4-A, 4-B, & 4-C
HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT: TRANSFORM THE NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICE CENTERS
Neighborhood Service Centers (NSCs) were created to provide human and social services to the lowest income residents of the City, and to decentralize access to government services to all citizens of Baltimore. NSCs offer a single neighborhood location where a number of City functions from different departments are housed (see ‘Analysis’ section for a list of City departments).The NSCs are not operating effectively because:- Receiving complaints from residents in scattered locations is not nearly as efficient and effective as it would be if handled centrally; the management of the service centers has not resulted in clear, consistent approaches to problem-solving and there are virtually no measures of success being used in the centers;
– There is no clear coordination or lines of authority at the centers;- Administrative services and support for the centers is duplicative, resulting in a waste of financial resources for the agency overall;
– Local and central management lack human services training and certification (only one of nine current NSC directors is Community Action Agency (CAA)-certified) and capacity-building skills. As a result, the NSCs lack clear, consistent approaches to problem-solving.
– NSCs are serving as community organizers and providing ‘normal government functions’ and may be in violation of Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) objectives (CSBG and CDBG being the primary sources of (federal) funding for the NSCs); and
– CSBG and CDBG performance goals are not universally applied.
The Neighborhood Service Centers should be transformed as follows:
— Close NSCs in phases.
a) Phase One: The satellite Human Services Administrative Office (at 2700 N. Charles Street) should be closed. All administrative functions for the division should be located at HCD headquarters.
b)Phase Two: Close four of the nine NSCs.
c) Phase Three: Close the remaining five NSCs.
– Eliminate the NSCs’ responsibility for taking resident complaints. Expand and reinvigorate the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services and create within it a central intake center for complaints. (See Recommendation 4-C.)
– Retain human service delivery at the neighborhood level. Contract CSBG funds to new or existing community-based organizations (CBOs), community action agencies (CAAs), and/or faith-based institutions that have as a mandate to help low-income residents reach self-sufficiency. (In contrast to state and national trends, Baltimore City is only one of two jurisdictions in the state that still houses the CSBG function within municipal government.)
– Other department and agency staff currently co-located at the service centers should be transferred back to the relevant agency.
– Retain both Crisis Centers, currently housed within two of the NSCs, which provide critical emergency housing assistance. Provide additional resources for tracking and case management at each Crisis Center, and reassess the best location for each center in light of the NSC closings.
– Retain existing NSC office space (or, in the case of NSC buildings in disrepair, seek new City office building) for housing and building inspectors. Keep current organization of inspectors (by police district) as is.
– Expand the Mayor’s Office of Community Organizing to include nine neighborhood ombudsmen (one per police district) to strengthen the Mayor’s community ties.
– Consolidate staff in the Planning Department with HCD staff devoted to neighborhood planning (in Neighborhood Project Coordination) in order to strengthen the agency’s capacity to assist neighborhoods in economic and community development and planning. A core staff of a minimum of nine planners within HCD is required (one per district). New hires should have a combination of community organizing and analytical skills.
– Launch a high-profile media and public education campaign about the changes listed above, clarifying whom to call with what type of problem (through the City’s website, brochures, flyers, etc.).
Cost Savings, Organizational, Service Improvement
All divisions with staff currently stationed at the NSCs, the Mayor’s Office.
Estimated Annual Impact:
Closing the nine neighborhood service centers and contracting the human services function to non-profit agencies would lead to a net savings to HCD of $5.7 million and a net savings to the City of $5.4 million. (The savings would primarily be in salary costs.) Creating a central complaint response center within the Mayor’s Office would reduce the net savings to the City to approximately $4.15 million.
Estimated Implementation Costs:
Minimal cost to agencies in undertaking a space planning process and issuing an RFP to non-profits for human services function. Other implementation costs would include $270,000 to HCD (primarily in salaries required to strengthen the Neighborhood Project Coordination function), $350,000 to the Mayor’s Office (in salaries required to add ombudsmen to the Office of Community Organizing), and roughly $1.25 million to the Mayor’s Office to create a central complaint response system.
