtown, which has a lot of homeless camping and congregating and to the areas around the new shelters.

In part this is abetted by how the pandemic has led to the closure of public facilities like libraries ("Have Salt Lake City homeless encampments gotten out of control again?" and "Business, public building closures leave Salt Lake City’s homeless with few places to use restrooms," Salt Lake Tribune).

Social service programs and resident opposition to their placement.  Over the decades there's been tons of media coverage of homeless shelters ("Homeless shelter opponents are using this environmental law in bid to block new housing," Los Angeles Times) and drug rehabilitation clinics ("Many residents oppose proposed Monument methadone clinic," Colorado Springs Gazette) as nuisances, among others.

Residents complain about the deleterious impacts on their neighborhoods, because of misbehavior and criminal activity by some of the clients of these facilities.

From "‘Not-in-my-backyard’ arguments ramp up against proposed Center for Health & Housing," Springfield State Journal-Register.  Photo: Ted Schurter.

The response to opposition is attempts at  shaming, that the residents are nimbys and unwilling to bear some of the burden associated with dealing with social problems ("Is Shame The Antidote To NIMBYism In The Washington Region?," WAMU/NPR).

The reality is that not all nimbyism is the same.

Even if most don't, some uses do generate extranormal negative effects. And typically, programs aren't set up to deal with these known and likely effects. Which generates even more nimbyism going forward.

Usually plans to address the known spillover nuisances from potentially noxious uses aren't required.  In the vein of "public safety" vs. policing, I think the problem is both simpler and more complicated.  The issue isn't an unwillingness of residents to bear the burden (although some will remain opposed in any instance), but simultaneously mitigating the potential for problems that arise with the placement of such uses.

It should be no different from taverns, nightclubs (Best Safety Practices for Nightlife Establishments, City of West Hollywood; "Nightclub and Bar Security: Bouncers, Doormen and Security Guards | You Are Security! " LPT Security Consultants), gas stations ("Creating a Safer Gas Station for Your Customers and Employees, Ovation Insurance) and convenience stores ("Are You Doing Enough to Secure Your Stores?," Convenience Store News) creating security plans, knowing that these types of uses (and others) are known to have a higher propensity for criminal activity.

-- Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, Arizona State University
-- "Tampa Bay Times investigation on the cost of emergency services associated with Walmart stores," 2016

My experience living around the corner from the Peirce Shelter in DC: itinerant service vs. structure and management.  The descriptions by SLC residents and business owners reminded me of my DC experience, when I lived on the same block as a big emergency shelter in the H Street neighborhood.  Emergency shelters provide a bed at night and breakfast, but then they kick people out during the day.  With nowhere to go, no place to store their belongings, etc., people tend to loiter, and handle their life business out in the street, and there are crimes associated with their daytime activities.

The shelter was a scourge on the neighborhood, contributing to poor quality of life.  Just like in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City.

BUT THEN, it was converted from an emergency shelter to a facility as part of a three-phase system of addiction care and rehabilitation.  Instead of kicking people out every day, they stayed in, working on their program requirements.

Basically, the served population went from unmanaged to managed, and this had a massive positive impact on quality of life in the neighborhood at large.  Except for occasional ambulances at the shelter, and weekend car washes held there to raise funds for the clients, you wouldn't have known that they were there.

My lesson from this is that the problem with shelters is lack of management and throwing people out onto the streets during the day.

Plus not providing any programs and services aiming at interdicting and addressing the problems that come up during the day in the surrounding neighborhood as a result of putting people out early in the morning.

A "community safety partnership" approach to mitigating problems from homeless shelters and related uses.  As standard practice, why not accompany "noxious uses" like homeless shelters with a "Community Safety Partnership" to provide extra safety and nuisance abatement services to the areas likely to be impacted by the placement?  This idea extends the discussion in the two previous pieces on creating more focused neighborhood stabilization initiatives.

Community safety partnership =
police + neighborhood support workers + mental health personnel + social workers + other services

31.Before.WTPM.WDC.21September2019BID maintenance worker/ambassador, Downtown DC BID.

Besides how business improvement districts have cleaning programs and "ambassadors" to monitor public space and some even have social workers on staff to deal with homeless issues, other models to draw upon are the Los Angeles Community Safety Partnership ("After Years Of Violence, L.A.'s Watts Sees Crime Subside," NPR and "What Does It Take to Stop Crips and Bloods From Killing Each Other," New York Times), the "neighborhood warden" approach in England and Wales (Neighbourhood wardens: the activity pattern in one English city and Neighbourhood wardens: a review of international experience, LSE), and the CAHOOTS program, which is non-police-based crisis response for non-emergency calls.

