Perry Township Board Meeting Minutes: May 18, 2015
The meeting is called to order at 3:18 pm
Members Present: Barb Sturbaum, Susie Hamilton, Jack Davis, Dan Combs
Non-Members Present: Pat Combs, Sharon Yoder, Kevin Robling, Novella Shuck, Forrest Gilmore (Shalom Community Center), Dwayne Gordon (Wheeler Mission), Lauran Slavin (Herald Times)
- Martha's House
Dan opens the meeting by stating that last week the Township board was forwarded an email from Martha’s House stating that they would cease operations on 6/30/2015. Beyond 6/30/2015, the Martha’s House board only anticipates receiving $3,000 in additional funding through the end of 2015. Therefore, the Township needs to come up with a plan to fund the shelter ourselves until such time as Martha’s House’s future is secured.
The Township has checked with our insurance company since the last meeting, and as long as Wheeler Mission provides us with a certificate of insurance, we should have no problem. This is of course if a medical agency writes off that the building/organization is safe to house people.
Dan and Pat toured the Wheeler Missions camp in northern Monroe County on Friday and were fairly impressed by the operation. We should also have a new cleaned up proposal from Dwayne regarding operating the shelter side of the facility (919 S Rogers) soon.
Barb suggests that the board go through the first draft proposal for the contract with Wheeler Mission that has been provided, and we can then discuss any required or requested changes. She starts out by mentioning section 1.9, which references using a room in this (1010 S. Walnut St) complex. Dan states that is actually a holdover from the original contract with Martha’s House, with which this proposed contract shares a lot of DNA.
Barb also brings up clause 2.7.3, which states that there is a preference in the shelter for Monroe County residents if there is limited space. She asks if we could amend that to state Perry Township residents. Dan states that the shelter is already supposed the theoretically keep two slots (beds) available for township residents first, but we have never approached those numbers, and so far this year, not one client of the Township has taken advantage of a shelter referral. Dan states if the contract states Perry Township/Monroe County resident, he doesn’t see a problem exceeding the beds set aside.
The proposed contract also states that clients who leave the program before completing it would not be allowed back for 48 hrs. Susie suggests maybe extending this 48-hour period, or perhaps giving a “three times you’re out” policy, where after they have been suspended 48 hours for the third time, one would not be allowed back period. Dan states that the Martha’s House shelter previously actually had a zero tolerance policy, so this is a new policy, and he personally is not sure what would be best. Barb also brings up the point that right now the hospital emergency room is effectively used as an emergency shelter of sorts. If the hospital moves across town (as proposed), this will affect Martha’s House.
Dan states that Dwayne is meeting with the Wheeler Mission board on May 20th in Indianapolis. Dwayne states that their vision for Martha’s House has evolved along two trains of thought. At first, they thought they would primarily be running just a detox center. However, upon talking more with and learning more about the community, they do see the need for a regular shelter, especially through the transition period.
Dan states that it would be fine to approve a proposal for the detox center and then, at three and six months down the road, revisit that proposal as everyone involved learns more about the needs of the detox center and the problems that may arise around it, since we just don’t know at this time. Kevin asks if people could check themselves into the detox center/shelter if they were intoxicated. Dwayne states that yes, one could. Kevin asks what the difference between no barrier shelter and the detox center would be then. Dwayne states the difference would be getting the resident engaged with heavy case management. Kevin counters, asking how they could enforce case management, if a resident can check themselves out first thing in the morning before any case management could happen. Dwayne says that if a client will not see a case manager before they leave, then they would not be allowed back for a certain period of time.
Kevin asks if there is not more concern from the community than what we see, and Dan states that there would have to be staff at the detox center determining a person’s intoxication level before they would be allowed to leave on their own. Otherwise, the police would be contacted to escort the person out of the neighborhood and to downtown. Dan states that when the low barrier shelter is in operation (usually in the winter months), Martha’s House’s numbers drop, and this is something to keep in mind.
Dwayne reminds the board that almost all of this example contract of theirs was gleaned from the old Martha’s House 2006 contract.
Forrest states that Bruce went to an outreach meeting the other day, and lots of concerns were expressed about this detox center. The detox process is very complicated, and one needs a lot of relationships (that haven’t yet been secured) to successfully run a detox program. Dan states that these issues are very specific to what the Township has been talking about too.