Barriers to Implementation:
Bureaucratic and political resistance; source of funding for implementation ‘ the restrictions on use of CSBG funds do not allow savings to fund a central complaint system.
270 days to contract out the human services function. One year to completely phase out human services from the NSCs; 1 year to expand the Mayor’s Office of Community Organizing and the Neighborhood Project Coordination section.
The Mayor and the HCD Commissioner should meet with other department heads to discuss the NSC closures. The Mayor, City Council, HCD Commissioner should meet with community groups within the various NSC districts to assure citizens that the recommended changes will not affect the level of service and commitment of the City to neighborhoods’ needs, but will rather facilitate their access to government services. The Commissioner should move forward on implementing the changes recommended above.
The NSCs are dysfunctional, in part, because they must serve multiple and often conflicting goals. Like non-profit Community Action Agencies, they provide the social and housing assistance services. At the same time, they serve as points of intake and referral/ coordination for the regular municipal services. Their mission is customer service, but their funding is tied to human service provision. Inadequate information systems, multiple lines of authority, and lack of performance measurement compound the problem of this dual mission. The range of services delivered by most NSCs is shown below.
Section 8 Rental Application/Information
Public Housing Application/Information
Eviction Prevention Assistance
Weatherization/Emergency Repair Assistance
Emergency Energy Assistance (MEAP)
Public Information and Planning
Complaint Intake and Referral
Neighborhood Project Coordination
Neighborhood Liaison Services
Vacant Property Cleaning and Board-up
Youth and Education Counseling
Employment Development and Training
Crisis Intervention and Counseling
Child Day Care/Head Start
HCD is under increasing pressure from federal and state sources to reform its human service delivery. The federal Government Performance and Responsibility Act (GPRA) was enacted in 1993. The rational behind its creation was that HUD (and its various programs such as CDBG and CSBG) was: (1) loaded with fat; (2) unaccountable; (3) immeasurable; and (4) unnecessary.
In response to GPRA, state governments were faced with devising measurement and accountability programs at the local levels to satisfy the conditions found within the GPRA. The state of Maryland devised a program called R.O.M.A., Result Oriented Management And Accountability, and March 2000 was established as the date by which the city must be fully compliant with the federal statute. As of May 2000, Baltimore City was still not in compliance. Given pending regulatory changes at the federal level, it would be wise to move this function out of municipal authority before audit findings force the City to lose these valuable sources of funding.
Analysis of Recommendation to Transform Neighborhood Service Centers
|I. Additional cost to Mayor’s Office of creating a central complaint center:(see Recommendation 4-C)||$1,250,000|
|II. Additional cost to HCD for Crisis Centers:
$10,000 added to each center for two computers and one copy machine
|III. Additional cost to Mayor’s Office to expand Office of Community Organizing:
$350,000 in salaries and benefits to add nine ombudsmen
|IV. Additional cost to HCD for Neighborhood Project Coordination section:
$250,000 in salaries and benefits to add five planners/organizers
|Total cost to HCD:||$270,000
|Total cost to Mayor’s Office:||$1,600,000|
|I. Cost savings to HCD in closing nine NSCs:||$5,985,680|
|A. Salaries with benefits (management and human services only)
Total salaries at nine NSCs = $5,586,123
Less salaries at two Crisis Centers ($341,134) = $5,244,989
HCD does not cover rent for NSCs, as the centers are housed either in City offices covered by the General Fund or in space donated by non-Profit agencies.
|C. Building Operations, Maintenance, and Security
Data available only for five centers.
Assuming average per center cost of $240,130/5 = $48,026, total cost at Nine centers = $48,026 X 9 (number of centers) = $432,234
|D. Supplies and Materials
Budgeted per NSC = $4,300 X 9 (number of centers) = $38,700
|E. Contractual Services (including telephone)
Total annual cost at nine NSCs = $269,757
|Total benefits to HCD:||$5,985,680|
|Less total costs to HCD:||$270,000|
|Net Benefit to HCD:||$5,715,680|
|Total benefit to City:||$5,985,680|
|Less total cost to HCD:||$270,000|
|Less total cost to Mayor’s Office||$1,600,000|
|Net benefit to City:||$4,115,680