From "Meet the neighbourhood wardens who are the 'eyes and ears' of Gedling's streets," Nottinghamshire Post. Photo by Joseph Raymor.

In The End of Policing's chapter on dealing with homelessness, Professor Vitale discusses the need for drop in centers alongside emergency shelter, with caseworkers, mental health services, counseling, practical amenities like mail drops, health care, food, and clothing.  

These types of services need to be part of a Community Safety Partnership program.  I know that some of these kinds of services are being provided as part of the new homeless service model in Salt Lake County, but I don't know about the depth or breadth of the program.

The programs mentioned are Bread & Jams in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which sadly is defunct  because of changes in homeless policy for services and redirection of funds ("Pantry’s Closure Will Leave Void in Harvard Square Daytime Homeless Services," Harvard Crimson), and Mission Neighborhood Resource Center in San Francisco.  B&J provided help with housing and job search, benefits advocacy, health care and policy advocacy.  MNRC provides showers, services, and outreach teams that work without police.

(In this piece, "One potential solution to the problem of "finding work" for homeless adults," I suggest creating supported job programs for homeless adults.)

Jared Arvanitas, manager for the Downtown Alliance's ambassador program, checks to see if Emil Miller and his dog, Tehya, need anything outside City Creek Center in Salt Lake City.  Photo: Streets Plus.
The goal of the Downtown Ambassador Program is to create an even more welcoming and safe city center for residents and visitors, as well as providing additional outreach efforts for people experiencing homelessness, said Steve Hillard, president of Streets Plus, a national company that specializes in providing ambassador services in several major cities. 

 "We hire licensed social service workers to serve as ambassadors, so on the street, we engage those in need, we do case management, refer them to appropriate services and talk to them every day," he said. 

"It's a very 'down to earth' networking (approach) to build relationships with (people in need) so that when the time comes and they're ready to make a move to get a meal, get clothing or get a job, in-patient services or housing, we're there to facilitate that process." 

Hillard said the program is geared toward "inclusivity" where people in the community feel a part of trying to make the downtown area welcoming to everyone. He noted that in Chicago, the program drew thousands of referrals and helped get 57 people off the streets and into a better living environments in its first year of operation. 

"We're talking jobs, in-patient services, treatment, housing and thousands of referrals for food, clothing and medical services," Hillard said. "We expect that we can do the same thing here in Salt Lake."
Neighborhood wardens are an initiative created by the Blair Government in the UK.  Basically, along the lines of the two previous posts on creating focused neighborhood improvement and stabilization initiatives in weak market neighborhoods, but in response to conditions created by conversion to private management of large housing estates in English cities.

Neighborhood wardens are what we might call quality of life managers, assigned to cover a particular area or "patch."  They address low level nuisances (litter, dumping, graffiti, etc.) and certain matters of "anti-social behavior").  "Their duties vary, but can include patrolling, cleaning and maintaining public areas, organising youth programmes, and liaising with police."
Top objectives of neighborhood warden schemes in the UK
In a paper on the program, the authors define four approaches, including "patrollers" and "neighborhood support workers."  Wardens don't have police powers, they usually wear uniforms, and in some situations, they are authorized to write tickets and fine notices for certain types of infractions.

Bike-based ambassador/patroller in DC's Golden Triangle BID.

Los Angeles Community Safety Partnership. Spurred by the Advancement Project advocacy organization (The LAPD Community Safety Partnership: an experiment in policing, USC masters thesis), in 2011, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles and the police department implemented a community-engaged policing strategy in four public housing communities in the Watts neighborhood: Nickerson Gardens; Imperial Courts; Jordan Downs; and Ramona Gardens.

The Watts neighborhood has the greatest concentration of public housing in the city and each development had been marked by deep-rooted gang problems, drug sales, and rampant crime.

The point of the CSP was to try something different from brute force policing--which had been the agency's primary method before--focusing on rebuilding the relationship of the police department with the community, because ultimately the safest communities police themselves.

Repositioning the relationship between the community and the police department and their role in public safety comes in part through youth participation on the football and track teams and how this reconstructs relationships between police officers, children, and their families.