Kevin asks if the Township wants to break the idea of a detox center out of the preliminary contract, and have two separate contracts for the shelter and detox center. Dan states that there are people in the shelter right now who could probably use detox services. He then asks Dwayne if Wheeler Mission is planning to do live detox programming in the shelter side of the facility, or if it would be a secondary program they run separately. Dwayne states that they are beginning an exploratory committee on this, as they had not realized before now how not operating the shelter would affect the community so, and they now understand better the high barrier needs of the community.
Dwayne says they are also looking at options for the layout of Martha’s House for their detox program, and are considering both and open-bay plan where everything is observable and a segmented, 24-hour observable option involving glass windows.
Dwayne also took the time to discuss some programs that they have run at other facilities in Indiana. The ACTS program is a 90-day Indianapolis program, and their goal is to bring it to Monroe County as well. It involves getting the clients into the community and helping them find support in churches, with housing, and in finding jobs. They make it a goal to place the people in their Allen program into this program within 90 days. A small population of this program’s participants have thus far come from Monroe County through the Monroe County jail, but that part of the program has been a phenomenal success. They did a restructuring in August as the program was flopping before, with too little structure and accountability, but those issues were fixed. Dwayne mentioned two clients from Monroe County jail that come to mind in the program, one of whom now works at Texas Roadhouse and has a family and housing, and the other of whom has settled in Martinsville. Dan states that when people complete a detox treatment, some could be referred to New Leaf New Life, some to the Rapid Rehousing Program, and still others may decide they are done with the program and end all involvement.
Jack asks about section 2.7.4 in the example contract, stating that anyone found with drugs or alcohol would not be allowed to stay on the premises, and asks if that ever happens. Dwayne states that right now there is a lack of security at the side door of Martha’s House that people will sometimes try to smuggle things through, and they are looking into fixing that if/when they take over.
Jack asks how people in Monroe County can be sure that money they donate to the shelter/detox operations will stay in Monroe County and not go to Indianapolis operations. Dwayne states he has that question on his list to discuss with his board on 5/20, and Barb states that budgets usually have line items, so that people can specify with their donation where it is allowed to be spent. Dan reminds the board that Wheeler Mission does already exist in Monroe County, but they have just never tapped the Monroe County fundraising market. Before Martha’s House had their recent tax problems, though, they did have a steady donation stream going, so this will not be a zero-sum situation. There are also an overwhelming number of churches in Monroe County that are not currently supporting organizations, and so there is a pool of money there that could be tapped. Dwayne also states that they have already gotten really good verbal/written support of their organization from Genesis, Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, Evangelical Community Church, and others.
Barb states that she is concerned that Wheeler Mission could get distracted by the shelter operations and will not ultimately do the detox center. Dwayne states that, pending the approval of his board, they will definitely do the detox center, as there is definite interest on that. Kevin asks if the contract the board is currently reviewing is what would be approved by the Wheeler Mission board on 5/20. Dan says no, and that this is a conceptual document. Kevin suggests that today we just vote on an Agreement in Principle to contract with Wheeler Mission, but that we don’t actually sign any documents today.
Dan reminds the board that Martha’s House is going away 6/30, and Dwayne says that Wheeler Mission may be able to help. The Township has $45,000 in our shelter closeout fund to cover salaries and other costs. If our office had to operate and pay for the shelter from 6/30-12/30, we could barely make that, but we could make it, with the people currently there now hired as temporary employees. A couple of those employees make $8.45/hour, and we the Township have agreed to always pay a living wage of at least $12.00 to $12.50/hour, so we would actually pay them more. Also, there are some employees that Wheeler Mission may want to keep on for their institutional knowledge, and other positions for which they may want to hire new staff for their tech knowledge.
After the Township takes over the shelter, then Wheeler Mission would come in (assuming they approve the detox center/shelter proposal at their own meeting) and see what structure they want to keep. Kevin asks if it is a possibility that Wheeler Mission could take over shelter operations as early as July 1, and Dan states that would be great, but that Wheeler Mission just got all this information too, and has not had time yet to look at that possibility. Dan also states that the Township has to be sure that if we hire Martha’s House employees as temporary employees, we won’t be responsible for them if they file for unemployment, and we need to investigate this.
Dan would like an agreement in principle from the board, even if just for the 919 S. Rogers shelter side of the operation, as the 917 S. Rogers side is going to need major construction. Barb states that she would like an agreement in principle for both, and Dan states that Wheeler Mission would probably prefer to have an entirely detox-devoted facility, but that they are willing to work with us on the shelter side too. Susie states that she is adamant that the shelter remains at Martha’s House.
Pat has put together a report on the women who have stayed in the shelter over the last four months. She states that with case management, the average stay at the shelter was 33.75 days, for a total of 945 shelter nights. The proposed program for detox would take place over 3-14 days. If the emergency shelter were to exist alongside the detox center, they would need to evaluate stay times for there. Their goal, however, is to see this facility as a triage, and then refer the client to the places they need to be. For example, at the homeless shelter in Wouster, a big part of their program is getting transportation for clients to places where they can use or have resources. Dwayne states that right now, it is hard for a client to just buy a bus ticket to a destination because of various barriers.
Susie moves to accept an agreement in principle for a Wheeler Mission and Perry Twp partnership. Barb seconds the motion, and all vote Aye.
Dwayne is asked if this is a s secular program, and he states that it is not a religious program, but it is also not secular. In other words, if the clients want those services, they will help them find them. Dwayne states they do not like to use the term secular as it implies that they are not allowed to mention anything religious at all in the facility. They want to be sure that it is available as a part of a client's continuum of care if that’s what they desire. However, they are not like Backsteet Missions, which offers more of a direct disciple-ism. Wheeler Mission doesn’t want to describe their programming as either religious or secular, but rather neutral. Kevin asks if their religious offerings are all Christian-based, and Dwayne states that they are not.
Dan states that they have worked with religious organizations in the past, such as when the Salvation Army ran an apartment complex owned by the Township for years. At that time, the Salvation Army had wanted to minister the residents and direct them to the Salvation Army’s services, but they ended up with a compromise that involved racks with brochures and counseling that included all options. Jack asks Dwayne if residents would be given multiple religious and non-religious options that they are allowed to freely chose from, and Dwayne states yes. Dwayne also states that Wheeler Mission has a nondiscriminatory policy for their shelters and this does include LGBT protection. He states they try to provide a safe environment for everyone, and for some people, recovery involves a spiritual component.
Jean Kaplar, a citizen present at the meeting, states she has attended this meeting because she wanted to discuss the transgender client policy at Martha’s House, which currently sorts clients’ genders by legal status only. She states that while Martha’s House is in transition, this would be the perfect time to reexamine the policy and make (nationally recommended) changes. Jean has put together a proposal for the revision (that she provides a hard-copy of to Dan) and also states that she has resources available to Dwayne as well. Jack asks Dwayne what their current policy is, and Dwayne states it is a combination of what is on their ID and where they are at in the process, so it is similar to state law. He does state he is willing to discuss this more with Jean.
Dan states that Wheeler Mission, though a religious organization, has proposed operations that are very different from Backstreet Missions. Dwayne provides the example of Gospel Missions, who are often believed to be a church, but are actually a cross-denominational organization that formed to combat homelessness. That mission is their primary goal, and as such they do not care if their operations are always entirely biblically sound. Wheeler Mission does have a shelter for women and children in Indianapolis (operating in the old Dearbourn Hotel) that has a more liberal director. That shelter offers informed trauma care and its residents range from short-term emergency residents to working guests, and they offer long term addiction and intern services.
Dwayne states that they are talking about reconfiguring the shelter to make it safer, as it is currently physically configured in a way that makes it very hard to maintain safety. Dan states that Martha’s House was actually involved in an appeal to the Bloomington Human Rights commission last year regarding their transgender policy and a transgender woman who felt unsafe being housed on the male side of the shelter. There are so many places to hide in that shelter. Dan states he is glad that Dwayne is considering reconfiguring the place. People have been brought to Martha’s House before directly from the supermax prison, or right after being thrown out of Backstreet Mission, so safety is certainly a big issue.
Dan states that we need a follow-up board meeting to ensure that the shelter remains open. Kevin was assigned to negotiate with Wheeler to agree in principle that they can help with running the shelter.
The next Township board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday June 9th at 3:15pm. This meeting will be used to establish if Wheeler Mission takes over Martha’s House or if the Township will be handling the shelter’s employees as our temporary employees. Dan asks if the Township needs state approval to take on these temporary employees, and Sharon states that she will check. Kevin says we should see if an employment agency could handle this. This is again research that will have to be done.
Dwayne asks Dan if the Township has a working budget for Martha’s House that he can take to his board. Dan states that he does not but that we have the raw numbers that he can have.
The parking lot outside the Township office is in serious need of repair, as there is a lot of broken asphalt. When it rains we get lakes forming and in wintertime it becomes a serious hazard. If the board is agreeable (and they indicate that they are), the Township will start looking into getting this fixed.
Barb adjourned the meeting at 3:15pm.