While the CSP doesn't focus on arresting people, police officers will do so depending on the circumstances. In the three years previous to the launch of CSP, there were an average of 23 murders per year in the designated area. 

For two years after the program started, there were no murders. In the third year, there were two murders, but the perpetrators were quickly apprehended within days due in large part to information provided by the community.

Earlier this year the program was expanded2019 Program Assessment ("LAPD community policing program has prevented crime and made residents feel safer, study finds," Los Angeles Times).

Create Community Safety Partnerships/Neighborhood Stabilization Program for areas with homeless shelters, drug rehabilitation clinics, and other potentially noxious but legal and necessary uses.

Community safety partnership =
police + neighborhood support workers + mental health personnel + social workers + other services

Places where homeless shelters and similar kinds of uses are situated, like the Ballpark District and other areas in Salt Lake County, should be accompanied by the creation and operation of focused and ongoing neighborhood stabilization initiatives that are a combination carrot and stick, to foster order maintenance, to reduce problems typically associated with such facilities.

The inclusion of policing can be a necessary element, when serious crimes (assault, break ins, etc.) are part of the mix.  As Megan McArdle writes in a recent column ("Videos of Portland protesters show a complicated relationship with police and policing"):
“At some point,” says Peter Moskos of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “society needs to accept that there is an element of repression — social control — in policing. At some point there are people who need to be policed.”
From "Judge rejects challenge to Venice homeless shelter," Los Angeles Times.  Photo: Mel Melcon.

(And yes, overconcentration of service facilities in particular areas can be a legitimate issue.)

Appointed and elected officials need to recognize that some concerns expressed by opponents to shelters and similar kinds of uses can be legitimate.

The point shouldn't be to shut down and shame people when they raise such issues.  It should be to address them.  Community Safety Partnerships are the way to respond proactively.

Salt Lake City as a great candidate for launching an Elm Street neighborhood stabilization initiative.  Note that based on other reporting ("Four homicides in one year have Ballpark neighbors calling for action" and "New study shows Glendale and Rose Park hit hardest by COVID-19," Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City would probably be a good candidate for adoption of the "Elm Street" neighborhood stabilization model I outlined in the first two parts of this article series.  For deployment in multiple neighborhoods.

Conclusion: Create a Community Safety Partnership for Salt Lake City's Ballpark District. And the Ballpark neighborhood ought to be a top priority for the creation of a Community Safety Partnership type program.

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At 1:48 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

reminds me too of this story

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Mental Health Court Docket, Fairfax County, VA

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Salt Lake Tribune: Salt Lake City's Downtown Ambassador Program extends to North Temple.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The New Yorker: Bridging the Divide Between the Police and the Policed.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

North Orange County Public Safety Task Force

At 7:55 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Continued problems in the Ballpark area:

In a similar area in Salt Lake City, the Downtown Alliance (a business improvement district) has extended their Downtown Ambassadors program (the equivalent of street presence and physical maintenance) to West Temple Street because of similar needs.


At 7:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

A couple journal articles that seem worth tracking down.

Creating safe spaces: designing day shelters for people experiencing homelessness
James C. Petrovich, Erin Roark Murphy, Brooke R. Koch
Published 2017
Sociology, Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless

The making of a resource center for homeless people in San Francisco's Mission District: a community collaboration.
L. Wenger, J. Leadbetter, A. Kral
Published 2007
Sociology, Medicine, (Journal of) Health & social work

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Treatment centers nuisance issue in Boston.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The Greyhound Bus Station in Columbus, Ohio is being sued by the City to declare it a public nuisance, because of the number of police calls. Since 1/2020, there have been 1200+ calls for service.

But it, like the beach and boardwalk incidents in Ocean City, is an indicator of needing extranormal treatment and service, jointly with Greyhound and the police department.

They need a focused "community safety partnership" too.


At 2:29 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

KUTV 2News: SLC police spend hundreds of hours a week on homeless-related calls, public records show.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

A candidate for Mayor of Boston sort of suggests something similar for the problem around Massachusetts Avenue and Cass Street there.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Racine’s community policing model, pioneered in the 1990s, isn’t a fast fix – it takes time, commitment, and investment.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

A column on the problems of Mass and Cass in Boston.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

"Place based initiative in Essex."

Fox Baltimore: Baltimore County Police reveal hidden trend behind crime surge in the county.


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